Case School of Law Logo


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 - Issue 13
September 5, 2017

PILPG Logo

Editor-in-Chief
James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

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

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

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

WEST AFRICA

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

WORTH READING

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

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

Latest CAR clashes leave 13 people dead
Al-Jazeera

August 20, 2017

Thirteen people have been killed in a town in the Central African Republic, a local doctor said on Sunday, as the toll from sectarian violence that has sparked fears of genocide continued to rise.

The clashes took place in Bria, in the centre of the country 450 kilometres from the capital Bangui, between a majority Muslim rebel group and a predominantly Christian armed group called the Anti-balaka.

"Thirteen bodies were found on Saturday after violent fighting between self-defence forces and parts of Abdoulaye Hissene's FPRC," Michel Ambapo told AFP news agency, referring respectively to the Anti-balaka and a faction of the rebel coalition known as the Seleka.

"At least 20 wounded were admitted to hospital, most of them combatants on both sides and several civilians," the doctor added.

The total number of deaths in the city since fighting erupted several days earlier "is around 30," Ambapo said.

The UN's peacekeeping force, known as MINUSCA, did not report a toll.

'On the brink of catastrophe'

On Saturday, sources reported that fatal clashes had taken place in several areas of the country in previous days.

They included more than a dozen fatalities in the southeastern town of Zemio, Jean-Alain Zembi, a priest, told AFP.

Six aid groups wrote to the United Nations last Tuesday, describing the former French colony as "on the brink of catastrophe".

We "request your office take immediate action to prevent the country collapsing into another full-blown conflict", the letter said, adding that "at least 821 civilians have been killed since the start of the year".

One of the world's poorest nations, Central African Republic was pitched into a war between Muslim and Christian armed groups in 2013, unleashed when President Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown by the Seleka.

The Seleka, in turn, were overthrown by a military intervention led by France, which was followed bloody reprisals by the mainly Christian Anti-balaka.

Groups on both sides are now fighting for control of natural resources, including gold and diamonds, as well as regional influence. Half a million people, in a country of 4.5 million, have fled.

On August 7, UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien warned that the situation was such that he saw "early warning signs of genocide".

Central African Republic: War Arrives in Bengassou
allAfrica

August 22, 2017

The Central African Republic town of Bangassou had only been marginally affected by the devastating conflict of 2013-2014 and was even praised for the reconciliation work and social cohesion that followed that period of violence. However, on May 13 of this year, the town's Muslim neighborhood was attacked by so-called self defense groups, and the situation changed drastically.

Bangassou has since become a ghost town controlled by loosely organized armed men. Most of the population has fled to Ndu, a point of trade on the southern bank of the Mbomou River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ndu now hosts more than 16,000 displaced people, in addition to its 1,000 permanent residents. The town is patrolled by armed men from these self defense groups who are too dangerous to photograph.

In Bangassou, about 2,000 Muslim people have sought refuge in the Petit Séminaire St. Louis. The church, which belongs to the Catholic Church, has been sheltering the displaced people since May, with little support from international organizations. In fact, fighting forced most humanitarian organizations to leave.

Today, only Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Catholic Church remain to provide services in Bangassou. The church does not meet the international requirements for the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and, despite the presence of MINUSCA (a UN peacekeeping force), most Muslim people do not feel secure enough to leave the church or risk going to town, for fear of being killed by armed groups.

MSF runs mobile clinics to this area and therefore is able provide basic medical care to the IDPs. However, referrals to the MSF hospital in Bangassou, though possible, are very difficult. Some people in need of hospitalization simply refuse to be referred out of fear. MSF also runs mobile clinics in Ndu, where they encounter the same difficulties referring Muslim patients to Bangassou.

Because of the violence and the ongoing, massive displacement, the 115-bed hospital in Bangassou is only functioning at 60 percent capacity. A peripheral health center supported by MSF is now performing two to three times as many consultations as it did before this conflict broke out. However, due to the poor living conditions of displaced people, the lack of medical staff and supplies, and the fear that prevents people from seeking help earlier, many patients have arrived at the hospital in far worse conditions than the staff were seeing before the conflict. The MSF team at the hospital has noted a distinct increase in the number of patients suffering from severe malaria this year.

The situation is very volatile in and around Bangassou. Since the week of August 7, heavy fighting has been raging in Gambo, a town 47 miles west of Bangassou. There is little specific information about the situation there, but some wounded have arrived at the hospital seeking care.

Meanwhile, the health center in the town of Bakouma--84 miles to the north of Bangassou--is barely functioning because of violent fighting there in June and July. MSF had been supplying drugs and referring the wounded to Bangassou, but the last delivery registered in the health center in Bakouma dates from June 10, and pregnant women there are afraid to come to the health center for fear of renewed attacks.

Nzako, 93 miles north of Bangassou, remains out of reach for MSF teams, and news from the region is very worrying. Finally, conflict is also escalating in Zemio, to the east of Bangassou.

MSF has worked in CAR since 1996 and currently has more than 2,400 Central African staff and 230 international staff working in the country. Since 2013, MSF has doubled its level of medical support in response to the crisis. At present, MSF runs some 20 projects across the country, with medical teams providing free healthcare, including pediatric care, routine vaccinations, maternal healthcare, and surgery, as well as treatment for diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.

UN aid chief warns of signs of genocide in Central African Republic
News24

August 23, 2017

United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council Tuesday there are early signs of genocide in the violence-plagued Central African Republic, according to diplomats.

O'Brien made his remarks in a closed-door meeting - which was not on the official council agenda and was called for by France - following his recent visit to the country, one of the diplomats told AFP.

The aid chief's warning echoed what he said earlier this month, when he told a UN meeting "the early warning signs of genocide are there" and urged more troops and police to bolster the UN peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn country.

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

The number of displaced in CAR - a country of 4.5 million people - has soared to 600 000, O'Brien said according to the diplomat, who added the tally was 40% higher than last year.

The UN official also warned the council of violence targeting humanitarian actors on the ground, forcing them to drop many of their duties. Violence is spreading in the country, including in the region of Bangassou in the southeast, the same diplomatic source said.

One of the world's poorest nations, Central African Republic was pitched into a war between Muslim and Christian militias in 2013, unleashed when President Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

They in turn were ousted by a military intervention led by France, which was followed by bloody reprisals by the mainly Christian anti-Balaka militia.

Groups on both sides are now fighting for control of natural resources, including gold and diamonds, as well as regional influence.

According to another diplomatic source, during Tuesday's exchanges some members of the council proposed a visit to gain better understanding of the situation.

At the beginning of August O'Brien told the UN "we must act now, not pare down the UN's effort, and pray we don't live to regret it."

On Tuesday, according to diplomats, he reaffirmed that the UN's request for $ 497m to finance humanitarian aid this year to the country was far from being fulfilled.

[back to contents]

Sudan & South Sudan

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

USAID director Green visits Darfur as U.S. considers lifting sanctions on Sudan
Washington Post

By Carol Morello
August 28, 2017

As Mark Green, the head of U.S. humanitarian aid, visits hard-hit areas of Sudan to assess whether help is getting to millions of civilians uprooted by war, he frequently dangles a carrot — lifting sanctions and a trade embargo.

His first overseas trip since becoming administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) coincides with a sanctions review by the Trump administration that could undo measures imposed two decades ago. The White House has set an Oct. 12 deadline for a decision on whether to end sanctions against Sudan put in place initially over its support for international terrorism and then for the violence it used suppressing rebel groups in the five states that make up the Darfur region.

"The timing of my visit shows the importance the U.S. attaches to our relationship with Sudan during this very important sanctions review period," Green said pointedly Monday as he met with Abdul Wahid Yousif, the governor of North Darfur state. The Sudanese official is credited with restoring the rule of law in a region where villages were destroyed when rebel groups battled government troops and pro-government militias in a brutal conflict that started in 2003.

"We will be closely watching for sustained progress," Green added, citing five conditions Washington has laid down for sanctions relief, "especially humanitarian access."

U.S. officials and many aid groups say the Sudanese government has made notable progress over the past year reining in lawlessness and allowing aid workers into conflict zones they had been blocked from reaching.

There also have been advances in counterterrorism cooperation. Sudan, where Osama bin Laden lived from 1992 to 1996, is one of three countries the United States labels a state sponsor of terrorism.

Sudan wants sanctions lifted so it can buy spare parts for its planes, trains and canal locks, which are crumbling. Its college graduates are fleeing the country for lack of opportunities. Inflation is running at around 34 percent annually. Khartoum hopes easing U.S. sanctions will open the door for foreign investment in energy, agriculture and precious metals.

But the decision is complicated by the fact that the president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide related to the conflict in Darfur, in which an estimated 300,000 people have died.

Many say constructive engagement would encourage changes for the better and lead to a greater influx of development aid.

"What we want to ensure is, while we are trying to get the regime to change its ways, that the people of Sudan are not suffering because of that," said Steven Koutsis, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. The United States has not had an ambassador in Sudan since 1997.

President Barack Obama announced before leaving office in January that the U.S. government would ease some financial sanctions against Sudan but that the measures would not fully take effect for months, allowing the Trump administration to continue or reverse the policy.

Many aid workers favor eased sanctions. Marta Ruedas, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said Sunday that aid workers have been admitted to areas long denied them. She credited the change of policy to negotiations between Khartoum and Washington over sanctions relief.

But a White House decision to lift sanctions is unlikely to have an immediate effect on Zam Zam camp, where 230,000 people are sheltered, less than 10 miles outside of El Fasher, the capital of Darfur. Many residents have lived there for over a decade.

Green, who became head of USAID three weeks ago, toured the camp Monday, listening as residents peppered him with questions.

About a dozen women learning how to grow crops, a project of Relief International, shook their heads vehemently when asked if they ever leave camp to collect firewood.

"It's not safe," said Hawa Abdallah Mohammad, 33, who has given birth to five of her seven children in Zam Zam camp and has lived there for 13 years.

Aid workers say violence remains a problem in some areas of Darfur, primarily because of local disputes.

The government is trying to increase safety through a disarmament campaign. Billboards show semiautomatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and masked gunmen all with a big red X through them, part of an effort to encourage people to turn in weapons voluntarily. In some areas of Darfur, the United Nations is holding workshops to try to discourage land-use conflicts between farmers and nomadic herders.

The government and aid agencies are hopeful that at least some residents at camps such as Zam Zam can start returning home soon. But some may never go back.

Haroom Nimr, 52, said that he fled his village in 2004, leaving behind a house where he raised sheep and land where he grew millet. Someone else is working the land now, he has heard. He does not want to risk confrontation and said he will not even try returning until he is assured the squatters have been evicted.

"I won't go back," he said as he and a group of men gathered under a tree to discuss what they had heard from Green. "I will probably sit here for the rest of my life."

Sudan's Bashir pardons top activist accused of spying
News24

August 30, 2017

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Tuesday pardoned a leading human rights activist who was facing trial on charges of spying for foreign embassies, state media reported.

Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, an engineering professor at the University of Khartoum, was arrested by security forces in December as part of a crackdown against opposition leaders and activists.

Under Sudanese law, the charges against him were punishable by death.

Prosecutors had accused Ibrahim Adam of being among activists who were running a criminal organisation and engaged in spying and intelligence activities for foreign embassies.

Ibrahim Adam and others were also accused of "publishing lies about (government forces) using chemical weapons" during fighting with rebels in the country's conflict zones.

But on Tuesday, Bashir issued a presidential decree pardoning Ibrahim Adam and five other activists.

"I am issuing a decision to pardon... Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam," Bashir said in a decree signed on Tuesday and quoted by the official SUNA news agency.

Ibrahim Adam was released from detention later on Tuesday.

"He has just arrived home and is in good health," his wife Sabah Adam told AFP.

Bashir also pardoned five other activists, SUNA said.

Several opposition leaders and activists were detained in December in a bid to crush widespread protests against a government decision to raise fuel prices.

Ibrahim Adam, who has worked extensively on human rights issues in Sudan, has been arrested several times for his work. The government shut down a development organisation he headed in 2009.

Global rights groups condemned Sudanese authorities over his arrest.

Ibrahim Adam's "arbitrary arrest underscores the government's desperate attempts to extinguish the last embers of dissent in the country", Amnesty International said soon after he was detained.

Reporters group calls for investigation after US journalist killed in South Sudan
The Telegraph

By Roland Oliphant
August 30, 2017

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for an investigation amid claims that an American reporter killed in South Sudan was deliberately targeted by government troops.

Christopher Allen, 26, was killed in a firefight between government forces and rebels near the Ugandan border on Saturday.

Allen, a freelancer who had written for numerous outlets including the Telegraph, was embedded with a unit of the SPLA-IO rebel group when he died.

South Sudanese military officials earlier said Allen's body was one of 16 recovered after government troops fought off a rebel attack in the town of Kaya and that he had died of a bullet wound to the head.

His body was handed over to the US embassy in Juba on Tuesday.

The warring sides have given conflicting accounts of his death and whether he was wearing a press vest when he died.

Michael Makuei, the information minister of South Sudan, said on Wednesday that Allen's death was "not targeted" and that the government regretted it, but added that "anybody on that side is usually a target."

Mr Makuei claimed Allen had entered South Sudan illegally after being denied a visa "because of his hostile reports."

"If Allen entered South Sudan illegally then he is a criminal," said Mr Makuei. "Had he not died we would have apprehended him and taken him to the court."

Mr Makuei also said there was "nothing that could indicate he was a freelance journalist" and said that if Allen was reporting "on the activities of the rebels then definitely he was a rebel."

Earlier a rebel spokesman said Mr Allen was wearing a clearly marked press vest and had been shot at after he began to take pictures.

"Allen was targeted. The person who shot saw him very clearly," Colonel Paul Lam Gabriel told the AFP.

He said Allen had been embedded with the rebels for two weeks before the firefight on Saturday.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement it was "deeply troubled" by the suggestion Allen was not deserving of civilian status and called for an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death.

Allen's parents said in a statement to the AP that they are devastated and their son "passionately sought the truth from every perspective."

Mr Allen, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, began his career as a freelancer during the Ukraine crisis of 2014.

He was one of the first reporters on the scene after the shoot down of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 in July that year, on which he reported for the Telegraph.

More than one million people have fled into neighbouring Uganda since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, creating one of the world's biggest refugee crises.

[back to contents]

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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

U.S. Urges U.N. to Conduct 'Full Investigation' Into Killings of 2 Investigators in Congo
New York Times

By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura
August 17, 2017

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, on Thursday urged the organization to go beyond its inquiry into the killings of two investigators in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that the U.N. report amounted to only a "first step" in tracking down those responsible.

The United Nations issued a report on Wednesday that largely absolved the organization from responsibility over the deaths, in March, of Michael J. Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalán, a citizen of Sweden and Chile. The report concluded that the two had ignored security measures available to them while they conducted their investigations. It also implied that they lacked experience.

"The murder of U.N. experts — especially like Michael and Zaida, who risked their own lives in order to help others — cannot end in a bureaucratic procedure," Ms. Haley said in a statement. She reiterated American demands for "a full investigation."

"There is simply no other appropriate course of action," she said.

The deaths of Mr. Sharp, 34, and Ms. Catalán, 36, raised questions about the United Nations and its work in the most dangerous places in the world. Almost two months passed before the United Nations even assembled a panel to look into what went wrong, and its members traveled to Congo only in early June.

The two investigators had been appointed by the United Nations Security Council to an independent panel of experts to look into atrocities in the vast country that has a long history of instability and violence.

Along with a Congolese interpreter, they had gone to a part of Kasaï-Central Province to investigate a rebellion that had pockmarked the area with mass graves. Their own bodies were found in a shallow grave two weeks later. Ms. Catalán had been decapitated.

The United Nations inquiry said that militia members were most likely responsible for the murders with a "reasonable likelihood that the killings were committed after consultation with other local tribal actors." But others may also have been involved, the inquiry added.

The United Nations has called on the Congolese authorities to investigate the murders and appointed an internal board of inquiry to look into what happened, but it lacked the authority to carry out a criminal investigation. Critics charged that some Congolese officials were themselves implicated in the conflict in the region and in no position to carry out a credible investigation. Mr. Sharp's father, John Sharp, called for an independent, international inquiry.

Jason Stearns, the director of the Congo Research Group and a former United Nations investigator, said the inquiry made it "seem that the deaths of Michael and Zaida could have been avoided if they had been less reckless and more circumspect."

Mr. Stearns said the board should have been more forcible in pushing for a thorough investigation. "It is misleading to state that a local militia killed the investigators, and that there is no proof that the government was involved."

"That makes it seem like the board of inquiry thoroughly investigated the identity of the killers — it did not," he said. "The main goal of the board of inquiry was to find out whether U.N. rules and regulations were followed, not to establish the identity of the killers."

According to the board, the two investigators failed to inform their superiors or colleagues of their plans. They rode private motorbikes even though that was not recommended. They also did not request full security briefings or an armed escort.

They prized their independence, according to the board, and were under intense pressure to present their findings to the Security Council. "It is clear," the report said, that the experts "became party to a situation where they did not believe U.N. security rules and regulations applied to them."

The United Nations did not provide the experts with the simplest tracking devices commonly used by hikers, and which had been requested by a previous panel. The board recommended additional training for experts, and tracking devices on an "as needed basis." It also called for better employment conditions "to attract more experienced candidates for these positions." (Investigators have to buy their own health insurance.)

The two investigators disappeared while traveling to the town of Bunkonde to meet with leaders of a local militia. A United Nations official who met the pair told the inquiry that Ms. Catalán appeared to be uneasy on the eve of their departure.

They traveled through checkpoints manned by the militia and at least two controlled by government forces. At one point, members of the militia gathered near the Moyo River fired a shotgun to stop the motorbikes, wounding one of the drivers. The investigators were then taken to a nearby village, where they were confronted by its chief, his brother, and possibly the leader of another village. The militia took the investigators' money and belongings, according to the report.

A grainy cellphone video, obtained and later presented by the Congolese government as evidence that it had nothing to do with the killings, shows what happened next: A cluster of men with rifles and red bandannas lead Ms. Catalán and Mr. Sharp, who were both barefoot, into a grove.

Mr. Sharp starts arguing. He and Ms. Catalán are forced onto the ground. Suddenly, shots are fired, hitting Mr. Sharp. Ms. Catalán screams and tries to run for cover. She is shot twice.

Their bodies were discovered weeks later in a shallow grave, laid out carefully, side by side, in opposite directions.

It was Ms. Catalán's sister who first raised the alarm after receiving an unnerving call from her cellphone. Sensing something wrong, the family frantically reached out to Ms. Catalán's colleagues in the United Nations. The organization praised its own conduct, saying "its response from the time it became apparent that Mr. Sharp and Ms. Catalán were missing was capable, timely, well-coordinated and caring."

The F.B.I. and Swedish police have also been investigating the case separately, decrypting Ms. Catalán's computer and scrutinizing video footage. But, the report said, the agencies "expect many months to complete the investigation."

DR Congo violence displaces 3.8 million: UN
Aljazeera

August 26, 2017

The number of people displaced by conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has nearly doubled in the past six months to 3.8 million, according to a UN official.

George Okoth-Obbo, the number two official at the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR), said food and clothing was needed for the 1.4 million in the volatile Kasai region who have fled their homes in violence that has killed more than 3,000 people.

"Immediate protection" was required, he told AFP news agency on the last day of a three-day visit to the country, in particular for children "who are sleeping in conditions that are difficult to imagine".

In the southeastern province of Tanganyika, clashes between rival groups have also forced thousands to flee, as has the long-running violence in the Kivu region, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO.

In Kasai, violence erupted last September after the death of a tribal chieftain, known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who rebelled against the authority of President Joseph Kabila's government in Kinshasa and its local representatives.

The killing sparked violence that has escalated, including alleged violations of human rights such as extrajudicial killings, rapes, torture and the use of child soldiers.

In August, the UN released a report, saying more than 250 people, including 62 children, were killed in Congo from mid-March to mid-June.

The report was based on interviews from 96 refugees who had fled they country's Kasai provinces into neighbouring Angola.

According to the UN's Okoth-Obbo, about 33,000 Congolese have fled the region for Angola, and "the conditions today in Kasai are such that we cannot encourage or promote the return of refugees".

Okoth-Obbo added that the country is also having to cope with the arrival of about 500,000 refugees fleeing fighting in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic - where about 60,000 people have fled to Congo this year.

[back to contents]

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

Laurent Gbagbo's Insistance To Stay In Power Took Years Out Of The Momentum Of Economic Development Of Côte d'Ivoire
Huffington Post

By Sakaria Kone
August 28, 2017

At this stage of his life, former President of Côte d'Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo should be enjoying his retirement or serving his country in an advisory capacity, not in jail. But his conduct in early 2011 led to the BBC to describe his as that 'classically educated academic now widely regarded as a leader who was willing to destroy his country by refusing to accept defeat at the ballot box'.

Had Gbagbo's refusal not fuelled conflict, which claimed about 3,000 people, there would be no case for him to answer at the International Criminal Court [ICC]. Instead of calling himself a 'victim of a plot by the French', he should ask why he is now facing several charges of crimes against humanity -- murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts.

Due process must be followed in the interest of the needless victims of the violence incited by Gbagbo's refusal to recognise President Alassane Ouattara's victory in the elections held in late 2010.

Several African countries continue to forfeit their due share of the world economy because of leaders who hold onto power until a coup, ill health or death; thus compromising continuity.

This would not be as big a problem, if they did so in keeping with the will majority of the people, but it is often not the case. Not only do many African leaders remain active politicians past their retirement age, they employ extra-judicial means to do so. They either use patronage politics, misusing state resources to carry favours among the electorate, change the constitution to extend their reign or simply crush their rivals and those citizens calling for change.

In pursuit of their endless grip on power, dictators — not only African — employ brutal methods to deal with opposition. They jail activists and, in some cases, perpetuate gross violations of human rights. Women and children are easy prey for dictators, who do not mind fuelling civil conflict or outright war to enforce their iron will on the people they should be serving.

Apart from maiming and killing innocent people, either through war or neglect, dictators or those who cling to power, weaken the institutions of their country: the judiciary, the legislature and the police, the military, revenue authorities, etc.

An eminent educator and economist in the South African asset management industry, Dr. Adrian Saville, led a team of researchers to distil the six critical attributes of countries that have led economic development over three decades. In their sample of 120 countries, observed over a 50-year timeline, Dr Saville's team found that South Korea and Singapore, grew their income per person ten-fold growth between 1980 and 2013 to $23,000 and $53,000, respectively.

Singapore and South Korea do not have half of the resources that Côte d'Ivoire, or any other African country, possesses. For starters, being the world's number one cocoa producer, the country also boasts abundant petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, manganese, iron, cobalt, bauxite, copper, gold, nickel, tantalum, silica sand, clay, palm oil, and hydropower potential. Despite all these endowments, Côte d'Ivoire and some of its fellow African states validate the stereotype of Africa being the 'richest place with the poorest race'.

Dr Saville's team singled out what they call the 'six-pack' of prosperous or winning nations. These are a high savings rate, access to improving education, access to improving healthcare, a favourable demographic structure, the degree of economic openness and a stable policy environment with effective institutions.

Without effective institutions, all the other five factors are unworkable. When any leader frustrates the functioning of state institutions to meet their selfish ends and normalise corruption, they do not only syphon financial resources from deserving beneficiaries, they can paralyse a prosperous country for years -- turning it into a failed state.

Although Côte d'Ivoire has come a long way since President Ouattara took over and has sustained its upward economic growth trajectory, the insistence of Gbagbo to stay in power illegally took at least four years out of the momentum of economic development of Côte d'Ivoire and the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] region.

The African Development Group anticipates an 8.3 percent growth in the economy this year, maintaining a trend that goes back to when President Ouattara took over the reins. Investors like French chocolate maker Cémoi, South African financial services giant Standard Bank are now in Côte d'Ivoire. The African Development Bank also returned to its original headquarters in Abidjan, from Tunis, confirming Côte d'Ivoire as a major economy in West Africa.

While the government of Côte d'Ivoire focuses on the furtherance of the objectives of the national development plan of 2012-2015, the ICC must be allowed to enforce the law. When every leader appreciates that the violation of human rights or flouting the constitution to stay in power can lead to prosecution, Africa can protect its vulnerable citizens.

There are those who accuse the ICC of bias against Africa. At the latest heads of state summit, some African leaders, such as Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta, reportedly even spoke of Africa withdrawing from the institution, en masse! As imperfect as the ICC system is, the exodus by African member states will not change anything.

The ICC is part of justice for those countries with institutions too compromised to protect ordinary citizens against the abuse of power, and it must be given in chance to deliver for the people of Côte d'Ivoire.

[back to contents]

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

Child Suicide Bombings by Boko Haram at All-Time High
Baptist Press

By Diana Chandler
August 23, 2017

Boko Haram's abuse of children as suicide bombers is at an all-time high in the Lake Chad region including northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries, UNICEF said Aug. 22.

The jihadists have murdered at least 83 children since January by strapping them with bombs before sending them into public gathering places and detonating the explosives, UNICEF said in its press release.

About 55 of the victims were girls under the age of 15, as girls often become pregnant in captivity as rape victims, UNICEF reported, noting that at least one girl was much younger than a teenager. The remaining 27 victims were boys.

"The use of children in this way is an atrocity," UNICEF said in the report. "Children used as 'human bombs' are, above all, victims, not perpetrators."

The numbers for less than eight months of 2017 are a drastic increase over the 30 killed as suicide bombers in all of 2016, UNICEF noted, as well as the 56 in 2015 and four in 2014. In UNICEF's earlier report in April, Boko Haram had killed 27 children by using them as bombers.

UNICEF gave no reason for the increased abuse of children, but Boko Haram began using more suicide bombers in general in late 2016 after the Nigerian military announced a technical defeat of the jihadists. A regional military force had so weakened Boko Haram that it could only launch isolated attacks by suicide bombs, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had claimed. But in recent months, Boko Haram has managed to ambush entire villages, according to news reports from the region including Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

As recently as July, Boko Haram killed at least 83 civilians and soldiers in two separate attacks in northeast Nigeria, including an ambush and suicide bombings. But the Islamic jihadists have not reestablished any caliphates in its quest to subject citizens to strict sharia law. At its strongest point, in early 2015, Boko Haram held Islamic caliphates or Sharia-based governments covering more than 20,000 square miles in northeast Nigeria.

Children who manage to escape Boko Haram's grasp are often feared and rejected when they return home and try to reintegrate into their communities. Their plight is also complicated by food shortages and malnutrition in the region including Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. In northeast Nigeria alone, up to 450,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition this year, UNICEF said.

At the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in February, donors pledged $670 million to help an estimated 17 million people facing food shortages in the region, the United Nations reported. The UN estimated about 10.7 million people needed immediate humanitarian assistance, including 8.5 million in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram violence was cited as the main cause of the food shortages.

The terrorists have killed between 20,000 and 25,000 people since 2009 and have displaced millions more, according to official estimates. Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, originally targeted Christians but has also killed moderate Muslims, government officials and civilians.

Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kill 15 in Cameroon
Reuters

August 25, 2017

Suspected Boko Haram militants sprayed a village in remote Cameroon with automatic fire, killing 15 people and kidnapping eight others in an overnight raid near the Nigerian border, several officials said on Friday.

The attackers burned down around 30 houses in Gakara village, just outside the town of Kolofata, which has been a frequent target of suicide bombings by the Islamist group.

A government source on the ground said that 15 people had been killed, all shot dead except one who was burned alive, while another 30 had suffered bullet wounds. The mayor of Kolofata and a senior military source confirmed that an attack had taken place but did not know the death toll.

Boko Haram attacks have killed more than 20,000 people and displaced 2.7 million during the group's eight-year insurgency to carve out an Islamic caliphate in the Lake Chad region.

"The attack happened around midnight. The Boko Haram assailants arrived. They set 32 houses on fire ... killed, pillaged, and traumatized the population," said a district official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak.

Many people fled the village for a camp near Kolofata that houses thousands displaced by Boko Haram violence, he said.

ISS: How Will ISIS Setbacks Impact Africa?
defenceWeb

By Denys Reva
August 25, 2017

The recent liberation of Mosul in Iraq is just one of many setbacks for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Military upsets, territorial losses and financial pressures have reportedly decreased the number of active fighters in the group from an estimated 70,000 in 2015 to around 12,000. The inflow of new recruits has practically stopped.

By mid-2017 the group had lost around 60% of its territory and 80% of its revenue. This has dealt a major blow to the self-declared caliphate. However, these setbacks are unlikely to signal the end of ISIS soon. The factors that brought the organization about, and significant support for its agenda, still exist. What should the world and Africa expect in this regard?

A recent UN report outlines a number of threats that emerge from the changing situation in Iraq and Syria. It highlights increased risks of lone-wolf terrorist attacks by home-grown perpetrators, especially in Europe, and against other 'Western' targets elsewhere. The report also suggests that ISIS is assessing the possibility of regrouping – possibly in unstable countries where it has a presence, like Libya.

The group is increasingly attempting to support its networks and bolster its presence in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, it is believed. Foreign terrorist fighters will probably continue to flee from Iraq and Syria, and return to their home countries (possibly in the guise of refugees), or attempt to join ISIS-affiliated groups in other regions.

Another dynamic likely to influence the direction ISIS will take is its competition with al-Qaeda. Since 2014, ISIS has built an effective propaganda campaign based on its battlefield successes, territorial control and proclamation of the caliphate, and financial prosperity. This new brand of violent extremism has garnered the support of more than 30 000 foreign fighters since 2011. This includes potential al-Qaeda recruits attracted by the group's propaganda and image, and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and individuals around the world who switched to ISIS or pledged allegiance to the caliphate.

However, allegiances are not set in stone, and recent ISIS setbacks, as well as the gradual increase of al-Qaeda capabilities, have undermined its growth prospects – specifically in sub-Saharan Africa where al-Qaeda has a stronger foothold. Could this result in these groups attempting to outcompete each other in terms of increased attacks and brutality? And how could this impact on Africa?

ISIS's initial objectives and ideology did not make Africa a natural priority for the group. Yet since 2014 the group has expanded its influence on the continent through a network of affiliates in West, North and East African regions. North Africa was most significant for ISIS, with affiliate groups in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

The region has allegedly contributed the highest number of fighters – with estimates close to 10 000. ISIS's message has evidently resonated with many in North Africa, where the group is likely to focus its attention, both in terms of regrouping and widening its operations capacity.

However ISIS has not managed to establish itself as firmly in other regions. One factor influencing this could be the discrepancy between the drivers of recruitment in Africa – centered around socio-economic conditions and local political grievances – and ISIS's ideological focus on an Islamic caliphate.

In West Africa, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015. However, the group does not rely on ISIS for resources or operational support, and Boko Haram's recruitment base still primarily originates from north-east Nigeria and countries of the Lake Chad region. In Western Sahel, ISIS has enlisted the support of an al-Qaeda splinter group, but the group's presence in the region remains marginal.

In East Africa, an al-Shabaab splinter group pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015, but did not succeed in establishing itself in Somalia, or the wider region. The group's operational visibility in Central and Southern Africa has been primarily absent.

Faced with the pressures in Iraq and Syria, a number of scenarios could play out. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS's chief of external operations who was killed last year, said one strategy would be for the group to temporarily set aside its statehood aspirations and revert to more traditional terrorist strategies – operating underground.

Furthermore, in the wake of the defeat in Mosul, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the leader of ISIS – has called for supporters to refrain from travelling to Iraq, and to focus on strengthening its networks elsewhere. Therefore, ISIS might try to regroup using organizations that have pledged allegiance in Africa and South-East Asia.

Finally, the group's leadership has called on supporters to carry out lone-wolf-style small-scale attacks in their home countries. ISIS has managed to create a powerful brand, and while the creation of a caliphate has been unsuccessful, its ideological appeal could remain a powerful inspiration for extremist followers.

Although Western targets are ISIS's priority, there are considerable risks for Africa, and the continent's policymakers must focus their efforts on three risk factors.

There should be coordinated global efforts to prevent ISIS from regrouping and gaining a stronger foothold in North Africa. Regional cooperation must be strengthened in West and East Africa to prevent the group from expanding its influence.

Most critically, African policymakers should be vigilant about the causal dynamics associated with violent extremism and terrorism. Factors such as corruption, weak rule of law, human rights abuses, and discrimination and repressive actions against specific ethnic and religious communities all contribute to the vulnerabilities that can be exploited by ISIS.

Life Returns to Lake Chad Island Despite Boko Haram Threat
Borneo Bulletin

August 30, 2017

Gaou Moussa stands in front of his family home nestled in the dense vegetation of Chad's Tchoukouli island, where burnt straw and charred wood still litter the ground from a Boko Haram attack three years ago.

"They killed my brother and we fled," he said.

Tchoukouli – one of hundreds of tiny interconnected islands about an hour's canoe ride from Lake Chad's northern banks – is coming back to life.

Despite the ongoing threat posed by the extremist insurgents, fishermen sit mending nets and repaired one's curl in the sun nearby, while farmers guide their cattle into the water and others tend to cornfields in the distance.

All of these are activities that have been absent for more than two years.

Boko Haram has been fighting a bloody insurgency since 2009, seeking to carve out a hardline caliphate in the northeast of neighbouring Nigeria.

After controlling a region, the size of Belgium inside Nigeria by 2014, the extremist group was driven back in the last two-and-a-half years to remote areas around Lake Chad, straddling Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The people of the islands have suffered from Boko Haram's relentless violence. Villages have been pillaged and residents kidnapped and killed.

But the first of the group's envoys came into the village peacefully to preach, villagers said.

"They would promise us paradise and resources," said Mohamed Mboh, the chief of neighboring Bouguirmi island.

Those who resisted or opposed the movement's message were killed, their throats slit, villagers said.

Island residents, particularly members of the Buduma ethnic group, also found themselves caught between the extremists and the Chadian army.

"Soldiers came to burn our village after a Boko Haram attack because they mistook us for them," said one 53-year-old woman, her face hollowed by hunger.

"Little by little, other ethnic tribes and the army understood that we were also victims as they picked up Budumas' bodies in the bush," said 60-year-old Mboh, also a member of the tribe.

