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FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 - Issue 15
October 2, 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

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

Civilians 'Direct Targets' as Conflict Spreads in Central African Republic
Relief Web

By Lindah Mogeni
September 14, 2017

Rape, torture, pillage, murder and forced displacement by the Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) rebel forces are the new horrifying realities faced by communities in Basse-Kotto, Central African Republic, according to the prominent London-based human rights group Amnesty International.

The UN peacekeeping force in the region, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), tasked with civilian protection, has been unable to curb these systematic abuses, Amnesty says.

"Civilians are not accidental victims in this conflict, they are direct targets…if the UN's mandate in the Central African Republic is to mean anything, civilians must be better protected," said Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Adviser, Joanne Mariner.

Many Central Africans are increasingly cynical about MINUSCA's capacity to conform to even a limited civilian protection mandate, according to Mariner.

Referring to MINUSCA's mandate, Mariner told IPS that the UN should review troop capacity, training, resource allocation and use of rapid reaction forces in hot-spots all over the country.

Notably, MINUSCA has saved the lives of many Central Africans, according to Amnesty International. However, with troops stretched thin and public confidence in the mission thinning, "MINUSCA's failures are putting thousands of people in danger," said Mariner.

The Basse-Kotto prefecture, one of the 14 prefectures in the landlocked African nation, has witnessed a surge in atrocities since early May 2017, when the UPC brutally attacked civilians in Alindao town resulting in at least 130 suspected dead.

In the four months since, the death toll is estimated to have climbed to several hundred, according to credible sources, says Amnesty International.

With tens of thousands having fled the violence and more than 100,000 displaced since the conflict exploded in April 2017, Basse-Kotto is reportedly characterized by ghost towns and nearly empty villages.

Significantly, the Basse-Kotto region had remained largely unaffected by the country's fragile security situation up until the string of attacks in May in the towns of Alindao, Nzangba and Mobaye.

Asked about the spread of major fighting into this region of the country, Mariner told IPS, "The government maintains little to no control in most areas outside Bangui, the country's capital, giving rival de facto armed groups leeway to expand their power and territory."

Skirmishes between the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance and predominantly Christian anti-balaka militias plunged the nation into a civil war when Séléka forces overthrew former President François Bozizé in March 2013. His successor, Michel Djotodia, the country's first ever Muslim president, assumed power for a year before stepping down in January 2014.

As a result, the Séléka rebel alliance split into various factions, such as the UPC, and each faction began a de facto terror campaign in different regions of the country- targeting civilians.

Successive ceasefire agreements since 2014 have failed to stabilize the country, which has a population of about 4.5 million people.

Muslim UPC forces target Christian civilians perceived of supporting opposing armed groups, while Christian anti-balaka militias target Muslim civilians under the guise of 'self-defense', according to Amnesty.

Mariner told IPS that both Muslim and Christian communities are "lumping together the atrocities committed by armed groups with the civilian population."

"The problem is now the Muslim population versus the Christian population…we don't want a religious conflict; we absolutely refuse it, but there's very clearly an inter-communal conflict," one of Alindao town's religious figures told Amnesty.

Asked about the religious nature of the conflict, Mariner told IPS that the conflict is sectarian-based rather than religious-based.

"The armed groups attack civilians because they see them as supporters of a rival armed group and not based on any religious doctrine or ideology…religion is merely a dividing line between the different groups," said Mariner to IPS.

The increasingly sectarian nature of the violence is perhaps the most worrying aspect of the current crisis, according to Amnesty International's Central Africa Researcher- Balkissa Ide Siddo.

The level of anger and hatred as well as the desire to humiliate and degrade has reached unprecedented levels in the country, as witnessed by the UPC's use of rape as a systematic weapon of war in Basse-Kotto.

At least 600,000 people are currently displaced within the country, the highest number since August 2014, and another 438,700 are refugees in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to Amnesty.

Emergency action is needed in Central African Republic to prevent further imminent atrocities, Mariner told IPS.

Fresh violence in Central African Republic leads to more displaced – UN agency
UN News Centre

September 15, 2017

Expressing concern over continued violence in the Central African Republic and the resulting "massive new levels" of displacement, the United Nations refugee agency has underscored the need to ensure that relief workers are not made targets of hostilities and are given the humanitarian security they need to carry out their mission.

"Since May, fresh and fierce clashes between armed groups in the CAR have wrought increasing suffering, deaths and destruction of property," said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"Many newly displaced people speak of having witnessed killings, robberies, lootings and kidnappings. Even after reaching safe locations, they often risk assault by armed groups, if they venture outside," he added.

According to the UN agency, the crisis, well into its fourth year, has left one in every two Central African in need of humanitarian assistance or protection to survive and, if left to fester, the violence could negate the progress towards recovery in the country.

The violence has also driven over half a million people from CAR to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and displaced an additional 600,000 people within the country.

The level of insecurity has also prevented UNHCR and other relief organizations to fully assess the full extent of damage or displacement from the recent violence.

"Some of our planned humanitarian deliveries by air have also been delayed or blocked, due to the armed groups' presence [and] aid agencies, including UNHCR, are increasingly among those targeted by armed groups and have, in some instances, been compelled to temporary withdraw their personnel," said Mr. Mahecic.

"Despite the challenges, we continue to help those displaced in areas like the Haute-Kotto provincial capital of Bria, which was at the centre of much of the displacement in the east," he added, noting that the UN agency's response is struggling due to lack of resources.

Earlier this year, UNCHR issued an appeal for $209 million for its operations within the country as well as to assist refugees from the Central African Republic in neighbouring countries. However, only 9 per cent of the appeal has been funded thus far.

Central African Republic turns a blind eye to the persecution of Muslim minority
The Hill

By Sandra Jolley and Jackie Wolcott
September 18, 2017

Addressing religious freedom violations is always hard, but when killers roam free and government officials fail to even acknowledge the rights of religious minorities it becomes impossible. That is what we face in the Central African Republic (CAR). We traveled to CAR in May and found government officials apathetic at best to the needs of the country's marginalized Muslims.

In late August, the United Nations aid chief, Stephen O'Brien, stated "The early warning signs of genocide are there. We must act now." With the U.S. ambassador to CAR having just left, the U.S. must also act to ensure that it remains engaged at this most critical time.

CAR has a long, sad history. A Christian majority country, fighting between Muslim and Christian militias has regularly occurred since the 2013 coup by the largely Muslim Séléka coalition. In response, the deposed president brought together the predominantly Christian "anti-balaka" to avenge the Séléka attacks. CAR remains fragile, susceptible to outbreaks of sectarian violence, and fractured along religious lines.

In 2015, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, determined that ethnic cleansing of Muslims had occurred and recommended that the U.S. government designate CAR as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). CPCs represent the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. We made that same recommendation in 2016 and 2017.

The State Department, however, has yet to declare CAR a CPC.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on the CAR in 2014 found that 99 percent of the capital's Muslims had left Bangui, 80 percent of the entire country's Muslim population had fled to Cameroon or Chad, and 417 of CAR's 436 mosques were destroyed. Since 2014, few Muslims have returned.

There are fears of similar dynamics now in CAR's center and east. Since May, targeted killings based on religious identity have dramatically increased and displaced more than 100,000. Just prior to our May visit, in Bangassou, anti-balaka militias sought to eliminate Muslims from the town, even trapping Muslims who sought refuge in a mosque or hospital. They now shelter in the town's Catholic cathedral — a rare interfaith victory — and cannot leave for fear of being killed.

While ongoing violence in CAR is conducted by 14 armed groups and the country is reliant on UN peacekeepers, the government could take steps to address impunity, improve religious freedom and interfaith conditions, and assist victims of sectarian violence.

Our charge from Congress is to examine not only what a government does in terms of religious freedom violations, but also what it tolerates. It is in the latter category that the Central African Republic falls short.

Our meetings with government officials, NGOs, and CAR citizens left us disheartened and frustrated by an apparent lack of government interest to reverse the long-term effects of the ethnic cleansing of Muslims, promote reconciliation, and end impunity for violence against Muslims. Support is even fading for the Special Criminal Court to hold accountable gross human rights abusers since 2003, including those behind the violence since 2013.

In western CAR, where Muslims have been driven out, very few have been allowed to return by their former Christian neighbors. Those who have returned are prohibited from practicing their faith.

In Bangui and Boda, Muslims said there remain areas where they cannot travel, fearing for their lives. Almost no destroyed mosques have been repaired or replaced. What is truly sad is that these two cities are "positive" examples of reconciliation in CAR.

When we raised these concerns about Muslim's rights, government officials told us that reports of restrictions on Muslims' freedom of religion or movement were simply not true. We were even told that Muslim concerns about being targeted because of their clothing was not an issue because they could already be identified by their facial features. And most absurdly, we were informed that religion is not part of the conflict; yet militias continue to kill based on religious identity, leading to retaliatory attacks and waves of violence.

If the CAR government does not acknowledge the problem, how can it protect the rights of Muslims, create conditions for a future multi-faith country, or promote social cohesion amongst all CAR citizens?

As an independent U.S. government commission that provides policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and the Congress, USCIRF has the mandate to focus specifically on religious freedom abroad. On that basis alone, we urge more U.S. attention on CAR.

The U.S. government is highly influential in CAR. As disappointing as we found the current situation on the ground, we are convinced that without continued, strong U.S. engagement we will very likely see a backsliding on what little progress has been made. And in this case, backsliding likely means an escalation of violence that could easily morph into the sectarian murder-spree that occurred in 2014.

In short, the United States must help the Central African Republic address accountability for violence and ending impunity. The people of CAR expect its government to function, and if it cannot or will not take responsibility for the religious, ethnic, and sectarian violence it faces, we will see more ethnic cleansing. As the U.N. aid chief said, "We must act now."

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Sudan & South Sudan

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

Over 100 Eritreans deported by Sudan, others jailed: U.N. deeply concerned
Africa News

By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
September 14, 2017

The United Nations refugee outfit (UNHCR) has expressed deep worry over recent deportations by Sudan of Eritrean nationals – who are either in its territory or on transit to Libya.

Media reports indicate that over 100 Eritreans have been deported in the last few weeks – some after serving jail terms and others immediately after court rulings.

The UNHCR's point of concern according to a statement issued by a top official in Sudan was that the rights of these refugees were being violated under international laws.

"The forcible return of refugees to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law.

"They were deported on charges of illegal entry into Sudan, which is not supported under international refugee law… [These charges] are waived in the case of refugees," deputy representative for Sudan Elizabeth Tan said.

The offence for which a number of them were jailed was for 'illegally infiltrating Sudanese territory.' The website of privately owned channel, Radio Dabanga said a total of 104 Eritreans were affected by the deportations of which there were 30 children involved.

Tensions have been high on border areas between the two neighbours. A recent United Kingdom travel advice asked Brits to avoid travel to areas on the borders with specific mention of Eritrean towns like Tesseney and Barentu all located in the country's south-west.

US calls on Sudan to probe Darfur camp clashes
The Citizen

September 27, 2017

The United States on Tuesday demanded a "thorough investigation" into clashes last week between residents of a Darfur camp for the displaced and Sudanese forces in which five people died.

Washington's call comes just two days after it lifted a travel ban against Sudanese travelling to the United States and ahead of a decision by President Donald Trump on whether to permanently lift a decades-old US trade embargo on Sudan.

Friday's clashes, which the United Nations earlier said had killed three people and wounded 26, erupted when residents of Camp Kalma protested against a visit by President Omar al-Bashir to the war-torn region.

In a statement on Facebook, the American embassy in Khartoum said it was deeply concerned by the "excessive use of force" by government forces in the clashes at Kalma in South Darfur.

"The United States calls on the government of Sudan to immediately launch a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident in which Sudanese security forces reportedly fired upon IDPs (internally displaced persons) resulting in five deaths."

"The United States reminds the government of Sudan that its security forces must respond with restraint when dealing with protests, even if provoked."

Last week Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide and war crimes charges related to the Darfur conflict, toured the region urging locals to give up their weapons.

The clashes at Camp Kalma, which houses more than 125,000 people displaced by the conflict, came as he visited nearby villages.

The Darfur conflict began when ethnic African minority rebels took up arms against Bashir's Arab-dominated government, accusing it of economic and political marginalisation.

The UN says the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, most of whom now live in large camps.

On October 12, Trump is due to decide whether to permanently lift American sanctions against Sudan.

Although Washington imposed the sanctions in 1997 over Khartoum's alleged support for Islamist militant groups, it argues that the conflict in Darfur has been a factor in keeping them in place.

Khartoum insists that the conflict in Darfur, a region of the size of France, has ended.

On Sunday, Trump removed Sudan from the list of countries facing a US travel ban.

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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

Locked in power struggle, Congo army and militia massacred hundreds: report
Reuters

By Aaron Ross
September 18, 2017

Congolese army commanders orchestrated a wave of massacres that killed hundreds of people between 2014-2016 as they vied for influence with anti-government insurgents in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a new report said on Monday.

The report by the Congo Research Group (CRG) at New York University is the most comprehensive to date on the killings of more than 800 people and the first to offer a definite theory of the perpetrators’ motives.

It is based on 249 interviews with perpetrators, eyewitnesses and victims as well as internal U.N. reports and arrest records that document participation in the killings.

Millions died in eastern Congo between 1996-2003 in regional conflicts and dozens of militia groups continue to operate there. But the massacres around the town of Beni were the most macabre and mysterious in recent memory.

CRG cited multiple witnesses saying that army commanders, including the former top general in the zone, supported and in some cases organized the killings. During some massacres, sources told CRG, soldiers secured the perimeter so that victims could not escape.

Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said a number of high-ranking officers had been convicted for their roles in the massacres but criticized CRG for "trying to revive an old affair". The general named in the report, Muhindo Akili Mundos, has repeatedly denied any personal responsibility.

The report recommends a parliamentary investigation and U.N Security Council sanctions against individuals involved in the violence around Beni.

Several senior Congolese militia leaders, including a former vice president in a power-sharing government, have been convicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes committed during wars in Congo and in neighboring Central African Republic.

Massacres

According to the report, the first massacres were orchestrated in 2013 by former leaders of the Popular Congolese Army (APC), the armed wing of a rebellion from Congo’s 1998-2003 war, who were trying to prepare a new insurrection and undermine confidence in the central government.

These rebels often worked in collaboration with militiamen from the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Islamist group active in the area. Congo’s government and U.N. peacekeeping missions blamed almost all the killings on the ADF.

However, when the large-scale massacres began - one of which claimed as many as 200 lives - in October 2014, army commanders in the zone co-opted many of the networks of local militia in an effort to weaken their rivals, the report said.

"Government forces discovered pre-existing plans for killings and responded by co-opting these groups and continuing the massacres," it said.

"For these officers, controlling the armed groups in the region was more important - and perhaps more feasible - than bringing an end to the violence."

The new report did not take a position on whether local commanders received orders to conduct the massacres from Congo’s central government but said "it would have been difficult for Kinshasa to be unaware of their undertakings".

Large-scale killings around Beni have mostly abated this year but Congolese and U.N. forces continue to clash with rebel groups in the area. One Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed and another wounded on Sunday in combat with a local militia, a U.N. mission spokesman told Reuters.

Meanwhile, violence has otherwise surged across Congo, fueled in part by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired last December.

CRG is a non-profit body directed by Jason Stearns, a former U.N. investigator in Congo and author of a book about Congo’s civil wars.

One peacekeeper killed in Beni territory
Relief Web

September 18, 2017

A peacekeeper from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) was killed yesterday in Beni territory in the North Kivu province.

MONUSCO troops reacted to an attack by presumed Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) against a position of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), which is located 500 meters from the MONUSCO base.

During the clash, one peacekeeper from Tanzania was shot and later died of his wounds. Another Tanzanian peacekeeper was injured. He has been evacuated to the MONUSCO hospital in Goma.

MONUSCO is deeply saddened by the loss of one of its peacekeeper and extends its deepest condolences to the Government of Tanzania and to the family of the victim.

DR Congo: UN agency urges Government to protect refugees after tragic killings
UN News Centre

September 19, 2017

The United Nations refugee agency is urging the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ensure protection for refugees and asylum-seekers following last week’s shooting incident in Kamanyola in which at least 39 people were killed and 94 injured.

"This is a devastating tragedy. It should never have happened," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

According to a press release from the Office of the High Commissioner (UNHCR), Mr. Grandi welcomed the announcement from Congolese officials to launch an inquiry into the incident and called for it to be detailed.

The incident took place on 15 September after Congolese soldiers fired live rounds at Burundian protestors in the eastern part of the country, many of whom UNHCR believes were refugees and asylum-seekers. The protest, reported to be initially peaceful, allegedly started after a small group of Burundians were detained by Congolese authorities, creating fears they were going to be deported to Burundi.

The dead included Burundian men, women and one child. The incident also resulted in the death of one Congolese soldier, with six others wounded.

"We need to establish facts and determine responsibility and make sure that such an incident never happens again," Mr. Grandi said.

UNHCR immediately deployed a team to the area on Saturday where it is working with the medical staff of a partner organization in the local hospital to provide life-saving medical assistance to the injured.

The UNHCR team on the ground reports a tense situation with over 2,400 Burundians seeking protection next to the UN peacekeeping mission’s small base in Kamanyola.

DRC hosts more than 43,700 refugees who have arrived from Burundi since 2015.

US, EU slam DR Congo army for using 'excessive force'
Daily Mail

September 20, 2017

The United States and European Union on Wednesday urged Congolese security forces to refrain from using "excessive force" after soldiers fired on Burundian refugees last week, killing over 30.

"The US government is dismayed by the violence and death of more than 30 Burundian nationals and a Congolese soldier in Kamanyola, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"We urge the security forces of the DRC to refrain from using excessive force".

According to MONUSCO, the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country, at least 36 refugees in Kamanyola, in the eastern province of South Kivu, were killed during violent clashes on Friday. A Congolese soldier also died.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende claimed on Saturday that many of those killed were members of an "armed group".

According to interior ministry official Josue Boji, the clashes began after a group of refugees overran a jail run by the country's domestic intelligence agency to demand the release of four Burundians who had been arrested for expulsion on Wednesday night.

Boji said troops tried to disperse the refugees by "firing in the air but were overwhelmed" when the group responded by throwing stones. At least 124 refugees were wounded.

The DR Congo government opened an inquiry into the deaths on Sunday.

"The cause of the violence must be determined and perpetrators must be held accountable," Nauert said.

She added that the Congolese government should work with the UN refugee agency and UN peacekeepers "to ease tensions between Burundi refugees and their host population".

In an earlier statement, the European Union's delegation in Kinshasa said Congolese soldiers "must respect international norms.

"Congolese security forces cannot resort to disproportionate force," it said.

Tens of thousands of Burundians have fled to the eastern DR Congo to escape a wave of violence that unfurled in 2015 after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a fiercely contested third term in office.

Overall, the violence in Burundi has claimed between 500 and 2,000 lives, according to differing tolls provided by the UN or NGOs and more than 400,000 Burundians have fled abroad.

DR Congo: Security Council condemns attack against UN peacekeeping mission
UN News Centre

September 21, 2017

The Security Council has strongly condemned the attack this past Sunday in Mamundioma, in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), that killed a United Nations peacekeeper from Tanzania and injured another.

In a press statement issued today, the 15-member body called on the Congolese Government to swiftly investigate all attacks against the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Council underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.

It also expressed its deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of the peacekeeper that was killed, as well as to the Government of Tanzania and MONUSCO, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

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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

Ex-Army Chief Testifies in Gbagbo Trial at ICC
Daily Mail

September 25, 2017

Former army chief Philippe Mangou testified Monday for the first time against ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who is on trial for crimes against humanity, accused of inciting a wave of post-electoral violence.

Appearing for the prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mangou sought to clarify his ties with the former head of state and distance himself from the bloodshed which erupted when Gbagbo refused to step down after losing the November 2010 presidential elections.

Gbagbo, 72, and his former militia leader Charles Ble Goude, 45, have pleaded not guilty to four charges arising out of the unrest which wracked the Ivory Coast for five months from December 2010 until early 2011, after Gbagbo refused to accept his internationally-recognised defeat by bitter rival Alassane Ouattara.

About 3,000 people died when rival supporters clashed on the streets of Abidjan, what was then one of west Africa's most cosmopolitan cities.

"I do not have any particular relationship with the president," Mangou insisted, adding their relations were that of a president and "the chief of staff, that is the boss and his collaborator."

After a months-long standoff, Gbagbo was arrested by Ouattara's troops aided by UN forces and troops from former colonial master France, then turned over to the world's only permanent war crimes court in The Hague in 2011.

Mangou switched allegiances three times between Gbagbo and Ouattara during the crisis, and currently serves now President Ouattara as ambassador to Gabon.

During the turmoil, Gbagbo hunkered down in the presidential palace refusing to leave, while Ouattara and his supporters were barricaded into their headquarters in the Golf hotel in Abidjan.

Mangou denied however that it was a deliberate blockade to deprive Ouattara of food and necessities, saying no such orders had been given.

Gbagbo "gave instructions" that there was to be a "readjustment at the security system so that our brothers should not leave the Golf to carry out any crimes or anything else within the centre," Mangou told the court.

"To our mind, it never was a blockade. It never was a blockade," he insisted, adding it was more of "a checkpoint" to stop troops loyal to Ouattara from leaving the hotel.

Mangou also recalled that with violence spreading on the streets, he had sought to designate part of the city "a war zone" so civilians could leave unharmed and seek safety. But Gbagbo had refused, saying the country had put war behind it.

Gbagbo's trial opened in January 2016 and is set to last three or four years. Mangou's questioning by the prosecution will continue to Thursday.

Former Ivory Coast President Gbagbo to Remain in Detention for Trial: ICC
Reuters

September 26, 2017

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday said judges had ordered former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo to remain in detention during his war crimes trial.

Judges said Gbagbo presented a flight risk and has a "network of supporters" that could obstruct or endanger trial proceedings if he were released.

Gbagbo's defense team had requested provisional release but judges said they failed to propose "concrete and solid" conditions that would ensure Gbagbo's continued presence at the trial.

Gbagbo is accused of four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts allegedly committed during post-electoral violence in Ivory Coast between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011 when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by rival Alassane Ouattara.

His trial began in January 2016. This week prosecutors called former army chief Philippe Mangou to give evidence.

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

Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra
Council on Foreign Relations

By John Campbell
September 28, 2017

The government of Nigeria has formally labeled the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist organization. Following a September 14 military attack on his house in Umuahia, the capital of Abia state, the organization's leader Nnamdi Kanu is nowhere to be found. Kanu's lawyer maintains that government security services are holding him and members of his family in secret, including his father Eze Israel Kanu, a traditional ruler, and his mother. Government spokesmen are maintaining that Kanu, who has been under house arrest and is facing charges of treason, has jumped bail. According to the Nigerian media, there is speculation that Kanu is dead, killed by the security forces.

IPOB agitates for Biafran independence, but asserts that it is non-violent. In 2015, Kanu was arrested and charged with treason. After some eighteen months, he was released, apparently to house arrest, pending his trial, which is scheduled to take place in the next few weeks. Kanu's lawyer is insisting that the security services are holding him and therefore must present him at the trial. Government spokesmen of variable authority are saying or implying that Kanu has jumped bail. There is speculation that he is hiding out with militants in the creeks.

Kanu was born in 1967 in Nigeria. He went to England and attended the University of North London. In the UK, he was the director of Radio Biafra, an advocate for Biafran independence. He maintains that he is a convert to Judaism.

The 1967-70 civil war over the independence of Biafra was in many ways the central event in Nigeria's post-colonial history. Estimates of those who died before Biafra was re-incorporated into Nigeria range from one to two million. For Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and for much of the political class, Biafran separatism is unacceptable. The concern must be that if the government overreacts, it will fuel sympathy for a renewed Biafran independence movement.

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Mali

Terrorism in Africa: Ending Violence in Mali Starts With Building Communities
Newsweek

By Lisa Inks
September 23, 2017

Since 2012, Mali has earned the unfortunate distinction of being the deadliest country for U.N. peacekeepers and a hub for violent extremists fanning across North Africa. Local groups have joined forces with international jihadi organizations, including a branch of Al-Qaeda, and have seemingly gained strength in a complex conflict that also features dozens of secular anti- and pro-government armed groups.

Mali's current troubles are rooted in a conflict that began in 2012, when long-time separatists led by a subset of the ethnic Tuareg seized control of large swaths of northern Mali, thanks in part to a partnership with Islamist extremist groups and an influx of weapons from Libya. A faction of the military then waged a coup in the capital of Bamako, citing frustration with the government's inability to control its territory, plunging Mali further into crisis. In 2013, multinational and French forces ousted the separatists and jihadis and restored northern cities to the Malian government in 2013, but long-term stability remains elusive.

Despite a peace agreement signed in 2015 by the government and various anti-government armed groups involved in the 2012 uprising, violence persists, as evidenced by the U.N. Security Council's recent decision to pursue sanctions against those who obstruct the peace deal.

The crisis has not only led to the displacement and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Malian civilians, but it also threatens security both regionally—where violent extremist groups are already waging attacks—and globally. The crisis has created a humanitarian disaster and threatens to destabilize the region, with militant groups taking advantage of the chaos to grow their ambitions beyond Mali's borders, as exemplified in an attack in neighboring Burkina Faso in August that saw suspected jihadis kill 19 people.

While the crisis is a security challenge, its solutions do not lie exclusively in security responses. They are rooted in development. Mercy Corps recently worked with the Malian group Think Peace to conduct research on why youth—who make up a large share of armed group members—engage in violence in Mali and what can be done to improve the chances that peace finally takes hold. Conversations between Mercy Corps researchers and young people, including 71 members of diverse armed groups, revealed that violence persists largely because too many communities feel unsafe, neglected by their government, or mistreated by authorities—or all three.

The majority of fighters we spoke with—from pro-government, anti-government, and violent extremist groups—shared reasons for joining armed groups that were rooted in community concerns, rather than individual motivations like personal ideology, religious beliefs or household poverty.

Communities have often encouraged and supported youth participation in these armed groups because they feel the government is leaving their communities behind, such as those in northern Mali, an arid region long blighted by security problems. One young man from an opposition group in the Timbuktu region said: "The government does not exist in the far north. Simply go to the desert to see this absence." Others describe abuse at the hands of the military or experiences on the wrong end of corruption.

These dynamics are clear in the central region of Mopti, an increasingly troubled conflict zone. This is in no small part due to frustration among the Peul ethnic group, who have long complained of extortion by the authorities and discrimination from other ethnic groups. A violent extremist group, the Macina Liberation Front —which has become an attractive alternative to the government for some Peul tired of the government's rules changing on them—has turned parts of Mopti into no-go areas, both for other Malians and internationals. The group recently merged with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other Islamist groups to form an umbrella militant organization that has already launched deadly attacks.

While much global media attention on Mali is devoted to violent extremist groups like AQIM and others, these organizations make up a fraction of the dozens of armed groups in the country. Our researchers couldn't reach youth from all types of violent extremist groups, but for those we did, we did not find any substantial differences in why youth are drawn to violent extremist organizations versus other, secular armed opposition groups.

Young people we interviewed from violent extremist groups are not drawn to violence because of religious conviction—at most a secondary or tertiary factor inducing their participation—but because they are angry about the longstanding neglect of their communities and seek the security that armed groups can offer to their communities.

Reducing the threat of violent extremism in Mali is important—not only for the good of the country, but for global security—but pretending this threat is unique and isolated from the other conflicts driving much of the violence in Mali will keep those responsible for peace from doing the hard work required to make that possible.

To reduce the ranks of armed groups and help Mali achieve lasting peace, solutions must go beyond military action; they must address those root causes of participation in violence—all violence. Any approach that prioritizes plucking out the most dangerous youth will miss the broader grievances facing communities. And as long as communities encourage and support these groups, whether in the name of security or justice, then new fighters will always be ready to fill the ranks.

First, the government must change the conditions in which these groups gain community support. This means improving local decision-making processes and building the trust of community leaders, including youth. Communities in the northern and central regions have perceived, respectively, intentional neglect and injustice, and so the government must increase the transparency and inclusivity of its decision-making. Implementing provisions from the peace accord is the first opportunity for the government to practice this inclusivity, but it must go beyond those armed groups and regions included in the 2015 agreement, as the conflict has sadly engulfed more people and places since that time.

International investments have an important role to play in helping the government, civil society, and communities reach these goals. U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested cuts to American development assistance to Mali—from $56 million in the 2016 fiscal year to $39 million in the 2018 fiscal year—but now is the time to double down on Mali's stability, not retreat from it. U.S. foreign aid can support organizations on the ground that are committed to helping local communities, invest in resources that help strengthen government-community relationships, and partner with the government to increase inclusive development and transparency.

If we do not take action to support these communities and address the underlying causes of the conflict—poor governance, inequality, insecurity—we will see negative consequences first and foremost for Malians at the center of the crisis, but also for regional, and even international, stability. The hard work to build peace in Mali is far from over—it's just beginning.

