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FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 10 - Issue 23
January 25, 2016

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Editor in Chief
Alexis Krivoshik

Managing Editors
Kate Mozynski
Aaron Kearney

Senior Technical Editor
R. Tadd Pinkston

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type "subscribe" in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.

Contents

WCPW ICC / Africa

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda Darfur, Sudan Democratic Republic of the Congo Kenya Libya Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Mali

Chad

Nigeria

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Iraq

Syria

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

South & Central America

TOPICS

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

REPORTS

UN Reports

NGO Reports

WORTH READING

Worth Reading Truth and Reconciliation Commission

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Cases: Central African Republic
ICC Public Documents - Situation in Uganda

UN Whistleblower Who Exposed Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers is Exonerated
The Guardian
By Sandra Laville
January 18, 2016

The UN whistleblower who exposed the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers in Central African Republic has been completely exonerated after an internal investigation.

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, was suspended and faced dismissal after he passed confidential documents detailing the abuse of children by French troops in CAR to the authorities in Paris because of the UN's failure to stop the exploitation.

The scandal was reported the Guardian in April last year, with the child sex allegations and the treatment of Kompass gaining worldwide attention. The UN repeatedly condemned his actions, insisting that he had breached protocols by sharing a secret internal document.

For nine months he was under a disciplinary investigation but a few days ago Kompass was informed in a letter that the internal investigation, run by the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), had cleared him of all charges.

His exoneration comes just weeks after an independent panel report – set up by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, into the child sex scandal in CAR – ruled Kompass had done nothing wrong in passing the internal document, which contained interviews with victims and descriptions of the perpetrators, to the French.

The panel report condemned the "gross institutional failure" of the UN in its inaction over the allegations of child sexual abuse in CAR.

Speaking for the first time about his ordeal, Kompass told the Guardian: "I feel relief and some sadness. It is still a mystery why most of the UN leadership decided to do this to me when they knew very well how badly the UN was handling these types of cases and they knew there was a big gap in terms of under reporting of these kind of cases.

"It is important for other staff to see that I was vindicated. That's one of the reasons I had to go through this to give an example to the staff – in particular the younger staff – because otherwise the message was: 'If you try to do something similar to what Anders has done these will be the consequences.'"

It was not until Kompass passed the report to the French that any investigation into the allegations began. French officials thanked him for what he had done, even as his employers pursued their investigation against him. The alleged abuses took place while French peacekeepers were supposed to be protecting civilians at a camp for internally displaced people near the airport in the capital, Bangui, between December 2013 and June 2014.

The confidential report – entitled Sexual Abuse of Children by International Armed Forces – contained details about the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeepers at the camp. The interviews with children had been carried out by a member of staff from the office of the high commissioner for human rights in 2014, and a staff member from Unicef, but no action had been taken by the UN and the information was not passed to the French until Kompass decided to act.

Last month, the independent panel's report into the scandal was withering in its criticism of UN procedures when faced with the allegations that French peacekeepers – operating under the authorisation of the security council – were sexually abusing young children in CAR. The panel inquiry – led by the Canadian judge Marie Deschamps – found that children as young as nine were encouraged to take part in oral sex in exchange for food or money in the middle of the war zone.

Initial complaints in early 2014 were "passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple UN offices, with no one willing to take responsibility", the report said. It said UN staff became overly concerned with whether the allegations had been improperly leaked to the French by Kompass, and focused on protocols rather than action.

Recognising Kompass's seniority, extensive experience in field missions and the fact that human rights officials had not followed up the allegations despite the need for urgent action, the panel report said they could make no adverse finding against him. The panel criticised the then head of the OIOS, Carmen La Pointe, for abusing her authority by initiating the internal investigation into Kompass. She left her post last September after five years in office.

Kompass, who was allowed back to his post in May last year after an appeal tribunal found his suspension was illegal, has been waiting nine months with his career on the line. He has received no apology or acknowledgement from senior UN officials since he was exonerated by the disciplinary investigation on 8 January.

The ordeal has left him disappointed and full of sadness. Kompass said after 17 years working within the office of the high commissioner for human rights he was seriously considering his options within the UN.

"The CAR panel came out last month, and I then had wait for this investigation to report. Now I have got the letter from the OIOS and I am free," he said.

"I had to stay because I wanted to see this through. But now that it's over, it keeps being very difficult for me. No one has said anything to me, no one has apologised to me. I think many of us expected they might do so particularly after everything that has happened. But nothing has been said, and I probably just have to accept that, although it is very disappointing.

"And now I have to take a decision about my future and I confess, I am seriously considering all the options."

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Darfur, Sudan

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Situation in Darfur, Sudan

Dismantling IDPs Camps in Darfur, a New Crime in a Saga of Calamity
Sudan Democracy First Group
By Quscondy Abdulshafi
January 12, 2016

'The last few months of 2015 witnessed a steady increase in violence against civilians in Darfur. As the 'Darfur Fatigue' syndrome set in, which has blurred the focus and distract the international and regional actors, the crisis in Darfur was left entirely in the hands of Sudanese government. The government's determination to dismantle the camps of the internally displaced persons (IDP) and push out the UN and AU hybrid mission in Darfur is intended to create a cover for further crimes against civilians.'

It has recently been noticed that the Sudanese government is taking advantage of the decline in attention of international and regional to the ongoing tragic war in Darfur (Darfur Fatigue), to commit new crimes and violations against civilians in the region. Moreover, the Government is engaged in vehement diplomatic and public propaganda to deceive national and international actors that the war in the region has come to an end. Such political claims, coupled with attacks on IDPs and IDP camps and the attempts to force the exit of the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) mission, are intended to create a smokescreen for the current intensive Government's campaign of violence and control. The government specific objective behind these moves, is to impose a new reality on the ground by dismantling the IDP camps and further erode the international presence and oversight in the region. Through Dismantling the camps, the government and the ruling NCP will be able to impose their political agenda on the IDPs and use this new reality as a leverage in negotiations with the political armed movements. This report provides an overview on the Government of Sudan's current systematic attach on the IDPs, and analyses its causes and manifestations.

According to the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, internally displaced persons are: "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border." These principles grants IDPs the right to basic humanitarian assistance (such as food, medicine, shelter), the right to be protected from physical violence, the right to education, freedom of movement and residence, and maintain their political and civil participation rights.

In December 2013, President Omar al-Bashir appointed Hassabo Mohamed Abdel Rahman, as second Vice President (VP) of Sudan. The new VP was given the duty of overseeing and managing the Darfur file. Hassabo had been very early on in his career assigned by the National Islamic Front (NIF) to specialize in Darfur even before the coup that brought it to power in 1989. This specialization was reflected later in his formal assignments since the beginning of the war in 2003 in Darfur. He has worked as coordinator of humanitarian aid in Darfur, representative of Sudan to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and responsible for human rights in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Between 2005 and 2009 he was Federal Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, the ministry responsible for overseeing civil society organizations, human rights issues and humanitarian aid activities through the country, particularly through the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), which is notorious as the operational security arm of the Government's control of all humanitarian and voluntary work.

Hassabo's period as Minister saw massive and systematic military violence against the Darfur IDPs camps including the infamous attack on Kalma camp on 25 August 2008 in which government forces killed dozens of displaced persons before forcibly attempting to dismantle the camp. This period also witnessed the expulsion of international humanitarian aid and relief agencies working in Darfur which were providing around 80% of the humanitarian aid to the victims in the region. Local organisations were also targeted as the government raided and closed down several national non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Government, under Hassabo's supervision, particularly focused on destroying NGOs supporting victims of torture and of the conflict in Darfur such as the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development (KCHRED), and the Amal Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.

Since his new appointment as VP, Hassabo has continued to repeatedly declare the end of war in Darfur, a completely false claim with no basis in reality. The escalation of violence and the increase in violations by the government security forces and army in 2014 just after Hassabo took up his new post have been well documented by the joint UN/AU mission to Darfur (UNAMID). In 2014, UNAMID's reports expressed concern about the "alarming escalation of violence" in Darfur identifying attacks by the government's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia as a factor in the displacement of 215,000 civilians in just three months. This evidence alone fully refutes the VP's repeated claims.

In the same year, in a new policy directed by VP Hassabo, the Sudanese Government started to demand that the international UNAMID mission leave Darfur. These demands increased in intensity after the revelation that mass crimes of rape had been committed in Tabit in October 2014.

The Sudanese government justified its insistence on the mission leaving Darfur by claiming that the war was over. More recently the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour insisted again that Darfur was enjoying a state of peace, that IDPs were returning home and that it was therefore time for UNAMID to leave. In the same context, on 28 December 2015 Hassabo Abdelrahman announced the intention of the government to dismantle all Darfur's IDPs camps during 2016. He told the displaced people that they would have to choose between two options; settlement to places determined by the government, including possible locations of camps or return to their original areas within 50 days. He reiterated that the government was committed to take all necessary measures to achieve this goal, stressing that "the year 2016 will see the end of displacement in Darfur".

The statements (or more accurately the threats), made by the VP Hassabo about the closure of all the camps, coupled with a series of visits to different areas of Darfur during the past few weeks, demonstrate the determination of the government to implement its plan of dismantling IDPs's camps. This is the same agenda which has always been directly contrary to the interests of citizens in Darfur and has undermined the stability of the region for more than a decade. It is the same agenda that has been implemented with criminal dedication by the VP Hassabo since he was a young administrative officer in Darfur throughout his government posts in the humanitarian and human rights field, until he ascended to the position of Second Vice President of the Republic of Sudan.

Despite persistent assertions by the governmental that the war is over in Darfur and that the region is enjoying peace, stability and development, the facts on the ground demonstrate the perversion of such claims. The Sudanese government is leveraging 'Darfur Fatigue' and the decreased interest and of international and regional actors in what is happening in Darfur to systematically promote such claims. Unfortunately, some international actors have begun to consider these lies, while they are echoing 'Darfur Fatigue'.

The recent violence in el Geninana, capital of West Darfur state, on January 10, 2016, have challenged the government's argument of peace and stability in Darfur. The government's forces and militias committed a heinous crime when it attacked innocent civilians, who took refuge in a government building, killing twelve and injuring more than ten. This brutal massacre occurred a day after a government's allied militia destroyed and burned the nearby Moly village and displaced all its citizens to el Geninana.

The wide spread violence in Darfur is not isolated incidents, but rather a comprehensive plan by the government that includes, in addition to spread of violence, the dismantling of the IDP camps, preparation for the administrative referendum in Darfur and attempts to reach piecemeal solution protected by violent and terror. It is clearly evident that the government embarked in the execution of this plan immediately after the suspension of the peace negotiation on cessation of hostilities, on November 23, 2015, between GoS and Justice and Equality Movement JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement- Minni Minawi (SLM-MM). Soon after the collapse of the negotiations, the Minister of Defence announced the mobilization and redeployment of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and other militias in Darfur to start an aggressive military campaign. Following the Military campaign, the VP Hassabo Abdelrahman started an extensive political campaign with the objective of dismantling IDP camps to prepare the ground for Darfur referendum scheduled for April 2016.

Just as in 2014, 2015 witnessed a steady increase of violence in Darfur. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported the new displacement of 41000 from east Jabal Mara in February 2015 alone, as they tried to escape from government air strikes. OCHA reported that the number was likely to be higher as it was unable to reach some areas for its assessment. At the end of 2015, OCHA reported that the total number of IDPs in Darfur was two and half million of which the 233,000 had been displaced in 2015 alone.

2015 also witnessed the continuation of RSF violations and government air strikes on civilian villages in Darfur. There was a particular focus by the government on attacking the farming lands of villagers in central and south Darfur. This included burning crops and looting livestock threatening famine in the areas. Since last November, several aid agencies have announced their inability to continue to provide of dietary support to over 122,000 IDPs in Darfur due to the escalation of the violence. In December OCHA reported that persistent attacks on 34 civilian villages in Kutum locality in North Darfur during only one week of December 2015 were estimated to have affected over ten thousand civilians.

In this context the lies about stability and peace, and the possibility of voluntary return of displaced persons, actively promoted by governmental officials and pro National Congress Party (NCP) allies, lacks credibility. The deception of the government about the situation in Darfur and the so called Darfur Fatigue, are in essence mirrors each other's. The Darfur Fatigue is invoked by the international and regional community to turn a blind eye to the situation in Darfur while the GoS uses this opportunity to inflict more calamities on the civilian. For the Darfurians, and Sudanese in general, Darfur Fatigue is nothing more than echoing and submit to the government's and its ruling party interests and conditions.

Propaganda and wishful thinking will not be able to cloak the reality of the tragedy that is taking place in Darfur witnessed by millions of displaced and refugee civilians across Darfur and the region.

The recent announcement by VP Hassabo that all the IDP camps will be dismantled in 2016 triggered a wave of reactions. The most prominent came from IDPs themselves. They declared that the plans were but a prelude to the commission of a new genocide. They stressed that these plans were not new and that the camps were material evidence of the crimes they had suffered from for over a decade.

The IDPs conference that took place in the first week of January 2016 in Kalma camp included wide representation from the rest of the camps in Darfur. The conference categorically rejected the government's plans to dismantle the camps. It conditioned any return of IDPs on restoring security and disbanding the government militias that continue to attack their villages. The congress adopted several recommendations on the protection of the rights of IDPs. It demanded individual and collective compensation for the losses suffered by the IDPs before any voluntary return, and that the issue of those who had been resettled on the lands from which they were originally displaced be addressed. The conference also called upon international and regional bodies working on Darfur to commit to implementing United Nations resolutions regarding the protection of civilians in Darfur. They pointed to the need to amend the mandate of UNAMID peacekeeping mission, to become a peace-making mission "because basically there is no peace in Darfur to keep it." The conference also adopted a recommendation of allowing the international aid and relief agencies to return to the region, noting the significant role that they played in mitigating the effects of the war.

It is crucial to point on the bad experience the IDPs in Darfur had with the camps dismantling and restructuring plans or what is named by governmental, (Voluntary returns schemes). Several IDPs families were attacked by governmental militias while returning to their villages or after settling on them, which forced them in to repeating the same harsh experience of displacement.

For example, the returnees to Hamada area (east to Munwashi in South Darfur state) in 2014, suffered from disciplinary attacks by governmental militias in which 15 civilians were killed. In July of the same years, the same militias attacked the returnees to Hashaba in South Darfur in the first week of their return. In North Darfur, pastoral armed militias imposed the payment of extortionate fees on the returnees and attacked their farms in (Ardat Shoug, Matawi, and Murqooba) villages. In central Darfur, governmental militias attacked the returnees to (Arola) area in central Darfur state and looted their food, tents, tarpaulins and the seeds provided to them by humanitarian aid organizations for the purpose of agricultural self-sufficiency.

The preference of IDPs to stay in the camps is not a preference for luxury, with all the misery and suffering of life there. The camps provide relative safety from government and militia forces attacks and aerial bombardment as a result of the presence of international and regional organizations and the UN mission. The quest to dismantle the camps puts them at risk of further violence and abuse by the government's militias.

Regardless of the success or failure of the government's plans to formally dismantle the camps, it is clear that it is preparing to utilise the 'Darfur Fatigue' phenomenon of the international community to prepare for new crimes. Apart from the ongoing aerial bombardments and militia attacks, the removal of IDPs from the camps and their relocation against their will and consent is likely to create the context for the commission of range of international crimes related to forced displacement

In October last year, President Al-Bashir declared the intention of his government to hold a referendum on the administrative status of the Darfur States in April 2016, one of the requirements of the Doha Peace Agreement. His VP Hassabo, however, pre-empted the result asserting that it would be impossible for Darfur to be treated as one administrative region. The demand for one administrative region instead of the current five states ( divided on a tribal basis) is one of the major political stands of most of the political movements that have social constituents in Darfur. Thus, it is not in the ruling party's best interest to allow the referendum to take place in conditions which would reflect the real will of the Darfuri people and contribute to achieving a just peace and stability in the region. The current plan to dismantle the IDP camps and forcibly relocate IDPs has the objective therefore of altering the demographic composition of the region in a way that allows manipulation of the results of the referendum and serves the political, regional and ideological agenda of the ruling party and its allies.

The urgency with which the Government is pursuing the dismantling of the camps underlines this intent. The fifty days in which the VP has declared IDPs must choose the option of return or resettlement reveals a rush to dismantle the camps prior to the referendum. The government has a history of manipulating the results of public polling in Darfur by altering the numbers of IDPs and their locations. Before the 2014 elections, for example, the government announced the return of over 80 thousand IDPs to their original villages within the framework of a voluntary return scheme, while several independent reports denied this from happening.

The haste and tireless movement and the declaration of a period of fifty days by the VP Hassabo Mohamed Abdel Rahman to start dismantling the camps should be understood in the context of the governmental rush in conducting the referendum. The referendum which was stipulated by Doha Document for Peace in Darfur ( DDPD) –which was rejected by significant political movements-, comes in anticipation to any possible changes in the balance of political power in the region, and pre-empting the possibility of a just and lasting peace in Darfur that can allow conducting the referendum in better fair and conducive environment. Conducting the referendum in the current situation will empty it of any content and lead to value-less results that do not reflect the real will and interests of Darfurians.

The massive ongoing displacement in Darfur is a physical manifestation of the continuous humanitarian crisis and widespread human rights violations suffered by the people of Darfur. Resolving displacement cannot be achieved outside the context of creating a just and long-lasting peace in Darfur. A comprehensive solution will need to consider and address the roots of the war in Darfur, and other areas of conflict in Sudan in addition to justice and accountability for the grave crimes against humanity committed in the region and against IDPs.

The repeated attempts of the Sudanese government to dismantle the IDPs camps—and to exclude peace making missions—in order to prove the existence of a phantom peace and stability in Darfur, also reveals the deficiencies in the framework of the DDPD. The agreement has failed to address the root causes of the Darfur conflict and thus to achieve a minimum state of relative peace in the region.

The current plan to dismantle IDPs camps is not new. It is aimed at creating a space for manipulation of the political context and for the commission of further crimes against civilians in Darfur. It will only aggravate the humanitarian crisis. It is vital that Sudanese political forces, civil society and public, take a firm stand in supporting the legitimate demands of Darfur's IDPs, and make Darfur's IDPs crisis as a national one, in resisting the imminent threat of re-displacement.

The aggravation of the humanitarian crisis and the increase of violence in Darfur, in addition to the looming danger of violence against IDPs in Darfur, require the International and regional community to look into the mirror to realize its inefficiency in handling the situation in Darfur. The pretext of Darfur Fatigue and the UNMID imminent withdrawal are mere reflections of the GoS plans. When the international and regional community fall in this trap, it means they have abandoned their Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and other obligations and allow the GoS to commit more crimes against civilians in Darfur.

Sudanese Refugees Forcibly Deported from Jordan Fear Arrest and Torture
The Guardian
By Bethan Staton
January 19, 2016

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers are facing persecution in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum after being forcibly deported from Jordan.

Activists and deportees said that Sudanese authorities detained more than 100 people on their return to the capital last month, and some individuals are still missing.

"I'm now exposed to torture and persecution by the government, because I travelled [away] from Sudan," Saleem, a 27-year-old who fled nearly four years ago, said. "Now I'm back in Sudan, it's not possible to leave."

In a mass deportation unprecedented in Jordan's history, Sudanese men, women and children were flown from Amman's Queen Alia airport to Khartoum on the morning of 18 December.

Many had been taking part in a month-long tent protest at Amman's UN human rights offices, demanding support and resettlement, but were rounded up and forced by Jordanian authorities to board the planes to Sudan.

When the refugees landed on Sudanese soil, the authorities are said to have taken fingerprints, phone numbers and confiscated some passports, and although some passengers were allowed to leave the airport to travel to the capital or villages elsewhere, many others were detained.

"I don't know why the Sudanese government are doing it," said Ali, who is now stuck in Khartoum. "In the airport they took my phone number, everyone's… I had my friend with me. Someone came to him and said 'I want to talk with you'. After that I never seen him [again]."

Ali said many other men were arrested, and he's anxious about the brutal treatment that they may face. "Torture, I think," he said. "You don't know [with] the Sudan government."

Individuals who say they were released from prison also recounted brutal treatment. Mohammed, who was involved in the Amman protests, disappeared for more than 10 days after arriving in Sudan. When he was released, the young activist said he was moved to an unknown prison where he was kept in isolation for days.

"They asked us many questions," he said. "I cannot describe what they did to make us answer the questions."

Sudanese government representatives could not be reached for comment on the treatment of the returned refugees and asylum seekers.

Various sources have given conflicting accounts of the deportations, and some NGO employees in Khartoum who wished to remain anonymous said they did not witness the arrest of returnees at the airport.

However, researchers have warned that reporting abuses is difficult in Sudan as online communications are often monitored, deterring potential informants from sharing information.

"The situation in Sudan is quite complicated. Generally NGOs are afraid to speak out about the situation because many of them have had their access restricted, especially in Darfur," explained Khairunissa Dhala, a researcher for Amnesty International.

"There is a practice of repression. The government and security services regularly detain, arrest, torture and ill treat activists and others."

In Amman, the UNHCR confirmed that the majority of the deportees were from Darfur, a region that has witnesses brutal fighting between rebels and Sudanese government forces.

Civil war broke out in Sudan in 2003, when rebel groups from Darfur began fighting the state, accusing them of marginalization.

The government and its associated militias responded with brutality, and in the years since hundreds of thousands have been killed and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.

The UNHCR also said the majority of deportees had registered refugee or asylum seeker status, making their forced repatriation a violation of the principle of non-refoulement – a central concept in international humanitarian law forbidding the returning of people to places where their lives or freedom will be endangered.

"My concern is that the overwhelming majority of the deported refugees are from Darfur and from tribes that are targeted in Sudan. It's for this reason that they were seeking asylum," said Niemat Ahmadi, the President of the Darfur Women Action Group.

"Even the people who were not arrested are in danger. They cannot go anywhere. They can be taken at any time. The Sudanese government has many ways of killing people."

In Khartoum, Ali says he's worried about what the future holds. Like many of the deportees, he has found himself without a support network, a place to live or a way to make money.

But because of the ever-present risk of deadly militia raids, returning to his village in Darfur is also not an option.

Last week, media and rebel groups reported that 11 people were killed by government militia in the West Darfur village of Mouli, forcing 300 to flee to Darfur's capital.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

DR Congo to Prosecute Militia Leader Katanga, Convicted by ICC
Yahoo News
By Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya
January 18, 2016

The Democratic Republic of Congo said it plans to prosecute notorious militia leader Germain Katanga, who had been scheduled to leave prison in Kinshasa on Monday after completing a sentence handed down by the International Criminal Court.

"He will not leave" prison, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told AFP in an interview Monday.

He said Katanga was implicated "in other cases just as serious" as the one he was convicted for by the ICC in 2014 -- that of arming an ethnic militia which in 2003 carried out a brutal village massacre, killing some 200 people.

One of the other cases concerns his alleged role in the killing of nine UN peacekeepers in the violence-torn Ituri region in the country's northeast in 2005, Thambwe Mwamba said.

Another, which is in the hands of military prosecutors, involves "contacts" that Katanga "continues to have with other officers who are being prosecuted."

The minister declined to give further details on this second case in order not to violate the confidentiality of the investigation.

He said Katanga would get a "fair" trial and have "access to all the lawyers that he wants to defend himself."

Katanga, 37, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last year by the ICC in The Hague for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes over the 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, including murder and pillage.

