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FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 - Issue 17
October 30, 2017

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Editor-in-Chief
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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type "subscribe" in the subject line.

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

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

WEST AFRICA

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

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

A growing problem: U.N. peacekeepers accused of rape
Yahoo News

By Michael Walsh
October 12, 2017

United Nations peacekeepers bring hope to vulnerable populations when they arrive in war-torn countries and post-conflict areas. But allegations are mounting that they may bring something else: sexual assaults against the very people they were trusted to protect.

Amnesty International urged the U.N. on Wednesday to take swift action on allegations that one or more of its peacekeepers drugged and raped a 19-year-old woman in Central African Republic last month.

The victim told Amnesty International, a human rights organization based in London, that she was sexually assaulted near a checkpoint run by peacekeepers in the town of Bambari on Sept. 30.

Joanne Mariner, the senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, said local authorities have confirmed the rape, and the U.N. is investigating the incident. If it is substantiated, she said, the allegation should result in the repatriation and prosecution of the guilty troops.

"Overall, the U.N. still has a long way to go. In this case, it's too early to say because the U.N. hasn't announced its findings and we don't know what actions it's planning to take," Mariner told Yahoo News. "What's really crucial is that these cases be criminally prosecuted. and that generally doesn't happen."

U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric announced Wednesday that they had been alerted about the rape allegation, and that the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services carried out a "verification of information inquiry." (Contradicting the Amnesty account, the U.N. described the victim as a minor.)

The U.N. purports to have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, but experts say sexual abuse by peacekeepers is a widespread problem, and very serious in Central African Republic. An internal review acknowledges the troubling scope of these allegations and "severely deficient victim assistance."

AIDS-Free World's Code Blue Campaign, which works to end impunity for U.N. peacekeeping personnel, says the U.N. has demonstrated that it cannot continue to police and judge itself — and called for an independent investigation and special courts to cover each peacekeeping mission.

"The problem is enormous, and it is present in U.N. missions worldwide," Paula Donovan, co-director of the Code Blue Campaign, told Yahoo News. "With all eyes on the Central African Republic, the country has become an important proving ground for the U.N.'s best efforts to respond and prevent [it], yet both are failing. We recently completed a review of leaked U.N. files that revealed the U.N. hides sexual exploitation and abuse complaints from public view, making cases disappear before they are ever investigated by proper authorities."

An AP investigation published in April found that there were nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers in the past 12 years, but that only a fraction of the alleged attackers went to jail.

Mariner said the Bambari case differed from most others in a crucial way: Police learned of the assault within hours and launched an investigation, rather than hearing of it much later from a non-governmental organization.

According to the young woman, peacekeepers from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in northwestern Africa had offered her tea as she walked home from a funeral around 9 a.m., and that she passed out — awakening on the ground stripped of most of her clothing a few hours later. Workers from a nearby medical clinic found her, placed her in a bed and treated her with fluids. One of the Mauritanian soldiers reportedly visited the center that night. The next morning, the woman told a health care worker that she thought she had been raped, so they treated her with anti-HIV medication and emergency contraception.

The young woman told Amnesty International that she hopes her attackers go to prison, and that she's willing to provide a formal statement to the U.N. and Mauritanian investigators. The alleged rape occurred near a checkpoint run by peacekeepers on the MINUSCA force — the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.

Sectarian violence in the Central African Republic has reportedly displaced more than 1.1 million people — more than 500,000 in neighboring countries and roughly 600,000 internally. This is the largest number of people uprooted in the landlocked nation since 2013, when Muslim rebels overthrew longtime President Francois Bozize, inciting backlash from Christian militias.

Amnesty International's Mariner said she arrived in Bambari a day after the alleged rape and stayed until Saturday. She interviewed 11 people with direct knowledge of the case, including the victim and medical staffers who treated her.

There have been other reports of U.N. peacekeepers sexually assaulting women in Bambari, but this is the first to have resulted in a formal criminal investigation.

Peacekeepers with the U.N. are not subject to domestic prosecution, but their countries of origin are responsible for investigating and prosecuting their crimes.

"If this case is substantiated — and obviously there's very strong evidence — it's important that the U.N. really push the troop contributing country to prosecute the case," Mariner said, and "to treat this as a rape case, as if a woman had been raped in Mauritania."

Mariner said Amnesty International expects the intergovernmental organization to "take vigorous action" and make sure Mauritanian authorities do so as well. She said their response will be closely scrutinized.

Last month, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced that Jane Connors would become the first U.N. Victims' Rights Advocate, responsible for developing systemwide processes for filing complaints that are sensitive to children and people of both genders. Guterres also announced the formation of the Circle of Leadership, which encourages government leaders to "demonstrate resolve and commitment" to eradicating sexual exploitation.

In February, during a ceremony for the deployment of 225 Mauritanian soldiers to the Central African Republic, the country's defense minister — Diallo Mamadou Bathia — vowed none of the peacekeepers would ever be implicated in sexual abuse.

The U.N. did not respond to requests for comment

Attack on mosque kills 20 in Central African Republic
Anadolu Agency

By Sylvestre Krock and Felix Nkambeh Tih
October 14, 2017

More than 20 Muslims were killed in a mosque in the Central African Republic's southeast during Friday prayers, community leaders said Saturday.

"The victims were at the mosque when Anti-balaka militants stormed the mosque, killing at least 20 worshipers," said Abdouraman Bornou, a local community leader.

The incident took place at the Djimbi Mosque, in the country's southeast.

Ousman Mahamat, a Muslim community leader, said, "what has just happened in Djimbi is devastating.''

Since 2013, thousands of people have been killed in sectarian conflict in the country, and thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in neighboring countries, including Cameroon and Chad.

In a 2015 report, Amnesty International has estimated that more than 5,000 people, most of them civilians, have died in sectarian violence in the Central African Republic despite the presence of international forces.

The country's UN peacekeeping mission, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic or MINUSCA, strongly condemned the violence.

''The violence resulted in the death of several members of the Muslim community. MINUSCA and the government of the Central African Republic will dispatch a joint mission to Kembe in the coming hours to take stock of the situation on the ground," said a MINUSCA statement.

''MINUSCA deplores the wave of violence ... which has resulted in several casualties, including peacekeepers. These acts of violence have contributed to the increase in the number of displaced persons and paralyzed humanitarian work.''

Seleka versus Anti-balaka

Violence erupted in the central African state in 2013, when Muslim Seleka rebels ousted then-President Francois Bozize, a Christian leader, who himself came to power in a 2003 coup.

Fierce fighting has continued between Muslim Seleka and Christian Anti-balaka rebels.

The Anti-balaka militia is made up of people from the southern and western part of the country, who are mostly Christians. The insurgent group identifies itself as a Christian militia.

It surfaced in 2013 as a self-defense group to fight against the Seleka militia that ousted Bozize, and is dominated by his supporters.

Some former members of the nation's armed forces who remained loyal to Bozize belong to the group.

The Seleka is an alliance of several armed groups from the majority-Muslim northeastern part of the country.

Almost half of the country's population depends on humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.

Central African Republic: Muslim Rivals Have Killed Dozens in Car
All Africa

By Jean Kassongo
October 19, 2017

Rival Muslim armed groups have killed over 130 civilians, including children, at the peak of their infighting in the Central African Republic (CAR). The clashes have been widespread since November 2016 when fighting broke out between the ex-Seleka grouping—Popular Front for the Renaissance of CAR (FPRC) and Unit for Peace in CAR (UPC) — in the northeastern Bria. The attacks against civilians, United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian actors subsequently spread to other parts of the region. In December 2016, the town of Bakala, 60 km north-west of Bambari, changed hands several times between the FPRC and UPC and was the scene of massacres of civilians. The UN has reported the armed groups killed at least 133 civilians or other protected people, including 82 men, 16 women, ten children and 25 persons of unknown sex and age. Some 111 of the verified killings are attributed to UPC and 22 to the FPRC coalition. Documented violations and abuses include killings, injuries, abductions,rapes, denial of medical care and humanitarian relief, destruction of property and restrictions to the freedom of movement. The Seleka overthrew the CAR government in 2013. The remaining groups after the rebel movement's dissolution are thus known as ex-Selekas. In its recommendation urged the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra hold perpetrators accountable. It urged the armed groups to cease violations and abuses of international human rights law.

UN says 26 killed in latest CAR clashes
News 24

October 21, 2017

At least 26 people were killed during clashes in a southeast region of the Central African Republic where the government has struggled to assert its authority, the UN's peacekeeping force in the country said on Friday.

Another 11 people were wounded in the violence on Wednesday, which came ahead of a visit by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the country next week.

The clashes occurred in the town of Pombolo, in a region where tensions have flared between Muslim and Christian militias since May in which dozens of civilians have been killed.

Seraphin Embondza, commander of the UN's MINUSCA mission in the country, told the UN radio station Guira FM that the wounded had not yet been evacuated from the town, where no UN troops had been stationed.

The Central African government on Friday called on MINUSCA to show "a deeper engagement and re-evaluate its methods for intervening in order to protect civilians," after troops arrived in the area on Thursday.

One of the world's poorest nations, the Central African Republic has been struggling to recover from a three-year civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias that started after the 2013 overthrow of leader Francois Bozize.

The United Nations maintains some 12 500 troops and police on the ground to help protect civilians and support the government of Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected last year.

UN chief Guterres is expected to arrive on Tuesday in a visit aimed at drawing attention to a "forgotten crisis" and its heavy toll on aid workers and UN peacekeepers.

"The level of suffering of the people but also the trauma suffered by aid workers and peacekeepers are deserving of our solidarity and heightened attention," Guterres told AFP and Radio France Internationale in an interview on Wednesday.

Some UN officials have raised alarm over indications of genocide in the country. Guterres said there was "ethnic cleansing" in many parts of the country.

Sudan & South Sudan

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

South Sudan Opposition Groups Meet in Kenya to 'Harmonise Voices'
Eyewitness News

October 16, 2017

South Sudanese opposition groups tried to forge a united front on Monday ahead of an expected resumption of peace talks, in the first such meeting since the start of their country's civil war nearly four years ago, attendees told Reuters.

South Sudan's civil war, triggered by a feud between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, has plunged parts of the world's youngest nation into famine and forced a third of the population — some four million people — to flee their homes.

Representatives of South Sudan's many armed and unarmed opposition groups met in the Kenyan town of Nyahururu, said Kosti Manibe, a former government minister who was briefly jailed and represents a group of ex—political prisoners.

"I call it like—minded groups who are opposed to the policy that the regime of Salva in (South Sudan's capital) Juba is pursuing," Manibe said.

The gathering, expected to last three days, comes after diplomats from the regional bloc IGAD held talks with Kiir in Juba at the weekend to press the government to participate in the planned peace talks in December.

"The opposition is speaking in a cacophony of voices. There is a need to harmonise these voices," said Majak D'Agoot, another member of the former prisoner group.

Manibe said Kenya's government had "graciously allowed" the opposition groups to meet in their country, without elaborating.

Kenyan foreign affairs ministry spokesman Edwin Limo said he was not aware of the meeting.

The United Nations says South Sudan's civil war has resulted in ethnic cleansing and other war crimes.

A Western—backed peace deal between Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar collapsed last year, spawning the creation of new armed and political groups opposing the government.

Machar's SPLA—IO rebel group, the country's largest which still controls swathes of territory in the south and northeast of South Sudan, declined to attend the Nyahururu meeting, according to Nathaniel Oyet, a senior member of the group, saying it may distract from the December talks.

Oyet also cited security concerns in Kenya where SPLA—IO officials have disappeared in the last year, including Machar's spokesman who was arrested and deported to Juba in 2016.

Among those attending Monday's meeting in Kenya were representatives of former army general Thomas Cirillo, who is waging an insurgency in the southern region of South Sudan, and other former government officials Lam Akol, Gabriel Changson, and Joseph Bakosoro, all of whom live in exile.

South Sudanese government officials were unavailable for comment on the Kenya meeting.

US ambassador to UN evacuated from volatile South Sudan camp
Los Angeles Times

By Sam Mednick
October 25, 2017

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was evacuated from a U.N. camp for displaced people in South Sudan on Wednesday because of a demonstration against President Salva Kiir, witnesses said.

Shortly after Haley left the camp, U.N. security guards fired tear gas to disperse the crowd of more than 100 residents who looted and destroyed the office of a charity operating there, an aid worker at the camp said. The aid worker spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety fears.

Haley, in the middle of a three—country African visit, met earlier Wednesday with Kiir over the country's long civil war. Speaking later to U.N. station Radio Miraya, Haley said she warned Kiir that the U.S. no longer trusted South Sudan's government and was no longer prepared to wait for change. She did not give details.

The United Nations confirmed the incident with Haley, saying camp residents "became upset that she was not able to meet with them, due to time constraint." A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N. said Haley was meeting with a recently reunified displaced family but had to shorten her visit because of security concerns.

Frustration has been growing inside and outside South Sudan over the conflict that has killed tens of thousands and created Africa's largest displacement of civilians since the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

"People are not happy," said one resident of the U.N. camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of his safety. He said camp residents had been waiting to hand Haley a letter with their position on the "current crisis." The U.N. said a "petition" was delivered before Haley's departure.

"We are disappointed by what we are seeing. This is not what we thought we were investing in," Haley said in remarks later released by the U.N. "What we thought we were investing in was a free, fair society where people could be safe and South Sudan is the opposite of that."

Haley is the highest—level U.S. government official to visit South Sudan since President Donald Trump took office. She is in Africa to see the involvement of the U.S. and United Nations in Ethiopia, South Sudan and Congo, where she will be on Thursday.

In his meeting with Haley, South Sudan's president appealed for the Trump administration to stay engaged with his devastated country. According to a statement by his office, Kiir "emphasized his commitment" to end the conflict through peace talks that took place in the capital, Juba, last week and are expected to resume in December.

"All disputes can only be resolved through dialogue and not arms," Kiir told Haley, the statement said. Multiple attempts at peace deals have failed in the past.

The United States is South Sudan's largest donor and was instrumental in the country's creation. Since the East African nation gained independence in 2011, the U.S. has given more than $5 billion for humanitarian and development initiatives, according to the U.S. Embassy.

South Sudan plunged into civil war in late 2013, and the country faces mass displacement, starvation and allegations of government corruption and war crimes. More than 2 million people have fled the country.

Before her visit to the U.N. camp, Haley said on Twitter that she hopes South Sudan's peace process succeeds. "The pain in the stories of refugees from S.Sudan is a reminder we can't look away. We can't let armed conflict be their only choice," she said.

South Sudan's president also said he was working with the United Nations to increase access for humanitarian workers across the country ravaged by hunger. The U.N. has long alleged government restrictions on aid, including harassment by troops.

Rights groups have urged the United States to take a tougher approach to Kiir's government.

Victims of South Sudan attack on aid workers start testifying from U.S.
Reuters
By Jason Patinkin
October 25, 2017

Foreign victims of an attack on aid workers in South Sudan began giving testimony via video link from the United States on Wednesday in the trial of government soldiers accused of murder and gang rape.

The assault on the Terrain Hotel in the South Sudan capital Juba in July 2016, at the end of a battle between government and rebel forces, left a South Sudanese aid worker dead and at least five foreign women raped.

"We had testimony from one of the victims through a video conference," prosecution lawyer Philips Anyang told Reuters, without giving details. He added that a second victim was scheduled to testify on Thursday.

Six witnesses are to testify from the United States, with the assistance of the FBI. The military trial in Juba is not open to the media.

U.N. investigators and rights groups have frequently accused both the South Sudanese army and rebels of murder, torture and rape, and say such crimes almost always go unpunished.

The civil war, which has killed tens of thousands, broke out in 2013 between the army of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and rebels of former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer.

The trial of 12 suspects in the hotel attack is the first prosecution in South Sudan of soldiers accused of committing atrocities. It had been stalled due to a lack of witness evidence.

Previously, the court in Juba demanded witnesses travel to South Sudan to testify, but most were unwilling to do so out of safety and confidentiality concerns. The court has now dropped that requirement.

"For [the court] to concede that point was a sign that they were willing to accept victims' concerns and victims' wishes to be a lot more sensitive," one woman who was raped in the attack told Reuters before the trial began.

Another woman told Reuters before the trial that she had been gang—raped by 15 men in the hotel incident. She said she wanted to testify because most victims of such crimes in South Sudan did not get justice.

"To stand up and put it on the record that these atrocities are being committed by forces ... is an amazing opportunity that I had to take," she said.

Also testifying will be at least one eyewitness to the murder of the South Sudanese aid worker, John Gatluak, a Nuer who had worked for U.S.—funded organization Internews, Anyang told Reuters.

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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

New Report Shows Hezbollah Used Prominent Bank in War-Ravaged DR Congo to Finance Key Terror Network
Algemeiner

By Ben Cohen
October 17, 2017

Hezbollah, the Iranian—backed Shia terrorist group in Lebanon, has been using a bank with close ties to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo to launder money and maintain a terror—funding network under the control of a Hezbollah financier arrested by US authorities earlier this year, a new investigative report released this week asserts.

Issued on Monday, the report – compiled by researchers at The Sentry, an online publication connected with the Washington, DC—based anti—genocide advocacy organization Enough – documents how Hezbollah financiers have used the BGFIBank DRC to move money around the international banking system in violation of US sanctions on Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. The CEO of BGFIBank DRC is Francis Selemani Mtwale, brother of DR Congo's president, Joseph Kabila.

The report noted that the transactions were carried out by subsidiaries of Kinshasa—based business conglomerate Congo Futur, a company under US Treasury Department sanctions. Warnings to senior bank officials, including Mtwale, went unheeded, the report said, and "the bank's relationship with Hezbollah—linked companies continued."

"BGFIBank DRC even went so far as to request that certain transactions be unblocked by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) after other banks refused to process them. And BGFIBank DRC continued to engage in correspondence with Congo Futur—affiliated company representatives in 2016," the report said. "This raises major questions about the bank's ability and willingness to fulfill its sanctions and anti—money laundering compliance obligations."

The report emphasized how the bank's violations of sanctions "allowed Kassim Tajideen –described by the US government as 'an important financial contributor' who 'has contributed tens of millions of dollars to Hezbollah' – and his network to maintain access to the global financial system despite being placed under US sanctions in 2009 and 2010."

The documents reviewed by The Sentry also show links between Congo Futur and other firms in Tajideen's network. Tajideen was arrested in Morocco on March 12 this year, and then deported to the US after being charged with "conspiracy, fraud and money laundering."

The report urged the Department of Justice to "expand its investigation into the Tajideen network to evaluate the potential criminal liability of BGFIBank DRC leadership for knowingly doing business with Hezbollah financiers pursuant to the US Patriot Act and the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA)."

"Specialized human rights and transnational crimes units in the United States and Europe should investigate whether entities within their jurisdiction have ties to the Tajideen network, with a view toward any financial facilitation of terrorist activities or human rights violations, including the potential facilitation of crimes occurring in Congo," the report said.

Despite its enormous natural resources, DR Congo is one of the world's most poverty—stricken countries, dominated by political and economic corruption that enables terrorist groups like Hezbollah to flourish. According to The Sentry, many of those in control of the country's wealth include "perpetrators of violence" who have been involved in the "commission of mass atrocities" and who "directly control and influence various illicit networks in the country." These individuals and groups "are assisted by a series of facilitators spread across the country and region who provide their local networks logistics and access to the international systems of global finance, trade, and transportation."

More than 5 million Congolese were killed during a decade of genocidal conflict that came to an end in 2007. Under Kabila's rule, the DR Congo's human rights record has remained one of the worst in the world.

Notwithstanding, DR Congo was elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday, along with Pakistan and Qatar. In a statement of protest, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that "The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country infamous for political suppression, violence against women and children, arbitrary arrest and detention, and unlawful killings and disappearances, has been elected to serve on what is supposed to be the world's preeminent human rights body." Haley – a persistent critic of the UNHRC – said that the election "calls into serious question the (UN) General Assembly's methods of selecting membership in the Human Rights Council."

"People around the world are losing their inalienable rights and freedoms at the hands of oppressive regimes," Haley said. "This election has once again proven that the Human Rights Council, as presently constituted, is not that voice."

African Leaders Call for Strengthened Military Intervention in DRC
All Africa

October 22, 2017

The Eighth High—Level Meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has recommended strengthening of MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade.

Heads of State and government who met at Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo have come with such a proposal for MONUSCO (The United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) with a view to adapting it to the new challenges in the fight against the negative forces operating in eastern DRC.

A communique released yesterday by Ambassador Innocent Shiyo from the Department of Regional Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the leaders are after maintenance of military pressure and enhancement of operations against the armed groups, including in particular the ADF, FDLR,Kamuina Nsapu and other armed and terrorist groups that destabilise the DRC.

Under chairmanship of Republic of Congo President, Mr Denis Sassou Nguesso, the high—level meeting sent a strong and unequivocal message to all foreign disarmed combatants in the DRC, including FDLR and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army—In Opposition (SPLM/A—IO), that there is no other option than to return to their countries of origin.

"The leaders called for completion of repatriation without pre—conditions of the FDLR disarmed combatants that are in the DRC transit camps of Kanyabayonga, Kisangani and Walungu, as well as the M23 former combatants that are still in Uganda and Rwanda, within the shortest time frame possible and not later than 20 October 2018 ... in this regard, direct that the follow—up mechanism, comprising the governments of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, MONUSCO and the guarantors of the PSC (Peace, Security and Cooperation) Framework, be reactivated and propose modalities to accelerate the repatriation of the disarmed combatants and their dependents," Ambassador Shiyo said in the final communique of the meeting.

The meeting that President John Magufuli was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, called upon parties to ensure the situation of women and children in the FDLR transit camps in eastern DRC is addressed as a matter of urgency, including through encouraging UNHCR, UNICEF and other humanitarian actors to explore measures aimed at expediting their repatriation to Rwanda.

They called for action to be taken against those responsible for crimes against humanity, through investigations so that they are later brought to justice in line with the PSC Framework, the ICGLR Protocol on Judicial Cooperation and international law.

They noted that despite delays in its implementation, the 31 December 2016 political agreement remains the viable framework for ending the political crisis in the DRC and stressed the need to pursue the implementation of confidence building measures to create conditions conducive for the good conduct of the electoral process.

Ambassador Shiyo unveiled that the heads commended significant progress achieved in the voter registration process (42 million voters, out of the 45 million estimated, registered so far) and stressed the need for the early publication of a consensual electoral calendar and a budget as per the 31 December 2016 agreement and encouraged the government to ensure the passing of requisite electoral legislation.

It further condemned acts of violence against State agents, security forces and civilians, as well as human rights violations in the Kasaïs, took note of the DRC Government's efforts to investigate reports of human rights violations and to prosecute the alleged perpetrators, with the support of the United Nations team of international experts on the Kasaïs. The move comes after three Tanzanian soldiers serving with MONUSCO were killed between September and October, this year.

The slain Tanzanian UN peacekeepers include Private Mussa Jumanne Muryery who was killed by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in September and Corporal Maselino Paschal Fabusi and Private Venance Moses Chimboni who were killed this month after they were attacked by a group of rebels 24km from the town of Beni.

Tanzania has contributed uniformed UN peacekeepers in various parts of the world since 1995. It currently contributes peacekeepers in six UN missions in Africa and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

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WEST AFRICA

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Ivory Coast – Arrest Of Soro Ally Kone Is Risk-Negative
CNBC Africa

By François Conradie
October 13, 2017

On Monday, October 9, police arrested Souleymane Kamarate Kone for the possession of military-grade weapons found in his home in May.

The arms cache was discovered when some army units were dispatched from other areas of the country to quell a mutiny in Bouake, where Mr Kone's house is. The soldiers discovered six tonnes of weapons and ammunition, according to the public prosecutor. An investigation was launched at the time, which eventually led to his arrest on Monday.

Mr Kone, known as 'Soul To Soul', is a 'comzone' – a zone commander, the leader of one of the militias, quite often involved in organised crime, and which banded together during the civil war to fight for current President Alassane Ouattara against the government of then-President Souleymane Kamarate Kone.

The leader of these 'New Forces' was Guillaume Soro, currently Speaker of Parliament and who sees himself as the next president of the Ivory Coast when Mr Ouattara's current term ends in 2020.

Mr Kone currently serves as Mr Soro's protocol chief. A statement from Mr Soro's office after Mr Kone's arrest read that Mr Kone "has already served in prison in 2000 for the cause of President Alassane Ouattara. He is a strong man who will remain dignified."

The relationship between Mr Ouattara and Mr Soro, who did so much to get him into power, has been strained for some time but more notably in the past month.

Mr Ouattara's party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), held its quinquennial national conference in early September and pointedly did not name Mr Soro to any senior position. Nor did it, it must be noted, so name his main rival in the party, Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko, but Mr Soro issued a slightly spiteful statement at the time of the conference.

The conference elected Henriette Diabaté, an 82-year-old academic, as party president, which means it is still unclear who is the RDR's most likely candidate in the presidential race in 2020.

Mr Kone's arrest will only worsen the relationship between Mr Soro and Mr Ouattara. We think the former rebel commander's time in the RDR is coming to an end —he was never popular with the political class or the professional soldiery – and this increases the danger that the former rebel leader will again activate the networks of armed militias in the north within which he retains influence.

Political risk is expected to keep trending negative as Mr Ouattara's current term draws to a close. The RDR and the broader coalition of which it is part, the Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), are set to splinter, and analysts expect a fluid political environment over the next three years.

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

Secession Movements Raise Tensions in Nigeria and Cameroon
Council on Foreign Relations

By John Campbell
October 12, 2017

In the midst of secession movements in Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan, the New York Times recently highlighted two African movements, in Nigeria and Cameroon. In both countries, secession movements reflect long-standing grievances and ham-fisted government responses.

In southeast Nigeria, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement has revived the call for an independent Biafra. The movement is closely associated with the aspirations for independence of the predominately Christian Igbo people. That cause was initially defeated in a 1967-70 civil war that left between one and two million dead. The defeated Biafra was quickly re-integrated into Nigeria under a policy of "no victors, no vanquished." While many Igbos have done well, still others believe that there is a glass ceiling that keeps them down and makes them feel like second-class citizens. As elsewhere in Nigeria, loyalty to the Nigerian federal government is weaker than that to ethnicities and religions. It is important to point out that the IPOB is separate from militants in Nigeria's adjacent oil patch, which are not Igbo but rather from a variety of small ethnicities. Generally speaking, Niger Delta militants do not want independence, but simply a larger share of the region's oil revenue. The two movements, while both hostile to the federal government in Abuja, are not allied. In fact, many people of the Niger delta opposed the Igbo effort to incorporate it into Biafra during the civil war. Niger militants can sabotage Nigeria's all-important oil production. At present, however, they have a declared a cease fire in anticipation of Abuja meeting their demands, which center on channeling more resources to their region.

If secession in Nigeria is fueled by ethnicity and the division of the "national cake" (the Nigerian phrase for elite division of national oil revenue), in Cameroon the issue is language. After World War I, the British and French governments divided the former German colony of Kamerun. The French took the lion's share, and eventually incorporated Cameroon into the colonial federation of French Equatorial Africa. The British incorporated their much smaller share into Nigeria. Following the independence of the French territory in 1960 and the British territory the next year, a referendum was held in the British part of Cameroon. The vote was to merge with French-speaking Cameroon rather than remain part of Nigeria. Under the terms of the new federation between the two Cameroons, both French and English were to be legal languages of equal status. This was not to bear out, as a Francophone-dominated government would later replace the federation with a unitary state.

Reflecting in part their demographic predominance and this new arrangement, Francophones in the united Cameroon dominate politics and the economy. According to the Times, among other slights to Anglophones, recent laws have not been translated into English, and central government officials speak it poorly. Predictably, Anglophone alienation has been accelerating and their economic development lagging.

Corruption in both Nigeria and Cameroon is corrosive, though in the former the government of Muhammadu Buhari has launched a major campaign against it. In Cameroon, President Paul Biya is estimated to have a personal fortune of some $200 million. Nigeria is a functioning, if weak, democracy. In 2015, Buhari defeated incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in credible elections, and, importantly, Jonathan conceded. By contrast, Biya's rule is that of a "big man," with only a few trappings of democracy providing a fig leaf for his authoritarian rule.

In both countries, government response to secession movements has been the hammer, rather than dialogue to address deep seated grievances. In both countries, security service harshness and human rights abuses appear to encourage local support for secession movements. With deep popular roots, secession movements are difficult, if not impossible, for distant governments to destroy by force. At best, central governments can drive them underground, from which they emerge again when the powers that be show signs of weakness.

Nigerian Court Convicts 45 in Boko Haram Mass Trials
ABC News

By Sam Olukoya, Associated Press
October 13, 2017

A Nigerian court has convicted 45 Boko Haram members in the largest mass trial in the Islamic extremist group's history.

The closed-door proceedings have raised the concerns of human rights groups about whether the trials of the 1,669 people will be fair.

These are the first results of the mass trials that began early this week at a military barracks in northern Nigeria. The judges are drafted from civil courts, while the barracks are being used for security reasons.

The 45 people were sentenced to between three and 31 years in prison, the country's information minister said in a statement Friday. Another 468 suspects were released, but the court ordered that they undergo deradicalization programs.

The government has not said what exactly the hundreds of suspects are charged with.

Nigeria is trying to show it is making progress against the extremist group that has killed more than 20,000 people during its eight-year insurgency. Boko Haram has yet to comment publicly on the mass trials.

Nigeria has arrested thousands of suspected Boko Haram members in recent years, and military detention facilities are overcrowded. Human rights groups say most of those detained have been picked up at random and without reasonable suspicion, including women and children.

Former detainees have described malnutrition, mistreatment and deaths in the facilities.

Boko Haram's attacks have spilled into neighboring countries and displaced more than 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad region, creating a vast humanitarian crisis. Some fighters have allied with the Islamic State group.

While Nigeria's military has arrested many Boko Haram top fighters and last year declared the extremist group had been "crushed," leader Abubakar Shekau remains elusive. The group in recent months has carried out a growing number of deadly suicide bombings and other attacks, many carried out by women or children.

Over 500 Anglophones arrested in Cameroon after demonstrations: Amnesty
Business Insider

By Reuters
October 13, 2017

More than 500 people have been swept up in mass arrests following violent demonstrations in Cameroon's English-speaking regions earlier this month, Amnesty International said on Friday.

Troops and attack helicopters opened fire on protesters calling for independence at rallies on Oct. 1, killing more than 20 people and escalating a long-simmering conflict with the Francophone-dominated central government.

A central government spokesman was not available for comment on Friday, but authorities have repeatedly denied that soldiers use disproportionate force against protesters.

English-speaking communities in the Northwest and Southwest regions say they suffer economic and social discrimination at the hands of the government of long-time leader President Paul Biya.

Amnesty said in a statement that hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained since the protests in Buea, the capital of Southwest region, including as many as 100 as they walked to church the following week in the Mile 16 area of the city.

Some have been charged with secession, others with not possessing identity papers, destruction of public property or failing to respect an order by the governor banning protests and other public activities.

"This mass arrest of protesters, most of whom were acting peacefully, is not only a violation of human rights, but is also likely to be counter-productive," said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty's Lake Chad region researcher.

The protests have rallied opposition against Biya, who has ruled for the last 35 years, and given momentum to the more radical separatist activists, some of them armed, among Cameroon's 5 million English speakers.

Amnesty also said local prisons have become overcrowded because of the mass arrests, and some wounded protesters have fled hospitals out of fear of arrest.

Demonstrations in the English-speaking regions began nearly a year ago when Anglophone lawyers and teachers protested against having to work in French, saying it showed the wider marginalization of the English-speaking minority.

Cameroon's linguistic divide is a legacy of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between allied French and British victors.

In Partnering With Nigeria's Abusive Military, the U.S. Is Giving Boko Haram a Lifeline
World Politics Review

By Hilary Matfess
October 24, 2017

Early one Friday morning this past August, the United Nations compound and guesthouse in Maiduguri, the largest city in northeast Nigeria, was targeted in a raid.

For several hours after the armed intruders arrived, they were prevented from crossing the gate of the facility, where officials help coordinate humanitarian assistance programs for populations affected by the ongoing violence carried out by the militant group Boko Haram. Eventually, though, after the attackers cut the lock on the compound gate and beat a security guard, U.N. officials had little choice but to let them in.

By that point, the guests were hiding in a safe room. But it soon became clear that the intruders were going to force them to come out, according to one witness, an NGO employee who, like many people interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons and to avoid jeopardizing humanitarian operations in the region. Before long, the guests were being shuttled from room to room as the intruders searched the building. Then they were taken outside for questioning.

Given that Maiduguri is where Boko Haram was founded, it might have been reasonable to suspect that the group was behind the raid. Having formed in the early 2000s as a largely nonviolent dissident sect, Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009 that has displaced millions and, according to Amnesty International, killed more than 20,000 people. The insurgency's devastation has triggered a broader food shortage and humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad basin.

As it turned out, however, the assault on the U.N. compound was actually perpetrated by members of the Nigerian military. According to an internal U.N. memo obtained by AFP, the Nigerian soldiers may have been acting on a far-fetched rumor circulating on social media that Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, was being housed there.

Those familiar with humanitarian aid operations in sub-Saharan Africa describe the raid as unprecedented, and say it's stunning that the military would engage in such an operation on the basis of nothing more, apparently, than a rash of WhatsApp messages.

Even more shocking, though, is the silence of the international community in the wake of the incident. While a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the U.N. was "extremely concerned" about what happened, Nigeria's other partners kept quiet. Given that the United States is a significant military partner of Nigeria, the lack of condemnation from U.S. officials of what likely amounted to a violation of international humanitarian law was especially jarring.

Yet Washington's silence is consistent with a broader pattern: The U.S. has routinely turned a blind eye to abuses by the Nigerian military in the northeast of the country despite the fact that the U.S. is supporting Nigerian forces battling Boko Haram. So far, there is every indication that this bilateral military engagement will continue under President Donald Trump.

In early August, a little more than a week before the U.N. raid, the U.S. approved the sale of some $593 million in military hardware and training to Nigeria. The transaction's big-ticket item was a dozen A-29 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft.

The Nigerian government had originally sought permission to procure the aircraft in 2015, but the military's human rights record prompted the Obama administration to put the sale on hold. In particular, the Nigerian air force has been accused of bombing civilians on multiple occasions, including a January strike on a camp for displaced people in Rann, in the northeastern state of Borno, that killed at least 100 people, according to The Associated Press.

The Rann bombing is an extreme example of an array of abuses, including arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial killings, committed by Nigerian security forces in the campaign against Boko Haram. These abuses persist even as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has undertaken a concerted effort to lionize Nigerian soldiers as national heroes.

A frequent refrain in Washington policy circles, on the rare occasions when events in Africa manage to break through the frenetic domestic news cycle of the Trump era, is that it is imperative to depend on "strategic regional partners" to advance America's security objectives. But while security partnerships, both multilateral and bilateral, are a valuable component of America's national security toolkit, events in the Lake Chad basin suggest that Washington's strategic partners are engaging in counterproductive behavior.

A recent report published by the U.N. Development Program, titled "Journey Into Extremism in Africa," draws from interviews with former combatants in Nigeria, Mali and Somalia to show that many people who join extremist groups have suffered abuses at the hands of the security sector. The takeaway is clear: Combating terrorist groups with tactics that make it easier for them to recruit is quite literally self-defeating.