Faced with increasing extremist attacks, the Chadian government closed its western border with Nigeria and evacuated its islands – those that were not already empty.

Chad's army, one of the most battle-hardened in the region, continues to patrol the lake's freshwaters and its northern banks, aided by vigilante civilian groups – giving residents a measure of safety and reason to return.

"We came back to the village of Bouguirmi seven months ago, because we received news that Boko Haram is no longer there, that the villages are protected by the army," said Mboh.

"But every day we hear rumors that there are Boko Haram members hidden in places."

Mboh, whose village numbers about 500 residents, said he now lives "in peace", though he heard gunshots last month. He could not tell, however, whether or not they came from a battle with extremists.

"About a year ago, I came back to see what I had planted before the Boko Haram attack, but unfortunately hippos had destroyed everything," farmer Mal Kalo said.

The 41-year-old fled Bouguirmi two years ago, spending many hours in a canoe, on foot and in a car to get to Iga, another small island closer to the mainland.

In spite of the continuing threat, he feels that this life, independent and out in the open air, is better than being packed into a refugee camp, where malnutrition distorted children's bellies.

Still, life here remains difficult. The harvests have been destroyed, the canoes are shredded and the livestock emaciated.

The border closure with Nigeria has halted commercial activity, blocking trade with the region's main economic hub.

"Before, we were able to do a small amount of business with Nigeria," Kalo said. "But now we cannot because the border was closed a few years ago by the authorities to fight against Boko Haram attacks."

[back to contents]

Mali

Mali Peace Deal Allows Chaos to Gain Upper Hand
BBC News

By Alex Duval Smith
August 20, 2017

"It is a close combat wound. We are seeing more and more war injuries," says Gao hospital surgeon Abdul Aziz Touré.

"We are on standby for more injured. There is a gunfight between some groups going on up the road."

War has returned to northern Mali. The desert area is arguably more unstable now than at any time since the French intervention against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2013 and the deployment of UN peacekeepers later that year.

The 2015 peace agreement failed to settle turf wars. Islamist militant activity has spread to the centre of country. Now a regional counter-terror force, the G5 Sahel, is being put in place.

But many Malians say that looking at Mali's problems through a gun sight may be making the country more dangerous.

"Every young man wants a gun. Young men are prepared to steal, to kill to acquire a firearm," says Sidy Cissé, the youth councillor for Gao city.

"They want a firearm so they can claim the right to join the UN-backed demobilisation programme and be given a job.

"Of course if an armed group offers these same men $500 (£389) or $800 to lay a landmine in front of a UN convoy they will do so. They are not acting out of conviction but for money," says Cissé.

Gao, a low-rise city on the Niger river, has a long history of lawlessness. The richest people like it that way. They are the residents of the Cocaine City neighbourhood who sleep comfortably in luxury villas built from the proceeds of hostage ransoms and desert trafficking in drugs, fuel and consumer goods.

The flow of Mediterranean-bound migrants through Gao is another vital income stream here on the edge of the Sahara. It provides jobs for drivers, runners, innkeepers, petrol-pump attendants and snack-sellers.

'Shady business'

Diplomats and senior UN civilian staff have started taking stock of four years of intense international focus on Mali. "The peace deal is just a fig leaf behind which people are hiding who actually do not want peace. They want instability so they can continue their shady business," said a diplomat in Bamako.

A senior civilian UN official said: "We need a certain amount of security here, to protect people seeking a political solution. But I do not think we need thousands of under-trained blue-helmeted soldiers who by being here offer the terrorists a target."

Since Minusma was created in July 2013, it has acquired the moniker of the most dangerous UN mission in the world.

In the past week, nine people - most of them civilian security guards - died in attacks on Minusma bases in Timbuktu and Douentza. Mali's own army is an even greater target for attack and three years of EU-funded training do not appear to have made it more robust.

Threats abound

Minusma's Bangladeshi blue helmets patrol the area around Gao in 30-year-old Soviet-built armoured personnel carriers. They are robust vehicles but they were not built for the desert. "The weather is the biggest challenge of all," says Major Mohamed Rafiq Islam.

Then there is the "asymmetric" threat - military speak for it could from anywhere, in any form. "The threat is all over," he says. "It could be IEDs (explosives), fire, we do not know. Our mission is to protect civilians and the MOC (mixed patrols of the Malian army and groups that signed the 2015 peace deal)."

As the BangBat convoy of white vehicles moves around the outskirts of the city, a sand-coloured pick-up sporting a welded-on machine gun seems to drive a lap around us, as if to show off. The pale blue flag of Gatia - a pro-government Tuareg militia - flutters from an aerial.

Gatia (Groupe d'Autodefense Touareg Imghad et Alliés), which is led by former Malian army officers-turned-warlords, has become the government's answer to the Tuareg and Arab armed groups who want to create an independent country called Azawad in the north of Mali.

The independence dream may still be cherished by a few Tuareg intellectuals. But most Tuaregs have decided that to achieve independence by allying with highwaymen, drug-runners, migrant-traffickers and Islamists is too high a price to pay.

The Azawadian militias largely survive not on ideas but on a need to conquer and protect road junctions in the desert for the levying of tolls and the passage of goods and trafficked humans.

Upside of chaos

The 2015 peace agreement, brokered by Algeria, and the endless UN-sponsored talks that continue on a monthly basis over demobilisation minutia, are sneered at by people like youth leader Cissé. "The peace process has given legitimacy to people who do not want peace. They want chaos. It is better for business," he says.

Chaos is also the best environment for Islamist groups, such as al-Qaeda, who within it can broker short-lived alliances of expediency, just as they did briefly with Azawadian independence fighters during the occupation of northern Mali in 2012.

Gao's 150-bed hospital - which maintains care standards thanks to Red Cross funding - experiences the impact of the Malian crisis in ever-changing ways.

At the moment, war wounded are eating away at the capacities of the surgical wards. In a room adjacent to the militiaman's ward, two civilian truckers are receiving treatment. They were driving a tanker for Minusma when it hit a landmine. Two other people on the vehicle were killed.

"We adapt to the situation," says surgeon Touré. "Of course we would like to be concentrating on the broader health of the community, on nutrition issues and maternal health. But when the pick-ups start arriving after a gunfight we have to give them immediate attention."

The injured militiaman groans in pain as he rolls over in his hospital bed to reveal his bandage. Miraculously, the bullet simply grazed the top of his spine.

UN Refugee Chief Condemns Attack on Staff in Mali
UNHCR

August 24, 2017

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed shock and outrage after unknown attackers fired shots at a UNHCR vehicle in Timbuktu, Mali on Tuesday – injuring two staff members. The vehicle came under fire despite being clearly identified with the UN Refugee Agency's logo. Both of the injured are currently receiving medical care.

"I am deeply shocked by such an attack on our colleagues in Timbuktu, who are providing assistance and protection to those fleeing violence," High Commissioner Grandi said.

"Our colleagues are working tirelessly in Mali, under some of the most challenging conditions," he said, "and for such an act to happen just as we observed World Humanitarian Day is a painful reminder of the risks to those who put their lives on the line every day to save the lives of others".

Grandi repeated his call for the protection of humanitarian workers saying, "such an attack does not diminish our resolve to continue working to provide protection to those displaced by conflict. All our thoughts are with our colleagues and to their families, with hopes for a swift recovery."

In 2016, there were 158 major attacks against humanitarian aid operations globally, with a total of 288 aid workers killed, injured or kidnapped – including three UNHCR staff who endured 23 days in captivity in Darfur.

Mali's Suspended Constitutional Review Provides Vital Lessons
AllAfrica

By Baba Danoko
August 30, 2017

On 18 August, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta decided to suspend the referendum procedure to revise Mali's constitution. His decision was taken under pressure from various political and civil society groups rallied under the platform Antè Abana, which means 'We do not want, it's over' in the local Bambara language.

The decision was taken in a tense atmosphere following weeks of disagreement between supporters of and opponents to constitutional reform. It also comes at a time when national reconciliation and unity remain fragile in a country that has been experiencing a security and political crisis since 2012.

The government's main reasons for this constitutional reform include the need to draw lessons from the 2012 security crisis, to correct the weaknesses revealed during the application of the constitution, and to take into consideration the reforms stipulated in the June 2015 peace agreement.

National reconciliation remains fragile in a country that's seen political crisis since 2012.

For Antè Abana, however, the proposed revision - in addition to considerably increasing the powers of the president - violates article 118 of the 1992 constitution which proscribes all constitutional reviews that violate Mali's territorial integrity. According to the platform, state absence in the region of Kidal and in certain central localities constitutes a threat to the country's territorial integrity.

The president's decision, in the short term, will ease tensions in the society. But the debate around the constitutional revision has revealed deeper social dynamics that the Malian authorities and their partners should pay attention to. Three dimensions in particular should be examined.

First, the issue illustrates the gap between popular expectations and the actions of political leaders. The installation of the Malian Parliament after the December 2013 legislative election marked a crucial crisis resolution step in Mali. The expectation was that Parliament would play a more decisive role in the legislative process. Parliament was therefore eagerly expected to implement the reforms.

However, before the president's decision, Parliament had already on 3 June adopted the draft of the revision of the constitution by 111 votes in favour and 35 against. The National Assembly, even though it said it had consulted the public, had not been able to measure popular reluctance and reservations regarding the constitutional revision. This highlights the disconnect between the institution's stance and popular expectations.

The debate around the constitutional reform shows that deep social tensions still exist in Mali

Second, the polarisation of national public opinion for and against the constitutional revision created a palpable tension between Malians. To appease the situation, traditional and religious leaders played a significant role as a social shock absorber through mediations that resulted in the suspension of the revision project.

The role of these informal authorities would have gone unnoticed if, during the debate on the revision, there had been no mention of their participation in the governance process. It is important to question the consequences of institutionalising the role of these leaders in the political domain.

Third, despite being presented by the president and the government as a 'requirement' of the peace agreement, the constitutional revision continues to cause popular protests. An example is the demonstrations in Gao in July 2016 against establishing the interim authorities as stipulated in the peace agreement. The protests were violently repressed by the government.

In the wake of these events, the president declared that 'these regrettable incidents (were) a clear illustration of a misunderstanding of the content of the peace and national reconciliation agreement'. This observation shows that although there was very little protest at the time it was signed, the implementation of the peace agreement leaves many Malians uncomfortable. It also highlights the importance of explaining the peace agreement to the public.

Traditional and religious leaders helped ease social tensions through a series of mediations

In the meantime, the government and its partners must take the necessary steps to implement the pending legislative reforms as they await the much-needed constitutional revision, whose necessity goes beyond the 'requirements' of the peace agreement.

Limitations of the peace process - in particular the absence of popular support for its implementation - have been highlighted by various factors. These include the absence of a new date to restart the process of constitutional revision, the divide between the ruling party and the opposition, and the rifts between supporters and opponents of the reform.

The importance of implementing the peace agreement and the resulting reforms cannot be overstated. However without popular support these steps won't have the expected stabilising effect. To ensure national ownership, the Malian authorities and their partners engaged in the peace process must involve all the relevant stakeholders in the various proposed measures, from the inception phases.

[back to contents]

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

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

ICRC Chief Urges Renewed Dialogue to End War in South Sudan
VOA News

By Halima Athumani
August 21, 2017

The warring factions in South Sudan and the country's neighbors must leave no stone unturned in finding a political solution to the three-and-a-half-year civil war. That was the message of the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as he wrapped up his visit to South Sudan and neighboring Uganda.

Peter Maurer has visited conflict zones around the world, including Syria and Yemen. The International Committee of the Red Cross president paints a grim picture of what he has just seen in South Sudan, one in two people is severely hungry and dependent on food aid, while one in three people is displaced.

ICRC's Maurer said returning to dialogue is the only solution.

"I have seen the alternative of it, and the alternative of it looks bleak," Maurer said. "That is a continuation of the conflict. It is people being afraid, people not having any trust, people fleeing before even the fighters are coming because they are scared to death that any fighter coming to a village comes with violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and so this is not an acceptable solution."

Violence has intensified in South Sudan since July of last year after a power-sharing deal between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar collapsed.

International human rights bodies say warring factions have perpetrated gross human rights abuses against civilians, including gruesome killings, abductions of adolescent boys and girls, and rapes of women and young girls.

The ICRC says the number of wounded treated in ICRC-supported hospitals is significantly higher this year than last year, and health care workers continue to come under threat. The number of family members separated by conflict and reunited by the ICRC has already more than doubled this year compared with 2016, to nearly four dozen, including many children.

"People, when they see us, they also they want food, water, sanitation and health services, but they also first and foremost ask us where are our relatives?" Maurer said.

Uganda welcomed its one millionth South Sudanese refugee this month. Nearly all of them arrived in the past year.

Maurer visited refugee settlements in northern Uganda and planned to meet Monday with Ugandan president, and regional heavyweight, Yoweri Museveni.

"President Museveni knows himself what to do, and if we come to the conclusion that there is no military solution to the problem, you better reinforce and redouble your efforts at the political side, and we have to have national, credible, inclusive national dialogue," Maurer said.

Museveni's role in regional mediation efforts in the past has been controversial, with the SPLA/IO rebels accusing him of backing the government of Salva Kiir.

But the few precursors to potential peace talks that have taken place recently have been held in Uganda, and some groups in the conflict think Museveni could use his influence to mediate an end to the violence.

Uganda court jails Muslim leader for life over terrorism conviction
DailyMail

August 22, 2017

A Ugandan court on Tuesday sentenced a Muslim group leader and three associates to life in prison after their conviction on terrorism charges related to threats to harm rivals, a judicial official said.

Over the last few years more than a dozen senior Muslim figures in Uganda have been killed, in most cases gunned down by unknown assailants riding on motorcycle taxis.

Sheikh Mohammad Yunus Kamoga, who heads Tabliqs, a radical Muslim faction, and 13 others were arrested and charged with terrorism and the murder of some other Islamic group leaders.

On Monday six of them were convicted on the terrorism charges but all were cleared of murder.

In a high court session on Tuesday, Kamoga and three others were sentenced to life while two associates were given 30 years each, according to judiciary spokesman Solomon Muyita.

The court acquitted the group of murder because prosecutors failed to place any of them at the scenes of crime, he said.

Local media quoted defence lawyers as saying they would appeal against the convictions.

About 13 percent of Uganda's 35 million population is Muslim. The east African state's Muslim community has various factions that often feud over issues ranging from differing interpretations of Islam to rows over property and leadership.

Uganda has only suffered one major Islamist militant attack - in 2010 when back-to-back bombings in the capital Kampala killed at least 76 people.

Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-affiliated militant group based in Somalia, claimed responsibility. Uganda's military is deployed in Somalia as part of an African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeeping force. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Giving Voice to Victims at the ICC: Court Should Emphasize Victims' Views in Choice of Counsel
Human Rights Watch

By Maria Burnett and Elizabeth Evenson
August 29, 2017

Testimony before the International Criminal Court (ICC) resumed this month in the case against Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan former commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The ICC has officially recognized over 4,000 victims to participate in the case, including people from Abok, Lukodi, Odek, and Pajule, in northern Uganda.

These victims are only a fraction of those who suffered during the long conflict there. But their participation represents one of the ICC's key innovations: victims, represented by their lawyers, making their views and concerns known to the court's judges. This can help bridge the gap between victims and their communities and the court's proceedings.

Today, Human Rights Watch released a report looking at how ICC decisions are made about which lawyers represent victims. It is a narrow issue – and doesn't relate to the defendant's guilt or innocence – but by respecting victims' choices for their legal representation, the ICC can help empower victims of serious crimes.

The victims' experiences around the issue of choosing legal representatives in the Ongwen case are important for future ICC cases. From talking to some of them, we found mixed results.

In Lukodi, we heard how community leaders – concerned that victims' voices would get left out of the ICC's proceedings – led a search for a lawyer. The ICC's judge accepted that these lawyers could represent some victims. But the judge ruled that these lawyers were not eligible to receive the court's legal aid funding to pay their costs and fees. Given that most victims before the ICC are unlikely to be able to afford their own lawyers, this could have undercut their choice. Victims would have had to go with lawyers chosen by the judge with little input from the victims.

Other court decisions in the Ongwen case have meant that the lawyers chosen in Lukodi and later, by victims in some of the other areas, are receiving ICC funding. And today, as the trial goes on, both teams of lawyers are giving victims a voice in the courtroom. Many of the people we spoke with expressed pride in seeing and hearing both sets of lawyers during the trial.

Our report says, though, that the ICC needs a new approach to reverse what seems to be a trend of giving less and less weight to victims' views in decisions about their legal representation.

Our recommendations are aimed at ICC officials and have little bearing on the broader transitional justice debates in Uganda. But our hope is that the ICC can learn from its recent experience in Uganda and ensure that victims in future cases, whether in the case against Joseph Kony, the LRA leader who remains at large despite a 2005 ICC arrest warrant, or in other countries where the ICC has investigations, will benefit from better and more consistent support in making their own choices about who will speak for them in their quest for justice.

Who Will Stand for Us? Victims' Legal Representation at the ICC in the Ongwen Case and Beyond
ReliefWeb

August 29, 2017

Interview: Victims Need a Greater Say at ICC

Many people in Lukodi, in northern Uganda, were killed and abducted by the brutal rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in 2004. Today, a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, is on trial for these crimes and others at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Community leaders in Lukodi, concerned that victims' views wouldn't be fairly represented during the trial, helped people in the community choose their own lawyers to represent them at the ICC. But initially, the ICC didn't grant the lawyers financial legal aid, undercutting that choice. Researcher Michael Adams speaks with Amy Braunschweiger about the case, and how the ICC should better support victims to choose their own lawyers – a move that would help engage victims in the court process.

Who are Ongwen's victims?

In northern Uganda, the government moved people from their homes into camps for displaced people, ostensibly to protect them from the LRA. But the LRA began to attack the displacement camps.

The ICC's case is focused on attacks on these camps in 2003 and 2004 in four places, Abok, Lukodi, Odek, and Pajule. The ICC prosecutor alleges they were carried out by forces under the command of Ongwen, a former child soldier. LRA fighters entered these camps, killed people, burned some of them alive, looted people's homes, and abducted men, women, and children.

The ICC charged Ongwen with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A total of 4,107 people who applied to be part of the case are officially "victim participants" in his ICC case, though they're obviously only a fraction of the victims. The victims' family members, even children, were killed, they lost their property. Some are women subjected to sexual violence and forced marriage to LRA fighters. Ongwen is accused of murder, rape, torture, destruction of property, and pillaging, among other crimes.

Who are the people who hired their own lawyer?

They are people affected by the attack on the Lukodi camp. When Ongwen was transferred to The Hague in January 2015 and the ICC arrest warrant against him was made public, it turned out that it focused on this one community – Lukodi. After the 2004 attack, people fled to another camp much farther away and after many years went back home to their land.

Leaders from Lukodi's community, like teachers and farmers, worked with nongovernmental organizations that helped them to think about what victims needed as they tried to move forward in their lives. They created a memorial that listed the names of those killed. Eventually, the organizers became a community reconciliation team.

Lukodi's leaders were concerned Ongwen might be released. And they felt they didn't have a lawyer to present their perspective in the court.

Why didn't they have a lawyer? Didn't the ICC appoint lawyers?

The ICC has an office of lawyers tasked with assisting victims and sometimes representing them. This is an independent office, but think of them as "in-house" lawyers.

Before Ongwen's arrest, lawyers from this office had been appointed to represent some specific victims. But apparently no one from Lukodi had applied to be recognized as a victim, as they didn't know the case centered around them.

I think it's fair to say that the relationship between the ICC's in-house lawyers and the people in Lukodi was unclear. Before Ongwen's surrender, the head of the ICC's office of lawyers for victims said the office's budget to make trips to Uganda kept getting cut because there was no progress in the case. They planned to make a trip in February 2015, but it was cancelled. Lukodi's leaders had heard about an ICC lawyer for victims, but they had never met one.

What did they do?

They decided to look for a lawyer themselves. They reached out to lawyers, who came to speak with the leadership. The leadership organized very comprehensive, participatory meetings with victims of the LRA attack in Lukodi. So everyone came, and together they decided who they wanted to speak for them as their lawyers. This process was rolled out between June and October 2015, and was very organized.

Was this a problem for the ICC?

Yes and no.

If you look at the court's cases over time, it seems like it has gotten used to organizing legal representation for victims. As a result, we don't think the court had a policy that helped it respond effectively if victims chose their own lawyer.

In September or October 2015, people working for the ICC in Uganda knew that the people of Lukodi were selecting their own lawyer, and told the judge it would be a good time to step in and start organizing legal representation. The judge took note, and basically said, "Let's just see what happens." And we think it was very good that the judge just didn't step in and take control.

But roughly a month later, the judge issued a decision, stating that while the lawyers could represent the victims who had chosen them, the court wouldn't appoint the lawyers people in Lukodi selected to the level of "common legal representatives." This is important because that meant their lawyers wouldn't get financial legal aid from the court. The court made the lawyer from the ICC's office the common legal representative in the case.

What happened next?

The lawyers continued to work for the victims even though the victims could not pay them.

It meant something to the people that a lawyer had come and seen them and asked them for permission. They felt included and that their views mattered. And that built a lot of trust. One of their lawyers is Ugandan, and he had worked with a Ugandan victims' association and also had experience at the ICC. The other lawyer is from Chile and used to work at Human Rights Watch.

In total, by the time the trial started in December 2016, more than 2,600 victims had signed with these lawyers, both in Lukodi and other communities.

Other communities?

In September 2015, the prosecutor expanded charges to include crimes committed in Pajule, Odek, and Abok.

Because the court at first decided not to step in and organize legal representation for the people in Lukodi, it created an opportunity for these victims to choose their own lawyers, too.

But unlike in Lukodi, these new victims weren't organized, and they didn't have the same type of leadership. They also had little exposure to victims' rights processes and the ICC. The experience of choosing lawyers in each of the three communities turned out to be very different. In Abok, there seem to have been some community meetings to discuss options, while in Odek, people made individual decisions. In Pajule, the few people we spoke with didn't know much about choosing a lawyer. But we know from court records that some people there were already represented by the court lawyer. If you didn't make a choice, you were assigned to the common legal representative.

In our view, if the ICC had more time to help educate these communities, they would have been better prepared to choose who they wanted as their lawyers. So when Ongwen's pretrial process began in January 2016, there were officially two teams of lawyers, one supported from the court's budget and one not.

At some point were Lukodi's lawyers granted legal aid, I hope?

The lawyers made a couple of requests to the court to receive legal aid. Eventually, the registry – a branch of the ICC – reported that more people had joined the team of lawyers and asked the judges for their views on granting legal aid to them. And the judge now overseeing the case basically said, "No – but I leave it to you." And the registry began paying the lawyers legal aid. This is important because now people can keep the lawyers they chose without worrying that the lawyers will run out of money to be able to come to Uganda to consult with them.

Does the ICC have the money to educate people to make this choice and to pay any lawyers they choose?

The court is facing a very tricky budget situation. Some countries that are members of the ICC don't want to give the court more money. That's a big part, we think, of why the court is making some of these decisions to limit the number of lawyers involved in cases. Our view is that the court shouldn't cut victim's rights first. Also, states need to recognize that the court can't function at its best unless victims are included.

Why shouldn't the ICC appoint victim's lawyers, as it seems some victims don't have enough information or understanding of the ICC to choose?

First, because under the court's rules victims have a right to choose. It's not an absolute right, but it's there for a reason. For people from Lukodi, the choice seems to have helped give some of them confidence in what their lawyers are doing and the court's proceedings. It's not the only factor by any means, but choice, if it's done well, can really promote victims' trust in the ICC.

The ICC is often accused of not connecting as well as it should with victims and their concerns, and it should do everything it can to bring victims into the trial process. And this is another tool to do so.

What do we want from the ICC?

It seems like the court wasn't expecting victims to pick their own lawyer, and when they did, they didn't have a Plan B for how to respond. But we really think the court needs a new policy entirely, a new Plan A, for engaging with victims about their legal representation in a timely way.

The ICC has a policy for consulting victims when the court selects their lawyer, but as other nongovernmental groups have also pointed out, that hasn't worked well enough, especially when it comes to making sure victims have a voice in that decision. We think there needs to be a fresh approach. We want the court's judges and its registry to work together and to be very attentive to the needs and wishes of victims. In Lukodi, it would have meant asking "Hey, do you want to choose your own lawyers?" and then treating their answer as important. As far as we can tell, that question was never asked. And if it was, it doesn't appear to have influenced the court's decisions about which lawyers would be supported financially.

[back to contents]

Kenya

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

What Kenyan voters got for the $500m spent on elections
Aljazeera

By Nanjala Nyabola
August 18, 2017

Raila Odinga, leader of the National Super Alliance and Kenya's opposition is petitioning the Supreme Court for a review of the results of the 2017 election, easing the political pressure that has kept the country in suspended animation for the last week.

On the morning of August 9th, about 12 hours after results started trickling on the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) results transmission website, leader of the largest opposition coalition Raila Odinga claimed that the website had been hacked to under-represent his share of the vote. On Friday, at 10:30 pm, the chairman of the IEBC, Wafula Chebukati, declared Uhuru Kenyatta the winner triggering a flurry of protests in Nairobi and Kisumu. According to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights at least 24 people have died.

Kenya's elections generally have three phases. First, there is a jittery pre-election phase peppered with accusations of malpractice; second, a peaceful and even joyous voting phase; and third, an anxious wait for final results and the inevitable fallout.

The contrast in mood between the voting phase and the pre- and post-election phases is always stark: a 24-hour window of euphoria sandwiched between interminable anxiety. The recent elections were no different - on Monday, there was tension over a litany of unresolved issues, on Tuesday voting was smooth and turnout impressive, but by Wednesday there was tension in the air and this elections' counting dispute began.

How can a country be so good at voting and so bad at counting votes?

The tension stems from a lack of trust: Kenyans don't trust elections because our elections are untrustworthy. Successive iterations of electoral commissions have delivered suspect results. In 1992, then President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi was declared winner over Kenneth Matiba in an election that established a link between violence and voting (PDF) in Kenya. Arguably, Matiba won that election, but Moi was declared winner. This pattern was repeated in 1997, in a violent election that saw Moi defeat Mwai Kibaki under questionable circumstances.

To date, the only election in Kenya's multi-party era that has not faced validity challenges was the 2002 election, as the patterns of 1992 and 1997 repeated in 2007 and 2013. The 2007 election especially soured voters on electoral commissions, as a hurried result was announced in the shadow of grave allegations of fraud made on live television. Instead of assuaging the public's fears by having a transparent recount, the president was quickly sworn in at night and a major trust deficit was born that has never been fully addressed.

But the lack of trust between voters and the electoral commission isn't even the most significant. There are plenty of other institutions in Kenya that operate with a trust deficit, but that do not trigger violence.

Elections week in Kenya is a flurry of accusations, obscure legislation and new found importance of faraway places that most Kenyans can't find on a map, resulting in general unease even though few voters can articulate why.

In fact, it is the lack of trust between various political actors that is Kenya's biggest problem, and Kenya's politicians don't trust each other because they are cut from the same cloth. The main political figures in Kenya haven't changed much since 1990.

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto on one hand, and Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka on the other, all served in Moi's government. Each of the "four principals", as they are known in Kenya, has been active in government during a rigged election. As political alignments have shifted over the last 25 years, protecting oneself against the scheming of the other side has become the main election strategy, rather than talking about the issues, for instance.

The more these individuals find perceived gaps in the election architecture, the more law is grafted on to the system to make it appear airtight. Each check and balance is given a check and balance, but it makes little sense as a collective unit.

What's the point of insisting that a result is only based on forms 34A if nearly a week after the result was announced the commission still can't produce all the forms as required by law?

Why insist that only the announcement by the commission would be final and prohibit media from declaring any result before the final one only to provide a glitchy website with a running tally?

Nor are these checks and balances cheap or easy. Even though Kenya only had 19.2 million voters this year against the United States' 200 million or India's 814 million, at $25 per capita Kenya's 2017 election was probably the most expensive in the world.

Both parties hired foreign IT and political consultants, although the opposition found theirs deported under dubious circumstances a day before the election. The ruling coalition reportedly hired international political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica (which has been credited with President Donald Trump's electoral victory) and invested heavily in a Central Command System. The opposition is running a parallel tallying system on a server hosted in Tanzania and Germany. And, perhaps the highest cost was human life: IEBC ICT Director Chris Msando was kidnapped, tortured and killed five days before the vote.

The cumbersome process also leads to some absurd complexity. France, with 33.7 million voters announced presidential results in less than eight hours - Kenyans waited four days. An Emirati company was contracted to print ballot papers for the Kenyan election, but as others have wondered, how is it that Kenya can print its own money but not its own ballot papers? Tiny Gambia can use marbles to vote out a 22-year autocracy but the largest economy in East Africa requires close to $500 million in state costs alone to birth a crisis.

If these few days are an indication, hardly anyone has mastered the breadth of process that governs elections in Kenya today, IEBC officials included. None of this procedural complexity is about the voter. That's why civic education for the August election only began at the end of June, perhaps contributing to over 400,000 rejected votes. It doesn't matter if the voters understand the rules of the process, as long as enough participate to legitimise the outcome of the power struggle at the top.

This complexity breeds anxiety that comes to a head during counting and tallying. Voters are expected to trust completely a state institution in a country where state institutions have little credibility. The ruling party craves an illusion of modernity, insisting that all the money and law expended built a system that works while papering over legitimate and visible concerns.

The opposition has no power over the process and resorts to extreme measures to gain some measure of control - screaming about hacked systems without revealing how they got into the system themselves.

Elections week in Kenya is a flurry of accusations, obscure legislation and new found importance of faraway places that most Kenyans can't find on a map, resulting in general unease even though few voters can articulate why.

The threat of violence looms over Kenyan elections in part because of this unease. People use election violence, like other forms of violence, to feel like they're in control when they're not. Between 1992 and 2002, the state instigated election violence to retain control after the end of single party rule. In 2007, with Moi out of the picture, opposition politicians - some of whom are in government today - used violence to undermine the state's complete control over the election process.

The key difference is that before 2002, the state had a relative monopoly on election violence in Kenya but after 2008, violence outside state control became an issue. This is why so few Kenyans associate 1992 or 1997 elections with violence in the way they do the 2007 elections: the concern isn't violence in general, but violence that isn't controlled by the state.

And that's why the killing of 25 people, including a 6-month-old child, by the police isn't considered election violence.

The are two ways to end the cycle of uncertainty around Kenyan elections. One is to hope for eventual generational change through the ballot, which is happening but at a frighteningly slow pace. The second is for the powers that be to finally build a system for the voter and not for politicians. Give voters a system in which their votes count, and watch the count get better.

Kenya's election court case: what you need to know
News 24

August 30, 2017

Kenya's Supreme Court this week completed two days of hearings during which the opposition alleged fraud it claims handed victory to President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 8 poll.

On Friday the court's seven judges will rule on whether the election should be annulled and rerun, as the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) demanded, or the vote and result should stand, as the election commission and Kenyatta contended.

The country is on tenterhooks as it awaits the result, here's why.

How did elections go?

Election day was calm with more than 15.5 million Kenyans voting for president, governors, senators, parliamentarians, local assembly members and women's representatives.

The overwhelming majority of international observers welcomed the successful holding of the elections.

The presidential election - preceded by an acrimonious campaign and the murder of the IT manager at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) - pitted incumbent President Kenyatta against Raila Odinga, who had run unsuccessfully three times in the past.

As initial votes were being counted in the early hours of August 9 the opposition cried foul, alleging hacking and rigging were resulting in a false tally favoring Kenyatta.

The August 11 declaration of Kenyatta's victory with 54.27% of the votes, against 44.74% for Odinga, was followed by two days of demonstrations and riots in the slums of Nairobi and in the western city of Kisumu, traditional opposition strongholds.

At least 21 people, including a baby and a nine-year-old girl, were killed on 11 and 12 August, mostly by police, according to an AFP tally.

The violence, however, has fallen far short of the politically-motivated ethnic violence that left more than 1 100 dead following the disputed 2007 election.

What does the opposition want?

After initially ruling out taking its complaints to court, the opposition in the end asked the Supreme Court to annul the result of the presidential election, filing its petition just hours before the constitutional deadline on August 18.

Opposition lawyers denounced a "litany" of irregularities, accusing the IEBC of having falsified results during the several days it took to publish polling station and constituency tally sheets on its website.

The Supreme Court ordered the opposition lawyers be granted access to IEBC computer servers, documentation, voter identification kits and GPS data.

The IEBC failed to abide by all the orders of the court yet opposition lawyer James Orengo claimed the information gathered proved the fraud allegations affecting more than five million votes.

The IEBC denied rigging but acknowledged some "inadvertent errors" that it said would not affect the outcome of the vote.

What is at stake for Kenya?

On Friday the Supreme Court will either validate the election and Kenyatta will be sworn-in a week later for a second five-year term or it will annul the presidential election giving the IEBC 60 days in which to organize a fresh vote.

The response of the losing party - at the court as at the ballot - and its supporters will be key to Kenya's short-term stability.

In that respect much will depend on the perceived quality and impartiality of the judges' ruling, which is final and cannot be appealed.

In 2013, the then Supreme Court judges were widely criticized for their rejection of Odinga's case, again alleging fraud.

Murithi Mutiga of the International Crisis Group think tank said the current procedure has been impressive so far with sessions broadcast live on television and with opposing lawyers laying out their arguments with courtesy and clarity.

But, he warned, "even if the quality of the ruling is high, some people will be disappointed" and that can spell trouble in a country where elections routinely put pressure on ethnic and economic fault lines.

[back to contents]

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

Can uneasy peace last in Rwanda?
The Hamilton Spectator

August 21, 2017

The elections earlier this month in the small African nation Rwanda, with a tragic history, call once more into question its likely future trajectory.

Rwanda's president and top leader since 1994, Paul Kagame, and his party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, won re-election to his third seven-year term with some 99 per cent of the vote. Even though the elections were in principle contested, the extent of that victory, and the strong-arm tactics that preceded it, make Rwanda a one-party state and Kagame one more African president for life, joining the likes of Robert G. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Teodorino Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.