Nicknamed Simba ("lion" in Swahili) due to his ferocity, he was convicted of supplying weapons to his militia in the attack in which some 200 people were shot and hacked to death with machetes, but acquitted of enforcing sexual slavery and using child soldiers.

In November, the ICC cut Katanga's sentence after he voiced regret and for good behaviour, and he had been scheduled to complete his prison term on Monday.

Last month Katanga and former warlord Thomas Lubanga, sentenced to 14 years by the ICC for recruiting and enlisting child soldiers, were transferred to a prison in Kinshasa to serve out their sentences.

Lubanga's request for early release was turned down by the ICC as "unjustified."

"For us it's a relief that Germain Katanga will be prosecuted over the other accusations against him," Junior Safari, head of the Ituri-based Congolese Association for the Protection of Human Rights, told AFP.

But he deplored the "lack of compensation or reparations for all the crimes committed" in the region.

- Apologies to victims -

Human Rights Watch had called on Kinshasa to convict Katanga on further charges upon his return home, urging a "fair and speedy trial."

Arrested in 2005 and then transferred to The Hague in 2007, Katanga was only the second person to be sentenced by the tribunal since it began work in 2003 as the world's first permanent court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He would have been the first to be released from jail after serving out an ICC sentence.

A former member of the armed fighters of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), he has offered his apologies to the victims, insisting he had turned his back on the militias which still wreak havoc in parts of the DR Congo.

DR Congo was torn by two wars between 1996 and 2003, and its eastern provinces remain ravaged by conflicts between ethnic groups and local warlords and over control of mineral resources.

Many atrocities such as rape, killing and enslavement have been been committed, with almost all going unpunished.

But since 2014, Congolese authorities have taken steps to end the impunity that many of those responsible have enjoyed and which has been condemned by the United Nations and human rights groups.

President Joseph Kabila has named a special representative to tackle crimes of sexual violence and recruiting child soldiers.

Several senior officers, some of them former rebels integrated into the army, have been convicted of war crimes by Congolese courts.

The gold-rich Ituri region where the Bogoro massacre occurred has been riven by violence since 1999, when clashes broke out that killed at least 60,000 people, according to rights groups.

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Kenya

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Situation in the Republic of Kenya

Prosecution Argues It Has Presented Sufficient Evidence Against Ruto and Sang
International Justice Monitor
By Tom Maliti
January 13, 2016

A senior prosecutor told the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Jan. 12 that its evidence showed Deputy President William Samoei Ruto hosted and led or was represented in six meetings to plan the violence in Kenya's Rift Valley region which erupted after the December 2007 election.

Senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg said the meetings took place in November and December 2007, ahead of elections that were held on December 27, 2007. Steynberg said the prosecution's evidence showed former journalist Joshua arap Sang participated in one of those meetings.

Steynberg laid out the prosecution's case against Ruto and Sang during a hearing on Tuesday that Trial Chamber V(a) called to listen to submissions on defense applications to have the case against their clients dismissed. The chamber has scheduled the hearings and a status conference to continue for the rest of the week.

Trial Chamber V(a) initiated the process of receiving submissions on whether to dismiss the case against Ruto and Sang. The chamber is of the view that if it finds the prosecution has presented insufficient evidence to sustain one or more of the counts against Ruto and Sang then this process will save the court's time because the defense will only be required to rebut charges for which there is ample evidence.

Ruto and Sang have been on trial since September 2013 on three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the violence that shook Kenya after the December 2007 elections. Both Ruto and Sang were present in court on Tuesday.

Steynberg said no prosecution witness testified that Ruto ordered any killings. He said the prosecution's evidence did show Ruto vilified the Kikuyu during political rallies and Steynberg highlighted a number of examples from testimony provided by prosecution witnesses. One example he gave was of a rally where Ruto is reported to have said that the hammer and the match box were to be used to destroy the houses of Party of National Unity supporters, many of whom were Kikuyu. In 2007, then-President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, was seeking re-election on a Party of National Unity ticket. Ruto was at the time a senior leader of the opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement.

Steynberg said that after the election results were declared, violence erupted and the prosecution's evidence showed that at least three meetings took place to mobilise and implement the common plan that had been discussed in the November and December 2007 meetings. Steynberg said neither Ruto nor Sang attended the mobilisation and implementation meetings. He said the prosecution's evidence did show that Ruto gave money, through his assistant Farouk Kibet, to Kalenjin youths who participated in attacks.

In response to questions from Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Steynberg said the prosecution theory that a network headed by Ruto planned, organised, financed and executed the attacks against members of the Kikuyu ethnic group and others was pieced together from the testimony of different witnesses. He said the network, which the prosecution describes in its submissions, is not a formal organisation with official documentation to prove its existence.

Steynberg said that the prosecution is aware the network was formed months before the December 2007 elections.

"That evidence was for one reason or another not forthcoming at trial," Steynberg said, indirectly referring to the challenges the prosecution had in getting some of its key witnesses to testify in court. He did not make any further reference to the witness problems the prosecution had during the course of the trial. Instead, Steynberg concentrated on highlighting the evidence given by those witnesses who did testify that backed the charges against Ruto and Sang.

Steynberg also referred to evidence of a witness who testified about a ceremony conducted by some Kalenjin elders to cleanse about 3,000 youth who had taken part in the attacks. He said the evidence was that the ceremony was to ward off any curse that may befall any of the youths who participated in the attacks because they had shed human blood. According to the evidence, it is during this ceremony that Kibet paid the youth on behalf of Ruto.

At the beginning of the hearing Judge Eboe-Osuji asked the defense to let the chamber know whether they have considered not presenting their case if the chamber declined to accept their applications to dismiss the prosecution's case. He said none of the defense teams had raised this in their applications but in some jurisdictions this is a consideration.

He observed that in the past in some jurisdictions where a "no case to answer" motion was permitted in a criminal trial, lawyers were required not to present a defense case if they filed such a motion. He said in other jurisdictions, lawyers were given the option of deciding whether they wanted to do so. He stated this was on the premise that by filing a "no case to answer" motion a lawyer was taking the position that the prosecution had not proved its case and there was no reason to defend against it.

Eboe-Osuji asked the defense lawyers to think about this and let the chamber know their decision by Friday. He added that the chamber was not saying it was mandatory for them to not present a defense case if the chamber decided against their applications.

The chamber has scheduled a day each to hear the prosecution and two defense teams. At the end of each day, the chamber has set aside 30 minutes for the judges to ask questions. This is in addition to questions asked during the course of the submissions.

Tuesday's session was the first one to be held at the ICC's new court building since it moved there in December.

Sang's lead lawyer, Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, will make his submissions on Wednesday.

Lawyer Says Prosecution Failed to Prove Ruto's Involvement in Violence
International Justice Monitor
By Tom Maliti
January 14, 2016

The lead lawyer for Deputy President William Samoei Ruto told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the prosecution has failed to prove Ruto was involved in the violence that followed the December 2007 election.

Karim Khan told the judges of Trial Chamber V(a) on Thursday that the prosecution has been unable to prove its theory that Ruto was the head of a network that planned, organised, and financed the violence in the districts of Uasin Gishu and Nandi in the Rift Valley region.

Khan was making the case for Ruto's acquittal during hearings the chamber called to listen to submissions on whether the defense should be called to make its case.

The defense teams of Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang filed their "no case to answer" motions in October and November last year after which the prosecution and lawyer for victims filed their responses. The issue of whether the defense has a case to answer came up once the prosecution stated in September last year that it had concluded its case.

Ruto and Sang are each facing three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the violence that wracked Kenya after the December 2007 election.

Khan said on Thursday that during the pre-trial stage, the prosecution had said it had evidence the network included a military, a political, and a financial wing. He said that during opening statements at the beginning of the trial in September 2013, the prosecution used an organogram to show how the network was organized.

Those arguments had diminished by the time the prosecution filed its response to the defense motion for acquittal, said Khan. He said the prosecution made no mention of a military wing, referred to a quarter of the previous financial wing and only half of the previous political wing.

"We'd ask that you bear this prosecution slide (organogram) in mind when considering whether the defense should be required to put up a defense," Khan told the judges.

In reference to three planning meetings prosecution witnesses had said Ruto hosted in his home near Eldoret town, Khan said news reports for the dates the meetings were supposed to have taken place showed Ruto to be elsewhere. He said the dates the witnesses gave for the meetings corresponded with the campaign period leading up to the December 2007 elections and there was a lot of interest in how those campaigns were progressing. Khan said it was difficult in that context for Ruto, who was then a leader of the opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement, to hold meetings away from media scrutiny and plan violence.

Khan also referred to another prosecution witness who testified about a cleansing ceremony for the Kalenjin youth who had participated in the violence. He said the testimony that Ruto's assistant, Farouk Kibet, was present at the ceremony and paid the youth money for participating in the violence was "fictitious." He said that testimony was unsupported by other evidence.

"It doesn't show anything that could support an allegation of individual criminal responsibility," Khan said.

As has been the case with lawyers Anton Steynberg and Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, Presiding Judge Eboe-Osuji asked Khan questions as he made his submissions. When Khan was making his point about news reports showing Ruto was not where witnesses had said he was, Khan went on to say that when confronted with those news reports, the prosecution should have presented rebuttal witness.

Judge Eboe-Osuji asked Khan when was it the right time for the prosecution to call rebuttal witnesses. Khan replied that the prosecution should have applied to add more witnesses to its list.

Then Judge Eboe-Osuji asked, "Isn't it normally at the end of defense case that the prosecution seeks to put rebuttal witnesses?"

Khan's response was that the prosecution should have called rebuttal witnesses when some of its witnesses were declared hostile.

"In circumstances particularly where a witness has recanted evidence, they could have and we say should have sought to bolster the accounts of their witnesses," Khan continued.

He concluded his submission by showing several video clips taken between 2005 and 2008 in which Ruto was seen advocating for Kenyans to live together and calling on people to be peaceful.

Wilfred Nderitu, the lawyer for victims, will make his observations on Friday morning. Also scheduled for Friday's hearing is Steynberg responding to the defense submissions.

Issue of Standard of Proof Dominates Final Day of "No Case to Answer" Hearings
International Justice Monitor
By Tom Maliti
January 15, 2016

The issue of what standard of proof judges should use when considering defense applications for the acquittal of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang dominated the final day of hearings on those applications.

Lawyers representing Ruto and Sang have applied to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to dismiss the case against their clients before they present their defense. They argued on Wednesday and Thursday that the prosecution had failed to produce evidence to support allegations that Ruto and Sang had been involved in the violence that erupted after the December 2007 elections in Kenya.

Both men have been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in violence in the Rift Valley region. They have been on trial since September 2013. The defense filed "no case to answer" motions following a decision by Trial Chamber V(a) to allow such applications once the prosecution closed its case.

In their written submissions, the defense have argued that the standard of beyond reasonable doubt should be used when assessing the prosecution's evidence and whether the defense should present their case.

On Friday, the lawyer for victims, Wilfred Nderitu, dealt at length with the issue of what standard of proof should apply in assessing the acquittal applications as he sought to answer questions Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji asked him on the matter. Senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg also spoke on the issue as he responded on Friday to the defense submissions on their "no case to answer" motions.

Nderitu said that the emphasis at this stage of the trial was not on proving the facts of the case, except if the evidence presented was beyond belief.

"We are saying that the threshold that is required at this stage is a rather low one for the prosecution to attain," Nderitu told the judges.

He also pointed out that when Trial Chamber V(a) issued its June 2014 decision on principles and guidance on "no case to answer" motions, no one objected to the judges' guidance that the threshold of proof they would be considering would be lower than beyond reasonable doubt. Steynberg, who spoke after Nderitu, also raised this point.

Later Judge Robert Fremr asked Steynberg about his assertion on Tuesday that the prosecution's evidence should be assessed on its quantity rather than its quality. The judge asked how this assertion applied in light of the principle of a fair and expeditious trial provided for in Article 64 of the ICC's founding law. Judge Fremr also asked whether the prosecution evidence's would remain the same or improve if the defense were to present its case.

Steynberg responded that it would not be unfair to ask the defense to present their case if the prosecution's case met the standard the chamber had laid out in its June 2014 decision. He also said that there have been cases where parts of the prosecution's evidence has been weak but has improved when the defense made its case and the prosecution called rebuttal evidence.

A matter that had been pending since Tuesday was whether the defense would stand on their applications for acquittal and rest their case irrespective of what decision the chamber reached on those applications. This matter was raised by Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji on Tuesday when he observed that this happened in some jurisdictions where "no case to answer" motions were allowed. Judge Eboe-Osuji emphasised that the chamber was not saying the defense was required to stand on their applications, but the chamber wanted to know if that was the case.

On Friday, Sang's lead lawyer, Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, said his client had instructed him to wait until the chamber had made its decision before deciding whether to present his case. Ruto's lead lawyer, Karim Khan, said he would also wait until the chamber had made its decision before deciding the next steps he would take.

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Libya

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

A Terror State in Libya
Wall Street Journal
January 18, 2015

Islamic State fighters launched a naval assault in northern Libya last week, dispatching three boats that fired on an oil terminal at Zueitina. Local guards repelled that attack, but it was a reminder of Islamic State’s growing capabilities and reach beyond its heartland in Syria and Iraq. Too bad Western capitals seem unprepared to stop it.

The Zueitina episode was the latest in a string of Islamic State attacks in Libya since the new year. On Jan. 8 an Islamic State truck bomb hit a police academy in Zliten, western Libya, killing 65 people. The same week Islamic State arson attacks ignited two other Libyan oil terminals. Islamic State draws much of its revenue by marketing oil from captured fields in Iraq and Syria.

Following the Zletin truck bombing, the European Union—300 miles across the Mediterranean—offered $108 million in security assistance to Libya. The aid is supposed to take the form of technical and logistical support to the newly formed Libyan unity government, currently based in neighboring Tunisia.

The problem is that the new government—the product of a shaky agreement last month between the internationally recognized government based in Tobruk and the Islamist-backed General National Congress, headquartered in Tripoli—remains a mostly notional entity. The competing governments have been at war for years, even as they both fight Islamic State, and elements of both governments have rejected the unity deal, as have some of their respective tribal and militia supporters. Whether those political divisions can be resolved is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime the jihadist threat from Libya is growing larger.

That was underscored in December when Islamic State paraded a police force in the coastal city of Sirte, where it also holds the airport. Islamic State now controls a long strip of the coastline between Tripoli and Benghazi, territory that also serves the group’s propaganda purposes in claiming to be an Islamic caliphate.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to target Islamic State in Libya, while the U.S. last year conducted limited air strikes against jihadists. But Western leaders insist they are waiting for a political solution to the civil war before intervening directly. A negotiated settlement would be welcome but could take months if not years to materialize. That gives Islamic State and other jihadist groups ample time to profit from the chaos.

The West’s central interest in the region isn’t to salvage a Libyan state, assuming that’s even possible. It’s to ensure that the territory doesn’t become a haven for jihadists with access to oil revenues and a dangerous perch on the Mediterranean. A dedicated NATO bombing campaign, if necessary combined with limited ground forces, to destroy Islamic State in Libya would send the valuable signal that the West won’t tolerate such a threat so close to its shores. That signal might also give Libya’s factions more incentive to reconcile, but in any case it would make the world safer.

Islamic State attack sets storage tanks ablaze at Libyan oil terminal
Reuters
January 21, 2015

Islamic State militants set fire on Thursday to oil storage tanks in a fresh assault on Ras Lanuf terminal in northern Libya and the group threatened further attacks as they exploit a prolonged power vacuum in the large north African nation.

The chairman of the National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Sanalla, told reporters in Tripoli that Ras Lanuf - shut since December 2014 - would remain closed for a "long time" because of the damage inflicted on Thursday and in earlier attacks.

Libya remains dogged by violence and political turmoil nearly five years after the overthrow of veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi, with two rival governments and parliaments based in Tripoli and in the east as well as various armed factions vying for power and a share of the country's oil wealth.

The Islamic State militants drove into the oil storage site early in the morning and clashed with security guards before retreating and firing from a distance to set four tanks on fire, NOC spokesman Mohamed al-Harari said.

A pipeline leading from the Amal oil field to the nearby Es Sider terminal, the biggest on Libya's Mediterranean coast, was also targeted, said Mohamed al-Manfi, an energy official allied with Libya's eastern-based government.

Ras Lanuf and Es Sider together have an export capacity of 600,000 barrels per day. They were processing about half of that before they were both closed in December 2014.

The NOC said the area was facing an "environmental catastrophe", with huge columns of smoke billowing from the fires and damage to power lines supplying residential and industrial districts.

"Residents are trying to build a barrier to stop the oil and fire from reaching gas pipelines and water pipelines, and the main road," the NOC's Harari said.

Islamic State militants have managed to establish a foothold in the city of Sirte, which lies about 200 km (125 miles) along the coast to the west of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider.

In a video posted on Islamic State's official Telegram channel, fighter Abu Abdelrahman al-Liby said: "Today Es Sider port and Ras Lanuf and tomorrow the port of Brega and after the ports of Tobruk, Es Serir, Jallo, and al-Kufra."

OIL PRODUCTION DISRUPTED

Libya's current oil production stands at 362,000 barrels per day, he told Reuters. That is less than a quarter of a 2011 high of 1.6 million barrels per day, though production has not changed significantly in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago clashes between Islamic State and the Petroleum Facilities Guards who control the area around Es Sider and Ras Lanuf left seven oil storage tanks damaged by fire and at least 18 guards dead.

At least 1.3 million barrels of oil were lost as a result of the clashes and up to 3 million barrels could be at risk because of the latest attack, said NOC spokesman Harari.

The NOC sent a tanker to remove oil from the terminals in an effort to prevent further damage, but guards prevented it from loading, citing security concerns.

On Thursday the NOC blamed the "intransigence" of the Petroleum Facilities Guards in blocking the shipment for the further damage it suffered from the latest attack.

The guards are led by a federalist who has supported Libya's eastern government, but analysts say their loyalties are uncertain within the country's complex pattern of allegiances.

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Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Situation in the Republic of Cote d&#39Ivoire

Heading home after Ebola, Ivorian refugees in Liberia bear scars of war
Yahoo News
By Kieran Guilbert
January 19, 2016

Yamthe Lambert's eyes fill with tears as he recalls searching for his wife and six children while masses of people fled their homes in fear at the height of Ivory Coast's 2011 civil war.

The 63-year-old, who was working as a miner away from his home city of Guiglo when the conflict erupted, rushed home to search for his family as the country descended into chaos, but instead found his house and car set ablaze.

"I was too late, they had already gone," he said, sitting inside his home at Bahn refugee camp in northeast Liberia, a vast tract dotted with trees and clay-brick houses some 50 km (30 miles) from the Ivory Coast border.

Lambert was among more than 200,000 Ivorians who fled to Liberia after a disputed presidential election in November 2010 plunged Ivory Coast into its second civil war in a decade.

Having crossed the border to Liberia alone in 2011, Lambert feared he would never see his family again.

But when an aid worker who moved from Bahn to another camp spotted a boy that resembled Lambert and discovered that it was his son, the family were reunited - after three years apart.

"When my family arrived at Bahn, we embraced tightly for 20 minutes without letting go – we couldn't let go," Lambert said.

Now, five years after the civil war forced them to seek refuge in Liberia, and a year-and-a-half after their hopes of heading home were crushed by the world's worst Ebola outbreak, Lambert and his family are preparing to go home.

Most of the Ivorians who sought refuge in Liberia started heading home a year after the 2011 conflict. But some 35,000 refugees who remained were left in limbo when the spread of Ebola caused Liberia to shut its borders to curb the outbreak.

With the epidemic under control, and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor as the border remains closed, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has restarted a drive to take refugees home and help to rebuild their lives.

Several convoys carrying hundreds of people have crossed the border since December, and with almost a third of the refugees having expressed a desire to go home as soon as possible, thousands more are set to follow in the coming months.

"We are desperate to go back - to have a real home, and a real life," said Lambert, squeezing his wife's hand tightly.

SCARRED BY VIOLENCE

On the outskirts of Bahn, one of three camps hosting Ivorian refugees in Liberia, several women sift through a wheelbarrow piled high with clothes, picking out tops, skirts and shoes.

Nearby, a group of men in brightly coloured shirts huddle in the shade to avoid the midday sun as they discuss their futures.

"Many people have been eager to go back since December, but there are also a lot waiting to hear what life is like for those who return before making a decision," said Augustus Taylor from the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission.

Many refugees bear the scars of the abuse and violence they witnessed and suffered, and some are unsure if they will or can ever go back.

Mother-of-five Theodile Goun fixes her eyes on the ground as she explains how she was forced to strip naked by armed rebels loyal to Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara and threatened with rape in front of her children.

"My youngest girl is traumatised and often has flashbacks - screaming for her brother who died after being shot in the leg."

While some of Bahn's 5,000 refugees refer to the camp as a big family, tensions have flared between supporters of Ouattara and those loyal to former leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Gbagbo's refusal to accept Ouattara's win in 2010 sparked the brief conflict that killed around 3,000 people, and refugee Richard Gouanoun said his status as a former member of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front party had made him a target in the camp.

He said he was arrested and detained for weeks after pro-Ouattara refugees accused him of training other refugees in the camp to carry out attacks in Ivory Coast.

"There is no way I can ever go back to my country, it would be too dangerous. But I don't feel safe in the camp either, we are too close to Ivory Coast here," 44-year-old Gouanoun said.

STRUGGLE TO ADAPT

While grateful for the shelter and security provided by the camp, many refugees have struggled to adapt to life in Bahn - frustrated by limited food rations and lack of opportunities.

"It isn't easy being in a remote area, with no power, living in darkness - it is a far cry from Abidjan," said Philochard Gonto, 30, who is impatient to return home to finish his degree in Ivory Coast's main city.

Monthly rice rations have been cut by almost half as funding has dried up, and those picking up the sacks are subdued as they balance them on their heads or bundle them into wheelbarrows.

The UNHCR has provided training to teach skills such as soap making, hairdressing and tailoring, but only a few refugees have been given such opportunities, said mother-of-four Veh Elisee.

The lack of secondary education in Bahn camp means that children also have little to do, leading to a number of young girls falling pregnant, according to the 33-year old Ivorian.

"There are 12-year-olds having sex and children of their own because their is nothing to occupy them... what can you do if your child meets a boy who promises her a few dollars for sex?"

While education and work in Bahn may be limited, the UNHCR is giving grants and food rations to refugees heading home, who will also receive help to reclaim their land and go to school.

Strolling through the camp with his wife and children as the sun sinks behind the lush, green landscape, Lambert admits to worries about what might await his family in Ivory Coast.

But he smiles as he talks about the prospect of a better life back home for his children.

"For my wife and I, our time has passed, but what about the future of our children? We need to go home, so they can discover their country and culture - and succeed in life."

Ivory Coast 'surprised' by Burkina warrant against parliament head
Reuters UK
By Joe Bavier
January 19, 2016

Ivory Coast's government said late on Monday it was "surprised" that neighbouring Burkina Faso had issued an arrest warrant for the speaker of the Ivorian parliament, charging that he sought to back a coup against Burkina Faso's transitional government.

In a statement from the office of the president, Ivory Coast called for the matter to be resolved through diplomatic channels.