The behavior of the Nigerian military, therefore, demands that Washington recalibrate its security strategy in the region, emphasizing professionalization over weapons acquisition and improved capacity for combat.

As Destructive as Boko Haram

The Nigerian military's abuses in the fight against Boko Haram are so extensive that they are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. Extrajudicial killings and illegal detention practices have been documented at length by several nongovernmental organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Among the most comprehensive and distressing accounts was a 2015 report by Amnesty International titled "Stars on Their Shoulders, Blood on Their Hands," which tallied more than 7,000 deaths in Nigerian government detention centers, 1,200 additional extrajudicial killings and the arbitrary arrest of more than 20,000 people in counterterrorism operations. According to Amnesty, the military "extrajudicially executed people after they had been captured and when they presented no danger." The victims included people who "were shot dead inside detention facilities, while others were either shot or had their throats cut after being captured during cordon-and-search operations."

In one especially gruesome incident, soldiers responding to a Boko Haram attack in the northeastern town of Baga in April 2013 carried out a "mop-up" operation that killed nearly 200 people. More recent accounts from activist groups and people living in the Lake Chad basin suggest these abusive practices have continued.

A woman I interviewed in December 2015 in the Fufore refugee camp, located in the northeastern state of Adamawa, survived attacks by both Boko Haram and the army. She said that of the two, the army left more destruction in its wake. "My town was along the Boko Haram route, so they attacked us regularly but never ruled over us," said the woman, who is from Borno and who spoke on condition of anonymity for her safety. "We were just trapped in our town."

But when the soldiers came, the woman said, they "burned all of our houses and our fields." She said she had no time to collect her possessions before the inferno began.

Another woman from the town of Walasah, also in Borno, similarly reported that when the Nigerian army entered her community, "They did not stop to ask who was Boko Haram; they just burned down the whole village."

For civilians, it makes little difference if a village is burned by Boko Haram insurgents or by soldiers. They are left without their livelihoods and property, facing an uncertain future.

The Nigerian military often claims that such fires are set by Boko Haram. However, this contradicts the testimony of displaced people, journalists and even some military personnel.

While there is arguably a strategic justification for burning villages—namely, to deprive Boko Haram of resources to loot—the same cannot be said for other abuses carried out during village raids, which seem to be the result not of strategic logic, but rather a lack of professionalism. A UNICEF employee who has worked on protection issues throughout northern Nigeria reported that, in March 2016, when Nigerian soldiers entered communities in Adamawa to liberate them from Boko Haram's rule, the soldiers announced they would "kill local men and take their wives."

With a resigned shrug, the aid worker said, "You can never have security forces acting to code 100 percent of the time anywhere." Yet in Nigeria's case, such behavior has hampered counterinsurgency efforts by reducing citizens' trust in the military.

Detention in a Broken System

Military violence against civilians in northeast Nigeria doesn't end with raids and "mop-up" operations. Amnesty's 2015 report noted that "on numerous occasions, particularly following Boko Haram raids, soldiers have gone to the town or village, rounded up hundreds of men and boys and taken into custody those identified as Boko Haram by paid informants." Amnesty says that most of the arrests it has documented appear to be "entirely arbitrary." Those rounded up have included boys as young as 9 and at least 30 women and girls.

This characterization is backed up by my own sources. "When the military first came, they thought everyone was Boko Haram," said one man in Maiduguri, adding that the scene reminded him of the "Tom and Jerry" cartoon in which Tom the cat relentlessly pursues Jerry the mouse.

After the military's raids and so-called rescue missions are conducted, those who have been identified as potential members of Boko Haram or who stand accused of being sympathetic to its cause are subject to a screening process in which soldiers attempt to discern their level of involvement. The process is deliberately opaque. Though human rights groups would have an obvious interest in monitoring it, they are kept in the dark. "This is a no-go zone for NGOs; we are not invited," said one U.N. refugee agency employee working on protection issues. "Only after they are screened do we get access to these people."

This screening process often depends on input from vigilantes who are from the same community as the suspects. In particular, the vigilantes are tasked with reporting whether those with ties to Boko Haram joined the insurgency by force or voluntarily. The reliance on vigilantes—who are dependent on payments from the military to make ends meet—is deeply problematic and likely counterproductive to the military's efforts to garner trust from communities across the northeast.

Disturbingly, there seems to be no standard screening procedure across commands. In interviews I conducted, a variety of military men, vigilantes and local politicians all admitted that screenings varied greatly depending on who was doing it, and that soldiers—many of whom had not been properly trained—had wide discretion in interviews. "We often ask them what their names are and where they were abducted," one soldier told me. "Even though we know they were not all kidnapped, we still often phrase it that way." This sort of priming inevitably has an impact on the interrogation process.

Some of the women and girls who have been "rescued" by the military report being traumatized by their experiences with soldiers. A 20-year-old woman from Bama who is currently living in the Dalori camp for displaced people in Maiduguri recalled that after being taken by soldiers from a Boko Haram camp, she was kept in the military barracks for 10 days. "I didn't sleep very much—there was always boom boom," she said, imitating gunfire and shaking her head. "They [the military] asked me what I knew about the bombings and all of the weapons."

Those who are found to have supported Boko Haram are subjected to indefinite detention and, frequently, gross human rights abuses. In theory, they should have charges brought against them so a court can quickly determine their guilt or innocence. However, as one soldier noted, "Prosecution is a long process, so many of them are just awaiting trial."

Hero Narrative

The litany of complaints against soldiers clashes dramatically with official accounts of how the military conducts itself. President Buhari, a one-time military dictator, campaigned on his image as a military man. Since he took office in 2015, the military's public relations team has gone on an aggressive pro-military crusade, relaying details of soldiers' victories, "rescues" and "liberations" on a seemingly daily basis.

To be sure, Nigerian security forces are not universally predatory, and their counterinsurgency efforts have improved over time. But even for those who haven't been on the receiving end of the military's most brutal tactics, the official government line is difficult to find credible. Examples of the military's less-than-heroic conduct, as described by residents of the northeast, include stealing hijabs in order to dress up as local women while fleeing well-armed Boko Haram insurgents.

The Nigerian press—whether due to sympathy for the armed forces, a lack of journalistic training or coercion—often parrots the government's heroic depictions of the military's actions without question. In June 2016, for example, army spokesman Sani Usman said that Nigerian troops operating in Mafa, a Local Government Area, or administrative zone, in Borno, "liberated over 5,000 persons held hostages by Boko Haram terrorists and recovered five motorcycles and similar number of bicycles." The status of those rescued, where they were taken and their demographic profiles were not given, and the reported casualties on the part of the security forces—one injured policeman and one injured soldier—seemed almost unbelievably low. Nevertheless, the press ran with the story, just as they had three months earlier, when Usman claimed in March 2016 that the military had rescued more than 11,000 people.

Of course, the government's attempt to lionize soldiers is not unique to Nigeria. This kind of narrative is useful in improving the military's self-perception and civil-military relations. Deepa Kumar, a professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, has written about how the U.S. government used similar tactics during the Iraq War. The framing, she writes, acts "as the means by which a controversial war [can] be talked about in emotional rather than rational terms."

The Need for a New Approach

Nigeria is not the only country fighting Boko Haram that has received American military assistance despite concerns about human rights abuses. In neighboring Cameroon, which has been hit hard by Boko Haram's use of suicide bombers, more than 2,000 of the country's soldiers were trained by the U.S. military in 2015. That year, Cameroon also received more than $44 million in U.S. military assistance.

But just last month, Human Rights Watch released a report that detailed how Cameroon's military forcibly returned 100,000 Nigerian asylum-seekers fleeing Boko Haram, denying them access to the U.N. refugee agency in the process. Human Rights Watch also found that Cameroonian soldiers had engaged in physical and sexual violence against asylum-seekers.

While the details of the report were alarming, such violence did not come as a surprise to many human rights activists familiar with Cameroon's track record. In July, after all, Amnesty International published a report suggesting that Cameroonian soldiers were torturing suspected terrorists "at a base that was also frequently used by U.S. military advisers," prompting U.S. Africa Command to launch an investigation.

Despite such allegations, there is no sign that U.S. military assistance to countries in the Lake Chad basin will be curbed. Indeed, there is a depressing contrast between chronic underfunding of the humanitarian response in the region and the seemingly limitless funds available for military assistance. As of August, less than half of the $1.05 billion requested by the U.N. for humanitarian programming had been provided by donors, leaving a gap of $545 million.

No one is arguing that cultivating partnerships with regional governments and their militaries shouldn't be a central component of America's security strategy in Africa. However, these partnerships should not be predicated on a definition of security that ignores the threats militaries pose to their own civilian populations.

As a significant donor of military and nonmilitary aid, an ostensible proponent of international human rights norms and "the largest exporter of conventional weapons in the world," the U.S. is in the best position to both demand that African militaries become more professional, and to assist them in that process.

In the Lake Chad basin, a failure to do so will ultimately undermine the goal of promoting peace and stability that prompted the U.S. to engage militarily in the first place.

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Mali

UN chief urges support for Sahel force to fight extremists
The Washington Post

By Edith Lederer
October 16, 2017

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging strong international support for a 5,000-strong force to fight the growing threat from extremists in Africa's vast Sahel region, warning that if urgent action isn't taken "the stability of the entire region, and beyond, is in jeopardy."

The U.N. chief said in a report obtained Monday by The Associated Press that the security situation in the Sahel is in "a continuous downward spiral" and stressed that inaction will leave millions of people at risk of violence. "Ultimately, we, the international community, will bear the responsibility for such a disastrous scenario," Guterres said.

In February, the leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad agreed to establish the force to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime, help restore government authority throughout the countries, return millions of refugees and displaced people, and facilitate humanitarian aid.

The 22-page report paints a grim picture of the situation in the region today.

"The Sahel region is now trapped in a vicious circle where poor political and security governance, combined with chronic poverty and the effects of climate change, have contributed to insecurity," Guterres said. "The rise of terrorism and lawlessness has further undermined state authority, leaving governments unable to provide for and protect their citizens, which in return contributed to radicalization and further instability."

Today, some 4.9 million people across the Sahel have been forcibly displaced, "demonstrating the toll of conflict and violence in the region," he said. And in the broader region that also includes Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal "some 24 million people are in need of life—saving assistance."

The operational plan for the so-called G5 joint force calls for strengthened border security in the first phase and "the deployment of a full-fledged force, operating across the entire Sahel to neutralize armed terrorist groups and criminal organizations" in the second phase by March 2018, Guterres said.

But funding has become a critical issue.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in June welcoming the deployment of the G5 force, but at U.S. insistence it did not include any possibility of U.N. financing. The African Union Peace and Security Council has authorized its deployment for an initial 12—month period.

Guterres said primary responsibility for mobilizing resources to support the force lies with the five countries that are contributing the troops.

The G5 states have developed a budget estimated at 423 million euros to establish the joint force, including its first year of operations. But Guterres said only a quarter of that amount has been pledged.

He said a donor conference will be held in Brussels on Dec. 16, stressing that "bilateral support to G5 countries' national armed forces and security services will remain critical."

Guterres said he also remains "fully committed to providing the entire range of support of the United Nations to the region" and said the establishment of the G5 force "represents an opportunity that cannot be missed."

The secretary-general outlined four options for U.N. support to the joint force.

He said the Security Council has previously approved logistical support for non-U.N. missions in Sudan and Somalia, and the U.N. has identified four options through which the U.N. can use assessed contributions from the 193 U.N. member states to support African Union peace operations.

These range from the least ambitious, which would use the existing Security Council mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali to support its defense and security forces, to expanding the Mali mission's mandate, to establishing a U.N. office to provide limited support to the G5 force that would include medical assistance, food, fuel, water and other supplies and technical help.

The most ambitious option would expand the assistance a U.N. support office would provide to include maintenance contracts, satellite imagery, telecommunications and information technology, and infrastructure support as well as other items.

Guterres expressed hope the Security Council's visit to the Sahel starting later this week will give members "an opportunity to garner further insight into the situation on the ground and understand the urgency of supporting the joint force."

On Oct. 30, the secretary-general will present the report's recommendations to a ministerial meeting of the council chaired by French Foreign Minister Jean—Yves Le Drian.

Security situation for Christians in Mali gets worse
Crux

By Ngala killian Chimtom
October 18, 2017

Monsignor Edmond Dembélé, the secretary general of the bishops' conference of Mali, says "there are so many armed groups now, all trying to prove themselves" in the country. The Central African nation's small Christian minority is feeling the brunt of the violence, as Islamist groups destroy Christian places of worship, and drive Christians out of their homes.

Christians in Mali have come under systematic attacks by extremist Muslims, and the Catholic bishops say they are "deeply worried" about the lack of a government response to the crisis.

Mali is 90 percent Muslim, and Christians make up just 2 percent of the population. It is estimated there are 200,000 Catholics in the country, and around 100,000 people belonging to other Christian communities.

Jihadists who used to operate mostly in the north of the country are now launching incursions on the center of the country.

Monsignor Edmond Dembélé, the secretary general of the bishops' conference, told Jeune Afrique Christian places of worship are a frequent target of attack.

He recalled a recent attack in the village of Dobara, about 500 miles north of the capital Bamako, where armed men stormed the local church, taking the crucifix, altar furnishings, and the statue of the Virgin Mary. They burned the church material right at the church door.

In September in the locality of Bodwal, Christians were chased away from their church with the threat that if they kept worshiping, they would be killed.

Over the next few weeks, several churches were burned in Mali's central Mopti region, forcing parishioners to flee.

Dembélé lamented the fact the government was not providing more adequate security, making it hard for Christians to continue worshiping in what the government insists is a "lay state in which all religions have a right to co-exist."

"We have no security program of our own and we rely on the authorities to provide protection and find solutions," Dembélé said. "On previous occasions, the government has deployed military units in our parishes. But this still hasn't been done against these new attacks."

Human Rights Watch published a disturbing report in September that documented "serious abuses by Islamist armed groups in central Mali … including summary executions of civilians and Malian army soldiers, destruction of schools, and recruitment and use of children as soldiers. Increasing intercommunal violence near Koro, in Mopti region, has raised concerns of more widespread abuses."

But the report also accused the Malian army of similar crimes, noting that "Malian forces have committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests against men accused of supporting Islamist armed groups."

The rights group says such actions by the authorities further escalate the violence.

"The skewed logic of torturing, killing, and 'disappearing' people in the name of security only fuels Mali's growing cycle of violence and abuse," said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch.

Understanding the Attacks on Churches

To understand what is happening to the Catholic Church in Mali, it is essential to understand the history of the current insecurity in the country.

In January 2012, members of Mali's Tuareg ethnic group, who had been fighting to defend the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi returned home after the fall of his regime. When they returned, they still had heavy weapons from the Libyan conflict.

With this armory, they became the fighting arm of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (known by the French acronym MNLA), and quickly overran most of the north of Mali, taking over the three largest cities of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu.

They then declared the north an independent state named Azawad, an act that received no international recognition, and was opposed by several Islamist groups active in the region, Ansar Dine, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

These groups chased the MNLA out of the major cities, and proclaimed that their strict version of Sharia — the Islamic law system — was in effect. This meant things such as alcohol, cigarettes, and western music were banned.

Christians were particularly targeted in these areas, and many of them fled the country to Niger and Burkina Faso.

In 2013, French troops were sent into Mali to oust the Islamists, and supported by both the Malian army and the MNLA.

In 2015, a peace deal was signed, allowing for the integration of rebel fighters into the regular army, but it soon collapsed.

Into this vacuum a myriad of armed forces continue to operate: The army, the MNLA and other Tuareg groups, and Islamists.

One of the major incidents was an August 2015 Islamist attack on a hotel in Sévaré, located in the central Mopti region, in which 13 people were killed.

"There are so many armed groups now, all trying to prove themselves," Dembélé said.

He worries that even when the crisis comes to an end, Christians returning home will face destroyed houses and damaged property.

"There will be a lot of rebuilding to be done," he said.

Pope Francis showed his solidarity with the people of Mali when he made Archbishop Jean Zerbo a cardinal on June 28, 2017. The archbishop of the Malian capital Bamako, Zerbo is the first cardinal from the country.

The pope said the appointment was an effort to highlight "those neglected areas and complex situations of war and poverty, while it reaffirms the interest of the Catholic Church."

Video released of Mali troops held by al—Qaida—linked group
ABC News

By Baba Ahmed
October 19, 2017

A video has been released that reportedly shows 11 Mali soldiers being held hostage by an al—Qaida—linked extremist group.

Menastream, a risk consultancy that monitors jihadist activity, showed screen grabs and analysis of the Oct. 1 video shared by the al-Qaida-linked Islam and Muslim Support Group. In it, the soldiers ask Mali's government to find a solution for their release.

The soldiers were captured during jihadi attacks between July 2016 and March 2017.

The video could not be independently corroborated.

A Mali intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to press, said Mali's government is discussing what can be done to free the soldiers.

Jihadist groups remain in northern Mali despite being pushed out from their strongholds by French—backed forces in 2013.

ICC investigates war crimes in Mali: Fatou Bensouda
Daily Nation

October 19, 2017

The International Criminal Court said on Wednesday it was investigating several potential war crimes including murder in Mali, months after finding an ex-jihadist guilty and liable for millions worth of damage in the landlocked country.

"Our investigations are continuing (into) other crimes... sexual crimes and crimes against peacekeepers, killings and all those," ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told reporters in Bamako.

TAKEOVER

The Hague-based tribunal said in August that ex-jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi caused 2.7 million euros worth of damage when he destroyed several fabled shrines in Timbuktu, in northern Mali, during the jihadist takeover there in 2012.

The judges further ordered that the Malian state as well as the international community be compensated with a symbolic amount of one euro for the damages suffered.

Al-Mahdi was jailed for nine years in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to directing attacks on the UNESCO world heritage site and apologised to the Timbuktu community.

LANDMARK

It was a landmark case for the ICC as it was the first time a jihadist had pleaded guilty to a war crimes charge.

Bensouda said the court was expanding its investigation in Mali, which is home to a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission.

"I am not in position to talk about what else is being done regards to Al-Mahdi proper but all I can tell you the court is looking at other crimes within the context of our investigations in Mali," she said.

Jihadist ambush on US forces shows new danger in Sahel
Macomb Daily News

By Baba Ahmed and Krista Larson
October 19, 2017

The Islamic militants came on motorcycles toting rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing four American service members after shattering the windows of the unarmored U.S. trucks.

In this remote corner of Niger where the Americans and their local counterparts had been meeting with community leaders, residents say the men who came to kill that day had never been seen there before.

"The attackers spoke Arabic and Tamashek, and were light-skinned," Baringay Aghali, told The Associated Press by phone from the remote village of Tongo—Tongo.

Who were these men and how did they know the Americans would be there that day?

No extremist group has claimed responsibility for the deadly ambush on Oct. 4 and the languages reportedly spoken by the jihadists are used throughout the Sahel including Tamashek, spoken by ethnic Tuaregs.

The ambush of U.S. troops in Niger has been the center of controversy in America because President Donald Trump has been criticized in some quarters, including by one grieving family directly, for the way he spoke to the wife of one of the soldiers slain in that operation.

The Niger attack appears to be the work of the Islamic State of the Sahel, a splinter group of extremists loyal to the Islamic State group who are based just across the border in Mali, according to interviews with U.S. officials and authorities here in the vast Sahel region bordering the Sahara Desert. It is led by Adnan Abu Walid who built ties with various extremists before forming his own group.

Some officials believe Walid's militants are also holding an American, Jeffery Woodke, who was abducted in Niger a year ago. A rebel leader approached by Niger authorities to conduct negotiations for his release confirmed that Walid's group is holding Woodke, who had spent 25 years as an aid worker in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Now Walid's group is suspected of the attack that killed four American soldiers this month.

The ambush in Niger highlights how extremist groups have shifted and rebranded since the 2013 French-led military operation ousted them from power in northern Mali. Those extremists lost Mali's northern cities but regrouped in the desert, including the man suspected of ordering the attack on the Americans.

Walid, 38, also known in some circles as Adnan al-Sahrawi, descends from the Sahrawi people, who are found across southern Morocco, Mauritania and parts of Algeria. He has long been active with Islamic extremists in Mali, at one time serving as the spokesman of the Mali-based group known as MUJAO that controlled the major northern town of Gao during the jihadist occupation in 2012.

That group was loyal to the regional al-Qaida affiliate. But Walid parted ways and in October 2016 a video circulated on the internet in which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

In the year since then he has called for attacks on foreign tourists in Morocco and the U.N. mission in Western Sahara, according to audio messages released in his name. It is not clear if Walid is receiving financial help from the Islamic State group or if the links are purely ideological.

Walid's following now includes numerous members of the Peul ethnic group in the Mali-Niger border areas, who are active in the area near where the attack on the U.S. soldiers took place. Before the attack on the U.S. troops in Niger, Walid's followers are believed to have staged a series of bloody attacks on military installations in Niger. In February, they were blamed for an assault in Tliwa where a dozen Niger soldiers were slain.

Walid's Islamic State in the Sahel does not yet pose a threat as great as the al-Qaida militants in the region though that could shift with time, said Ibrahim Maiga with the Institute for Security Studies in Bamako. Walid clearly appears to have learned from his former colleagues on how to infiltrate and influence locals, he said.

"He has succeeded ... in creating links with local people despite the fact that he is a stranger to the area," he said.

The growing threat posed by Walid's group comes as the international community is already facing an escalation in violence across the Sahel. A report by the U.N chief obtained this week by AP warned that the security situation in the Sahel is in "a continuous downward spiral."

For several years American and French forces have provided training and support to the militaries of Mali, Niger and other vulnerable countries in this corner of Africa where Islamic extremism has become increasingly entrenched over the past decade. Now the U.N. is urging the international community to finance a 5,000-strong regional force, with the head of the U.N. saying "the stability of the entire region, and beyond, is in jeopardy."

The 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali has become the most dangerous in the world as Islamic militants routinely attack U.N. convoys across the north.

And the future of the regional security force known as the G5 Sahel Multinational Force — made up of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — appears to be in jeopardy.

France, the former colonizer which has a 5,000-strong military operation to help stabilize the region — has been a major financial backer. Funding, though, has come up short.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in June welcoming the deployment, but at U.S. insistence it did not include any possibility of U.N. financing for the force. So far only one-quarter of the needed funds have been raised, throwing into doubt whether the regional forces will begin operations this month as scheduled.

Maiga, the Malian security expert, said winning the battle against extremism will not be only a question of firepower. If it were a conventional conflict with two armies respecting roughly the same rules, the G5 would come out stronger.

Jihadist groups, though, are infiltrating the population, exploiting the absence of government in some of these remote areas. That is how Walid's group may have learned about the visit of the U.S. troops to local communities. Within the communities where troops are attacked, someone is tipping off the extremists.

"The outcome of this battle will not depend solely on the size of the troops," he said, "but also on the ability of states to regain the confidence of the population."

Mali to extend state of emergency for another year
APA News
October 21, 2017

The state of emergency due to expire in Mali on October 31 will be extended for another year, APA learned late Friday at the end of the weekly Council of Ministers' meeting presided over by the head of state, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

"The state of emergency will be prolonged again for a period of one year taking effect on 31 October 2017 at midnight throughout the national territory," the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting announced.

It added that "despite the efforts taken, the terrorist attacks against the civilians and the armed and security forces are continuing."

"The risks of serious harm to the safety of people and their property remain high in some areas," the statement continued.

The state of emergency was first imposed on April 19, and extended on April 28 for a six-month period expiring on October 31, 2017.

This latest extension is, therefore, the second of the special measure.

According to the statement, the first extension "had allowed, among other things, to maintain and reinforce measures and activities to preempt terrorist acts and combat organized crime."

Parts of Niger and Mali are already lawless. U.S. strategy might make it worse
The Washington Post
By Max Bearak
October 23, 2017

When four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed in Niger earlier this month, many Americans, including some in Congress, were surprised that their troops were active in the little-known country. Now, nearly three weeks after the ambush in which they died, the main story line is about how long it took President Trump to reach out to their families, and what he said when he eventually did.

The United States has about 800 troops in Niger, a number which has been steadily increasing since they first deployed there in 2012. And while their operations take a back seat to those in Iraq and Syria — in size, strategic importance, and media attention — the U.S. military is eyeing a larger and more aggressive counterterrorism mission in this increasingly lawless region.

While analysts agree that the underpowered armies of Niger and neighboring countries need help in combating terrorist networks, some caution that heavy-handedness could trigger a spiral of violence similar to quagmires the U.S. military has helped to create in the Middle East.

"You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you're going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you're going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said on Friday, after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed him and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on a possible expansion of the U.S. military's ability to use lethal force in Niger.

The part of Niger where U.S. troops were killed is already awash with deadly skirmishes. Islamist militants first took over areas in neighboring Mali, along its border with Niger, in 2012. While the militants were slowly beaten back by thousands of French troops working with the Malian and Nigerien armies, they still operate in hard-to-govern reaches of the Sahara Desert that covers the northern portions of both countries. From there, they've mounted countless attacks on military camps, kidnapped civilians and foreign contractors, and organized sophisticated attacks on hotels in Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast.

The United Nations conservatively estimates that armed groups carried out at least 46 attacks in the region surrounding the village of Tongo Tongo, where the U.S. troops were killed, since early last year. Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed in that attack, and gunmen on motorcycles and pickup trucks killed 13 more on Saturday in nearby Ayorou. Hundreds of Nigerien and Malian soldiers have been killed since 2012.

The main role of U.S. forces, Mattis said earlier this week, is to provide refueling, intelligence and surveillance support for more than 4,000 French troops. France, which ruled both Niger and Mali as a colony until 1960, has a permanent air base in Niger's capital, Niamey. Washington also helps train Nigerien troops on the other side of the country, where they are fighting to eliminate Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based Islamist armed group.

U.S. Air Force planes are based in the country for surveillance purposes, and U.S. Special Forces not only train troops, but often also "accompany and assist," according to AFRICOM, the U.S. military's Africa command center. Despite the level of American involvement, the National Security Council is yet to appoint a senior director for Africa, and the highest Africa position in the State Department is filled by a temporary appointee.

The loosening of restrictions on the U.S. military's ability to use lethal force in Niger could mirror similar decisions made in Syria, Yemen and Somalia. In those countries, the designation of certain regions as "areas of active hostilities" has paved the way for U.S. drone strikes and even on-the-ground raids. The United States suffered its first combat death in Somalia since 1993 in May.

Groups pledging allegiance to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State represent the France-led coalition's major adversaries in the region. The so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, or ISGS, is thought to have orchestrated the ambush that killed the U.S. Special Forces members, though they haven't claimed responsibility. Armed groups in Mali and Niger have regularly shifted allegiances as a way of attracting material support and appealing to local sensibilities.

"If U.S. troops in the area are allowed to go for more aggressive rules of engagement, then the question is who are they going to shoot at?" said Yvan Guichaoua, a professor at the University of Kent who specializes in political conflict in the Sahel, a region hugging the Sahara's southern fringes that includes Niger and Mali. "Answering 'the Islamic State' is not going to help. Jihadi militancy in the area has multiple forms."

Since Libya, to the north, descended into civil war in 2011, both arms and militant ideologies have spilled over into Mali and Niger as never before. The main group operating in Mali and Niger now is not ISGS but a loose alliance of groups that gained prominence after 2011, known jointly as Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM.

ISGS, according to Guichaoua, has played on local grievances to recruit a following. Its base of support comes mostly from an ethnic group that has fought in the past with others over grazing land for cattle. Niger's government is too weak to adjudicate, and ISGS has helped the group "settle scores," often bloodily. In Mali, armed Islamist militant groups have capitalized on ethnic tension, too — many in the country's mostly Arab and Tuareg north resent the Malian army, made up mostly of ethnic groups from the south, which has committed human rights violations in recent years.

"Targeting these groups is the best way to make their leaders heroes, foster unity in jihadi ranks, and inflame communal violence," said Guichaoua. "All policymakers working in the area know well the highly inflammable nature of the situation."

France, the United States, Niger, Mali, neighboring countries and all sorts of regional bodies are experimenting with the entire gamut of counterterrorism tactics, from dialogue led by local religious figures to the type of highly covert raids U.S. Special Forces are training regional armies to carry out. But both Guichaoua and Rida Lyammouri, an independent security consultant focusing on the Sahel, said understanding local political dynamics is key to driving support away from armed groups.

"The U.S. role should be designed in a way that local communities don't feel that they're being used," said Lyammouri. "It is important that the Americans understand why these armed groups expanded over the past years despite the presence of international forces."

Even so, at this point, the military option must remain on the table, he said. Eliminating militants' recruitment rationales can only go so far. The various militant groups have entrenched themselves and have proven capable of regular attacks on military outposts and civilian targets. The role of U.S. and French air power is crucial in the vast stretches of the desert, and neither Mali nor Niger has those capabilities.

Both Mali and Niger rank among the very poorest countries in the world. Niger, in particular, faces a plethora of problems. In the security vacuum created by armed groups in its northwestern and southeastern extremities, human trafficking routes have proliferated, and hundreds of thousands of Africans have traversed Niger on their way north to Europe.

The heavy-handedness that both Guichaoua and Lyammouri warned against is already apparent. Since the ambush in Tongo Tongo on Oct. 4, village leaders have been rounded up and arrested. Guichauoa said there are signs Nigerien and French troops are preparing for a mission to avenge the lives of the U.S. Special Forces soldiers. The population of an area near Tongo Tongo, about 3,000 people, has been ordered by the Nigerien military to evacuate. And Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are due back on Capitol Hill on Oct. 30 for a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about whether the administration believes a new authorization for use of military force is necessary.

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EAST AFRICA

Uganda

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

Museveni Warns On Age Limit Violence
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Misairi Thembo Kahungu and Ronald Seebe
October 18, 2017

President Museveni has warned that he will not tolerate any violence in regard to the ongoing age limit debate and that the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party cannot be threatened.

Speaking on Monday at Kisiki College in Namutumba District, Busoga sub-region, during the thanksgiving ceremony for the District Woman MP, Ms Mariam Naigaga, the President said NRM is "a master at violence", except its violence is "disciplined and purposeful".

"NRM fought for freedom in the country and freedom means giving one a chance to express his or her opinion without one threatening him or her. Where is the Opposition getting the mandate to stop NRM members from speaking their mind on age limit?" he asked.

A State House statement issued yesterday quoted the President to have said: "The amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution about age limit should be discussed calmly, politely without abusing anybody. Bring your reasons without intimidation so that we can get a correct solution. I want to warn those who intimidate others and think that they can threaten NRM, which ushered in peace, that their illusion is not possible. Our mission is purposeful and peaceful."

Warns on intimidation

The President warned those opposed to age limit removal that they should stop their "illusionary attitude" of intimidating people.

"Stop it," he said. "We fought for freedom for this country and it must be protected," the President was quoted to have said.

His warning comes just days after he openly told NRM Caucus last Friday that he was behind the proposal to remove 75-year as the upper age cap for a prospective President.

He said the current legal regime was discriminatory against Ugandans below 30 and 35 years that want to stand for offices of district chairpersons and president respectively.

Igara West lawmaker Raphael Magyezi tabled the Constitution amendment Bill on September 27 after two days of fist-fighting by MPs.

MPs subscribing to NRM have randomly been accosted by their constituents during consultations to popularise the scheme to remove both the lower and upper age limit for a President and district chairpersons.

The spate of attacks has prompted some of the affected legislators to sign up guns for personal safety or seek police escorts.

In Namutumba, Mr Museveni urged the wrangling MPs and district leaders to work together and pledged tractors.

Kamoga Asks for Bail in Court of Appeal
AllAfrica: The Observer

By Derrick Kiyonga
October 23, 2017

Three months after the International Crimes division of the High court sentenced him to life in prison, having found him guilty of terrorism, Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Kamoga has applied for bail in the Court of Appeal.

"That I'm further advised by my lawyers of Muwema and Company Advocates that there is a possibility of substantial delay in determination of my appeal before this honourable court as there are a series of cases pending and those that are already fixed for the next criminal session," he says in the application.

Though he was sentenced with five others, it is only Kamoga who has applied for bail on grounds that, among others, he is 60 years old, which makes him fall within the bracket of a person defined as being of advanced age - one of the grounds on which a bail application can be based.

The Muslim cleric also says he has substantial sureties who are "ready and shall abide by the terms of the bail set by court."

On August 21, Kamoga; his brother Sheikh Murta Mudde Bukenya, Sheikh Siraje Kawooya and Sheikh Fahad Kalungi were convicted of terrorism and consequently condemned to spend the rest of their lives in jail by Justices Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Percy Tuhaise and Jane Kiggundu.

Their co-accused Yusuf Kakande and Abdulsalam Sekayanja were sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Though they were acquitted of charges of murdering sheikhs Ibrahim Hassan Kirya and Mustapha Bahiga and attempting to murder Prince Kassim Nakibinge, the titular head of the Muslim community in Uganda, Haruna Jjemba, Najib Ssonko and Mahmood Kibaate, they didn't have the same luck when it came to the terrorism charge.

They were found guilty after the three judges found them culpable of "threatened murder," one of the ingredients for proving terrorism.

The prosecution had the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt, at least one of the four ingredients of terrorism: actual murder, attempted murder, threatened murder and maiming or attack on a person or group of persons in a public or private institution.

Prosecution led by Principal State Attorney Lino Anguzu proved threatened murder. Justice Muhaguzi said Kamoga, Kawooya, Bukenya and Kalungi were handed a severe sentence because they were leaders who should have led by example.

He said Kakande and Sekayanja walked off with a lesser sentence because they were just followers.

Now, Kamoga hinges his bail application on an appeal filed in the Court of Appeal in which he challenges both his conviction and sentence.

He says he has been informed by his lawyers that his appeal has plausible grounds of success since no murder or attempted murder was ever proved against him, and yet, according to him, the charge was drawn around the murder counts.

Kamoga has no kind words for the international crimes division, saying it is frustrating the appeal process. He asserts that immediately after the judgement, he wrote to the trial court requesting for a typed and certified record of proceedings so as to facilitate his appeal process but it has not been availed to either him or his lawyers.

Kamoga says bail should be granted to him since he is of "good character, a religious leader or Muslim cleric" with "a huge following" and "a law-abiding citizen."

"I don't intend to abscond from the jurisdiction of this honourable court and I have a permanent and fixed place of abode at Tula Village Local Council 1 Kawempe within the jurisdiction of this court," Kamoga says, adding that he is ready to fulfil all conditions set by the court upon granting him bail.

Age Limit - FDC's Mafabi Released From Police Custody
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Yahudu Kitunzi
October 23, 2017

The Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi who doubles the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) secretary general was on Sunday night released from police custody after spending two nights in cells.

Nandala who was arrested on Friday evening and detained at Tororo Central police station is accused of inciting violence after he reportedly led a team of protestors to demonstrate against the proposed amendment of the constitution to remove the presidential age limit.

The Elgon region police spokesperson Suwedi Manshur said Mr Mafabi was granted police bond after recording a statement over charges of inciting violence.

The leaders of Opposition Winfred Kiiza and Mbale municipality MP Jack Wamai Wamanga stood for Mr Nandala.

Mr Wamai warned police against intimidating members of the Opposition by arresting them.

"We need a leveled ground. But it's unfortunate for police to give protection to NRM and fire teargas and live bullets at the Opposition," said Mr Wamai.

Mr Mafabi's release comes after FDC leaders in Elgon and Bukedi sub-regions demanded for his unconditional release his prolonged detention may provoke his supporters to organize an attack on the police station.