The real problem lies in the fact that Rwanda has been ruled since 1994, and before 1959, by force by a 14 per cent ethnic minority, the Tutsis. They rule over an 85 per cent Hutu ethnic majority and a small group of Twa, sometimes known as pygmies. The vice presidential candidate of a party opposed to Kagame and the RPF was found beheaded before the elections.

The major complication in Rwanda in 2017 comes in the form of the fact that Kagame's government has ruled the country of 13 million since it took over in 1994 very well in terms of economic development. When Kagame and the RPF came to power in 1994, Rwanda had been absolutely shattered as a society by a wave of genocidal killings carried out by the Hutus against as many as a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Now, Rwanda has become, in principle, English-speaking, as opposed to French-speaking, based in part on the language of the Tutsi leaders, returning from exile in English-speaking East Africa; the fact that Kagame and his colleagues saw English-speaking countries as the future; and, in part, on the fact that the Tutsis considered the French to be allies of the genocidal Hutu government that preceded them in power, from 1959 to 1994.

So what is the bet? Is it on the Tutsis' and Kagame's continued ability to rule, reinforced in no small part by the majority Hutus' fear of renewed violence and appreciation of the economic development? Or is it concern that once again Rwanda will return to rounds of inter-ethnic violence that occurred there in 1959 and 1994, fuelled by a minority ruling an 85 per cent majority largely by force?

The return of genocide would be a horror. At the same time, it would be irresponsible not to want to see democratic, participatory government as part of the picture of economic development that Rwanda represents. Then the question becomes, is that possible given the history and ethnic composition of the place? No easy answers.

Rwanda's Paul Kagame: saviour or dictator?
The New Times

By John Carlin
August 30, 2017

After the slaughter of one million people in 100 days in 1994, Paul Kagame is the man who brought peace to Rwanda and made it an African success story. His critics say he's an autocrat who has ruled for too long and orders the killing of opponents. In the month that he won another election, John Carlin asks the president about his legacy – and involvement in the murder of his friend and former political ally.

All was calm in Kigali as I drove to my hotel from the airport on the night of August 4. The streets were spotless in the Rwandan capital. Armed policemen stood on every corner, but the pedestrians looked carefree following a day's voting which, come the announcement of the result at one in the morning, would extend President Paul Kagame's long hold on power with 98.79 per cent of the national vote. There was so little tension and so much order – no litter, no plastic bags (banned by law) anywhere to be seen – that I might have been in Switzerland had it not been for the African rhythms belting out of the bars.

It was my sixth visit to Rwanda since 1999 and I'd never seen the place looking more prosperous or clean. Recalling recent articles critical of Kagame that I had been reading on the flight south to this small country in the geographical heart of Africa, I couldn't help thinking of a scene from the Monty Python film, Life of Brian.

The leaders of the People's Front of Judea, dedicated to the overthrow of "the Roman imperialist aggressors", chair a meeting at which the question is put: "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

"The aqueduct?" one comrade replies. "Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. That's true," acknowledges rebel commander Reg, played by John Cleese. "Sanitation?" another militant suggests. "Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation." "The roads?"

To Reg's growing dismay, the answers to his question come at him in a flood. The medicine; the education; the wine; the public baths; "It's safe to walk the streets at night".

"Oh, all right," exclaims Reg. "But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

"Brought peace?" another voice pipes up.

Paul Kagame's many critics in the West regard him as a power-drunk African emperor who, had he any sense of responsibility towards his country or his continent, would have groomed a successor by now and stepped down from the presidency. Following a constitutional amendment two years ago he could rule until 2034, encouraging critics in the view that he is yet another African dictator ruling over a police state.

Yet they have little choice but to admit, as Monty Python's Reg must, that he and his Rwandan Patriotic Front party have delivered everything to his people (save the aqueduct and the wine) that the Romans delivered to Monty Python's Judeans – peace and public safety, first and foremost, in a country which 23 years ago endured one of the worst atrocities in recorded history: the slaughter of close to one million of its inhabitants in 100 days, a rate of murderous efficacy that outdid the Nazis' industrial extermination of the Jews. That the favoured instrument of death was the machete offers a glimpse of the blood frenzy into which this nation descended as large sectors of the majority Hutu population, urged on by a ruling clique quite as callous as Hitler's, toiled hard to remove their Tutsi compatriots from the face of the earth.

None of which is to say that Kagame is a saint or that the charges levelled against him are baseless. He is Rwanda's Fidel Castro, a free-market version but as toweringly all-reaching, penetrating every crevice of Rwandan life, and almost as controversial. Opinion is sharply divided among those of us foreigners who take an interest in Rwanda, turning on whether Kagame has been a good or a bad thing for his country since the rebel army he led, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, came over the border from Uganda, defeated the government's forces and, while the rest of the world looked the other way, put a stop to the genocide and seized control of what was left of the state. That was in 1994 and, while Kagame only formally became president in 2000, he has effectively ruled the country ever since.

The United Nations has been critical of the Kagame regime: the case against him has been based largely on evidence supplied by organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They highlight vengeful rampages by Kagame's military against Hutus who after the genocide sought refuge in the neighbouring Congo, with estimates made of 200,000 dead; they say he stifles all opposition and curbs freedom of the press, hence his staggering electoral majorities; they say that he jails his political opponents and he has arranged the murder of at least seven of them, according to newspaper reports, since 1998.

I have a particular interest in one of those seven. Patrick Karegeya was my friend. I met him on the first of my six visits to Rwanda, in 1999. The most high-profile of the Rwandan political figures to have been killed since the genocide, he was an old and intimate ally of Kagame's in the rebel Rwandan army and afterwards in government, where he served as a military colonel and head of foreign intelligence. Over 15 years or so we met for lunch, dinner, drinks or coffee in Kigali, in London and in South Africa. He was clever; he was funny; he was a roguishly engaging bon vivant – quite different in character from the austere Kagame.

On New Year's Day 2014 Karegeya was strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel.

I was shocked and horrified and, like almost everybody else who took notice, immediately deduced it had been the work of the Rwandan government. I wrote to Patrick's daughter saying how sorry I was and how much I had valued my friendship with him.

Flash forward to the present, at the end of a week travelling the length and breadth of Rwanda, and I am sitting in a plush room in Kigali's State House waiting to interview Kagame. I know there is nothing else for it but to do my duty to my murdered friend and raise the subject of his demise, but I must confess to a little apprehension as to how the question will be met. I don't fear for my safety, but I do wonder whether the interview will be drawn to a sharp close.

Kagame, dressed in a blue jacket, beige trousers and shirt but no tie, walks in. He is the thinnest tall man, a 6ft plus bantamweight, I have ever seen. Thin and tall is a Tutsi trait. Kagame has endeavoured to eliminate all talk of Rwanda's two dominant ethnic groups from the national vocabulary but the truth is that, while increased intermarriage since the 1994 genocide has blurred the characteristics somewhat, the Hutus have a distinctively different look. They are invariably shorter and squatter than their Tutsi neighbours and their features are less angular.

Kagame, while naturally severe in his appearance, seems more relaxed than on other occasions that I've met him, the last time in New York four years ago when he was there for a meeting of the United Nations general assembly. Now 59, married with four children, he smiles, and even chuckles a few times, during the 90 minutes our encounter lasts.

Before broaching the Karegeya question, I take it easy, asking him first about cows, the black and white Friesians I have seen everywhere on my tour of his country. Elsewhere in Africa you don't see much beyond cattle of the brown, long-horned variety. What's this about? Kagame's lengthy answer serves to confirm the impression he makes on visiting foreign business people, diplomats and aid workers, that he is not just a political animal or a military man but an obsessively attentive national CEO.

"I looked into the milk our cows yielded and saw it was much lower than that of these European cattle," he says. This prompted him to organise the importation of Friesian cattle and vast quantities of Friesian bull sperm, which was initially delivered in large tubs right here to his office. That was ten years ago. "We now have 400,000 Friesians in Rwanda and our government has seen to it that every farmer owns at least one cow."

Moving swiftly from the gentle starter to the political main course, I suggest to Kagame that foreign opinion on him is divided along two broad camps. On the one side the business types, who often say there is no easier and less corrupt place to work in or to invest in Africa (one fan is Howard Schultz, the president of Starbucks, who buys coffee from Rwanda); academics in development economics, some of whom marvel at a "Rwandan miracle" that has seen growth rates of 7 to 8 per cent a year since 2000 and a distribution of wealth more even than anywhere else in Africa; governments that have been generous with aid, and political leaders, notably Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, both of whom have used their foundations to invest in Rwandan health and education.

The other camp is made up of journalists and human rights groups.

People in the West measure us against their yardstick, but has it even worked for them?

Kagame chuckles and warms to the debate, seizing the chance to turn on his detractors, arrowing in on what he considers to be a "paternalism" founded on the premise that the western model offers the exemplary democratic yardstick against which he and the Rwandan state system must be measured.

"I have a problem with this," he begins. "Who told anybody we actually want to be like the West? We have been making progress, but we are not moving towards being western because we can't be western. We are moving towards being better Africans." Besides, he adds, "If you look at the chaos all over the world, including the western world, the unpredictability, the concerns of ordinary people against those of the elite, I think the ordinary people are getting an extremely raw deal. Nothing is being done to address their concerns and this is causing all this turmoil all over the place. People in the West measure us against their yardstick, but has it even worked for them?"

By contrast, Kagame says his purpose has been not to appease elite foreign opinion but to attend to the needs of "real people leading everyday real lives", providing them with the health and education and food and security most Rwandans crave way above all other concerns. "We learn things from others, from the West or whoever, but we have to be sure they work for us. We are not objects of imitation; we are real people trying to lead our lives the real way – not journalists or academics or business people. Where do our critics factor ordinary Rwandans into their way of thinking? All they do is focus on me, the individual. Everything comes down to this man Kagame who has done this and that; the country is not free because of him; he is a dictator, an autocrat and so on. Anybody reasonable should see that this is nonsense."

The unreasonable ones, as he sees it, are "stupid" or "idiots", insults he hurls a number of times in the interview against his critics.

"I think there is a set kind of narrative that they find themselves sticking to, no matter what. A set western political narrative from which they do not want to – or cannot – be diverted."

Sticking to the narrative includes, in Kagame's view, disbelieving what he, "the African strongman", says and believing the dissenters on whose testimony the case against him rests. "We are not credible people, but when they go to the other side they become credible. That is how the human rights groups evaluate the strength of their evidence." Kagame claims that the likes of Human Rights Watch, which is banned from Rwanda, supply lists of names of people who have been jailed or killed or are missing, only for it to be discovered later that several of them are alive and well.

He insists that the charges levelled against him are overstated, yet he does not entirely deny that some of them may be true. "If any of these things have been happening, dozens more are happening in those places where the accusations are coming from. You see all these years across the world all these cases of what they call 'collateral damage', human beings killed, women and children killed, people who have nothing to do with anything – and probably now as we speak this is happening in Yemen, Syria, Iraq … You can go on naming places. This is considered normal and somehow acceptable because there the perpetrators say they are doing their best to prevent it, because they have good intentions, better intentions than we do. But how do you measure intentions? This is the interesting thing."

First of all, we actually never killed him. Second, we don't regret the loss of his life.

He refuses to be drawn into describing whose intentions exactly he is talking about, but a nod and a grin reveals that he has in mind, among others, the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, the numerous innocent collateral deaths that have resulted from drone and air force attacks on far-flung targets deemed to be a threat to American national security.

Kagame stops grinning when I mention Patrick Karegeya.

Karegeya told me he had been arrested in 2004 when he was still head of intelligence and jailed for 18 months. He was released in 2006 and fled to South Africa the following year, living in Pretoria, where I last met him, until his death in 2014. I liked Karegeya but he was evasive, as intelligence people tend to be.

I never got a satisfactory answer out of him as to why he had been arrested in the first place.

Kagame tells me his version. He does not react angrily or defensively. He does not look flustered. He does not throw me out of the room.

The reason he gives for Karegeya's arrest: Kagame learnt from a friendly foreign leader and later confirmed to his own satisfaction that Karegeya had been working for the intelligence service of another country. Paid? "Yes, paid." Not only did he judge his old comrade in arms to be a traitor, Kagame says, he learnt he was involved "in gross corruption". "I was very much taken aback. I called him to this room where we are sitting now and I said, 'Patrick, how can you do this? You are not a teenager; you are an old man with family and children.' He had nothing to say."

But then Karegeya was killed, I say, lured to a room in a five-star Johannesburg hotel and strangled. Kagame had a motive. Karegeya had told a Ugandan newspaper three and a half years before his death that Kagame was a dictator and a killer of political opponents who could only be driven out by force of arms. "Yes," Kagame tells me. "He did not even bother to hide his intentions. I will say what I have said before and have never dissociated myself from. First of all, we actually never killed him. Second, we don't regret the loss of his life. Maybe that is what he deserved for what he did here."

Kagame denying responsibility but saying thank you very much to those who did kill him has not left things any clearer as it applies to my own moral conundrum. A part of me feels that I ought to hate Kagame, as I definitely do hate those who carried out the political assassinations of two good friends in South Africa in the Nineties, and that I ought to be in full-throated agreement with those who call him a monstrous tyrant and clamour for his fall. But I cannot and am not. From his exile in South Africa Patrick Karegeya was, in a rather half-baked sort of way, plotting the overthrow of the Rwandan government. Of this I am sure. And whatever Karegeya's reasons, selfish or altruistic, and whatever sins Kagame may have committed, I insist on believing that Kagame has on balance been a good thing for the great mass of the Rwandan people. For him to leave power now would be a disaster for them.

In the week I travelled the country I met many ordinary Rwandans. Just one example from the dozens of people I spoke to in the east, north, west and south before I saw Kagame: a man with a bicycle, probably in his forties, whom I talked to briefly on the side of the road. How was his life? "I am happy," he said. "I have a bicycle, a house, a cow and protection."

Protection was the key word, one I heard over and over on my travels. It's great that things have improved materially for ordinary Rwandans since the apocalyptic ruin the genocide bequeathed, but it's no good having a cow, a bike and a house – plus access to education and healthcare without precedent in Rwandan history – unless you have the state to protect you from crime and, whether you are a Tutsi or a Hutu, from far worse. The reality is that when Kagame seized power in 1994 the stage was set either for mass vengeance by the Tutsis, or for renewed carnage at the hands of the hundreds of thousands of guilty Hutus who fled to the neighbouring Congo and whose leaders were threatening to return home, as they put it, "to finish the job", to wipe out all the remaining Tutsis.

For 100 days in 1994 people were killed in Rwanda at the rate of seven a minute.

Many thousands who returned to Rwanda from Congo and handed themselves in were jailed and most of them have since been amnestied and allowed to return to the scenes of their crimes to live alongside those whose relatives they chopped to death. Amazingly they continue today to coexist in peace. They do so on strict orders from Kagame, obeyed as dutifully by all as many Hutus obeyed the orders to kill the Tutsi "cockroaches" in 1994.

On the other hand, many thousands of those Hutus who did not heed the call to return home and remained in the Congo were treated mercilessly by Kagame's invading troops.

The Congo killings are high up on the human rights charge sheet against Kagame. When I ask him about them he does not issue a strong denial. "In comparison to these things that happened in 1994, some of these accusations are nonsense."

Kagame says he acted in the Congo on a logic in keeping with every single decision he tells me he takes, be it in the military, political or economic sphere. "It is easy for me to decide," he says. "I just ask myself whether something is more or less likely to lead to a repetition of the genocide."

I have a harrowingly lucid image of what happened in the Rwandan genocide, having conducted numerous interviews down the years with both victims and killers. I lived in Argentina under Galtieri and his generals; I lived in El Salvador at the time of the death squads and in South Africa in the years of township slaughter, but I have never, ever heard stories more nightmarish than those I was told in Rwanda.

To choose from my personal catalogue of horrors, I spoke to a Hutu man who was forced to beat his wife to death in order to spare their seven children from a rampaging mob. I spoke to an amnestied man who admitted to killing more than 100 people, many of them inside a church, and who told me he was surprised on returning to Rwanda from the Congo that Kagame's Tutsi soldiers did not have tails and horns. I have talked to "families" of orphan children who screamed as their elder sibling recalled how their parents were cut to pieces before their eyes. I have heard stories of parents who would pay the killers to shoot their children rather than butcher them.

Kagame's critics claim he has ordered the killing of at least seven political opponents since 1998. For 100 days in 1994 people were killed in Rwanda at the rate of seven a minute. That is why Kagame tells me that the genocide "is the defining factor in our lives that will remain so for years to come". Kagame's perception that his detractors fail to factor in the enormity of that horror, and to see the huge shadow it still casts over his country, is why he despises their judgment and ignores their recommendations. What irritates him most of all is their inability, as he sees it, to put themselves in ordinary Rwandans' shoes.

I approach the end of the interview asking Kagame for his response to those who are offended by what they perceive to be his despotically prolonged permanence in power. His lengthy answer, in a nutshell, is that he agreed to carry on as president beyond 2017 against his will, and only in response to a clamour from his party and his people. "The day I leave I shall blow out a big sigh of relief," he says.

You can doubt him, although I think he is driven more by a heavy sense of duty than by hunger for power. I could be wrong, but of this I am certain: in the event that Kagame were to resign or fall, as my friend Patrick Karegeya wished that he would, the overwhelming majority of those he calls "ordinary, real" Rwandans would be filled with deepest dread.

A recurring complaint against Kagame is his failure to groom a successor. His glass of water untouched at the end of our 90 minutes, as relaxed as when he began, he tells me that he asked his party followers to do just that seven years ago, that they failed, and that he has now asked them to "do their homework" again and find one in time for the end of his new presidential term in 2024. It will be hard. Paul Kagame, ruthless and single-minded as he may be in his quest to make true on the principle of "never again", is an exceptionally intelligent, pragmatic and sophisticated man in an exceptionally traumatised land inhabited by exceptionally unworldly people. Castro was an option for Cubans; Kagame a necessity for Rwandans. Many have paid a high price, but most of them are lucky he came along. What has he ever done for them? Plenty. To imagine the country without Kagame in the brief period since the genocide is to imagine a return to hopeless poverty and, quite probably, to hell.

[back to contents]

Somalia

US AIR STRIKES KILL 7 AL-SHABAAB FIGHTERS IN SOMALIA - US MILITARY
Eyewitness News

August 17, 2017

Three US air strikes killed seven al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia, the US Africa Command said on Thursday.

The strikes hit targets 320 km southwest of Mogadishu on Wednesday and Thursday in an operation conducted in cooperation with Somali forces, it said in a statement.

Islamist militant group al-Shabaab has allied with al-Qaeda and frequently bombs military and civilian targets in Somalia's capital and other cities.

Somalia: Al-Shabaab Militants Attack Key Town Near Somali Capital
AllAfrica

August 21, 2017

A fierce fighting broke out on Sunday night in Afgoye town, about 30Km northwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after fighters from Al-Shabab have raided military barracks.

Residents said the overnight attack started when militants tried to storm army outposts, and clashed with Somali Federal government forces.

As the fighting raged, both sides had used heavy and small weaponry, including rocket propelled grenades, machine guns that could be heard across the town, and nearby areas.

There was no immediate confirmation of the casualties, as result of the fighting.

Afgoye, which is considered a strategic town as it sits on one of only two roads into the capital, has witnessed several deadly attacks from Al shabaab in the past few months.

Somali extremist group confirms killing of senior commander
New Zealand Herald

August 23, 2017

The Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab is confirming that one of its top commanders was killed by a U.S. airstrike in July.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups, says al-Shabab issued a statement Monday confirming the killing of Ali Muhammad Hussein, also known as Ali Jabal.

A statement from the U.S. Africa Command in early August said the strike on July 30 killed Jabal. It said Jabal was "responsible for leading al-Shabab forces operating in the Mogadishu and Banadiir regions in planning and executing attacks against the capital of Mogadishu."

The strike reportedly hit an al-Shabab stronghold in the Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia.

Al-Shabab often carries out deadly attacks on high-profile targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa count.

10 civilians killed during U.S. special forces raid in Somalia: reports
UPI

By Ray Downs
August 28, 2017

At least ten civilians, including three children, were killed when U.S. Special Forces raided a village in Somalia last week in search of al-Shabaab fighters, according to reports.

U.S. Africa Command has not confirmed the death toll but said it is investigating the incident.

"We are aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Bariire, Somalia. We take any allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and per standard, we are conducting an assessment into the situation to determine the facts on the ground," U.S. Africa Command said in a statement."We can confirm that the Somali National Army was conducting an operation in the area with U.S. forces in a supporting role. U.S. forces are in Somalia at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and are committed to helping Somali forces neutralize al-Shabaab and bring stability to the region."

The U.S. Special Forces team was accompanied by Somalian forces during the raid. The Somalian government initially said no civilians were killed, but later issued a second statement to say that there had been civilian deaths.

"It appears that there were different security operations that took place in the same area," the Somalian information ministry said. "We also understand that there are civilian casualties in which the federal government is investigating to find out the truth about this."

Regional Deputy Governor Ali Nur Mohamed told reporters that "local farmers were attacked by foreign troops while looking after their crops," according to Al Jazeera.

"The troops could have arrested them because they were unarmed, but instead shot them one by one mercilessly," he said.

But the Somalian information ministry said al-Shabaab fighters started shooting at Somalian forces, which led to the deadly firefight.

"Al-Shabab started shooting at [Somalia National Army] forces after our soldiers entered the farm," the information ministry said. "The individuals shooting at the SNA soldiers were al-Shabab fighters. They were not farmers. We talked to the farmers in the area and instructed them to put their weapons in their homes to avoid confusion."

The children believed to have been killed in the raid were between the ages of 8 and 10. A woman was also reportedly killed.

In recent months, the U.S. military has increased its presence in Africa in an attempt to root out terrorist groups like al-Shabaab. The mission reportedly costs $900 million per year, a substantial increase from $300 million in 2009.

"The concern in Washington has been mounting for some time now. The Trump administration is simply reiterating what has been policy, with slight variations," said Rashid Abdi, a Horn of Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group. "U.S. special forces are already on the ground. Drone attacks have been scaled up."

[back to contents]

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

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

Report: An Armed Group Is Stopping Migrants From Leaving Libya
Time

By Tara John
August 22, 2017

A gun-toting group of civilians, policemen and soldiers in Libya has been preventing migrants from embarking across the Mediterranean to Italy, Reuters reports. It is believed to have caused the sudden fall in departures from Libya in July.

Libyan smugglers tend to send more boats in during peak months of July and August due to good sea conditions. But migrant arrivals to Italy from North Africa, which has been the main route to Europe this year, have sharply reduced by more than 50% last month compared to July 2016.

The drop has been caused by a new armed group in the city of Sabratha, according to Reuters. The group, reportedly made up of "civilians, policemen, [and] army figures" is believed to be policing the city, which is 45 miles west of Tripoli, and has been accused of running a detention center for migrants taken or turned back by smugglers.

Migrants rescued on Saturday confirmed that the situation in Sabratha has changed. "They said that it was very difficult to depart from Sabratha. There are people stopping the boats before they set out, and if they get out to sea they're immediately sent back," Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman in Rome, told the news organization.

Reuters reports that the group might be seeking financial support from the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, whom European countries have been trying to partner with in an attempt to curb migrant arrivals.

The fall in numbers comes after a series of attempts by Italy— which has become the main route for arrivals this year— to discourage a number of NGOs from running migrant rescue missions off the Libyan coast and cooperate with the Libyan coast guard.

Libya Key Oil Field Pipeline Starts Again After Shutdown
Bloomberg Markets

By Salma El Wardany and Saleh Sarrar
August 22, 2017

A Libyan security force has reopened a key oil pipeline, a step toward allowing the nation's largest oil field to resume output after three days of disruptions.

The Petroleum Facilities Guard, which is tasked with securing oil installations, opened a valve that had been shut on the pipeline linking Libya's Sharara field to its Zawiya port, Wessam Al-Messmari, an office manager for the group, said by phone. Details as to the cause of the closure weren't immediately clear.

Earlier Tuesday the state-run National Oil Corp. announced the restart of the Sharara field and the lifting of force majeure, a legal status protecting a party from liability if it can't fulfill a contract for reasons beyond its control, on crude exports from the Zawiya terminal. The NOC later removed the statement from its website.

Sharara has experienced several brief shutdowns caused by different groups this year. The oil field closed for two days in June due to a protest by workers. Pumping was interrupted for several hours earlier this month after armed protesters shut some facilities. Production was 230,000 barrels a day, a person familiar with the situation said at the time.

Libya is trying to revive its oil production and exports in the midst of continuing political uncertainty. In July, crude production was at a four-year high and exports were the most in three years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the expansion has helped Libya's oil-dependent economy, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is trying to cut global supplies. That effort has been weakened by recovering output by OPEC members Libya and Nigeria.

The estimated the value of lost oil production during the past three days is about $40 million, according to the NOC.

Former Libyan prime minister released after being 'kidnapped in Tripoli'
The Telegraph

By Roland Oliphant
August 22, 2017

A former prime minister of Libya has been released after being held for a week by an armed group linked to the country's UN-backed government, sources said.

Ali Zeidan, 61, had not been seen since the evening of August 13 as he was detained by armed men in at a Tripoli hotel.

Mr Zeidan, a diplomat turned human rights lawyer, lived in exile in Geneva for three decades before returning to Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Gadaffi's regime in 2011.

He served as prime minister in October 2012 but was forced out over his government's failure to prevent a North Korean-flagged oil tanker loading oil from a rebel-controlled terminal two years later.

Relatives of Mr Zeidan told the Telegraph that he arrived in the capital at the invitation of Fayez-al-Serraj, the current prime minister, on August 11.

It was his first visit to Tripoli since being ousted as prime minister in March 2014.

"The trip was arranged by the presidential administration; he was met at the airport by a presidential delegation, and they changed his choice of hotel for what they said were security reasons," said a relative of Mr Zeidan who asked not to be named.

He was reportedly abducted by armed men from the Victoria Hotel in Tripoli shortly before leaving for a scheduled meeting with Mr Serraj on Sunday evening.

Relatives earlier told The Telegraph they believed Mr Zeidan is being held by the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, a powerful local militia that emerged during the uprising to overthrow Gaddafi.

Representatives of the family said they had not received any ransom demands.

Mr Zeidan was briefly kidnapped from a hotel by a militia group in 2013, leading some to speculate that his abduction was a settling of old scores.

"There has been a powerful smear campaign against Mr Zedan as well as unclear allegations of corruption or squandering of public money," said Saleh el-Marghani, who served as justice minister in Mr Zeidan's cabinet. "The presence of Zeidan in Tripoli may have been too much for the uncontrollable militias to stomach."

Tim Eaton, an expert on Libya at Chatham House, said: "The timing of Zeidan's visit may be linked with a potential run at the presidency in elections which have been mooted for March next year, although it is far from certain that they will take place."

Zeidan Zeidan, the former prime minister's son, said he had "no idea" why the brigade might detain his father. "This trip was a fact finding mission to work out how to get the country out of this mess. He wasn't saying 'I'm here to reclaim my throne,' or something," he said.

Colleagues of Mr Zeidan said two earlier abduction attempts had been prevented by hotel guards, and that the kidnappers showed up in force on Sunday evening.

Haitham Tajouri, the commander of the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, nominally supports the Government of National Unity that Mr Serraj heads.

The GNA has attempted to incorporate Mr Tajouri and his militia into Tripoli's security apparatus but it is not clear what, if any, control Mr Serraj has over the group.

Reports in Libyan media suggested the TRB may have been acting on a warrant issued by Sadiq al-Sour, the Libyan attorney general, apparently relating to allegations of financial misconduct when he was in office.

However Zeidan Zeidan said he had been assured by the attorney general there was no warrant and no court case had been brought.

"If there was a warrant, it would have been an arrest, not a kidnapping," he said.

Mr Serraj's office did not respond to emailed questions on Tuesday. Repeated calls to his press office went unanswered.

Why Boris Johnson feels he must fix Libya
BBC News

By James Landale
August 25, 2017

In the naval port in Tripoli, one is reminded of the different roles Britain has played in Libya in recent years.

In one dock lies the wreck of a frigate sunk by the RAF in 2011. It rests on its side, a rusting symbol of David Cameron's decision to use military force against Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

In another dock is a handful of coastguard vessels whose crews were partially trained by British Marines to help tackle the trafficking of migrants.

As Boris Johnson visited the port during a landmark two-day trip to Libya, it was clear both the scale of the problem Libya faces and the lack of resources it has to deal with it.

The foreign secretary examined one of the inflatable vessels used by people traffickers and was clearly struck by how insubstantial and dangerous it was.

The coastguard boats looked clean and freshly painted. But the truth is that many are fibreglass hand-me-downs from the Italian navy.

And however well trained the crews, there are simply not enough of them to deal the scale of the problem.

'Gaping wound'

The flow of migration from Libya across the Mediterranean is a systemic, demographic phenomenon that cannot be fixed with a few more boats.

As Mr Johnson says, the international support being given to Libya - such as coastguard training or humanitarian aid - is a sticking plaster on what he calls "the gaping wound" across Libyan society, namely its lack of a functioning, unifying government.

This was Mr Johnson's second visit to Libya this year. And the question, of course, is why is he here at all?

Libya is not really Britain's problem.

Italy, the former colonial power, has a natural interest.

Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, has chosen Libya as an early foreign policy adventure and has scored highly by holding a big summit last month to bring together some of the rival parties.

The Egyptians and Emiratis carry much sway here, particularly in the east. And the Russians are engaged, hoping to show that their global diplomacy does not end in Syria.

So why has Boris Johnson chosen to spend two full days meeting all the key players in both east and west, the first senior western politician to go to places like Misrata and Benghazi?

Why was he the first foreign minister to visit Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, who controls much of the east at his headquarters in Benghazi, and endure the extraordinary rendition of the national anthem by the LNA band?

One answer is that Britain is one of the countries, along with France and the United States, that bears some responsibility for the current chaos.

The UK decision to intervene militarily in Libya and then fail to help fill the vacuum left by Gaddafi's fall led in part to the current divisions. Mr Johnson clearly feels that if you broke it, you have to help fix it.

He also argues that Britain has a national interest here. Libya, he says, is now the front line in Europe's struggle against illegal migration and terrorism.

The numbers of migrants heading across the Mediterranean from Libya may have dipped in recent days but they are still high, about 90,000 so far this year.

And there is no simple solution.

Even if the numbers leaving Libya were reduced, that just means even more young African men being cooped up in awful camps in awful conditions at greater risk of radicalisation.

'Global Britain'

The third, less prominent reason for Mr Johnson's presence here in Libya, is to provide his critics with an answer to what he means by the slogan "global Britain".

This was a message dreamt up to try to show that the UK was not retreating from the world by voting for Brexit.

But since then, diplomats have struggled to explain what it might mean in practice.

Well, here is an issue where the UK can be global. It is a self-contained problem that is potentially solvable (Libya has a small population, little Sunni-Shia divide and a lot of oil: this is not Syria).

The UK "holds the pen" on Libya at the United Nations, to use the jargon which means Britain coordinates the diplomacy on this issue.

And the UK also knows that if it can get the rest of the international community (yes, that means you France and Italy and Russia) to row in behind the new UN special representative on Libya, Ghassan Salame, then the UK's influence on the country will grow because of its position as a permanent member of the Security Council.

Mr Salame, a veteran Lebanese politician, is expected to show a little ankle on his plans at the UN general assembly in New York.

In Tripoli, Mr Johnson raised a flag at the former residence of the British ambassador here, a burned out shell of a building that was destroyed by a mob in 2011.

His aim was to signal that Britain is expanding its diplomatic presence on the ground in Libya, even if it hasn't quite yet re-established a full embassy.

But he knows that for all the talk of progress, this is an issue that he is likely to be dealing with for some years. And it will take more than a few more diplomats to solve it.

[back to contents]

EUROPE

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Court Website [English translation]

Bosnian Serb Policemen's War Crimes Convictions Upheld
Balkan Insight

By Emina Dizdarevic and Dragana Erjavec
August 17, 2017

Three Bosnian Serb ex-policemen were sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison for crimes against humanity in Bileca, while an ex-soldier was jailed for 14 years for the murders of Bosniaks in Bihac.

The Bosnian state court's appeals chamber on Thursday upheld the convictions of former policemen Goran Vujovic, Miroslav Duka and Zeljko Ilic for taking part in the abuse and torture of Bosniak and Croat civilians at the police station in Bileca and at a student dormitory in the southern town in 1992.

According to the verdict, one of the prisoners died.

Vujovic, the former commander of the police's public security station in the town, was sentenced to six years in prison. Duka, the commander of the local police station, was sentenced to 12 years, and Ilic to five years.

When the first instance verdict was handed down in July last year, presiding judge Minka Kreho said that it was proven without doubt that all the defendants had discriminatory intent.

The court found that there was a widespread and systematic attack by the Bosnian Serb Army, police and paramilitary units on the civilian population of Bileca.

"The witnesses described examples of mass arrests," said Kreho.

Also on Thursday, the state court's appeals chamber upheld the conviction of former Bosnian Serb Army serviceman Sasa Curguz.

Curguz was jailed for 14 years for his involvement in the murders of at least 11 Bosniak prisoners in the Bihac municipality in 1992.

However the appeals chamber partially accepted his appeal and reduced his sentence from 15 to 14 years in prison.

Curguz was found guilty of participating in the murders of at least 11 prisoners from the village of Ripac in the Bihac municipality, and of inhumanely treating Bosniak detainees.

According to the verdict, Curguz and six other Bosnian Serb soldiers arrived at the IMT tractor repair service in Ripac, where at least 55 captured Bosniak men were being held in the summer of 1992.

The prisoners were put on a truck and transported to the edge of the Bezdana pit in the nearby village of Hrgar.

One soldier immediately killed at least three prisoners, then two others threw the bodies into the pit, on the instructions of Curguz, who also personally killed several prisoners.

An exhumation was carried out at the Bezdana pit in 1997, when 83 bodies were found and 65 of them subsequently identified.

Curguz was also convicted of the inhumane treatment of five civilians who were detained at the tractor repair service in the summer of 1992.

Both verdicts are final and cannot be appealed.