UN Secretary-General Condemns Killing of Peacekeepers in Mali
AllAfrica

September 24, 2017

Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned today's attack against a convoy of the United Nations mission in northern Mali that killed three Bangladeshi peacekeepers.

Mr. Guterres reaffirmed the UN's determination to support efforts aimed at restoring lasting peace and security in Mali and urged the Government and the signatory armed groups to expedite the implementation of the peace agreement, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Media reports said a convoy of the UN Multidimensional lntegrated Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) hit an explosive device while traveling in the Gao region. At least, three Bangladeshi peacekeepers were killed and five others were seriously injured.

"The Secretary-General recalls that Security Council resolution 2374 of 5 September 2017 provides for the imposition of sanctions against entities or individuals obstructing the implementation of the peace agreement and attacking United Nations personnel," the statement said.

The Secretary-General extended his condolences to the Government of Bangladesh and to the bereaved families, and wished swift recovery to the injured.

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EAST AFRICA

Uganda

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

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Kenya

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

Kenya election: System 'cannot be ready' for October poll
BBC NEWS

September 19, 2017

The Supreme Court annulled last month's vote, citing irregularities. It was won by the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta.

French firm OT-Morpho says it needs to reinstall the complex voting system for the scheduled re-run on 17 October.

But it said the "significant amount of work" cannot be finished in time.

Details of the potential delay for October's re-run emerged in a letter from OT-Morpho to the electoral commission, obtained by Reuters news agency. An election official also confirmed the potential delay to the BBC.

The letter, dated 18 September, said two different electronic systems used in the vote would have to be reinstalled for a re-run.

More than 45,000 computer tablets were provided to Kenyan officials to identify voters — using fingerprints and photos — before allowing them to vote.

The tablets were also responsible for the secure transmission of election results, the company said in an April press release.

Irregularities in the transmission of results was one of the problems referenced by the Supreme Court when it annulled the August poll's results. But more precise details have yet to be released ahead of the court's full report, due on Thursday.

In addition to the technology problems, opposition candidate Raila Odinga — set to contest the election against Mr Kenyatta — has said he will not take part in the re-run unless members of the country's electoral commission are replaced.

The commission has reportedly arranged a meeting with both candidates on Wednesday to discuss potential problems ahead of the poll.

Kenya: Bounty Offered for Al-Shabaab Terror Kingpins
All Africa

By Maria Macharia
September 27, 2017

KENYAN police are offering rewards of Sh2 million (about R260 000) for information leading to the arrest of each of several terror masterminds tormenting the East African country. Among these is a suspected al—Shabaab kingpin accused of recruiting youths into terror networks and radicalization. Mohamed Ebrahim Mohamed is said to be armed and dangerous. Members of the public have been advised to call the National Police Service headquarters upon spotting the man. Police are anticipating the offer of cash rewards would enhance the fight against the al—Shabaab, which is carrying out attacks in Kenya and neighboring Somalia. Recently, police offered Sh2 million bounty for five al—Shabaab suspects believed to be behind a spate of attacks in the country. Among the wanted men are brothers, Salad Tari Gufu and Gufu Tari Gufu, allegedly involved in the recent abduction and shooting of Public Works permanent secretary, Mariam El Maawy. Three other people were killed during the incident southeast of the country. Others on the wanted list are Abdikadir Mohamed, Suleiman Irungu Mwangi and Mohamed Tajir. They have also been described as armed and dangerous. The al—Shabaab terror group is worsening insecurity in Kenya in the wake of divisive elections whose outcome left over 20 people dead during clashes with police. A fresh election is scheduled for late October.

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Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

Rwanda: Genocide — France Can Keep the Archives — The Truth Is There for All to See
The New Times

By Noel Kambanda
September 21, 2017

On April 7, 2015 as the world joined Rwandans for the 21st commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, France proclaimed a good message, something that had never happened for two decades.

The then French President (Francois Hollande) decided to declassify documents related to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

These are Genocide related documents accumulated from 1990 to 1994 including minutes from secret defence meetings and files from advisers to then French president Francois Mitterrand.

Upon hearing the good news, I called one of the survivors of Bisesero (in the present-day Karongi District) where the French troops abandoned people in trouble when they first arrived in Bisesero on June 27, 1994.

He organises several public forums in France and elsewhere that seek the exposure of the complicity of French soldiers with the Interahamwe militiamen during the Genocide.

I had hoped that he would be interested in the "good news" from President Hollande.

Rather, he replied thus; "The archives are buried at Bisesero. Do you really think that France can release the documents describing its role during the Genocide? Even if they do so note that they will be falsified."

The "archives" buried at Bisesero he was referring to are not paper archives, rather the thousands of Tutsi who were killed on this majestic hill.

The Tutsi here left their hideouts when the French troops, under the so-called Operation Tourqouise, arrived in Bisesero with false promise that they had come to their rescue.

They were abandoned in the hands of the militia.

When some French soldiers disobeyed their superiors and returned to Bisesero three days later, thousands of innocent Tutsi who had resisted for two months had been slaughtered — after they were exposed to the militia. They died just as they had hoped that the French soldiers had come to protected them.

For almost two years, I kept wondering why the Bisesero survivor friend of mine did not believe in what the presidency of a powerful country like France had said.

I finally got the answer last Friday, when the French Constitutional Council rejected a complaint filed by François Graner, a French researcher, demanding rights to access the archives of former President Francois Mitterrand.

France is just hiding the truth of what happened and its role during the Genocide against the Tutsi.

If different archives, including arms purchases and supply documents, bank transfers, and travel clearances of genocidal government leaders, are in the hands of some researchers and called non comprising ones, it's clear that France kept documents which can support a court case.

Is declassification possible?

I would say YES, but when? May be after four generations, when French citizens who had a direct role and allies relatives are no longer alive.

In 2012, when Algeria was celebrating its 50th independence anniversary, the then French President Francois Hollande admitted that for 132 years of occupation of Algeria by France, and during seven—year war of independence, people were subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system of colonisation.

The comments came after many Algerians, including politicians, sought an apology from France for many years. The current French President Emmanuel Macron said during his presidential campaigns that France's history in Algeria amounted to "crime against humanity."

However, after his election, he said: "I am neither in repentance nor in denial" on France's role in Algeria and later apologised to French citizens for offending and hurting them by his campaign rhetoric.

Following Macron's comment condemning France's politics in Algeria, his rival Marie Le Pen qualified it as hate against France. For starters, Marie's father Jean Marie Le Pen is accused by different organisations of torture when he was a soldier during the Algerian war.

Little wonder she opposed Macron on the history of Algeria.

In Rwanda, France's responsibility is not limited to torture, but involves crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. If, after two generations, France has yet to come to terms with its abusive past in Algeria, it is almost certain that it will take many more years for Paris accept its catastrophic role in the Genocide against Tutsi.

We may have to wait longer before they can declassify all the archives related to the Genocide in Rwanda.

Kagame and The Congo
The McGill International Review

By By Milan Singh—Cheema
September 25, 2017

Rich in resources yet rife with conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is geographically the second largest country in Africa. Its neighbour Rwanda is one of the smallest and has a fraction of the population, yet it has played a key role in instigating several conflicts and interfering in Congolese politics for the past 2 decades, spearheaded by Rwanda's long serving and recently re—elected president Paul Kagame.

Rwanda's actions have been detrimental to any attempt at peace in the region. Their interference has greatly contributed to the DRC's currently impoverished and fragile state, as well as wider geopolitical conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Rwanda's involvement in the DRC started shortly after the Rwandan genocide. Having fled to the Congo's Kivu region following the genocide, several Hutu rebel groups remained at large, regrouping to form the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Due to the continued threat to Rwanda's borders, Kagame ordered a fully fledged invasion of the DRC, in an attempt crush the rebel groups, swiftly overthrowing the then dictator of the nation Mobutu. After overthrowing Mobutu, Kagame proceeded to install Laurent Kabila, into the Congolese presidency. Kabila however was not loyal to Kagame's wishes and double crossed the Rwandans, aiding the FDLR again. In response, Kagame launched another fully fledged invasion of the country in 1998, setting off one of the largest conflicts in modern history. 3 years into the conflict president Laurent Kabila was murdered by one of his own bodyguards. Despite this, the conflict waged on and Kabila was replaced by his son, Joseph Kabila who is still president of the nation today.

Fearing Rwanda's involvement in Congo would allow anti-Angolan rebels shelter, in the midst of the unrest, Angola sent in their troops to aid the Congolese government. Motivated by the promise of minerals, Zimbabwe also sent in troops to the DRC's aid. Meanwhile, Rwanda's close allies Burundi and Uganda sent in their troops to help Kagame in his invasion. In addition to the several state actors, numerous non—state actors with varying alignments, such as the Hutu militia organization Interahamwe and the Angolan guerrilla group UNITA, became involved in the conflict. Seeing the chaos unfold, the UN sent its second largest peacekeeping force in history, deploying 20,000 troops to the region. The result was the bloodiest war since World War II, with 5.4 million dead, a humanitarian crisis and a country left in an impoverished and fragile state.

The war ended in a draw; however, Rwanda maintained a military presence in in the DRC until 2009.

While Rwanda maintained that its presence in the country was purely for self defence reasons, its continued exploitation of Congo's natural resource wealth has led many to believe otherwise. The DRC has one of the largest deposits in the world of Coltan, a key mineral in the production of high tech goods, as well as large deposits of gold, diamonds and other valuable minerals. The UN estimated that the Rwandan army made $250 million in the space of eighteen months from the looting of Congolese minerals, in the eastern region of Kivu. Furthermore, during this period of occupation, Rwandan exports in Coltan skyrocketed making it one of the largest Coltan exporters in the world. Rwanda's ally Uganda was also greatly involved in the looting, with the material goals of their occupation becoming very clear after the two supposedly allied forces clashed over diamond mines in Kisangani.

As international scrutiny increased (the UN released a report on the issue in 2002), Rwanda attempted to distance itself from the issue, through the establishment of various militias and the support of various warlords. The most prominent and ruthless of these was the CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple ), formed by warlord Laurent Nkunda, who is believed to have committed mass atrocities, according to Human Rights Watch and other NGOs that operate in the region. A UN report exposed this relationship in 2004, greatly condemning Rwanda's presence in the country. The conflict between the Congolese government and Rwandan-supported Tutsi rebel groups was extremely ruthless with the massacres and mass rapes proving exceedingly common, as the groups battled for control over the Kivu region. Throughout this entire time Rwanda defended its role in the destabilization of its neighbour, with the claim of defending its borders from Hutu rebel groups found there.

In 2009, a peace deal was finally reached between the CNDP and the Congolese government. Nkunda was arrested by his former supporter, the Rwandan government, and peace finally seemed viable in the long conflict-ridden Kivu region. Three years later, however, the peace deal has soured as many of the former Tutsi rebels who had been integrated into the Congolese army took up arms once again against the government managing to take over Goma, the capital city of the North Kivu province.

With UN assistance, the Congolese army defeated the M23, over the course of two years. Once again, allegations of Rwandan support for the rebel group surfaced, with a UN report claiming that the Rwandan and Ugandan government provided military aid to the group in their fight against the Congolese state. The M23 in return reportedly smuggled minerals to their neighbours. Following the M23's defeat in 2013, Rwanda took in scores of former M23 rebels, allowing them asylum in the country. This supposedly included several leaders whom the UN wanted to prosecute for war crimes.

Despite the fact that the Rwandan genocide took place more than 20 years ago, conflict between Hutu and Tutsi continues to exist, and has largely moved to neighbouring DRC instead. Identity politics between Hutu and Tutsi have been a key part of Kagame's approach to his neighbour, despite his aversion to any sort of identity discourse in Rwanda. The justification of his involvement in the Congo, for the protection of Tutsi Congolese from Hutu, has often led to his demonizing Hutus in his neighbouring country. Recently, anti-Hutu posters and lighters were found circulating throughout Congolese cities, a political move which many think Kagame instituted in order to come across as the "good guy." However, it is not known who is really responsible and furthermore hard to tell in a region as disconnected from the world as the DRC.

Since its establishment as a single entity under the brutal colonial regime of King Leopold, the DRC has suffered under the continued rule of tyrants and despots who continue to loot the country rather than use its wealth for the people. The Rwandans are just the latest in a long line of looters to profit off of the country's vast natural wealth. Even though the need to protect Tutsis from Hutu rebels may have played a large role, resources were undoubtedly a very strong underlying motive for Rwanda's involvement in their neighbour's affairs. Despite numerous attempts at a peace process rebel groups continue to thrive in the Kivu region, as soon as one is defeated another one appears. While Rwanda is not solely responsible for the bloody conflict to their west, they have played a large role at undermining numerous attempts at peace, something which as yet nobody on their side has admitted to.

French bank probed for alleged complicity in Rwandan genocide
eNCA

September 26, 2017

French banking group BNP Paribas is under investigation over its alleged complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

France has assigned magistrates to investigate allegations that the banking giant BNP Paribas was complicit in the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda, a source close to the case told AFP.

The Paris judiciary confirmed it had opened an investigation and asked the Paris genocide and war crimes division, which is already handling 25 other cases linked to the Rwandan genocide, to run the probe.

BNP Paribas is accused of transferring more than R17-million to a South African arms dealer, who used it to provide weapons for the perpetrators of the slaughter.

Three non-governmental organisations brought a complaint against the bank.

The litigations head of the Sherpa NGO, Marie-Laure Guislain, said her organisation the Collective for the Civil Parties for Rwanda and Ibuka France filed a complaint on 29 June last year against BNP for complicity in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

"Through this complaint we are also here to remind people that certain economic actors, particularly financial institutions, can be at the source of conflict, of genocide." she said.

"And that is what we are trying to show through this complaint, the potential implication of financial institutions in conflict zones, and more generally speaking, in the serious violations of human rights."

Guislain said they believed that BNP participated in the genocide by accepting two transfers from accounts at the National Bank of Rwanda — therefore the bank of the genocidal government at that time — which had accounts at BNP.

Sherpa traced the bank transfers to the Swiss account of a South African arms dealer called Mr Ehlers.

The 1994 genocide was an attempt by Rwanda's Hutu majority to exterminate the Tutsi minority.

As many as a million people were killed in just 100 days.

The opening of an inquiry will not automatically lead to a trial, but it has boosted the belief among investigators that the new information warrants further investigation.

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Somalia

Nine killed in fighting between different branches of Somali government forces: police Reuters
Reuters

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar
September 18, 2017

Fighting between the military and police backed by intelligence forces killed nine people in the Somali capital on Saturday, police said.

"It seems they mistook the Somali national army for (clan) militias. The death toll is nine people including a civilian," Major Abdullahi Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

He said the fighting occurred because police were wrongly informed that there were armed militias in the area.

"Accidents happen," he said.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan—based warlords overthrew a dictator then turned against each other.

The weak U.N.—backed government is now battling an Islamist insurgency, but many members of its security forces are badly trained and coordination is poor.

"Last night security forces (the police and intelligence) besieged us and then opened fire. We defended ourselves and chased the so—called security forces after hours of fighting today. We lost two soldiers and a wife of my colleague," Major Nur Osman, a military officer, told Reuters on Saturday.

"The land belongs to the military, it houses the families of soldiers. However, the security forces were trying to force us off the land," he said

Residents said the fighting was terrifying.

"We were awoken last night ... by gunfire ... We took our babies on our shoulders and fled," resident Mohamed Idle told Reuters.

In a separate incident on Saturday, Islamist insurgents briefly entered the town of El Wak in Gedo region, southern Somalia, near the border with Kenya.

"A few soldiers were in El Wak and they left in the morning for tactical practice. Many al Shabaab fighters advanced," Captain Ibrahim Ali, a military officer, told Reuters.

Al Shabaab said they stayed briefly, took weapons and supplies, and left.

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NORTH AFRICA

Libya

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

General accused of war crimes courted by west in Libya
The Guardian

By Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Ruth Michaelson
September 25, 2017

European leaders are embracing a Libyan general who has ordered his soldiers to commit war crimes, according to new evidence that has been analysed by senior legal experts.

The allegation of human rights abuses by Gen Khalifa Haftar, a former CIA asset who controls nearly half of Libya from his base in the east, comes as the general is due to arrive in Rome on Tuesday, where he will be received by Italian officials. The visit is a radical departure for Italy, who had previously shunned Haftar and seen him as a major obstacle to stability in the region because of his refusal to recognise the UN-backed government in the west.

The two experts – a former top Pentagon attorney and a former official at the international criminal court – said that newly unearthed video evidence suggests that Haftar has been complicit in calling for extrajudicial killings and the unlawful siege of the eastern port city of Derna. In one case, he is believed to have called for the "choking" of Derna just a day after he met Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, in Benghazi.

The new assessment, published on the Just Security blog, follows the recent issuing of an arrest warrant by the ICC for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a member of Haftar's Libyan National Army. Werfalli stands accused of executing prisoners himself, as well as commanding others to carry out extrajudicial killings. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also condemned alleged war crimes by the LNA.

The legal questions, and longstanding doubts among officials in the west about Haftar's trustworthiness, have not dissuaded European leaders from seeking to forge an alliance with him.

The analysis by Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel to the general counsel of the Pentagon, and Alex Whiting, a former international criminal prosecutor at the ICC, paints a troubling picture of Haftar's record.

The two experts point to a video that was posted on YouTube on 10 October 2015, recording a speech that Haftar gave to his LNA fighters on 18 September. In the speech, Haftar calls on his men to take no prisoners, which in legal parlance is called a "denial of quarter" and is a violation of the rules of war. "Never mind consideration of bringing a prisoner here. There is no prison here. The field is the field, end of the story," he said in the video.

In another video, a spokesman for Haftar, Beleed al-Sheikhy, is heard saying in connection to fighting in Ganfouda, a district of Benghazi, that "who is above 14 years of age will never get out alive". The video is believed to have been recorded in August 2016.

Haftar is a dual Libyan-US citizen who was once loyal to Muammar Gaddafi but then rebelled against the dictator. He was provided protection by the CIA around 1990 and was granted US citizenship. He lived in Virginia for two decades, where he reportedly trained in anticipation of a coup against Gaddafi. He later returned to Libya, where he has an unbreakable hold on the eastern bloc of the country, including a string of towns known as the oil crescent.

Even as experts who closely study the region say that Haftar is considered an untrustworthy and unreliable partner in Libya, diplomats increasingly see him as part of the country's future.

On a trip to Benghazi this summer, Johnson met the Libyan general and said Haftar had a "role to play in the political process". Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who hosted Haftar and his rival, the UN-backed Libyan prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, also praised him, saying he and Sarraj had shown historic courage in agreeing to a ceasefire.

The UN envoy to Libya last week set out a new a plan under which Libya could hold elections within a year, and Haftar is widely seen as a candidate who would stand for president.

A former US official said it was believed that Haftar's true goal was to run the country under a military dictatorship. The ex-official said European attempts to bring Haftar "into the tent" were understandable and pragmatic, because the creation of a stable government would not now be possible without his support.

Haftar has expanded his foothold militarily in part due to the support of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, the former official added. He also has contacts within the Kremlin, and visited Russia for the third time in August this year.

The ICC issued its warrant for Werfalli, a member of the al-Saiqa brigade of the LNA, based on the "reasonable belief" that he had ordered the execution of 33 detainees in seven incidents from June 2016 to July 2017.

The Just Security article also pointed to a speech that Haftar gave in August 2017, a day after his meeting with Johnson, in which he appeared to be discussing the need to tighten the siege of Derna. Haftar said that ordering a blockade was tantamount to choking, and ought to involve a block on medicine, medical care, petrol and cooking oil.

Brig Gen Ahmad Mismari, a spokesman for the LNA, said he could not comment on the ICC warrant because the matter was under investigation. He also declined to comment on the allegations raised in the Just Security blog.

In an interview with the Guardian, Goodman said Haftar's status as a US citizen made him subject to federal laws that criminalised violations of laws of war and risked criminal liability for any "aiders and abetters" who supported him in the US. Given his status, any decision to provide financial or other support to Haftar – including intelligence – by the US would first have to be cleared by a justice department office to ensure it was legal under US laws.

Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the more Haftar was legitimised, the less likely it was that he would ever be prosecuted. "It is up to the Europeans and the Americans to decide whether such a regime is stable, because what we have seen with the Arab spring is that repressive regimes are unstable," he said.

"He cannot be trusted, much like most Libyan warlords, on the fight against terror, on migration, and I think also his military capacity is not as big as some people think," he added.

Libyan rights groups accuse UAE of war crimes
Aljazeera

September 26, 2017

Human rights groups in Libya have accused the United Arab Emirates of committing war crimes in the country, including killing hundreds of civilians.

The rights groups said on Tuesday that the UAE committed these crimes through direct air strikes on Libya and by the renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

The findings of alleged crimes were presented on Tuesday at a conference for human rights on the sidelines of a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

At the forum, Libyan witnesses spoke of extrajudicial killings, forced hunger and displacement that they or their family members experienced under Haftar in Derna and Ganfouda, provinces in eastern Libya.

Abdulghani Aljatlaw, head of a group of families of survivors, also spoke about alleged UAE air raids in the Libyan capital Tripoli in August 2014.

Giumma El-Omami, president of Human Rights Solidarity, said that a UN commission set up by the Security Council found evidence of human loss that resulted from UAE and Egyptian air strikes on Libya.

Money laundering claim

Meanwhile, the independent body for investigating the UN has asked the Swiss police to arrest the coordinator of an Emirati association that was involved in alleged bribery and money laundering within Switzerland.

The independent body, along with Swiss human rights activists, accused two organisations, the Arabic Federation for Human Rights and Trends for Research and Consultancy, of working for the benefit of the UAE, offering bribes within Swiss border, and within UN buildings.

Allegations of abuses against Haftar comes as he met Italy's defence minister and security chiefs in Rome on Tuesday, bolstering his stature as a key player in international efforts to stabilise his troubled country.

Forces under Haftar's command provide backing for a Tobruk-based administration that controls much of the east and south of the oil and gas-rich country.

Former colonial power Italy has hitherto been the strongest backer among Western allies for the UN-recognised Government of National Accord, which is based in Tripoli and sees Haftar as an arch foe.

But that did not prevent Roberta Pinotti, Italy's defence minister, from hosting the commander, a one-time ally and later armed opponent of Libya's late ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

"The stabilisation of Libya, the fight against international terrorism and the control of migration flows figured during the meeting," the defence ministry said.

Haftar also met Italy's chief of defence staff, Claudio Graziano.

Rescue ship says Libyan coast guard shot at and boarded it, seeking migrants
Reuters

By Steve Scherer
September 26, 2017

A Libyan coast guard vessel fired shots and boarded a humanitarian ship in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, demanding that the migrants on board be handed over to them, a spokesman for the Mission Lifeline charity said.

"The Libyan man said: 'This is our territory,'" said Axel Steier, a spokesman for the German-based charity that performed its first rescues on Tuesday.

"After a while, they fired shots," he said, probably into the air or sea. No one was wounded.

Afterward two Libyans boarded the Lifeline ship to try to persuade them to hand over some 70 migrants they had just taken off a wooden boat in international waters.

"We told them we don't return migrants to Libya. After a while, they gave up," Steier said. The two men spent about 15 minutes on board, he said.

A Libyan coast guard spokesman in Tripoli declined to comment, saying he was seeking information. Italy's coast guard, which coordinates rescues, did not respond to repeated telephone calls.

It was the latest incident reported between the Libyan coast guard and humanitarian rescue ships operating off North Africa. Financed, trained and equipped by Italy, the Tripoli-based coastguard is intercepting a growing number of migrant boats.

Last month, the Libyan coast guard ordered a Spanish rescue vessel to sail to Tripoli or risk being fired upon, though it later let it go. The worsening security situation has prompted several groups to halt rescue operations, and those who remain tend to patrol further from shore.

This year the Libyan coast guard had stopped 16,567 people before they were rescued and taken to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration.

But overall departures are down more than 20 percent and they dropped more than 80 percent in August after an armed group in Sabratha clamped down on smuggling.

Italy is counting on the Libyan coast guard together with the Tripoli and municipal governments to put a halt to migrant arrivals from a country that has been torn by civil war and factional fighting since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The policy has been harshly criticized by humanitarian groups because of the dire conditions of Libya's detention centers and the inhumane treatment of migrants in general in Libya.

Despite recent declines in departures, almost 1,000 migrants were rescued on Tuesday. Save the Children's Vos Hestia ship picked up some 750 people in six different rescues, a spokeswoman said, and the Lifeline had more than 200 on board.

SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship picked up 20 Libyans on Monday.

"There is no longer any work in Libya and you risk being attacked," a 26-year-old Libyan rescued told members of the SOS crew. "It is impossible to live in Libya, it has become too dangerous."

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EUROPE

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Court Website [English translation]

Dutch Govt Challenges Ruling on Srebrenica Deaths
Balkan Insight

By Dzana Brkanic
September 21, 2017

The Dutch government has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling finding it partially liable for the deaths of around 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica killed after being expelled from a Dutch UN peacekeepers' base.

The Dutch government will challenge the ruling holding it liable for the deaths of the 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in July 1995, media reported on Wednesday.

But the lawyers representing the families of some of the Bosniaks who were killed told BIRN that they will also appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court, asking it to find the Netherlands liable for many more deaths.

One of the lawyers, Marco Gerritsen, who is acting for the Mothers of Srebrenica organisation, said they would ask the Supreme Court to pronounce the Dutch authorities guilty of "the death of a group much bigger than 350 boys and men".

The Dutch ruling, handed down by the appeals court in The Hague in June, relates to the deaths of some 300 Bosniak men who had taken refuge at the Dutch UN peacekeepers' base near Srebrenica in July 1995 but were forced to leave and subsequently killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

But the ruling does not relate to the deaths of the rest of around 8,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 - a crime classified as genocide by international court decisions.

The Dutch defence ministry said that it does not believe that its troops broke the law.

"We do not share the judge's opinion that Dutch UN peacemakers acted unlawfully and we do not understand how the court reached that verdict," defence ministry spokesperson Klaas Meijer told Reuters on Wednesday.

But Gerritsen told BIRN that the Netherlands "has denied any kind of responsibility for the death of more than seven thousand men and boys from Srebrenica from the very beginning", so its decision to bring the appeal does not come as a surprise.

"Their stance has not changed since the moment we brought our first action in 2007," Gerritsen said.

He argued that the Dutch peacekeepers "failed to fulfil their obligations and orders issued by the United Nations to protect civilians".

"It is important to mention that Dutch soldiers did not even inform the UN of the horrible violation of human rights they witnessed, so our attitude is that the Netherlands is guilty of the death of thousands of men and boys who were present in the enclave," he added.

Hajra Catic of the Mothers of Srebrenica said, on behalf of families of the victims, that they would continue fighting for justice.

"Hope dies last. Our lawyers will bring an appeal as well. I consider the Netherlands responsible for what happened inside and outside the compound, as well as in the woods [where Bosniaks tried to hide from Bosnian Serb forces]," Catic said.

Hasan Nuhanovic, who won a case in 2013 at the Dutch Supreme Court, which ruled that the Dutch state was responsible for not preventing three Bosniaks from being killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacres, said he had made his documentation and material evidence available to the Mothers of Srebrenica and their lawyers.

Nuhanovic said he hoped that the final verdict in their case would go in favour of the families of the victims, adding that "compensation has been paid" in his own case.

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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

Serbian State Security Chief Denies Controlling Arkan
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
September 14, 2017

Jovica Stanisic's defence lawyer told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday that prosecution witness Borivoje Savic's allegation that Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, told him in May 1991 that Stanisic was his boss was untrue.

During his cross-examination of the witness, Stanisic's lawyer Wayne Jordash said that Savic could not have spoken to Raznatovic in Belgrade in mid-May 1991 because the paramilitary leader was in prison in Zagreb at that time.

Jordash presented the witness with a document issued by the Zagreb court indicating that Raznatovic was held in prison until June 14, 1991.

Savic responded by saying it was possible that their conversation took place a month later.

"I allow the possibility that it took place at a different time, but my statement is true," the witness said.

Savic was testifying at the retrial of Stanisic, who was the chief of the Serbian State Security Service from 1992, and his former assistant Franko Simatovic, alias Frenki,

They are charged with the persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 to 1995.

According to the charges, they 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.

Defence lawyer Jordash also tried to prove that Stanisic did not control Raznatovic by presenting a statement given by former Serbian Defence Minister Tomislav Simovic, who said that Raznatovic's unit was "a part of the Territorial Defence" and that "it coordinated its activities with the Yugoslav National Army".

Witness Savic maintained this was incorrect.

"He was washing his hands of the responsibility, this was a staged interview," Savic said.

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

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

The trial continues on Tuesday.