Mr Mafabi is expected to start his consultative meetings on age limit today (Monday).

Besigye Granted Bail by Rukungiri Court
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Edson Kinene and Misairi Thembo Kahungu
October 25, 2015

Former Presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye and other party officials have been granted bail by court in Rukungiri.

Dr Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change party Secretary for Mobilisation, Ms Ingrid Turinawe, candidate for the party presidency Patrick Amuriat and Rukungiri District councillor Innocent Tashobya were arrested in Rukungiri on October 19 as they headed to the neighbouring Kabale District to address a rally.

They were charged with two counts of inciting violence, malicious damage to property and disobedience of statutory duty.

They pleaded not guilty. The case has been adjourned to November 16, 2017 for mention and setting of trial dates.

The politicians are still in court premises and security is still tight outside court.

Transfered from Nagalama

Police on have transferred Opposition activist Kizza Besigye from Nagalama Police Station in Mukono district back to Rukungiri District where they arrested him last week.

A convoy of heavily armed Counter Terrorism Police drove into the police station at about 3pm yesterday.

This was about an hour after Nakifuma Magistrate's Court had heard Dr Besigye's petition seeking immediate release and adjourned the case for a ruling today.

Dr Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change party Secretary for Mobilisation, Ms Ingrid Turinawe, candidate for the party presidency Patrick Amuriat and Rukungiri District councillor Innocent Tashobya were arrested in Rukungiri on October 19 as they headed to the neighbouring Kabale District to address a rally.

Police claim that the four-time FDC presidential candidate and his co-accused had commanded a procession in Rukungiri on October 18 where one person was killed.

Eyewitnesses said the deceased was shot by but police deny and claim he was hit by a stone.

They were transferred to Nagalama Police Station. They are facing charges of murder, holding unlawfully assembly and destruction to property.

On Monday, Dr Besigye and his co-accused instructed their lawyers to petition court to order police to release them immediately from illegal detention at Nagalama.

The petition was filed in Nakifuma Magistrate's Court by lawyer and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.

Nagalama police commander Jessica Naawe and the officer in charge of CID, Mr Labu Chepcule, refused to sign the court summons asking them to appear before court to explain why they continued to detain Dr Besigye and his co-suspects without charge.

Ms Sylvia Nvanungi, the Magistrate, proceeded to hear Dr Besigye's petition and adjourned the case for a ruling today morning.

However, after about one and a half hours, two police vans emerged from Nagalama Police Station carrying the four FDC leaders before driving on Kayunga-Gayaza road. The first vehicle carried Dr Besigye and Ms Turinawe whereas Dr Amuriat and Mr Tashobya were put in the second.

Ms Turinawe managed to wave through the windows of the vehicle to waiting supporters outside the station as the driver sped off at about 4:10pm.

At Kalagi roundabout, the two police vans led by a blue police van, which usually trails Dr Besigye, branched off to Mukono Road leaving the two other patrol vehicles heading towards Gayaza. At this point, private vehicles, including that of Buhweju MP Francis Mwijukye were left guessing which direction to follow.

Upon reaching Seeta near Mukono, the police again branched to Namugongo where they joined the Northern Bypass and joined Masaka road at Busega roundabout.

Mr Lukwago told Daily Monitor yesterday evening that police acted in a way of rendering today's court ruling "useless".

"It is unfortunate that the police acted in an awkward manner by running away from reality. We know they took them to western Uganda so that the Nakifuma court fails to rule on our application on grounds that it has been overtaken by events," Mr Lukwago said.

Mr Lukwago, however, said the legal team will still receive the judgement from Nakifuma Magistrate's Court today.

Mr Mwijukye charged: "Police are acting in a criminal way. They are taking stupid decisions to move our people from place to place with no charges against them."

Police spokesperson Asan Kasingye yesterday told Daily Monitor that Dr Besigye and his co-suspects were taken to Rukungiri where they allegedly committed the offences to appear in the court of right jurisdiction.

"We have taken them back to Rukungiri where they committed the offences because the only court that has jurisdiction to hear their case is in Rukungiri. So, they needed not to remain at Nagalama where they can't appear in court," said Mr Kasingye.

However, he did not say when Dr Besigye and his colleagues will appear in court or whether the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had sanctioned the charges against the four since all prosecutors are currently on strike.

"What I know is that the charges have been sanctioned but I cannot confirm them now because I have just received the information," Mr Kasingye said. Under the Constitution, criminal prosecution is a mandate of the DPP.

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Kenya

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

Lobby threatens to take Nasa to ICC over poll violence
Daily Nation

By Faith Nyamai
October 23, 2017

A group of the civil society members under the umbrella Council of Kenya Professionals (CPK) have threatened to take the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the event that they make statements that could lead to violence during or after the repeat presidential elections scheduled for Thursday.

In a press briefing, CPK chairman Ababu Namwamba said they have dispatched a team of observers and researchers to monitor, record and document any acts of violence during the Thursday poll which they will use and give as evidence to the ICC.

"We have set up a command centre where we shall receive live updates of what will be going on across the country, those who want to boycott the elections can do so but they should not interfere with the rights of other Kenyans," said Mr Namwamba.

On Sunday, the CPK launched a campaign under the banner "Kura Yangu Haki Yangu" and vowed to fight for the right to vote for all citizens.

BOYCOTT

They said even a zero vote return documentation by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is accepted in the constitution.

The former Budalang'i MP condemned Mr Odinga's election boycott call, terming it a selfish move.

"It was Nasa that went to Supreme Court, occasioning the repeat of the presidential elections. Calling for the boycott is in contempt of the Supreme Court ruling, disrespect for the rule of law and the Constitution," he said.

He also termed the continued calls for reforms at the IEBC by Nasa leaders as a threat to the independence of the institution.

According to Mr Namwamba, the council has already launched a case at the ICC against key Nasa leaders among them Mr Odinga, Senator James Orengo and Kalonzo Musyoka.

PETITION

The council is accusing the leaders of sponsoring and promoting activities that are likely to trigger violence, crimes against humanity and genocide.

He said the council has also resolved to petition the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the United Nation's Security Council and the Office of the Rapporteur on Genocide to collect evidence, prosecute and hold to account those responsible for violence.

Former legislator Danson Mungatana said nobody was above the law asked Nasa not to interfere with elections.

"We will not sit and watch our country go down, those who will not wish to vote should stay away from polling stations, "he said.

Senior counsel Katwa Kigen asked the opposition to stop issuing threats to IEBC saying that interfering with elections was a crime.

In Kenya, Much Of The Election Chaos And Violence Stems From Tribal Divisions
NPR

October 24, 2017

Kenya's presidential elections have been marked by a murder, deadly protests and a historic Supreme Court decision. But the thing underlying all of the chaos and discord is tribalism.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Kenyans are scheduled to go to the polls on Thursday. This is a rerun of presidential elections that were held in August and that were subsequently annulled by the courts. The electoral season has been full of chaos, violence and discord, much of it stemming from the country's deep tribal divisions. NPR's Eyder Peralta explains.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: I'm in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu, the heart of the opposition in this country and where ethnicity is ever present. Protests are constant, and politicians, including opposition leader Raila Odinga, talk of Luo lives mattering. After the August vote, police went door to door, killing at least a dozen people, according to Human Rights Watch. Joseph Abanja says police threw tear gas into his house. His wife was behind him, holding his 6-month-old baby, when he opened the door to get out. He remembers being hit on the head and then hearing his wife screaming that they killed their baby.

JOSEPH ABANJA: When I woke up, she gave me the kid in my arms. Looking at my kid, the foam was coming outside the month. But her head was swelling. So I started screaming, why have you done this?

PERALTA: Baby Samantha died at a hospital five days later. Abanja says, before this, he had never attended a political rally. He had never felt that his tribe put him at risk.

ABANJA: After the incident, we feel like we're left out, see? They don't care about us no more. Even if they kill us, they don't care.

PERALTA: Across the country, I've heard educated Kenyans say they can't get jobs because they're not of the ruling Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes. Human rights groups have pointed out that almost all people killed by police during the protests earlier this year were Luo. Historians agree that tribal divisions were hardened by the British during Kenya's colonial era. They printed tribe on identification documents and divided Kenyans by ascribing stereotypical traits. Owaahh, a writer who goes by one name and runs a history-focused blog, says the Kenyan elite had a perfect opportunity to walk away from those divisions at independence in 1963. But…

OWAAHH: They didn't change it. They didn't want to. For them, they saw people. They saw numbers. They saw ways to remain in power.

PERALTA: Instead, every administration since, he says, simply perfected the system. And if you look at an elections map, the votes break down neatly by tribe.

OWAAHH: It's just gotten worse and worse and worse. And now it's just this bubbling thing.

PERALTA: It's this thing that underscores all of Kenyan society, from the economy to friendships. In Gatundu in central Kenya, I find myself in a place with opposite sentiments. This is Kikuyu territory, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is from and where his father, Kenya's first president, was born. I walk the town and don't find a single opposition supporter. When I ask Samuel Ngugi why he supported the president, he says he has no other choice.

SAMUEL NGUGI: You know I cannot choose another. Only I can choose Uhuru for president. He is a man (laughter).

PERALTA: He's a man. That's an ethnic slur. Kikuyus circumcise their boys to mark passage into adulthood. Luos do not. Following the 2007 presidential elections, this tribalism exploded onto the streets. Neighbors turned against neighbors. And more than a thousand people were killed. A truth and reconciliation commission aired out all the historical injustices, but its recommendations were never implemented, in part for fear that they would open old wounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

PERALTA: Back in Kisumu, I find a group of friends having beers by the lakeside. They're Kisii, another of Kenya's 44 tribes. They were arguing about fairness in Kenya.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're not comfortable with the system. We're not comfortable...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah, we're not comfortable. But if you're not comfortable, you go to court.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The thing is we want peace.

PERALTA: All of them expressed concern that Kenya is deeply unjust. But Johnson Oginbo was trying to convince his friends that it's not worth dying for.

JOHNSON OGINBO: At the end of the day, if justice cannot be prevailed, your life moves on as a citizen.

PERALTA: Ultimately, he says, the elite politicians in Kenya are friends. So why should they get in the middle of their mess? Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Kisumu.  

In Kenya, A Disputed Election Re-Run Raises Fears of Renewed Ethnic Violence
Newsweek

By Harriet Salem
October 25, 2017

At Lion's High School, the main polling station for Kisumu Central, three armed soldiers stand watchfully over cellophane wrapped packets of polling papers as John Ngutai, returning officer, inspects the voting materials that arrived overnight under police guard.

"I am hoping for the best, but the signs are not good," a visibly anxious Ngutai, tells Newsweek as he opens a bag of official rubber stamps. Although electoral officials are meant to collect their ballots and equipment a day ahead of the vote, by late Wednesday afternoon none had yet shown up.

"They have a fear of being attacked when they go back," said Ngutai. "They are saying that they will be attacked or their premise will be burned down."

Kenya has been plunged into its worst political crisis for a decade following a Supreme Court ruling that annulled the result of an August 8 election citing irregularities in the procedure which returned incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta by 1.4 million votes.

On the eve of a charged presidential election rerun, polling stations in Kisumu City, an opposition stronghold, appeared totally unprepared. Opposition leader Railia Odinga—known as 'Baba' to his followers—has called on supporters to boycott what he has branded a "sham election" and that he was transforming his political coalition into a "resistance movement."

But that will likely not be an issue in several opposition strongholds in the west of the country where security concerns have made holding the election all but impossible.

At the high school, at least a dozen soldiers were stationed around the perimeter of the site, checking the identifications of people entering, but Nguati said he feared it was not enough to stop attacks on the center.

There is plenty of reason for local election officials in Kisumu to worry. Last week an angry mob of youths attacked a training session of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) headed by Ngutai, forcing him to switch jackets and flee for his life.

A stronghold of the National Super Alliance (NASA), the opposition coalition headed by Odinga, the city has been a hotspot for violent clashes in a campaign that has been marred by police shootings of protesters, claims of corruption and rising ethnic tensions between Kenyatta's Kikuyu tribe and main opposition candidate Raila Odinga's Luo tribe.

The IEBC has come under intense pressure at every level as it attempts to meet the Supreme Court's ruling that a re-vote should be held within a 60 day period—as is required by Kenya's constitution.

Last week the IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukati, admitted that he could not guarantee a "credible" election just hours after one of the body's senior commissioners announced she had fled to the US after receiving death threats that caused her to fear for her life.

Disrupted training, intimidation of officials and ongoing security concerns mean that even if ballot papers can be distributed to polling stations across Kisumu overnight, there are still not enough staff for all centers to open. According to Ngutai the election board has only managed to train 250 out of the 1,300 staff needed to hold the election in his constituency.

Tensions looked set to ratchet up further still following a speech by opposition leader Odinga late on Wednesday afternoon announcing that the NASA political coalition was being transformed into a "resistance movement" and calling on his supporters to boycott the vote of a "bloodthirsty regime" was "planning every excuse to massacre our people."

"If a cat is killing the chickens there are many ways to kill the cat. You can hang it on the tree, you can cut it with the knife, you can throw it in the lake," the opposition leader told a cheering crowd in Nairobi's Uhuru park, in an apparent reference to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his government. "This cat we will kill."

Many Kenyans now fear a return to the tribal violence that followed a disputed election in 2007, resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people.

"No election" was also the mantra on the streets of the Kisumu on Wednesday as thousands of protesters took to the street to protest against the vote. Businesses shuttered their hatches as demonstrators set up road blocks and burned tyres near the city's bus station. At least four people were shot in later clashes with police, who fired tear gas as well as live rounds.

"This could be a critical moment for Kenya," a local journalist in Kisumu, Harold Otieno Odhiambo said, warning that that Odinga's announcement could cause security forces to crack down further.

How Kenya's presidential election unraveled
CNN

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Faith Karimi
October 25, 2017

It's deja vu for voters in Kenya who return to the ballot box on Thursday for a presidential election do-over -- after the result of the first ballot on August 8 was overturned amid allegations of vote-rigging.

The election and the controversial re-run have been marred by the mysterious killing of an election official, claims of vote fixing, death threats and violent protests. Here's how we got to Thursday's vote:

The murdered election official

Ahead of the August election, polls indicated a tight contest between the two frontrunners, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his longtime rival Raila Odinga.

The country's electoral commission -- the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) -- implemented a new system to transmit results saying it would help to prevent any potential rigging efforts. It also used biometric voter registration to stamp out duplicate or "ghost" voters.

But just days before the vote, Christopher Msando, the IEBC official in charge of this technology, was found dead. His killing sparked shock and condemnation, but the perpetrator's identity and motives remain a mystery. The murder renewed concerns about Kenya's ability to deliver a credible election.

The disputed vote

Despite some concerns over violence, voting day came and went relatively peacefully with a high turnout -- lines of enthusiastic Kenyans snaked from polling stations across the country all day.

Over 400 election observers were deployed across Kenya and most noted that there were "aberrations here and there" but said there were "no signs of centralized or localized manipulation."

Kenyans were asked to remain calm as the preliminary results started to filter in but, as the hours passed, those preliminary electronic results became a second source of problems for the troubled ballot.

Almost immediately Odinga's opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) called foul when early numbers -- markedly different from pre-election polling -- indicated that Kenyatta was comfortably ahead in the results tally.

NASA politicians provided no evidence to support their allegations of election fraud, and three days later Kenyatta was declared the winner, giving him a second five-year term.

The hacking claims

Odinga and his party argued they had proof of widespread irregularities in a series of news conferences, saying hackers had managed to infiltrate the IEBC systems, using the stolen identity of murdered electoral official Msando, and altered the numbers in Kenyatta's favor.

Small pockets of violence broke out in opposition strongholds, leaving at least 24 people dead and stoking fears that disgruntled supporters could take to the streets, in scenes reminiscent of 2007's post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the voting authority, denied any tally manipulation but did confirm an attempted hack of the commission's system had been unsuccessful.

"The commission has responded to the claims by (the National Super Alliance). Preliminary reports show hacking was attempted but did not succeed," Chebukati said, without elaborating further on the failed hack.

The election result is nullified

Odinga urged his base to show restraint and issued a legal challenge to the result. In an unprecedented move that surprised observers, Kenya's Supreme Court upheld his petition a month later, nullifying Kenyatta's win.

The ruling marked the first time a court in Africa invalidated the re-election of a sitting leader.

The court criticized Kenya's independent voting body for failing to provide information on the IT system's firewall configuration, among other court requests.

Justice Philomena Mwilu said the IEBC's refusal to provide access left the court "no choice but to accept the petitioner's claims that the IEBC's IT system was infiltrated and compromised, and the data therein interfered with, or IEBC's officials themselves interfered with the data."

Chief Justice David Maraga ordered fresh elections to be held within 60 days, but did not elaborate on any specific reforms the voting body needed to implement before another round of voting.

Odinga called the move historic for Kenya and the rest of Africa. But after initially appearing to accept the decision, Kenyatta asserted there was a problem with the judiciary and he was going to fix it.

The opposition candidate quits

While the high court ruling appeared to offer vindication for Odinga, the opposition leader astonished the country in early October by quitting the re-run scheduled for October 26, citing the IEBC's refusal to reform.

"We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel to ensure that the 'illegalities and irregularities' that led to the invalidation of the 8th August (vote) ... do not happen again. All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one," Odinga's NASA party said in a statement.

The electoral commission's problems were compounded when one of its senior members fled to the US, telling the BBC she had received numerous death threats and did "not feel safe enough to be able to go home."

In a statement issued from New York last Tuesday, she described the IEBC as "under siege" and said it could not guarantee a credible presidential election within the next week. Fellow commissioners had become increasingly partisan, coming to meetings "ready to vote along party lines," she said, and were unwilling to "be frank with the Kenyan people."

Tribal bonds remain stronger than national identity in Kenya, where over 40 different ethnic groups have been designated. Kenyatta hails from the country's largest community, the Kikuyu. Mostly originating from Kenya's central highlands, the Kikuyu have long wielded strong economic and political power within the country. Meanwhile Odinga is of the Luo tribe, which some say have become increasingly marginalized during Kenyatta's time in office.

Wafula Chebukati, the IEBC chairman, subsequently warned that he had no faith the country could deliver a fair election and called for Kenyatta and Odinga to meet and discuss their issues with the new election.

The election re-run

The International Crisis Group, an independent think-tank, suggested the IEBC should delay the vote to avoid further political crisis and ensure the safety and security of voters.

"The IEBC should seek a limited postponement to allow sufficient time to prepare for an election that both main parties contest. Kenya's political leaders should support such an extension and commit to participate in a new vote," it said.

Activists filed a last-ditch petition to halt the upcoming vote, arguing that the majority of voters would not be part of the process because they were sitting out of the election in line with the opposition's call. But Chief Justice Maraga said the emergency challenge could not move forward as only two justices were available.

Observers will be keenly watching how Thursday's election plays out. Any unrest in Kenya could have ripple effects far beyond the nation of 47 million people.

As the largest economy in East Africa, Kenya is a crucial trade route to the continent and provides an important buffer of stability in a region that includes the fledgling Somali government and the politically tense Sudan and South Sudan.

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Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

Govt Rubbishes Report on Military Torture Claims
All Africa

By Edmund Kagire
October 12, 2017

Rwanda has dismissed the latest report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that accuses its military of using torture to force confessions, terming it as yet another witch hunt.

The Minister of Justice, who is also the Attorney-General, Johnston Busingye said Wednesday that the rights group has over the years been running a campaign to discredit the government.

"There is no truth to the HRW report. Rwanda is party to, and observes the Convention Against Torture as well as domestic laws," Mr Busingye wrote on Twitter, adding that: "HRW has recycled old, discredited and baseless allegations, for which they have no credible evidence. They will, in time, be exposed."

In its report published on Tuesday, HRW accused Rwanda's military of using asphyxiation, electric shock and mock executions to torture confessions out of detainees.

The watchdog said it documented at least 104 cases of people who were illegally detained, and in many cases tortured or ill-treated, in military detention centres between 2010 and 2016.

It further said that the widespread and systematic torture was often ignored by judges and prosecutors whenever complaints were made.

The 91-page report follows closely two others, from HRW, accusing Rwandan government of cracking down on political opponents and extrajudicial killings over petty offences.

"The Rwandan government has every right to protect its citizens from armed groups like the FDLR, but allowing the military to commit heinous crimes only creates mistrust in the government," Ida Sawyer of HRW said in the new report.

"To demonstrate its respect for the rule of law, and to put an end to these horrible practices, the government should immediately investigate and prosecute those responsible for unlawful detention and torture," Ms Sawyer said.

The government however maintains that the New York-based group has a "vindictive agenda against Rwanda" and often publishes reports that are false.

NURC to embark on healing campaigns
The New Times

By Eugene Kwibuka
October 14, 2017

The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) will focus its efforts in the next eight months on conducting mass healing sessions for Rwandans to help them cope with psychological scars left behind by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The plan was revealed on Thursday by the commission's president, Bishop (rtd) John Rucyahana, while presenting to the Senate a report of NURC's activities for the Financial Year 2016/17 and action plan for the current financial year.

Rucyahana said that the programmes will essentially be in the form talk therapy whereby people will be encouraged to meet in their communities and clubs, where they live and discuss their wounds and how to overcome them.

"It's going to be a mass approach, involving people at different levels from students, women and men, prisoners, to the youth in different communities. We are really engaging the people to heal each other by talking about their psychological wounds," he said.

The Genocide, which killed more than a million Rwandans in three months, left so many psychological wounds for both survivors and perpetrators, experts say.

Rucyahana told Saturday Times in an interview that Rwanda doesn't have to use psychiatrists to cure every psychological wound because so many people in society are wounded, hence the need to use a mass healing approach that requires every member of society to contribute to the healing process.

"Therapy through discussions at different levels will be conducted," he said shortly after presenting the plan in the Senate.

Other programmes that will be conducted by the commission over the next eight months before the end of the current fiscal year include more unity and reconciliation awareness campaigns, healing and reconciliation sessions for special groups like former prisoners and ex-combatants as well as Rwandans returning from exile.

NURC will also build a unity and reconciliation monument as well as a gallery, where works about the topic will be showcased as part of promoting the values.

The commission will use a budget of about Rwf1.1 billion to conduct its activities in the current fiscal year, funds that are slightly more than its budget for the past fiscal year when it spent about Rwf924million.

Senators welcomed the commission's plans and encouraged the body to keep up efforts to promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.

Some of them also requested the commission to actively push the government and get it to solve some of the remaining challenges to unity and reconciliation such as the issue of unsettled Gacaca cases related to property destroyed during the Genocide.

"We made so many recommendations about this issue but it's not yet clear how it will be done away with completely," said Senator Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo.

Other challenges to unity and reconciliation at the moment that deserve special attention include genocide ideology that is exhibited by certain members of society and domestic violence, both Rucyahana and some senators said.

"Domestic violence is quite a challenge because for the Rwandan society to be happy and peaceful it has to start with the family," said Senator Appolinaire Mushinzimana.

NURC is mandated by the Constitution to prepare and coordinate the national programme for the promotion of national unity and reconciliation.

Prevention of Torture: UN Human Rights Body Suspends Rwanda Visit Citing Obstructions
CNBC Africa

October 22, 2017

The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has suspended a visit to Rwanda due to a series of obstructions imposed by authorities, such as accessing some places of detention, confidentiality of certain interviews and over concerns that some interviewees could face reprisals.

The delegation suspended the visit on day five of their planned seven-day mission because of Rwanda's lack of cooperation which prevented the SPT from fulfilling its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). It is only the third time in 10 years that the SPT has suspended a mission.

"We have been barred from completing our work in some places, and grave limitations have been imposed on granting access to certain places of detention," said Arman Danielyan, head of the SPT delegation. "We have also been unable to carry out private and confidential interviews with some persons deprived of their liberty. Moreover, many of those we have managed to interview have expressed fears of reprisals. We must not place the persons that have cooperated with us in danger," he added.

The delegation concluded that the visit as a whole had been compromised to such an extent that it had to be suspended as the SPT mandate could not be effectively carried out.

Under the provisions of the OPCAT, the SPT is mandated to visit any of the 84 States parties to the Protocol and can make unannounced visits to any places where people are or might be detained; the visited country must grant the opportunity to the delegation to have private interviews with any persons deprived of their liberty, without witnesses.

The SPT mission to Rwanda had also been due to advise the authorities on the establishment of a national monitoring body, officially known as the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM), which according to the OPCAT should have a similar visiting mandate as that of the SPT and should have already been in place. The delegation also regrets that it was unable to meet with the relevant Parliamentary Committee in order to advise it on the draft NPM Law.

For the SPT, the key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are cooperation and confidentiality.

"Now we call on the Government of Rwanda to further its cooperation with us and hope that it will abide by its international obligations in order to enter in a constructive dialogue with the SPT to enable us to resume our visit, including to advise on the establishment of an independent and effective National Preventive Mechanism in the country," said the head of the delegation.

The SPT delegation comprised the following members: Mr. Arman Danielyan (Head of delegation, Armenia), Ms. Margarete Osterfeld (Germany), Mr. Kosta Mitrovic (Serbia), Ms. Zdenka Perovic (Montenegro) and Ms. Aneta Stanchevska (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

Rwandan court refuses bail for Diane Rwigara
Daily Nation

October 24, 2017

A Rwandan court on Monday refused to grant bail to Diane Rwigara, a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame who has been charged with inciting insurrection against the state as well as other offences.

Rwigara was blocked from challenging Kagame in August's presidential election and arrested on September 22, along with her mother and sister, for alleged tax evasion and forgery as well as for inciting insurrection.

Her mother Adeline was also refused bail on similar charges by the court in the capital Kigali, but charges against his sister Diane were lifted and she was released from custody.

PERSECUTION

In an interview just before her detention last month, Rwigara, 35, said she was a victim of political persecution "for standing against oppression and speaking my mind."

Other critics and opposition figures have also been detained in recent weeks in what observers say is a post-election crackdown on dissent.

The refusal to allow her to run against Kagame, who won the August 4 election with 99 percent of the vote, on claims of procedural irregularities was widely criticised by Western governments and rights groups.

The court on Monday spoke of the "sensitivity" of the case, adding that Rwigara and her mother could flee the country if they were released.

Insurrection carries a possible 15-year prison term.

Rwigara is the daughter of Assinapol Rwigara, an entrepreneur who made a fortune in industry and real estate, and a main backer of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) during its efforts to topple the Hutu extremist regime in 1994, ending the Rwandan genocide.

Diane Rwigara later distanced herself from the FPR after her father's death in a car crash in 2015, which she has claimed was an "assassination".

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Somalia

Massive car bomb blast rocks Somalia's Mogadishu
Aljazeera

October 14, 2017

At least 20 people have been killed and several others wounded in a massive truck bomb attack outside a hotel in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, police said, with officials fearing many casualties from the unusually large explosion.

The blast on Saturday, in the central K5 Junction which is lined with government offices, hotels and restaurants, destroyed several buildings and set dozens of vehicles on fire.

"We know that at least 20 civilians are dead while dozens of others are wounded," Abdullahi Nur, a police officer who was in the area, told Reuters news agency.

"The death toll will surely rise. We are still busy transporting casualties," he said, adding that there were bodies under the rubble.

The explosion was followed by gunfire between security forces and armed men around and inside the popular Safari Hotel.

"The fighters first detonated a bomb outside the hotel's gate, and then about four gunmen on foot gained entry into the hotel and started shooting at the patrons and also the security of the hotel," Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Doha, said.

"The hotel's security staff, together with the police, are engaging a gunfight inside and outside the hotel," he added.

It was not immediately clear whether Safari Hotel, which is not frequented by government workers, was itself the intended target of the attack. The Somali foreign ministry is also located nearby.

'Biggest blast I have ever witnessed'

Security official Mohamed Adan told AFP news agency the "huge blast" was caused "by a truck loaded with explosives".

Witnesses said the blast, which threw a thick cloud of smoke into the sky that could be seen across the city, badly damaged a nearby hotel and left scenes of devastation on the busy road.

"This was very horrible," witness Ismail Yusuf told AFP news agency.

"The bomb went off alongside the busy road and left many people dead. I saw several dead bodies strewn about but could not count them," he added.

Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time said it was, "the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area".

Abdi Dhaqane, who was also close to the site of the explosion, agreed.

"I have never witnessed a scene like this ever before," he said. "All the buildings around here have collapsed. There were close to 200 people in those buildings. I hope everyone is OK."

Later on Saturday, a second blast took place in the city's Madina district.

"It was a car bomb. Two civilians were killed, " Siyad Farah, a police major, told Reuters, adding that a suspect had been caught on suspicion of planting explosives.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Al-Shabab, an armed group fighting to overthrow the internationally recognised government, has carried out frequent gun, grenade and bomb attacks in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia.

Al Jazeera's Adow said the car bomb blast had "all the hallmarks" of an al-Shabab attack.

"This is what they've been doing since 2011, when they lost control of Mogadishu. The government has been unable to figure out how to stop these kinds of attacks," he said.

Somalia Attack a Wake-Up Call to the West
Human Rights Watch

By Letta Tayler
October 23, 2017

Another day, another attack in a far-flung, volatile land. Westerners are likely to react with a shrug and a sigh to the October 14 truck bombing in Somalia, the world's deadliest attack on civilians in over a decade—if they heard about it at all. Yet the attack has direct implications for the United States and its allies.

Had a bombing that killed at least 358 people, injured 228 others, and left 56 missing taken place in the US or Europe, it would have mesmerized the Western public. But the reality is that the West has long been inured to tragedies in places they find unfamiliar, particularly ones like Somalia where misery seems the order of the day. The country on the Horn of Africa has suffered an array of seemingly insurmountable human-made and natural disasters over the past three decades, from protracted civil war and the rise of the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab to unrelenting drought and famine.

Although no one has claimed Saturday's attack in the capital city of Mogadishu, the widespread assumption, including by the Somali government, is that Al-Shabab was responsible. Al-Shabab has carried out numerous attacks within Somalia and in neighboring Kenya and attracts fighters from the West, but it has not struck a Western country. That is perhaps another reason why Americans may think this attack has little or no relevance to the US.

There are several reasons why the US should take notice of the Somalia attack beyond the sheer horror of the carnage. Here are three of them:

First, some reports predict that US military involvement in Somalia may intensify as a result of Saturday's attack. Already on October 16, the US launched another drone strike on alleged Al-Shabab targets outside Mogadishu. In March, President Trump designated Somalia a "zone of active hostilities" for lethal counterterrorism operations, allowing commanders -- as a matter of US policy -- to strike suspected Shabab fighters regardless of whether they posed an imminent threat to Americans, and relaxing certain protections against killing civilian bystanders.

US airstrikes and other use of force increased significantly in Somalia from June through September, with reports that one operation in late August resulted in a number of civilian deaths, including children. One newspaper reported that investigators in Somalia believe Saturday's attack may partly have been a tit-for-tat for civilians killed in that August operation. The US has about 400 troops as well as dozens of trainers in Somalia—the largest US military deployment there in nearly 25 years.

If the US increases its use of force in Somalia, while loosening protections against killing bystanders, more civilians are likely to be killed. Wrongful killings of civilians carry the risk of generating more support for armed groups like Al-Shabab that are seeking to destabilize Somalia.

Second, the attack points to the need for Western nations to share responsibility for providing safe havens to those seeking protection from upheavals in their homelands, instead of unconscionably shutting doors on them. Domestic promoters of xenophobia and Islamophobia may falsely and recklessly spin the Somalia attack as evidence that Somalis, most of whom are Muslims, are somehow inherently dangerous.

That could generate support for President Trump's efforts to indefinitely ban most people from Somalia and five other predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. On October 17 and 18, two federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland temporarily blocked the Trump's latest travel ban on the six countries but a separate lawsuit over the legality of the ban proceeds. The rulings did not block portions of Trump's ban that would bar entry to North Koreans and loyalists of the autocratic president of Venezuela, in what critics call an attempt at "legal cover" for a ban primarily targeting Muslims.

Finally, the attack is a reminder that while Americans tend to think that Westerners are the primary targets of Islamist extremists, the vast majority of the victims of attacks by groups such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab – including almost certainly those killed in Mogadishu on Saturday – are Muslims. The grief over those killed and injured in these despicable attacks from Pakistan to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond is as profound as the grief in France, the UK, Spain, Germany, the US and other points West.

If the US does take further military action in Somalia, it should do its utmost to avoid harming civilians so that Somalis are not further victimized both by Al-Shabab and those fighting the group. If strikes go awry, the US should promptly investigate, publish its findings, and provide condolence payments and apologies regardless of fault; if strikes were unlawful, it should hold those responsible to account.

The US should press United Nations-supported African Union troops supporting the Somali government on the ground as well as the Somali troops it supports, who have repeatedly carried out serious laws-of-war violations, to also ensure redress for abuses they commit against civilians.

And rather than create more obstacles at home through measures such as the Trump travel ban, the US and its allies should take in eligible Somalis and other applicants, without discrimination on the basis of religion, after careful and appropriate screening.

Pushing policymakers to take these steps would do a lot more to help the Somali people and to deter support for Al-Shabab than simply shrugging and sighing.

Three people die in bomb and gun attacks in Somalia
Reuters

October 25, 2017

Three people died in Somalia on Wednesday in different attacks, one of which targeted a patrol of peacekeepers near the country's capital, Mogadishu, officials told Reuters.

A roadside bomb killed one African Union peacekeeper and wounded another as they patrolled Arbis, a village about 23 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu, according to Wilson Rono, a spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM.

A counter-attack by AMISOM killed four al Shabaab fighters, Rono said. Al Shabaab is the Islamist militant group fighting to topple Somalia's western-backed government and replace it with one strictly adhering to Islamic sharia law.

The group also frequently targets AMISOM, which is supporting the central government.

Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military spokesman, told Reuters the group had killed four AMISOM soldiers and injured two others in the assault.

"We have not lost anyone," Abu Musab said, adding that AMISOM had killed civilian as it responded to the attack.

In a second incident late on Wednesday evening, a bomb exploded as it was being prepared in a house in Mogadishu's Karan district, according to Mohamed Osman, a police officer.

"It killed one man and injured another," Osman said.

A female police officer was also killed in Mogadishu's Hodan district by gunmen who quickly disappeared, a police official said. Abu Musab told Reuters al Shabaab was also responsible for that attack.

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NORTH AFRICA

Libya

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

300-page complaint submitted to US government against warlord Khalifa Haftar
The Libya Observer

By Abdullah BenIbrahim
October 17, 2017

Libyan human rights and political activist, Emadeddin Muntasser, has officially requested the US government to investigate war crimes committed by its citizens in Libya.

Muntasser said he met with US government officials in Washington on October 10 and submitted a formal complaint and request for investigation regarding alleged war and financial crimes committed in Libya by US citizen Khalifa Haftar and his three sons: Khaled, Saddam and Al-Saddiq.

"The complaint encompasses three volumes of more than three hundred pages, and lists the specific legal statutes which were violated, legal analysis, biographies of the alleged perpetrators, and catalogs an overwhelming inventory of evidence of these war crimes". He said.

He indicated that domestic US laws have allegedly been violated by Khalifa Haftar and his three sons including the Neutrality Act (18 U.S. Code § 960), enlistment in foreign service as officers (18 U.S. Code § 959), and laws prohibiting committing war crimes (18 U.S. Code § 2441), genocide (18 U.S. Code §1091), and torture (18 U.S. Code § 2340A).