Bosnian Serb Ex-Soldier Charged with Torture, Rape
Balkan Insight

By Emina Dizdarevic
August 18, 2017

Former Bosnian Serb Army serviceman Vuk Ratkovic was accused of torturing, abusing, raping and beating a victim on several occasions in the Visegrad area from 1992 to 1993.

The Bosnian state prosecution on Friday charged former soldier Vuk Ratkovic with crimes against the civilian population in Visegrad from June 1992 to the end of the first half of January 1993.

According to the charges, in his capacity as a member of the Visegrad Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, Ratkovic tortured, abused, raped and beat his victim on several occasions.

The prosecution alleged that Ratkovic caused severe physical and mental injuries to the victim, who still feels the permanent consequences of the abuse.

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

Prosecution Urges Jail for Bosniak Commander Oric
Balkan Insight

By Admir Muslimovic
August 29, 2017

As the politically-charged trial of former Srebrenica commander Naser Oric nears its end, the Bosnian prosecution argued that he should be convicted of killing three captive Serb soldiers in 1992.

In his closing statement on Tuesday, prosecutor Miroslav Janjic told the state court in Sarajevo that former Bosnian Army commander Oric and his fellow ex-soldier Sabahudin Muhic should be found guilty of war crimes against prisoners of war.

The prosecutor argued that witnesses' testimonies had proved that Oric and Muhic were responsible for the unlawful killings of three Serb soldiers in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac, near Bratunac, in 1992.

Janjic mainly cited statements given by a protected witness codenamed O-1, who said he personally saw the murder of captive soldier Slobodan Ilic, who was also a judge.

"Witness O-1 gave a detailed description of the murder of judge Ilic, who was captured along with three or four members of the Bosnian Serb Army on July 12 [1992]," the prosecutor said.

"The witness said that Oric hit Ilic on his chest and head. The findings by expert witness Rifat Kesetovic confirmed multiple bone fractures on Ilic's body," Janjic added.

According to the charges, Oric was the commander of Bosnian Army territorial defence units in Srebrenica and Muhic a member of his forces.

The prosecution also cited testimony from witness Ibran Mustafic, who said that while Oric was at his apartment, he admitted having killed Slobodan Ilic.

Commenting on the murders of the other two Serb captives, Milutin Milosevic and Mitar Savic, the prosecutor said that it had been confirmed by witnesses that both Oric and Muhic had shot at them.

The case against Oric has drawn criticism from Bosniaks who see him as a hero for his role in defending Srebrenica in the years before the 1995 massacres.

It has also been criticised by Serb war victims, who have claimed that the charges against Oric are too modest.

Oric's lawyer argued meanwhile that he had already been tried and acquitted by the UN-backed war crimes court in The Hague, so to try him again in Sarajevo was unjust.

The defence will present its closing statements in the trial on September 12.

[back to contents]

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

UN Court Ends Case Against Serbian Radical
Balkan Insight

By Dragana Erjavec
August 18, 2017

The Hague Tribunal announced on Friday that it has terminated proceedings against Ostojic after he died on June 30 this year, and ordered the cancellation of an international warrant for his arrest.

Ostojic was charged alongside fellow Serbian Radical Party members Vjerica Radeta and Petar Jojic of being in contempt of court for threatening witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj's trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

They were also accused of blackmailing protected witnesses and offering them bribes of 500 euros not to testify at Seselj's trial.

The Hague Tribunal ordered Serbia to detain and extradite all three Radicals and Interpol issued 'red notices' for their arrest in March this year.

But Serbia refused, citing a ruling last year by the Belgrade Higher Court, which said that the Serbian authorities can only arrest people wanted by the Hague Tribunal who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

Ostojic had said he would never go to The Hague voluntarily to face the contempt charges, insisting he had no intention of "surrendering himself alive".

He also denied the charges against him.

"I did not pressure witnesses or offer them 500 euros. I can barely make ends meet, everyone around me knows that. Both my wife and I work as seasonal labourers. Where would I get 500 euros?" he said in an interview with Serbia's Blic newspaper in 2015, according to the B92 website.

His fellow Radicals, Vjerica Radeta and Petar Jojic, are still wanted by the international court.

Their leader Seselj was acquitted of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia by the ICTY in March last year, but the prosecution has launched an appeal.

The Radical Party leader was allowed to return to Belgrade in November 2014 after being granted temporary release by the ICTY on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment.

He then refused to return to The Hague and was not in court for the verdict in his trial last year.

Stanisic, Simatovic Retrial Resumes Before Tribunal
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
August 22, 2017

The retrial of two former leaders of the SDB, Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic alias Frenki, charged with war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, resumes before the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunalsin The Hague on Tuesday.

Following their one-month summer break, the judges will hear testimony from a protected prosecution witness who lives in a trans-oceanic country, via video link in the evening.

Stanisic will not appear in the courtroom, as he is on temporary release in Serbia until September 27. He has given up his right to attend the trial and will be represented by his attorneys.

Due to his illness, Stanisic requested temporary leave from the detention unit until the prosecutors had requested the presentation of evidence against him. The judges will decide on the request later.

According to doctors in The Hague and Belgrade, Stanisic suffers from a chronic intestinal disease and from depression.

Simatovic returned from temporary release, which was granted on July 21, to the detention unit on August 16.

Stanisic and Simatovic are charged with persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Muslim civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are charged with crimes against humanity under four counts and violation of laws and customs of war under the fifth count.

The prosecutors allege that Stanisic and Simatovic committed these crimes while executing a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcibly removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia for the sake of achieving Serb domination.

According to the prosecutors, Serbia's then president, Slobodan Milosevic, led the joint criminal enterprise.

Seven witnesses have testified at the retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic since it began on June 13. Those are: RFJ-153, Radoslav Maksic, John Wilson, RFJ-072, Vlado Vukovic, RFJ-066 and a protected witness, whose pseudonym has not been revealed.

All of them testified about the role Stanisic and Simatovic played in forming, arming and commanding Serbian forces, which, according to the charges, committed crimes against Croat civilians in the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina from 1991 to 1992.

At the end of the first-instance trial, which began in 2009, following an unsuccessful attempt, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia acquitted Stanisic and Simatovic on all five counts on May 29, 2013.

However, on December 15, 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal accepted the key grounds of the prosecution's appeal against the verdict, quashing the first-instance verdict of release and ordering a retrial.

The two defendants first arrived in the Hague detention unit in 2003 after the Serbian authorities arrested them following the murder of prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

The Tribunal has granted temporary release to the two defendants several times since.

According to his defence, Stanisic has spent more than six years at temporary liberty and more than five years in detention.

The retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic is the last one at which the judges will try to establish whether former Serbian officials are guilty of war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia.

No Serbian state officials have been sentenced for those crimes before the Hague Tribunal.

Former Serbian president Milosevic was charged with crimes against humanity in Croatia and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina committed from 1991 to 1995.

However, he died in the detention unit in Scheveningen in 2006 before his trial eded.

The Appellate Chamber pronounced a second-instance verdict against general Momcilo Perisic, former chief of the Main Headquarters of the Yugoslav Army, acquitting him of all charges and quashing the first-instance verdict, which found him guilty of crimes in Sarajevo, Zagreb and Srebrenica and sentenced him to 27 years in prison.

Vojislav Seselj, whom the first-instance Chamber acquitted of charges in March last year, is awaiting a second-instance verdict on an indictment charging him with crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1993 to 1995.

However, in the mentioned period, Seselj was not an official of the Belgrade government but the leader of a party in opposition, the Serbian Radical Party.

Simatovic Lawyer Denies he Brought Arms to Croatian Serbs
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
August 23, 2017

Cross-examining a protected witness codenamed RFJ-066, Franko Simatovic's defence lawyer, Mihajlo Bakrac, said his client could not have transported around 400 rifles by two SUV cars that belonged to the Serbian Interior Ministry from Belgrade via Bosnia to Knin in Croatia, as the witness alleged during his main testimony in July.

RFJ-066, who was a member of the police in the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous Region, SAO, of Krajina at that time and a close associate to the Krajina interior minister, Milan Martic, stuck to his testimony, however.

Claiming that Simatovic could not have passed numerous check-points that were set up in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in a police vehicle loaded with rifles, Barkac asked the witness to specify which road Stanisic took to get to Knin.

"I do not know which road they took. There were a hundreds of them," RFJ-066 told the UN court in the Hague on Wednesday, testifying from a trans-oceanic country via video link, with his face blurred and voice pixelated.

Simatovic's lawyer responded by saying there was only one road to Knin, via Bosansko Grahovo and Strmica, but this did not unsettle the witness.

RFJ-066 stuck to his claim that civilian licence plates were put on the two SUVs, which Simatovic used to bring the weapons to Knin. He was unable to recall what licence plates were used on the SUVs during the journey to Knin, however.

Much of the cross-examination of the witness took place behind closed doors to protect his identity. Simatovic's attorney will continue examining witness RFJ-066.

During his main testimony in mid-July, the same witness said that, acting through his assistant Simatovic, the chief of the Serbian SDB, Jovica Stanisic, armed, trained and controlled Serbian units in SAO Krajina that then expelled local Croats, committing crimes against them, from 1990 to 1992.

The UN court charges Simatovic and his boss, Stanisic, with the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Muslim civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia from 1991 to 1995.

They are charged with crimes against humanity on four counts and with violation of the laws and customs of war under the fifth count.

The prosecutors allege that Stanisic and Simatovic committed these crimes while executing a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcibly removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia, for the sake of achieving Serb domination.

According to the prosecutors, Serbia's late president, Slobodan Milosevic, led the joint criminal enterprise.

Following a one-month break, only Simatovic is attending the continuation of the trial, as the trial chamber granted temporary release to Stanisic until September 27. He has given up his right to attend the trial and will be represented by his lawyers.

According to doctors in The Hague and Belgrade, Stanisic suffers from a chronic intestinal disease and from depression.

Simatovic Lawyer Calls Witness Claims 'Fabricated'
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
August 23, 2017

During cross-examination before the UN court in the Hague, Simatovic's defence lawyer, Mihajlo Bakrac, said the protected witness did not see Simatovic delivering weapons to the breakway Croatian Serbs of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, RSK, in Knin, in the autumn of 1990, as RFJ-066 claimed during his main testimony.

The lawyer said the witness saw Franko Simatovic, also known as Frenki, for the first and last time in late November and the beginning of December 1990 in the office of then Knin mayor, Milan Babic, where, together with a group of Serbian SDB members, he was looking for interceptor devices that the Croatian authorities had installed.

The witness — who was a member of the RSK police at the time — confirmed having been present when "Frenki brought three or four experts" and said "he was their boss".

The witness denied Bakrac's allegation that "it was the first time he had seen" Simatovic, however.

"No, it was the second time. When I first saw him, he arrived by a "Puch" SUV," RFJ-066 said. According to his previous testimony, Simatovic delivered about 400 rifles to the Croatian Serbs in Knin on that occasion.

"At the time, you did not know who Simatovic was or what his function was. Later, you found out he was a member of the Serbian SDB. From whom?" Bakrac asked.

"I am not even saying I know him today. He is a big mystery … From Martic and Uros Pokrajac, who came with Simatovic ... Pokrajac praised him, saying he was Jovica Stanisic's right hand," RFJ-066 answered.

"You fabricated that. Simatovic was an operational officer with the Belgrade office of the SDB until 1992. He was not even a member of the Serbian SDB management," Bakrac said.

"What I said is completely true. Martic did not say Simatovic was an intelligence officer … I know Simatovic was Stanisic's right-hand and that he did whatever he told him to do," RFJ-066 responded.

Simatovic, a former member of the Serbian State Security, has been charged alongside Jovica Stanisic, former chief of the Serbian State Security, with committing crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the wars of the 1990s.

Bakrac said that RFJ-066 "fabricated" his allegation that Simatovic "took care of payment of salaries" to members of the RSK police, who were trained at the camp in Golubic. The witness stuck to his allegation.

Stanisic and Simatovic are charged with the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Muslim civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 to 1995.

The prosecutors allege that these crimes were committed during the execution of a joint criminal enterprise, aimed at permanently and forcibly removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of the territory of Croatia and Bosnia for the sake of achieving Serb domination.

According to the prosecutors, the joint criminal enterprise was led by then Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic.

Simatovic Lawyer Calls Witness Claims 'Fabricated'
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
August 25, 2017

At the trial held before the UN court in the Hague, the defence of Franko Simatovic, a former senior official of the Serbian Security Service, SDB, denied the testimony of protected witness RFJ-066 who said he had commanded Serbian units in the Knin Krajina area of Croatia in 1991.

However, the witness stuck to his statement, made first in mid-July, that Simatovic had been "commander-in-chief" of the units, which committed crimes against Croats during an attack on the village of Saborsko in November 1991.

Simatovic and SDB chief Jovica Stanisic are charged with the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Muslim civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 to 1995.

During cross-examination, Simatovic's lawyer, Mihajlo Bakrac, said the witness did not have any direct information on who commanded the attack on Saborsko, but only heard about it from others.

Witness RFJ-066, who was a member of the police of the breakaway Serbian Autonomous Region Krajina, SAIO Krajina, which rejected Croatian authority – and was a close associate of the SAO Krajina Interior Minister, Milan Martic, confirmed he heard this from Martic.

But Bakrac reminded the witness that, during the first trial of Stanisic and Simatovic, he had said Martic himself commanded the attack on the village of Saborsko. "What is true? Did Simatovic or Martic command them?" Bakrac asked.

"Both statements are true," witness RFJ-066 answered.

The Hague tribunal, the ICTY, jailed Martic, under a second-instance verdict, for 35 years for committing crimes against Croats in the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, RSK.

During his main testimony, witness RFJ-066 said that, acting through his assistant, Simatovic, Stanisic had armed, trained and controlled the units in SAO Krajina that expelled and killed local Croats from 1990 to 1992.

While being additionally examined by prosecutor Grace Harbour, the witness said that ordinary police from Knin were afraid of Simatovic in 1990, adding they "did not want to use the weapons" and "jumped through the windows of the police station, whenever they saw Simatovic's 'Puch' SUVs arrive".

Asked what then had changed by the summer of 1991, when the police of SAO Krajina participated in combat operations, witness RFJ-066 said that those police "were not ordinary policemen but volunteers" from a camp in Golubic, established by Simatovic and where Dragan Vasiljkovic, known as "Captain Dragan", managed the training process.

The witness confirmed that, having been a member of the SAO Krajina police, he got an ID issued by the Serbian Interior Ministry.

The retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic will be continued on August 29 when the next prosecution witness will testify.

[back to contents]

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Serbian Union Wants Journalists Killed in Kosovo Investigated
Balkan Insight

By Maja Zivanovic
August 21, 2017

Marking the 19th anniversary of the disappearance of two Serbian radio journalists in Kosovo, a journalists' association has demanded a fresh investigation into their deaths - and those of other journalists abducted and killed in Kosovo.

On the 19th anniversary of the abduction of two Serbian journalists from Radio Pristina during the war in Kosovo, a Serbian media union, the UNS, has appealed to the EU rule of law body in Kosovo, EULEX, to the UN authority, UNMIK, to the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office in Serbia and to the War Crimes Tribunal in Kosovo, to investigate these and other killings and kidnappings of journalists and media workers in Kosovo.

"UNS and [its Kosovo branch] DNK urge these institutions through a public campaign and through a witness protection program to encourage individuals to talk about crimes against journalists," a press release from UNS said.

Two Serbian journalists from the radio station, Djuro Slavuj and Ranko Perenic, were abducted during the conflict in 1998 on the road between the towns of Orahovac and Zociste in western Kosovo. They were never seen again.

Slavuj and Perenic were abducted when they went to report on the return of Serbian Orthodox monks to the nearby Zociste monastery. According to UNS, they were in an area controlled by Kosovo independence fighters. Their bodies and their car were never found.

A memorial dedicated to two journalists was erected in August 2014, on the 16th anniversary of their abduction, written in both Serbian and Albanian, reading: "Here on August 21, 1998, two journalists, Djuro Slavuj and Ranko Perenic, went missing. We are looking for them. UNS."

Since then, according to UNS, the memorial has been attacked five times, and those responsible have not been found.

In its press release, UNS recalled other cases of kidnappings and murders of other Serbian journalists in Kosovo which remain unsolved.

"Ljubomir Knezevic, journalist of Pristina's 'Jedinstvo' and correspondent of 'Politika' was kidnapped on May 6, 1999, near Vucitrn. Aleksandar Simovic, journalist and translator, disappeared on August 21, 1999, in Pristina. Part of the remains of Simovic were found in the village of Obrinje near Glogovac. Momir Stokuća, a photojournalist, was killed on September 21, 1999, in a family house in the center of Pristina. Media worker Milo Buljevic was taken away by the KLA on June 25, 1999, near the refugee center in Pristina. Marjan Melonasi, a journalist of the Serbian desk of the Radio Kosova, disappeared on 9 September 2000 in Pristina," UNS said.

It added that Kosovo Albanian journalists had also been killed during this period. Between 1999 and 2005, it noted the murders Afrim Malici, Enver Maljoku, Sefki Popova, Dzemailj Mustafa, Bekim Kastrati and Bardhyl Ajeti.

At the beginning of this month, the UNS also announced that Krist Gegaj, an editor from RTV Pristina, was killed in Istok in September 1999.

"Nobody has answered for any murder or disappearance of these journalists and media workers", UNS added.

The head of the Serbian government's Office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, said in separate press release on Monday that the Slavuj and Perenic case remained "a big stain on the face of those who in Kosovo are taking care of the establishment of the rule of law".

"A society based on inter-ethnic tolerance in Kosovo will not be possible until the families of the missing, regardless of their nationality, are satisfied with the truth," Djuric concluded.

Bosnia War Vicitims Condemn Acquittal of Mladic's Helpers
Balkan Insight

By Dragana Erjavec
August 23, 2017

Legal experts and Bosnian war victims have slated the Serbian Appeal Court, after it acquitted ten people charged with helping to conceal the former Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic.

The Serbian Appeals Court on Tuesday acquitted ten people of charges of helping to conceal former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic in his flight from justice.

One defendant, retired Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, general, Marko Lugonja, was given a conditional jail sentence of six months.

Milica Kostic, from the Humanitarian Law Centre from Belgrade, said the verdict was unsurprising. The sentence against Lugonja was "shamefully short", she added.

"What is most interesting is that Lugonja admitted guilt to the charges, so the Serbian judiciary had no other choice [but to jail him]. The man had admitted guilt, so, of course, they had to sentence him and, of course, they pronounced the shortest possible sentence," Kostic explained.

According to Kostic, the biggest problem was in fact that the state must have been involved in helping to hide the most-wanted fugitive from the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY. Yet, this issue had not been opened up at all.

"Unfortunately, we have not been given an answer to the question about why Serbia kept Mladic [hidden] for 15 years," Kostic said.

Belgrade-based attorney Milorad Konstantinovic said court cases related to the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s were often used for political purposes.

"It often all comes down to a political agreement, which results in something being presented to people as an attempt to shed light on the events that happened in the 1990s. But nobody deals with this subject seriously. There is no political interest in the region in finding the truth," Konstantinovic said.

Representatives of victims of the 1992-5 war in Bosnia said they were neither satisfied nor surprised by the court verdict.

"I am honestly surprised that they [the defendants] were not awarded decorations. It surprises me, because, after all, they hid their [Serbia's] big hero," Munira Subasic, president of the "Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves" association, said.

"No news that comes out of Belgrade can surprise us anymore. I am sorry Serbia cannot face the truth. I am sorry that their children will never know the real truth and will live in the darkness forever," she said.

The Appeals Court acquitted the following of concealing Mladic: Stanko Ristic, Ljiljana Vaskovic, Borislav Ivanovic, Predrag Ristic, Sasa Badnjar, Ratko Vucetic, Tatjana Janjusevic Vaskovic, Bojan Vaskovic and Blagoje Govedarica.

The court established that Lugonja hid Mladic in his apartment in Belgrade in September 2002.

At the time, Mladic, who commanded the VRS during the war in Bosnia, was trying to avoid extradition to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

Mladic was finally arrested in Serbia in 2011 after having been on the run for more than 15 years.

The ICTY has charged him with genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The pronouncement of a first-instance verdict in his case is expected in November.

Serb man arrested for war crimes against civilians in Kosovo
The Republic

August 30, 2017

A Kosovo court has decided to keep a Serb man under arrest as a suspect for crimes during the 1998-99 war.

The Prizren court on Wednesday decided upon a one-month arrest period for the Serb identified as B.M. who was arrested two days earlier. In a statement, the court said armed Serb forces to which he belonged "committed war crimes against the civilian population on April 2, 1999, at the village of Sopi where 32 unarmed civilians were killed."

The court said the man should be kept under arrest because his whereabouts were not known until his detention. He holds citizenship from both Kosovo and Serbia.

About 10,000 people died and about 1,700 remain missing from the war.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade hasn't recognized.

[back to contents]

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Baghdad confirms abuses by Iraqi forces in Mosul campaign
Rudaw

August 17, 2017

Baghdad has confirmed some cases of abuses by Iraqi forces were committed against civilians during the campaign to defeat ISIS in Mosul.

"Clear violations" were committed by a number of members of the Emergency Response Division, including "beatings and death threats," contrary to orders issued, read a statement from the office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday.

The perpetrators will be prosecuted, the statement added.

The findings were the result of an investigation launched following media and human rights reports of Iraqi security forces abusing, torturing, and killing civilians during operations in Mosul. Abadi had set up a special committee to carry out the investigation, giving them full authority to investigate and refer individuals to the judiciary for legal action.

The investigatory committee also concluded that some allegations of killings that were reported on by Der Spiegel were "fabricated and inaccurate" as investigations discovered that some reportedly killed were found alive.

In May, Der Spiegel published graphic photos and testimony from photographer Ali Arkady who had been embedded with the Emergency Response Division. He documented allegations of torture, rape, and murder during the Mosul offensive.

For a Yazidi Woman, Justice for ISIS Crimes Is Still Elusive
The New York Times

By Somini Sengupta
August 17, 2017

Nadia Murad was 21 years old when, she says, Islamic State fighters abducted her, beat her and raped her. Her offense: belonging to the minority Yazidi community, whom the Islamic State regards as infidels. Her cause for the last two years: demanding justice for the Islamic State's atrocities.

This week, Ms. Murad clinched a small, but important victory. Her country, Iraq, agreed to let the Security Council appoint a panel of independent investigators to gather evidence of the most serious crimes committed by the Islamic State, and not just those against Yazidis. Lacking that, the Security Council would have had to adopt a resolution to create such a panel.

Still to be resolved is where and how those crimes will be prosecuted, and how to make sure those trials are credible and not displays of victor's justice.

Ms. Murad's quest poses an acute test for the promise of international justice, born from the ashes of Nazi genocide 70 years ago, after World War II.

If the most powerful countries in the world cannot hold accountable those who are accused of enslaving women for sex, beheading their perceived enemies, turning children into suicide bombers and carrying out what an international panel believes could be an act of genocide against the Yazidi people, what is the very notion of international justice good for?

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is accused of some of the gravest crimes known to humanity, and not only against the Yazidis. It does not have powerful countries defending it, as does say, the government of Syria, which also stands accused of a raft of war crimes.

Not least, the Islamic State committed these atrocities at a time when the world has a set of firmly established laws and a permanent International Criminal Court in The Hague precisely to deter and punish those who commit such crimes.

The I.C.C. has no jurisdiction in Iraq, though; the nation is not a member of the court, and there is no appetite on the Security Council's part to refer the conflict in Iraq to the court.

In early August, the United Nations-authorized Commission of Inquiry urged world powers to recognize the crime of genocide against the Yazidis and to "undertake steps to refer the situation to justice." Yet, even with that, the effort to investigate — let alone prosecute — those crimes has not been so straightforward.

The Security Council has the power to dispatch investigators to collect evidence or to set up a special tribunal. But it was reluctant to do either without Iraq's consent.

That consent came Wednesday. In a letter to the United Nations, Iraq's foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said his government would work with the British government on a draft Security Council resolution seeking "international expertise to criminalize" the Islamic State. The political sensitivities were clear in his letter. Mr. al-Jaafari emphasized Iraq's "sovereignty and jurisdiction" in adopting any such resolution.

Translation: Iraq is wary of letting international investigators pry into crimes on its territory, which could potentially implicate its own forces or allies.

Amal Clooney, a British lawyer and rights activist who represents Ms. Murad, said she welcomed Iraq's consent for an international investigation, as a first step.

"Yazidis and other ISIS victims want justice in a court of law, and they deserve nothing less," Ms. Clooney said in a statement Wednesday. "I hope that the Iraqi government's letter will mark the beginning of the end of impunity for genocide and other crimes that ISIS is committing in Iraq and around the world."

Justice, of course, means different things to different parties.

Iraq has arrested thousands of suspected Islamic State members under its counterterrorism laws, which include the death penalty for membership in a banned terrorist group.

Islamic State fighters are facing trials in domestic courts from Tunisia to Germany to Iraq, although it remains to be seen how or where the group's most senior leaders will be tried for the most serious international crimes, including genocide.

Trying such crimes in local courts can be tricky. "Most significantly," said Balkees Jarrah, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch, "political will to permit independent and impartial criminal prosecutions can be in short supply in countries affected by conflict."

Ms. Murad, now 24, is barely five feet tall. She does not smile much, and she rarely veers away from her prepared remarks, in Arabic. She favors solid black tunics and shoes made for walking. She sometimes looks as though she would rather be doing anything other than recounting for well-dressed, influential world leaders the horrors she lived through.

She has met with the Canadian prime minister, the queen of Jordan, United States ambassadors (representing both the Obama and Trump administrations), two successive secretaries general of the United Nations and, on several occasions, halls of dignitaries and philanthropists.

She has told and retold her awful story. The man who first came for her. "A monster," is how she described him. Her brothers being executed. Mass graves.

And as time goes on, and she finds herself telling and retelling her story, it becomes harder for her to contain her fury.

At a briefing in the Security Council earlier this year, she looked up from her notes at one point and snapped, in halting English, at a room full of hushed diplomats from the world's most powerful countries. "What more you need before you will act?" she asked bluntly.

She was honored last year with a human rights prize in honor of the Czech dissident Vaclav Havel. The United Nations appointed her a good will ambassador. Her memoir, "The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State," is to be published this fall by Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group.

Ms. Murad, who now lives in Germany, says she never wanted this life. She was a farmer's daughter. She wanted to open a beauty salon.

Her discomfort at being a crusader comes out sometimes. In an interview last fall, she confessed to being worn out, but also unable to give up.

"I will go back to my life when women in captivity go back to their lives, when my community has a place, when I see people accountable for their crimes," she said.

Iraqi court in Nineveh sentences four IS militants to death
Kurdistan 24

By Karzan Sulaivany
August 21, 2017

Iraqi judicial authorities on Sunday handed down death sentences to four Islamic State (IS) members, including a man who was recruiting militants across Nineveh.

The execution sentences are the first verdicts issued in Mosul since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced victory against IS in early July.

After nine months of fierce clashes, the extremist group was ousted from their last major stronghold and de facto capital in the country.

Judge Abdul Sattar Bayraktar, a spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council, said the four suspects who were handed death sentences belonged to the militant group.

"The four men were given the death penalty after being convicted of belonging and having an allegiance to [IS]," the judge's statement read.

He added the four convicted members had been involved in "a number of terrorist crimes."

"The investigations indicate that one of the terrorists was recruiting fighters to join the ranks of the organization," Judge Bayraktar noted.

As the militant group continues to lose control in Iraq, more IS militants are surrendering or being captured by Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces.

The number of extremists currently detained and held in Iraqi prisons as well as how many of those will face the death penalty is unknown.

International humanitarian organizations, including the European Union, have criticized the Federal Government of Iraq and urge Baghdad to remove the death penalty.

According to Iraqi forces, over 25,000 IS militants were killed during the battle to liberate Mosul.

Security forces have now turned their attention to the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, where an estimated 2,000 extremists remain.

Iranian court demands US pay $245 million to victims of chemical attacks
Jerusalem Online

By Becca Noy
August 21, 2017

On Sunday, an Iranian court ruled that Washington needs to pay $245 million to 18 Iranian victims of the Iraqi forces' chemical attacks during the eight-year conflict between Iran and Iraq. Iran's Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje'i told reporters that over the years, many of the victims have filed lawsuits and that the court has ruled that the US is required to compensate 18 of them.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranian citizens were killed in the Iraq-Iran War. During the conflict, Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against Iran's population. Washington supported Saddam Hussein during the war, providing him with funding, intelligence and technology. In addition, UN experts determined that materials that the US supplied to Iraq were found in the remains of the chemical weapons used by Baghdad against the Iranians.

The Iranian court's ruling comes at a time of heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington. In recent weeks, Iran has criticized the US on several occasions. At the beginning of the month, Iran submitted an urgent complaint to the UN Security Council, accusing Washington of breaching the nuclear deal. The complaint was filed in light of the US sanctions imposed a few days earlier on Iran. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told press in Turkey that he considers the latest US actions "hostile."

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to abandon the nuclear agreement. "We could abandon the nuclear deal within hours if the US imposes additional sanctions," Rouhani stated.

Iraq must ensure Islamic State's victims of sexual violence see justice: U.N.
Reuters

By Raya Jalabi
August 22, 2017

Iraq must ensure that women and girls subjected to sexual violence at the hands of Islamic State militants have access to justice and reparations, U.N. investigators said on Tuesday.

Thousands of people, predominantly from Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities, have been subjected to sexual violence since Islamic State militants swept across vast swathes of Iraq in 2014. The report pays particular attention to members of the country's Yazidi community, who were kidnapped and forcibly converted, enslaved or conscripted to fight for the militants.

"Women and girls under the control of ISIL, in particular women from the Yazidi and other minority communities, have been especially vulnerable to abuses of human rights and violation of international humanitarian law," the report by the U.N. Assistance Mission to Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office said.

More than 6,800 Yazidis were kidnapped by Islamic State. About 3,000 of them are still believed to be held captive.

Victims must be provided with access to appropriate medical, psychosocial and financial support, the report said.

"The physical, mental, and emotional injuries inflicted by ISIL are almost beyond comprehension. If victims are to rebuild their lives, and indeed those of their children, they need justice and they need redress," said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

The report, based on interviews with survivors, found that support for the victims must come with significant changes to the criminal justice system to prove effective.

U.N. investigators highlighted gaps in the legal frameworks of both Iraq and Iraq's autonomous Kurdish Region, which "largely fail to ensure the appropriate respect and protection of women and children who have been subjected to sexual and other forms of violence".

Iraq's laws governing sexual and domestic violence offer inadequate protections for women, and would be an obstacle to the prosecution of Islamic State-related crimes, the report said.

The report comes three days after Iraqi security forces launched their offensive to retake the city of Tal Afar, one of the militant groups' last remaining strongholds in Iraq.

"With significant areas under the control of ISIL having been reclaimed, it is now urgent to consider what steps need to be taken to ensure the protection, recovery, reintegration and redress for the thousands of women and girls," the report states.

Though the report focuses on crimes committed by Islamic State, it also references abuses committed by groups fighting against the militants. These include "revenge attacks" against women thought to have been affiliated with IS, sometimes sanctioned by tribal agreements.

Marriage licenses and birth certificates issued in IS-held territories are generally not recognized by Iraqi and Kurdish officials. The report recommends that this be rectified, to avoid leaving women and babies without legal status, particularly those born of sexual slavery. UNHCR has identified nearly 800 children whose births had been registered by Islamic State in areas under its control.

Investigators found that men and boys had also been subjected to sexual violence by the militants.

Tuesday's report builds on last year's finding that Islamic State was committing genocide against the Yazidi people. The rare designation under international law marked the first time genocide was recognized as being carried out by non-state actors.

Forcible disappearance keeps 4000 Iraqis out of sight
Iraqi News

By Mohamed Mostafa
August 23, 3017

More than 4000 Iraqis have forcibly disappeared in "secret prisons" in the country, with authorities still unable to locate them, according to Iraqi parliamentarians and human rights advocates.

Zana Saeed, a member of the parliament's legal affairs committee, who is in charge of the forcible disappearance file, told London-based Alquds Alarabi that "according to governors of central and western provinces, the number of forcibly disappeared civilians since 2014 stands at more than 4000, mostly from Baghdad Belts". He said certain "bodies" receive citizens' reports of those disappearances.

"There could be information available about their whereabouts, but the government is still unable to take practical steps to rescue them," Saeed told the newspaper.

He blamed the phenomenon on the "appearance of armed groups taking the law into their own hands, especially in Baghdad and other provinces".

Saeed said that, being, himself, a resident of Baghdad, there are neighborhoods which he considers no-go areas since they fall outside the control of government security forces. "Some rogue groups assault citizens, and kidnap and kill whoever they want," he said.

"There is no security authority adopting those groups, but they, however, operate under the umbrella of security agencies, with insignias, weapons and headquarters," Saeed added, but did not identify those groups.

Popular Mobilization Forces, the Shia-led paramilitary force fighting Islamic State militants alongside the Iraqi government, have regularly faced accusations of human rights violations during their operations against the extremist group.

The group was formed in 2014 as per an edict by the country's top Shia clergy, and won official recognition as a national force under the prime minister's command in November 2016.

PM Haider al-Abadi has strongly rejected accusations of human rights violations made by rights groups and international agencies against mobilization forces.

Baghdad moves ahead on Islamic State war crimes
The Washington Times

By Laura Kelly
August 23, 2017

Many in the international community agree the Islamic State has carried out war crimes in northern Iraq, but human rights activists say bureaucratic bungling by the Iraqi central government has delayed the prospect of international criminal trials against the terror group's captured operatives.

While recent weeks saw Baghdad get behind a push to draft a U.N. Security Council Resolution to formalize an international war crimes probe, the development came after months of foot-dragging — during which more than 1,000 Islamic State detainees were swept through local courts in northern Iraq for hearings on whether they should face trials in the Iraqi capital or simply be released.

It's a situation that drew sharp criticism from activists and some former U.S. officials, who say the U.N. Security Council, and even The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) should have a far more prominent role in whatever charges ultimately get pursued against the terror group also known as ISIS and ISIL.

