Case School of Law Logo


War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 - Issue 11
August 7, 2017


James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

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

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




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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




Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Commentary and Perspectives



Central African Republic

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

Central African Republic: UN peacekeeper killed in attack
BBC News

July 24, 2017

Christian militia in the Central African Republic have attacked United Nations peacekeepers who were protecting a convoy of water trucks.

One Moroccan UN soldier was killed and three others injured.

The attack took place in the southern diamond-mining town of Bangassou.

Christian militia have been attempting to seize a cathedral housing hundreds of displaced Muslims, who have been sheltering in the compound since a wave of ethnic killings in May.

The Red Cross said it found 115 bodies in the town after those attacks, when the rival religious groups clashed.

"They died in various ways: from knives, from clubs and bullet wounds," a Red Cross representative told Reuters news agency at the time.

The wider conflict has killed thousands of people.

It broke out when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize four years ago, provoking a backlash from the Christian militias.

UN peacekeeping chief warns Security Council about insecurity in Central African Republic
UN News Centre

July 28, 2017

The head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations has warned that the increased intensity of attacks on civilians and peacekeepers is bringing Central African Republic (CAR) to the tipping point.

Addressing the Security Council in a closed-door session, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, yesterday cited the "worsening security and humanitarian " situation in Bangassou, in the south-eastern part of the country, where three UN peacekeepers have been killed in recent days.

The attacks took place "against the backdrop of sustained fighting in the south-east of the country, heightened inter-ethnic tensions and efforts by spoilers to manipulate communities along religious lines and undermine the stabilization process in the country," Mr. Lacroix told the 15-member Council, according to a note from the UN Spokesperson's Office.

Mr. Lacroix is scheduled to travel to the CAR over the weekend to convey a message of support to the UN stabilization mission known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, and to meet with national authorities.

In his address yesterday, Mr. Lacroix also raised concerns about the deteriorating security in the border town of Zemio, 290 km east of Bangassou, with the risk of further clashes between the Muslim community and elements affiliated with anti-Balaka, which had already led to the displacement of more than 22,000 civilians.

He also mentioned that the security situation in the town of Bria, in the north of the country, "remains fragile and that the departure of the Ugandan and American forces from the eastern part of the country this spring has created a vacuum leading to the emergence of hostile 'self-defence' groups."

The violence has led to a worsening humanitarian situation in the country, with the numbers of internally displaced persons up about 40 per cent since last year.

Clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian, have plunged the country of about 4.5 million people into civil conflict since 2012. According to the UN some 2.3 million people, over half the population, in dire need of assistance. In addition to those displaced within the CAR, more than 484,000 people from the country have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring nations.

The senior UN official also reiterated that a military solution to the problem of the armed groups will not suffice to address the root causes of the conflict: "The absence of tangible progress in the peace process risks further worsening the situation."

He noted the importance of operationalizing the July 17 roadmap by the members of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and underlined the importance of prioritizing the implementation of the ceasefire agreed upon in the Rome agreement of 20 June.

[back to contents]

Sudan & South Sudan

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

Darfur prisoners of war are tortured in Sudanese jails: rebels
Sudan Tribune

July 25, 2017

The Sudan Liberation Movement -Minn Minnawi (SLM-MM) and the SLM-Transitional Council (SLM-TC) called on the international community to press the government to stop torture on rebels recently detained in the Sudanese jails

Following clashes with the Sudanese government forces in North and East Darfur, several rebel leading members have been arrested including SLM-TC chairman Nimir Abdel Rahman, and the military spokesperson of the SLM-MM Ahmed Hussain Mustafa (Adorob).

In a joint statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday 25 July, the two groups said Adorob "has been subjected to severe torture that caused his hand and leg were been broken".

The rebel has been transferred to Omdurman military hospital on 17 July, further said the statement.

"We call on human rights activists, international organisations and the international community to exert strong pressure on the Government of Sudan to refrain from committing such atrocities that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity and to abide by international conventions that protect rights of PoWs".

The rebel spokesperson was arrested in East Darfur State on 20 May. He was among rebels that entered the country from South Sudan led by Mohamed Abdelsalam (aka Tarada) who was killed during the clashes.

Rebel sources at the time said they the arrested rebels are detained in El-Fasher prison. However, it is believed they are now transferred to other prisons.

No date has been yet announced for the trial of the detained rebel commanders.

The government said its troops routed the coordinated attacks in North and East Darfur and accused the Libyan general Khalifa Hafar of supplying the rebels with weapons and ammunition.

South Sudan: Top Leaders Fail to End Abuses
Human Rights Watch

August 1, 2017

South Sudanese government and opposition leaders have failed to halt atrocity crimes, including killings, rape, and forced displacement, or to hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 52-page report, "'Soldiers Assume We Are Rebels': Escalating Violence and Abuses in South Sudan's Equatorias," documents the spreading violence and serious abuses against civilians in the Greater Equatoria region in the last year. The report focuses on two areas: Kajo Keji county, in the former Central Equatoria state, and Pajok, a town in the former Eastern Equatoria state.

Nine men – including President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, former army chief of staff Paul Malong, and six other commanders – should face sanctions in view of the mounting evidence of their responsibility for grave violations during the conflict, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Security Council, European Union, and other states should impose sanctions on the nine men, and the Security Council should also impose a long overdue, comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan.

"Four years into this crisis, gruesome crimes continue, with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands facing a man-made famine," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "It's well past time to send a strong message to those in positions of power that atrocities will come at a price."

Human Rights Watch conducted research into the crimes in both states, which have since been divided and renamed by presidential decrees, in May 2017 in northern Uganda, where the vast majority of the victims have fled to refugee settlements. In both South Sudan locations, government soldiers, mostly ethnic Dinka recruits deployed to fight rebels in counterinsurgency operations, committed a range of crimes against Equatorian civilians on the basis of their ethnicity, including unlawful killings, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, and widespread looting.

In Kajo Keji county, attacks began with the deployment of new government forces in mid-2016. Witnesses described at least 47 unlawful killings by government soldiers between June 2016 and May 2017, though the total is most likely much higher. In several cases, witnesses said soldiers entered homes and shot civilians, including children, elderly, and people with disabilities.

A middle-aged woman from Romogi village said that soldiers killed her husband, a farmer, and two of her children, ages 5 and 10, on a Tuesday afternoon in January. "I was cooking dinner when about 10 soldiers came to our house," she said. "My husband went out and they shot him. Then my sons followed him out and they shot both boys."

Witnesses from Pajok said that large numbers of government soldiers entered the town on April 3, and killed at least 14 civilians on the spot. "They pulled me out of the car and took my keys," said a man in his 60s. "Then, right in front of me, they shot at a man." He saw them kill several others as well.

Witnesses and victims from both locations also reported dozens of cases of arbitrary detention by the army, including holding victims in shipping containers for long periods, torture, and enforced disappearances, with the authorities refusing to acknowledge the detention or disclose the person's whereabouts or fate.

Since the conflict started in December 2013, almost 2 million people have fled South Sudan, and another 2 million are internally displaced with more than 200,000 still in UN protection sites. In the last year alone, the spreading conflict and abuses pushed over 700,000 South Sudanese into refugee settlements in northern Uganda, leaving many areas in the Greater Equatoria region empty.

An August 2015 peace agreement did not end the fighting, which resumed in Juba in July 2016, and continued in areas south and west of the capital. Human Rights Watch has documented serious crimes against civilians in Yambio, Wau, and Yei, including clear patterns of sexual violence by government soldiers against aid workers and South Sudanese displaced women in the UN protection site.

Human Rights Watch and others have long urged the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan and additional targeted, individual sanctions. The Security Council has not imposed an arms embargo but has placed travel bans and asset freezes on three government and three opposition commanders. The United States and EU also have sanctions in place against the six individuals. The EU has had an arms embargo in place for years but the African Union (AU) has not imposed additional individual sanctions or an arms embargo.

Sanctions should be imposed against the following nine commanders against whom Human Rights Watch has accumulated evidence of responsibility for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law:

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan should also urgently investigate the potential criminal responsibility of all these men, both direct and on the basis of command responsibility, Human Rights Watch said. The UN Human Rights Council in March mandated the Commission to collect and preserve evidence with a view to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in fair and credible trials.

While the 2015 peace agreement envisioned a hybrid court for South Sudan to be established by the AU Commission, almost no tangible progress toward its establishment was made in more than eighteen months. A key challenge was that South Sudan's government had yet to substantively engage with the AU Commission on the court's creation.

On July 21, 2017, AU Commission, South Sudanese, and UN officials met in Juba to discuss the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and agreed on a roadmap for the court's establishment, including finalizing the court's statute by the end of August.

The AU should ensure continued forward momentum – even without cooperation from South Sudan's leaders, if necessary. If a credible, fair, and independent hybrid court is not established, the option of the International Criminal Court (ICC) remains and should be pursued. As South Sudan is not a member of the ICC, either referral by the Security Council or a request from the government of South Sudan would be needed.

"The proposed AU Hybrid Court for South Sudan raised hopes of ending the cycle of violence and impunity," said Roth. "Yet, nearly two years later the court still does not exist. The July 21 roadmap could be a breakthrough for victims, but the proof will be in the establishment of the court."

Report Links Kiir, Machar to Recent South Sudan Crimes
VOA News

August 1, 2017

A new Human Rights Watch report accuses nine leaders in both of South Sudan's warring parties of committing serious rights violations and possibly war crimes during 2016 and 2017.

It recommends placing sanctions on all nine men, including President Salva Kiir, former First Vice President Riek Machar, and former army chief of staff Paul Malong.

Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch's Africa division, says that based on HRW's research, the leaders are implicated in abusive operations across the country.

"We have come to the conclusion now after almost four years of conflict in South Sudan, that there is mounting evidence of the role of key commanders in the ongoing atrocities," Henry told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.

"There are two components to it. First is overseeing troops that are committing these atrocities, which gives a certain liability to the top commanders. But the second is failing to prevent them or stop them," she said.

HRW is also recommending sanctions on South Sudanese army Lieutenant General Bol Akot, and General Johnson Olony, an opposition commander who allegedly recruited child soldiers in the Upper Nile region.

The rights group has long called for an arms embargo on South Sudan and targeted sanctions against top leaders in the government and opposition forces.

Six individuals are already on the U.N. sanctions list, which includes a travel ban and an assets freeze.

Alleged ethnic killings

Tuesday's report focused on civilian testimony from KajoKeji in the former Central Equatoria state as well as Pajok in neighboring Eastern Equatoria state, involving events between June 2016 and this past May.

The report said government soldiers committed serious crimes against civilians on the basis of their ethnicity. Witnesses described at least 47 unlawful killings by government soldiers in KajoKeji, telling researchers they saw soldiers enter the homes of neighbors, and shoot and kill the elderly and people with disabilities.

Henry said researchers believe the number of cases is actually much higher.

"People are very afraid to remain and even to go back. We met with refugees living in the settlements in northern Uganda and they almost all said that they were afraid to return home and those few who did were collecting food or for guarding their livestock reported facing various types of dangers as well," Henry said.


Kiir's spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny denies the president or his generals bear any responsibility for the crimes documented in the report.

"There are a number of individual violations that may happen, individuals may take laws into their hands but that doesn't mean that the government has a policy of killing the civilians," Ateny said.

The report said government soldiers deployed to fight rebels in counter insurgency operations committed many crimes against civilians including arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances.

General Oyet Nathaniel, the SPLA-In Opposition designated governor of Imatong State, denied Riek Machar bears any responsibility for the rights violations described in the report.

"Our chairman Dr. Riek Machar is innocent. He is a victim of human rights [violations] himself. He cannot be sanctioned together with perpetrators of human rights [abuses]. It is Salva Kiir and his government that deserve sanctions because they blocked the peace agreement," Nathaniel said.

In January, a report by the Office of the High Commissioner and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan said during the renewed violence in Juba that erupted a little over a year ago, both government and rebels committed "serious human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law, some possibly amounting to war crimes."

Human Rights Watch reiterated the commission's mandate to collect and preserve evidence that can be used to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in fair and credible trials.

Under the Obama administration, a U.S.-backed U.N. resolution to enact an arms embargo and sanctions on South Sudan failed in December. Russia, China and 6 other Security Council members abstained from voting, effectively killing the resolution.