Muntasser explained that this complaint is the first step in a multi-pronged legal action against war criminals in the US, urging victims and witnesses of war crimes to support the complaint with evidence.

"It is imperative that witnesses and victims cooperate with US Federal officials and provide testimony, information, and evidence in order for justice to take its course". He remarked.

In August, Muntasser filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing Haftar of orchestrating war crimes.

Warlord Khalifa Haftar was one of dictator Gaddafi's regime forces. In 1987, he became a prisoner of war during the war against Chad. He was released around 1990 in a deal with the US government and spent two decades in Virginia, close to CIA headquarters, where he gained US citizenship and established a close relationship with US intelligence services.

Evidence is mounting against the renegade General for war crimes in eastern Libya. In one video, Haftar ordered his fighters to execute prisoners of war immediately in the battlefield. In another video, he told a meeting in Bayda that "the siege of Derna means choking", calling for banning food, medicine and fuel supplies to more than 150.000 inhabitants of Derna.

Emadeddin Muntasser is a human rights and political activist as well as an author. He has written extensively on Middle Eastern politics as well as on constitutional and religious reform in the Middle East.

Fire delays return of water supplies to Tripoli: An accident or Gaddafi loyalists fulfilled their threats?
The Libya Observer

By Abdulkader Assad
October 22, 2017

The administration of the Man-Made River Hasawna system confirmed Sunday that a fire broke in one of the power units that feeds 24 water wells as one of the service works' teams were doing their daily routine jobs.

On Facebook, the administration said the service team saw SSE4 power unit on fire as they arrived to the western wells field in Hasawna, adding that firefighters arrived later on to put out the fire.

"First reported damages included one of the power generators and other losses will be announced later after the damage is fully assessed." It added.

Later on, the administration issued a statement saying it won't be able to pump water after the service and maintenance works finish at Shuwairif area, where works started days ago.

Last Monday, the Man-Made River announced an urgent maintenance operation that will take 9 days to finish so that afterwards water supplies will return to Tripoli and coastal cities not after October 25.

Yet afterwards, a Gaddafi-loyal group attacked the Man-Made River and vowed to blow it up if the Special Deterrent Force (SDF) did not release Al-Mabrouk Ehnish, who was arrested after he tried to enter southern Tripoli with a military force known as The Popular Front for Liberating Libya - a political arm for Gaddafi's henchmen.

The armed group also threatened to explode the gas pipelines that feed Mellitah Complex if the SDF did not release Ehnish.

Meanwhile, as the armed group's deadline for the release of their comrade ended, it is hardly clear whether the fire at the power unit in the Man-Made River was an accident or just a manifestation of the armed group's threat, given the fact that the administration said it couldn't flow water as normal as before after finishing its maintenance works.

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EUROPE

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Court Website [English translation]

Bosnian Serbs Accuse Judges, Prosecutors of Bias
Balkan Insight

By Danjiel Kovacevic
October 13, 2017

The Justice Ministry war crimes centre in Bosnia's Serb-dominated Republika Srpska complained to the country's judicial overseer, accusing 15 state-level judges and prosecutors of anti-Serb bias.

The Republika Srpska Justice Ministry's Centre for Research on War, War Crimes and Missing Persons complained to Bosnia and Herzegovina's High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council on Friday, accusing nine judges and six prosecutors of having discriminated against Serbs in war crimes cases.

The Centre's director, Milorad Kojic, told a press conference that on the list is judge Saban Maksumic, who was on the judging panel in the trial of the Bosnian Army's former Srebrenica commander Naser Oric, who was acquitted by the state court on Monday of killing Serb prisoners of war. The other two judges on the panel were Serbs.

The Oric verdict sparked anger among Bosnian Serb political leaders.

"The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council should ensure an independent, impartial and professional judiciary, but with the people who were imprisoning Serbs during the war, it cannot be independent, impartial or professional," Kojic said.

He claimed that the nine judges and six prosecutors were appointed as military judges during the war, based on a decree from the wartime Bosnian presidency, and their appointments were published in the official gazette of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He also alleged that some of them were military judges in wartime prison camps, such as the Viktor Bubanj camp, where Serbs were detained.

"Criminal complaints for inhumane treatment of prisoners of war of Serb ethnic background were filed against some of them, but, regardless, they have been appointed to either a position of a judge in the court or in the prosecutor's office of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Kojic said.

In response to the acquittal of Oric, the Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik has also convened a meeting of all political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs, both in the entity and in state institutions.

The meeting is to be held on Saturday in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Republika Srpska, and Dodik has announced that he will propose measures to suspend the state court and prosecutor's office's operations in Republika Srpska.

"We will discuss these measures with all Serbian political representatives. They will be rigorous," Dodik told reporters on Thursday.

But the leaders of the three main opposition parties in Republika Srpska sent an open letter to Dodik saying they will not come to the meeting as they do not believe he is working "in accordance with the constitution".

However they said that they condemn Oric's aquittal and will work to "minimise the damage of this harmful and shameful verdict".

Tensions between the opposition and ruling parties in Republika Srpska are rising as the entity awaits a general and presidential election in autumn next year.

The Office of the High Representative, the international overseer for peace implementation in Bosnia, has warned meanwhile that "one-sided decisions" which would suspend or limit the state court and prosecution's jurisdiction in one part of the country would be "anti-constitutional and unacceptable", FENA news agency reported on Thursday.

Bosnian Army Troops Jailed for Abusing Croat Prisoners
Balkan Insight

By Emina Dizdarevic
October 13, 2017

Three former Bosnian Army servicemen were sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison for crimes against Croat civilian detainees who were held at a school near Mostar in 1993.

The Bosnian state court in Sarajevo on Friday sentenced Enes Curic to five years in prison and Ibrahim Demirovic to ten years for taking part in the illegal detention and inhumane treatment of Bosnian Croat civilians in Bijelo Polje, as well as making them do forced labour, while Habib Copelj was sentenced to two years for abusing the detained civilians.

Demirovic was also found guilty of raping a prisoner.

Two other former Bosnian Army soldiers, Samir Kreso and Mehmed Kaminic, were acquitted.

Judge Stanisa Gluhajic said it had been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Curic, Demirovic and Copelj were responsible for taking a large group of civilians who were being held in the elementary school in the village of Potoci to nearby Mostar and using them as human shields.

Curic and Demirovic were also found guilty of taking 12 civilians to do forced labour on nearby Cucurak hill, where three were killed.

Gluhajic said it had also been proven that Curic and Demirovic were involved in taking prisoners to dig trenches on the frontlines in Mostar.

Curic was convicted of taking part in the illegal arrests of civilians; the court did not accept the defence claim that the civilians were moved for their own safety.

He was also convicted of taking four women to get wounded soldiers out of the Neretva river.

"It was also proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Demirovic raped [a woman who testified as a protected witness codenamed] witness B. She described in detail how she was taken from the school [in Potoci'and how Demirovic acted. The statements of other witnesses backed up her statement," said judge Gluhajic.

Gluhajic also said that it was found that defendant Copelj held a prisoner in an abandoned home and told him to shift sand from one corner to another, which caused the defendant pain and ensured that he "coughed dust for days".

Meanwhile Kreso was acquitted of taking part in the detention of Bosnian Croat military medical staff in Bijelo Polje, while Kaminic was acquitted of hitting a prisoner at the school in Potoci.

Curic and Demirovic were also acquitted of taking four women to clean houses, and Demirovic was acquitted of threatening prisoners in the school.

The verdict can be appealed.

Bosnian Serb War Criminals' Families Demand Case Reviews
Balkan Insight

By Goran Obradovic
October 18, 2017

Relatives of Serbs convicted of war crimes by the Bosnian state court said that experts in the country's Serb-dominated Republika Srpska should review the verdicts, which they claim are biased.

Families of the convicted Serbs said in an open letter on Tuesday to the National Assembly, the Republika Srpska entity's parliament, that Bosnian Serb lawmakers should take action to secure reviews of the cases in which their relatives were convicted.

They asked the National Assembly to help establish a legal team that would offer expert assistance in war crime cases and review the existing verdicts.

They also said that the Republika Srpska entity's courts should be enabled to take over all war crime cases from the state court to avoid anti-Serb bias and stop "the stigmatisation of the Serb people".

"There are numerous pieces of evidence which we have submitted to the public and the court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, indicating that statements were coerced in certain cases, which directly affected the pronouncement of verdicts of conviction, and that expert reports were faked and testimonies were false," their letter said.

The letter claimed that the acquittal this month of Naser Oric, the Bosnian Army's former commander in Srebrenica, who was cleared of killing three Serb prisoners of war in 1992, demonstrated prejudice against Serbs.

"In the light of the Bosnian state court's shameful verdict on Naser Oric, we request you, the representatives of the people of Republika Srpska, to react harshly in order to put an end to the stigmatisation and persecution of the Serb population and stand up for respect for the law," the letter said.

Political leaders from Serbia and Republika Srpska have also strongly criticised the acquittal of Oric.

Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, threatened to revive the idea of a referendum that will question the legitimacy of the state-level court and prosecution.

He accused the court of being biased because the judge in the Oric trial was a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the verdict was proof that Serbs' lives were not considered to be "worth as much as other lives".

But the president of the state court, Ranko Debevec, denied any institutional bias.

"The court of Bosnia and Herzegovina works professionally in accordance with evidence provided by the prosecution and not on the grounds of political and media speculation and pressures," Debevec said.

Bosnian Court: 60 Serbs Acquitted of Wartime Crimes
Balkan Insight

By Ema Mackic
October 24, 2017

After criticism from Bosnian Serbs for alleged bias after the recent acquittal of Bosniak commander Naser Oric, the state court said it has also cleared 60 former Serb soldiers, police, officials and camp guards.

The Bosnian state court said on Tuesday that since it was set up, it has acquitted 60 Bosnian Serbs of war crimes or genocide - an attempt to counter allegations of bias from Serbs over the acquittal of Naser Oric earlier this month.

Of the 60, more than 50 are former members of the Bosnian Serb Army or Interior Ministry forces in the country's Republika Srpska entity, while the others are former civilian officials, paramilitary leaders or detention camp guards.

The state court also said it had handed down a series of acquittals in in cases related to genocide and war crimes in Srebrenica.

It said named the acquitted defendants as Milos Stupar, Aleksandar Cvetkovic, Momir Pelemis, Zdravko Bozic, Zeljko Zaric, Zoran Zivanovic, Dragan Neskovic, Zoran Ilic, Miladin Stevanovic, Zoran Tomic, Nedjo Ikonic, Milovan Matic, Dragisa Zivanovic and Velibor Maksimovic.

The court has also acquitted high-ranking Bosnian Serb civil and police officials Goran Saric, Momcilo Mandic and Gojko Klickovic.

The first-instance verdict acquitting Naser Oric, who was charged with war crimes in Srebrenica and Bratunac in 1992, provoked harsh reactions from political leaders in Republika Srpska and Serbia.

Republika Srpska President, Milorad Dodik accused the court of being biased because the judge in the Oric trial was a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).

"It's enough for a Muslim to judge a Muslim and you will be acquitted," Dodik said.

He also threatened to revive the idea of a referendum that will question the legitimacy of the state-level court and prosecution.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the verdict was proof that Serbs' lives were not considered to be "worth as much as other lives".

But the president of the state court, Ranko Debevec, denied any institutional bias.

"The court of Bosnia and Herzegovina works professionally in accordance with evidence provided by the prosecution and not on the grounds of political and media speculation and pressures," Debevec told BIRN.

The state court was set up in 2003 and handed down its first war crimes verdict in 2007.

Bosnian Serbs Accuse Judges, Prosecutors of Bias
Balkan Insight

By Danjiel Kovacevic
October 23, 2017

The Bosnian state prosecution said on Monday that it will not investigate a criminal complaint against Milorad Dodik that was filed by the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide, saying there were no grounds for suspicion that he committed the crime.

The complaint, filed in June 2015, alleged that Dodik disrespected victims of crimes committed by Republika Srpska's political and military leadership and denied that genocide was committed against Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995.

The prosecution said in statement that Dodik's comments in an interview published by Vecernje Novosti newspaper in May 2015 did have "an offensive nature".

"However, the factual description of a crime must contain facts and circumstances referring to the suspect's premeditation, which means that he/she is aware that, by conveying the offensive words, he/she is causing or might cause ethnic or religious hatred," the prosecution statement added.

"In this concrete case, no such intention on the side of the reported person has been determined on the basis of evidence," it said.

The Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide announced that it will file an appeal against the decision.

"The explanation indicates that investigative actions have been carried out, including an examination of Milorad Dodik and the journalist who interviewed him, but Vecernje Novosti and its publisher have been unable to provide the prosecution with an original copy of the issue in which the mentioned interview was published," said the association's president, Murat Tahirovic.

State prosecutors said that Vecernje Novosti informed them that it destroyed the newspaper archives a month after the edition was printed and distributed.

"As far as I know all media outlets keep archives of all issues they publish. That is why we will file an appeal within the legally-set timeframe," Tahirovic said.

The association said that in the interview Dodik insisted that a crime but no genocide happened in Srebrenica in 1995, disrespecting both the victims and verdicts handed down by the Hague Tribunal.

Dodik also claimed that the number of victims of the Srebrenica massares was exaggerated and "manipulated by political officials from Sarajevo", the association said.

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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

Russian Minister Says Hague Tribunal 'Should Be Closed'
Balkan Insight

By Maja Zivanovic
October 16, 2017

Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, should have been shut down because it has "proved its bias and one-sidedness", Russian news outlet Sputnik reported.

"About 80 per cent of the cases there, in my opinion, have been started against the Serbs. Cases that were launched against other nationalities have often failed," Lavrov said at the World Youth and Student Festival in the Russian city of Sochi.

Lavrov singled out on the former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Ramush Haradinaj, now Kosovo's prime minister, who was acquitted of war crimes by the ICTY in 2012.

He insisted that Haradinaj should not have been cleared.

"All the invited witnesses were either missing or refused to testify," he said.

So far the ICTY has convicted 83 people, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a significant percentage of whom are Bosnian Serbs.

In February 1993, Russia voted for United Nations Security Council resolution 808, which established the international tribunal to try people for war crimes committed during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

The ICTY is to close at the end of this year but the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, MICT, will complete its remaining cases.

Russia abstained in the vote in December 2010 on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966, which decided that the MICT should be established.

This is not the first time that Lavrov has called for the closure of the ICTY.

In April 2016, he described the UN court as "politicised", again supporting his argument with the example of Haradinaj's acquittal.

The ICTY was the first war crimes court to be created by the UN and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. Over more than two decades, it has heard almost 5,000 witnesses and held around 11,000 trial days.

The ICTY filed indictments against 161 people, most of them high-ranking officials within the state, army or police apparatus.

It will go down in history as the first court to charge an acting head of state with genocide and other crimes, although former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic didn't live long enough hear his verdict, as he died in 2006 before the end of his trial.

UN Prosecutor to Report Croatia to Security Council
Balkan Insight

By Sven Milekic
October 17, 2017

Serge Brammertz said in an interview with Croatian newspaper Novi List on Tuesday that he will inform the UN Security Council that the Zagreb authorities are obstructing cooperation between the Croatian judiciary and its counterpart in Bosnia and Herzegovina on war crimes cases, preventing suspects from being brought to trial.

Brammertz, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, and its successor, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, MICT, said Zagreb's actions meant that Croatian citizens were not being prosecuted for war crimes that they allegedly committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He said he will tell the UN Security Council that the ICTY prosecution is "very dissatisfied" with the situation, and that he also expressed his discontent to Croatian Justice Minister Davor Bosnjakovic in Zagreb last Thursday.

"I told the minister that I was very surprised that in one EU member state, the executive can drastically interfere with its own judiciary by preventing the fulfillment of certain requests for assistance from Bosnia and Herzegovina," Brammertz told Novi List.

In June 2015, the government led by then Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic gave Croatian institutions the power to reject cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina over certain indictments if they are judged to be politically motivated.

Zagreb is seeking to avoid allegations that Croatia had an active role in the Bosnian conflict.

"We need to make it clear that we will not act [upon such indictments]. After 20 years [since the war], we will not allow political indictments," Milanovic said at the time.

Brammertz said in the interview however that he hopes that the Croatian judiciary has "enough trust that the Bosnian judiciary is processing cases in the best possible way, and therefore such a kind of political veto is not necessary".

He also said that he asked the Croatian chief state attorney Dinko Cvitan about why Zagreb has still not yet launched prosecutions in cases transferred to the Bosnian judiciary from the ICTY, and in which Sarajevo has sent the indictments to Zagreb because the suspects are living in Croatia.

"In these cases, I still don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," Brammertz said.

"There are applicable procedures and evidence. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why there are so many problems and delays as both countries have a similar legal basis and use the same language. Definitely I can say that regarding the quality of cooperation between prosecutors in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, there is room for improvement," he added.

Brammertz declined to mention the cases he had in mind, but said that the suspects were accused of having "mid-level responsibility" for the crimes committed.

UN Prosecutor to Report Croatia to Security Council
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
October 17, 2017

A protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-157 testified at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday that a Serbian paramilitary unit led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, committed murders of Croats in the Eastern Slavonia area of Croatia in 1991.

Witness RFJ-157 said a minivan with licence plates from Novi Sad in Serbia, which was full of fighters whose faces were hidden by masks, arrived in the village of Klisa in November 1991.

According to the witness, the soldiers took five Croats from the village.

She found out later on that they were taken to the village of Erdut, where the Serbian Volunteer Guard, Arkan's unit, was based.

RFJ-157 told the court that two Croats were released and "three were killed".

She also said that two more local Croats were killed in Klisa.

When asked which Serb forces were present in Klisa, the witness said there were "Arkan's and [Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav] Seselj's men, as well as the regular [Yugoslav] army".

Asked how their arrival affected Croats in Klisa, who made up ten percent of the local population, witness RFJ-157 said: "When we saw so many unknown men in the village, we, the Croats, became scared… We realised something bad was going to happen."

Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, and his former assistant Simatovic are charged with being responsible 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, Arkan's Serbian Volunteer Guard was controlled by the Serbian SDB.

Arkan was indicted for war crimes by the UN-backed court in The Hague but was shot dead in Belgrade in 2000 and never stood trial.

When asked by Stanisic's defence lawyer how she knew that the masked Serb soldiers who took the Croat men from Klisa were Raznatovic's fighters, the witness said she heard it from "several people".

"They were taken to the winery in Erdut, where Arkan trained his men," RFJ-157 said.

When asked whether she visited Erdut or saw Arkan, she said no.

"Nobody could see him or come close to him, because he was guarded by his men," RFJ-157 said.

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 Wednesday.

U.N. Tribunal schedules verdict in Mladic war crimes trial for Nov. 22
Reuters

By Stephanie van der Berg
October 18, 2017

The U.N. Yugoslav tribunal said on Wednesday said it had scheduled its verdict in the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic for Nov. 22.

Mladic, 74, is accused of crimes including genocide for his role as military leader in allegedly overseeing the massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica, Bosnia, in July 1995.

His political counterpart, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2016.

"The Mladic case with the Karadzic case are two of the most important, if not the most important, cases in the history of the tribunal, as we consider Mladic to be the main architect of the policy of ethnic cleansing in a number of municipalities in Bosnia," prosecutor Serge Brammertz told reporters.

"He is considered to be the main responsible (person) for the genocide in Srebrenica (…) and for the shelling and sniping of the city of Sarajevo between 1992-95."

Mladic defence lawyer Dragan Ivetic told Reuters the prosecution had misstated facts and evidence during his trial, which began in 2011.

"A full acquittal is what we would expect to be a fair judgement," Iveric said.

The Mladic ruling will be the final verdict delivered at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which closes on Dec. 31 after more than 20 years prosecuting the ethnic warfare that accompanied the 1990s collapse of Yugoslavia.

Remaining legal process at the ICTY -- including Karadzic's appeal and that of Mladic if he is convicted and also decides to challenge the verdict -- will be handed over to a smaller court already established by the U.N. Security Council in The Hague.

Appeal hearing for radical Serb Seselj set for December
Expatica

October 18, 2017

An appeals hearing for radical Serb nationalist Vojislav Seselj following his unexpected acquittal over alleged war crimes will take place on December 13, officials said Wednesday, amid uncertainty over whether he will appear.

Prosecutors appealed a majority ruling by judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) last year which found Seselj not guilty on nine charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the 1990s Balkans wars.

"The hearing of the appeal in the present case shall take place on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 in The Hague," the tribunal said.

The court has unusually set aside just one day for the hearing, as Seselj has vehemently said he will not return from Serbia for the hearing.

In March 2016 judges acquitted Seselj saying the prosecution had failed to prove "there was a widespread and systematic attack against the non-Serb civilian population in large areas of Croatia and Bosnia Hercegovina".

But the ruling triggered outrage among legal experts and historians who accused the judges of overturning international law and rewriting the history of the Balkans conflict.

Prosecutors alleged in the initial trial that Seselj, the firebrand leader of the Serbian Radical Party, was behind the murders of many Croats, Muslims and other non-Serb civilians as well as the forced deportation of "tens of thousands" from large areas of the Balkans.

In his appeal, veteran chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said the judges had shown "a sweeping disregard" for the crimes which had taken place during the conflict, and there had been "a fundamental failure" by the judges to perform their "judicial function".

Seselj, 63, has insisted he "will never return to The Hague tribunal voluntarily".

UN Prosecutor to Report Croatia to Security Council
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
October 18, 2017

A protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-102 testified at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that non-Serbs were detained, beaten up and killed at a base run by a Serbian paramilitary unit led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, in the village of Erdut in the Eastern Slavonia area of Croatia in autumn 1991.

During her testimony, most of which took place behind closed door, the witness described having been apprehended by Raznatovic's men in late 1991 and taken to the base in Erdut.

In her written statement, RFJ-102 said Arkan's men "examined and threatened" her, saying they would kill her.

The witness said that while Raznatovic's men were examining her, she "heard them beat" other arrested persons.

During cross-examination, Stanisic's defence lawyer suggested that the witness did not personally see the murders of the detainees, but heard about them from another person.

Witness RFJ-102 said this was true.

Jovica Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, and his former assistant Franko Simatovic are charged with being responsible 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, Arkan's Serbian Volunteer Guard was controlled by the Serbian SDB.

Arkan was indicted for war crimes by the UN-backed court in The Hague but was shot dead in Belgrade in 2000 and never stood trial.

Protected witness RFJ-038 also testified at Wednesday's hearing about Arkan's base in Erdut, where she worked as a cook in 1991.

Summarising her written statement, which the court accepted as evidence, the prosecutors said that the witness described the "random detentions" and abuse of non-Serbs at the base in Erdut, as well as the deportations and disappearances of Croats and ethnic Hungarians from the village.

Speaking about Raznatovic, who she used to see at the base every day, she said that "literally everyone was afraid of him".

Responding to a suggestion by Simatovic's defence lawyer, the witness confirmed that "both Serbs and Croats" were afraid of Arkan.

Stanisic's defence lawyer asked the witness if she had ever seen prisoners being brought to the base in Erdut.

"No, but a colleague of mine saw them bring my husband, whose hands were handcuffed," RFJ-038 answered.

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 will continue on October 31.

Hague Tribunal Tries Out Video Calls for Defendants
Balkan Insight

By Dragana Erjavec
October 18, 2017

The secretariat at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, which is the successor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, announced on Friday that it will soon pilot a project enabling detainees to make video calls.

At the moment, detainees are only allowed to receive and send letters, make telephone calls and receive visitors.

Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic has asked the court on several occasions to allow him to use Skype or other means of video communication.

Karadzic's defence lawyer Peter Robinson told BIRN that people held in other prisons in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe can already make video contact with family members

"The secretariat's decision to launch the pilot project, which would enable detainees to see their families via Skype or other similar technologies, is certainly a step forward in creating human conditions in detention," Robinson said.

"This is very important when detainees are far away from their family members, such is the case of Radovan Karadzic," he added.

During a status conference on October 10, Karadzic repeated his request to be allowed to access the internet and use Skype, which would make finding materials for his work and communicating with his family easier.

He also asked the Hague judges to allow him to use a laptop because he has back pain caused by sitting at a desktop for hours.

The court's secretariat rejected his requests, explaining that it would soon launch a pilot project for video calls.

Karadzic has been held in the UN Detention Unit in Scheveningen since his arrest in 2008.

In March last year, Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, crimes against humanity across Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

However, he was acquitted of genocide in several Bosnian municipalities in 1992.

Both Karadzic and the Hague prosecution have appealed against the verdict, with the former Bosnian Serb political leader asking to be acquitted of all charges and the prosecutors asking for his sentence to be increased to life in prison.

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Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Croatian 1990s General Pleads Not Guilty to War Crimes
Balkan Insight

By Sven Milekic
October 17, 2017

Croatian wartime general Branimir Glavas, now an MP, and five others accused of war crimes against Serb civilians in the city of Osijek in 1991-92 pleaded not guilty at Zagreb county court.

The retrial of Branimir Glavas, the 1990s Croatian general, right-wing political party leader and MP, and five other defendants started at Zagreb county court on Monday.

Glavas, along with Ivica Krnjak, Gordana Getos Magdic, Dino Kontic, Tihomir Valentic and Zdravko Dragic, pleaded not guilty to charges that they were responsible for the executions of Croatian Serb civilians in the eastern city of Osijek in 1991 and 1992.

The trial includes two merged cases - the first named 'Garage', in which one victim was executed in front of a garage in 1991 after being forced to drink car battery acid, and the second named 'Sellotape', in which victims were tied up with tape and executed on the Drava riverbank in Osijek in 1991-92.

Six Serb civilians were executed, one managed to escape, while another was tortured and survived.

Glavas's lawyer, Drazen Matijevic argued in court on Monday that the indictment should not be based on the Geneva Conventions.

Matijevic claimed that the conventions only protect foreign nationals, while all the victims in the case were Croatian citizens and thus "enjoyed the protection of the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia".

He also argued that the Protocol II amendment to the Geneva Conventions, protecting civilian victims of non-international armed conflict, should also not be used in the case.

He said the court was wrongly claiming that there was no international conflict at the time when the crimes took place.

When the Croatian Constitutional Court quashed Glavas's conviction in January 2015, it argued that the final judgment of the Croatian Supreme Court in June 2010 should have used Protocol II for all events that occurred before October 8, 1991, when Croatia broke its ties with Yugoslavia.

Some of the crimes of which Glavas is accused were committed before October 8, 1991.

Defence teams are also arguing that the court should exclude from evidence the testimony of Glavas's former subordinate, Krunoslav Fehir, who testified how the victims were tortured by being made to drink battery acid and how one person was shot in front of the garage.

Zagreb county court initially jailed Glavas for ten years in 2009.

But when he was sentenced, he fled Croatia for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia's Supreme Court upheld the 2009 conviction in July 2010, then a Bosnian court confirmed the verdict, and Glavas was jailed in Mostar.

But the Bosnian verdict was quashed in 2015, and he was released from prison in Bosnia, and returned to Osijek.

In July last year, the Supreme Court then quashed the verdict issued by Zagreb county court in 2009, and ordered a retrial.

During the independence war in Croatia, Glavas commanded the defence of Osijek in 1991-92 against the combined forces of the Yugoslav Army and Serbian paramilitaries, and attained the rank of general.

After the war he became a high-ranking member of Croatia's main centre-right party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, for which he served as a member of parliament and as mayor of Osijek-Baranja County.

After he quit the HDZ in 2005, he founded the Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja, HDSSB party, consolidating his political grip on the Osijek and Baranja regions.

Following his break with the HDZ, the state attorney started investigating war crimes against Serbs in Osijek.

Glavas was first arrested in October 2006 over the 'Garage' case.

An additional indictment was raised in April 2007 in the 'Sellotape' case.

After being released from a Bosnian jail in 2015, he continued his political career with the right-wing HDSSB party, winning a seat in parliament at the general elections in November that year.

The retrial will continue on November 10.

Freed Serbian War Criminal to Teach at Military Academy
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
October 18, 2017

Serbia's defence minister said that former Yugoslav Army officer Vladimir Lazarevic, who served a sentence for war crimes in Kosovo and will now teach cadets at the Military Academy, should be a 'role model'.

Vladimir Lazarevic, the former commander of the Yugoslav Army's Pristina Corps, who served two-thirds of a 14-year sentence for war crimes during the Kosovo conflict, is to become a teacher at the Serbian Military Academy, Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin told Vecernje Novosti newspaper on Wednesday.

"We made a rule to make room at the Military Academy for the most prominent commanders from the wars gone by... This is a great turning point and a way to correct the injustice that was inflicted on them in the past years," Vulin said.

He added that Serbia was depriving itself of "the most precious experience" by renouncing commanders from the Yugoslav wars.

"The cadets' role models have to be Serbian generals, especially those who have proven themselves in the most dire times," he said.

Lazarevic was released in 2015 and given a hero's welcome by the Serbian authorities when he returned to the country after serving his sentence.

He recently made headlines when he attended a gathering of former soldiers of the Third Battalion of the Yugoslav Army together with another convicted war criminal, Nikola Sainovic, and was praised by minister Vulin.

Vulin said in his speech at the event that Serbia will no longer be ashamed of those who "defended" it, and that the time has come to be "quietly proud" instead.

His comments were criticised by the US ambassador to Belgrade, Kyle Scott, who was in turn attacked by the Serbian press.

The list of new Military Academy lecturers will also include General Bozidar Delic, commander of the 549th Motorised Brigade of the Yugoslav Army, which is alleged to have been responsible for attacks on eight Kosovo villages in 1999 which left 885 dead, according to research by Belgrade's Humanitarian Law Centre NGO.

Delic has never been prosecuted for his involvement in the war.

Another new lecturer will be the current army chief of staff, Ljubisa Dikovic, who commanded the 37th Brigade of the Yugoslav Army during the Kosovo war.

A documentary released by the Humanitarian Law Centre earlier this year alleged that approximately 1,400 civilians were killed in 1999 in an area of Kosovo which was under the control of Dikovic's brigade.

Dikovic has also never been investigated over the allegations that crimes were committed, and in 2016 he won compensation from the Humantarian Law Centre after it accused him of involvement in war crimes in Kosovo and Bosnia.

The decision to appoint Lazarevic as a lecturer was condemned by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which called it a "scandal".

"[Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin] is a promoter and protector of war criminals, a person who supports and celebrates them and in this way he denies citizens' right to hear the full truth about the wars," the party said in a press release.

But Vulin told Vecernje Novosti that generals like Lazarevic, Dikovic and Delic have "much to pass on" to younger colleagues.

Serb Paramilitaries Accused of Croatia Village Massacre
Balkan Insight

By Sven Milekic
October 24, 2017

A witness testified that he found the corpses of 21 Croat villagers, including his own relatives, in Josevica in central Croatia in December 1991, speculating that Serb paramilitaries murdered them.

Witness Luka Siftar, 70, testified via video link from Belgrade at Zagreb county court on Tuesday, saying he thought Serb paramilitaries were responsible for killing 21 Croat civilians in the village of Josevica in central Croatia on December 16, 1991.

Siftar, who was a captain in the Yugoslav People's Army, recalled how he came to the village on December 19, 1991, only to find the corpses of his own family members and other villagers in their houses.

"The whole family was dead, and not only my family, but a complete section of the village. All bodies were already frozen since it was cold," he said.

Six members of his family were killed; one of them was 15 at the time. His mother Anka, who was 70 at the time, survived despite being shot in the mouth, hand and shoulder.

"Later I realised that the bodies had been moved, that someone removed the bullet casings and cleaned up some of the blood. I couldn't see the cuts [on their throats]. I didn't see that [his 15-year-old nephew] Pajo's throat was cut from ear to ear," Siftar testified.

Siftar was testifying in the trial in absentia of five former paramilitaries from the 1990s Croatian Serb unrecognised statelet, the Republic of Serbian Krajina - Dusan Zarkovic, 58, Bogdan Jednak, 49, George Nashid Kamal, 45, Miroslav Malobabic, 42 and Dejan Sladovic, 42.

They are accused of committing a war crime which the state attorney's office was carried out in retaliation for Croatian troops' killing of Serb soldiers a few days earlier in the region.

Siftar said that he did not see the defendants at the time, but claimed to have seen their vehicles in the vicinity of the village some days before the crime.

He added that according to some people he talked to, the unit walked through the village a few days before the crime, scouting the location.

He said that he heard that the crime could be committed by members of the Silt's Unit and Joko's Group units commanded by Sinisa Martic, alias 'Silt', and Joso Kovacevic.

"I can't tell which group actually committed the crime. There were at least ten such groups around [the nearby town of] Glina, and local authorities planned to disband them. They were in charge of so-called 'cleansing', and results of such 'cleansings' are known," he said.

Siftar even made a 50-page journal about the crime after talking to various alleged witnesses about what happened.

Martic, alias 'Silt', also testified via video link from Belgrade, saying that he and his unit did not take part in the crime.

However, he could not guarantee that Sladovic and Malobabic, who were members of his unit, did not commit the crime on their own.

"There were talks about the crime in cafe bars, but I can't say much since I wasn't there at the time," he said.

Martic said that he is "101 per cent sure" that his unit did not commit the crime.

"I was a very strict commander, and I didn't allow any killings, rapes, plunder or such things. That's just the type of the man I am," he said.

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MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Iraq urges world assistance with mass graves' exhumations
Iraqi News

By Mohamed Mostafa
October 12, 2017

Iraq has asked for international assistance regarding the handling of mass graves occasionally discovered since the launch of anti-Islamic State operations, citing insufficient government capabilities.

The High Commission for Human Rights it "demands the international community to support Iraq in the issue of mass graves located at areas liberated from Daesh (Islamic State)".

The organization's spokesman, Ali al-Bayati, said in a statement that military operations to recapture regions in Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahuddin, Anbar and Babil provinces from the militants "had witnessed the discovery of large numbers of mass graves containing the relics of hundreds of victims" a situation which the spokesman said "requires exceptional efforts that exceed the current government capabilities".

Bayati said Iraq needed international support in the form of capabilities and expertise in exhuming the relics, taking DNA samples and identifying victims families. He also urged local authorities to ensure the safety of those locations from random exhumation.

Iraq government and paramilitary troops have regularly run into mass graves of civilians and security personnel executed by Islamic State militants since operations launched to retake areas held by the group since 2014.

IS executed civilians for attempting to escape the group's domains and for collaborating with security forces.

Iraqi forces are close to retaking the last two Islamic State havens in Iraq: western Anbar towns of Rawa and Qaim.

Bringing Daesh To Justice — On The Road To Nowhere?
Forbes

By Ewelina U. Ochab
October 13, 2017

On September 21, 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously passed the resolution 2379 aimed at establishing a mechanism for bringing Daesh to justice. It establishes an Investigative Team tasked with collecting evidence of Daesh atrocities in Iraq. The resolution has received widespread praise. However, the resolution, as a whole, may be too weak to ensure justice for the victims.

The Resolution

The resolution requires the UN Secretary-General to establish an Investigative Team in Iraq consisting of Iraqi judges who will work together with Iraqi and international experts. The Investigative Team has been given a mandate of two years and will be led by a Special Adviser appointed by the UN Secretary-General.

The Investigative Team will support the Iraqi domestic courts by 'collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by [Daesh] in Iraq.' The evidence obtained is to be used 'before national courts, and complementing investigations being carried out by the Iraqi authorities, or investigations carried out by authorities in third countries at their request.' The resolution also raises the possibility for the newly established team to collect evidence of Daesh atrocities in countries other than Iraq. Any such request would first need to be approved by the UN Security Council.