Serbia's Seselj Mocks Hague Tribunal in Reality Show
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
September 18, 2017

The UN war crimes court in The Hague warned Vojislav Seselj on Monday that if he does not turn up for his appeal hearings, after failing to attend his trial verdict, it will assign him a defence lawyer whether he wants one or not.

The Hague Tribunal's warning came after Seselj, the leader of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party, yet again mocked the UN court by donning a judge's robe and passing 'sentences' on a reality show on the pro-government TV Pink on Saturday.

"Tell me, is there a European Union flag around here somewhere? I want to know if I will have to burn it tonight," Seselj said as he appeared on the show, entitled 'Zadruga' ('The Cooperative'), referring to an incident last year when he burned the EU and NATO flags.

Seselj temporarily joined the show a day after a regular participant was arrested for allegedly killing his wife, well-known singer Jelena Marjanovic.

The nationalist politician talked openly about the case, revealing what he claimed were details from the murder investigation.

He then donned a robe similar to the ones worn by judges in The Hague and mediated between the reality show contestants.

However, his appearance on the show caused ire among some of his followers.

"The man lost his mind. For hours I watched his defence before the Hague Tribunal and thought he was a scholar," one man wrote on Seselj's Facebook page.

"I just hope this is nothing more than good trolling, because Seselj entering 'The Cooperative' means that the [Serbian Radical] Party is turning into a circus attraction," said another comment.

But some defended the Radical Party leader: "All these 'great moralists' will of course tune in to TV Pink tomorrow and watch 'The Cooperative' - hypocrites," said one supporter.

Seselj is awaiting the prosecution's appeal in the case against him for wartime crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian region of Vojvodina after the Tribunal acquitted him on all counts in March last year.

He was found not guilty of persecution, deportation, torture, wanton destruction and plunder in the period from August 1991 to September 1993.

Seselj has been in Belgrade since being granted temporary release from detention in The Hague in November 2014 after on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment.

He did not appear for the verdict in his trial but has returned to political life in Serbia and has been elected as a member of parliament. He has vowed never to return to The Hague.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague said on Monday said that Seselj "has the right to be present at the upcoming [appeal] hearing and that his presence is required".

But it noted that Seselj has said "he has no intention of coming to The Hague even for the rendering of the Appeal Judgement".

It said that the appeals chamber "must take appropriate measures to ensure that his interests are represented at the upcoming appeal hearing in order to ensure the fair and expeditious conduct of the proceedings", and so will appoint standby counsel to represent him if he does not come to court or arrange to appear via video link.

Seselj also appeared on another reality TV show in 2015 after his release for medical treatment.

When he appeared on an episode of 'Farma' ('The Farm'), he was hailed by the convicted underground figure Kristijan Golubovic, who at the time was a frequent reality TV show participant.

Yugoslav Army 'Armed Serb Forces in Croatia'
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
September 20, 2017

Jovica Stanisic's defence lawyer Wayne Jordash told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that today that "individuals" from "JNA [Yugoslav People's Army] intelligence services" armed Serbs in Baranja in 1991, although there was no "official decision" about it.

Jordash was attempting to refute testimony by a protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-151, who said on Tuesday that the Serbs in Baranja were armed by the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, which was headed by Stanisic and his deputy Franko Simatovic, the other defendant at the trial.

RFJ-151, whose face is blurred and voice electronically altered to conceal his identity, first confirmed this, but then said he was "not sure".

He said that the "illegal" arming of the Serbs happened first, but was followed by "legal" arming.

Stanisic and Simatovic are being retried for the persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 to 1995.

RFJ-151 claimed on Tuesday that the Red Berets unit, allegedly controlled by the defendants, committed crimes against non-Serb civilians in Baranja.

But Stanisic's lawyer suggested that "the JNA, as the leading armed force, superintended the activities in Baranja".

When asked whether Serb police forces in Baranja reported to the JNA, the witness said "they collaborated whenever it was needed".

The lawyer then asked RFJ-151 whether the police forces were subordinate to the JNA during armed activities.

The witness responded: "I suppose so, because they entered the JNA's zone of responsibility."

Responding to a suggestion by Stanisic's lawyer that in 1991, the police filed criminal reports against perpetrators of crimes, the witness said that "very little was done according to the law and rules of service, only a few were processed for committing crimes".

"In general the police did not mention crimes in so far as they happened. Courts did not exist," RFJ-151 added.

He accepted a suggestion by the defence lawyer that it was difficult to identify perpetrators of crimes and that "even the well-armed JNA had problems with controlling criminal activities".

When asked if Serb refugees from other parts of Croatia "attacked Croats" in Baranja, the witness responded: "Attempts were made to banish the few remaining non-Serbs, because they needed accommodation for Serb refugees."

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 cross-examination of the witness continues on Thursday.

Vojislav Seselj Rejects Warning From Hague Tribunal
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
September 20, 2017

Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party, said on Wednesday that he will not return to the Hague Tribunal voluntarily and that the war crimes court does not have the authority to assign him a defence lawyer without his permission, as it has vowed to do.

Seselj, whose acquittal for war crimes is being appealed by the prosecution, told the Serbian media that the Tribunal can only assign him a "stand-by attorney" who does not have the right to speak on his behalf.

"I was available [at The Hague] for 12 years and they couldn't prove any crime, they were unable to convict me," Seselj said, according to Beta news agency.

He reaffirmed that he will not be returning to custody unless he is "extradited by the [ruling] Progressive Party regime and [Serbian President] Aleksandar Vucic".

The UN war crimes court in The Hague warned Seselj on Monday that if he does not turn up for his appeal hearings, after failing to attend his trial verdict, it will assign him a defence lawyer whether he wants one or not.

The Tribunal acquitted him in March last year of committing wartime crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian region of Vojvodina.

He was found not guilty of persecution, deportation, torture, wanton destruction and plunder in the period from August 1991 to September 1993.

Seselj has been in Belgrade since being granted temporary release from detention in The Hague in November 2014 on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment.

He then returned to political life in Serbia and has been elected as a member of parliament.

He did not appear for the verdict in his trial and has repeatedly vowed never to return to The Hague.

Seselj also mocked the UN court by donning a judge's robe and passing 'sentences' on a reality show on the pro-government TV Pink on Saturday.

Hague Tribunal Extends Jovica Stanisic's Release
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
September 25, 2017

The trial chamber at the UN court said on Monday that it has decided to extend Stanisic's provisional release despite opposition from the prosecution, which argued that the presence of the defendant at the trial was necessary "in the interest of justice".

The prosecution also claimed that that the Belgrade authorities were not providing the court with complete information about the defendant's health condition.

Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, has been living in Belgrade since July 21 after being granted provisional release because of his continuing health problems.

He attended the first part of his retrial in The Hague, which began on June 13.

According to earlier findings by physicians in The Hague and Belgrade, Stanisic suffers from a chronic intestinal disease and depression.

In the new decision, the judges said that "independent experts" should examine Stanisic in Belgrade and prepare "a detailed assessment of Stanisic's health condition and efficiency of the current medical treatment".

The independent specialists will be able to recommend different treatment should they consider it necessary, and express their views about the availability of the therapy in Serbia, the Hague Detention Unit or elsewhere in the Netherlands.

The independent experts are to submit their report on Stanisic's health to the court by November 15.

The trial chamber also ordered the doctors from the Belgrade Military Medical Academy who are involved in Stanisic's medical treatment to continue informing the court regularly about his condition.

Stanisic and his former State Security Service assistant Franko Simatovic, alias Frenki, are being retried for the persecution, murders, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

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

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Belgrade Jail Warden Faces Retrial for Milosevic 'Kidnap'
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
September 25, 2017

The former warden of Belgrade Central Prison, Dragisa Blanusa, will be retried for allegedly kidnapping former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by sending him to the Hague Tribunal in 2001.

A Belgrade court on Saturday overturned the verdict declaring former Central Prison warden Dragisa Blanusa not guilty of kidnapping Milosevic by allowing him to be sent to the Hague Tribunal in 2001, and ordered a retrial.

The court accepted an appeal from Milosevic's family because the first-instance court's verdict "contains violations of procedural rights", Serbian media reported.

The charges against Blanusa, filed by Milosevic and his wife Mirjana Markovic, allege that on June 28, 2001, he allowed unknown persons to take Milosevic from prison and transfer him to The Hague via Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After Milosevic was transferred to The Hague for trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Blanusa was dismissed by Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic.

Milosevic was standing trial for war crimes in former Yugoslavia when he died in The Hague, on March 11, 2006, but his wife continued the process against Blanusa.

Blanusa was found not guilty by the first instance court in March this year.

He will also be retried for allegedly unlawfully publishing photos of Milosevic and confidential information about the former Yugoslav president's talks with his lawyers and relatives while he was being detained in Belgrade Central Prison.

Markovic further accuses Blanusa of the unauthorised publication of his book, 'I Incarcerated Milosevic', in which the warden reveals details about the former president's time in custody.

Mirjana Markovic has been living in exile in Russia for the past 14 years.

She is wanted for prosecution in Serbia but Moscow has refused to send her to Belgrade to face the charges.

Captain Dragan sentenced to 15 years by Croatian court
B92

September 26, 2017

The court in the town of Split found him guilty on charges of war crimes committed against Croat soldiers and civilians in the 1990s.

Vasiljkovic was found guilty on two counts of the indictment against him - abuse of prisoners in the Knin Fortress, and attack on a police station in the town of Glina.

Last week, during the closing statement of his defense, Vasiljkovic rejected as false all allegations from the indictment. "The crimes referred to in the indictment have neither been committed by me, nor have they happened," he said.

He described the entire legal process against him as "obsessive fascist persecution" - while at the beginning of the trial last year, he said he saw himself as a defender of his homeland, (former) Yugoslavia, rather than as an aggressor.

Vasiljkovic's defense argued that he was not given an impartial and fair trial before the Split court, and that, as a Serb, he was treated "differently" on account of his ethnicity.

The prosecution, on the other hand, claimed that it managed to - during the trial that heard several dozen witnesses - prove all the charges brought against Vasiljkovic, i.e., that he, as the commander of the Special Purpose Unit within the paramilitary units of the self-proclaimed SAO Krajina, committed war crimes in 1991 in the Knin prison, as well as in 1993 in Bruska, near Benkovac, where he "tortured, abused and killed captured members of the Croatian army and police."

The indictment also accused Vasiljkovic of planning an attack on the police station in Glina in 1991, together with the commander of a Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) tank unit, and that during the attack, civilian structures were damaged and destroyed, the Croat population forced to flee, while property was looted and civilians killed and wounded.

Among the victims was German journalist Egon Scotland, who died in 1991 at the entrance to Glina.

The County Prosecutor's Office in Split filed an indictment against Vasiljkovic in early 2016, nearly half a year after he was extradited by Australia to Croatia, after spending a decade hiding.

Vasiljkovic used the name Daniel Snedden and lived in Perth, Australia, where he worked as a golf coach. Vasiljkovic is a citizen of Serbia and Australia.

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MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Islamic State's second executioner killed in month, southwestern Kirkuk
Iraqi News

By Nehal Mostafa
September 15, 2017

Islamic State's second executioner was killed this month in southwest of Kirkuk, a senior paramilitary official said on Friday.

"An IS executioner was killed near his house by unknown gunmen at the outskirts of Hawija, Kirkuk, marking the second accident of its kind in one month," Jabbar al—Maamouri, of al—Hashd al—Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) told AlSumaria News on Friday.

"The significant rise in murder of IS militants and leaders indicate people's rejection against the group's crimes," Maamouri added.

The group's executioner is one tasked with beheading using sword.

Earlier on the day, the group reportedly executed a senior leader, known as Abu Qatada al-Muhajir, for attempting to flee the town.

Hawija and other neighboring regions, west of Kirkuk, have been held by IS since mid-2014, when the group emerged to proclaim an Islamic "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria. The group executed dozens of civilians and security members there, forcing thousands to flee homes.

Further reinforcements from the Federal Police were sent earlier this month from Baghdad to the town, as the military command declared, late August, the end of operations in Tal Afar, the militants' last haven west of Nineveh, and the approach of the launch of offensives for Hawija.

Spokesperson of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command Yehia Rasool said, last week, there were 2000 IS militants inside Hawija.

UN may vote soon to help Iraq collect evidence against IS
The Washington Post

By Edith M. Lederer
September 16, 2017

The Security Council is putting the final touches on a resolution that would authorize U.N. investigators to help Iraq collect evidence to prosecute extremists from the Islamic State group for possible war crimes.

A council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations are private, said Saturday the council hopes to vote next Thursday.

The draft resolution would ask Secretary—General Antonio Guterres to establish an investigative team to assist Iraq in preserving evidence "that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide" committed by IS.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al—Jaafari wrote to Guterres last month saying it was working on a draft resolution with Britain. Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney had urged Iraq's prime minister in March to send a letter seeking U.N. assistance.  

The Latest: Iraq PM says Mosul abuses not systematic
ABC News

September 16, 2017

The Latest from the AP's exclusive interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi (all times local):

10:20 p.m.

Iraq's prime minister says initial investigations into allegations of abuse during the Mosul operation found they were carried out by individuals and not "systematic."

In an interview with The Associated Press Saturday, Haider al—Abadi said Iraqi troops found guilty are being held accountable and "at the moment we are listening to all reports, to all claims, there is no indication that this is a systematic abuse of human rights."

The operation to retake Mosul was marked by allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions by Iraqi security forces, including a wave of alleged killings of suspected IS members at the tail end of the operation captured on mobile phone videos.

Al—Abadi says both soldiers and officers have been held accountable, but officers are largely charged with "negligence," unless they were found to have issued orders to commit the abuses.

9:50 p.m.

Iraq's prime minister says Turkey has pledged to leave the controversial military camp in northern Iraq that strained relations between the two countries in the lead—up to the Mosul operation.

"Our Turkish counterparts have promised they will solve this very quickly," al—Abadi says during an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.

The controversy began in 2015 when a few hundred Turkish troops, tanks and heavy artillery moved into Iraq's north, sparking repeated calls from Baghdad to withdraw.

Ankara insisted the forces entered with Baghdad's permission and initially pledged to take part in the fight to retake Mosul.

"They say we'll pull out when Daesh is defeated," al—Abadi continued, using the Arabic acronym for IS. "We then said 'now in Nineveh Daesh is defeated you met your requirement and you met our requirements' so I think they promised they will evacuate very soon."

9:40 p.m.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi says Iraq is in "lengthy negotiations" with European nations regarding the return of Iraqi refugees.

Al—Abadi tells The Associated Press Saturday: "We don't want to lose our citizens. I'm not going to support forced repatriation into Iraq but I think all of Iraqis they found it very tough to be in Europe as a refugee."

In 2015 alone the United Nations estimated that some 80,000 Iraqis made the treacherous journey to Europe by sea, fleeing an economic downturn and instability in the face of Islamic State group advances

Since then, thousands of Iraqis have returned home, many with the help of the International Organization for Migration.

"They have been promised paradise there, but well, at the end of the day they have seen it. Not paradise," al—Abadi said.

9:05 p.m.

Iraq's prime minister says between 970 and 1,260 civilians were killed during the grueling nine—month battle against the Islamic State group in Mosul.

Haider Al—Abadi says: "We've tried our utmost to protect the civilians, that's why our security forces have paid a very high price," explaining that Iraqi security forces faced more than double the number of casualties than the city's civilians.

Unlike in past battles against IS, in Mosul, Iraqi officials called on the more than 1 million civilians living in the city to remain in their homes to avoid massive displacement.

The presence of civilians quickly complicated the fight with IS fighters who used them as human shields.

As Iraqi forces punched into Mosul's more densely populated neighborhoods, civilian casualties spiked and human rights groups warned of the dangers of using large munitions in the packed urban environment. On March 17, more than 100 civilians were killed in a single U.S. airstrike targeting two IS fighters in west Mosul, according to a Pentagon investigation.

8:30 p.m.

Iraq's prime minister says the teenage German girl found in Mosul last month who ran away from home after communicating with Islamic State group extremists online is still being held in a Baghdad prison.

Speaking to The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Saturday, Haider Al—Abadi says Iraq's judiciary will decide if the teen will face the death penalty.

"You know teenagers under certain laws, they are accountable for their actions especially if the act is a criminal activity when it amounts to killing innocent people," he said.

Sixteen—year—old Linda W. ran away last summer from her hometown of Pulsnitz in eastern Germany. She was found in the basement of a home in Mosul's Old City by Iraqi forces who are driving IS militants from the city.

8:10 p.m.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi says the fate of 39 Indians captured by the Islamic State group when the extremists initially overran Mosul three years ago is still unknown.

Al—Abadi says the situation is "still under investigation at the moment. I cannot comment any further," in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had told relatives of the workers in July that they might be held in a prison in Badush, northwest of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have taken back from IS.

The abducted workers, mostly from northern India, had been employed by an Iraqi construction company. Thousands of Indians worked and lived in Iraq before IS swept across the country's north and west in 2014.

Iraqi forces declared victory over IS in Mosul in July after a grueling nine—month fight.

7:30 p.m.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi says Turkish nationals make up half of the more than 1,300 women and children being held in a camp near Mosul for suspected links to the Islamic State group.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, al—Abadi says many of those detained are not guilty of any crime and his government is "in full communication" with their home counties "to try and find a way to hand them over."

So far, al—Abadi said, Iraq only has repatriated fewer than 100 people.

Iraqi forces are holding hundreds of IS families at a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq after they surrendered to Kurdish forces at the end of August. That's when an Iraqi offensive drove the extremist group from the northern town of Tal Afar, near Mosul.

6 p.m.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi says he's prepared to intervene militarily if the Kurdish region's planned independence referendum results in violence.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Al—Abadi says if the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily."

Al—Abadi called the vote "a dangerous escalation" that will invite violations of Iraq's sovereignty.

Iraq's Kurdish region plans to hold the referendum on support for independence from Iraq on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their autonomous region, and in disputed areas controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.

Iraq's Kurds have come under increasing pressure to call off the vote from regional powers and the United States, a key ally.

Final showdown with Islamic State raises worries about civilian casualties
The Washington Times

By Carlo Munoz
September 17, 2017

As the endgame nears for the fight to oust Islamic State from its last strongholds in Iraq and Syria, rights activists and the United Nations are expressing mounting concerns that civilian casualties are spiking, as both the U.S.—backed coalition and Russian—backed Syrian forces intensify their battle against the terrorist group.

Instances of civilian casualties have dogged American and coalition commanders since U.S. warplanes began bombarding Islamic State positions in Syria and northern Iraq in 2014, after the terrorist group cut a swath of territory across the Middle East, proclaiming it to be its new caliphate.

Since then, American and allied forces have carried out over 26,000 airstrikes against suspected Islamic State targets in the region, according to figures compiled by the Defense Department. Officially, U.S. military officials claim coalition airstrikes have resulted in just over 600 civilian deaths, but unofficial tallies by independent nongovernmental organizations say the number of innocent civilians killed in the air war is in the thousands.

Officials at Airwars.com, a nonprofit research group focused on tracking civilian casualties tied to the offensive, say a minimum of 5,300 civilians have been killed in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. That figure includes civilians killed by Russian airstrikes in Syria as part of Moscow's support of the Bashar Assad regime.

In the siege to retake Mosul, Islamic State fighters put civilians in harm's way to slow down the U.S.—backed Iraqi forces.

The U.N. human rights office said at least 140 Iraqi civilians were killed by a single U.S. airstrike on March 17 in western Mosul's al—Jadida district. A Pentagon investigation found that U.S. warplanes adhered to the stated rules of engagement during the strike. The body count was high because Islamic State fighters confined civilians in the target area to use as human shields.

Germany arrests 2 Islamic State suspects in Berlin
The Washington Post

By David Rising
September 19, 2017

Two Iraqi men have been arrested in the German capital on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization and war crimes as part of the Islamic State group, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

A 31-year-old, identified only as Raad Riyadh A. A. in line with privacy laws, and 19-year-old Abbas R. were both arrested Monday in Berlin, prosecutors' spokeswoman Frauke Koehler said. They're both alleged to have joined IS in Mosul in June 2014 and participated in the killing of two Shiite Muslims.

Four months later, prosecutors said, they were involved in the execution of a captured Iraqi military officer.

While in Iraq, Raad Riyadh A.A. is also accused of extorting money from businesses to support IS and procuring weapons from the Iraqi army and police forces for the group.

UN votes to help Iraq collect evidence against Islamic State
ABC News

By Jennifer Peltz
September 21, 2017

U.N. investigators will help Iraq collect evidence to build potential war crimes cases against Islamic State extremists, under a resolution the Security Council approved Thursday.

Iraq, council members and some human rights advocates portrayed the measure as a key step toward bringing the Islamic State group to justice for atrocities. But some major rights groups say it's one—sided and overlooks abuses by Iraqi and other forces fighting the IS militants.

The council voted unanimously to ask the U.N. to establish an investigative team to help Iraq preserve evidence "that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide" committed by IS, variously known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

"This means justice for those people who have been victimized by ISIS," Nadia Murad, a former IS captive in Iraq, said in a Facebook Live video after attending the council vote with well—known human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al—Jaafari called it "a victory for justice, a victory for humanity and a victory for the victims."

IS militants seized parts of Iraq in 2014 and proclaimed it a caliphate under Islamic rule. It soon became a realm of horrors, including mass killings, beheadings and rapes.

U.S.—backed Iraqi forces retook the country's second—largest city of Mosul from the extremists in July. The forces have now driven IS from most of the land it had seized in Iraq, retaking all the major urban areas, although the group still controls some pockets in Iraq as well as territory in Syria.

Iraq and Britain have spearheaded the investigative measure. After it passed, Alastair Burt, the British minister of state for the Middle East, announced that the U.K. would provide 1 million pounds ($1.35 million) to the investigative effort.

It has a prominent champion in Clooney, who represents members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority who were raped and kidnapped by Islamic State militants.

"It's a huge milestone for all of those who've been fighting for justice for victims of crimes committed by ISIS," the British attorney, who is married to actor George Clooney, said in the Facebook Live video. "It says to victims that their voices will be heard and they may finally get their day in court."

U.N. investigators will be able to help identify victims and perpetrators and "provide an indispensable record of the scope and scale" of IS atrocities, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said. Burt said the measure gives priority to Iraqi courts to try the cases but left a door open for other courts to get involved.

But Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said it came up short.

"No one denies the importance of tackling the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi and international forces is not only flawed, it's shortsighted," said Balkees Jarrah, the rights group's senior international justice lawyer. "The pursuit of justice is essential to all victims ... regardless of who is responsible."

Amnesty International's New York head, Sherine Tadros, said the resolution "threatens to entrench a dangerous culture of 'victor's justice.' "

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi has admitted that anti—IS forces have committed abuses, but he insists they were not "systematic" and that those responsible are being held accountable. Human Rights Watch, however, says many such abuses aren't being investigated by authorities in Iraq, as far as the group can tell.

The British U.N. mission said in a statement that given the severity of IS's atrocities, it's vital to take steps now to keep evidence from being lost.

"We need to act where we can, when we can," the mission said.

Iraq: Missed Opportunity for Comprehensive Justice
Human Rights Watch

September 21, 2017

The United Nations Security Council has missed a key opportunity to address war crimes and rights abuses by all sides to the conflict in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today. The council unanimously adopted a resolution on September 21, 2017, that establishes an investigative team to collect and preserve evidence of serious crimes allegedly committed by the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) – which is needed – but fails to include within its mandate abuses by anti—ISIS forces.

"No one denies the importance of tackling the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi and international forces is not only flawed, it's shortsighted," said Balkees Jarrah, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. "The pursuit of justice is essential to all victims who saw their loved ones tortured and killed, or houses burned and bombed, regardless of who is responsible."

The resolution mandates the UN secretary—general to establish an investigative team headed by a special adviser to collect and preserve evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide by ISIS members in Iraq, for anticipated use in future criminal proceedings in Iraq or possibly in other national courts. It stipulates that "any other uses" of the evidence collected by the team is to be "determined in agreement with the Government of Iraq on a case by case basis."

However, the team can and should play a positive role in advocating for federal Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities to bring charges against ISIS suspects for the full range of crimes they have committed, improve respect for due process rights of suspects and detainees, and to take a more victim—centered approach to national accountability efforts. It can and should seek to convince the Iraqi government to allow it to broaden the investigations to include abuses by all sides in the conflict.

An initiative aimed at documenting serious crimes by ISIS is a positive first step to support accountability efforts in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said. ISIS forces in Iraq have carried out human rights abuses, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and what the UN—mandated Commission of Inquiry on Syria found to be genocide. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called for international support for efforts to bring ISIS members to justice. But beyond ISIS atrocities, Iraq urgently needs investigations of serious crimes by all sides to the conflict.

The United Kingdom submitted the resolution after working closely with the Iraqi government to establish an investigative body for ISIS crimes in Iraq through the Security Council. Their discussions began in September 2016 after the United Kingdom, together with Iraq and Belgium, began a global campaign at the UN General Assembly to bring ISIS to justice.

The UK decided to formally move forward with the draft resolution in August after receiving Iraq's consent through a letter to the Security Council. Iraq made clear that it was working with the UK on a resolution "in line with Iraq's national sovereignty and jurisdiction at both the negotiation and implementation stages."

Iraqi authorities face a complex task to bring to justice ISIS suspects. Iraq is prosecuting thousands of detainees under counterterrorism legislation, for crimes tied to their affiliation with ISIS. However, Human Rights Watch research has found that abuse is rampant in the detention of ISIS suspects and that serious due process violations are undermining the judicial proceedings. Iraqi authorities are not charging any suspects for serious international crimes such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide, which are not criminal offenses under Iraqi law, or even rape or slavery, which are. The authorities have made no efforts to solicit victims' participation in the trials.

Iraq is also not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prime Minister Haider al—Abadi told Human Rights Watch in March 2016 that Iraq has no plans to join – out of apparent concern that the court would be able to examine grave abuses by government security forces.

The European Union and the UN human rights office have called on Iraq to join the ICC, which would allow for possible prosecution of serious crimes by all parties to the conflict.

While abuses by Iraqi and KRG forces, as well as historically Shia military units regularized into state forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, have been longstanding, the battle against ISIS has given these forces latitude to carry out abuses under the guise of fighting terrorism.

During operations to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces frequently tortured and executed those captured in and around the battlefield with complete impunity, sometimes posting photos and videos of the abuses on social media sites. Since 2014, KRG and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces units have also carried out widespread destruction of civilian property in Sunni areas recaptured from ISIS.

Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, al—Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, or otherwise abusing Iraqis in this conflict. As far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, Iraqi and KRG courts have not opened investigations into the vast majority of human rights abuses by Iraqi army, federal police and PMF forces, and Kurdish and other anti—ISIS security forces in their battle against ISIS.

The lack of impartial justice could undermine longer—term prospects for stability and development. An imbalance in accountability efforts threatens to open new divisions and could breed a resurgence of ISIS—like groups at a moment when the Iraqi government has a unique opportunity to move the country toward meaningful reconciliation, Human Rights Watch said.

The resolution that establishes the ISIS—focused investigative team stipulates that evidence the team collects should be used in "fair and independent criminal proceedings, consistent with applicable international law," and that the team should act consistent with its terms of reference, the UN Charter, and UN best practice. It does not explicitly exclude the use of evidence in proceedings that allow for the death penalty, one of only two penalties laid out in the federal Iraqi counterterrorism law, as well as a sentence KRG judges have handed down for counterterrorism convicts within the KRG judicial system.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error. A majority of countries in the world have abolished the practice.

The resolution asks the UN secretary—general to prepare, within 60 days, terms of reference "acceptable to the Government of Iraq" to guide the investigative team's work for the Security Council's approval. The Security Council stipulates that the terms of reference should specify the appointment of Iraqi investigative judges and other criminal experts to the team to work "on an equal footing alongside international experts".

Though the Security Council resolution notes that the team should complement Iraqi investigations, it is unclear how its work will, in practice, interact with ongoing investigations by federal Iraqi and KRG security forces, as well as other nongovernmental efforts in Iraq to document ISIS crimes. The investigative team should ensure that its own efforts are not duplicative, at the risk of re—traumatizing victims and witnesses, and do not significantly delay the application of justice, to the detriment of victims as well as detainees being held in inhumane conditions.

"The real test for this new UN—mandated investigation is whether it can help Iraq end the rampant impunity in the country that has fed into the endless cycles of violence," Jarrah said. "Ensuring justice for ISIS crimes – however essential – is not enough. What Iraq needs is a much more comprehensive approach that ends the selective prosecutions for abuses that have plagued the country for decades."

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Syria

The Latest: Activists say 20 dead in east Syria strikes
The Washington Post

September 14, 2017

The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):

8:20 p.m.

Syrian activists say at least 20 civilians have been killed in air and missile strikes across east Syria, where U.S. and Russian—backed forces are racing to take territory from the Islamic State group's shrinking Euphrates river valley domain.