In April, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Hayley urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and additional sanctions on South Sudan.

[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.N. points finger at "elements" in Congo army over Kasai mass graves

By Aaron Ross
July 25, 2017

The United Nations accused "elements" of the Congolese army on Tuesday of digging most of the mass graves it has identified in the insurrection-ravaged Kasai region of central Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in Congo (UNJHRO) is the first time the United Nations has directly suggested that government forces dug the graves.

Congo's human rights minister was not immediately available for comment but the government has repeatedly denied its troops were responsible for dozens of mass graves discovered since the Kamuina Nsapu militia launched an insurrection last August and called for the departure of government forces from the area.

"As of June 30, 2017, UNJHRO had identified a total of 42 mass graves in these three provinces (of Kasai), most of which would have been dug by (Congolese army) elements following clashes with presumed militia members," the report said.

Earlier this month, the UNJHRO said it had identified 38 more probable mass graves in the western part of Kasai, bringing the total number to 80.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and 1.4 million displaced in the violence, part of growing unrest in the country since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired in December.

The violence has triggered fears of a wider conflict in the large central African country, a tinderbox of ethnic rivalry and competing claims over mineral resources. Millions died in civil wars between 1996-2003, mostly from hunger and disease.

The government has blamed the militia for the mass graves and also claimed that some of the sites identified by U.N. investigators have turned out not to contain bodies.

It also denies U.N. allegations that its troops have systematically used excessive force, although a court convicted seven soldiers this month for murdering suspected militia members in a massacre that was caught on video.

Last month, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved an international inquiry into the violence in Kasai. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected soon to name a team of experts to lead the probe.

Wanted Congo warlord surrenders to U.N. forces

By Aaron Ross
July 26, 2017

One of Democratic Republic of Congo's most notorious warlords, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, wanted for alleged crimes against humanity, surrendered to U.N. peacekeepers on Wednesday, the U.N. mission in Congo (MONUSCO) said.

Sheka's militia, Mai-Mai Sheka, is one of a patchwork of armed groups in eastern Congo regularly accused by the United Nations and rights groups of using rape as a weapon of war.

After six years on the run, Sheka surrendered to U.N. forces in the town of Mutongo in Walikale territory and was transferred to the eastern city of Goma, said MONUSCO spokeswoman Fabienne Pompey.

It was not immediately clear why he had turned himself in.

"He will be handed over to DRC authorities after the regular procedure and checking is done by MONUSCO," Pompey told Reuters.

Despite the 2003 end to years of war in eastern Congo that killed millions, mostly from hunger and disease, dozens of armed groups continue to operate there, exploiting vast mineral reserves and preying on the local population.

According to the United Nations, Sheka's forces and two other armed groups raped at least 387 civilians between July 30 and Aug. 2, 2010 to punish them for allegedly collaborating with Congolese government forces.

Congolese authorities issued a warrant for Sheka's arrest in January 2011 but despite joint operations by the Congolese army and U.N. forces against his group, he remained at large in Walikale's remote forests.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch said Sheka's forces had killed at least 70 civilians since the arrest warrant was issued, many of whom were hacked to death by machete and whose body parts were paraded around town as the fighters chanted slurs against rival ethnic groups.

DR Congo: UN rights chief names international investigators on Kasai abuses
UN News Center

July 26, 2017

The United Nations human rights chief today named three international experts to investigate reports of killings, mutilations, rapes and other abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) restive Kasai provinces.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein named Bacre Ndiaye, a Senegal national, to lead a team of experts that includes Luc Côté, a Canadian who has worked on human rights violations in the DRC, and Mauritania's Fatimata M'Baye.

The team of experts is expected "to collect and preserve information, to determine the facts and circumstances in accordance with international standards and practice, and while ensuring the protection of all persons who will cooperate with the team, in cooperation with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," as stipulated in a mandate by the UN Human Rights Council resolution adopted on 22 June 2017.

The cooperation with the Government includes "facilitating visits and access to the country, sites and persons, concerning alleged human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law in the Kasai regions," according to the Council.

The resolution refers to reports of the "recruitment and use of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, destruction of houses, schools, places of worship, and State infrastructure by local militias, as well as of mass graves."

The team's findings are due to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2018.

Ahead of the report, the High Commissioner is scheduled to present an oral update on the situation in the Kasais to the Human Rights Council in March of next year.

Violence flared up in the DRC's Kasai regions in August 2016, when a customary chief was killed by Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), as DRC's armed forces are known. The Kamuina Nsapu militia (named after the chief) then set about avenging the killing, committing widespread atrocities as well as recruiting children into its ranks.

The gravity of the situation was further underscored by the discovery (in April, this year) of forty-two mass graves by OHCHR and the UN mission (known by its French acronym, MONUSCO).

More than 1.3 million people have since been displaced within the country as well as thousands forced to flee across its borders.

Security Council urges progress on political agreement

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council today warned that unless politicians in DRC demonstrate renewed efforts to deliver on an agreement to hold elections by the end of this year, the country and the wider region faces an increased risk of instability.

"The Security Council further calls upon all political parties, their supporters, and other political actors to remain calm and refrain from violence of any kind," according to the statement signed by Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds the rotating presidency for the month of July.

The presidential statement – which has a tone similar to a Security Council resolution but is not legally binding – expresses concern about "the slow implementation of the 31 December agreement.

The agreement – facilitated by Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) mediators, and reached in DRC's capital, Kinshasa, on 31 December 2016 – allowed President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term.

In today's statement, the Council also welcomed progress made in the voter registration process led by the National Electoral Commission (CENI), and called for continued efforts "to ensure that voters throughout the country, including in the Kasai provinces, are duly registered."

The Council also called on the Government to set aside a budget for the elections and come up with a timetable for preparations.

In the same agreement, the Council reiterated its condemnation of the violence in the Kasai region and expressed "serious concern" about cases of sexual violence and recent reports of more alleged mass graves.

"The Security Council underscores the primary responsibility of the DRC Government for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its population, with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law," the statement said, cautioning that some of the reported violations could constitute war crimes under international law.

[back to contents]


Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Cote d'Ivoire: Sporadic Violence and Presidential Tussle Put Hard-Won Security At Risk
All Africa

By Alexis Adele
July 21, 2017

Just as it seemed to be turning the page after a decade-long crisis marked by two civil wars, violence has again become worryingly routine in Côte d'Ivoire. Since the beginning of the year, barely a month has gone by without the sound of military gunfire erupting somewhere.

On Thursday morning, Mi-24 attack helicopters, newly acquired by the government, flew over Yopougon, the largest district of the economic capital, Abidjan. The previous night, a policeman was killed in an attack on a police training school. The assailants have not been identified.

A few days earlier, three people were killed when disgruntled soldiers attacked a barracks in the northern town of Korhogo. These were just the latest in a spate of violent incidents that began with a series of mutinies within the army.

Since January, there have been eight episodes of military uprisings and outbreaks of gunfire. Most of them involved some of the 8,400 troops of the Forces Nouvelles, a former rebel movement that, since being integrated into the regular army, has been demanding payment of up to $24,000 apiece (more than $200 million in total) in war bonuses for their role in bringing Alassane Ouattara, the declared winner of the 2010 election, to power.

They took on forces loyal to then-president Laurent Gbagbo in a conflict that led to the deaths of 3,000 people and saw a defeated Gbagbo brought up on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.

"Now we are worried," said Pierre Kouamé Adjoumani, the president of the Ivorian Human Rights League.

"We thought Côte d'Ivoire was gradually emerging from its crisis, but we are increasingly witnessing the old demons awaken," he told IRIN.

"The army, which should be giving people confidence, is unfortunately the one rising up because of unkept promises. If it's not [serving] soldiers, it's those who have been demobilised who are demonstrating," he said, referring to thousands of former combatants who were not integrated into the army.

"Who can we count on?" he asked, adding that security was no longer a certainty amid the growing mistrust between the army and the general population.

Those non-integrated former fighters "pose the biggest long-term threat to the stability of the country," Tarila Marclint Ebiede, an expert on militancy and a PhD researcher at the Center for Research on Peace and Development at Belgium's University of Leuven, wrote last month in The Conversation.

Ebiede pointed to some "serious flaws" in the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programmes for the former fighters.

"Many of them face an uncertain future with dim job prospects. And their situation seems much worse than their compatriots who have been integrated in the military, securing jobs and financial rewards.

"This issue needs to be addressed to reduce the risks of conflict recurrence and instability in Côte d'Ivoire," he wrote.

Blue helmets bow out

On 30 June, the UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire shut up shop for good, after being in the country for 13 years. Before leaving, UNOCI said it was confident that Ivorian authorities were in a position to protect the country's citizens, even if army reforms had yet to be completed.

"Remaking this army is a major challenge and something all Ivorians expect to happen," newly appointed Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko told journalists recently.

"I will work on this with determination, so that the army and the population are reconciled. The final objective is to have a strong and disciplined army."

Bakayoko, who previously served for six years as internal security minister and who is a government stalwart and close ally of President Ouattara, has recently been in open conflict with National Assembly Speaker and former Forces Nouvelles leader Guillaume Soro.

Both men hope to succeed Ouattara in elections slated for 2020.

Bakayoko's appointment beefed up his powers at a time when Soro is being investigated following the discovery last month of weapons at the home of his chief of protocol. Soro's men have kept some 300 tonnes of arms, according to a UN report published in April 2016.

It's tempting to try to draw a link between these opposing presidential ambitions and the latest outbreak of violence, but that might be premature.

"There's no evidence yet that the tussle between Bakayoko and Soro is tied to this situation," said Adjoumani.

"But what we see in the race to 2020, with the overt ambitions of various people, as well as the tensions this creates within society and the army, there is cause for concern."

For his part, Soro called for "calm, moderation and restraint" on Thursday, returning from a long trip to Europe.

"It is in nobody's interests to work against the tranquillity, serenity and stability of Côte d'Ivoire," he said in a statement in which he also asked for forgiveness for any offences he had committed in the country since 2002.

"I beseech you, let us not be divided. Division can only lead to catastrophe," he added.

On Friday, Bernard Oulai, a civil servant in Abidjan, told IRIN how concerned he was by the current situation.

"The security climate is worsening," he said. "And in the army, some are labelled pro-Ouattara, pro-Soro, pro-Gbagbo, pro-this one or pro-that one. It's not reassuring and it explains why the uprisings continue, to the great consternation of the population. We don't know what will happen tomorrow."

Judges order review of Gbagbo's detention
Ghana Business News

July 23, 2017

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered a review of the decision to continue to detain the former President of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, who is accused of crimes against humanity.

Laurent Gbagbo is accused of four counts of crimes against humanity that he allegedly committed during the 2010/2011 post-election violence in that country.

Hostilities erupted after the presidential election result was disputed by supporters of the incumbent, Mr Gbagbo, and his opponent, current President Alassane Ouattara.

In March this year, the ICC's Trial Chamber 1 ruled that Mr Gbagbo, who is charged alongside his former Youth Minister, Charles Blé Goudé, should continue to remain in detention.

His lawyers however appealed to the Appeals Chamber, which ordered a review of Mr Gbagbo's continued incarceration, saying, the Trial Chamber "committed a number of errors".

The judgement, read by Judge Piotr Hofmanski, said the Trial Chamber was wrong to use Mr Gbagbo's advanced age, 72, against his release because "it is generally more appropriate for age to be considered in such a manner rather than as a factor that could evidence a motivation to abscond".

The Trial Chamber also failed to consider the length of time Mr Gbagbo had spent in detention and the state of his health, according to the Appeals Chamber.

"Furthermore, despite the presumption of innocence and Mr Gbagbo's right not to be compelled to testify or to confess guilt, the Trial Chamber erroneously relied on the fact that he has denied responsibility for crimes with which he is charged," the judgement said.

The Appeals Chamber therefore reversed the decision to keep Mr Gbagbo in detention and sent the matter back to the Trial Chamber for a new review, adding that it was in no way "suggesting or predetermining what the outcome of the Trial Chamber's new review should be".

Meanwhile, the former Ivorian leader will remain in detention.

The trial of Mr Gbagbo, the first African leader to appear before the ICC, as well as Mr Blé Goudé began in January 2016.