The resolution can be praised for expanding the scope of the atrocities in focus to 'murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking, suicide bombings, enslavement, sale into or otherwise forced marriage, trafficking in persons, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, recruitment and use of children, attacks on critical infrastructure, as well as its destruction of cultural heritage, including archaeological sites, and trafficking of cultural property.' The destruction of cultural heritage and trafficking of cultural property remain an element of the Daesh atrocities that have not gained widespread attention. Considering the patterns of such atrocities perpetrated by Daesh aimed at the destruction of the signs of religious minorities in various regions - the atrocities cannot be neglected or degraded in their importance. In fact, they contribute to the establishment of the specific intent to destroy the protected groups - specific intent is of course required for the atrocities to be classified as genocide.

However, the main genocidal crime perpetrated against Christians, namely forced displacement, was excluded from the resolution. This despite the fact that in August 2014, over 120,000 Iraqi Christians from Nineveh Plains were forcibly displaced to Kurdistan and other regions. Similarly, thousands of Yazidis were forcibly displaced from Sinjar. The failure to include forced displacement in the resolution causes concerns. Is it aimed at excluding the cases of forcibly displaced Christians or Yazidis from the investigation? Is it 'merely' gross negligence of the drafters who managed to forget about this mass atrocity? Lastly, as cultural heritage received more attention than the forcible displacement of thousands of people - is it the ultimate failure of the drafters to, yet again, put more value to the destruction of cultural properties than to the suffering of thousands of people fleeing for their lives. The issue whether forced displacement will be within the scope of the inquiry will have to be clarified. It may be the case that the Investigative Team will consider the atrocities even if they are not expressly included in the resolution (and especially as the list of atrocities is included in the preambular and not operative paragraphs of the resolution). One can hope so. However, as any action starts with the recognition of the problem - it is doubtful.

The resolution is very clear in its purpose. Once instigated, it is envisaged that Daesh fighters will be prosecuted by 'competent national-level courts' and not international or hybrid tribunals. Any other use of the evidence obtained by the Investigative Team is to be 'determined in agreement with the Government of Iraq on a case by case basis.' The fact that Daesh fighters are to be prosecuted by Iraqi national courts also causes concerns that cannot be neutralised by the operative paragraph encouraging 'Member States, and regional and intergovernmental organisations, to provide appropriate legal assistance and capacity building to the Government of Iraq in order to strengthen its courts and judicial system.'

The Empirical Reality

Reports suggest that the national courts may not be capable of prosecuting Daesh fighters for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Israeli Who Joined ISIS Sentenced to Six Years in Prison
The Jerusalem Post

By Udi Shaham
October 19, 2017

Wissam Zubidat, a resident of Sakhnin in the Lower Galilee, was sentenced by the Haifa District Court on Thursday to five years in prison for joining Islamic State in Iraq with his wife and children.

The punishment is the most severe ever given to an Israeli citizen for joining ISIS.

In June 2015, Zubidat traveled with his wife and three children, then aged eight, six and three, to Romania, where they left their phones to avoid being tracked, and continued to Turkey.

From Turkey the family headed to Mosul in Iraq. There, Zubidat attended ISIS basic training, in which he pledged allegiance to the Sunni terrorist organization, and followed "ideological and religious studies," according to Thursday's verdict. There, Zubidat received an AK-47 assault rifle, ammunition and other equipment.

During his period as an ISIS combat soldier, Zubidat was involved in several battles against the Iraqi Army, and took part in digging an underground bunker. In early 2016, Zubidat was wounded in the leg during an exchange of fire with the Iraqi Army.

While Zubidat was fighting, his wife, Sabreen, was working at a hospital in Mosul, and their children attended school.

The family decided in July 2016 to return to Israel. After 10 attempts to cross the border from Syria to Turkey, they were caught by the Turkish police, who handed them over to Israel.

Zubidat was convicted in Israel in June 2017 of contacting a foreign agent, taking part in a terrorist organization, taking part in forbidden military training and other felonies.

Last March, Sabreen was sentenced to 50 month in prison. According to the verdict, Wissam was "dominant" in the crimes he and his wife committed, because he was taking part in military activity for ISIS.

The judges said in the verdict that the damage potential of Zubidat's felonies was large, and that joining an extremist terrorist organization could pose a real danger to the security of the State of Israel.

Iraq: Fighting in Disputed Territories Kills Civilians
Human Rights Watch

October 20, 2017

Apparently indiscriminate firing during fighting on October 16, 2017, in a town near Kirkuk involving the Kurdistan Regional Government's Peshmerga forces and various Iraqi government forces left at least 51 civilians wounded and five dead, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi forces in control of the town, Tuz Khurmatu, subsequently let civilians loot property unimpeded for at least a full day before taking action. Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government forces should take all feasible steps to minimize civilian casualties and prevent looting.

"Iraqi and Kurdish forces need to resolve the current crisis in ways that fully respects human rights and avoids harming civilians or their property," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Tuz Khurmatu, an ethnically mixed Kurdish, Turkmen, and Arab town in the disputed territories around Kirkuk, 65 kilometers south of the city, had been under the joint control of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces, the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi,) and local police, and the scene of sporadic clashes over the last three years. Fighting again erupted on October 16, 2017, as Iraqi forces asserted control over the city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas. According to three medical workers at a Turkmen-run hospital, fighting on October 16 left five civilians dead, and 51 wounded.

Human Rights Watch spoke to three men wounded by apparent indiscriminate fire during the clashes. "Hamid," said that at about 3:45 a.m. he, his brother, and his mother were sitting in the living room of their home in a Turkmen neighborhood when, he said, "there were two blasts all of a sudden and I lost consciousness. I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. at the hospital, bleeding from my head and the left side of my torso."

When Hamid returned home that night, he saw two large holes in their living room roof. "I don't know why our house was hit," Hamid said. "There was no fighting nearby, nor any military installations that I know of."

"Nadim," a Turkmen living in another Turkmen neighborhood, said he was in his garden at 4 a.m. when a mortar landed next to him, hurling metal fragments into his right hand and leg. Nadim said that as the mortar landed, he saw an ongoing battle between Peshmerga forces and PMF about 300 meters from his home.

"Ammar," a Turkmen, lives in the same neighborhood, about 500 meters from the local headquarters of the Badr Organization, one of the most prominent PMF groups. Ammar said he and his brother were wakened at 5:30 a.m. by heavy fire. Just as they went outside, a projectile landed about two meters away. Metal fragments wounded Ammar's left hand and head, and both of his brother's legs. Worried about continued gunfire, they stayed inside their home until 11 a.m. before fighting in the area abated and their neighbor drove them to the hospital, he said.

Human Rights Watch was unable to determine if there were casualties among Kurdish or other civilians in Tuz. Four Tuz residents said the clashes were heaviest in the Turkmen neighborhoods because of the proximity to both PMF and KRG military and security installations. Two aid workers whose organizations work in camps for displaced families in Kirkuk said there was also fighting near Laylan 2 camp, 15 kilometers southeast of Kirkuk, killing or wounding two camp residents. Human Rights Watch was unable to obtain any specific civilian casualty numbers for other areas in and around Kirkuk.

On the morning of October 16, all remaining KRG forces and Kurdish residents fled Tuz Khurmatu. A resident said he visited the predominantly Kurdish northern neighborhood of al-Jumhouri, at around 4:30 p.m., and saw what he knew to be at least 10 Kurdish shops on fire. He saw two boys looting plastic building materials from another Kurdish shop nearby. He said three officers from the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Emergency Response Division were parked 20 meters away, watching the boys without intervening. A passer-by told him that the boys were taking revenge for looting and burning of Turkmen houses and shops by Peshmerga forces and armed Kurdish civilians in 2015 and 2016.

The resident said he saw a man coming from the direction of the shops in a car loaded with TVs, computers, and other electronics. The three Emergency Response Division officers waved the man past without questioning him. The resident said another civilian in the area had told him that at around noon he had seen a group of about 10 armed civilians in the same neighborhood looting homes but avoiding a few that had "Turkmen Shia" graffitied on them.

A United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) statement on October 19 said it had received allegations that about 150 homes were burned in Tuz on October 16 and 17 "by armed groups" and another 11 destroyed by explosives. In an October 17 news conference, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi acknowledged incidents of abuse in Tuz saying he had given "strict orders to arrest anyone who endangers internal security, and attacks citizens, their property."

In the early hours of October 18, Ataf Najar, the local head of the Badr Organization, publicly called on all civilians in Tuz to stop looting, after which local police cordoned off the largest Kurdish neighborhood. The resident who had told Human Rights Watch about looting in one Kurdish area said he was unable to return to verify that looting had stopped.

Kurdish journalists and activists shared photos of the burned-out interiors of buildings with Human Rights Watch, saying they were from the city of Kirkuk. Human Rights Watch could not find any witnesses to the looting or burning of buildings in Kirkuk. Three international journalists who visited Kirkuk on October 17 and 18 told Human Rights Watch they had seen no signs of arson or looting inside the city. One said he saw a Peshmerga military base on the road to Erbil on fire, but did not know who had started it.

Iraqi authorities should investigate allegations of looting and destruction of civilian property and prosecute anyone responsible for crimes, and security forces should prevent any further looting, Human Rights Watch said.

Starting on October 16, Iraqi forces including PMF units retook other parts of the disputed territories under de facto KRG control since 2003, including Sinjar, Zummar, Rabia, Hasansham, Khazir, Dibis, Kirkuk, Taza Khurmatu, Jalawla, Khanaqin, and Mandali. The Peshmerga forces retreated after very limited engagements. Authorities should ensure the safety and security of the minority communities in these areas.

According to the United Nations, as Iraqi forces retook the areas an estimated 61,200 people fled their homes to stay with relatives in more stable areas, with some returning over the following days. Human Rights Watch did not identify any incidents of forced displacement.

On October 18, Iraq's Joint Operations Command, the Iraqi military's communications branch, issued a statement condemning coverage by two leading Kurdish outlets, Rudaw and Kurdistan 24, saying they had "continue to mislead public opinion and accuse the security forces of baseless accusations." The statement called on Iraq's Communications and Media Commission to monitor the outlets and bring legal action where their coverage has "threaten[ed] the civil peace."

Human Rights Watch has previously raised concerns over the media commission and its "mandatory" guidelines, which unjustifiably restrict media freedom. The guidelines demand that media avoid making information about insurgent forces public and requires them to report on government forces only in favorable terms. Article 1 forbids media from broadcasting or publishing material that "may be interpreted as being against the security forces" and insists that they "focus on the security achievements of the armed forces, by repetition throughout the day."

"Lashing out against media unfavorable to Baghdad undermines the same authorities who are telling Iraqis they are protecting the rights of all of them equally," Stork said.  

Enmity Between Baghdad and Kurds Erupts in Deadly Clashes
The New York Times

By David Zucchino
October 24, 2017

A week after Iraqi troops drove Kurdish separatists from most contested areas in northern Iraq, the two sides clashed Tuesday in two towns where Kurds said they repulsed attacks and killed and captured Iraqi soldiers.

Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said Kurdish fighters had lured the Iraqi military into an ambush in one clash. Videos said to show wounded and captured government soldiers were posted on social media by Kurdish fighters.

"I was surprised they were so proud of killing members of the federal forces by deception and treachery," Mr. Abadi said at a news conference in Baghdad Tuesday night.

"This is Saddam's method," he added, referring to the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Mr. Abadi did not provide casualty figures or other details of the clashes.

Two Iraqi commanders said Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, invited Iraqi soldiers to jointly operate a checkpoint before one clash, then suddenly opened fire when the soldiers approached. The commanders spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give interviews.

Pesh merga commanders said Iraqi troops had attacked their positions. One commander, Hogar Samad, said his fighters captured 20 Shiite Muslim militiamen fighting alongside the Iraqi Army, but later freed them and their vehicles.

"This unjustified attack against federal forces will not pass without punishment," said Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the popular mobilizations forces, which are dominated by Shiite militias. "There will be a response, and the coming days will reveal it."

Baghdad has moved to punish and isolate the autonomous Kurdish region since the Kurdish authorities held an independence vote on Sept 25.

The latest violence again pitted two American allies against each other. The United States, which armed and trained both sides, has said it is neutral in the conflict, but it has not interfered with Iraqi operations against the Kurds. Further complicating the standoff, a pesh merga faction opposes the Kurdish regional government led by Massoud Barzani, and has surrendered territory, including the capital of the oil-rich Kirkuk Province, to the Iraqi forces.

The United States opposed the independence initiative, which the Kurdish authorities say passed overwhelmingly. Washington said the vote would destabilize Iraq and undermine the American-led coalition battling Islamic State militants.

The fighting on Tuesday seemed to slow — at least for a day — Baghdad's effort to impose authority over remaining contested areas and border crossings with Turkey, Iran and Syria.

Kurdish commanders, whose forces are outnumbered and outgunned, said late Tuesday that Iraqi reinforcements were arriving at the scene of one clash, in the town of Makhmour, about 70 miles southeast of Mosul, and that they anticipated a government assault at any time.

Jabar Yawar, secretary general of the pesh merga, said in a telephone interview that Iraqi troops moved without warning toward Kurdish positions in Makhmour on Tuesday morning. The move "led to confusion and then to a clash," Mr. Yawar said.

Mr. Yawar said there were government casualties, but he had no details.

Hemin Hawrami, a senior aide to Mr. Barzani, wrote in a Twitter post that pesh merga fighters destroyed two government Humvees. Mr. Hawrami wrote in a separate post that the Kurds had destroyed two armored personnel carriers and a Humvee while repulsing a government attack outside Rabia, near a border crossing with Syria.

Those accounts could not be confirmed. The Iraqi military command, which provided regular updates of the operation in and around Kirkuk last week, did not respond to several requests for comment Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday, the pesh merga command accused Baghdad of "bad intentions" and promised to resist any further attacks. "The pesh merga will defend the land of Kurdistan and the life of the people with all their strength," the statement said.

Vahal Ali, communications director for Mr. Barzani, called on the United States to intervene to halt military operations by the Iraqi military and Shiite militias.

"They're letting them use American weapons against their allies — or at least we thought we were their allies," Mr. Ali said of the United States.

Mr. Abadi has promised Iraqis that his government would reclaim control of border crossings and contested areas. Baghdad closed the region's two international airports last month. "We will finish this issue soon," Mr. Abadi said Tuesday.

In a peaceful takeover on Tuesday, the Iraqi federal police assumed control of one of three border crossings into Iran. The Kurds withdrew two days ago as part of a negotiated deal, and the police raised the Iraqi flag and lowered the Kurdish one, according to Gen. Saad Maan, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

The border post, Al Munthurea, had been operated by the pesh merga since 2014. The remaining two Iranian crossings have been held by Kurdish forces since 1991, when an American no-fly zone was established to protect the Kurds from attacks by Saddam Hussein's forces and gave them the opportunity to carve out an autonomous region.

The contested areas where clashes broke out Tuesday are controlled by pesh merga loyal to Mr. Barzani, making a negotiated settlement less likely.

The border crossings, particularly one on the Turkish border and controlled by the pesh merga since 1991, are vital to the Kurdish region's economic survival.

An important oil pipeline to Turkey passes near the border post. The loss of Kirkuk Province deprived the Barzani government of nearly 70 percent of its oil revenues, analysts said. Hamza al-Jawahiri, an oil industry expert in Baghdad, said Tuesday that almost all of the remaining 30 percent flowed through the pipeline to export markets in the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey.

The Turkey crossing, in the town of Faysh Khabur, also provides the Kurdish region with revenue from customs duties and taxes, income Mr. Abadi says belongs to the Iraqi government.

A contested military takeover of the Faysh Khabur crossing would require Iraqi troops to enter the Kurdish autonomous region, whose status is detailed in Iraq's Constitution. Baghdad has not objected to Kurdish control of the region — only to Kurdish expansion in the contested areas and Kurdish sales of oil produced there.  

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Syria

Raqqa: IS 'capital' falls to US-backed Syrian forces
BBC

October 17, 2017

A US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters says it has taken full control of Raqqa, ending three years of rule in the city by so-called Islamic State.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said the fighting was over after a four-month assault.

Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines, he added.

However, a US military spokesman later said he could only confirm that about 90% of the city had been cleared.

Islamic State (IS) made Raqqa the headquarters of its self-styled "caliphate" in early 2014, implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and using beheadings, crucifixions and torture to terrorise residents who opposed its rule.

The city also became home to thousands of jihadists from around the world who heeded a call to migrate there by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

How did the Raqqa offensive unfold?

The SDF was formed by the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) militia two years ago along with a number of smaller, Arab factions. It says it is not aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or the rebels seeking to overthrow him.

With the help of US-led coalition air strikes, weapons and special forces, SDF fighters have driven IS out of more than 8,000 sq km (3,100 sq miles) of territory.

Last November, they began a major operation to capture Raqqa. They slowly encircled the city before breaking through IS defences on the outskirts in June.

On Tuesday morning, the SDF cleared the last two major IS positions in Raqqa - the municipal stadium and the National Hospital.

Reuters news agency reported that fighters raised the YPG flag inside the stadium, celebrated in the streets and chanted slogans from their vehicles.

Dozens of foreign militants were believed to have made their last stand in the stadium, while 22 were reportedly killed in the final attack on the hospital.

Up to 300 militants were thought to be holding out on Sunday, after Syrian jihadists and their families were evacuated along with 3,500 civilians under a deal negotiated by the Raqqa Civil Council and local Arab tribal elders.

"Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa," Mr Sello told AFP news agency on Tuesday afternoon.

"The military operations in Raqqa have finished, but there are clearing operations now under way to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines."

Mr Sello said an official statement declaring victory in the city would be made soon.

However, the coalition would only say that the battle was "near its end", with spokesman Col Ryan Dillon estimating that about 100 militants were left in Raqqa.

What has been the human cost?

There has been a "staggering loss of civilian life" in Raqqa, according to UN war crimes investigators.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported on Tuesday that at least 3,250 people had been killed in the past five months, among them 1,130 civilians. Hundreds more were missing and might be buried under destroyed buildings, it said.

The anti-IS activist group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, said more than 1,873 civilians had been killed.

Activists said many of the civilian casualties were the result of the intense US-led air strikes that helped the SDF advance, though the coalition said it had adhered to strict targeting processes and procedures aimed to minimise risks to civilians.

IS militants also used civilians as human shields and shot those trying to flee.

The UN said last week that about 8,000 people were still trapped in Raqqa, and that almost 270,000 civilians had been displaced since April.

Air strikes, shelling and clashes on the ground have also destroyed Raqqa's civilian infrastructure and homes. A local councillor recently estimated that at least half of the city was destroyed.

Save the Children warned that while the battle was now over the humanitarian crisis was continuing, with the displaced in critical need of aid and camps "bursting at the seams".

"Conditions in the camps are miserable, and families do not have enough food, water or medicine. But it is not yet safe for them to go back, and many of their homes are now turned to rubble," said the charity's Syria director, Sonia Khush.

What is left of IS in Syria?

The jihadist group still has a number of footholds, the largest of which runs along the Euphrates river valley in the south-eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

However, the SDF and Syrian government forces — which are backed by Russian air strikes and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement — have launched separate offensives in the province with the aim of taking control of a key crossing on the border with Iraq.

IS has also suffered a series of defeats in recent months to Iraqi government forces, who are advancing along the Euphrates on the other side of the border.

The US-led coalition said on Tuesday that forces it supported had reclaimed 93,790 sq km of Iraqi and Syrian territory seized by IS in 2014 and freed 6.6 million people from jihadist control.  

Raqqa: US coalition 'wiped city off Earth', Russia says
BBC

October 22, 2017

Russia has accused the US-led coalition of bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa "off the face of the earth" during the fight against so-called Islamic State.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, took Raqqa last week.

Pictures suggest much of Raqqa is in ruins, and Moscow compared it to the Allied destruction of the German city of Dresden in World War Two.

The US-led coalition says it tried to minimise risks to civilians.

Russia has itself been accused of committing war crimes for its bombardment of Aleppo last year.

UN war crimes investigators in June that there had been a "staggering loss of civilian life" in Raqqa.

Syrian activists say between 1,130 and 1,873 civilians were killed and that many of the civilian casualties were the result of the intense US-led air strikes that helped the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, advance.

A Russian defence ministry spokesman said the ruins evoked the destruction of Dresden.

"Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the earth by Anglo-American bombardments," Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said.

He said the West now appeared to be hurrying to send financial aid to Raqqa as a way of covering up evidence of its crimes.

The US-led coalition said it had adhered to strict targeting processes and procedures aimed to minimise risks to civilians.

The SDF declared victory in Raqqa last week after a four-month battle to retake the city from IS, which had ruled it for three years.

They say they have since taken the al-Omar oilfield, Syria's largest and a significant source of revenue for IS.

The SDF's fight against the militants is now focused on their last stronghold in Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

The Syrian army, supported by Russian airpower and Iranian-backed militias, is also attacking the extremist group.

Famine can be a war crime and should be prosecuted, says independent UN rights expert
UN News Centre

October 23, 2017

Famine can constitute a war crime or crime against humanity, an independent United Nations human rights expert today said, noting that more civilians die from hunger and disease related to conflicts than in direct combat.

"If the famine comes from deliberate action of the State or other players using food as a weapon of war, it is an international crime," the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, told journalists in New York.

The expert spoke to the media after presenting her report to the General Assembly committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, also known as the Third Committee, where she said an estimated 70 million people in 45 countries need emergency food aid.

Those countries include Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, where around 20 million people are hungry or face starvation as a result of man-made conflict.

States and other parties involved in conflicts, Ms. Elver said in a press release, need to recognize their own duty to act, and above all, avoid using hunger as a weapon of war.

The right to food is an unconditional human right and legal entitlement for all people, not a discretionary option, she added.

"It is crucial that the international community understands that it is an international crime to intentionally block access to food, food aid, and to destroy production of food."

She noted that the most serious cases of man-made famine could be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but said in the press conference that this has never been done.

The independent expert urged governments to focus on peace processes and long-term policies that break the cycle of recurring famines.

UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

UN Special Rapporteurs are in New York this week to present their reports to the General Assembly. Check back to www.un.org/News for highlights throughout the week.

Dozens of bodies found in Syria 'massacre' after government reclaims town from Islamic State
USA Today

By Bart Jansen
October 23, 2017

The bodies of at least 67 Syrian civilians have been found in a central Syrian town in the aftermath of the government reclaiming control from the Islamic State, according to The Associated Press.

The bodies were found in Qaryatayn, a strategic town the Islamic State had seized in August 2015 to defend the historic city of Palmyra.

The activist-run Palmyra Coordination Committee published the names of 67 civilians confirmed killed and also said the number was likely to rise. The group said Monday that at least 35 were found shot and dumped into a deep shaft, presumably because of suspicions they worked with the government, and others were found on the streets.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, told AP what happened was a "massacre." His group documented the killings of at least 128 people during the last days of Islamic State control of the town.

The bodies were found after Syrian troops and allied militias regained control of the town on Saturday after a three-week fight. The government-run Syrian Central Military Media said its allies restored security and stability to the town.

The apparent revenge killings underscored the Islamic State's ability to inflict damage even in retreat in northern and eastern Syria.

Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs province, told AP on Monday that most of the bodies were of townspeople who were government employees or were affiliated with Syria's ruling Baath party.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition told AP on Monday that talks are underway with Russian to avoid friction over the Al-Omar oil field, which both sides covet.

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured Al-Omar on Sunday, narrowly beating the Russia-backed Syrian troops who were also advancing toward it, according to the spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon.

SDF fighters are still battling Islamic State militants in a housing complex next to the oil field, Dillon said.  

Syria civil war: Harrowing pictures of starving baby show horrors of the brutal conflict
The Independent

By Bethan McKernan
October 23, 2017

Distressing pictures of a baby on the brink of death have emerged from a rebel-held area of Syria, a tragic reminder of the horrors faced daily by civilians in the six-year-old war.

Acutely malnourished Samar Dofdaa was 34 days old when she was taken by her parents to a clinic in Hamouria in rebel-held East Ghouta on Saturday. She died the next day.

In photos and video from the hospital shared by activists, the baby is clearly in great distress but is too weak to make a noise when she cries. Her skin is stretched taut and translucent over her tiny frame and breathing is clearly a struggle.

A nurse said Samar weighed just 1.9 kg (four pounds) when she was admitted by her also malnourished mother, whose was unable to produce milk to feed her baby daughter.

The family's tragedy is just one of many such starvation stories in East Ghouta, which has been under siege by government forces since 2013.

While the bloodshed caused by international efforts to destroy Isis' caliphate is the focus of many of the news stories which emerge from Syria, elsewhere in the country, people are slowly dying under government sieges.

Deliberate starvation of citizens is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention, but the tactic has been effectively utilised by the regime over the years to inflame tensions between different rebel groups and turn civilians lacking food and medicine against opposition fighters.

While a deal brokered by Iran, Turkey and Russia earlier this year supposedly created four 'de-escalation zones' between various rebel factions and the government, monitors and rebels say fighting has continued on many fronts - and food and other vital supplies are still not reaching people in besieged communities.

The latest report on the situation from Siege Watch, a Syria monitor based in Washington DC, estimated that 821,200 people live in 34 areas without freedom of movement.

According to UN figures, the civil war - now in its seventh year - has killed almost 500,000 people and driven half of Syria's pre-war population of 20 million from their homes.  

Russia vetoes U.N. resolution to continue Syria chemical weapons investigation
The Washington Post

By Anne Barnard
October 23, 2017

Russia used its veto power on the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to block an extension of efforts by international inspectors to determine who was behind chemical weapons attacks that have killed scores of Syrian civilians.

Moscow's veto decision was condemned by the United States, Britain and others as an attempt to shield the perpetrators from answering for the most controversial human rights abuses of Syria's six-year-old war.

Western intelligence officials and U.N. investigators have blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attacks.

It was the ninth time Russia has used its veto to hinder international action on Syria. Moscow is a key ally of the Syrian government, supporting it militarily, politically and financially.

A U.N. investigative body is due to release a report Thursday attributing blame for an April 4 chemical attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun.

More than 80 people were killed, and hundreds were injured in the daybreak assault, in which the Syrian government is alleged to have used the banned nerve agent sarin.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, had tried unsuccessfully to have Tuesday's Security Council vote postponed until the contents of the report were released.

President Trump ordered retaliatory missile strikes days after the Khan Sheikhoun assault, targeting the Syrian government air base from which the warplanes that carried out the chemical attack were thought to have departed.

A separate U.N. inquiry also has accused Syria of responsibility for the Khan Sheikhoun assault, saying it was one of more than 20 government attacks involving chemical weapons since March 2013, most of them targeting families with no role in the conflict. This investigation, formally known as the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, is tasked with probing war-crimes allegations and has no mandate to prosecute any party.

The mandate of the ongoing U.N.-backed inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM, expires Nov. 17. It also has several other attacks to investigate.

The U.S.-drafted resolution put to a Security Council vote on Tuesday would have extended the JIM's mandate, raising the prospect of accountability for a chapter of human rights abuses that has drawn unparalleled international condemnation.

Amnesty International described the Russian veto as the equivalent of "a green light for war crimes."

"By preventing the mandate extension of the gas attacks probe they helped set up, Russia has dealt a huge blow [to] justice in Syria and shown once again their callous disregard for all those who have been killed and injured in these attacks," said Sherine Tadros, head of Amnesty International's U.N. office in New York.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the United States and allies on the Security Council would try for a second vote to continue the JIM's work.

"It is not every day that this council considers an issue that is so horrific, so shocking to the conscience as the use of chemical weapons against civilians," said Michele J. Sison, the deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations, addressing the chamber. "We want to know the truth about these attacks regardless of where it takes us."

Scores of Bodies Are Found in Syrian Town After ISIS Retreats
The New York Times

By Louisa Loveluck
October 24, 2017

As pro-government troops drove Islamic State fighters from a central Syrian town over the weekend, the retreating militants killed scores of civilians, dumping some bodies into wells and leaving others in the street, local residents and the Syrian state-run news media said on Monday.

The apparent mass killing is the latest example of the brutal reprisals that have taken place when territory changes hands in Syria's multisided war, with civilians often bearing the brunt of the pain.

The carnage showed how the Islamic State can still spread havoc even as it loses major parts of its territory that once included large areas of Syria and Iraq.

At least 67 bodies had been identified in the town, Qaryatayn, northeast of Damascus, the capital, by Monday afternoon, according to local activists who posted an online list of the victims' names.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said that as many as 128 civilians had been killed in Qaryatayn in the past several weeks before the Islamic State fighters retreated.

The militants had accused the victims of collaborating with the government, according to residents, who disputed that claim. Local residents said the dead appeared to include many townspeople who had tried to keep their heads down as the town changed hands several times in recent years.

"I knew most of these people — farmers and electricians and teachers," said Abdullah Abdulkarim, a resident and citizen journalist who fled to the northern province of Aleppo a few years ago but keeps in close touch with contacts in Qaryatayn.

"I know for a fact that most of the victims were not involved in anything against ISIS," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. "Just 10 of them were collaborators with the regime, but this doesn't justify executing them."

Mr. Abdulkarim said that the youngest victim was in his teens and the oldest was 57, adding, "Some of the bodies were dumped in wells, which makes it harder to find them."

Several were members of his extended family, he said, including five of his father's cousins, one of whom was a local mukhtar, or leader. "They were all shot and left on the streets for others to take as an example," he said. "They all were accused of collaborating with the regime."

Qaryatayn, like many places in Syria, has been through many phases of war. Local youths formed makeshift rebel groups early in the uprising, which began in 2011 after the government cracked down violently on largely peaceful political protests.

The groups withdrew in late 2013 to spare the town from the government shelling that had befallen many rebel-held areas; Mr. Abdelkarim, an online advocate for the rebels, fled with them to rebel-held areas farther north.

The government held the town until 2015, when the Islamic State seized it, destroying a 15th-century monastery and prompting thousands of Christians to flee. The town changed hands several more times, with Islamic State fighters seizing it again in late September and the government retaking it last weekend.  

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Yemen

US says airstrikes killed dozens of militants in Yemen
WPXINews.com

October 16, 2017

The U.S. military said Monday it killed dozens of Islamic State fighters in airstrikes on two training camps in Yemen.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the strikes disrupted the Islamic State group's attempts to train new fighters to conduct attacks using AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The statement was not specific about how the U.S. attacks were conducted, but a defense official said they were carried out by drones. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. has no combat troops in Yemen but has periodically conducted airstrikes to attack militants, including fighters of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemen fell into chaos following its 2011 Arab Spring uprising that removed longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh, now allied with Shiite rebels from the north who occupy much of the country and are fighting his successor. A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the rebels and Saleh's forces since March 2015.

Al-Qaida has taken advantage of the security breakdown to seize territory and expand operations in impoverished Yemen, which sits along strategic oil shipping routes.

Yemen rebel youth minister urges sending children to war
DailyMail.com

October 20, 2017

The youth minister in war-torn Yemen's rebel government on Friday proposed suspending school classes for a year and sending pupils and teachers to the front.

Hassan Zaid, minister for youth and sports in an administration set up by Iran-backed Huthi rebels and not internationally recognised, suggested pupils and teachers could be armed.

"Wouldn't we be able to reinforce the ranks with hundreds of thousands (of fighters) and win the battle?" he wrote on Facebook.

Yemen has been devastated by a war between the Huthis, who control the capital Sanaa, and the internationally-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

A teachers' strike in rebel territory, in protest at salaries going unpaid for around a year, delayed the start of the school year by two weeks.

When they did open on Sunday, classrooms were largely empty.

Social media users responded angrily to the minister's post.

"What if we let the students study and sent the ministers and their bodyguards to the front?" one wrote.

"That would give us victory and a prosperous future."

Zaid criticised those who complained about his proposal.

"People close the schools under the pretext of a strike and when we think about how to take advantage of this situation, they take offence," he said.

UNICEF estimates 13,146 schools, or 78 percent of all of Yemen's schools, have been hit by the salary crunch, while nearly 500 schools have been destroyed by the conflict, repurposed as shelters or commandeered by armed factions.

More than 8,650 people have been killed, including over 1,550 children, since the Saudi-led coalition joined the Yemen war in 2015, sparking a humanitarian disaster, according to the United Nations.

Human rights organisations accuse both sides of recruiting child soldiers.

Three soldiers, 5 assailants killed in Yemen military base attack
The Hindu

October 23, 2017

Three Yemeni soldiers and five assailants were killed in an attack on a military base in the southern province of Abyan on Monday, a security source said.

A car rigged with explosives carrying five men pulled up to a military base in the district of Mudiya in Abyan, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Four men wearing explosive belts ran out of the car and towards the base, and were all shot dead. The vehicle then exploded outside of the base, killing the driver and three soldiers from a UAE-backed contingent in the Yemeni army.

Yemen's southern provinces, including Abyan, are the site of a long-running US drone war against Al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has flourished in the chaos of Yemen's civil war, which pits the Saudi-backed government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Shia Houthi rebels.

The United States, the only government to operate drones over the impoverished country, considers AQAP to be the radical group's most dangerous branch and backs the United Arab Emirates-trained contingent in southern Yemen.

Over 8,600 killed so far

The UAE is a key component of a Saudi- led military coalition that intervened in the war to support Hadi's government in 2015.

More than 8,600 people have since been killed, according to the World Health Organization.  

US drone strike kills 13 'IS fighters' in Yemen
DailyMail.com

October 25, 2017

A US drone strike has killed 13 suspected Islamic State group militants in central Yemen, security sources said Wednesday.

The strike in Bayda province would be the second known US strike against IS in Yemen. The first came just over a week ago, when the US military said it had killed dozens of jihadists at IS training camps in the same province.

The United States is the only country known to operate armed drones over Yemen, but its previous known strikes have targeted Al-Qaeda.

IS has however risen to prominence in the country's civil war, targeting both government forces and Shiite Huthi rebels, which it considers heretics.

Washington has intensified its drone war against Yemen-based jihadists since US President Donald Trump took power in January.

A Saudi-led coalition, which entered Yemen's conflict in March 2015 to prop up the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against the Iran-backed Huthis, has also turned its firepower on Sunni jihadists.

The Yemen war has killed 8,673 people and wounded 58,636 since 2015, including many civilians, according to the United Nations.

Another 2,100 have died of cholera this year.

The top UN aid official arrived in Yemen Tuesday on a five-day trip aimed at drawing attention to what his organisation has called the world's top humanitarian crisis.

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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)

Analyst ignores attributio details: STL defense counsel
The Daily Star

By Finbar Anderson
October, 17 2017

Prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson took to the witness stand at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon once again Monday, under cross-examination by Emile Aoun, lead defense counsel for defendant Salim Ayyash. Ayyash is one of four accused of involvement in the 2005 bomb attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

Donaldson, who provided the prosecution's reports on the suspects' cellphone usage, is scheduled to complete his evidence this week after appearing before the chamber over several months.

Much of Thursday's shortened session followed a similar pattern to previous days: The defense counsel again took issue with Donaldson's attribution of particular cellphones to a defense counsel client.

Aoun read the accounts of various witnesses, who, when shown the number of the cellphone attributed to Ayyash by the prosecution, could not recall whether or not the number was his. The defense counsel argued that this was a negative indicator that the phone had in fact belonged to Ayyash.

Donaldson was unconvinced, stating that evidence of this kind would not factor highly when attributing a cellphone.