"An international investigation would further the cause of justice wherever that justice is eventually delivered — whether in Baghdad, Irbil or in any court in the world having jurisdiction over alleged perpetrators," says Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues under former President Barack Obama Stephen J. Rapp.

Mr. Rapp told The Washington Times that prosecuting Islamic State operatives for specific heinous actions, as opposed to just charging them in local Iraqi courts with supporting a religious fanatical cause, would help destroy the group's recruiting capabilities.

Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry officially declared in March of last year that Islamic State had carried out "genocide" against Christians and other religious and ethnic minority groups under its control, including Yazidis and Shiite Muslims.

Iraq sentences Islamic State's "chemical emir" to death
Iraqi News

By Mohamed Mostafa
August 27, 2017

Iraq's Central Criminal Court sentenced Sunday a prominent Islamic State chemical warfare developer to death, convicting him of developing some of the group's deadliest weapons.

In a statement on Sunday, Abdul-Sattar Beraqdar, a spokesman of the Supreme Judicial Council, said Zeyad Tarek, who hd joined militant activity in 2003, was sentenced to death based on the Iraqi counter-terrorism law.

He said the convict had confessed to developing toxic weapons for the Islamic State, and had admitted using a chicken coop he owned for the purpose of manufacturing the weapons.

Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council had previously published an interview with Tarek, in which it revealed that the convict was arrested in Lebanon after an intelligence operation that succeeded in retaking him back to Iraq. He was ambushed outside an embassy in Lebanon where he was applying for asylum.

Tarek, who the militants had nicknamed the "chemicals emir", said that one of the rockets he had developed could fire for a 20-kilometer range. The council's paper said several militants arrested for manufacturing chemical weapons and booby-traps had pointed during interrogations to Tarek's facility.

Iraqi and international agencies had occasionally reported suspected chemical attacks by IS militants during the government's U.S.-backed military campaign against the group in Mosul, its former capital which Iraqi forces recaptured early July.

[back to contents]

Syria

'Shocking' conditions await civilians fleeing ISIS in Syria
The Washington Post

By Louisa Loveluck
August 19, 2017

Fleeing terror in the Islamic State's last Syrian strongholds, tens of thousands of civilians have become stranded in harrowing conditions across barely functional displacement camps.

As the militant group's grip in Syria crumbles and U.S.-backed forces push through its de facto capital, Raqqa, about 40 camps across the country's northwest host between 2,000 and 10,000 people, with more arriving every day.

For one young couple escaping Raqqa, the journey to a displacement camp took more than 10 hours on foot through 110-degree heat. For those with larger families — many carrying infants or parents on their backs — the journey stretched to weeks.

"Conditions are very shocking," said Ingy Sedky, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. "Some of the worst I've seen."

On arrival, newcomers in some camps said they found neither a place to sleep nor a doctor to assess their needs. They were depleted from days of dehydration on top of months of fear under Islamic State rule.

"I arrived and I just fell down. The water they revived me with was dark with oil, so I just lay there on the ground exhausted and humiliated," said one woman who arrived in the eastern al-Arisha camp on Thursday. She asked that her name be withheld out of concern for her husband's safety in an Islamic State prison in the western province of Deir al-Zour.

Aid workers say that at least some of the nearby camps are without basic medical services. Water is limited as temperatures soar and few have electricity or toilets. The consequences can be deadly.

On a recent visit to the largest camp, Ain Issa, Sedky's delegation met a father whose newborn had died because of a lack of medical care in the heat. "It was heartbreaking. He kept pulling out his phone to show us photographs," she said.

More than 200,000 people have fled Raqqa since April as a U.S.-backed offensive edged first through the surrounding countryside and then toward the city center. Tens of thousands have also fled the area around Deir al-Zour, where the U.S.-led coalition is launching heavy airstrikes and Syrian-backed forces are pushing through the province's western countryside.

To reach the larger and better-equipped displacement camps, the new arrivals often move first through what are known as transit points — camps where Kurdish fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces attempt to screen out Islamic State militants by confiscating identification cards.

Aid workers say the process is chaotic and confusing. When newcomers arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs, they can be stranded for weeks without explanation.

Muhammed, a 29-year-old from the western Deir al-Zour countryside who asked that his second name not be used because of safety concerns, said he slept in the open air at the al-Karama camp for four days as his documents were checked.

Doctors express particular concern for the psychological welfare of children who have escaped. "Their faces are just frozen. They don't cry, they don't laugh. It's a shocking thing to witness," said Rajia Sharhan, a pediatrician with the United Nations' children's agency, UNICEF.

According to Doctors Without Borders, some civilians have spent weeks nursing battle wounds behind front lines. Escapees and activists still living under Islamic State rule report that services have deteriorated as the group's finance sources dry up and U.S.-led coalition combing raids hit vital infrastructure, including hospitals.

Inside Islamic State-held Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, food prices are rising rapidly, leaving many families with little to survive on. Escape often depends on a smuggler charging hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, a price that depletes resources to a level that means those who flee often have little left.

"The people who end up in these camps have done so because they have no choice," said Vanessa Cramond, the northern Syria coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. "The challenge is big enough when we're treating people arriving during the summer months. We're really struggling to meet needs now and I fear for what lies ahead when the temperatures drop."

Syria: 'This case is about saving humanity'
Al Jazeera

By Stephanie Ott
August 20, 2017

Mazen Darwish cowered in the corner of a blood-stained cell in the Syrian capital Damascus.

"Tomorrow, I'll be free," he told himself.

Deep down, he knew this was not true, but holding onto the faint glimmer of hope kept him alive. He had not showered in months and felt weak from food deprivation. Every day, he was beaten with clubs, shocked with electric prods and hung by his arms from the wall, Darwish recalled.

"The guards used torture for torture's sake - not to get information, but to humiliate and destroy us," he told Al Jazeera.

The prominent human rights activist spent three and a half years in government custody. In August 2015, he was released.

"Regime members have acted with impunity for years now," said Darwish, 43. "Any political solution to the Syrian conflict without accountability and justice won't bring sustainable peace."

Earlier this year, Darwish and eight other Syrian former detainees submitted a criminal complaint against six high-ranking military intelligence officials close to President Bashar al-Assad, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

For four months, Germany's federal prosecutor has been hearing witness testimony from the survivors, most of whom now live as refugees in the country. The case is ongoing.

The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, which has been supporting the Syrian group's complaint, sees this as a first step on the road to justice. The centre's lawyer, Patrick Kroker, hopes the case will lead to international arrest warrants.

"Torture has been used in Syria for decades, but in March 2011 it was implemented as a political response to anti-government protests," Kroker told Al Jazeera.

"Human rights organisations have raised awareness [of] torture, chemical attacks, air strikes targeting hospitals and the siege of Aleppo. No one can pretend to not know what is going on inside Syria. We must act now. Legal boundaries have to be upheld, even in times of war," he added. "War cannot be a black hole."

In their testimony, the former detainees have described instances of brutal beatings, sleep deprivation, having their skin chemically burned with detergents, sexual violence, and being held in inhumane conditions in overcrowded, rat-infested cells in three Damascus jails between October 2011 and July 2015.

Their case is unique because it was launched under the principle of pure universal jurisdiction, which only a few countries in the world have implemented, allowing prosecutors and courts to investigate international crimes even in the absence of links to Germany. The International Criminal Court at The Hague cannot investigate or prosecute crimes committed in Syria because the country's government has never acknowledged the court's jurisdiction. While the United Nations Security Council could refer the case to the ICC, Russia, an Assad ally, blocked such a move with its council veto.

Darwish, a lawyer and pro-democracy activist, openly criticised the Syrian regime's crackdown on anti-government protests in March 2011. In February 2012, security forces stormed the Damascus office of his organisation, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. Darwish, his wife and other members of the centre were arrested.

In the ensuing years, he was transferred from one detention centre to the next, including a military branch, an air force security camp and a state security branch. Within the first year, Darwish said, he lost 90 pounds and a skin infection spread across his body. "I looked like a skeleton," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been caught in the crossfire of the Syrian war, now in its seventh year. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 465,000 people have lost their lives in the deadliest conflict of the 21st century, while 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes.

Rights groups have compiled evidence of systematic torture and extrajudicial killings, including mass hangings in a network of government-held detention facilities, such as the notorious military prison Sednaya. Since 2011, more than 17,000 people have died in government custody, according to Amnesty International - but it is impossible to determine how many people have been jailed overall.

"This case is a sign that the wall of impunity around Syria is cracking," Sara Kayyali, a Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. "It's one of the first times that high-level Syrian regime members are being investigated for war crimes of torture."

The investigation in Germany shows that Europe and the international community is taking the alleged crimes committed in Syria seriously, she added.

"Realistically, you can't deny that it's a long road to justice. More has to be done, certainly, but it's a step in the right direction," Kayyali said. "The human rights abuses and war crimes in Syria aren't a secret that the world community can turn a blind eye towards."

In 2014, a former Syrian military police photographer released more than 50,000 photos under the pseudonym Caesar, showing the mutilated bodies of thousands of men, women and children who died in detention. The Syrian regime has repeatedly denied such allegations.

Khaled Rawas, a 28-year-old complainant in the case in Germany, says he does not seek revenge: "It's about justice."

Rawas, an engineering student, was detained twice because of his political activities in Syria. In December 2011, he was arrested during an anti-government protest in Damascus and jailed for 28 days, during which time he was beaten with a pipe, subjected to electric shocks and forced to watch other prisoners getting hit with spiked sticks.

"Their screams sent shudders down my spine," he told Al Jazeera, his voice cracking.

"I will never forget that sound ... Many Syrians I know don't understand why I've joined the case, because they don't believe it will make a difference. Too many people have suffered for too long, while the world hasn't intervened. Thousands are still being tortured. We have to give people hope again. This case is about saving humanity."

North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report
Reuters

By Michelle Nichols
August 21, 2017

Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country's chemical weapons program were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.

The report by a panel of independent U.N. experts, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month and seen by Reuters on Monday, gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.

"The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea)," the experts wrote in the 37-page report.

"Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another Member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria," according to the report.

KOMID is the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation. It was blacklisted by the Security Council in 2009 and described as Pyongyang's key arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. In March 2016 the council also blacklisted two KOMID representatives in Syria.

"The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian entity identified by the Panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers," the U.N. experts wrote.

SSRC has overseen the country's chemical weapons program since the 1970s.

The U.N. experts said activities between Syria and North Korea they were investigating included cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense systems.

The North Korean and Syrian missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The experts said they were also investigating the use of the VX nerve agent in Malaysia to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in February.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the Security Council has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and four long-range missile launches.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.

During the country's more than six-year long civil war the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said the banned nerve agent sarin has been used at least twice, while the use of chlorine as a weapon has been widespread. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.

Sweden suspects Syrian asylum-seeker of war crimes
ABC News

By The Associated Press
August 25, 2017

A Swedish court has placed a Syrian asylum-seeker suspected of committing war crimes in Syria in pre-trial detention.

The court south of Stockholm jailed 33-year-old Mohammad Abdullah for two weeks Friday and said formal charges should be filed before Sept. 7.

The case relates to crimes allegedly committed in January 2014. Prosecutor Henrik Attorp said that Abdullah, as a fighter with Syrian government forces against the Islamic State group, posed in front of dead or wounded combatants knowing that it was intended as propaganda. He said other photos could emerge, including one of a severed head.

Attorp told Swedish radio Friday Abdullah had violated the victims' "personal dignity" under international law. Abdullah said he was ordered to pose.

Abdullah arrived in Sweden 2015 as an asylum-seeker, according to court documents.

Inside Assad's prisons: Horrors facing female inmates in Syrian jails revealed
Independent

By Bethan McKernan
August 29, 2017

Zahira (not her real name) was 45 when she was arrested at her workplace in a suburb of Damascus in 2013. As soon as she arrived at Al Mezzeh Military Airport, she was strip searched, tied to a bed and gang raped by five soldiers.

For the next 14 days, she was raped, or threatened with rape, again and again and again.

During one interrogation, in which she says she was sexually penetrated in "every body cavity", a soldier filmed what was happening and threatened to show it to her family and community.

Shunted from facility to facility over the course of five months, in addition to repeated brutal sexual violence Zahira was also regularly beaten. One one occasion she was electrocuted and beaten with a hose pipe; on another, tied upside down for over an hour and hit in the face.

Between interrogations at Al Mezzeh she was held in solitary confinement, in a cell no bigger than one metre by one metre, with no natural light.

In Military Intelligence Branch 235, she slept in a three by four metre cell with up to 48 other women that was so cramped the prisoners had to sleep in shifts. They were allowed to use the toilet once every 12 hours, and to wash once in every 40 days.

Zahira was only released from the notorious Adra prison when the conditions affected her health so severely she lost consciousness and was taken to hospital, her jailers fearing they'd killed her.

On arrival at a medical facility doctors found she had hepatitis, pneumonia and anaemia. She had to stay in hospital for four months for corrective surgeries for faecal-urinary incontinence caused by her repeated rapes.

The woman's story is not easy to read. Experiencing what she went through is beyond the imagination of most of us.

But Zahira, and dozens of other brave women, have shared their stories with a network of exiled Syrian doctors and lawyers, who have documented what happened to them in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's prisons in a new report.

One pregnant woman, arrested because the government suspected her husband of supplying medicine to rebel forces, describes seeing dead bodies dragged through corridors, leaving them slick with blood. The screams of those being tortured still haunt her.

Another former detainee described being locked in a pitch black cell for six days with a dead body. A razor blade had also been purposefully left there, and she used it to try and kill herself.

The physical and mental scars from detention will affect these women for the rest of their lives. Many feel shame, and their relationships with their families and communities has changed because of the stigma attached to sexual assault and rape.

Their hope is that shedding a light on what happens in Assad's detention centres will amount to international pressure to allow inspectors into the country and thus stop the government acting with impunity.

What their testimony also means, however, is that officials in Syria's government, police and military could be held accountable for their actions in potential future war crimes trials.

"This might be the most powerful evidence we have, the international lawyers say," one neurosurgeon and founding member of Syrian NGO Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights (LDHR) said on the phone from Gaziantep, on the Turkish-Syrian border.

"This is one of our best chances to get justice for these crimes against humanity."

There has been precious little in the way of legal redress for any of the victims of Syria's complex six-year-old war so far. There are few avenues open to them.

Carla del Ponte, a distinguished international war crimes prosecutor, resigned from her position on the UN's investigative panel into human rights abuses in the civil war earlier this month because she was so frustrated with its inability to hold criminals to account.

"I give up. The states in the [UN] Security Council don't want justice," she told media when it emerged she had quit.

The Security Council, she said, should have appointed a court similar to those for the Rwanda and Yugoslavian conflicts – a decision vetoed by permanent member Russia, which is a key backer of the Assad government.

While the investigative panel has compiled thousands of interviews and other documentation of possible war crimes committed by all sides in Syria, the work was pointless without a tribunal, she added.

"We have had absolutely no success" holding perpetrators of war crimes in Syria to account, the prosecutor said. "For five years we've been running up against walls."

Faced with a powerless UN and no prospect of an International Criminal Court tribunal, transitional justice and human rights lawyers have begun trying new tactics.

In March, a Spanish court agreed to hear the case of the torture and death of a 43-year-old truck driver at the hands of the Syrian government, because the man's sister, a Spanish citizen, was the plaintiff.

Under international law relatives of victims of crimes against humanity committed elsewhere are also counted as victims – so the Spanish judge's decision to hear it was viewed as an important landmark for potentially prosecuting high-level Syrian officials.

Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, the Madrid-based legal advocacy group that bought the case, said in a statement it would "specifically allow the courts to investigate the torture and execution of thousands of civilians in the illegal detention centres" operated by the Assad government.

It could also mean international arrest warrants could be issued for the nine Syrian officials named in the complaint – meaning their assets could be seized or they could be charged if they travel abroad.

While the decision was reversed due to a split panel of Spanish judges last month, the case has been appealed. Stephen J Rapp, a former United States ambassador at large for the Office of Global Criminal Justice and current nonresident fellow at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, who helped to file the preceedings, told The Independent if necessary they would fight it to the Spanish Supreme Court.

"The attorneys of Guernica 37 are quite confident regarding the law and of eventual success," he said.

"Given the years of pain that has been visited on tens of thousands family members of persons who have been forcibly disappeared into Syrian government custody this is also a very important issue of principle."

Buoyed by the progress in Spain, Syrian victims and survivors now living in Germany have also filed a prosecution case based on an investigation by the NGO the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

This represents another type of case – one based on the concept of universal jurisdiction, which allows states to claim criminal jurisdiction over an accused person regardless of where their crimes were committed because of the severity of the allegations.

More than 65,000 people are thought to have died in the Syrian regime's prisons over the last six years, and thousands and thousands more have faced abhorrent treatment in detention. The allegations are crimes against humanity - and are thus too serious to tolerate jurisdictional arbitrage, the prosecutor will argue.

LDHR's activists are hopeful that their findings – compiled under the Istanbul Protocol, the UN's methodology on how to recognise and document signs and symptoms of torture so the documentation may serve as valid evidence in court – will be presented as evidence in future cases constructed on the same basis.

"There were too many women to choose from, with horrible stories, when we set about compiling this report," the LDHR doctor said.

"I have often felt powerless during the war. This is documenting our history, no matter how terrible it is, and probably the only way the Syrian people will ever have some justice."

[back to contents]

Yemen

Deadly Clashes Erupt Between Yemen's Shiite Rebels, Al Saleh
Bloomberg Politics

By Mohammed Hatem and Zainab Fattah
August 27, 2017

Infighting among Yemen rebels turned deadly for the first time since they joined forces in 2015, al-Masdar news website reported, further fraying their alliance against a Saudi-led attempt to wrest control of the country.

Clashes between Shiite Houthi fighters and forces loyal to toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh erupted late Saturday in the capital, Sana'a, the website reported, without giving details on the casualties. Al-Yemen al-Youm TV, affiliated with Saleh, said the dead included a military colonel loyal to the former president, and rebel-held Saba news agency reported that three people were killed.

"This is the most serious sign of a potential breakup that we've had so far,'' said Graham Griffiths, an analyst at global risk consultancy Control Risks in Dubai. "It's difficult to say whether they'll be able to contain this outbreak of tension.''

Escalating violence could drive Yemen, already devastated by widespread carnage and in the throes of a humanitarian disaster, to become an even more menacing entity perched south of the world's biggest oil exporter and a major maritime artery.

Frictions in the rebel camp recently broke out into the open, with the Houthis accusing Saleh of holding secret talks with the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally and member of the coalition. Saleh denies the charges and on Thursday, thousands of supporters gathered in Sana'a to express support for the still-powerful Saleh, who fought the Houthis multiple times while president.

The conflict dividing Yemen -- seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and arch-rival Iran -- has the ousted Saudi-backed elected president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, encamped in Riyadh and the Iran-backed Houthis, assisted by Saleh's forces, controlling Sana'a and parts of the north. The Saudi-led coalition that formed in 2015 to try to reinstate Hadi has devastated swaths of the country with airstrikes, and al-Qaeda militants have exploited the chaos to expand their foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.

"A decisive and crushing military victory for the coalition and Abd Rabbuh Hadi is unlikely even if the alliance broke down," Griffiths said. "It's more likely that a period of chaos and fragmentation would ensue with no clear victor. "

Rights groups demand UN probe into Yemen abuses
Al-Jazeera

By Mohammed Huwais/AFP
August 29, 2017

Fifty seven groups call for creation of an independent body to look into violations of human rights in Yemen.

HRW said that the Saudi-led coalition had conducted scores of 'unlawful air strikes' in Yemen.

Fifty-seven rights groups from around the world on Tuesday demanded a United Nations inquiry into abuses in Yemen, where an escalating conflict has killed thousands and fueled a humanitarian crisis.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has been wracked by violence since Houthi rebels and their allies seized vast tracts of territory, including the capital, Sanaa.

The conflict escalated when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015, exacerbating the crisis that has left millions on the brink of famine and hundreds of thousands suffering from cholera.

In a letter to members of the UN Human Rights Council, the 57 signatories called for the creation of an independent body to look into violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian laws.

"Serious violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law by parties to the conflict have continued to be committed with impunity," said Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the signatories.

HRW said in a statement that the Saudi-led coalition had conducted scores of "unlawful air strikes, some of which may amount to war crimes that have killed thousands of civilians and hit schools, hospitals, markets and homes".

It added that Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh "have fired weapons indiscriminately ... killing and maiming scores in attacks that may amount to war crimes".

Since 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had been calling for investigations into alleged violations and abuses in Yemen, it noted.

"The victims of abuses in Yemen cannot afford to wait longer for credible investigations into ongoing grave violations and abuses to be undertaken," said the letter.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty International, which also signed the letter, said human rights groups operating in Yemen have been documenting abuses from all sides of the conflict since March 2015.

"What we have known since the armed conflict began is that serious violations are happening every day, as we speak," she said in Lebanon' capital, Beirut.

"Just last week, there was a Saudi-led coalition air strike that killed an entire family of eight people - five of these people were children. The Saudi-led coalition said there was a technical error but these violations are happening again and again."

Maalouf also said that human rights groups are becoming increasingly frustrated with not being able to access the country.

"The coalition is making it more difficult for journalists and international organisations to be on the ground in Yemen and to continue doing our documentation work," she said.

"This makes it all the more urgent for member states at the Human Rights Council when they meet next week in Geneva to heed the calls of our organisations for an independent, international and impartial investigative body."

More than 10,000 people have been killed and 40,000 wounded since the Saudi-led coalition intervened to support the internationally-recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The UN has called Yemen the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world".

Cholera epidemic decline

Close to 2,000 Yemenis have also died of cholera since April and another 600,000 are expected to contract the infection this year.

However, a UNICEF statement on Tuesday said that the cholera epidemic has been declining for the past two months because of an unprecedented response by "unsung local heroes".

The UNICEF statement said that the efforts of thousands of local volunteers backed up by UN agencies has resulted in the weekly number of suspected new cases of cholera falling by a third since the end of June.

Yemen allies agree to end tensions after deadly clash: officials
Reuters

By: Sami Aboudi
August 29, 2017

Leaders of the Houthi group and loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, allies in Yemen's civil war, said on Tuesday they had agreed to ease tensions between them after three people were killed in a clash.

The violence late on Saturday between members of the Iran-aligned Houthis and Saleh loyalists marked a breakdown within the main political coalition fighting the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the 2 1/2-year-old conflict.

Aref al-Zouka, head of Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC), and the Houthi Ansarullah group's official spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam led delegations at a meeting in the Yemeni capital Sanaa late on Monday.

The meeting decided to "remove all causes of the tensions that occurred in the capital Sanaa and to return the security situation to what it was before the activities last week," the two sides said in a statement.

The two fighting groups together rule northern Yemen and have maintained an uneasy alliance throughout a conflict that has killed at least 10,000 people and unleashed hunger and disease.

Saleh ran Yemen for three decades. A mass rally to commemorate his party's founding anniversary last week aroused the ire of the Houthis, who viewed it as a show of force meant to undermine them.

Tensions boiled over on Saturday night when Houthi fighters set up a security checkpoint near the home of Saleh's son and his media office.

Two Houthi fighters were killed and Yemeni media reported that an army colonel who served as a senior official in Saleh's GPC party also died.

Both sides agreed at the meeting to close ranks and to "unify efforts to confront the aggression", the statement said, referring to the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the war in 2015 in an effort to restore Hadi's government to power in Sanaa after the Houthis seized the capital and entered into alliance with Saleh.

Deadly Clashes Erupt Between Yemen's Shiite Rebels, Al Saleh
Bloomberg Politics

By Mohammed Hatem and Zainab Fattah
August 27, 2017

Infighting among Yemen rebels turned deadly for the first time since they joined forces in 2015, al-Masdar news website reported, further fraying their alliance against a Saudi-led attempt to wrest control of the country.

Clashes between Shiite Houthi fighters and forces loyal to toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh erupted late Saturday in the capital, Sana'a, the website reported, without giving details on the casualties. Al-Yemen al-Youm TV, affiliated with Saleh, said the dead included a military colonel loyal to the former president, and rebel-held Saba news agency reported that three people were killed.

"This is the most serious sign of a potential breakup that we've had so far,'' said Graham Griffiths, an analyst at global risk consultancy Control Risks in Dubai. "It's difficult to say whether they'll be able to contain this outbreak of tension.''

Escalating violence could drive Yemen, already devastated by widespread carnage and in the throes of a humanitarian disaster, to become an even more menacing entity perched south of the world's biggest oil exporter and a major maritime artery.

Frictions in the rebel camp recently broke out into the open, with the Houthis accusing Saleh of holding secret talks with the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally and member of the coalition. Saleh denies the charges and on Thursday, thousands of supporters gathered in Sana'a to express support for the still-powerful Saleh, who fought the Houthis multiple times while president.

The conflict dividing Yemen -- seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and arch-rival Iran -- has the ousted Saudi-backed elected president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, encamped in Riyadh and the Iran-backed Houthis, assisted by Saleh's forces, controlling Sana'a and parts of the north. The Saudi-led coalition that formed in 2015 to try to reinstate Hadi has devastated swaths of the country with airstrikes, and al-Qaeda militants have exploited the chaos to expand their foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.

"A decisive and crushing military victory for the coalition and Abd Rabbuh Hadi is unlikely even if the alliance broke down," Griffiths said. "It's more likely that a period of chaos and fragmentation would ensue with no clear victor. "

[back to contents]

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

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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

Call records disprove Ayash's hajj: STL prosecutors
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
August 23, 2017

Following the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's summer hiatus, prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson compared call records during a hajj pilgrimage by Salim Ayyash in 2004 and an alleged pilgrimage he took in 2005 during the return session Tuesday. Ayyash is one of four indicted suspects accused of orchestrating the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Downtown Beirut. All four suspects are undergoing trial in absentia.

While his 2004 trip to Saudi Arabia was confirmed by investigations, his plans to leave again in 2005 – the month before Hariri's assassination – has raised questions among the prosecution. "We have records that show Mr. Ayyash attended the 2004 Hajj [based upon] a record of him making a [financial] transaction in Saudi Arabia. We saw the phone [records] during the relevant time and the pattern [is consistent with traveling]," Donaldson said.

The prosecution analyst explained that a comparatively lower amount of outgoing calls, SMS messages, and overall low phone usage generally reflect the mobile activity of an individual traveling overseas who have left their devices behind at home.

However, when comparing Ayyash's 2005 hajj phone records to those between Jan. 16 and Jan 25, 2005 – the dates of the suspect's alleged trip to Saudi Arabia – Donaldson claimed that it did not tally with the previous year.

"We've already seen that the volume [of calls] increases, unlike in 2004," Donaldson began. "The direction of calls stays balanced, which is not what we would expect if the phone has been left [behind] somewhere," the prosecution analyst added. He noted that a phone left behind during travels would most likely see a decrease in outgoing activity as the main user is not there to make calls.

"We see contact with regular contacts but also with [Saudi Arabian] numbers ... and we see colocation maintained on five phones with one exception," Donaldson said, summarizing the 2005 call records.

Colocation analysis is a method of cellular investigation used to link multiple phones to a single user. Call records during this period of time in 2005 largely show an individual – purportedly Ayyash – maintaining use of several phones, according to Donaldson. "So this to me is the opposite of the 2004 hajj," the prosecution analyst said.

Incongruent call records between Ayyash 2004 Hajj pilgrimage and his alleged 2005 pilgrimage are part of the prosecution's case that the indicted suspect had in fact not gone to Saudi Arabia despite previous plans and booking the visit.

The narrative put forward by the prosecution is that Ayyash made plans for a pilgrimage in the month before Hariri's assassination, but never carried out the trip.

In a document submitted on Aug. 18, 2016, the prosecution further contended that "sometime between his leave request from Civil Defense on Jan. 11, 2005, and his intended departure for the hajj on Jan. 16, Mr. Ayyash canceled his leave request so that he could take part in the preparation of the attack."

However, complicating the matter is the fact that an individual had indeed made their way to Saudi Arabia using Ayyash's "hajj passport," presumably to mirror his identity.

In an STL hearing in December 2016, Prosecutor Alison De Bruir claimed that "the person who entered [Saudi Arabia on the discussed hajj passport] was not Ayyash."

Throughout Tuesday's session, Prosecution Counsel Marc Desalliers attempted to make the case through call records that Ayyash had indeed stayed in Lebanon.

The STL resumes Wednesday.

Donaldson seeks to tie phones to Ayyash at STL
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
August 25, 2017

Prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson attributed several mobile devices to defendant Salim Ayyash in Thursday's hearing of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. According to the prosecution, the four indicted suspects accused of carrying out the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri operated through covert cellular networks, which have been color-coded by the investigation.

Each color denotes a particular aspect of the operation phone users were assigned to carry out. With few exceptions, the covert phones were exclusively used for calls related to organizing and carrying out the plot.

In order to establish the user of each device, investigators such as Donaldson have analyzed call records in an attempt to link the covert phones to a personal device of the defendants. Co-location analysis is one of the strategies investigators have adopted to determine a linkage. This strategy seeks to connect multiple phones to a single user by tracing the similar activities of several phones.

Donaldson spent the majority of the morning session using co-location analysis to claim that a cell phone labeled "Yellow 235" was linked to Personal Mobile Phone 935 – a device previously attributed to Ayyash by the prosecution.

"PMP 935 was used at [cell sector] Harouf 3 at 18:37. Seven minutes later, Yellow 294 was used at [cell sector] Harouf 3," Prosecution Counsel Marc Desalliers said, summarizing Donaldson's report.

He continued to note the similar movements of both phones in Harouf – a village in south Lebanon's Nabatieh – in the months before the February 2005 bombing.

"There were two calls from Yellow 294 at 8 p.m. [in] Harouf 3, and then PMP 935 [was used in] Harouf 3 at 8:01, one minute later," Desalliers added.

According to Donaldson, the multiple accounts of these two phones being used in the same place in similar timeframes support the theory that one individual operated both devices. In this particular case, the prosecution claimed that Ayyash brought both his covert yellow phone and his personal device to Harouf.

In an STL hearing in July, Donaldson connected PMP 935 to Ayyash through an insurance document. Following a car crash on the Sidon-Beirut highway 13 years ago, Ayyash was reported to have called his insurance agent using PMP 935, strengthening the link between user and device.

Donaldson continued Thursday's testimony demonstrating instances of co-location between additional phones attributed to Ayyash.

In the concluding remarks of his summary, Donaldson presented a slideshow with details of the similar activities between covert phones, Yellow 294, Blue 233, Red 741, Yellow 669 and Ayyash's personal phone.

"[This PowerPoint slide] demonstrates that these phones, which were all part of the [covert] network, were carried over an extensive period. [The activities are] consistent [with] common movements that I believe are attributable to Ayyash."

Cellular records have been critical to both the prosecution and defense teams as all four individuals accused of carrying out the bombings are being tried in absentia.

The STL resumes Friday.

Victims of Hariri assassination set to testify at STL
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
August 26, 2017

Six victims of the bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri are scheduled to testify in person at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Monday. While the STL began hearings in January 2014, the victims – defined as those who have "suffered physical, material or mental harm as a direct result" of the bombing – have yet to appear before the chamber.

Twenty-two individuals including Hariri were killed and over 200 injured in the Downtown Beirut bombing on Feb. 14, 2005. A total of 76 individuals were classified by the STL as victims at the beginning of the case. Two have since withdrawn from participation, while another two have passed away.

According to the STL statute, the presentation of the victims' cases is not designed for witnesses to testify against the four indicted suspects.

Rather, the victims have a "conditional right" to participate in the hearings in order to illustrate the human narrative of the 2005 event and its consequences.

Six people have been approved by the Trial Chamber to testify in person in the coming week, and an additional 29 victim statements will be presented.

"The case is intended to demonstrate the collective harm suffered ... [by] all the victims – and the wider impact of the events upon the Lebanese people," STL spokesperson Wajed Ramadan said.

She underscored the difference, noting that the presentation was a "case" rather than a "trial."

The victims are also entitled to "bring an action for compensation" in a Lebanese court "based on a judgment finding an accused guilty of a crime that has caused harm to a victim," the STL statute.

While this marks a significant milestone in the trial, Ramadan also remarked on its implication globally.

Monday will be the first time victims of terrorism have ever appeared in front of an international tribunal.

"This marks an important moment not just for Lebanon, but for international criminal justice as a whole," Ramadan said. "Their participation facilitates a historic record of events told from the perspective of those most impacted by acts of terrorism."

The testimonies are expected to continue until Sept. 8, although the schedule is subject to change.

The trial has proceeded over the past years, despite all the indicted suspects being tried in absentia.

Without defendants present, the prosecution's case has centered on cellular evidence used to build a storyline of their alleged movements in the lead up to the attack.

Next week's proceedings, however, are expected divert from these technical and analytical testimonies.

"Significantly, it will highlight some of the personal tragedies at the heart of the events ... We can expect that the presentation of the victims' evidence will give a 'human' voice, a name to their suffering," Ramadan said.

Friday's session saw the continuation of the testimony of prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson, as he was cross-examined by Defense Counsel Natalie von Wistinghausen, who focused on the credibility of his attribution reports.

Defending the interests of Hassan Oneissi – one of four accused of orchestrating the assassination plot – von Wistinghausen argued that records compiled by Donaldson were not substantial enough to tie Oneissi to Personal Mobile Phone 095. "You are missing ... all incoming and outgoing calls and SMS prior to Aug. 1, 2004," von Wistinghausen said. "You're missing 50 percent of data, which is obviously unfortunate as it cannot represent any accuracy of the data set of the attribution period."

As the attack was carried out in early 2005, several years of cellular data are needed to make a strong case linking a user to a device.

"It is not an overall accurate presentation of this telephone number," the defense counsel repeated.

Continuing to attempt to dismantle the connection, von Wistinghausen noted that only one geographic location found in the call records was allegedly tied to Oneissi. Further, she argued, this sole connection lacked sufficient evidence.

According to Donaldson, Oneissi had lived in an apartment building in Hadath, an area in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The analyst substantiated his claim through a document from Bank Saderat Iran showing a large amount of money sent to Oneissi's account, specifically to purchase an apartment located on Plot 233 G24.