[back to contents]

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

A Common Enemy Unites Lake Chad's Fractious States
Raddington Report

By Darli Magioni
July 20, 2017

The ongoing crisis in the Lake Chad basin is one of the world's neglected disasters. Sizing up the challenge, 17 million people are currently affected, of whom 10.3 million are in urgent need of humanitarian aid and 3.2 million in need of emergency shelter. The roots of this sorry situation are old, but socioeconomic underdevelopment and lack of efficient management of natural resources were not enough to push the states in the stricken region into meaningful coordination, even though it was always clear that no single country in the region had the economic or military clout to solve problems single-handedly.

Some institutional initiatives were devised, but were never taken very seriously by Lake Chad states. In 1964 Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger created the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) to foster cooperation on the utilization and sustenance of the basin's natural resources. But projects cooked up under this framework, including a 20-year plan established in 1998, remained largely on paper. Worsening the situation, the Lake has lost 90 percent of its water mass, shrinking from 25,000km2 to 2,500km2 between 1963 and 2013 due to shifting rain patterns and unsustainable use of water. A receding lake has led to scores of millions unemployed and at risk of extreme poverty. Losing the opportunity to strengthen economic bonds, develop better infrastructure and promote development in the region came at a hefty price, as persistent poverty, booming population and lack of better life prospects turned the Lake Chad region susceptible to the work of extremists. Boko Haram found fertile ground to grow here.

The silver lining is that Boko Haram has become one of the main drivers behind political cooperation in the region. The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), established in 2015 by Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin, counts 8,700 troops and is one of the most formidable examples of international cooperation ever to be seen in the region, despite some mixed results militarily against terrorists. The imperative of tackling extremists, coupled with failed attempts to contain the group via national initiatives alone, forced governments that saw each other with mutual suspicion to seek a joint alternative to the problem. The election of Muhammadu Buhari, in Nigeria, more prone to regional cooperation that his predecessor, also provided a better environment for collective efforts. Naturally, disagreements between coalition members are frequent, but it is a major step forward from unilateral incursions such as the controversial January 2015 Chadian raid into Nigerian territory.

But militarization won't solve everything. More important than just enabling countries to deal with extremism through military means more competently, increased contacts and enhanced trust through the MNJTF raises hopes that the Lake Chad states will in a better position to find more effective non-military solutions that prevent the resurgence of similar threats in the region. This is now more necessary than ever, given that Boko Haram is long past the peak of its power, having lost a great part of its territory and finds itself more fractured than ever, although it remains a deadly force against soft targets. The main preoccupation is that, even if the group is defeated, inability to deal with the fundamental causes of radicalization will leave the region vulnerable to similar threats.

Regional leaders are finally acknowledging the need for cooperation and a holistic approach far more seriously than ever. For instance, earlier this year Chadian PM Padacke and Nigerien President Issoufou voiced similar concerns over the need to promote better infrastructure, education, health care and jobs for its youth. Moreover, on July 9, the Council of Ministers of Defense of the LCBC and the Republic of Benin adopted a new plan "to completely eradicate" the Boko Haram threat and tackle extremism. Although content was not disclosed, the plan signals a shift away from former unilateralist tendencies in favor of regional approaches.

Opportunities for cooperation are available in many fronts. In terms of immediate action against radicalization, only a coordinated effort for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration would provide guarantees that extremists won't disappear in one country only to pop up in another. Economically, countries will have to deal with a common strategy to reestablish fishing activities disrupted by the presence of terrorists, as well as promote agriculture to deal with the large number of unemployed people and a booming population suffering from food insecurity, especially by investing in the spread of crops such as maize, cowpea and others adapted to the arid Sahel climate. Additionally, they should also push to finally implement policies to enhance resilience at the shores of the receding, such as the Lake Chad Development and Climate Resilience Action Plan, formulated by the LCBC.

In the medium and long term, trade should also be a priority. Exchanges within the region remain disappointing and incipient in many sectors, despite the existence of economic complementarity. Encouraging commerce between Lake Chad countries would not only increase socioeconomic and infrastructure development in the concerning region, but also help oil-dependent economies, such as Nigeria and Chad, to diversify their trade balance away from hydrocarbons. Furthermore, increased interdependency would also heighten incentives for these countries to strengthen their political ties.

How far cooperation between States in the region can move away from its strong focus on security remains to be seem. Yet, the foundations for trust-building and the presence of enough common challenges that require coordination are in place. The task is surely not easy, but it is certain that only political stubbornness can stand on the way of a better future in the Lake Chad Basin.

Nigeria to continue oil exploration in Lake Chad Basin despite kidnapping
Thomson Reuters Foundation News

By Ulf Laessing
July 31, 2017

Nigerian scientists will continue to search for oil in the restive Lake Chad Basin region despite a kidnapping of some researchers by suspected Boko Haram members, a university and state oil firm NNPC said on Monday.

Members of an oil prospecting team were kidnapped in the northeast's restive Lake Chad Basin region on Tuesday, prompting a rescue bid that left at least 37 dead including members of the team, rescuers from the military and vigilantes, officials say.

Three kidnapped members of the oil team later appeared in a video seen by Reuters on Saturday.

"The Vice chancellor said the University of Maiduguri won't check out of the oil exploration in the Lake Chad despite the recent unfortunate incident," said Danjuma Gambo, a spokesman for the university.

He confirmed comments attributed to the vice chancellor in a NNPC statement during a visit of NNPC delegation. Some of the dead were from the geology department of the university of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state and birth place of a Boko Haram insurgency.

The insurgency has killed 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million to flee their homes in the last eight years, and the frequency of attacks has increased in the last few months. At least 113 people have been killed by insurgents since June 1.

On Sunday, the acting president's spokesman said Nigeria had scaled up its military response to the Boko Haram insurgency and will secure the northeast.

President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria on May 7 to take medical leave in Britain for an unspecified ailment. He handed power to his deputy, Osinbajo, seeking to allay concerns of a void at the helm of Africa's most populous nation.

The government and military have repeatedly said Boko Haram - which also carries out cross-border attacks in neighboring Cameroon and Niger - was on the verge of defeat.

[back to contents]


US Disturbed by Reports of Civilian Killings, Ceasefire Violations in Mali
Sputnik International

August 1, 2017

The United States is troubled by reports in Mali of killings of civilians and ceasefire violations stipulated in the Algiers accord, the US State Department said in a press release.

"We are greatly disturbed at reports of reprisal killings of civilians and the discovery of unmarked grave sites in the areas of conflict," the release said on Monday.

The State Department said the ongoing violence violates a ceasefire deal in Mali between signatory armed groups in the 2015 Algiers Peace Accord.

The United States urges the groups involved in the conflict to end the hostilities and to comply with international law in addition to respecting human rights, the release stated.

Mali has been in turmoil since a military coup took place in 2012, triggered by the government's failure to deal with the separatist Tuareg uprising as well as the subsequent emergence of Islamic terrorist groups in the country.

[back to contents]



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

Why Kenya's upcoming elections should worry the world
The Washington Post

By Patrick Gathara
July 21, 2017

Driving in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, can be a nightmare. Not only is one prone to spending endless hours in traffic jams, but also the roads are menaced by brilliantly colored, insanely driven, hulking deathtraps that pass for the city's public transport system. Terrifyingly oblivious to the dangers they pose to both their passengers and other road users, the matatus — as the beasts are called — are a perfect metaphor for Kenya as it hurtles toward elections next month.

With three weeks to go, domestic and international observers are concerned with whether the polls will be peaceful and fair. Kenya is still haunted by the the post-election violence of a decade ago, in which at least 1,300 people died and more than 600,000 were displaced from their homes. Many are fearful of a repeat of violence if the credibility of the election is in doubt, as it was in 2007.

There is good reason to worry. Just like in 2007, the campaigns of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, have deeply polarized Kenya along ethnic lines; the nation is split down the middle, with polls showing the race tightening as election day approaches. Across the country, there are reports of people moving their families away from ethnically mixed neighborhoods in areas anticipated to be flashpoints of violence, and into tribal enclaves where there is safety in numbers. David Ndii, one the country's top economists, says flights out of the country on dates surrounding the election are already fully booked.

More disconcerting has been the impugning of the impartiality of the judiciary. In 2007, the opposition refused to entrust the electoral dispute to the courts, providing the spark for the violence. Alongside its poor handling of the 2013 petition against Kenyatta's election, the judiciary has had to endure continuing allegations of corruption. Public infighting has broken out within the Supreme Court, which was specifically established in the aftermath of the 2008 violence to deal with electoral disputes. Now, the opposition has already declared that if it suspects the election to be rigged, it would not be returning to the courts, as it did in 2013. Many fear that this is code for a resort to street protests that may potentially degenerate to violence.

The real fuel for the fire in 2007 was the unresolved legacy of the country's colonial past, which manifests in the form of land conflicts and massive class and regional inequalities. By the time of independence from Britain in 1963, about 60,000 European settlers owned half of all agricultural land in Kenya. Since then, successive kleptocratic governments have preferred to concentrate these areas in the hands of a small elite, further exacerbating land hunger as the population has grown ninefold. This, in turn, has led to the huge wealth disparities with one report showing 62 percent of the country's wealth being owned by just 0.02 percent of the population. The recommendations of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which was meant to help Kenya heal from history, have remained unimplemented; the report itself is gathering dust in Parliament.

The conduct of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has been a cause for serious concern. One study concluded that "preparations thus far have been plagued by several of the same problems that marred the last election cycle, suggesting a dearth of lessons learned." Time and again, the IEBC has been chastised by the courts over its arrangements for the elections, most recently in cases concerning the finality of vote counts at the county level and its procurement of ballot papers (the latter case was recently overturned on appeal). Worse is the lack of transparency that has characterized the IEBC planning. IEBC finally agreed to provide public access to the registry of voters — after a questionable audit process. Even at this late stage, there remains little clarity on what "complementary mechanism" the IEBC plans to deploy if electronic and biometric systems — required for identifying voters and transmitting results from polling stations — fail as they did in 2013.

Perhaps most damaging to the IEBC's credibility has been the perception that it is doing the incumbent's bidding. This is reinforced by the near-identical positions the IEBC and the governing Jubilee Party have taken on almost every issue, sometimes resulting in party spokesmen purporting to speak for the elections body as well. As far as electoral abuses, the IEBC has been quiet on a series of TV commercials paid for by The President's Delivery Unit, which clearly violate the legal prohibition against the government either advertising its achievements during the campaign period or using public resources to campaign for a particular candidate.

Like Nairobi's infamous matatus, the election is barreling along, many times on the wrong side of the law, the noise and vitriol of the campaigns drowning out common sense. For the terrified passengers, whether they — and Kenya — arrive at the other side in one piece seems to be coming down to a wing and a prayer.

Kenya Steps Up the War Against al Shabaab Before Its Elections
Daily Beast

By Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, Evanna Hu
July 26, 2017

Against the backdrop of untainted white beaches on the Indian Ocean and the regal beach houses here that mix Omani, Indian, and Swahili architecture, live mortars arched across the Kenyan night skies. Unsuspecting tourists could have mistaken them for shooting stars. But they kept on coming. One after another, like fireworks.

This was another naval exercise by the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) conducted earlier this month, on the night of July 9, at the start of the tourist season on Lamu Island—and just weeks before Kenya's elections.

The show of force went on for an hour, alternating between live mortars and storms of gunshots as a response to the brutal and indiscriminate beheadings and killings of innocent civilians by al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in nearby Somalia, just a few days earlier.

Lamu and neighboring islands are a part of the Swahili Coast facing the Indian Ocean in eastern Kenya. Culturally, the region is distinct from the rest of Kenya, influenced by trade with the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, and even China. The population descends from five or six original families who have been on the islands for the past 400 years. Most practice Sunni Islam with centuries of Sufi spirituality, historically mainstream Kenyan Islam, with an emphasis on peaceful coexistence with all members of Kenyan society.

Modern-day Lamu County is comprised of two parts: Mainland and the Islands. The major islands are Shela, Lamu Island ("Lamu Town"), and Manda. Tourism, primarily from Europe, makes up most of the economy. A new port in Lamu Town is projected to surpass Mombasa as Kenya's largest, which may not help tourism but ought to bring jobs and a much-needed lifeline to citizens affected by al Shabaab's merciless attacks near the border.