Turkey—based activist Omar Abou Layla says local activists reported "fanatical" levels of strikes on three IS—held towns and villages on the Euphrates River valley on Thursday, including an attack on the national hospital in the IS stronghold of al—Mayadeen. Six civilians were killed. He put the toll at 20 killed across the province. He blamed the strikes on the Russian air force, which is supporting government forces advancing in the region.

The Britain—based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 39 people have been killed and over 100 wounded on strikes along the river, including some targeting hospitals and ferry crossings. The monitoring group said the U.S.—led international coalition, which is supporting non—government forces, was partly to blame.

The attacks could not be independently verified.

3:15 p.m.

Russia's military says it fired seven cruise missiles at Islamic State targets in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el—Zour.

The Defense Ministry said the Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from two submarines in the Mediterranean on Thursday.

Russia has provided military backing for Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces since 2015. It has repeatedly fired salvoes of such missiles, from both the sea and mainland Russia.

In this strike, the missiles were aimed at IS command points, communication hubs and arms dumps southeast of the city of Deir el—Zour, where Syrian troops and allied militias are battling the extremists. The ministry said all the targets were destroyed.

10:30 a.m.

A Syria monitoring group says a convoy of Islamic State militants and their relatives transferred from the border with Lebanon has finally crossed into an extremist stronghold in eastern Syria, ending a standoff with the U.S.—led coalition over their evacuation deal.

The convoy had been stuck in the desert following airstrikes by the U.S—led coalition to prevent its advance. The Hezbollah—negotiated deal allowed the evacuation in exchange for locating the remains of Lebanese soldiers and the release of fighters. On Thursday, a captive Hezbollah fighter was released.

The head of the Britain—based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses and vehicles crossed into Deir el—Zour province Wednesday. Last week, the U.S—led coalition said it ended surveillance of the convoy after a Russian request.

None of the 400 British citizens who fought with ISIS in Syria before coming back have been charged with war crimes
The Sun

By George Sandeman
September 17, 2017

Government could deport terrorists to The Hague's international criminal court to face trial after ruling by Council of Europe.

NONE of the 400 British citizens who went to Syria to join terror group ISIS have been charged with war crimes.

The UK's security service MI5 estimates some 815 Brits left the country to fight with the terror group, with about half now returned to UK shores.

However, none have been charged with war crimes that would see them stand trial at the international criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Council of Europe, which is not part of the European Union's bureaucracy, ruled last year that membership of the depraved terror group, also known as Daesh, is legitimate grounds for prosecution at the ICC.

It means that any of the council's 47 member countries, including Britain, could deport citizens to face trial at The Hague.

Labour's Liam Byrne, the shadow minister for digital economy, backed the decision and wants to see ISIS members put on trial, reported the Sunday Mirror.

He said: "We know British citizens were soldiers and commanders in Daesh's army of evil. Yet not a single soldier captured on their return has been charged with war crimes or genocide."

He added: "The Government must look again at throwing the full weight of international law at those who took part in crimes against humanity."

The Council of Europe's ruling read: "Individuals who act in the name of Deash have perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law."

The UK Parliament backed the decision with a unanimous vote in April 2016.

Victims Of The Daesh Genocide Still Waiting For Assistance
Forbes

By Ewelina U. Ochab
September 18, 2017

On June 6, 2017, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the House Resolution 390 (H.R. 390), also known as the Iraq and Syria Relief and Accountability Act. The Act put forward by Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Anna Eshoo is meant to be the ultimate response to the genocidal atrocities of Daesh in Syria and Iraq "to provide emergency relief to victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq and Syria, to provide accountability for perpetrators of these crimes and for other purposes."

The Act endeavours at assisting all victims of Daesh genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria and Iraq, and notably, Christians and Yazidis specifically targeted by Daesh for destruction. The provision of humanitarian assistance and justice for the victims are at heart of the Act — steps that are still long overdue and urgently needed.

Currently, the Act is stuck in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, on Friday, Chairman Bob Corker, Republican Tennessee, announced the next Senator Foreign Relations meeting agenda which listed H.R. 390 as the first order of business. This comes after a long delay some have blamed on the tension between Sen. Corker and the President after Corker said the President had not demonstrated enough competence to be a successful leader. The situation improved after President Trump met with Sen. Corker at the White House at which they agreed to put the past behind them. President Trump and his Administration have already expressed their willingness to assist the victims of Daesh atrocities. It's time to put the words into action. The hearing on H.R. 390 is scheduled for September 19.

Humanitarian Assistance

Victims of the Daesh genocide desperately need humanitarian help, medical support and resettlement. Under the Act, the US Administration is to fund organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the communities affected by Daesh and giving victims priority in the complex resettlement process.

Considering the predicament of the minorities affected by Daesh, this assistance is crucial. Looking at the situation of Christians, for example, it is clear that humanitarian assistance is an overdue response.

Since the Daesh attack on Nineveh Plains in Summer 2014, over 100,000 Iraqi Christians have left Iraq, between 100,000 and 150,000 Iraqi Christians were forcibly displaced to Erbil, and many remain internally displaced in other parts of Iraq. NGOs assess that between 200,000 and 250,000 Iraqi Christians remain in Iraq. However, between 50 and 75 families per week continue to leave Iraq (with some reports suggesting that the numbers may be even higher with 50 families per day). Iraqi Christians who have fled Iraq moved predominately to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. NGOs assess that around 250,000 Iraqi Christians live in the Middle East (outside of Iraq).

Germany: Syrian refugee jailed over UN observer's abduction
The Washington Post

September 20, 2017

A German court has convicted a Syrian refugee of being an accessory to a war crime against humanitarian operations over his participation in the 2013 kidnapping of a United Nations observer.

The Stuttgart state court Wednesday sentenced the defendant, who has been identified only as Suliman Al—S. in line with German privacy rules, to 3 ½ years in prison.

Prosecutors haven't identified the observer but the facts released correspond with those of the kidnapping of Canadian lawyer Carl Campeau, who was abducted from a Damascus suburb. He escaped after eight months.

The court found the defendant backed the kidnapping and offered to serve as a guard, but didn't find conclusive proof that the Nusra Front, al—Qaida's branch in Syria, was behind the kidnapping or that the defendant belonged to it.

'Deadly air strikes' target hospitals in Syria's Idlib
Al Jazeera

September 20, 2017

War monitor says Syrian and Russian jets struck four facilities, including maternity hospital, in retaliatory assault.

At least four hospitals have been targeted by air raids in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, killing three people and wounding several, according to a war monitor and rescue teams.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the UK—based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), said Syrian government and Russian warplanes conducted the air attack on Tuesday in the countryside of Hama and Idlib.

The attacks came after opposition factions led by a former al—Qaeda affiliate launched an assault on a number of government—held villages along the border between Idlib and Hama.

The raids hit a maternity hospital in the village of al—Tah and a medical outpost in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, as well as near two other hospitals in Idlib province, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"The raids on the maternity hospital in al—Tah killed an elderly woman who was an employee of the hospital, in the first civilian death in air strikes in Idlib province since May," he said.

According to the medical charity UOSSM, which has provided equipment to the maternity hospital, the woman killed was a cleaner in the facility and other medical staff were wounded.

In a statement distributed to journalists, the charity said two sets of attacks hit the maternity hospital, setting fuel—storage tanks on fire and leaving its incubator room "totally destroyed".

The Syrian government—affiliated Central Military Media outlet acknowledged the opposition offensive in Idlib and said that forces responded with intensive aerial bombardment and shelling, killing a number of fighters.

UOSSM condemned the attacks and said that "systematic attacks on hospitals are back despite de—escalation deals".

Idlib is mainly controlled by Hay'et Tahrir al—Sham, an alliance of anti—government groups formed in January and linked to al—Qaeda.

It is led by Jabhat Fateh al—Sham, formerly known as al—Nusra Front.

The SOHR said the air raids were in retaliation for the killing of 19 soldiers when Hay'et Tahrir al—Sham launched an attack on government forces in the northern Hama countryside.

The fighting comes just days after Iran, Russia and Turkey announced they would jointly police the de—escalation zone in Idlib and parts of adjacent Hama and Latakia provinces.

Russia has already deployed military police to the other three de—escalation zones — Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, parts of the south and some areas of the central province of Homs.

The agreement excludes the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Hay'et Tahrir al—Sham.  

4 men accused of killings in Syria go on trial in Germany
ABC News

September 25, 2017

Four asylum—seekers have gone on trial in Germany accused of executing 36 members of the Syrian security forces while they were members of the Nusra Front extremist group.

Prosecutors say the four men killed their victims — police officers, security officials and soldiers — at a garbage site in the Syrian city of Tabqa in March 2013.

The defendants appeared before Stuttgart's regional court Monday on charges of war crimes, murder and membership in a foreign terrorist organization.

The men, who came to Germany as refugees, were identified as 28—year—old Abdul Jawad A. K.; 24—year—old Abdoulfatah A.; 26—year—old Abdulrahman A. A.; and 35—year—old Abdalfatah H. A.

Their surnames weren't released because of German privacy rules.

US—led strikes killed 84 civilians in Syria — HRW
BBC News

September 25, 2017

Two US—led coalition air strikes on towns held by so—called Islamic State in Syria in March killed at least 84 civilians, Human Rights Watch says.

An investigation found that dozens of children were among those who died when a school in Mansoura and a market in Tabqa — both west of Raqqa — were hit.

Witnesses were cited as saying that IS militants were present at both sites, along with large numbers of civilians.

The coalition does not believe any civilians died in the Mansoura strike.

It insists that its forces comply with the international law of armed conflict and take all reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.

At the start of September, the coalition said its strikes in Syria and neighbouring Iraq had unintentionally killed at least 685 civilians since August 2014.

However, an organisation that tracks allegations of civilian deaths, Airwars, says at least 5,343 civilians are likely to have died over the same period.

In a report published on Monday, Human Rights Watch said it had investigated several alleged air strikes during a visit in early July to areas of northern Syria now controlled by a US—backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.

In two of the deadliest incidents, which took place as SDF fighters sought to encircle the city of Raqqa, coalition aircraft allegedly struck the Badia School in Mansoura on 20 March, and a market and a bakery in Tabqa on 22 March.

Sixteen survivors, witnesses, first responders and medical personnel told HRW that the school in Mansoura was home to a large number of displaced civilians, and that the Tabqa market overwhelmingly served civilians, many of whom were queuing at a bakery at the time of the air strike.

"If coalition forces did not know that there were civilians at these sites, they need to take a long, hard look at the intelligence they are using to verify its targets because it clearly was not good enough," said Ole Solvang, HRW's deputy emergencies director.

HRW quoted the coalition as saying its forces had targeted what they believed to be an IS intelligence headquarters and weapons storage facility in Mansoura. However, the coalition found the allegations of civilian casualties were not credible.

The coalition is still assessing the Tabqa market incident, but HRW's report said a US military spokesperson had acknowledged shortly afterwards that there had been coalition strikes in the vicinity.

HRW's report also criticised the coalition's methodology for assessing civilian casualties, concluding that the information its forces provided suggested that they had not visited the sites in areas under their control or interviewed residents.

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Yemen

Iran Is Smuggling Increasingly Potent Weapons Into Yemen, U.S. Admiral Says
The New York Times

By Eric Schmitt
September 18, 2017

The top American admiral in the Middle East said on Monday that Iran continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen, stoking the civil strife there and enabling Iranian-backed rebels to fire missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia that are more precise and far-reaching.

Iran has been repeatedly accused of providing arms helping to fuel one side of the war in Yemen, in which rebels from the country's north, the Houthis, ousted the government from the capital of Sana in 2014.

The officer, Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, said that Iran is sustaining the Houthis with an increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen's northern border. The United States, the Yemeni government and their allies in the region have retaliated with strikes of their own and recaptured some Houthi-held coastal areas to help blunt threats to international shipping, but the peril persists, the admiral said.

"These types of weapons did not exist in Yemen before the conflict," said Admiral Donegan. "It's not rocket science to conclude that the Houthis are getting not only these systems but likely training and advice and assistance in how to use them."

Admiral Donegan gave his assessment in an hourlong telephone interview from his Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain as he prepared to conclude his two-year tour, and take a new assignment at the Pentagon.

The admiral's comments came a day before President Trump is to address the United Nations General Assembly amid deep uncertainty about what he will do about the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. The administration is conducting a review of its Iran policy, to include Iran's backing of Shia fighters in Syria and Iraq.

In the wide-ranging interview, Admiral Donegan said that the bitter rift between Qatar and many of its Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who accuse Qatar of financing militants and having overly cozy relations with Iran, has not yet hindered coalition efforts to battle terrorism, piracy or other mutual maritime scourges.

Admiral Donegan also said that the Navy's recent 24-hour stand-down of ships around the world after two fatal collisions in the western Pacific revealed some shortcomings among ships in the Middle East that commanders were now correcting. The admiral declined for security reasons to identify the problem areas, but senior Navy officials had said the "operational pause" was to review safety and operational procedures.

On Monday, the new head of the Seventh Fleet in Japan, Vice Adm. Phillip G. Sawyer, announced that two more senior officers in the fleet had been relieved of their commands: Rear Adm. Charles Williams, the head of the Navy's largest operational battle force, and his subordinate in charge of destroyers in the region, Capt. Jeffrey Bennett. Both were relieved because of a loss of confidence in their ability to command, according to a Navy statement.

In addition, the officer overseeing Navy surface warfare, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, has requested early retirement.

Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the previous head of the Seventh Fleet, the Navy's largest overseas, was removed last month in connection with four accidents in the region since January, including the two deadly collisions between Navy destroyers and commercial vessels that left 17 sailors dead.

Admiral Donegan's most pointed accusations focused on suspected Iranian assistance to the Houthi rebels. The United States and other Western governments have provided vast quantities of weapons, and other forms of military support, to the embattled Yemeni government and its allies in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, contributing to violence that the United Nations says has caused more than 10,000 civilian casualties.

The admiral's charges appear supported, at least in part, by findings in a report late last year by Conflict Armament Research, a private arms consultancy. The report concluded that the available evidence pointed to an apparent "weapon pipeline, extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles."

For years, Iran has been under a series of international sanctions prohibiting it from exporting arms. The United States has frequently claimed that Tehran has violated the sanctions in support of proxy forces in many conflicts, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian territories.

Between Sept. 2015 through March 2016, allied warships interdicted four Iranian dhows that yielded, in total, more than 80 antitank guided missiles and 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns and almost 300 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to data provided by the United States Navy.

Admiral Donegan said that while there have been no seizures since, he said he suspects Iran's hand in the Houthis' apparent ability to replenish and improve their arms stockpiles. "It is not something that was a one-time deal and stopped," Admiral Donegan said. "It appears to be progressive."

'No hope on the horizon' for Yemen, U.N. humanitarian official says
The Los Angeles Times

By Ann M. Simmons
September 21, 2017

Devastated by conflict, widespread cholera and the total collapse of infrastructure, Yemen has reached the precipice of a humanitarian catastrophe and there is "no hope" for resolving the crisis anytime soon.

That grim assessment of the situation in the poverty-stricken Arab nation came during media briefings this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where the theme of discussions is "Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet."

"The prescription for the future at the very best is bleak," said Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N.'s resident humanitarian coordinator in Yemen. "It's a disaster. I believe I'll be coming back to [the U.N. General Assembly] next year with bigger numbers, and more desperate a situation … because there's nothing on the horizon that looks like it's going to go anywhere soon."

Two years of conflict between pro-government forces and Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels have laid the groundwork for unhealthy conditions, according to humanitarian aid workers. The United States has been criticized for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arabian military coalition in support of Yemen's government and has been accused of killing civilians in indiscriminate bombings.

"Civilians have borne the brunt of any pain and suffering," McGoldrick said. "It's one of the worst international humanitarian law violations situations. The parties to the conflict are completely indifferent to their obligations under the Geneva Conventions [rules that protect people who are not participants in the conflict].

McGoldrick painted a dire picture of conditions in the nation of 27 million people, of which about 3 million have been displaced. Among the horrifying facts: At least 7 million people don't know when their next meal will come and what it might be. About 400,000 children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished and every 10 minutes a child dies. Fifty percent of the health structures don't work, while 1,700 schools don't function, 30,000 health workers have not been paid salaries and 2 million children are out of school.

"There's a lost generation," McGoldrick said. "There's a growing radicalization in the country because of absence of governance, absence of security."

The country's cancer center has closed, McGoldrick added. The blood banks are under pressure. Dialysis is no longer available because the machines don't work. Treatment is lacking for diabetics.

"And all of that is having an impact on an already weakened population," the humanitarian official said. Throughout the country, "people are dying … silent deaths," he said.

Exacerbating the death toll is the Saudi-led coalition's halt of all commercial traffic in and out of the international airport in the country's capital, Sana.

As many as 10,000 Yemenis are reported to have died from critical health conditions because they could no longer travel overseas for medical treatment, according to international media reports citing local government data.

"There's no hope on the horizon right now politically," McGoldrick said. "So the result of that is there's no hope on the horizon for the humanitarian situation, because we cannot solve this problem. This is a political problem."

US-made bomb killed civilians in Yemen residential building, says Amnesty
The Guardian

By Patrick Wintour
September 22, 2017

A bomb that destroyed a residential building in Yemen's capital last month, killing 16 civilians and injuring 17 more – including a five-year-old girl called Buthaina whose photograph went viral after the strike – was made in the US, Amnesty International has said.

The assessment was based on an examination of the remnants of the weapon used in the 25 August airstrike.

The Saudi Arabia-led military coalition admitted carrying out the attack, blaming civilian casualties on a "technical error".

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East research director, said: "We can now conclusively say that the bomb that killed Buthaina's parents and siblings, and other civilians, was made in the USA.

"There simply is no explanation the USA or other countries such as the UK and France can give to justify the continued flow of weapons to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition for use in the conflict in Yemen. It has time and time again committed serious violations of international law, including war crimes, over the past 30 months, with devastating consequences for the civilian population."

The controversy comes as some EU countries, in concert with Canada, again table a motion at the UN human rights council in Geneva calling for an independent UN inquiry into the conduct of the war, and human rights abuses committed by all sides in the conflict. A similar motion was put to the council in 2015 and 2016, and either rejected or water down.

The latest motion, due to be voted on next week, does not have the support of the Arab League or some key EU countries, including the UK, but it is known that Britain thinks diplomatic efforts to bring about peace in the two-year civil war in Yemen have reached a kind of deadlock, and need rethinking.

Earlier this month, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen an "entirely man-made catastrophe". He continued: "The reticence of the international community in demanding justice for the victims of the conflict in Yemen is shameful, and in many ways contributing to the continuing horror."

On 19 September, the UK Ministry of Defence announced a new military and security cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia. The defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said the agreement "further cements the UK's longstanding relationship with our key Gulf partner".

Although the UK has expressed concern about the Saudi conduct of the war, the high court earlier this year found the UK government's granting of arms sales licences to the British arms manufacturers selling to Saudi was lawful. British officials also believe the Saudis have been overall more sophisticated in their targeting, and more willing to admit mistakes following internal investigations.

The total number of civilian casualties in Yemen since March 2015 stands at 13,920, including 5,159 people killed and 8,761 injured.

Saudi Arabia Resists Independent Inquiry on Yemen Atrocities
The New York Times

By Somini Sengupta
September 26, 2017

Saudi Arabia and its allies are pushing back on a renewed effort to establish a United Nations-backed independent international panel to investigate human rights abuses in Yemen.

A draft resolution, proposed by a small bloc of Western countries, seeks to create a commission of inquiry, similar to one for the conflict in Syria, to document the atrocities in a three-year-old conflict that pits a Saudi-led military coalition against insurgents led by the Houthis of northern Yemen. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, has called for exactly such an independent investigation. So have Yemeni and international human rights groups.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have objected, proposing instead that the United Nations send experts to help Yemen's own human rights commission.

A vote is expected this week at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Saudi Arabia and its Western backers, including Britain and the United States, all belong to the 47-member body.

Robust pressure from Saudi Arabia killed similar efforts two years ago. Last year, Saudi Arabia also got its name scrubbed from an annual United Nations list of countries that kill and maim children in war.

The Yemen conflict, which began in 2014, has killed thousands, devastated the water and public health systems, left 700,000 people infected with cholera and seven million at risk of famine.

Human rights groups have documented a trail of international law violations on both sides of the conflict. The United Nations has repeatedly complained of a lack of access in the country, including for the delivery of lifesaving aid.

The latest United Nations human rights report, released in early September, found that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continued to be the "leading cause" of civilian deaths, including child deaths.

The draft resolution, seen by The New York Times, encourages the Yemen national human rights body to cooperate with the United Nations human rights office and seeks to establish a three-member commission of inquiry. That panel, according to the draft, would "carry out comprehensive investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law by all parties to the conflict in Yemen since September 2014."

It is sponsored by Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

The Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi, called the draft resolution "premature."

He said the United Nations should instead help Yemen's national authorities carry out their own investigations. Saudi Arabia had circulated its own resolution proposing that approach and said it hoped "a reasonable outcome" would be reached.

Asked if the Saudis would retaliate economically against those countries pushing a commission of inquiry, the Saudi ambassador offered a nuanced response.

"We don't link these issues with commercial considerations," Mr. Mouallimi said, "but I think all the countries recognize we have presented a reasonable proposal and that trying to take alternative action would not be considered a friendly gesture."

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in an email that Yemen's national commission lacked access to Houthi-controlled areas and "cannot do its work impartially," noting that it received funds from Saudi Arabia.

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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

Cambodia suspends cooperation with U.S. in finding war remains
Reuters

By Prak Chan Thul
September 14, 2017

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday he was suspending cooperation with the United States to find the remains of Americans killed in the Vietnam War in the latest ratcheting up of tensions between the two countries.

Hun Sen has accused the United States of plotting treason with opposition leader Kem Sokha, an accusation rejected by the U.S. embassy, which has called for the release of the prime minister's main rival.

"The search cooperation is postponed until a number of issues are resolved between Cambodia and the United States," Hun Sen said according to pro-government website Fresh News.

Hun Sen said that a total of 80 American soldiers had gone missing in Cambodia during the war in neighboring Vietnam and that half of them had been found.

Hun Sen said the suspension will be lifted after Cambodia-U.S. ties are restored. Washington announced on Wednesday that it would stop issuing some visas after Cambodia refused to accept Cambodian citizens deported from the United States after being convicted of crimes there.

Hun Sen said the policy of deporting them back to Cambodia "break them up as families, as parents and children, and it's an inhumane (situation) in which some have committed suicide".

The Vietnam War that ended in 1975 remains an emotive issue in Cambodia.

Hun Sen says the United States has never apologized for its role in bombing his country to try to kill Vietnamese communist guerrillas and should forgive debts built up by a pro-U.S. junta that ruled until it was ousted by the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

On a separate issue, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would accept deportees from the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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

STL schedules hearing to discuss indictment
The Daily Star

September 15, 2017

A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 11, 2017, in which the STL Appeals Chamber will provide the prosecutor and head of the defense office with the opportunity to orally submit legal questions raised by Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen regarding a fresh indictment, according to a Special Tribunal for Lebanon media release. Due to the confidential nature of the indictment, it has yet to be confirmed how many individuals have been newly indicted, or which case the indictment refers to. While the STL has investigated the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, it is also investigating the related assassination of George Hawi and assassination attempts against Marwan Hamadeh and Elias Murr.

STL quibbles over cellphone attributions
The Daily Star

By Finbar Anderson
September 20, 2017

The attribution of cell phones to indicted suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was the central focus of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tuesday. Prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson returned to the witness stand, where he was cross-examined by David Young, lead counsel for the defense of Assad Sabra, one of the four accused of involvement in the bomb attack that killed Hariri and 21 others.

The defense criticized Donaldson's failure to define his own role once the decision was made in 2012 that he would be used as an attribution witness. Donaldson produced numerous reports for the prosecution during that time, but failed to address how he defined "attribution," drawing criticism from both the counsel for the defense, and the trial judges. This problem was particularly urgent, one critic argued, given the fact that this is one of the world's most significant cases to be relying heavily on cellphone data.

When the defense counsel suggested that Donaldson was "leaving it a bit late to explain what you mean by attribution," the expert witness responded that such a definition had been outside of his remit.

"I don't get to determine the reports I produce," he said. "I wasn't asked to do it ... you would need to ask [the prosecution] why they never asked me to [define the term]."

Emphasizing the importance of cellphone data to the case, Trial Chamber President Judge David Re followed up the point. "Without attribution there is no case against any of the accused," he said. "I think you're conceding in hindsight that stating what you mean by attribution might have been helpful for the reader in the reports."

Donaldson told the tribunal that there was a spectrum regarding the quality of attribution, noting that in the United Kingdom a grading system is used, according to which mobile phone data is the "only intelligence source that could be graded A1 – in other words the best information." This, he said, was due to the imperviousness of such evidence to bias and memory loss many years after the events in question.

Donaldson agreed with the defense counsel that cellphone data attribution was not an exact science.

"Anyone can send any message. Anything is possible. It just comes down to probabilities."

He discussed the many different factors involved in attributing cellphone data, pointing out, for example, that a single cellphone may have multiple users. Documentary evidence such as a phone subscription or a passport application for a telephone contract was not given significant weight, he said, as the phone may subsequently change hands.

With regards to SMS messages, Donaldson said that it was not the volume of such messages that was of primary importance, but the content, which might prove far more useful in establishing a relationship to another person or placing the user in a specific location.

The counsel for the defense asked whether there might be factors that could lead to a misattribution of a device. Donaldson answered in the affirmative – suggesting factors such as "bad working practices, or making assumptions and drawing inferences without testing them."

He refuted that his team might have been prone to this level of human error. "People on my team don't make those mistakes," he said.

Coverage maps somewhat inaccurate: STL testimony
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
September 26, 2017

Defense counsel questioned the accuracy of cellular coverage maps at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Monday. The maps related to an attribution report linking accused suspect Assad Sabra to a cellular device allegedly used to organize the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Defense counsel David Young – representing the interests of Sabra – questioned prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson on why coverage maps were not routinely used in court cases in the U.K., where both Donaldson and Young are from.

"In my experience in the U.K., it is because [coverage maps] are not provided to the police," Donaldson responded. Young immediately lambasted his answer.

"Is that really your evidence?" he asked. "Are you suggesting that these very suggestive maps in a serious organized crime are not used in court because no one hands it over to police?"

The defense counsel then drew upon his own knowledge to inform the chamber that coverage maps are normally rejected in U.K. courts due to their lack of precision. Using this information, he continued to criticize Donaldson's testimony.

Donaldson has testified before the Trial Chamber over several months and has authored several cellular attribution reports relating to the four indicted suspects in the case.

"I accept that they are rarely used, it is in very rare instances in which this material is actually handed over," Donaldson said. "I recall you asked for my experience, and that [is mine]."

"I am sure I'm not in the habit of making jokes in front of the Trial Chamber," he added.

Following a bout on the semantics of Young's questions, the prosecution analyst agreed that coverage maps were not wholly accurate or reliable. Nonetheless, he argued, it did not mean they were useless.

"I certainly accept that they don't provide a complete and totally accurate photo [of a situation] but I believe they ... are one of the better indicators we have," Donaldson said. As an example, he named a U.K. court case in which the residence of a murderer was found with the aid of a "predictive hotspot" – a location with internet access.

According to data previously brought to the attention of the trial chamber, the margin of error in accuracy throughout Beirut's southern suburbs ranges in some cases up to 40 percent. The area has been heavily cited by the prosecution as the place where all the indicted suspects lived in the years leading up to the 2005 bombing.

"If there is a margin of error of 30 to 40 percent ... you can't be too precise about the communications data, can you?" Young said. "I'm putting a simple point [forward] that your figures over that period ... [may be inaccurate]," he added.

The argument raised by the defense at Monday's abbreviated hearing of the STL is not uncommon.

In order to debunk the prosecution's case, which relies heavily on cellular data to tie the defendants to the assassination conspiracy, the defense has long interrogated the validity of the data.

The STL resumes Tuesday.

STL defense contests phone link to Sabra
The Daily Star

By Finbar Anderson
September 27, 2017

The defense counsel continued to distance Assad Sabra from cellphone data attributed to him and his family by prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson at Tuesday's session of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Sabra is among those accused of involvement in the 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

Defense counsel David Young continued Monday's discussion of geographic profiling, challenging the prosecution's attribution of a cellphone to his client. The phone had been used during daytime hours but Sabra, he noted, worked at a print works with no cellphone coverage during 2004-05.

Young told the chamber: "At best, [the prosecution's evidence] can be viewed as material that is 'not inconsistent' with this phone possibly being attributed to Sabra."

He went on to discuss the cellphone's most frequent contacts, as the prosecution had argued that the most common contact was with a number used by Sabra's father, Hasan Taan Sabra. One of Young's primary arguments involved the existence of a subscriber note for a different phone in the name of Hassan Taan Sabra.