"Do you recall this number you called five times five years ago? I do not see [this] as high quality evidence," he told Aoun.

The rejoinder from the defense counsel was that Donaldson had in previous sessions frequently stated the need to "view attribution in light of the totality of the evidence," and he, therefore, should have considered all information, including such details as witnesses being unable to positively attribute a cellphone number to one of the accused.

Donaldson refused to concede, noting that his reports ran into the many hundreds of pages already. If he was obliged to mention every detail, the reports would become so large as to become impractical, he suggested, and it would negate the point of employing an analyst to evaluate the evidence.

Donaldson's cross-examination by Ayyash's defense team will continue tomorrow.

STL Appeals Chamber rules on pre-trial judge questions on new indictment
Neharanet

October 18, 2017

The Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has issued a decision on 15 questions of law submitted by the Pre-Trial Judge and pertaining to a new indictment that has been submitted by the STL Prosecutor, the STL said on Wednesday.

"The Pre-Trial Judge sought clarification of certain aspects of the applicable law in order to examine and rule on an indictment submitted for confirmation by the Prosecution," an STL statement said.

In reaching this decision, the Appeals Chamber considered the oral submissions made by the Prosecution and the Defense Office at the public hearing held on October 11, as well as their prior written submissions.

The questions submitted by the Pre-Trial Judge related principally to the crime of criminal association under Article 335 of the Lebanese Criminal Code and the criteria for reviewing the indictment.

Below are key rulings of the Appeals Chamber:

1. The definition of the crime of criminal association

The Appeals Chamber clarified that the crime of criminal association is composed of the following material elements:

(i) an agreement, oral or written, between two or more people;

(ii) a particular purpose of the agreement, being the commission of one or more felonies against persons or property, or felonies undermining the authority of the State, its prestige or its civil, military, financial or economic institutions;

Regarding these material elements, the Appeals Chamber specified that under Lebanese law it is not necessary to identify all of the members of a criminal association, nor is it important what form the agreement takes – what matters is the meeting of the minds of two or more persons to act collectively for the purpose of committing the felonies mentioned in Article 335. Neither the commission of material acts nor the identification of the means for achieving the criminal purpose of a criminal association are required for such an agreement to qualify as criminal association.

Regarding the intentional elements of the crime, the Appeals Chamber clarified that criminal association requires an intention to join the association or agreement aimed at committing one or more of the felonies mentioned in Article 335, and the knowledge that the purpose of the association or agreement is to commit such a crime. A participant in the criminal association does not need to know precisely the crimes intended to be committed.

2. The distinction between criminal association and conspiracy

The Appeals Chamber stated that criminal association and conspiracy, though similar, are separate crimes under Lebanese law. While both are forms of agreement to commit crimes, their distinctive characteristics are twofold: (1) a criminal association can be directed at a broader range of crimes than a conspiracy; and (2) in a conspiracy, the members have to agree on the means to commit the crime, whereas in a criminal association they do not. The assassination of a political figure is not an element of conspiracy or criminal association.

The Appeals Chamber clarified that, in circumstances where the underlying conduct is the same and can qualify as both conspiracy and criminal association, it would not be appropriate to allow that these crimes be charged cumulatively. This is without prejudice to the right of the Prosecution to charge these crimes in the alternative.

3. The criteria for reviewing the indictment

The Appeals Chamber held that the Pre-Trial Judge must assess whether the materials provided by the Prosecutor in support of the indictment demonstrate a credible case which could, if not contradicted, be a sufficient basis to convict the suspect on the charges in the indictment. It is irrelevant whether any particular supporting materials have also been submitted as evidence in the Ayyash et al. case.

Finally, the Appeals Chamber stated that the Pre-Trial Judge can only review material that has been provided to him by the Prosecutor. He cannot take into account, nor assess, materials that have not been submitted to him, including material that is in the public domain.

The confidential indictment was filed for confirmation on July 21.

According to media reports, the new indictment is linked to the bomb attacks that targeted Elias Murr, Marwan Hamadeh and George Hawi.

The indictment names "a new suspect from Hizbullah," the reports claim.

The STL was set up in 2007 to try suspects charged with the murder of former premier Rafik Hariri, who was killed with 22 others in a massive suicide truck bombing on the Beirut waterfront on February 14, 2005.

The tribunal later established jurisdiction over three attacks relating to Minister Marwan Hamadeh, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi and former defense minister Elias Murr, deeming them of similar nature to Hariri's assassination.

Five suspected members of Hizbullah have been indicted by the court over Hariri's murder. The party has slammed the court as an American-Israeli scheme and vowed that the suspects will never be found.

A trial in absentia opened in January 2014, but despite international warrants for their arrest, the Hizbullah suspects are yet to appear in court.

STL Appeals Chamber decided on legal issues in confidential indictment
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
October, 19 2017

The Appeals Chamber at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued its decision Wednesday on legal issues related to an indictment submitted by the prosecutor in July.

The indictment, which remains confidential, initially underwent review by pretrial Judge Daniel Fransen, who submitted queries to the Appeals Chamber. Members of the prosecution and defense proceeded to make their submissions to Fransen's queries on Oct. 12.

Led by STL President Judge Ivana Hrdlickova, the Appeals Chamber's major conclusions included a definition of criminal association as an oral or written agreement between two or more people. The purpose of that agreement, the judges clarified, involves the "commission of one or more felonies against persons or property, or felonies undermining the authority of the state." In addition, the chamber differentiated between criminal association and conspiracy, noting they are separate crimes under Lebanese law.

"A criminal association can be directed at a broader range of crimes than a conspiracy; and in a conspiracy, the members have to agree on the means to commit the crime, whereas in a criminal association they do not," an STL media advisory released following the hearing stipulated. The final key conclusion made Wednesday declared Fransen responsible for assessing the credibility of the prosecution's cases without drawing upon any extraneous material.

The Appeals Chamber noted specifically that certain evidence from the case investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri can be used as part of Fransen's assessment.

Earlier in the day, prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson underwent cross-examination by Defense Counselor Thomas Hannis, representing the interests of Salim Ayyash.

Hannis concluded his questioning, in which he attempted to distance his client from mobile devices linking the indicted suspect to the conspiracy. "Thirty-three percent of these contacts have an unknown relationship with Mr. Ayyash," he said, referring to contacts on the cellphone attributed by the prosecution to Ayyash. "Certainly, if you had identified all 30 of those relationships ... with Ayyash you would be more confident in the attribution," Hannis suggested to Donaldson.

The prosecution analyst responded that Hannis had taken this fact out of the broader context of the device's identification.

"As we discussed previously, the nature of this phone is different from what we have seen prior. If you [use] the contact profile in isolation, you wouldn't say this is Ayyash, you wouldn't even get to the family. But with all the evidence in totality, I don't have discomfort [attributing the phone to him]," Donaldson responded.

Donaldson left alone as STL counsels bicker
The Daily Star

By Morten Larsen
October 20, 2017

The last session of prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson's cross examination in front of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was delayed Thursday as lawyers argued over the admissibility of evidence to be presented. Dorothee le Fraper du Hellen, defense counsel for indicted suspect Hassan Merhi, hoped to question Donaldson a final time about call sequence tables linked to phones he had attempted to attribute to Merhi. The prosecution initially objected to the admission of these CSTs since they claimed their methodology had not been properly presented.

The debate raged for almost an hour as counsel for the defense and prosecution argued over whether or not the CSTs were admissible as evidence. President of the Trial Chamber Judge David Re intervened in the lengthy debate to remind the lawyers that Donaldson was still waiting to be called into the trial chamber. The analyst, Re said, was sitting "with snacks and water, but all alone" in the witness chamber waiting to be called in and so the judge sought to mediate a solution.

"The issue is incapable of resolution between parties, as the Chamber has urged. Therefore the Trial Chamber orders the defense to submit written submissions about methodology, including statements from witnesses to the prosecution," Re said, providing the defense with an October deadline.

Fraper du Hellen then switched tactics, attempting to admit the call data records for the phones in question into evidence. These records represented too much data, Senior Trial Counsel for the Prosecution Alexander Milne argued. "If we were to print that out, it would fill a warehouse." "The Chamber won't entertain that notion. [We're] not going to admit call data records into evidence," Re told Fraper du Hellen.

The defense counsel attempted to argue that it would only be data relating to the phones in question, which would not be as large a quantity as the prosecution alleged. "Nice try, but we're against you," Re said firmly.

Donaldson has written extensive reports for the prosecution attempting to attribute to the indicted suspects cell phones allegedly used to plot the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. Given a lack of further questions Thursday, the prosecution witness was let go. "After vigorous discussion, the re-examination has been withdrawn. [The defense] has no further questions [for you]. That's the good news," Re said to Donaldson. "There is no bad news for you today, only that we had to keep you that long." The judge praised the witness's professionalism and patience with the Trial Chamber.

"We thank you very much. You spent 37 days in cross-examination, your tour of duty has been above and beyond the call of duty. It takes a mental toll sitting in this windowless courtroom with the parties hauling questions at you, thinking you're under attack. It can feel that way. You put in a lot of work. Thank you again," Re said.

"Thank you for your patience," Donaldson replied before leaving. The Trial Chamber wrapped up loose ends regarding minor documents – corrections to powerpoint slides being admitted into evidence, for instance – before adjourning early. The trial is set to continue Nov. 8.

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Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War crimes court reconstituted
Star Online Report

October 12, 2017

Govt appoints chairman, two members for ICT-1 three months after tribunal became inoperative The government yesterday reconstituted the International Crimes Tribunal-1 by appointing its chairman and two members after three months of stalemate in war crimes trial.

Justice Md Shahinur Islam, a High Court judge and member of the tribunal, has been appointed as the chairman of the tribunal.

Justice Amir Hossain, another HC judge, and Abu Ahmed Jomader, a retired district judge who is now on post-retirement leave (PRL), have been appointed as members.

The law ministry yesterday issued a gazette notification in this regard, Law Secretary ASSM Zahirul Haque Dulal told The Daily Star.

The tribunal reached an impasse since July 13 when its chairman, Justice Anwarul Haque, passed away. Another member Justice Md Shohrowardi was sent back to the HC, his original workplace, as he intended to return there.

Prosecutor Zead Al Malum told The Daily Star last night, "After reconstitution of the tribunal, we hope the trial will resume now. We will try our best to recover the loss incurred due to the three months' impasse."

Sanaul Huq, co-coordinator of the tribunal's investigation agency, said they would speed up their efforts to complete investigation into the pending cases.

"We will produce witnesses to complete the trial of the ongoing cases quickly," he told this newspaper.

Currently, nine cases are at the trial stage and 22 others at pre-trial stage. Besides, the investigation agency is now collecting evidence in connection with around a dozen more cases.

Earlier on May 9, the ICT-1 completed the trial proceedings of a case against six Gaibandha men in connection with the crimes committed during the Liberation War in 1971 and kept the verdict waiting.

It is not clear if the tribunal would now hear the closing arguments again.

As per the war crimes law, a tribunal can resume trial from where it stopped even after any change in the judges' panel, but there are at least two precedents when the tribunal reheard closing arguments.

The war crimes trial has made no headway in last three months for the government's failure to appoint someone to the chairman post, eliciting criticism from all quarters associated with the long-cherished trial.

Campaigners, prosecutors and investigators of the trial had earlier said the trial was apparently not getting priority and likely-to-be witnesses in the under-investigation cases might feel discouraged from giving testimony for the delay.

"It is beyond our understanding why it is taking so much time to appoint the chairman and reconstitute the tribunal," Shariar Kabir, a prominent advocate of war crimes trial, told this newspaper last month.

The government should not consider the war crimes cases like any other cases, said Shariar, president of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, adding, "It would be a glaring example of impunity if the perpetrators are not brought to book due to the delay in trial proceedings."

New ICT chairman seeks cooperation from prosecution, defense
Star Online Report

October 12, 2017

Chairman of the reconstituted International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-1 Justice Md Shahinur Islam today sought cooperation from both prosecution and defense counsels to conduct cases smoothly. Justice Md Shahinur made the call on the first working day of the reconstituted tribunal at 11:30am.

After three months of stalemate in war crimes trial, the government yesterday reconstituted the tribunal by appointing the Justice Md Shahinur as chairman. Justice Shahinur is a High Court judge and was a member of the tribunal.

Justice Amir Hossain, another HC judge, and Abu Ahmed Jomader, a retired district judge who is now on post-retirement leave (PRL), have been appointed as members.

The tribunal reached an impasse since July 13 when its chairman, Justice Anwarul Haque, passed away. Another member Justice Md Shohrowardi was sent back to the HC, his original workplace, as he intended to return there.

Chief Prosecutor Ghulam Arief Tipoo and defense counsel Gazi MH Tamim assured cooperation to the tribunal in response to Justice Shahinur's call.

Later the tribunal fixed October 22 for rehearing the closing arguments in the war crimes case against six Gaibandha men which was kept waiting for delivering verdict in May.

Earlier on May 9, the ICT-1 completed the trial proceedings of the case against the six Gaibandha men in connection with the crimes committed during the Liberation War in 1971 and kept the verdict waiting.

As per the war crimes law, a tribunal can resume trial from where it stopped even after any change in the judges' panel, but there are at least two precedents when the tribunal reheard closing arguments.

The war crimes trial has made no headway in last three months for the government's failure to appoint someone to the chairman post, eliciting criticism from all quarters associated with the long-cherished trial.

How the Rohingya Crisis May Help Pakistan's Cause in Bangladesh
The Quint

By Subir Bhaumik
October 14, 2017

It is no secret that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not get along well with Pakistan.

The difference between the two countries has sharpened since Hasina came to power in January 2009. Diplomats suspected of being ISI agents have been thrown out of Bangladesh and the two countries have exchanged much fire over the 1971 war crime trials . The Pakistan High Commission has been gheraoed by pro-liberation organisations whenever Pakistan and its parties have challenged verdicts of the war crime tribunals.

Without getting into the legitimacy of these trials, it is enough to say that ever since they started, Pakistan-Bangladesh relations have nosedived. The Pakistan government, its all powerful army and ISI, have no reason to feel friendly towards the Hasina regime. Hasina's ministers have accused Pakistan of backing jihadis and anti-liberation forces like Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh.

On the other hand, Pakistan feels comfortable with Khaleda Zia for ideological and tactical reasons. This is no secret. Khaleda was the honoured guest at the 'Defence Day' celebrations in Pakistan High Commission in London, this year. Bangladesh media is agog with reports that she met several top Pakistani military officials including at least one from the ISI since she landed in London on 15 July 2017.

In the rundown to the Bangladesh elections due in Nov-Dec 2018, it is thus natural that Pakistan would love to see Hasina defeated and Khaleda victorious, while India would love to see Hasina victorious and Khaleda defeated, though Delhi often has a Plan B in place to handle a situation if BNP wins.

There are no heroes or villains in this game. Indians and Pakistanis have their favourites in Dhaka and they want them to win. While India's motive is to ensure a safe North-east which is only possible if there is a friendly regime in Bangladesh, Pakistan needs an anti-Indian regime in Bangladesh to contain India in the East, and force it to divert military assets to the North-east and East from Kashmir.

Hasina is, however, no Indian lackey as her domestic detractors allege her to be . She took on the BJP bigwigs in 2001 when NSA Brajesh Mishra tried to coax her to allow natural gas exports to India. The BJP's inexperience in governance showed up as Hasina hit back at Mishra, telling him bluntly that his advice was unwelcome in domestic affairs. No Bengali Indian leader, Pranab Mukherjee or Jyoti Basu, despite their warm personal relations, would make the mistake of telling Hasina what to do, let alone dictating.

An angry Mishra activated the RAW and ensured Indian support for BNP. RAW station chief in Dhaka, Amitabh 'Tony' Mathur escorted BNP's Tareque Rahman to India amidst much bonhomie as Mishra touted his 'not all eggs in one basket' line on Bangladesh. Within months, the scene changed when Indian intelligence found clinching evidence of BNP-ISI links and Rahman's meeting with top ISI officials in Dubai.

The ISI, in its efforts to unseat Hasina and ensure a BNP victory, got the ARSA guerrillas to attack 30 police stations and one army base in Rakhine.

But the day she accepted the report of the Commission and promised to implement it, the ARSA offensive derailed the process of reconciliation.

The Tatmadaw (Burmese army) told the Lady in so many words to mind her own business and leave issues of national security to be handled by them, oblivious to their colossal intelligence failure in anticipating such a widespread coordinated offensive. Like the massacre of Burmese students and youths in 1988-90, the Tatmadaw went after the Rohingya civilians with a vengeance.

They played into the ISI trap. And fleeing the atrocities of the Burmese army, nearly half a million Rohingyas entered Bangladesh.

The Awami League first called for joint military operations against ARSA terrorists, then as Burmese military atrocities led to a groundswell of support for Rohingyas, it backed off and took a pro-Rohingya line on 'humanitarian ground' with Hasina insisting her government could feed one million Rohingyas if it could feed 160 million Bangladeshis.

When issues like war crime trials dominate the poll agenda, the Awami League wins elections. When 9/11 happens, they lose polls because radicalised Islamist opinion will always boost Hasina's opponents, not her cause. She may suffer occasional illusions of splitting the hardline Islamist constituency by pandering to groups like Khelafat Majlish or Hefazat-e-Islam as a counter weight to Jamaat-e-Islami, but that will just not work. On the other hand, she risks losing out on her committed support base – secular Muslims and religious minorities like Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

When Hefazat holds a rally in Chittagong asking to arm the Rohingya, when ARSA fighters call for jihad openly in north Arakans in refugee camps, it does not bode well for Hasina or the Awami League. She may have good reasons to support the Rohingya on humanitarian grounds, but backing the Pakistan-backed ARSA is not going to help her cause.

There is sufficient evidence of JMB-ARSA links and both have links with Pakistan's LET. So the 24 August attacks have served the purpose of Pakistan – Hasina is having to swallow a bitter pill as the dividing line between the humanitarian and the security issues on the Rohingya question gets blurred. The surge in Islamist sentiments threatens her party in an election season more directly than 9/11 did.

Round one in Rakhine goes to Pakistan – with Myanmar on the mat, Hasina just staying afloat but with vicious currents all around, India's difficult balancing game between the two ladies in Dhaka, and Nay Pyi Taw getting ever more difficult by the day.

The only minus for Pakistan is that its BNP friends still don't believe the ISI can pull it off for them alone when it comes to the elections.

So while Khaleda and her son continue their closed-door meetings with Pakistani generals and brigadiers in London, smaller leaders of the party make a beeline for the BJP leaders in India.

The lobbying efforts are based on the presumption that with the BJP in power, a repeat of 2001 is possible.

That is where the Bangladesh media reports of a BNP-ISI nexus based on the covert London meetings has ruined Khaleda's chances of befriending India's ruling party.

Even after promising 50 MP seats for Hindus and at least 5 ministers if elected.

If the target of the ISI's "Operation Rakhine" was to ensure a Khaleda victory, the exposé of the London meetings have worked against it.

But if under the pressure of public sentiments, the Bangladesh agencies which were hunting for ARSA leaders are compelled to host them, the ISI would have covered a long way towards unsettling Sheikh Hasina and helping her rivals.

Verdict in Gaibandha razakars case any day
Dhaka Tribune

October 23, 2017

The International Crimes Tribunal has concluded the hearing of arguments on the trial of six alleged war criminals for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 in Gaibandha, keeping the verdict pending for any day.

After hearing the law-point arguments from both the prosecution and the defence lawyers, the three-member tribunal, led by Justice Md Shahinur Islam, passed the order in presence of the only one accused Abdul Latif on Monday.

Meanwhile, five other accused, including former Jamaat lawmaker Md Abdul Aziz alias Ghoramara Aziz from Gaibandha, remained absconded.

Prosecution lawyers, Syed Saidul Haque presented arguments during the hearing, while Gazi MH Tamim argued on behalf of the accused five fugitives, and Khandaker Rezaul Karim stood for the lone detained defendant.

The six accused are Jamaat leaders and former lawmakers; Abdul Aziz, Md Ruhul Amin alias Monju, Md Abdul Latif, Abu Muslim Mohammad Ali, Md Nazmul Huda, and Md Abdur Rahim Miah.

Earlier on May 9, the tribunal kept the verdict pending for any day, after hearing arguments from both sides.

Later on October 12, the reconstructed tribunal set October 22 for placing further arguments in crimes against humanity case against the six alleged razakars.

The tribunal 1 on June 28, 2016, started trial after indicting the accused with three charges of crimes against humanity against them.

The six accused are currently facing three charges, including those for mass killing, abduction, looting and arson attack during the 1971 Liberation War.

War crimes verdict looms on former Jamaat MP 'Ghoramara Aziz'
bdnews24

October 23, 2017

Aziz was accused of genocide, murder, illegal confinement, loot, arson, torture and other heinous crimes during Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971.

A three-member bench of judges from the International Crimes Tribunal heard the second round of arguments from the prosecution and defence on Monday, reserving the judgment.

The decision will be the 29th issued by the tribunal since its formation in 2010.

Aziz and five accomplices - Mohammad Ruhul Amin alias Manju, Mohammad Abdul Latif, Abu Muslim Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Nazmul Huda and Mohammad Abdur Rahim Mia – were indicted over their alleged crimes in the Gaibandha Sadar and Sundarganj Upazilas.

The trial began last Jun 28. All of the suspects, aside from Latif, are absconding.

The decision was set to be announced on May 9, but was deferred after the death of Justice Anwarul Haque, who was heading the previous tribunal bench.

A new tribunal was then formed under the leadership of Justice Shahinur Islam.

On Oct 12 the justices decided to re-hear the case. The arguments were then heard on Oct 22-23.

The justices will now deliberate before issuing the verdict.

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War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Burmese Army Killed Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims: Amnesty International Report
The Star

October 18,2017

Burmese security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children during a systematic campaign to expel Rohingya Muslims, Amnesty International said in a new report Wednesday that calls for an arms embargo on the country and criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.

More than 580,000 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Burmese security forces began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages. Burma's government has said it was responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents, but the United Nations and others have said the response was disproportionate.

The continuing exodus of Rohingya Muslims has become a major humanitarian crisis and sparked international condemnation of Buddhist-majority Burma, which still denies atrocities are taking place.

Based on interviews with more than 120 fleeing Rohingya, Amnesty International said at least hundreds of people were killed by security forces who surrounded villages, shot fleeing inhabitants and then set buildings alight, burning to death the elderly, sick and disabled who were unable to flee.

In some villages, women and girls were raped or subjected to other sexual violence, according to the report.

The witnesses repeatedly described an insignia on their attackers' uniforms that matched one worn by troops from Burma's Western Command, Amnesty International said.

When shown various insignia used by Burma's army, witnesses consistently picked out the Western Command patch, it said.

The 33rd Light Infantry Division and border police, who wear a distinctive blue camouflage uniform, were also frequently involved in attacks on villages, along with Buddhist vigilante mobs, witnesses said.

Matthew Wells, an Amnesty crisis researcher who spent several weeks at the Bangladesh-Burma border, said the rights group plans to issue another report in the coming months examining individual criminal responsibility, including specific commanders and others that may be involved in abuses.

He said hundreds of Rohingya have been treated for gunshot wounds and doctors say that the injuries are consistent with people being shot from behind as they fled.

There were credible indications that a total of several hundred people had been killed in just five villages that were the focus of Amnesty's reporting. Wells said that given that dozens of villages across northern Rakhine State have been targeted in a similar fashion, the death toll could be much higher.

He said satellite imagery, corroborated by witness accounts, show that Rohingya homes and mosques have been burned entirely in villages, while non-Rohingya areas just one or two hundred metres away were untouched.

"It speaks to how organized, how seemingly well-planned this scorched-earth campaign has been by the Burmese military and how determined the effort has been to drive the Rohingya population out of the country," Wells said.

Among almost two dozen recommendations, the human rights group called for the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Burma and financial sanctions against senior officials responsible for violations that Amnesty says meet the criteria for crimes against humanity.

It said the council should explore options for bringing the perpetrators to justice under international law if Burmese authorities do not act swiftly.

"It is time for the international community to move beyond public outcry and take action to end the campaign of violence that has driven more than half the Rohingya population out of Myanmar [Burma]," Amnesty said.

Witnesses and a drone video shot Monday by the UN refugee agency show that Rohingya are continuing to flee persecution in Burma and crossing into Bangladesh.

The video showed thousands upon thousands of Rohingya trudging along a narrow strip of land alongside what appears to a rain-swollen creek in the Palong Khali area in southern Bangladesh. The line of refugees stretches for a few kilometres.

The new wave of refugees started crossing the border over the weekend, witnesses said. An Associated Press photographer saw thousands of newcomers near one border crossing Tuesday. Several said that they were stopped by Bangladeshi border guards and spent the night in muddy rice fields.

Nearly 60 per cent of the refugees are children. The UN children's agency, UNICEF, warned Tuesday that without immediate additional funding, it will not be able to continue providing life-saving aid and protection to Rohingya children. UNICEF said it has received just 7 per cent of the $76 million it needs.

On Aug. 25, a Rohingya insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked at least 30 security posts on Aug. 25, causing dozens of casualties, according to Burmese authorities. The brutal attacks against Rohingya that followed have been described by the UN as "textbook ethnic cleansing."

Buddhist-majority Burma has denied citizenship for the Rohingya since 1982 and excludes them from the 135 ethnic groups officially recognized, which effectively renders them stateless. They have long faced discrimination and persecution with many Buddhists in Burma calling them "Bengalis" and saying they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though they have lived in the country for generations.

Hundreds of Buddhists in Myanmar Protest Against Rohingya Return
Sky News

Adam Arnold
October 22, 2017

Hundreds of hard-line Buddhists, including monks, have protested against a plan by Myanmar's government for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to return to the country.

More than 580,000 people from the minority Muslim community and about 30,000 non-Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August following attacks by Myanmar's military and Buddhist mobs.

Rohingya refugees say some have been killed and raped and their villages set on fire in Rakhine state, with the UN describing their treatment as a "textbook example" of ethnic cleansing.

The violence followed attacks by Muslim insurgents on troops in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma.

The country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi said her government was holding talks with Bangladesh about the return of Rohingya.

They would need to prove they were Myanmar residents, but few are thought to have the relevant documents.

The Buddhist protest took place in the state capital, Sittwe, where many Rohingya lived before they were forced to flee the violence, and activists at the march urged the government not to repatriate them.

Aung Htay, an organiser of the demonstration, said: "If these people don't have the right to be citizens... the government's plan for a conflict-free zone will never be implemented."

Officials say the Rohingya were unlikely to be able to reclaim their land, and may discover their crops have been harvested and sold by the government.

Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists they are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally, even though many families have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Rohingya are excluded from the official 135 ethnic groups in the country and denied citizenship

Israel Accused of Selling Military Equipment to Burma During 'Ethnic Cleansing' of Rohingya Muslims
Independent

By Samuel Osborne
October 25, 2017

Israel has been accused of continuing to sell military equipment to the Burmesemilitary even as it faced accusations of war crimes against minority Rohingya Muslims.

Pictures on the Burmese Navy's Facebook page "welcome" two Israeli-made gunboats to the military fleet.

"Welcome to the Myanmar Navy," the caption says. "The Super-Dvora MK III is moving forward at 45 knots on Myanmar waters."

The gunboats feature a remote weapons station which would allow the military to mount of heavy machine gun or 30mm cannon.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has denied media reports it has sold advanced weapons to Burma and categorically rejected any "alleged involvement in the tragedy in the Rakhine region."

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Buddhist-majority Burma to Bangladesh since a military crackdown launched in late August. The United Nations denounced it as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

According to Haaretz, the Ramta division of Israeli Aerospace Industries, which manufactures the Super Dvora, is meant to provide at least two more boats to the Burmese military.

The remote weapons station on the boat is made by Elbit Systems, the paper said, adding that the two remaining vessels could be built in Burma with Israeli assistance.

The total value of the arms deal is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars, Haaretz said, citing sources in the Israeli weapons industry.

The patrol boats could be used to attack Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer who petitioned the Israeli High court to block arms sales to Burma told the Middle East Eye.

"These images have confirmed what activists have been saying for a number of years," he said. "While Israel has a gag order against details on its arms deals with the Junta, Myanmar proudly showcases its purchases as it defies existing EU and US arms embargoes on the country.

"This shows how a gag order means nothing in 2017 as the Myanmar government and Junta love to publish everything they have bought from the Israelis on Facebook, which is giving us more evidence and helping fuel a public campaign against Israeli arms sales to Burma."

Last month, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in response to Mr Mack's petition, but the ruling has been kept classified at the state's request.

Investigations by several human rights watchdogs found more than 100 tanks, as well as boats and light weapons, have been sold to the Burmese government by Israeli arms companies in recent years.

One Israeli company, TAR Ideal Concept, posted a picture on its website in August last year of its staff teaching combat tactics to Burmese special forces in northern Rakhine state, where much of the violence is taking place.

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Israel and Palestine

How Israel's military rewrote rules of war to put Palestinian civilians in the line of fire
The National

By Donald MacIntyre
October 19, 2017

For much of this year, at least until the current efforts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas offered some tentative hope of easing its isolation, Gaza has lived with the threat that war with Israel could again break out. An undeclared but effectively policed ceasefire — punctuated only by Israeli attacks on Hamas targets whenever a rocket from a rogue faction lands in Israel — has lasted for three years. Ending that uneasy truce is not in the interests of either Israel or Hamas. But experience does not suggest that this alone would be enough to prevent a repeat of the three wars which have devastated the Strip in the past decade.

It is now clear in retrospect that it was the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead, the first of the three Israeli military assaults, which set the pattern for a new kind of warfare in Gaza. While 13 Israelis—including three civilians —lost their lives (along with at least two dozen Palestinian alleged collaborators summarily executed by Hamas), 1,391 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the three week operation, 759 of whom, according to the Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem, were "not taking part in hostilities". Although the death toll in the 2014 war, which I covered, would be much higher still, these casualties — and the destruction of homes, factories and infrastructure — were at the time unprecedented since the 1967 Six Day War. But it was not just the scale which made Cast Lead a turning point. There was also a clear shift by the Israel Defense Forces in the unwritten rules of engagement governing its conduct.

Famously, the April 2009 report of the UN Fact Finding Commission chaired by the South African judge Richard Goldstone infuriated Israel's government by declaring that Cast Lead was "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population". In 2011, however, Judge Goldstone recanted the finding, saying in a Washington Post article that he no longer thought that civilians had been "targeted as a matter of policy". Judge Goldstone now sharply contrasted Israeli conduct with that of Hamas which he said — correctly — had "purposefully and indiscriminately" fired rockets at civilian targets — itself a war crime.

But how clear is the moral dividing line between "deliberately" targeting civilians and a use of massive force, including artillery and air power, which is bound to cause so-called collateral casualties on a large scale? One strongly held view among international lawyers is that there is no real difference between an intentional attack on civilians and a "reckless disregard" of the distinction between civilian and military targets. This matters because of a decisive step change in Cast Lead. Within six months of its end, the Israeli anti-occupation veterans' group Breaking the Silence (which is once again under concerted attack from Benjamin Netanyahu's government) collected about 30 meticulously cross-checked testimonies from Israeli combatants. Many told how soldiers were made aware of a new determination to prioritise their own lives over those of Palestinian civilians. One quoted a commander as approvingly describing an "insane' use of firepower while another said his commander had pledged: "Not a hair will fall of a soldier of mine. I am not willing to allow a soldier of mine to risk himself by hesitating. If you are not sure, shoot."

The traditional IDF doctrine - embodied in the "purity of arms" section of its ethics code, entitled The Spirit of the IDF and given to every new recruit—says that "IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property". The Israeli philosopher Moshe Halbertal, who helped to draw up the latest version of the code in 2000, explained that efforts to prevent civilian harm "surely must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians".

But in an article in the 2005 Journal of Military Ethics Asa Kasher, a professor of philosophy at Hebrew University, and Amos Yadlin, Commander of the IDF Defense College and the former head of Military Intelligence, argued that while such a doctrine applied to conventional wars —those between armies — it should not apply to the new warfare against "terrorism". In simple terms, the code had implicitly embodied a kind of hierarchy of protection of human life in war. In order of priority, this had run: 1. "Our" civilians; 2. "Their" (or "enemy") civilians; 3. Our soldiers; 4. Their soldiers. Kasher and Yadlin now explicitly created a new hierarchy for the "new warfare": 1. Our civilians; 2. Those "not involved in terror" who are not "ours" but are under "effective control" of our state; 3. Our soldiers; 4. Those "not involved in terror" when "they are not under the effective control of [our] state". This hierarchy would apply to Gaza. In effect the Kasher-Yadlin doctrine offered a green light for the lives of non-combatants in Gaza to be set at a lower priority than those of Israeli soldiers simply because they were not "under the effective control" of Israel.

It was not clear morally why non-combatants in Gaza should be treated differently from other "enemy" civilians simply because the militias there – over which the civilians had no influence — are classified as 'terrorist'; and indeed the doctrine was swiftly challenged as "wrong and dangerous" head on by other academics, including the eminent Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit, who argued that even Hamas's use of populated areas to operate from did not absolve the IDF from the duty to try and protect Palestinian civilian life. Officially the Kasher-Yadlin article did not supersede the IDF's code of ethics. But in February 2009 Kasher told Haaretz its ideas had been "adopted" by Moshe Yaalon, who was IDF chief of staff when the article was first drafted, and his successors. What Israel had pioneered was a new principle, which reduced the obligations of its army—and perhaps in time those of other countries — to protect civilians in certain military operations. Cast Lead saw the first conscious application of this principle, but by no means the last—the 2014 Operation Protective Edge being a case in point.

In the run-up to both 2008 and 2014, there was a direct relationship between the decade-long blockade and the outbreak of war. Hamas's unpopularity within Gaza because of economic conditions, its failure to persuade Israel to lift the blockade, and its political isolation, undoubtedly contributed to Hamas's willingness to resort to military conflict. The economic conditions are now much worse than they were in 2014, not least because of the sanctions that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has applied to increase the pressure on Hamas. There has been no shortage of warnings to the Israeli government this year from senior IDF officers that the humanitarian crisis could "blow up" into fresh conflict. Finally, if the Hamas-Fatah negotiations founder, as nearly every Palestinian hopes they won't, Hamas's political isolation will be the more acute. The obligation, not least for the international community, to seek a positive outcome to the reconciliation process and to encourage moves to ease the blockade is correspondingly greater. A failure would not necessarily mean another war. But every effort should be made to ensure it doesn't happen, not least because of the fear that it could be the bloodiest yet.

Qalqilya: Israel occupation forces raids Darwish Hospital
Middle East Monitor

October 20, 2017

A number of Palestinian patients at the Darwish Nazzal Hospital in Qalqilya, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, were injured yesterday and suffered severe suffocation, especially in the children's ward, after Israeli occupation forces raided the hospital's courtyards, firing live ammunition, gas bombs and smoke at the hospital.

Minister of Health Jawad Awwad issued a statement condemning the attack, describing it as "barbaric act and despicable crime" which violates all international norms and human rights conventions.

He added that the occupation forces' repeated raids and attacks on hospitals indicate their systematic policy against hospitals and the entire Palestinian health sector, which is a violation of international laws and poses a threat to the lives of Palestinian patients.

He stressed the need for immediate and urgent intervention by all international health organisations operating in Palestine in order to rein in the occupation, noting that he will be sending urgent letters to them in this regard.  

