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War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 - Issue 19
November 27, 2017


James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

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 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.




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo



Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

North Korea



North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives




Central African Republic

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

Seven Killed, 20 Injured in Concert Attack in Central African Republic
The Wire

By Paul-Marin Ngoupana
November 13, 2017

Seven people were killed and around 20 others were injured in a grenade attack on a peace concert and reprisal violence in Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, on Saturday and Sunday, government officials and city residents said.

The riverside city has in the past been a flashpoint for inter-religious violence that erupted between Muslims and Christians in 2013 and has since engulfed most of the impoverished, landlocked nation.

Interior Minister Henri Wanzet Linguissara said two individuals on a motorcycle approached revellers attending a concert organised to foster reconciliation and social cohesion late on Saturday night and threw a grenade into the crowd.

"Following this heinous act, we have registered four deaths and 20 wounded, including four who are in serious condition and have been taken into the operating room," he said.

Heavy gunfire concentrated in and around Bangui's PK5 neighbourhood — a Muslim enclave in the majority Christian city — erupted after the attack.

Access to PK5 was blocked off by improvised barricades on Sunday, a Reuters witness said.

"Three of our youth were killed, apparently in reprisal because they think that the Muslims were behind the grenade attack. We deplore that attack," said PK5 resident Habib Soule. "We set up barricades to ensure provocateurs don't infiltrate our neighbourhood."

A second PK5 resident and a security source, who asked not to be named, confirmed that three motorcycle taxi drivers were killed in retaliation for the concerted attack.

"Even now there is sporadic gunfire in PK5 and the surrounding neighbourhoods are emptying," said Gedeon Leki, a resident of the nearby Castors neighbourhood. "People are afraid the Muslims could take revenge for their dead."

Nearly five years into the conflict in CAR, which has been marked by successive waves of ethnic cleansing, the security situation is worsening, particularly in the east.

Bangui, where the headquarters of 12,000 troop-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission is located, has been relatively stable in recent months, and the weekend's violence was a reminder of the city's darkest days.

"The enemies of peace … have just set a trap," Prime Minister Simplice Mathieu Sarandji said in a radio address on Sunday. "I call upon the population not to slide back into violence."

The UN Security Council is this week scheduled to vote on a French-drafted resolution to authorise an extra 900 troops to protect civilians in Central African Republic.  

The UN Shouldn't Fail the Central African Republic
Human Rights Watch

By Lewis Mudge
November 14, 2017

Back in 2014, when the Central African Republic was on the world's radar, the United Nations stepped up and sent peacekeepers to take over from an African-Union-led mission there as an effort to avoid a deepening human rights and humanitarian disaster. MINUSCA, as the peacekeeping mission is known, prevented the worst and facilitated the election process in 2016.

However, three years into the mission, it still struggles to maintain security and needs more troops. Over a dozen abusive armed groups now roam the country. Attacks on civilians, some of them sectarian, are on the rise in the eastern provinces and impunity still reigns. Since 2014, 73 members of the mission have been killed.

Worse, civilians across the country continue to suffer from violence, even if they've never joined the fight. More than one million Central Africans, or one in five, are displaced inside or outside the country. Thousands are living in makeshift camps deprived of their livelihoods and without basic access to food, water, or health care.

At the same time, the violence and the growing insecurity reduce access to humanitarian aid for the people most affected. The Central African Republic is one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian agencies. In many parts of the country aid workers literally risk their lives by driving on the roads. Already in 2017, staff have been threatened or attacked in 232 incidents, limiting the areas where aid organizations can provide lifesaving support. Entire cities are now cut off from any aid, as nongovernmental organizations — in many areas the only service providers on the ground — don't have access.

Confronted with all this violence on a daily basis, MINUSCA is overwhelmed.

Recognizing that the mission is struggling, on October 18 Secretary-General António Guterres requested an additional 900 troops "to shape and influence security situations, rather than react to them." These troops, if of the right quality, could make a huge difference. We have seen first-hand how the blue helmets can save lives when they act rapidly and effectively. In May, MINUSCA stabilized Alindao, a town in the Basse-Kotto province, after days of horrific violence. Their presence continues to have a positive effect.

But these first-hand examples are too few.

As MINUSCA faces its yearly mandate renewal review on Wednesday, the Security Council should allocate these extra troops. And for the mission to be successful it should also take stock and recognize where it can do better.

First, the mission needs to keep civilian protection a core priority. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter MINUSCA is already authorized to take all necessary means to protect the civilian population from threat of physical violence and to "implement a mission-wide civilian protection strategy." Three years in, armed groups continue to test MINUSCA's ability to protect civilians. Popular resentment against the force is rising as communities too often see it do nothing in the face of attacks. Some of the positive results the mission has managed to achieve are easily erased when major towns fall to armed groups who kill, rape, burn and loot at will. A message needs to be sent to the commanders of these groups: MINUSCA will redouble its commitment on civilian protection.

A peacekeeping mission able to respond more robustly will be better able to protect civilians and, hopefully, deter attackers. More protection means safer roads, for civilians and for aid workers trying to help them put their lives back together.

Second the mission should lobby for long term support for the Special Criminal Court, a unique judicial body with national and international judges and prosecutors, mandated to investigate and prosecute grave human rights violations in the country since 2003. The court offers a meaningful opportunity to break the cycles of impunity that have plagued the country for years.

UN peacekeeping missions are hardly perfect solutions. MINUSCA and many others have a mixed track record and peacekeepers themselves have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse of the very people they were sent to help — something Secretary-General Guterres has vowed to stamp out. But in the Central African Republic, peacekeepers offer the best chance to stabilize the country, allow support to its struggling civilian population and help the nation to rebuild.

Now, more than ever, an effective, well-staffed mission is needed. It is up to the UN Security Council to take a crucial step by approving the requested 900 additional troops. That will send a strong message to armed groups that the UN will not cut and run but will spare no effort to save civilians' lives.

Concert Blast Shows Central African Republic Religious Rift

By Pauline Bax
November 21, 2017

Emmanuel Ngallos was playing a keyboard at a concert meant to bring Central African Republic's Muslims and Christians together when the blast knocked him to the ground — and highlighted the war-ravaged nation's religious rift.

"We're all used to grenades, unfortunately,'' the 35-year-old said from his narrow bed in a cramped hospital ward in the capital, Bangui. A rectangular bandage showed where shrapnel had torn into his abdomen. "I just didn't expect this to happen at a reconciliation concert.''

Ngallos was among two dozen wounded when men on a motorbike threw a grenade during the Nov. 11 party in an apparent bid to sabotage over a year of relative peace in the city. At least five died in reprisal violence between Muslims and Christians. Inter-communal violence has surged since mainly Muslim rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian, in March 2013.

As the army collapsed, rampant rebel abuses prompted non-Muslim men to fight back in loosely organized militias, driving Muslims from towns and villages. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and the conflict rages on in the country that's suffered decades of weak governance and political instability.

Now most Muslims avoid public prayer and need United Nations escorts to travel outside Bangui, with a leader, Ali Ousmane, warning they're at risk of extermination. The country's Catholic Church says religion has no role in the violence.

'Mosques Alight'

A new government was finally sworn in last year after elections were held under pressure from former colonial ruler France, which sought to withdraw its military intervention force. While the 13,750-strong UN peacekeeping mission has brought stability to Bangui and Bambari, the other main city, armed groups have razed hundreds of villages in the countryside.

The government is failing to protect Muslims, said Ousmane, the head of PK5, Bangui's last Muslim enclave. The CIA World Factbook estimates that Muslims comprise 15 percent of the nation's 5.6 million people. It's not clear how many have fled to neighboring countries since the crisis began.

"The state has turned its back on a part of the population for the simple reason that they're Muslims," Ousmane said. "What started as a political conflict became ethnic and now it's turning religious. Mosques are set alight, symbols of Islam are being destroyed, people say 'we don't want to hear Allahu Akbar here.'"

Lacking an army and police, the government hasn't been able to extend its authority beyond Bangui. Some regional officials who were redeployed to the provinces had to return to the capital amid eruptions of fighting.

Analysts say the roots of inter-communal violence lie in Bozize's recruitment of mainly Muslim mercenaries from Chad to overthrow his predecessor in 2003. During his rule, ethnic Fulani cattle herders, who're Muslim and often look like Chadians, were increasingly perceived as foreigners who'd come to steal the Central African Republic's wealth. Today, there are between 15 and 19 armed groups in the country, including a Fulani organization.

'War Crimes'

While "religion continues to be a factor, especially in some areas of the southeast," the conflict is one that "revolves around control of territory and resources, a very weak and ineffective central state and impunity for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity," said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Diamond export restrictions, smuggling and cattle rustling are depriving the state of its main sources of income, according to the government. The Central African Republic was ranked the world's 10th-biggest diamond producer just before the war.

Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of the Catholic Church dismisses the idea there's a religious conflict.

"Religion is just an excuse, a facade," he said from his office overlooking the Oubangui river, which delineates the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. "With the exception of Bangui, there's such chaos that anyone can come with a group of fighters and fill in the power vacuum."

"Muslims and Christians alike are suffering because of the rebel leaders who demand money in return for so-called protection," Nzapalainga said. "Here, it's the business of war.''

Genocide Signs

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien warned in August that "the early warning signs of genocide'' were visible. More than 1.1 million people have now fled their homes, the highest-ever number recorded for the country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said more resources are needed to solve the crisis and last week obtained approval for 900 more UN military personnel. Yet distrust of the organization is high in the Central African Republic, especially toward troops from Muslim-majority countries.

Nine Moroccan peacekeepers died in three separate attacks this year -- six of the casualties were in one town in the southeast where fighters targeted Muslim businessmen, destroyed the mosque and shot the imam. Almost 70 residents died in the attack and about 1,500 Muslims are still sheltering in the town's church, fearing for their safety.

"I'm worried we're heading straight toward the abyss," Muslim leader Ousmane said.

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Sudan & South Sudan

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

Sudan's RSF unit accused of abuses against migrants
Al Jazeera

By Hiba Morgan
November 17, 2017

Machine guns, anti-aircraft missiles and RPGs — all weapons ready to be used on the battlefield.

But in northern Sudan, they are deployed to turn away migrants and their smugglers trying to cross the vast desert to reach Europe.

Those using this weaponry are members of a Sudanese paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Established in 2013 to fight a rebellion in Sudan's Darfur region, the RSF was originally part of border intelligence.

"Once we dealt with the rebellion in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and Darfur, we immediately turned to the great Sahara desert, especially after the directives from the president of the republic to combat illegal migration," Mohamed Hamdan, head of RSF, told Al Jazeera.

Previously known as Janjaweed, or government-backed militias, the RSF's approach of dealing with migrants has been largely criticised.

While fighting the rebels in Darfur, the group was known for its brutality, and was accused by Human Rights Watch of inflicting "a campaign of forcible displacement, murder, pillage and rape on hundreds of thousands of civilians".

In 2013, they were rebranded as the RSF.

When Sudan and other African countries signed a deal with the European Union (EU) on migration, known as the "Khartoum Process", the RSF started deterring Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians, as well as other nationalities, from crossing the Sudanese border.

Often, the process ends with death.

In September, the RSF announced that it killed 28 people smugglers in clashes along the Sudanese-Libyan border. The RSF has refused to state how many migrants were killed in the clashes, if any.

"The process of stopping the migrants and getting those who work in smuggling them happens in areas that are poorly developed," Abdelmoneim Abu Idrees, a Sudanese analyst, told Al Jazeera.

"In those areas, it's hard to observe what these forces are doing, especially with no organisations specialised on human rights close by.

"And even the media, they are not called until the migrants are brought close to the capital [Khartoum] and the media are told that they (the migrants) have been 'rescued'."

International law violations

Other times, deterring migrants ends with them placed in detention centres in the eastern part of the country.

Sometimes, the migrants are returned to their country of origin, as it happened in May 2016, when more than 1,000 Eritreans rounded up in Khartoum and the Sudanese-Libyan border were forced back to Eritrea.

Similarly, more than 100 were sent back in August and September 2017.

According to the UN's refugee agency, "the forcible return of refugees to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law".

Refugees escaping Eritrea are mostly fleeing the country's mandatory military service, which officially takes up to two years to complete, but is often extended by the government.

"I don't want to go back," Enok Debesgne, an Eritrean migrant told Al Jazeera in a camp in Kassala, eastern Sudan.

Debesgne said his father is in prison and he left his five siblings behind with his mother to find a better life outside Africa.

"I want education. So I'll stay until I get any help or advice from any person who helps others. Then I will be able to go further."

In early 2017, the Sudanese parliament approved a bill recognising the RSF as special forces. They are supposed to report directly to President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government says that this is an organised force and has had its bill passed in the parliament ... So the government thinks it's an organised force that can play many different roles," Abu Idrees, the analyst, said.

"But the main question is, with these forces, can anyone control its dealings with civilians?"

EU funding

But it's not just the RSF that has come under criticism — the EU has also come under fire. "The EU has to face it," Abu Idrees said. "When it comes to the issue of migration, it's dealing with a force that is controversial to achieve what it wants."

So far, the EU has given more than $250m after signing cooperation agreements with Sudan to combat migration.

The bloc insists that they do not give the funds directly to Sudan's government, and that all EU-funded activities are "implemented by agencies of EU member states, international organisations, private sector entities and NGOs".

However, human rights and monitoring groups have raised suspicions that the EU has no role in supporting the RSF, even if indirectly.

The RSF, meanwhile, has not denied receiving support from the EU.

"They (the EU) lose millions in fighting migration, that's why they have to support us," Hamdan, the RSF head, said.

"Some representatives have come with us to the desert to witness our operations and offered trainings," he added, refusing, however, to disclose their nationalities.

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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

UN rights chief urges DRC authorities to allow peaceful expression of dissent at protests
UN News Centre

November 15, 2017

The United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday called on the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to lawfully handle demonstrations organized by those protesting the updated electoral calendar for general elections.

"The inflammatory comments by police authorities ahead of today's protests are deeply alarming," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a news release.

"I call on the Government and security forces to work to defuse tensions instead of creating the conditions for suppression, confrontation and violence," he added.

Upon publication of the electoral calendar on 5 November, which states that general elections will take place in December 2018 — two years later than originally scheduled — civil society organisations called for nationwide protests to be held today.

In response, a number of alarming comments were reportedly made by provincial police inspectors in Goma and Kinshasa. Yesterday, the Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC) provincial inspector in Kinshasa warned that any gathering of more than five people would be dispersed "mercilessly," upon the Governor's orders.

Even before the announcement of the electoral calendar, between 22 and 23 October, at least 65 opposition political activists were arrested in Lubumbashi, in the country's southeast. All those arrested were later released, some on bail, but these arrests were part of a worrying pattern of actions to prevent political opponents from gathering.

Mr. Zeid called for top political leaders to ensure respect for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the freedom of expression. He also urged all sides to exercise restraint and to renounce the use of violence.

The UN's Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials contains very strict guidelines on the use of force, including that "intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

In September last year, 54 people died after defence and security forces used excessive force against demonstrators who were calling for constitutional deadlines to be respected and for President Joseph Kabila to step down at the end of his second mandate.

Sweden says Congo not helping investigation into murder of U.N. monitor

November 16, 2017

Swedish prosecutors accused Democratic Republic of Congo's government on Wednesday of not cooperating with their investigation into the murder of a U.N. sanctions monitor from Sweden.

Zaida Catalan and her American colleague, Michael Sharp, were shot dead in March and found in a shallow grave in an area of central Congo where they had been gathering information on a conflict between the army and a militia.

Congo's government has arrested more than a dozen people in connection with the killings, which it blames on the militia - though one report to the U.N. Security Council suggested state security services could also be involved.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority launched its own investigation into Catalan's death, and said on Wednesday it had received no response to a request it made in April for information from Congolese authorities.

"The Swedish investigation is facing severe difficulties given the fact that it is completely reliant on evidence that exists in the Congo and cooperation is not working with Congo," prosecutor Sara Nilsson said in the statement.

Material that Swedish authorities had managed to collect "does not exclude that persons who have close ties to the regime in Congo are involved in the murders," the Authority added.

In April, Congo's government screened a video to reporters, which it said showed members of the militia killing Catalan and Sharp. But analysts said the grainy footage raised more questions than it answered and Nilsson told Reuters the screening had tainted important evidence.

Congo's government spokesman Lambert Mende has denied Congolese officials were involved in the murders and said on Wednesday that it was up to Swedish authorities to provide information to the Congolese court hearing the case, not the other way around.

"Justice is rendered here because the crime was committed here," Mende said. "If they have information that the court might not be able to access, they should give it to the court."

The conflict in Kasai region between Congo's army and the Kamuina Nsapu militia has killed as many as 5,000 people and displaced around 1.5 million more since August last year.

The United Nations has repeatedly accused Congolese forces of using excessive force and targeting civilians with alleged ties to the militia. The government denies those charges.  

Victims of ex-Congo VP demand recompense: rights group
Africa Time

November 20, 2017

More than 5,000 victims of atrocities committed by troops commanded by former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba are calling for individual reparations, rights activists said Monday.

International judges sentenced Bemba in June 2016 to 18 years in jail on five charges of war crimes committed when his troops went on a murderous and violent rampage in neighbouring Central African Republic between October 2002 to March 2003.

Most of the victims "have lost everything, and continue to live with the physical and psychological consequences of the crimes, horrors and traumas they have experienced," said a rights NGO.

Although Bemba has appealed his sentence, the ICC is already preparing the ground for what reparations should be awarded to the 5,229 victims.

It would be the tribunal's third such award since it opened in 2002 as the world's only permanent war crimes court to prosecute the worst of crimes.

According to a survey by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in June, most victims want to see individual damages rather than a collective award for communities ravaged by Bemba's private militia.

"They insist that their compensation be paid to them individually and be accompanied by awareness-raising sessions to make people more sensitive to the problem of stigmatisation," FIDH added.

— A commander's responsibility —

Bemba, now 55, sent in 1,500 troops from his Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) to quash a coup in CAR.

But they unleashed a five-month reign of terror, with the court handed down its toughest penalty for what it denounced as a wave of "sadistic, cruel" rapes and murders.

Bemba's case was the first at the ICC to focus on rape as a weapon of war and the first to highlight a military commander's responsibility for the conduct of the troops under his control.

Even if the reparations come late they "are still an exception in a country that is ravaged by impunity and that continues to be the target of violent conflicts and sexual crimes committed by militias and armed groups," FIDH added.

The victims also want to see the formerly rich businessman forced to pay damages from his own pocket.

In its two previous reparations awards, war crimes judges said in August that a Malian jihadist was liable for 2.7 million euros for destroying Timbuktu's fabled shrines in 2012.

But it recognised he was penniless.

And in March, the ICC awarded symbolic damages of $250 (212 euros) to each of the 297 victims of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga, serving 12 years for a 2003 attack on a village.

Reparations are also still due to be finalised in the case of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, serving 14 years for conscripting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Investigation: Burundi

International court opens probe into Burundi deadly violence
Associated Press News

By Mike Corder
November 9, 2017

International Criminal Court judges have authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes in Burundi including murder, rape and torture, announcing the decision Thursday shortly after the East African nation became the first to formally quit the court.

Judges said evidence provided by prosecutors offers " a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation" into crimes committed since April 26, 2015, allegedly by " State agents and other groups implementing State policies."

Burundi descended into violence that left hundreds dead in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term that he ultimately won.

" According to estimates, at least 1,200 persons were allegedly killed, thousands illegally detained, thousands reportedly tortured and hundreds disappeared," the court said in a statement. " The alleged acts of violence have reportedly resulted in the displacement of 413,490 persons between April 2015 and May 2017."

The crimes allegedly were committed by Burundi's national police force, intelligence service, units of the country's army and members of the youth wing of the ruling party known as the Imbonerakure.

Judges issued the authorization under seal on Oct. 25, two days before Burundi's withdrawal from the ICC. It is the 11th full-scale investigation by the court that prosecutes some of the world's worst atrocities. All but one of the investigations are in Africa.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her investigation uncovered evidence that suggested police and security forces, " acting pursuant to a state policy, carried out a deliberate attack against the civilian population, entailing multiple acts of murder, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearance and persecution, constituting crimes against humanity."

She stressed that Burundi remains obliged to cooperate with her investigation, despite the country's withdrawal from the ICC. The investigation also will look into alleged acts of violence by " armed anti-government entities," she said.

" It's a great day for justice and for victims of crimes against humanity that were committed in Burundi over the last two-and-a-half years," said iBurundi, a group of Burundian activists that seeks to expose alleged government crimes. " We know that it will take long but the path toward justice will not be stopped."

Burundi government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said the nation would not help the ICC investigation.

" We are no longer a state member," he said. " They can do whatever they want, they can take all initiatives they want, Burundi will not cooperate because we stopped collaboration."

Last month, Burundi's Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana called the ICC withdrawal " a great achievement" in reinforcing the country's independence, and called on police and prosecutors to respect human rights so that " white people" won't have " false proofs to rely on in accusing Burundi."

A U.N. commission of inquiry report earlier this year said crimes against humanity, including killings and sexual violence, are still being committed in Burundi, and it asked the ICC to open an investigation as soon as possible. The report was based on interviews with more than 500 witnesses.

Human Rights Watch welcomed Thursday's decision, saying it " signals that ICC withdrawal does not shield a government from scrutiny about its role in grave human rights violations." Param-Preet Singh, the group's associate international justice director, added: " The role of the ICC cannot be negated, leaving horrific abuses forgotten in darkness."

Burundi rejects International Criminal Court war crimes investigation

By Toby Sterling and Katharine Houreld
November 10, 2017

Burundi said on Friday it will refuse to cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into war crimes prosecutors suspect were committed by forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza's government against their political opponents.

The court ordered a formal investigation on Thursday into crimes committed between April 2015 to October 2017.

But experts say it will be hard for ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to gather evidence without support from Burundi's government, which last month became the first to withdraw from the Hague-based court amid waning support from African nations.

An earlier ICC case in Kenya fell apart due to opposition from the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Like Burundi, Kenya and South Africa have threatened to withdraw from the court, arguing that it disproportionately targets Africans.

" The government rejects that decision (to investigate) and reiterates its firm determination that it will not cooperate," said Burundi's Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana.

Unrest has gripped Burundi since Nkurunziza said in April 2015 he would seek a third term in office, triggering protests and a crackdown by security forces.

He won re-election that July but opponents boycotted the vote, saying his decision to stand violated the constitution and the terms of a peace agreement that had ended a war in the central African country.

The ICC says that under international law it still has jurisdiction over crimes committed while Burundi was a member.

Judges said Bensouda should investigate whether crimes against humanity were committed including murder, torture, rape and persecution.

Government forces are suspected to have killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 400,000 during the crackdown. Human rights groups say the number killed could be far higher.

Human rights groups and opposition politicians in Burundi welcomed the court's decision.

Charles Nditije, the exiled head of Burundi's opposition platform CNARED, called the move " a victory for justice .... for those who want the return of peace and rule of law to Burundi."

Armel Niyongere, a Burundian lawyer representing families of the victims, said he would assist Bensouda's investigation.

Uphill Fight

Legal experts said Bensouda may be unable to bring any suspects to the Hague as long as Nkurunziza remains in power.

" I suspect that it will be very challenging for the ICC to access ... evidence in Burundi" said Berlin-based international criminal justice lawyer Angela Mudukuti.

Bensouda's decision was courageous and she will likely seek to use evidence obtained by interviewing refugees who have fled to neighboring Tanzania and Rwanda, said Karine Bonneau, a senior official at the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.

" She had very little choice but to open an investigation given the gravity of the crimes," she said. Others said the prosecution was largely symbolic.

Bensouda's job is in part to deter future crimes, said Thijs Bouwknegt, an Africa expert at the Netherlands' Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

" If she acts like some super human rights watchdog and names and shames people I think this may be effective," he said.

Head of East Africa's regional bloc condemns ICC Burundi investigation

By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
November 11, 2017

Two East African presidents on Saturday condemned a decision by the International Criminal Court to open a war crimes investigation into Burundi, saying it undermined regional peace initiatives.

The court ordered a formal investigation on Thursday into crimes committed in Burundi from April 2015 to October 2017.

" Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has condemned the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which ordered its prosecutor to launch an investigation into the Burundi conflict," Tanzania's presidency said in a statement on Saturday.

Museveni is the current chairman of the East African Community (EAC) regional economic bloc comprising Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan.

The statement was issued after Tanzanian president John Magufuli ended a three-day visit to Uganda where he held talks with Museveni on Burundi and other matters.

Burundi plunged into violence in April 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in office, triggering protests and a crackdown by security forces.

He won re-election that July, but most opponents boycotted the vote, saying his decision to stand violated the constitution and the terms of a peace agreement that had ended a war in the central African country.

Government forces are suspected to have killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 400,000 during a crackdown after the election, although rights groups say the number killed could be higher. The court is investigating crimes against humanity that include murder, torture, rape and persecution.

Tanzania, which hosts thousands of Burundian refugees, and Uganda have been engaged in months of diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring peace in Burundi. So far, there has been little progress.

" Museveni ... said the ICC is interfering in EAC affairs without consulting regional leaders, which is a wrong move that undermines previous peacemaking efforts in Burundi," said the statement.

Tanzania's Magufuli also criticized the ICC investigation.

" Magufuli said the move (by the ICC) was going against efforts already taken by the East African Community, which include appointing a mediation committee for the Burundi peace process led by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa," the statement said.

Regional mediators of the Burundi peace talks are expected to hold another round of talks on Nov. 23, the Tanzanian presidency said.

Magufuli said security concerns in Burundi have been exaggerated, citing a recent voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Tanzania.

Last month Burundi became the first nation to withdraw from the court, amid growing criticism from African leaders who complain prosecutors are excessively targeting Africans.

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Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Official Website of the International Criminal Court
ICC Public Documents - Situation in the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire

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Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon

Boko Haram attacks two Adamawa communities
Premium Times

By Iro Dan Fulani
November 15, 2017

Suspected members of the Boko Haram on Wednesday night attacked two communities in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State.

The attacks on Sabon Gari and Kafin Hausa caused residents of both communities to flee, sources told PREMIUM TIMES.

The Wednesday attacks occur about one week after Gulak, the capital of Madagali, was attacked by the insurgents. At least two people including a soldier are believed to have been killed in the Gulak attack.

Speaking on Wednesday's attack, the member representing Madagali, Michika in the House of Representatives, Adamu Kamale, said it lasted for about two hours.

Mr. Kamale said the terrorists killed many livestock, and looted and burnt many houses.

" They were rampaging as they (Boko Haram) continued to attack our villages.

" I had a distress call that they have again launch night attack at Sabon Gari and Kafin Hausa villages and as I am talking to you now Nigerian troops have engaged them in a fierce battle,'' he said.

Also speaking in a telephone interview, the Adamawa State Governor Muhammadu Jibrilla, said the attackers were repelled by soldiers, hunters and members of the local vigilante.

" There was a fierce battle that lasted for an hour; but praise be to Allah, an attack launched by fleeing Boko Haram terrorists on Sabon Gari and the other village in Madagali Local Government Area was repelled by a combine force of soldiers, mobile police, hunters and vigilantes.

" Security are on top of the situation now," the governor said.

There has been no report of casualty from the attack as at the time of this report.

The Boko Haram insurgency has caused about 100,000 deaths, mainly in North-eastern Nigeria since 2009.

Boko Haram blamed as four suicide bombers strike in northern Nigeria
Deutsche Welle

November 16, 2017

Four suicide bombers detonated their explosives on Wednesday evening in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, leave 14 people dead and a further 29 wounded authorities said.

Nigerian police spokesman Victor Isukwu said the two male and two female bombers targeted crowded parts of Muna Gari suburb in the city of more than a million people.

Agence France-Presse cited Bello Dambatta, the chief security officer of Borno State's emergency response agency as saying that the first suicide bomber blew himself up close to where evening prayers were being held.

Another bomber then entered a house before setting off explosives, killing a pregnant woman and her child.

The other two suicide bombers blew themselves up before reaching their targets, he added.

Boko Haram suspected

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which was immediately blamed on Boko Haram. The Islamist group has waged an almost decade-long insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, and carries out regular attacks in the Lake Chad region which sits on the joint borders of Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Nigeria.

Authorities said the use of multiple suicide bombers was a hallmark of similar Boko Haram attacks. The group often pressures women and children to carry out suicide strikes.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, is the worst affected by Boko Haram's insurgency.

At least 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.6 million people made homeless in northeast Nigeria since the group launched its insurgency.

Despite the Nigerian government's insistence that the group had been " crushed" after it was beaten back from key territory it once held, vicious attacks on the military and civilians continue.

Maiduguri is the capital of Borno state and the city worst hit by the jihadist insurgency. Since June alone, at least 221 people have been killed in bombings and gun attacks in northeast Nigeria, according to a tally by the Reuters news agency.

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Why Niger and Mali's Cattle Herders Turned to Jihad
The New York Times

November 12, 2017

When Doundou Chefou first took up arms as a youth a decade ago, it was for the same reason as many other ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border: to protect his livestock.

He had nothing against the Republic of Niger, let alone the United States of America. His quarrel was with rival Tuareg cattle raiders.

Yet on Oct. 4 this year, he led dozens of militants allied to Islamic State in a deadly assault against allied U.S.-Niger forces, killing four soldiers from each nation and demonstrating how dangerous the West's mission in the Sahel has become.

The incident sparked calls in Washington for public hearings into the presence of U.S. troops. A Pentagon probe is due to be completed in January.

Asked by Reuters to talk about Chefou, Nigerien Defence Minister Kalla Mountari's face fell.

"He is a terrorist, a bandit, someone who intends to harm to Niger," he said at his office in the Nigerien capital Niamey earlier this month.

"We are tracking him, we are seeking him out, and if he ever sets foot in Niger again he will be neutralized."

Like most gunmen in so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates along the sand-swept borderlands where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, Chefou used to be an ordinary Fulani pastoralist with little interest in jihad, several government sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The transition of Chefou and men like him from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks is a story Western powers would do well to heed, as their pursuit of violent extremism in West Africa becomes ever more enmeshed in long-standing ethnic and clan conflicts.

For now, analysts say the local IS affiliate remains small, at fewer than 80 fighters. But that was also the case at first with al Qaeda-linked factions before they tapped into local grievances to expand their influence in Mali in 2012.

The United Nations this week released a report showing how IS in northern Somalia has grown to around 200 fighters from just a few dozen last year.

The U.S. military has ramped up its presence in Niger, and other neighboring countries, in recent years as it fears poverty, corruption and weak states mean the region is ripe for the spread of extremist groups.


For centuries the Tuareg and Fulani have lived as nomads herding animals and trading - Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara and the Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan beneath it.

Some have managed to become relatively wealthy, accumulating vast herds. But they have always stayed separate from the modern nation-states that have formed around them.

Though they largely lived peacefully side-by-side, arguments occasionally flared, usually over scarce watering points. A steady increase in the availability of automatic weapons over the years has made the rivalry ever more deadly.

A turning point was the Western-backed ouster of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg from the region who had fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya's looted armories.

Some of the returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to try to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement that was soon hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years.

Until then, Islamists in Mali had been recruiting and raising funds through kidnapping. In 2012, they swept across northern Mali, seizing key towns and prompting a French intervention that pushed them back in 2013.

Amid the violence and chaos, some of the Tuareg turned their guns on their rivals from other ethnic groups like the Fulani, who then went to the Islamists for arms and training.

In November 2013, a young Nigerien Fulani had a row with a Tuareg chief over money. The old man thrashed him and chased him away, recalls Boubacar Diallo, head of an association for Fulani livestock breeders along the Mali border, who now lives in Niamey.

The youth came back armed with an AK-47, killed the chief and wounded his wife, then fled. The victim happened to be the uncle of a powerful Malian warlord.

Over the next week, heavily armed Tuareg slaughtered 46 Fulani in revenge attacks along the Mali-Niger border.

The incident was bloodiest attack on record in the area, said Diallo, who has documented dozens of attacks by Tuareg raiders that have killed hundreds of people and led to thousands of cows and hundreds of camels being stolen.

"That was a point when the Fulani in that area realized they needed more weapons to defend themselves," said Diallo, who has represented them in talks aimed at easing communal tensions.

The crimes were almost never investigated by police, admits a Niamey-based law enforcement official with knowledge of them.

"The Tuareg were armed and were pillaging the Fulani's cattle," Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. "The Fulani felt obliged to arm themselves."


Gandou Zakaria, a researcher of mixed Tuareg-Fulani heritage in the faculty of law at Niamey University, has spent years studying why youths turned to jihad.

"Religious belief was at the bottom of their list of concerns," he told Reuters. Instead, local grievances were the main driving force.

Whereas Tuareg in Mali and Niger have dreamed of and sometimes fought for an independent state, Fulani have generally been more pre-occupied by concerns over the security of their community and the herds they depend on.

"For the Fulani, it was a sense of injustice, of exclusion, of discrimination, and a need for self-defense," Zakaria said.

One militant who proved particularly good at tapping into this dissatisfaction was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, an Arabic-speaking north African, several law enforcement sources said.

Al-Sahrawi recruited dozens of Fulani into the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which was loosely allied to al Qaeda in the region and controlled Gao and the area to the Niger border in 2012.

After French forces in 2013 scattered Islamists from the Malian towns they controlled, al-Sahrawi was briefly allied with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al Qaeda veteran.

Today, al-Sahrawi is the face of Islamic State in the region.

"There was something in his discourse that spoke to the youth, that appealed to their sense of injustice," a Niger government official said of al-Sahrawi.

Two diplomatic sources said there are signs al-Sahrawi has received financial backing from IS central in Iraq and Syria.

How Chefou ended up being one of a handful of al-Sahrawi's lieutenants is unclear. The government source said he was brought to him by a senior officer, also Fulani, known as Petit Chapori.

Like many Fulani youth toughened by life on the Sahel, Chefou was often in and out of jail for possession of weapons or involvement in localized violence that ended in deals struck between communities, the government official said.

Yet Diallo, who met Chefou several times, said he was "very calm, very gentle. I was surprised when he became a militia leader".

U.S. and Nigerien sources differ on the nature of the fatal mission of Oct 4. Nigeriens say it was to go after Chefou; U.S. officials say it was reconnaissance mission.

One vehicle lost by the U.S. forces was supplied by the CIA and kitted with surveillance equipment, U.S. media reported. A surveillance drone monitored the battle with a live feed.

The Fulani men, mounted on motorbikes, were armed with the assault rifles they first acquired to look after their cows.

Judge kidnapped as legal profession targeted in Mali
Daily Mail

November 17, 2017

A district judge was kidnapped in central Mali late on Thursday, police and security sources told AFP, two weeks after a High Court justice escaped an attempt on his life.

Attacks on figures of state authority are common in northern and central Mali, where a jihadist insurgency and the near absence of government functions have fuelled lawlessness.

"Judge Soungalo Kone was kidnapped on Thursday night by armed men who arrived at his house in Niono in a white vehicle," a local police source in the Segou region told AFP, referring to the town where Kone lives and works.

"He was returning home when armed men appeared, which indicates he was being watched," the source added.

A security source said the kidnapping was being treated as the work of jihadists or someone local disgruntled with a court ruling.

The kidnapping comes after one of Mali's most senior judges, High Court Chief Justice Abdrahamane Niang, narrowly avoided death when his convoy was ambushed in Mopti, central Mali, on October 31.

Jihadists were accused of killing his driver, while five soldiers dispatched to the scene died when their vehicle triggered a mine explosion.

Mali's current instability is linked to the fall of northern cities in 2012 to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, who were routed by a French military intervention in 2013.

Although the jihadists no longer control cities, they have continued to mount attacks and aggravate tensions within communities.

The country's north and central regions are meanwhile awash with weapons that flowed into Mali from Libya after the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Ghana withdraws troops from Mali for security concerns
Graphic Online

By Timothy Ngnenbe
November 18, 2017

Fifty-five Ghanaian soldiers who were deployed to participate in the United Nations (UN's) Multinational Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have been recalled because of safety and security concerns.