Young suggested to Donaldson that this evidence tying the different phone to Hassan Taan Sabra negated the possibility of him being the user of the phone frequently contacted by the phone attributed to Assad Sabra. Donaldson, however, dismissed this argument, stating that Hassan Taan Sabra may have owned the phone cited by Young, but there might be multiple people in Beirut with this name.

Furthermore, it was noted that the address on the subscriber note was not the one in Baabdat tied to the suspect. Donaldson said it was "totally different from the one provided by [Assad Sabra's father]." Young failed to dissuade Donaldson of his previous argument; the latter said, "I have given my evidence, and I have made a reasonable inference."

Tuesday's session also highlighted some of the procedural difficulties that can occur with a tribunal of this scale. Prior to the session, Sabra's defense team had submitted an application to effectively allow the various defense teams to cross-examine Donaldson interchangeably. President of the Trial Chamber Judge David Re expressed surprise at the application, reminding Young that he had previously said "cross-examination is not a tap that we can turn on and off."

The other defense teams were also not supportive of the suggestion. Hassan Merhi's team, for example, noted that they did not want any "overlap" during their cross-examination of the prosecution witness.

The STL continues Wednesday.

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Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

International Crimes Tribunal to get new chairman soon
Dhaka Tribune

Asif Islam Shaon
September 21, 2017

The tribunal may get Justice Md Shahinur Islam as new chairman, sources say.

The government is going to reform the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) soon with appointment of a new chairman.

The post of the ICT chairman became vacant after Justice Anwarul Haque died on July 13 this year.

After his death, the trial proceedings at the tribunal faced gridlock as two other judges– Justice Md Shahinur Islam and Justice Md Shohrowardi—neither could take any allegations into cognisance nor could deliver any verdict as law does not allow them.

"The reformation process is about to end. You can say, it will be done shortly," Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.

Sources said, the tribunal may get Justice Md Shahinur Islam as new chairman and there could be some changes in the judges' panel too.

High Court Division's Justice Amir Hossain may be appointed as a tribunal member. The Supreme Court has proposed his name to the Law Ministry, the source added.

Judge Abu Ahmed Jamadar of the Special Judge Court-3, who has been on post-retirement leave (PRL) since June 15 this year, can also be included in the tribunal judges panel.

In that case, Justice Md Suhrawardy may be posted to the High Court division, sources said further.

ICT prosecutor Rezia Sultana Chaman said, "Since the chairman's death, the tribunal is not functioning normally. It has been refraining from passing any order or decisions.

"Now the accused persons are being produced on scheduled date and the judges are fixing new date for appearance," she said.

According to the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973, in case of the absence of the chairman of the three-member tribunal, the two other members can continue the operation of the tribunal, but cannot take any allegation into cognisance or deliver verdict.

The tribunal source said currently 31 cases are pending. Nine of them are at the trial stage and rest at the pre-trial stage.

Some of these cases are at the stages of formal charge submission or taking charges into cognisance. Proceedings of some case stopped in the mid of witnesses deposition. A number of cases are kept waiting for the investigation reports.

The trial proceedings of a case completed on May 9 and the judgment is pending.

In July and August this year the Law Minister told reporters that the government was hopeful to appoint new chairman for the tribunal very soon.

The International Crimes Tribunal was formed in March, 2010 to try the persons involved in crimes against humanity during the war of Independence in 1971. The second tribunal was formed in 2012 which made non-functional in 2015.

Hasina floats Bangladesh's proposals at UN to end Rohingya crisis forever
BD News 24

By Reazul Bashar
September 22, 2017

She presented the proposals emphasising swift action to resolve the problem in her speech, given in Bangla as usual, at the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

She called for immediate steps to stop the 'cleansing' of ethnic Rohingya minority in Myanmar, send back the refugees, and to ensure their safety and rehabilitation.

Hasina was at the centre stage at the UNGA this year with the Rohingya crisis deepening along Bangladesh's border with Myanmar, crossed by over 430,000 refugees fleeing violence in Rakhine State in around a month.

In her proposals, made in light of her recent visit to refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, she specified the role the UN can play.

She proposed that the UN secretary general send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar where 'safe zones' can be built under UN supervision for protection of all civilians, irrespective of religion and ethnicity.

The prime minister also reiterated Bangladesh's stance against militancy, terrorism and extremism.

"We do not want war. We want peace. We want people's wellbeing – not destruction of humanity," she said.

With the newly arrived Rohingyas, the number of refugees in Bangladesh stands over 800,000. The UN fears the number may reach 1 million by the end of the year if the situation in Rakhine continues.

World leaders have praised Hasina for sheltering the refugees.

Before her speech at the UNGA general debate, she cleared Bangladesh's stance over the protracted Rohingya crisis at several meetings at the UN Headquarters in New York.

At the OIC Contact Group meeting on Tuesday, she demanded Myanmar take back the refugees and end 'state propaganda' that labelled the ethnic group as 'Bengalis'.

The five proposals in her address to the UNGA of 193 countries are:

>> Myanmar must stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State unconditionally, immediately and forever.

>> The UN secretary general should immediately send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar.

>> All civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity must be protected in Myanmar. For that 'safe zones' could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.

>> Ensure sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar.

>> The recommendations of Kofi Annan Commission Report must be implemented immediately, unconditionally and in its entirety.

The Myanmar government with Aung San Suu Kyi as its de facto leader formed the commission headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan after it drew condemnation for an army operation against Rohingyas following attacks on security forces in October last year.

The crackdown by the army, which is still in control of the country, pushed some 67,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh at the time.

Hours after the commission submitted its report, Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 police posts and an army base on Aug 25 this year, triggering the latest wave of violence in Rakhine State and pushing another 430,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh.

Giving citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims and taking them back from Bangladesh after 'joint verification' are some of the key features of the Annan commission recommendations.

International groups have also called for full implementation of the Annan commission recommendations to solve the crisis permanently.

The US, UK, and the European Union are among many countries and blocs that have expressed concerns over the situation in Rakhine.

Russia and China, unlike past nine years, did not veto a UN Security Council statement urging Myanmar to stop the violent crackdown.

Hasina thanked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council for their attempts to stop atrocities, and bring peace and stability in Rakhine.

With the spotlight on her at the UN, the prime minister started her speech by saying: "This is the 14th time I am addressing the UN General Assembly. And this time I have come here with a heavy heart. I have come here just after seeing the hungry, distressed and hopeless Rohingyas from Myanmar who took shelter in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh."

Hasina said she could feel the refugees' pain because she, along with her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, had been a refugee for six years after their father, the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and almost all members of the family were assassinated in 1975.

As Myanmar denies the Rohingyas citizenship, Hasina told the UNGA that the people of the ethnic group were living in Rakhine for centuries.

In her depiction of the atrocities against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, Hasina said, "We are horrified to see that the Myanmar authorities are laying landmines along their stretch of the border to prevent the Ronhingyas from returning to Myanmar."

"This people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity."

She urged the international community to take collective actions to prevent recurrence of crimes against humanity like the genocide launched by the Pakistan Army on Mar 25, 1971 at the beginning of Bangladesh's Liberation War.

Noting that Bangladesh parliament recently declared March 25 as "Genocide Day" to pay homage to the victims of the genocide, she also urged the global leaders to recognise the genocide.

"I believe, recognition of past tragedies like the 1971 genocide would guide us to achieve 'never again'," Hasina said.

Speaking about Bangladesh's stance against militancy, she also proposed measures to tackle global terrorism:

>> Stop supplying arms to the terrorists;

>> Stop terrorist financing; and

>> Settle all international disputes peacefully.

The prime minister reaffirmed Bangladesh's call for resuming the Middle East Peace Process, and for ending all forms of hostilities and discriminations against Palestinian people.

Hasina said Bangladesh was looking forward to 'bold and innovative' proposals from the UN chief on financing for 'sustaining peace' in recognition of the role of the UN peacebuilding architecture.

She announced a token contribution of $100,000 from Bangladesh for the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

She said Bangladesh will maintain its own capability readiness, remain open to further pledges, enhance the scope of peacekeeping training, and deploy more female peacekeepers.

"Since our birth as a nation, we have pursued peace-centric domestic and foreign policies. With that spirit, Bangladesh has been taking the lead in tabling the resolution on "Culture of Peace" every year in the General Assembly since 2000."

The Bangladesh leader also announced another token contribution of $100,000 to the Victim Support Fund established for fighting sexual exploitation and abuse.

"As an endorser of the Voluntary Compact on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, I have committed myself to the Secretary General's Circle of Leadership to combat this scourge," she said.

The prime minister urged the UN to address the threats emanated from the cyber space to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing and other transnational organised crimes.

Speaking about climate change, she said the Paris Climate Agreement remained "our bastion of hope for climate justice".

Bangladesh PM at UNGA: 1971 genocide should be recognised internationally
Dhaka Tribune

September 22, 2017

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has highlighted the prospect of an international recognition of the 1971 genocide, while addressing the United Nations.

Referring to the horrors of 1971 genocide that started on March 25, the prime minister called upon the world to take collective steps against such incidents. She said if the world recognises such crimes, it would strengthen its collective efforts against genocide.

The premier made the comments during her speech at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday (Bangladeshi Time). In her speech, she described Bangladesh's Liberation War, saying that during the nine months of the war, Pakistani forces killed three million innocent people, and raped around 200,000 women.

She said the Pakistani army carried out their operations against people and groups based on race, religion, colour and political beliefs, and they also heinously murdered the country's intellectuals.

The prime minister further said that the Parliament of Bangladesh, in recognition of the martyrs, recently declared March 25 as "Genocide Day." It was on March 25, 1971 that the Pakistani army started their brutal operations called "Operation Searchlight," she said.

Hasina said: "I call upon the international community to take collective steps to ensure that such crimes are never committed at any time in the world. I believe, international recognition of all historical tragedies including the genocide of '71 will play an important role in achieving our goal."

Hasina also mentioned that the International Crimes Tribunal was formed to ensure the punishment of those who committed crimes against humanity. "We have tried the main accused involved in the genocide through the International Crimes Tribunal," she said.

The prime minister's speech was the 14th at this year's UNGA.

In her speech, the premier also urged the United Nations and the international community to take quick action on the Rohingya crisis.

She has highlighted the subjects of global peace, anti-terrorism measures, climate change, global economy, and violence against women in her speech.

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War Crimes Investigation in Burma

The World's Fastest-Growing Refugee Crisis is Taking Place in Myanmar. Here's why.
Vox

Sarah Wildman
September 18, 2017

In what has quickly disintegrated into a humanitarian disaster of historic proportions, a staggering 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar's northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh over the past three weeks alone. At least 240,000 of them are children.

The Rohingya are fleeing a campaign of indiscriminate violence by Myanmar's military, whose tactics are being widely condemned as a form of ethnic cleansing.

Entire villages have been burned to the ground. Women have been raped. Rohingya refugees report that soldiers shot at them as they fled. Along the border with Bangladesh, there are reports that the military has laid land mines to ensure those fleeing won't return. Though independent observers have no access to the region, the Myanmar government now says 175 villages in the region — 30 percent of all Rohingya villages — are empty.

"We are hearing really horrendous stories of people who have survived by the skin of their teeth," Paolo Lubrano, an Oxfam worker in Cox's Bazar, a town on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, told me by Skype Friday morning. Lubrano described "dire violence" and an enormous number of very young, and very traumatized, Rohingya refugees. Among those fleeing Myanmar, he added, are many pregnant women who have been walking for three, four, or even five days to find safety.

The military calls the campaign a "clearance" operation against an insurgent terrorist military group. They claim the crackdown is in response to a series of armed attacks on border police by Rohingya militants on August 25 that left 12 officers dead, the second such type of attacks in the past 12 months. But observers say that though armed Rohingya insurgents exist, their overall numbers are small, and they are poorly equipped. And the crackdown has affected the entire ethnic group.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post on Sunday, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar's military, was dismissive: "They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar."

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has dubbed this crisis a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing." Some are going further — saying the country is tipping toward crimes against humanity and even possibly genocide. On September 14, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke out about the "horrors that we are witnessing occurring in Burma."

"This violence must stop; this persecution must stop," he said. "It's been characterized by many as ethnic cleansing. That must stop."

The world has turned to Aung San Suu Kyi — a dissident turned political leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and was often likened to Nelson Mandela — for answers. Now that she has become Myanmar's de facto top civilian leader, she's being widely criticized for failing to speak out against the violence. She abruptly canceled a planned trip to New York for next week's United Nations General Assembly as her critics grew louder. On Sunday, UN Secretary General António Guterres told the BBC, "She will have a chance to reverse the situation, if she does not reverse the situation now, the tragedy will be absolutely horrible." He was referring to a speech she is expected to deliver on Tuesday.

Yet observers say the groundwork for the carnage was laid long ago. Thousands of Rohingya have lived in decrepit internal displacement camps in Myanmar for years. More than 400,000 Rohingya refugees were already living in Bangladesh; now those numbers are doubling. And across the region, the Rohingya have not had proper access to health care or an education in decades.

But who, exactly, are the Rohingya? And what is their relationship to Myanmar?

The Rohingya Muslims earned the title the "world's most persecuted minority" long before Suu Kyi assumed a position of power in government in 2015, five years after being freed from her 15 (out of 21) years under house arrest. The description is usually attributed to the United Nations, but it is so often repeated that it's hard to trace its origin. Either way, the moniker has stuck.

A 2013 Harvard Divinity School study concluded: "Today, the Rohingya face discrimination in areas of education, employment, public health, housing, religious activity, movement, and family life." That includes a mandatory two-child limit per Rohingya household — a restriction that is only applied to the Rohingya. They also suffer from onerous restrictions on freedom of movement and the freedom to marry. Rohingya must request the right to marry from the government, a requirement also not imposed on other groups.

Many reports on Rohingya persecution and marginalization begin with Myanmar's 1982 citizenship law, which stripped the country's 1 million Rohingya of citizenship, leaving them without access to health care or education. Waves of violence soon followed.

In Myanmar, even the word "Rohingya" itself is taboo: The country's leaders do not use it, and some asked the international community not to use the name. Buddhist leaders instead refer to Rohingya as "Bengali" — in essence labeling them immigrants and foreigners from Bangladesh. They are not included among the 135 ethnic minorities officially recognized by the state. State leaders consider them foreign interlopers with no real ties to the country.

But independent researchers of the region say that's not true. One Human Rights Watch report in 2000 noted there were waves of Rohingya migration to what's now Myanmar in the late 18th century, the 19th century, the 1940s, the 1970s, and again in the 1990s.

And a 2015 Economist deep dive into the history of the Rohingya put their origins in the region even further back:

Muslims probably arrived in what was then the independent kingdom of Arakan (now Rakhine) as long ago as the 8th century. They were seafarers and traders from the Middle East, and were joined in the 17th century by tens of thousands of Bengali Muslims captured by the marauding Arakanese. Some were forced to serve in the king of Arakan's army, others were sold as slaves and yet more were forced to settle in Arakan. "Rohingya" simply means "inhabitant of Rohang", the early Muslim name for Arakan. The kingdom was then conquered by the Burmese army in 1785.

Simmering anger toward the Rohingya long predates modern Myanmar, according to Azeem Ibrahim, author of The Rohingya: Inside Myanmar's Hidden Genocide. The Rohingya minority, he told me, sided with the British colonialists who ruled the country (then called Burma) during World War II.

The country's Buddhist majority, on the other hand, cast their lot with the Japanese who invaded their country midway through the war. Burma was considered a strategic regional linchpin. The Burmese saw the Japanese invaders, initially, as a way out of British colonialism. (They weren't, at least not immediately.) But when the country won its independence from the British in 1948, the Buddhists remembered — angrily — that their Muslim neighbors had supported the British.

In 1962, a hardline Buddhist nationalist named Gen. Ne Win took power in a military coup and quickly began scapegoating the Rohingya. The 1982 citizenship law was a blow to the Rohingya, but it wasn't the first, or the last. By the 1990s, waves of Rohingya had fled for Bangladesh.

Still, the majority of the community clung to life in Myanmar's Northern Rakhine state. In 2012, journalist Greg Constantine traveled to the region for the Pulitzer Centerto report on the Rohingya, a stateless people caught between two countries. "The Rohingya of Burma face severe restrictions on the right to marry," his ensuing report concluded. "They are subjected to forced labor and arbitrary land seizure; they endure excessive taxes and they are denied the right to travel freely."

And that was before things got even worse.

In late May 2012, four Muslim men gang-raped and killed a Buddhist woman. That horrific crime became a spark for mass violence between the two religious groups and a brutal government crackdown on the Rohingya. A 2013 Human Rights Watch report found that around 125,000 Rohingya, and some local non-Muslims, had been forced to flee their homes for squalid refugee camps in Rakhine state. Children had been hacked to death. Many thousands of homes were burned. The report's authors concluded the violence amounted to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

In retrospect, the crackdown was a dark harbinger of the military attacks that would take place in 2016, and then again over these past few weeks.

In 2014, New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof visited Myanmar and walked through refugee camps still crammed full with Rohingya. The Times posted a brutal video, narrated by Kristof, titled "21st Century Concentration Camps." The people he met there had no freedom of movement and little to no access to health care. Their existence hung by a thread. It's very hard to watch.

That same year, Fortify Rights, a human rights advocacy group based in Southeast Asia, published a report that detailed the problem further. "This report," they wrote, "provides evidence that protracted human rights violations against Rohingya result from official state policies and could amount to the crime against humanity of persecution. The documents obtained by Fortify Rights detail restrictions on movement, marriage, childbirth, home repairs and construction of houses of worship, and other aspects of everyday life."

Then in early 2015, researchers from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocidevisited Myanmar on a fact-finding mission. They reported on the "human rights violations [that] have put this population at grave risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide."

"We saw firsthand the Rohingya's physical segregation, which has resulted in a modern form of apartheid, and the devastating impact that official policies of persecution are having on them," the resulting report from the museum explained. "We left Burma deeply concerned that so many preconditions for genocide are already in place."

And yet even as these reports were being written, hopes for Myanmar's future under Aung San Suu Kyi continued to swell. In September 2016, Suu Kyi visited President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. During her visit, Obama spoke glowingly of Myanmar's progress. He reminded the press that when he entered the White House, she was still under house arrest. And now she was the de facto civilian leader.

Obama noted that "because of the courage and strength and resilience of the Burmese people, what we've seen over the last several years is a transition to elections, a representative legislature that still has significant constraints from the previous military government but is giving voice to the hopes and dreams of a new generation of Burmese people."

He then offered the Nobel laureate a larger prize than praise: "The United States is now prepared to lift sanctions that we have imposed on Burma for quite some time," he said. "It is the right thing to do in order to ensure that the people of Burma see rewards from a new way of doing business and a new government."

In December 2016, he made good on that promise — even though, by then, the country was being widely vilified for a new round of violence against the Rohingya.

The current crackdown on the Rohingya was triggered by an August 25 attack on a police station in Myanmar by a small armed faction of Rohingya called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The militants, mostly armed with knives and crude implements, killed 12 police officers.

It wasn't the first time that the armed group had attacked the country's security forces. In October 2016, ARSA killed nine Myanmarese border guards. The brutal government response caused some 74,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. Many have continued to live in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

In February 2017, a devastating report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Rohingya refugees had seen indiscriminate killings — including of children. Of 101 women interviewed, more than half had been raped. The army, according to refugee reports, deliberately set fire to homes, schools, and buildings, sometimes forcing members of the community into the burning structures.

On August 23, 2017, just two days before the current bloodshed began, the Kofi Annan Foundation issued a grim report on the prospect of new violence between Rohingya Muslims and the government: "Unless concerted action — led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society — is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization."

It was a tragically prescient prediction.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both published satellite imagery showing miles of burned Rohingya villages, but the true scale of this month's military campaign won't be known for quite some time. Aid workers cannot enter the region, and journalists have almost no access.

The Rohingya are also a largely invisible and unknown population. They're not remotely as well known as other groups seeking citizenship or recognition like the Kurds or the Palestinians.

"The Rohingya are primarily fisherman and farmers," Ibrahim told me. "They don't have a spokesperson."

Myanmar, by contrast, does — and Suu Kyi remains a figure many world leaders are reluctant to attack too harshly. They are conscious of the fact that the country's fragile power-sharing agreement means she has no control over Myanmar's military or security apparatus.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Tillerson called the current violence a "defining moment" for Myanmar's new democracy. But he also spoke of continued support for Suu Kyi.

In the meantime, the Rohingya continue to flee, stateless and terrorized. Over the weekend, the number of new refugees passed the 400,000 mark.

Rohingya crisis: Hundreds of Buddhists gather to block aid shipment reaching Burma's fleeing Muslims
Independent

Robert Birsel
September 22, 2017

Hundreds of Buddhists in Burma tried to block a shipment of aid to Muslims in Rakhine state where the United Nations has accused the military of ethnic cleansing, with a witness saying protesters threw petrol bombs before police dispersed them by firing into the air.

The protest was testament to rising communal animosity that threatens to complicate the delivery of vital supplies, and came as US President Donald Trump called for a quick end to the violence that has raised concern about Burma's transition from military rule.

The aid shipment, being organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was bound for the north of the state where insurgent attacks on 25 August sparked a military backlash.

The violence has sent more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh but many remain in Burma, hiding in fear of being caught up in more violence without food and other supplies, aid workers believe.

Several hundred people tried to stop a boat being loaded with about 50 tonnes of aid at a dock in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe late on Wednesday, a government information office said on Thursday.

Protesters, some carrying sticks and metal bars, threw petrol bombs and about 200 police were forced to disperse them by shooting into the air, a witness said, adding that he saw some injured people. Eight people were detained, the government information office said in a release.

A spokeswoman for the ICRC was not immediately available for comment. Police in Sittwe were also not immediately available for comment.

Tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya in Rakhine state has simmered for decades but it has exploded in violence several times over the past few years, as old prejudices have surfaced with the end of decades of military rule.

The latest bout of bloodshed began in August when Rohingya insurgents attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people.

The government says more than 400 people, most of them insurgents have been killed since then.

Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign aimed at driving out the Muslim population and torching their villages.

Burma rejects the charge, saying its forces are tackling insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who it has accused of setting the fires and attacking civilians.

The violence and the exodus of refugees has brought International condemnation and raised questions about the commitment of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi to human rights, and prospects for Burma's political and economic development.

Suu Kyi addressed the nation about the crisis on Tuesday and condemned abuses and said all violators would be punished, adding that she was committed to peace and the rule of law.

However, she did not address UN accusations of ethnic cleansing by the military, which is in charge of security.

US President Donald Trump wanted the UN Security Council to take "strong and swift action" to end the violence, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday, declaring the crisis a threat to the region and world.

Pence repeated a US call for the military to end the violence and support diplomatic efforts for a long-term solution for the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants.

It was the strongest US government response yet to the violence. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy is in Burma and was due to meet government officials and representatives of different communities in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.

Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday visited an army camp in the state that was attacked on 25 August.

"This was a British colony over 100 years ago, we are facing the consequences of their reckless acts until now," he was quoted as saying in a military release.

This week, Britain suspended a training programme for Burma officers because of the violence and called on the army to stop the violence.

The Burma military said five officers in Britain were being brought home and "no trainees... will be sent to Britain any more".

Crimes against Humanity by Burmese Security Forces Against the Rohingya Muslim Population in Northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017
Human Rights Watch

September 25, 2017

Crimes against Humanity

Human Rights Watch has found that serious violations committed by members of Burma's state security forces against the Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017, amount to crimes against humanity under international law. The crimes against humanity alleged include: a) forced population transfers and deportation, b) murder, c) rape and other sexual violence, and d) persecution as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ad hoc international criminal courts.

Related Content

Human Rights Watch previously determined that the Burmese government was responsible for crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in 2012 and 2016 when Buddhist monks and ethnic Rakhine villagers carried out killings with help from the state security forces.

According to the ICC Statute, crimes against humanity are specified criminal acts "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack." The attack must also be part of a state or organizational policy. International legal jurisprudence requires that the attack be widespread or systematic, but need not be both. "Widespread" refers to the scale of the acts or number of victims and a "systematic" attack indicates "a pattern or methodical plan."

The "attack" does not necessarily need to be a military attack as defined under international humanitarian law. Because crimes against humanity may be committed "inside or outside the context of an armed conflict, … the term civilian must be understood within the context of war as well as relative peace." Furthermore, "the term 'population' does not require that crimes against humanity be directed against the entire population of a geographical territory or area."

Crimes against humanity are crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and are crimes of universal jurisdiction, meaning they may be prosecuted before national courts in countries outside of Burma, even though neither victim nor the perpetrator is a national of that country.

A. Burmese military attacks on the Rohingya population have been widespread and systematic

The Burmese military's campaign against the Rohingya population was sparked by an August 25, 2017 attack by militants belonging to the armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which targeted about 30 police posts and an army base. The military's attacks, which include mass burning, killings, and other abuses, have caused more than 400,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Tens of thousands more are internally displaced within Rakhine State. An additional 21,000 mainly ethnic Rakhine and other non-Muslims are also displaced in Rakhine State, as a result of ARSA attacks or the Burmese military operations.

Early satellite imagery showed the overall area in which burnings were found to be spread along an approximately 100-kilometer long stretch of Rakhine State, which is substantially larger than the approximately 20-kilometer long stretch in which burnings by Burmese security forces occurred from October to November 2016.

Maps of the damage seen in satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch show near-total destruction of 284 villages, with more than 90 percent of the structures in each village damaged. Detailed satellite images show the destruction of tens of thousands of homes across Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships. Accounts taken from eyewitnesses, including video obtained and verified by Human Rights Watch researchers, place the blame for the vast majority of these burnings squarely on the Burmese security forces and vigilante groups acting in concert with the security forces.

B. Burmese military and government statements have indicated an intent to attack the Rohingya population

On September 16, the Burmese army commander, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, linked Rohingya demands to be recognized as an ethnic group under Burmese law with the army's actions. Using "Bengali," a Burmese ethnic slur for Rohingya, he stated in a Facebook post that, "They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar. [The] Bengali issue is a national cause and we need to be united in establishing the truth." He described the ongoing operations against the Rohingya as "unfinished business" dating back to World War II.

On September 15, the Burmese Government Information Committee of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's office, stated that, "Those who fled the villages made their way to the other country [Bangladesh] for fear of being arrested as they got involved in the violent attacks" – implying that the several hundred thousand people who fled Burma were responsible for the militant attacks against the government.

On September 21, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing referred to restoring destroyed villages of the "national races," a reference to the official list of recognized indigenous ethnic groups – a list that does not include the Rohingya: "Regarding the rehabilitation of villages of our national races, for the national races [largely ethnic Rakhine] who fled their homes, first of all they must go back to their places. ...The important thing is to have our people in the region. It's necessary to have control of our region with our national races. We can't do anything if there are no people from our national races … that is their rightful place."

Alleged criminal acts amounting to crimes against humanity

A. Crime of deportation and forced population transfers

Since August 25, the Burmese military has subjected Rohingya to both deportation and forced population transfers.

Deportation is recognized as a crime against humanity in each of the major international criminal instruments prior to the ICC. Deportation and forcible transfer of population are distinguished by whether or not the victim was forced across an international border:

Both deportation and forcible transfer relate to the involuntary and unlawful evacuation of individuals from the territory in which they reside. Yet, the two are not synonymous in customary international law. Deportation presumes transfer beyond State borders, whereas forcible transfer relates to displacements within a State.

The crime of forcible transfer of populations includes "the full range of coercive pressures on people to flee their homes, including death threats, destruction of their homes, and other acts of persecution such as depriving members of a group of employment, denying them access to schools, and forcing them to wear a symbol of their religious identity."

The requisite elements of the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer consist of coercing movement to another location of people lawfully in the area with the intent of permanently relocating them.

As noted, since late August, more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and tens of thousands have been forcibly displaced within Burma, along with members of other ethnic groups. In early September, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 50 Rohingya refugees who had fled across the border to Bangladesh and obtained detailed accounts from about a dozen people. The Rohingya told Human Rights Watch that Burmese government security forces had carried out armed attacks on villagers, inflicting bullet and shrapnel injuries, and burned down their homes. They described the military's use of small arms, mortars, and armed helicopters in the attacks.

Satellite images corroborate accounts gathered by Human Right Watch from refugees who have described abuses by the Burmese military, police, and ethnic Rakhine mobs to force them to leave their homes.

The Burmese military alleges that ARSA militants and Rohingya villagers have burned down their own homes but has provided no evidence to substantiate this claim. The scale, scope, and timing of the burnings, many of which occurred after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya had already fled, is inconsistent with this claim. The pattern of burnings over time suggests government responsibility for the destruction.

B. Crime of Murder

Murder is recognized as one of the prohibited acts that may constitute a crime against humanity in the ICC statute and in the ad hoc criminal courts. It has been defined as "the death of the victim which results from an act or omission by the accused, committed with the intent either to kill or to cause serious bodily harm with the reasonable knowledge that it would likely lead to death."