Ashrawi: Israeli Settlement Activity in the West Bank Amounts to War Crimes
The Palestine Chronicle

October 21, 2017

Following announcements that Israel had advanced plans for nearly 3,000 illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi strongly denounced the move as a "blatant disregard for the two-state solution."

The Israeli Civil Administration's High Planning Committee convened on Tuesday and Wednesday, and advanced plans for 2,615 housing units in illegal Israeli settlements.

"In blatant disregard of the requirements for the two-state solution and the chances for peace and stability, Netanyahu and his extremist, racist coalition continue to persist with their egregious policies of colonial-settler expansionism," Ashrawi said.

"Israel is deliberately working to enhance its extremist Jewish settler population and to superimpose 'Greater Israel' on all of historic Palestine. Undoubtedly, it is bent on annexing the entire city of Jerusalem, systematically wiping out the Palestinian presence and continuity on Palestinian soil, and destroying the territorial and demographic contiguity of the future Palestinian state."

Ashrawi went on to highlight that Israel's settlement activities are illegal under international law, and may amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"We call on governments worldwide to intervene immediately and to hold Israel accountable with serious punitive measures to put an end to its unlawful unilateralism and acts of land theft and colonialism once and for all," Ashrawi said.

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.

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AMERICAS

North & Central America

What Others Say: Why bash Chad? Puzzling US actions toward African nations
Online Athens

October 15, 2017

In recent days the United States has, somewhat randomly, changed its policy toward two African countries: Chad was added to the list of countries with travel bans applied, and some long-standing U.S. sanctions against Sudan were removed.

It may be just a phenomenon of the United States, its foreign policy to some extent in the hands of a still disorganized, understaffed Department of State, pursuing bilateral policies toward individual countries, this time in Africa, with no particular coherent theme. Chad has not done anything especially horrendous recently, including in the realm of terrorism or human rights violations, to have somehow landed itself on the visa-ban list. Sudan is considered something of a long-term villain both for its actions in one of its regions, Darfur, and for its partial residual responsibility for the beastly civil conflict in now independent South Sudan.

The no-travel list, announced Sept. 24, includes Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

Chad has, in fact, played a positive role in the regional effort, backed by the United States, to somehow stifle Boko Haram, an Islamic-based group that carries out kidnapping and other damaging activities, based in northeastern Nigeria. U.S. military forces have supported action by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger to try to bring Boko Haram under control, with mixed results. How putting Chad on the no-travel list is consistent with its role in that regard is not clear.

It is also the case that Chad is oil-rich and that some American companies are active in that domain in the desert country. Chadian irregular forces have contributed to the chaos and disorder in the bordering Central African Republic, but the United States, as opposed to France, has showed no particular interest in developments in the C.A.R.

The removal of U.S. economic sanctions against Sudan, also announced recently, signals a step toward a restoration of more normal relations with its government. Darfur at one point was a cause for advocates of human rights, based on the actions of Sudanese government-backed militias, some called the janjaweed, against the people of that region. At that point Israel was active in the international campaign against the Khartoum government, interested in embarrassing an Arab, Muslim government for its retrograde policy toward Darfur, and, at that time, South Sudan as well.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir remains indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide, although various countries, including South Africa, have refused to arrest the Sudanese president during visits to their countries. Sudan counts Saudi Arabia, which President Donald Trump visited in May, as one of its best friends.

There is no indication, however, that the Sudanese government and president have notably cleaned up their acts in recent years, which would support a decision by the United States to remove sanctions against them. Sudan, unlike Chad, has few resources, so there is no obvious commercial basis for that change in U.S. policy. Neither move is blatantly stupid. What is odd is significant changes of policy toward particular countries, Chad and Sudan, with no obvious rationales for the shifts.

SitRep: FBI Steps In to Aid Niger Probe, Pompeo Breaks Ranks
Foreign Policy

By Elias Groll
October 20, 2017

Niger investigation. There's a new twist in the inquiry of the deaths of four American Special Forces soldiers killed during a firefight in Niger on Oct. 4. The FBI is jumping into the investigation into the soldier's deaths. Military officials tell the Wall Street Journal that FBI agents will help in reconstructing the events that led to the death of the soldiers in an ambush while out on a patrol with Nigerien troops.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), however, is still pushing for more information from the Pentagon about the incident, holding up the nomination of the Trump administration's nominee of Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper for a position as Army secretary.

"These four soldiers being killed and most people not knowing what they were up to is a game changer," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I'm concerned that we're not regularly briefed about operations."

According to the Associated Press, the attackers arrived on motorcycles with rocket propelled grenades and carrying heavy machine guns. Villagers in the area of the attack describe the attackers as light-skinned and newcomers there.

On the cusp. CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned that Washington had to assume that North Korea is "on the cusp" of achieving their goal to be able to strike the United States with an ICBM, suggesting they could be months away from their objective. The regime's advances meant that questions about precisely how close the regime was to an ICBM capability had almost become irrelevant, he said.

Speaking at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies event, Pompeo said the administration wanted to resolve the crisis without resorting to military action but he added that the president is ready to use force if necessary to ensure Kim "doesn't have the capacity to hold America at risk," FP's Dan De Luce reports.

Meanwhile, Pompeo's predecessor at the spy agency, John Brennan, said on Wednesday he was worried that the chances of a possible war with North Korea had increased due to the president's undisciplined rhetoric. "I don't think it's likely or probable, but if it's a 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 chance, that's too high," Brennan said at Fordham University.

Iran-Qaeda talking point. At Thursday's FDD event, Pompeo spoke mainly about Iran, and reinforced a talking point in Trump's speech last week about alleged links between the Tehran regime and Al Qaeda. The CIA director said his agency within a "handful" of days would be releasing documents seized in the Abottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden which he said would shed more light on dealings between Iran and the terror network.

"At the very least they've cut deals so as not to come after each other, that is, they view the West as a greater threat than the fight between the two along their ideological lines," Pompeo said. Expect more to come about this as the administration seeks to push Democrats in Congress to support tougher action against Iran with proposed legislation that would effectively revise the nuclear deal, De Luce reports.

Breaking ranks. Pompeo also broke ranks with his own intelligence community when he was asked about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And then his own agency had to correct the record. Pompeo claimed that the intelligence community's assessment of the Russian campaign concluded that it did not alter the outcome of the election. In fact, the report explicitly states: "We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election."

Army assault. The Army is dealing with a resurgence of sexual assault and rape cases, the Washington Post reveals, with a slew of reports that troops responsible for preventing the crimes in the first place are accused of carrying out acts of assault. "Army officials confirmed to The Post that eight other soldiers and civilians trained to deter sex offenses or help victims have been investigated over the past year in connection with sexual assault," reporter Craig Whitlock writes.

Rex on the town. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quite the man about town this week. On Wednesday evening, after delivering a rare public address (on U.S.-India relations at the Center of Strategic and International Studies), the secretary and his wife dined at Café Milano, the (or at least a) place to see and be seen in Washington, FP heard. The famously low profile Cabinet member was chatting with others around the restaurant, perhaps making a statement by stepping out on the town before flying out of the country for his South Asia trip.

Hostages. CIA Director Mike Pompeo revealed that recently-freed American and Canadian hostages Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were held in Pakistan for five years on Thursday during his appearance at a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies event. The comments cut against claims by the Pakistani government, which has alleged that the Taliban held the hostages on the Afghan side of the border throughout their captivity.

Chess moves. It's getting crowded in the areas that the Islamic State used to hold in eastern Syria as Iranian and Russian forces come into closer proximity to the U.S. and its allies and block further advances into Syria. The advances by forces fighting on behalf of the Assad regime mark what seems to be a violation of the deconfliction zones agreed to by the U.S. and Russia, with the additional territory giving the regime additional leverage in negotiations over Syria's political future.

Dear Australia. The Foreign Affairs Committee of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly sent a letter to the Australian parliament threatening the country if it "follow[s] the US in imposing military, economic and diplomatic pressure upon the DPRK." The letter, similar versions of which the North has sent to other countries, appears to be an attempt to push back against Washington's attempts to isolate the North by trying to peel off American allies with threats.

Totally not a personality cult. A hot new mobile game in China allows you display your appreciation for Chinese President Xi Jinping by clapping for him during a speech. Users of the Tencent game can operate a pair of hands, trying to get as much fervent applause for Xi in a 19 second window.

Nobody puts baby in a corner. Russian President Vladimir Putin told the U.S. to take a softer approach to North Korea and not isolate it, saying "problems should be solved in dialogue, and North Korea should not be backed into a corner."

Putin seemed extra cranky during his appearance at the Valdai Discussion Club, unloading on the subject of Russian relations with Washington in perhaps his harshest tone since the election of President Trump. Putin complained about what he says was America's exploitation of Russia's weakness after the fall of the Soviet Union and said that U.S. sanctions are "openly designed to push Russia out of European energy markets and to force Europe to switch to more expensive liquefied natural gas from the United States."

Detainees. The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition is sitting on detained foreign emirs from the terrorist group from around the world. Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Talal Silo says the coalition captured the senior Islamic State leaders on special operations raids and through surrenders of the Islamic State commanders themselves.

Bad optics. Syrian Democratic Forces celebrating the liberation of Raqqa from the Islamic State raised a flag bearing the image of Abdullah Ocalan, a Kurdish leader and founder of the U.S. and Turkish-designated PKK terrorists group. The incident adds to existing tensions between the U.S., which has tried to downplay links between the SDF and PKK, and Turkey, which has argued that Kurdish groups fighting under the SDF umbrella are no different than the PKK.

Foreign fighters. Germany's domestic intelligence agency says the Islamic State threat isn't over, warning against "the threat of children, socialized by Islamists, and thus accordingly indoctrinated, returning to Germany from a war zone." The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution estimates that roughly 950 Germans left the country to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria, a fifth of them women and five percent of them children.

Referendum fallout. The trouble after Iraq's Kurdish independence referendum isn't over. After Shia militias took control of the disputed city of Kirkuk, issued an arrest warrant for Kosrat Rasul, the vice president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, for "insulting" Iraqi forces. The arrest warrant, however, is not enforceable in under Kurdistan's laws.

Mystery shopping. Air Force Under Secretary Matt Donovan says it'll be "some time" before the Air Force coughs up any more information about the cost of the next generation stealth bomber. Some in Congress have pushed the service to release the full cost of the B-21 Raider's development but Air Force officials have demurred, claiming that transparency about costs could reveal sensitive information about the capabilities of the aircraft.

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South America

Cotler Tapped for Venezuela Crimes against Humanity Inquiry
The Canadian Jewish News

October 16, 2017

Former member of Parliament and justice minister Irwin Cotler is one of three independent experts who will examine the evidence collected on possible crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela under the current regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

Cotler, who is founder and chair of the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, was named by the Organization of American States (OAS), along with Manuel Ventura Robles, former judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and Santiago Canton, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

OAS secretary general Luis Almagro said their task is to assess whether the situation in Venezuela should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The OAS is gathering information through a process that's being supervised by former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. The process includes public hearings conducted at OAS headquarters and a review of the information submitted by more than 50 organizations that have been researching the crisis in Venezuela.

The independent experts will evaluate the final report and make recommendations to the secretary general.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland welcomed Cotler's appointment. "His global experience with regard to human rights and the rule of law … will be invaluable to the credibility and quality of this investigative process," she stated.

"This initiative represents a critical contribution by the OAS to uphold justice and human rights for the people of Venezuela."

Cotler told The CJN that, "The international experts panel is as timely as it is necessary. As Venezuela slides into dictatorship - as Minister Freeland has put it - and the human suffering of the Venezuelan people intensifies, the restoration of democracy and human rights while combating the culture of impunity is an overriding priority."

Freeland said Canada is deeply concerned by "the grave violations of human rights" in that South American country, which were detailed in a report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of August.

The report found extensive human rights abuses through the suppression of anti-government protests and political dissent, including 124 deaths linked to the protests, close to 2,000 injuries and mass arrests, including of children.

Cotler has particular expertise in human rights violations in Venezuela. Since 2014, he has been advocating for the release of Leopoldo Lopez, founder and leader of the opposition Voluntad Popular party, whom he describes as a political prisoner.

Lopez was imprisoned for his role in the pro-democracy movement in 2014 on trumped-up charges and since July, he has been under house arrest.

Unearthing a Massacre in Peru
The New York Times

By David Gonzalez
October 19, 2017

Silent clues to a violent past are buried among the scores of mass graves that dot Chungui district in the mountainous Ayacucho region of Peru. There, above layers of earth that mark geological time, lie relatively new remnants attesting to the massacres carried out by both the Shining Path guerrillas and the military and police forces that hunted them.

A soggy, wrinkled skirt. A skull. Fragments of a spinal column. All that remains of the many men, women and children caught in the crossfire of a war they never wanted. When these remains are lifted from their unmarked graves, they bring with them the chance to be identified, to give their survivors an idea of what happened. To give them something they can bury, and mourn.

Max Cabello Orcasitas, a Peruvian photojournalist, had been intrigued by the exhumations taking place in the region, which was among the hardest-hit by the political violence 30 years ago. He had read about it in a report by the country's truth commission that offered an accounting of the crimes and killings that were carried out during these dirty wars.

"It struck me as a little-known tragedy," Mr. Cabello Orcasitas said. "It was like that place in Yugoslavia where there were massacres, Srebrenica. This was like a Peruvian Srebrenica."

There were few exhumations going on when he traveled to the region in 2009, but that worked in his favor, since he wanted to get to know the area's residents before broaching uncomfortable topics. So he spent his time photographing daily life.

"It was important to start that way," he said. "I had seen previous reports that concentrated just on the exhumations. I wanted to show the people of Chungui as they lived, including their festivals, celebrations and religious ceremonies, because that shows a type of recovery after the trauma. I didn't want to just go in and say 'Tell me about your tragedies.'"

But it can also show what has not changed, especially in the remote hamlet of Oronquoy, in an area nicknamed the Dog's Ear, where the military had dragooned some residents into "self-defense" groups that carried out extrajudicial killings.

There are lingering resentments over these violent acts, especially since many of the people responsible for the massacres have never been tried, or are in the early stages.

"There are sectors of the Army that have tried not to deal with this," he said. "It's a difficult topic. And I imagine the police and military don't want to talk about what happened. There is a political strategy to let time pass."

But time has stood still in Oronquoy, which can be reached only after driving and hiking for hours.

"Some people said the exhumations opened old wounds," he said. "But others thought the tragedy could shed light on how abandoned the area had been. Not only had there been massacres, but they continue living without access to roads or hospitals."

If anything, Mr. Cabello Orcasitas said, the impoverished residents of this area are making dual demands.

"They want not only justice but economic development," he said. "These are areas that were and continue to be very poor, with 80 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. They are demanding from the state attention and development."

Post conflict situation in central Colombia explosive: mayor
Colombia Reports

By Adriaan Alsema
October 23, 2017

Tensions between coca farmers and authorities, and the presence of multiple illegal armed groups, put civilians in central Colombia at imminent danger of violence, a local mayor warned.

One policeman was killed and four coca farmers in a series of events that happened during an eradication operation. The mayor of El Retorno in the Guaviare province warned for more violence.

Mayor Oscar Ospina told Blu Radio that the mix between social tensions and criminal interest create a situation similar to that of Tumaco where civilians have been killed by both authorities and rogue guerrillas.

The Guaviare narco stew

Rogue former FARC guerrillas have violently tried to maintain control over former FARC rackets, including coca cultivation without much resistance from the state.

Groups formed from the demobilized AUC are also active in Guaviare.

None of the illegal armed groups approve the crop substitution programs offered by the government, putting civilians between the narcos and the authorities.

The security forces are expected to forcibly eradicate 50 hectares and have been under international pressure as crop substitution processes expect to miss their targets.

Violence escalating

The police has been carrying out forced eradication operations in areas under control by the FARC dissidents and paramilitary groups, all dependent on the cocaine trade.

A policeman was killed after he had stepped on a landmine. In subsequent clashes with police, four coca farmers were injured.

A United Nations workers who was in the remote Guaviare province to promote crop substitution was kidnapped and temporarily held hostage by the FARC dissidents earlier this year.

Peace process progress undone?

While the disarmament of 14,000 people with the FARC's demobilization, one of Colombia's most violent armed actors left the battlefield.

However, government failures to assume control over former FARC territories have spurred turf wars between illegal armed groups over abandoned FARC rackets. In many coca growing regions, rogue FARC guerrilla try to maintain in control.

Also the reintegration of former FARC rebels is falling short, according to the United Nations, which is observing the process.

Years of increased revenue from cocaine and illegal mining have inflated illegal armed groups like the AGC.

Dozens of rural community leaders, often supporting crop substitution projects, have been assassinated.

At least seven coca farmers were allegedly shot dead by anti-narcotic police in southwestern Colombia.

Violence between civilians and authorities has also broken out in regions like Catatumbo, Antioquia and Cauca.

UN warns case against Jagath could be tip of the iceberg
Colombo Gazette

October 23, 2017

The United Nations (UN) today warned that the case filed in Brazil against former Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya could be the "tip of the iceberg".

Pablo de Greiff, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence told reporters in Colombo that Sri Lanka must address allegations similar to that faced by Jayasuriya or it may prove costly.

"As the recent case presented in Brazil against a former member of the Armed Forces demonstrates, accountability will be sought either here or abroad. In my opinion, this is an additional reason for the country, with the full support of the Armed Forces -who stand a lot to gain from this process- to establish a robust and credible comprehensive transitional justice policy," he said.

Human rights groups in South America had in August filed war crimes lawsuits against Jayasuriya accusing him of being in charge of military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people in the final phase of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009.

Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit to Sri Lanka, Pablo de Greiff said Sri Lanka must ensure a credible accountable process is in place in Sri Lanka to address incidents related to the war.

"There is broad understanding of the fact that Sri Lanka faced in the past serious security challenges. Thus, Sri Lanka has not only the right, but the obligation, to provide security for all, compatible with human rights and other standards. Similarly, there is an understanding of the challenges faced by countries that attempt to face legacies of abuses while they simultaneously engage in democratizing and ambitious constitutional reforms. However, in assessing where and when to attempt progress on the transitional justice agenda, the following considerations need to be kept in mind: as many other country experiences show, long delays between the acknowledgment of obligations to establish transitional justice measures and the fulfilment of these obligations involves risks: no one should be under the impression that waiting is a costless alternative," he said.

He said the lack of tangible progress on emblematic cases suggests serious limitations of the current justice system in addressing human rights violations.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed disappointment that the transitional justice process in Sri Lanka has become politicised.

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TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Why the truth about the death of anti-apartheid activist matters
Al Jazeera

By Azad Essa
October 13, 2017

For almost 50 years, they claimed he had jumped to his death.

On Thursday, 46 years later, the Pretoria High Court put the matter to rest. Judge Billy Mothle ruled that Ahmed Timol, an anti-apartheid activist, had not jumped out the window of the 10th floor of a police station in Johannesburg.

Timol, 29 at the time, had been pushed out.

"Timol did not jump out of the window of room 1026 but was either pushed out of the window or from the roof of the John Vorster Police Station," Mothle said. "Thus he did not commit suicide but was murdered.

"The sub-standard and sloppy manner in which the investigation of Timol's death was conducted, supposed the view that there was clear intent to cover up the incident through a fabricated version of suicide."

Following the judgement, Mothle ordered that Sergeant Jan Rodrigues, considered the last person to have seen Timol alive and who admitted to being part of a cover-up, be investigated for murder.

Timol was an anti-apartheid activist from Johannesburg. He was a school teacher and a member of the South African Communist Party. After threats to his safety, Timol fled to London in 1967, and he later underwent armed training in Moscow before returning to South Africa as part of the ANC's armed wing.

He was subsequently picked up by the security branch in October 1971 and interrogated, tortured and murdered at the notorious John Vorster Police Station in central Johannesburg.

Between 1970 and 1990, eight people who were detained at the police station died. It has been described by former detainees as the "pinnacle of torture chambers".

An inquest in 1972 concluded that Timol had committed suicide, a stance the apartheid government has consistently held. Timol's family never accepted that version and have consistently accused the apartheid government of murder.

According to a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 75 deaths were recorded in detention during apartheid, but not a single police officer was held responsible or officially tried.

In 2015, Timol's nephew, Imtiaaz Cajee, approached the National Prosecutions Authority to reopen the case.

The verdict is an important one.

First and foremost, it provides closure to Timol's family.

The verdict sheds light on the extent of apartheid's cruelty, exposing its brutality as not just limited to physical violence, but home to a vast machinery of concealment and desecration of character that is complex and multifold.

Timol's murder is but one of many stories of injustice hidden by apartheid, and left mostly untouched since 1994, lest it shake up the fragile democratic experiment. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought solace, but not justice. For instance, when Hawa Timol testified in 1996 about the death of her son, none of the perpetrators came forward. She died a year later.

This has come to define much of the selective amnesia regarding South Africa's past.

In many ways, the failures of the current ANC-led government are being used to reversion the tremendous impact of colonialism and white-minority racist rule in South Africa.

If anything, the judgement brings perspective: It may be time to explore some of the more obscure, lesser-known details of apartheid's crimes. It may be very necessary if we are to understand where South Africa is headed.

In Kenya, Much Of The Election Chaos And Violence Stems From Tribal Divisions
NPR

By Robert Siegel
October 24, 2017

Kenyans are scheduled to go to the polls on Thursday. This is a rerun of presidential elections that were held in August and that were subsequently annulled by the courts. The electoral season has been full of chaos, violence and discord, much of it stemming from the country's deep tribal divisions. NPR's Eyder Peralta explains.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: I'm in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu, the heart of the opposition in this country and where ethnicity is ever present. Protests are constant, and politicians, including opposition leader Raila Odinga, talk of Luo lives mattering. After the August vote, police went door to door, killing at least a dozen people, according to Human Rights Watch. Joseph Abanja says police threw tear gas into his house. His wife was behind him, holding his 6-month-old baby, when he opened the door to get out. He remembers being hit on the head and then hearing his wife screaming that they killed their baby.

JOSEPH ABANJA: When I woke up, she gave me the kid in my arms. Looking at my kid, the foam was coming outside the month. But her head was swelling. So I started screaming, why have you done this?

PERALTA: Baby Samantha died at a hospital five days later. Abanja says, before this, he had never attended a political rally. He had never felt that his tribe put him at risk.

ABANJA: After the incident, we feel like we're left out, see? They don't care about us no more. Even if they kill us, they don't care.

PERALTA: Across the country, I've heard educated Kenyans say they can't get jobs because they're not of the ruling Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes. Human rights groups have pointed out that almost all people killed by police during the protests earlier this year were Luo. Historians agree that tribal divisions were hardened by the British during Kenya's colonial era. They printed tribe on identification documents and divided Kenyans by ascribing stereotypical traits. Owaahh, a writer who goes by one name and runs a history-focused blog, says the Kenyan elite had a perfect opportunity to walk away from those divisions at independence in 1963. But...

OWAAHH: They didn't change it. They didn't want to. For them, they saw people. They saw numbers. They saw ways to remain in power.

PERALTA: Instead, every administration since, he says, simply perfected the system. And if you look at an elections map, the votes break down neatly by tribe.

OWAAHH: It's just gotten worse and worse and worse. And now it's just this bubbling thing.

PERALTA: It's this thing that underscores all of Kenyan society, from the economy to friendships. In Gatundu in central Kenya, I find myself in a place with opposite sentiments. This is Kikuyu territory, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is from and where his father, Kenya's first president, was born. I walk the town and don't find a single opposition supporter. When I ask Samuel Ngugi why he supported the president, he says he has no other choice.

SAMUEL NGUGI: You know I cannot choose another. Only I can choose Uhuru for president. He is a man (laughter).

PERALTA: He's a man. That's an ethnic slur. Kikuyus circumcise their boys to mark passage into adulthood. Luos do not. Following the 2007 presidential elections, this tribalism exploded onto the streets. Neighbors turned against neighbors. And more than a thousand people were killed. A truth and reconciliation commission aired out all the historical injustices, but its recommendations were never implemented, in part for fear that they would open old wounds.

PERALTA: Back in Kisumu, I find a group of friends having beers by the lakeside. They're Kisii, another of Kenya's 44 tribes. They were arguing about fairness in Kenya.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're not comfortable with the system. We're not comfortable...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah, we're not comfortable. But if you're not comfortable, you go to court.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The thing is we want peace.

PERALTA: All of them expressed concern that Kenya is deeply unjust. But Johnson Oginbo was trying to convince his friends that it's not worth dying for.

JOHNSON OGINBO: At the end of the day, if justice cannot be prevailed, your life moves on as a citizen.

PERALTA: Ultimately, he says, the elite politicians in Kenya are friends. So why should they get in the middle of their mess?

Will Sierra Leone's 'Peace Diamond' Benefit The Poor Or Become Another 'Blood Diamond'?
Newsweek

By Jessica Kwong
October 24, 2017

Sierra Leone's government is auctioning off the second largest diamond ever discovered in the country with the promise that a majority of the proceeds will benefit development projects-which it has a poor track record of doing.

The government announced that more than half of the money from the auction, set for December in New York, would be used for electricity, clean water and health projects particularly in the village of Koryardu, where Reverend Emmanuel Momoh uncovered the 709-carat gem earlier this year, according to Reuters report on Monday.

Momoh gave the so-called "Peace Diamond" to the government instead of selling it quietly himself, but the Christian pastor is concerned about where the profits will end up.

"I want to contribute in the development of my community, but at the same time I don't want to be a beggar in about 10 or 15 years from now," Momoh told The New York Times in March after unearthing the stone.

The largest diamond on record in Sierra Leone, weighing 968.9 carats, was discovered in 1972 and auctioned to a New York City jeweler for about $2.5 million. But the proceeds disappeared, at a time when Sierra Leone's economy needed help, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established after the country's civil war fueled by diamonds.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma in March said he believed the Peace Diamond "should be publicly sold in the country so that we know the value of it, what is due to the government and what is due to the people so that everyone can have their share."

Auctioneers have described the Peace Diamond as the 14th largest in the world.

A government spokesman sought this week to reassure the public.

"We understand there are doubts as to who will benefit from this diamond-that is why the government is doing everything in public and in a transparent way," spokesman Alhaji Ajibu Jalloh said.

Momoh in March said government officials had not given him a figure of what his cut of the sale would be.

Diamonds led to a decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone with rebels forcing civilians to mine gems and buying weapons with the profits, giving birth to the term "blood diamonds." The war ended in 2002.

"It will be a terrible thing if anyone tries to do something criminal with it," Koroma said of the Peace Diamond in a report by geologist and Forbes contributor Trevor Nace.

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Terrorism

Egypt court sentences 11 people to death for'terrorism'
Al Arabiya English

By AFP
October 22, 2017

An Egyptian court sentenced 11 people to death Sunday on accusations they joined a "terrorist organization" and attempted to kill two police officers, a judicial official said.

The court sentenced 14 others to life in prison -- 25 years in Egypt -- and a juvenile to 10 years in prison, the official said.

They were accused of participating in "terrorist operations" and attempting to kill two officers in 2014, and of possession and manufacturing explosive material.

Of the defendants, 21 were in court, including seven of those sentenced to death. Five were sentenced in absentia: the juvenile and four of the defendants who were sentenced to death.

The defendants were accused of taking part in violence that followed the July 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

On August 14 that year security forces violently dispersed two protest camps in Cairo demanding Morsi be reinstated, leaving more than 700 people dead.

Egyptian courts have since sentenced hundreds of Morsi supporters to death, but many have appealed and won new trials.

Morsi and other top figures of his Muslim Brotherhood have also faced trial.

After initially focusing on Morsi's supporters, the crackdown later expanded to include other members of the opposition.

German prosecutors busier with terrorism cases
New Europe

By Beata Stur
October 23, 2017

A record number of terrorism-related cases are being opened in Germany, keeping federal prosecutors as busy as ever.

German media reported that more than 900 terrorism-related cases have been opened so far this year, including 800 related to radical Islamists. In fact, the number of terrorism-related cases has increased four-fold compared to last year.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's international broadcaster, the sharp rise has stretched manpower at the Karlsruhe-based federal prosecutor's office. Nearly 300 terrorism cases have been transferred from federal authorities to state prosecutors.

According to a report published earlier this year in Der Spiegel, Federal Attorney General Peter Frank requested state justice ministers send prosecutors and judges to help overburdened federal courts.

Meanwhile, the Federal Criminal Police Office estimates nearly 700 people in Germany are Gefährder, or radical Islamists who represent a security risk and are capable of carrying out violent attacks.

According to DW, there is concern in security circles that German nationals who went to fight in Syria or Iraq may return home and present a threat to security.

French judiciary creaking under weight of terrorism cases
Reuters

By Emmanuel Jarry
October 24, 2017

France's efforts to combat terrorism and prevent further attacks on its soil are generating so much work for investigators and law courts that further staffing will be needed to keep up, intelligence and justice officials say.

The warning comes at a time when President Emmanuel Macron is trying to curb public spending while ensuring security is not compromised, a balancing act that has already prompted an army commander to resign over budget cuts.

The workload of the anti-terrorism justice system has risen ten-fold in the past five years, ministry figures show, with a sharp increase since 2014, when followers of the Islamic State group specifically called for attacks targeting the French.

More than 240 people have been killed in the past three years in France, including 130 by a group of IS-inspired gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris in November 2015.

Statistics collected by the justice services underscore the scale of the judicial challenge.

In all of 2012, the year Islamist militant Mohammad Merah killed three Jewish schoolchildren and three soldiers near Toulouse - an attack now regarded as a turning point, there were 10 cases of suspected terrorist activity.

In 2016, 240 new terrorism-related cases were opened, while in the first three months of 2017 a further 130 were added.

The total workload as of Oct. 9 was 621 cases, of which 452 were either early-stage or full inquiries into suspected Islamist-militant activity, according to justice officials.

The number of counter-terrorist investigators at the Paris prosecutor's office has doubled since 2012, but still stands at only 14. Alongside them, the number of so-called investigating magistrates and judges dedicated to counter-terrorism has risen to 11 from 7-8, with another beginning next year.

"We are not at breaking point, but the question now is how long it can last like that," said Pascal Gastineau, head of the French Association of Investigating Magistrates.

The workload is piling up in the courts as France cracks down on those who leave for Iraq and Syria to join IS, a number estimated at between 1,800 and 2,000.

In the past, terrorism-related convictions meant around 10 years in prison. Now many of those who finance, recruit, join or return from the wars in Syria and Iraq face 20 years in jail.

But convictions and the heavier sentences in most cases now require trial by jury of professional magistrates, a slow process that compounds the backlog.

"For affairs dating to 2016, a trial will not take place before 2018-2019," said one judge, who argues for some form of streamlining to process cases more rapidly.

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Piracy

Report of the Secretary-General on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia
Reliefweb

October 12, 2017

The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 33 of Security Council resolution 2316 (2016), in which the Council requested an annual report on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.

The report covers major developments since my previous report of 7 October 2016 (S/2016/843) through 30 September 2017. The report is based on information provided by the United Nations system, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Member States and regional organizations, including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Main developments, trends and considerations regarding piracy off the coast of Somalia

A. Major developments and trends during the reporting period

During the reporting period, efforts to minimize acts of Somali piracy continued thanks to the efforts of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to foster governance and the rule of law within Somalia, the physical presence of international naval forces and the observance of the IMO Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia-based Piracy by the shipping industry. However, a slight increase in piracy activities between March and June 2017 pointed to the root causes as not being fully addressed. In October 2016, there had been an attempt to attack the chemical tanker Korea, travelling 300 nautical miles east off the Somali coast, outside the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor, but the attempt failed after an exchange of gunfire with the ship's security forces led to the suspected pirates fleeing the scene. From May 2012 until March 2017, no merchant vessel had been successfully attacked by Somali pirates.

During March and April 2017, six successful pirate attacks occurred involving the hijacking for ransom of cargo ships and dhows, including the Aris 13, the Casayr II-No. 30, the Al Kausar and the Salama. In April 2017, Chinese and Indian naval forces thwarted an attack on the OS-35 and, later the same month, Chinese naval forces and the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) prevented an attack on the Al Heera. Local authorities in Puntland and Galmudug contributed to hostage negotiations and the release of the crew of the Aris 13 in March, and of the crew of the Al Kausar in April, as well as assisted with identifying the apprehended suspects. Twenty-two unsuccessful attacks or suspicious maritime activities were recorded from March to 30 September 2017. Of the 29 attempted or successful attacks during the reporting period, only 2 were against fishing vessels.

The hijackings in 2017 began four months after NATO terminated its counter-piracy operations (Ocean Shield) off the coast of Somalia. According to the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction risk assessment, which is a major source of maritime threat assessments, the spike in recent incidents may imply that piracy networks have retained the capability and intent to commit acts of piracy, but were dissuaded from carrying them out by the international naval presence, which includes the European Union, the Combined Maritime Forces and the independent naval forces of China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Turkey, among others, in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin. The European Union is reviewing the continuation of its naval presence (Operation Atalanta) after 2018. Withdrawing that presence may present increased opportunities for piracy.

B. Addressing root causes

The recent attacks demonstrate that the underlying conditions fuelling piracy have not changed, and that piracy networks are still active. Pirate groups remain opportunistic, given the relative ease with which operatives may source weapons and skiffs, making it an option with a low threshold for entry. Several factors add to the risk of a resurgence in piracy activities, including: coastal communities' perceptions of weak coastal and marine resources protection by federal, international and local authorities, especially with regard to illegal fishing by foreign vessels; the ease of recruitment of potential pirates and the financing of attacks as a result of strong criminal networks operating onshore and internationally; the weakness of the institutional capacities and legal frameworks that identify, capture, prosecute and convict suspected pirates and their accomplices; and the lack of alternative income-generation opportunities for affected coastal communities. The perception of a more peaceful environment off the coast of Somalia, the recent favourable weather conditions in the pre-monsoon period and the ongoing humanitarian crisis within Somalia may also have prompted the recent attacks.

In addition, a number of external factors contribute to the persistent risk. Commercial ships are not adhering to the Best Management Practices, and are deviating from the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor, taking increased risks and reducing their usage of private security personnel. In addition, there is weak information-sharing on the part of the international community, regional instability, and the fact that pirates are possibly viewing the current environment as permissive owing to the recent reduction in the international naval presence. As long as those external and internal conditions remain, so will the risk of further attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

IMB: Piracy Declines in First Nine Months of 2017
Maritime Executive

October 17, 2017

In its third quarter report, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported a total of 121 recorded incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery for the year to date, an improvement over last year's numbers and a significant decline relative to the average over the past five years.

The attacks included five hijackings, 11 attempted boardings, 13 vessels fired upon, and 92 boardings. The Gulf of Guinea remains a hot spot for attacks, representing about one sixth of the total, along with Somalia and Southeast Asia. But a cluster of boardings off Libya and armed robberies at anchorages in Venezuela highlight the need for vigilance in other parts of the world.

Some areas have shown major improvements. The waters off Indonesia had only 23 attacks from 86 in the same period in 2015. Piracy in the Strait of Malacca essentially stopped last year, due to strengthened naval patrols, and the hijackings and kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Sulu Sea have ceased, thanks to the efforts of the Philippine military.

Others are still quite dangerous. The waters off Nigeria remain particularly risky, especially off Bayelsa / Bonny Island / Port Harcourt, where the number of reported hijackings and kidnappings has been on the rise. IMB noted that many more attacks may have gone unreported, and vessels should exercise particular caution when transiting this region.