The recall of the troops, according to authorities of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), had been necessitated by the safety and security concerns following an attack by some forces in Mali that damaged parts of the aircraft belonging to Ghana.

A special welcome event, dubbed: 'Mission Accomplishment Parade,' was held in Accra yesterday in honour the 55-member GHAV 3 contingent.

The MINUSMA GHAV 3 Commander, Group Captain Yaw Cole, handed over the national flag and that of the UN to the Director-General of the International Peace Support Operations (IPSO), Brigadier General Abu Alhassan, to symbolically mark the end of the mission.

The mission

The first deployment from the Aviation Unit of the GAF, dubbed GHAV, to support peace mission operations in war-torn Mali was on September 16, 2014.

After the first two contingents, GHAV 1 and 2, ended their operations, GHAV3 was deployed to pitch camp at Gao, a major city in Mali that has been the centre of attack by opposing forces.

The troops carried out air transport services in line with the MUNISMA peace mission requirement.

It also undertook tactical military operations in the area until there was an attack on the aircraft for which reason it was flown back to Ghana for servicing.


Throwing more light on the activities of GHAV 3, Group Captain Cole said: "Before we were withdrawn to Ghana, we were able to carry 15,000 passengers, 330 tonnes of cargo and other services during our operations.

"The situation in Gao is bad so it is not safe to continue to base the aircraft there, and that is why the troops have been recalled. The withdrawal of GHAV 3 is, therefore, because of safety and security reasons, as well as a policy decision," he said.


In his welcome speech, Brig. Gen. Issahaku eulogised the contingent for holding high the flag of Ghana on the international stage.

He described the mission as a successful one, saying it was an opportunity for the Ghanaian troops to gain more peace-keeping experience and also build their capacity to serve the GAF better.

He urged the troops to put the experience and skills they had gathered while they were on the mission in Mali to improve their professional competence.

The acting Commander of the Air Force Base in Accra, Group Captain Godfred Sackey Parker, also commended the GHAV 3 troops for rising beyond the daunting challenge to give a positive account of themselves and the country.

He said the aircraft, which was attacked at its peacekeeping base in Mali, had been serviced and was now operational.

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

Age limit: Maracha MPs arrested for inciting violence
New Vision

By Robert Ariaka
November 13, 2017

The police in Arua on Saturday arrested two members of parliament from Maracha district accused of inciting violence.

MPs James Acidri and Denis Lee Oguzu of Maracha East County and Maracha County, were detained when they went to pick motorcycles of their jailed supporters at Arua Central Police Station.

Last week, the Police arrested three supporters of the two MPs after accusing them of being involved in violent activities during minister Alex Onzima's age limit consultations in the area. The three men had been detained for four days. They were later released on bond.

The MPs were on Saturday morning arrested and locked in the office of the of the regional police commander of West Nile, Jonathan Musinguzu, and interrogated.

Speaking to the press, Musinguzi said Acidri incited people by sharing a video of Late Brig. Gad Wilson Toko and telling the people he is the person behind peace in West Nile region.

He also said Acidri attacked the personality of the President during his consultations while showing the video to the people.

Musinguzi accused MP Oguzu of dishing out money to Bodaboda cyclists to fuel their motorcycles which they used to ride and disrupt the consultations of minister Onzia.

Musinguzi said the MPs were interrogated and released on Police bond as investigations continue. They are expected to report back on December 22. The case is registered under police SD 33/06/11/2017.

Oguzu, while speaking to New Vision shortly after his release, said the people openly rejected the removal of Article 102(b) of the Constitution and that the minister was using security agencies to undo the people's decision.

Acidri decribed his arrest as regrettable and said he saw no problem speaking about Brig. Gad Wilson Toko, who he said authoured peace in the region and is part of their history.

When contacted on phone, minister Onzima directed our reporter to speak to the Police and ended the call.

Activists Ask Government to Arrest Bashir Hours After His Arrival
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Derrick Wandera
November 13, 2017

Human rights activists have asked Ugandan government to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and surrender him to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he's wanted for crimes against humanity.

The call by the civil society organizations comes just hours after the Sudanese president arrived in the country for a two-day visit.

In a press conference held at Human Rights Network Uganda in Ntinda, Kampala, Mr Mohammed Ndifuna, the executive director of Hurrinet said "Bashir should be arrested following the alleged killings he orchestrated."

"We need to arrest this man as directed by ICC. We have a chance today even if we failed in May last year. He has become a social distress. When people see us with him, they will think we don't care about those he killed," Mr Ndifuna said.

Bashir was last in the country in May last year to attend President Museveni's fifth swearing-in ceremony.

Since 2015, the two leaders have been trying to patch the on-and-off relations between the two governments.

President Bashir is wanted by the Hague-based ICC on two counts of crimes against humanity and genocide.

The court issued double warrants for him; 2009 and 2010 on two counts of crimes against humanity and genocide of more than 300,000 deaths in Sudan's Darfur region. Copies of the warrants were served to his government.

ICC handles four major international crimes of aggression, war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Top on agenda during his visit, is the South Sudan peace process and bilateral discussions with his host on a number of areas of cooperation between Sudan and Uganda.

Besigye Charged With Assault of Police Officers, Malicious Damage
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Alfred Tumshabe
November 16, 2017

Former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye has been charged with assault, malicious damage and inciting violence.

Dr Besigye, his Kato Fred, his aide Ronald Muhinda and FDC secretary for mobilization Ingrid Turinawe on Thursday appeared in Mbarara Chief Magistrates's Court where they were charged with assault of four police officers, causing malicious damage to five police vehicles and inciting violence on November 14, 2017.

However, they denied all the charges and asked Grade I magistrate Ms Sanyu Mukasa to release them on bail.

Dr Besigye presented Mr Issa Makumbi, the DP vice president for western region as his surety.

They were released on a noncash bail of Shs5 million each and ordered to return to court on January 16, 2018.

However, Dr Besigye and Ms Turinawe were rearrested just after leaving the courtroom and driven in a police vehicle through Mbarara town to unknown location.

They have been in police custody since Tuesday this week when they were arrested.

Earlier on, Dr Besigye's co-accused Mr Amuriat and Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa were released on bail by the same court.

They were arrested on Tuesday at about 2pm as they left Grand Holiday Hotel to Kakyeka stadium in Mbarara District to canvass for votes for the FDC presidential candidate Mr Patrick Amuriat.

Dr Besigye's supporters started pelting stones at the police officers who fired live bullets, tear gas and sprayed water into shops where suspected protestors were hiding.

Some traders were seen closing their businesses as police and Besigye supporters continued to exchange stones and bullets.

Ugandan court to hear application on arrest of Sudanese leader
News Ghana

November 19, 2017

Uganda's International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court will next month hear an application seeking the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Justice Moses Mukiibi, ICD High Court Judge, late on Wednesday fixed Dec. 11 to hear an application by a civil society group seeking the issuance of a standing warrant of arrest for Bashir when comes to Uganda.

Uganda Victims Foundation and other five human rights organization filed an application to compel the government to arrest Bashir when he visited the country early this week. In the application, they also sought to have a standing warrant of arrest.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court issued two arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010.

The rights groups say that Uganda, being a signatory to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, is obligated to implement the arrest warrant.

The African Union in 2013 decided not to cooperate with the ICC, saying the Court was biased and targeting only African leaders.

Since then, Bashir has been moving to different countries. He has been to Uganda twice.

This week, he was in Uganda for trade and security talks aimed at improving the relations between the two countries.

The Ugandan rights groups want court to compel the government that next time he visits, he should be arrested and handed over to the ICC.

The Ugandan court did not pronounce its self on the application to have Bashir arrested on this visit. By the time the application was heard, Bashir was already out of the country.

The Ugandan government has previously said it will follow the African Union position.

This is not the first time rights' groups have gone to court seeking the arrest of Bashir.

In 2015, a South African court issued an order preventing Bashir from leaving the country until an urgent application to have him arrested was heard.

However, Bashir, who was attending the 25th African Union Summit in Johannesburg, left the country.

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

Police must not use lethal force against opposition supporters
Amnesty International

November 17, 2017

Kenyan police must stop firing live ammunition during opposition protests and instead protect all people gathering in public, said Amnesty International today amid running battles in which three opposition supporters are feared to have been shot dead.

"We have received reports of at least three deaths, and live TV footage shows another man being shot in the leg. Firearms can only be used when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life," said Abdullahi Halakhe, Amnesty International's East Africa Researcher.

"The indiscriminate use of live ammunition is totally unacceptable. Firearms must never be used to disperse crowds."

According to Amnesty International research, at least 66 people have been killed by police in election-related violence since August. At least 33 of them died in the aftermath of the 8 August elections and another three were killed during the October re-run.

The opposition supporters were trying to get to Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, where they expected Raila Odinga to address them, just hours after he had returned from an eight-day trip to the US.

Odinga boycotted October's presidential election re-run describing it as a sham and has since launched a civil disobedience campaign to push for electoral reforms and a repeat election early next year. Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the poll, but the Supreme Court is due to rule on the validity of his victory on 20 November.

Post-Election Violence Continues In Kenya, As Opposition Leader Returns
National Public Radio

November 18, 2017

Politically-fueled violence has broken out in Kenya again. Several people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and security services as opposition leader Raila Odinga returned home.


We're going to start the program today in Kenya, which is in the middle of a political standoff, a standoff which is fueling deadly clashes between police and demonstrators. Yesterday, at least five people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and security services after the leader of the opposition returned home after a visit overseas. Now, this all comes after the country has held two presidential elections in the past three months - the second was just last month. The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to that second election. NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta is with us now from Nairobi to tell us more. Hi, Eyder.


MARTIN: So what happened yesterday?

PERALTA: Yeah. So, you know, the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, he's been out of the country for about 10 days. And before he flew back yesterday, the opposition got word that they wanted about a million people to receive him at the airport. And the government said that wasn't happening, so they deployed a bunch of security across the city. And that set up a confrontation. Raila arrived. He got into an SUV, and he drove to town. It took him about six hours to get there. And his caravan was just surrounded by thousands of supporters. And basically everywhere he stopped, it was chaos. His supporters lit cars on fire. They set up roadblocks and threw rocks. And police responded with tear gas and water cannons. And at least one person ended up shot on the streets.

MARTIN: What are people saying on the streets, or what were people saying as you were following all these events?

PERALTA: You know, I heard a lot of resignation. I think Kenyans are bracing for this to become a long-term thing. And in some ways, this is becoming Kenya's new normal. We've been at this for more than three months already. And yesterday, after Raila Odinga had gone home, I took a walk around downtown. And it seemed like out of nowhere police came riding through and started firing tear gas at the sidewalk. An Anglican priest, Reverend Paul Masaba (ph), was walking home, and he spotted me and my microphone. And he just started ranting. Let's listen to a bit of what he said.

PAUL MASABA: (Speaking Swahili).

PERALTA: What struck me about this man is that he was hardly bothered by the chaos around him. And what he was saying is that it was clear that Uhuru Kenyatta, the president, could no longer keep his people safe. So it was time, he says, for Kenyans to pray that God brings change to this country.

MARTIN: What does each side want in this conflict? I mean, what does the opposition want? Do they have specific demands? And what does the president, the current administration, saying about that?

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, so for a long time, the opposition leader was just asking for new and fair elections. The goalposts has changed. And now, he's saying that he wants President Uhuru Kenyatta to step down. His supporters have started calling Raila Odinga Mr. President. And, of course, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, is saying there's no way we're stepping down and that he believes that he won fair and square both times.

MARTIN: So what is likely to be the next flashpoint in this long - what is expected to be a long saga, Eyder?

PERALTA: We have a Supreme Court decision coming up on Monday. The court is going to decide whether to throw out these elections or to say that they were free and fair. It's truly anyone's guess how they're going to decide. Remember that last time around, the court threw out the results and that was historic. So it's hard to read the tea leaves in this, but I think the one thing we know for sure is that whatever the court decides, it's just another trigger for potential violence.

MARTIN: That's NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta joining us from Nairobi. Eyder, thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you, Michel.

Kenya Supreme Court upholds election rerun, sparking celebrations, protests
The Washington Post

November 20, 2017

Kenya's Supreme Court rejected bids Monday to invalidate last month's rerun presidential election, closing one front in the country's deepening political battles but touching off fresh unrest among opponents of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The court's chief justice, David Maraga, said there were no legal merits to support the challenges against the outcome of the Oct. 26 election in which Kenyatta coasted to victory amid a boycott by his main rival, Raila Odinga.

The vote was forced after the same high court stunned Kenya in September by nullifying the results of the original August presidential election won by Kenyatta, citing voting irregularities.

The latest decision cleared the way for Kenyatta's inauguration next week. But it also highlighted the volatile mix of tribal and political fissures that threaten further instability in a country that has been an anchor of ­relative stability and economic growth in East Africa.

Shortly after the court decision, violence broke out in the Nairobi slum of Kibera, one of Odinga's strongholds. At least one boy was killed by a stray bullet, according to witnesses.

In sharp contrast, celebrations immediately broke out outside the court, where supporters of Kenyatta's Jubilee Party had gathered, decked out in the party colors and waving Kenyan flags.

Odinga dismissed Monday's court decision, saying it was made under coercion, and insisted that the government and the election remained illegitimate.

"It was a decision taken under duress. We do not condemn the court, we sympathize with it," he said in a statement.

Last month, Odinga pulled out of the rerun at the last minute, saying the new election would be flawed as well because the commission overseeing the contest had not been reformed.

But supporters of Kenyatta were joyous Monday.

"It is time to move forward — he is the best leader compared to Odinga that can lead us into prosperity," said Josphat Ngumi in Nairobi's city center. "Leaders should now work on healing the ethnic divide that they have created to access their various political mileage."

A roughly even division between Kenyatta and Odinga ­supporters is based largely on ethnic lines, between Kenyatta's Kikuyu tribe and Odinga's Luo, raising fears of ethnic clashes.

In the Kibera slum — the scene of many clashes between police and opposition supporters — merchants began removing their wares from their shops out of fears of unrest.

Dozens have been killed during demonstrations since the August election, and police have been accused of using excessive force with Odinga supporters.

On Friday, local media said at least five people were killed when police fired tear gas and then bullets at Odinga supporters seeking to welcome him home from a trip abroad. Odinga's motorcade was then blocked by police from attending a rally at Uhuru Park.

George Owino, a Kibera resident, said the planned inauguration of Kenyatta next week should not go forward.

"If they swear in Kenyatta, we hope to swear in Odinga," he said.

Rein in Police, Condemn New Abuses
Human Rights Watch

November 21, 2017

Kenyan authorities should condemn recent violence, rein in any police abuses, and investigate scores of killings, most of them by police, during the prolonged electoral period, Human Rights Watch said today.

A series of protests and clashes between police and opposition supporters began on November 17, 2017, at the Nairobi airport while supporters of the opposition leader Raila Odinga escorted him to the town center. Protests and clashes continued in opposition strongholds in Nairobi and western Kenya following the Supreme Court decision on November 20 affirming President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election.

"Political violence has surged with people getting killed every day," said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Yet again, we are getting worrying reports that police are using excessive force, beating and killing protesters and even those not participating in protests."

Police have used excessive force to contain protests since August, in a prolonged electoral period. In October, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented at least 67 killings, most by gunshot, during protests by opposition supporters after the electoral commission declared Kenyatta the winner of the August 8 election. The Supreme Court later nullified the results and Kenya held a fresh election on October 26. That election was also marred by violence, with police using excessive force against opposition supporters who protested to demand electoral reforms and changes in the electoral commission.

The latest round of violence started after the authorities deployed police in and around Nairobi's main airport to prevent Odinga supporters from welcoming him back from an overseas trip. Police used teargas and water cannons to break up large crowds cheering him, media reports said. Unidentified gunmen shot at Odinga's car. Local and international media reported that, in the process, the police either shot or beat to death dozens of people.

A photojournalist told Human Rights Watch that he witnessed four apparently unarmed supporters in Odinga's convoy shot by police along Landhies road and Haile Selassie Avenue, as the convoy entered central Nairobi.

Nairobi City Mortuary received at least 15 bodies, according to a mortuary official who spoke to the media on November 18, most of them with gunshot injuries. Scores of the wounded were taken to hospitals. The police said that the crowds had beaten five people to death on November 17 for looting before the police arrived and promised to investigate the deaths. The police spokesman, George Kinoti, said police used only tear gas and not live bullets.

According to reports by local media and local human rights activists, more than 10 people are believed to have been killed between November 18 and November 20. International media have reported at least 24 people killed by police since November 17. Human rights activists and a community mobilizer told Human Rights Watch that, since November 17, they had witnessed police killing protesters in Nairobi's Dandora Phase Four, Kibera, Mathare, and Kawangware neighborhoods, as well as in Kisumu and Migori in western Kenya.

On November 19, opposition supporters engaged police in running battles in many parts of Nairobi as they protested the killing of another five people by unidentified attackers. On the morning of November 19, the bodies of four men and one woman, believed to be opposition supporters, were found along the Nairobi-Thika highway near their homes in Riverside neighborhood, Ruaraka area, residents and local leaders said. They were apparently killed either by gunshots or machetes.

Neighbors who witnessed one of the attacks told Human Rights Watch they believed the attackers were members of mungiki, a pro-government armed group responsible for many killings in the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The Nairobi police commander, Japheth Koome, dismissed the allegations but promised to investigate. Such allegations are extremely sensitive. In August, the authorities threatened to arrest journalists and others who reported mungiki attacks. The authorities have failed to investigate similar attacks or to hold anyone responsible for the killings by police since the August 8 election.

The court's decision affirming Kenyatta's victory sparked further protests in Nairobi and western Kenya, as well as celebrations in some neighborhoods of Nairobi, central Kenya, and parts of the Rift Valley. Odinga, who boycotted the repeat elections, said he considers Kenyatta an illegitimate president despite the court decision affirming his victory. This position and the planned inauguration of Kenyatta next week could trigger further protests.

With the political tensions still high, it is crucial for Kenyan authorities to ensure that any use of force by the police is lawful, and urgently investigate all killings, Human Rights Watch said.

"President Kenyatta and other government officials should condemn ongoing killings and ensure that there are thorough and independent investigations into such killings and the role of any armed groups in the violence," Namwaya said. "Kenya has to put an end to the culture of election-related violence, unlawful killings by police, and impunity for abusive officers."

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Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

The Rwandan Genocide is a Poignant Reminder Of The Importance of Human Rights
Rights Info

By Anna Dannreuther
November 13, 2017

From April to July in 1994, up to 1,000,000 people in Rwanda were murdered by members of the Hutu ethnic majority.

The humanitarian disaster followed a complex history of colonialism, discrimination, and power shifts. One of the worst genocides in living memory, and little more than 20 years ago, it is a tragic reminder of how vital human rights are.

Rwanda: Some History

Before its colonial rule (by Germany from 1897, and Belgium from 1917), Rwanda was a complex and advanced monarchy. The monarch ruled the country through official representatives drawn from the Tutsi nobility.

At that time Rwanda had some 18 clans defined broadly along family and marriage lines. The terms "Hutu" and "Tutsi" were used, but they referred to individuals, not groups. Hutu and Tutsi people were defined by lineage, not ethnicity. One could also move from being a Hutu to a Tutsi, or vice versa, through marriage.

The colonial authorities (first Germany, then Belgium) relied on an elite essentially comprised of people identifying as Tutsi. According to Rwanda expert Dr. DesForges, this choice was born of racial or even racist considerations. According to her account: "In the minds of the colonizers, the Tutsi looked more like them, because of their height and colour, and were, therefore, more intelligent and better equipped to govern."

In the early 1930s, Belgian authorities divided the Rwandan population into three groups: Hutu (84%), Tutsi (15%), Twa (1%). Every Rwandan had to carry an identity card stating his or her identity. This requirement was maintained, even after Rwanda's independence, until the tragic events in 1994.

The Move to Independence

In the late 1940s, Belgium shifted its allegiance from the Tutsi minority to the Hutu majority, after the Tutsis sought Rwanda's independence (realising their privileged status and potential for political leadership). Belgium then granted more opportunities to the Hutu to acquire education and hold government positions. This angered the Tutsis, who then fought harder for Rwanda's independence. At the UN's insistence, Belgium organised elections on the basis of universal suffrage.

Since voters voted along ethnic lines, the Hutus obtained an overwhelming majority in Rwanda's first elections. The Hutus became aware of their political power, and the Tutsis of the demise of their supremacy. Four political parties emerged, with MDR Parmehutu (the Hutu grassroots movement), at the helm. They remained in power when Rwanda declared independence in 1962.

Cycles of Violence & Discrimination

Many Tutsis left the country from the early 1960s onwards, with the Hutu majority government in power. Some Tutsi exiles launched incursions from neighbouring countries. They came to be known inside Rwanda as "Inyenzi", meaning cockroach. Each attack was followed by reprisals against the Tutsis within Rwanda, which, in 1963 is said to have caused tens of thousands of Tutsi deaths. This led to the exile of more Tutsis, with the Hutu-led government then distributing the former Tutsi land to the Hutu. The government also redistributed government posts in favour of the Hutu.

Following dissent within the political system, President Habyarimana instituted a one-party State in 1975. At first, the Tutsi were hopeful as he did not pursue clearly anti-Tutsi policies. However, this changed with time, and a policy of systemic discrimination against the Tutsi was pursued with respect to government positions and education. Habyarimana's power decreased when he instituted discriminatory policies even amongst the Hutu themselves (favouring Hutu from his own native region in the north-west).

In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF – formed of Tutsi exiles) launched an attack from Uganda, which served as a pretext for the arrest for thousands of opposition members in Rwanda believed to support the RPF.


The Tutsi exiles in RPF formed a military wing (the RPA) with the objective of returning to Rwanda. Violence between the Hutu government and the RPF ensued. President Habyarimana was on the brink of signing a peace accord when, on 6 April 1994, an aircraft returning him from the peace according meeting crashed, killing all on board.

This triggered the Presidential Guard and militia to start killing Tutsi and Hutu known to be in favour of the Peace Accords and power-sharing between Tutsi and Hutu. The president of the Supreme Court and many members of parties in the coalition government were killed. This power vacuum paved the way for the establishment of the self-proclaimed Hutu-power interim government. Belgian and UN forces withdrew from Rwanda.

On April 12, 1994, public authorities on the radio stated that "we need to unite against the enemy, the only enemy…the enemy who wants to reinstate the former feudal monarchy". A killing campaign ensued, with primarily Tutsi people as its target. It is said that thousands of people, sometimes encouraged by local administrative officials on the promise of safety, were directed to churches, schools, and hospitals. However, this was a trap intended to lead to the rapid extermination of a large number of people.

The Aftermath

The RPF defeated the government's forces on July 4, 1994, leading many Hutus to leave the country, fearing reprisals. Rwanda's infrastructure and economy suffered greatly through the genocide. The international community was harshly criticised for not doing more. Local and international courts were set up to try to bring the perpetrators of the genocide to justice, with many being convicted and imprisoned.

Although Rwanda has shown many signs of healing, it still bears heavy scars from the past violence culminating in the 1994 genocide.

Submission to the Committee Against Torture: Rwanda
Human Rights Watch

November 14, 2017

This memorandum, submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) ahead of its upcoming review of Rwanda, highlights areas of concern Human Rights Watch hopes will inform the CAT's consideration of the compliance of the government of Rwanda ("the government") with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture). It contains information on persistent violations by Rwandan authorities and those empowered by them that violate the government's obligations under the Convention against Torture, and it proposes specific recommendations that we hope to see the CAT formulate for the Rwandan government. Human Rights Watch looks to the CAT's upcoming review to address these problems in depth.

We consider this review to be a key opportunity to bring the international attention and engagement we believe are crucial to ensure that detainees are protected from torture, ill-treatment and unlawful detention and those responsible for abuses are held to account.

Acts of torture in Rwanda (Articles 2 and 11)

Human Rights Watch has closely monitored human rights in Rwanda for over 20 years. Torture and ill-treatment have been persistent problems in Rwanda and have been perpetrated with near impunity.

Between 2010 and 2016, scores of people suspected of collaborating with "enemies" of the Rwandan government were detained unlawfully and tortured in military detention centers by Rwandan army soldiers and intelligence officers. Some of these people were held in unknown locations, including incommunicado, for prolonged periods and in inhuman conditions. Human Rights Watch issued a report on this in October 2017.

Torture and illegal detention are designed to extract information from real or suspected members or sympathizers of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)—a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, some of whose members participated in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994—and, to a lesser extent, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile, and the Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi, a banned opposition party.

In the cases documented by Human Rights Watch since 2010, most detainees were held near the capital, Kigali, or in northwestern Rwanda. Many were held at multiple locations during their detention, including at the premises of the Ministry of Defence (known as MINADEF), at Kami military camp, at Mukamira military camp, at a military base known as the "Gendarmerie," at detention centers in Bigogwe, Mudende, and Tumba, and at private homes used as detention centers. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any Rwandan laws or statutes allowing for the military or other authorities to detain people at these locations.

Severe beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation and mock executions were used to force suspects to confess, or to incriminate others. Former detainees were held for up to nine months in extremely harsh and inhuman conditions, with insufficient food and water to meet their basic needs. Human Rights Watch received allegations that some detainees were killed, but we were unable to verify these reports.

In many cases, after several months of illegal detention—and often only after detainees had signed a statement under torture—the Rwandan authorities transferred them to official detention centers, including civilian prisons, and they were then charged and put on trial. The period of their detention in military centers was erased from the public record.

Use of confessions where allegations were obtained through torture (Article 15)

In many cases, defendants who had been unlawfully detained and tortured did not receive a fair trial. Many were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including life imprisonment, sometimes partly or entirely based on confessions or witness testimonies obtained under torture. Many are still in prison. Others were acquitted and released after lengthy pretrial detention.

Impunity of perpetrators of torture (Articles 12 and 13)

Despite being told not to reveal the abuses they faced in detention, many of the defendants told judges they had been illegally detained or tortured in military detention centers. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any judges ordering an investigation into such allegations.

Military and intelligence officials responsible for torture benefit from the general climate of impunity. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any disciplinary or judicial action against military or intelligence officials for illegal detention or torture in military centers.

Acts of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Rwanda (Article 16)

For at least the last twelve years, Rwandan authorities rounded up poor people and arbitrarily detained them in so-called "transit centers" (also called "rehabilitation centers") across the country. The conditions in these centers were harsh and inhuman.

Homeless people, street vendors, street children, sex workers and other poor people, were taken off the streets and detained in these centers for prolonged periods. Detainees had inadequate food, water, and health care; suffer frequent beatings; and rarely leave their filthy, overcrowded rooms. None of them were formally charged with any criminal offense nor saw a prosecutor, judge, or lawyer before or during their detention. Human Rights Watch remains concerned about this lack of due process and consider these detentions unlawful.

While these centers are officially meant to "rehabilitate" people through professional training or education, most of the people Human Rights Watch interviewed did not receive such training and were treated as prisoners.

There are at least 28 of these centers across Rwanda; however, since 2015, Human Rights Watch research focused on four locations: Gikondo (Kigali), Muhanga (Muhanga district), Mbazi (Huye district), and Mudende (Rubavu district).

Conditions at the different locations are similar. Police or other groups responsible for security rounded up the detainees and transported them to the centers. Most detainees were not allowed to leave their room, except to go to the toilet only twice a day. In most cases, food was no more than one cup of corn a day, and several former detainees complained about the lack of drinking water or the opportunity to wash.

Beatings were commonplace. In Gikondo and Muhanga, many interviewed said they were beaten by police or by other detainees, often with sticks. In Mudende the beatings were daily. Two adults detained in the center in Mbazi told Human Rights Watch in 2016 that they were beaten as soon as they arrived.

Human Rights Watch received information about several people who died during or just after their detention in Mudende, allegedly as a result of injuries from beatings, poor conditions, and lack of medical care. Human Rights Watch shared information about one such case with the Justice Ministry in 2016, which expressed willingness to thoroughly investigate the allegations. Human Rights Watch is not aware that any investigation was launched.

Children as young as 10 were detained in these centers, as well as infants who accompanied their detained mothers.

The existence of these centers reflects a government perception of certain groups of people as offenders or sources of nuisance, rather than victims or vulnerable people.

One month after Human Rights Watch published a report on the Gikondo transit center in 2015, the Kigali City Council adopted a new directive on the Kigali Rehabilitation Transit Center – the official name for the Gikondo transit center – laying out the center's objectives and procedures. The directive addresses the lack of a legal framework for the center. It also lists the rights of those taken to the center, including the rights not to be subjected to corporal punishment, harassed, or discriminated against; access to hygiene and health care; and the right to visits.

However, rather than eliminating arbitrary detention, the directive seems to embed detention practices that could conflict with Rwanda's obligations under international human rights law. Under the directive, the center is to receive people whose behavior disturbs public order and security – a broad and vague notion that could be applied to categories of people for whom arrest and detention are not an appropriate or lawful response. The directive also states that most detainees should leave after a maximum of 17 days, but it leaves open the possibility that some could be held indefinitely if they do not pass a "test."

Furthermore, conditions inside Gikondo have not fundamentally changed since the directive was adopted. There has been some progress in terms of health and hygiene, and it appears that women are not beaten as regularly as before, but research conducted as recently as September 2017 suggests that conditions remain very poor and people are still arbitrarily detained.

The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

In October, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT), a monitoring body of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, (ratified by Rwanda in 2015), conducted a state visit to Rwanda. They had to suspend their visit and leave sooner than planned, however, citing obstruction from the Rwandan government and fear of reprisals against interviewees. This was only the third time in ten years that the SPT has suspended a visit.

A press release issued by the government after the SPT suspended its trip listed sites the SPT had visited, which included Kami and Gikondo.

National Legal Standards

Rwanda's constitution states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or physical abuse, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Torture is a crime under Rwanda's 2012 penal code, which uses a definition largely inspired by the wording of the Convention against Torture. Torture is punishable with up to two years in prison, increased to seven when there are permanent consequences, or life imprisonment when torture results in the death of a victim. Maximum sentences are applied when the offender is a security service officer or a civil servant.


•Human Rights Watch encourages the CAT to use the upcoming review to ask the Rwandan government to:

•Immediately cease arbitrary and unlawful detention and torture in military detention centers;

•Commission an independent investigation into allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, unlawful and arbitrary detention and arrests, even without an official complaint by victims or their families, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice;

•Explain what steps it has already taken to investigate credible and well-documented allegations of torture and ill-treatment by military intelligence officials, the status of investigations, if any, and the findings;

•Invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to conduct a fact-finding mission to examine the use of torture in military detention facilities;

•Immediately close "transit centers" and ensure that anyone deprived of their liberty in these centers is detained only on grounds explicitly provided for in law and in accordance with full respect for due process rights;

•Investigate cases of abuse and misconduct by the police at "transit centers" and prosecute officials responsible for the illegal detention and ill-treatment of detainees at these locations.

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The man who buried Somaliland's dead
Al Jazeera

By Matthew Vickery
November 12, 2017

It was June 2, 1988, and Hargeisa was under attack. The rat-a-tat-tat of nearby artillery rose above the city and filled Ibrahim Abdullahi's ears, but the battle was in the north and hadn't reached his government-controlled southern district - at least not yet

As he nervously ventured outside, Abdullahi's mind raced. He had already sent his wife and eight children to safety in Ethiopia, but he felt a longing to stay in Hargeisa, a need to protect his modest mud-brick home and keep it occupied to deter looters and to defend the product of years of his hard work.

Everything had happened so quickly.

Just days before, Somali National Movement (SNM) rebels had captured nearby Burao city from Somalia's national army, and Hargeisa was now in their sights. But it seemed that government soldiers were determined to stop that at any cost.

Within the past two days, Abdullahi had heard that killings had begun.

"I'll take it day by day," Abdullahi thought to himself. "If the situation gets worse and there's an opportunity to run - then I'll go."

Government soldiers were rounding up men of fighting age in Hargeisa to prevent them from joining the SNM.

Crouched down outside his home, Abdullahi's mind wandered to thoughts of fleeing again.

Rumours were circulating that women and children were also being targeted, but he had no way to know for sure. Some people had even said government bombers were pursuing fleeing families as they tried to escape.

He thought of his wife and kids and prayed the rumours were untrue.

Then, out of nowhere, he heard his name.

"Ibrahim Abdullahi?!"

The noise of gunfire hung in the air, but it remained at least a couple of kilometres away. But here, as he looked up, tens of metres from him, was a small group of government soldiers.

Abdullahi's mind raced again. Civilian or not, he was of fighting age.

"Yes, that's me," he murmured, trying not to let the fear in his head spill into his words.

"Come!" the commander barked, several soldiers standing menacingly beside him, guns cocked and ready. "We need you."

Walking towards what he assumed was certain death, Abdullahi took one deep breath and ventured forward.

Using an intricately carved wooden cane to help his ageing legs, 75-year-old Abdullahi stands tall and proud, albeit a little unsteady before lowering himself into a black leather swivel chair in the unassuming office building in Hargeisa.

It's 2017, and the walls of the office are dotted with photos of men in masks working meticulously, digging at the dusty ground and carefully brushing away dirt from skeletons that haven't seen the light of day in decades.

"I remember burying bodies in that grave," Abdullahi says gesturing towards one of the photos on the wall in front of him, "and that one", he adds, his eyes slowly tracing the room.

"Some days I must have buried hundreds, some days just dozens," he continues. "People were being killed everywhere in the town. They didn't see a difference between men, women, or children - everybody was to be killed."

Abdullahi's story precedes the man in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland that announced its separation from Somalia after the government of Siad Barre collapsed in 1991.

His weathered face - one that seems to have as many wrinkles as years he's had in his life - may not be well-known in the city, but in every corner of the capital his story is legendary, some regarding it as truth, others as myth.

But in the office of the War Crimes Commissioner, Abdullahi's story has been confirmed again and again - over the years, he's been the key to reuniting distraught families with the remains of their loved ones.

"Those were black days, black black days," Abdullahi repeats as he recalls memories that have stayed fresh in his mind three decades later.

Resting his cane on the table in front of him, Abdullahi begins to tell his story, his eyes darting from side to side as his mind rewinds through the years to 1988 and the 28 days of his life that have defined him ever since.

'I'm only alive to do this job'

The city was a ghost town. Buildings lay abandoned, dead bodies were scattered in the streets, and the smell of death lingered in the air.

As Abdullahi walked, everything started to become familiar. He wasn't walking to a military barracks like he first thought; he was on his way to the Ministry of Public Services where he was employed handling heavy machinery like tractors and diggers.

"Go and get one of the machines that can dig," the commander said abruptly when they arrived outside the complex. "Be quick, we have to go - there are bodies waiting."

Abdullahi did as he was told.

Within an hour he was at Malko Durduro, a valley area in western Hargeisa, digging into the soft soil. Several government soldiers stood around his digger with 10 bodies tied together lying beside them, blood still seeping through clothes and staining the sandy earth below them.

As he listened to the soldiers speaking among themselves it became apparent to Abdullahi that the army didn't want the bodies buried in an effort to cover their crimes - they were fed up with the smell. His job, as their new prisoner, was to get rid of it.

The corpses were unrecognisable. Pieces of flesh ripped off their bodies from head to toe, shot to pieces by an anti-aircraft gun that sat nearby.

"If I didn't know how to operate this equipment they would kill me, I would be lying there as well," Abdullahi realised as he dug. "There's no one else in the town; I'm only alive because they need me to do this job."

To survive, he would have to dig.

Guarded day and night, Abdullahi dug to save his life. Barely allowed time to rest, he buried hundreds of bodies a day in that first week.

At first, the dead were men, mostly in fatigues - rebels. After a few days, the fatigues disappeared, and women started appearing, then children. All killed in the same way - tied together in groups of 10, shot, their faces sometimes slashed with knifes and mutilated.