The KDF Navy base where the live exercises took place is on Shela, which is a popular destination with tourists and long-term expatriates. Our time in Lamu was part of an original field study looking at how Muslim populations in the Horn of Africa themselves perceive the threat of al Shabaab.

To our surprise, local Swahili communities and tourist managers were notified of the exercise merely three hours ahead of time, leaving little time to know whether this was a live battle with al Shabaab militants or an exercise. The result was not only to heighten fear of the militants, but to deepen mistrust of the government, making the job of those trying to push back against extremism all the more difficult.

The July 9 live exercise came at a key moment. A couple of days earlier, al Shabaab had attacked a police station on the Mainland and planted an IED underground. The next day, al Shabaab followed up the violence with the beheading of nine civilians in the little village of Jima on the Mainland, a gruesome tactic that surprised even the locals, who have been living with the al Shabaab threat and subsequent military actions for the past four years.

Al Shabaab, "the Youth" in Arabic, was formed in 2006 and has since held and governed territories in various parts of Somalia. The group has connections to both al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. Al Shabaab's goal is to form a utopian Islamist society reminiscent of various East African Islamic Sultanates, such as the 10th century Kilwa Sultanate in the Horn of Africa. Al Shabaab began attacking Kenya in 2011 after the KDF went into Somalia to fight against al Shabaab on its home turf. The KDF also gives support to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which has been in the country since 2007 with limited success.

Many in Lamu have been against al Shabaab from the start. They see it as a collection of violent extremists who believe in a narrow, rigid, and legalistic interpretation of Islam, but also an organization with which some resonance among the younger generation who see al Shabaab as stating plainly their own concerns in the modern age.

Al Shabaab's version of Islam and its extremist allies globally have proselytized over the past half century with generous financial resources and unchecked ideological campaigning, making it a formidable force against which governments and local communities find it difficult to marshal countermeasures.

Overall, the people of the Swahili coast are religious, with most children attending Quranic schools in Arabic in addition to formal public schools. The island is home to a diverse array of mosques, ranging from Shia to Sufi and everything in between, and to an annual festival celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The festival, considered blasphemous by al Shabaab, brings thousands to Lamu. Yet it remains a fertile recruiting ground for extremists, lying only 174 miles away from the porous Somali border, and with the lawless Boni Forest in-between.

The appeal of al Shabaab is growing, especially in light of the KDF human rights violations , and the precipitous decline in tourism for the entire Lamu County. KDF allegedly carries out extrajudicial killings, many of which appear to be well documented, and subsequently labels them as the work of al Shabaab fighters. The KDF also stands accused of labeling petty crime as al Shabaab attacks to get more resources and funding from the United States. Rumors of disappearances, whether real or not, of suspected "al Shabaab fighters and supporters" are rampant. Some were well-known political activists and opponents.

In the midst of clashes between al Shabaab and the KDF, civilians are caught in the middle and have suffered the economic consequences. While attacks have been limited to the mainland and have not affected the islands, the optics have discouraged visitors. For four years in a row, tourism has been hit hard by travel warnings issued by the European Union and British governments. Hotel occupancy rates have plummeted, according to Swahili tourism managers.

When the travel warning was finally lifted in 2017, the locals breathed a sigh of relief, as tourists started to trickle back. They were looking forward to the peak season from late July to early September. But with the recent beheadings committed by al Shabaab, the locals fear that the travel warning will be reinstated. Already, the Kenyan government put in place a 6:30 PM curfew starting July 10th, effective for 90 days for all of Lamu County except the islands.

"Most tourists can't distinguish between Lamu Mainland and Islands. They hear Lamu and think that it is all dangerous, even if we have not had a single attack on the islands," lamented a Swahili tourism manager on Shela.

A commonly held belief is that the Kenyan government unnecessarily puts in these measures to collectively punish Lamu, as it sees all Muslims as enemies. Locals point to the lack of Muslims within the ranks of the national security apparatus and military.

All the local grievances have taken their toll. Among the Swahili communities, there are rumors that since the beginning of 2017, a few Swahilis have joined al Shabaab, but there has not been any official confirmation from authorities. Al Shabaab itself has exploited the growing rift between the locals and the government.

Rather than presenting itself as a strictly ideological group, it has re-branded in these parts as a rebel group fighting against the resented and corrupt Kenyan government. It has taken advantage of the local perception that the Kenyan government and politicians can be bought, even when it harms the interest of the people and the country. Al Shabaab also portrays the U.S. as a cash cow for the KDF, easily manipulated and blindly zealous in its global war on terrorism. Local confidence in the U.S. and Kenyan response to this security threat has decreased dramatically.

"It's like we have to choose between security and livelihoods," says a Swahili tourist manager who has spent his entire life on the islands, reflecting a very common view. "We don't want al Shabaab to be here, but at the same time, the other option is the Kenyan government, who hates all Muslims, even if we are moderate. We are caught in between two equally bad options."

The security of Lamu and the coast is increasingly significant in the broader context. The Horn of Africa could be key for Salafist-jihadist terrorist groups like al Shabaab and the Islamic State. As they are squeezed out of the spaces they have occupied in the Middle East and some parts of North Africa, they are eying countries such as Somalia, Djibouti—and Kenya—as their next havens.

Already, Kenya has seen more than its fair share of al Shabaab related terrorism. The assault on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in 2013 slaughtered at least 67 innocent people; in 2015, 147 people died in a massacre at Garissa University.

Already, Kenyans have traveled to Libya to join the so-called Islamic State, and some 900 Kenyans currently serve in the the ranks of al Shabaab, according to senior Kenyan intelligence officials. For the first time ever this year a bomb that was used in an attack in Kenya reportedly was constructed within the country, rather than smuggled in from Somalia.

As the draw of extremism grows and battle-hardened fighters return to Kenya, the danger will increase. And while Kenya has thus far been spared the kind of "lone wolf" attacks that have wrought so much carnage in European cities like Manchester and Nice, Kenyan authorities say they are preparing for those as well.

"The security situation is becoming more precarious," says a senior-level security official. "Kenya could turn into a terrorist haven if we do not start preventing violent extremism and inoculating Kenyans against violent ideologies."

As the world has learned, that is much easier said than done.

Protesters demand rapid inquiry into murder of Kenya election official

By Katharine Houreld
August 1, 2017

Protesters marched on the offices of Kenya's election commission on Tuesday, demanding a speedy investigation of the murder of a senior official that has raised fears over the legitimacy of next week's national elections.

Chris Msando, the election board's head of information, communication and technology, was found murdered on Monday. He had been tortured before he was killed, authorities said.

Msando oversaw the live transmission of election results, a contentious area that the opposition has said could be used to rig next Tuesday's presidential and parliamentary polls.

In a sign of public jitters, Kenya's military spokesman was forced to go on national television on Tuesday evening and deny reports he was missing. Some media outlets suggested he had been abducted after leaking details of election-related security.

The presidential race is very close: Opposition leader Raila Odinga is favored by 49 percent of voters compared with President Uhuru Kenyatta's 48 percent, according to a poll of 5,000 Kenyans across 47 counties released on Tuesday by Infotrak Research and Consulting.

Another poll put Kenyatta in the lead with 47 percent and Odinga at 44 percent, according to a survey of 4,300 Kenyans released on Tuesday by international polling firm Ipsos.

The close race, the murder, and a history of malfunctions of election equipment have raised tensions in Kenya and provoked a storm of speculation on social media.

"It is important that security agencies expedite investigations as a matter of utmost urgency," John Githongo, a prominent anti-corruption campaigner, said during the march by about 25 protesters.

"The timing of his torture and murder serves to undermine Kenya's election management body," he added, as the group sang and held up banners denouncing the killing.

Kenyatta issued a statement condemning the killing of Msando and Caro Ngumbu, a woman who had been shot in the head and whose body was found next to Msando's.

Kenyatta urged faith in investigators and for the public to refrain from speculation about the motives for the killings.

"Careless speculation in this time of grief only makes the work of investigators harder, and it only adds to the pain of those who loved him," the president said, urging the country to remain united ahead of the vote.

"This is not the time to allow a tragedy such as this to divide us, to turn brother against brother."

Authorities did not say where Msando's body was found or suggest a motive. He had deep lacerations on his hands and arms and he had been "unmistakably" tortured, an official at the election commission told Reuters. The official asked not to be named.

Msando had met Ngumbu and another man at a club, said a statement from the interior ministry. The man left earlier and Msando and Ngumbu left together around 1:00 am, said the statement. Their bodies were discovered nearby the following morning.

Msando had reported to police in December that he had received threatening messages and phone calls in October, the statement said, but he had not followed up his initial complaint.

The opposition called for outside experts to help ensure the credibility of the elections.

"This murder has jeopardized Kenyans' faith in the credibility of the electoral process," Musalia Mudavadi, a key Odinga ally, told journalists.

"To restore the shaken confidence in the electronic systems that are key to the credibility and the success of the election ... the (elections body) should immediately secure the services of an internationally recognized expert in the area."

Both the United States and Britain offered to help Kenya investigate the murder, without saying how.

Odinga has said the last two elections were rigged. In 2013, he took his complaints to court and the elections were largely peaceful. But in 2007, he called for street demonstrations, and the political protests and ethnic violence that followed killed more than 1,200 people and forced another 600,000 to flee their homes

Kenya votes this weekend amid a wave of violence. Here's how that matters.
The Washington Post

By Dorina A. Bekoe and Stephanie Burchard
August 2, 2017

On Aug. 8, Kenyans will cast their ballots for about 1,880 positions, including president and vice president. Over the past year, the electoral process has been marred by violence perpetrated by politicians, party agents, protesters and security forces. Will this affect voters' decisions to turn up at the polls?

Surprisingly, violence before an election doesn't drive down the vote overall

As one of us, Stephanie Burchard, found, election violence occurs in roughly 50 to 60 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's elections. Most incidents tend to be violent harassment and intimidation of voters and candidates, although about 20 to 30 percent of elections experience politically motivated assassinations. Some violence is strategic — deliberately organized to affect the outcome of the election — whereas other violence is incidental, breaking out as result of protests that devolve into riots. Incumbent parties and politicians usually instigate strategic election violence, but opposition parties also mobilize election violence.

When observers talk about election violence in sub-Saharan Africa, they're almost always discussing violence that occurs before elections. In fact, pre-election violence makes up roughly 90 to 95 percent of violence associated with elections. Fortunately, post-election violence is rare; however, when it does occur, as in Kenya in 2007, it tends to be much more severe, resulting in hundreds or thousands of fatalities.

But election violence doesn't affect overall voter turnout in Africa. That's our conclusion in a recent article: Pre-electoral violence does not necessarily deter citizens from turning out to vote. That contradicts the thinking of both leading development institutions such as USAID and United Nations Development Program, and of political scientists such as Paul Collier, Pedro C. Vicente and Kristine Höglund, all of whom have presumed that such violence generally suppresses voting.

At first glance, our finding doesn't make sense. Coercion and intimidation should scare voters away from elections that they fear will turn violent. After analyzing almost 300 elections held in sub-Saharan Africa from 1990 to 2014, however, we find that there's really no systemic difference in turnout between elections where campaigning was peaceful and elections where violence took place.

Politicians typically use violence before an election for one of these three reasons

Here's what we concluded. There are three primary reasons that politicians use violence during a campaign: suppression, mobilization and displacement. Politicians might be using violence to dissuade citizens from voting for a specific party or candidate, to try to compel them to vote for a specific party or candidate, or to displace them so they do not vote at all. Furthermore, if used at the same time, these violent strategies can effectively cancel one another out in the aggregate — and so the overall effect on voter turnout becomes difficult or impossible to determine unless it is extremely well coordinated.

We are not arguing that election violence is necessarily an ineffective strategy — it may have the intended results in targeted communities — but it is inefficient and a very difficult way to produce results that matter at the national level. By understanding that politicians have multiple motivations for violence, observers are better positioned to develop programs and interventions to mitigate and prevent these attacks.

Since Kenya became a democracy, pre-election violence served all three of these purposes, as we highlight in the elections of 1992, 1997, and 2007. In 1992, the Daniel arap Moi regime orchestrated clashes between Kalenjin and non-Kalenjin ethnic groups; more than 1,500 people died and about 300,000 were displaced. As a result, far more Kalenjin – who generally supported arap Moi's government – went to the polls, while tens of thousands of opposition voters could not vote.