Human Rights Watch interviewed [a number of] Rohingya refugees who had described the murder of relatives and neighbors by the Burmese military.

Momena, a 32-year-old Rohingya woman from Maungdaw Township, said that she fled to Bangladesh on August 26, a day after security forces attacked her village. She first hid with her children when the soldiers arrived, but upon returning to the village she saw 40 to 50 villagers dead, including some children and elderly people: "All had knife wounds or bullet wounds, some had both. My father was among the dead; his neck had been cut open. I was unable to do last rites for my father – I just fled."

Usman Goni, 20, said that he and five friends were in the hills outside their village, tending cattle, when they were attacked. He saw a helicopter flying overhead and then something fall out of it. He later realized he had been hit by whatever the helicopter dropped. Four of his friends died from fragment injuries while villagers transported Goni to Bangladesh for treatment.

Hasina, a 20-year-old Rohingya woman, said that the Burmese army attacked her village of Tu Lar To Li in late August. The villagers ran when the soldiers came, but some were trapped on a riverbank and she saw dozens murdered on the beach. She said the soldiers forced her and many other women to stand waist-deep in water and watch while soldiers dug a pit to burn the bodies of those they had killed. She tried to hide her infant daughter under her shawl, but a soldier noticed the baby, snatched her away and tossed her into the fire.

Hasina said that several hours later the soldiers took her, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and three other relatives, all children, to a nearby house. The soldiers tried to rape the women, knifing her mother-in-law to death when she resisted and beating Hasina and her sister-in-law unconscious. They beat the young children to death with spades. She said the soldiers tried to burn her and her sister-in-law alive in the house; they managed to escape the flames, but with serious burns.

Witnesses described dozens of killings in the village of Maung Nu in Buthidaung Township at a single house. One man said he saw soldiers kill three men; one of them while handcuffed and in their custody. He also saw soldiers beat two children to death with the butts of rifles after they were taken from their mothers.

Another man said that while hiding in an adjacent building, he saw two soldiers execute his elder brother, shooting him in the back and then cutting his neck with a long knife.

A woman said that a soldier entered the house she was hiding in, tore her 10-year-old nephew out of her hands, dragged him into the next room, and shot the boy in the head with a rifle, killing him instantly.

Witness accounts, independent reporting, and photo and video recordings also described Burmese soldiers in recent weeks deliberately laying antipersonnel landmines at key crossing points along the Burma-Bangladesh border that are used by the fleeing Rohingya population. Witnesses also told Human Rights Watch that Burmese military personnel also planted mines on roads inside northern Rakhine State prior to their attacks on predominantly Rohingya villages.

C. Crime of Rape and Other Sexual Violence

Rape and other acts of sexual violence are recognized as prohibited acts that may be prosecuted as crimes against humanity, including in the ICC statute. There are many reports of the military carrying out rapes, including gang rapes, of Rohingya women during the security crackdown in Burma in recent weeks, as well as in 2016.

UN and other health workers said that after this most recent August 2017 military crackdown, they treated dozens of Rohingya women and girls who had escaped to Bangladesh for injuries consistent with violent sexual attacks.

One woman told Human Rights Watch that she and four other women were taken to a hut, slashed with knives, and sexually assaulted. The soldiers then set the hut on fire. She is the only one to escape alive. Another woman who was raped still has injuries from the machete attack and beatings that accompanied the rape, and said she also barely managed to escape from a burning house.

One man told Human Rights Watch that he witnessed an army soldier rape three women in Maung Nu village. Two other woman from the same village told Human Rights Watch that soldiers stripped them and several other women who were hiding from the military naked and that they were "touched everywhere."

D. Crime of Persecution

Persecution is recognized as among the offenses that can constitute a crime against humanity. The ICC statute defines persecution as "the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity." The crime of persecution consists of an act or omission that 1) entails actual discrimination and denies a fundamental human right, and 2) was carried out deliberately with the intention of discriminating on one of the recognized grounds. These include for political, national, ethnic, and religious reasons. Persecutory acts have been found to include murder, sexual assault, beatings, destruction of livelihood, and deportation and forced transfer, among others.

Acts of violence, restrictions on fundamental rights, and other discriminatory actions – such as depriving members of the population access to their livelihoods or to food – might be considered acts of persecution that amount to crimes against humanity.

Evidence of government intent to commit the crime of persecution against the Rohingya can be found in both the actions and inaction of state security forces, combined with the longtime discriminatory state practices against them, such as restrictions on freedom of movement, marriage, childbirth, education, and employment.

For decades, the Burmese government has considered the Rohingya, most of whom live in northern Rakhine State, to be foreign nationals from Bangladesh. Just over one million Rohingya lived in Burma before August 2017, and they make up a large portion of the country's relatively small Muslim population. The Rohingya have long faced systematic discrimination in Burma based on their exclusion from citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law. As a result, the Rohingya are one of the largest stateless populations in the world.

Since the Rohingya lack citizenship, Burmese police, border guards, and local officials systematically subject them to numerous rights-abusing restrictions. Government laws, policies, and practices prevent Rohingya from freedom of movement to leave their villages; restrict their right to livelihoods; interfere with their privacy rights to marry and have children; and obstruct them from access to basic health services and education.

Official restrictions and recurrent military operations against Rohingya communities have left the Rohingya highly dependent on food and other aid distributed by United Nations agencies and humanitarian aid organizations.

Hostility against aid agencies has grown following government accusations that international aid workers supported the Rohingya militants because some high-energy biscuits distributed by the World Food Program were found in an alleged militant camp in July 2017.[36] Some supply warehouses of international aid groups were reported looted in September, while national and international staff of the UN and international aid organizations have faced intimidation, according to the European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

[back to contents]

AMERICAS

AMERICAS

North & Central America

Smoking Gun Videos Emerge: US Citizen, Libyan Warlord Haftar Ordering War Crimes
Just Security

By Ryan Goodman and Alex Whitting
September 19, 2017

The International Criminal Court very recently issued an arrest warrant for a militia leader in Libya which should catch the attention of U.S. policymakers, diplomats and prosecutors because of the possibility that his most senior commander-an American citizen by the name of Khalifa Haftar-ordered soldiers to commit war crimes. So has General Haftar been telling his subordinates to carry out the very acts that are part of the International Court's arrest warrant, such as summary executions? Alex Whiting raised that prospect in a recent article at Just Security. Now startling video evidence of General Haftar's potentially doing just that has emerged, we can report. The videos of Haftar reinforce concerns about the American's criminal exposure and his suitability as an interlocutor in any diplomatic negotiations over the future of Libya. What's more, if these videos help prove Haftar is personally committing war crimes, individuals who support Haftar's military operations in the future, U.S. officials included, could also be exposed to criminal liability under international and domestic law.

Haftar, also known as Libya's powerful "renegade General," commands a large army beyond the reach of the state. His militia group, the Libya National Army (LNA), has gained control of the eastern part of the country but not without accusations of widespread humanitarian law violations. The American has played havoc with attempts to broker peace and solidify support for the UN-backed government in Tripoli. Last year, the UN Secretary General's special representative in Libya at the time, Martin Kobler, expressed his frustration openly. "I have many times sought to engage with General Haftar to encourage him to embrace dialogue. However, my repeated attempts have so far been without success," Kobler told the UN Security Council.

Due to Haftar's unmistakable gains on the battlefield, the United States, the government in Tripoli, and other countries have had to contend with the General-whether they like it or not. There are some reports, and certainly fear on the part of Tripoli, that several foreign governments, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, are covertly supporting Haftar or at least warming up to him.

The ICC arrest warrant for Haftar's subordinate, Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, has now brought to the fore the question of Haftar's personal involvement in the commission of crimes. We have found videos that appear to directly implicate Haftar in extrajudicial killings and an unlawful siege of Derna, an eastern port city in Libya.

Haftar's statements in these videos raise a host of legal implications for him, for the army he commands, and for his international backers. What's more, as a U.S. citizen, the General is subject to provisions of the US federal code that criminalize violations of the laws of war. By extension, US officials who provide support to Haftar in the future may also risk criminal liability as aiders and abettors under US domestic law if it can be shown that they intentionally facilitated his crimes or, arguably, if the crimes are particularly grave, if they provided support with knowledge of those crimes. Because the ICC continues to assert jurisdiction in Libya on the basis of a unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolution, it too will likely be examining all of the available evidence to assess if charges are warranted against Haftar. And, the ICC theoretically could exercise criminal jurisdiction over other actors who assist Haftar, though it would be exceedingly unlikely to do so with respect to nationals from states that are not parties to the ICC like the United States.

We explain all those implications below. But for now let's examine the striking video evidence.

I. Take no prisoners - On or around September 18, 2015

The law:

It is a clear war crime to summarily kill detainees, including captured fighters, without all the guarantees of a fair trial. It is also a clear war crime to order one's soldiers to take no prisoners. The so-called "denial of quarter" is a firmly settled part of the laws of war. The U.S. War Crimes Statute prohibits murder in a non-international armed conflict, and the Rome Statute of the ICC criminalizes both murder and a declaration that "no quarter will be given" (see Articles 8(2)(c)(i) and 8(2)(d)x)).

The video:

In this video, posted to You Tube on October 10, 2015 and purporting to be from September 18, 2015, General Haftar gives a speech to LNA fighters. Haftar is apparently seated between senior members of his armed forces. The date of the video roughly corresponds with the commencement of new offensive, termed "Operation Doom" in some reporting. That offensive is part of a larger campaign (Operation Dignity), which Haftar launched in May 2014 to target certain jihadist militias. Here is the full video of the event and speech, and here is a clip from the speech in which Haftar directs the fighters to take no prisoners:

Full Transcript:

No longer will there remain [unintelligible: may be saying a brayza (which is Libyan dialect for electrical socket) or Al-Mrisa (which is a small neighborhood near Benghazi)], and no longer will there be these residential complexes for those to stay and be fed by us (or stay and nest). No, no. All of this will end.

Frankly, all kinds of weapons are permitted for use by us. With all the resources we have at our hands, we will use them [those resources] without any hesitation.

Like I told you, you are more than them in numbers, I swear. [Turns to the man to his left and asks, "More numbers than them or not?" Appears to get affirmation. Returns to audience.].

You exceed them in numbers. We could say three to one, or [mumbles].

So be calm, be resolute, be strong - the strength we know you for, and a determined strength when confronting them. No mercy. Give up on that story facing the opponent. Never mind consideration of bringing a prisoner here. There is no prison here. The field is the field, end of the story.

Officials reportedly close to Haftar have also apparently made similar statements regarding prisoners. For example, in another video, Beleed Al Sheikhy, identified as a spokesman for Haftar, said with regard to fighting in Ganfouda, a district of Benghazi, "who is above 14 years of age will never get out alive." Reporting indicates that the Al Sheikhy video is from August 2016.

Related actions of LNA forces:

It appears that Haftar's message was heard. The ICC issued its arrest warrant for Al-Werfalli, a member of the Al-Saiqa brigade of the LNA at the time of Haftar's speech, based on "reasonable grounds to believe" that Al-Werfalli participated in or ordered the execution of 33 detainees in seven separate incidents between June 3, 2016 and July 17, 2017. As we noted here, there have been public source reports following the announcement of Al-Werfalli's arrest warrant that his actions were ordered by Haftar. The allegations of prisoner executions by LNA forces were also reported by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and open source news media (here and here).

In response to one of the incidents emerging in late July 2017, Eric Goldstein, Middle East and North Africa deputy director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters: "This latest mass execution, if confirmed, would be one more in a string of atrocities committed by members of the Libyan National Army forces and is yet another manifestation of how its members are taking the law into their own hands."

II. The siege of Derna - On or around August 25, 2017

The law:

It is lawful to carry out a military siege of a city that aims to starve the opposition military force and deprive their soldiers of humanitarian supplies. The laws of war, however, prohibit starvation of civilians and depriving a civilian population of objects indispensable to its survival. The prohibition of starvation clearly implies that civilians must generally be permitted to leave a city during a siege. The laws of war also require parties to allow humanitarian access to civilians in need, most clearly if there is no military necessity to block such relief.

Those prohibitions apply in non-international armed conflict like the civil war in Libya today. However, it is a more complicated question whether violations of those prohibitions incur criminal liability in a non-international armed conflict. As for the body of law that applies to the civil war in Libya today, neither the U.S. War Crimes Act nor the Rome Statute appear to criminalize blockades or sieges that deliberately deprive civilians of food, medicine or other humanitarian supplies, unless that conduct rose to the level of murder or extermination if an intent to kill could be established. Nonetheless, in the video, Haftar's instructions to his troops about the siege could be relevant to proving intent with respect to potential criminal charges regarding LNA treatment of prisoners (see above) or civilians.

The video:

General Haftar's forces tightened their siege of Derna in early August 2017. Haftar's speech here appears to have been made on or about August 25, 2017. It was the subject of media reports on that day and on the following day, The Libya Observer published a story on the speech. Incidentally, the speech likely occurred one day after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with Haftar in Libya (French President Emmanuel Macron met with Haftar the previous month). In the speech, Haftar says:

Full Transcript:

The issue of the blockade, my brothers, is not a joke; when we say a blockade, it means a blockade, [inaudible] or say things which are messed up, or he is incapable of doing so and so.

This is not acceptable to us, then someone answers him back saying a blockade is a blockade. None of that. None of that. The blockade means choking (or strangling). There is no medicine, there is no medical care, or I don't know what, no petrol, no [cooking] oil. These issues, my brothers, we talk about them clearly. We have shut down everything until we get to a point where there is no longer a solution at all.

Related actions of LNA forces:

The LNA siege of Derna was preceded by allegedly indiscriminate LNA shelling of the city. The 2016 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices noted, "In April there was extensive social media reporting of disproportionate shelling by the LNA in Derna, which caused a significant number of civilian casualties and infrastructure destruction."

The siege tactics are not new for the LNA. The 2016 State Department report also provided information about the LNA's siege of Garfounda, a neighborhood of Benghazi:

"According to AI [Amnesty International], under an LNA military blockade, hundreds of civilians, including Libyans and foreign nationals, remained trapped in the Ganfouda neighborhood of southwest Benghazi and suffered from a severe shortage of water, food, medical supplies, and electricity. On December 10, the LNA announced a temporary, six-hour ceasefire to allow the evacuation of civilians. Only a handful of civilians, however, were able to leave the besieged Benghazi neighborhood. The UN condemned the failure of the LNA to assure safe passage to civilians during its pledged cessation of hostilities."

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also reported on the siege, including the LNA's failure to allow safe passage of civilians out of Ganfouda and the inability of humanitarian aid to get into the area. In March 2017, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Haftar informing him of the organization's knowledge that "children and the elderly, have little or no access to food, clean drinking water, electricity, fuel or medical care, while enduring air strikes and shelling in their vicinity," and urging him "to instruct forces under your command to allow humanitarian aid into Ganfouda."

III. Legal remedies and policy levers

Where might this evidence against Haftar lead?

In the US legal system, the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the Department of Justice, which has primary responsibility to investigate and prosecution the War Crimes Statute, will likely consider whether to open a formal investigation of Haftar. The videos are especially important because US domestic law clearly criminalizes ordering the commission of war crimes, while other more indirect forms of liability for commanders is less clear. Beyond Haftar himself, those who engage with the General - including American officials and other foreign states' officials - will have to consider whether their conduct could be construed as aiding and abetting crimes by Haftar if they provide support to the General and his forces with knowledge of his criminal conduct.

In the international legal system, the ICC Prosecutor, who has a policy of charging those most responsible for crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the Court, will likely continue to investigate the situation in Libya to determine if the charges against Al-Werfalli should be expanded to include Haftar. The ICC Prosecutor will likely consider whether Haftar might be directly responsible for ordering or encouraging the crimes (Article 25 of the Rome Statute), or responsible as a commander for failing to prevent or punish crimes by his subordinates of which he was aware (Article 28 of the Rome Statute). The statute of the international criminal court also includes liability of aiders and abettors, though arguably in more limited circumstances than under US domestic law and international criminal law more generally. And as we mention at the outset, it is highly unlikely that the ICC's Prosecutor would pursue individuals who assist Haftar if those agents are nationals of a state that is not a member of the ICC treaty (such as the United States). Although Haftar is himself a U.S. citizen, he is also a Libyan citizen, and because he is the overall commander of the LNA, there no reason to think that the ICC Prosecutor would hesitate to prosecute him if she had sufficient evidence to do so.

There are a host of other legal implications as well in the international space. For example, states may not lawfully aid or assist another state engaged in humanitarian law violations, even if those violations do not amount to criminal acts, and similar legal risks may apply to state aid and assistance to non-state armed groups.

In the diplomatic arena, policymakers will need to consider whether the mounting evidence against the LNA and Haftar disqualify him to be a participant in negotiations. In July 2017, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the LNA to suspend Al-Werfalli following videos showing his involvement in summary executions. Now with the videos of Haftar and other mounting evidence that the General is directly implicated in these kinds of actions, the UN will be pressed to consider whether to call on the American to step down.

Finally, the videos of Haftar, regardless of whether they implicate him personally, undermine the ability for him or the LNA leadership to provide assurances that they will adequately investigate their own military personnel for war crimes, as urged in an unusual joint statement by the U.S., the U.K, and France following the announcement of the Al-Werfalli arrest warrant. The renegade General has now created a visual record of wrongdoing that will be hard to erase.

Trump Could Be Guilty Of War Crimes After An American Bomb Killed Yemeni Children
Newsweek

By John Haltiwanger
September 21, 2017

A bomb made and supplied by the United States was used in a Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrike that killed 16 civilians, including seven children, in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on August 25, Amnesty International revealed on Thursday.

The bombing of residential buildings, which horrified much of the Arab world even before the link to the U.S., was due to a "technical mistake," said the Saudi government, which is fighting Iran-backed rebels in a larger Saudi-Iran battle for control of the Gulf region.

The human rights group is calling on the U.S. government to immediately cease selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

"By sending arms to Saudi Arabia, knowing that they may be used to kill civilians, the U.S. government may be complicit in violations of international law, including war crimes," Raed Jarrar, Amnesty International's advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, tells Newsweek.

This is not the first time U.S.-made bombs have been used in a Saudi-led airstrike that killed civilians, but it might be the most publicized example.

The sole survivor of the airstrike was 5-year-old Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, who lost all five siblings in the attack.

"[Buthaina's] case became [a] very iconic instance of civilians being impacted by the Saudi-led coalition and the fact we were able to verify the U.S. was involved in this case will have a huge impact in the Arab world," says Jarrar. "This attack will be an iconic example of U.S. involvement in conflicts in the Middle East."

Since the August 25 strike, Buthaina has become a symbol of the suffering in Yemen. An image of the young girl attempting to open her bruised eyes after the strike went viral and sparked a solidarity movement on social media.

Amnesty International's arms expert discovered the weapon had markings that matched U.S.-made components used in laser-guided air-dropped bombs. Specifically, the expert was able to identify the data plate from a U.S.-made MAU-169L/B computer control group, a part used in a number of types of laser-guided missiles.

In 2015, the U.S. sold $1.29 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including 2,800 guided bombs equipped with the MAU-169L/B computer control group, according to the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which coordinates foreign arms sales.

The U.S. was the world's top arms exporter from 2012 to 2016 and Saudi Arabia was its top customer, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

It's hard to know whether the U.S.-made bomb dropped on August 25 was sold under former President Barack Obama or President Donald Trump due to how many arms have been sold to Saudi Arabia in recent years.

"We know for a fact it's a U.S. bomb, but we can't verify which batch or what year it was," says Jarrar.

The U.S.-backed Saudi coalition has been combating the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015, around the time that Obama inked the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has decried as a bad deal for America.

The Saudis also think it was a bad deal because it supposedly empowered Iran. As a result, the Obama administration offered more support for the Saudi proxy fight against Iran in Yemen.

But as the news of civilian casualties and human rights abuses started to trickle out of the Yemen conflict, Obama started to back away from Saudi Arabia.

"What you saw under Obama was a slow increase of concern toward the end of his presidency," says Kristine Beckerle, who researches Yemen and the United Arab Emirates for Human Rights Watch.

Under Trump, however, "Rhetoric on U.S. side turned bombastic in terms of support for Saudi Arabia," Beckerle says, citing the $110 billion arms package the president agreed to this past spring.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch agree that the Trump administration doesn't seem concerned about human rights violations or civilian casualties in Yemen.

"Trump is basically telling the Saudi-led coalition to continue what it's doing," Beckerle says.

"We will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies, the greatest anywhere in the world," Trump said as he celebrated the arms deal during a speech he delivered in front of Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh in May. "King Salman, I thank you for the creation of this great moment in history and for your massive investments in America and its industries and its jobs."

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed and 3 million displaced since the Yemen conflict began. Meanwhile, the nation is dealing with a food shortage and a massive cholera outbreak. What's happening at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula has been referred to as the "world's worst humanitarian crisis."

The White House might not be concerned, but there's been a major shift in Congress in terms of the attention granted to Yemen and America's involvement in the conflict.

In June, 47 Senators voted to block part of the weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. The deal ultimately passed, but human rights groups still say this was a significant moment.

"When Amnesty and other organizations pushed for the Senate and the House to take actions against sales a couple of years ago, there was really no response or appetite. Now we're moving in the right direction," said Jarrar.

The Saudi-led coalition has imposed a blockade on Yemen and has been widely criticized, including by top officials at the U.N., for refusing to allow aid to enter the country.

Moving forward, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would both like to see increased transparency from the U.S. government in terms of its involvement in Yemen, which also includes providing intelligence and refueling Saudi-led coalition jets.

Amnesty is also calling for an independent inquiry into the August 25 airstrike, which Saudi Arabia has not agreed to.

El Salvador launches commission to find those missing from civil war
Reuters

September 27, 2017

El Salvador on Wednesday launched the first commission to search for persons who went missing during its civil war, 25 years after the end of a conflict that left tens of thousands dead and hundreds of cases unresolved.

The commission will seek victims who were killed or kidnapped by the military or rebels in order to help reunite them with families or return their remains

People who lost relative have demanded such measures for decades.

"With this instrument we reaffirm our deep commitment to pay off the historical debt to the victims of forced disappearances in the country," said leftist President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, himself a former guerrilla leader.

The 1980-1992 war in El Salvador between the U.S.-backed army and the Marxist guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), now the ruling party, left 75,000 dead and 8,000 missing.

"We hope that this commission gives something to the mothers because what we want is at least for them to tell us what they did with them," said Sofía Hernandez, 74, who is looking for a daughter, two brothers and four nephews.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Justice declared unconstitutional an amnesty law that has prevented since 1993 investigating and prosecuting those accused of war crimes in the impoverished Central American country.

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South America

Argentina Sentences 6 to Life in Prison for Crimes Against Humanity During US-Backed Dirty War
TeleSUR

September 16, 2017

In a landmark ruling, Argentina's Court of Tucuman sentenced 17 people with crimes against humanity - including issuing 6 life terms- for their role in 'Operation Independence' during the U.S.-backed Dirty War in Argentina in the 1970's and 80's.

The six given life sentences include Roberto "El Tuerto" Albornoz, Luis De Candido, Ricardo Oscar Sánchez, Miguel Moreno, Enrique del Pino and Jorge Omar Lazarte, all were top officials during the period.

The court charged the rest of the defendants with prison sentences ranging from 4 to 18 years, based on the crimes of torture, abduction, forced disappearances, and rape, in addition to issuing seven acquittals.

The 1975 operation was the first large-scale military operation of the Dirty War, launched to crush the People's Revolutionary Army, known by their Spanish acronym, ERP, and other left-wing forces in the country. Authorized by Italo Argentino Luder, who served as acting President when the incumbent Isabel Peron fell ill, it was continued under the military dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla.

The court's ruling came after 16 months of debate and testimonies from nearly 409 witnesses, according to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentine women whose children disappeared during the Dirty War.

There were 20 defendants at the beginning of the trial, three had died during the hearings.

Prior the ruling, hundreds of activists and the relatives of the victims gathered outside the court, demonstrating with personal items and photos of their family members who were kidnapped, tortured, killed or disappeared.

Venezuela Spurns Travel Ban, Calls U.S. Major 'Rights Violator'
Bloomberg

By Andrew Rosati and Vivianne Rodrigues
September 25, 2017

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza decried the U.S. travel ban on its officials and their families, saying the measure is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to force regime change in the South American nation.

Venezuela has been "threatened directly by the president of the United States," Arreaza told the United Nation's General Assembly on Monday in New York, calling the U.S. the world's "major human rights violator" and saying that Trump acted "as if he were the world's emperor."

Following his speech, Arreaza told reporters that President Nicolas Maduro was open to holding talks with his U.S. counterpart, but reserved the right to defend his country from foreign aggression. "We're open to dialogue, but can respond to attacks," he said.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump restricted or suspended travel to the U.S. from eight countries, including Venezuela, in order to "protect the security and interests of the United States and its people," according to the order's proclamation.

The decree says the Venezuelan government "fails to share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately" and has not been "fully cooperative" in receiving deportees.

The Venezuelan portion of the ban, which goes into effect Oct. 18, targets officials and their families "involved in screening and vetting procedures" -- specifically immigration and foreign ministries as well as investigative and intelligence police forces. The order says current visa holders "should be subject to appropriate additional measures to ensure traveler information remains current."

Mounting pressure

The measure follows the imposition of targeted sanctions against top-ranking Venezuelan officials by both the Trump and Obama administrations, which included freezing their U.S. assets and revoking their visas. Rather than bar regular citizens' from to the U.S., the travel ban seeks to further isolate Venezuela's ruling socialists says, Gregory Weeks, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

"It's part of an overall policy to squeeze the Venezuelan government," said Weeks. "It doesn't really substantively change much at all."

The Trump administration has sought to punish Maduro and his government for what U.S. officials say is a slide toward dictatorship. Last month, the Treasury Department barred trading of new debt by the government and state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA. The move is having broader consequences, as the added scrutiny has banks seeking to avoid running afoul of the regulations. Other rounds of sanctions have targeted senior individuals in Maduro's administration including Vice President Tareck El Aissami and PDVSA Chief Financial Officer Simon Zerpa Delgado.

Arreaza said that Trump's recent efforts to isolate the country ultimately sought to "make Venezuelan people suffer and to force an undemocratic change in government."

Sunday's travel restrictions could also further deepen divisions between Trump and other Latin American leaders. At a dinner in New York last week with the presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Panama, Trump praised the good relationship between the U.S. and Latin America and enlisted the region to keep pressure on Maduro, calling his rule "disastrous."

Trump in August had said that the U.S. has "many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option" to address the crisis in Venezuela, which drew rebukes from some of the U.S.'s strongest allies in the region.

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TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Rights Right Here at Home
Nepal Times

By Marty Logan
September 22, 2017

Nepal government officials revealed last week that the country is bidding to become one of 47 members on the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), the pre-eminent global rights body where members are elected by the UN General Assembly (GA) for three-year terms.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is now in New York, where he is scheduled to address the GA on Saturday. He is also leading Nepa's lobbying ahead of the HRC vote, which is expected in October or November.

While it pushes for a seat on the HRC, experts say the Nepal Government should also be strengthening human rights at home.

"The National Human Rights Commission believes the government should act on other issues before focusing on a seat on the HRC," says the Commission's Mohna Ansari. "For example, it needs to investigate recent killings of Madhesi people, implement the NHRC's recommendations and give the commission control over its budget."

The NHRC, which has the status of a constitutional body, has had an uneasy relationship with Nepal's governments since it was created in 2000. For instance, just 38 of its recommendations have been fully implemented, 138 partially enacted and 214 await action.

Others in the human rights community say the Nepal government must revise its transitional justice mechanisms to meet international standards.

The two commissions created as part of the peace process - the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances (CIED) - have a 'deeply flawed legal mandate', said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a recent paper.

ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director Frederick Rawski told Nepali Times: "The UN General Assembly has made it clear that members elected to the Human Rights Council must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. So the best thing that the Nepal government could do to strengthen its candidacy would be to take immediate steps to improve its own human rights record."

"This should include addressing the inadequacies of existing transitional justice institutions to ensure accountability for rights violations committed during the conflict, and properly investigating and punishing the excessive use of force in the Tarai," added Rawski. "The ICJ would also like to see the government issue a standing invitation to the Council's Special Procedures, and improve cooperation with the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights."

Suman Adhikari, chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, revealed recently that many conflict victims and their families are deeply frustrated that they are still waiting for adequate compensation and/or recognition of their losses, but the commissions have been unwilling to listen.

"Nepal should utilise the opportunity to amend the legislation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons in line with the Supreme Court verdict. That would ensure the credibility and recognition of the TRC and CIEDP as well as collaboration from concerned stakeholders," he said in an email.