The soldiers may maim and deface them; they may chuck the bodies on the ground like pieces of rotten meat as though they were never humans with emotions, dreams, wants and desires - but he knew otherwise. They were fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and even in death, they deserved respect.

In those first few days, Abdullahi swore to himself that he would at least give them that.

The most important thing to him was to get everyone buried before nightfall, before wild animals would come out of the bush and claw away at the bodies. If he could just do that, he thought, it would be some way at least to give the dead some dignity after such a violent and unjust end. It was how he could show respect, his silent rebellion against his captors.

For days on end, he worked from dawn till dusk, burying the war crimes of a regime that wanted him and his people dead. He did what he could to keep his mind blank. He thought of his family and daydreamed about where they could be, safe and away from the living hell that their hometown had become.

He trained himself to concentrate on digging, to distance himself from what was happening. That's the only way he would survive.

Then, after two weeks, one of the bodies spoke.

'I still can't sleep at night'

The ground slips a little below Abdullahi's feet after a night of heavy rain turned the bone-dry dirt in Malko Durduro to mud.

"It's important we teach what happened in the past so it never happens again," Abdullahi says using his cane to steady himself as Al Jazeera takes the 75-year-old back to the mass graves he dug three decades ago at the notorious execution site of Malko Durduro.

"My biggest fear is that what happened here will be forgotten."

Plagued by a deadly and devastating drought all year, the night's rain was the proverbial drop in the ocean, bringing more joy to the residents of the Somali city than water. But it was still something to a region that has been battling extreme weather conditions throughout 2017.

"Every year when there's heavy rain more skeletons appear," Abdullahi says, scanning every inch of the area as he meanders from side to side. "It brings all the memories flooding back."

To Abdullahi's left, imposing cliffs of dirt stretch several metres up, small trees and cacti clinging onto the edge - just another rainy night away from succumbing to erosion and joining Abdullahi on the valley floor.

Returning to Malko Durduro three decades after he was forced to bury thousands of bodies here, it doesn't take long before Abdullahi's mind takes him back to those dark days.

"I still can't sleep at night remembering him," Abdullahi says, recalling the one body - the only body - which looked up to him from among the dead and spoke.

It was two weeks into his captivity when Abdullahi came across a miracle.

A man who had somehow survived the firing squad and then played dead as soldiers piled the executed into a grave.

The miracle was short lived.

Facing being buried alive, there was only one thing the survivor could do. He spoke.

"He was supposed to be dead," Abdullahi says pausing. "He talked to me, pleaded with me, 'please untie me', but the soldiers heard him speaking. They untied him from the corpses, forced him to stand up, and they shot everywhere at him, all around him, even at the trees."

"I had to do this job to survive," he adds, looking for understanding.

Digging his cane into the soft ground, Abdullahi walks the valley floor for several minutes, his eyes wandering the surroundings as his memories take him back to that time. He can't prevent them, even if he wanted to.

Stopping in his tracks and using the cane as an extension of himself, Abdullahi motions towards the cliff side. Within seconds, and without words, it's clear what he's trying to draw attention to. Exposed by the rain and protruding from the wet cliffside is the unmistakable bone-white colour of a skull, almost waiting for the right moment to drop to the ground and join its burier on the floor below.

To the right of the skull, the tips of ribs stick out at differing angles sandwiched between greenish brown fabrics - fatigues.

"He was a rebel," Abdullahi says, filling the silence. "I remember burying there."

Panning the area, just tens of metres away from the newly exposed skeleton more bones stick out - this time there are no fatigues. The bones of a civilian killed by the army, and then buried by Abdullahi.

"I remember being taken to this valley and a military vehicle pulled up with an official inside it," he recalls.

"They pushed 12 bodies out of it, bodies of school children - they were still in their shirts and dresses. They had no noticeable gunshot wounds. A soldier told me all of their blood had been drained from them so it could be used for the national army. That soldier cried as he told me, he cried for almost five minutes."

"Those were the worst days of my life."

As he speaks, the faint sound of playing children carries through the air from a school less than 100 meters away. Throughout the land surrounding the school, more bodies are scattered, waiting to be exposed, identified by forensics, and eventually returned to their waiting families decades later.

For Abdullahi, the memories of the people he buried will never leave him. But he counts himself lucky he survived.

As the bodies reduced from hundreds a day at the beginning of Abdullahi's captivity, to just a few per day after three weeks, he knew his time was running out. Soon he would be surplus to requirements, and if he didn't find a way to escape, he would be killed too.

But on the 28th day - for the very first time - he found himself alone.

Abdullahi didn't need a second opportunity.

"The guards were getting more relaxed with me as I hadn't tried to escape, but on the 28th day I was out in the valley and realised there was no one watching me - I ran," he says, describing his bid for freedom.

Hiding until nightfall, Abdullahi smuggled himself out of Hargeisa. Within days, he had gathered information about the whereabouts of his wife and kids - they had survived the bombers and were still alive.

After two days and three nights of walking, he made it to their refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Walking into the camp on the morning of the third day, Abdullahi saw his family in the distance, and for the briefest of moments, the memories of the dead left him.

"At that moment, when I saw them again - I felt reborn."

The 75-year-old says he's lived a good life as a husband and a father to twelve children - he had four more after returning to Hargeisa after the war.

He's come to terms with what he witnessed and became a part all those years ago, and has found some comfort in helping the Somaliland authorities to recover the dead - 2,000 of whom remain buried.

"My children, to this day, call me 'the walking dead' when they see me," he says, laughing a little to himself. "They couldn't believe I survived. They still can't."

U.S. military builds up in land of 'Black Hawk Down' disaster

By Wesley Morgan
November 19, 2017

The number of U.S. military forces in Somalia has more than doubled this year to over 500 people as the Pentagon has quietly posted hundreds of additional special operations personnel to advise local forces in pockets of Islamic militants around the country, according to current and former senior military officials.

It is the largest American military contingent in the war-torn nation since the infamous 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle, when 18 U.S. soldiers died. It is also the latest example of how the Pentagon's operations in Africa have expanded with greater authority provided to field commanders.

The growing Somalia mission, coming more fully to light after four American troops were killed in an ambush in Niger last month, also includes two new military headquarters in the capital of Mogadishu and stepped-up airstrikes. It's driven by a major shift in strategy from primarily relying on targeted strikes against terrorists to advising and supporting Somali troops in the field, the officials said.

The new operations also come as a peacekeeping mission spearheaded by the African Union is winding down. That is putting more pressure on the fledgling Somali security forces to confront al-Shabab, a terrorist army allied with Al Qaeda that plays the role of a quasi-government in significant parts of the country.

"We had to put more small teams on the ground to partner in a regional way with the Somali government," retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who commanded American special operations forces in Africa until June, said in an interview. "So we changed our strategy and we changed our operational approach. That's why the footprint went up."

The expansion, which was also outlined by officials at U.S. Africa Command, includes deploying Green Berets and Navy SEALs to far-flung outposts to target the al-Shabab insurgency and a group of militants in the northern region of Puntland who last year pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The deployment of a special operations adviser team to Puntland alongside Somali troops has served as a model for the broader expansion of the mission.

"Puntland was the example we used," Bolduc said. "We said, 'We can do this in the other areas.' So we changed our strategy and we changed our operational approach."

Also, in a move not previously reported, a SEAL headquarters unit has deployed to Mogadishu from Germany to coordinate the adviser teams that are spread across the country. And in a separate move, trainers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division spent the summer working with Somali troops at the fortified airport complex in Mogadishu. That deployment has since ended, but troops from the Army's 10th Mountain Division will perform a similar mission next year, a spokesman for the headquarters overseeing Army activities in Africa said.

To oversee the expanded operation, the Pentagon has also sent a general for the first time: Army Brig. Gen. Miguel Castellanos, a veteran of the 1990s peacekeeping mission in Somali who took charge in June of a unit called the Mogadishu Coordination Cell.

At the same time, more airstrikes are being conducted than ever before to kill militant leaders and to defend the American advisers and their African allies. Those include one conducted Saturday 250 miles from Mogadishu that Africa Command said killed a militant after he attacked a convoy of U.S. and Somali troops.

Some of the strikes have been conducted under new authorities that the Trump administration approved in March. It declared parts of Somalia a zone of "active hostilities" akin to Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and delegated the authority to approve airstrikes further down the chain of command.

In all, according to Africa Command, the U.S. has conducted 28 airstrikes in Somalia this year, nine of them this month. That's compared to 13 airstrikes and ground raids that the Pentagon announced last year and just five strikes and raids in 2015, according to numbers compiled by the New America Foundation.

The more expansive military effort contrasts with the tiny and secretive U.S. military mission over the past decade headed by the classified Joint Special Operations Command, the military's main counterterrorism force. JSOC drone strikes reportedly began in Somalia in 2011, and two dozen special operations troops started working as advisers in late 2013.

But the small American contingent was confined mostly to Mogadishu and the Baledogle military airfield in southern Somalia — except during short-duration missions farther afield.

"It was something like 100 people on the ground essentially being the intel and targeting apparatus" for counterterrorism strikes, said an active-duty special operations officer who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity while discussing sensitive operations.

Officially, the Pentagon disputes that the recent increase in troops constitutes a major buildup of forces.

"I would not associate that with a buildup, as you're calling it," said Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, referring to the troop increase. "I think it's just the flow of forces in and out as different organizations come in that might be sized a little differently, and I certainly don't think there's a ramp-up of attacks."

A spokesperson for Africa Command, Robyn Mack, told POLITICO that the U.S. presence has increased from around 200 to more than 500 this year.

The larger "advise and assist mission," she explained, is now "the most significant element of our partnership" in Somalia.

The increased presence has not been without controversy inside national security circles, according to multiple people who have been directly involved in the decisions.

Prominent in the discussions has been the recent history of Somalia, which has been wracked by a series of civil wars over the past quarter-century. But the legacy of JSOC's ill-fated man-hunting mission in support of the U.N. peacekeepers in 1993 — in which two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and a pilot captured — has long made American and Somali officials wary of deeper U.S. military involvement.

"Everybody defaults to 'Black Hawk Down' and what happened in Somalia in 1993," said Bolduc, the former commander of special operations forces in Africa.

"That was a real concern when I was working on Somalia policy at the Pentagon and the White House," added Luke Hartig, who worked on counterterrorism operations at the National Security Council in the Obama administration. "Some military people would say, 'We've evolved a lot as a force, we've done these raids every night in Iraq and Afghanistan and can mitigate risk in a way we couldn't in 1993.' But it is still one of the real catastrophes of U.S. military operations in the past couple decades."

Nonetheless, most military and counterterrorism officials agreed that air and drone strikes and other pinpoint operations were deemed insufficient to prevent Somalia from becoming a terrorist haven.

"We came to the realization that trying to handle the threat in Somalia just kinetically was not going to work," Bolduc said. "Taking out high-value targets is necessary, but it's not going to lead you to strategic success, and it's not going to build capability and capacity in our partners to secure themselves. So we provided a plan that complemented the kinetic strikes" with a larger military advisory effort.

The arrival of the Trump administration also gave the military an opportunity to make its case to a more receptive audience, the active-duty special operations officer, who had knowledge of the strategy review, told POLITICO.

"It wasn't, 'Oh, thank God, new president, new party, now we can go kick ass,' but there were opportunities with the change in the political situation," he said.

An equally important factor, Bolduc said, was the Obama administration's appointment last year of Stephen Schwartz as ambassador in Mogadishu. Schwartz, who resigned earlier this fall, was the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since before the Black Hawk Down battle and is credited with laying the groundwork with the Somali government, he explained.

But with the stepped-up U.S. military effort also comes greater risk. A member of SEAL Team 6 was killed during one such mission in May.

"Do we get into contact with the enemy? Yes, we do — our partners do and we're there to support it, and sometimes we come into contact by virtue of how the enemy attacked them," Bolduc said. "The benchmark that we used in our planning was that U.S. forces coming into contact with the enemy was unlikely. We met that standard most of the time."

However, Hartig, the former counterterrorism official who also helped craft the new strategy, said he worries about special operations troops getting involved too deeply in rural regions with complex tribal politics. That's a problem that has plagued U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan.

"Somalia's incredibly complex human terrain, and you want to be sure you know what you're getting into," he said. "Some of the special operations guys do know a lot about Somalia, but we haven't previously had people on the ground out in the communities."

U.S. airstrikes kill more than 100 militants in Somalia
PBS News Hour

By Robert Burns
Nov 21, 2017

Reflecting stepped-up targeting of extremists in Africa, the U.S. military said airstrikes killed more than 100 militants in Somalia on Tuesday and hit Islamic State fighters in Libya days earlier.

U.S. Africa Command, which manages U.S. military operations on the continent, said the airstrike in Somalia targeted an al-Shabab camp about 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, killing more than 100. That is the largest number of reported deaths from a single U.S. airstrike in Somalia since the Trump administration approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaida.

Al-Shabab is blamed for last month's truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people.

A Somali intelligence official said U.S. drone aircraft fired at least eight missiles at al-Shabab bases and training camps in Bur-Eylada, a village situated between the towns of Dinsor and Burhakaba in the Bay region. The official, who was not authorized to speak to reporters on the record and discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, said senior al-Shabab commanders were among the dead.

The U.S. this month also began targeting a small but growing IS presence in northern Somalia.

Separately, Africa Command said it conducted two airstrikes near Fuqaha in central Libya against Islamic State group militants — one Nov. 17 and another two days later. It made no mention of casualties and did not identify the specific targets. It said the strikes were done in coordination with Libya's interim government, known as the Government of National Accord.

The Trump administration has committed to preventing the Islamic State group from regrouping after losing its grip on significant territory in Iraq and Syria.

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

Clashes still rage in Sidi Kharibish, Benghazi
The Libya Observer

By Safa Alharathy
November 13, 2017

The spokesman of Dignity Operation's Saiqa militia, Melod Zawi, has declared that the military operations are still ongoing in the district of Sidi Kharibish in Benghazi, denying the reports by some social networking sites that the district was "liberated", confirming that such news is baseless.

Armed clashes have escalated between the fighters of Shura Council of Benghazi and Dignity Operation which has been imposing a siege on Sidi Kharibish for months.

Libyan forces hit Islamic State camp with air strike: commander

November 15, 2017

East Libyan forces said they launched air strikes against suspected Islamic State militants on Wednesday south of the jihadist group's former stronghold of Sirte.

"The Libyan air force struck and destroyed the biggest concentration of Daesh (Islamic State) south of Sirte, after monitoring the site over a period of time," said Sherif al-Awami, an air force commander with the Libyan National Army.

The site contained a large camp with military vehicles and stocks of petrol and water and had been used as a base for mounting attacks, he said.

Islamic State was driven from Sirte last year and has been trying to regroup in the desert to the south, launching occasional forays into inhabited areas and attacks against local forces.

The United States has reported launching three sets of air strikes against jihadist camps in the area this year.

US drone strike kills ISIS militants in central Libya desert
The Libya Observer

By Safa Alharathy
November 19, 2017

A US drone carried out an air strike in the Libyan desert on Friday targeting members of ISIS group, Fox News reported.

The airstrike has been the first since September, the channel quoted an unidentified Pentagon official as saying.

According to the US official, the airstrike led to the killing of several of ISIS militants without specifying the number.

Sale of Migrants as Slaves in Libya Causes Outrage in Africa and Paris
The New York Times

By Nour Youssef
November 19, 2017

A CNN report about the sale of African migrants as slaves in the North African nation of Libya has incited outrage in recent days, prompting a protest in central Paris, condemnation by the African Union and an official investigation.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly young black people, demonstrated in front of the Libyan Embassy in central Paris on Saturday — with some carrying a sign that said, "Put an end to the slavery and concentration camps in Libya," and chanting, "Free our brothers!" — three days after CNN aired footage of migrants being auctioned off in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

"We have to mobilize — we can't let this kind of thing happen," one of the protesters told the television station France 24. "Did we really need to see such shocking pictures before taking a stand? I don't think so."

French police officers fired tear gas to disperse the rally, which had turned violent.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission and the foreign minister of Chad, issued a statement after the rally, calling the auctions "despicable." He urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to assist the Libyan authorities with the investigation that they opened in response to CNN's report.

The Guardian reported in April that West African migrants were being sold in modern-day slave markets in Libya, based on information from the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency. And Reuters reported on the issue in May.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that there are 700,000 to one million migrants in Libya, and more than 2,000 have died at sea this year.

Most of the migrants in Libya are fleeing armed conflict, persecution or severe economic hardship in sub-Saharan Africa. Their journey usually begins with a deadly trek through vast deserts to Libya and then involves either braving the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats headed to Europe or struggling to survive in one of the overcrowded detention centers run by smugglers on the Libyan coastline.

Forced labor, sexual abuse and torture are widespread in these camps, according to the United Nations.

Since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 ended the brutal rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya's coast has become a hub for human trafficking and smuggling. That has fueled the illegal migration crisis that Europe has been scrambling to contain since 2014.

Libya, which slid into chaos and civil war after the revolt, is now divided among three main factions: a feeble but internationally backed government in Tripoli; an ultraconservative Islamist government, also in Tripoli; and an anti-Islamist government in the east.

The reactions on Saturday highlight one of the many challenges facing the internationally recognized authorities in Libya, which are still struggling to restore order, win popular support and restore basic services like water and electricity.

The CNN report, published on Wednesday, detailed the horrors that African migrants experience while trying to reach Europe in search of a better life. It included video footage of a slave auction last month outside Tripoli, where about a dozen migrants were sold as slaves in a matter of minutes. That auction was one of many, CNN said.

The network attributed the recent emergence of slave markets in Libya to the sharp fall in migrant arrivals in Europe over the summer. The Italian government reportedly began paying the warlords controlling Libya's coast to curb the flow of migrants earlier this year. In August alone, the arrivals of migrants in Italy fell 85 percent.

This drop, CNN said, appears to have created a backlog of customers for Libya's smugglers, who have responded by auctioning off migrants for as little as $400.

In his statement, Mr. Mahamat, of the African Union Commission, announced that the union would hold talks with Libya and other stakeholders in the region to find "practical steps" that would "address the plight of the African migrants in Libya."

He vowed that the union would "spare no effort to help bring these acts to an end."

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The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Court Website [English translation]

Edhem Žilić sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

November 17, 2017

The Panel of Section I for War Crimes at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the criminal case versus the accused Edhem Žilić, following a public trial, handed down a judgment finding the accused Edhem Žilić guilty of the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (CC SFRY), adopted based on the Law on the Application of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Criminal Code of SFRY, as read with Articles 22 and 30 of the same Code.

The accused Edhem Žilić was found guilty that, during the war in BiH, and the armed conflict between the Army of BiH on the one side, and the Army of Republika Srpska and the HVO on the other, he acted in violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, specifically Article 3(1), Subparagraphs a) and c), of the IV Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, because between May and late October 1993, on the premises of the Musala sports hall, Municipality of Konjic, which served as a detention facility for the unlawfully detained Croat and Serb civilians, as a member of the 4th Battalion of the BiH Army Military Police, and as the acting warden of the detention facility, he committed, ordered, enabled and failed to prevent the inhuman treatment accorded to the detainees.

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced the accused Edhem Žilić to 9 (nine) years of imprisonment.

Pursuant to Article 189(1) of the CPC BiH, the accused is acquitted of the obligation to cover the costs of criminal proceedings and the scheduled amount, which will be paid in full from within the Court's budgetary appropriations.

Pursuant to Article 138 of the CPC BiH, the Panel has issued a decision ordering prohibitive measures against the accused Edhem Žilić, specifically the travel ban under Article 126(2) of the CPC BiH and the obligation to report to the relevant authority under Article 126a, Subparagraph d), of the CPC BiH.

Ivan Medić receives a compound sentence of 14 years in prison
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

November 17, 2017

The Panel of Section I for War Crimes at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the criminal case versus the accused Ivan Medić and Tonćo Rajič, following a public trial, handed down a judgment finding the accused Ivan Medić guilty of the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 142(1) of the CC SFRY, adopted based on the Laws on the Application of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Criminal Code of SFRY.

The accused Ivan Medić was found guilty that between 5 May 1992 or about that date and 17 August 1992 or about that date, during the war and imminent threat of war in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the armed conflict between the Croat Defense Forces (HOS) and the Croat Defense Council (HVO) on the one side and the Armed Forces of the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other, in the territory of the Čapljina municipality, as a HOS member, between 1 December 1991 and 20 August 1992, and between 3 April 1992 and 16 January 1993, he acted in violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, specifically Article 3(1), Subparagraphs a) and c), of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949.

The Court sentenced the accused Ivan Medić to 7 (seven) years and 6 (six) months of imprisonment, and, taking as established the previous sentence of 7 (seven) years of imprisonment under the Judgment of the Court of BiH of 14 April 2015, eventually sentenced him to a compound sentence of 14 (fourteen) years of imprisonment.

The time the accused Ivan Medić spent in pretrial custody and serving the sentence of imprisonment under the previous judgment since 14 April 2015 shall be credited towards the compound sentence of imprisonment.

The accused Tonćo Rajič was acquitted of the charges that between 5 May 1992 or about that date and 17 August 1992 or about that date, during the war and imminent threat of war in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the armed conflict between the Croat Defense Forces (HOS) and the Croat Defense Council (HVO) on the one side and the Armed Forces of the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other, in the territory of the Čapljina municipality, as a HOS member, at the Bruno Bušić Dretelj military barracks, where he was listed as a HOS military staff member at the Dretelj camp, he acted in violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, specifically Article 3(1), Subparagraphs a) and c), of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, with the intent to establish and maintain a system of abuse of prisoners, civilians and other persons protected by common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions of 12 August 1949, whereby he would have committed the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 173(1)c) of the CC BiH as read with Article 180(1) and Article 21 of the CC BiH.

Pursuant to Article 189(1) of the CPC BiH, the accused is acquitted of the obligation to cover the costs of criminal proceedings and the scheduled amount, which will be paid in full from within the Court's budgetary appropriations.

Custody of Brane Planojević Terminated
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

November 22, 2017

On 21 November 2017, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered a decision substituting custody for the Accused Brane Planojević with prohibiting measures. Pursuant to this Decision the Accused was released immediately.

The prohibiting measures imposed by the Court are as follows:

Brane Planojević was in custody from 25 October 2017.

On 23 September 2016, the Court of B-H confirmed the Indictment alleging that the Accused Brane Planojević, during the armed conflict and war in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Army of Republika Srpska in the period from 1992 to 1995, in the detention center located at the Rasadnik farming cooperative in the territory of Rogatica Municipality, where Bosniak civilians were unlawfully detained, as a member of the Army of Republika Srpska, Military Post 7084 Rogatica, as a guard and de facto deputy warden, acted contrary to rules of international humanitarian law, in violation of Article 3(1)(a) and (c) of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, and killed civilians and a prisoner of war, tortured and participated in the torture of civilians and helped the rape of civilians.

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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

Serbian Security Chief Denies Controlling 'Scorpions' Fighters
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
November 9, 2017

Jovica Stanisic's defence lawyer Ian Edwards told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that a prosecution witness at the trial who alleged this week that the Serbian State Security Service, SDB funded and equipped the Scorpions unit was not telling the truth.

Edwards said that witness Goran Stoparic had "made it up" that the Scorpions' commander, Slobodan Medic, alias Boca, and Milan Milanovic, alias Mrgud, the assistant defence minister of the Croatian Serb wartime statelet the Republic of Serbian Krajina "went to Belgrade and submitted reports to Jovica Stanisic".

"I am not making anything up," Stoparic, a former member of the Scorpions unit, responded to Edwards in the courtroom.

Stoparic insisted that Medic told all the Scorpions members that he held meetings with Stanisic.

Responding to a defence suggestion that the witness did not know whether the Serbian SDB issued orders to the Scorpions, Stoparic answered: "Orders were issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia, as well as by Mrgud [Medic] and the Serbian SDB."

Stanisic, the former chief of the SDB, and his former assistant Franko Simatovic, are being retried for the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, Stanisic and Simatovic were part of a joint criminal enterprise led by former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to achieve Serb domination.

They both pleaded not guilty in December last year after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.

The appeals chamber ruled that there were serious legal and factual errors when Stanisic and Simatovic were initially acquitted of war crimes in 2013, and ordered the case to be retried and all the evidence and witnesses reheard in full by new judges.

Defence lawyer Edwards also denied Stoparic's allegation that the Serbian SDB was involved in Serb forces' operations in Brcko in Bosnia in 1992.

But Stoparic insisted that the SDB "was involved, of course it was involved".

"I can say that the Serbian SDB was involved in all operations," he said.

However, he did accept a suggestion by Stanisic's defence lawyer the 'Pauk' ('Spider') operation in Bosnia, in which the Scorpions and other units under the control of the Serbian SDB participated at the beginning of 1995, "was not an ethnic-cleansing operation".

The witness said that the units prevented ethnic cleansing "of Bosniaks by Bosniaks" by giving armed support to the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, a short-lived Bosniak rebel statelet, against the Fifth Corps of the Sarajevo-led Bosnian Army.

"We were supposed to liberate the territories held by the Fifth Corps, return refugees to their homes and support [Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia leader Fikret] Abdic," Stoparic said.

The retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic continues on Tuesday.

Judge Rejects Bid to Delay Verdict for Ratko Mladic in Bosnian Genocide
New York Times

By Marlise Simons
November 12, 2017

A verdict in one of the most closely watched war crimes cases in recent history — the genocide trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general held responsible for the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995 — is expected this month, after a judge rejected defense lawyers' pleas to postpone the judgment.

The decision, by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, came after defense lawyers for Mr. Mladic, 75, contended that he was no longer mentally and physically competent to appear in court. His is the last high-profile case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Lawyers have demanded that Serbian doctors review Mr. Mladic's condition, insisting that court-appointed physicians have been playing down their client's dire state and neglected to carry out important tests for heart disease and brain damage. The lawyers also say they were denied the full release of all of his medical records.

Dan Ivetic, an American lawyer who is the co-counsel on the Mladic team, said his client's condition — already weakened by two strokes by the time he was arrested in 2011 — has worsened since his trial ended last December. Court-appointed doctors as well as teams of Russian and Serbian specialists who saw him in 2015, have said that Mr. Mladic risked another stroke or a heart attack.

"He is sleeping much of the day and needs assistance with food, hygiene and dressing," said Mr. Ivetic, adding that his client's right side is partly paralyzed and brain scans show considerable damage from several mini-strokes. "When I see him, he often slurs his speech, he repeats himself, he has hearing problems and great difficulty remembering things. He cuts short visits so he can go to sleep."

But on Friday, the presiding judge in the tribunal nonetheless ordered that the verdict be issued on Nov. 22 as planned. The prison doctors and independent experts monitoring Mr. Mladic have described his condition as stable, the judge wrote.

This year, the court had also turned down Mr. Mladic request to be treated in Russia or Serbia, because it said there was a risk he would not return to The Hague.

Mr. Ivetic said he would continue to challenge the judgment.

It was the latest in a flurry of decisions that have seized the tribunal as it prepares to close one of the most important cases in its history before wrapping up its work at the end of this year.

Anxious court officials see the alarm over Mr. Mladic's health as a ploy by the defense to avoid an almost certain guilty verdict, an event that would have dramatic consequences for the court and for the uncounted numbers of people who lost relatives, friends and homes in the military offensives that he led.

"There is nothing going on that is alarming right now, there is no peak of danger," Serge Brammertz, the tribunal chief prosecutor, said in a confident tone last week.

During his four-year trial, the prosecution portrayed Mr. Mladic, who led the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992-1995 war, as a merciless and fanatical commander, responsible for the destruction of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of captured Bosniak boys and men at Srebrenica.

They have asked for a life sentence.

Looming over the proceedings is the memory of the case of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, who died in his prison cell of a heart attack in 2006, close to the end of his lengthy trial.

After his death, there was much sparring between his supporters in Serbia and the tribunal over whether his death was avoidable. Mr. Milosevic had tried to go to Moscow for treatment for a heart condition and — court officials suspected — to abscond from The Hague.

A final internal review concluded that he had been given proper care, but had also ignored doctor's orders, often refusing to take blood pressure pills or taking unapproved medicines and alcohol brought by visitors. He had also refused to be hospitalized in the Netherlands for cardiac tests.

But Mr. Mladic has not resisted treatment and even thanked his caretakers a few years ago for saving his life after arriving in The Hague in 2011, as he put it, "with one foot in the grave."

Yet tension between Mr. Mladic's caretakers and his lawyers have grown this year after he was rushed to a hospital for an undisclosed crisis in March.

Asked what Russian or Serbian doctors could do for Mr. Mladic that Dutch doctors could not, Mr. Ivetic said suspicions grew when the defense could not obtain Mr. Mladic's full records, test results or medical imagery to evaluate his condition.

Dr. Paulus Falke, the chief medical officer at the prison, has repeatedly said that Mr. Mladic's ailments were treated in keeping with Dutch protocols.

For now, Mr. Mladic appears largely shielded from outsiders, except for his family. He is withdrawn and rarely mingles with other detainees. He has asked to see a Russian Orthodox priest, Mr. Ivetic said, but has not yet been offered a meeting.

Serbian Security Service 'Deployed Arkan's Paramilitaries'
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
November 17, 2017

Jovica Stanisic's defence on Thursday challenged prosecution expert witness Christian Axboe Nielsen's claim at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague that the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, had power over paramilitary forces led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan.

Nielsen confirmed that he had not found direct evidence about the direct connection in numerous documents issued by the Serbian SDB, which he had analysed.

But he maintained that, according to other documents from 1995, SDB chief Stanisic could make decisions on the deployment of Raznatovic's unit, the Serbian Voluntary Guard, also known as Arkan's Tigers.

Stanisic is being retried along with Simatovic for alleged wartime crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, Raznatovic's paramilitaries, as one of the units of the Serbian SDB, committed crimes in several places in Croatia and Bosnia, including Eastern Slavonia and Zvornik.

During cross-examination, Stanisic's defence lawyer Wayne Jordash asked Nielsen if he had found proof of "Raznatovic's connection with Stanisic in 1991" in the Serbian SDB's documents.

Nielsen said he had never claimed that Stanisic and Raznatovic were "directly connected" at that time, but the Serbian SDB's documents indicated that "the Service was aware that Raznatovic had organised the Serbian Voluntary Guard".

Stanisic's lawyer then suggested that the Serbian SDB's documents "contained no reliable evidence about the connection between the Service and Arkan in 1992 and 1993 or that the Service had influence and control over him".

"I agree with that," Nilsen said, but then emphasised that "by 1995 the connection between the Serbian SDB and Raznatovic had become obvious … as well as Stanisic's ability, not only to deploy the Serbian Voluntary Guard, as had been the case before … but also to offer its deployment".

As a proof of his claim, Nielsen cited a written record made by Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic during his meeting with Stanisic and Slobodan Milosevic concerning the engagement of units connected with the Serbian SDB to aid the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, a short-lived Bosniak rebel statelet.

In the note, which was made in April 1995, Mladic quoted Stanisic's words: "We have provided 80 people from Erdut and 80 from Djeletovci."

Nilsen explained on Wednesday in court that the Serbian Voluntary Guard's base was located in Erdut in Eastern Slavonia, while the Scorpions paramilitary unit's base was in Djeletovci in the same area.

Responding to a suggestion by the defence lawyer, Nilsen confirmed that it was the only document "directly linking Stanisic with the Scorpions".

Stanisic and Simatovic have been charged, among other things, with the shooting of six Bosniaks from Srebrenica near Trnovo in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995. The Scorpions, who shot the Bosniaks, were a Serbian SDB unit, according to the prosecutor's allegations.

Nielsen also testified on Tuesday that by the end of 1990, the Serbian SDB, with Slobodan Milosevic's approval, "took upon itself to help Serbs establish their self-proclaimed entities" in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

The Serbian SDB established the first "elite police forces" training camp in Golubic, near Knin, in 1991 and, soon after that, at other locations in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia itself.

Nielsen quoted documents on the establishment of the official Unit for Anti-Terrorist Action in 1993, which imply that Simatovic, under the pseudonym of 'Number One', was its commander.

According to Nielsen, the Serbian secret service's justification for its actions was to present them as a way to protect Serbs from "a horrible destiny if they remain stuck in the independent states of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina", and prevent them from becoming a "persecuted minority".

Stanisic, the former chief of the SDB, and his former assistant Franko Simatovic, are being retried for the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, Stanisic and Simatovic were part of a joint criminal enterprise led by former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to achieve Serb domination.

They both pleaded not guilty in December last year after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.

The appeals chamber ruled that there were serious legal and factual errors when Stanisic and Simatovic were initially acquitted of war crimes in 2013, and ordered the case to be retried and all the evidence and witnesses reheard in full by new judges.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

Ratko Mladic Convicted of Genocide, Jailed for Life
Balkan Insight

By Erna Mackic
November 22, 2017

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic guilty on Wednesday of genocide and crimes against humanity, convicting him of some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II and jailing him for life.

Mladic, 74, was convicted of genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, the persecution and extermination of Bosniaks and Croats across the country, terrorising the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniper attacks, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

But he was acquitted of committing genocide in six other Bosnian municipalities in 1992.

"The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind, and include genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity," said judge Alphons Orie as he announced the life sentence.

Mladic was removed from the courtroom at one point after he disrupted proceedings by shouting at the judges.

He became angry after they refused his defence lawyer's request to cut short the proceedings because of his high blood pressure.

Judge Orie said that after a marathon trial which lasted four years, Hague Tribunal prosecutors had proved that Mladic was involved in a joint criminal enterprise whose goal was to kill Bosniaks in Srebrenica in 1995.

Orie said that Bosnian Serb forces were given orders by the defendant who was in the field on July 11, 1995 when Serb troops and police overran the UN 'safe area' and subsequently killed more than Bosniak 7,000 men and boys.

"Mladic had effective control over both members of police and military who committed crimes. Without his actions the aim of the joint criminal enterprise would not have been achieved in the same way," the judge said.

Orie also highlighted Mladic's words to Bosniaks who met him in the days after Srebrenica was taken, when he said that Bosniaks could either "survive or disappear". According to the judge, statements like this showed his intent.

Former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic – who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity last year – gave an order to create "impossible living conditions" for Bosniaks in Srebrenica, then Mladic "implemented these orders", said Orie.

He explained that the campaign of massacres in was organised and systematic, as was the attempt by Mladic to hide the crime, by hiding the mass graves.

"The Bosnian Serb forces tried to hide the [Srebrenica] crime, by digging up and reburying Bosniak victims in mass graves," said the judge. "Their attempt... ultimately failed."

On the second genocide count - genocide in 1992 in six other Bosnian municipalities - Orie said that the court found that mass crimes did take place and there was "a plan to destroy" Bosniaks.

However, he added, the targeted group represented a "relatively small number of the protected group of Bosniaks in total".

During the siege of Sarajevo, Orie said the Bosnian Serb Army's Sarajevo Romanija-Corps "intended to spread terror among the population of Sarajevo".

"The city was indiscriminately attacked," he said.

The judges found that Mladic exercised "direct" control over members of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps who committed the atrocities.

Mladic also had the intent to persecute Bosniaks and Croats and create 'ethnically clean' territories, Orie said.

In relation to the accusation that Mladic was responsible for taking UN peacekeepers hostage, Orie said that there was a joint criminal enterprise to detain UN officials and hold them in specific areas to stop NATO attacking Bosnian Serb positions.

The court found that Mladic ordered his subordinates to hold the UN peacekeepers.

Sentencing Mladic to life in prison, Orie said that the defence had suggested that Mladic's "benevolent treatment" of some war victims, as well as his "good character and diminished mental capacity, poor physical health and advanced age" should be seen as mitigating factors.

However, Oric said, these factors "carry little or no weight" in determining the sentence.

Wednesday's first-instance verdict is not final and can be appealed, and Mladic's legal team has already announced that it will launch an appeal.