In 1997, local politicians and armed supporters of the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) in Coast Province attacked and drove out ethnic Kikuyu, Kamba, Luo and Luhya, seen as anti-KANU. Human Rights Watch documented that the armed groups mobilized support for KANU by turning local grievances into anger against these perceived "outsider" ethnic groups and promising land, property and jobs to those who helped chase them out.

The Waki Commission report after the 2007 election showed that supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga tried to force Rift Valley citizens to vote for him; others – very often Kikuyu – were forced to flee if they refused. In other regions, such as Central Province, pro-Kikuyu armed groups attacked opposition supporters, intending to prevent them from casting their ballots.

So what's been happening in the lead-up to Kenya's election this weekend?

As the August 2017 polls approach, a familiar pattern has emerged. During the May and June primaries, rival candidates and their supporters harassed, intimidated and assaulted each other. In 19 percent of the 224 polling stations monitored by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), candidates and their supporters used violence to eliminate political opponents, prevent other candidates from running, disrupt voting and intimidate those considered outsiders. In other reports, politicians in drought-stricken Laikipia in the Rift Valley encouraged herders to invade farms in exchange for money and the promise that they could keep the land in exchange for supporting the sponsoring politician.

According to our research, those responsible for administering the upcoming Kenyan elections can prevent more violence and intimidation prior to the election (and in future elections) in several ways.

1. Secure the anonymity of the voting process. No constituent should worry that his or her vote can be known, and therefore suffer punishment as a result. A case in point: the announcement by Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) that it will have five party representatives at each polling center, ostensibly to observe the electoral process, could make voters uneasy — especially supporters of opponents. Thus, clear rules for the number of party agents at polling stations, for example, can reduce voter anxiety.

2. Make it easier for displaced citizens to vote at the nearest polling center. Displaced voters may find it impossible to cast their ballots at the polling place where they are registered. Currently, voters are allowed to change their polling station several months before the vote. Allowing more flexibility for displaced voters might reduce violence and harassment close to election day.

3. Punish perpetrators. Ultimately, perpetrators of electoral violence must be punished. Following the party primaries, more than 60 people were arrested for various electoral offenses — including a few politicians. However, the KNCHR report seems to suggest many more political aspirants were involved in violence. To date, very few, if any, perpetrators of violence from previous elections have been held to account. Kenya's poor record of prosecuting and sentencing electoral offenders makes violence a viable campaign tactic.

Kenya Judiciary Accuses Ruling Party of Intimidation Before Vote
Bloomberg Politics

By Felix Njini
August 2, 2017

Kenya's judiciary accused the ruling party of issuing threats and demands that seek to undermine its independence, a week before the East African nation holds tightly contested elections.

Vocal attacks against judges are "becoming bolder, persistent and institutionalized," Chief Justice David Maraga said Wednesday in a statement. He said his office had received a letter from the Jubilee Party's secretary-general, Raphael Tuju, demanding that one judge be "replaced from his current assignments." Jubilee's vice chairman, David Murathe, said by phone its legal team will advise on the way forward and the chief justice is free to make his comments.

"The emerging culture of public lynching of judges and judicial officers by the political class is a vile affront to the rule of law and must be fiercely resisted," Maraga said. "We note with concern the audacity of the party as it seeks to select who hears the cases it files in court."

Elections in Kenya are fraught times for investors because a dispute over the outcome of a 2007 vote triggered two months of violence that left 1,100 people dead. The risk of violence in the aftermath of the Aug. 8 vote increased this week after the murder of an official in charge of the electronic-voting system at the country's electoral body. President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, is seeking a second term at the elections next week with 72-year-old opposition leader Raila Odinga his main challenger.

Previous Criticism

Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto at a July 9 rally accused members of the bench of working with the opposition to disrupt elections. Odinga and the opposition threatened mass demonstrations before they won a court case on the tallying of elections results, which the electoral body was contesting.

"We are free to criticize those judges, we can't also be gagged," Murathe said on Wednesday.

Jubilee's demand to have a judge removed from presiding over electoral cases interferes with the chief justice's discretion in assigning duties to judges, Law Society of Kenya President Isaac Okero said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"We are also concerned that these kinds of attacks against a specific judicial officer could well expose the judicial officer to personal jeopardy, and undermine his security," Fred Ojiambo, chairman the law society, said in a separate statement.

Stay put: Jubilee leaders tell minority ethnic communities in Nakuru
Standard Digital

By Stephen Mkawale
August 2, 2017

Jubilee Party leaders in the county have appealed to members of minority ethnic communities not to flee the area over fears that there might be post-election violence.

Reacting to recent media report that a large of number of voters were fleeing parts of the county days to the August 8 elections, the leaders dismissed such fears as unfounded.

They said the Government would ensure that there was tight security before and after the elections.

Speaking at the party's county headquarters in Milimani estate, party chairman David Manyara said local leaders would be at the forefront of preaching peace among various communities living in the county.

Peaceful co-existence

"Nakuru has been peaceful since the last General Election. We have been preaching peaceful co-existence among the many tribes living in the county. As leaders, we pledge to ensure that everyone is safe during and after the elections," said Mr Manyara.

He was accompanied by MPs Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), nominated Senator Liza Chelule and several Jubilee candidates.

The leaders, who received more than 1,000 National Super Alliance (NASA) members who defected to Jubilee Party, said Nakuru was cosmopolitan and accommodated different communities. They called on families that were feeling unsafe not to flee but seek police protection.

[back to contents]

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

Rwanda's Forever President
The New York Times

By Bert Ingelaere
August 2, 2017

There is an election in Rwanda on Friday, but its outcome already is nearly certain: President Paul Kagame will win a third seven-year term. Elections there are not a contest for power. They are the ritual confirmation of the power in place.

Mr. Kagame generally wins by margins that would make a dictator proud: In 2010, he scored some 93 percent of the vote. He is the only ruler most Rwandans born since the 1994 genocide know. The Rwandans who remember leaders before him have reason to wonder if they will ever see another: The state's mighty security apparatus is quietly eloquent, with all those soldiers and police officers routinely patrolling both city streets and the countryside.

Mr. Kagame is up against two innocuous candidates after the national election commission disqualified Diane Rwigara, his strongest opponent, and two other independent contenders. The opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who was placed under house arrest in the lead-up to the 2010 election, is now in jail serving a dubious 15-year sentence for threatening state security, among other things. Journalists have also been intimidated and stifled; Freedom House categorizes Rwanda as "not free."

Mr. Kagame wasn't supposed to run this time because he would be coming up against the two-term limit set by the Constitution. But in 2015 the government proposed an amendment and had it sanctioned in a referendum (roundly criticized by human rights groups), opening the way for Mr. Kagame to stand for re-election this year — and again until 2034.

Burundi was condemned internationally in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza flouted term limits to run for a third mandate. Last year, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo skirted term restrictions by simply delaying the next election, triggering protests and then a crackdown that led to sanctions against his government. Yet nothing of the sort has happened to Mr. Kagame or his administration despite its ploys to keep him in power basically unchallenged.

Why? Because Mr. Kagame has been masterful at deflecting criticism of his illiberalism by pointing to Rwanda's economic performance. The country is touted as a model: The government claims that the economy grew by an average of about 8 percent a year between 2001 and 2014, and that the rate of poverty dropped from nearly 57 percent in 2006 to less than 40 percent in 2014. Neither Mr. Nkurunziza nor Mr. Kabila could proffer such results.

Mr. Kagame's supporters, in Rwanda and beyond, sing to his tune. In a way, they have to. Western donors and international organizations may well prefer democratic values to big-man politics. But having poured great sums of money into Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, they want to be impressed by the headway Mr. Kagame claims to have made — on economic growth and poverty reduction, but also maternal health care and the prosecution of suspected mass killers. Asia has tigers; now Africa has found its lion. Many want to believe that while Mr. Kagame may have been cutting corners on democracy, he has delivered on development.

Has he, though?

In fact, his government's record is shakier than it looks, including on some of the major achievements it is credited with.

Consider poverty reduction. Back in 2005, I was stationed in Rwanda with a World Bank team, working on a large-scale study of poverty. Six months into it, after we had collected hundreds of survey questionnaires about the well-being of ordinary Rwandans and conducted hundreds of discussions with villagers, the Rwandan security forces seized half of our files on the pretext that our research's design was tainted by "genocide ideology" — a vague notion supposedly something like sectarianism that the government often invokes to criminalize what it sees as challenges to its authority. After lengthy negotiations between World Bank and Rwandan officials, the project was abandoned. We never determined what the poverty trends were: The information we had collected was destroyed before it could be analyzed.

Matters have hardly improved. Major studies can only be carried out by the Rwandan authorities or under their close supervision. Independent researchers have come to question the government's methodology for analyzing data.

Officially, the poverty rate decreased by nearly 6 percentage points between 2011 and 2014. But Filip Reyntjens, a Rwanda expert at the University of Antwerp, has argued that it might actually have increased by about 6 percentage points during that period. Several articles published by the Review of African Political Economy also challenge Rwanda's official poverty figures, as well as its G.D.P. growth rates.

I'm of the view that expanding individual freedoms is essential, not incidental, to a country's long-term development. As Angus Deaton, a Nobel laureate in economics, said to a Rwandan minister in 2015, "improvements in public health can never be truly secure in nondemocratic states." But I concede that Rwanda has made remarkable economic progress since facing near-total destruction in 1994, and that some think it is still worth debating the merits of trade-offs between democracy and development.

Whatever one thinks of these issues, however, everyone should be concerned that the Kagame government has been fudging, hiding or selectively presenting the raw facts of its economic record. Rwanda may be forgoing democracy for development only to wind up with no democracy and far less development than many think.

Rwanda since the end of the 1994 genocide
The Guardian

August 2, 2017

Here are key dates since President Paul Kagame's ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of Rwanda in 1994.

1994: Genocide and takeover in Kigali

On July 4, 1994, the armed wing of the RPF — which launched a civil war four years earlier from Uganda where its founding Tutsi members were exiled — captures Kigali.

The seizure of the capital halts 100 days of genocide in which extremist Hutus killed 800,000 people, primarily minority Tutsis.

A million Hutus, including those held responsible for the worst massacres, flee across the western border to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu allied with the RPF, is named president, and RPF leader Paul Kagame becomes the vice-president and defence minister.

On November 8, the UN creates the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute those responsible for the genocide.

Based in Tanzania, the ICTR operates for 20 years and convicts several dozen suspects, while related trials also take place in countries including Belgium and France.

1996: First foray into Zaire/DRC

In September 1996, Rwandan troops enter Zaire, citing a security threat from Hutu extremists in refugee camps. Thousands of refugees are forcibly repatriated.

The Rwandan military backs a rebellion led by Laurent-Desire Kabila, which ousts Zaire's leader Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. Kagame admits Rwanda planned and executed the insurgency.

In July 1998, Kabila orders Rwandan troops out of the DRC.

Rwanda switches sides on the grounds that Kabila was not as set on pursuing Hutu genocidaires in his country as had been hoped. Kigali supports a new rebellion against Kabila which broke out on August 2.

This leads to a major conflict that lasts five years, with several nations backing either side. It left at least three million dead, according to a consensus casualty toll in what became known as "Africa's World War".

2000: Kagame becomes president

Bizimungu resigns in March after months of internal power struggles in the RPF. Kagame — long considered the most powerful man in the country — is elected president on April 17.

Kagame wins re-election in 2003 and 2010, each time with more than 90 percent of the vote.

– 2006: Diplomatic relations with France break down –

On November 24, 2006, Kigali breaks off diplomatic ties with Paris after a French judge charges that Kagame and nine others were involved in an attack that killed Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and triggered the 1994 genocide.

Relations are restored in 2009 but remain troubled and subject to developments in the French investigation.

Ahead of the genocide's 20th anniversary, Kagame accuses Paris of playing a "direct role" in Habyarimana's assassination, and of taking part in "his execution." On November 29, 2016, Kigali launches an inquiry into the role of 20 French officials in the genocide.