Burkina authorities issued the international warrant last week, based on an audio recording of a conversation allegedly between the speaker, Guillaume Soro, and Djibril Bassole, a political ally of Burkina Faso's deposed long-time ruler, Blaise Compaore.

On the recording, which was posted on the Internet last year, two men discuss ways to support a coup then under way against Burkina Faso's interim government.

The coup, led by Compaore's former spy chief, Gilbert Diendere, briefly seized power from Michel Kafando, the interim president. Kafando was guiding Burkino Faso's transition to democracy after popular protests forced out Compaore, who appeared to be manoeuvring to remain in power.

The warrant against Soro, an ex-rebel leader turned politician, has fuelled tensions between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, which share a history of close, if often fraught, economic and political ties.

"The Presidency of ... Ivory Coast is surprised that this document, which targets the president of the second institution of the Republic of Ivory Coast, was issued with disregard for rules and customs," read a statement.

The warrant, which was seen by Reuters, stated that Soro was charged with criminal association, complicity in treason and complicity in an attack on state security.

Both Diendere and Bassole are already in custody in Burkina Faso. Soro has declined to comment on the warrant.

"Ivory Coast reaffirms its firm will to resolve this question through diplomatic channels, respecting our treaties, in order to avoid any disagreements between our two states," the statement said.

Soro and his New Forces rebels controlled northern Ivory Coast for eight years after a 2002 civil war. Allies of then- Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo accused Compaore of supporting the rebellion, a charge denied at the time by Burkina's authorities.

The rebels backed Ouattara's claim to leadership during a second war in 2011 after Gbagbo refused to recognise his election defeat. As speaker, Soro would take over from Ouattara if the president were to die in office.

Compaore has lived mainly in Ivory Coast since the protests in October 2014 forced him to flee Burkina Faso. A warrant for his arrest was issued by Burkina Faso last month. Ivorian authorities have yet to comment publicly on that case.

UN downsizing Ivory Coast mission in sign of progress
CTPost
January 20, 2016

The U.N. Security Council is downsizing the peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, signaling faith in the West African country's stability six years after political upheaval left thousands dead.

The Security Council is decreasing the authorized ceiling of the force's military component from 5,437 troops to 4,000 by March 31.

In a resolution approved Wednesday, the council called the Oct. 25 presidential election a "critical milestone" in consolidating "long-term peace and stability" in the world's largest cocoa producer.

President Alassane Ouattara easily won re-election in October after overseeing economic growth during his first term in office.

Ouattara was first elected in 2010 over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to leave office led to months of fighting that killed more than 3,000 people. Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011.

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AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

Official Website of the ICTR

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Mali

War Crimes Court Delays Hearing in Timbuktu Destruction Case
Yahoo! News
January 13, 2016

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday postponed a landmark hearing to confirm charges against an alleged Al-Qaeda militant accused of ordering the destruction of monuments in Mali's fabled city of Timbuktu.

The case is the first to be brought by the world's only permanent war crimes court over the extremist violence that rocked Mali in 2012 and 2013.

It is also the first time that a jihadist has appeared before the court in The Hague and the first ICC case to feature the destruction of religious buildings and historical monuments.

The court said in a statement that judge Cuno Tarfusser had granted a defence request to postpone the confirmation of charges hearing against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi.

The case will now be heard on March 1.

Faqi's lawyers asked for the postponement, saying not all evidence in the case had been disclosed.

They also said there had been a delay in providing a computer for their client and that the court's move to new headquarters in December had affected their preparations.

A former civil servant in the Malian government in 2011, Faqi was handed over to the ICC in September last year by authorities in Niger.

A Tuareg leader also known as Abu Tourab, he is accused of war crimes over the deliberate destruction of buildings at a UNESCO-listed desert heritage site in 2012.

Nicknamed the "City of 333 Saints", Timbuktu, which is located around 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) northeast of Mali's capital Bamako, was overrun by Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in early 2012.

In June of that year, the militants destroyed more than a dozen of the city's mausoleums dating back to its golden age as an economic, intellectual and spiritual centre in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Faqi was a leader of Ansar Dine, a mainly Tuareg group which held sway over Mali's desert north, together with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and a third local group, until being routed in a French-led offensive in January 2013.

  What a Mali-Burkina Faso Anti-Terrorism Coalition Will Mean For West Africa Ventures Africa
Ventures Africa
By Oreoluwa Runsewe

January 18, 2016

Following the recent terror attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, both countries have formed a coalition to battle the menace. The prime ministers of both countries met in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou on Sunday to discuss this new coalition. This resolution came just two days after members of terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) attacked a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, killing 28 people and wounding another 50. These attacks follow a similar one carried out by the group in a hotel in Mali in November 2015.

The objective of the coalition is "sharing intelligence and conducting joint security patrols following two deadly and well-coordinated attacks in the region". This coalition looks a lot like the one formed by fellow West African neighbours Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon in May 2014. It was then upgraded in June 2015 after Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in. The Nigerian coalition has had its own challenges. The coalition has since last year been upgraded to an 8,700 strong joint task force team including Benin republic.

However, Ventures Africa spoke to Dr. Bolarinwa of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos Nigeria and here's what he had to say about the coalition. He expects the Mali coalition to yield positive results. "I believe the coalition would stem the killings that look to be gaining ground in that part of West Africa. It could also extend to other West African countries and hopefully bring positive results". The Mali-Burkina Faso coalition seems necessary considering the fact that the AQIM, who were mostly operating in Northern Mali, now seem to be moving southwards to other African countries.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram

The AQIM terror group gained worldwide recognition during the Malian civil war between 2012 and 2013. Since then, it has carried out a series of random attacks in Northern Mali, apparently in a bid to create its own caliphate. The AQIM is an affiliate of Al-Qaeda and reportedly has links with East Africa's Al-Shebab. After the civil war ended, AQIM merged with Al-Mourabitoun, another terror group in Mali. Looking at their recent attack in Burkina Faso, they seem to be moving downwards towards other West African countries, a course which could see them come in contact with Boko Haram. "They need to be stopped now before they grow into something big like Boko Haram. Boko Haram started in Nigeria in that way before it spread to Nigeria's neighbours. This coalition has come in a timely manner," said Dr Bolarinwa.

AQIM released a statement after the attack at the weekend. ""This blessed operation is but a drop in the sea of global jihad," the statement read. Boko Haram, which is affiliated with ISIS, has seen its activities in the Nigerian coalition countries greatly reduced. Despite the beef between ISIS and Al-Qaeda, a "global jihad" could hint of something more; a possible merger between Al-Qaeda's AQIM and ISIS Boko Haram.

Algeria: 2016, 'Decisive' Year in Implementing Mali Peace Agreement
AllAfrica.com
January 19, 2016

Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdoulaye Diop said Monday, in Algiers, that 2016 will be a decisive year to move towards a "qualitatively higher" phase in the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, resulting from the process of Algiers.

"We agreed that 2016 should be a decisive year to move towards a qualitatively higher phase so that the peace and reconciliation agreement in Mali becomes a reality for the populations and in order to establish lasting peace in the country," Diop told the press at the end of the 10th Algerian-Malian bilateral strategic committee on Northern Mali.

He said that Mali and Algeria recorded "progress in the implementation of the agreement but also, difficulties."

"We conducted an analysis of the situation and we realized that the implementation of the agreement recorded concrete results," he explained, adding that the Malian government made great efforts for the implementation of mechanisms and bodies in charge of implementing the agreement."

Diop underlined the importance to "speed up the implementation of the agreement in view of the relatively fragile security situation on the ground related to the activities of terrorist groups that have been active lately and whose actions targeted the north, south of the country and even the capital, Bamako."

He said that work is in progress with the "brothers of the north" to "secure this part of the country and for the strengthening of measures planned on the political level."

Furthermore, the Malian Foreign Minister hailed Algeria for its "support and commitment until the final outcome" of the peace process.

In addition, he reiterated his "gratitude" to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for his "personal commitment" alongside Mali and for the stability in the region.

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Chad

UN Provides Emergency Funds to Tens of Thousands Displaced by Boko Haram Violence
Allafrica.com
January 8, 2016

With nearly 200,000 people in Chad in need of urgent aid - 50,000 of them uprooted by Boko Haram terrorists from Nigeria - the United Nations emergency fund today announced a $7 million grant, the second in five months, and called on international donors to provide much more.

"This funding is crucial, because in spite of all the efforts made by humanitarian actors since the beginning of the year 2015, the situation remains of deep concern," UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Chad Director Florent Méhaule said.

"The humanitarian response faces several challenges, including difficulties in accessing the populations in need due to insecurity, as well as a lack of resources," he said.

The funds come from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), set up 10 years ago to provide immediate financing for both sudden-onset and long-festering crises, which in August awarded $21 million to UN partners in Sudan and Chad to sustain basic services and protection for millions of people who have fled Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region.

The new aid will assist over 50,000 Chadians forced by violence and insecurity to flee the islands of Lake Chad over the past six months for refuge in dozens of displaced people's sites, villages and districts in the prefectures of Baga-Sola, Bol, Daboua, Kangalom and Liwa. In addition, 15,000 Chadian returnees from Nigeria, 14,000 Nigerian refugees and over 700 third-country nationals need urgent aid. The displacements have also affected vulnerable host communities, among whom 112,000 people are in need of assistance.

"Our priority through this CERF funding, is to bring life-saving assistance to the people mostly affected by this crisis: displaced persons, refugees, and vulnerable host populations, whose livelihood activities - fishing, agriculture, and pastoralism - are limited by insecurity," Stephen Tull, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Chad, declared.

With nine CERF-approved projects over the next six months, UN agencies along with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and State services will provide food, protection, health, and education.

The funds will be managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The situation remains very volatile in the lake region, where over 16,000 newly displaced people, not covered by this CERF allocation, have been identified in the western area due to the latest military operations.

"CERF is the main donor for this crisis," Mr. Tull said. "Considering the severity of the situation, this funding alone will not cover all needs. Broader donor mobilization is essential in order to respond to most urgent needs and also - in medium and long term - to support the development of this region, including access to basic services and the strengthening of livelihoods."

President of Republic of Chad Assures of Ratification of African Court protocol by Early Next Year
Allafrica.com
December 23, 2015

The President of the Republic of Chad H.E. Idriss Deby Itno and the President of African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights Hon. Justice Augustino Ramadhani yesterday held cordial discussions at the State House in N'djamena. H.E the President of Chad lauded the work of the African Court and pledged that his country would by early next year ratify the Protocol establishing the Court and make the Declaration under Article 34(6) to enable individuals and NGOs to access the Court directly.

Since the adoption of the Protocol in June 1998 (more than 16 years ago), twenty 29 of the 54 Member States of the African Union have ratified it and only seven State Parties to the Protocol have made the Declaration.

Hon. Justice Ramadhani thanked the President of Chad for the assurance of the ratification of the Protocol and the Declaration.

He also thanked the government of Chad for hosting of the Court's Central African Regional Sensitization seminar 15-16 December, 2015 in N'djamena, which was attended by over 100 delegates including government officials, relevant ministries, Bar Associations and the Human Rights Commissions from Chad, Gabon, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

The seminar was preceded by a one-day sensitization for senior Chadian Journalists and Editors on 14 December, 2015.

Since December 2010, the Court has carried out continent-wide promotion programmes which have so far seen it hold 24 sensitization visits and 9 regional and continental seminars and conferences.

The main objective of the sensitization visits is to enhance the protection of human rights in Africa. Specific objectives include raising public awareness about the Court; encouraging the ratification and the deposit of the Declaration that allows individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court; sensitizing would-be applicants on how to access the Court and the procedures before the Court; encouraging the public to utilize the Court in settling human rights disputes and encouraging the utilization of the Court to render advisory opinions.

The countries which have ratified the Protocol by 23 December, 2015 are: Algeria; Benin; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire; Comoros; Congo; Gabon; The Gambia; Ghana; Kenya; Libya; Lesotho; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mozambique; Nigeria; Niger; Uganda; Rwanda; Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic; Senegal; South Africa; Tanzania; Togo; and Tunisia.

The seven States which have made the Declaration are: Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda and Tanzania.

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Nigeria

Nigeria: Lawyers will file complaint with ICC on rights abuses against Biafrans on 29 January
International Business Times
By Ludovica Iaccino
January 19, 2016

A group of Netherlands-based lawyers has set Friday 29 January as the date they will file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on alleged human right abuses committed by the Nigerian government against pro-Biafrans. Dutch lawyer and professor Göran Sluiter, from the Amsterdam-based law firm Prakken d'Oliveira, is to file the complaint.

Pro-Biafrans demand the independence of the Biafran territories forcibly annexed to modern-day Nigeria during British colonisation, which ended in 1960.

"To date, there is clear and consistent evidence that crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC have been committed in the context of politically and ethnically-motivated state violence against, primarily, IPOB [Indigenous People of Biafra] members and the Igbo people of South-Eastern Nigeria," Prakken d'Oliveira said in a statement on Tuesday 19 January.

Sluiter, who specialises in international criminal law, told IBTimes UK earlier in January that his team interviewed dozens of people who had been victim of alleged abuses, including murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearance.

Nnamdi Kanu's detention source of concern

In the latest developments, at least three pro-Biafran demonstrators are believed to have been killed in Abia state, southeastern Nigeria, during protests held by Ipob on 18 January.

Ipob announced the demonstrations a few days before a scheduled hearing on the bail application for Nnamdi Kanu – director of Radio Biafra and Ipob leader – arrested in Lagos by the State Security Service (DSS) last October. The hearing was however postponed to 20 January as the judge failed to appear in court.

Kanu, who has been accused of inciting hate during his broadcasts, was apprehended on conspiracy and terrorism charges that were later dropped. However, a day after the Abuja High Court ruled he should be released, officials pressed new treasonable felony charges against him.

During a media chat in December, President Muhammadu Buhari sparked outrage after stating that Kanu would not be freed in spite of the High Court rulings due to the "atrocities" allegedly committed.

"President Buhari, for his part, has publicly endorsed — and presumably ordered — the prolonged unlawful imprisonment, suggesting that the situation is far too politically sensitive to be entrusted to the court system," Prakken d'Oliveira said.

"Kanu and the many other victims of the Federal Government's anti-Igbo campaign have been specifically targeted for their actual or perceived support of Biafran self-determination. The right to publicly advocate and support political positions that may be disagreeable to the government of the day is protected by both Nigerian and international law."

IBTimes UK has contacted Buhari's spokesperson Femi Adesina for a comment on the allegations, but has not received a response at the time of publishing.

In a previous interview, Adesina told IBTimes UK: "The lawyers have a right to their opinions. It does not make what they say gospel truth. With regards to Nnamdi Kanu, the president already spoke on the matter during the Presidential Media Chat."

Pro-Biafrans' demands and government's position

Buhari's government has always mantained that Nigeria's unity is a priority for the country and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests are welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories is against the constitution.

Mike Omeri, a spokesperson for the Nigerian government, denied any wrongdoing by the leadership. He told IBTimes UK: "No, the Nigerian government is not committing abuses, we reject such allegations. The government of Nigerians say individuals have the right to demand for anything, but without acting to sabotage the nation.

"The government recognises the rights of the Igbo men, but it will not just watch these freedoms and rights being trampled upon by a few people," Omeri continued. "Nigeria has had a civil war. The government and 99% of the people in Nigeria do not think that we should have another one."

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo accused some people behind the protests of commercialising the Biafran cause as a way to extort money. He said during a conference in Abuja on 16 January: "There is even some suspicion that the agitators embarked on the act in order to extort money from outsiders and to also extract financial support from the government."

The former leader – who was an army commander during the civil war (1967-1970) spurred by the declaration of the Republic of Biafra, later re-annexed to Nigeria – also said Nigeria cannot afford to face another insurgency like the one carried out by Boko Haram terrorists in the north-east.

"Youth education, welfare, well-being, empowerment and employment for ever must be our collective duty, obligation and responsibility," Obasanjo said.

Nigeria Must do More for Boko Haram Kidnap Victims: UN
NDTV
January 22, 2016

UN human rights experts on Friday urged Nigeria to increase its efforts to help women and children after they have been freed from captivity by Boko Haram in the country's conflict-riven northeast.

After a five-day visit to the region, three special rapporteurs said there was an "urgent and pressing need for effective measures to address stigma, ostracism and rejection of women and children" as a result of their captivity.

Boko Haram has used the kidnap of women and young girls as well as the forced conscription of men and boys as a tactic throughout the conflict, which is now in its seventh year.

The most high-profile abduction was of more than 200 girls from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014, which caused global outrage.

But human rights groups have said thousands of others have been seized in recent years, forced into marriage with Islamist fighters and subject to physical and psychological abuse.

A Nigerian military fight-back throughout last year saw hundreds of victims freed from captivity and given trauma counselling at camps for displaced persons.

But despite their experience, there are fears they will be shunned when they return to their homes in the conservative, mainly Muslim region.

"Efforts at community cohesion, peace-building and reconciliation must start now and accelerate as people begin to return from displacement," the UN team said in a statement.

Access to a "just and effective remedy" in the courts was also "paramount to their recovery and reintegration", they added.

The three experts, who specialise in child welfare issues, contemporary slavery and healthcare, said they recognised Nigeria's efforts to find and free those abducted.

But they said "the lack of information on the steps taken to find abducted persons, including the Chibok girls, and document cases of kidnappings and abductions remains a source of major concern"

Other measures required included rebuilding education and healthcare facilities in an area where schools have been used as camps for the displaced and hospitals bombed or set on fire.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari last month said Boko Haram had been "technically" defeated as a result of the counter-insurgency, despite continued suicide and bomb attacks.

At least 17,000 people have been killed since 2009 and more than 2.6 million made homeless by the fighting.

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EUROPE

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Website [English translation]

Custody of Dragan Šarenac Terminated and Prohibiting Measures Ordered
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
January 7, 2016

Deciding upon the Motion of the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina to terminate custody and order prohibiting measures, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered the Decision dated January 5, 2016 granting the Prosecution motion, terminating custody of the Suspect Dragan Šarenac and ordering the following prohibiting measures:

The imposed prohibiting measures may last as long as necessary, or pending a new Decision of the Court. The review of justifiability of the measures shall be carried out on a bimonthly basis.

If the Suspect violates any of the imposed prohibiting measures, he may be ordered into custody.

Dragan Šarenac is suspected of the criminal offense of Organized Crime in violation of Article 250(2) of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina as read with the criminal offense of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs in violation of Article 195(1) of the CC of BIH.

Indictment Confirmed in the Case v. Sakib Mahmuljin
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
January 7, 2016

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed on December 31, 2015 the Indictment under which the Accused Sakib Mahmuljin is charged with the criminal offense of war crimes against prisoners of war, war crimes against wounded and ill and war crimes against civilians.

The Indictment alleges that during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the armed conflict between the Army of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska Army in the territory of Zavidovići Municipality, the Accused Sakib Mahmuljin, in the capacity as Commander of the 3rd Corps of Army of RBIH, within which El Mudžahidin detachment was operative, in the course of 1995 military operation of the Army of RBIH in the broader area of Zavidovići and Vozuća wherein members of El Mudžahidindetachment committed war crimes against Serb prisoners of war and civilians, failed to undertake actions to prevent the said crimes although he had information that members of the Detachment were preparing to commit them, and failed to take any action in order to punish perpetrators after the crimes were committed.

Indictment Confirmed in the Case v. Sekula Babić
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
January 13, 2016

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed on December 29, 2015 the Indictment under which the Accused Sekula Babić is charged with the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians in violation of Article 173(1) sub-paragraphs (c) and (f), in junction with Article 29 regarding counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment, all in conjunction with Article 180(1) of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Indictment alleges that during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and armed conflict between the Croatian Defense Council and Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on one side and Army of Republika Srpska on the other during 1992 in the territory of Glamoč municipality, the Accused Sekula Babić, participated in killings, intentional infliction of sever bodily and mental pain and suffereing, torture, inhumane treatemtn, infliction of great suffering and violation of bodily integrity and looting of property of citizens from the territory of Glamoč municipality.

Indictment Confirmed in the Case v. Milorad Radaković et al.
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
January 19, 2016

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed on January 11, 2016 the Indictment under which the Accused Milorad Radaković and Goran Pejić are charged with the criminal offense of Crimes against Humanity.

The Indictment alleges that Milorad Radaković, as a member of Reserve forces of Public Security Station Prijedor, and Goran Pejić, as a member of so far unidentified military or police unit, within a widespread and systematic attack of military, police and paramilitary units of Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, later Republika Srpska, which was directed against Croat and Bosniak civilian population in the place of Tukovi, municipality of Prijedor, knowing of the attack and that their actions make a part of the attack, knowingly and willfully contributed to persecution by attacking the Ećimović family and killing five members of that family realizing the goal of threatening and sending a sinister message and threat to the rest of Croat civilian population in the settlement of Tukovi and entire municipality of Prijedor that they are unwanted in the area and that they would see the same destiny.

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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

Bosniak Military Policeman Indicted for Prisoner Abuse
Balkan Transitional Justice
By Justice Report/ BIRN/ Sarajevo
January 11, 2016

The prosecution on Monday charged Zilic, a former member of the 4th Battalion of the Bosnian Army's military police, with having personally committed, ordered, enabled and failed to prevent the inhumane treatment of Croat and Serb detainees who were held in the Musala sports hall in Konjic.

According to the charges, from May to October 1993, Zilic enabled guards to treat the detainees in an inhumane manner and allowed unauthorised entrance to the detention centre to people who then beat the detainees and committed other inhumane acts.

The state prosecution alleges that Zilic beat detainees several times using various objects and abused them while they performed forced labour if he found out that they had a slice of bread or some other food with them.

It also alleges that detainees who were held at the sports hall were sexually abused and forced to have sex with each other. They were subjected to torture, being burned on their genitals with red-hot objects, the prosecution further claims.

The indictment has been sent to the state court for confirmation.

Bosnian Policemen Face Trial for Detaining, Killing Serbs
Balkan Transitional Justice
By Justice Report/ BIRN/ Sarajevo
January 12, 2016

The state court in Sarajevo on Monday confirmed the indictment of ex-policemen Ibro Merkez, Predrag Bogunic and Esef Huric for crimes against Serb civilians in the Gorazde area from July 1992 to the second half of February 1993.

They are charged with having ordered and participated in the detention and murders of more than 100 civilians aged between seven and 70 years in the Gorazde area.

According to the charges, Merkez was the chief of the police's public safety station in Gorazde and a member of the wartime presidency of the Gorazde municipal assembly, Bogunic was the chief of the public safety station in Gorazde and Huric was the commander of the police station in Gorazde.

They are accused of committing the crimes while executing unlawful orders issued by the presidency of the Gorazde municipal assembly and verbal commands given by municipal president Hadzo Efendic to detain the local Serb civilian population from the village of Bucje in the public safety station in Gorazde.

Dragan Vasiljkovic, Also Known as Daniel Snedden, Could Soon Face a War Crimes Trial after Croatian Prosecutors Issued an Indictment
SBS
By AAP, SBS News
January 13, 2016

A Croatian court has indicted a former Serb paramilitary commander, who became a golf instructor in Australia, for for torturing and killing Croatian soldiers and civilians during Zagreb's 1991-95 war of independence.

The indictment comes nearly six months after Dragan Vasiljkovic, known as Daniel Snedden in Australia, lost a nine-year battle to block his extradition to Croatia from Australia, which took place in July.