"We will certainly appeal and it will be successful," Mladic's lawyer Dragan Ivetic told media.

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Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Serbia Declares Mladic Aides' Indictment a State Secret
Balkan Insight

By Marija Ristic, Filip Rudic
November 13, 2017

The Serbian public prosecutor's office has rejected a request to provide BIRN with the indictment against 11 people who were tried for helping former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic to hide while he was on the run from an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

The prosecutor's office said that the indictment had been classified as confidential because releasing it could damage Serbia's reputation internationally.

"The First Basic Public Prosecution has the requested information which is labelled a state secret, as in the abovementioned case there is great danger to society due to criminal actions that may have as a consequence endangered the international reputation and status of the Republic of Serbia," it said in a written response to BIRN's request.

After Mladic's arrest in 2011, many former officials, including former President Boris Tadic, claimed that the former Bosnian Serb general had the active support of senior Serbian military and state security staff who often leaked information to him and his aides to help him dodge arrest. No charges have been raised in connection with these allegations.

BIRN has previously reported that the Serbian army and police systematically obstruct public access to information that could expose their officers' involvement in wrongdoing during the 1990s wars.

According to Serbian law, an indictment is a public document, but in some cases prosecutors redact some information in order to protect privacy.

However, to BIRN's knowledge, no indictments have ever been declared a state secret until now.

The director of the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, Milan Antonijevic, also said he could not recall any such incident.

"They can increase the secrecy level of certain parts of the document but… the document in its entirety cannot be declared a secret," Antonijevic told BIRN.

Lawyer Marina Kljaic, who follows war crime trials for the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, also said she had never heard of such a case.

Kljaic said that once an indictment is confirmed, there is no legal basis in the criminal procedure code for it to be declared a state secret.

The defendants in the trial, Marko Lugonja, Stanko Ristic, Ljiljana Vaskovic, Borislav Ivanovic, Predrag Ristic, Sasa Badnjar, Ratko Vucetic, Tatjana Janjusevic Vaskovic, Bojan Vaskovic and Blagoja Govedarica, were charged with hiding Mladic in an attempt to prevent his extradition to the UN court in The Hague.

In August this year, the Serbian Appeals Court acquitted all of them except Lugonja, who admitted his guilt and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Mladic - whose trial verdict is due to be pronounced in The Hague on November 22 - was on the run for 16 years, evading charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He was finally arrested in 2011 while hiding at a relative's house in the village of Lazarevo in Serbia.

He fled Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996 and it is believed he spent most of his time as a fugitive at various locations in Serbia.

From 1996 to 2003, when Serbian authorities adopted a law on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, Mladic had the support of Yugoslav Army personnel and a special unit of mainly Bosnian Serb army officers to assist him.

At that time, Mladic mostly lived in his apartment in Belgrade and was often seen in public.

At the end of 2002, when the UN court intensified its cooperation with the Serbian authorities, Mladic turned for help to his closest associates, including former Bosnian Serb intelligence chief Zdravko Tolimir, who was also wanted by the Hague Tribunal for genocide in Srebrenics.

Once Tolimir was arrested, Mladic relied on his family to help him evade capture. For most of that time, Mladic lived in various apartments in and around Belgrade.

Landmark Srebrenica Trial Starts Over in Serbia
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
November 14, 2017

Belgrade Special Court decided on Tuesday to restart the trial for the massacre of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the village of Kravica in 1995 from the beginning, rejecting the prosecution's argument that the proceedings should continue where they left off when they were suspended in July this year.

Defence lawyers for eight former members of a Bosnian Serb special police unit who are accused of the crimes argued that previously, the trial was being improperly held because Serbia had no war crimes prosecutor in place at the time.

Deputy war crimes prosecutor Mioljub Vitorovic unsuccessfully tried to challenge the defence lawyers' argument, saying it would lead to "further victimisation of witnesses and victims".

"This only causes a stall in the process," Vitorovic told the court.

But the judges decided in favour of the defence.

After these arguments, the deputy prosecutor again read all the charges against the eight former members of a Bosnian Serb special police unit who stand accused of organising and participating in the shooting of more than 1,300 Bosniak civilians in an agricultural warehouse in the village of Kravica near Srebrenica in July 1995.

Nedeljko Milidragovic, Aleksa Golijanin, Milivoje Batinica, Aleksandar Dacevic, Bora Miletic, Jovan Petrovic, Dragomir Parovic and Vidosav Vasic are accused of committing a war crime by killing Bosniak prisoners who were captured after Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces.

Their trial opened in February this year but the original charges were dismissed in July because they were not filed by the authorised prosecutor, as the Serbian war crimes prosecutor's position was vacant at the time.

The new war crimes prosecutor, Snezana Stanojkovic, then filed a motion to continue the trial, but this was rejected by the Higher Court.

The Higher Court, ruling however, was overturned by the Appeals Court in October, allowing the trial to continue.

The killings in the warehouse in Kravica were among several massacres by Bosnian Serb forces after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 that left some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys dead.

The Bosnian prosecution previously launched genocide indictments against Milidragovic and Golijanin, but couldn't arrest them because they have been living in Serbia since the war in Bosnia ended in 1995.

After Serbia and Bosnia signed a protocol on cooperation in war crimes in 2013, evidence from the Bosnian prosecution was transferred to Belgrade.

According to the charges filed by the Bosnian prosecution, Milidragovic, a former commander of a squad from the Bosnian Serb police special brigade's Jahorina Training Centre, and Golijanin, a former deputy commander of a Jahorina Training Centre squad, committed genocide against Bosniaks from Srebrenica between July 10 and July 19, 1995.

However, the Serbian prosecution said it couldn't prove the genocide charges laid by the Bosnian prosecutors and instead charged the men with committing a war crime.

Serbia does not accept that the Srebrenica massacres constituted genocide, despite rulings by international courts.

Serb Policeman Accused of Beating Kosovo Prisoners
Balkan Insight

By Bahrie Sadiku
November 15, 2017

Witness Sabit Hyseni testified at Vukotic's trial on Tuesday at Mitrovica Basic Court that he was badly beaten three times by the defendant after he was taken by Serb forces to Smrekonica prison together with other Kosovo Albanian civilians in 1999.

"When it was Zoran's shift, he beat us with a wooden stick; I'm surprised that it did not break," Hyseni said.

"He came with his car, turned the music on and started to beat us," he added.

As previous witnesses in the trial also testified, Hyseni explained how Vukotic selected prisoners with the same surname - brothers, fathers and sons - and made them beat each other up.

He also told the court that he saw Serb forces killing a young boy and an elderly man in a column of Kosovo Albanians who had been driven from their homes.

"As we were moving in the column there were shots. I just know there was a 12- or 13-year-boy killed," Hyseni said.

"An elderly man approached one of the police officers and said in Serbian: 'Why are you killing innocent children?' He [the policeman] trained his gun and killed this old man also," he added.

He also said he heard some Serb police talking about around 100 killings over a two-way radio used by one of the officers.

"I heard with my own ears in Serbian through a two-way radio: 'How many have you killed?' And that policeman responded in Serbian: 'About 100,'" the witness said.

Another witness, Shefqet Binaku, told the court that 940 civilians were taken to Smrekonica prison by Serb forces.

He said that through the prison window they could see the prisoners being beaten in a facility outside.

"I saw terror with my own eyes," he said.

Asked about how prisoners were treated by Vukotic, the witness replied: "When Zoki [Zoran Vukotic] came for his shift, the screaming and crying of prisoners was heard not only inside the prison but maybe even as far away as Vushtrri/Vucitrn."

According to the indictment, between May 2 and 3, 1999, in his capacity as a reserve police officer from the police station in Vushtrri/Vucitrn, and in co-perpetration with other members of Serb forces, Vukotic participated in an attack on Albanian civilians who were travelling in a column from the village of Upper Studime to Lower Studime near Vushtrri/Vucitrn.

Vukotic was extradited from Montenegro to Kosovo in November 2016.

Justice Hopes Fade for Victims of Devastated Vukovar
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic, Sven Milekic
November 17, 2017

To locate the remains of his father, who was taken from his home in the Croatian village of Sotin, near the town of Vukovar, and shot by Serb forces in 1991, Igor Matijasevic had to conduct his own private investigation.

Together with relatives of other victims from Sotin, he had meetings with witnesses and possible perpetrators – even sitting down with people who allegedly murdered his father.

"Our key goal was to find the mass grave through this process and we fulfilled that goal, as the mass grave with 13 bodies was located and exhumed," Matijasevic told BIRN, adding that more graves must exist since families are still looking for 12 more missing people.

Based on the findings of the investigation, a trial opened in Serbia in 2015 for the killing of 16 Croatian civilians in Sotin between October and December 1991.

Two members of the local Serb-led Territorial Defence force, Dragan Mitrovic and Zarko Milosevic, were sentenced to 15 and nine years in prison respectively, while three other defendants were acquitted. The case is now pending before the appeals court.

Sotin was a breakthrough case in the prosecution of crimes in Vukovar and the surrounding area, committed during and around the time the city was besieged and devastated before it fell to Serb forces.

"The whole story about Sotin was initiated and pushed by the families of the victims... If there was no effort on their behalf there would probably have been no trial," Veselinka Kastratovic from the Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek told BIRN.

Indeed, many war crimes related to the fall of Vukovar are likely to remain unpunished as the Serbian and Croatian judiciary have been demonstrating a lack of cooperation and efficiency, while Serbia lacks the political will to prosecute Serb suspects.

The destruction of Vukovar and the civilian death toll were not of interest to the Serbian prosecution, according to Marina Kljaic, a lawyer from the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre.

"The political will [in Serbia] is such that we are seeing more and more rehabilitations of convicted war criminals," Kljajic said.

At the same time, the bulk of the indictments raised by the Vukovar state attorney are for people who are no longer living in Croatia.

Officials sheltered from prosecution

Serbian war veteran Mile Milosevic recalls how he and other Yugoslav People's Army recruits were faced with death when they arrived to fight around Vukovar in September 1991.

"We faced that for the first time, before we'd only seen it in movies. Many were killed, wounded or have disappeared. So much property was destroyed," Milosevic told BIRN.

"The question arose, why did we do it, and who started it. Did it have to be that way?" he asked.

Vukovar, near the border between Serbia and Croatia, was the first city in Europe to be destroyed by fighting since the end of World War II.

In 1991, the Yugoslav People's Army and Serbian paramilitary units encircled the city following Croatia's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.

Some 7,000 missiles fell daily on the city throughout a three-month siege, which destroyed about 85 per cent of the buildings.

More than 3,000 people were killed, while thousands of non-Serbs were expelled. Over 260 people were killed in the crimes that are being processed by the Serbian judiciary.

In the area that used to be called Vukovar county, 42 mass graves have been exhumed so far, according to Croatia's Administration for Detained and Missing Persons. The remains of 1,826 people were exhumed from these graves, of whom 1,632 have been identified.

There are still 444 people considered missing in the same area.

"There were rumours, talk of crimes being committed... I'm in favour of holding everyone who committed them accountable," says Milosevic, who is the president of the Serbian War Veterans' Association, which claims around 60,000 members.

Veselinka Kastratovic monitored several cases at the Belgrade court for crimes committed in eastern Croatia between 2004 and 2014 - two trials for crimes committed in Ovcara, near Vukovar; in Sotin; in the village of Bapska and in the north-eastern region of Baranja.

"Regarding the prosecution of these cases, we're talking about indictments against people who were lower in the chain of command, members of the Territorial Defence [force]," Kastratovic told BIRN. She noted however that the trials were "fair and impartial".

Marina Kljaic of the Humanitarian Law Centre also said that the Serbian authorities are mostly prosecuting only soldiers of low rank – a recurring problem in all war crimes trials in Serbia.

"Domestic courts are refusing to apply [the principle of] command responsibility. The prosecutor's office... claims that it can't be done because national legislation didn't have this legal doctrine at the time the acts were committed," says Kljaic.

She told BIRN that Serbian courts have legal grounds to apply international law directly in order to charge high-ranking officers, but have never done so.

The highest-ranking officers to be convicted of crimes related to Vukovar are the former Yugoslav People's Army officers Veselin Sljivancanin and Mile Mrksic, who received ten- and 20-year sentences for the killings in Ovcara.

However, they were not tried before local courts, but at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The attitude of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's Progressive Party towards Sljivancanin, who was released from prison in 2011, is friendly – he is a frequent guest at events organised by the Progressives.

The massacre at Ovcara, where 200 prisoners were tortured and killed in November 1991, remains the biggest individual case for Vukovar-related crimes to be prosecuted in a Serbian court.

Serbia has been prosecuting a total of 17 low-ranking soldiers and one woman for the Ovcara massacre since 2003, and the trial is still ongoing.

The accused, most of them members of the Territorial Defence force, were convicted in 2005, but the verdict was overturned by the appeals court, which ordered a retrial.

A new verdict, handed down in 2009, is still being appealed, because the Serbian court says it is waiting for the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals to send it transcripts from the questioning of a witness who testified about Ovcara in the trial of Sljivancanin. The Hague court's prosecutor's office has rejected the request, saying that the transcript is a confidential document.

Questionable charges, lack of cooperation

Another issue is the small number of charges being raised by the war crimes prosecutor in Serbia.

The Serbian prosecution has initiated 11 trials for seven separate incidents connected to the fall of Vukovar. The prosecutor charged 41 people, 23 of whom have been convicted so far.

"Unfortunately that is all that has been processed before local courts," said Kljaic.

The Vukovar state attorney's office initiated criminal proceedings for 291 alleged perpetrators, filing indictments against 232 of them. In total, 85 people have been convicted, while cases against 53 more are still pending.

However, the state attorney filed the bulk of these indictments against people who were no longer living in the country, which means that they are unavailable to the judiciary.

"These indictments were of somewhat questionable quality," said Kastratovic.

She pointed out that the state attorney's office in Vukovar filed an indictment against Yugoslav People's Army general and Defence Minister Veljko Kadijevic in 2003, which was "even missing the date on which the crime at Ovcara was committed".

In another indictment, the state attorney's office confused events that took place at Velepromet – an area of Vukovar where crimes were committed – with events at Ovcara, Kastratovic added.

"They even misspelled names of four victims of the Ovcara crime. It's all highly embarrassing," she said.

Although the state attorney has prosecuted a lot of war crimes committed in eastern Croatia, some major crimes, like the ones committed in the villages of Bogdanovci and Petrovci, remain without an indictment.

"We always asked the state attorney's office, 'If you know that the perpetrators are in Serbia, why don't you give the case to the Serbian prosecution?'" Kastratovic said.

She explained that the Croatian state attorney also tried to prosecute the Sotin case on its own, without cooperating with Serbia, and made "a poor job" of it.

In the indictment, the state attorney's office included "only crimes that happened during two days in October, although [crimes] took place for two and half months", she added.

"The indictment for Sotin which was filed in Croatia was done clumsily, it was incorrect, misspelling people's names… it was a catastrophe," Igor Matijasevic agreed.

While Kastratovic believes that the cooperation on war crimes prosecution between Croatia and Serbia has gone well for the most part, Matijasevic has a much more pessimistic view.

"It's a catastrophe; there is no cooperation at all," he said.

Matijasevic explained that there is someone from Serbia knows the location of a mass grave from one of the killings, but he was not able to come to Sotin and show where the bodies were buried.

Matijasevic said that while Serbia did its part, questioning him and gathering documentation, Croatian institutions failed to arrange his arrival and safe return to Serbia.

'Criminals should be purged'

Matijasevic claimed that Serbian and Croatian institutions have no interest in prosecuting the crimes committed and finding the remaining missing persons from the Vukovar area.

He argued that witnesses who wanted to reveal the location of mass graves have already done so.

"Now the rest can only be done through these war crime trials and cooperation between the two states," Matijasevic said.

Mile Milosevic also argued that the prosecution of those who were responsible for crimes is necessary to achieve reconciliation between the two nations.

"Both societies have to distance themselves from and to purge themselves of those criminals, so they are not around anymore. [Their presence] encourages other war crimes that will happen in 20, 30 or 50 years," he said.

Milosevic explained how veterans' associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia tried to organise a public display of reconciliation, which he claimed would have been the first such event in the world.

"We saw the death of our friends, and we know war for the evil that it is. And we said, 'It has happened, many people have done bad things and let them be held to account.' But let us create some sort of reconciliation so that this evil never happens again," he recalled.

But after they started planning a year and a half ago, politics then got involved, he continued. First the media shut the veterans off, then pro-government veterans' associations attacked the idea.

"In Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, governments have their own [veterans'] associations that receive huge money to do nothing, they don't care about veterans but start barking when called upon," he said.

Those associations labelled him a "traitor", he alleged.

He said that politicians sabotaged the veterans' effort because they need to employ warmongering rhetoric to win support in their election campaigns, as they are unable to resolve economic problems.

The veterans called off the planned reconciliation event earlier this year.

"I am so sorry that it didn't happen, when we were so close," Milosevic said.

"It would have been a historic thing. We would have forced the politicians to follow suit."

War Rape Victim Sues Croatian Ministry
Balkan Insight

By Sven Milekic
November 20, 2017

The plaintiff, identified only by the initials M. K., will face the Croatian War Veterans Ministry before the Zagreb administrative court in December to challenge the ministry's decision to deny her the status of a wartime victim of sexual violence.

M.K., who now lives abroad, was one of the witnesses who testified via video link at a war crimes trial before Split county court against former Croatian military policeman accused torture, rape and beatings at Kuline military prison in the Croatian town of Sibenik in 1993.

During the trial, M.K. testified that she was brought to the prison as a civilian and raped ten times.

In March, the court sentenced the former warden of the Kuline prison, 61-year-old Damir Borsic, and former military policeman and prison guard Miroslav Perisa, 53, to two years in prison each.

M.K. applied in 2016 for a status of a victim of wartime sexual violence, which according to legislation passed in 2015, provides victims with medical and legal aid as well as financial compensation from the state – up to 20,000 euros.

The status does not depend on victim having a verdict that proves the sexual violence, but it excludes the need for testifying before a committee made up of lawyers, judges, psychiatrists and doctors.

However, on February 28, after revaluating M.K.'s case – with Split court verdict still not passed – the ministry denied her the status.

"The Committee for Victims of Sexual Violence has not found allegations of the indictment in relation to sexual assault as persuasive, and concluded that the named person was not a victim of sexual violence in the Homeland War [the official term used for the 1990s war]," the court.

Since according to the law, there is no possibility of an appeal against the ministry's decision, M.K. launched a case at Zagreb administrative court.

Up until December 31, 2016, the ministry had received 185 claims for victim status.

Of these, the committee gave its opinion on 160 cases, and based on that, the ministry gave 108 positive and 48 negative decisions, while in four cases it made no decision.

At the trial in Split, M.K. testified that the defendants used to come to her cell during the night.

"They entered the cell, the light having been put out. [Defendant] Perisa beat me with a baton, put a gun in my mouth and a knife to my neck. At night they would come for me in the cell and lead me into the room across the hall. They would turn out the light, strip me naked. They were silent and raped me on the floor or on a chair," she testified.

"I couldn't cry because I had no tears, but everyone in the prison could hear me," she added.

Yugoslav Troops Accused of Killing Croatian Villagers
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
November 21, 2017

Serbia's Humanitarian Law Centre NGO on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint against six identified and several unknown members of the Yugoslav People's Army and the Territorial Defence force, accusing them of killing 48 Croatian civilians in the villages of Skabrnja and Nadin in 1991.

According to the charges, Yugoslav People's Army and the Territorial Defence fighters entered the southern Croatian village of Skabrnja in the Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina, a self-proclaimed wartime statelet, on November 18, 1991.

The complaint, submitted to the Serbian war crimes prosecutor's office, alleges that the troops demolished the Catholic Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then proceeded to kill 41 civillians. Seven more were killed the next day, in the nearby village of Nadin.

The war crimes prosecutor's office will now decide whether or not to press charges based on the complaint.

"The killings in both locations followed the same pattern – civilians found in homes were dragged out with curses and insults, while members of the Yugoslav People's Army and the Territorial Defence killed them at close range," the HLC said in a statement.

"Most of the victims were elderly, and 16 of them were women, one of whom was immobile," it added.

The HLC said that Milan Martic and Milan Babic, former interior minister and president of the Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina, have been convicted by the Hague Tribunal for the attacks on Skabrnja and Nadin.

However, no member of the Yugoslav People's Army or the Territorial Defence has ever been charged with the crimes in Serbia.

Former Serbian State Security chief Jovica Stanisic and his former deputy Franko Simatovic are also being retried before the Mechanism of International Criminal Tribunals for various alleged crimes including the attack on Skabrnja.

Their defence claims that the Yugoslav People's Army, led by then colonel Ratko Mladic, was responsible for the crimes committed during the attack.

The defence lawyer quoted what Mladic, who at the time was the commander of the Knin Corps of the Yugoslav People's Army, wrote in his notebook on November 17, 1991, one day before the attack on the Skabrnja.

One of the tasks mentioned by Mladic in his notebook was: "To move the armed battalion towards Skabrnja and Nadin, in order to wipe them out."

"Clean up the Nadin-Skabrnja area well," Mladic's directive to his forces said.

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Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Mass graves of no less than 400 victims found in Kirkuk: Governor
Iraqi News

By Nehal Mostafa
November 11, 2017

Several mass graves of hundreds of civilians executed by Islamic State were found in an old U.S.base, west of Kirkuk, an official said on Saturday.

"We are now standing at al-Bakara base, that was once a headquarter for U.S. troops before being a site for IS to carry out executions," Rakan Saeed, acting governor of Kirkuk, said in press remarks. "It's the brutality of terrorists who executed no less than 400 victims, some of whom in red suits while others in civilian clothes."

Saeed urged the Iraqi government and United Nations to check the mass graves and identify the victims.

In October, Iraqi troops ran into a mass grave, composed of relics of 50 army and police personnel in Hawija, southwestern Kirkuk. Paramilitary troops announced, earlier the month, running into ten mass graves containing relics of security personnel and civilians who were executed by IS.

Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights asked, in the same month, for international assistance regarding the handling of mass graves, capabilities and expertise in exhuming the relics, taking DNA samples and identifying victims families.

Operations were launched in late September to liberate Hawija, before Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced freeing the town in October.

Iraqi troops managed to retake several Islamic State strongholds including Mosul and Tal Afar in Nineveh, Hawija in Kirkuk and Annah and Qaim in Anbar.

Islamic State militant sentenced to death for smashing monuments in Mosul
Iraqi News

By Nehal Mostafa
November 13, 2017

The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad has sentenced an Islamic State member to death over taking part in several crimes including smashing and stealing of monuments in Mosul.

Abdul Sattar Bir Qadar, spokesperson for the High Judicial Council, said in a statement that the court sentenced the suspect to death "Over conviction for taking part in terrorist crimes including the smashing of monuments in Mosul ." He added that the suspect admitted to affiliation to the group's State of the North. "He took part in smashing and stealing of monuments from Mosul museum."

"The court found enough evidence and decreed the death sentence against the suspect in accordance with the fourth article of countering terrorism law," he said.

The group, which considered sculptures as symbols of infidelity, posted footage showing its members axing down priceless Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman artifacts, many of them two millennia old or older, drawing international condemnation. Reports later showed that some antiquities were sold out in online auctions.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared, in July, victory over IS militants who had held the second largest Iraqi city since 2014. More than 25000 militants were killed throughout the campaign, which started in October 2016.

In March, Iraqi troops took the museum back from the militants, leaving its collection in a sorry state.

Mosul museum, which was built in 1952, housed more than 2,000 artifacts. Officials gave conflicting accounts of how many militants were there when the group overran the city in 2014.  

Mass grave of 20 killed by Islamic State found in Salahuddin
Iraqi News

By Mohamed Mostafa
November 16, 2017

A mass grave of 20 people executed by Islamic State militants was discovered on Thursday in Salahuddin province, according to a security source.

Mawazin News quoted the source saying that a mass grave with the relics of 20 people was found in the town of Shirqat by a Popular Mobilization Force accompanied by a police intelligence officer, having received a report of its location.

Iraqi forces recaptured Shirqat in September. It was one of Islamic State's outstanding havens in Iraq. Iraqi troops are currently approaching the recapture of Islamic State's last stronghold in Iraq: Anbar's western city of Rawa.

Iraqi troops have regularly run into mass graves of civilians and security agents executed by Islamic State members for fleeing the group's havens or collaborating with security forces.

Iraq's war against the Islamic State displaced at least five million civilians and left thousands dead. The United Nations accuses IS of committing crimes that mount to war crimes.  

Crimes of the Caliphate: Iraqi Shepherd Bears Witness to ISIS Massacre
The New York Times

By Margaret Coker
November 17, 2017

A shepherd heard the gunshots and the screaming.

As Islamic State fighters executed at least 60 people at a remote military base in northern Iraq one day last year, he cowered in his home nearby, terrified. When it was safe to go out, he found piles of bodies; many of them he recognized as his neighbors. He buried them himself.

"They were slaughtering people for all kinds of reasons, those caught using the internet, those suspected of being witches," the shepherd, Saad al-Omar, said at the site of a mass grave here on Tuesday. "Here, I saw those victims, my neighbors. I saw bodies of mothers with their children. They had been shot. They had been burned. They were all dead."

That executions routinely took place in his hometown, Hawija, was well known, proudly publicized by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, during its two-and-a-half year rule in the town. But Mr. Omar's grisly knowledge represents something rare in the quest for justice — a witness who can lead the authorities to the bodies and identify many of them.

As Iraqi officials declared Friday that they had taken the last Iraqi town held by the Islamic State, reducing the group's self-declared caliphate to a tiny remnant on the Syrian side of the border, they are still trying to comprehend the scale of the group's horrors.

So far, they have found the sites of more than 70 mass graves, numbers that have overwhelmed the nation's police and forensics resources as well as the Iraqis' international partners helping to search for tens of thousands of missing people.

In September, the United Nations Security Council empowered a special adviser to help Iraq investigate potential war crimes, including mass killings, committed by Islamic State. The adviser's team will not arrive in Iraq until early 2018. Given the limited resources and costs of forensics, it is unclear how many mass graves could be properly exhumed, let alone how many — if any — suspects could face justice.

In Hawija, a small town in a flat, arid valley in southwestern Kirkuk Province, the head of civil defense, Col. Brahim Attiyah al-Jabbouri, said he fielded numerous, frantic requests each day from families searching for news of loved ones.

For him, the quest for answers is deeply personal.

Two of his cousins were detained by local Islamic State operatives and never seen again. One, a 45-year-old father of six, Nawaf al-Abdullah, had worked as an interpreter for American troops at the United States military base in Hawija. The Islamic State used the abandoned base, Forward Operating Base McHenry, as its execution site.

"Can you imagine a crueler fate?" asked Colonel Jabbouri. "To be murdered by your enemy at the place" where you once worked.

The United States established the base in 2003 to train local residents to fight against the Al Qaeda-led insurgency. American country music stars held concerts in Hawija to build morale.

By the time American forces withdrew in 2011, the jihadi organization was in tatters and Iraqis took over the Hawija compound.

In 2014, the Islamic State juggernaut swept across the dusty valley, overwhelming Hawija, the base and the surrounding farming villages.

Today, the gravel-and-sand terrain of the former base resembles a gruesome obstacle course, its pathways littered with human femurs and jawbones laced with broken teeth.

Among the Islamic State's first targets were men who had worked in local law enforcement or with the Americans. Mr. Abdullah had done both. His younger brother, Watban, 21, had worked for the police. So the entire Abdullah family came under suspicion, according to Mr. Abdullah's sister, Saida, who spoke by phone from a camp for internally displaced Iraqis about 70 miles east of Hawija.

That included Mr. Abdullah, his wife and six children, as well as Watban, a newlywed whose wife had recently given birth to a girl.

For more than a year, their families tried to keep a low profile, as it was deemed too dangerous for the brothers to try to escape by slipping through the Islamic State's well-manned checkpoints. "We were far away from anyplace safe," Saida al-Abdullah said. "We had no escape."

By late 2015, the Islamic State had made executions a routine event, according to the group's own propaganda videos. They were using the former base for their charnel house, in part because it offered a well-protected and remote space that would have hindered escape and prevented others from witnessing the activities there, Colonel Jabbouri said.

In January 2016, a group of Islamic State fighters drove into town, arrested Watban al-Abdullah and accused him of trying to sneak out of town, his sister said.

He disappeared in their custody, and the family had no way of knowing what had become of him.

Mr. Omar did. The 25-year-old shepherd lived on the outskirts of Hawija, near the former military base.

In February 2016, a couple of days after Watban al-Abdullah's arrest, Mr. Omar and his family heard the gunshots and screams emanating from inside the base.

Later that night, when the area appeared deserted, Mr. Omar climbed the earthen walls to see what had happened.

The scene surpassed his worst nightmares. Dozens of bodies, some clothed and some burned, lay scattered across the frigid ground in large sticky pools of blood. "The stench was unbearable," Mr. Omar recalled, his weathered face pulled into a grimace. "You can't imagine the feeling of seeing the bodies of children, of people that my family and I knew."

Mr. Omar felt outrage about the killings, as well as the indignity of the unburied bodies' likely desecration by wild dogs. He shook off his fear of being discovered by Islamic State and tried to do the decent thing for the victims.

By starlight, for several nights in a row, he dug several shallow pits and pulled, by his count, 60 bodies into a makeshift grave, including the body of Watban al-Abdullah, whom he recognized.

"Some of the bodies were burned," Mr. Omar said. "Some had been tortured. But I knew him."

Mr. Omar got word to the Abdullah family about what he had seen. The Islamic State, however, never confirmed what happened, Mr. Abdullah's wife and sister said.

That news prompted Watban al-Abdullah's older brother, Nawaf, to risk an escape from town.

His wife Naeema said that the last time she saw her husband was Feb. 10, 2016. She presumes that the Islamic State caught him. She has not heard from him since he left.

The next time that Islamic State fighters entered the base, it was clear that someone had trespassed.

They began a search for the culprit, and immediately went to Mr. Omar's family farm, the closest homestead to the base.

The Omars denied any knowledge of the burials, but the family knew Mr. Omar was no longer safe. He went into hiding. By April 2016, he and his family fled Hawija for good.

"I had to run away," he said. "I knew my fate would have been the same as theirs if I stayed."

Mr. Omar carried his secret with him, until last month, when Iraqi forces liberated Hawija. He returned soon after and tracked down Colonel Jabbouri to tell him what he knew.

After fierce fighting to retake the town, about 60 local Islamic State members are believed to be at large, said the regional head of intelligence, Capt. Maath al-Obeidi. One of them is the man suspected of ordering executions in Hawija, a local Iraqi named Abdel Nasser Ghazi al-Mousa, Captain Obeidi said.

"We are working to hunt him down," he said.

More than a month after its liberation, Hawija remains a ghost town. Whole neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, the commercial district torn apart by artillery fire. Most residents are waiting for local services to be restored before they leave their humanitarian aid camps and return.

The mass grave remains untouched, the countless sun-bleached bones scattered along the sand awaiting collection and identification.

Colonel Jabbouri said that although he was desperate for answers about what happened, he did not have the equipment or personnel needed for a thorough exhumation.

"I have dozens of people calling and writing to me on Facebook," he said, standing at the grave site. "Everyone wants answers. We are frantic. But without experts, there is no way to really know who is here."  

Suicide car bombing at north Iraq market kills 23
BBC News

November 21, 2017

At least 23 people have been killed and 60 others wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in Iraq, security sources say.

The blast ripped through a crowded fruit and vegetable market in the centre Tuz Khurmatu, about 160km (100 miles) north of Baghdad.

The sources said the number of dead was likely to rise because many of the wounded were in a critical condition.

No group said it was behind the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of previous bombings by so-called Islamic State.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday afternoon that he was on the verge of declaring a final military victory over the Sunni jihadist group, after pro-government forces retook the last town under its control last week.

But he warned political disagreements would allow IS to continue to launch attacks.

Tuz Khurmatu, which has a mixed ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, was the scene of deadly clashes last month when Iraqi pro-government forces retook it from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Mr Abadi ordered the military to capture disputed territory controlled by the Kurds since 2014 - when IS swept across northern Iraq - after the autonomous Kurdistan Region held a referendum on independence at the end of September.

Turkmen MP Niazi Maamar Oglu said Tuz Khurmatu had not seen an attack as deadly as Tuesday's "for years".

Salahuddin province security chief Mehdi Taqi told AFP news agency: "There are still some areas west of Tuz Khurmatu that serve as hideouts for IS and we will soon be carrying out operations to clean them up."

Iraqi forces arrest suicide bomber near Mosul market
Iraqi News

By Mohammed Ebraheem
November 22, 2017

Iraqi security forces on Wednesday arrested a suicide bomber who tried to blow himself up near a popular market in Mosul.

"The suicide bomber is affiliated with the Islamic State militant group," a security source told Baghdad News, adding that he was taken to a police station for interrogation.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi troops arrested the last Islamic State Wali (governor) in Mosul city along with his two brothers.

"Saleb al-Eslahi and his two brothers, Ahmed and Suleiman, were nabbed at a village in Mosul with fake IDs in their possession," semi-official newspaper al-Sabah quoted a police officer from Nineveh as saying.

"The trio was referred to the bodies concerned for interrogation," the officer added.

Despite declaring victory over Islamic State in Mosul, the group's former bastion in Iraq, observers say IS group is believed to constitute a security threat even after its defeat at its main havens across Iraqi provinces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared, in July, victory over IS militants who had held the second largest Iraqi city since 2014. More than 25,000 militants were killed throughout the campaign.

Government forces, backed by paramilitary troops and the US-led international coalition, have been fighting, since October 2016, the militant group, which declared a self-styled "caliphate" from Mosul in June 2014.

The war against IS has so far displaced at least five million people. Thousands others fled towards neighboring countries including Syria, Turkey and other European countries, since IS emerged to proclaim its self-styled "caliphate".  

Another mass grave found at a road southeast of Kirkuk
Iraqi News

By Mohamed Mostafa
November 22, 2017

Another mass grave containing the relics of people executed by the Islamic State militants was found Wednesday in Kirkuk, a local source was quoted saying.

Alsumaria News quoted the source saying that a security force found a mass grave containing the relics of tens of civilians at Laylan's "international road" southeast of the city of Kirkuk.

"A government committee of Kirkuk's administration and human rights representatives will visit the grave," the source said, adding that the grave is very big and that related details will be released after it is officially opened up.

On Tuesday, news reports quoted security officials saying that a mass grave was found inside oil wells near Kirkuk.

As Iraqi troops recaptured areas held by Islamic State militants since October 2016, they have regularly run into mass graves of civilians and security agents executed by militants for fleeing the group's havens or collaborating with security forces.

Iraq's war against the Islamic State displaced at least five million civilians and left thousands dead. The United Nations accuses IS of committing deeds that mount to war crimes.

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Assad Regime's starve or surrender strategy 'a crime against humanity'
The Guardian

By Kareem Shaheen
November 12, 2017

Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in Syria have committed crimes against humanity through their "starve or surrender" strategy and sieges that have devastated areas controlled by the opposition, a report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International has concluded.

The report, to be released on Monday, examines four "reconciliation" deals between the Assad regime and the opposition in Aleppo, Homs and Darayya as well as an agreement that included four besieged towns, two by the government and two by the rebels, and which led to the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians after years-long sieges and indiscriminate bombardment.

While the report concludes that all sides in the conflict had violated international law, it says the regime's strategy of systematically preventing crucial food and medicine supplies from entering civilian areas while mounting bombing campaigns amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"In essence, the deals have enabled the government to reclaim control of territory by first starving and then removing inhabitants who rejected its rule," the report says.

More than 500,000 people are still believed to be trapped in besieged areas in Syria. Their plight was brought into sharp focus last month when images of a starving baby in the opposition-controlled eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus, surfaced. Her mother was unable to feed her because the lack of food meant she was too weak to breastfeed. The baby died.