2010: Opposition crackdown

After returning from exile in January 2010, opposition leader Victoire Ingabire is arrested in October after publicly asking that the perpetrators of crimes against Hutus also be punished.

Two years later she is sentenced to eight years in prison for terrorism and belittling the genocide.

Ingabire appeals against the conviction but loses, and in December 2013 her sentence is extended to 15 years.

Meanwhile, former Rwandan army chief turned opponent Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa is wounded on June 19, 2010 in Johannesburg, in an attack he blames on Kagame.

On June 24, journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage is shot dead in Kigali after he accuses Kagame's regime of trying to kill Nyamwasa.

Patrick Karegeya, a former Kagame ally and ex-spy chief, is strangled to death in Johannesburg on January 1, 2014. Kagame tells a prayer breakfast in Kigali 11 days later that "treason brings consequences."

2015: Constitutional reform

On December 18, 2015, a referendum on constitutional reforms allowing Kagame to seek a third term in office passes with 98.4 percent voting in favour. The change means Kagame could run in later elections and may be able to stay in power until 2034.

[back to contents]


Girl Dies in IDP Camp Blast in Somalia, 17 Injured
Voice of America News

By Mohamed Olad Hassan
July 22, 2017

A child died and 17 people were injured Saturday when a grenade went off among a group of people at an IDP camp in Somalia's Sool region, a local official told VOA.

"A child picked up an unexploded bomb somewhere near the camp and brought it among a group of IDPs resting under the shade of a tree and started playing with it. It went off and injured 18 people. On her way to hospital, [the] child died from her wounds," said Khalif Mohamed Ali, the police chief of Sool region.

"I heard a very loud explosion and I rushed to the scene, and I saw mothers crying and at least 18 injured people, five of them children," witness Abdullahi Nuur told VOA. "The children were aged from five to 10."

The IDP camp where the incident occurred is at Ari Adeye village North of Lasanod, the provincial capital of the region. It hosts hundreds of families who lost their animals to the crippling drought that hit Somalia. The explosion happened around 10 am local time.

Somalia has been convulsed by two decades of conflict and many times children have been killed, blinded, crippled - or inadvertently caused the death of their friends - while playing with unexploded ordnance or munitions left behind on the battlefield by parties to the conflict.

Somalia: Al-Shabab Forces Burn Villages
Human Rights Watch

July 26, 2017

The Islamist armed group Al-Shabab burned numerous homes in raids on villages in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region in late May 2017, Human Rights Watch said today based on witness accounts and satellite imagery analysis. Al-Shabab fighters abducted civilians, stole livestock, and committed arson in attacks that caused more than 15,000 people to flee their homes.

Starting on May 21, Al-Shabab forces raided villages in the Merka and Afgooye districts of Lower Shabelle. The region has long been the site of violence involving clan militias, federal government forces, Al-Shabab, and African Union forces, in ever-shifting alliances that have had dire consequences for civilians.

"There is no justification for Al-Shabab abducting civilians and burning down their homes," said Laetitia Bader, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Al-Shabab is responsible for causing mass flight, but the government needs to address communal tensions and hold those most responsible for abuses to account."

Human Rights Watch spoke to 25 people in person in Mogadishu and by phone who fled from the two districts to Mogadishu and to Lower Shabelle, as well as to local elders and area experts, and analyzed satellite imagery of 30 villages from the Merka district.

Inter-clan conflict, primarily between the Habar Gidir and Biyomaal clans, has increased in Lower Shabelle since 2013. Both clans have fought with and against Somali government forces and Al-Shabab. Throughout this violence, civilians have been repeatedly targeted in retaliatory attacks.

Since September 2016, tensions and fighting between Al-Shabab and a militia linked to the Biyomaal clan have escalated. In mid-May, fighting intensified around the Biyomaal stronghold in Afgooye district known as KM-50 and was followed by Al-Shabab raids. Al-Shabab attacked villages after several months of calling on their residents to leave their homes, Human Rights Watch said.

"Abdi," whose real name as with others interviewed is not being used for his protection, told Human Rights Watch that he fled his village, Ceel Waregow: "Al-Shabab accused us of being murtads [infidels] and accused us of joining the government. Some of our elders have talked to Al-Shabab and told them that those without guns should be spared. Initially they used to tax us, take livestock and money, but now they are burning our homes."

The United Nations reported that Al-Shabab abducted approximately 70 people, including women and children, from KM-50 village during fighting between May 21 and 23. Residents told Human Rights Watch that Al-Shabab stole large numbers of cows, goats and camels – critical for survival in the face of ongoing drought. Local elders said that hundreds of livestock were stolen, many died, and only a fraction have been returned to the community.

Human Rights Watch analyzed satellite imagery showing changes over time recorded between May 8 and July 12, 2017, and found evidence of widespread building destruction in 18 of 32 villages assessed in Merka district. Damage in all cases was consistent with arson attacks that resulted in the probable destruction of several hundred residential and community buildings. Because of partial cloud cover in available satellite imagery, it was not possible to assess the change in many locations in the area and it is possible that the total number of affected villages from the recent attacks is larger than the 18 locations currently identified.

An open source data collection site reported fighting between Al-Shabab and Biyomaal clan militia and government forces in two of the 18 villages in which Human Rights Watch identified property destruction. The UN found that about 100 houses were torched at the height of the attacks in the Merka district and that homes were also burned down in the village of Muuri and KM-50 in the Afgooye district on May 23.

According to the UN, 15,240 people were displaced at the height of the raids from May 21 to 24. A woman from Bullo Mudey, whose father was killed and home burned in an attack said: "How can you stay in a place where there are constant attacks and where children are burned in the houses?"

Many people are displaced within the Lower Shabelle region, with others moving toward the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu. Those who fled the fighting said they were living in precarious settings where they received little, if any, assistance, lacked shelter, and faced serious health risks.

The international laws of war, which bind all parties to the conflict in Somalia, including Al-Shabab, prohibit attacks directed against civilians and civilian property. The forced transfer or removal of civilians, unless for legitimate military reasons, is a war crime. It is unlawful to take into custody civilians who pose no immediate security threat. Pillage – the forcible taking of private property for non-military use – also violates the laws of war. People who commit serious violations of the laws of war deliberately or recklessly are responsible for war crimes.

"Those who commit war crimes in Somalia should eventually be brought to justice," Bader said. "However, the government and its backers need to immediately assist the people who escaped the violence."

Somalia: Two wounded in landmine explosion in Mogadishu
Garowe Online

July 29, 2017

At least two civilians were wounded in a powerful landmine explosion in the Somali capital Mogadishu early on Saturday morning, Garowe Online reports.

An eyewitness confirmed to GO that the blast has resulted from a roadside bomb ripped through a minibus passing a Police security checkpoint at Ex-control Balad in Heliwa district.

The explosion sent up large black plumes of smoke that were visible throughout the area, as ambulances rushed to the scene and carried away the wounded to hospitals to receive medical treatment.

The security was tightened in the area after the government security officials cordoned off the site following the incident. No one has been arrested during the manhunt for the suspects.

"A remote controlled Improvised explosive device (IED) planted beside the road struck the vehicle near Ex-control Balad, and largely destroyed it," said, a Police officer who spoke to GO.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, however, security officials blamed the Militant group al-Shabaab for the attack on the civilian vehicle.

Roadside bombs are one of the tactics commonly used by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab after losing its main strongholds, including the capital to Somali and African Union forces since 2011.

Al-Shabab commander thought killed in Somalia airstrike
ABC News

By Abdi Guled, Associated Press
July 31, 2017

The U.S. military said Monday it carried out a drone strike in Somalia that killed a member of the al-Shabab extremist group, while Somalia's government said it believes the strike killed a high-level al-Shabab commander responsible for several deadly bombings in the capital.

A U.S. Africa Command statement said the airstrike occurred Saturday near Tortoroow, an al-Shabab stronghold in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia.

President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab is the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

The U.S. statement said the airstrike was carried out in coordination with regional partners "as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces." The statement said no civilians were killed.

A statement by Somalia's information ministry said the government believes that Ali Mohamed Hussein died in the operation coordinated with "international partners."

Ali had served as the extremist group's shadow governor for the capital, Mogadishu, and had been one of the group's most outspoken officials.

"This individual was part of an al-Shabab network responsible for planning and executing several bombings and assassinations that resulted in the deplorable death of numerous innocent civilians in Mogadishu," the ministry statement said.

A Somali intelligence official said at least one missile struck a car in which the al-Shabab leader was travelling. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The U.S. military in early July said it carried out an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia and was assessing the results. The airstrike followed one in June that the U.S. said killed eight extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the south.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab earlier this month mocked Trump for the first time in a video that called him a "brainless billionaire." The extremist group also has vowed to step up attacks in Somalia after the president elected in February declared a new offensive against al-Shabab, which continues to carry out deadly attacks in Mogadishu.

The extremist group also has carried out deadly attacks in neighboring countries, notably Kenya, calling it retribution for sending troops to Somalia to fight al-Shabab.

[back to contents]



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

Libya: Pro-Haftar fighters storm constitution assembly

July 29, 2017

Fighters aligned with Khalifa Haftar, the military general based in the remote east of Libya, have stormed the headquarters of the constitution drafting assembly in the city of al-Bayda.

They held assembly members at gunpoint and demanded they back down from a recently approved draft constitution.

It is unclear whether the fighters are still in the assembly.

The draft calls for a presidential and general election no more than 180 days from the passing of a constitution.

It is understood that the draft bans Haftar from running as president.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya expressed concern over the reports of attack.

"Disturbed by reports of attacks on the constitutional drafting assembly (CDA) HQ in Bayda, Libya," the mission tweeted on Saturday.

It added that "as an independent elected body, the CDA must be allowed to work without intimidation or interference".

The incident comes after Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and Haftar agreed to a nationwide ceasefire on Tuesday during talks in Paris hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

"We commit to a ceasefire and to refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counterterrorism," Serraj and Haftar said in a joint declaration.

The joint declaration also said the two main rivals will work on holding early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Shortly after the ceasefire announcement, Hafter told Saudi daily Al Awsat News that not everything in the Paris agreement can be implemented.

Tuesday's meeting was the first between the Libyan factions since exploratory talks hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi in early May.

Libya has been locked in a state of violence and turmoil since 2011, when a bloody popular uprising ended with the overthrow and death of former President Muammar Gaddafi.

The country has splintered into rival political and armed groups, with the factions backing opposing governments and parliaments in the east and the west.

Italy focuses on Libya mission to manage migrant crisis
The Washington Post

By Colleen Barry
August 1, 2017

Italy is putting its hopes for managing the migrant crisis on a new, Libya-requested mission to support the North African nation's coast guard despite suffering a rebuke by humanitarian groups.

Ministers were briefing parliamentary committees Tuesday on a Cabinet-approved mission that would deploy Italy's navy to assist the Libyan coast guard in patrolling its territorial waters. A vote could come as early as Wednesday.

Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told a joint meeting of parliament's defense and foreign affairs commissions that Italian ships would respond to specific Libyan requests and that the deployment would not impinge on Libya's sovereignty.

Pinotti also denied the claim from some human rights groups that the mission would constitute a naval blockade.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni says Italy's assistance off the coast of Libya could become a "turning point" in his country's effort to manage the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

The U.N. migration agency says 94,802 migrants have reached Italy this year as of Sunday, a number on par with last year and which represents 85 percent of Europe's new arrivals. The agency estimates that 2,221 people have drowned this year while attempting to cross the main Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy.

Italy's bid to get 10 humanitarian groups to agree to new rules of conduct for rescuing people from the Mediterranean failed when at least four, including Doctors Without Borders, refused to sign on Monday.

Amnesty International was the most recent group to criticize the plan, saying that dispatching warships to aid the Libyan coast guard was "a shameful attempt to circumvent the rescue of migrants and refugees."

Objections to the Italian demands include a provision that would permit armed police on the rescue ships. Several non-governmental groups strenuously oppose having weapons on the ships at any time, saying guns and humanitarian operations are incompatible.

The groups also oppose a proposed rule that would prevent them from transferring rescued migrants to other vessels, which would force their boats back to port instead of allowing them to keep doing rescues.

Doctors Without Borders general director Gabriele Eminente said her charity would continue to work in the Mediterranean "but at the moment, I don't understand what the failure to sign means."