Von Wistinghausen argued that the document alone was insufficient as there were no other records of him actually having ownership of the apartment.

"Is it correct to say this is the only document in your report that this specific address, Plot 233 G24 is linked to Mr. Oneissi?" she asked.

"[Yet] on this title deed for Plot 233 G24 in Hadath, there is no mention of Mr. Oneissi's name. ... We do not see any transfer of ownership in the title deed to Oneissi in any way," she argued.

While the prosecution was unable to obtain further documents linking the residence to Oneissi, they were successful in corroborating a separate residence belonging to Oneissi's wife's following a Request For Assistance to the Lebanese land registry.

"The [prosecution] received from [the] land registry a mortgage from Oneissi's wife ... a record of completion of payment of mortgage ... full details of the transfer of ownership," von Wistinghausen said.

"But you were aware of the response from the RFA that came back with no results linking Oneissi to plot [233 G24]."

Donaldson acknowledged there were some unanswered questions in the investigation, but maintained that Oneissi could be linked to Personal Mobile Phone 095 based on the available evidence.

[back to contents]

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

Police to submit Gulshan attack probe report on Oct 10
Dhaka Tribune

August 27, 2017

A Dhaka court has fixed October 10 for the submission of the probe report in connection with the Gulshan terror attack on July 1, 2016.

Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Nurunnahar Yesmin passed the order on Sunday, as the investigating officer of the case Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Inspector Humayun Kabir failed to submit probe report.

The court earlier asked the CTTC to submit the probe report of the attack by August 27 (Sunday). Prior to that, the court gave several other dates to submit the report.

The terror attack at Gulshan's Holey Artisan Bakery claimed the lives of 24 people including 17 foreigners and two policemen on July 1, 2016.

A case was filed with Gulshan police station to this end.

Woman killed after gang-rape on moving bus, 5 held
Dhaka Tribune

August 30, 2017

Police have arrested five people for gang-raping and murdering a college student on a moving bus travelling from Sirajganj to Mymensingh.

The five staffers, including bus driver, helper and supervisor, of inter-district bus Chhowa Poribohon were arrested from Tangail's Madhupur area Tuesday afternoon.

Details regarding their identities could not be ascertained yet.

Madhupur police Station Office-in-Charge Shafiqul Islam: "Three of the arrestees have already made confessional statements before the court. We are interrogating the other two."

Jakia Sultana Rupa, 27, was raped by driver, helper and supervisor of Chhowa Poribohon and murdered on August 25.

The victim was a resident of Sirajganj's Tarash and a student at Ideal Law College in Dhaka.

After murdering her, the accused threw her body from the moving bus. The body was recovered from Madhupur's Panchish Mile area on Tangail-Mymensingh Highway at night.

She was buried at Tangail Central Graveyard after an autopsy on August 26.

Madhupur police filed a case against unknown assailants after finding visible signs on her body that indicated murder.

After finding out the matter with the help of local media, the victim's family went to Madhupur police station and identified her using photos of her body.

Rupa's brother Hafizur Rahman said his sister went to Bogra to appear in the teachers' registration test which was held on August 25.

"After appearing for the test she then boarded the bus to Mymensingh with a colleague. The colleague got off the bus in Tangail's Elenga area."

He said: "A man picked up Rupa's phone when the colleague called her up. The man who picked up the call claimed that Rupa forgot the phone in the bus when she got off.

"The call was dropped and the number could not be reached after that."

He said they filed a general diary with Mymensingh's Kotwali police.

He later saw news about the recovery of a body from Madhupur and contacted the police.

[back to contents]

War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Kachin Rights Group Urges End to Military-to-Military Ties with Myanmar Army
The Irrawaddy

Nyein Nyeim
August 21, 2017

The Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) urged the international community to end military-to-military ties with the Myanmar Army, highlighting recent human rights violations faced by villagers in Kachin State's Mogaung Township.

More than 1,000 villagers from Kasung village in Mogaung Township were displacedafter Myanmar Army troops entered the village on August 11, reportedly killing one villager and injuring at least two others. The villagers fled to Namti to seek shelter, or hid nearby until members of the Kachin Baptist Convention and Peace Creation Group arrived.

San Htoi, a KWAT spokesperson, called on the international community to put pressure on the Myanmar Army to stop ongoing offensives and human rights violations, highlighting the recent case in Kasung.

San Htoi called for an end to military-to-military ties, saying: "We want it to stop, because the Myanmar Army has continued violating human rights. As long as these military ties continues, they are supporting Myanmar Army abuses."

A KWAT statement on Monday highlighted instances of abuse that included arbitrary arrest, torture, and blockage of humanitarian aid, adding that humanitarian groups from Hpakant have been unable to transport food to displaced persons in Namti since last Thursday.

The military's blockages of aid have been ongoing. On Sunday, the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society said that their truck shipment of rice to IDPs in Sadone Township had been blocked.

The KWAT statement also said that of 11 Kasung villagers arrested by the Myanmar Army on August 11, there were two women and three children – two who were allegedly tortured.

The KWAT is a long-term advocate for human rights and the protection of women in conflict zones.

Aside from ending military ties, the group also called on the international community to pressure the Myanmar Army to withdraw troops from ethnic areas and for a visa ban on military leaders.

"These latest attacks against civilians are part of a systematic military operation, authorized at the highest level," said another KWAT spokesperson, Shirley Seng.

"Increasing military-to-military cooperation is emboldening the Myanmar Army to commit war crimes. Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing should be ostracized internationally as a war criminal, not treated like a VIP," she said.

71 dead in Burma after militant attacks on police, border posts
The Star

Esthher Htusan
August 25, 2017

Ethnic Rohingya militants in western Burma launched overnight attacks on more than two dozen police and border outposts, leaving 12 security personnel and 59 Rohingya dead, the government said Friday, in a dramatic escalation of fighting in the troubled region.

The office of the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said military and border police responded to the attacks by launching "clearance operations."

Police fought off groups of as many as 100 Rohingya attackers armed with guns, machetes and homemade grenades. The captured weapons were shown in photos posted online by the government.

A witness in Maungdaw township in Rakhine state, contacted by phone, said soldiers entered her village at about 10 a.m. Friday, burned homes and property, and shot dead at least 10 people.

The witness, who asked to be identified by her nickname, Emmar, because of fear of retribution, said villagers fled in many directions, but mostly to a nearby mountain range. She said gunshots and explosions could be heard and smoke could still be seen Friday evening.

A militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, took responsibility for the overnight attacks on more than 25 locations, saying they were in defence of Rohingya communities that had been brutalized by government forces. It issued its statement on Twitter on an account deemed legitimate by advocates of Rohingya rights.

Suu Kyi called the attacks "a calculated attempt to undermine the efforts of those seeking to build peace and harmony in Rakhine state."

The clashes were deadlier than an attack by the militants on three border posts last October that killed nine policemen and set off months of brutal counter-insurgency operations by Burma security forces against Rohingya communities in Rakhine state. Human rights groups accused the army of carrying out massive human rights abuses including killing, rape and burning down more than 1,000 homes and other buildings.

The army's abuses fuelled further resentment toward the government among the Muslim Rohingya, most of whom are considered by Burma's Buddhist majority to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and are denied citizenship and its rights. ARSA took advantage of the resentment by stepping up recruitment of members.

The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the targets of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remain.

According to the United Nations, more than 80,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since last October's clashes.

Thursday night's attacks began a few hours after a Rakhine Advisory Commission led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan released its final report and recommended that the government act quickly to improve economic development and social justice in Rakhine state to resolve violence between Buddhists and the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi's office said on its Facebook page that the attacks were intended to coincide with the release of Annan's report.

ARSA also referred to the report, saying the army in recent weeks had stepped up activity in order to derail any attempt to implement the recommendations.

The announcement from Suu Kyi's office said 30 police outposts had been attacked. It said in addition to the 12 dead security personnel, 11 people on the government side had been injured, three seriously. It said the attackers had seized six guns. The statement also said the attackers destroyed refugee camps and burned down homes.

The Rakhine Advisory Commission, established in August 2016 at Suu Kyi's behest, said the situation in Rakhine state is becoming more precarious and requires a sustained and co-ordinated effort by civilian and military authorities. The commission has six members from Burma and three foreigners, including Annan.

"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, which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine state," Annan said at a news conference in Yangon to present the report.

On Friday, Annan condemned the new attacks and said he was saddened to hear about the loss of life among security forces.

"The alleged scale and gravity of these attacks mark a worrying escalation of violence. No cause can justify such brutality and senseless killing. Perpetrators should be held to account. I urge the security forces to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation and, above all, ensure that innocent civilians are not harmed.

"After years of insecurity and instability, it should be clear that violence is not the solution to the challenges facing Rakhine state," he said.

Violence Between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar/Burma Escalates Dramatically
Breitbart

By John J. Xenakis
August 28, 2017

Violence between Burma's (Myanmar's) mostly Buddhist army and Muslim ethnic Rohingyas in Rakhine State has sharply escalated in the last four days, to the point where it is feared that it may have reached a dangerous turning point.

Starting in 2011, Buddhists have been attacking Muslims in villages across Burma, particularly the 1.1 million ethnic Rohingyas in Rakhine State. Mobs of Buddhists have attacked Muslims, conducting atrocities including torture and rape, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes to flee from the attacks. In some cases, the Buddhists have burned entire Rohingya villages to the ground.

The current round of violence was triggered on Friday when Rohingya insurgents carried out a series of coordinated attacks against 30 Burma police outposts and an army base. Using knives, some guns and homemade explosives they killed at least a dozen security force members.

The army responded with a sweep of violence against Rohingyas, causing thousands of them to flee their villages and head for the Bangladesh border, where they hoped to cross and reach a refugee camp. The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh said Saturday that "thousands of unarmed civilians" from Rakhine state had gathered near its border and were "making attempts to enter Bangladesh." The Burmese army shot them as they were fleeing, including women and children, killing dozens. However, Bangladesh already has 400,000 Rohingyas in its refugee camps and its border guards are refusing to allow any more to enter, and so the Rohingyas trying to flee are hiding out along the border between the two countries. However, an estimated 2,000 Rohingyas have made the crossing since Friday.

Yesterday, Bangladesh handed over a protest note to the Myanmar envoy in Dhaka, and called upon Myanmar country to stop any fresh flow of Rohingyas towards Bangladesh.

Rise of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant insurgency

The leader of the Buddhist atrocities is Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who says that he is just trying to protect Burma from Muslims. He calls his movement the "969" movement, where 969 is a historic Buddhist sign, referring to the nine qualities of Buddha, the six qualities of Buddha's teaching, and nine qualities of the Buddhist community. 969 is supposed to promote peace and happiness, although Wirathu's 969 movement is a vehicle promoting violence.

After three years of Buddhist atrocities directed at Rohingyas, a radicalized group of Rohingyas formed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

ARSA took responsibility for attacks on eight police posts in October of last year. Those attacks sparked a wave of deadly "clearance operations" by Myanmar's army and forced some 87,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. The UN believes that military crackdown may have amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.

During the past week, the United Nations Rakhine Advisory Commission, headed by Kofi Annan, issued a final report that confirmed these conclusions.

ARSA has also taken responsibility for the coordinated attacks on 30 police outposts and an army base that took place on Friday. Whereas the "clearance operations" by Myanmar's army last October appeared to be reasonably disciplined, the reports of the army's attacks on Rohingyas in the last three days suggest that they are extremely undisciplined and disorganized.

There are also reports of growing violence between ARSA and the Myanmar army, including reports that ARSA militants are shooting at Rohingyas who are trying to flee to Bangladesh.

India's government is taking a strong position in favor of Myanmar's government, and against the Rohingyas. According to external affairs ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar:

India is seriously concerned by reports of renewed violence and attacks by terrorists in northern Rakhine State of Myanmar. We are deeply saddened at the loss of lives among members of the Myanmar security forces.

Such attacks deserve to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We hope that the perpetrators of these crimes will be brought to justice and we extend our strong support at this challenging moment to the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The clashes in Rakhine state are currently turning into a mêlée that could become a lot more serious quickly, if not now, then when the next round of violence occurs. As the clashes between Buddhists and Muslims continue to grow in Myanmar (Burma), other neighboring countries are also going to be forced to choose sides.

[back to contents]

Israel and Palestine

Israel demolishes home of Palestinian killer of policewoman
Xinhua Net

By Yamei
August 17, 2017

Israeli forces demolished overnight between Wednesday and Thursday a house in the West Bank belonging to a Palestinian attacker who killed an Israeli Border Police female officer in July.

A military spokesperson said that the forces exploded the home of Adel Ankush in the Dier Abu Mash'al, north of Ramallah city, after it was sealed off last week.

Ankush and two other men carried out a knife-and-gun attack near East Jerusalem's Old City on July 15, killing Sergeant Major Hadas Malka, 23, and wounded four other policemen. The attackers, all aged 18, were shot dead by the police at the scene.

Ankush's family home was the last to be demolished after Israeli forces demolished the homes of Bra'a Salah and As'ama Ata, the other two attackers, last week.

The spokesperson said the destruction was carried out by army soldiers, Border Police officers, and the Civil Administration, an Israeli governing body in the occupied West Bank.

On Wednesday, Israel demolished the two-storey family home of Omar al-Abed in the village of Kobar in the central West Bank. Al-Abed killed three members of an Israeli family in a settlement in a knife attack in July.

Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes since it occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, as a punitive measure aimed at deterring Palestinians from carrying out attacks against Israelis.

In early 2005, a Defense Ministry committee concluded that the measure is ineffective, and Israel stopped the measure.

However, the government resumed the controversial practice in 2015 when facing a new wave of attacks.

The United States has denounced it as "counterproductive," while Palestinians and human rights organizations say it constitutes a collective punishment that leaves the relatives homeless.

COURT FREEZES LAW THAT RETROACTIVELY LEGALIZED UNAUTHORIZED SETTLER HOMES
The Jerusalem Post

By Tovah Lazaroff and Yonah Jeremy Bob
August 17, 2017

The High Court of Justice temporarily froze on Thursday the Settlements Law, which would retroactively legalize Jewish homes built on private Palestinian property.

Right-wing politicians immediately attacked the decision.

"This is a dangerous intervention by the court against Knesset legislation," warned MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), who is a strong proponent of the legislation.

"Time after time the judiciary tramples on the decision of one governmental authority or another. This story must stop," he said.

"As someone who often warns against the erosion of the State of Israel's Jewish character, I am also worried today about the future of the state's democratic character," Smotrich said.

He took particular issue with the fact that the court had issued the injunction at the request of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.

In an unusual move Mandelblit sided with the plaintiffs, a consortium of 13 left-wing nongovernmental groups, who petitioned the High Court against the legislation in February and March on the grounds that it violated both Israeli and international law.

The left-wing NGO Yesh Din lauded the court decision. "The court has justly halted the process of stealing and expropriating private Palestinian land right for the benefit of the settlers," Yesh Din said.

"The next step is to enforce the law against illegal building on private Palestinian property," Yesh Din said.

"The injection prevents additional damage but true justice will only occurs when the law is abolished," Yesh Din said.

Smotrich, however, alleged that the court had acquiesced to Mandelblit's request for an injunction because he was the attorney-general and therefore had undue influence.

"The attorney-general has tramped on the separation of power and the rule of law with his scandalous decision to go against the government he is tasked with representing," Smotrich said.

He added that Mandelblit had "improperly influenced the High Court of Justice including with his demand for an interim injunction against the law's implementation."

MK Moti Yogev argued that Israel cannot continue to be a "judicial dictatorship."

The court's decision, he said, is every reason that the Knesset must advance legislation in its next session that would prevent such legal interference in laws voted upon by elected officials.

The Settlements Law, which was approved in February, retroactively legalizes 3,921 unauthorized settler homes built on private Palestinian property while offering the landowners monetary compensation.

According to the left-wing NGO Peace Now, 797 of those structures are located in outposts and the remaining 3,173 are in settlements.

The government, the Civil Administration and the NGOs had an oral agreement that the law would not be executed until completion of the judicial process.

This meant that no enforcement action would be taken against unauthorized homes that fell within the law's purview. Similarly no steps would be taken to register Palestinian property to settlers.

But in July settlers asked the High Court of Justice to allow portions of the legislation to move forward, which they believed would not have an overall impact on land status should the judges strike down the legislation. In particular they want the Civil Administration to begin the bureaucratic work needed to prepare the land lots for authorization.

Mandelblit asked for an injunction in response to that request.

It is presumed that the injunction will remain in place at least until a first hearing is held on the case. No date has been set for the hearing but it is expected to be held by the end of the year. In the interim the Knesset is expected to submit a legal brief to the court on September 10, followed by provision of an opinion by the Attorney- General's Office on October 16.

In past cases with weighty constitutional consequences such injunctions can remain in place for the length of the legal proceeding, which in this case could take upwards of a year.

The NGOs have argued that the legislation was tantamount to land theft and constituted a de facto annexation of Area C, particularly since the Knesset in their opinion does not have the purview to legislate for territory outside of sovereign Israel.

A judicial ruling upholding the legislation would overturn almost four decades of Israeli legal opinion. Leftwing NGOs have argued that the legislation runs counter to international law.

An High Court decision to support the legislation could complicate matters for Israel at the International Criminal Court, which is weighing whether to pursue a war-crimes case against the Israeli leadership over the issue of West Bank settlements.

A law seizing private Palestinian property could sway the ICC to move forward on the matter.

Without the legislation, however, the settlers living on the property lots would have no possibility of legalizing their homes because the High Court has long held that structure on private Palestinian property cannot be authorized.

Generations of Palestinian children remain trapped in 'ongoing cycle of violence and diminishing human rights'
The New Arab

August 18, 2017

Children in Palestine are facing a "worsening crisis" as the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories continues to deteriorate, says international NGO Save the Children.

Ahead of World Humanitarian Day, Country Director of Save the Children in occupied Palestinian Territory, Jennifer Moorehead, expressed concern for children in Palestine, stating that their basic rights including securities are put at risk by Israeli policies in the West Bank, Gaza and within Israel itself.

"In the occupied Palestinian Territory we are facing a worsening child protection crisis affecting health, education, food security, safety, and security.

"After 50 years of occupation, generations of Palestinian children remain trapped in an ongoing cycle of violence and diminishing human rights," Moorehead said.

She added that there are more than two million Palestinian children whose lives are put at risk as a result of Israeli home demolitions, settlements, arbitrary arrests and detention. They are also abused by Israeli soldiers' harassment at checkpoints.

In the Gaza Strip, where the median age is 18 and just under 45 percent of the population is under 14, children are subject to a brutal siege induced by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

"In Gaza today, the humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by a shortage of electricity. With little more than three to four hours of electricity a day, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Robert Piper has warned that a further increase in the length of blackouts is likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors," Morehead said.

Save the Children called on "all duty bearers and world leaders" to address the growing child protection risks in the education sector.

"It is their responsibility to support and endorse the the Safe Schools Declaration and the related Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use, and to take concrete and immediate steps towards the demilitarisation of school spaces so that children have safe access to education," the organisation said.

Israel demolishes Palestinian schools days before reopening
Reliefweb

Report by Norwegian Refugee Council
August 23, 2017

Three educational facilities for Palestinian children in the West Bank, occupied Palestine, have been demolished or damaged by Israeli authorities in less than two weeks, just when children were meant to return to school from summer holidays.

The facilities demolished include the only kindergarten for the Jabal Al Baba Bedouin community, which was destroyed in the early hours of 21 August, and a primary school in Jubbet Al Dhib that was demolished on the night of 22 August. The Israeli authorities also dismantled and confiscated solar panels—the only source of power—at primary school in Abu Nuwar. The school was also attacked twice last year when parts of it were demolished and equipment confiscated. Third grade students there take their classes in the local barbershop as the community has been prevented from building basic education facilities.

NRC Policy Manager Itay Epshtain, who visited Jubbet Al Dhib this morning, said: "It was heart breaking to see children and their teachers turning up for their first day of school under the blazing sun, with no classrooms or anywhere to seek shelter in, while in the immediate vicinity the work to expand illegal settlements goes on uninterrupted."

The latest spate of school demolitions and confiscations in the West Bank forms part of a wider attack on education in Palestine. Right now, some 55 schools in the West Bank are threatened with demolition and "stop-work" orders by Israeli authorities. Many of these schools are donor-funded, including by EU member states. Israel denies the majority of Palestinian planning permit requests in Area C, thereby leaving Palestinians with no option but to reconstruct and develop without permits, while Israeli settlements -established in violation of international law - continue to expand.

In the first three months of this year there were 24 cases of direct attacks against schools, including incidents where tear gas canisters and sound bombs were fired at students on their way to or from school. Last year, four communities' educational facilities were demolished or confiscated and 256 education-related violations were documented in the West Bank, affecting over 29,000 students.

"Just when they were due to return to the classroom, Palestinian children are discovering that their schools are being destroyed," said the Norwegian Refugee Council's Country Director for Palestine, Hanibal Abiy Worku. "What threat do these schools pose to the Israeli authorities? What are they planning to achieve by denying thousands of children their fundamental right to education?"

Threats Palestinian children face on a daily basis include violence and harassment from settlers and Israeli soldiers, military activity inside or next to schools, delays crossing checkpoints, and the arrest of children from their classrooms.

Since 2011, the Israeli government has also threatened to withhold permits and funding to schools that are not implementing Israeli curriculums in which references to Palestinian identity and culture, the occupation, Israeli settlements and other aspects of Palestinian history were removed.

"We call on the governments and donors funding Palestinian children's education to exercise all of their influence to prevent this violation in all its forms," Abiy Worku said. "The destruction of educational structures funded by European money is not just a violation of international law. It is also a slap in the face to the international community providing aid to the occupied Palestinian population in a bid to ensure safe places of learning for children."

An Update of the Israel-Palestine-International Criminal Court Timeline
Just Security

By Beth Van Schaack and Michael Woolslayer
August 28, 2017

A lot has happened before the International Criminal Court since we last reported on the Palestine and related situations. The timeline below picks up where my last timeline of relevant events left off. At that time, the Prosecutor had opened a preliminary examination into the Comoros referral based upon events on the Mavi Marmara, which was part of the Gaza freedom flotilla. The Prosecutor subsequently closed that examination on gravity grounds in November 2014. A month later, Palestine acceded to the ICC Statute, putting its territory—however that is to be defined—under ICC jurisdiction. The Office of the Prosecutor subsequently opened a preliminary examination into alleged crimes committed in occupied territory since June 13, 2014, when violence erupted anew in the region. Furthermore, the Comoros asked the Prosecutor to reconsider the decision to close the preliminary examination on its referral. A Pre-Trial Chamber requested the Prosecutor "reconsider her decision not to initiate an investigation." At present, the Prosecutor has yet to announce the results of this "reconsideration," which raises interesting questions of prosecutorial discretion. It is expected that the Prosecutor will update the Assembly of States Parties on both open situations at the next meeting of states in December 2017.

An updated timeline of events:

January 20, 2014: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon endorsed the two-state solution outlined in the Road Map plan, saying that

Palestinians must be able to realize their legitimate aspirations to statehood, self-determination, dignity, and freedom, including an end to the occupation that began in 1967 with a just solution to the plight of refugees, and a resolution of the status of Jerusalem.

February 12, 2014: Israel joined the JUSCANZ consultative body to the UN Third Committee, comprised of 15 non-EU democratic countries. The UN Third Committee covers social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues. Israel was previously admitted with limited participatory privileges in 2010. The U.S. released a statement praising Israel's full admission as an important step forward in Israel's engagement with the world.

April 1, 2014: The Palestinian Authority presented letters for accession to 15 international conventions and treaties, including the four Geneva Conventions and the Hague Convention (IV) (the list is here). The letters were accepted by the depositories. Canada, Israel, and the United States protested that Palestine does not qualify as a sovereign state, and thus cannot accede to conventions limited to states. An illustrative example of their position is the U.S. response to the depository's acceptance of Palestine into the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (see Articles 48-50 for the accession rules):

The United States Mission to the United Nations … has the honor to refer to the Secretary-General's depositary notification dated April 9, 2014, regarding the purported accession of the "State of Palestine" to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. … The Government of the United States of America does not believe the "State of Palestine" qualifies as a sovereign State and does not recognize it as such. Accession to the Convention is limited to Sovereign States.

April 23, 2014: Fatah and Hamas announced a unity government as peace talks stalled. Israel refused to attend further negotiations.

April 24, 2014: Nine months of U.S.-mediated peace talks completely collapsed.

May 15, 2014: Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the West Bank in clashes with Israeli troops.

June 12, 2014: Three Israeli teenagers were abducted and killed by Hamas operating in the West Bank.

June 13, 2014: Israel conducted an extensive search and arrest operation that ended when the bodies of the teenagers were found on June 30, 2014.

July 2, 2014: A Palestinian teenager was burned alive, allegedly as an act of revenge by Israeli teenagers, triggering widespread protests and violent clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces. Additional attacks give rise to speculation that a "knife intifada" had been launched.

July 8, 2014: Israel launched "Operation Protective Edge," an air offensive in Gaza.

July 17, 2014: Israel followed up the air offensive with a ground operation in Gaza in a declared effort to degrade "terror organizations."

July 23, 2014: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, agreed to a Palestinian resolution requesting an international inquiry into humanitarian violations alleged to have occurred during the Israeli military offensive in Gaza. Of the 47 members, 29 voted in favor and 1 against, with 17 abstentions. The text of the resolution required the presentation of findings by the 28th session in March 2015.

August 26, 2014: The Israeli operation in Gaza concluded after Israel and Palestinian armed groups adhere to an unconditional ceasefire.

September 2, 2014: The ICC Prosecutor issued a statement on the ICC's jurisdiction over Palestine, apparently as a result of media reports suggesting that the ICC has "persistently avoided opening an investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza due to political pressure." She emphasized that the situation on Palestinian territory was out of reach of the ICC at the time, notwithstanding arguments by legal scholars that the Court should intervene even where formal "jurisdictional parameters have not been met."

October 30, 2014: Sweden became the first major European Union state to recognize the state of Palestine. The U.S. State Department called the decision "premature." Israel recalled its Ambassador. Sweden explained that its intention was to put the parties on a level playing field to move peace talks forward. Other EU member states that had recognized Palestine: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Romania.

November 6, 2014: The Office of the Prosecutor closed the preliminary examination in the Comoros Referral. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda concluded that the cases possibly arising from the investigation would not be of "sufficient gravity" to justify more action by the ICC. The Office simultaneously published an Article 53(1) Report, Situation on Registered Vessels of Comoros, Greece and Cambodia, noting that while there was a reasonable basis to believe war crimes were committed, "the information available does not provide a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation of the situation on the registered vessels of Comoros, Greece, and Cambodia that arose in relation to the 31 May 2010 incident."

November 10, 2014: The Secretary-General convened a UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry into incidents occurring between July 8 and August 26, 2014 in Gaza and southern Israel and involving UN personnel, premises, and operations. As explained by Ban Ki-Moon in his letter conveying the results to the Security Council: a board of inquiry "is not a judicial body or court of law, it does not make legal findings or consider questions of legal liability." Instead, it was convened ostensibly to develop a clear record of the facts in order enable the UN to take measures to prevent their recurrence. The Board was headed by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, who later led the team investigating the violence (including attacks on aid workers) in South Sudan and the response, or lack thereof, of the UN mission (UNMISS). A similar body was established in 2009.

December 30, 2014: A draft UN Resolution for Palestinian statehood, led by Jordan, failed. The draft resolution:

set a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel;

established targets for Palestinian sovereignty (including a capital in East Jerusalem);

and called for the "full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces" from the West Bank by the end of 2017.

December 31, 2014: President Mahmoud Abbas acceded to the Rome Statute of the ICC. The ratification put the territory of the Palestinian Authority under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The U.S. called the move "counterproductive." President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority also issued a new Article 12(3) declaration recognizing the retroactive jurisdiction of the ICC "for the purpose of identifying, prosecuting and judging authors and accomplices of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014."

January 2, 2015: The International Criminal Court recorded the accession of the "State of Palestine" to the Rome Statute, to enter into force on April 1, 2015, and the Article 12(3) declaration accepting ICC jurisdiction since June 13, 2014.

January 7, 2015: The ICC Registrar accepted Palestine's Article 12(3) declaration, and transmitted it to the Prosecutor for her consideration.

January 16, 2015: The Prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the Palestinian situation "in order to establish whether the Rome Statute criteria for opening an investigation [were] met."

January 29, 2015: The Union of Comoros filed an Application for Review of the Prosecutor's decision to close the preliminary examination, arguing that "there are cogent grounds for requiring the Prosecutor to reconsider her decision in light of all available information when the correct legal standards are applied." Several victims subsequently sought leave to participate in the proceedings.

February 5, 2015: The UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry into incidents in Gaza and southern Israel submitted its confidential report to the UN Secretary-General.

March 23, 2015: The UNHRC extended the mandate of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict to June 2015. In the oral statement to the committee, the chair of the independent commission noted the difficulty of accessing Gaza to properly conduct the investigation.

April 1, 2015: The ICC Statute entered into force for Palestine. The ICC welcomed Palestine as a new state party (bringing the number of states parties to 123) during a ceremony at the seat of the Court in The Hague. NGOs immediately began to call for the Prosecutor to open a formal investigation into international crimes committed in Palestine by both Israelis and Palestinians.

April 27, 2015: Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon conveyed a summary of the Board of Inquiry's report to the Security Council (the full report is confidential). Among other findings, the summary confirmed that Palestinians were killed and injured when UN premises came under Israeli attack and that Palestinian militant groups hid weapons in UN schools.

June 24, 2015: The Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict issued its report of detailed findings. The report found "credible allegations of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups."

July 16, 2015: Pre-Trial Chamber I—consisting of Judges Joyce Aluoch (Kenya), Cuno Tarfusser (Italy), and Péter Kovács (Hungary)—rendered a decision on the request of the Union of Comoros. The Chamber (in a 2-1 ruling) identified a number of "material errors" in the Prosecutor's assessment, and requested the Prosecutor "reconsider her decision not to initiate an investigation." The Prosecutor appealed the decision.

November 6, 2015: The Appeals Chamber dismissed "in limine and without discussing its merits" the Prosecutor's appeal of the Pre-Trial Chamber's decision on the Comoros referral on the grounds that it was inadmissible under the Statute because the Pre-Trial Chamber's ruling was not one on admissibility. A majority made up of Judges Sanji Mmasenono Monageng (Botswana), Howard Morrison (UK) and Piotr Hofmański (Poland) adopted the decision, while Judges Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi (Argentina) and Christine Van den Wyngaert (Belgium) dissented, concluding that they would declare the Prosecutor's appeal to be admissible, without prejudice to their subsequent consideration of its merits.

June 3, 2016: The French Foreign Minister declared that the "two-state solution" in "serious danger" at a French-led conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians attended the conference, which was praised by Palestinians and criticized by Israel.

October 5-10, 2016: The Office of the Prosecutor conducted a visit to Israel and Palestine, facilitated by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. This visit was for the purpose of outreach and not investigative activities.

September 10, 2016: Projectiles from Syria landed in the Golan Heights prompting an Israeli attack against Syrian artillery positions.

November 14, 2016: The Office of the Prosecutor issued the 2016 Preliminary Examination Activities Report with an update on the Comoros referral: "The Office is nearing completion of its review of all information gathered prior to and since its initial report of 6 November 2014 and is preparing to issue the Prosecutor's final decision under rule 108(3) in the near future."

December 23, 2016: The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 (2016) condemning Israeli settlement activity. The United States abstained from the vote, allowing it to proceed.

February 15, 2017: President Donald Trump, in his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seemed to abandon the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, appearing to put a sovereign Palestinian state farther out of reach. The next day, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley attempted to clarify the U.S. position, including reiterating its commitment to the two-state solution while suggesting the U.S. would think "out of the box" to bring the two sides together.

July 7, 2017: UNESCO voted in favor of the Palestinian request to designate the old city of Hebron as a world heritage site. The world heritage committee ruling also put the site on UNESCO's "in danger" list, which triggers the allocation of World Heritage Fund assistance and annual evaluation of the situation in the designated site. United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had previously issued a statement against the resolution, though U.S. efforts to counter the move were hamstrung by the continued lack of an U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO.

December 2017: An important event on the horizon is the next meeting of the ICC's Assembly of States Parties (ASP). The Prosecutor historically releases her report on ongoing preliminary examinations in advance of the ASP, which will be held in December in New York.

The following additional states/situations remain subject to preliminary examination before the Court: Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq/UK, Nigeria, and Ukraine. Another 10 states/situations are under investigation: DRC, Uganda, Darfur Sudan, Central African Republic (I and II), Kenya, Libya, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, and Georgia.

[back to contents]

AMERICAS

North & Central America

Lawyers for American widow seeking enforcement of U.S. judgment against Khadr in Alberta
CBCNews

By Colin Perkel
August 24, 2017

Canadian lawyers acting for the widow of an American special forces soldier have filed an application in Alberta - essentially duplicating one filed earlier in Ontario - seeking enforcement of a massive U.S. damages award against former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

The claim calls on the Court of Queen's Bench to recognize the judgment from Utah, and to issue a "corresponding" judgment in the amount of $173.88 million - the Canadian value of the US$132.1-million American award made in June 2015.

"Given that Canada has substantially similar legislation in relation to civil actions for victims of terrorism, it is entirely consistent with the fundamental public policy of Canada to enforce the U.S. judgment," the notice states.

"There are no defences to enforcement and recognition that operate in favour of the defendant in this case."

According to the notice, bringing the Alberta action in parallel with the Ontario case is proper "given the territorial limitations of the respective judgment-enforcement regimes."

Calgary-based lawyer Dan Gilborn refused to discuss the proceedings on Thursday, saying his office was not authorized to comment.

While the Alberta action was filed in early July amid word that the federal government was paying Khadr $10.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit, the lawyers acting for the Americans said they were having trouble serving notice on him.

"We have thus far been unable to locate Mr. Khadr for personal service, although we are aware that he has been residing in Edmonton, Alta., for much of the past two years," Gilborn wrote Aug. 14 in a letter to Khadr's lawyers, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

One of Khadr's Edmonton-based lawyers, Nate Whitling, said on Thursday that it would be a waste of time and money to try two identical actions at once.