A leading United Nations official said on Thursday that eastern Ghouta's 400,000 residents were on the verge of a "complete catastrophe" resulting from a block on aid deliveries. "I feel as if we are now returning to some of the bleakest days of this conflict again," said Jan Egeland, a senior adviser to the UN's Syria envoy.

The Amnesty report examined the sieges and evacuation deals in the city of Darayya near Damascus, in Aleppo, the al-Waer district of Homs, and the towns of Madaya, Zabadani, Kefraya and Foua, all of which were concluded between August 2016 and March 2017. It conducted interviews with 134 people including displaced residents, UN officials and humanitarian workers.

The report found that the government restricted indispensable humanitarian and medical aid while simultaneously carrying out attacks on civilians, hospitals, markets and homes, violations that amount to war crimes. It also said the sieges, unlawful killings and forced displacement constituted a "systematic as well as widespread" attack on the civilian population, a crime against humanity.

It accused rebels who besieged Foua and Kefraya of blocking aid and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, attacks that also amounted to war crimes.

The Syrian government has described many of the controversial agreements to evacuate civilians in besieged rebel-held areas as reconciliation deals. While humanitarian officials acknowledge that the evacuations do save lives that are at risk if the fighting continues, few believe that those leaving have any choice, often facing the risk of extrajudicial punishment, drafting into the military, or other retribution for having remained in opposition-held areas.

In many cases, civilians living under siege have reported that they have resorted to eating grass or boiled water with spices while awaiting aid deliveries from UN warehouses just a few miles away that are prevented by government blockades from reaching people in need.

One civilian quoted in the report described life in besieged Darayya as being in "Stone Age-like conditions." Satellite imagery has confirmed that forces loyal to Assad had burned surrounding agricultural fields.

Separately, the ongoing siege in eastern Ghouta, which has lasted several years but was tightened after a government offensive in April, has left civilians with little food or medical supplies.

A kilogram of rice costs approximately US$12 while the price of sugar is the equivalent of about $27, mostly due to the siege but also because of predatory pricing by local merchants, placing basic staples out of the reach of starving citizens. Residents say baby milk and even painkillers are unavailable and few have electricity because it costs too much to buy diesel oil.

Raed Srewel, an activist in the city of Douma, said expectant mothers were underfed, leading to a greater prevalence of heart conditions in infants as well as infections such as meningitis.

Eastern Ghouta is one of several "de-escalation" zones created under a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey to reduce the violence in Syria. But the government has continued to impose a siege on the area and there have been airstrikes in recent days.

"There is great hunger among the people," Srewel said. "It's a common sight now to see women standing around garbage heaps with the hope that they will find something there to eat. Children go to school in the morning with nothing in their mouths and can barely concentrate in classes. The basic pillars of life are absent here."

Former Syrian prisoners are firing back at the Assad regime
The National

By David Crossland
November 16, 2017

Yazan Awad, an engineering student, was 24 when he was imprisoned in a Syrian jail in November 2011 for taking part in more than 100 protests against the regime in Damascus and helping fellow activists who had been forced out of the country. Guards broke his jaw in a beating as soon as he arrived to the prison. He received no medical attention, and other inmates had to pre-chew his food for him.

For 137 days he was held in various prisons belonging to Air Force Intelligence Directorate, regarded as the most brutal of Syria's four intelligence agencies. He was beaten with cables and with wooden poles that had nails embedded in them.

His wounds turned septic but, again, he received no medical care. He was given electric shocks and hung from the ceiling by his wrists which were tied behind his back — a technique which puts massive strain on the shoulders. On some days he was tortured for up to 10 hours.

The 36th day was the worst when he was repeatedly sexually assaulted with the barrel of a rifle, causing such damage that he ate only small amounts of food on alternate weeks because using the toilet was so painful.

Yazan believes his unshakeable insistence that he had no information about other activists saved his life, along with testimony from fellow activists who denied any knowledge of him — and the large bribe his family paid to secure his release.

"When I got out of jail I was so thin. I was about 32 kilos, and when I went in I was 109 kilos," Yazan told The National. Now 30, he is bespectacled, strongly built and speaks in a quiet, measured voice.

"My family wanted to send me out of the country but I didn't have the strength to walk. I couldn't even hold a spoon to eat and my mouth was always open because it was damaged from being hit."

"But my father is a dentist so he repaired my jaw," he added with a laugh.

Now, he wants justice and has testified with 13 former prisoners in two criminal complaints filed to the German Federal Public Prosecutor last week.

Compiled by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the complaints relate to crimes against humanity and war crimes by the government of president Bashar Al Assad.

They name high-ranking officials, including National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk, Air Force Intelligence Directorate chief Jamil Hassan, defence minister Fahd Jasim Al Furayi and military prosecutor Mohammed Hassan Kenjo

"What has happened in Syria is a case for humanity, not only for Syrians," said Yazan. "You too are related to our case because you are human."

It took two-and-a-half years for him to recover physically and mentally from his ordeal.

"The first year I was always dreaming that they are coming to take me again, and the screaming of my friends was always on my mind," he said. His parents also sought help for him from seven psychologists.

A year after his release, he fled to Egypt with his family but decided not to stay because he was unable to get a job or marry. He moved on to Turkey, where he joined the multitude of refugees making the dangerous, illegal sea crossing to Europe in November 2015.

He now lives in Germany with his wife, a fellow refugee.

Germany, which has taken in more than 600,000 Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the conflict in spring 2011, is taking the lead in efforts to collate evidence and launch investigations that could one day trigger war crimes prosecutions against the Syrian leadership for the systematic torture and killing of civilian opponents.

"Almost everything happening in Syria is taking place systematically by hierarchical state organisations, especially the torture policy, which has been part of the DNA of the Assad regimes, both father and son, for decades," said Wolfgang Kaleck, a lawyer and co-founder of the ECCHR.

Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people have been executed in the notorious Saidnaya military prison outside Damascus and a further 18,000 have died in other prisons.

"All sides in the Syrian conflict have committed human rights abuses, but we believe the Syrian government is responsible for by far the biggest part of them," said Rene Wildangel, an Amnesty International expert for the Middle East. "Up to 75,000 people have disappeared in Syrian prisons with no access to families or lawyers or to the outside world.

"Most victims are members of the civilian Syrian opposition, convicted on the basis of forced confessions in front of military courts in a matter of minutes. Many experts describe the human rights abuses as the best documented crime since the end of the Second World War."

At present, war crimes trials against the leaders of the Syrian regime appear to be a distant prospect at best. But activists said the opening of formal legal proceedings was a crucial first step that could give comfort to the victims, highlight their suffering to Europeans opposed to taking in refugees, deter the perpetrators in Syria and eventually trigger prosecutions.

"When Spanish lawyers filed complaints against [Augusto] Pinochet they didn't foresee that he would be arrested while shopping in London three years later," said Mr Kaleck, referring to the former Chilean dictator detained under an international arrest warrant in 1998 for human rights violations.

Syria's leaders were dreaming of a future in comfort in Europe, said Syrian lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, who helped to compile the complaint.

"They think that after a political solution they will run away to Europe. They will not run to Iran or Russia because they don't like it there, they will run to Europe with the money they've stolen from the Syrians and come to live here as kings," he said. "But we are sending a message to them: there will be no safe place in the whole world that will accept you."

War crimes must be addressed in the forthcoming eighth round of Syrian peace talks due to open in Geneva on November 28, said Mr Al Bunni, who also spent time in a Syrian jail.

"Justice is like life. It is very important for rebuilding the peace in Syria. Without justice, people won't feel safe, they will feel they could be a victim at any time," he said.

So far though, all international efforts to launch prosecutions have failed. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague cannot act because Syria is a not signatory, and China and Russia have vetoed the UN's attempts to allow the ICC or a special tribunal to proceed.

That leaves Germany, which is rigorously applying the principle of universal jurisdiction that allows national prosecutors to pursue people accused of international crimes even if they were committed in another country and neither the accused nor the victims are German nationals.

Germany is one of only three European countries (with Sweden and Norway) applying universal jurisdiction over war crimes and was one of the first to incorporate universal jurisdiction — which is enshrined in the ICC's statute — into its own national criminal code in 2002. It set up a war crimes unit at the federal prosecutor's office in 2010 and opened up two general investigations into Syrian human rights abuses and ISIL in 2011.

The system works. Germany first applied the principle of universal jurisdiction in the trial of two Rwandan rebel leaders who were sentenced by a court in Stuttgart to long jail terms in 2015.

"There is no German interest, no German victim, this is for the Syrians, this is the first time we feel that somebody, some country, someone else respects our need for justice only because we are human," said Mazen Darwish, a Syrian human rights activist and journalist who was imprisoned in Syria.

"This means a lot. Somebody cares. And this makes a difference to each Syrian, especially those refugees in Germany. Again, Germany is taking the ethical leadership in justice after the ethical leadership in the refugee issue," he said.

He said the country's experience in dealing with its Nazi past helped explain the role it was taking now.

"They understand from their own history that you can't build a sustainable future without dealing with the past," said Mr Darwish.

The two complaints filed last week supplemented another one brought in March by Syrian survivors of torture living in Germany. The prosecutor's office has started interviewing witnesses.

In addition, in September, photos of thousands of victims in the so-called Caesar Report — taken by a photographer known only as Caesar whose job was photographing killed detainees for the Syrian military police — were submitted to the federal prosecutor, who has commissioned a forensic report on the images.

"This means Germany is playing a leading role in securing evidence and is ready to share this evidence with other European justice authorities and in the future with international tribunals. That's very important fundamental work for the future," said Mr Kaleck.

The plaintiffs are confident that their cases will soon be formally investigated. So far, German justice authorities have focused on indicting low-ranking former members not of the regime but of ISIL and Al Nusra in cases linked to terrorism offences. The federal prosecutor has launched proceedings against 28 people to date.

"We want cases to be directed against the most senior people responsible for the torture crimes," said Mr Kaleck. "We want Ali Mamlouk and Jamil Hassan to be on the cover of those files in future."

Yazan, the torture victim now living in Germany, says he wants to return to rebuild his homeland one day. He has forgiven the men who tortured him.

"They are tools for the regime, so I don't care about them. I care for Jamil Hassan and Bashar Al Assad. I believe in justice and that it will happen in the end but it needs time. I am speaking out to make it happen faster."

Syria: at least 14 civilians killed in air strikes by government forces
The Guardian

By Agence France-Presse
November 18, 2017

At least 14 civilians, including one young girl, were killed by Syrian regime bombardment of the rebel-held eastern Ghouta region near Damascus on Saturday.

Ten of the victims were killed by air strikes and another four died in rocket fire, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It added a further 40 people were wounded and the death toll was likely to rise.

At a medical centre near the town of Hazza, an AFP photographer saw wounded children and a child's body wrapped in plastic.

Saturday's government raids come after an attack on Tuesday by the Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham on a military base near the town of Harasta.

On Friday, regime bombardments killed at least 19 people, including six children, mostly in the city of Douma. The deaths came amid an escalation in tit-for-tat attacks between regime forces and rebels holding the enclave on the capital's eastern outskirts.

Retaliatory shelling of Damascus on Thursday and Friday by rebels killed nine people.

The official Sana news agency said on Saturday rebel shelling of the city killed one person and wounded 20.

Eastern Ghouta is supposed to be part of a "de-escalation zone" under a deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey aimed at reducing the level of violence.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have besieged eastern Ghouta since 2013, and humanitarian conditions in the area, where some 400,000 people live, are dire.

More than 330,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war, which began in 2011 as the regime brutally crushed anti-government protests. Millions have been displaced.

On the Universal Children's Day: No less than 26,446 Children Have been Killed in Syria since March 2011
Syrian Network for Human Rights

November 21, 2017

On the Universal Children's Day, SNHR has released its special annual report which is dedicated to documenting violations against children by the parties to the conflict in Syria. The report is entitled: "Children of Syria… The Glaring Letdown"

The report notes that Syria is the worst country in the world with respect to a range of violations against children, as the Syrian regime has been the party who is primarily responsible for these violations since 2011, despite the fact that the Syrian government had ratified the CRC (The Conventions on the Right of the Child)

According to the report, children of Syria have suffered from cumulative ramifications that resulted from the daily bombardment and destruction as nearly 1,378 schools and kindergarten have been damaged, as the number of out-of-school children has exceeded 3.2 million children in Syria. The health sector was also affected as vaccination rates have dropped, and wide parts of the infrastructure has been destroyed, resulting in the spread of hepatitis, due to people resorting to drinking water from wells. Many neighborhoods have been destroyed almost completely, forcing the Syrian family to displace, whether inside Syria or abroad, as a new kind of suffering had surfaced – with 60% of refugee children denied education, and forced into labor.

The report adds that the UNHCR numbers suggest that 230,000 children at least have been born in refugee camps. Many of those children weren't able to acquire identification papers, as the huge challenges of fighting the phenomenon of the deprivation of nationality are significantly rising.

The report also stresses that the United Nations Secretary General's report on children and armed conflicts, published on August 24, 2017, didn't accurately reflect the catastrophic reality of Syria.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:

"The Syrian regime didn't uphold its responsibilities with respect to the UNCRC, as the regime violated those rights heavily and ceaselessly. The 192 states that ratified the Convention, on the other hand, have failed to take action to deter the Syrian regime. All of us need to come together to stop a regime that perpetrated crimes against humanity against children from escaping justice, and to contribute seriously and quickly to holding those who were responsible for this accountable, for there is no justice without accountability."

The report sheds light on the violations by the parties to the conflict in Syria against children between March 2011 and November 20, 2017, and highlights the most notable of these violations.

The report draws upon the ongoing monitoring of incidents and news by SNHR team who collect and verify these news, as well as evidences and statements, in addition to analyzing videos and pictures that were posted online, or sent to SNHR by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media. Some of these videos show wounded and dead children, where some of those died under rubble, while other videos show children who starved to death or died of diseases in Eastern Ghouta.

The report documents the killing of 21,631 children by Syrian regime forces since March 2011, including 186 children who suffocated to death in chemical attacks, and 209 children who were killed in attacks by the Syrian regime that involved the use of cluster munitions or were killed in explosions of old cluster remnants. Additionally, the report records that no less than 289 children have died as a result of the siege imposed by Syrian regime forces.

No less than 12,007 children have been arrested by Syrian regime forces. Of those, 3,007 are still under arrest, at the time of this writing, as most of the recorded arrest cases, the report notes, qualify as enforced-disappearance cases.

According to the report, no less than 1,123 children and 24 kindergartens have been damaged in indiscriminate or deliberate bombardments by Syrian regime forces.

The report notes that Russian forces have killed no less than 1,529 children since September 30, 2015, including 32 children who were killed in 217 cluster attacks by Russian forces. The report adds that no less than 144 schools have been damaged in Russian attacks, while tens of thousands of children have been displaced.

The report also sheds light on the violations by the Kurdish Self-Management forces in their areas of control, such as extrajudicial killing and conscription. The report notes that 127 were killed by Self-Management forces, while 503 children are still under arrest or forcibly-disappeared at the Kurdish Self-Management forces detention centers.

The report stresses that 711 children were killed in indiscriminate shelling by ISIS, during clashes, or as a result of the executions that were carried out by ISIS. The report also notes that ISIS practiced other types of violations such as trafficking and selling children, as well as rape by the way of forced marriage, in addition to recruiting children in what is called "Cubs Camps" and, in other cases, through using them as human shields. The number of children who were arrested by ISIS is no less than 386 children according to the report.

In addition, the report notes that Hay'at Tahrir al Sham has killed 88 children and arrested no less than 25 others.

According to the report, international coalition forces have killed 723 children since their attacks started in Syria on September 23, 2014, while 23 schools were damaged in their attacks.

Furthermore, the report records that factions from the armed opposition have killed 936 children – mostly in indiscriminate shelling operations by forces from the opposition who target Syrian regime-held areas. Additionally, 305 children were arrested by factions from the armed opposition, while the report stresses that children were used in some of the military activities. Also, 23 schools and one kindergarten were damaged in attacks by armed opposition factions.

The report records that 701 children have been killed since March 2011 by other parties, while 19 schools and two kindergartens were damaged by unidentified parties as well.

The report stresses that government forces and its pro-government militias have perpetrated acts that qualify as crimes against humanity against the children of Syria through systematic, widespread killing, as well as torture, and sexual violence in a manner that explicitly violates Article 7 of Rome Statute, while these forces committed other acts that amount to war crimes through conscription, starvation, and besieging entire populations, including women and children, which constitute a blatant violation to the international humanitarian law and the relevant Security Council Resolutions.

The report adds that Russian forces concentrated their bombardments on populated areas and facilities, resulting the death of tens of Syrian children. All of these indiscriminate attacks constitute war crimes. Furthermore, the report sheds light on the Self-Management forces' practices that constitute war crimes, as these forces carried out indiscriminate shelling operations that resulted in the killing of a number of children and practiced conscription.

According to the report, extremist Islamic groups have recruited hundreds of children who are younger than 15 of age, and practiced torture against detained children inside their detention centers, in addition to the indiscriminate shelling operations that resulted in the killing of many children. All of this constitute war crimes.

The report stresses that different factions from the armed opposition have recruited tens of children, while the indiscriminate shelling by some of the armed opposition factions have resulted in the killing of number of children, which constitute war crimes.

The report emphasizes that attacks by international coalition forces have resulted in losses that involved loss of lives-including children- injuries, and major damages to civilian objects. There are strong indicators suggesting that the damage was too excessive in relation to the anticipated military benefit.

The report calls on the international community to protect and assist the children who were forcibly displaced, IDPs and refugees, especially girls who need particular and special care with respect to protecting them in particular. The report adds that the international community should uphold its obligations with respect to the CRC, and take serious steps to take down the Syrian regime, expose its practices, and put an end to them as soon as possible. Also, the report calls for supporting the accountability efforts in Syria – most notably the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism that was established by the UN General Assembly, the Commission of Inquiry that was established by the Human Rights Council, and the active national human rights organizations. The report also calls for exposing the states that are trying to rehabilitate and support the perpetrators of crimes against humanity against the children in Syria.

The report stresses that all possible legal, political, and financial measures should be taken against the Syrian regime and its allies as well as against all perpetrators of violations in the armed conflict to apply pressure in order to compel them to respect children's rights. Also, the report calls for respecting the pledges of financial donations that have been made, in addition to delivering aids to the besieged children and forcing the Syrian regime, first and foremost, to lift the siege, instead of resorting to dropping aids from the air. In addition, all possible efforts should be made to help and support the neighboring countries to improve education and health services in these countries that have taken the majority of the children refugees.

The report also calls for finding mechanisms that aim to end the shelling on schools and protect them, and working on creating and sustaining a safe learning environment, which is the least that can be done to protect civilians. The report considers the issue of the children of Syria an international concern, as all states should take action to ease its ramifications through supporting schools and the educational and medical processes inside Syria and for children refugees.

The report recommends that aid efforts should be coordinated according to the most-affected areas. The pressure and blackmailing by the Syrian regime for the sake of redirecting the flow of aids to its favor should be ignored, while sufficient resources should be devoted to rehabilitate children while taking into consideration the special case of girls that have been directly affected by violations, and those who have fallen victim of sexual exploit.

The report stresses that the refugees coming out of Syria should be able to seek asylum and their rights should be respected, including non-refoulement. The states of the European Union and other countries should ease the load on the neighboring countries by taking in more Syrian refugees. Also, the report calls on the donor states to improve their support for the UNHCR and the local community organizations in states of refuge.

The report calls on the UNHCR to create a stable, safe environment for children refugees and focus more on reintegrating them within their communities through long-term psychological support, and enhance the investment in education and health.

The report emphasizes that the Syrian regime should uphold its obligations with respect to the CRC, the two Covenants (ICCPR & ICESCR), and Geneva Agreements. In addition, the parties to the conflict should cease the deliberate targeting of schools and kindergartens, as well as residential areas, where children and their families live, and cease the killing and disfigurement of children, in addition to immediately releasing all detained children – especially who were detained in the context of the armed conflict. The report also calls on the parties to the conflict to respect the international laws on detaining children, particularly girls.

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Yemen: More than 50,000 children expected to die of starvation and disease by the end of year
The Independent

By Lydia Smith
November 15, 2017

More than 50,000 children in Yemen are expected to die by the end of the year as a result of disease and starvation caused by the stalemated war in the country, Save the Children has warned.

Seven million people are on the brink of famine in the country, which is in the grips of the largest cholera outbreak in modern history.

An estimated 130 Yemeni children are dying every day and an estimated 400,000 children will need treatment for acute malnutrition this year, the charity said.

"These deaths are as senseless as they are preventable," said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's country director for Yemen.

"They mean more than a hundred mothers grieving for the death of a child, day after day."

Eighteen-month-old Nadhira from the Bani Qais district of Hajja, northern Yemen, is suffering from severe acute malnutrition and respiratory diseases.

Her mother saved the family's income for three days to afford to take her to Hajja city for treatment, but her condition deteriorated once again after they were left unable to afford the medicine.

"I worry about my family's food and medicine when they get sick. I want my daughter to live: she's my biggest concern now. I wish my daughter recovers from her sickness soon," her mother Shaika said.

The charity has warned the death toll as a result of starvation and disease could be even higher, as the calculations were made before Saudi Arabia tightened a blockade on rebel-held parts of the country in response to a missile fired from rebel territory towards Riyadh international airport this month.

The blockade has closed the major entry ports of Hodeidah and Saleef, as well as the airport in the capital Sanaa, which has severely hindered the access of food and aid.

Already soaring prices of food and fuel have spiralled in just a few days, further eroding the limited capability of humanitarian organisations to deliver aid.

"Our staff cannot reach communities to provide life-saving care and much-needed supplies and relief workers cannot enter the country," Mr Kirolos said.

"Essential medicines, fuel and food stocks could start running out in a matter of weeks. It's utterly unacceptable to let children die of neglect and a lack of political will.

"Unless the blockade is lifted immediately more children will die."

Saudi Arabia Faces Pressure To End Blockade As Crisis Worsens In Yemen

By Samantha Raphelson
November 17, 2017

A Saudi-led blockade of Yemen continues to exacerbate a humanitarian crisis that aid groups are calling the most severe in decades.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia said it would start reopening some sea and airports, but aid workers are still reporting difficulty in providing food and medical supplies to nearly 20 million people who need help. Al Jazeera reports that the main entry point for aid, the Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah, remains closed.

Rasha Muhrez, director of operations for the aid group Save The Children in Yemen, tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson this is a "man made crisis."

"With this blockade it's very difficult to get supplies, and it's very difficult to deliver those supplies to the health facilities or the clinics to people in need mainly because also there is no fuel," she says. "If this blockade continues, then the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate, and unfortunately, we would be unable to save these people in need."

Saudi Arabia shut down land, air and sea routes into Yemen last week after its military shot down a ballistic missile aimed at an international airport in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The Saudi crown prince accused Iran of supplying the Houthi rebels — the Shiite militia that controls the capital and much of Yemen — with the missiles.

A proxy war between Sunni-controlled Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran has played out in Yemen since March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict between Yemen's exiled government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the war.

At least 7 million people are reportedly on the brink of famine as drinking water and food is in short supply due to the blockade. Muhrez says residents are relying on food rations from the World Food Program and other aid groups.

"WFP has supplies for the next six weeks or so," she says. "So if they are unable to bring additional supplies in country, they won't be able to feed the 7 million people who are already at a very critical stage, and most of them are malnourished."

The Yemeni medical system has also collapsed. The World Health Organization estimates at least 14 million people lack basic health care and an outbreak of cholera has spread to more than 900,000 suspected cases.

"We have made progress, and there have been fewer deaths from cholera in Yemen, but we will suffer a major setback if we don't have full access to all affected areas," WHO tweeted last week.

Cholera is treatable, but also preventable if people have access to clean drinking water, Muhrez says.

"We see these these vulnerable kids lying on beds and with IV fluids in their arms and getting treatment from cholera, which is completely unnecessary," she says. "It shouldn't have happened."

Muhrez explains that cholera spread so rapidly because clean water has been out of reach due to rising prices, lack of fuel to deliver it and now, the blockade.

Drinking water "prices increased more than 400 percent in some places," she says. "If you want to buy a glass of water, you have to pay a couple of thousands of Yemeni rial. And this is like the money that a family could live on for a day."

The U.S. is also facing criticism for providing support to the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. This week, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy called on the Senate to follow the House of Representatives, which passed a resolution on Monday that says the U.S. military is not authorized to assist Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

The House concluded that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, does not permit the U.S. to fight the Houthis in Yemen.

"This horror is caused in part by our decision to facilitate a bombing campaign that is murdering children," Murphy said, "and to endorse a Saudi strategy inside Yemen that is deliberately using disease and starvation and the withdrawal of humanitarian support as a tactic."

The war in Yemen is driven by 32-year-old Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched an aggressive anti-Iran campaign after he became first-in-line to the throne January 2015.

"Peace is not an option in the case of Yemen — it's a must," Muhrez says. "And all parties in this conflict, they need to agree on a solution. It has to happen soon. It has to happen very soon."

Yemen is on the brink of a horrible famine. Here's how things got so bad.
The Washington Post

By Amanda Erickson
November 19, 2017

It's been called the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world": Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's population is food-insecure; millions are teetering on the edge of famine. The situation — described as critical for nearly two years — has grown even worse since early November, when Saudi Arabia enacted a near-complete blockade on its borders with Yemen, making it nearly impossible for anyone to import food, water and medical supplies from Saudi Arabia.

How did one of the poorest countries in the world get to that point? It's a complicated story, one that involves warring regional superpowers, terrorism, oil and an impending climate catastrophe.

But in some ways, it's also a simple one. Lots of people outside of Yemen are fighting for control and influence. And lots of the people within the country are paying the price.

How did the current political crisis start?

Like many conflicts in the Middle East, Yemen's struggle started with the Arab Spring. In November 2011, after protests, the country's longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to hand power to his deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

At the time, Saleh's outster was seen as a victory for democracy. But over the next couple of years, Hadi struggled to lead effectively. The country was plagued with unemployment, food insecurity and corruption. Its people also faced attacks from the al-Qaeda affiliate based in Yemen. Hadi also struggled with a skeptical army (many top lieutenants had remained loyal to Saleh) and a separatist movement in the south.

The Houthi rebel group, which supports the country's Shiite minority, took advantage of Hadi's weaknesses. The group staged a coup, taking control of the country's north. Many Yemenis supported the Houthis, at least initially. They were frustrated by the government's weakness. When the Houthis decided to take control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, thousands of civilians pitched in, setting up street camps and roadblocks.

By February 2015, the Houthi controlled Sanaa, and Hadi had escaped to the port city of Aden.

How did Saudi Arabia get involved?

Yemen's northern neighbor watched warily as the Houthis took over. Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni, and it was leery of allowing a Shiite group to gain control of a border country, particularly one allied with its enemy Iran. Quickly, Saudi Arabia teamed up with eight other Sunni Arab states to try to beat the group back and restore Hadi to power. Over the next two years, the coalition launched an extensive airstrike campaign. Thousands of bombs have been dropped; many have hit and killed civilians. According to research, out of about 8,600 of those attacks, 3,577 hit military sites, and 1,510 struck residential areas, school buildings, hospitals and other civilian sites.

According to one report from the United Nations, at least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the violence; 40,000 more have been injured.

The airstrikes haven't resulted in much progress. Government forces were able to retake Aden, but only after a fierce, four-month battle that left hundreds dead. That victory gave the government a stronghold from which to take control of much of the south.

The Houthis still maintain control of much of the north. As the BBC explained, "Despite the air campaign and naval blockade continuing unabated, pro-government forces have been unable to dislodge the rebels from their northern strongholds, including Sanaa and its surrounding province."

Adding to the strife, al-Qaeda also controls some parts of Yemen, and the Islamic State is active there, targeting the government-controlled south.

What prompted the blockade?

In early November, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile near Riyadh, its capital. Officials allege the weapon was fired by the Houthis and that it was provided to them by Iran. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the launch a "direct military aggression" that could be "considered an act of war." In retaliation, Saudi Arabia sealed all entry via land, air and sea in an effort, it says, to prevent Iran from providing any more weapons to its rebels.

Why is it a blockade so dangerous in Yemen?

In addition to this political crisis, Yemen is facing an environmental catastrophe. Nearly 90 percent of the country is classified as arid or desert. Water is scarce — Yemen has one of the lowest rates of per-capita water availability in the world, about two percent of the global average. Rapid depletion of groundwater resources means the water table has dropped quickly. Droughts and desertification have made an already challenging agricultural scene nearly impossible. Much of the little usable agricultural land is used to grow qat, a cash crop and mild stimulant chewed by about 70 percent of Yemeni men.

Before the civil war broke out, Yemen imported nearly 90 percent of its food, mostly by sea. Seven million Yemeni people rely entirely on imported food. Because of the fighting, importing food has become much more difficult. Many shipping companies simply won't send supplies anymore. Even before the blockade, those who ship supplies could face massive delays and mandatory searches by coalition warships.

After an international outcry, the Saudis loosened the blockade on Yemeni ports — a bit. Saudi Arabia said it would allow aid to enter government-controlled ports in three cities. But aid groups and the United Nations say it's not nearly enough.

What kind of humanitarian toll could the blockade take?

According to the United Nations, Yemen is in urgent need of medicines, vaccines and food. The supplies "are essential to staving off disease and starvation," the organization said. "Without them, untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die." A joint statement from the heads of the World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization called the situation in Yemen "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."

They warn that 3.2 million people are at risk of famine, and 150,000 malnourished children could die in the next month. (Right now, according to Save the Children, 130 children are dying every day in Yemen.)

A least 17 million other people, including 11 million children, are in desperate need of humanitarian supplies. The shortage of medicine and clean water has also led to the spread of disease. The country is now in the throes of the fastest-growing cholera epidemic ever recorded. Nearly 900,000 people have been affected, according to U.N. figures.

Is peace possible?

Right now, it's hard to imagine. The United Nations has organized three rounds of peace talks. All have collapsed, spurring in an escalation in fighting and civilian casualties. Hadi's government is demanding that the rebels withdraw from all areas they control as a precondition for talks, making success unlikely.

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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

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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

Defense halts testimony of Special Tribunal Witness
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
November 9, 2017

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed Wednesday with a hearing to bring expert witness John Edward Philips to the stand. Philips testified on new prosecution evidence linking defendant Hassan Habib Merhi to a cellular device dubbed the "gray phone." The prosecution completed a near-200 page report on the device, submitting their evidence to the defense five days before Wednesday's hearing.

"We do not rest on our laurels once we get the indictment in, we keep going. Our primary role is to investigate, assess and if necessary disclose," opened Alexander Milne, senior trial counsel on the prosecution bench.

Following Milne's statement, defense counsel Dorothee Le Fraper du Hellen protested the move, detailing the reasons for her opposition for the remainder of the hearing.

"After four years of trial where we have been discussing the charges against Merhi, [and after] 10 years of investigation that took place before the trial commenced ... we believe what [the prosecution] is trying to do is modify the case in light of the [new] elements," Le Fraper du Hellen said.

She argued that the prosecution's decision to recall a witness was "unprecedented," stating that their request was "inappropriate" and failed to "satisfy the [necessary] criteria." The defense counsel asked the trial chamber to bar Philips from testifying on the new report.

Her submission was ultimately denied by the trial chamber, which gave its formal decision to allow Philips to enter the courtroom.

Immediately, the defense counsel applied to appeal the decision.

The delivery of Le Fraper du Hellen's opposition was met with irritation by President of the Trial Chamber Judge David Re, who frequently interrupted her.

Natalie von Wistinghausen, representing defendent Hussein Hassan Oneissi, interrupted the quarrel and urged Re to treat Le Fraper du Hellen with respect.

Despite Re's multiple attempts to invite Philips into the courtroom and begin testimony pending further decision, Le Fraper du Hellen repeated her objections.

"This is prejudicial to our case," she said after Re's final attempt before the hearing was adjourned. "Our initial request was to exclude his evidence and testimony and now you want to call him into the courtroom without having a ruling on the certification for the appeal."

Re ultimately conceded to agreeing to adjourn until Thursday.

Despite objections, STL chamber accepts Report, Phillips testifies
The Daily Star

By Finbar Anderson
November 10, 2017

A heated argument over the submission of a new report into evidence carried on into its second day Thursday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Defense counsel Dorothee Le Fraper du Hellen, whose client Hassan Merhi is one of four accused of complicity in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, had argued the previous day that the prosecution's report should not be tendered into evidence, nor should its author, John Edward Philips, be allowed to testify on its contents.

Philips' report had been commissioned after Le Fraper du Hellen's cross-examination of prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson, in which she cited a hitherto unmentioned "gray phone" as possible proof that another phone, dubbed the "purple phone," could not have been used by her client. The prosecution, therefore, asked Philips to produce a report linking the purple and gray phones to make the case that they were operated by a single user.

Le Fraper du Hellen objected, saying that the report was adding new material facts to the proceedings, which is not allowed at this stage. Trial Chamber President Judge David Re responded by noting that the report was "merely a piece of evidence confirming the existence of this number." Furthermore, as the defense itself had initially introduced the gray phone into proceedings, it could not argue that it was an entirely new number.

Le Fraper du Hellen, who said that the inclusion of the report would "seriously damage the integrity of the proceedings," also objected on the grounds that the prosecution should technically not present a rebuttal case until after the conclusion of the defense case, which has not yet begun. Re nevertheless rejected her application to appeal the submission of the report.

Once Philips was allowed to take the witness stand, prosecution counsel Marc Desalliers began his examination. Philips set out his argument that the statistical evidence linking the purple and gray phones was so great as to make it almost certain they were used by the same person.

For the purposes of the report, Philips had analyzed a cumulative 1,832 calls for the gray and purple phones, as well as a third "green phone" that has also been linked to Merhi. Of these, 2 percent of the calls were from or to the green phone, while the remainder had been nearly equally divided among the purple and the gray phones.

A total of 266 pairings linking the phones to a particular time and place had been established between the purple and gray phones over a five-month period. Furthermore, there was only one overlapping call for all three phones during this whole period, which Philips suggested may have been a result of inaccuracies in the clocks used by the different centers collating the call data. Philips explained that over a short period of time two phones may appear to be used by one person, even if they have different owners. This may be a result of, for instance, these owners living and working in the same part of Beirut. However, he noted that "the greater the time period covered, the less likely this becomes." In conclusion, Philips suggested that the evidence pointed to the "strong possibility that [all three phones] were being used by the same person."

Le Fraper du Hellen undertook a short cross-examination of Philips, criticizing the extent of the report. She said that the cellphone data dumps that had been undertaken were incomplete, meaning that "you don't know how many telephones could be compatible with your theory of a single user."

Philips responded that this aspect of the case was not under his remit, as he was given evidence by the prosecution, which he subsequently analyzed. "All I know is what I've been asked to examine," he said.

Following Philips' evidence, the remainder of the hearing was spent dealing with submissions made by the defense team for Assad Sabra, which, once complete, will enable the conclusion of the prosecution's case.

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Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War crimes: Trial of 5 Moulvibazar suspects comes to an end

November 20, 2017

A court is expected to soon deliver a verdict in the war crimes case against five Moulvibazar suspects, including Shamsul Hossain Torofdar alias Ashraf.

The five are accused of murder, genocide, unlawful detention, arson and looting during the 1971 Liberation War.

The International Crimes Tribunal or ICT heard the final arguments in the case on Monday, but is yet to fix a date for the verdict.

It will be the 30th by the ICT since its formation in 2010.

The accused are Shamsul Hossain Torofdar alias Ashraf, Md Nesar Ali, Yunus Ahmed, Ojayer Ahmed Chowdhury and Mobarok Miya.

Ojayer, 60, and Yunus, 70, are in prison while the rest are on the run.

The investigation in the case began in October 2014. The ICT's investigation wing submitted its report in January 2016.

The court indicted the five on Dec 8, 2016 and began hearings in the trial on Jan 15 of this year.