The Italian government has said humanitarian groups who do not agree to the new rules could be refused access to Italian ports.

But it seems unlikely that Italy could deprive them of access to its ports. Under international law, vessels that have rescued people must not be subject to undue delay, financial burden or other difficulties, according to the U.N.'s refugee agency.

In Brussels, European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said that if the groups "adhere to some principles and operational standards, in line with international law, then they will have the assurance that they can access Italian ports."

At least three groups accepted the Italian government's rules: Save the Children, Malta's MOAS and the Spanish group Proactiva. The EU is encouraging more to sign up.

Italy drafted the code of conduct after prosecutors in Sicily alleged that some non-governmental organizations had been colluding with the smugglers who send boatloads of migrants out daily from Libya, for example by signaling their presence in one area of the sea.

Groups including Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders denied the allegations, and said the claims undermined their humanitarian work by creating a climate of mistrust.

[back to contents]


The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Court Website [English translation]

Bosnia Mulls Election Ban on War Crimes Convicts
Balkan Insight

By Dzana Brkanic
July 26, 2017

A proposed amendment to Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral legislation would ban people who have served sentences for war crimes or other violations of humanitarian law from standing for office at elections.

The amendment proposed by MP Denis Becirovic, which is expected to be put on the state parliament's agenda, stipulates that war crimes convicts cannot run for election, be appointed to any official position in the state, cantonal or municipal administrations, or carrying out any official function connected to elections.

The existing electoral legislation allows people who were convicted to run in elections after their release.

At the last elections, Fikret Abdic, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for committing war crimes, was elected mayor of Velika Kladusa.

Munira Subasic, the president of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association, welcomed the proposal.

"We consider that people charged with or sentenced for war crime should not run for election, because they have never repented or apologised to the victims," Subasic said.

"When a war crime convict wins elections, it is an absolute injustice towards the victims, humankind and justice," she added.

The president of the Association of Families of the Missing Persons from Sarajevo-Romanija Region, Milan Mandic, argued that the ban should be even tougher.

"No matter which side they fought for and how long their prison sentences were, they should be expelled from society, stripped of their right to vote, deprived of everything," Mandic said.

But Nedeljko Mitrovic, president of the Association of Families of Captured and Killed Soldiers and Missing Civilians of [Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity] Republika Srpska, said he was against the proposed legal change.

"I would support the proposal if the process of determining [the truth about] war crimes was finished. Certain individuals, who have not been charged so far, move around freely, but we know they committed crimes. They can run for election, while someone who accidentally was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was sentenced to one year in prison cannot," Mitrovic said.

"Besides that, it would mean that those persons are deprived of their basic rights; they made mistakes, they were tried and have already been punished," he added.

Nikola Lovrinovic, an MP in the state parliament, also argued that people who have completed their jail time should not be prevented from taking a full part in the democratic process.

"If somebody is a free citizen who has served his sentence and enjoys human rights, you cannot violate one of his rights in order to do justice to some other people who have already been deprived of those rights," Lovrinovic said.

But Maja Gasal-Vrazalica of the Democratic Front party insisted that it was unacceptable for war crimes convicts to hold public office.

"By allowing war-crime convicts to perform public functions, we show the next generation that the crimes were not so grave and minimise the biggest and gravest act a human being can commit," Gasal-Vrazalica said.

[back to contents]

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

Hague Tribunal Frees Stanisic, Simatovic from Custody
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
July 25, 2017

The Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague has temporarily released former Serbian State Security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, allowing them to return to their home country during the court's summer recess.

The court's decision was made on July 19, but only made public on Tuesday.

The two men were to be transported to Belgrade under Serbian interior ministry supervision on or after July 21, the decision said.

Simatovic will have to return to custody in the Netherlands by August 16, when the court's summer recess ends, and Stanisic by September 27.

According to the findings of doctors in The Hague and Serbia, Stanisic is suffering from a chronic digestive tract illness and depression.

Former Serbian State Security boss Stanisic and his former assistant Simatovic, also known as Frenki, are being retried for the persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

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

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

Hague Tribunal Denies Bosnian Serb General Early Release
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
July 28, 2017

The Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday rejected the request for early release filed by Bosnian Serb general Radivoje Miletic, who is serving an 18-year sentence for committing crimes against humanity in Srebrenica in 1995.

Theodor Meron, the president of MICT, said that Miletic will only have served two-thirds of his sentence in May 2018, and not February 2017, as suggested by the Justice Ministry in Finland, where Miletic is imprisoned.

The Hague Tribunal considers that serving two-thirds of a prison sentence is the main prerequisite for early release.

The difference in reckoning stems from the rules of the Tribunal, which does not count the 444 days Miletic spent on temporary release towards the total number of days he spent serving the sentence.

Judge Meron also cited the severity of the crimes of which Miletic was convicted as an argument in favour of rejecting his request.

Miletic, chief of operations and training and deputy chief of staff of the Bosnian Serb Army, was found guilty for crimes against humanity and sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2010.

His sentence was reduced from 19 to 18 years on appeal in 2015.

According to the court, Miletic had full knowledge from an early stage of a plan to kill or expel all the Bosniaks from the Srebrenica and Zepa.

The Bosnian Serb Army killed over 8,000 Bosniaks after it entered Srebrenica in 1995, and the massacre has been declared an act of genocide by international courts.

The court found that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population commenced with the issuing of a directive by wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in March 1995.

Miletic, the court concluded, participated in formulating this directive, which set out the "criminal plan" for an attack on the UN- protected 'safe areas' of Srebrenica and Zepa.

Miletic was at the centre of coordination between the Bosnian Serb Army's main staff and forces on the ground, reporting to military and political leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic and receiving all the orders that were issued.

The Kravica case and judicial cooperation in the former Yugoslavia
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso

By Alfredo Sasso
July 31, 2017

Two years ago, many observers called the "Kravica case" a historic step towards justice and reconciliation in the post-Yugoslav region. Today, that process could stop, together with a long-awaited trial, stalled by procedural vices that hide heavy institutional pressure.

The case began in March 2015 with the arrest in Serbia of 8 men, accused of organising and executing the massacre of Kravica, a village not far from Srebrenica. The massacre occurred in July 1995, after the fall of the eastern Bosnian town, and caused the death of 1,300 Muslim Bosnjaks by Serbian-Bosnian squads. For the first time, people involved in the Srebrenica genocide were arrested and destined to be prosecuted by the Serbian authorities.

Then, the case passed in the hands of the Serbian Prosecutor for War Crimes, which over the last 15 years has dealt with, among other things, several crimes committed by the Serbian squads of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. Arrests related to the Kravica case were widely recognised as a positive signal – the pragmatic action of Serbian justice was seen as a chance not only to restore justice for all victims and strengthen the rule of law, but also to ease the reluctance of Belgrade's political leaders to fully recognise the crimes committed by the Serbian-Bosnian authorities and encourage symbolic gestures of mutual rapprochement and recognition.

Such expectations, however, have been gradually disappointed. The start of the trial was postponed from September to December 2016, then to February 2017, for requests and issues raised by the defense – until the outrageous stop of last July 13th, which by a sad coincidence almost overlapped with the anniversary of the genocide.

The Belgrade Court of Appeal ordered the invalidation of the trial for a procedural reason that seems almost amazing for its banality and inaccuracy. When charges were filed in January 2016, the role of chief prosecutor for war crimes was vacant. At the time, Vladimir Vukčević (who during his mandate played a very active role in reviving the trials and fostering cooperation with Bosnian and Croatian colleagues) had recently left office for age limits. Only a year and a half later, in May 2017, the post was taken over by current prosecutor Snežana Stanojković.

According to the Court of Appeal, as the indictments of the trial were not authorised by a chief prosecutor, they are "formally non-existent". Therefore, the prosecution should now reformulate the charges, have them reviewed by the court, and then reschedule the trial – basically, start from scratch. The future of the predicament seems uncertain, but the latest developments do not point to a quick solution. In fact, the prosecution's appeal, which sought to restore the trial, was promptly rejected on July 25th.

The facts have caused disappointment and concern among the victims' associations and civil society. Belgrade's Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) issued a harsh press release, titled "The State that hinders the prosecution of war crimes", which raises specific, radical criticisms to Serbia's legislative, executive, and judiciary powers, all jointly responsible "for the prolonged void at the head of the prosecution".

According to the HLC, the large delay by the parliament and government in appointing a new prosecutor is indicative of a "lack of political will" to prosecute war crimes, coupled with "scarcely transparent", opportunistic selection mechanisms. Zagorka Dolovac, chief prosecutor of the republic, is then accused of deliberately not appointing a temporary attorney (as prescribed by the law), which could have saved the Kravica trial and others. These are not accidental omissions, but a "systematic obstruction of war crimes proceedings by state authorities", concludes the HLC.

This is a very serious allegation, hardly compatible with the legal requirements of European integration – the so-called "chapter 23" of Serbia-EU negotiations. According to the HLC, legal reforms in Serbia are "purely cosmetic or none at all", especially for the lack of transparency by the institutions involved and the ineffectiveness on war crimes".

These words echo those of Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), in his report given before the UN Security Council last December: "None of the commitments [by Belgrade on Chapter 23] has been honoured".

Judicial cooperation, a step back

There are only a few months left until the closure of the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. At that point, judicial cooperation between the countries of the region will become even more essential. Dozens of trials will go on in the national special courts and hundreds of criminal fugitives will remain on the run – mainly the lower and middle ranks of the military; the "small fish" not prosecuted by the ICTY; those who have found impunity in the neighbouring country, thanks to the double citizenship they often have. To give a picture of the situation it is worth returning to the case of Kravica, which at the time had been referred to as a virtuous example of cooperation.

The arrests in Serbia in March 2015 took place following a cooperation protocol on war crimes, signed in 2013 by the special attorneys of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia despite the protracted resistance and the delay in the implementation (especially from the Bosnian side). The Sarajevo and Belgrade authorities finally agreed to share information and evidence, to allow the extradition of fugitives, and to give jurisdiction to their foreign counterparts.

Only this made it possible to arrest the 8 Bosnian Serb defendants of Kravica, who had settled in Serbia for years, ignoring their trials in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For example, key defendant Nedeljko Milidragović, who carries the infamous nickname of "Neđo the Butcher" (kasapin), lived undisturbed in Belgrade.

According to the Serbian press, Milidragović worked as an entrepreneur and ran a butcher shop – a business created with a starting capital that came from the raids carried out during the war. In 1995, Milidragović was the commander of a special department of the Serbian-Bosnian police. According to the prosecution, between July 12th and 19th, 1995, he personally killed at least 20 helpless men (including a disabled person and a minor) and ordered the execution of about one hundred other prisoners of all ages.

Another defendant, Aleksa Golijanin, is accused of participating in the capture, segregation, and killing of several hundred men in the area between Srebrenica and Bratunac. After the war, Golijanin settled in Sremska Kamenica, Vojvodina, where he ran a transport company.

In a book published in 2014, Serbian politologist Mladen Ostojić argued that judicial cooperation between post-Yugoslav countries had achieved its best results since the mid-2000s. According to Ostojić, the collaboration of war crimes prosecutors anticipated and favoured the rapprochement of political leaderships, which translated into gestures of mutual recognition of crimes and suffering among the countries, particularly between Croatia and Serbia.

The Kravica case had the chance to contribute to this trend and extend it to Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, in recent years the picture has deteriorated, both regionally and in the contexts of Sarajevo and Belgrade. ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz, in a report to the UN Council published in May 2017, highlights the "negative trends" in judicial cooperation on war crimes.

Brammertz finds timid progress only in the Bosnian prosecution, that he has found able to conduct sensitive investigations such as the cases of Džananović and Matuzović, concerning crimes against Serb-Bosnian civilians in Sarajevo and Orašje. On the other hand, he is critical of Croatia, as its political and judicial authorities reject cooperation on dozens of open cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Particularly harsh is the assessment on Serbia, where "impunity for many ascertained crimes remains the norm" and where the number and quality of investigations are "inconsistent".

Furthermore, if in the past the legal sphere has stimulated the political one, it is unlikely that the reverse will happen today. After some time of détente, relations between Sarajevo and Belgrade have cooled again in recent months, also following the complex issue of the request by Bosnia and Herzegovina to review the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment on Bosnia-Serbia of 2007, concerning the charge of genocide.