"It's two duplicative actions and there's no point in proceeding with both of them," Whitling said from Edmonton.

He also said the Alberta action had been filed too late.

Both actions - the Ontario one was filed June 8 - are on behalf of relatives of U.S. special forces Sgt. Chris Speer, who was killed in Afghanistan in July 2002.

Speer had been part of a massive American assault on an insurgent compound, where Khadr, then 15 years old, was captured badly wounded. Retired U.S. sergeant Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye during the same operation, is a co-applicant.

The applications - like the uncontested civil suit in Utah - lean heavily on Khadr's guilty plea before a widely discredited military commission in Guantanamo Bay in 2010 to having thrown the grenades that killed Speer and blinded Morris.

Khadr later said his confession to five purported war crimes was his only way out of the infamous prison and to return to Canada.

Khadr, 30, who recently got married, has been on bail in Edmonton for the past two years pending his appeal in the U.S. of his commission convictions.

The Americans failed last month to get an injunction freezing Khadr's assets - including the $10.5-million sources said the federal government paid him - pending outcome of the Ontario enforcement action.

However, in previous Ontario filings, Whitling argued against enforcement of the Utah judgment given its reliance on the military commission. Canadian courts are statute barred from enforcing foreign judgments that offend Canada's public policy, he noted, and the Supreme Court has found the Guantanamo system contrary to Canadians' concept of justice.

"Officials at the highest levels of the Canadian government have already stated...that (Khadr's) detention and prosecution in GTMO offended our most basic values and principles," Whitling said in court filings.

[back to contents]

South America

Disappearance of Protestor in Argentina
Human Rights Watch

By José Miguel Vivanco
August 16, 2017

Pressure is building on Argentina to find 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado, who has been missing, possibly the victim of an enforced disappearance, since security forces broke up a protest in southern Argentina on August 1.

Maldonado, who was visiting a Mapuche indigenous community in Cushamen, in the southern province of Chubut, was reportedly last seen by local residents when the Gendarmerie - a federal security force - intervened to disperse a demonstration on August 1. The press reported that Maldonado was there to support the Mapuches' land claims and opposition to the extradition of an indigenous leader, Jones Huala, sought by Chilean authorities for his alleged participation in setting a building on fire and trying to burn a member of Chilean security forces in 2013.

Residents reportedly ran towards a nearby river, escaping from members of security forces who shot bullets and pellets towards them. Some residents said they saw Maldonado stay behind and heard the security officers say, "here we have one" and "you're under arrest." Another resident claims to have seen security agents beat a man, and others say they saw the agents force someone into a van. Although no one could see who was placed inside the van, the community claims no one else from the community is unaccounted for.

Last week, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances urged the Argentine government to take swift action to find Maldonado. Under international law, an enforced disappearance occurs when state agents detain a person but refuse to acknowledge the detention or refuse to provide information on the whereabouts or fate of the detainee.

Prosecutors have found evidence, including hair, at a Gendarmerie base, which is currently being evaluated as part of an ongoing investigation. On August 14, two members of the Mapuche community declared before the judge investigating the case that they saw the Gendarmerie take Maldonado away, according to press reports.

Government officials, including Patricia Bullrich, the security minister, and Claudio Avruj, the human rights secretary, have said that the government is actively searching for Maldonado. Bullrich said on August 11 that there was no record of Maldonado being detained, and she is scheduled to provide a comprehensive report on the case before a Senate commission on August 16.

When someone goes missing, no matter under which circumstances, time is of the essence. This is all the more important when the person may have been forcibly disappeared by security forces. The Argentine government should prioritize efforts to ensure the investigation is effective and capable of determining what happened to Maldonado and his whereabouts in the shortest period of time.

Brazil: Don't Shield Soldiers in Homicide Cases
Human Rights Watch

August 21, 2017

Brazil's Senate is being asked to consider a bill that would shield members of the Armed Forces accused of unlawful killings of civilians from prosecution in civilian courts. The Senate should reject the bill because it increases the risk of impunity rather than justice in these cases.

"The leadership of Brazil's Armed Forces wants to bring back a practice that was used during the time of the dictatorship," said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. "Under the proposal, the military would sit in judgment of itself in cases that constitute serious violations of human rights, a recipe for impunity."

At the end of July 2017, Brazil's government ordered the deployment of thousands of members of the Armed Forces in Rio de Janeiro in response to an increase in violence. The soldiers will remain in the city until the end of 2018, said the commander of the Army, General Eduardo Villas Boas.

Members of the Armed Forces are patrolling the streets of Rio and conducting raids alongside state military police and civil police officers. If the bill is passed, soldiers charged with unlawful killings or attempted killings of civilians during those operations will be tried in military courts, while other law enforcement personnel will continue to face civilian courts. Civilian courts should continue to have jurisdiction over all unlawful killings cases irrespective of the alleged killer, Human Rights Watch said.

In the military justice system, the courts of first instance are staffed by four military officers and a civilian judge, all with an equal vote. The appeals court (the Superior Military Tribunal, SMT) is made up of 15 military officers and only 5 civilians. Its decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Federal Court, a civilian court.

The Military Criminal Code, approved in 1969 during Brazil's military dictatorship (1964-1985), provided that unlawful killings of civilians should be tried before military courts, but it was amended in 1996 to move trials for such crimes to civilian courts. Adoption of the bill would reverse a very important step in leaving behind Brazil's authoritarian past and strengthening the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said.

Under international norms, extrajudicial executions and other grave human rights violations should not be tried before military courts. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights has ruled that "military criminal jurisdiction is not the competent jurisdiction to investigate and, if applicable, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has held that it is not appropriate to try violations of human rights before military jurisdictions given that "when the State permits investigations to be conducted by the entities with possible involvement, independence and impartiality are clearly compromised."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of governments' obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has called on states parties to ensure that military personnel alleged to have committed human rights violations are subject to civilian jurisdiction. According to the committee, the "wide jurisdiction of the military courts to deal with all the cases involving prosecution of military personnel ... contribute[s] to the impunity which such personnel enjoy against punishment for serious human rights violations."

Villas Boas has called for the Senate to approve the bill, contending that soldiers deployed in Rio de Janeiro need "legal protection." In a note to the media, the army also said that subjecting soldiers to the jurisdiction of civilian courts "can hinder prompt reaction" during security operations.

"Brazil's civilian legal framework provides full due process guarantees to any soldier accused of an unlawful killing, just like to any other citizen," Canineu said. "What the Armed Forces really want is to stack the deck against victims of serious human rights violations getting justice."

Bolivia: Truth Commission Starts Working
Prensa Latina

August 29, 2017

With a meeting of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the Truth Commission started working to seek clarification of human rights violations committed during the military dictatorships in Bolivia.

There were ten dictatorships in Bolivia between 1964 and 1982, a period during which 1,392 people were assassinated, 486 were reported missing and 2,868 went to exile or were imprisoned, according to information gathered by Father Federico Aguilo in his book 'Nunca Más' (Never Again).

Our objective is to clarify all these crimes against humanity so that they cannot happen again, Commission Chairperson Nila Heredia told the TV program Tres en Linea on Monday night.

The Commission also includes former trade union leader Edgar Ramirez, Attorney Eusebio Gironda, human rights activist Isabel Viscarra and former farmers' leader Teodoro Barrientos.

Yesterday, the Commission was received by the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, General Luis Ariñez, who expressed willingness to facilitate access to documents and testimonies to help the investigation.

The Commission will also have access to classified files held by the Army and the Police.

'We have the right to know what has happened. It is a truth that belongs to the people, not only to the relatives of the victims,' said Heredia, adding that all cases of missing people or assassinations must be investigated.

'All cases are important,' she noted.

However, she stated that some cases have a special importance due to the political context, like Che's guerrillas, the San Juan massacre, the victims of the Condor Plan and the Teoponte guerillas, among others.

The Truth Commission will work for two years and will submit two documents to President Evo Morales, the Legislative Assembly and the Ombudsman.

Colombia's 50,000 disappeared should become 'national cause': government
Reuters

By Anastasia Moloney
August 29, 2017

Seeking the fate of nearly 50,000 Colombians who disappeared during the country's civil war should become a "national cause," a top presidential advisor said on Tuesday as the government faces criticism that it is failing to do enough to find them.

Government efforts to increase searches and offer compensation to relatives of those who disappeared during five decades of armed conflict have been slow and must be stepped up, critics and families say.

About 220,000 people were killed in the war, and all the factions - state security forces, government troops, paramilitary groups and leftist rebels - are responsible for the forced disappearances, according to Colombia's National Centre for Historical Memory.

"May the cause of the disappeared become a national cause," Paula Gaviria, presidential advisor on human rights, told a conference in Bogota.

A peace accord was signed last year between the government and rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and families of the disappeared say they hope the rebels will reveal grave locations as part of a deal to avoid long prison terms and be allowed to enter politics.

The government offers up to $8,600 U.S. in compensation for relatives and has passed a law paving the way for a special search unit, including forensic teams, to help find, identify and exhume bodies.

But the unit has yet to start work, and its director has still not been appointed.

"The search unit will have to make an enormous effort to contribute to the truth," Gaviria said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged the government to speed up the process.

"This makes it necessary to push forward, with firm political will, in making concrete progress in the search for missing people," Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, said in a statement.

"The steps so far taken in this direction aren't enough."

Martin Santiago, United Nations resident coordinator in Colombia, said relatives have a right to know what happened to their missing loved ones.

"Victims must have the right to know the circumstances, manner and place of the crime, as well as the collective right to know the truth," he said at the same conference.

A Sri Lankan Ambassador in Latin America Is to Face War Crimes Suits
Time

By Peter Prengaman
August 29, 2017

Human rights groups in South America are alleging war crimes violations in lawsuits filed against a former Sri Lankan general who is now his nation's ambassador to Brazil and five other countries in Latin America.

The suits against Jagath Jayasuriya are based on his role as a commander in the final phase of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009. They allege Jayasuriya oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people.

Jayasuriya has diplomatic immunity in the countries where he is ambassador: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname. But the groups pursuing the suits hope they will compel regional governments to expel him.

Carlos Castresana Fernandez, the lawyer coordinating the effort, told The Associated Press on Monday night that suits were filed Monday in Brazil and Colombia. Petitions also will be filed in Argentina, Chile and Peru in the coming days, he said, adding that authorities in Suriname refused to accept the suit.

"This is one genocide that has been forgotten, but this will force democratic countries to do something," Fernandez said. "This is just the beginning of the fight."

Calls to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Brazil's capital went unanswered Monday evening as did an email seeking comment.

Jayasuriya's whereabouts were not immediately known. Fernandez said Brazilian justice officials told him Jayasuriya had left Brazil on Sunday. That couldn't be independently confirmed.

The criminal suits, reviewed by the AP, were spearheaded by the human rights group International Truth and Justice Project, an evidence-gathering organization based in South Africa. The suits have three central aims: push local authorities to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his diplomatic immunity and expel him.

Many of the nations where Jayasuriya is ambassador have their own dark histories of military dictatorships and torture.

Fernandez, the coordinating lawyer, was one of the attorneys who worked on international cases against Argentine Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla and Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He has also helped indict many Guatemalan war criminals and organized crimemembers, including former President Alfonso Portillo.

While lawsuits across international jurisdictions can be tricky to sort out, such moves can also pay off. In the case of Pinochet, he ended up being arrested and held for a time in England because of international suits filed against him.

The civil war in Sri Lanka, an island off the southern tip of India, raged intermittently between 1983 and 2009. Fueled in part by ethnic tensions between Sinhalese and Tamil citizens, an insurgency against the government was led by a group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. They fought to establish a separate Tamil state in the northeastern part of the island.

The suits say Jayasuriya was commander of the Vanni Security Force from 2007 to 2009, one of the bloodiest periods in a war estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people. The U.N. estimates between 40,000 and 70,000 died in the final phase alone.

According to the suits, Jayasuriya oversaw an offensive from Joseph Camp, also known as Vanni, which the papers claim was a notorious torture site. The International Truth and Justice Project said it interviewed 14 survivors of torture or sexual violence at the camp. According to the group, victims described hearing the howls of detainees at night, which the suits contend Jayasuriya would have been able to hear.

Human rights groups have long been after Jayasuriya, but the Sri Lankan government has refused to try him or others allegedly involved in war abuses. A few years after the war ended, he retired from the military. Jayasuriya was appointed ambassador to Brazil in 2015 and the other countries were added to his purview over the following two years.

Human rights violations indicate repressive policy of Venezuelan authorities - UN report
UN News Centre

August 30, 2017

Extensive human rights violations and abuses have been committed in the wake of anti-Government protests in Venezuela and point to "the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations," a report by the United Nations human rights office has found.

"The policies pursued by the authorities in their response to the protests have been at the cost of Venezuelans' rights and freedoms," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a news release issued today.

The report notes that the generalized and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protestors and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the acts of isolated officials.

The report calls on the UN Human Rights Council to consider taking measures to prevent the human rights situation in Venezuela from worsening. Venezuela is currently a Council member.

Mass street demonstrations began in the country in April. Tensions between the Government and the opposition reached a new high about a month ago, when President Nicolás Maduro convened elections for the so-called Constituent Assembly, which could replace the current legislative body, the National Assembly.

The report indicates that of the 124 deaths linked to the protests being investigated by the Attorney General's Office as of 31 July, the security forces were reportedly responsible for 46 and pro-Government armed groups, known as armed colectivos, for 27. Responsibility for the remaining 51 deaths has not yet been determined.

According to reliable estimates from a local NGO, more than 5,000 people were detained since 1 April, with more than 1,000 reportedly still held as of 31 July. At least 609 civilians arrested in the context of protests were presented before military tribunals. The report calls on the Government to halt arbitrary detention and the use of military courts to try civilians.

The report documents attacks against journalists and media workers by security forces that were apparently aimed at preventing them from covering demonstrations.

"Demonstrators and journalists were labelled by high-level authorities as 'enemies' and 'terrorists' - words that did little to counter, and may even have contributed to, the climate of violence and polarization," the High Commissioner said.

Warning that amid continuing economic and social crises and rising political tensions, there is a grave risk the situation in Venezuela will deteriorate further, Mr. Zeid encouraged the Government to follow up on the recommendations made in the report and to use its findings as guidelines to seek truth and justice for the victims of human rights violations and abuses.

[back to contents]

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

TRC Mulling to Set Up Liaison Offices in All 75 Districts
My Republica

August 30, 2017

Amid the slow pace of its work and the time constraint it faces to probe into the huge number of complaints, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is mulling to establish liaison offices in all 75 districts across the country.

Officials at the TRC said they are mulling to set up liaison offices in all district headquarters as the offices set up in the seven provinces have not been able to complete investigation into even 7,000 of the over 60,000 complaints received. The TRC had forwarded 1,000 complaints each to its offices established in the seven provinces some three months ago.

According to TRC member Madhavi Bhatt, each Provincial Office is inviting 10 to 15 victims a day for necessary details and investigation into their complaints. "Given the huge volume of complaints, it looks difficult to investigate them within the short span of time. We are mulling to expand our works to each district to expedite the investigation," Bhatta told Republica.

The TRC has established its offices in Biratnagar in Province 1, Janakpur in Province 2, Patan in Province 3, Pokhara in Province 4, Tulsipur in Province 5, Birendranagar in Province 6 and Dipayal in Province 7.

Earlier on February 9, the government had extended the terms of TRC and the Commission for the Investigation on Enforced Disappearance (CIEDP) by a year as their term expired without the completion of their mandated tasks.

The TRC and CIEDP which were initially given a two-year term each have received over 60,000 and about 3,000 complaints, respectively.

Officials said they are still receiving the complaints through post offices.

Given that the TRC has not been able to settle even 7,000 complaints so far, it clearly looks a Herculean task for the transitional justice mechanism to investigate the complaints and provide the long-awaited justice to the victims within the February 9, 2018 deadline.

The TRC has deputed an investigation team led by a government attorney in each provincial office to investigate the complaints. The team consists of a lawyer recommended by Nepal Bar Association and a human rights activist working in the field of transitional justice.

Officials said they could not work expeditiously in the past as it took a long time for them to get necessary legislation, classification and archiving of the complaints and setting up office structures in the provinces. The local elections also affected the pace of their work as government employees with them were deputed for poll duty.

Conflict victims expressed dissatisfaction over the prolonged delay in providing justice to them. "Looking at the current pace of work of the TRC, it looks that we will never get justice," said President of Conflict Victims Common Platform, Suman Adhikari.

Adhikari said that the conflict victims have not been able to openly express their concerns to TRC officials due to security concerns. "The TRC has been conducting investigation based on the criminal justice system and the plight of the victims has largely been ignored," he said.

[back to contents]

Terrorism

Uganda Courts Accused of Targeting Muslims in Rulings
Daily Nation

By Agence France-Presse
August 25, 2017

A Ugandan court this week jailed four members of a Muslim sect for life on terrorism charges, a judgment denounced by some as the latest in a series of anti-Muslim rulings.

On Tuesday Kampala's High Court sentenced Sheikh Yunus Kamoga and three members of his Tabliq sect to life in prison, while two others were given 30 years each.

But a day earlier the same court had acquitted Kamoga and 13 others of the murder and attempted murder of leaders of two rival Muslim factions - on the same evidence.

The apparently contradictory verdicts have left some observers suspicious.

"I find the decision very unusual because the main case was about the murders and the terrorism was arising from the murders, so if they were not guilty of the murders then they should be not guilty of the terrorism," said human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi.

In his three-and-a-half-hour judgement Justice Muhanguzi said that while the men were not proven to have killed anyone, they had used threatening leaflets and loudhailers to intimidate rivals.

Those threats amounted to terrorism against the entire community, he ruled.

"Court finds that death threats were delivered by word of mouth and on loudspeakers, hence it was indiscriminate," Muhanguzi said.

Defence lawyer Fred Muwema thought he had an explanation for what he saw as the judgement's inconsistencies.

"I do not have direct evidence... but there is always political pressure and interference in a country like this," he said. "I think the state was interested in the Tabliq community.

"Court cannot accept something and deny it at the same time," Muwema continued. "That's a contradiction and a miscarriage of justice."

But Solomon Muyita, the spokesman for Uganda's judiciary, said if lawyers had evidence that judges had been politically influenced they should bring it to court.

Uganda has taken a hard-line against suspected Islamists since the deadly suicide bombings in 2010 carried out by the Al-Qaeda-aligned Shabaab militants in their first attack outside of Somalia.

But some say that Muslims are being scapegoated.

They argue that this week's terrorism conviction is just the latest in a series of questionable cases where Muslims have been blamed for the murders of officials and Islamic clerics.

The cases include the murders of nine Muslim clerics since 2012; of Joan Kagezi, a prosecutor working on the 2010 Kampala bombings case, in March 2015; of an army officer in November 2016 who had defected from a Ugandan-led Islamist rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; and of a prominent policeman in March.

In each case the victims were shot dead by motorbike-riding assassins, and in each case Muslim suspects were rounded up.

For Rwakafuzi, the evidence for Muslim involvement in the high-profile killings is flimsy at best.

"The Muslims are being profiled," he said.

"We have very poor, underfunded investigation mechanisms. It's an easy way out to show to the public that you're doing something about these killings."

Muslims were being targeted, he said, because "it is easier to believe" thanks to widespread fears of Islamic terrorism, in Uganda and elsewhere.

A spokesman for the Tabliq sect, Siraje Nsambu, said the terrorism and murder charges against Kamoga and the others were trumped up. He denounced the ruling against them as "purely political".

But government spokesman Ofwono Opondo dismissed allegations that Muslims were unfairly targeted.

"Uganda has a very long standing record of having no political, religious or racial persecution," he said.

"There is no reason whatsoever why the government of Ugandan should target those Muslim cliques."

Nonetheless, this week's ruling and its harsh sentences has further embittered a community that already feels marginalised by the government and victimised by authorities.

"The government has clearly shown that it is against Islam and Muslims. We are used as a scapegoat just like the world over," said Nsambu.

"As Muslims, we are angry right now."

Overburdened ATCs Unable to Decide Cases within Stipulated Time Frame
Dawn

By Ishaq Tanoli
August 26, 2017

Set up for speedy trial, the overburdened antiterrorism courts (ATCs) in Sindh are unable to decide cases within the stipulated time as several cases have been pending trial for more than a decade, it emerged on Friday.

Around 3,200 cases are pending before the ATCs across the province, while around 2,700 cases are to be adjudicated in Karachi only.

The ATCs were established under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 for speedy trial of cases pertaining to terrorism, sectarian and targeted killing, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

An ATC is legally bound to decide a case within seven days after indictment. According to Section 19 (7) of the ATA, the court shall, on taking cognizance of a case, proceed with the trial on a day-to-day basis and shall decide it within seven days, failing which an application may be made to the administrative judge of the high court concerned for appropriate directions for an expeditious disposal of the case.

It is mentioned in Section 13 (2) of the ATA that one case at a time shall be assigned to a court. However, if for some reason a given case cannot be proceeded with, more than one case may be assigned to it to save time.

While courts are supposed to decide cases within seven days, some have been lingering on for over a decade

Currently a huge backlog of cases is one of the main reasons behind the inordinate delay in their disposal, as the overburdened ATCs are unable to decide the cases within the stipulated period. Such a backlog of cases has left court staff with no option but to fix at least 10 to 15 cases for hearing on a daily basis with the result that it becomes almost impossible to hear all the cases on a day-to-day basis.

The province had 20 ATCs, including 10 in Karachi and one each in Hyderabad, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Ghotki and Kashmore/Kandhkot while some sessions courts in Karachi have also been authorised to try the cases registered under the ATA.

The government recently established 10 more ATCs in Karachi. While two of them started hearing cases, the remaining eight are likely to be made functional soon.

Sources said the provincial authorities might set up one more ATC in Hyderabad and Sukkur in order to clear the backlog of cases.

However, the purpose to establish the ATCs seems to remain unserved, as over-decade-old cases have yet to be decided.

More than 10 cases have been pending trial at different ATCs for around a decade.

Qasim Toori, an alleged member of the proscribed Jundullah, had been charged with masterminding an attack on a convoy of the then Karachi corps commander in 2004 in Clifton, while he along with his accomplice is also facing trial for allegedly engaging in a massive shoot-out with the police and other law enforcement agencies in which two policemen were killed in Shah Latif Town in January 2008.

Also, the trial of the 2006 Nishtar Park bombing case, two cases (FIRs 44/04 and 52/04) registered under Section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code and Explosive Substances Act against alleged activists of Jundullah, Atta-ur-Rehman and others, is also pending.

The trial of Attaullah and other suspects of the proscribed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi for the murder of Ehteshamuddin Haider, the elder brother of former Sindh governor and federal minister retired Lt-Gen Moinuddin Haider, has been pending since 2001.

Around five cases pertaining to sectarian killings and illicit weapons against Mohammad Ajmal, better known as Akram Lahori, the alleged chief of the LJ, and his aides have been pending before ATCs since 2002.

El Salvador's Montano Closer to Spanish trial for 'Terrorist Murder' of Jesuits
National Catholic Reporter

By Linda Cooper and James Hodge
August 28, 2017

A former member of El Salvador's military high command is closer to being prosecuted for his role in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two women, now that a U.S. federal judge has approved his extradition to Spain.

In a long-awaited decision handed down Aug. 21, District Judge Terrence Boyle upheld a 2016 lower court ruling to extradite Col. Inocente Orlando Montano to Spain to stand trial for one of the most notorious atrocities of El Salvador's civil war.

Spain has long sought Montano's extradition, along with those of 16 other ex-military men it has indicted in the assassinations. Five of the six Jesuits were from Spain, giving Spanish courts a jurisdictional basis to pursue the case.

A day after Boyle's ruling, however, El Salvador's Supreme Court nullified the arrest orders for the other 16 defendants. While the nullification appeared to be a setback, the Spanish court only needs one defendant to proceed with a trial that could uncover key details of the case involving heretofore-untouchable high-ranking Salvadoran military officers, many with close ties to the U.S. military.

Boyle's ruling upheld that of Magistrate Kimberly Swank who concluded that the evidence showed Montano had participated in the "terrorist" murder, tried to conceal the military's responsibility, and attended key meetings to plot the assassination of Jesuit Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, along with all witnesses.

Ellacuría was the rector of the University of Central America where the priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were slain by an elite U.S.-trained unit. At the time, he was a key mediator in peace talks between the U.S.-backed, rightwing Salvadoran government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (known by its Spanish acronym, FMLN). The talks included discussions about purging the military of officers linked to atrocities.

Swank noted in her ruling that Montano - who's a graduate of the same university where the Jesuits were assassinated - oversaw the government radio station which made threats against Ellacuría, calling him "an armed terrorist and an intellectual figurehead for the rebel FMLN."

At the time, Montano was the Vice Minister of Defense for Public Safety, in command of the National Police, the Treasury Police, and the National Guard. Montano entered the United States in 2002, falsely stating on immigration papers that he had never been a member of the Salvadoran military. In fact, he - like most of the officers cited for the Jesuit massacre by the U.N. Truth Commission - was trained at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Montano was discovered living outside of Boston in 2011 by the Center for Justice & Accountability; he was later convicted for immigration fraud and perjury and imprisoned in North Carolina where he has been detained pending extradition.

The center's former justice program director Almudena Bernabeu - who filed a criminal case before the Spanish National Court on behalf of the family of one of the Jesuits - said she was "thrilled" by Boyle's ruling. "It has been a long wait."

Montano's extradition "will finally provide the long awaited opportunity to have a trial and with it, lead to truth and justice for this terrible crime," said Bernabéu, who this year co-founded the non-profit human rights law firm, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, and continues to represent the Jesuit's family.

The center's former senior legal adviser Patty Blum, who has worked with Bernabeu on the Jesuit case since its inception and now serves as the Guernica 37 board chair, praised U.S. prosecutors who "have tirelessly pursued Montano's extradition."

It's urgent that Spain be given "the opportunity to exercise its jurisdiction to prosecute the crime," said Blum, a clinical professor of law emerita at Berkeley Law, University of California, "if El Salvador is not going to execute the outstanding warrants for the defendants in the case and is not going prosecute anyone."

Montano is seeking a stay of extradition to appeal Boyle's ruling; he's not entitled to an automatic stay, and his request seems likely to be denied.

The general standard for a stay is its "likelihood of success on the merits," Blum said, and Montano has raised every argument he has before both Boyle and Swank but "has unequivocally failed to persuade a U.S. court that his extradition should be halted."

If no stay is granted, there's no legal impediment standing in the way of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's proceeding with the extradition. Tillerson has the final say over whether Montano is sent to Madrid.

Politically, Blum said, "it's in the national interests of the U.S. to comply with Spain's request to prosecute a suspect in U.S. custody for terrorist murder since it may one day be that the U.S. seeks to extradite from Spain a suspect in a crime of terrorism."

Montano would be the highest-ranking official in recent U.S. history to be extradited for human rights violations.

The Jesuit massacre, which sparked international outrage and led to a United Nations-brokered peace in 1992, was not the only war crime Montano has been implicated in. Documents and testimony show that troops under his command committed more than 1,100 other human rights abuses.

This Congressional Act Threatens US National Security
CNN

By Nawaf Obaid
August 29, 2017

On August 1, 2017, Saudi Arabia filed, in the US District Court in Manhattan, for the dismissal of 25 lawsuits that claimed it helped plan the 9/11 attacks and should therefore pay damages to victims. The request was in response to a lawsuit filed on March 20, 2017, by the families of 850 9/11 victims.

The lawsuit filed by the families was made possible by the passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, and while JASTA's initial target is Saudi Arabia, the inevitable victim will be the United States itself, because JASTA will prove devastating for US-Saudi relations, US ties with the Arab world, and overall US foreign policy.

The act became law last year when Congress overrode a veto by then-President Barack Obama for the first and only time. It authorizes US courts to hear cases against foreign nations accused of aiding terrorist acts, even if those nations have not been designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Before JASTA, nations that had been so designated could be tried in US courts, but suits involving other nations would have been dismissed as violating the sovereign immunity to which nations are entitled under international law.

There are numerous reasons why JASTA should be overturned. First, as constitutional lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey have explained in the Wall Street Journal, JASTA intrudes on the President's exclusive foreign affairs powers and assigns to the judiciary matters unsuitable for its discernment, thereby violating the constitutional separation of powers. As the Constitution wisely crafted and as several centuries have proven, only the executive branch can make informed, timely decisions concerning America's military, intelligence and diplomatic interests.

Second, JASTA will be awful for US national security. US counterterrorism efforts will be crippled when its most important allies are dragged into court and threatened with billions of dollars in liability. Discovery efforts will leave defendants with only two choices: 1) reveal sensitive intelligence information to defend themselves against charges of collusion with terrorists and thereby jeopardize current counterterrorism activities or 2) protect their intelligence assets and potentially pay billions. In either case, counterterrorism operations will be undermined and lives will be put at risk.

Third, once the floodgates of litigation are opened, additional cases will emerge against other nations. This would be tremendously negative for the United States as it seeks to expand strong alliances in the global war against terrorism. There would also be a backlash of countersuits by other nations and investments would be pulled out of the United States to avoid financial seizures. In short, we would witness the breakdown of the fragile international security structure built up since 9/11 among American allied nations to combat the terrorist organizations and the countries that support them.

While JASTA will have a wide range of devastating consequences in the long run, it will create immediate damage by unjustly alienating one of America's most consequential allies: Saudi Arabia. The Arab world is encountering an almost unprecedented number of challenges: the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda, civil war in Syria, Iraq and Libya, governmental chaos in Lebanon and Palestine, war in Yemen, regional diplomatic crises with Qatar, and a nuclear Iran intent on spreading sectarian terror through Shia militias. Even a single judgment in a JASTA lawsuit would effectively end all prospects of American diplomatic, military and intelligence cooperation with Saudi Arabia for years to come.

Although the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry -- cited in the lawsuit -- said that some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government, the author of the inquiry also acknowledged that the findings remained "speculative and yet to be independently verified."

But the FBI 9/11 Review Commission did clear the kingdom of such allegations and the director of national intelligence's review reiterated the findings of the 9/11 Commission shortly after. Indeed, as far as Saudi Arabia and 9/11, there is no definitive evidence whatsoever that the Saudi government provided support to the terrorists. In other words, JASTA will not only be catastrophic for US foreign policy, but it is based on utterly misleading and false information.

The Saudis did not initially handle the case against JASTA well. Rather than prepare a legal challenge to the JASTA vote on constitutional grounds, the Saudi government hired lobbyists to try to sway members of Congress. Contrary to what the Saudi government believed after the bill was passed, Congress will never negate JASTA because no member wants to be perceived as openly supporting the kingdom and preventing the 9/11 victims from finding supposed justice.

In adopting the wrong policy, the Saudis failed to initially garner the support of the incoming Trump administration after forfeiting an opportunity to obtain a veto letter from the Obama administration that would have emphasized why JASTA was not only bad diplomatic policy, but also unconstitutional. Such a letter could have most likely swayed enough votes to sustain the veto and been valuable in any future legal challenge.

The law will only be overturned in the courts, and the Saudis should have long been preparing for the battle. Now they must adopt a coherent policy, move swiftly in the courts, and win. Congress should support such an effort as it will protect America's interests while also saving the legislative body from the political problems inherent in attempting to negate JASTA. Finally, the Trump administration must do what it can to help the Saudis, because JASTA is a serious threat to the bedrock of diplomatic relations that preserve peace among sovereign nations.

[back to contents]

Piracy

Royal 16 Crew Member Escapes Abu Sayyaf
Maritime Executive

August 22, 2017

A Vietnamese crewmember kidnapped from the bulk carrier Royal 16 last November has escaped and been rescued by military forces in the Philippines.

Do Trung Hieu, along with five others, was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf terrorists after the 5,610dwt Vietnamese bulk carrier was boarded by 10 armed men off Sibago Island in the Philippines. The abductees included the master, the deck officers, the bosun and an A/B.

Hieu, 33, is the second seafarer to be rescued without ransom being paid. Hoang Vo, 22, escaped from his captors in June. The bodies of another two of the crew were found decapitated in July, and one other was reportedly killed by gunfire, leaving the whereabouts of one seafarer unknown.

"The rescue was a result of the maximized conduct of intelligence operations and the successful airstrike mission launched by our troops on the ground," said task force group commander Col. Juvymax Uy. "Do Trung Hieu was rescued by troops as the bandits were forced to leave their stronghold, which was being targeted and overrun by our operating troops."

The Philippines military says that 18 hostages remain in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in the southern region of the country, 14 of whom are foreigners.

Abu Sayyaf formed in the 1990s with money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. The militants have divided into factions with one that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, battling security forces since May in Marawi, the largely Catholic nation's leading Islamic city.

Last week, the Philippines military killed Salvador Muktadil, an infamous Abu Sayyaf leader linked to several high-profile abductions, but the militants continue to occupy parts of the southern city despite an on-going U.S.-backed military offensive. As of Sunday, 583 militants, 129 soldiers and 45 civilians have been killed, and dozens are believed to be held hostage. Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire southern region of the nation under military rule. The U.S. and Australia have been providing intelligence help, and Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have vowed to intensify efforts to stop the spread of terrorists across regional borders.

The Autonomous Revolution
Maritime Executive

August 25, 2017

Autonomous cars are already being tested on the streets and it looks like crewless ships will follow in the water. Rolls-Royce, which is working on autonomous technology in the maritime sector, envisages a remotely-operated local vessel being in operation by 2020 and a remotely-operated autonomous vessel in international waters by 2025. Fully autonomous unmanned ocean-going ships could be around by 2035, it says.

In Japan, shipping companies are working with shipbuilders to develop self-piloting cargo ships, which could also be in service by 2025. In the Baltic Sea, the One Sea ecosystem project, founded in 2016, is aiming to enable fully remote-controlled vessels in three years and to achieve autonomous commercial maritime traffic by 2025.

Meanwhile, on a smaller size scale, one of the most ambitious timelines involves an effort by Automated Ships and Kongsberg Maritime to build Hronn, the first unmanned and fully automated offshore supply vessel, and have it on the water in 2018.