He is charged with violating the Geneva Convention by torturing and killing captive Croatian soldiers and police in the Serb rebel stronghold of Knin in June and July, 1991 and in Bruska in February, 1993, the county prosecutor's office in the coastal city of Split said in a statement on Friday.

Vasiljkovic is also accused of drawing up a plan to attack the police station in Glina and neighbouring villages in July, 1991.

"During the attack, civilian buildings were damaged or destroyed, the population was forced to flee, property was looted and civilians were killed or wounded, including a foreign journalist," the prosecuter's statement said.

Vasiljkovic, who holds dual Serbian and Australian citizenship, was arrested in Australia in 2006 on a warrant issued in Croatia.

At the time, he worked as a golf instructor in Perth.

His lawyer Sladjana Cankovic told SBS Radio's Croatian program the trial is expected to get underway in coming months.

"After receiving the indictment [on January 8] we have eight days to lodge an appeal," Ms Cankovic said.

"Within a further 15 days the court will decide whether to confirm the indictment.

"After the indictment has been confirmed a preliminary hearing will be set at which the defence and prosecution will present their evidence [in support of or against a trial going ahead]. We estimate the trial could begin in the spring."

Ms Cankovic said an appeal to have Vasiljkovic released to prepare his defence will be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, on account of the years he spent in extradition detention in Australia.

"Dragan Vasiljkovic has been in prison for ten years and doesn't have the financial means to pay for his (legal) defence," Ms Cankovic said.

"He has applied to the Australian government, which approved assistance to finance his defence for a period of six months."

Court authorities have refused his offer to give up his passport and post bail to the value of around $1 million.

Croatia declared independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991, but its Serb minority, backed by Belgrade, rebelled and seized a third of the country by force.

Croatia crushed the rebellion in 1995.

It became a member of the European Union in 2013.

Serb Fighter to Face Trial for Shooting Bosniak
Balkan Transitional Justice
By Justice Report/ BIRN/ Sarajevo
January 13, 2016

The state court on Wednesday confirmed the indictment of Zmijanjac, who is accused of killing a Bosniak civilian and threatening other members of his family in the Prijedor area.

He allegedly committed the crime while he was a member of an unidentified military, police or paramilitary group, dressed in a camouflage uniform and armed with an automatic rifle.

The prosecution said after Zmijanjac's arrest in December that the relatives of the man he killed were then taken to the Trnopolje detention camp, where they were tortured and abused before being expelled from the area.

Zagreb to Try 1990s Croatian Serb Leader
Balkan Transitional Justice
By Sven Milekic
January 18, 2016

Zagreb County Court in February will begin the trial of the former president of an unrecognised wartime Serb rebel statelet called the Republic of Serbian Krajina, Milan Martic, and its military chief-of-staff, Milan Celeketic.

According to the indictment filed back in 2003, the two men are accused of ordering and organising rocket attacks on Zagreb, as well as the central Coatian towns of Karlovac and Jastrebarsko, in reprisal for the Croatian military's Operation Flash in the western Slavonia area in May 1995.

Since Martic was already convicted of the attacks on Zagreb by the Hague Tribunal in 2008, he is now only indicted for the attacks on Karlovac and Jastrebarsko, while Celeketic is accused of attacking all three cities.

Seven civilians were killed in the attacks on Zagreb, but there were no fatalities in Karlovac and Jastrebarsko, only damage to buildings.

Both men will be tried in their absence, as Martic is serving his prison sentence in Estonia, while Celeketic lives in the northern Serbian town of Subotica and Belgrade does not want to extradite him.

The court case was delayed because the indictment had to be altered after Martic was sentenced to 35 years by Hague Tribunal for helping to organise the ethnic cleansing of all non-Serbs in the area under his control, as well as the Zagreb rocket attacks.

Questions were also raised about whether Martic could be tried in his absence, as the Croatian authorities knew where he was.

After Estonia refused to extradite him, the Croatian Supreme Court decided in December that he could be tried in absentia.

When the indictment was first sent to Martic in 2010, he dismissed the accusations.

"I find this to be an ordinary provocation and I don't accept it," he said.

However Martic confirmed in a TV interview on the same day as the attacks on the Croatian towns that he ordered them - a crucial piece of evidence in his Hague Tribunal indictment.

He went on the run for several years after being indicted but surrendered in May 2002.

Bosnian Serb Fighters Face Trial for Killing Family
Balkan Transitional Justice
By Denis Dzidic
January 20, 2016

The Bosnian state court on Tuesday confirmed the indictment of Radakovic and Pejic for killing five members of the Ecimovic family in the Tukovi neighbourhood of Prijedor in June 1992.

Two women, one man and two children aged five and seven were killed, said the Bosnian court.

The indictment alleges the defendants intended to send a threatening message to the non-Serb civilian population in the area by killing the Croat family.

According to the indictment, Radakovic is a former member of reservist forces from a local police station while Pejic is a former member of an unidentified military or police formation.

Radakovic has previously been acquitted of involvement in the massacre of 150 Bosniaks and Croats at Koricanske Stijene on Mount Vlasic in central Bosnia and Herzegovina in August 1992.

Also on Tuesday, the district court in Banja Luka has confirmed an indictment against Ratko Marinovic, charging him with war crimes against the civilian population in the village of Ovanjska, near Ostra Luka.

According to the charges, Marinovic, a former member of the Bosnian Serb Army, killed a civilian with an automatic rifle in his family home in Ovanjska.

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Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Turkey- Hague Tribunal Demands Updates on Serbian Radicals' Arrests
Menafn- The Journal of Turkish Weekly
January 14, 2016

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ICTY told the Serbian authorities on Wednesday to file regular updates about its progress in arresting Serbian Radical Party officials Vjerica Radeta Petar Jojic and Jovo Ostojic.

Radeta Jojic and Ostojic are accused of threatening two protected witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj's war crimes trial.

They are also accused of blackmailing the protected witnesses and offered them bribes of 500 euros in order not to testify at Seselj's trial for alleged wartime crimes in Bosnia Croatia and Serbia.

The ICTY ordered Belgrade "to submit monthly reports to the chamber outlining its efforts with regard to executing the arrest warrants with the first report being due on 1 February 2016".

The contempt indictments against the three Serbian Radical Party officials were raised confidentially on December 5 2014 while the warrants for their arrests were issued in secret on January 19 2015. Redacted versions were only made public in the beginning of December last year.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday that Belgrade will comply with the ICTY's request.

"They asked for the report. They will get the report" Vucic told a press conference.

The head of the Serbian office for cooperation with the Hague Tribunal Rasim Ljajic said in December that the publishing of the indictments was "surprising and unexpected".

"We expected that Vojislav Seselj's verdict would [be handed down] over the course of this year and that most logical thing would e to try these people for contempt of court at the same time as the verdict on Seselj is rendered" Ljajic said in a statement.

Seselj is still waiting for the exact date of his first-instance verdict after several controversial delays.

He returned to Belgrade after being granted temporary release on humanitarian grounds in November 2014 to undergo cancer treatment.

According to Serbia's Law on Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Belgrade is not obliged to comply with all the Hague court's requests.

The government can deny any request if it believes that it violates Serbia's sovereignty or national security.

One of the accused Radical Party officials Vjerica Radeta told media she would never go to the Hague court voluntarily.

This is not the first case of contempt of court during the ICTY's 20-year history.

The most famous was against the UN court's former spokesperson Florence Hartmann who was fined 7000 Euros in 2011 for disclosing evidence from a trial.

Seselj was also convicted three times of contempt of court.

The Radical Party chief is still in Serbia waiting for the ICTY to deliver his verdict in 2016.

Although the UN court has asked for him to return to detention in The Hague the Serbian authorities haven't arrested him citing his poor health as a reason.

Since returning to Belgrade in 2014 Seselj has led nationalist protests and made a series of hardline statements that have angered war victims.

He had been in custody since 2003 when he voluntarily surrendered.

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MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Official Website of the Extraordinary Chambers
Official Website of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT)
Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

Stanford Experts Find Flaws in Khmer Rouge Tribunal Judgment
Stanford News
By Kendra Davidson and Bethany Augliere
January 11, 2016

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which convicted senior leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge regime for alleged violations of international law, made serious mistakes in its trial process and final judgment, according to a new report by Stanford experts.

The tribunal, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was set up to examine the serious crimes perpetrated during the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s. An estimated 1.7 million people died during this period as a result of starvation, torture, execution and forced labor.

In 2014, the tribunal issued a ruling in the first case against Nuon Chea, 88, former chairman of the Democratic Kampuchea National Assembly and deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, 84, former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea. It found them guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced them both to life imprisonment.

However, "flaws in the trial process and the final judgment overshadow the verdicts against the two Khmer Rouge leaders," wrote David Cohen, Penelope Van Tuyl and Melanie Hyde in a report from Stanford's WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Organizational problems

In a detailed critique of the the tribunal's judgment, the authors found that it was "poorly written and well below the standard of most of the other international criminal tribunals." It offers a "poorly organized, meandering narrative in lieu of clearly structured legal writing based upon a thorough and balanced analysis of the legal and factual issues in dispute," they wrote.

Beyond the structure and organization of the judgment, the Stanford researchers also criticize its "liability assessment." In doing so, they cited questionable foundations in law; a weak foundation for factual findings; conflicting accounts and internal inconsistencies; a lack of systematic analysis in highly consequential sections of factual findings; and the poor application of law to facts, among other issues.

"Again and again, the judgment draws inferences from a factual narrative that assumes rather than justifies the validity of those inferences," they wrote. This is particularly apparent, they argued, when the judgment infers that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan participated in key meetings of the Khmer Rouge leadership, even though the evidence about their attendance was incomplete and often contradictory.

"Almost entirely lacking in the chamber's treatment of this evidence is an analysis of whether those inferences and their factual basis meet the reasonable beyond doubt standard of proof according to the systematic application of criteria for assessing credibility and probative value," the authors wrote.

Through the Stanford center's trial monitoring program in Cambodia, which provided weekly updates on the trial from researchers and Stanford students, the authors observed several flaws in the trial procedure that contributed to the "troubled" final judgment.

For example, the report noted a highly controversial move at the beginning of the trial when the judges decided to separate the charges in the case into a series of smaller trials, divided by subject matter. According to the researchers, the judges did this because they were concerned about the size and scope of the case, the age and ill health of the accused leaders, and the court's ability to complete the trial.

However, all parties involved complained of a "lack of clarity" in this severance order, which was annulled and then reinstated over the course of the trial, causing confusion, triggering new trial management challenges and creating more inefficiency in the end, according to the report.

Another cause of procedural controversy were repeated concerns expressed at trial over the court's treatment of documentary evidence, which "struggled to balance the sometimes competing imperatives of efficiency and fairness," the authors wrote.

For example, the tribunal decided to admit a large body of prior statements into evidence without calling these witnesses to testify in court, thus leaving this evidence largely untested.

"The confusion of severance, combined with a serious erosion of confrontation rights and the persistent failure of the judgment to carefully weigh and analyze the probative value of the evidence, give ample reason to question the soundness and legitimacy of the factual and legal findings in the judgment," they wrote. 'Ripple effects'

Furthermore, the poor quality of the judgment "raises concerns about fair trial rights" and "cannot be ignored," the authors warned. "The judgment of one tribunal, well-reasoned or not, will certainly have ripple effects that affect subsequent decisions in other tribunals."

They hope that the report will provide the basis for addressing these concerns in future cases and trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

"Internationally backed criminal tribunals can, and must, be expected to achieve the highest professional standards," said Van Tuyl, a human rights attorney who serves as the Handa Center's associate director.

"To the extent that we focus on the shortcomings of Case 002/01 in our report, we do so believing that earnest, constructive criticism is indispensable to building stronger, more legitimate institutions in the long run," Van Tuyl added.

The Handa Center will continue to observe and report on the proceedings at the ECCC through its trial-monitoring program, "in order to promote and constructively contribute to institutional growth and improvement in the field of international criminal justice," said Cohen, director of the center.

Cambodian court told Khmer Rouge beheaded Muslim Women
The Star Online
January 13, 2016

Cambodia's UN-backed court heard chilling details on Wednesday of the mass murder of Muslim women by Khmer Rouge soldiers, the latest grisly testimony in the trial of two top leaders of the ruthless communist regime.

"Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 89, and the former head of state Khieu Samphan, 84, are being tried for genocide of ethnic Vietnamese and Muslim minorities, as well as for their regime's use of forced marriage and rape.

The pair have already been handed life sentences in a previous trial that focused on the regime's forced evacuation of Phnom Penh into rural labour camps and murders at an execution site.

Up to two million Cambodians died under Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979, including an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Cham Muslims and 20,000 Vietnamese.

Before these charges were filed, the mistreatment of the two minority groups was rarely discussed.

Cham survivor Math Sor, who was a teenager when the regime took power, told the court she was captured with about 30 other women in her north-eastern village by Khmer Rouge cadres and tied up in a house. Twenty of the captives -- those who said they had Cham parents or were not fully Khmer -- were then taken to a pit several metres away, she told the UN-backed court.

"I heard the screams of 'please don't rape me'," recounted Math Sor, who lost eight relatives, including her parents and two pregnant sisters, during the Khmer Rouge's brief but brutal rule.

She then watched soldiers behead the women through "a crack in the wall" of the house where she and the others were held.

The soldiers also forced Cham Muslims in her village to eat pork, speak Khmer, and cut their hair, she told the court.

Last September, the court heard how copies of the Koran were "collected from houses and burned" by Khmer Rouge troops.

The Khmer Rouge regime dismantled modern society in Cambodia in their quest for an agrarian Marxist utopia.

Many key leaders have died without facing justice, including "Brother Number One" Pol Pot who died in 1998.

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Iraq

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Report: Kurds displacing Arabs in Iraq in what could be 'war crimes'
The Washington Post
By Loveday Morris
January 19, 2016

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, close partners of the United States, have burned and bulldozed the homes of Arab families in actions that may constitute war crimes, Amnesty International alleged in a new report. Kurdish forces under the regional government, known as the peshmerga, have spearheaded a "concerted campaign" to displace Arab communities in northern Iraq, Amnesty said. A spokesman for the peshmerga said the allegations were false and that the destruction was caused by their enemies, the Islamic State.

The allegations came as the United Nations highlighted the ongoing impact of the Islamic State's war in Iraq, describing the continuing violence suffered by civilians as "staggering."

The United States has worked closely with Kurdish forces in their battles with the Islamic State since the extremists swept into northern Iraq in mid-2014, seizing the northern city of Mosul. The American military has backed the Kurdish fighters with training and airstrikes, helping them to push back Islamic State militants.

But while Kurdish villagers and members of the minority Yazidi sect have been allowed to return to areas liberated from the Islamic State, Arabs are in some cases being barred from going home and their property has been destroyed, Amnesty said.

"The forced displacement of civilians and the deliberate destruction of homes and property without military justification may amount to war crimes," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser, who carried out the field research in northern Iraq.

The report was based on investigations in 13 villages and towns, in Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces, that peshmerga forces recaptured from the Islamic State between September 2014 and March 2015. It was corroborated by satellite imagery, Amnesty said.

In Jalawla, east of Diyala province, residents are unable to return and the villages have been largely destroyed, the report said.

However, Jabbar Yawar, a spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga, said that hundreds of families have been allowed to go back in the past two weeks.

"These are false accusations," he said. He said houses had been heavily damaged by fighting and by booby traps set by Islamic State militants. "It's normal for there to be destruction, and it was caused by Daesh," he said, using a term for the extremist group derived from its Arabic acronym.

Shiite militia forces and Syrian Kurdish forces have been accused by rights groups of similar abuses in the past. Such forces have suspected Arabs of being sympathetic to the Islamic State militants, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Arabs.

Some Kurdish officials have justified the displacement of Arab communities on security grounds, the report said. In some cases Yazidi militias and Kurdish armed groups from Syria and Turkey have also been involved, it said.

The Kurdish government has been accused of using the conflict as a way of consolidating its grip on areas that have long been the subject of territorial disputes with Baghdad.

The demographic makeup of such regions is particularly sensitive. Many Arab families moved into them — and many Kurds were displaced — during the rule of Saddam Hussein. The Kurdish government is now attempting to "reverse past abuses,"Amnesty said.

In a separate report released Tuesday, the United Nations also documented alleged abuses by the Iraqi security forces, including militias, tribal forces and peshmerga. The United Nations also said it had received reports in August that peshmerga forces had demolished houses in Sunni-Arab-inhabited areas in Jalawla.

The U.N. report said that the Islamic State "continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law." It added, "These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide."

The United Nations said that the Islamic State has enslaved around 3,500 people in Iraq.

The northern town of Sinjar was the site of some of the Islamic State's most notorious abuses. Men were killed en masse and women and children captured and enslaved.

Women who were taken as sex slaves were bought and sold for between $500 and $2,000 each, the report said.

After Sinjar was recaptured by Kurdish forces in November, Kurdish officials said that Arab villagers who were not associated with the Islamic State would eventually be allowed home, but many Yazidi civilians said they would never be able to live side by side with them again.

Yazidis openly took part in mass looting of Arab homes in the area, driving past checkpoints of Kurdish security officials in trucks stacked with goods from the houses of their Arab neighbors.

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Syria

Deliberate Starvation in Syria Labeled War Crime by U.N.
Breitbart
By John Hayward
January 17, 2016

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared the use of man-made famine in Syria to be a "war crime" on Thursday. He described "all sides, including the Syrian government" as "committing this and other atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law."

"U.N. teams have witnessed scenes that haunt the soul," said the Secretary-General. "The elderly and children, men and women, who were little more than skin and bones: gaunt, severely malnourished, so weak they could barely walk, and utterly desperate for the slightest morsel."

The Syrian government and its allies have blockaded the city of Madaya, which just began receiving shipments of U.N. aid, for months, according to CNN. Meanwhile, the towns of al-Fouaa and Kefraya have suffered forced starvation due to rebel blockades. U.N. relief convoys are expected in those two towns next week.

The CNN report describes UNICEF workers finding young children suffering from extreme malnutrition in Madaya, including one who died right before their eyes. UNICEF representative Hanaa Singer described the people of the city as "exhausted and extremely frail," tended by doctors who were "emotionally distressed and mentally drained." Residents of the besieged city wept when the first convoy of U.N. food trucks arrived.

According to Reuters, relief workers reported 32 deaths from starvation in the past month. Abeer Pamuk, from the SOS Children's Villages charity, described the children of Madaya as "pale and skinny," barely able to talk or walk, with black teeth, bleeding gums, and health problems involving their skin, hair, nails, and teeth.

The New York Times described conditions in Madaya in an article last week about the political maneuvers and military actions that made it difficult to bring food to the forcibly malnourished, saying the town was "encircled by pro-government forces with barbed wire, land mines and snipers."

"People there make soups of grass, spices and olive leaves. They eat donkeys and cats," the Times reported. "They arrive, collapsing, at a clinic that offers little but rehydration salts. Neighbors fail to recognize neighbors in the streets because their faces are so sunken."

The U.N. delivered relief as part of a deal in which it committed to aiding civilians in both regime – and rebel-held areas simultaneously. Reuters reports the Syrian Arab Red Crescent convinced the Syrian government to allow it into Madaya, and a vaccination campaign will begin soon, in addition to food deliveries. Until now, the Syrian government is said to have denied 90 percent of U.N. requests to deliver assistance to besieged areas.

Even as food was finally brought into Madaya, the New York Times reports Syrian regime forces laying siege to another rebel town, Moadhamiyeh, near Damascus. Assad's message to residents: "Surrender, or you will be annihilated."

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Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Feds arrest 2 Middle East Refugees on Terror-Link Charges
CNN
By Catherine E. Shoichet and Joshua Berlinger
January 8, 2016

Two refugees arrested this week on federal terrorism-related charges were in communication with each other, a law enforcement official told CNN.

Both men are Palestinians who were born in Iraq and came to the United States as refugees, according to the U.S. Justice Department. And both are accused of lying to immigration officials about their alleged ties to terrorist organizations. The two men were arrested Thursday.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, of Houston, was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS.

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, California, was charged with making a false statement involving international terrorism.

Citing social media communications, the criminal complaint against Jayab said he spoke with an unnamed Texas resident about weapons and training in Syria. That unnamed individual is Hardan, according to the law enforcement source.

"I need to learn from your weapon expertise," the individual wrote to Jayab, according to the complaint.

In his reply, Jayab wrote, "We will make your abilities very strong," according to authorities.

"Our concern now is only to arrive there," Jayab went on. "When you arrive to al-Sham [Syria] you will be trained."

It was not immediately clear whether Hardan or Jayab had retained legal representation. They are both scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Also on Friday, federal authorities in Milwaukee announced that three of Jayab's relatives had been accused of trying to transport stolen cellphones and computers across a state line.

Jayab's brothers, Younis Mohammed Al-Jayab and Samer Mohammed Al-Jayab, and their cousin, Ahmad Waleed Mahmood, were all charged with conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property, receiving stolen property and aiding and abetting, according to the criminal complaint.

The three men thought they were buying stolen merchandise -- 32 Apple iPhones, a laptop computer and a television -- from a man who turned out to be an undercover agent, the complaint said.

Authorities intercepted other phones that Younis Mohammed Al-Jayab tried to mail to Cyprus and Romania, the complaint said.

Samer Mohammed Al-Jayab was arrested in California and is undergoing a removal process, CNN affiliate WTMJ reported. The other two suspects appeared Friday in federal court in Milwaukee and were released without bond after surrendering their passports and being ordered to stay in the eastern district of Wisconsin, WTMJ reported.

The arrests come as some Americans worry that terrorists could enter the United States posing as refugees from war-torn nations.

"This is an extraordinary snapshot of what we're facing now -- the challenge of vetting individuals and maintaining the beacon of hope that America has been for the world over," said Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney and former federal prosecutor.

The concerns about refugees were amplified after the Paris terror attacks in November. ISIS claimed responsibility for those coordinated attacks on a concert hall, bars, restaurants and a sports stadium that killed 130 people.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest described the arrests as good examples of how law agencies "work effectively together to keep us safe."

But he noted the political controversy about whether the United States should accept refugees with Syrian ties.

"I know these kinds of situations are likely to prompt calls from the other side that are familiar, to suggest that the United States should impose a sort of religious test or a test based on an individual's ethnicity to limit their ability to enter the United States," Earnest said.

"That doesn't represent who we are as a country and most importantly, it's not going to keep us safe," Earnest said.

After news of Hardan's and Jayab's arrests Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, reiterated his views that the United States should not accept refugees from Syria and called for a "systematic and careful retroactive assessment" to determine whether or not refugees already in the United States have ties to terrorists.

"I commend the law enforcement for apprehending these two individuals, but their apprehensions raise the immediate question: Who else is there? What are they planning next?" Cruz said.

Wildes said Cruz's comments were "off-key."

"We cannot forget that legacy that we have for immigration. We are a safe haven. Our Founding Fathers established this nation with a notion that it will be a place for safety," Wildes said.

Texas man aimed to support ISIS, indictment alleges Hardan entered the United States as an Iraqi refugee in November 2009 and was granted legal permanent resident status in August 2011, the Justice Department said.

In addition to the charge of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, he's charged with procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully and making false statements.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday alleges he attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, to ISIS. The indictment does not provide details about the evidence behind the allegations.

The indictment also alleges he lied in his citizenship application, saying he had no ties to a terrorist organization when he'd associated with members and sympathizers of ISIS throughout 2014, according to the Justice Department.