"Equally, Nepal has to reveal its road map that it would champion for the promotion of human rights in the world as a member of the HRC," Adhikari added.

According to human rights activist Mandira Sharma, the government "should demonstrate that it respects the recommendations of the HRC, including a credible transitional justice process that helps to establish the truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-reoccurrence."

She adds: "The complete impunity for those in power has weakened democracy and makes the achievements of the People's Movement very fragile."

What We Can Learn from South Africa about Reconciliation
Ashland Daily Tidings

By Prakash Chenjeri
September 26, 2017

For the past several weeks now, these dispatches have focused on the historical, social, cultural, political and artistic life in South Africa. The dispatches are reflections of participants who visited South Africa recently as part of Southern Oregon University's Democracy Project (DP). The DP is a comprehensive examination of democracy around the world in the 21st century. Some of the issues to be studied include the historical evolution of democracy, sovereignty, nationalism, citizenship, feminism, patriotism, imperialism, freedom, liberty, security and equality.

Towards this end, over the last the four years participants in the DP have traveled to Washington, D.C., India, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. In each location, the group learned and got a firsthand experience of how their respective democracies function, from federal to regional to village levels. The focus of this dispatch is South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which has attracted worldwide attention as a model for how to overcome, transcend and move forward as a nation, after experiencing horrific oppression, discrimination, and other atrocities.

In 1995, under the leadership of Nelson Mendala, the first president of post-Apartheid South Africa, the government passed a law establishing the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The central purpose of the commission was to, "promote re-conciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of apartheid by the full disclosure of truth." Apartheid was the racial institution established in 1948 by the National Party that governed South Africa until 1994. It was a policy of segregation - political and economic discrimination - against the non-European groups in South Africa. The commission was given three principle tasks:

1. Discover the causes and nature of human rights violations in South Africa between 1960 and 1994.

2. Identify victims with a view to paying reparations.

3. Allow amnesty to those who disclosed their involvement in human-rights violations. One of the main aims of the commission was to help South Africa transition to a democratic nation after the end of decades of apartheid rule. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed as its chairperson.

The work of the TRC was carried out through three principle committees: the Human Rights Violations Committee, which investigated human rights abuses between 1960 and 1994; the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee, which was charged with restoring victims' dignity and formulating proposals to assist with rehabilitation; and the Amnesty Committee, which considered amnesty in accordance with the provisions of the act.

In his many writings, Archbishop Tutu wrote about the importance and value of the TRC. He was keenly aware of the need for South Africa to move forward, after decades of oppression, discrimination and violence, the country had to come to terms with its past and that this had to include all of her people, regardless of color or ethnicity. To underscore this point, he wrote, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. We say, a person is a person through other persons." He went on to say, "A person is a person through other persons; you can't be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships." These ideas formed the moral foundation of the TRC. Despite some criticisms, the work of the TRC has been hailed as successful and helping South Africa establish itself as a functioning democracy.

The success of the TRC in South Africa is now a model for countries around the world to deal with their own similar, difficult past histories to foster peace and reconciliation. To list a few: The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to investigate incidents of human rights abuses in the Canadian Indian residential schools. The National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation in Colombia was set up to assist victims who suffered in the armed conflict. The Commission on the Truth for El Salvador was setup to investigate the atrocities of the Salvadoran Civil War. The Sri Lankan government set up a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to look into atrocities during its 26-year conflict between government forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. In Rwanda, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission was set up to organize national public debates aimed at promoting reconciliation, foster tolerance and a culture of peace and human rights, after the genocide that took place in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people over a hundred-day period.

One might wonder what could have happened if this approach had been implemented by American leaders such as Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr. Could the TRC approach be used today, and if so, in what ways?

The work of the TRC and its impact on the world clearly demonstrates how nations can overcome the challenges they face through peace, dialogue, and non-violent means. As Desmond Tutu has repeatedly exhorted peoples around the world, "Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes." There is a lot we can learn from the South African experience. As my friend and colleague often reminds me, we can accomplish a lot by choosing to be "a part of one another rather than apart from one another."

What Happened To the Reconcilation Project?
Huffington Post Holdings

By Verne Harris
September 27, 2017

The reconciliation project conceptualised by Nelson Mandela's administration in the mid-90s is in deep trouble. The controversy that has swirled around Tumi Morake and Jacaranda FM is but a small symptom of a deep-seated malaise in the body politic.

In popular memory, Madiba's reconciliation project has become interwoven with Archbishop Tutu's rainbow nation and the narratives of forgiveness. The evidence shows, instead, that for Madiba reconciliation was about a hard negotiating of practical ways to learn simply to get on together. And it was to be rooted in a restructuring of society.

This restructuring demanded a fundamental redistribution of wealth and privilege through a range of strategies for restitution, reparation and transformation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC] was but one of many special instruments designed to effect such change.

Of course, the TRC could only become such an instrument if its research and investigation were used as a springboard for continuing restructuring work. Its amnesty process could only become meaningful if it were to be followed by the prosecution of those who failed to get amnesty.

But the state walked away from the TRC. The latter's recommendations were never responded to by government. The springboard was not allowed to have 'spring'.

The same could be said of BEEE. And of the land reform programme. And of the RDP. And of employment equity outside the state. And of a language policy recognising eleven official languages. I could go on -- the list is very long.

What went wrong?

I think we need to reckon with the mistakes that were made during Madiba's presidency. For instance, the embrace of neoliberalism for macroeconomic planning was inordinately hasty and intimate. Another example -- too much of the institutional transformation at the time didn't go much beyond affirmative action. So: change the personnel but leave the systems in place.

I think we need to reckon with the legacy of the Mbeki era -- years in which the TRC was very deliberately buried, both transformation and service delivery were hampered by inappropriate cadre deployment, and anti-corruption strategies were ineffective.

And, of course, we have to reckon with the Zuma years, during which everything has been subordinated to the exigencies of wealth extraction, patronage and the 'capture' of state institutions. Underlying all these phenomena, I would argue, is a seduction of political elites by capital.

Not surprisingly, the private sector remains largely unreconstructed and is, arguably, the engine of racism in South Africa. By racism, I mean that apparatus of power which excludes and in other ways oppress Black people. Whiteness exercises enormous power. 'White monopoly capital' [along with other forms of capital] does exist.

Reconciliation needs to start all over again.

And we must begin with the restructuring of society. Wealth, in the broadest sense, must be redistributed. Restitution, reparation and transformation need to be our watchwords. The private sector has to be reimagined as a public resource no matter how private it is.

White South Africans have to do a lot more than checking their privilege -- they have to give it up. Their claims to being African will sound hollow, if not ridiculous, until they demonstrate a willingness to learn and a readiness to belong rather than own.

Tumi Morake got it just right. White South Africans have to stop trying to share a stolen bicycle. They must give it up.

I often wonder what Steve Biko would be saying today. Beyond the specificities of 2017, I think his message would be the same. The time for Black Consciousness is now. All South Africans would be well-advised to listen.

In 1997 I was a member of the transformation unit at the National Archives. Our attempts then to dislodge the hegemony of the English language and of Western epistemologies was being frustrated. Twenty years later I'm in a structure of civil society which is striving for success in challenging exactly the same hegemony in its own formal institutional spaces.

We have to move faster than this.

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Terrorism

Central Jail Officials Guilty of Aiding and Abetting Terrorists: CTD
The News International

By Salis bin Perwaiz
September 22, 2017

An investigation by Sindh's counterterrorism officials into the June 13 escape of two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorists from the Central Jail Karachi has found the prison officials guilty of aiding and abetting the convicts.

Counter Terrorism Department chief Addl IGP Sanaullah Abbasi told The News that considering the statements of the accused and the witnesses, the Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, the central jail's record and environment and other relevant information received through interviews of present and former prison staff, they had arrived at the following conclusions:

In the morning of June 13, convicted prisoner Arshad Ali, who was illegally deputed to assist production clerk Yasir Ali, issued slips for producing high-profile prisoners in the anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) at the central jail's judicial complex.

He also issued a production slip for the case of Nadeem and others that was pending trial in ATC-VII, in which he included under-trial prisoner (UTP) Muhammad Ahmed, alias Munna, who was actually not required, but Arshad Ali tampered with the prison record and inserted his name.

Prison Constable Abdul Ghafoor of Security Ward No 26 received the slip and allowed them to go to the court on their own, in violation of the Jail Manual.

Ghafoor also allowed prisoner Shaikh Muhammad Mumtaz, zimmedar (responsible) of ward No 25 and 26, to accompany Munna on the pretext that he had to see his lawyer, without any legal permission. The order for permitting Mumtaz to see his lawyer was given by Rafique Channa, head clerk/hearing officer, through Prison Head Constable Nawab Ali.

Prison ASI Muhammad Farosh was deputed along with four other prison constables for production and security of hardcore prisoners inside ATCs. He was supposed to check and verify all prisoners to be produced, but Munna and Mumtaz succeeded in entering the court corridors without being checked.

Prison Constable Saeed Ahmed, deputed at ATC-VII, neither checked the production list nor pointed out that Munna and Mumtaz were not wanted by the court.

After their hearings, all the prisoners were allowed to go back to their barracks without any supervision or escort, which provided an opportunity to Munna and Mumtaz to hide in the production room of the non-operational ATC-XVIII.

Surprisingly, ASI Farosh was deputed to offer the Zuhr prayers with high-profile terrorist Shaikh Umer on a daily basis, leaving his sensitive and most important production duty at the ATCs.

On June 13, he left his duty to accompany Umer for the Zuhr prayers as usual. When he returned, the proceedings of the ATCs had ended and the prisoners had gone back to their wards without a headcount.

Four constables deployed at the ATCs, including Saeed Ahmed, did not count the number of prisoners produced and, without any verification, locked the main door of the ATCs and gave the OK report to Farosh at around 2:30pm.

Head Constable Nawab Ali Solangi, incharge amaldar deputed at Security Ward No 25 and 26, did not verify if all the prisoners from his ward produced in the ATCs were back.

The jail was locked down at about 11:30pm instead of 5pm, in violation of the prison rules. Surprisingly, the lockup register showed the time of lockdown as 7:50pm.

Even during locking down, Solangi and his two subordinates, Abdul Ghafoor and Atta Muhammad, did not do a headcount but merely relied on the OK report of the prisoners themselves. Mumtaz and Munna were missing, but no prison official seemed to take notice of this.

No senior officer, even Assistant Superintendent Naveed Ahmed Khan, incharge of Security Ward No 25 and 26, supervised the headcount or the lockdown. The OK report was sent to the tower, from where it was relayed to the prisons senior superintendent at 11:29pm.

The next morning, the jail was unlocked without any headcount or physical verification of the prisoners. Mumtaz was scheduled to be produced in an ATC the same day, but the jail authorities found out he was missing at 10am.

After informing Prisons Senior Superintendent Ghulam Murtaza Shaikh, the jail was locked down and a search for the missing prisoners carried out, but to no avail.

Shaikh then sent a detailed escape report to the Prisons IGP and the Prisons DIG for Karachi, both of whom reached the central jail to investigate.

DIG Ashraf Ali Nizamani got a criminal case registered against Shaikh, Deputy Superintendent Faheem Anwer Memon, Hearing Officer Abdul Rehman and nine other prison officials. After their arrests, a search of the prison was carried out with the help of the paramilitary Rangers on June 18.

Earlier, UTP Jamal Hussain had escaped from the Youthful Offenders Industrial School on July 28, 2013 and UTP Muhammad Hafeez from the central jail on February 15, 2016. At the time of both the incidents, Shaikh was the prisons superintendent.

No writ of law or authority seemed to exist in the central prison under Shaikh. Mumtaz was made zimmedar by Rafique Channa to run the affairs of Security Ward No 25 and 26.

Hardcore criminals and terrorists from different wards of the prison went to the ATCs without any escort or search and returned on their own as well. Neither Naveed Ahmed Khan nor any other officer ever visited the ATCs to check the security arrangements.

Abbasi pointed out that it was the responsibility of the prisons superintendent to prepare a standard operating procedure to ensure security of high-profile prisoners and terrorists for producing them in the ATCs, but no such mechanism was devised and prisoners had free access to deal with the prison registers.

He said convict Arshad Ali was allowed by Hearing Officer (Tower Incharge) Rafique Channa to work inside the court production section and he had tampered with the ATC court production diary of high-profile prisoners and terrorists.

Moreover, he added, the prison staff were insulted, misbehaved with and manhandled by high-profile prisoners, but no legal action was taken against them, which on the one hand encouraged the prisoners, and on the other hand demoralised and discouraged the staff.

Fort St. John Man Acquitted on Four Terrorism Charges
Vancouver Sun

By Kim Bolan
September 22, 2017

A B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted a Fort St. John man Friday on four terrorism charges related to dozens of Facebook posts he made supporting the Islamic State and lone-wolf attacks.

Justice Bruce Butler ruled that Othman Hamdan's posts were offensive, but that did not mean that he was encouraging or inciting acts of murder, assault and mischief as alleged by the Crown.

Butler was critical of the RCMP's method of copying the 85 concerning posts from Hamdan's 14 Facebook accounts in 2014 and 2015.

The judge said that because the police only took screengrabs of the offending posts, other content that could have provided context to the posts was not preserved.

Hamden took the stand in his own defence and claimed that information that was missing from the screengrabs would prove that he was not advocating terrorism, but simply trying to explain why lone-wolf attacks were taking place in North America.

Butler said Friday that Hamdan's testimony left him with a reasonable doubt about whether the 36-year old intended to incite a violent attack or was just expressing a political viewpoint.

He noted one re-post put up by Hamden appeared to be calling lone wolves to "activate" across the U.S.

When Hamdan was arrested in July 2015, he told police that was the only one of his posts "that's really bad."

But Hamdan also told police at the time that he was "against killing innocent people," suggesting he didn't have the necessary intent to incite a terrorist attack, Butler said.

Other posts entered into evidence had Hamden praising Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who attacked Parliament Hill on Oct. 22, 2014, as well as Martin Couture-Rouleau, who drove a car into two Canadian soldiers in Quebec two days before, killing one of them.

"These posts are difficult for the average Canadian to read or understand. This is because Mr. Hamdan expresses support for the actions of lone-wolf terrorists, and the reasons he gives for saluting these actions defy logic," Butler said. "The suggestion that it is rational or acceptable for someone to kill unsuspecting non-combatants in a civil setting is repugnant. However, the posts do not contain statements that could be considered active inducements and encouragement for readers to go and commit similar offences."

Hamden appeared pleased when Butler acquitted him after reading his judgment over three hours at the Vancouver Law Courts.

Police began investigating Hamdan in the fall of 2014. He was arrested several months later and charged with three counts of counselling the commission of indictable offences for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist organization (ISIS).

He was also charged with one count of directly or indirectly instructing persons to carry out terrorist activities.

Federal prosecutors argued that one of Hamdan's re-posts was a how-to guide for committing a lone wolf attack, including using vehicles to run people down.

Hamdan testified that the posts were taken out of context and that the translations from Arabic weren't accurate. He also said that he had disagreed with the author of the lone wolf guide, but posted the information because it provided a definition of a lone wolf for his readers.

Butler summarized Hamden's history at the start of his ruling Friday.

He said Hamden was born in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to Palestinian parents. He spent summers in Jordan, where he had family. As a teen, he was not religious and was attracted to American culture.

In 1999, a the age of 18, he moved to Texas to study. After a year, he went to work in Kentucky, then moved to Michigan and later Massachusetts, where he was a car salesman.

His roommate there was from Saudi Arabia and had taken flying lessons. The day after the 9/11 attack, both men were picked up and interrogated for days.

After Hamdan was released, he headed west. He converted to Christianity and considered applying for refugee status in the U.S.

Instead, he decided to come to Canada, and crossed the Peace Arch border in 2002, making a successful refugee claim.

He has since lived in B.C., mostly working in construction until his arrest. He has been in jail ever since.

Hamdan is not a Canadian citizen and may be required to appear at an immigration hearing.

PPS May Appeal Prison Sentences of Dissident Bombers Due to 'Leniency'
Belfast Telegraph

By Donna Deeney
September 23, 2017

Two dissident republican terrorists convicted of attempting to bomb a PSNI recruitment event in Londonderry could have their sentences increased.

Darren Poleon (43), from Lightown in Kells, and Brian Walsh (35), from Drumree in Dunshaughlin, were each sentenced to serve five years in jail and five years on licence by Judge Geoffery Miller at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday.

However, the Public Prosecution Service is now deciding whether or not there is any merit in challenging the sentences.

A spokesman for the PPS said: "We are considering if there is a basis to refer the sentences handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient."

While judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence, the sentences have been heavily criticised.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie described them as "pathetic" and "an insult to the victims of terrorism".

He claimed the rules that govern the judiciary in Northern Ireland were unacceptably softer than those elsewhere in the UK.

"All too often our courts hand out weak sentences that suggest a toleration of a certain level of violence as inevitable and even normal," he said.

"Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell received an 18-year sentence, plus five more on licence, for a variety of terrorist offences from the Old Bailey in London.

"How he must wish he had been sentenced in a Northern Ireland court."

However, solicitor Ciaran Shiels of Madden & Finucane, who represented both Poleon and Walsh, said: "The public should understand that the case was put forward by the PPS as an attempt by dissident republicans to disrupt the planned PSNI recruitment event at the Waterfoot Hotel, not any attempt at mass murder.

"Specifically, the court found that neither defendant poses a risk of serious harm to the public. Any referral by the PPS to the Court of Appeal on foot of comments by the Police Federation or local politicians will be vigorously defended."

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Piracy

Coast Guard Leaders to Collaborate on Piracy and Pollution
Maritime Executive

By Noel Tarrazona
September 19, 2017

Coast Guard officers from over 30 countries agreed to establish inter-regional collaborations to address the rising threats of piracy and marine pollution during the Coast Guard Global Summit held in Tokyo last week.

The U.S., Canada, South Korea, China Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Australia, Turkey, Russia, France, Djibouti, Hong Kong and Japan participated in the summit which was jointly hosted by the Japan Coast Guard and Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation.

Japanese Coast Guard Admiral Satoshi Nakajima said Coast Guards all over the world need to establish inter-regional collaborations beyond the existing bilateral and regional frameworks. As a result of the summit, participating countries summit are expected to forge new partnership with their neighboring countries to address four growing global maritime issues, namely piracy, marine pollution, oil spills and refugees.

Hosted by the Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation, the Summit selected key participants to present their response to these maritime threats.

While the South China Sea and East China Sea border disputes remain a global maritime issue that could have been raised during the summit, the Summit was instead deemed to be a place for building cooperation among maritime safety organizations. Nakajima said that the summit was not the place to focus on issues of a particular region (like the East or South China Seas) but to promote dialogue.

The Summit coincided with an era when piracy and maritime terror remain uncontrolled in some parts of the world. Other maritime threats include a growing number of reports that proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs are funding maritime terrorism and terror attacks on land. A joint naval task force led by Britain and France recently intercepted illegal drugs worth $590 million on board a ship sailing in the Indian Ocean.

In the Southern Philippines, $5 million-worth of illegal drugs were confiscated a few months ago at the stronghold camp of a local terrorist group in Marawi City and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has stated on a number of occasions that drug money is funding terrorism.

As sea traffic continues to increase, the Summit also addressed growing marine pollution around the globe. The leading causes of marine pollution includes oil spills, fertilizers, garbage, untreated sewage flows and toxic chemicals. Nippon Foundation leader Yohei Sasakawa has stated in the past that the ocean crisis is becoming worse and could no longer be solved by a single country, so one of the summit's goals was to take the first step in developing global resolutions to these worsening issues.

West Africa Steps up Battle against Pirates and Poachers

Capital News

September 20, 2017

http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2017/09/west-africa-steps-battle-pirates-poachers/

Armed and stony-faced, six black-clothed members of Senegal's marine special forces board the Chinese fishing boat, alerted by radio that it may be operating illegally.

Identity papers are demanded and the cargo is inspected: one of the crew members is not on the manifest of the "Casimir", which departed from Hong Kong, and their fishing licence has expired.

The scene is a simulation, but for the Senegalese inspectors and commandos the reality is all too familiar, as west Africa battles flagrant poaching in its waters and the threat of piracy on the high seas.

"We just received the information that there was a boat fishing illegally. They gave us its last position and the speed of the vessel and we came over immediately to intercept them," explained Mamadou N'Diaye, the head Senegalese commando present.

Senegal has three patrol vessels harboured in Dakar, and the intervention team launched from the "Ferlo" to begin their assessment.

These 10-day regional exercises, baptised African NEMO (Navy's Exercise for Maritime Operations), are conducted by French marines playing the role of the baddies from France's vast Dixmude aircraft carrier.

They aim to leave the problem-solving to the forces of more than 20 west African countries involved in the project, as they step up their battle against maritime criminality.

"We went from tactical training of teams boarding the boats, to lifesaving at sea, to how to make the centres put into place by the Yaounde process work," said the Dixmude's Captain Jean Porcher.

The Yaounde process was adopted in 2013 as a code of conduct by west and central African nations to share intelligence and coordinate intervention against illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy on Africa's west coast, but progress has been slow.

- Fish without borders -

Embarking from Togo on September 10, the Dixmude, a vast 199-metre-long warship, has carried out half-a-dozen exercises with the navies of the Gulf of Guinea, aimed at reinforcing the sovereignty of national waters and protecting a vital source of food for the population.

African coastal states lose around $1.3 billion (one billion euros) per year to illegal and unreported fishing, according to the European Union.

"Fish don't know how to read maps, they don't recognise borders, and neither do pirates," Admiral Christophe Prazuck, chief of the French navy, said at the opening of a conference in Dakar on Tuesday which will close this year's exercise.

"Around 90 percent of world trade is done by sea. In the Gulf of Guinea, there are 2,000 boats, and their security is fundamental for prosperity," Prazuck told journalists.

The "Casimir" was boarded because its captain was uncooperative when contacted by radio, and was escorted to Dakar's port for further inspection.

That is not always feasible in a region that lacks patrol boats and dedicated military and customs staff trained in illegal fishing patterns, according to environmental organisations such as Greenpeace, leaving nations such as Mauritania and Sierra Leone particularly vulnerable.

- Niger Delta threat -

The day after the "Casimir" exercise, the team took back a boat snatched by pirates. Although currently less of a problem in the upper section of west Africa, the discovery of important oil and gas deposits off Senegal and Mauritania may one day attract criminals to their waters.

World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to violent attacks by mostly Somali-based pirates.

But the focus of concern has shifted to the Gulf of Guinea, where a new class of pirates - mostly offshoots of militant groups from the Niger Delta - have become active.

Since 2013, maritime cooperation has been a mixed picture, said Senegalese Rear-Admiral Momar Diagne. While one regional centre agreed upon in the Yaounde process is operational in Pointe-Noire, Congo, another in Abidjan has yet to open.

11 Pirates Sentenced to Prison for Tanker Hijacking
Maritime Executive

September 22, 2017

On Wednesday, a court in Malaysia sentenced 11 Indonesian pirates to sixteen years in prison for attempting to hijack the Thai tanker MGT 1. Six of them were also sentenced to five lashes of the cane.

On the night of September 6, 13 pirates boarded the MGT 1 at a location off Pulau Bidong, a small island near Malaysia's border with Thailand. According to RECAAP, the attackers arrived in two boats and were carrying arms. They forced the crew of the MGT 1 to come alongside a pirate "mother ship" and transfer over about 265,000 gallons of fuel.

The crew of the MGT 1 activated the tanker's SSAS silent alarm, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) dispatched a helicopter and two response vessels to respond. An MMEA boarding team rescued the tanker at 0600 hours on September 7 and arrested ten pirates. Three more escaped on a boat and are still at large. Police later arrested an 11th man, Heinrick Piterson Parera, 59, who is accused of masterminding the operation.

On Wednesday, less than two weeks after the hijacking attempt, the court found the ten captured pirates guilty and pronounced their sentences. Parera pled guilty to aiding and abetting the hijacking attempt.

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Gender-Based Violence

UN to tackle claim it mishandles C. Africa rape cases
Daily Mail

September 15, 2017

The UN's peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) said Friday that it would probe allegations that investigations into sexual abuse by UN soldiers had been disastrously mishandled.

MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro, reached by phone in the Central African capital of Bangui, said the force would "examine the allegations."

A US-based NGO, Code Blue Campaign, on Wednesday said a confidential source had given it 14 internal case files regarding allegations of sexual offences against CAR civilians by UN troops.

Complaints were made against UN soldiers from nine countries -- Pakistan, Zambia, Republic of Congo, Burundi, Morocco, Egypt, Cameroon, Gabon and Niger.

But a "sham process" meant these complaints were never probed in depth, it said.

In eight of the cases, alleged victims were not questioned to provide evidence; potentially corroborating witnesses were not sought out for interviews; and investigators showed "overwhelming bias" against those who complained, its report said.

"In at least four cases, fact-finders gave weight to unsubstantiated assertions suggesting that the accused peacekeepers were the true victims in the incidents," it said.

None of the accused has been sentenced, it added.

In one case, a woman who said she had been sexually assaulted by a Moroccan UN soldier at Obo, in the east of the country, was questioned for 13 days by nine men, both UN staff and local authorities, according to the report.

The investigators concluded that her allegation was false and intended to discredit MINUSCA and gain compensation, it said.

"Of the 14 fact-finding inquiries, 10 were conducted solely by UN personnel," Code Blue noted.

"Three were conducted jointly by the UN and representatives from the accused soldiers´ battalions. One was conducted by national investigation officers (NIOs) from the home country of the accused soldiers."

It said: "Only four of the 14 cases we examined have been revealed publicly. How many more cases loom in the shadows? How many more victims?"

MINUSCA has faced a host of sexual abuse claims since its force of some 12,000 men arrived in the CAR early in 2014 to help end conflict and bring stability to the deeply poor, landlocked country.

When Antonio Guterres became UN chief in January, he promised to crack down firmly on such crimes.

The Republic of Congo has already pulled its contingent out of the CAR in the wake of prior allegations of rape.

MINUSCA on Friday insisted it "had taken strict measures to combat this problem."

"Sexual exploitation and cases of sexual abuse have severely affected the credibility and the reputation of the mission in the past," it admitted.

'Thousands of women raped and assaulted' in South Sudan
Al Jazeera

By Malcom Webb
September 17, 2017

Thousands of women fleeing the four-year-long conflict in South Sudan have been raped and sexually assaulted, according to rights groups and women who have spoken to Al Jazeera.

They mainly blame the government troops of President Salva Kiir, but also opposition forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar for the abuses.

Many women who survived described how their husbands were killed before they were gang-raped by government soldiers.

"My husband was following a short distance behind us," one rape survivor told Al Jazeera.

"When he came and found these men on me, he told them to stop," she said as she described how five government soldiers gang-raped her, along with four other women.

"They grabbed him immediately and killed him with a knife."

Al Jazeera heard similar stories from other women now living refugee camps in Uganda.

"They tied a blindfold on my face," another rape survivor said. "They took all of my possession and stripped me," she added.

"Three of them were all on me. After, I grabbed my baby and left naked. Now, I have nothing."

War crimes

Ken Scott, a war crimes prosecutor who has worked on tribunals for many conflicts, told Al Jazeera that the sexual violence in South Sudan is the worst he has ever seen.

"It's such a high level of incidents, widespread, been going on for a substantial period of time, not isolated incidents, [and] one can only conclude that war crimes involving sexual violence are taking place," Scott said.

A spokesman for government forces told Al Jazeera that soldiers who rape are punished. He also questioned the stories coming from the refugee camps.

"How do we substantiate those claims, to know for sure they are not made up without someone coming forward to report it?" Lul Ruai Koan, a government army (SPLA) spokesman, told Al Jazeera.

"These are claims that are being made in the refugee camps," he said.

"How do we get convinced they are not being told to say weird things about the SPLA?"

But rights groups say they have documented widespread sexual violence in South Sudan.

A report by Amnesty International in July found that "thousands of South Sudanese has been subjected to sexual violence including rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, torture, castration, or forced nudity."

The report found that the perpetrators were from all sides of the conflict.

"This is pre-meditated sexual violence on a massive scale," Munthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty's regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said in a statement during the report's release.

"Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives," Wanyeki said.

Amnesty called on the government to "take deliberate measures to halt this epidemic of sexual violence".

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, pitting President Salva Kiir's troops against those or rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar.

A peace accord was signed in August 2015 and Machar returned to the capital in April last year to share power with Kiir, before the deal fell apart less than three months later and Machar and his supporters fled the capital.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 3.5 million have been displaced since the conflict began.

The war has created what has been called one of the world's fastest-growing refugee crises and both sides of the conflict have been accused of abuses.

UN peacekeepers in Congo hold record for rape, sex abuse
Trib Live

September 23, 2017

The girl was only 11 when the first peacekeeper raped her, luring her with bread and a banana as she was leaving school in her village in northeastern Congo.