According to the details of the case, Shamsul was the local Al-Badr commander while Nesar was a local Razakar commander in 1971. All of them have been accused of murders, mass killings, abduction and torture during the 1971 Liberation War.

Ojayer and Yunus were arrested in Moulvibazar on Oct 13, 2015 after the tribunal issued warrants against them.

Verdict against 6 Gaibandha war crimes accused Wednesday
Prothom Alo

November 21, 2017

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-1 on Tuesday set Wednesday to pronounce judgment in crimes against humanity case against six alleged war criminals from Gaibandha, including Jamaat leader and former lawmaker Abdul Aziz alias Ghoramara Aziz.

The other five accused are Md Ruhul Amin alias Monju, 61, Md Abdul Latif, 61, Abu Muslim Mohammad Ali, 59, Md Nazmul Huda, 60, and Md Abdur Rahim Miah, 62. Of these, only Latif is in jail.

"Verdict tomorrow," said justice Md Shahinur Islam, chairman of the three-member panel of the tribunal.

The tribunal on 23 October kept the judgment on CAV (curia advisory vult, a Latin legal term meaning the court awaits verdict) after concluding hearing the arguments of the case for second time.

The recently reconstituted ICT-1 on 12 October on Tuesday fixed 22 October for rehearing the arguments in the case.

Earlier, the tribunal on 9 May had kept the verdict in the case on CAV for the first time.

"But due to death of justice Anwarul Haque, former chairman of the tribunal, government had to reconstitute the tribunal and the new tribunal decided to rehear the arguments," prosecutor Syed Sayedul Haque Suman told BSS.

Bangladesh tribunal sentences six to death for helping Pakistani troops carry out 1971 genocide

November 22, 2017

A special Bangladeshi tribunal on Wednesday sentenced to death six hardline Islamists, including a former lawmaker, for committing crimes against humanity and siding with the Pakistani troops in carrying out the genocide in 1971.

A three-judge panel of Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-BD) handed down the capital punishment to the six members of the Jamaat-e-Islami saying, the charges against them were "proved beyond doubt." "They be convicted accordingly and sentenced there under to death under section 20(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973," pronounced chair of the panel Justice Shahinur Islam.

The verdict came as Bangladesh nearly completed the long-delayed trial of 1971 war crimes since the high-powered tribunal was established in 2010.

The tribunal is charged with the task to try persons responsible for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law committed during the country's 1971 Liberation War.

The six men sentenced to death hail from northwestern Gaibandha and belong to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, the party which was opposed to Bangladesh's 1971 independence and joined hands with Pakistani troops in carrying out the genocide.

But only one of the six convicts faced the trial in person while the rest, including former Jamaat lawmaker Abu Saleh Mohammad Abdul Aziz Mia, were tried in absentia as they were on the run.

Under a special law, the convicts, however, could challenge the judgement before the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Bangladesh has so far executed six 1971 war crimes convicts, five of them Jamaat leaders and one Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader, the main Opposition since the trial process began in 2010.

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War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Israel's Explanation for Arming Myanmar During Ethnic Cleansing Campaign: 'Both Sides Committing War Crimes'

By Chaim Levinson
November 09, 2017

"The two sides in the conflict are conducting war crimes" in Myanmar's Rohingya crisis, an Israeli diplomat told six American rabbis who voiced concern about reports of Israeli arms sales to the Southeast Asain country.

The rabbis were worried that Israeli businesses could be contributing to what the UN has termed ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, Myanmar's Muslim minority, but Amir Sagie, Israel's deputy consul general in New York, told the rabbis that to the best of Israel's knowledge, the current crisis began after the Muslims attacked the Myanmar army.

Sagie charged that the current situation "started after Muslims attacked government positions in Myanmar" and that both sides in the conflict are "conducting war crimes."

His position is considered consistent with that of the Foreign Ministry regarding reports in the media regarding Israel's ties with Myanmar.

Sagie stated, "we deny totally any kind of relations or any connection to Israel with this tragedy. There is no direct or indirect connection with what is going on with the Rohingya people."

He added that Israel "applies a policy of non-intervention in Myanmar's domestic issues."

Sagie refused to give details about Israel's arms trade with Myanmar, saying Israel "does not discuss publicly with our friends or our foes Israel's military or defense relationships." But he stressed that all weapons exports are "done with due diligence," and exports take "into consideration human rights violations, including existing sanctions from the UN or international organizations."

He also noted that the High Court of Justice had rejected a petition against the arms deals, but that verdict remains classified.

The meeting took place after T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights organized a petition to Israel over the arms deal two weeks ago. "China, Russia and India continue to be the primary enablers of the Burmese military," the petition said, referring to Myanmar by its former name of Burma. But as American citizens and as Jews, we refuse to accept any involvement by the U.S. or Israel in training or arming a military that is carrying out a brutal ethnic cleansing against a minority population. "

The rabbis at the meeting, who represent several different Jewish movements, were T'ruah Executive Director Jill Jacobs, Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, Amichai Lau-Lavie, David Ingber, Felicia Sol and Steve Gutow. They said it was clear Sagie had come to the meeting prepared, with his remarks written out in advance.

Sagie suggested that the false connections made between the Burmese and Israeli governments are "blood libel." Israel, he added, is routinely accused of every evil under the sun, so now it's being accused in the Rohingyas' slaughter as well. "You do not see us saying we're supportive of the regime's actions against the Rohingya - it's the opposite," he said.

The rabbis said afterward that they requested the meeting out of love for Israel, and that their concern crosses political lines. No further meetings have been scheduled.

The Foreign Ministry has responded that it vigorously protested the way matters were presented. The ministry said in a statement: "Israel is not involved in the tragedy in the Rakhine region of Myanmar. The oversight policy of Israel's security exports is examined frequently in keeping with various considerations, among them the human rights situation in the destination country, as well as the policy of the U.N. Security Council and other international entities."

Israeli weapons are being sold to Myanmar despite the restrictions on weapons sales to that country. Only last month Israel refused to announce that it would stop selling weapons to Myanmar despite the UN declaration about ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya minority is now considered the most persecuted people in the world.

Israel and Myanmar in recent years have signed a memorandum of understanding clarifying the bilateral cooperation and transfer of relevant information and intelligence. According to official reports in Myanmar, the agreement includes military training and improving security cooperation between the two countries, including the sale of two Israeli Super Dvora III boats.

The total value of the arms deal, according to sources in the Israeli weapons industry, is estimated at tens of millions of dollars. An officer involved in the matter told Haaretz that the Myanmar naval commander visited Israel in the past year, "was impressed and wanted to learn." It was the second visit to Israel by the naval commander in the past five years.

"Welcome to the Myanmar Navy," said the caption on the Myanmar Navy's Facebook page, in honor of the arrival of an Israeli patrol boat to Myanmar's shore. "The Super-Dvora MK III is moving forward at 45 knots on Myanmar waters," the post continued. The post is from April, only half a year ago, when the Myanmar (Burmese) army was already being accused of war crimes.

Myanmar and Buddhist Extremism
The Conversation

By Paul Fuller
November 14, 2017

There is what has been described as a "textbook case of ethnic cleansing" against the approximately one million Rohingya who live in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine. As well as retaliations from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – a militant group of Rohingyas – which has been held by the Burmese military to have attacked a number of police and army posts.

And there is also what was seen as a newly emerging democracy with a prominent international figure, Aung San Suu Kyi – the state counsellor of Myanmar and the nation's de facto leader – guiding the country against a backdrop of Islamophobic Buddhist nationalism.

Buddhists are often regarded in the West as a peaceful people, so to hear of this kind of public prejudice may come as a shock to many. But looking at it from a Buddhist cultural perspective, one can begin to see why this is happening.

Militant Buddhism

Suu Kyi has used her own Buddhist faith to explain her ideas in the past. But it was only in a televised speech to the Burmese nation, in mid-October 2017, that she used some standard Buddhist rhetoric for the first time in her comments on recent events. Suu Kyi evoked the Buddhist principles of "compassion", "loving-kindness" and "sympathetic joy" to overcome hatred. A "close adviser" later briefed the media, explaining that Suu Kyi's speech marked an attempt to wrestle Buddhism out of the "hands of extremists".

One could say that the Buddhist sentiments expressed in Suu Kyi's speech are in line with the modern Western understanding of Buddhism. But look deeper into modern Asia and you will see Western perceptions aren't wholly accurate. There is now a form of militant Buddhism, which often promotes the supremacy of Buddhism, and can be Islamophobic, ethnocentric and chauvinistic in its preaching.

This is a Buddhism alien to the romantic, pacifistic, meditative and compassionate Buddhism of popular imagination, and – one would hope – much of Buddhist history. It is a Buddhism in which the Buddhist faith should be protected against the supposed threat of other religions (primarily Islam) overrunning Buddhist Myanmar.

Led by the Mandalay-based monk Ashin Wirathu, it is a religion which campaigns to punish those who offend Buddhism. In its organised form in Myanmar these nationalistic Buddhist ideas coalesce around a group popularly known as MaBaTha – the organisation for the protection of race and religion.

Religious core

The battle between the two emerging forms of Buddhism in modern Myanmar is linked back to two core principles of the religion.

The first is the familiar Buddhism of calm, non-attachment, and compassion. Until recently one could say this was dominant within Myanmar. Lay meditation movements were important in the revitalisation of modern Buddhism and aspects of popular mindfulness meditation originate from them. The Saffron Revolution of 2007 displayed little of the aggressive nationalism of the MaBaTha movement, with monks evoking the "discourse on loving-kindness" – The Metta-sutta – as a Buddhist path of compassion to overthrow military rule.

The other form of Buddhism has a more ritualised focus. At the risk of oversimplification, this practice is based upon the performance of personal and state rituals in order to protect society from danger. To be a practising Buddhist is to have recited certain texts, and to have paid homage at Buddhist shrines. To be a good Buddhist is to be a good Burmese, and, as it now appears, to "stand with Aung San Suu Kyi".

It would be too simplistic to argue that Buddhist teachings are irreconcilably at odds with ideas of nationalism and patriotism. However, a sense of superiority and discrimination against minority groups does appear to be indefensible from a Buddhist perspective. Could Suu Kyi's speech, and the idea that she wishes to use Buddhist teachings in a way at odds with Buddhist nationalism be an acknowledgement that Buddhism needs to become part of the solution in modern Myanmar, rather than an aggressive symbol used by Buddhist nationalists?

If Myanmar is to emerge from military rule and become a modern democratic state then it must save its Buddhism from descending into extremism. If Buddhist identity is focused upon a narrow and uncompromising view of what it means to be Burmese, then it seems likely that Buddhism will become a form of state-sponsored religion promoted by the military. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this type of Buddhism, but it is clearly engendering a form of nationalistic fervour, and atrocities are being committed and justified.

Can Suu Kyi see beyond the flags and slogans and use Buddhist narratives of compassion and loving kindness? Observers expected this of her, and of the Buddhist nation, many weeks ago, yet we are still waiting.

'We are going to kill you': Villagers in Burma Recount Violence by Rohingya Muslim Militants
The Washington Post

By Annie Gowen
November 15, 2017

The Hindu woman wept as she vowed never to return home, where she said Rohingya militants slaughtered her son, daughter-in-law and three granddaughters in August.

"They killed my family," Halu Bar Hla, 70, said through tears at a camp for internally displaced people in western Burma. "I will not go back. I will die if I go back to my village. They will slit my throat."

Hla's account illustrates the complexity of the Rohingya crisis, in which Buddhists and minorities such as Hindus claim that militant Rohingya have carried out atrocities against them even as a brutal military "clearance operation" has sent 600,000 Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh.

The U.N. human rights chief has called the Burmese military's crackdown a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing," and Burma's democratically elected government and Aung San Suu Kyi, its de facto leader, have been widely condemned during the exodus.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Suu Kyi early Wednesday in Burma. At a joint briefing after the meeting, Tillerson said he was concerned about "credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by [Burma's] security forces and vigilantes." He said that the United States will consider targeted sanctions against individuals but that he will not advise broad-based economic sanctions at this time. The Burmese military issued an internal report this week that exonerated its soldiers of any wrongdoing.

Interviews with monks, politicians and refugees in this port city demonstrate how difficult it will be for Burmese and Bangladeshi officials to come up with a plan for the Rohingya to return to Rakhine state. Leaders from the Buddhist community and Suu Kyi's government deny that atrocities against Rohingya have taken place at all, saying that the refugees fled in fear after Rohingya militants attacked police posts in late August.

"The extremists incited villagers to go away saying the Burma army would come and kill them. They killed Hindus and other ethnic minorities. We could not find the death of any Muslim," said Win Htein, a top adviser to Suu Kyi. "There is no genocide or ethnic cleansing."

Sittwe is about as close as journalists can freely get to northern Rakhine state, now sealed off by the military, where the militants attacked on Aug. 25. Behind the military cordon, the violence has ebbed. Villagers and aid workers allowed entry to that area describe ghostly scenes of burned Rohingya villages, largely devoid of people. Estimates vary, but 100,000 to 200,000 Rohingya remain, with food and medical supplies running low.

"Even with the destruction, you can see a bicycle that's just left. It's a very strange feeling, as if life has stopped. The sense of emptiness is quite striking," said Fabrizio Carboni, the head of the Burma delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Red Cross groups — the only outside aid workers permitted to enter — have distributed food and cash assistance to 86,000 since late August.

A Rohingya grocer in the town of Maungdaw said by telephone that security is tight and that the Rohingya are not permitted to travel.

"We're trapped and surrounded by military," said Ko Hla Win, 34. They are surviving because some Buddhists are secretly selling them food, he said.

Elsewhere, state workers began harvesting 70,000 acres of rice paddies the Rohingya left behind, a spokesman said. They are also preparing two camps to house returning refugees.

It has been more than two months since the August attacks triggered a crackdown that left more than 280 villages burned — according to a Human Rights Watch analysis of satellite photos — and scores dead. Survivors have alleged widespread human rights violations by the military, including rapes and mass executions. Witness accounts have been difficult to verify because the government has denied U.N. human rights investigators and others access to the area.

The exodus has riveted international attention on the plight of more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims long denied citizenship and other basic rights in Burma, a majority-Buddhist nation of 51 million people in Southeast Asia that is also known as Myanmar. The country held largely democratic elections in 2015, but the military still controls security, key ministries and lucrative state-owned enterprises.

At the same time the Rohingya fled, more than 30,000 Hindus, Buddhists and ethnic minorities were also displaced, with some fleeing south to Sittwe to take refuge in monasteries. In interviews, displaced villagers said they were afraid to return home because they feared the Rohingya insurgents whose attacks on police posts in their villages precipitated the crisis.

In the years since Burma became independent from Britain in 1948, the country's military regime gradually diminished the rights of the Rohingya, stripping them of citizenship and the right to vote. Today the government considers Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh; they are called "Bengalis" here, or the slur "Kalar." Even the term "Rohingya" is anathema; Suu Kyi herself won't use it because it is inflammatory, she told The Washington Post in an interview last year.

In 2012, the rape of a Buddhist woman by Rohingya men triggered widespread communal violence after which more than 100,000 Rohingya were confined to detention camps. At the same time, a movement of hard-line Buddhist nationalism gathered steam, led by radical monks.

Shortly thereafter, a group of Saudi-based Rohingya expatriates formed the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, according to a December report from the International Crisis Group. Its leaders eventually traveled to the area to recruit and surreptitiously train villagers in guerrilla war tactics, the report said.

Maung Oo Than Tin, 25, a Buddhist college student, recalled that one of his best school friends, a Rohingya, stopped speaking to him after the 2012 violence and later left the country. About three months ago, the former friend messaged him ominously on Facebook, "We are going to kill you."

Grocery store owner Sander Moe, 25, a member of the ethnic Marma community, which also allegedly was threatened by militants, said she believed that most of her Rohingya neighbors joined ARSA last year after four village men were recruited to be local leaders. They trained volunteers in the woods and exhorted Rohingya to stop patronizing Buddhist businesses, causing her sales to drop from $20 to $3 a day.

She said locals made up the mob that attacked a police station across the street from her home in August, armed with long knives and grenades. In the crowd, she could discern the mullahs, a stocky rice farmer and even an 8-year-old boy. She and others fled to a monastery, which was besieged for several days before the villagers were able to escape to Sittwe.

She now fears returning home.

"I don't want to go back," she said, adding that she worries she may be raped.

The story of Hindu villagers allegedly killed en masse by ¬Rohingya militants is more complicated than the experiences of others who allege violence by the insurgents. In late September and early October, government spokesman Zaw Htay repeatedly posted on Facebook about the alleged attack on Hindus by "extremist terrorists." A group of journalists was flown to view 45 Hindus allegedly exhumed from a mass grave. Human Rights Watch accused the government of "playing politics" with the dead.

But now the survivors are languishing. More than 500 Hindus, including Halu Bar Hla, remain camped in squalid conditions under the bleachers in Sittwe's soccer stadium. The government has not provided food rations since Nov. 2, they say, and they are surviving on rice donations from monks and other well-wishers in town.

UN envoy: Sexual attacks against Rohingya may be war crimes
Dhaka Tribune

November 22, 2017

UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten has said the widespread atrocities against Rohingya women and girls may amount to war crimes. She made the statement at a press conference on Thursday, reports the Indian Express.

Pramila, who met many Rohingya victims of sexual violence in Bangladesh camps during a visit this month, also fully endorsed the assessment by UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein that Rohingya have been victims of "ethnic cleansing."

The UN envoy said widespread atrocities have been orchestrated and perpetrated by Myanmar's military and may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

She also indentified the widespread use of sexual violence as one of the reason that forced more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee Myanmar.

She said it was "also a calculated tool of terror aimed at the extermination and removal of the Rohingya as a group".

Patten said during her visit to the Rohingya camps she heard heartbreaking, shocking and horrific accounts of abuses committed cold bloodedly with unparallelled hatred against the Rohingya community.

She said sexual violence including gang rape by soldiers, forced public nudity and sexual slavery and it was clearly being used "as a tool of dehumanisation and as a form of punishment."

Quoting the witnesses, she said even before August 25, Myanmar troops threw Rohingya babies into fires or into village wells to contaminate the water and deprive residents of drinking water.

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Israel and Palestine

Two Israelis Wounded in West Bank Car-ramming Attack

By Yotam Berger
November 17, 2017

Two Israelis have been wounded in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank on Friday morning.

According to the Israeli military, a 17-year-old Palestinian rammed his vehicle into a pedestrian at the Efrat South Junction before continuing on to the nearby Gush Etzion Junction where he then attacked a second pedestrian.

After carrying out the second ramming attack the Palestinian assailant exited his vehicle and ran towards a group of soldiers at the junction in order to carry out a stabbing before being shot by soldiers present.

According to the Israel ambulance service, the victim of the ramming at the South Efrat Junction is male, 70 years old, is in serious condition. He is currently undergoing treatment for a head wound at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem. The second victim, a 35-year-old male, is being treated for his wounds at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, his condition described as light.

The attacker, a Hebron-area resident is reported to be in critical condition.

2 years on, Palestinian arrested for stabbing Israeli
The Times of Israel

By Judah Ari Gross
November 20, 2017

Israeli forces last week arrested a Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a stabbing attack in which an Israeli man was injured two years ago, the Shin Bet security service said Monday.

On November 6, 2015, the 29-year-old Israeli was stabbed outside a grocery store in the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial park in the West Bank, and his attacker fled the scene.

The victim, Shmuel Raisman, was stabbed in the back and taken to the hospital in serious condition, medics said at the time.

Raisman, who lives in the nearby Tel Zion settlement, said he scared off his attacker with a bottle of pepper spray.

According to the Shin Bet, the terrorist — identified as Bara'a Issa — turned himself in to Palestinian Authority security services shortly after the attack and was in their custody until his arrest last week.

Though he was detained by PA forces for some two years, Issa never stood trial for the stabbing, the Shin Bet said.

Issa is a member of Fatah, the largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, which controls the PA, the Shin Bet said.

He was arrested in his hometown of Anata, outside Jerusalem, last Tuesday, after being released by PA forces, the security service said.

The Shin Bet said the PA security services did not alert Israel that Issa was going to be released.

An accomplice, Amro Abu Hlil, who was also initially detained by PA forces, was arrested by the Shin Bet in May and is currently standing trial in a military court.

"The Shin Bet security service, along with its partners in the IDF and Israel Police, will continue to work with determination in order to capture terrorist operatives and assailants who flee from security forces — even if years pass from the time of the attack," the Shin Bet said in a statement.

Palestine: Israel killed 14 Palestinian children in 2017
The Muslim News

By Qais Abu Sarma
November 20, 2017

Israeli forces have killed 14 Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the start of this year, according to a Palestinian statistics agency.

In a statement on Sunday, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said Israeli forces had killed 35 children in 2016.

"Some 300 Palestinian children are still held in Israeli prisons," added the statement, which was issued to mark the Universal Children's Day.

The Ramallah-based organization said that around 4,000 children had been detained by Israeli forces since October 2015, most of whom had been released.

The statement said around 848 children had been displaced due to Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes.

According to the agency, Israeli authorities had demolished 418 homes and 646 establishments in 2016.

There was no Israeli comment on the report.

The Universal Children's Day is celebrated on November 20th each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare.

Children make up around 46 percent of the 4.5 million Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

An Israeli soldier insists he beat a Palestinian. Officials don't buy it
Jewish Telegraph Agency

By Andrew Tobin
November 20, 2017

Imagine for a moment that a soldier is suspected of misconduct in the field.

Typically, someone might be expected to report the soldier, prompting the army to investigate. The soldier might deny any wrongdoing.

Well, in Israel, a recent case unfolded in almost exactly the opposite way. A soldier admitted to beating a passive Palestinian, and his fellow soldiers and a police investigation declared he was lying.

The story of the soldier, Dean Issacharoff, reflects the divisive politics here surrounding Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. For Issacharoff and his dovish supporters, his account was a rebuke of Israel' military occupation in the West Bank.

But many others, from the prime minister down, heard it as a betrayal of his fellow soldiers and his country.

Issacharoff is not just any soldier. He is the spokesman for Breaking the Silence, a much-maligned nonprofit that opposes Israel's military occupation in the West Bank. The group publishes Israeli veterans' testimonies regarding alleged human rights abuses by the army in the Palestinian territories.

Issacharoff gave his account of beating the Palestinian at a Breaking the Silence rally in April. He told the crowd that in 2014, during his army service in the West Bank, his commander ordered him to handcuff the man, who had thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers as part of a protest and was passively resisting arrest.

Issacharoff said that in front of his platoon, he "began to knee him in the face and chest until he was bleeding and dazed," and then dragged him to detention.

"As a soldier, I never knew how to deal with someone who resists nonviolently," he explained.

Breaking the Silence is frequently vilified by Israeli politicians and is generally unpopular with the public. Two of the main criticisms of the group are that most of the testimonies it publishes are anonymous and that it appeals to foreign audiences for support rather than limiting its work to Israel.

Issacharoff, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, spoke to Israelis without concealing his face or name. The backlash was swift.

In May, Reservists on Duty, a group that works to counter Breaking the Silence, published a video in which former members of Issacharoff's platoon, including his commander, called him a liar. Soon after, the group called for him to be investigated.

In June, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, asked the attorney general to open a probe into the incident, which he did. Later that month, police questioned Issacharoff on suspicion of assault.

By September, authories managed to track down the Palestinian they said Issacharoff arrested. While the man confirmed he was arrested at the time in question, he said he did not face violence. Based on that and other evidence, the State Attorney's Office on Thursday closed the investigation into Issacharoff, concluding the alleged assault never happened.

Shaked welcomed the finding as confirmation that Isacharroff is a liar who is "defaming the State of Israel in front of the world."

"Kudos to his comrades in his company who refused to remain indifferent and were unwilling to remain silent while he lies," she said Thursday. "It is good that the truth has come to light about this organization, which is making money at the expense of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted a similar sentiment Thursday, saying that "Breaking the Silence lies and slanders our soldiers internationally. Today, in case anyone had any doubt, this fact has received further proof. The truth wins."

Issacharoff begged to differ. In a video published to social media Friday, he repeated his story and challenged the government to resume the investigation, which he said was politically biased.

"Why do you think they did not take the testimony of Ruben, the company commander's assistant who was standing right next to me while I kneed the Palestinian?" Issacharoff asked. "Perhaps it is because it did not fit the conclusion that the prosecution knew Ayelet Shaked wanted to receive?"

The video included footage released Thursday of Ruben Silverstone corroborating Issacharoff's account.

Breaking the Silence has stood by Issacharoff and accused the government of seeking to silence critics of the occupation.

"What began under the political direction of the minister of justice became a political investigation that came to a tendentious and political conclusion," said Avner Gvaryahu, its executive director.

The group declared in a statement Saturday that that the attorney general had investigated the wrong incident. Breaking the Silence said Issacharoff had just seen a photo of the Palestinian whom police interviewed and responded that it was not the same man he assaulted.

Police insisted they got it right.

Regardless of how the saga ends, Breaking the Silence — a small and marginal advocacy group based in Tel Aviv — has already attracted an outsized amount of attention. The group has courted controversy since it was founded in 2004 by dovish Israeli soldiers who had recently finished serving during the second intifada, a bloody Palestinian uprising.

In 2015, then-Defense Minster Moshe Yaalon banned the group from speaking to active-duty soldiers, calling its work "hypocrisy and false propaganda." At the same time, Education Minister Naftali Bennett barred the group from appearing at schools.

Netanyahu, who repeatedly has railed against Breaking the Silence, last year backed the passage of a controversial law requiring special reporting by nonprofits that receive most of their funding from abroad, which mostly included human rights groups. This year he has pushed for stricter legislation that would shut down any organization that seeks to harm the army or try its soldiers in international courts.

In April, Netanyahu canceled a meeting with Germany's foreign minister because the visiting diplomat planned to sit down with Breaking the Silence and another Israeli human rights group. In a statement, his office said he does not meet with foreign diplomats who "lend legitimacy to organizations that call for the criminalization of Israeli soldiers."

Even many Israelis who oppose the occupation sympathize with such moves. The army is generally seen as a bulwark against the country's myriad enemies, and sweeping criticism is taboo, especially before foreign audiences. Also, most Israelis perform mandatory military service after high school, and when they hear criticism of soldiers' actions under difficult circumstances, they think of themselves, or their children or grandchildren.

In April, when Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shot a downed Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank city of Hebron, a majority of Israelis supported his actions, according to public opinion polls, and he was widely referred to as "our son." He is now serving a 14-month prison term.

On Saturday, Issacharoff's mother reminded Israelis that he, too, is a soldier and a son. In a Facebook post that included a photo of him in uniform, she urged Israeli officials "to immediately stop using incendiary and hateful language against any soldier who risked their lives for years to protect their country."

"Such words undermine any respectful public discussion and are inciteful," she said.

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North Korea

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Expert: ICC Has No Jurisdiction to Investigate Alleged Crimes by US Troops in Afghanistan
CNS News

By Patrick Goodenough
November 17, 2017

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction to investigate alleged wrongdoing by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the Trump administration should not cooperate with the tribunal, a Heritage Foundation scholar argued this week.

Not only is the United States not a party to the court's founding Rome Statute, Brett Schaefer pointed out, but under that statute the ICC lacks the grounds to act since the U.S. has itself investigated and prosecuted alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan.

Other experts contend that the U.S. should cooperate with the ICC, in order to preserve the moral standing of the U.S. and put the allegations to rest.

Early this month the court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced she has formally asked the ICC's pre-trial chamber to authorize an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In her sights are "torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape" allegedly committed by U.S. troops against at least 61 detainees in Afghanistan since May 2003, and by CIA personnel against at least 27 detainees at secret facilities in eastern Europe since 1 July 2002 (the date the Rome Statute came into effect.)

The prosecutor's office has been conducting a "preliminary examination" into the allegations for a decade, but Bensouda's request raises the issue to a new level, should the pre-trial chamber agree to a fully-fledged investigation – as it is expected to do. The move could even see the ICC issue arrest warrants for Americans.

Last week, U.S. deputy representative to the U.N. Michele Sison told the U.N. Security Council that any ICC investigation concerning U.S. personnel was "wholly unwarranted and unjustified."

In a new report, Schaefer, a senior research fellow in international regulatory affairs at Heritage, outlined several grounds for not cooperating with the tribunal based in The Hague.

The U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute. President Clinton called the treaty flawed and did not seek Senate advice and consent. President George W. Bush agreed, and signed more than 100 agreements with nations which promised not to surrender American citizens to the ICC without U.S. consent.

Not only is the U.S. under no treaty or legal obligation to cooperate with the ICC, doing so would contravene the American Service Members Protection Act (ASPA), which prohibits just that.

Among other things the legislation, signed by Bush in 2002, prohibits the use of federal funds "for the purpose of assisting the investigation, arrest, detention, extradition, or prosecution of any United States citizen or permanent resident alien by the International Criminal Court."

Schaefer said the ICC's principle of "complementarity" means "that cases are inadmissible unless the national jurisdiction is unwilling or unable to genuinely prosecute."

In the case of the U.S. and Afghanistan, he said, authorities have both investigated alleged crimes, and prosecuted.

Reporting on U.S. compliance with the U.N. Committee Against Torture, the Bush administration in 2006 said it had carried out more than 600 criminal investigations into alleged mistreatment, and that more than 250 individuals had been held accountable for detainee abuse. Punishments included courts martial and prison terms of up to ten years, it said.

'Moral authority'

In her Nov. 8 remarks to the Security Council, Sison said the U.S. was "deeply committed to complying with international law and has a robust national system of investigation, accountability, and transparency that is among the best in the world."

"The United States has a longstanding and continuing objection in principle to any ICC assertion of jurisdiction over U.S. personnel," she added.

But Kip Hale, senior counsel at the American Bar Association's Center for Human Rights, says the administration should cooperate with the ICC.

"Should an investigation go forward, the Trump administration's best response would be to engage openly with the ICC by making a genuine and transparent domestic effort to investigate, and, where warranted, prosecute those Americans most responsible for serious crimes connected with the Afghan war," he wrote in Foreign Affairs.

"This policy would not only protect American interests by promoting the moral authority of the United States but it is also the most credible and expedient way to put the allegations to rest."

The ICC has come under fire in recent years from African governments charging that it was too Africa-focused, with some labeling it a tool of "Western imperialism."

A number of African countries have signaled their unhappiness with the court and Burundi last month became the first country to withdraw.

"How many times have you heard about the ICC investigating crimes committed in Iraq?" Burundi's foreign minister said in an interview with the Voice of America after his country handed its notice to the U.N. a year earlier. "How many times have you heard the ICC investigating crimes committed in Afghanistan?"

ICC supporters have long argued that the best way to counter charges of bias against Africa is to prosecute allegations against other countries, especially Western ones.

Writing in a South African newspaper this week, international criminal justice lawyer Angela Mudukuti said that since Bensouda's announcement relates to U.S. troops " it could do wonders for [her office's] reputation with regard to the allegation it 'targets weaker African' states."

"[T]he opening of an investigation that involves a global superpower could dramatically counter the allegation of bias against Africans."

U.S. Military And CIA Leaders May Be Investigated For War Crimes

By Marjorie Cohn
November 18, 2017

On November 3, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) informed the court's Pre-Trial Chamber," [T]here is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan."

In what Amnesty International's Solomon Sacco called a "seminal moment for the ICC," Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to commence an investigation that would focus on US military and CIA leaders, as well as Taliban and Afghan officials.

Bensouda wrote in a November 14, 2016, report that her preliminary examination revealed "a reasonable basis to believe" the "war crimes of torture and ill-treatment" had been committed "by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014."

The chief prosecutor noted the alleged crimes by the CIA and US armed forces "were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals," but rather were "part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract 'actionable intelligence' from detainees." She added there was "reason to believe" that crimes were "committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies ... which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan."

In accordance with its Rome Statute, the ICC only asserts jurisdiction over people whose home country is unwilling or unable to bring them to justice. In explaining why this war crimes investigation falls under the ICC's jurisdiction, Bensouda wrote that the US Department of Justice investigations regarding ill-treatment of 101 detainees were limited to whether interrogation techniques used by CIA interrogators were unauthorized and violated criminal statutes. The US Attorney General (AG) said the Justice Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the guidance provided by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

The AG investigated only two incidents and found the evidence insufficient to obtain convictions. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. In the other, Manadel al-Jamadi died in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back. Former military policeman Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi's torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like "a faucet had turned on" when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi's death was a homicide. However, the AG ultimately refused to prosecute the Bush officials responsible for the torture and deaths of those two men.

In 2008, ABC News reported that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture of terrorism suspects by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. George W. Bush admitted in his 2010 memoir that he authorized waterboarding. Cheney, Rice and John Yoo - author of the OLC's most egregious torture memos - have made similar admissions.

Were the ICC to pursue its investigation, the United States, which is not a party to the Rome Statute, would very likely refuse to relinquish any US person to the ICC. During the Bush administration, Congress passed the American Service-Members Protection Act, which says if US persons are sent to the ICC in The Hague, the US military can forcibly extract them. The act also restricts US cooperation with the ICC and prohibits military assistance to states parties to the Rome Statute unless they sign bilateral immunity agreements with the US.

States which sign these "Article 98" agreements ― referring to the section of the Rome Statute that addresses treaties between countries ― pledge not to hand over US nationals to the ICC. The United States has reportedly extracted those agreements from over 100 countries ― primarily small nations, or fragile democracies with weak economies. Moreover, the US government has withdrawn military aid from several nations that refused to be coerced into signing them.

However, under the Rome Statute, the ICC can take jurisdiction over a national of even a non-party state if he or she commits a crime in a state party's territory. The US vehemently objects to this, but it's nothing new. Under well-established principles of international law, the crimes being prosecuted in the ICC ― genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity ― are crimes of universal jurisdiction.

The doctrine of universal jurisdiction permits any country to try foreign nationals for the most egregious crimes, even without any direct relationship to the prosecuting country. That means other nations can bring US leaders to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Indeed, the United States has asserted jurisdiction over foreign nationals in anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics trafficking, torture and war crimes cases. The US government tried, convicted and sentenced Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. to federal prison for torture committed in Liberia. Israel tried, convicted and executed Adolph Eichmann for his crimes during the Holocaust.

There will be strong political pressure to avoid liability for US leaders. But Bensouda has undoubtedly withstood heavy pressure by asking the court to approve an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan. She also invariably faced considerable pushback for opening a preliminary examination in January 2015 of possible war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. Bensouda is expected to announce the results of that examination in December.

The ICC has been criticized for focusing almost exclusively on African leaders. This is apparently changing with possible investigations into the conflicts in Afghanistan and Palestine.

If a full investigation of US officials proceeds as requested, it "would send a clear signal to the Trump administration and other countries around the world that torture is categorically prohibited, even in times of war, and there will be consequences for authorizing and committing acts of torture," according to Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump declared he would "immediately" resume waterboarding and would "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding" because the United States is facing a "barbaric" enemy. He labeled waterboarding a "minor form" of interrogation.

"The long overdue message that no one is above the law is particularly important now, as the Trump administration ramps up military machinations in Afghanistan and embraces the endless war with no plan in sight," Katherine Gallagher, a senior lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement.

ICC prosecutor seeks probe into war crimes allegations against U.S. military, CIA in Afghanistan
The Washington Post

By James McAuley
November 20, 2017

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday formally requested authorization to investigate the U.S. military and CIA for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian jurist who has been the ICC's chief prosecutor since 2012, confirmed earlier suspicions that the United States would be implicated in the probe. The decision marks the first time the ICC under Bensouda will investigate American forces and operatives.

In a statement, Bensouda clarified that alleged "war crimes by members of the United States armed forces" and "secret detention facilities in Afghanistan" used by the CIA justified the court's investigation. Earlier this month, she had announced that "there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed" in Afghanistan but had declined to specify by whom.

On Monday, she named the U.S. armed forces and the CIA among a roster of probe targets that also included the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani network, as well as the Afghan National Security Forces.