If convicted, Hardan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Jayab entered the United States as a refugee, emigrating from Syria, in October 2012, the Justice Department said.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, Jayab exchanged messages on social media in 2012 and 2013, saying he planned to go to Syria to fight.

In November 2013, the complaint alleges, he flew from Chicago to Turkey, then traveled to Syria. Between November 2013 and January 2014, he "allegedly reported on social media that he was in Syria fighting with various terror organizations, including Ansar al-Islam," officials said.

Asked about his travel in an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Jayab allegedly said he had traveled to Turkey to visit his grandmother and denied he had been a member of any rebel group or militia.

In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said there were no signs that Jayab was involved in any U.S. terror plots.

"While he represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country," Wagner said.

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Providing Material Support To ISIS: What Does That Mean?
Newsy
By Melissa Prax
January 8, 2016

A Houston man was charged with providing material support to ISIS and appeared in court Friday. In 2015, 53 people faced that same charge.

Two Middle Eastern refugees from Iraq and Syria have been arrested on two different terror-related charges in the U.S.

One, a man from Houston named Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. He appeared in court Friday.

But what does "providing material support" even mean? According to the Department of Justice, Al Hardan offered "training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel – specifically himself" to ISIS.

Under U.S. law, a charge of providing material support to a terror organization, ISIS in this case, can include the "material" as a person, money and possibly social media interactions.

But that definition doesn't mean Al Hardan was planning an attack in the U.S.

There've been a lot of people charged with providing material support to terror groups in the U.S. According to the Anti-Defamation League, of the 78 individuals indicted on terror-related charges in 2015, 53 were accused of providing material support.

Of those who received ISIS-related charges, other research says 81 percent were U.S. nationals.

As for Al Hardan, officials suspect he was radicalized on U.S. soil. Al Hardan's charges were not related to the other man.

Terror Charges Baffle Suspect's Family: Suspect's Wife, Parents Adrift After His Arrest
Houston Chronicle
By Nora Olabi
January 10, 2016

The phone rang in the tiny two-bedroom apartment that Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan shared with his parents, wife and 10-month-old son.

The voice on the line said he and his parents were up for a review of their citizenship application. The family was elated, believing they were on the last leg of becoming U.S. citizens. On Thursday, he helped his parents, who are both over 60 years old and medically disabled, down the stairs and drove to the immigration office in north Houston, according to his family's account.

After more than six years in Texas, they thought they finally might get their shot at the American dream.

"Omar sent me a message saying 'Thank God I've been given a citizenship interview.' He's been waiting for years for that interview," said Saeed Al-Hardan, Omar's older brother.

But Omar and his parents weren't granted naturalization interviews. Instead, they were immediately separated.

After being interrogated for hours, parents Faraj Al-Hardan and his wife, Layla, were given the news. Their son, Omar Al-Hardan, had been arrested and taken into custody on a three-count indictment handed down the day.

His alleged crimes: procuring naturalization unlawfully, making false statements and providing material support to the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – also known as ISIL, ISIS, IS or the Arabic equivalent Daesh. Combined, these charges have a maximum sentence of 53 years, if not served concurrently.

The 24-year-old alleged terrorist sympathizer could face the rest of his life in prison. His arrest quickly drew national attention - billed as part of a multi-city terrorism plot that drew the attention of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Federal officials declined to provide any additional details on the charges.

"I am not permitted to provide any details about evidence and such at this stage of a prosecution. I can tell you that there will be a great deal of that presented to the court at the time of the detention hearing on Wednesday," said Angela Dodge, public affairs officer at the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Texas.

Back at the apartment in the Westchase District, Omar's 18-year-old wife, Haneen Al-Kokiss, was alone caring for their baby. At 10:34 a.m., she said several armed agents burst into the tiny apartment, startling both Al-Kokiss and her son. She struggled to understand what was happening as they quickly took her into custody. She didn't have time to change out of her indoor garments or put on her headscarf, which is considered obligatory for observant Muslim women.

They took her in for questioning, barefoot and all, as her baby screamed, Al-Kokiss recalled. The agents seized 56 listed items in their raid, including more than a dozen electronic devices, the apartment lease, receipts, notebooks, firecrackers, soldering equipment and, item No. 39, "books, paper and copy of ISIS flag," according to the receipt for property seized that was left at the cleared out Al-Hardan home.

Upon news of Omar Al-Hardan's arrest, the family now faces eviction from their apartment.

The family, who spoke to the Houston Chronicle at length Saturday, doesn't fully understand the charges or how to maneuver in the American judicial system. All they know and cling to is the notion of Omar Al-Hardan's innocence.

"They've wrongly imprisoned him. My husband hasn't done anything," Al-Kokiss urged as she cried for her husband's release. "I want him to be with me and my child. We hate (ISIS). Every day they kill people. It's impossible he would do something like this. I'm lost without him."

Although the family hasn't experienced much upward mobility since they arrived in Texas on Nov. 2, 2009, they've come a long way from the physical and economic insecurity they experienced in the Middle East. Omar and his family live on food stamps and the limited income he makes as an in-house caregiver and, at times, a limousine driver. The five of them survive on about $1,000 a month. But, at least in America, they were glad to have a home with solid walls, a car, and most importantly, a peaceful life away from the war and the sounds of their crumbling country.

The head of the Al-Hardan family and Omar's father, Faraj Al-Hardan, was the child of Palestinian parents who settled down as refugees in Iraq after being displaced in the 1940s. Although he and his children were all born in Iraq, he said they could not legally obtain citizenship. So they remained stateless denizens, unable to own property or travel outside of the country.

After the war on terror that put boots on the ground in Iraq, the Al-Hardan family fled their home in Baghdad to a Jordan refugee camp in 2003, where they lived for five years. Omar Al-Hardan spent most of his adolescent years in those refugee tents. The family moved to a second camp in 2008 on Iraq's border with Syria, before the rise of ISIS, which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the secretary of state in 2014.

"We fled Baghdad because of the constant killing and slaughtering. This started happening a lot where we were living. We are Palestinians living in Iraq. The situation got extremely dangerous. We were all being asked to join Iraqi militias, both Sunni and Shi'i. If we refused to join, they would kill us. So we fled. We didn't want to bear arms and kill. We fled and lived in refugee camps for years. We slept in tents waiting to escape to another country," Saeed Al-Hardan said.

Years of living in desperate conditions, helpless and with no place to go, took a toll on Omar Al-Hardan's parents. His father developed acute heart issues that require constant medical attention. His mother has diabetes and a slew of other medical issues.

But their lives changed when they were selected as one of a few dozen refugee families at the camp to come to the land of opportunity.

The apartment where they have lived for the last five months is small and simple. Arabic calligraphy hangs over two small couches in the living room. The muted widescreen television flickers with images of tanks and war on Al-Jazeera as Faraj Al-Hardan takes his place on the couch. Muffled cries from his wife and young daughter-in-law could be heard coming from another room.

None of the Al-Hardans speak English, at least not well enough to talk with lawyers and law enforcement or even read the 24-hour eviction notice they were handed on Jan. 8. Although Omar likely will receive an Arabic interpreter for his criminal trial, the rest of his family is in the dark.

"We don't understand the law. We're not able to go anywhere without English in this country. Nobody wants to help because they're afraid. Nobody has even talked to me or asked about me because they're scared," Saeed Al-Hardan said. "I want people to know that we're innocent. We're being wronged. There's been no evidence."

Omar Al-Hardan first appeared in court on Jan. 8, a day after his arrest. Attorney David Adler was appointed as his public defender, and Omar Al-Hardan's requested an interpreter to communicate. Since his arrest, relatives have been unable to contact him, and Al-Kokiss said she hasn't been allowed to visit her husband in detention. None of Omar Al-Hardan's family members showed up in court because they didn't know how to get there.

Older brothers Rayid Al-Hardan and Saeed Al-Hardan are looking after their parents, nephew and Al-Kokiss in Omar's absence. Rayid Al-Hardan lives with his wife and children in Dallas and has come down temporarily, and Saeed Al-Hardan lives with his wife in Houston about 30 minutes away. But both are afraid of the potential backlash now that their brother has been indicted. Even if he's proven innocent, they don't know if they'll be able to go back to their old lives.

"Today my family was evicted. Tomorrow, who knows if I may be evicted, too. I'm sure that I've been fired from my job, and when my brother is released, I'm sure he will be too. We all have the same last name, so we've all become pariahs. I feel that when I'm out in public, everyone is staring at me. A lot of people have taken my picture, and I've been on TV," Saeed Al-Hardan said.

Omar Al-Hardan is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a detention hearing to determine whether he should be allowed to walk free on bail or should be detained during the trial, according to an official from the Department of Justice.

A motion for a detention hearing can be requested if a defendant is considered a serious flight risk or in a crime of violence. More details about the case and reasons for the hearing weren't provided.

The FBI declined to comment and deferred all inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was unavailable for comment.

Nearly 785,000 refugees from all over the world have resettled in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. In the last three years alone, about 70,000 refugees annually made it through the vetting process and arrived in the U.S., with Iraqis consistently placing in the top two for refugee countries of origin, according to the Washington-based think tank Migration Policy Institute.

But debate in Washington and among governors reached a head after the Paris attacks, in which at least 130 people were killed. Although it was later discovered that the Syrian passport of an alleged attacker was forged, the document sparked a huge debate about refugee vetting processes. Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jeb Bush called for granting refugee status only to Christian Syrians. And more than half of governors in the U.S. directed public statements to the White House refusing to accept any Syrian refugees.

Abbott has been vocal on the refugee vetting issue and was one of the first governors to publicly refuse Syrian refugees, saying any incoming Syrians "could be connected to terrorism." Although states can't refuse refugees because that power rests with the federal government, Texas filed a request for a restraining order to stop the flow of Syrian refugees, which it quietly withdrew a few weeks later in early December.

Abbott was quick to take to social media to make his point, tweeting on Jan. 7, "Who'd thought? A refugee lied to immigration authorities about contact with ISIS & providing it support," which was retweeted nearly 700 times.

He later put out a statement that said: "This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the US from countries substantially controlled by terrorists ... I once again urge the president to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans."

Very little is known about how the FBI was made aware of Omar Al-Hardan and what evidence prompted the arrest. When the Al-Hardan family was interrogated, they were told Omar Al-Hardan had made purchase on Ebay of electrical wires and soldering equipment and had watched YouTube videos showing ISIS fighters.

Whether those videos are ISIS propaganda is unclear. Relatives are confused as to how the evidence they were shown would point to Omar Al-Hardan being an alleged ISIS supporter.

"If I've watched (ISIS), does that mean that I'm a part of them?" Faraj Al-Hardan asked, saying that he and his family watched videos from the Middle East to keep in touch with the news.

In a statement announcing the indictment, Department of Justice officials said Omar Al-Hardan allegedly received weapons training, had intentions of providing personnel support to ISIS and that he was affiliated with the group since 2014.

According to the indictment, Omar Al-Hardan allegedly lied to officials about weapons training during an interview in October 2015. In addition, he allegedly told immigration officers that he was not affiliated with a terrorist organization and was given permanent resident status in 2011. Authorities allege that he began providing material support to ISIS in May 2014, months before filing out documents for his naturalized citizen application.

Fred Burton, vice president at Stratfor, an Austin-based global intelligence firm, said that the general public may never know what goes on behind the scenes of cases related to national security.

"The FBI is the 1,000 pound gorilla in the global war on terror," said Burton, who was deputy chief of the State Department's counterintelligence division. "They are never one-off cases, they are always spin-off cases, like peeling an onion back. Was he in communication with someone, or did we raid a location in Afghanistan that ultimately led to this person being identified, or was the FBI up on a wire tap or monitoring e-mail traffic with another suspect? Those are always intriguing aspects of these cases."

Omar Al-Hardan has allegedly been linked to 23-year-old Iraqi Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, another suspected terrorist living in Sacramento who is facing up to eight years in prison for traveling abroad to fight and lying about it to authorities.

According to the Associated Press, Al-Jayab bragged about fighting overseas in Syria and allegedly told Omar Al-Hardan in 2013 via social media that he would give him weapons training and help sneak him into Syria. But Saeed Al-Hardan is adamant that his brother wouldn't fight alongside ISIS.

"Whether it is my brother or even my father, if he was a terrorist, I'd want nothing to do with him. We are victims. … If he wanted to go fight, he wouldn't come to America. It would have been easier for him (to stay)," Saeed Al-Hardan said.

Twitter Provides Material Support to ISIS, Lawsuit Alleges: ISIS Uses Twitter to Post Guidelines and Promotional Videos Called "Mujatweets."
Ars Technica
By David Kravets
January 14, 2016

A US woman whose husband was slain in Jordan while serving as a private contractor is suing Twitter, alleging that the micro-blogging company is a "tool for spreading extremist propaganda" that led to her husband's death at the hands of a terrorist last year.

The federal suit was filed Wednesday against San Francisco-based Twitter. It claims the service is in breach of the Anti-Terrorism Act, that Twitter "purposefully, knowingly or with willful blindness" provided "material support to the preparation and carrying out of acts of international terrorism, including the attack in which Lloyd Fields Jr. was killed."

The suit claims that for years, "Twitter has knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use its social network as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits. This material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS." The suit continues: "ISIS members use Twitter to post instructional guidelines and promotional videos, referred to as 'mujatweets.'"

Twitter said the lawsuit is meritless. Taking a page from Google's PR tactics, the company said it would only provide a response if Ars promised to attribute it to a "Twitter spokesperson" and not to any named Twitter employee.

"While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family's terrible loss. Like people around the world, we are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by extremist groups and their ripple effects on the Internet," Twitter said. "Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear. We have teams around the world actively investigating reports of rule violations, identifying violating conduct, partnering with organizations countering extremist content online, and working with law enforcement entities when appropriate."

The lawsuit quotes several US government officials that say Twitter has been a tool of terrorists. It also noted a Brookings Institute study from last year.

In that research, Brookings estimated there were up to 70,000 pro-ISIS accounts on Twitter and said 46,000 "is our most conservative" estimate. The report came after the FBI issued a warning about American teens being susceptible to ISIS recruitment tactics. Twitter says it removes tens of thousands of terror-laden accounts and that it removes them after they become aware of them.

Twitter, meanwhile, is likely immune from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Fields' wife, Tamara, claims in the suit that her husband, a former Louisiana police officer, was contracting with DynCorp International and assigned to the International Police Training Center in Amman, Jordan last year. In November, a terrorist smuggled in weapons and killed five people, including Tamara's husband. The suit, however, does not allege that any chatter on Twitter was directly connected to Fields' death. Instead, it describes a terror-laden message the shooter sent friends via the WhatsApp mobile messaging platform days before Fields was killed.

Edgewood Man Indicted on Charges of Helping ISIS: Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, Faces 4 Counts
WBAL-Baltimore
January 14, 2016

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against an Edgewood man for conspiring to provide and for providing material support to ISIS.

A Harford County man faces federal charges, accused of providing material support to ISIS.

The four-count indictment alleges that from February 2015 through about Dec. 11. Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, conspired with others to provide material support and resources, including personnel, services (including means and methods of communication) and financial services, to ISIS.

"According to the allegations in the indictment, Elshinawy conspired to provide material support to (ISIS) and received funds in order to carry out an attack," Assistant Attorney General Carlin said. "When confronted by the FBI, he lied in order to conceal his support for (ISIS) and the steps he took to provide material support to the deadly foreign terrorist organization. This indictment is the next step in holding Elshinawy accountable. The National Security Division remains committed to protecting the nation from terrorist threats, and we will continue to pursue and disrupt those who seek to provide material support to (ISIS)."

Elshinawy and his co-conspirators utilized various methods of surreptitious and other forms of communication in order to conceal their criminal association, the substance of their communications and their criminal activities from law enforcement.

"This case demonstrates how terrorists exploit modern technology to inculcate sympathizers and build hidden networks, but federal agents and prosecutors are working tirelessly and using every available lawful tool to disrupt their evil schemes," said U.S. Attorney Rosenstein.

Elshinawy, who has been detained since his arrest on Dec. 11 on related charges, faces a maximum of 43 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. Citizen From Pa. Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS
WJLA-TV
January 16, 2016

Neighbors in the Cullen Court cul-de-sac were stunned to see FBI Agents show up there in their Woodbridge community on Friday.

Etienne Gilbert says he was outside with his children across from his neighbor's home.

"We saw a bunch of cars roll in...a lot of people coming out...I counted 20 at one point...They went to their door and said they had a warrant" Gilbert said. "Everybody was scratching their heads...nobody knew what was going on."

Charging documents say agents questioned then arrested 25 year old Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan. He is accused of helping another Woodbridge man...28 year old Joseph Hassan Farrokh...make arrangements to get to Syria to fight with ISIS.

The documents say Farrokh told Elhassan he was eager to get on the battlefield.

Last fall, Elhassan introduced him to a man he believed had connections to Jihad outside the U.S. Instead, the man was a confidential informant working for the FBI.

On Friday, Elhassan drove Farrokh in a cab to a site about a mile away from the Richmond International Airport. Farrokh took a different cab the rest of the way.

He had planned to fly from Richmond to Chicago...then on to Jordan...and eventually make his way to Syria.

But when he approached his departure gate, FBI Agents arrested him.

By then Elhassan had driven back to Woodbridge where he would later be arrested.

The whole thing has left neighbors looking for answers.

"I would chat with Hassan once in a while...very nice guy...all the people in their house...smiley, gentle...nice people...so personally...I feel like I wouldn't see that coming...but I don't know" Gilbert said.

Both men are set to appear in Federal Court in Alexandria on Tuesday. Prosecutors say if convicted, they could face a maximum 20 years in jail.Neighbors in the Cullen Court cul-de-sac were stunned to see FBI Agents show up there in their Woodbridge community on Friday.

Norway Court Sentences Isis Foreign Fighters
The Local
January 19, 2016

The Borgarting Court of Appeal on Tuesday sentenced three men to prison for having supported and fought alongside the terror group Isis.

Two men, a 29-year-old Norwegian-Albanian and a 31-year-old Norwegian-Somali, were sentenced for having engaged in armed conflict for the extremist group Isis in Syria. Their sentences were four years and six months and four years and nine months, respectively.

A third man, a 26-year-old Norwegian-Albanian was convicted of attempting to send goods to a brother who fought for Isis in Syria. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

The sentences marked the first time that a Norwegian high court has taken a position on a case concerning a ban on joining or supporting a terrorist organization. The new section of the penal code was introduced in the summer of 2013 and allows for a maximum imprisonment of six years for "creating, joining, recruiting members for, or providing financial or other material support to a terrorist organization".

The three men were convicted in Oslo District Court in May 2015.

In the Court of Appeals ruling, the court referred to Isis as "one of the worst terror organizations of our time".

"All of the accused swore allegiance to Isis and put themselves under the organization's command. Although there isn't sufficient evidence that some of them directly participated in hostilities, the court characterises them as foreign fighters," the ruling continued.

All three men have denied the guilt and at least one, the 29-year-old Norwegian-Albanian, announced plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Lawyers for the other two men asked for time to consider an appeal.

Singapore Deports 26 Bangladeshis for ISIS Links: Investigations Showed that they Supported the Armed Jihad Ideology of Terrorist Groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
The Indian Express
By PTI
January 20, 2016

Singapore has deported 26 Bangladeshi migrant workers late last year and jailed one for supporting "the armed jihad ideology" of terror groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, authorities said today. The men, who were working in the construction industry here, were detained between November 16 and December 1 last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said.

Investigations showed that they supported the armed jihad ideology of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some of them had considered waging armed jihad overseas, but they were not planning any terrorist attacks in Singapore, said the MHA.

The 26 deported were members of a closed religious study group that subscribed to extremist beliefs and teachings of radical figures like Anwar al-Awlaki, an American and Yemeni Islamic lecturer alleged to have ties with militant group Al-Qaeda. Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. The Bangladeshi authorities were informed of the circumstances of their repatriation.

The jailed man was not a member of the study group, but was discovered to have been undergoing radicalisation. He supported extremist preachers and possessed jihadi-related material. He was jailed for attempting to leave Singapore illegally. He will also be repatriated once he completes his sentence.

In the course of their arrests, the Internal Security Department recovered a "significant amount" of radical and jihadi-related material, such as books and videos containing footage of children undergoing training in what appeared to be terrorist military camps. Several members also possessed a shared document with graphic images and instruction details on how to conduct "silent killings" using different methods and weapons.

An excerpt from the document, which depicts in a graphic manner how one can attack and kill with stealth. The group members took measures to avoid detection by the authorities, sharing jihadi-related materials discreetly and holding weekly gatherings to discuss armed conflicts involving Muslims, said MHA. "They also carefully targeted the recruitment of other Bangladeshi nationals to grow their membership," it said. A number of members admitted that they believed they should participate in and wage armed jihad on behalf of their religion.

Several contemplated travelling to the Middle East to take part in the ongoing conflict. "Members were encouraged to return to Bangladesh and wage armed jihad against the Bangladeshi government. They had also sent monetary donations to entities believed to be linked to extremist groups in Bangladesh," said MHA.

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Official Website of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
In Focus: Special Tribunal for Lebanon (UN)

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Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

Bangladesh Seeks Death Penalty for Islamist Convicted of War Crimes
Reuters UK
By Ruma Paul
January 12, 2016

The Bangladesh government on Tuesday filed a review petition with the Supreme Court seeking the death penalty for a top Islamist leader convicted of war crimes during the country's independence war in 1971.

A war crimes tribunal set up in 2010 has sparked violence and drawn criticism from opposition politicians, including leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, that it is victimising Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's political opponents.

Four opposition politicians, including three leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, have been convicted by the tribunal and executed since late 2013.

The Supreme Court in 2014 commuted to life imprisonment a death sentence handed down to top Jamaat-e-Islami member Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 76, for atrocities committed during the nine-month war to break away from Pakistan.

State prosecutors are challenging that decision.

"We have sought the highest punishment for him," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters, after his office filed the petition.

Sayedee's initial conviction in 2013 on charges of genocide, rape, torture and the persecution of Hindus triggered protests in which about 60 people were killed.

About 3 million people were killed, according to official figures, and thousands of women were raped, during the war in which some factions, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, opposed the breakaway from what was then called West Pakistan.

But the party denies that its leaders committed any atrocities.

Anger over the tribunal's convictions and the executions has come amid a surge in militant violence in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, with militant groups claiming the murder of two foreigners and four secular writers and a publisher last year.

The government has blamed the increase in Islamist violence on the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is an important ally of the main opposition party, but it denies any link to the attacks.

War Crimes Probe Agency Forms Committee, Yet to Decide on Formal Investigation
The Daily Star
January 21, 2016

The investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal has formed a special committee to gather information about Pakistani prisoners of war (POWs) who were allegedly involved in war crimes in Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War.

The five-member body, led by a deputy director of the agency, was formed on Monday, and it will collect information from across Bangladesh, agency's Coordinator Abdul Hannan Khan said at a press briefing yesterday.

He, however, said they were yet to decide whether they would launch any formal investigation against the Pakistani soldiers.

The committee has been formed at a time when calls for putting 195 Pakistani POWs, repatriated following a tripartite agreement in 1974, on trial are getting louder and experts finding no legal bar to bringing them to book.

On December 27 last year, Hannan at a press conference had said the agency would start a probe against the POWs whenever it found a "suitable environment" and "directives from the high-ups."