Off Somalia, armed attacks have resumed, though allied naval forces have had considerable success in recent months in deterring or interdicting hijacking attempts. However, the area remains hazardous, IMB cautioned. "The threat of these attacks still exists in the waters off . . . Bab el Bandeb, Gulf of Aden . . . Arabian Sea off Oman, Gulf of Oman and off the eastern and southern Somali coast," IMB wrote. "Somali pirates tend to be well-armed with automatic weapons and RPG[s] and sometimes use skiffs launched from mother vessels . . . to conduct attacks far from the Somali coast."

Pirate attacks "still a major concern," says maritime charity as new figures are released
Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

October 19, 2017

Global piracy continues to be a concern in the Gulf of Guinea, Southeast Asia and Venezuela, according to statistics released yesterday by the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

In the first nine months of 2017, 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported, including 92 vessels boarded with five hijackings, 11 attempted attacks and 13 vessels fired upon.

While this is a decrease compared to statistics from the same period in 2016, the report shows that attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia are still an issue and there has been a rise in attacks off the coast of Venezuela. The statistics don't take into account unreported incidents.

International maritime charity Sailors' Society has set up three crisis response networks in Africa, Asia and Europe to support survivors of piracy attacks and crises at sea.

Its CEO Stuart Rivers said: "The fear of piracy is a massive issue for seafarers. While we are encouraged that incidents of piracy are generally decreasing, piracy is a still a major concern and any incident is one too many.

"Survivors of piracy and kidnappings are exposed to violence and terror, which can have a devastating impact on them and their families for years to come.\

"By coming alongside these survivors and their families, we can work with other agencies to help them come to terms with what has happened and give them financial, physical and psychological support to help them pick up the pieces of their lives."

In the last year, the charity has supported crew members from the Naham 3, who were released last year after being held hostage by Somali pirates for almost five years.

In the aftermath of his release, Adi Manurung received help from Sailors' Society chaplains, including financial support, accompanying him on visits to the psychiatrist and providing counselling for him and his family to help him reintegrate into his community.

Adi said he and his colleagues ate mice and wild cats during their captivity.

"I thought that I would die," he said.

"There was no hope."

Pirates attack German ship in Nigeria, kidnap six crew members
New China

October 24, 2017

Six crew members of a German ship were kidnapped in Nigeria when suspected pirates attacked their vessel in the port of Onne in the country's oil-rich state of Rivers, maritime sources said on Tuesday.

Fewer than 10 pirates on a speedboat attacked the ship early Saturday, according to the sources.

The ship is operated by Peter Doehle Group, a German firm.

One source, who could not clearly state the nationalities of the victims, noted the master of the attacked ship, its chief officer, second officer, second engineer, bosun, and cook were taken away by the gunmen.

Nigerian officials are yet to comment on the pirate attack.

Another source said the Liberia-flagged ship was headed to Monrovia, the Liberian capital city, when it was attacked. It had originated from Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Gulf of Guinea, which is believed to hold as much as 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, has been plagued by pirates, smugglers, and other criminals.

The socio-economic agitations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria have contributed to the rise in attacks on oil facilities and vessels, in addition to kidnapping, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and refining in recent years.

In July, in a bid to end pirate attacks on local and international merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea, the Nigerian navy deployed warships and troops in a massive operation aimed at patrolling the Nigerian waters.

According to government data, four successful attacks were recorded out of 16 attempted pirate attacks between January and June.

In the first half of last year, a total of 36 successful attacks were recorded out of 55 attempted ones.

The International Maritime Bureau, in its first quarter 2017 report on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, said there was a decline in attacks.

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Gender-Based Violence

Amnesty: Myanmar committed crimes against humanity
Aljazeera

October 17, 2017

Amnesty International has said it has strong evidence that the Myanmar army committed crimes against humanity in northern Rakhine State.

A new report published by the global rights group on Wednesday detailed mass killings, rape, torture and forcible transfers of Rohingya Muslims in the army's ongoing campaign against fighters from the persecuted minority.

Amnesty has called for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar and set targeted sanctions against senior officials.

The report said hundreds of thousands of Rohingya men, women and children have been "the victims of a widespread and systematic attack", and that "Myanmar's security forces unleashed an attack against the Rohingya population in its entirety."

The army's Western Command was responsible for some of the worst violations, it said.

The Amnesty report, based on about 150 witness accounts, satellite data, and photo and video evidence, is the most detailed and comprehensive analysis to date since Rohingya refugees began pouring into Bangladesh in late August.

Efforts to reach the Myanmar government were unsuccessful.

Officials have previously denied any systematic violence against the Rohingya, who they consider as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Laura Haigh, Amnesty's Myanmar researcher, said the crimes they documented were similar to the army's abuses against other ethnic minorities in Myanmar, including the Kachin, Shan and the Palaung.

"There are common threads here: A military that is completely unaccountable, often out of control, and impunity that breeds further impunity," she said.

"And it's time for that to stop."

The violence in Buddhist-majority Rakhine erupted after an armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked at least 30 security posts on August 25.

An estimated 582,000 refugees have now fled Myanmar and thousands more are continuing to make the perilous journey on foot to the country's border with Bangladesh, the UN said on Tuesday.

Page after page in the Amnesty report, entitled "My World Is Finished", provide detailed testimonies of widespread killings, rapes, and burning of entire villages.

'Burned all over'

In one account, a 30-year-old woman from the village of Min Gyi, also known as Tula Toli, said soldiers killed scores of men and older boys, raped the women, torched Rohingya homes, and burned people, including children, to death.

"They [the soldiers] first hit us in the head, to make us weak ... Then, they raped us," she said.

Soldiers then set fire to the house she was assaulted in, but she said she managed to escape after her seven-year-old daughter found a weak point in the hut's bamboo siding.

"I was burned all over," she told Amnesty. "The flame was so hot. When I ran, the fire was still on me. The clothes we wore, they were all burned."

The pattern was similar in dozens of villages across Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathetaung townships, the report said.

The Myanmar army killed at least hundreds of Rohingya women, men, and children in the hours and days since the ARSA attacks in August, it said. Many people were shot as they ran away.

The elderly and disabled were often unable to flee and were killed or burned in their homes.

Mohamed Zubair, 26, told Amnesty he left his 90-year-old grandmother in their home when the military opened fire on his village, Chut Pyin, in Rathetaung.

"I asked her to follow us to the hill. She said, 'I'm old, they won't do anything to me. Go,'" Zubair said.

In hiding, he watched as soldiers torched his village, including the house where he had left his grandmother.

When the military left, he found his grandmother dead, her body "burnt very seriously".

More than a dozen other witnesses from Chut Pyin also described seeing soldiers, border guards and local vigilantes deliberately burn down Rohingya parts of the village, and leave the non-Rohingya areas intact, the report said.

The accounts of targeted burning were backed by satellite imagery.

Amnesty said the killing of the elderly, disabled and children demonstrated the military's campaign "has been far from a 'clearance operation' in the sense of being designed to root out ARSA members.

"Instead, it has been an attack on the Rohingya population as a whole, with the seeming objective to 'cleanse' Rakhine state of that entire population".

Amnesty said its investigations into the responsibility of specific units and individuals were ongoing, but testimony indicates that a unit led by Major-General Maung Maung Soe was disproportionately involved in some of the worst crimes.

Witnesses consistently described a patch on soldiers' uniforms that match the one worn by Western Command, the report said.

Amnesty said it is also investigating claims that ARSA fighters killed Hindu men and women, and burned ethnic Rakhine villages.

Haigh, the researcher, said Amnesty wants to see the UN General Assembly adopt "a strong resolution on Myanmar" as a first step to end the violence.

"We'd like to see a strengthened call for a global arms embargo, in addition to targeted sanctions on specific senior military officials who are responsible for crimes," she said.

Myanmar must also allow unfettered access to UN investigators, she said.

Myanmar has strongly denied allegations of human rights abuses.

On Monday, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar's army told UN officials that soldiers acted lawfully in their response to attacks by ARSA.

On his official Facebook page, Min Aung Hlaing said UN comments on Rakhine, which include allegations of ethnic cleansing, were "totally contrary to the situation on the ground".

Sepur Zarco: In pursuit of truth, justice, and now reparations
Relief Web

October 22, 2017

Demecia Yat de Xol was just 28 years old when she was forced into sexual slavery in the small village of Sepur Zarco by the Guatemalan military. On 26 February 2016, at age 61, Doña Demecia sat in Guatemala's High-Risk Court, waiting for a verdict. She was accompanied by ten other survivors-respectfully referred as "the Sepur Zarco Grandmothers".

Justice, at last

Thirty-four years later and after 22 hearings, Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar, President of the High-Risk Court of Guatemala announced the verdict that the 11 surviving Q'eqchi' women would finally receive justice. The court convicted two former military officers of crimes against humanity on counts of rape, murder and slavery in Sepur Zarco. Esteelmer Reyes Girón and Heriberto Valdez Asij received a sentence of 120 years and 240 years in prison respectively. Importantly, the court ruled in addition, on reparations to be granted to the Sepur Zarco Grandmothers and to their communities as a whole.

Against the backdrop of Guatemala's 36-year-long conflict, which killed more than 200,000 people, mostly indigenous, the bucolic village of Sepur Zarco was the scene of systematic rape and exploitation of indigenous Q'eqchi' women, from 1982 until 1988. The women of Sepur Zarco were used as domestic servants, raped and made to live in slave-like conditions by the Guatemalan military. Their husbands, who were claiming land, had been forcibly disappeared, detained or killed.

In her closing statement to the court, Doña Demecia, representing all the Sepur Zarco victims and survivors, thanked the judges and emphasized: "We have come to tell the truth and have said the truth. We have heard the accused do not want to accept what they have done, but we ask, where are our husbands then?"

Sepur Zarco was the first case of conflict-related sexual violence challenged under Guatemala's penal code. It was also the first time that a national court anywhere in the world had ruled on charges of sexual slavery during an armed conflict-a crime under international law. In its path-breaking judgment, the Guatemalan court noted that sexual violence against indigenous Maya Q'eqchi' women was part of a deliberate strategy by the Guatemalan army.

In a recent interview with UN Women, Judge Barrios Aguilar talks about the important role that justice sector actors play in ensuring peace: "I am convinced that peace can be achieved through justice. As judges, we need to be change agents within our society," she says.

UN Women partnered with an alliance of civil society organizations-the Alliance Breaking Silence and Impunity (UNAMG-MTM-ECAP), , as well as with other women's human rights defenders, national and international actors, including the Public Prosecutor and UN organizations, in supporting the survivors in their pursuit of truth, justice and reparation.

Reparations, the last step of justice

On 2 March 2016, the court issued a wide-ranging reparations decision that addressed past denials of the right to health, education and access to land that indigenous communities in Sepur Zarco had endured. The decision directs the Government of Guatemala to install a health centre in Sepur Zarco, improve primary school infrastructure, construct a secondary school and provide scholarships for women, girls and the entire community. It also asks the Government to reopen land restitution cases.

Paula Barrios from Mujeres Transformando el Mundo, (Women Transforming the World) an organization assisting the Sepur Zarco Grandmothers, is convinced that transformative reparation is the last step of justice, and critically important for survivors. "The Grandmothers have always stated that they are taking this path to justice not only for them, but to ensure that other women do not live through what they had to. That is the essence of transformative reparation," says Paula Barrios.

More than a year since these historical decisions, the 11 surviving Sepur Zarco Grandmothers have created the Raloj U Association to promote the empowerment of women and girls from their communities. The Public Prosecutor has created a process to monitor and facilitate compliance of the reparation order, where all responsible State institutions participate. To respond to urgent health-care needs, and pending the construction of a permanent health centre, a mobile clinic was installed by the Ministry of Health; and the Ministry of Education is developing educational materials on the Sepur Zarco sentence. The organizations of the Alliance Breaking Silence and Impunity have also developed communication materials in the local language to raise community awareness about the sentence and to facilitate the implementation of the reparation order.

UN Women sees the Sepur Zarco sentence as a major step forward for indigenous women's access to justice, an integral aspect of peacebuilding in Guatemala and in other countries. "The Sepur Zarco case shows how, by breaking the silence and pursuing justice, the Sepur Zarco Grandmothers are restituting their rights and those of their communities, and breaking the cycle of violence against women. They have shown what empowerment by women and for women looks like," says Adriana Quiñones, UN Women Representative for Guatemala.

For justice to work, and peace to sustain, survivors must be able to define and experience justice.

With the support of the UN Peace Building Fund, and in partnership with national authorities, Guatemalan civil society and other UN agencies, UN Women is leading joint actions to develop local and national policies and reparation standards to fully implement the Sepur Zarco sentence.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: The Case for Expertise and Professionalism in Investigations
Justice in conflict

By Mark Kersten
October 25, 2017

Crimes of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) committed in the context of the world's many conflict situations are no longer beyond the reach of accountability. Jurisprudence, especially from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), as well as the Rome Statute and the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have all contributed to breaking down the false myth that "rape in war is regrettable, but unavoidable". Pressure from survivors, political attention from states, and personal commitments by high-profile individuals have taken the question of addressing SGBV from the halls of academia to the world's attention. But the single most important factor in taking SGBV investigations from the fringes to the center of investigating mass atrocities in recent years is the ready availability of experienced criminal justice professionals with a background in dealing with the many aspects SGBV. This mean having professionals from every part of the world, with training to work under international criminal and human rights law frameworks and conditions.

One catalyst in this rapid expansion of international capacity to address accountability for SGBV violence in conflict is the UN Women - Justice Rapid Response (JRR) partnership (full disclosure: the author is the director of the latter). This partnership manages and can rapidly deploy from a stand-by roster of currently 217 SGBV justice experts and has already done so on 67 occasions since its inception. While not the only roster that can support work in this critical area, it is the only one where expertise dedicated to SGBV investigations represents every region and legal system in the world-roster members hail from 73 countries. It is also the only roster in which every member, already recruited for their expertise, has been further upskilled to be able to work productively under international legal frameworks and conditions.

This week, JRR and UN Women are launching a short documentary about the work of two such professionals that the partnership deployed to support accountability in the context of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Being first shown in the context of the UN Security Council open debate on women, peace and security, the documentary is meant to highlight the benefits and impact-especially to survivors-of investigations into patterns of forced marriage, rape, trafficking and sexual slavery being done by professionals.

The importance of expertise and experience, specialized international training and cultural, legal and linguistic affinity for the places and people where the alleged crimes occurred is even greater today than ever. This is because we appear to be in a paradigmatic shift, where documentation, fact-finding, and even investigations are preceding-not following-the establishment of accountability mechanisms.

This shift seems, in part, to be driven by too few opportunities to hold perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes to account. But it is also creating a serious gap because it is the accountability mechanisms that traditionally establish the rules of procedure and evidence that set the parameters for documenters and investigators on gathering information. Without such rules of evidence (and in the absence of accepted international standards), it mainly comes down to the judgement of those doing the documenting, fact-finding and investigating that will ensure that vital lines are not crossed. Lines such as not taking or accepting information that may have been attained by torture or the fabrication of evidence; and not paying sufficient regard to the danger that its collection poses to victims, witnesses, survivors and those collecting the information - the "do no harm" principle.

There is one other reason why having experienced professionals readily available to the international community is more vital than ever. These experts are also in a position to provide mentoring support to enhance the capacity of other actors. Enhancing capacities has become crucial in both the context of national proceedings relating to international crimes and crisis situations where organizations such as humanitarian responders are the first to come into contact with survivors of conflict related crimes.

The Rome Statute system of international criminal justice is built on the primary responsibility of States to investigate and prosecute core international crimes. The justice systems of most States that have experienced conflict violence to the level of atrocity crimes need technical assistance to become able to carry out this responsibility. Helping national jurisdictions to conduct credible investigations and prosecutions is, therefore, the ideal way to ensure the realization of the complementarity principle - the foundation of the Rome Statute system. This, in turn, is best attained through dedicated, tailored, peer-to-peer mentoring by expert professionals, rather than short, off-the-shelf training courses.

Such tailored mentoring has also been shown to be extremely useful for civil society and humanitarian providers, who are often the first to hear firsthand the experiences of survivors. Without trying to make these organizations into "international investigators", it is important for them to understand what they may be hearing in the international criminal and human rights context, and have some basic guidance on where to safely channel such information (if possible) and more importantly, how to take simple steps to minimize the danger that such stories may represent to the witnesses and themselves. Here too, lasting capacity enhancement is best done through peer-to-peer mentoring by expert practitioners.

What the work of SGBV Justice Experts has shown in all the above contexts is that the more professional and experienced the people involved, the more likely that they will ask relevant questions as and when the information is collected or passed. The more these professionals understand international human rights and criminal justice norms and international conditions, the more likely they will be able to balance the probative value of information against the potential cost of harming witnesses and survivors and the more suited they will be to collaborate with local counterparts and humanitarian responders to provide lasting capacity enhancement through tailored peer-to-peer mentoring.

In these shifting times, when evidence collection is increasingly preceding the establishment of specific rules of procedure and evidence, it is vital that the documentation and collection of information for accountability purposes be done, and supervised, by professionals. Professionals who understand the importance not only of the information, but also how it is collected, while taking steps to minimize 'collateral damage' are much less likely to do harm to the justice process. While facilities like the JRR-UN Women Justice Experts Partnership are there to ensure the ready availability of needed professionals, ultimately the standard they set on getting the right experts to the right place at the right time needs to be practiced by everyone engaged in documentation, fact-finding and investigation of core international crimes. It is the only way to build a solid foundation of credible evidence for accountability, upon which our collective promise not to tolerate impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity can rest solidly.

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Commentary and Perspectives

On African Countries And Their Desire To Leave The ICC
The African Exponent

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza
October 18, 2017

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has a bias towards indicting and putting on trial African leaders, while the Europeans and Americans, some who have committed heinous war crimes, are left untouched. This has led to massive calls for African countries to pull out of the ICC.

There are critics who believe that Africa is a haven for leaders who have a knack in impunity. In Africa, there is blatant and utter disregard of the rule of law, which then leads to former presidents and their cronies walk scot-free in the face of the injustice they would have committed. In this regard, the ICC has been widely perceived as a method of checks and balances for a continent where impunity flourishes. Warlords, former military generals and former presidents often meet their fate at the ICC and because of this, the ICC has been viewed as a good mechanism to bring justice to Africa.

The above mentioned fact is however a simplistic approach to the whole issue of the ICC. It has top be noted that the ICC only tries Africans and those from other third-world countries, and one is left to wonder about what happens to those American, British military generals and former leaders who have orchestrated crimes of a huge magnitude but are left to their whims, and are not brought before the so-called international court. It is this bias which breeds contempt for the ICC from an African perspective.

While it is not bad for African leaders to be hauled before the international court, the bias exhibited in granting impunity to the developed nations leaves a lot to be desired. There are however African countries who want to pull out of the ICC so that they are not held accountable for the wrongs they did. If Africans can give respect to the rule of law, and if they learn to be impartial in the administration of justice among themselves, they can successfully pull out of the ICC.

A case to not is that of Chad's former president Hissene Habre. An appeals court in Senegal upheld the life sentence of Hissene Habre, on war crimes charges. The trial against Habre began in July 2015, though victims and survivors had been pursuing the case against their former leader for 16 years. Here, justice was administered to an African by Africans.

The Extraordinary African Chambers was created by the African Union and Senegal to try Habre for crimes committed during his presidency from 1982 to 1990. If this platform is fully and effectively utilized, where Africans are tried by Africans impartially, then Africans have every right to pull out of the ICC.

Habre's case is a good precedent for other African countries to follow, and leave the bias shown by the ICC that irks many an African. To date, the ICC has opened investigations into ten situations in: (1) the Democratic Republic of the Congo; (2) Uganda; (3) the Central African Republic I; (4) Darfur, Sudan; (5) the Kenya; (6) Libya; the (7) Côte d'Ivoire; the (8) Mali; (9) the Central African Republic II; and (10) Georgia.The ICC has publicly indicted 41 people, the majority being Africans.

If Africans can give respect to the rule of law among themselves as seen in the Habre case, they can leave the ICC, and they will have a justifiable cause for doing so.

ICC Ex-Prosecutor Was On War Crimes' Suspect Payroll
The Libya Observer

By Emadeddin Zahri Muntasser
October 20, 2017

Two years ago, the credibility of the United Nations in Libya was seriously damaged when it was revealed that Bernardino León, the chosen UN Envoy, was literally on the payroll of a country with economic and military interests in Libya.

So when León proposed plans that favored the policies of the country that was signing his paychecks, suspicions were appropriate. And although León was eventually replaced as Envoy, the stink of corruption lingered around the UN in Libya - which matters because the UN continues to play an integral role in how, when and with whom peace will be restored there. If there are questions about the UN's motives, whatever government emerges may lack in domestic as well as international support.

It's against that unpleasant recent history that another and potentially more troubling conflict-of-interest scandal may be about to break open for an UN-related institution involved in Libya.

News outlets in Europe are reporting on a leak of documents that they say show Luis Moreno Ocampo who used to travel on an UN-issued passport and was the former lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), was also taking money from partisan players in Libya who were possibly involved in aiding and abetting war criminals.

That's important because the ICC is uniquely and specifically involved in Libya, where it's seeking to bring some outlaw military leaders to justice for human rights violations and war crimes.

Just last month, the ICC issued a request for the arrest of Libyan military commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli who the ICC believes, "committed murder as a war crime for allegedly directly participating in seven incidents in which 33 individuals were killed." Al-Werfalli works for a well-known Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar who, other evidence shows, has ordered those crimes as well as committed several of his own. It seems a smart wager that the ICC (or the US) will pursue charges against Haftar as well.

According to the new reporting, Ocampo, the former ICC head prosecutor, accepted funds and jobs from a number of people and stashed his proceeds in unusual overseas accounts. One of those jobs and payment sources includes a 2015 arrangement with, "…billionaire Libyan oil magnate and TV media owner Hassan Tatanaki…on a three-year contract worth a million dollars a year, plus a daily wage of 5,000 dollars." Tatanaki is a well-known supporter of Haftar, the warlord, and his Libyan National Army and has called Haftar his "partner."

The details of the new reporting and the leaks are disturbing.

Within weeks of setting up the Ocampo and Tatanaki contract, a Haftar commander went on one of Tatanaki's TV stations, to say he will kill anyone who does not join his military offensive and that, 'those people are traitors who have to be slaughtered, and their wives must be raped before their eyes.'

Further reporting includes that, when he learned about the Air Force commander's comments, former prosecutor Ocampo e-mailed the assistant of his new boss, Tatanaki, and said, "We need now a strategy to isolate Hassan [Tatanaki]" from the comments.

And, according to the reported e-mail exchanges, Ocampo and Tatanaki's assistant tried to iron out strategies to ensure that his new boss and the armies he supported would not come under the suspicion of the ICC - the UN organization he used to run. "I would suggest to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure that Hassan [Tatanaki] and the forces he is supporting are not the target of ICC prosecutions," Ocampo allegedly wrote. Ocampo went on to suggest that his new boss not financially support the warlord Haftar or his Libyan National Army as this may subject him to criminal liability in the future.

Those comprehensive plans and Ocampo's advice on how to avoid becoming a prosecution target may not have worked out so well since the very forces Ocampo suggests helping to skirt ICC targeting are the very same forces that were targets of the ICC.

Taken together, writing about a plan to avoid being targeted by the ICC and making suggestions on how to avoid being prosecuted for war crimes certainly makes it appear as though Ocampo was at least aware that war crimes were being committed and that his new boss could be implicated. That's not a good look for a former war crimes prosecutor.

Ocampo denies that his engagement with Tatanaki had anything to do with the ICC and its former or ongoing activities. In the reporting, he says he never contacted the ICC about his client or that client's entanglements in Libya. According to the Times of London, however, "The former chief prosecutor also arranged for one of the court's most senior press officers to work for Tatanaki secretly."

Boiled down, the former head of the UN ICC scored a highly lucrative business deal with a supporter of the criminals the ICC is investigating - and called to arrest - for war crimes. And that former war crimes prosecutor advised his new boss on avoiding prosecution for what was happening in Libya.

At worst, it's outright corruption that has compromised the ICC and their actions in Libya. At best, if nothing illegal or inappropriate was done, it's yet another perception problem for the UN at a time and in a place already rife with it.

Candidly, though, it's probably better for everyone if these new revelations uncover blatant corruption because corruption can be proven and prosecuted. Bad apples can be taken out of the barrel. A clear-cut pay-for-favorable treatment scandal would end and the UN and the people and players in Libya would move ahead.

But another blow to the UN's reputation in Libya - one that simply raises questions and provides no answers - could be disastrous because the most valuable commodity in Libya these days is credibility.

Given the scandal with Envoy León, it's not clear how much credibility the UN and the ICC have. But it is exceptionally clear that the UN can't afford to lose any.

Community Members React to ICC Witness's Testimony That He Did Not Know of Atrocities by Ugandan Government Soldiers
International Justice Monitor

By Lino Owor Ogora
October 23, 2017

On October 3, the director of legal services at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Nabaasa Kanyogonya, denied knowledge of allegations that military commanders of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) committed atrocities in northern Uganda. This was in response to a question by Krispus Ayena Odongo, the lead lawyer for Dominic Ongwen, asking him to "confirm to the court whether there were hues and cries about incidents of indiscipline of UPDF officers in the prosecution of the war against the LRA." Kanyogonya responded, "I do not know of any commanders of the UPDF committing atrocities in the war against the LRA." This article presents reactions to Kanyogonya's testimony in the community in northern Uganda.

Kanyogonya made the comments while testifying at the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the former Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps of Lukodi, Abok, Pajule, and Odek. Ongwen has also been charged with sexual and gender-based crimes. Ongwen's trial started in December 2016 and is still ongoing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Kanyogonya's testimony drew strong reactions from community members who were present during the conflict in northern Uganda. Those who expressed their views were not pleased that he denied knowledge of atrocities by government forces in northern Uganda, citing the extensive documentation of such atrocities, though views differed on the reasons for his denial.

James, a CSO representative from Teso in eastern Uganda said, "I rebuke that witness. Maybe he was not physically present in the war-affected areas during that time. He might have been in Kampala. If he had been there during the war that wouldn't have been his testimony. Both the government and the LRA soldiers committed atrocities."

Denis, a community member living in Lamogi, speculated that Kanyogonya probably based his testimony on the period before 2002. "The ICC's jurisdiction only considers crimes that were committed after 2002 because the ICC was not yet established before then," said Denis.

Pamela, a CSO representative from Gulu, thought that the witness was probably afraid of speaking out against the government he serves. "To me, all this dwells around witness protection. I think the witness does not feel protected to speak against the government because he would have problems on return to Uganda. A question I would ask the witness is whether he is aware of the documentation of crimes committed by government soldiers, and how well informed he is of the impacts of war."

In the opinion of Geoffrey, another CSO representative in Gulu, the government could have committed the crimes accidentally in the course of trying to protect civilians. "In the process of fighting the LRA, many errors might have happened, leading to the death of civilians. Because of their mandate, the government soldiers cannot say they did not commit any crimes against civilians. The only defense they could have is that while they were doing their duty, they happened to harm people who were caught in the crossfire."

Calvin, a teacher in Omoro District, draws attention to the fact that rebellions by the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM) and the LRA sprang up in response to atrocities committed by government soldiers. "The UPDF committed very many atrocities in northern Uganda, even long before the LRA rebels started their activities. In the late 1980s, when the UPDF was still called the National Resistance Army (NRA), they were already committing crimes and their actions led to the rise of the HSM led by Alice Lakwena, and later the LRA led by Joseph Kony."

According to Louis, a community member: "The atrocities in northern Uganda were committed by both UPDF soldiers and LRA rebels, but to my dismay, all these atrocities have been blamed on the LRA. Those who say that the government soldiers did not commit any crimes in northern Uganda are those who are seeking favor from the government. There are people whose relatives were killed by government soldiers so Kanyogonya cannot deny that the government committed atrocities."

Asked to cite examples of crimes committed by government soldiers that they are aware of, community members and CSO representatives mentioned many incidents ranging from extrajudicial killings and massacres, to sexual and gender-based crimes.

James said, "In Teso there are areas where military commanders and soldiers erred. For example, on July 9, 2003, a helicopter gunship killed ten civilians in Angica B village, Alito Parish, Obalanga Sub-County, after mistaking them for rebels. The rebels had no helicopters, so it was definitely government soldiers. There were also incidents of gang raping of women and young girls."

Denis vividly recalled crimes committed by government soldiers in Lamogi. "There were many crimes committed by government soldiers. For example in Lamogi Sub-County, the NRA, as the UPDF was known at that time, killed about 30 people before the civilians went to IDP camps," he said.

In Pamela's opinion, government atrocities in northern Uganda were not limited to acts of commission, but also included acts of omission. "When we talk of government atrocities, we should not only look at what government soldiers did, but also what they failed to do. There were many incidents where government soldiers failed to give protection, because even when people were in IDP camps, there were still abductions by the LRA. A lot of people died in attacks and ambushes by the rebels, and yet the UPDF was in a position to stop all these from happening," said Pamela.

Louis concurs with Pamela. "There were massacres in Omot, Lukodi, Atiak, and Awach. All these happened when the soldiers were around. There were cases of robberies and looting of property by UPDF soldiers who claimed to be protecting them. A lot of ambushes and attacks along the highways resulted in people being killed and buses being burnt as the UPDF looked on. People were shot dead by UPDF soldiers. People were dragged forcefully to the IDP camps by government soldiers."

"There are so many examples of crimes by government soldiers," said Geoffrey. "There is the case of Burcoro where the soldiers conducted sodomy, cruel punishments, and beatings. While hunting for the LRA, the soldiers killed many people whom they suspected of being collaborators."

Calvin recounts, "Shooting people in firing squads, especially those civilians who were believed to be collaborating with the LRA, rape of innocent women, especially during the night patrols, and the arrest and torture of civilians on allegations that they were rebel collaborators are some of the atrocities I remember."

As one respondent noted, several documentation and research projects have been conducted on abuses by government forces. These include the Burcoro massacre of 1991, the Namokora massacre of 1986, and the Mukura massacre of 1989. Furthermore, Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has, on several occasions, apologized for the actions of Ugandan government soldiers in northern Uganda. In 2012, the president apologized on behalf of the army saying, "The NRA/NRM [National Resistance Army/National Resistance Movement] has [made] mistakes but also has the capacity to correct those mistakes." In 2014, he publicly stated that he was "ashamed of" the way the NRA fought rebels in northern Uganda.

UN: Russian veto equivalent to "green light for war crimes"
Amnesty International

By Sherine Tadros
October 24, 2017

Responding to the news that Russia used its veto power at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to block a one year term extension for the joint investigative mechanism (JIM) mandated with investigating chemical attacks in Syria, Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International's UN office in New York said:

"For the ninth time, Russia has used its veto power to shield its ally, the Syrian government, from any punitive consequences it could face for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since the start of the conflict over six years ago.

"By preventing the mandate extension of the gas attacks probe they helped set up, Russia has dealt a huge blow for justice in Syria and shown once again their callous disregard for all those who have been killed and injured in these attacks.

"This routine abuse of the veto has become the equivalent of a green light for war crimes, allowing all parties involved in the conflict in Syria to act with complete impunity and disregard for international law, with civilians paying the ultimate price.

"The UN Secretary General as well as Security Council members can no longer idly stand by as the UNSC is transformed into an instrument for political posturing between permanent members, and which has consistently failed to enforce resolutions adopted to end war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Deliberate Famine Should Be a War Crime, UN Expert Says
Inter Press Service

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
October 25, 2017

The deliberate starvation of civilians could amount to a war crime and should be prosecuted, said an independent UN human rights expert.

In a new report, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver examined the right to food in conflict situations and found a grim picture depicting the most severe humanitarian crisis since the UN was established.

"Contrary to popular belief, causalities resulting directly from combat usually make up only a small proportion of deaths in conflict zones, with most individuals in fact perishing from hunger and disease," she said.

Conflicts have proliferated around the world and with them has come a rise in food insecurity.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the proportion of undernourished people living in countries in conflict and protracted crises is almost three times higher than that in other developing countries.

In five conflict-stricken countries alone, approximately 20 million are facing famine and starvation.

Another estimated 70 million people in 45 countries currently require emergency food assistance, a 40 percent increase from 2015.

Since the human right to food is a universal one, Elver noted that countries and other parties to conflicts must act and avoid using food as a weapon of war.

"If the famine [occurs] from deliberate action by state or other players, using food as a weapon of war is an international crime and there is an individual responsibility to that," she said.

"The international community should make it clear that this is a war crime or a crime against humanity, otherwise we will give a certain permission [to it]," Elver continued.

In Yemen, rates of acute malnutrition have increased dramatically since the beginning of the civil war in 2015, making it the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Approximately 60 percent of the population are food insecure while 7 million are at risk of famine and acute food insecurity, a situation that is expected to worsen without an increase in emergency food assistance.

According to the World Food Programme, over 3 million children and pregnant or nursing women are acutely malnourished, making them susceptible to communicable diseases such as cholera.

Already, a severe cholera outbreak that began in April has killed over 2,000 people and has exacerbated the nutrition crisis.

Parties to the ongoing conflict have played a significant and deliberate role in the decreased access to food, including a Saudi Arabia-imposed aerial and naval blockade on a country which previously imported 90 percent of its food.

Airstrikes carried out by the coalition have also targeted the country's agricultural sector including farms, further limiting access to food, while sieges by Houthi fighters in numerous cities have prevented staple items from reaching civilians.

Ta'izz, the Middle Eastern country's second-largest city, was besieged by Houthi fighters for over a year, causing blockages in supply routes and dire food shortages.

Elver said that Yemen is a "clear situation" where famine constitutes a crime against humanity in which both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis are responsible.

She noted however that there is still widespread impunity in situations when famine is deliberately caused and pointed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an example which has not prosecuted individuals responsible for such crises.

Though UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has included the Saudi-led coalition in his annual shame list for violations against children, Elver called for the creation of legal mandates to prevent famine and protect people's right to food.

This includes the development of international legal standards to reinforce the norm that deliberate starvation is a war crime or a crime against humanity and the referral of the most serious cases to the ICC for investigation and potential prosecution.

The formal recognition of famine as a crime can prevent the tendency of governments "to hide behind a curtain of natural disasters and state sovereignty to use hunger as a genocidal weapon," the report states.

"We can see the famine coming, it doesn't just happen in one day," Elver said.

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WORTH READING

National and Transnational Security Regimes: South Asia
By Cyra Akila Choudhury
Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures Vol. 16 (2017)

October 20, 2017

This entry examines national security states and transnational security regimes and their implications for women in Islamic cultures. National security states have long sought to regulate women's bodies, speech, and political participation. With the rise of the Global War on Terrorism and the radicalization of Muslim communities, we have seen an increase in surveillance, detentions, torture, militarization, and security technologies, tied to controlling political dissent, "terrorism," and immigration. The author is asked to discuss how national and transnational security regimes impact women, families, and communities, as women become political prisoners, single mothers as a result of male detentions, and organizers working to counter the suppression of political and human rights. Authors may also consider how the trope of the oppressed Muslim women is used to justify war against Muslim dominate states and the implications of the use of such tropes for gender issues in the home country. Authors are asked to please remember that these entries are about women, gender, and Islamic cultures. Authors are asked to be attentive to women's experiences, voices, women's interpretations and understandings of the issues relevant to the entry topic.

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