"Furthermore, the Office has determined that there are no substantial reasons to believe that the opening of an investigation would not serve the interests of justice, taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of victims," Bensouda said in her statement.

The statement noted that the investigation will focus on the alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan after May 1, 2003, and on other alleged crimes with clear connections to the conflict in Afghanistan that were committed on the territories of other member states after July 1, 2002. In the case of the American targets, Bensouda said, the investigation would focus primarily on 2003 through 2004.

The ICC, established in 2002, does not have the authority to investigate crimes committed in Afghanistan before those dates, the statement said.

The court's jurisdiction is bound to investigating crimes in the territories of member states, although the U.N. Security Council can authorize extensions of those probes into other nonmember states. Earlier this month, Burundi — in an apparent attempt to avoid prosecution — became the first country to withdraw from the ICC, but the court ultimately authorized an investigation relating to alleged crimes the government had committed anyway.

The United States is one of few nations that never formally submitted to the ICC, which was established as the world's highest legal authority for the prosecution of war crimes and human rights abuses. But U.S. citizens can still be charged for relevant crimes they commit in other member states.

Afghanistan has been a member state since the court's inception.

Bill Clinton signed the Rome treaty that established the ICC, but President George W Bush renounced the signature, arguing that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.

But although the US is not a member of the court, Americans could still potentially face prosecution if they commit crimes within its jurisdiction in a country that is a member, such as Afghanistan, and are not prosecuted at home.

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North & Central America

U.S. Military And CIA Leaders May Be Investigated For War Crimes
Huffington Post

By Marjorie Cohn
November 18, 2017

On November 3, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) informed the court's Pre-Trial Chamber, "[T]here is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan."

In what Amnesty International's Solomon Sacco called a "seminal moment for the ICC," Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to commence an investigation that would focus on US military and CIA leaders, as well as Taliban and Afghan officials.

Bensouda wrote in a November 14, 2016, report that her preliminary examination revealed "a reasonable basis to believe" the "war crimes of torture and ill-treatment" had been committed "by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014."

The chief prosecutor noted the alleged crimes by the CIA and US armed forces "were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals," but rather were "part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract 'actionable intelligence' from detainees." She added there was "reason to believe" that crimes were "committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies ... which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan."

In accordance with its Rome Statute, the ICC only asserts jurisdiction over people whose home country is unwilling or unable to bring them to justice. In explaining why this war crimes investigation falls under the ICC's jurisdiction, Bensouda wrote that the US Department of Justice investigations regarding ill-treatment of 101 detainees were limited to whether interrogation techniques used by CIA interrogators were unauthorized and violated criminal statutes. The US Attorney General (AG) said the Justice Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the guidance provided by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

The AG investigated only two incidents and found the evidence insufficient to obtain convictions. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. In the other, Manadel al-Jamadi died in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back. Former military policeman Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi's torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like "a faucet had turned on" when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi's death was a homicide. However, the AG ultimately refused to prosecute the Bush officials responsible for the torture and deaths of those two men.

In 2008, ABC News reported that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture of terrorism suspects by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. George W. Bush admitted in his 2010 memoir that he authorized waterboarding. Cheney, Rice and John Yoo - author of the OLC's most egregious torture memos - have made similar admissions.

Were the ICC to pursue its investigation, the United States, which is not a party to the Rome Statute, would very likely refuse to relinquish any US person to the ICC. During the Bush administration, Congress passed the American Service-Members Protection Act, which says if US persons are sent to the ICC in The Hague, the US military can forcibly extract them. The act also restricts US cooperation with the ICC and prohibits military assistance to states parties to the Rome Statute unless they sign bilateral immunity agreements with the US.

States which sign these "Article 98" agreements ― referring to the section of the Rome Statute that addresses treaties between countries ― pledge not to hand over US nationals to the ICC. The United States has reportedly extracted those agreements from over 100 countries ― primarily small nations, or fragile democracies with weak economies. Moreover, the US government has withdrawn military aid from several nations that refused to be coerced into signing them.

However, under the Rome Statute, the ICC can take jurisdiction over a national of even a non-party state if he or she commits a crime in a state party's territory. The US vehemently objects to this, but it's nothing new. Under well-established principles of international law, the crimes being prosecuted in the ICC ― genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity ― are crimes of universal jurisdiction.

The doctrine of universal jurisdiction permits any country to try foreign nationals for the most egregious crimes, even without any direct relationship to the prosecuting country. That means other nations can bring US leaders to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Indeed, the United States has asserted jurisdiction over foreign nationals in anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics trafficking, torture and war crimes cases. The US government tried, convicted and sentenced Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. to federal prison for torture committed in Liberia. Israel tried, convicted and executed Adolph Eichmann for his crimes during the Holocaust.

There will be strong political pressure to avoid liability for US leaders. But Bensouda has undoubtedly withstood heavy pressure by asking the court to approve an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan. She also invariably faced considerable pushback for opening a preliminary examination in January 2015 of possible war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. Bensouda is expected to announce the results of that examination in December.

The ICC has been criticized for focusing almost exclusively on African leaders. This is apparently changing with possible investigations into the conflicts in Afghanistan and Palestine.

If a full investigation of US officials proceeds as requested, it "would send a clear signal to the Trump administration and other countries around the world that torture is categorically prohibited, even in times of war, and there will be consequences for authorizing and committing acts of torture," according to Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump declared he would "immediately" resume waterboarding and would "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding" because the United States is facing a "barbaric" enemy. He labeled waterboarding a "minor form" of interrogation.

"The long overdue message that no one is above the law is particularly important now, as the Trump administration ramps up military machinations in Afghanistan and embraces the endless war with no plan in sight," Katherine Gallagher, a senior lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement.

Canada's top general pushes back against critics peacekeeping plan
CBC News

November 19, 2017

Canada's top general is forcefully rejecting the notion that Canada's new peacekeeping commitment isn't in line with the Liberal government's initial promise.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff, argues that the plan outlined days ago by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Vancouver is consistent with what was first discussed 14 months ago, when the government committed to providing up to 600 troops and 150 police officers for United Nations operations.

The plan unveiled on Wednesday called for up to 200 ground troops, transport and armed helicopters, cargo planes and military trainers for future United Nations peacekeeping operations.

"There was a tendency to grasp at the number 200: 'Well, they said 600, now it's really 200.' That's not true, that's one smart pledge," Vance told CBC Radio's The House from the Halifax International Security Forum.

Trudeau has said he wants Canada to make "smart pledges" around peacekeeping.

"A mythology was created that had never been part of what we said, had never been a part of a mission description," Vance added.

The government's plan presented this week includes providing equipment, training, and a rapid-response unit of Canadian troops that would be called upon by the United Nations to fill gaps on certain missions.

Liberals criticized for falling short

"We are making these pledges today, because we believe in the United Nations and we believe in peacekeeping," Trudeau said. "What we will do is step up and make the contributions we are uniquely able to provide.".

The government was criticized for seemingly falling short of their initial promise.

Following the announcement, the NDP's foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière told The House that the Liberals had not lived up to their word.

"One has to wonder what they've been doing for the past year," she said.

Her Conservative counterpart Erin O'Toole was also critical.

The plan "was a shameful display of trying to hide a broken promise," he said.

Not so, Vance argues.

He explained that as he was looking at options to present to the government, one of the criteria he was asked to consider was the desire to improve UN performance.

Looked at Mali, but it was not a commitment

"You don't improve UN performance by sending a 600 block of Canadians to one spot and operate there. You'll certainly improve the situation in that area, but Canada has an aspiration to improve the institution across multiple missions," he told host Chris Hall.

Vance also rejected the popular notion that was circulating prior to the announcement that Canadian troops were going to be deployed to the West African nation of Mali.

He says the military did carry out research on a variety of options and locations, and that created a lot of noise in the media.

But the country's top general says that once you factor in the various quick-response deployments and training missions, Canada's new peacekeeping blueprint will live up to what the Liberals first put on the table.

"There will be 600… very likely 600 troops deployed doing that," he said.

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South America

UN Security Council to discuss worsening Venezuela situation

November 10, 2017

The United States and Italy have organized an informal Security Council meeting on Venezuela, saying they want to hear first-hand accounts of the deteriorating political, economic and social situation in the oil-rich nation and the humanitarian impact on the region.

A note circulated to council members and obtained Friday by The Associated Press says the meeting on Monday afternoon will also provide an opportunity to discuss the role the international community and regional organizations can play in promoting a political solution and humanitarian access to the needy.

It said speakers at the open meeting will be U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro, Joseph Cornelius Donnelly who heads Caritas International's U.N. office, and Julio Henriquez, international coordinator of the Foro Penal Venezolano.

Colombia's senate approves war crimes tribunal and truth commission
Colombia Reports

By Adriaan Alsema
November 16, 2017

Colombia's Senate forwarded a transitional justice system to the House of Representatives after months of delays in approving the key element of an ongoing peace process.

If ratified by the House, the war crimes tribunal and truth commission will be put in charge of seeking justice for tens of thousands of war crimes committed during more than half a century of armed conflict.

Additionally, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) will contain a commission to look for tens of thousands of missing Colombians and a special unit to dismantle ties between the state and paramilitary groups.

The bill will be debated by the House ahead of the final vote next week, almost a year after the approval of a peace deal with the now-disarmed FARC guerrilla group.

Watered down justice

The approved JEP is a watered down version from the one agreed with the FARC as businesses and politicians have been exempted from obligatory participation.

Leaders of the FARC, which has become a political party, will need a certification from the JEP confirming they are cooperating with justice if they want to enter Congress after next year's elections.

The bill as approved by the senate would also disqualify several appointed judges for having taken part in court cases related to the armed conflict in the past five years.

Foreign assistant judges will not be allowed to take part in debates within the court.

FARC rejects amendments

In spite the concessions, the approval was loudly protested by hard-right opposition party Democratic Center of former President Alvaro Uribe.

Also FARC leader "Rodrigo Londoño, a.k.a. "Timochenko," rejected the amendments approved by the senate, claiming the legislative body was trying to guarantee impunity for war crimes not committed by the FARC.

Senators who had supported the transitional justice system, however, expressed satisfaction that the legislative chamber found a compromise after months of resistance.

According to Green Alliance Senator Claudia Lopez, the approval was "another step to turn this page of violence and towards the defeat of corruption."

"Today's victors are the victims," said Interior Minister Rodrigo Rivera.

If approved by the House and ratified by the Constitutional Court, the JEP will take force and begin examining the tens of thousands of war crimes committed during the hemisphere's longest internal armed conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries.

FARC seeks meeting with international court over Colombia's transitional justice
Colombia Reports

By Adriaan Alsema
November 20, 2017

Colombia's demobilized FARC rebel group has requested a meeting with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming that a war crimes tribunal is in danger.

According to the former guerrillas, a decision by the Constitutional Court to shield politicians and businesses from being obligated to appear before a post-conflict tribunal "opens the door to impunity."

In a peace deal closed with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos last year, the FARC agreed to appear before the transitional justice system in efforts to end to more than half a century of armed conflict.

The high court recently approved the transitional justice system, but allowed politicians and businesses who are accused of war crimes to appear on a voluntary basis.

According to FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, "the ruling of the Colombian Court opens the door to impunity, in a clear mockery of the rights of victims."

The guerrillas are not the only party that committed war crimes during Colombia's bloody conflict. Powerful politicians and businessmen have also been accused of human rights violations.

These alleged war criminals have been enabled to evade Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) by the high court, according to Londoño, who is also known as "Timochenko."

The president of the newly-founded FARC political party reiterated his organization's commitment to the transitional justice system, but demanded all sides be judged.

Londoño said he wanted to make sure that the ICC, which has already demanded justice for war crimes committed by the military, is aware of the importance of trying war crimes committed by non-combatants like politicians and businesses that sponsored anti-communist paramilitary groups.

Additionally, the FARC leader warned the ICC over amendments made in the Senate that would disqualify elected judges with experience in criminal cases related to the conflict.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has already called on the House of Representatives to undo the controversial amendments proposed by Radical Change, the party of former Vice-President German Vargas.

The transitional justice system was initially expected to take force this months.

Its ratification by congress has been delayed by concerns in the private sector and the ruling class about their use of terrorist groups to keep the guerrilla group at bay.

The request to meet with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is unprecedented as the United States continues to consider the FARC a terrorist groups.

The Marxist group was founded by communist farmers in 1964 in an attempt to overthrow the state. Since then, more than 265,000 people have been killed.

Calls for an ICC investigation into abuses of murder and torture by Venezuelan leaders

November 20, 2017

Venezuela's former attorney general urged the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into alleged abuses of murder and torture by the leaders of the crisis-hit country. President "Nicolas Maduro and his government must pay for this, for these crimes against humanity," said Luisa Ortega, after handing over to the tribunal in The Hague a dossier containing 1,000 pieces of evidence.

Ortega, 59, is a fugitive from Venezuela, having fled the country in August after a new loyalist assembly established by Maduro threw her out of office.

Standing in the rain outside the world's only permanent war crimes court after handing her dossier to the prosecutor's office, Ortega insisted Maduro and his government "must pay for the hunger, misery and hardship which the people of Venezuela are suffering".

She alleged police and military officials had killed some 1,767 people in 2015. Last year there were 4,677 such deaths, she says, with 1,846 killed up to June this year. Her dossier included witness testimony, as well as interviews with experts and doctors, detailing allegations of "murder, torture, imprisonment as well as a systematic and generalised attack on the civilian population," she said.

Ortega said she had been collecting evidence of such crimes in her job as attorney general since 2015. She also denounced Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol among other senior officials in her deposition.

There had also been more than "17,000 arbitrary detentions and hundreds of cases of torture," she alleged. "We have been forced to turn to an international organization, because there is no justice in Venezuela".

Ortega was a fierce critic of Maduro from within his regime, and has continued to make allegations against him while in exile.

The Venezuelan government has been sharply criticized amid the political and economic crisis engulfing the country with the United States and EU imposing sanctions.

Venezuela has ratified the Rome Statute underpinning the ICC, which means in theory the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, does have jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity there.

But since the court opened in 2002, the prosecutor's office has received about 10,000 requests from individuals, groups or countries to investigate alleged crimes.

This year alone, activists from Mexico, and the Philippines as well as the Palestinian territories have all sought to secure or broaden ICC probes.

There are currently 10 preliminary ICC examinations and 11 full investigations under way. Most existing probes have so far focused on African nations.

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission

What will Sri Lanka agree to in Geneva this week?
The Island

By Sanja de Silva Jayatilleka
November 12, 2017

On Wednesday, 15th of November at 2.30 pm, Sri Lanka will come under review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and will have to account for its conduct, answer questions posed to it by other countries, and decide which recommendations it accepts.

A sample of questions posed in advance, to be answered on Wednesday, are as follows:

Germany: In September 2017, the parliament of Sri Lanka has taken out the bill on enforced disappearances from its agenda. Why was this the case and when does the parliament plan to reconsider the bill?

Belgium: welcomes Sri Lanka's efforts regarding transitional justice. What progress has been made regarding the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Estonia: In the national report you mention that a certain mechanism has been created to ensure that the commitments under UN HRC Resolution 30/1 are met. Could you elaborate on the work so far done by that mechanism?

What is the current state of play with regard to the review and repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in ensuring that it meets international human rights standards?

Norway: When will the Prevention of Torture Act be repealed and replaced by legislation that is fully compliant with human rights standards?

UK: When does the Government of Sri Lanka expect to have transitional justice mechanisms in place, to ensure accountability and give greater certainty of non-recurrence, as set out in the UNHRC Resolution 34/1?

USA: We are disappointed in the lack of movement toward holding security forces and government officials accountable for human rights violations and abuses. When does the government plan to establish a credible judicial mechanism to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights, and violations of international humanitarian law?

We are concerned by reports of continued abuses by some members of the security forces, including alleged incidents of torture, sexual violence and arbitrary arrest. What steps is the government taking to end these abuses and, when will the government repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with anti-terrorism legislation that complies with international law and is less susceptible to serving as a pretext for human rights violations and abuses?

We commend Sri Lanka for its work on constitutional reform, but the process has moved slower than anticipated. How does the government intend to proceed with constitutional reform?

How is the government using the recommendations in the Consultation Task Force report to guide it through an inclusive reform process?

Switzerland: What are the reasons for the delay in implementing the resolutions 30/1 and 34/1? What are the milestones and benchmarks foreseen in the further implementation?

When will the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) become fully operational? What kind of international involvement do you plan in the establishment and running of the OMP?

This review, known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), is described as a 'peer review' because it is conducted by the membership of the Council and is conducted every 4 and a half years. All UN member states are subjected to this review, and each review is coordinated by 3 Ambassadors selected by drawing lots among the membership, known as 'The Troika'. Sri Lanka's UPR this time will be coordinated by the Ambassadors of Burundi, Republic of Korea and Venezuela. When the inaugural UPR of the UN Human Rights Council was held in April 2008, Sri Lanka's Ambassador/Permanent Representative Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka was a member of the very first Troika, for Bahrain, Ghana and Bangladesh.

In order to conduct the review, the UPR process takes into account 3 reports, which are already posted on the UNHRC website:

The country under review has to submit a report known as the 'National Report' which includes its progress on earlier recommendations and its own further commitments.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) produces a report which is a compilation of all UN reports on Sri Lanka.

Summary of Stakeholder Submissions', which are submissions on Sri Lanka made by NGOs civil society, academic institutions, regional groups, human rights defenders etc. which are summarized by the office of the High Commissioner. The current report includes 49 such submissions.

The review is conducted through an interactive dialogue between the country under review and the UPR Working Group. For the purpose of the UPR, the entirety of the voting members of the Council (which is 47 countries) converts into a Working Group. Non-members can also participate and it is reported that more than 100 countries requested to make statements on Sri Lanka.

At the end of this process, a summary of the proceedings is prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner, including the recommendations made by other countries, and Sri Lanka's responses, including those that Sri Lanka accepts that it should implement.

This report will be distributed on Friday the 17th November at 5 p.m. to the Council, which will then proceed to its adoption. Once adopted, Sri Lanka will be reviewed in the future on the basis of those recommendations that it accepted.

Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs

It was reported that in the Daily News online edition of November 11th 2017 that "The delegation of Sri Lanka will be headed by National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva." This seems bizarre considering that the coordinating Ministry and the focal point for the National Report is the Foreign Ministry! The review is specifically to do with the examination of Sri Lanka's Human Rights Record, and before it was shortsightedly abolished by the previous administration, it was the Ministry of Human Rights that prepared the National Report, attended the sessions, made decisions on whether or not to accept the recommendations and coordinated the implementation of the recommendations. At the time, the Attorney General's department was closely associated with the UPR process and reviewed all recommendations and participated in Sri Lanka's submissions and replies to questions. Mr. Yasantha Kodagoda and Mr. Shavindra Fernando regularly represented the AG's department in the delegation.

In the current Compilation of UN reports, the UN country team has stated that "The United Nations country team also noted that an inter-ministerial committee had been appointed to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan (2011-2016) but the lack of a dedicated Ministry to expedite action had resulted in challenges for follow-up."

Rather than shunting the responsibility for Human Rights to inappropriate ministries, which can only appear to others as a lack of seriousness and commitment on the part of Sri Lanka to its commitments, President Sirisena should seriously consider re-establishing the Ministry of Human Rights under a dedicated Minister who will reflect the President's own views.

In the meantime, if the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Marapana was too busy to attend, it should have been the State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Vasantha Senanayaka who should be leading the team from Sri Lanka to Geneva this week for the UPR, not a Deputy Minister from the Economic Affairs Ministry! Don't they have enough of their own work to do, with the Budget etc.?

Apart from the sample of advance questions cited above, there are many other serious issues and concerns emanating from the 2 reports that Sri Lanka has to respond to. The compilation of UN reports includes those of the Special Rapporteurs (SR) apart from the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the United Nations country team in Sri Lanka.

In the Compilation of UN reports, the SR on Torture notes with concern that:

"…torture and ill-treatment, including of a sexual nature, still occurred, in particular in the early stages of arrest and interrogation…and that the gravity of the mistreatment inflicted increased for those who were perceived to be involved in terrorism…"

It has a lot more to say including:

"The Committee against Torture remained seriously concerned that torture was a common practice carried out in relation to regular criminal investigations in a large majority of cases by the Criminal Investigation Department of the police, regardless of the nature of the suspected offence."

"The Committee noted with concern that the practice of so-called "white van" abductions of Tamils had continued in the years following the end of the armed conflict. It also noted that people suspected of having even a remote link with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had been abducted and subjected to brutal torture, including sexual violence and rape of men and women by the military and the police in unacknowledged places of detention."

There are very serious allegations that have to be responded to credibly and competently. For instance:

"The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances recommended that the Government take decisive action and give clear orders at the highest level to stop surveillance, threats, intimidation, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuses against relatives of disappeared persons and those acting on their behalf."

"The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination emphasized that women were particularly vulnerable to certain forms of racial discrimination, such as sexual violence during armed conflict. It recommended that Sri Lanka ensure the protection of women in the post-conflict period…"

"The Human Rights Committee was concerned about allegations of sexual violence against women in the context of detention, resettlement and other situations that required contact with security forces."

"The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was alarmed by reports of hate speech, incitement to violence and violent attacks, including riots, against ethnic and ethno-religious minority groups, which had resulted in deaths, injuries and destruction of property."

The United Nations Country Team noted that:

"Levels of impunity were particularly high with respect to certain offences, for instance, sexual violence, and that the 2015 Grave Crimes Abstract reflected only one rape conviction in 2015."

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances notes:

"The chronic pattern of impunity still existed with regard to cases of enforced disappearance. It recommended that the Government establish a judicial accountability mechanism that integrated international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators; carry out all investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings in accordance with the principle of due diligence."

This is horrendous. Sri Lanka has to ensure that this process is competently handled. If in fact at least some of these allegations are true, it is of grave concern and the government is answerable to its own citizens for its lack of progress.

These are just a small sample of concerns which will be aired before the rest of the world. The 'Stakeholder submissions', as one can imagine, range from "indiscriminately marginalized and discriminated against the LGBTIQ community and sex workers by means of criminalizing these lifestyles", to the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) noting that:

"…getting justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity received a setback, due to the Government's unwillingness to prosecute civilian and security forces for having committed mass killings of Tamils and rape. Similarly, TAG emphasized that Sri Lanka lacked an effective and appropriate mechanism for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan State."

The Government's National Report dated 24th August 2017, commits to "reforming the powers of the executive presidency"…and "meaningful power-sharing arrangements through the devolution of power":

"The current constitutional reform agenda focuses on reforming the powers of the executive presidency, delivering meaningful power-sharing arrangements through the devolution of power, and improving the electoral system by moving from a proportional representation system to a mixed system… These priorities are currently reflected in the NHRAP 2017-2021"

Really? The 19th Amendment reforming the powers of the Presidency was passed in 2015. Does President Sirisena know his powers are to be 'further reformed' beyond the 19th amendment and that Sri Lanka has announced this commitment in August this year, as part of the UPR process?

The National Report unambiguously re-states its commitment to Resolution 30/1 of 2015. "In December 2015, the government established the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) under the Prime Minister's Office to ensure that the commitments under UNHRC Resolution 30/1 are met."

The government also reports the steps already taken to operationalize Transitional Justice:

"The government has taken steps to establish the four transitional justice mechanisms committed to under Resolution 30/1. First, in August 2016, it enacted legislation to establish the OMP. In July 2017, the OMP was assigned to the MNIR. Second, a Working Group comprising senior academics, government officials and transitional justice experts was appointed to draft legislation on a truth-seeking mechanism."

The UPR is a human rights mechanism that is applied equally to all UN member states. It attempts to ensure that Human Rights improve around the world and provides assistance to member states to meet their Human Rights obligations and to share best practices. It is up to Sri Lanka's delegation to participate in the process with caution, alertness and efficacy.

Diversion of IDP Funds: UNDP, NHRC Report Indicts Presidency, Ex-SGF

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
November 21, 2017

A fresh report by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, has accused the Presidential Initiative on the North East, PINE, of complicity in the illegal diversion of funds donated to help Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the country.

The draft report, which UNDP issued in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, revealed that out of N8.352 billion released to PINE in 2016, a total sum of N6.326bn was spent, leaving a balance of N2.026bn.

It, however, decried that PINE which depleted the funds, "paid less attention to the critical needs of IDPs in the areas of housing, food, education and healthcare, but rather used the bulk of the resources on contracts that were found to have immensely benefitted some public officials, including the now-suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal."

According to the report which UNDP and NHRC made available to newsmen in Abuja, "Public procurement rules and extant federal financial guidelines were breached in the award of the contracts.

"Prima facie cases of conflict of interest were established and companies were fully paid as at a time they had not finished the assigned jobs, while kickbacks were made by some companies to others where public officials had clear interest.

"Again, out of 249 trucks carrying 10, 000 metric tonnes of Maize released by the Federal Government for the benefit of the IDPs in the six states of the North East, 65 trucks were diverted and did not reach their intended destinations.

"They were later recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission after the Senate Committee report was made public.

"But this is a development against the background of the mounting hunger and food crisis in the IDP camps."

Both UNDP and NHRC mainatined that the overall goal of the 103-page assessment report was to ascertain the human rights and humanitarian conditions of people and communities affected by the long period of violent conflicts in the North Eastern states of Nigeria.

The assessment, which was done from 2015 to June 2017, also focused on human rights protection issues encompassing sexual and gender-based violence, access to justice, community policing and capacity of law enforcement officers for timely response to crises.

Chapter seven of the report which dealt with humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons, also reviewed the fiscal provisions for humanitarian assistance at the federal level and in some of the states under insurgency.

It read: "The findings was that governments did not use the maximum of available resources to protect the rights and welfare of the IDPs. The resources provided at the federal and state levels were paltry.

"In Gombe State, even the little provided in the state budget was not released and cash backed. Most of the IDPs lived in host communities with little access to official humanitarian support, putting additional strain on the already stretched communual health, education and social services.

"The camps were struggling to accommodate the increasing number of displaced people, who found themselves subject to unhealthy living conditions. Many children were malnourished, as adequate provisions were not made to feed them".

More so, the report alleged that effort by the federal government to push back Boko Haram insurgents led to human rights violations by security agencies.

It also alleged that massive gender-based and sexual violations were recorded within the assessment period, adding that women and girls were sexually abused while some of them were forced into marriage against their will.

It concluded that though there has been an improvement in the security situation in the North East of Nigeria, it regretted that "there are swathes of mainly rural areas still under the control of the insurgents or where they hold sway in their hit and run guerilla tactics".

As part of its recommendations, the report urged the federal government to "prosecute and punish all persons and organisations responsible for diverting food meant for IDPs and create more transparency around distribution of food for displaced persons".

It further urged FG to, "Consider the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to enable all stakeholders- perpetrators, victims and survivors to openly discuss about the insurgency and how the wounds can be healed.

"Consider a comprehensive framework on Transitional Justice to address human rights violations and other concerns generated by the insurgency in the North East.

"Urgently consider the establishment of State Police and Local Policing through the appropriate amendment of the Constitution and relevant laws.

"Enact federal and state legislation on witness and victim protection.

"Maintain facilities for prompt investigation and prosecution of offenders and use the International Criminal Court mechanism and other international frameworks for the prosecution of offenders".

As well as to, "Recuit more personnel for the Police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. This should include special measures for the recruitment of more women into the security sector and promotions to higher levels of service".

It added that human rights training and skill building needs of armed security agencies should be assessed.

"Human rights should be included into their curricula so as to increase the awareness and protection of human rights. Continued education on human rights should also be introduced for serving officers", the report added.

11 years of peace agreement: Conflict victims' wait for justice continues
The Kathmandu Post

By Binod Ghimire
November 22, 2017

Promulgation of the constitution through a Constituent Assembly, integration of Maoist combatants into the security forces, management of arms and justice to war-era victims were some of the major issues the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) envisioned when it was signed between the government and then Maoist rebels on November 21, 2006.

The peace agreement ended the decade-long crippling war which killed nearly 17,000 people and displaced thousands.

In the last 11 years, the country overthrew the centuries-old monarchy, integrated former Maoist fighters into the Army and adopted a new constitution ensuring a federal republic and secularism. The country held local elections, first in 20 years, in May, June and September in three phases under the new constitution and provincial and federal elections are just round the corner.

Yet the major component of the peace process that began with the signing of the deal-justice to conflict victims-is yet to be achieved.

It took more than nine years for the government to form two transitional justice mechanisms--the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP).

During their two-year tenure, the transitional justice bodies could do nothing more than gathering complaints from the conflict victims. Their term was extended for one year in February, but they are hamstrung by lack of budget and resources. On top of that, they lack laws needed to guide the investigation process.

They have so far received more than 63,000 complaints. Their extended one-year term is set to expire on February 10.

"At the present pace, the two transitional bodies will not be able to complete investigation even in the next 15 years," said Sudip Pathak, a member of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

In the reading of the national human rights watchdog, transitional justice never became the priority of the parties and the successive governments.

Bishnu Pathak, spokesperson for the CIEDP, said the commission has 15 staffers against the need of 40 and the Ministry of Finance never releases the budget it wants.

Similarly, the existing legal provisions don't recognise enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity.

"The government and political parties have turned a deaf ear to our frequent requests," Pathak lamented. "How can you expect us to perform in such environment?"

The case is no different with the TRC.

Nepal is yet to criminalise torture while the parties and government are reluctant to amend its Act as per the Supreme Court orders.

The apex court in January 2015 ordered the government to make around a dozen amendments to the Act as per the international standard.

Prakash Osti, a member of the NHRC, said the government earlier found an excuse in constitution drafting and now it is busy with elections. He claimed that there will

be no progress in the investigation even if the terms of two mechanisms are extended unless the needed laws are put in place and there is adequate availability of the budget and human resources.

Suman Adhikari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims' Common Platform, says the present scenario shows the two transitional justice mechanisms have become nothing but a tool of government and parties to deceive the victims.

CIEDP spokesperson Pathak went on to say: "The people and parties who once launched insurgency are leading the government. We can't expect them to provide constructive support in delivering justice to the victims."

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Radicalised 14-year-olds to be held for up to 36 hours and right wing groups targeted in terror crackdown in Victoria
Herald Sun

By Alex White
November 20, 2017

Terror suspects as young as 14 would be held for 36 hours without charge, under law changes recommended for Victoria.

The government has also been warned to monitor right and left-wing groups which pose a threat to Victorians, not only Islamic extremists.

The changes have been recommended following a review by former top police officer Ken Lay, who was brought in to overhaul Victoria's terrorism laws.

It is the second report released into the state's terrorism laws and will lead to an overhaul of legislation.

Currently, children as young as 16 suspected of terrorism-related activities can be held on a Preventative Detention Order. This would be reduced to 14.

A total of 26 recommendations have been made by the expert terror panel and have all been accepted in principle.

The proposed scheme would be overseen by the Commissioner for Children and Young People to avoid potential harm to teenage Victorians.

Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the review and said the legislative reforms would be introduced in 2018.

"These new measures give our law enforcement agencies the powers they need," Mr Andrews said.

"We have seen, and there is every chance we may see again, children as young as 14 years old at significant risk.

"The recommendation is to extend the preventive detention orders to detain children of 14 years old with the right checks and balances.

"The key point here is to make the change necessary to keep Victorians safe."

Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the review and said legislative reforms would be introduced in 2018.

Mr Andrews also announced programs around targeting high-risk radicals would be strengthened with $9.4 million in immediate funding.

At least two recommendations will require discussions with the federal government including adjusting the definition of a terrorist act.

It is the second report by Mr Lay, who said countering violent extremism was a main focus and identified a need to build "frontline capacity" to help take early action.

He also identified that Islamic-focused extremism was not the only threat in Victoria with right and left-wing groups also needing early identification.

"The panel saw a gap in the right and left-wing space," he said.

"We have also asked the government to do some research into the effects of Islamophobia."

Terrorists already in jail who continue to be a threat after release will face stricter monitoring under new supervision orders similar to high-risk sex offender laws.

It is the final report from the terror probe which was touted as the biggest overhaul of Victorian laws since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

It was commissioned after the Brighton terror attack, which left one man dead.

The Law Institute of Victoria spokesman Bruce Tobin said the move was concerning.

"The LIV supports keeping all Victorians safe, but there are serious question marks around proposed terrorism law that mean children as young as 14 could be held for 36 hours without a Supreme Court order and without charge,'' he said.

"Stronger safeguards, including strict oversight from the courts, need to be in place to protect children if they are to be held in custody under these proposed new terrorism laws."

Trump says U.S. will declare North Korea a state sponsor of terror

By Catherine Lucey and Zeke Miller
November 20, 2017

President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. will designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror amid heightened nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Trump said the designation will impose further penalties on the country. He called it a long overdue step and part of the U.S. "maximum pressure campaign" against the North. North Korea would join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list of state sponsors of terror.

"In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil," Trump said during a Cabinet meeting.

U.S. officials cited the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother in a Malaysian airport earlier this year as an act of terrorism.

The designation had been debated for months inside the administration, with some officials at the State Department arguing that North Korea did not meet the legal standard to be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism.

U.S. officials involved in the internal deliberations said there was no debate over whether the slaying of half-brother Kim Jong Nam was a terrorist act. However, lawyers said there had to be more than one incident, and there was disagreement over whether the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, who died of injuries suffered in North Korean custody, constituted terrorism.

The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The move returns North Korea to the ignominious list for the first time since 2008, when the North was removed in a bid to salvage a deal to halt its nuclear development. In the years since, the North has made advanced leaps in both its nuclear and missile programs, proving the capacity to reach U.S. territories with the devastating weapons earlier this year.

Trump has faced pressure from congressional lawmakers to relist the country amid its advancing nuclear missile program, though some fear it could increase already heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Supreme Court to Hear Case Surrounding Seizure of Iranian Artifacts from Oriental Institute
The Chicago Maroon

By Madeleine Moore
November 21, 2017

The University's Oriental Institute (OI) is involved in an ongoing Supreme Court case in which American terrorist victims are seeking compensation from the Iranian government through seizing Iranian artifacts from the OI and the Field Museum.

In September 1997, three suicide bombers associated with the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas, carried out an attack on a shopping mall in Jerusalem. Among those affected were eight United States citizens, who later filed a civil action case in a U.S. court against the government of Iran and its involvement in providing financial support to the bombers.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. awarded the plaintiffs $71.5 million in damages, which the government of Iran refused to pay.

The plaintiffs have since filed several lawsuits demanding Iranian artifacts and antiquities held by the University as compensation, and have also attempted to seize artifacts from the Field Museum in Chicago and other museums in Massachusetts and Michigan.

The Supreme Court hearing will be the fourth time the case has gone to court since the plaintiffs were awarded $71.5 million in 2003. The University appealed the decision and since then has won subsequent trials in 2011 and 2014.

The plaintiffs appealed the 2014 ruling, and it was chosen by the U.S. Supreme Court for review on June 27. The Court is scheduled to hear the case on December 4.

If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could set the precedent that a foreign government is subject to the terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and the property of a foreign government may be attached to a civil judgement, despite the location of the property or current ownership.

This case could allow the Supreme Court to define what assets can be seized from a state accused of engaging in or supporting terrorism, even when the assets are held or owned by a separate entity unaffiliated with the foreign state.

The plaintiffs have targeted three collections of ancient Persian artifacts held by the OI and the Field Museum of Natural History in downtown Chicago.

The artifacts include prehistoric pottery, ornaments, and tablets with Elamite writing, the oldest known writing system from Iran.

Both the OI and the Field Museum have stated that they own the items, but the plaintiffs maintain that Iran does.

The case is centered on the FSIA, which places limits on the circumstances in which foreign entities may be sued in U.S. courts. Typically, foreign states are immune from lawsuits or property seizure due to this act.

However, the plaintiffs have argued that FSIA contains a terrorism exception, which would allow them to request the artifacts as a means of compensation.