"It was the first man who ever touched me," said Bora, who asked that only her first name be used because she is a rape victim. The rape left her pregnant, and she gave birth to a son.

She was 13 when the second peacekeeper raped her. She once again got pregnant, and became a mother twice over while she was still a child herself.

Bora's case is grimly emblematic of the underbelly of U.N. peacekeeping, and the organization as a whole: In a yearlong investigation, the AP found that despite promises of reform for more than a decade, the U.N. failed to meet many of its pledges to stop the abuse or help victims, some of whom have been lost to a sprawling bureaucracy. Cases have disappeared, or have been handed off to the peacekeepers' home countries - which often do nothing with them.

If the U.N. sexual abuse crisis has an epicenter, it is Congo, where the overall scale of the scandal first emerged 13 years ago - and where the promised reforms have most clearly fallen short. Of the 2,000 sexual abuse and exploitation complaints made against the U.N. worldwide over the past 12 years, more than 700 occurred in Congo. The embattled African nation hosts the U.N.'s largest peacekeeping force, costing a staggering $1 billion a year. The mission is so problematic, the U.S. ambassador the U.N., Nikki Haley, has threatened to cut off funds for it and others like it.

With rare exception, the victims interviewed by the AP in Congo got no help. Instead, many are banished from their families for having mixed-race children, who also are shunned, becoming a second generation of victims. Of the 2,000 allegations, about a quarter involved children. Some years, in fact, offenses involving children, including rape, accounted for nearly half of the allegations.

To this day, the violence continues: Congo already accounts for nearly one-third of the 43 allegations made worldwide so far in 2017.

Peter Gallo, a former investigator at the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight, blames a bureaucratic, inefficient agency for the enduring crisis.

"The U.N. system is essentially protecting the perpetrators of these crimes, and what is happening is that the U.N. is exploiting and is complicit in the exploitation of the very people that the organization was set up to protect."

The need for reform is evident in the case of a 14-year-old orphan girl who says she was raped by a Pakistani peacekeeper on the same day a high-level U.N. delegation was paying a visit to Bunia in 2004.

It was an attack so brazen it still haunts the U.N.'s top human rights official more than a decade after hearing the girl's story.

"What on earth would it take for this soldier not to do it - to have all the heads of the U.N. together, and he still does it?" asked Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, a member of the delegation that heard the girl's testimony in 2004. One year later, Zeid, now the U.N. human rights commissioner, helped write a landmark report on sexual abuse within the U.N. ranks.

Zeid says the U.N. needs to do much, much more, especially for victims.

"We set up a trust fund. It should have been flush with money," he said, "But more than a decade later, it's still in the planning stages."

The fund has accumulated only half a million dollars.

Neither Zeid's outrage nor his 2005 report, however, helped the 14-year-old orphan. The U.N. had no record of her, saying only that a similar incident was later considered "unsubstantiated" at the time because the girl identified the wrong foreigner in a photo lineup. It didn't know what became of her.

But in just three days last month, the AP found a woman whose story closely matched Zeid's description. She was inebriated and living in poverty, the daughter born as a result of the assault now cared for by relatives. The victim, now 27, said she received no help from the U.N. after her child was born.

The adoptive mother of that child, Dorcas Zawadi, refuses to allow the girl near U.N. bases.

"The peacekeepers try to distract the girls with cookies, candy and milk to rape them," she told the AP.

U.N. medics see evidence of rape in Myanmar army 'cleansing' campaign
Reuters

By Simon Lewis and Tommy Wilkes
September 24, 2017

Doctors treating some of the 429,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar in recent weeks have seen dozens of women with injuries consistent with violent sexual attacks, U.N. clinicians and other health workers said.

The medics' accounts, backed in some cases by medical notes reviewed by Reuters, lend weight to repeated allegations, ranging from molestation to gang rape, leveled by women from the stateless minority group against Myanmar's armed forces.

Myanmar officials have mostly dismissed such allegations as militant propaganda designed to defame its military, which they say is engaged in legitimate counterinsurgency operations and under orders to protect civilians.

Zaw Htay, spokesman for Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said the authorities would investigate any allegations brought to them. "Those rape victim women should come to us," he said. "We will give full security to them. We will investigate and we will take action."

Suu Kyi herself has not commented on the numerous allegations of sexual assault committed by the military against Rohingya women made public since late last year.

Violence erupted in Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state following attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants last October. Further attacks on Aug. 25 provoked a renewed military offensive the United Nations has called "ethnic cleansing".

Reuters spoke with eight health and protection workers in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district who between them said they had treated more than 25 individual rape cases since late August.

The medics say they do not attempt to establish definitively what happened to their patients, but have seen an unmistakeable pattern in the stories and physical symptoms of dozens of women, who invariably say Myanmar soldiers were the perpetrators.

It is rare for U.N. doctors and aid agencies to speak about rape allegedly committed by a state's armed forces, given the sensitivity of the matter.

"Inhuman Attack"

Doctors at a clinic run by the U.N's International Organization for Migration (IOM) at the Leda makeshift refugee say they treated hundreds of women with injuries they said were from violent sexual assaults during the army operation in October and November.

There have been fewer rapes reported among the influx of refugees since August, said Dr. Niranta Kumar, the clinic's health coordinator, but those they have seen have injuries suggesting "more aggressive" attacks on women.

Several health workers suggested that, whereas in October many women had initially remained in their villages believing the army sweeps were only targeting Rohingya men, this time most had fled at the first sign of military activity.

Doctors at the Leda clinic showed a Reuters reporter three case files, without divulging the identity of the patients. One said a 20-year-old woman was treated on Sept. 10, seven days after she said she was raped by a soldier in Myanmar.

Handwritten notes say she said soldiers had "pulled her hair" and a "gun used to beat her" before raping her.

Examinations often find injuries suggesting forced penetration, beating and even what looked like intentional cutting of the genitals, doctors said.

"We found skin marks, it showed a very forceful attack, an inhuman attack," said IOM medical officer Dr Tasnuba Nourin.

She had seen incidents of vaginal tearing, bite marks and signs that seemed to show a firearm was used to penetrate women, she said.

Among the new influx of Rohingya she had treated at least five women who appeared to have been recently raped, she said, adding that in each case the physical injuries observed were consistent with the patient's account of what had happened.

"Fraction of the Cases"

At Bangladesh government clinics supported by U.N. agencies in the Ukhia area, doctors reported treating 19 women who had been raped, said Dr. Misbah Uddin Ahmed, head of the main health complex there, citing reports from female clinicians.

"The evidence included bite marks, tearing of the vagina, these sorts of things," he said.

In one day alone, Sept. 14, six women showed up at one of the clinics, all saying they were sexually assaulted. "They all said Myanmar army had done this."

An IOM doctor who asked not to be identified, working at one of those clinics near the Kutapalong refugee camp, said a woman who crossed from Myanmar in late August said she was raped by at least seven soldiers.

"She was extremely weak and traumatized and said she struggled to make it to the clinic," the doctor said. "She had a laceration on the vagina."

The doctor treated 15 of the 19 cases of women who appeared to have been raped, and another eight women who had been physically assaulted. Some were given emergency contraceptives, and all were given treatment to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and jabs against hepatitis. Symptoms included bite marks over the arms and back, tearing and laceration on the vagina and vaginal bleeding, the doctor said.

Internal reports compiled by aid agencies in Cox's Bazar recorded that 49 "SGBV survivors" were identified in just four days between Aug. 28-31. SGBV, or sexual and gender-based violence is used to refer to only cases of rape, according to U.N. doctors. Data for reported rape cases was not available for other dates.

A situation report from aid agencies says more than 350 people had been referred for "life-saving care" relating to gender-based violence - a broad term that includes rape, attempted rape and molestation, as well as emotional abuse and denial of resources based on gender - since Aug. 25. It did not refer to the perpetrators.

Kate White, emergency medical coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Cox's Bazar said the charity had treated at least 23 cases of sexual and gender-based violence including gang-rape and sexual assault since Aug. 25.

"This is a fraction of the cases that are likely to be out there," she said.

"Rape as a Weapon of War"

Reuters first reported allegations of mass rape of Rohingya women within days of militant attacks in northern Rakhine in October.

The same reports were also heard by U.N. investigators who visited Bangladesh in January.

A report of the U.N. Secretary General in April said the sexual assaults were "apparently employed systematically to humiliate and terrorize their community".

Before her rise to power last year Suu Kyi had spoken of rape being used as a tool of division in the country's myriad ethnic conflicts.

"It is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country, this is how I see it," she said in 2011 in a video message to a conference on sexual violence in conflict.

Her spokesman Zaw Htay said there was "nothing to say" when asked if her view had changed since then. "Everything should be according to the rule of law," he said. "The military leaders also have said they will take action."

Increasing reports of sexual violence against Rohingya worry UN
SF Gate

September 27, 2017

The head of the U.N.'s migration agency warned Wednesday about increasing reports of sexual violence directed at Rohingya Muslims, who have been fleeing violence in Myanmar in recent weeks.

Director-General William Lacy Swing of the International Organization for Migration said he was "shocked and concerned" about the reports of sexual and gender-based violence among Rohingya newly arrived in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

The agency said rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence have been identified. It did not specify who was responsible for the violence.

The agency is coordinating the humanitarian response among U.N. agencies and aid providers amid the exodus of an estimated 480,000 people who have reached Cox's Bazar since Aug. 25, when attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group against police posts in Myanmar led to massive retaliation by the country's army.

Meanwhile, Myanmar government officials said at least 163 people have been killed and 91 others have gone missing over the past year in attacks carried out by Rohingya militants in restive Rakhine state.

The comments Tuesday came after the bodies of at least 45 Hindus were discovered in three mass graves earlier in the week. The government in Yangon blames Muslim insurgents for the killings, although they denied responsibility in a statement Wednesday.

The government's Information Committee released a statement on its Facebook page saying that from October 2016 to August 2017, at least 79 people were killed in the attacks and 37 have gone missing, including local officials, public servants and security forces. Another 84 were killed and 54 have gone missing since Aug. 25, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, opened attacks on at least 30 police outposts.

The government had previously said that nearly 400 alleged insurgents had been killed since Aug. 25.

On Monday, Myanmar officials said they had discovered at least 45 slain Hindus in three mass graves in conflict-torn northern Rakhine state. Twenty-eight were uncovered from two mass graves on Sunday and 17 were discovered in a different mass grave in the same area on Monday.

Local authorities said the 45 bodies were among about 100 Hindus missing since ARSA carried out the simultaneous attacks on the police outposts.

"We are still searching for more mass graves in that same area," said Maj. Zayar Nyein of Border Guard Police Headquarters in Maungdaw. "I don't know exactly why these terrorists killed that many people. The Hindu village was very much up north and communication was not that good, and that's why security forces were not able to reach out to the area sooner."

ARSA issued a statement Wednesday on Twitter denying it had abused civilians in the villages where the bodies were found. It said it has sympathy for the victims of war crimes and other atrocities committed in the fighting, and would investigate any such crimes committed by Myanmar authorities.

There was no way to immediately verify either the government or ARSA accounts.

A government crackdown that followed the attacks left more than 200 Rohingya Muslim villages burned and sent at least 480,000 Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh.

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Commentary and Perspectives

Crimes of UN Officers Must be Tried by Fair, External Tribunal
Daily Nation

By Rasna Warah
September 25, 2017

President Donald Trump's inaugural speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week was in sharp contrast to that of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The US president managed to offend several of the delegations - including North Korea, which he threatened to "destroy", and Iran, which he described as a "murderous regime".

The UN chief, on the other hand, was diplomatic, urging the international community to be more responsive to challenges facing the world and empathetic to the plight of refugees and others suffering the consequences of war and conflict.

However, what both leaders agreed on was that the UN needs to be more efficient and less bureaucratic and that its whistleblowers must be protected.

Mr Guterres promised to improve whistleblower protection at the UN, which has had a dismal record. Unfortunately, we have seen this movie before, so we should not expect this arcane and highly unaccountable organisation to undergo radical surgery.

Fraud

In 2005, in the wake of the UN Oil-for-Food Programme scandal in Iraq, in which billions of dollars were lost to fraud, the then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan promised far-reaching reforms, including the creation of an ethics office that would look into claims made by whistleblowers and to protect them from retaliation.

However, very few whistleblowers are protected by the UN; on the contrary, most are forced to resign or are fired, demoted or blacklisted by the organisation. (The contract of Rehan Mullick, the UN database manager who alerted his bosses about the Oil-for-Food scandal, was not renewed.)

What's worse, most of their cases never get investigated and the crimes or misdemeanours they report continue unabated.

In 2014, when Anders Kompass, a high-ranking UN employee, reported to the authorities in France that French peacekeepers under the authorisation of the UN Security Council in the strife-torn Central African Republic were sexually exploiting boys as young as eight, the UN's senior managers responded by asking Kompass to resign.

Traumatic

When he refused to do so, they suspended him for "unauthorised disclosure of confidential information" and directed their internal investigations towards him - rather than towards the peacekeepers who had allegedly abused the children!

Although an inquiry later exonerated Kompass of all charges, his experience with the UN had been so traumatic that he resigned shortly after.

That is one of several cases that illustrate the treatment meted out to those who report wrongdoing within the UN.

The UN adopted a revised whistleblower protection policy in January this year but it is, in many ways, much worse than the older one. It places the onus of establishing misconduct on the whistleblower, and even threatens to "discipline" the whistleblower if his or her allegations are found to be "false or misleading".

Suspects

This means that, if a staff member suspects wrongdoing and makes a complaint so that further investigations can be carried out, and it is later determined that no wrongdoing took place (which usually happens as the UN is adept at cover-ups), the staffer could face disciplinary action - the threat of which would most likely silence most would-be whistleblowers.

In essence, these conditions constitute a gagging order on whistleblowers - a significant step backwards from the 2005 policy, which provided qualified protection to UN whistleblowers who spoke to outsiders or the media. Moreover, the UN's internal justice system presents an insuperable conflict of interest as the UN is both judge and defendant in such cases, which explains why very few whistleblowers obtain justice through these mechanisms.

One reason illegal or unethical acts committed by UN officers go unpunished is that the UN Charter accords them immunity from prosecution; they cannot be tried in national courts.

Criminality

To reduce criminality and unethical practices within the UN, therefore, it is important to establish an independent external arbitration tribunal that can investigate and hear such cases. And it should not be funded by UN member States - who may use their clout or resources to influence cases involving their nationals - but by external sources such as philanthropists, NGO networks and other organisations committed to improving accountability and transparency in the UN.

In addition, the immunity clause in the UN Charter must be removed so that crimes committed by UN officers can be tried in national courts or external tribunals.

The Tiger Force Atrocities
The New York Times

By Michael Sallah
September 26, 2017

The memory haunts Bill Carpenter even 50 years after his tour in Vietnam ended. An elderly villager dressed in white had just carted geese over the dark Song Ve River when he crossed paths with Mr. Carpenter's platoon - a unit known as Tiger Force. The villager sputtered in fear. The angry troops told him to be quiet. He couldn't.

The gunshots that struck the man down still shake Mr. Carpenter from his sleep.

"There was no reason to kill that old man," Mr. Carpenter, a former Army specialist, said in a recent interview.

The killing was one of dozens of attacks by Tiger Force during 1967 on unarmed civilians, including rapes and torture, in a spate of violence that was covered up by the Pentagon but revealed in a series of stories by The Toledo Blade in 2003. Records showed the unit, an element of the 101st Airborne Division, carried out what's believed to be the longest series of atrocities by a platoon in the war. They hurled grenades into bunkers where women and children were hiding, shot prisoners and then cut off their ears and scalps for souvenirs, murdered villagers for no reason and left many of them behind in mass graves.

Military experts who examined the Tiger Force case said the troops were acting out of rage over the death of comrades, frustration over fighting a canny enemy and fear for their own safety. But some of the soldiers themselves spoke years later of orders that made them treat civilians like adversaries, let them fire weapons with little clear justification and measured success from body counts - the supposed enumeration of enemy dead that was likely to include anyone killed by American troops.

As with the My Lai Massacre in 1968, in which American troops killed hundreds of women, children and old men in hamlets near the Tiger Force operations area, commanders had an arm's length role in either encouraging or covering up what happened.

Records show that members of Tiger Force shot or stabbed at least 81 civilians in violation of military law. But based on The Blade's interviews with former soldiers and Vietnamese civilians, the platoon is believed to have killed hundreds of unarmed villagers in the Central Highlands between May and November of 1967.

"We weren't keeping count," former Pvt. Ken Kerney said in 2003. "I knew it was wrong, but it was an acceptable practice."

The Army began a four-year investigation of Tiger Force only in 1971. It lasted four years and led to recommendations that 18 soldiers be charged with murder, assault and dereliction of duty. But in the end, no one was prosecuted, and the case was concealed in the military archives for the next three decades.

"They just buried it," said a former platoon medic, Rion Causey.

Tiger Force was created in 1965 as an elite unit to defeat an enemy that operated in underground tunnels, set deadly booby traps and disappeared into the jungle as they were counterattacked. The platoon's 45 members were expected to survive for weeks at a time in the bush as they searched for enemy camps and called in air strikes.

But in May 1967, as American commanders grew frustrated by a war in which their foes could blend into the civilian populace, Tiger Force was sent to Quang Ngai province to move civilians into relocation centers so the farmers couldn't grow rice, depriving the enemy of a crucial food supply.

Rather than soldiers fighting soldiers, they were destroying peoples' lives, uprooting them from their homes. It was hateful work, and a dozen Tiger Force veterans told The Blade that it led them to become more brutal and begin taking out their aggression on the people they were supposed to protect. First they killed prisoners, but soon they were gunning down defenseless civilians.

Two former platoon members told Army investigators that many members from the unit had been drinking beer all afternoon on July 23, 1967, when they came upon the old man with the geese. He was a carpenter named Dao Hue, 68, on his way home to his family. When he began babbling in terror a sergeant clubbed him with an M-16 rifle.

As a medic treated the man's wounds while he knelt before him, the platoon leader, Lt. James Hawkins, lifted Mr. Dao and shot him in the face with a CAR-15 rifle. Mr. Carpenter said he tried to stop Lieutenant Hawkins, but the platoon leader threatened to shoot him for interfering.

Mr. Dao's niece, Tam Hau, told The Blade that she and another villager pulled her uncle's body from the grass the next morning.

"Even after 30 years, it hurts," Ms. Tam said. "I ask myself why my uncle had to die."

Mr. Hawkins, 76, who retired from the military in 1978 as a major, could not be reached. But in an interview with The Blade in 2003, he said he shot the elderly carpenter because he was "making a lot of noise. I eliminated that right there."

In the following weeks, more civilians were executed by the soldiers in a chain of atrocities that forever changed the Song Ve Valley, survivors told The Blade.

The platoon members shot and killed four elderly farmers in a rice paddy as they ran for cover. Later, the soldiers led two partially blind men found wandering in the valley to a bend of the river and shot them.

One farmer, Nguyen Dam, recalled the stench lingering in the air from the bodies.

"We couldn't bury them one by one," Mr. Nguyen told The Blade. "We had to bury them all in one grave."

Some platoon members began a ritual later documented by investigators: severing the ears of the dead and fashioning them into necklaces.

The platoon's top commander, Lt. Col. Gerald Morse, named the battalion's three companies - A, B and C - Assassins, Barbarians and Cutthroats, hoisting the names on a sign over battalion headquarters.

The platoon fired at civilians after being told to kill anything that moved, former solders told investigators, but team leaders enforced a code of silence. "The commanders told me, 'What goes on here, stays here,' " Mr. Kerney told The Blade.

Tiger Force's violence reached a peak when the soldiers faced fierce fighting with North Vietnamese soldiers in a neighboring province in September. Within 18 days, five platoon members were killed and 12 were wounded.

The surviving troops were left bitter and angry, Mr. Causey recalled. Over 33 days, he said, Tiger Force rampaged across the province.

"Everybody was all jacked up," he said in a recent interview. "They just went in there and wiped out the civilian population."

The platoon's commanders told the soldiers, and reporters for The Blade years later, that the shootings were permissible because they were in a "free-fire zone," where American troops in Vietnam could fire at will without approval of commanders, an approach that led to civilian casualties throughout Vietnam. But that policy did not permit firing on unarmed civilians, military experts say.

Many platoon members said the attacks on civilians ended when Tiger Force was compelled to battle enemy soldiers during the Tet Offensive and was later replenished with new men.

The Army began investigating Tiger Force after a soldier from another unit told officials that a member of the force had beheaded an infant. Summaries of the investigation, which included dozens of sworn statements from former platoon members, went to the White House and the Army secretary's office between 1971 and 1973. The final report was filed away in 1975, with no public announcement.

In response to recent questions about Tiger Force, the Army said in a statement it has implemented training and special programs to change the culture of the military and rectify the breakdowns that took place in Vietnam.

"The modern Army is also much more sensitive to the severity of these issues, and better able and willing to deal with them immediately and appropriately," said Dov Schwartz, an Army spokesman.

American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have carried out war crimes, too, including the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. The government called that an isolated incident not indicative of the behavior of American personnel in the war. But several human rights organizations, including the Red Cross, said it was part of a much larger pattern of torture and abuse by American military personnel at detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Mr. Causey, who earned a doctorate in nuclear engineering after the war, said lasting reform in the Army requires bringing justice to war crime cases, even when they are decades old. The Tiger Force commanders were never held accountable for what occurred, despite compelling evidence, he said.

"To put that kind of time into an investigation and not hold the command level responsible," said Causey, "it sends the wrong message to people today."

"You have to own up to what happened," he said. "You have to prevent it from happening again."

I'm All for War Crimes Trials in The Hague - So Long as We Agree to Prosecute Every Possible War Criminal
Independent

By Robert Fisk
September 27, 2017

I like the idea of war crimes trials. Make an example of the monsters, is what I say. "Collar the lot," as Churchill demanded in a somewhat different context. And if Nuremberg was victors' justice, I'd prefer the imperfect trials they did hold than the version we would have got if Hitler had won and Roland Freisler, State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice, was still running the Nazi People's Court.

Right now, it's becoming quite the thing to demand war crimes indictments all over the place. In the past week, we've had TRIAL International demanding that the Swiss judicial authorities act against Rifaat al-Assad for massacres at Palmyra prison in 1980 and at Hama in 1982. Rifaat is the brother of the late Hafez and uncle of Bashar, against whom Amnesty and the UN Commission on Syria would also like to level war crimes charges (according to Carla del Ponte, at least). And now the UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to collect evidence against Isis for "acts that may amount to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity".

And I'm all for a little balance if we're going to hunt down the perpetrators. War crimes investigators tried to spread the blame after the Bosnian war; Bosnian Muslims and Croatians were taken to The Hague as well as some of the more notorious Serb criminals.

I once bet a Warwickshire police officer that he'd never get Milosevic into court. He was absolutely adamant. "We'll get him, we'll see him in The Hague," he said, as he drove me to another mass grave. And I was wrong and he was right; but of course, Slobodan died in prison (as rather too many defendants did at The Hague) before judgment was pronounced.

But no matter. The word went out that you don't get away with war crimes. Nor did Saddam, though his trial was a farce, and liberal Europe had to feebly protest when the man they claimed was worse than Hitler got topped while his Shia Muslim executioners jeered at him on Sunni Islam's holiest day.

We have to remember that when Saddam was convicted in that most un-Hague-like court in Baghdad, he was charged not with gassing the Kurds but with killing dozens of Shia Muslims in an almost forgotten massacre years earlier. The Kurds were stunned. But then we have to remember that the US gave Iraq precursors for their gas - from New Jersey, were they not? - so a trial about the gassings and Saddam's own evidence might have been a bit embarrassing for us all.

I suspect something similar may pop up if we grab a real leader of Isis and question him about where he got all the weapons he used for his mass slaughter across Iraq and Syria. Even when David Cameron commissioned an enquiry into "terrorist funding", our saintly Theresa had to keep it secret to avoid embarrassing our Saudi friends. But don't the funders buy the guns that Isis uses? Are they immune from justice?

I remember a phone call I received in Beirut from a Hague official who asked me to give evidence against a Serb concentration camp commander whom I'd interviewed in Bosnia. I said he could use my reports but that I wasn't going to play reporters during a war and then turn into a spy when the war was over. I was threatened with possible arrest if I was not prepared to give evidence. So I said I would certainly cooperate with The Hague - if they charged all the war criminals in the Middle East. And - Sabra and Chatila being a Palestinian massacre I had personally witnessed - I asked when charges would be brought against the Lebanese Christian militiamen who killed up to 1,700 men, women and children in 1982 and, more importantly, against the man who sent them into the camps: the Israeli minister of defence and later Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At which point - do I need to bother with this? - the Hague official who had been so officious, immediately hung up the phone. And (gasps of surprise) I never heard from him again.

But this is the point. Those who go around demanding war crimes trials don't really want to "collar the lot", do they? They want to pick and choose their monsters, to ensure that the arrest of the guilty won't embarrass those who fund their courts and their lawyers and who pay the UN's bills and who spend much of their time - before they bomb the offending criminals - comparing their enemies to Hitler.

It's interesting, for example, to reflect on the fact that Rifaat al-Assad had been in Europe for decades after he was first accused of sending his Defence Brigades to massacre civilians in Hama. He was worth millions. For a while he lived in luxury in London at a time when I was asking in The Independent why Scotland Yard didn't pay him a visit.

TRIAL International has been having some problems with the Swiss. Hearings postponed, shortcomings in legal procedures, attempts to forget about the case, that sort of thing. Why? According to the principle of universal jurisdiction, Switzerland has a duty to prosecute the authors of war crimes present on its territory.

Now I grant you that TRIAL's accusations are a bit vague. They say Rifaat's brigades killed "10,000 to 40,000" of the population in 1992. I was briefly in Hama at the time. I said up to 20,000 then, but it might have been nearer to 10,000. So where did this entirely new figure of 40,000 come from?

In the same way, Amnesty indicted the Syrian government - and Rifaat's nephew - for the hanging of "between 5,000 and 13,000" civilians at Sednaya prison during the Syrian war. Yes, but which is it? Five thousand itself would be a war crime - and Amnesty spent a lot of time on their report - but if that's the real figure, where did 13,000 come from? One of these figures can't be true. You know which one made the most headlines.

Of course, we all know that since the Syrian regime has all but won its war (though never underestimate the Hand of Fate), it's Isis that's more likely to end up in court than anybody else. And since the use of gas is another war crimes charge made against the Syrian government, what about the carefully reported transfer of gas from Turkey to the Syrian Islamists? The only legal action taken so far has been to lock up the Turkish journalists who revealed Turkey's little war crime. Certainly, the Sultan of Turkey - you know who I mean - is not going to be questioned by The Hague.

And we are not - surely we are not - going to charge men who killed half a million Iraqi children with sanctions before the 2003 war. For that would mean indicting the UN itself. Nor are we going to indict the men who killed up to half a million Iraqis after the 2003 war. Because that would mean we'd have to impugn the integrity of old George W as well as that man whose name I can scarcely pronounce - you know the chap I mean, used to run the Labour Party, hilariously appointed a "peace" envoy to the Middle East and currently runs a well-funded "Faith Foundation".

Yup, I am all for war crimes trials. For Rifaat. For Isis. For the Syrian regime and for the Iraqi regime (whose militias seem to be pretty good at tossing prisoners off walls) and for Erdogan and for the Taliban and for those nice chaps in that friendly Gulf state which builds lots of mosques, but whose names are kept secret in a British government report for fear that the said state would be very rude to Theresa May; and for George W Bush and for the British prime minister who was his contemporary.

That's the rub. Justice is for all, but some are not equal before the law. They are way above it. Just think about Yemen for a moment. Could be a lot of indictments there. Ten thousand dead. Forty thousand wounded. And we know who's doing the bombing and we know which countries assist the folk who are doing the bombing and we know who lets Britain make its little contribution to this war crime. Someone who lives in the very same building where Churchill once said: "Collar the lot."

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WORTH READING

The Urgent Imperative of Peace: Seeking Accountability for the Unlawful Use of Force
By Leila N. Sadat
Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-09-01

September 27, 2017

This essay challenges the prevailing view of much recent use of force scholarship in the United States that supports the use of a self-defense exception to justify U.S. military action all over the world since 9/11, arguing that instead the traditional framework of the UN Charter provides the appropriate legal framework. The essay notes the slide by US Presidents since 9/11, including Barack Obama, into increasingly aggressive and unmoored understandings of constraints on jus ad bellum rules, and the tendency of the current US President, Donald Trump, to threaten to — and use — force unlawfully in violation of international law and with potentially catastrophic consequences. The essay takes issue with scholars arguing that this "perpetual war" is now the new standard and discusses efforts to push back against this slide into unlawfulness including the activation of the aggression amendments of the International Criminal Court Statute, and the adoption of a new treaty banning the use and possession of nuclear weapons, which opened for signature on September 20, 2017.

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War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

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Worth Reading

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