He had also said that as another country -- Pakistan -- was involved in the matter, they needed to get the government's directives before starting the probe.

Yesterday, Hannan told reporters at agency's Dhanmondi office that the trial of the POWs is now a "national demand" and names of several Pakistani army officials surfaced during investigations into other war crimes cases.

Besides, several Pakistani army officials were also implicated in cases filed under the Collaborator Act- 1972 immediately after the war, he said.

"I have formed a committee a few days ago to collect preliminary information about Pakistani Prisoners of War... and the committee has already started its work," he said.

The body is led by Motiur Rahman, a deputy director of the agency, he added.

After the briefing, The Daily Star asked Hannan whether the agency had got government's directive to start investigation against the POWs.

He replied, "No, the issue [trial of POWs] has become a national demand and that's why we just want to make some progress in the work. The committee has been formed for this."

He reiterated that government approval would be required for starting any formal investigation against Pakistani soldiers.

Meanwhile, the special committee held its first meeting on Tuesday and it was attended by all the five members, Motiur Rahman told The Daily Star yesterday.

"In the meeting, we have discussed how we will start our work and what kinds of documents we will have to collect," he said.

After independence, Bangladesh collected specific evidence of genocide against the 195 Pakistani army personnel, who were in Indian custody as POWs.

After a long-drawn stressful negotiation over the POWs, a tripartite agreement was signed in Delhi in April, 1974 in which Bangladesh said "having regard to the appeal of the prime minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past," Bangladesh decided not to proceed with the trial as an act of clemency.

However, legal experts say there is no legal bar to trying the 195 Pakistanis and there has also been a longstanding demand to try them at the ICT, which is now trying their local collaborators.

The International Crimes Tribunal-2, in its 2013 judgment in the case against Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, had said, "Amnesty shown to 195 listed war criminals are opposed to peremptory norms of international law. It is to be noted that any agreement and treaty amongst states in derogation of this principle stands void as per the provisions of international treaty law convention [Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties, 1969]."

"Despite the immunity given to 195 listed war criminals belonging to the Pakistan armed forces on the strength of 'tripartite agreement', the Act of 1973 [International Crimes (Tribunals) Act-1973] still provides jurisdiction to bring them to the process of justice," said the tribunal.

The demand of trying the POWs has been intensified after Pakistan has recently denied committing any war crimes in Bangladesh in 1971.

About three million Bangalees were killed and a quarter million women raped by Pakistan army and their local collaborations. Besides, about 10 million people had to take refuge in India during the war.

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War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Kachin pin hopes on NLD
Myanmar Times
By Thin Lei Win
January 15, 2016

For more than six months in 2011, Ywe Ja refused to leave her home in Kachin State despite heavy fighting around her village. It was where she was born, and she had built a life there as a teacher with a farmer husband and a young child.

"Then the authorities start seeing Kachins as part of the KIA [Kachin Independence Army]. Business and social rivals could accuse you of having links with the KIA and the army would arrest you without any investigations," she said.

Worried that her husband would fall prey to these suspicions, and heavily pregnant with her second child, she finally left Tar Law Gyi, a village about two hours' drive from Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, in March 2012.

Two weeks after arriving at the St Paul Jan Mai Hkawng camp, she gave birth.

"I never thought I'd end up staying here so long," she said, sitting in the thatch-walled meeting room of the camp that she now helps to manage with the support of Karuna Myanmar Social Services run by the Catholic Church. There is no more fighting in her village, but her family has not returned, fearing the continued presence of the Myanmar army and landmines in the area.

For the first time since leaving her home, however, Ywe Ja is full of hope.

"I didn't vote in the 2010 elections because I didn't think it was going to make a difference. This time, I woke up really early to vote. I'm very happy that the NLD won. I think they will prioritise the peace process," she told Myanmar Now, referring to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which won the November 8, 2015, election in a landslide.

It was a sentiment echoed by other internally displaced people (IDPs) this correspondent spoke to. They are pinning their hopes on the NLD government to achieve peace and begin the process of demilitarisation that would allow them to finally go home, almost five years after fighting resumed between the army and Kachin rebels.

Fighting has displaced around 100,000 people in Kachin and northern Shan states since June 2011 after a 17-year ceasefire broke down over long-held grievances. With peace proving elusive, the displaced – in both government and rebel-controlled areas – have become disillusioned.

"The longer [the IDPs stay in these camps], the more difficult it is for them. There are no jobs nearby and there are land constraints to create your own livelihoods. Foreign aid has been reducing and because everything is up in the air, those who are helping are losing steam and the displaced are losing hope," said Phyu Ei Aung from Metta Foundation, one of Myanmar's largest non-governmental organisations that has been providing emergency assistance since 2011.

Violence against women is also rife, with a majority of cases being husbands taking out their frustration over the situation on their wives, she added. Metta documented 583 cases in 41 camps in the 15 months between April 2014 and March 2015.

It is little wonder then that many have been galvanised by the election results, where the NLD's strong showing in ethnic states surprised observers. In Kachin, it won 22 out of 30 elected seats for the two houses of parliament and more than half of the state legislature, giving it a strong mandate to govern at both local and national levels.

"All the displaced are looking forward to the new government to create [a country] where everyone is able to live happily and peacefully regardless of their race and religion," said Ja Khun Ya, a 40-year-old from the same village as Ywe Ja.

Lives interrupted

Since fighting resumed, the IDPs have been languishing in small, hastily built shelters that flood during the monsoon and become unbearably hot in the summer, facing dwindling aid support and an uncertain future.

The United Nations World Food Programme, which provides food assistance to Kachin IDPs, told Myanmar Now it is facing a US$51 million shortfall. The organisation has already started to replace food assistance with cash to IDPs in places with access to markets but said this is not directly linked to the shortfall.

The situation is even more dire for those who are outside of government-controlled areas due to their remote locations and even more scarce aid.

Many fear the worst is yet to come.

"In the camp, we don't have any income, only expenses," Lahtaw Khun Ya, also 40, said. "I have eight children and my husband was diagnosed with diabetes last year so he cannot do manual labour. But he went with some friends for a labourer job today," she added.

The IDPs say they are willing to work, but jobs are few and far between. They say most end up working in construction sites for a daily wage of around $2.30 for women and $4.70 for men, but much less sometimes.

"The employers sometimes pay us less. They would say, 'You are receiving support from aid agencies so K2000 [$1.50] is enough.' We don't have a choice," Ja Khun Ya said.

In the bigger Zi Un camp, where 710 people are supported mainly by the Kachin Baptist Convention, dozens of women make money sewing traditional Kachin headgear, which allows them to stay close to their children. It is a time-consuming task, taking about 40 to 50 minutes to earn K100 ($0.08) for each headpiece.

Young men, meanwhile, have dropped out of schools to find jobs.

Twenty-year-old Zau Phan says he would like the opportunity to finish high school. After failing his 10th-standard exam last year, he now works as a tenant farmer in another town. He was one of the few IDPs who did not vote.

"I was away and I'm not interested in politics, but yeah, I'm hoping for change. But it's difficult to guess what would happen," he said.

Lingering scars

Aid workers, however, warn against setting too high an expectation.

"I don't think we will see any drastic changes for a year or two. Even if the IDPs can go back to their villages because the political situation is now good, we would still need to assist them so they can go back to making a living like they did before the fighting," Metta's Ei Phyu Aung said.

Lu San, a 39-year-old mother of four who used to run a small store, said she went through the lengthy bureaucratic process to gain approvals to briefly go back to her village across the river from Myitkyina a few months after fleeing. They had left the shop and hundreds of baskets of paddy.

"There was nothing left. All the valuable stuff had been looted. I heard later the army took them," she said, her voice rising at the memory.

Mental scars will also need to be healed. Many lost friends and families, and almost everyone lost their possessions. They have also heard tales of neighbours and fellow villagers being tortured, maimed and killed, mainly by the Myanmar army, fuelling fear and hatred as well as distrust among the different ethnic groups that make up these villages.

Born in 1942, Hkun Baw La says he has heard and seen what he said were atrocities committed by the military government toward ethnic minorities in the 1960s. Yet ordinary citizens forged lasting friendships and in his village, home to Shan, Kachin and Bamar, a Christian church and a Buddhist monastery stood side-by-side before the fighting, he said. Now there are people's militias in many villages, including Hkun Baw's, where the Shan and Bamar received weapons from the government to protect themselves against the KIA, the IDPs said.

Lu San has a plea for the NLD and the political leaders who are currently in Myanmar's grandiose capital Nay Pyi Taw for a five-day peace conference.

"Please withdraw the troops as soon as possible, and please prioritise de-mining and sending us back. We are yearning to go home."

Rohingyas Plan Escape Ahead Of Sailing Season
The Citizen
January 17, 2016

The Rohingya shot to the spotlight as news spread that thousands of people belonging to the minority faith were stranded at sea, being denied entry from destination countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although the news of Rohingyas traveling the high seas in seek of refuge made it to the headlines last year, the voyage is a yearly occurrence, with many who make the journey dying at sea.

"It's been happening for years but, unfortunately, the world never paid much attention," says Khin Maung Myint, a Rohingya activist as quoted by The Star. "It's an unbearable situation. They're forced to flee their ancestral lands."

Monsoons over the Rohingya exodus route, the Bay of Bengal, have only recently subsided. So far, at least 1,000 are known to have sailed through these waters since September, according to Vivian Tan, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR (also quoted in The Star). The risk, however, is deemed worth it among many Rohingya who, in recent years, have decided the danger is preferable to remaining in their homeland.

The numbers, however, are far lower than previous years, as the crackdown by Thailand on human smugglers that was the precedent to migrants being stranded at sea last year, has made the escape route more difficult. About 1,500 people sailed from Bangladesh and Myanmar between September and December, said Lewa, compared with 32,000 people tracked during the same period in 2014.

Chris Lewa from the Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group which tracks migration, told Reuters: "Thailand is closed and cannot be used for disembarkation… The few brokers that still seem to be involved are the ones that have pre-existing 'orders' for people to be brought over, that's what we are being told at departure."

Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, said preliminary data suggested fewer people took to boats in the last quarter of the year. "Based on our interviews with affected communities, it could be that smugglers and potential passengers are taking a wait-and-see approach following last year's scrutiny and crackdowns," said Tan.

Despite the above, the Rohingya continue to flee, and the upcoming "sailing season" will be the true test in terms of trends. This is because in their homeland, Myanmar, the Rohingya are discriminated against, with the treatment meted out to them falling within the legal definition of "ethnic cleansing." The situation has prompted the US to term the Rohingya one of the "most persecuted minorities in the world."

The roots of the crisis lie in the denial of rights to the Rohingya in Myanmar. In fact, [t]his continuation of denying the Rohingya the right to a nationality makes direct violence against the Rohingyas far more possible and likely than it would be otherwise. The system's context lies in the 1982 Citizenship Act, which supersedes all citizenship regimes in Myanmar. The Act created three classes of citizens - full, associate, and naturalised. Full citizenship is reserved for those whose ancestors settled in Myanmar before the year 1823 or who are members of one of Myanmar's 135 recognized national ethnic groups - which, according to the recent census, continues to exclude the Rohingya. Associate citizenship applies to those who have been conferred citizenship under a previous 1948 law, which requires an awareness of the law and a level of proof that few Rohingyas possess. Naturalised citizenship is applicable to those who have resided in Myanmar on or before 1948, and here too, the Rohingya are denied citizenship as the government of Myanmar retains the discretion to deny citizenship even when criteria are adequately met.

It is under the legal system and the denial of recognition that the Rohingya continue to remain a stateless people. Myanmar, which as a member nation of the UN is obligated to promote "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction," fails to do so for the Rohingyas who are subjected to policies and practises that constitute violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms. They face restrictions on movement, forced labour, land confiscation, forced evictions, extortions and arbitrary taxations, restrictions on marriage, employment, healthcare and education.

There is an element of political opportunism in reference to the Rohingya in Myanmar. In 1990, Rohingya were permitted to form political parties and vote in multiparty elections. Myanmar even accepted about 250,000 repatriated Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh in 1992 and 1994 issuing Temporary Resident Cards to some. Rohingyas were permitted to vote in the 2008 constitutional referendum and 2010 elections. In fact, in the 2010 elections the voting rights were tied to the promise of citizenship if the Rohingya voted for the military regime's representatives. However, Rohingyas are yet to be included as a part of any reconciliation programme involving ethnic groups, with Myanmar's President Thein Sein, in the wake of the 2012 violence, stating that the Rohingya could not and would not be accepted as citizens or residents of Myanmar, going as far as to asking the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to consider placing the Rohingya in camps outside of the country and resettling them to others. While it is true that Thein Sein and other Myanmar officials have had to moderate their position since due to external international pressure, Myanmar continues to violate UN convention by rendering the Rohingya stateless. A relevant convention is the Convention of the Reduction of Statelessness which obligates states to prevent, reduce, and avoid statelessness by granting "its nationality to a person born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless." The Myanmar government is in clear violation of this convention, with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya having been displaced in the last 25 years.

It is this system that has perpetuated violence against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, with violent clashes between the country's majority Buddhist population and the Rohingyas leading to deaths and displacement of the minority muslim community in 2012, 2009, 2001, 1978 and 1992, amongst other instances. In the most recent case of widespread violence in 2012, hundred of Rohingya villages and settlements were destroyed, tens of thousands of homes razed, and at least 115,000 Rohingyas displaced in camps in Myanmar, across the Bangladesh border, or further afield on boats.

The UN has termed the Rohingyas one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, a condition aggravated by the role of countries such as Bangladesh and Thailand that have turned back genuine refugees, with Thailand's military being accused in 2009-10 of towing hundreds of Rohingya out to sea in poorly equipped boats and scant food and water after they tried to flee Myanmar. Although Thailand "categorically denies" the charge, the accusations have some merit as about 650 Rohingya were rescued off India and Indonesia, some saying that they had been beaten by Thai soldiers.

It is under these circumstance that rights groups have alleged that the Myanmar government is supporting a policy of "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya, with William Schabas, a member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars saying that "the Rohingya are the prima facie victims of the crime against humanity of persecution," consisting of "the severe deprivation of fundamental rights on discriminatory grounds."

It is a combination of the actions of the Rakhine Buddhist majority and the inaction of the Myanmar government, within the context of a legal system that ratifies, condones, and perpetuates the systematic discrimination of the Rohingya in Myanmar. It is a continuation of this systematic discrimination that is forcing the Rohingya to flee, so that "sailing season" acquires a very different connotation.

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NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

South & Central America

The Past is Never Far Away: Prosecutions for Human Rights Violations in Guatemala
Just Security
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin
January 8, 2016

News that Guatemalan prosecutors have announced the arrest of 14 former military officials on charges connected to massacres and disappearances during the country's protracted and bloody civil war is a cogent reminder that impunity for systematic human rights violations is diminishing.

Serial human rights violators have reasons to be nervous: The passage of time does not diminish accountability claims, nor does it eliminate the zeal of prosecutors. Practice across numerous countries (Spain, Argentina, Chile) illustrates that time also does not necessarily minimize the claims of victims, families, and their communities for redress and restitution in the aftermath of conflict or repression.

The Guatemalan detentions involve high-ranking former officials including Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, an 83-year-old former general and the brother of former President Fernando Romeo Lucas García. Lucas García was defiant when speaking to reporters following his arrest. "I fought the guerrillas in combat, fighting gun to gun, and not like a coward or a psychopath," he said. A former minister of the interior was also arrested. The status of those indicted sends a powerful message that those most responsible and exercising command and control during systematic human rights and humanitarian law violations should not rest easy once transitional deals and peace agreements are signed. This is true even when those agreements appear to maintain the status quo or create a short-term gentleman's agreement on non-investigation and non-prosecution of heinous crimes.

The indictments also demonstrate the Prosecutor's desire to address large-scale disappearances of persons from military zone in Cobán, in the northern department of Alta Verapaz. Hundreds of persons are estimated to have been disappeared over a seven year period in Guatemala. Notably, most of those disappeared were indigenous. Such groups' claims upon the state have received little sustained attention in the aftermath of a comprehensive peace agreement, and their already marginal status in Guatemala was compounded by the scale of the atrocities visited upon individuals and communities during the civil war.

The Guatemalan Truth Commission estimated that 80 percent of the human rights violations experienced during the conflict were perpetrated by state actors. Guatemalan NGOs have welcomed the arrests as an important vindication of the rights of victims and as a definitive step in promoting equality and procedural justice for all citizens. But they should also be heralded for their broader import: The days of official impunity for systematic human rights violations is waning.

Immunity of Heads of State on the Retreat
EJIL: Talk
Ramona Pedretti
January 11, 2016

On December 31st, the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library tweeted that its most popular item of 2015 was my book entitled "Immunity of Heads of State and State Officials for International Crimes".

The tweet immediately led to an intense controversy on Twitter and to a number of articles (here or here). Many commentators suggested that the book has been popular because diplomats were looking for ways to protect themselves or their bosses. Some also claimed that it was a poor sign for the United Nations. The news website Vox wrote: "The UN is full of delegates representing awful dictatorships, and the book that got checked out the most from the UN library was about … how to be immune from war crimes prosecution. That does not seem like a good thing!"

Numerous commentators jumped to the conclusion that the book was some sort of recipe to escape prosecution for international crimes. But in fact, rather than for criminal dictators, the book is for committed prosecutors and judges. In particular, it contains a detailed analysis of the relevant customary international law. While most publications on this issue refer to a very limited number of well-known cases (such as the Eichmann, Pinochet and Arrest Warrant cases), "Immunity of Heads of State and State Officials for International Crimes" identifies the applicable customary rules based on hundreds of judgments and national laws from all over the world.

The main conclusion of this evaluation is that former Heads of State and other State officials do not benefit from immunity when charged with international crimes before foreign national courts. Hence, prosecutors and judges now have a solid basis to resolutely act against these State officials. In contrast, acting Heads of States cannot be prosecuted in national courts abroad according to customary international law. However, before international criminal tribunals the situation is different: As a matter of principle, both acting and former Heads of State cannot rely on immunity when charged with international crimes in those fora. Before the International Criminal Court, for instance, no immunity can bar proceedings against officials from member States or States subject to a UN Security Council referral (currently Sudan and Libya).

The book is thus in fact an unpleasant read to war criminals and an encouraging one to those who go after them.

Of course, all interpretations as to why the book was frequently borrowed are speculative. In my opinion, the borrowings reflect the interest in the subject stimulated in 2015 in particular by the escape of Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir, from South Africa and the work of the United Nations International Law Commission on compiling draft articles on immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction.

As documented in my book, immunity of Heads of State is on the retreat. Victims of the most serious crimes have an improved perspective to see justice for crimes by the highest State officials. Or as Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, put it on Twitter: "Some abusive heads of state must be worried."

Syria: Starvation as a Tactic of War
Lawfare
Mai El-Sadany
January 15, 2016

In the last few weeks, the world has confronted horrifying photographs of children with sunken eyes and emaciated bodies and haunting anecdotes of men eating strawberry leaves after having not had real meals in months. These images told of the mountain-town of Madaya, a Syrian village of 40,000 that has been under siege since July 2015 by a combination of Syrian troops and Hezbollah militants. The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports that since the beginning of the siege on Madaya, at least 21 individuals have died from hunger, 8 have died due to a lack of medical care, and 24 have been killed while attempting leave Madaya.

According to activists, Madaya is being punished for its participation in the Syrian uprising. A strategic town located alongside the Lebanese border and a mere 50 kilometers from Damascus, it is the latest example of Bashar al-Assad's consistent "starve or kneel" tactic employed to literally starve regime opponents into submission.

In a number of cases, the Assad regime - at times with the support of allies like Hezbollah - has imposed a siege on anti-regime towns, employing blockades to prevent all medicine, water, and food from entering. Civilians are generally not permitted to leave besieged areas and may be arrested or killed for doing so. In a demonstration of truly remarkable resilience, many towns across Syria have managed to endure artillery attacks, barrel bombing campaigns, and even chemical weapons attacks before finally succumbing to the immense pressure of the regime's starvation techniques. Desperate for basic sustenance, places like Moadamiya are often strong-armed into reaching agreements with the Assad regime that involve the exchange of weapons; even after these agreements, ceasefires are shoddily enforced and little aid is ultimately delivered.

Thus far, the Assad regime has had absolutely zero incentive to refrain from continuing sieges and employing starvation as a tactic of war across the country. The brutal government-sponsored starvation techniques are remarkably successful, there has been little condemnation from the international community, and international actors hesitate to conduct aid deliveries that circumvent Syrian government approval despite United Nations Security Council Resolutions permitting such aid. The crimes of several non-state armed groups have also included withholding humanitarian aid from civilians under siege. The United Nations reports that at least 400,000 persons are living under siege in at least 15 locations in Syria today.

International humanitarian law is unequivocal in its prohibition of starvation as a method of warfare as detailed in Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, per the 1997 Report on US Practice, it is the opinio juris of the United States that the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited. Additionally, the Annotated Supplement to the US Naval Handbook (1997) states: "Art. 54(1) [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I] would create a new prohibition on the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare … which the United States believes should be observed and in due course recognized as customary law."

Rules 54-56 of the study on customary international humanitarian law conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross clarify that attacking objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, denying access of humanitarian aid intended for civilian use, and restricting the freedom of movement of humanitarian aid workers may all constitute violations of the prohibition of starvation. Although starvation is not recognized as an individual crime in cases of non-international armed conflict under the Rome Statute - to which Syria is not a party and would have to be referred to the International Criminal Court - starvation can arguably be prosecuted under displacement, crimes against humanity, genocide, or possibly, torture theories.

Issued in February 2014, UNSC Resolution 2139 demanded that "all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders." The resolution, however, had no enforcement mechanism and has had little tangible impact on the ground. Although UNSC Resolutions 2165, 2191, and 2258 have authorized UN agencies and their partners to use routes across conflict lines and border crossings to deliver humanitarian assistance, actors have been hesitant to provide citizens with the aid that they desperately need.

This week, in response to unprecedented media attention, the Syrian regime finally agreed to allow aid into the besieged towns of Madaya, Foua, and Kefraya. While a positive development, aid workers confirm that one-time distributions like these are rarely effective; the regular access to these areas that is necessary is rarely granted by governing authorities. The impunity with which authorities have been allowed to systematically starve the population threatens the security of the international community and violates international law. Unless the international community collectively and consistently condemns starvation as a tactic of war as employed by the Assad regime and other actors, comes up with a means by which to ensure consistent aid delivery irrespective of the Assad regime's cooperation and as per the guidance of UN Security Council resolutions, and paves the way for the prosecution of starvation-related war crimes in the international scene, Madaya will not be the last scene of Assad's brutal starvation regime.

Navy SEAL Who Supposedly Killed Bin Laden Under Investigation
Opinio Juris
Kevin Jon Heller
January 20, 2016

The SEAL in question is Matthew Bissonnette, who published the bestselling No Easy Day under the pseudonym Mark Owen. According to the Intercept, the federal government is investigating Bissonnette for revealing classified information and using his position to make money while still on active duty:

A former Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden and wrote a bestselling book about the raid is now the subject of a widening federal criminal investigation into whether he used his position as an elite commando for personal profit while on active duty, according to two people familiar with the case.