This case has gone to the Seventh Circuit court, stating that there was not an exception included in the act that pertained to the case. This decision created a split with the Ninth Circuit court, which ruled in the plaintiff's favor.

The University and Iran have challenged the plaintiffs based on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in First National City Bank v. Banco Para El Comercio Exterior de Cuba (Bancec). This case created the "Bancec doctrine," which states that a case against a foreign state may not be executed on the property of a separate entity.

According to the University, since it owns the Iranian artifacts and is a separate entity from the government of Iran, the plaintiffs may not seize the artifacts to their case.

The OI could not be reached for comment by press time.

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Nigerian Navy Rescues 10 Mariners from Pirates
The Maritime Executive

November 15, 2017

On November 11, the Nigerian Navy thwarted an attempted pirate attack on a bulker in the Gulf of Guinea and successfully rescued 10 seafarers from a kidnapping in progress.

On Saturday morning at 0822 UTC, a group of armed pirates boarded the bulker as it drifted at a position some 17 nm south of Bonny Island, Nigeria, an area known for a high risk of piracy. The attackers entered the ship's bridge and opened fire, damaging the windows. They stole personal belongings from the crew and kidnapped 10 seafarers, loading the crewmembers into their boat and heading off.

Two Nigerian Navy vessels successfully intercepted the boat and apprehended five pirates. All 10 crewmembers were rescued. The Navy escorted their ship to an inner anchorage, and the vessel entered Port Harcourt and berthed on Sunday.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the bulker may have been the UK-flagged handysize Venus Bay. AIS data indicate that the Venus transited from Bonny to Port Harcourt on Sunday.

Over the last nine months, authorities have recorded more than 20 piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea. Not all mariners who are attacked in these waters manage to escape so quickly: on October 21, six crewmembers of the container ship Demeter were abducted off the coast of Nigeria and held hostage until last weekend. Ship manager Peter Doehle Schiffahrts-KG reported the men are in good condition and returned to their families.

Somalia: Suspected Pirate Vessels in Gulf of Aden Dispersed By Chinese Navy

November 16, 2017

A destroyer from the 27th Chinese naval escort taskforce successfully dispersed a number of suspected pirate vessels aiming for two container ships, reports China Central Television.

At approximately 4:30pm local time, as the Haikou was escorting the vessels, registered in Hong Kong and Italy, towards the Gulf of Aden, three targets travelling at high speed were detected 5.1 nautical miles ahead.

Thanks to photoelectric sensors, the destroyer was able to ascertain that the unwelcome fleet consisted of three double-hook ships containing five people each.

The Chinese naval ship instantly accelerated to the left to intercept and initiated its anti-piracy protocol.

The offending vessels immediately turned around and fled at high speed. The Haikou was then able to lower its alert level and continue the patrol mission.

The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia in the Horn of Africa.

It follows an incident in September, in which a Chinese supply ship by the name of Qinghaihu scared off nine suspected pirate vessels which had targeted a UK container ship and a Maltese freighter in the same body of water.

October also marked one year since nine of ten Chinese held hostage by Somali pirates for more than four and a half years returned to China.

Search for missing Argentine sub reaches 'critical phase'
New York Post

By Yaron Steinbuch
November 21, 2017

The search for a missing Argentinian submarine reaching a "critical phase" Wednesday, but two of the country's politicians cited a 35-year-old war in rejecting British assistance, according to reports.

A multinational effort is underway to locate the ARA San Juan, which went missing Nov. 15 as it journeyed from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia to the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

The sub carries enough food, oxygen and fuel for the 44 crew members to survive about 90 days on the sea's surface. But it only has enough oxygen to last seven days if submerged.

"We are in the critical phase…particularly with respect to oxygen," Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters. "There has been no contact with anything that could be the San Juan submarine."

About 30 ships and planes and 4,000 people from Argentina, the United States, Britain, Chile and Brazil have joined the search for the submarine, which last transmitted its location about 300 miles from the coast.

But Argentine pols Gabriel Solano and Fernando Esteche apparently still harbor a grudge against Britain because of the 1982 Falklands War between the two countries.

"F- you! Pirates," Solano, leader of Argentina's Workers' Party, said in a tweet aimed at the Brits, The Sun of the UK reported.

"You are responsible for war crimes, like the sinking of the General Belgrano," he said, referring to the Argentine warship sunk by the HMS Conqueror at the orders of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

As a result of the torpedo attack by the nuclear-powered British sub, 321 Argentine sailors and two civilians aboard lost their lives.

Solano also tweeted the British government directly about the Royal Navy, saying: "They are occupation troops in an Argentine territory."

The missive was in response to a tweet by the British Embassy that read: "Following a request from the Argentine Government, @RoyalNavy's HMS Protector has been deployed to join the search and rescue effort for the #ARASanJuan."

Many ordinary Argentinians slammed Solano for spewing his decades-old bile.

"Stop making us embarrassed. Focus on the important thing: Save the 44 men and women before they suffocate 200 meters deep," one person tweeted, according to The Sun.

"Stop making a fool of yourself Gaby," another said.

A third branded him an "a-hole."

Solano was joined by Esteche, head of the Quebracho party, who also described British forces as occupiers.

"Yesterday they sank the Belgrano outside the exclusion zone and today they want thanks for their collaboration in the search for the ARA San Juan," he posted online, according to the International Business Times.

"That they help but that they do not expect anything in return because they still occupy our islands. These are the laws of the sea!" he railed.

He, too, was blasted by his countrymen.

"I apologize, I am embarrassed by @estechefernando, we are very grateful for your collaboration in the recovery of our sailors. At your service!!!" one person wrote.

"My husband, a Falklands War veteran and I, appreciate your solidarity," another said in a message to Britain.

The HMS Protector, an ice patrol ship, is equipped with sonar equipment that can search beneath the waves. The UK also has placed a C-130 Hercules aircraft - which is based in the Falkland Islands - on standby.

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Gender-Based Violence

Rights Body Accuses Myanmar Military of Mass Rape of Rohingyas
News Click

By V. Arum Kumar
November 16, 2017

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Myanmar military of widespread rapes of Rohingyas, amounting to war crimes.

In a 37-page report titled 'All of My Body Was Pain': Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Women and Girls in Burma ', the international body provides the testimony of 52 Rohingya women and girls allegedly raped by soldiers.

According to HRW, many women described witnessing the murders of their young children, spouses, and parents. Rape survivors reported days of agony walking with swollen and torn genitals while fleeing to Bangladesh.

Rape has been a prominent and devastating feature of the Burmese military's campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya," said Skye Wheeler , women's rights emergencies researcher at HRW and author of the report.

"The Burmese military's barbaric acts of violence have left countless women and girls brutally harmed and traumatised."

Hala Sadak, a 15-year-old from Hathi Para village in Maungdaw Township, told HRW that the soldiers stripped her naked and then around 10 men raped her.

"When my brother and sister came to get me, I was lying there on the ground. They thought I was dead," she added.

Myanmar army has waged a brutal military campaign in northern Rakhine state against the Rohingya - a Muslim-majority ethnic group to whom the Myanmar government denies citizenship and basic rights.

This new wave of violence by the army came after fighters of a Rohingyan armed group - Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army - carried out attacks on the security forces on August 25 this year.

According to reports, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the mainly Buddhist country since the military operation was launched in Rakhine in late August.

This September, United Nations had blamed Myanmar of committing atrocities against Rohingya communities, including ethnic cleansing and mass rapes amounting to war crimes.

Doctors treating some of the 429,000 Rohingya Muslims, who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, had reported dozens of women with injuries consistent with violent sexual attacks, said U.N. clinicians and other health workers, according to Reuters.

Since August 25, the MSF - also known as Doctors Without Borders - had treated at least 23 cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

According to Kate White, emergency medical coordinator for the organisation, there were many cases of gang-rape and sexual assault.

Use of rape or sexual violence as a tool of warfare is considered a war crime, and is prohibited under the International Law and laws governing conflicts or war.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court , in force since 2002 considers rape, considers sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or "any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as a crime against humanity.

The Security Council resolution 1820 of 2008 called to end the use of acts of sexual violence against women and girls as a tactic of war as well as to end the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

Myanmar's army, meanwhile, has denied all allegations of rape and killings by its security forces.

Ending impunity for conflict-related sexual violence
Asia Times

By Hakimi Abdul Jabar
November 16, 2017

On November 22, all eyes will be on the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as it makes its pronouncement of judgment in the case of the notorious "Butcher of Bosnia," General Ratko Mladić, the former army chief of staff, and his then superior, Radovan Karadžić, president of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War.

It must be noted that the tribunal has played a historic role in the prosecution of wartime sexual violence in the former Yugoslavia and has paved the way for a more robust adjudication of such crimes worldwide.

From the beginning of the ICTY's mandate, investigations were conducted into reports of the systematic detention and rape of women, men and children. More than a third of those convicted by the ICTY have been found guilty of crimes involving sexual violence. Such convictions are one of the tribunal's pioneering achievements. They have ensured that treaties and conventions that have existed on paper throughout the 20th century have finally been put in practice and violations punished well into the 21st century.

The Hague Convention of 1907, the first international treaty implicitly outlawing sexual violence, did not end impunity for sexual crimes. For instance, in the aftermath of World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg did not expressly prosecute sexual violence, and the Tokyo Tribunal ignored the Japanese army's enslavement of "comfort women" - a thorny issue in a number of East and Southeast Asian nations.

In 1949, the landmark Geneva Conventions stated: "Women shall be especially protected … against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault." The wars in the former Yugoslavia revealed the urgent need to bring these historic international laws out of theory and into the courtroom.

It took groundbreaking steps to respond to the imperative of prosecuting wartime sexual violence. Together with the Rwandan Tribunal, the ICTY was among the first courts of its kind to bring explicit charges of wartime sexual violence and define gender crimes such as rape and sexual enslavement under customary international law.

It was also the first international criminal tribunal to enter convictions for rape as a form of torture and for sexual enslavement as a crime against humanity, as well as the first based in Europe to pass convictions for rape as a crime against humanity, following a previous case adjudicated by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The ICTY proved that effective prosecution of wartime sexual violence is feasible and provided a platform for the survivors to talk about their suffering. That ultimately helped to break the silence and the culture of impunity surrounding these terrible acts.

Perpetrators of sexual violence are wide-ranging in nature, including members of armed forces, civilians, government officials, armed non-state actors such as ISIS, and humanitarian personnel. The overwhelming majority of the perpetrators of sexual violence are male.

Sexual violence occurs on the street, in homes, at checkpoints, in places of detention and in places of refuge, such as refugee camps. Aside from the immediate pain, terror and humiliation, survivors of sexual violence often face long-term physical health problems and psychological trauma.

The physical consequences of sexual violence include fatal injuries, infertility, incontinence, chronic pain, debilitating injuries, infections and unwanted pregnancies.

Due to the insecurities that conflict inevitably brings, medical treatment for these debilitating injuries is all too often not available for obvious reasons.

Asian lawyers like myself are glad that the ICTY has built on the judgements and pronouncements of other international tribunals. Through its own landmark judicial decisions, it has contributed to the growing awareness of the need to prosecute crimes of conflict-related sexual violence.

Despite this laudable collective effort by the international community, more than 20,000 survivors of wartime sexual violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina are still being denied justice a quarter of a century after the outbreak of war in the former Yugoslav republic, according to an Amnesty International report released on September 12. Many of the victims are still trying to piecie together their shattered lives with little access to the medical, psychological and financial assistance they desperately need.

International justice will be fatally compromised if the international community continues to permit persons accused of genocide, "ethnic cleansing," mass rape and murder to remain at liberty.

Undoubtedly, ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals and the International Criminal Court have tirelessly worked toward ending the impunity of conflict-related sexual violence.

For the former Yugoslavia states, a downright tragic yet arresting chapter comes to an end, but for human rights activist Nadia Murad Basee Taha and her fellow Yazidi victims of ISIS in Iraq - it is just the beginning.

Impunity cannot be tolerated and will not be. In an interdependent world, the rule of law must prevail.

The world and Asia must never forsake them in their time of need.


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Commentary and Perspectives

UN peacekeeping arms losses could equip an army: report
Al Jazeera

By James Reinl
November 13, 2017

UN-backed peacekeepers have lost enough guns and ammunition in sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades to arm an army, according to a study by the Small Arms Survey.

The research group's director, Eric Berman, said peacekeepers have lost "at least thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition" this century, often handing them over to local fighters without putting up a fight.

Losses range from pistols and bullets to heavy machine guns, mortars, recoilless guns and grenade launchers, which can be military game-changers on the battlefields of Somalia, Democratic republic of Congo, and Sudan, Berman told Al Jazeera.

"Peacekeepers are losing arms and ammunition that are going to be used against them and against civilians that they're asked to protect, and prolonging conflicts that they're asked to help resolve," Berman said.

The 75-page study, called Making a Tough Job More Difficult, identifies 20 forces operating under the UN, the African Union or some other international coalition that have lost guns and ammunition from 1993-2017.

Most losses occurred in Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Haiti, Cambodia, the Israel-Syria border and the Balkans have also been affected.

Some losses were unavoidable, the report said.

Peacekeepers can be ambushed while patrolling the "wrong place at the wrong time" or be overwhelmed in a surprise attack from a superior force and have caches plundered, Berman said.

But incidents of "less-than-best practice and corruption" are also rife, Berman added.

There have been many hushed-up cases of peacekeepers handing over weapons to rebels rather than risk a shoot-out, of failing to guard caches properly, or uncovering rebel groups' arsenals and selling them on the black market, said Berman.

'Challenging conditions'

Aditya Mehta, a UN peacekeeping spokesman, told Al Jazeera that it takes the issue "very seriously" but said the Small Arms Survey report overstated the impact of blue helmet arms losses on turbulent parts of Africa.

"The loss of weapons in peacekeeping operations are an exception, and the number of weapons lost are insignificant, far less than half of one per cent of the total amount of weapons and ammunition in circulation around conflict zones such as in Darfur and South Sudan," he said.

Losses occur in "very challenging conditions", and the UN already works hard to raise standards, he added.

Mehta did not fulfil Al Jazeera's request to share the UN's register of arms that had gone missing in recent years.

The Small Arms Survey report listed many examples of losses.

In May 2000, Zambian peacekeepers lost more than 500 assault rifles, machine guns, mortars and 45,000 rounds of ammunition when they surrendered to Sierra Leonean rebels rather than "fight their way out" Berman said.

A Nigerian peacekeeping convoy similarly succumbed to a "not overwhelming force" of rebels in in Darfur, Sudan, in March 2010, handing over 55 assault rifles, machine guns and some 14,000 rounds of ammunition, he added.

Details on such incidents are unclear, Berman said.

According to the report, "political sensitivities and opacity in reporting have resulted in misleading" reports of arms losses in official UN documents.

This report is just "the tip of the iceberg", Berman added, saying that the true scale of the problem is much greater than the relatively small number of losses that have been documented in UN and newspaper reports in recent decades.

The scale of losses may even be increasing, the report suggested.

Kenyan troops with AMISOM, the AU force in Somalia, lost more than 150 assault rifles, 26 machine guns, five mortars and 140,000 rounds of ammunition when al-Shabab rebels raided their camp at El Adde in January 2016, it said.

The report also highlights how in June 2015, Burundian troops lost a comparable cache of more than 100 assault rifles, 20 machine guns, anti-tank weapons and mortars when the al-Qaeda aligned fighters attacked them in Leego, Somalia.

Peacekeeping has been rocked by scandals in recent years, over bringing a deadly strain of cholera to Haiti that claimed some 10,000 lives, as well as thousands of claims of sexual abuse by blue helmets in Congo and elsewhere.

The UN is also under pressure from US President Donald Trump. In June, the US trimmed the annual peacekeeping budget to $7.3bn, cutting $600m from costs and slicing 7.5 percent off Washington's bill.

More than 80 countries are set to address peacekeeping problems at a summit in Vancouver, Canada later this week.

'Significant problem'

Paul Williams, a scholar at George Washington University, said the report's estimate of peacekeeping weapons losses was "conservative", adding that deployment chiefs need better oversight, recovery and accountability mechanisms.

"This is a significant problem for peacekeepers, the organisations that mandate and pay for peace operations, and, ultimately for the local populations, which may see such arms and ammunition strengthen militant groups," Williams told Al Jazeera.

Other analysts told Al Jazeera that peacekeepers are often torn between loyalties to their own country and serving the world body. Blue helmet troops may see themselves as answerable to their capitals rather than UN headquarters.

Norrie MacQueen, a University of St Andrews scholar, noted that soldiers are unwilling to "die for the UN" and prone to giving up without a fight. But Joachim Koops, of Vrije Universiteit Brussels, agreed with the UN that its weapons losses were not particularly significant.

Jean Krasno, a scholar and editor of Leveraging for Success in UN Peace Operations, said any arms losses should be seen in the context of the valuable contributions of peacekeepers. The UN has made Africa safer by destroying vast numbers of guns under various peace deals, she said.

But it is "desperate" to staff 15 missions with 110,000 peacekeepers and can be lax with contributors. "To get the numbers out there, they may just have to look the other way in terms of vetting, training and capability," Krasno told Al Jazeera.

Berman, the report's author, agreed that the UN and AU face mighty challenges, but that a few more "checks and balances" on internal oversight and monitoring of peacekeepers would keep better tabs on weapons, saving money and lives.

Why Uganda Cannot Arrest President Omar Bashir
Uganda Media Centre

By Ofwono Opondo
November 15, 2017

The European Union (EU) has been reported in the media to be grumbling that the Uganda government did not apprehend and handover Sudanese President, Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands over his indictment on 4, March 2009, and the second on 12 July 2010 relating to alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region. First, it is perhaps necessary to state that the ICC has never formally served that warrant to Uganda, but in any case, Bashir has travelled to many countries including South Africa, Kenya, Chad, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, China and Middle East and was never arrested.

Also, while Sudan isn't a state party to the Rome Statute, President Bashir's case was a referral by the UN Security Council in 2005, and therefore the UN could enforce its decisions including imposing no-fly zones over Sudan and countries whose air space President Bashir has used since his indictment. Besides, the UN can direct the interception and search of any vessel suspected to be carrying President Bashir, which it has so far failed to do. We, therefore reject any attempts to use Uganda as a convenient scapegoat for the world's failure to arrest President Bashir.

Article 61 of the ICC statute state "the pre-trial chamber may, upon request of the prosecutor or on its own motion, hold a hearing on the absence of the person charged to confirm the charges, when the person has waived his or her right to be present, fled or cannot be found and all reasonable steps have been taken to secure his appearance before the court," which too hasn't been done to-date. The UN's big boys US, Russia and China are not even signatories to the court to which they referred President Bashir, a case of suffering serious credibility problems.

Furthermore, on all the occasions President Bashir has been in Uganda, he was an official state guest invited by the government of Uganda, and not a traveler passing by or on tourism. It is, therefore inconceivable for the EU, ICC, and some of their surrogate civil organisations to expect that the Uganda government would defy common sense and established international diplomatic protocols, and arrest President Bashir for purposes of transferring him over to The Hague. Uganda is not run by savages or treacherous leaders who can be expected to turn on friends as Europeans have done over the centuries. It would be a very reckless adventure and since Uganda government is not known to be that adventurous, it prefers to be systematic and methodical.

The Uganda government is bound by the collective, in fact, unanimous resolution of the African Union (AU) not to cooperate with the ICC on matters relating to arresting a sitting president or Head of State because the AU treats the ICC as an institution that has digressed from its original intended purpose and is now mainly selectively used to witch-hunt African leaders deemed not compliant to imperial interests.

The EU and its Big brother, the US leaders represent a 'civilisation' that instigated and infused wrong and dangerous ideologies, funded and armed protagonists in Africa from pre-colonial era to-date. In Sudan's case, established reputable records indicate that the US and EU combined have sold arms worth 52bn US dollars over the years, hence the main beneficiaries in that conflict.

The two having destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, and miserably failed to restore order and functioning governments, are clearly trying to punch above their weight in demanding that Uganda and other African governments should arrest Bashir, and thereby possibly start an intractable armed conflict in the region.

It is the well considered view of the Uganda government that in addition to the AU position, the on-going constructive diplomatic engagements with President Bashir where Uganda is facilitating peaceful negotiation between the Sudan government and some of those opposed to it are yielding positive results as evidenced by settlements in the Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. Already the DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Libya and Mali are all either very weak or failing states, and it wouldn't be prudent for Uganda to instigate or broaden failures in Africa. That consideration, combined with widespread terrorism from the Red Sea down to the Horn Africa, Yemen and Djibouti, makes cautious movement against President Bashir a logical strategic imperative.

While Uganda is a signatory to the ICC, and has regard for judicial processes, we don't believe that going headstrong is always the best, or even the only way of solving problems particularly when they are as fragile and complicated as in Sudan. Uganda shouldn't be seen as encouraging impunity.

And if all international bodies were considered genuine, Britain wouldn't have bolted from the EU and its Court of Human Rights, and neither would Donald Trump be repudiating NAFTA, and protocols on Climate Change. The presumed global leaders and actors must always remember that they don't the monopoly for wisdom to save humanity from many of the problems, and should learn to patiently listen to alternative solutions especially from those immediately affected.

US aiding Saudi 'war crimes' in Yemen: Congressman

November 17, 2017

The United States is helping Saudi Arabia commit "war crimes" in Yemen, according to US Congressman Ro Khanna.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's UpFront aired on Friday, Khanna, a Democratic congressman from California, said the US made a mistake in supporting the Saudi-led coalition's bombing campaign of Yemen.

"Today, I believe that we are aiding Saudi Arabia in Saudi Arabia's committing war crimes," Khanna told UpFront host Mehdi Hasan.

The US House of Representatives passed a resolution earlier this week that called on the US armed forces to withdraw from "unauthorised hostilities" in the Saudi-led bombing campaign of Yemen, which began in 2015.

Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict and the Saudi-led coalition has bombed key infrastructure and imposed a strict blockade on the country.

Yemen is facing a dire humanitarian crisis and millions of people will die in what could be the worst famine in decades if the blockade is not lifted, the United Nations recently warned.

The US has assisted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in "conducting aerial bombings in Yemen" and provided "midair refueling services" to their warplanes, according to the resolution, which was overwhelmingly adopted by a vote of 366-30.

While the resolution is non-binding, Khanna, who was one of its co-sponsors, said it would put pressure on the Saudis to provide greater humanitarian access to Yemen and allow food and basic medicine to reach Yemenis.

"That's going to make a difference. That can at least save lives," Khanna said.

Harsh words

In his interview with UpFront, Khanna had harsh words for Saudi Arabia and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular.

"Salman strikes me as not smart," Khanna said about the Crown Prince, who is also known by the initials MBS.

"He's not judicious and he's not prudent and he may do things that ultimately aren't even in his country's interest, which usually cause war."

Khanna continued: "Napoleon once said worse than a crime is a blunder, and Salman strikes me as a blunderer."

MBS has rapidly consolidated power since he was named next in line for the Saudi throne by his father, King Salman, last June.

Dozens of senior Saudi officials have been rounded up and held since early November in what the kingdom has described as a crackdown on corruption.

The Saudis have also faced a barrage of criticism for their alleged role in forcing Saad Hariri to resign as Lebanon's prime minister.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of keeping Hariri in detention in Riyadh, an allegation it has denied.

A war of words has also broken out between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival, Iran, over the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon.

'Strike on Iran'

Asked how the US should respond to a possible Saudi attack on Iran, Khanna said the US "should condemn it".

"We should certainly not come to their defence if they are perpetrating an attack on Iran," the congressman said, adding that "it would be utter folly" for the Saudi crown prince "to start a direct war with Iran".

Should the US intervene in the case of an Iranian counterattack on Saudi Arabia, its longtime ally in the region? "Certainly not," Khanna said.

Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan then asked the congressman whether the US would intervene on behalf of another ally, Israel, which has also been vocal in its condemnations of Tehran.

Israel also recently instructed its diplomats to lobby their respective countries in support of Saudi Arabia, according to leaked diplomatic cables.

"Obviously, if Iran starts to say, 'we're going to annihilate Israel', then we have to defend it," Khanna answered.

"But I don't expect that to be the response."

Khanna said that, in his view, the US "certainly would not condone a strike on Iran by either Saudi Arabia or Israel".

How the ICC Going After US For War Crimes Impacts Israel
The Jerusalem Post

By Yonah Jeremy Bob
November 21, 2017

From the Israeli perspective, there is both some bad news and some good news with regards to the legal bombshell that the International Criminal Court prosecutor dropped on the US on Monday.

The ICC prosecutor filed a formal submission to move the US's conduct in the Afghanistan War and its interrogation of its prisoners to a full criminal war crimes investigation.

In short, the bad news for Israel is four-fold. The ICC crossed the Rubicon in daring: 1) to go after a democracy, the US, which said it had investigated itself, 2) to go after the world's superpower despite the diplomatic consequences, 3) to go after "war crimes" beyond the traditional paradigm of prosecuting genocide, namely the US's "torture" interrogations, which many thought the ICC would stay away from, and 4) to go after top US defense and intelligence officials and not just the rank and file.

Until now, Israel's main hopeful defenses to keep the ICC out of its affairs have been: 1) that it is a democracy which said it had investigated itself, 2) that the ICC would be afraid to endure diplomatic sanctions from the US and other Israeli allies, 3) that it would shy away from going after non-traditional "war crimes" beyond genocide, such as the settlement enterprise or Israeli interrogations of Palestinians, and 4) it would be deterred from going after senior Israeli officials.

But if the ICC dared to go after the US despite all four of these issues, what will stop it from going after little Israel next? If it went after the Americans for torture (and after Malians for destruction of cultural heritage sites as war crimes), why won't it go after Israel for settlements and interrogations - even if these have never been prosecuted as war crimes before? The simple answer is that the ICC going after the US ensures that it is more likely than ever that it will also go after Israel at some point.

And yet there is also good news from the Israeli perspective.

The ICC is not going after the US for its targeting decisions which killed Afghan civilians. This is despite its conclusion that the US and allied forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians.

It has explained that, "The information available does not provide a reasonable basis to believe that the military forces intended the civilian population... to be the object of the attack."

This is the biggest game at stake for Israel.

Around 2,100 Palestinians were killed by the IDF during the 2014 Gaza War, between 50-80% of them civilians. The approximately 500 preliminary probes and over 30 criminal investigations by the IDF to date have mostly led to the conclusion that the civilian deaths were mistakes, such as misidentifying four Palestinian minors on a beach as Hamas naval commandos.

Top ICC expert Alex Whiting told The Jerusalem Post that the ICC decision regarding US targeting probably came about because "there just isn't enough evidence of intent or that there was a policy to target civilians. They fall too much on the side of error rather than [of war crimes]."

This could be considered surprising as many of the incidents where Afghan civilians were killed by the US produced horrific stories, involved the killing of large numbers of civilians and were well-publicized in the media.

That the ICC decided it could not prove intent, despite some media and human rights groups already having damned the US as a war criminal, could bode well for Israel. The IDF will need the ICC to similarly disregard media and human rights condemnations of its war-targeting decisions.

Another positive aspect for Israel with regards to this investigation is time. With the US, the ICC took 10 years to decide to move from a preliminary probe to a full criminal war crimes investigation.

Since January 2015, Palestinians have repeatedly pressed for the ICC to move from a preliminary probe of Israel to a full criminal war crimes investigation. But more than three years after the war ended, there are few signs that the ICC is even close to a decision.

If the ICC took 10 years with the US, Israel may still have plenty more years before coming into legal conflict with the ICC.

This also means that if the ICC does go after Israel, possibly in as much as seven more years, the world's attention will be less prominent than it would have been in the first years after the war.

This combines with the final point of good news for Israel: it does not have to go first.

By the time the ICC goes after Israel, if it still has the stomach, it will likely have endured years of legal and diplomatic warfare with another democracy, the US.

There is no way the US is going to cooperate with the ICC's investigation, certainly not under the Trump administration. That means that the ICC's challenge to the US will almost certainly blow up in its face.

Whiting said that if the ICC had given senior US officials a pass, it could have been boxed in with other future cases. He said, "I don't think it necessarily wanted to focus on the US, but the statute and the precedents made it very difficult not to."

Regardless of the reason, if the ICC goes after Israel, by the time it does, the world will have gotten used to the idea of democracies ignoring it when it is perceived as having overreached.

Mladic judgment brings back stench of Bosnian genocide

By Nic Robertson
November 21, 2017

It will be 25 years this Christmas since I learned what genocide smelled like.

Like nothing I'd ever experienced before, it was an assault on my senses.

The military commander responsible, Ratko Mladic, has today finally learned his fate. It has taken too long to see justice served.

It was a frosty day in December 1992, early on in Bosnia Herzegovina's three-year civil war. The place was Srebrenica: a village in the mountains close to the border with Serbia.

Serbian war criminals controlled the roads into the village and the mountains surrounding it. They had it under a medieval-style siege.

They kept journalists and aid workers waiting for a week, parked at the roadside next to half-harvested fields of rotting corn stalks and decaying pumpkins. Then, late one afternoon, they finally let us in, along with a handful of UN peacekeepers and a few measly aid trucks.

We'd seen more food decaying in those wintry farm fields than the Serbs were letting into the enclave. Even then, it was clear they were trying to starve the villagers into submission.

What sticks in my mind the most about our few hours inside Srebrenica is the smell.

I intrinsically link it to evil. Writing about it now still triggers a gag reflex.

Srebrenica had become a pitiful place: a long hamlet of sorrow snaking up a cold narrow valley. Under siege, it was silenced and cut off from the outside world.

Time has done little to dull my memories of walking into the crowded makeshift medical center that was once a library.

Wafts of gangrenous infection wrapped in the rancid stench of overused blood-soaked bandages fused with the smell of a fear fed on the emptiness of hunger. Words really don't come close.

As darkness fell, fear grew to panic among residents. The media, aid workers and UN peacekeepers were leaving -- and with us, a slender totem of international concern was slipping from their grasp.

Within months of our visit, an ad hoc UN tribunal would be established: the ICTY, or International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia. Its aim was to end the war, spread reconciliation and bring war criminals to justice.

It would ultimately indict 161 people, call 5,000 witnesses, hold sessions on 11,000 days and produce 2,000,000 pages of transcripts and documents. But it was never powerful enough to stem the slaughter and save the people of Srebrenica.

They would endure three freezing winters and two scorching summers of merciless siege and shelling before Bosnian Serb Soldiers under Mladic's orders would over the space of two days murder 7,000 Muslim men and boys -- including many of those we met.

Srebrenica was the single biggest slaughter of innocents in Europe since World War II. It was the bloodiest tip of an ugly iceberg of slaughter sustained over three years.

As Yugoslavia -- a post World War I construct -- tore itself apart, religiously and ethnically distinct Bosnian, Serb and Croat populations became locked in a frenzy of violence that would kill more than 100,000 innocent civilians.

The tribunal's judgment on Mladic also brings with it its closure. It's been on life support for the past few years, extending its existence to bring a last few convictions. It was expected to close several years ago.

It has cost an average of $200 million a year to run. Last year, it employed 425 staff from 69 different nations. In its 24-year life, it has convicted 83 people and was the first war crimes tribunal to indict a sitting head of state: Serbian President Slobodan Milosivec.

For the most part, it has achieved what it set out to do and bring war criminals, their acolytes and their sponsors to justice. But it hasn't been fast.

Mladic's political partner in crime, Radovan Karadzic, was found guilty last year of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of laws or customs of war. He was sentenced to 40 years in jail.

It had taken eight years to convict him -- and even longer to find him. Like Mladic, Karadzic had been hiding in plain sight in Serbia.

Karadzic was picked up in July 2008 -- his cover as a bearded spiritual healer blown. Mladic lasted even longer, hiding out in a cousin's house in a village near Belgrade until he was caught in May 2011.

Most people in the village knew precisely who he was. Questions remain about why both of them weren't turned in sooner.

In Bosnia, a generation has grown up since the war, waiting and watching for the tribunal to deliver justice. Serbs tend to believe it is biased against them; Croats the same, though to a lesser degree. Only a majority of Bosnians feel its work has been some ways beneficial.

Yet despite these differing views, the tribunal has produced a verifiable and thorough accounting of the war and who was responsible. For generations to come, an indisputable truth will be available to everyone -- whether they chose to believe it or not.

It is perhaps fitting that the man with the most Bosnian blood directly on his hands was saved until last. The tribunal was never designed this way, but its legacy will be that a war criminal will ultimately pay for his crimes.

Mladic, a former Yugoslav army commander and virulent Serb nationalist, was never repentant in court. He even refused to enter a plea.

I watched him as he arrived at the courthouse. By then, some of the war's lesser figures had already been tried, sentenced, served their time and been released.

Behind the glass courtroom wall, Mladic glowered at the aging wives of his victims.

He had already robbed them of everything they cherished: homes, husbands, sons and, for some, almost their sanity. Yet with the world watching, he tried to snatch their remaining dignity, turning to stare at them and malevolently drawing a line across his throat with his finger.

That's what he thought of them, the court of international justice and his final criminal comeuppance.

The judges remained impassive, disconnected from the festering emotions in the public gallery.

But the ponderous process of meting out international law and hammering home the message that war crimes don't pay has done little to choke off the nationalism at its root.

Across Europe, the same insidious evil that triggered the Bosnian genocides is on the rise.

Those on trial at The Hague are precursors of some of the continent's current nationalist leaders -- just as they themselves are a throwback to their own grandfathers' uglier inclinations.

Bosnia re-sounded the sirens of the evils of European nationalism. After the police and ambulances mopped up the fighting and carried off the dead and injured, the ICTY became the fire truck left behind trying to put out the flames.

It's a flimsy metaphor, but it underlines the outsized role the court plays in adjudicating and parceling out blame and punishment so such a war never breaks out again.

But time has been an enemy of the process, creating a judicial imbalance of sorts, adding a layer of remove for the criminal from the crime. For the victim, it allows the pain to grow and the conspiracy theorists to weave new, ugly narratives.

It explains, perhaps in part, why the ICTY has failed to deliver on reconciliation.

A new generation has grown up as the ICTY's justice has dragged out. The lessons needed to help curb Europe's growing populist-nationalist narrative are not emerging fast enough to counter new angers and fears that are spreading.

In an ideal world, Bosnia's war criminals would have had their evil ideologies outed for the horrors they spawn far more quickly.

They would have been vilified, rather than granted space for others to grow in their nationalist image, create new divisions and sow the seeds for more war crimes. The horrible realities of Srebrenica are being forgotten.

Meanwhile Bashar al-Assad -- an even bigger killer in Syria -- seems to fear international justice at a war crimes tribunal less than losing power. ISIS's Baghdadi has made a similar calculation.

With greater resources, the ICTY might have delivered speedier results and dealt a bigger blow against evil. But that would have required bigger international buy-in. It would have put a higher price on bringing the guilty to justice sooner.

And to put it bluntly, we should have moved more swiftly. Does Assad today fear a long trial for his heinous atrocities in Syria? Unlikely. If he has watched the ICTY he will know it's only as strong as the international resolve behind it.

Just as our near-universal coalition on global warming tells us the dangers of not dealing with the human condition of consumption and destruction, so we need to rally around what it takes to be good people. Not just worthy custodians of the planet, but worthy custodians of each other.

The ICTY is an inkling of what we can achieve, but we really need to wake up and start thinking about what it really takes to stop wars. That means talking up the evils they contain and making clear what may come if those behind them are not confronted.

If we are going to convict war criminals -- and we must -- the process needs to be as big and bold as possible. The point is for everyone to know and understand.

See something say something do something. The lessons that are fresh around us today are that crimes need to be called out -- and everyone needs to know about it. If they are not, where will they end?

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War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

Dean Michael P. Scharf

James Prowse

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Rina Mwiti
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Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
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Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Section
Katie Rourke, Senior Editor
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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
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Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
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War Crimes Investigations in Burma
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
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Worth Reading

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