Clearly, the technology behind such vessels is developing rapidly, including advances that will allow ships to be controlled remotely or operate autonomously. This could enable ships to monitor their own health and the environment around them, potentially making decisions based on that information.

Indeed, the potential use of automation goes well beyond the vessels themselves, stretching the entire length of the cargo movement chain. "Autonomous technology has the potential to revolutionize the movement of cargo on a scale not seen since containerization was introduced some 50 years ago," says Captain Andrew Kinsey, Senior Marine Risk Consultant at AGCS.

Autonomous benefits

There are many potential benefits to be gained from autonomous shipping. Human error often plays a major role in incidents at sea. It is estimated that 75-96 percent of marine accidents can be attributed to human error. In addition, AGCS analysis of almost 15,000 marine liability insurance claims shows that human error is behind 75 percent of the value of all claims analyzed, equivalent to $1.6 billion.

Given the role of human error in maritime incidents it is assumed unmanned vessels could be safer. At the same time, the risks inherent in having a crew, such as injury or loss of life, will be significantly reduced or even eliminated.

Then there is the potential to improve both efficiencies and productivity by saving on crew and fuel costs. The current shipping market, affected by a global downturn, faces various challenges. Crew costs can vary from around 10-30 percent of shipowners operating expenditure (OPEX), depending on the type of vessel. An unmanned ship could free up more space for cargo in place of accommodation and crew support systems.

The introduction of designated automated shipping lanes could make logistics easier, increasing the reliability of cargo transport.

It has even been suggested that automation could result in a decline in piracy incidents, as there is no crew to be used as leverage for ransom. However, the piracy threat is ever-evolving, and there is already evidence that pirates have been abusing holes in cyber security to target specific cargoes, so the cyber security threat could actually increase in future.

Regulatory framework challenges timeframes

Autonomous shipping is likely to be phased in over time, as there are many legal and regulatory issues that need to be resolved. For example, maritime law and conventions were not drafted with crewless ships in mind and currently require vessels to have crew and a master on board. The IMO said recently it would start exploring how existing international regulation could be applied to autonomous ships.

"Yet despite unknowns and regulatory issues, autonomous shipping will happen. It's just a question of when and how. And it is possible that the current economic pressures on the shipping industry and the need to find efficiencies, could even support and speed up developments in maritime automation," says Kinsey.

Risk management challenges

Safety considerations will be key to the development of automation. A challenge for designers is to convince users, stakeholders, regulators and insurers that such systems are 100 percent reliable. In future, flawless communication between autonomous ships at sea and the so-called Shore Control Center, from where the vessels will be controlled, will obviously be crucial.

Although autonomous operation presents a number of risk "unknowns" the maritime industry does have experience in this area. In some cases, unmanned vessels are not new, having been used for many years in scientific research operations and the defense sector, although these have involved much smaller vessels than what is proposed in future.

"The issue of autonomous vessel operation has also been dealt with before on board ships, when we first started with unattended engine room operations," Kinsey adds. "In that case, the vessels were operated in a manned state and engine room alarms were logged and analyzed."

Yet the list of risk factors under consideration remains a long one. For example, only large vessels routinely have tracking devices today, raising questions about the potential for collisions between an automated ship and smaller vessels. Another challenge will be assessing the risk of an environmental disaster. Without a crew, a disaster-containment response team may be hundreds of miles away.

Then there are potential issues around cargo management and safety in the absence of crew; fire protection; stability, draft and hull integrity and security; and cyber risk - which many believe will increase. For example, if an incident occurs on an unmanned vessel, such as a spoofed GPS signal, how long will it take to discover what is happening? The cyber security platform has to become more robust given the large amounts of data transmitted - especially for unmanned ships.

"Fully automated shipping may be possible from a technical perspective, but on a global scale it may not happen given the navigational challenges of entering ports and congested routes, as well as the challenges of operating in storm conditions. It is hard to see how vessels can operate without crews to deal with emergency situations," says Chris Turberville, Head of Marine Hull & Liabilities, U.K., AGCS.

It could be that automated, or ships controlled from the shore, will operate on local coastal routes. But for more complex transits, the journey towards automation is likely to follow the model of the aviation industry, Turberville believes. Aircraft have gradually adopted automation, but pilots still play an important role on-board, taking control during an emergency or at certain points, such as take-off and landing.

"It has yet to be seen whether the decision-making ability of computers matches that of humans. And I am not yet convinced that the technology is there to navigate difficult conditions, like the Suez Canal or the English Channel," adds Captain Rahul Khanna, Head of Marine Risk Consulting at AGCS. "Autonomous technology has the potential to improve safety, but a critical element will be whether there will be sufficient backup when things go wrong.

"There is talk of autonomous shipping within the next five years, but it will probably take longer for the regulatory framework to catch-up. And while autonomous ships could soon operate on simplistic and fixed regional routes, autonomous shipping on a larger scale will take time."

Fuel Smuggling: Libya Detains 20 Filipinos
Maritime Executive

By Noel Tarrazona
August 30, 2017

The Philippine government has instructed its embassy in Libya to "exert all efforts" to secure the immediate release of the 20 Filipino seafarers who are presently detained on the suspicion that they were trying to smuggle six million liters (1.6 million gallons) of fuel to Tunisia.

The 20 Filipino seafarers were detained on Sunday when Libyan authorities intercepted the Liberian-flagged tanker Levant sailing 110 miles from Tripoli. The Libyan Coast Guard then took the vessel, operated by Evalend Shipping Tankers in Athens, under tow, and the seafarers were taken to Libya's prosecutor general.

In response to Philippines Foreign Affairs Minister Allan Peter Cayetano's request, the Libyan government assured Philippine embassy officials in Tripoli that the detainees are being treated well and are in good condition.

Since the 2011 revolution that ended Gaddafi's leadership of Libya, oil smuggling has become rampant in the region. In July, the U.N. Security Council extended sanctions on illegal oil exports from Libya in a bid to stop rampant smuggling of subsidized fuel by sea. Imported fuel that is priced lower for the domestic market is commonly smuggled by ship from western Libya to Malta, Italy and Turkey, and by land to Tunisia, according to U.N. investigators.

Last week, Libya's Rada Special Deterrence Force claimed to have arrested one of the nation's biggest Libyan fuel smugglers and illegal migration traffickers. The accused, Fahmi Salim Musa Bin Khalifa, from Zuwara is labeled by Rada as the ''king of smuggling'' in Libya.

Libya is a major oil producer and exporter, but it has limited refining capacity. Imported refined products are heavily subsidized, so smugglers can make money by re-exporting.

[back to contents]

Gender-Based Violence

Parliamentary committee wants more oversight on gender-based violence
IOL

August 22, 2017

Parliament's Multi-Party Women's Caucus (MPWC) has noted with grave concern what appears to be an increase in gender-based violence reported in the media.

The MPWC would like to condemn all acts of violence, especially gender-based violence and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Committee chairperson Masefele Story Morutoa said: "I would like to add my voice to the chorus of South Africans who have condemned gender-based violence.

"There is no place in our society for behaviour like this. As a matter of urgency, we must look at how we intensify our response to eradicating such violence.

"It is encouraging to note that during this Women's Month, the media has seemed to highlight the issue of gender-based violence. Although the MPWC supports this, it is imperative that the media reports on gender-based violence and violence against the LGBTI community as a matter of course, not only during Women's Month, but throughout the year."

Morutoa further stated that gender-based violence knows no colour, religion, ethnic group, language or class.

"The MPWC believes strongly that those who make themselves guilty of such acts should not be seen to be protected but must be dealt with in terms of the law, irrespective of any position they might hold in society.

"Everyone, including those who occupy positions of political office, must be taken to task if they engage in acts of gender-based violence.

"The MPWC would like action to be taken not just to focus on punitive measures or rehabilitation, but to get to the root cause of the problem and by conscientising society and creating notions of masculinity that do not perpetuate a culture of violence.

"The MPWC would like to commit Parliament to engage in greater oversight measures over government departments to ensure that gender-based violence is rooted out.

During this Women's Month let us all stand together and fight gender-based violence and violence against the LGBTI community in honour of all those who have fallen prey to this societal ill.

Let us stand together and say enough is enough," said Morutoa.

Capacity of NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance to women and girls in Mingkaman, Nimule and Juba strengthened through workshop organized by UN Women in collaboration with Government of Japan
ReliefWeb

August 23, 2017

Hon. Gatwech Peter Kulang, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Mr Takanobu Nakahara, First Secretary (Development Cooperation) of the Embassy of Japan in South Sudan, and Mr Lansana Wonneh, UN Women Deputy Country Representative participated in the opening ceremony of the capacity strengthening workshop for 30 practitioners from seven Humanitarian NGO partners of UN Women.

This important training would not have been possible without the generous funding from the Government of Japan in support of UN Women's Humanitarian Assistance Programme (HAP) in South Sudan since April 2015. The initial phase of the HAP (April 2015-March 2017) substantially increased the self-reliance and resilience of more than 7,500 conflict affected women and girls in Juba, Mingkaman and Nimule. The initiative focused on livelihood enhancing activities (vocational, entrepreneurship, functional literacy and basic computer application skills training; and improved access to productive resources including cash grants and start-up kits) and actions to prevent and respond to gender based violence. This second phase of the programme (April 2017-March 2018) will, build on results already achieved, sustainably improve livelihoods and prevent and respond to gender based violence in the above-mentioned three targeted areas.

Hon. Gatwech Peter Kulang, the Undersecretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, gave an assurance that the Government of South Sudan will continue to support the work of UN Women as gender equality promotion is an important national commitment." The late Dr. John Garang said, Women are the most marginalized among the marginalized in South Sudan" he noted. Hon Kulang lamented that the intermittent insecurity in the country has increased vulnerability for women and girls. "In 2016, we expected that the peace had returned to South Sudan following the signing of ARCSS. Hopes were shuttered when violence occurred in July 2016 adding more suffering to women and girls". The Humanitarian Assistance Programme (HAP) is very important in reducing the impact of insecurity on women by enhancing their livelihoods, GBV prevention and promoting peaceful co-existence between IDPs and the host communities... "I encourage you partners to take this training seriously and use the skills to be transparent and accountable while delivering tangible interventions to conflict affected women and girls You are required to be a role model by promoting unity among South Sudanese". With the above remarks, Mr. Gatwech declared the workshop to be open.

Speaking on behalf of the Embassy of Japan in South Sudan, Mr Takanobu Nakahara stated that "improving gender equality and continuous empowerment of women are important priorities for the Government of Japan". He also said that "Japan strongly supports the promotion of Human Security, and women and girls are at the heart of Human Security. It is women and girls who should be protected the most because they are the worst affected by crises. I hope this training will build the capacities of partners who will then build the capacities of women and others. When you provide services for a woman, under South Sudan current culture, you provide services to the whole household and community".

While delivering the opening remarks, the UN Women Deputy Country Representative, Mr Lansana Wonneh used the opportunity to thank the Government of Japan for the support which has contributed to filling critical gender gap in humanitarian action in South Sudan. "Women are the hardest hit by the South Sudan conflict, yet their critical needs are not adequately taking into consideration in the traditional humanitarian interventions. UN Women's Humanitarian Assistance Programme contributes to building the resilience of conflict affected women and girls, mitigate the incidence and prevalence of Gender-Based Violence while promoting social cohesion and grassroots women's participation in the peacebuilding processes". The three-day training will not only strengthen partners' capacity but, it will also elicit from the stakeholder, the lessons learned and good practices to scale-up going forward." Mr Wonneh added.

[back to contents]

Commentary and Perspectives

How the Trial of Dominic Ongwen Has Shaped Attitudes Toward International Criminal Justice in Uganda
International Justice Monitor

By Lino Owor Ogora
August 17, 2017

Uganda is currently the focus of two international criminal trials: that of Thomas Kwoyelo before the International Crimes Division (ICD) in Uganda, and Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands. Both Kwoyelo and Ongwen are charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda while in the service of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). This has inevitably stirred debate in Uganda regarding which of the two courts is more effective, and shaped attitudes towards international criminal justice in the country.

Ongwen is currently standing trial before the ICC in The Hague. His trial began on December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in attacks on camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. The attacks took place between 2003 and 2004 in the camps of Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi. He has also been charged with sexual and gender-based crimes, including the crime of forced marriage.

Uganda's international criminal justice sector has undergone a tremendous revolution in the last 10 years, since the Juba Peace Talks started in 2006. These talks, held between the government of Uganda and the LRA, aimed at finding a negotiated solution to the conflict that rocked northern Uganda between 1986 and 2006.

In 2004, prior to the commencement of these talks, the government of Uganda had referred the situation concerning northern Uganda to the ICC, which resulted in the issue of arrest warrants for five top commanders of the LRA. The involvement of the ICC turned out to be a complicating factor at the peace talks when the LRA delegates insisted that they would not proceed as long as the arrest warrants remained outstanding. In fact, when the Juba Peace Talks later collapsed in 2008, with the LRA leader Joseph Kony refusing to sign the final peace agreement, many people cited the ICC as one of the causal factors.

In a bid to find an alternative to the ICC, the government of Uganda floated the idea of establishing a domestic court for trying LRA perpetrators. This laid the foundation for the establishment of the ICD in July 2008 as a special division of the High Court of Uganda mandated to try the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity including commanders of the LRA and other rebel groups. When Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the LRA, was captured in 2008 and charged before the ICD, the justification for establishing a domestic court seemed to be complete.

This move, however, did not remove the ICC from the equation, as the five arrest warrants remained outstanding. In 2015, Ongwen, one of the indicted commanders, surrendered. Ongwen's trial before the ICC started on December 6, 2016 and is still ongoing.

As a result, trials for international crimes are now proceeding simultaneously at the ICC and the Ugandan ICD. This has inevitably stirred debate in Uganda regarding the relative merits of the two.

Asked if they were familiar with the two courts and the difference between them, most CSO representatives questioned made comparisons in terms of jurisdiction and the type of crimes handled.

"The ICC is an international court while the ICD is a domestic court. The ICD addresses crimes of an international nature committed in Uganda, while the ICC is addressing it at international level. The two courts handle more or less the same crimes," said one. "The ICD deals with crimes in Uganda as a nation, while the ICC is an international criminal justice court," added another.

"The ICC is an international court based in The Hague, while the ICD is a court based in Uganda and is used for prosecuting crimes committed in Uganda," a human rights activist in northern Uganda said.

Asked which of the two ways of bringing the LRA commanders to trial they preferred, and which one they thought was more effective, those questioned presented varied responses. Those in favor of the ICD cited proximity to victims and increased access to justice as benefits that the domestic court had over the international court.

One CSO representative noted, "I prefer the ICD because the cases are handled here in Uganda and so both the perpetrators and victims are able to attend these court trials. The proceedings of the ICD are open to the public and the press is also part of it."

Another remarked, "The ICD is cheaper as compared to the ICC, which is very expensive. For example, the Ongwen case is wasting a lot of resources as too much money is being spent on transporting witnesses, lawyers, and translators to The Hague."

Those in favor of the ICC praised its efficiency and independence, a factor they felt gave it an edge over the domestic court in Uganda. As one noted, "The ICC gives me more hope in terms of the final judgement. It will not be corrupted by the government of Uganda unlike the ICD where I am sure a court case can be made to favor of the government instead of the victims. The ICC has more independence from the member countries."

Another added, "I prefer the ICC because it is the only court that can prosecute the government of Uganda. Could anyone imagine the ICD prosecuting the government?"

"Of course the ICC is more effective in the sense that it has more quality personnel, resources, and funding, and it is more trusted both locally and internationally. The ICD has inadequate resources, which sometimes delays the process. For example, sometimes the case of Thomas Kwoyelo is put on hold because of financial problems," said one CSO representative.

Other CSO representatives chose to take a more neutral stance. "I do not say I prefer one to the other because both are good and it depends on the level at which the crimes are committed. If you take local crimes at the local level, it might not be so easy to take someone to the international court considering all the expense, bureaucracy, and the need for local citizens' involvement and participation. So in such a case, the ICD is the most appropriate. On the other hand, if we are looking at crimes involving many countries, then we cannot say the trial should be in Uganda."

Another added, "I cannot say that the ICD is more effective than the ICC because they each have different mandates. The ICC cannot try cases in Uganda and the reverse is true. The only problem with the ICD is that cases are not being handled quickly, and its work has been hampered by several factors such as the pre-existing amnesty law that delayed the case of Kwoyelo."

Asked if they thought Ongwen should be tried back home in Uganda before the ICD, instead of at the ICC, the CSO representatives questioned had different opinions. Those who supported Ongwen's trial in The Hague cited Uganda's international obligations under the Rome Statute as the main reason for their response. One said, "The Ugandan government is a signatory to the Rome Statute. So the Government cannot turn around now and say it wants to withdraw."

"Ongwen is in the right court, given the fact that the Government of Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding with the ICC and handed him over to be prosecuted by the ICC," said another.

Another added, "For justice to prevail in the greater north, I don't think Dominic Ongwen should be brought to Uganda for trial, not even by the ICD. Assuming that court would rule at the end of the trial that Ongwen has won the case, how do you think people will react to that?"

On the other hand, those in favor of having Ongwen brought back for trial in Uganda cited the need to promote victim participation as the main reason for their responses. One said, "We need to ask the ICC whose justice they are promoting? If it is justice on behalf of Ugandan victims who suffered these violations then I would prefer that he is tried in Uganda so that justice can have a meaning to the victims, who would be able to attend hearings. Much as it is good that the trial is in Netherlands, it does not promote participation."

"It would be better for him to be tried in Uganda by the ICD because the victims would have access to attend and follow the court proceedings as compared to the ICC which is very far away and the real victims are not given the opportunity to attend trials," added another.

"Since Ongwen is a Ugandan who committed all the atrocities in Uganda, he should tried here in Uganda so that the victims can realize fair justice," a human rights activist remarked.

Asked if they felt Kwoyelo should be tried at the ICC in The Hague, instead of by the ICD in Uganda, the majority of CSO representatives spoke in favor of the domestic court.

As one CSO representative said, "I would have preferred the Kwoyelo case to also be handled at the ICC. But since it has already commenced before the ICD, let it be handled at the ICD."

Another added, "Since Thomas Kwoyelo was not among the five top commanders wanted by the ICC, it is appropriate for the ICD to try him. The ICD is complementary to the ICC and can equally do a good job".

"Kwoyelo should be tried in Uganda because all the crimes he committed took place in Uganda. He should be tried here to prove to the world the capability and efficiency of the ICD court. Taking the case of Kwoyelo to The Hague would be a waste of resources," added another.

Forensic Architects Piece Together Evidence of Human Rights Violations, War Crimes
ABC

By Mira Adler-Gillies
August 30, 2017

Architecture is typically understood as a creative process, a discipline concerned with the process of construction, the ways in our material world is built.

Eyal Weizman, however, is interested in architecture as destruction, that is, the often contested site at which violence and architecture intersect.

Professor Weizman is the principal investigator at Forensic Architecture, an agency that undertakes independent research and presents evidence to international courts, truth commissions and the UN.

"A forensic architect is like a pathologist of a building. What we do is look at destroyed elements of a building and try to explain what has happened around it," he says.

"We become something like archaeologists of the very recent past, trying to figure out what has happened by looking at the shape of architectural ruins."

Finding truth in a media-saturated age

Professor Weizman explained that in places like Gaza or Syria it has historically been very difficult for architects, investigators and journalists to access sites where violence has taken place.

Today, however, social media offers forensic architects a rich source of documentary evidence around which they can build a coherent narrative of otherwise contested acts of violence.

The analysis of social media images has radically expanded the scope of these investigations and has allowed a much more complicated story to be told.

"There are always gaps in what we know," Professor Weizman says.

"When we see those viral videos of police violence in the US, perpetrator and victim are always in the same frame; the video tells the entire story, so to speak.

"But for every video like that, there are hundreds of others taken just before, or just after, from different angles, that is, material that needs to be composed."

This process of composition and recreation requires attention to the invisible, as much as to the visible.

"In Gaza we had to compose about 7,000 images of a single day of violence that unfolded in the 2014 war," he says.

"The only way to do it is to build an architectural model and locate each one of those sources in space and simulated time and move from one image to another in order to tell a story that unfolds between images rather than within images."

He says the emergence of the discipline of forensic architecture reveals a defining feature of contemporary conflict - that today, most wars take place within cities.

"Whether in Aleppo or Gaza or Eastern Ukraine ... architecture becomes an important frame through which to understand violence," he said.

Piecing together fragments of memories

Recently, Forensic Architecture investigated a notorious Syrian prison from which independent investigators and human rights organisations had been forbidden from entering.

Through Amnesty International they were introduced to five survivors of the prison who were living as refugees in Turkey.

They attempted to reconstruct their architectural memories of a building that was described by Amnesty International as an architectural instrument of torture.

"We reconstructed with each of the survivors their perception of the prison," Professor Weizman says.

"The problem was each one of those witnesses was blindfolded so they couldn't really see the space.

"They heard the space, they counted steps, they counted doorways, so each one had a slightly distorted model of the building."

But memories of violence are rarely coherent, ordered records that can be easily recalled, he says.

After having endured prolonged physical and psychological torture, most of the eyewitnesses had blanked out different parts of the building.

Between the five survivors, however, it was possible to pull together fragments of memories, like a series of images, to create a coherent sequence and approximate the architecture of the building.

"For the first time we could give a kind of rendering of what it is like to be in a place that is otherwise a complete black hole," Professor Weizman says.

During the process, Professor Weizman discovered that eyewitnesses were able to remember crucial pieces of information that they may not have recalled in a standard oral deposition.

"Our memory is a spatial thing," he says. "Our memory is an architectural machine, if you like.

"When you locate somebody in a realistic rendering of a space, sometimes repressed memories, the most difficult memories to retain, will come back."

The threshold of detectability

When Professor Weizman and his team were investigating American drone strikes they found the missiles left a signature on buildings: a small hole in the roof. They had to rely on satellite images, but those images have very real limits and make the job of investigators almost impossible.

"The size of the pixel, that is the limit of visibility, in a satellite image is 50cm squared on the ground, while the size of the hole is 30cm squared. So you cannot see those holes from the satellite image, they simply become part of the pixel," he says.

Forensic architecture, then, takes place at the threshold of detectability, that is, the state of visibility at which an object hovers on the brink of being observable or not.

"We always have to be more creative than state and intelligence agencies," Professor Weizman says.

"State forensics is based on a simple principle: the investigators must know more than the criminal. In counter-forensics - civil society forensics that look at state crimes - you have less visibility, you look at things in lower resolution and know less than the perpetrators.

"Here, architecture takes another meaning; it becomes a creative practice of assembling, building models, thinking through solutions, operating under the threshold of detectability."

Will Spain's 'Disappeared' Find Justice in Argentina?
Al Jazeera

By Gina Benevento
August 30, 2017

It was a moonless night in the countryside outside Granada, Spain in 1936. A coded execution order came down: "Give him coffee, lots of coffee!"

Antonio Benavides, part of an irregular volunteer firing squad, obliged. "I gave that fat-head a shot in the head," he reportedly boasted later.

This is one account of the death of the famed Spanish poet and playwright, Federico Garcia Lorca. There are many others. After all these years, the circumstances surrounding Lorca's death and the whereabouts of his remains continue to be one of the great mysteries of Spain's recent history. But after 81 long years can - will - the truth finally emerge?

In response to a request by the Spanish Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory (ARHM), an Argentinian judge, Maria Servini de Cubria, agreed to investigate the death of Lorca in August 2016.

Lorca is the most famous face of a Spanish phenomenon little known in the rest of Europe: "desaparecidos" (disappeared). In 2014, an investigation by the United Nations Working Group for Human Rights revealed that between the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the end of Franco's dictatorship (1939-1975), an estimated 114,226 Spaniards "disappeared".

In a recent ranking of countries with the greatest number of disappeared, Franco's Spain came second only to Cambodia under Pol Pot.

"[The Argentinian court's decision to investigate] is important for Spain, for the Spanish victims, because they have found a court that is listening to them," Lydia Vicente, executive director of Rights International Spain, told me. "Judge Servini de Cubria is applying international law and norms, which are disregarded by Spanish courts."

The same Argentinian court has long been trying to help families of the Franco regime's victims to get closure. In 2013, hundreds of Spaniards turned to Cubria's court for help in uncovering crimes committed during the war and the subsequent dictatorship by using an international human rights law.

In 2014, Judge Cubria ordered some of General Franco's former ministers to face justice as part of the investigation. She issued arrest and extradition warrants invoking "universal jurisdiction", a legal doctrine that authorises judges to try serious rights abuses committed in other countries. Spanish courts denied the warrants, but activists supporting the victims have nevertheless defined the move as "historic".

Last year, thanks to the Argentinian court, the first-ever court order to exhume the bodies of Spanish civil war victims was issued and a mass grave in a cemetery outside Madrid containing 22 bodies was opened.

And last month, in an emotional and widely publicised event, Ascension Medienta, a 91-year-old woman who had spent her life and savings searching for her father´s body, was finally able to bury him."What joy, what joy! Now I can sleep peacefully," she exclaimed after receiving the news from her lawyer.

"Argentina is pinching holes in the dark, closed ball of Spanish impunity," says Vincente.

81 years of impunity

So why did the Spanish courts fail to prosecute these historic crimes, including Lorca's death, after so many years? Because, in 1977, Spain passed an "Amnesty Law," ostensibly to protect its fledgling "democracy" after four decades of military dictatorship. This law prohibited individuals from being tried for crimes committed between 1936 and 1975.

Of course, laws can be changed, if there is will. But the 39-year silence enforced by the military dictatorship eventually morphed into a collective "el pacto del olvido" (pact of forgetting) in Spain. Amnesty turned in to amnesia. In international law, Spain has come to be known as an example of the "Oblivion model": a memory law model based on the denial of any investigation, prosecution or reparation related to crimes committed during civil wars or other crucial historical events.

The Argentinian court's investigation into Lorca's death is only the latest effort from outside to force Spain to act. In 2014, Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice and reparation, urged Mariano Rajoy's Conservative government to repeal the amnesty law and request courts to investigate crimes of Francoism. His call was left unanswered.

"The UN said it clearly. Our democracy is robust and stable enough to do this, to heal our wounds. Because we are a democracy, we owe it to the victims, to all of us," says Vicente.

Official admission of guilt

In 1936, angered by the global interest in the death of Lorca, Franco dismissed any involvement in his assassination. "The writer died while mixing with rebels," he declared. Franco's assumption was that bad "rebels" were responsible for the death of the renowned poet. But the "rebels" he was referring to were, in fact, Republicans: supporters of the democratically elected government Franco's fascist forces finally succeeded in overthrowing.

And far from being innocent, documents from a 1960's inquiry into Lorca's death, released in 2015, showed that Franco's administration had actually given official orders for his assassination. These documents are now with Servini de Cubria´s court in Argentina, according to Maximo Castex, one of the lawyers working on the case.

As Ian Gibson, the prime biographer of Lorca who has seen the documents, recently wrote: "[These documents] demonstrate that it was not a street killing. He was taken out … to be murdered."

These documents are the first ever evidence of Franco-era officials' involvement in Lorca's death. And by default, they prove the complicity of the regime in thousands of other disappearances. The importance of these documents and the investigation that is now taking place in Argentina is hard to overestimate.

Enforced disappearance is a technique of terror, utilised by oppressive regimes to silence all opposition.

And enforced disappearance is one of the most serious crimes that exist in criminal law: It starts with illegal detention accompanied by torture, leads to murder and concludes with the hiding of the body.

Spain continues to delay or refuse requests by Argentine courts for documentation and extradition regarding forced disappearances. UN bodies have insisted that Spain must cooperate with Argentinian courts, pointing out that it must either extradite or prosecute - a basic principle under customary international humanitarian law. Yet, the government of Spain has done neither.

And now, with the change of government in Argentina from leftist Christina Fernandez Kirschner to centre-right Mauricio Macri, Argentinian courts - which once forcefully prosecuted and imprisoned Argentina´s own war criminals - have started to go quiet.

A request to extradite Rodolfo Martin Villa, former Minister of the Interior under Franco, for homicide and crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship - crimes which took place within the framework of a predetermined, systematic plan to eliminate all political opponents - was overturned only a few days ago in Buenos Aires.

So, Spain's "desaparecidos", including Lorca, may not be able to find justice in Argentina either.

They were all Lorcas

"Forgive me, my country! For my blood is now walking on your asphalt." These lines were written by Omar Hazek, a young Egyptian poet who came to prominence during the Arab uprising.

Hazek dedicated this poem to two people: Khaled Saeed, a 28-year-old Egyptian man, whose death in police custody helped incite Egypt's revolution, and Lorca.

Hazek saw an obvious link between Lorca and Saeed. Born 60 years apart, they were both innocent victims of brutal regimes.

As someone who strongly identified with the oppressed of the world, Lorca remains a global icon. The discovery and proper burial of his body would capture the imagination of the world. And it could finally force Spain to confront its past.

Lorca's body is believed to be buried somewhere along a road between two small villages near Granada. But along this road, and many other roads all over Spain, thousands of other bodies are buried, too. Nearby on a commemorative stone one can read: "They were all Lorcas."

And they all deserve justice.

[back to contents]

WORTH READING

Explaining Inhumanity: The Use of Crime-Definition Experts at International Criminal Courts
By Caroline Davidson
48 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 359

August 28, 2017

International criminal courts must not only decide the guilt or innocence of defendants in immensely serious cases, but also make good law in the process. To help them do so, these courts have turned to experts. This Article identifies a type of expert witness that, thus far, has escaped scholarly attention: the crime-definition expert. Crime-definition experts have provided expert reports and testimony to international criminal courts on the meaning of the very crimes with which defendants are charged, including genocide, forced marriage, and recruitment and use of child soldiers. This Article critically evaluates the risks associated with using crime-definition experts in international criminal trials. Ultimately, it concludes that crime-definition experts may help tribunals achieve the various aims of international criminal justice, but have the potential to impair defendants' rights and impede the tribunals' ability to advance expressive and restorative justice aims. It advocates judicious use, if any, of these experts and proposes measures to reap the most benefit from crime-definition experts while minimizing the risks inherent in their use.

Closing the 'Impunity Gap' and the Role of State Support for ICC
By Makau Mutua
Contemporary Issues Facing the International Criminal Court, pp 99-111, 2016

August 30, 2017

This paper argues that the ICC faces serious challenges in Africa. But there is no doubt that it is a much needed institution to help break the cycle of impunity in a number of states. That is why it must receive the support of the international community. What is required is a holistic understanding of the root causes of the culture of impunity and the seemingly intractable ethnic, social, and political problems. Such analysis would put stakeholders in a better position to decide the most effective and practical areas of intervention and partnership with local actors such as civil society. The objective is to capacitate local actors and create an environment in which the ICC's work can help reduce impunity and foster a culture of accountability and the rule of law.

[back to contents]

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

Founder/Advisor
Dean Michael P. Scharf

Editor-in-Chief
James Prowse

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Senior Technical Editors
Jeradon Mura
Leah Slyder

Associate Technical Editors
Robert Harms
Jaclyn Cole

Emerging Issues Advisor
Judge Rosemelle Mutoka
Contact: warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org

Africa

Central African Republic
April Hu, Senior Editor

Sudan & South Sudan
April Hu, Senior Editor
Richard Urban, Associate Editor

Democratic Republic of the Congo
April Hu, Senior Editor
Nicole Triola, Senior Associate Editor

Kenya
Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Jessica Joyce, Senior Associate Editor

Libya
Stephanie Ripma, Special Senior Editor
Alison Epperson, Associate Editor

Ivory Coast
Shanleigh Kennedy, Senior Editor
Michael Silverstein, Senior Associate Editor

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)
Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Aaron Childs, Senior Associate Editor

Mali
Shanleigh Kennedy, Senior Editor
Jonathan Engelke, Associate Editor

Lake Chad Region
Shanleigh Kennedy, Senior Editor
Alex Kish, Senior Associate Editor

Europe

Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Section
Sarah Conway, Senior Editor
Mark Antiporda, Associate Editor

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Sarah Conway, Senior Editor
Nicole Triola, Senior Associate Editor

Domestic Prosecutions in the Former Yugoslavia
Sarah Conway, Senior Editor
Jonathan Engelke, Associate Editor

Middle East and Asia

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Alex Lelansky, Senior Associate Editor

Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Sarah Conway, Senior Editor
Mark Antiporda, Associate Editor

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Stephanie Ripma, Special Senior Editor

Iraq
Stephanie Ripma, Special Senior Editor

Syria
Stephanie Ripma, Special Senior Editor
Mindy Garland, Senior Associate Editor

Bangladesh
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor

War Crimes Investigations in Burma
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
Jessica Joyce, Senior Associate Editor

Yemen
Ellen Denum, Associate Editor

Israel/Palestine
Arne Bussare, Associate Editor

North Korea
Sarah Lucey, Associate Editor

Americas

North and Central America
Aliza Lopes-Baker, Senior Editor
Christopher Colombo, Associate Editor

South America
Aliza Lopes-Baker, Senior Editor
Sabrina Turner, Associate Editor

Topics

Terrorism
Roberta Harter, Senior Editor
Katelyn Pierce, Senior Associate Editor

Piracy
Roberta Harter, Senior Editor
Fritz Darnell, Associate Editor

Gender-Based Violence
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
Rachel Edelman, Associate Editor

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Roberta Harter, Senior Editor
Kelsey Smith, Associate Editor

Commentary and Perspectives

Aliza Lopes-Baker, Senior Editor
Selena Krause, Associate Editor

Worth Reading

Judd Cohen, Special Senior Editor
Andrew Schiefer, Associate Editor

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is prepared by the
International Justice Practice of the Public International Law & Policy Group
and the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center of
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
and is made possible by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York
and the Open Society Institute.

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog:
http://law.case.edu/grotian-moment-blog/

Frederick K. Cox International Law Center:
http://law.case.edu/centers/cox/

Cox Center War Crimes Research Portal:
http://law.case.edu/war-crimes-research-portal/

Public International Law & Policy Group - http://www.pilpg.org/

To subscribe or unsubscribe from this newsletter, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org.