Matthew Bissonnette, the former SEAL and author of No Easy Day, a firsthand account of the 2011 bin Laden operation, had already been under investigation by both the Justice Department and the Navy for revealing classified information. The two people familiar with the probe said the current investigation, led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, expanded after Bissonnette agreed to hand over a hard drive containing an unauthorized photo of the al Qaeda leader's corpse. The government has fought to keep pictures of bin Laden's body from being made public for what it claims are national security reasons.

The investigation is a perfect example of the US government's bipartisan unwillingness to address crimes committed by the military as part of the war on terror. As I noted more than three years ago, Bissonnette openly admits to committing the war crime of willful killing - a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions - in No Easy Day. Here is his description of how he and a fellow SEAL killed bin Laden (p. 315):

"The point man reached the landing first and slowly moved toward the door. Unlike in the movies, we didn't bound up the final few steps and rush into the room with guns blazing. We took our time.

The point man kept his rifle trained into the room as we slowly crept toward the open door. Again, we didn't rush. Instead, we waited at the threshold and peered inside. We could see two women standing over a man lying at the foot of a bed. Both women were dressed in long gowns and their hair was a tangled mess like they had been sleeping. The women were hysterically crying and wailing in Arabic. The younger one looked up and saw us at the door.

She yelled out in Arabic and rushed the point man. We were less than five feet apart. Swinging his gun to the side, the point man grabbed both women and drove them toward the corner of the room. If either woman had on a suicide vest, he probably saved our lives, but it would have cost him his own. It was a selfless decision made in a split second."

With the women out of the way, I entered the room with a third SEAL. We saw the man lying on the floor at the foot of his bed. He was wearing a white sleeveless T-shirt, loose tan pants, and a tan tunic. The point man's shots had entered the right side of his head. Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull. In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing. Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.

This is about as clear-cut as IHL and ICL get in a combat situation. Bissonnette did not make a split-second decision to shoot bin Laden; his account makes clear that he had plenty of time to assess the situation. And there is no question bin Laden was hors de combat when Bissonnette pointed his weapon at him and finished him off. Bissonnette wasn't even the SEAL who first shot bin Laden in the head, so he can't argue that this was some kind of continuous action designed to eliminate any possibility that bin Laden remained a threat. Ergo: a war crime.

But it's bin Laden, of course. Inter malum enim silent leges. So instead of prosecuting Bissonnette for murder under the UCMJ, the US government investigates him for hanging onto a trophy of his kill and profiting from his notoriety.

Behold impunity.

PS: In case anyone is wondering, "death throes" refers to the agonal phase of dying, when the body is shutting down. The agonal phase precedes clinical death (when the heart stops and respiration ceases), brain death, and biological death.

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TOPICS

Piracy

Maritime Security: Moving Targets
The Maritime Executive
Stephen L. Caldwell
January 8, 2016

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) recently sponsored a maritime security conference that provided participants with an update on piracy and other threats to shipping. The conference, "Current and Future Challenges to Energy Security in the Maritime Environment," covered a variety of issues but was clear on one point: Threats to shipping, from piracy to terrorism, are alive and well.

The Rise and Fall of Somali Piracy

Most of the maritime industry regards piracy as the most likely threat to their operations. And most equate piracy with Somali-based attacks in the Horn of Africa/Gulf of Aden region. That scourge saw a rapid rise and subsequent fall. Somali pirate attacks numbered 30 in 2007, peaked at 235 in 2011, then declined to only 15 by 2013. In fact, the last successful attack and ransom case was in May 2012, more than three years ago.

What led to the rapid decline? Experts cite an array of efforts to protect vessels including naval escorts (such as NATO's own "Operation Ocean Shield"), the rapid adoption by industry of "best management practices," and the use of private armed security teams. The employment of these teams, known as PMSCs (private maritime security companies), on commercial ships has been both a success and a source of controversy.

At the NATO conference, Peter Cook, CEO of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI), which represents PMSCs, stated that "Private maritime security is a phenomenon that is here to stay. We aim to facilitate a good understanding of this evolving industry and how it can be part of the solution and not part of the problem."

With more than 130 members in 38 countries, SAMI makes it easier for clients (shipowners, ship managers, charterers, flag states or marine insurers) to find and choose a reputable PMSC. It also works closely with the International Maritime Organization and the International Standards Organization to promulgate internationally recognized and certified standards for PMSCs - all part of an effort to combat the bad rap given the industry by, among other incidents, the Blackwater shootout in Baghdad in September 2007.

Ironically, the success of all of these efforts against Somali piracy has created a dilemma for both governments and industry, who are finding it harder and harder to justify the added expense of naval patrols off the Horn of Africa, or steaming at full speed (which can use twice as much fuel), or using PMSCs. And PMSCs now find themselves victims of their own success as shippers think twice about hiring them.

Piracy's New Business Model

With Somali piracy in remission, the more pressing issue is piracy's "new" business model, prevalent in places like the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia, which is focused not on hijacking ships and crew and holding them for ransom but rather on stealing energy commodities and selling them in illegal markets.

In the Gulf of Guinea, the problem remains epidemic as first documented in the September 2013 Chatham House report Nigerian Criminal Crude: International Options to Combat the Export of Stolen Oil. That report concluded that Nigeria's crude oil was being stolen on an "industrial scale." However, it will be interesting to see what developments emerge in Nigeria following the election of Muhammadu Buhari earlier this year.

According to Michael Wingate, Chief Operating Officer at Guardian Global Resources, "Buhari has promised change, with particular emphasis on addressing the pressing and wide-reaching issue of maritime security, which encompasses the siphoning of crude oil from pipelines, cargo theft, piracy and kidnap for ransom activities. Intended action includes a shake-up of the companies operating in the maritime security space."

Wingate says that security companies operating in Nigerian waters are anticipating further amendments to their procedures, which are expected to offer clarity and understanding in what is currently an opaque operating environment. With oil theft a crippling problem in an industry vital to the success of the Nigerian economy, the authorities need to do everything they can to mitigate the damage to their imports, exports and revenue.

A similar hotspot is Southeast Asia, where an outbreak of tanker hijackings and stolen energy cargoes has shippers on edge. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reported that piracy in the region is up 23 percent from 2013 to 2014. Of the 183 incidents in 2014, 13 were "very significant" and involved the siphoning of ship fuel or oil. ReCAAP estimated that at least three organized crime syndicates were involved in these incidents.

In the first six months of 2015, according to a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), hijackings of small coastal tankers continued at a rate of one attack every two weeks. The IMB is part of the International Chamber of Commerce and a long-time authoritative source for statistics on reported pirate attacks. IMB Assistant Director Cyrus Mody noted that "Only seamless information sharing and coordinated action will result in a robust response to this threat. We hope the arrest of one gang and the hefty custodial sentences imposed on another will help deter further incidents."

All About Oil

Instability in Libya and Syria has triggered a new scourge whereby non-state actors (other than traditional pirates or criminal syndicates) use tankers to sell stolen oil in illegal markets. The proceeds from such sales are likely reinvested in weapons and other contraband to support their military campaigns and terrorist attacks.

In Libya, the U.N. Security Council in March 2014 authorized sanctions and restrictions regarding the loading, transporting or discharging of crude oil from Libya. In mid-June 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a port security advisory, telling vessels to proceed with extreme caution when approaching all Libyan oil terminals, particularly in eastern Libya, due to recent attempts by armed, non-state actors to engage in illicit exports.

Regarding Syria, George Kiourktsoglou, Guest Lecturer at Greenwich University in the U.K., made a presentation at the NATO conference on "ISIS and Smuggled Crude Oil." His analysis indicated that oil shipments out of ports in the eastern Mediterranean - such as Banias, Syria and Ceyhan, Turkey - have surged at times when Islamic State rebels were taking over oil-producing regions in Syria and Iraq or otherwise in need of cash infusions to fund their military campaigns.

Kiourktsoglou cautioned that the correlation he found does not conclusively prove that these shipments were directly funding Islamic State and added that more work needed to be done to determine whether the shipments were benefiting Islamic State or the Syrian government. "The effort to expose the illicit trade of crude oil and the corresponding transactions between Islamic State and established market participants will be an arduous one, requiring time and perseverance," he explained. "It is the nature of similar seaborne trades that renders law enforcement particularly challenging."

In any event, the U.S. Department of the Treasury recently placed sanctions on several shipping and energy companies for their roles in the ongoing Syrian conflict. Key companies targeted included Aqua Shipping and Milenyum Energy SA in Turkey, which were charged with materially supporting the Syrian government through various front organizations that were shipping oil products out of Banias.

Critical Chokepoints

The NATO conference ended on an unsettling note about additional threats to shipping in the Middle East. In a presentation titled "The Yemen Crisis and Its Implications for Energy Security in the Wider Gulf of Aden," Dr. Peter Chalk, Adjunct Senior Security Analyst with the RAND Corporation, described the escalating civil war in Yemen, which was initiated by the Houthi rebels but has now been joined by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Islamic State, and neighboring nations led by Saudi Arabia.

Chalk noted that Yemen abuts busy shipping lanes on both the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea that are used for nearly 80 percent of European maritime trade. In addition, Yemen abuts the Bab el Mandeb, a critical chokepoint for shipping, which Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has vowed to close.

Yemen, of course, was the site of two major maritime terrorist incidents - the attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole in 2000 and the oil tanker MV Limburg in 2002. And Yemen is just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. In the current crisis, maritime instability has returned with pitched battles for control of the port city of Aden and a Saudi naval blockade of major seaports to prevent the Houthi rebels from getting supplies from allies like Iran. "Should the situation in Yemen continue to worsen," Chalk concluded, "security in the Gulf of Aden will drastically deteriorate, making the viability of the Suez Canal corridor increasingly questionable."

Britons Offering Protection Against Pirates Facing Five Years in Indian Jail
The Guardian
Jason Burke and Sandhya Ravishankar
January 11, 2016

Six former British soldiers working for a private "anti-pirate" security company have been sentenced to five years in prison in India after a court upheld a conviction for possession of illegal arms.

The men were among 35 crew members who were held more then two years ago. They were all working on a ship belonging to a US-based firm offering protection to commercial shipping against pirates operating off Africa's coast in the Indian ocean.

David Cameron had made a personal appeal last year to Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, on behalf of the Britons, who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Indian officials said the men were sentenced at a sessions court in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Monday.

Prosecutors told the court that police found large numbers of "unlicensed and illegal" weapons aboard the ship when it was searched after entering Indian waters in October 2013 following a storm. The detained crew members subsequently served nine months in prison before being bailed but were not allowed to leave India. They will now return to prison to serve out their sentence of five years' "rigorous imprisonment" .

Ray Tindall, a former British army sniper from Chester who now faces years in poor conditions in a local jail, said his previous stint in prison was "horrendous" and that he was "not looking forward to … spending a night in jail again".

"I hope this nightmare will be over soon," said Tindall, moments after the judgment was announced.

"The [court] ignored every one of their own Indian laws, every one of the international laws and decided to proceed and prosecute us and jail us ... There's no grounds for what they have done."

The other Britons are reportedly Nick Dunn from Ashington, Northumberland; Billy Irving from Connel, Argyll; Paul Towers from Pocklington, East Yorkshire; John Armstrong from Wigton, Cumbria; and Nicholas Simpson from Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Lawyers for the men said they would appeal against the verdict.

Arumugaram Ravipandian, a lawyer representing all 35 men, told Reuters: "The ... supreme court in 2015 had asked the sessions court to look only ... to see whether the weapons found were the normal armament of the vessel. If they were, then that vessel shall be exempted from the purview of the Arms Act. This judgment is totally unfair and a great injustice to the accused."

Aside from the Britons, six of the crew are from Ukraine, 13 from Estonia and 10 of Indian nationality.

There was no immediate comment from AdvanFort, the US company who had employed the men. AdvanFort has previously called on the Indian government to ensure their release, saying that any arms and ammunition on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio were used solely to safeguard commercial ships against piracy in high-risk areas and were held legally.

The company has also denied that the ship was in Indian waters.

"As these men routinely provide armed counter-piracy protection, they also had aboard their uniforms, protective equipment, medical kits, rifles and ammunition - all of which is properly registered and licensed to AdvanFort," the company said at the time of the initial investigation. It describes itself as a "multi-mission maritime security provider protecting vulnerable maritime assets around the globe".

The British high commission in Delhi said it was providing consular assistance but could not interfere in another country's judicial process.

"Our staff in India and the UK have been in close contact with all six men since their arrest to provide support to them and their families, including attending court," it said in a statement. "Ministers have also raised this case at the highest levels, pressing for delays to be resolved."

No comment was immediately available from the Ukrainian and Estonian embassies.

The incident highlighted the loosely regulated practice of placing guards on ships for protection against pirate attacks.

Action by the Indian authorities has led to diplomatic rows in similar cases. Relations between India and Italy soured after a 2012 incident in which two Italian marines allegedly killed two Indian fishermen mistakenly believed to be pirates.

Indian Fisherman Dies in Pirate Attack
The Maritime Executive
MarEx
January 17, 2016

On Saturday, the Bahraini Coast Guard's commander reported that a dhow was attacked outside of the nation's territorial waters and that an Asian sailor was killed, part of an ongoing pattern of piracy on the Bahraini, Saudi and Qatari maritime borders with Iran.

Prosecutors were notified. The commander further asked fishermen to stay within proper fishing areas in Bahrain and to avoid crossing any maritime borders. In addition to safety, the commander warned that violations could lead to legal actions.

A Gulf media outlet added that the five crew of the dhow, all Indian nationals, were at sea for 16 hours following the attack, as the pirates removed their navigational equipment and radios and they had difficulty finding their way back.

The survivors identified the deceased as captain Pankaj Bhai Tandel, who was killed while attempting to resist the assailants.

"There was a small boat at a distance which came closer near the Iranian - Qatari water border and suddenly three masked men jumped into our dhow and started to beat us with wooden planks . . . They were young, well-built and spoke Arabic, but not the Bahraini dialect," said a crewmember. The pirates reportedly took the dhow's catch before departing.

Indian contract workers with Persian Gulf fishing companies have faced the danger of piracy for some time: Tandel's death is the fourth in as many years.

Fisherman Antony Anish Andrews was killed in an attack near Bahrain in August 2015. Qatari authorities told survivors that they suspected the pirates in the incident were Iranian, Bahraini media said. The South Asian Fishermen Federation confirmed this account.

In May 2015, Indian national Siluvai Mathivalan, was shot dead by suspected Iranian pirates near the Saudi - Iranian maritime border. His fishing launch reportedly strayed into Iranian waters and was attacked. His crewmates were left unharmed in the incident.

In 2014, fisherman Thomas Gildus was shot and killed in a pirate attack in Bahraini waters. Indian authorities with the consulate in Bahrain told the Times of India that the pirates were Iranian nationals.

In 2013, a dhow was shot at in Bahraini waters, forced to stop and towed over the maritime border to Iranian seas by pirates. The attackers boarded the dhow and robbed its crew before releasing it. One crewmember was injured with two gunshots to his shoulder; the crewmembers said that they felt that their lives were in danger. They reported that the attackers had an Iranian accent, according to Bahraini media.

The Tamil Nadu Fisherman Development Trust and Bahrain Fisherman's Union have appealed to the United Nations for assistance in combating piracy in the region. According to the Trust's president, P. Justin Antony, the pirates are "jobless young men who may be wandering in the sea to commit crimes for money," and aim to loot fish catches or hold crew for ransom. He adds that they "shoot at random" if they see a boat has too many crewmembers on it to easily overpower. Antony did not identify any one country as the primary source of the pirates.

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Gender-Based Violence

Guatemala: First Trial for Systematic Violations of Indigenous Women
Intercontinentalcry.org
Pamela Leiva Jacquelín
January 14, 2016

Guatemala's recent history bears the mark of a 36 year long, painful internal armed conflict, during which the State systematically violated the rights of the Mayan population.

According to the Report of the Commission for the Historical Clarification of Human Rights Violations in Guatemala, 83.3 percent of the human rights violations were committed against them.

Indigenous women have particularly suffered from the conflict. They have been victims of rape, abuse and sexual slavery.

Women’s alliance against impunity

Women's organizations have played an important role in spreading information on the legal actions and in collecting and documenting the testimonies of several of them, who are now over 50 and suffer from severe PTSD.

The Alianza Rompiendo el Silencio y la Impunidad (Alliance Breaking the Silence and Impunity), including organizations such as Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (Women Changing the World - MTM), the Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y de Acción Psicosocial (Community Studies and Psychosocial Action Team - ECAP) and the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas (National Union of Guatemalan Women -UNAMG) has been active since 2009 providing support to women and following up on the cases.

The three organizations play different roles in promoting public debate on the cases: MTM is in charge of the judicial strategy, ECAP offers psychosocial support to the victims and UNAMG works on the public stance of the plaintiffs.

Sepur Zarco is a community located on the border between the departments of Alta Verapaz and Izabal, in northern Guatemala. Six military detachments settled in this region during the internal armed conflict for the purpose of extermination and torture.

In 1982, the army captured the men of the Mayan community and their widows underwent domestic slavery, sexual violence and sexual slavery.

The abuses were committed by the army of Guatemala for six consecutive months, during which women did shifts every 3 days to cook and clean and wash military uniforms, and were individually and collectively raped over and over again.

Some of them described how they were injected and forced to take birth control medicines to prevent pregnancies.

After setting up a Tribunal of Conscience Against Sexual Violence in 2010, indigenous women decided to take the case to the formal justice system and filed a lawsuit in 2011.

The case is the first to reach the Guatemalan national courts for crimes of international significance against women.

As for its typification and in accordance with the Historical Clarification Commission, rape during the internal armed conflict was used in a widespread, massive and systematic way as part of the counterinsurgency policy of the State.

Therefore, sexual violence is a crime against humanity, a war crime and a constituent element of genocide.

In the post-conflict phase, though, sexual violence as a crime against humanity is still invisible.

That is why it is expected that the evidence and the proceedings will arouse national and international interest and allow for a new phase of discussion and historical reparation for fierce racism in the country.

The public trial will be held in Guatemala City on February 1, 2016. There are two defendants.

Guatemalan women's organizations call on all stakeholders to make a positive contribution to the trial, to attend public hearings and duly oversee the proceedings.

UN Report Condemns Islamic State Use of 'Sexual Violence as a Tactic of War'
Breitbart.com
Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.
January 19, 2016

Among the "war crimes" committed by the Islamic State is the systematic use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, the report declares.

"ISIL continues to deliberately target ethnic and religious communities through a range of abuses and crimes as part of its policy of suppression, expulsion or elimination of those communities, and to employ sexual violence as a tactic of war," the report states.

The report was jointly issued by U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and U.N. human rights office in Geneva, and states that ISIS atrocities committed in Iraq constitute "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide."

The Islamic State is currently holding some 3,500 people as slaves in Iraq, the report estimates, and of these, most are women and children. Of particular concern, "are the potentially thousands of Yezidi women and children (and those from some other ethnic and religious communities) who remain in ISIL captivity."

The women taken as spoils of war are generally either kept, given as prizes or sold as sex slaves.

"ISIL continued to subject women and children to sexual violence, particularly in the form of sexual slavery," the report states, estimating that the number of people currently being held in slavery by ISIL "numbers approximately 3,500."

The document enumerates a series of specific cases involving the capture, murder, and sale of "infidel" women as sex slaves by Islamic State militants.

Two of the more egregious cases reported were the execution of 19 women in Mosul last August "for refusing to have sex with [ISIL] fighters" as well as the ISIL Quran memorization contest in Mosul on the occasion of Ramadan, where "the first three winners would reportedly receive 'sex slaves' as prizes."

Report Warns Refugee Women on the Move in Europe Are at Risk of Sexual and Gender-based Violence
UNHCR
January 20, 2016

Oumo*, a young woman from sub-Saharan Africa is fleeing persecution that has left her brother-in-law dead and her sister missing. Fearing for her life, she made the dangerous and difficult journey to Europe where she is hoping to find asylum and safety. During her journey to Greece, Oumo was forced to engage in transactional sex twice to secure passage on a boat and a fake passport. Upon arrival on a Greek island, she slept in the open without shelter, privacy or access to assistance. "I fear that I will go crazy," she admitted.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) are concerned about the grave risks to refugee and migrant women and girls on the move in Europe, such as Oumo and others.

Harsh winter conditions mean less people are risking the sea voyage to reach Europe this month compared to the previous months. However, there is still an average of 2,000 people arriving every day. And as governments enforce restrictions and tighten border controls, reception and transit facilities could become overcrowded and tense, increasing the risks to women and girls. Out of desperation refugees and migrants could also turn to more dangerous routes in the hands of smugglers.

As of 15 January 2016, just over 55% of those arriving are women and children, as compared to only 27% in June 2015. The humanitarian response across the eastern Mediterranean and western Balkans routes is prioritizing the mainstreaming and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) into all humanitarian activities. The capacity to prevent, identify and respond adequately, however, depends largely on individual states and European Union agencies assuming responsibility and taking appropriate actions.

UNHCR, UNFPA and WRC conducted a joint field assessment of risks involved for refugee and migrant women and girls in Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in November 2015. As noted in the subsequent field report: "Single women travelling alone or with children, pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls, unaccompanied children, early-married children - sometimes themselves with newborn babies - persons with disabilities, and elderly men and women are among those who are particularly at risk and require a coordinated and effective protection response." This joint venture was the first among several field missions and profiling exercises that aid and advocacy agencies are conducting to accurately assess the problems on the ground and recommend key actions to address these concerns.

Many refugee and migrant women and girls have already been exposed to various forms of SGBV either in their country of origin, first asylum or along the journey to and in Europe. Some of the women interviewed by the mission described being forced to engage in transactional sex to "pay for" travel documents or their journey. Some women and girls are so reluctant to delay their journey and that of their families that they refuse to report SGBV crimes or seek medical attention.

"The health and rights of victims of wars and persecution, especially women and adolescent girls, should not be treated like an afterthought in humanitarian response. UNFPA is working with partners to ensure that women refugees and migrants have access to sexual and reproductive health services, and to prevent and respond to gender-based violence," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

"Many women and girls travelling on their own are entirely exposed, deprived of their family or community to protect them," Director of UNHCR's Bureau for Europe, Vincent Cochetel said. "And even those traveling with family are often vulnerable to abuse. Often they are not reporting crimes and thus not receiving the support they need. Some women have even told us they have married out of desperation."

"Because the reception facilities in Europe were not set up to prevent or respond to SGBV, women and girls are not getting the protection they need and deserve from this humanitarian response, "said Sarah Costa, Executive Director of the Women's Refugee Commission. "We should commit to the interventions that we know will help, including deploying SGBV experts along the route."

The joint mission found that the current response by governments, humanitarian actors, EU institutions and agencies and civil society organizations is inadequate and fails to prevent and respond to the danger, exploitation and multiple forms of SGBV women and girls are facing across Europe. For example, despite attempts by UNHCR and partners to ensure well-lit and gender segregated reception facilities and shelter, many lack private, safe water, sanitation and health (WASH) facilities and sleeping areas for women and children, exposing them to potential or further SGBV risks. The joint assessment noted the need for civil society organizations and humanitarian partners to integrate SGBV prevention and response into all sectors, such as WASH, shelter, health, etc., as well as provision of legal aid and psychosocial support.

The report also highlights some key recommendations for governments and EU agencies:

* To protect her identity, "Oumo's" name has been changed.

Download the full joint report here http://www.unhcr.org/569f8f419.html

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REPORTS

UN Reports

The 'Staggering' Civilian Toll of Iraq's Fight Against ISIS
The Atlantic
Adam Chandler
January 19, 2016

The United Nations estimates that at least 18,000 Iraqis have been killed since the start of 2014, a number it says might be too low.

Thousands have been killed, maimed, and displaced over the last two years in what a new United Nations report characterized as the "untold suffering" of Iraqi civilians.

The report, released Tuesday, provides some "staggering" figures related to the horrors of life in Iraq in the time of ISIS. According to the UN, between the start of 2014 and October 31 of last year, 18,802 Iraqis were killed, 36,245 were wounded, 3.2 million were displaced, and 3,500 others, mainly women and children, have been enslaved by Islamic State fighters.

Worst of all, perhaps, the issuers of the report fear that their estimates may be low and that their assessments of the carnage, which were collected by the UN from interviews with survivors and witnesses, may not fully reflect the situation.

The charges of systematic violence mainly focus on Islamic State activity-one grim entry in an attached glossary involves the acronym "SVBIED" for suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Stories from the collected testimonies involve abuses including the killing of women who refused to have sex with ISIS fighters, the public bulldozing of a crowd, drownings, decapitations, and the killing and abduction of minorities.

In June, three men, two young men, and a 60-year-old man were reportedly thrown off a building in Mosul for "alleged homosexual acts." Later that month:

On 21 June, in Mosul, Ninewa, it was reported that ISIL had announced a Quran memorization competition in Mosul on the occasion of Ramadan, stating that the first three winners would reportedly receive 'sex slaves' as prizes.

"These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide," the UN report noted. However, the UN also cites acts of violence committed by Iraqi security forces, anti-ISIS militiamen, Kurdish forces.

All told, the figures, however low they may be, show a terrible return to levels of violence not seen in Iraq since the height of Sunni-Shia conflagration in 2006-2007 when more than 50,000 Iraqis died.

The UN report was accompanied by a small piece of good news on Tuesday. Owing to the ongoing international campaign, which has recently liberated the city of Ramadi and targeted the Islamic State capital of Raqqa in Syria, ISIS has reportedly cut the pay of its fighters in half.

Libya: Senior UN Relief Official Condemns Attacks on Benghazi Power Plant
UN News Centre
January 12, 2016

Strongly condemning the recent attacks against a major power plant in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, the top United Nations humanitarian official in the country said today he is "deeply shocked by these actions that directly affect civilian life," and warned that such "ignoble" attacks may amount to war crimes.

In a statement the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator of the UN in Libya, Ali Al-Za'tari, expressed serious concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

He highlighted that these ignoble attacks put additional pressure on the already strained service delivery mechanisms as they further deteriorate the living conditions of people affected by the conflict and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

"I am deeply shocked by these actions that directly affect the life of civilians. Attacks against civilian objects and service delivery institutions are attacks against the ordinary people and prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes," Mr. Al-Za'tari said.

He emphasized that the citizens of Benghazi are now without electricity for more than four hours a day, and added that "the repercussions of these power failures on hospitals, community services and households are severe and expose the local population to further distress and deprivation."

Against that background, the Humanitarian Coordinator called on all parties to ensure the safety and the security of service delivery institutions to meet the basic need of all Libyans.

Yemen: Cluster Bomb Use By Saudi Coalition May Amount To War Crimes, Says U.N. Chief
Headlines and Global News
Som Patidar
January 9, 2016

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report Thursday that cited several instances of the use of cluster bombs on residential neighborhoods in Yemen by the Saudi coalition.

United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-moon has expressed concern over the use of cluster bombs in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations.

"The Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) is particularly concerned about reports of intense airstrikes in residential areas and on civilian buildings in Sanaa, including the Chamber of Commerce, a wedding hall and a center for the blind," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Friday, according to UNI news agency.

The U.N chief also warned that the use of prohibited cluster munitions could be war crime. The U.S. backed Saudi coalition has been fighting Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels since March 2015.

"We have also received troubling reports of the use of cluster munitions in attacks on Sana'a on 6 January in several locations. The use of cluster munitions in populated areas may amount to a war crime due to their indiscriminate nature," Dujarric said, according to Cihan news agency.

Human Rights Watch, in a report, described the cluster bomb attacks by Saudi coalition as a "'war crime" and called for an international inquiry.

"The coalition's repeated use of cluster bombs in the middle of a crowded city suggests an intent to harm civilians, which is a war crime," HRW's arms director Steve Goose said in a statement.

"These outrageous attacks show that the coalition seems less concerned than ever about sparing civilians from war's horrors," he said.

A Saudi-led coalition of the Arab nations resumed airstrikes against Sanaa-based Houthi rebels last week after a two-week ceasefire. The ceasefire agreement between the two sides was announced on Dec. 15 after the resumption of U.N.-mediated Yemen peace talks in Switzerland, as HNGN previously reported.

Nearly 6,000 people - more than half of which were civilians - have been killed in the war-torn country since March 2015.

Calling State of Besieged Syrian Town 'Horrendous,' UN Seeks Humanitarian Access
UN News Centre
January 8, 2016

As the United Nations and its partners struggled today to gain humanitarian access to the Government-besieged Syrian city of Madaya, amid reports of people starving to death or being killed while trying to leave, UN officials called the situation "horrendous…ghastly," and a potential war crime.

They also voiced concern at the "very alarming situation" in two nearby Shiite villages besieged by opposition forces for many months in a country where five years of fighting have killed over 250,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, displaced more than half the population of 17 million, and left 4.5 million people in hard-to-reach areas, 400,000 of them under siege.

Today was the second straight day that the UN has raised the alarm over Madaya, where almost 42,000 people are at risk of starvation.

"The situation in Madaya is ghastly," Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva, noting that Government forces were preventing aid getting into Madaya while opposition forces prevented access to the two nearby villages, making both sides culpable.

Deliberate starvation of civilians amounts to war crimes under the international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he stressed.

At the same briefing, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards said negotiations on a humanitarian convoy to Madaya were continuing but no date had been set. His agency would send in non-food items for 40,000 people.

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson Christophe Boulierac, whose agency is also involved in planning the convoy, said half the 42,000 people in the town were children in need of urgent life-saving assistance.

While unable to confirm Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports that six of 23 persons who starved to death in Madaya in December were children, he voiced great concern at the devastating humanitarian situation, particularly the lack of food for children and of basic supplies amid a harsh winter.

The tragic situation of children in Madaya was an example of the dire situation of the 4.5 million people, over two million of them children, living in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, he said.

Yesterday UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria Yacoub El Hillo and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Kevin Kennedy issued a joint statement calling for unimpeded access to people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, with only 10 per cent of all requests for UN inter-agency convoys to these areas approved and delivered in the past year.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a 53 year-old man reportedly died of starvation on Tuesday while his family of five continues to suffer from severe malnutrition.

Last month, the UN Security Council demanded that all parties, particularly the Government, immediately open routes across conflict lines and borders to let in vital aid.

It also authorized the UN to play an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, endorsing a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices, and demanded that all parties, particularly the Government, immediately open routes across conflict lines and borders to let in vital aid.

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NGO Reports

Iraq: Banished and Dispossessed: Forced Displacement and Deliberate Destruction in Northern Iraq
Amnesty International
January 20, 2016

Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kurdish militias in northern Iraq have bulldozed, blown up and burned down thousands of homes in Arab villages. Though KRG officials have tended to justify the displacement of Arab communities on grounds of security, it appears to be used to punish them for their perceived sympathies with so-called Islamic State (IS), and to consolidate territorial gains and establish control over "disputed areas" of the country, which the KRG authorities have long claimed should be part of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel's Violations of Palestinian Rights
Human Rights Watch
January 19, 2016

Almost immediately after Israel's military occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, the Israeli government began establishing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. From the outset, private businesses have been involved in Israel's settlement policies, benefiting from and contributing to them. This report details the ways in which Israeli and international businesses have helped to build, finance, service, and market settlement communities. In many cases, businesses are "settlers" themselves, drawn to settlements in part by low rents, favorable tax rates, government subsidies, and access to cheap Palestinian labor.[1]

In fact, the physical footprint of Israeli business activity in the West Bank is larger than that of residential settlements. In addition to commercial centers inside of settlements, there are approximately 20 Israeli-administered industrial zones in the West Bank covering about 1,365 hectares, and Israeli settlers oversee the cultivation of 9,300 hectares of agricultural land. In comparison, the built-up area of residential settlements covers 6,000 hectares (although their municipal borders encompass a much larger area).

Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate the laws of occupation. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the territory it occupies and from transferring or displacing the population of an occupied territory within or outside the territory. The Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, establishes the court's jurisdiction over war crimes including the crimes of transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into an occupied territory, and the forcible transfer of the population of an occupied territory. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed in or from the territory of the State of Palestine, now an ICC member, beginning in June 13, 2014, the date designated by Palestine in a declaration accompanying its accession.

Israel's confiscation of land, water, and other natural resources for the benefit of settlements and residents of Israel also violate the Hague Regulations of 1907, which prohibit an occupying power from expropriating the resources of occupied territory for its own benefit. In addition, Israel's settlement project violates international human rights law, in particular, Israel's discriminatory policies against Palestinians that govern virtually every aspect of life in the area of the West Bank under Israel's exclusive control, known as Area C, and that forcibly displace Palestinians while encouraging the growth of Jewish settlements.

As documented in this report, it is Human Rights Watch's view that by virtue of doing business in or with settlements or settlement businesses, companies contribute to one or more of these violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. Settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel's unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements. Settlement-related activities also directly benefit from Israel's discriminatory policies in planning and zoning, the allocation of land, natural resources, financial incentives, and access to utilities and infrastructure. These policies result in the forced displacement of Palestinians and place Palestinians at an enormous disadvantage in comparison with settlers. Israel's discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians have harmed the Palestinian economy and left many Palestinians dependent on jobs in settlements-a dependency that settlement proponents then cite to justify settlement businesses.

Following international standards articulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses are expected to undertake human rights due diligence to identify and mitigate contributions to human rights violations of not only their own activities but also activities to which they are directly linked by their business relationships. They are also expected to take effective steps to avoid or mitigate potential human rights harms-and to consider ending business activity where severe negative human rights consequences cannot be avoided or mitigated.

Based on the findings of this report, it is Human Rights Watch's view that any adequate due diligence would show that business activities taking place in or in contract with Israeli settlements or settlement businesses contribute to rights abuses, and that businesses cannot mitigate or avoid contributing to these abuses so long as they engage in such activities. In Human Rights Watch's view, the context of human rights abuse to which settlement business activity contributes is so pervasive and severe that businesses should cease carrying out activities inside or for the benefit of settlements, such as building housing units or infrastructure, or providing waste removal and landfill services. They should also stop financing, administering, trading with or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure.

Human Rights Watch is not calling for a consumer boycott of settlement companies, but rather for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities by ceasing settlement-related activities. Moreover, consumers should have the information they need, such as where products are from, to make informed decisions.

This report uses illustrative case studies to highlight four key areas where, in Human Rights Watch's view, settlement companies contribute to and benefit from violations of international humanitarian and human rights law: discrimination; land confiscations and restrictions; supporting settlement infrastructure; and labor abuses. These case studies are not necessarily the worst examples of settlement businesses, but demonstrate how businesses operating in settlements are inextricably tied to one or more of these abuses.

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WORTH READING

Worth Reading

An Expansive Intelligence Community Regime as a Threat to U.S. National Security
By Isaac Kfir
January 7, 2016

It is often said that we live in a dangerous world. The rise of Al-Qaeda has underlined the threat of religiously-inspired terrorism to the maintenance international peace and security. The U.S. government has responded to this threat by embracing a new security agenda that entails creating new government agencies, revising existing laws or adopting new ones. Key to the process however has also been the adoption of a new security rhetoric where policymakers emphasis a pervasive, yet often imprecise threat that fuels the new security environment that has facilitated the rise of the National Surveillance State. Evidence for this threat comes from the intelligence community, which is beholden to the executive branch. The contribution made in this paper is twofold. First, that to have an effective counterterrorism agenda one needs multiple lines of discourse to test claims and hypotheses. Such a system does not seem to exist, as those responsible for security in the U.S. are insular as they constitute a regime, and yet it is they and the executive branch to which they answer to, who shape the security discourse. Second, to highlight that information - words and images - largely disseminated by intelligence community, which operates under the executive branch, have the ability to create the notion that the terrorist threat is greater than it actually is, enabling the executive branch to demand more power as a way to ensure protection. The paper concludes that the post-9/11 security apparatus instead of providing greater security is counter-intuitive, fueling anti-Americanism and undermining fundamental rights, which is why there is a need for greater oversight of the executive branch and by extension the intelligence community.

The Hidden Costs of Strategic Communications for the International Criminal Court
By Megan Fairlie
January 9, 2016

In little more than a decade, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received nearly 11,000 requests for its Prosecutor to conduct atrocity investigations around the globe. To date, no such communication has resulted in an official investigation. Nevertheless, the act of publicizing these investigation requests has proven to be an effective, attention-getting tool that can achieve valuable, alternative goals. This fact explains the increasing popularity of "strategic communications" - highly publicized investigation requests aimed not at securing any ICC-related activity, but at obtaining some non-Court related advantage. This Article, which is the first to identify this trend, explains why the international legal community has accepted the instrumental use of the ICC's communication process with little reflection. It demonstrates why this tolerance is unwise by identifying the potential costs of strategic communications. It then establishes the significance of these concerns by illustrating the specific costs created by the most widely-publicized communication to date: the call for the ICC Prosecutor to investigate Pope Benedict XVI "for rape and other forms of sexual violence as crimes against humanity."

The goal of this article is to encourage the international legal community to revisit its unexamined acceptance of strategic communications. This can lead to a debate that, at a minimum, should prompt Court supporters - specifically civil society members - to think carefully before engaging in conduct that creates dangerous consequences for the ICC.

Reconciling the Crime of Aggression and Complementarity: Unaddressed Tensions and a Way Forward
By Julie Veroff
January 17, 2016

In June 2010, after more than a decade of negotiation, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) agreed on a definition of the crime of aggression. But the Assembly failed to address a critical issue: whether and how prosecutions for aggression fit within the ICC's complementarity regime. That regime positions the ICC as a court of last resort; domestic prosecutions are preferred except in a very narrow set of circumstances. Thus, an aggressed state could conceivably prosecute, in its own courts, the nationals of an aggressor state. This Note argues that the crime of aggression is a poor fit with the general complementarity regime, creating major tensions. Policymakers have so far overlooked the problem, despite its potential implications for international peace and security, as well as the ICC's legitimacy. On the one hand, domestic prosecutions of the crime of aggression pose serious risks to international political stability. At the same time, bringing aggression prosecutions only at the ICC would create its own difficulties, such as incomplete concurrence between proceedings at the domestic level and proceedings at the ICC. Because the aggression amendments to the Rome Statute will take effect in 2017, policymakers must address the complementarity question, and soon. After diagnosing the dilemma, this Note offers several recommendations for a way forward.

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Vancouver Park Board Adopts 11 First Nations Strategies
The Georgia Straight
By Craig Takeuchi
January 12, 2016

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation announced on January 12 that it has approved 11 strategies for its programs and facilities in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report published last year.

The strategies include themes identified by the commission such as language and culture, professional development and training for public servants, education for reconciliation, youth programs, sports, and commemoration.

The board promises to increase public awareness and support for aboriginal participants in their programs, particularly for children, youth, and elders.

More specifically, the park board will create a program for aboriginal and nonaboriginal artists to collaborate on works related to reconciliation themes.

The board also promises to consider aboriginal rights when granting permits for special events and sport hosting to ensure First Nations territorial protocols are respected. Archaeological and aboriginal protocols will also be respected for any invasive investigations, inspections, or soil disturbances of cemeteries or midden lands.

Park board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung stated in a news release that the board has become the first Canadian municipal government body to adopt recommendations in response to the TRC's 94 calls to action.

On June 29, the Urban Aboriginal Committee asked the park board to review the TRC calls to action. On July 20, the park board asked staff to report back with recommendations based on the TRC report.

Meanwhile, on June 23, Vancouver city council asked staff to provide recommendations based on the TRC report. Staff will be reporting back to council on January 18.

Can South Africa Shake Off Its Racist Past?
Reuters
By Pinky Khoabane
January 12, 2016

The image of a South Africa that transitioned peacefully from a deeply segregated state to a democratic nation collapsed last week. Tensions flared between blacks and whites in an online race war that highlighted how far the nation still has to go to escape the shadow of its apartheid past.

The latest battleground is social media. This new outbreak of race war was sparked by provocative posts made by a South African estate agent, Penny Sparrow, 68,-a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA)-and the outspoken economist Chris Hart.

Their remarks have in part prompted the ruling ANC to issue a statement saying it would push for legislation that criminalised "any act that perpetuates racism or glorifies apartheid." The party said the current legislation was insufficient to tackle racism. Leftwing opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is the third-biggest party in South Africa and whose leader Julius Malema is a former ANC Youth League president, said it had always supported the move to criminalise racism. The DA has also reportedly backed the move and said on January 4 it would suspend Sparrow's party membership. With the three biggest parties in South Africa backing the proposal, the bill is likely to pass.

Hart's inflammatory tweet was posted on January 3 to his almost 21,000 followers. It read: "More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities."

He attempted to calm the Twitterstorm by stating that he had made the remark in the context of a failing economy, but the wrath remained unabated. He was later forced to apologize saying he "never meant to cause offence," but it was too little too late. He has been suspended from his job as a global investment strategist at Standard Bank, one South Africa's top financial institutions and faces a disciplinary hearing into what his employer described as comments with "racist undertones."

Hart's utterances pale in comparison to Sparrow's, who took to Facebook to label black people as "monkeys" for dropping litter on beaches, which they were barred from during the apartheid era . She claimed that allowing them in is "inviting huge dirt and troubles and discomfort to others." Her own party, the DA, have lodged criminal charges against Sparrow, stating that her comments "have no place in South African society." After she realised her post had caused grave offence, Sparrow posted an apology denying she meant it as a "personal insult" to anyone and insisting that she was "not racial".

Nowhere in recent years have South Africans been more vocal in their hatred for each other than on social media. In January 2015, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a body that polices racism, released findings which showed an increase in cases of online hate speech-from three percent to 22 percent between 2014 and 2015. Kayum Ahmed, SAHRC chief executive officer at the time, attributed the increase to people "letting their guard down more as apartheid becomes a distant memory for many."

Another cause for this outbreak of animosity could be what commentators have described over the years as a one-sided reconciliation-the only people who've had to reconcile were blacks while whites have escaped the need to reflect on their country's painful history. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which was tasked to look into gross human rights violations perpetrated in South Africa between 1960 and 1994, conceded in 2006 that the TRC failed to meet the needs of apartheid victims.

South Africa's transition to democracy was miraculous in comparison to other nations such as Nigeria, which endured decades of struggle and civil war. After 340 years of brutality in South Africa, the oppressor and the oppressed managed to negotiated a peaceful settlement. Led by the late president Nelson Mandela, South Africans found a way to reconcile and forgive.

But beneath the surface of what seemed like a country increasingly at ease with itself, lay a seething rage, which was unleashed on social media in recent weeks. Since her apology, Sparrow has further defended her comments saying she was just "stating the facts" while Hart has gone off-line completely. Their comments have, however, united political opp0nents-the ANC and DA-in the fight against racism.

Zanzibar Needs S.Africa Style Truth Commission
IPP Media
By Sylivester Domasa
January 13, 2016

Several political analysts have recommended the formation of a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to deal with the election standoff in Zanzibar.

This would follow the open disagreement between embattled Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein and opposition Civic United Front (CUF) Secretary General Seif Shariff Hamad over whether to have a re-run of the controversially annulled late October Isles presidential election.

Dr Shein declared in Zanzibar yesterday that his party (the ruling CCM) and the government were preparing for the re-run, while Hamad told the media in Dar es Salaam on Monday that his party was not ready for a repeat election.

Hamad was the leading opposition candidate in the Zanzibar presidential election, held concurrently with Tanzania's General Election on October 25, 2015, with Dr Shein seeking re-election for a second and final term.

CCM and CUF have been at loggerheads following the indefinite nullification of the results of the election in the Isles over what the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) claimed was marred by a number of irregularities.

However, many analysts have it that a win-win situation could only materialise with the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission modelled along the lines of the South African one that was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A number of CCM heavyweights have both held eight meetings with CUF's Hamad meant to end the three-month political standoff.

Analysts interviewed by this paper yesterday said most of the political and associated problems haunting Zanzibar have links to the Isles' history and are therefore not easy to solve without resorting to political maturity involving mediation and compromise.

"What is happening in Zanzibar is nothing new. It is a continuation of multiple conflicts arising from social, historical situation and class struggles," Harold Sungusia told The Guardian.

Sungusia, in charge of advocacy and reform at the Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC), argued that Zanzibar is still suffering from the "collateral damage of the struggles that culminated in the January 12, 1964 Revolution" and the best way out is through honest dialogue involving all the relevant parties.

"The struggles left trails of death and destruction. There were people killed or otherwise seriously affected, there was immense property destroyed, and there was high level of human abuse… All these still haunt people across the Isles," he said.

According to Sungusia, Zanzibar would greatly benefit from a truth and reconciliation commission similar to what South Africa had in the 1990s.

He defended his argument by saying that, to be precise, Zanzibar had no rule of law between 1964 and 1979 "during which period the government moved by presidential decree".

"We have problems with the structure of the Union and the commission recommended will bring a reasonably sustainable solution, particularly considering that racism still intermittently makes attempts to raise its ugly head in the Isles. This is yet another aspect of the trouble with Zanzibar politics."

University don Prof Kitila Mkumbo meanwhile said the fact that CCM had refused to concede defeat in October's Zanzibar presidential election sent clear signals that it was not really embracing multiparty democracy.

He said records amply show that the Isles are not as yet fully independent as some Zanzibaris are not ready to accept change.

"This is where the fundamental problem in Zanzibar lies. The (1964) revolution was a lot more political than anything else," argued the professor, saying the position by CUF presidential candidate in the botched 2015 polls (Hamad) was counterproductive.

He said that in all the previous mediation meetings, the opposition leader never invited anyone or any other political party to join him "and he should now blame no one for the failure of the talks".

"There are many distinguished political figures within CUF," said Prof Mkumbo, asking rhetorically: "So, why is it that he has never invited them during talks and now he is saying that the party has failed to agree with CCM in the closed-door meetings?"

University of Dar es Salaam political analyst Dr Benson Bana subscribed to the proposal that having a truth and reconciliation commission was the only way forward. He added that the development should preferably lead to the setting up of a single-tier government structure for Zanzibar.

Commenting on "indications" that there were still traces of racism in the Isles, he said that was cause for "serious concern", adding: "It is surprising that some people still identify themselves as hailing from Pemba and others from Unguja - and they just cannot sit together!"

He however recommended that even in the worst-case scenario, all parties concerned must continue with the peace talks, "but by ensuring they invite and fully involve other political players".

"I fully support the re-election proposal," said Dr Bana, adding: "However, I urge all the relevant parties to come together and seriously deliberate on the challenges and the way forward particularly with respect to what happened during October's Zanzibar presidential election."

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War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

Founder/Advisor
Professor Michael P. Scharf

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Alexis Krivoshik

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International Criminal Court

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Iraqi & Syria
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Topics

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