According to some analysts, Bosnia and Herzegovina's request, which was rejected by the ICJ last March, was a maladjusted move in timing and legal foundations, motivated more by the political opportunism of the SDA (Muslim nationalist-conservatives) than by legitimate legal and historical reasons. This move has ended up strengthening Belgrade's revisionist position and increasing polarisation in the region.

If the phase of cooperation seems to be getting more and more distant, the Kravica case will become the ultimate battle over time in the post-Yugoslav region. On the one hand, there are those who pursue justice with ever greater urgency, for various reasons. Witnesses and relatives of the victims are not getting younger, while crimes are becoming more and more distant in time. Trials must proceed and end to create jurisprudence, facilitate the completion of other cases, and finally look at the present rather than the past.

On the other hand, there are those who – for as many reasons – have every interest in shielding themselves behind the passing of time. It will take many more testimonies and papers – so much research and dedication, and a patience that some victims seem to be losing.

"Unfortunately, I did not expect anything else from this trial. My impression is simply that everything was appearance, a total farce – that nothing would come of it". This is how Kata Hotić, one of the mothers of Srebrenica, commented on the matter – apparently, without even hoping for a judge in Belgrade to soon prove her wrong.

[back to contents]

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Serbian Court Rejects Restart of Srebrenica Trial
Balkan Insight

By Filip Rudic
July 26, 2017

A Belgrade court rejected the war crimes prosecutor's motion to continue a landmark trial of eight former Serb policemen for the Srebrenica massacres, saying the request was based on charges already dismissed.

The Higher Court in Belgrade on Tuesday rejected the motion filed by the war crimes prosecutor, Snezana Stanojkovic, to continue the trial of the eight former policemen charged with committing a massacre of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the village of Kravica in July 1995.

The court said that the motion was incomplete, since it was based on charges that were thrown out by an appeals court earlier in July.

This means that prosecutor Stanojkovic will have to file new charges, which have to be accepted by the court before a new trial is scheduled.

The original charges were dismissed because they were not filed by the authorised prosecutor, since the Serbian war crimes prosecutor's position was vacant at the time.

The charges were filed in January 2016, when the previous war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, had already retired, and his replacement had not yet been selected.

The eight former members of a Bosnian Serb special police unit went on trial in February this year, accused of organising and participating in the shooting of more than 1,300 Bosniak civilians in an agricultural warehouse in the village of Kravica near Srebrenica in July 1995.

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

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

So far more than 1,300 civilians who were massacred in Kravica have been identified. Their bodies were found in several mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

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

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

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

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

Kosovo: Oliver Ivanovic's car set on fire

July 28, 2017

A car owned by Oliver Ivanovic was set on fire in the northern Kosovo town of Kosovska Mitrovica at 04:00 hours CET on Friday morning.

The local website Kossev received confirmation of this from both Ivanovic and from the deputy regional chief of Kosovo police, Besim Hoti.

It is reported that the car, a VW Passat, was parked in front of the pharmacy in Lole Ribara Street when it was torched.

The case is considered an arson attack that caused general danger.

Ivanovic, a Serb politician from the north, said he "had no enemies and was not involved in illegal business" - but added that he "does have political opponents" and urged city authorities to "distance themselves" from a series of recent incidents.

He would not say who these opponents are, and said only, "They know, they will surely recognize themselves."

Two days ago in Zvecan, the car of former mayor Dragisa Milovic was also set on fire.

In 2005, a bomb was planted under Ivanovic's official car, an Audi, that was parked in front of his apartment building.

A retrial is currently under way against Ivanovic for alleged war crimes. Previously, he spent more than two years in detention, claiming the whole time that it was a staged political process.

Kossev also said that just as Milovic, he is "perceived" as a moderate politician.

Survivor of Kosovo massacre faces new challenge - in parliament

By Fatos Bytyci
August 2, 2017

Kosovo's new parliament convenes on Thursday but what has become a matter of routine in the 18 years since the young country broke away from Serbia marks another milestone in a remarkable journey for one new member of the assembly.

Saranda Bogujevci survived 16 bullets and lost 14 members of her family, including her mother and two brothers, during Serbia's brutal military crackdown on ethnic Albanians in its then southern province in 1998-99.

Four years later, Bogujevci, then 18, and three cousins became the first ethnic Albanian victims to testify before a Serbian court about the atrocities perpetrated by forces under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

On Thursday she will be sworn in as a member of parliament of the opposition Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party, which doubled its share of the vote in a June election on a promise to fight endemic corruption and nepotism in the tiny Balkan state.

"It is difficult to go through those experiences and see (Kosovo) governments that are not working and doing right for the people and that is what pushed me to get into politics," Bogujevci told Reuters, in English, during a visit to the graves of her family in Podujeva, north of the capital Pristina.

"I always imagined what Kosovo would be like after 20 years," she said. "I never thought it will be like this."

Bogujevci's family was slaughtered in a back garden in Podujeva on March 28, 1999 by members of a Serbian paramilitary unit known as the Scorpions. The youngest victim was two years old. Five men were eventually jailed for the murders and in 2013 Bogujevci returned to Belgrade, where she had testified against them, to stage an exhibition about the killings.

The massacre occurred four days after the start of NATO air strikes that would last 11 weeks as the West tried to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces waging a counter-insurgency war.

With the end of the conflict and the entry of NATO troops, Bogujevci and four surviving cousins were evacuated to the English city of Manchester where she was operated on and went on to get a university degree in interactive arts.

She returned to her homeland in 2014 to run the culture department of Pristina municipality.

Bogujevci, now 32, recalls her first sighting of a NATO tank through a Pristina hospital window on her 14th birthday, June 12, 1999. "For us that meant freedom. I will never forget that moment."

Her left arm disfigured by bullets, Bogujevci now faces a new fight, in a country recognized as independent by more than half the world but denied a place in the United Nations by the opposition of Serbia and its veto-wielding ally, Russia.

Progress has been slow since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, with crime and corruption still rife and poverty and unemployment widespread.

"Facing the war was much easier because we knew things would turn out the way they did; today, it's very difficult to accept and find a reason for what is happening," Bogujevci said.

"I do love life but at the same time I feel that I have a moral obligation towards Kosovo, England and towards humanity to do something based on what I experienced."

[back to contents]



Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Iraq's PM Acknowledges Human Rights Violations in Mosul
Voice of America

July 20, 2017

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has acknowledged Iraqi forces committed human rights violations in the battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State, but maintained the crimes were "individual acts" and the perpetrators would be punished.

Abadi spoke Tuesday after videos circulated on social media showing troops hurling captured IS suspects off a high wall in Mosul and then shooting their bodies.

Some of the most recent evidence surfaced after the prime minister declared victory last week, including a video showing a soldier shooting an unarmed man on his knees.

Abadi's acknowledgement came as Human Rights Watch said international observers found an execution site in west Mosul and it has other evidence showing Iraqi forces wantonly killed men as they fled the city at the end of the battle to retake Mosul.

The findings were included in a report that calls on the Iraqi government to investigate murder, torture and other war crimes by security forces and to hold them accountable.

The rights group said Wednesday Abadi has not investigated the wrongdoing as promised nor has any soldier been held accountable.

"He is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he's promised to liberate," said Human Rights Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson.

"Abadi's victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces," Whitson added.

The rights group also accused Iraqi forces of forcing the relocation of dozens of children and women with alleged ties to IS to a tent camp near the Old City that authorities describe as a "rehabilitation camp."

News coverage of developments in west Mosul has been limited since July 10 when the Iraqi military banned media access to the area.

Iraqi forces regained control of Mosul after IS dominated the city for three years.

Iraqi Kurds Forcing Yazidis Who Oppose Independence to Move
Assyrian International News Agency

By Edwin Mora
July 22, 2017

Some activists claim northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region is removing members of the Yazidi minority group for joining the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or publicly opposing the upcoming independence referendum.

The PMF, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Hashd al-Shaabi, is a Baghdad-sanctioned umbrella group made up mainly of Iran-allied Shiite militiamen who have clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga troops in northern Iraq, primarily the Yazidi-majority towns Sinjar (or Shingal) and Bashiqa.

PMF forces have promised to put the Yazidis back in control of the Iraqi areas they controlled before being invaded and devastated by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Many Yazidis, also spelled Yezidi, fled to the to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled territory in Iraq following a brutal ISIS genocide campaign that devastated their community.

Mirza Ismail, the chairman of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization International, declared, "The KRG is doing its best to get rid of all those Yezidis who voice opposition to the independence referendum ... the Yezidis are being forced to leave or to vote KRG at the upcoming referendum."

"The KRG started kicking the Yezidis out of its region in Northern Iraq more than a year ago. However, at the beginning were individual cases of the Yezidis' political activists; then followed the Yezidi human rights activists; and now the KRG is kicking out the Yezidis in groups -- those who joined-up with the Popular Mobilization Force to liberate their Yezidi regions from ISIS," added Ismail, who has accused the KRG of betraying the Yazidis by taking their heavy weapons before ISIS invaded Sinjar in August 2014.

Meanwhile, other Yazidis have expressed support for Kurdish independence, particularly supporters of Haider Shasho, who founded the Yazidi Democratic Party that has been recognized by both the KRG and Baghdad.

The KRG did not respond to Breitbart News's requests for comment.

In Iraq, the Yazidi-majority are located in the country's Nineveh province, right outside of the KRG territory.

After liberating Sinjar from ISIS, Kurds claimed some of that territory as being part of the KRG, prompting some Yazidis to accuse them of stealing their land.

"The leader of the Yezidi party [Shasho] said that Shingal and other Yezidi areas must remain part of the Kurdistan Region and called on Erbil to include Shingal in the upcoming September referendum," notes the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

Yazidi activists in the United States and Iraqi Kurdistan told Breitbart News the KRG has ordered its internal police force Asayish to remove anti-independence and pro-PMU Yazidis.

"The KRG gives Yazidis 24 hours to leave," said Nayis Sameer Abdullah, an Iraq-based activist, adding, "Yazidis in Kurdistan are not free to express their opinion."

However, Ismail notes that the time the KRG is giving the Yazidis to leave Kurdistan varies on a case-by-case basis. Some people are being told to leave within a few hours while others are immediately kicked out, he proclaimed.

"There are also family groups who are given few days to leave the KRG region," he continued. "The Asayish personnel would visit those families and tell them 'You have a few days, if you put pressure on your man/men to leave the Popular Mobilization Force and come join-up the KRG peshmergas,' you can stay here in the Kurdistan region and if you cannot do this, then you have to leave immediately!"

"Anyone who does not support independence referendum must leave Kurdistan, and anyone who stays will say yes to the referendum by force," Sufyan Waheed Hammo, a spokesman for the Yezidi Human Rights Organization International, told Breitbart News from Iraq.

Hammo claims he has been detained by the KRG in the past for his efforts to help other Yazidis.

He also told Breitbart News many Yazidis do not support Kurdish independence in Iraq.

Ismail added that the Yazidis who do back Kurdish independence do it for self-serving political reasons, fear, or large amounts of money. Baghdad has come out against the referendum vote, expected later this year.

The United States does consider the KRG one of its most effective partners against ISIS. Iraqi Kurdistan has given sanctuary to many members of Iraq's minority community, including Yazidis and Christians, who have been victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS.

Nevertheless, when asked what message he had for the U.S. government, Hammo said, "My message to President Donald Trump is if you do not rescue us, the Muslim's will kill all of us."

Baghdad has come out against the KRG referendum, which is expected to succeed.

Yazidi survivor of Islamic State in Knesset: Recognize our genocide
The Times of Israel

By Marissa Newman
July 24, 2017

A Yazidi survivor of Islamic State captivity urged the Knesset on Monday to recognize the terror organization's crimes against Iraq's Yazidi minority as a genocide, and an opposition lawmaker pledged to seek official Israeli recognition through Knesset legislation.

In a gathering in Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, 24, who was abducted by the Islamic State into sex slavery when jihadis overran northern Iraq in August 2014, somberly appealed to the Jewish state to formally acknowledge the atrocities.

"My visit here today is to ask you to recognize the genocide being committed against my people, in light of our peoples' common history of genocide," she told the meeting, co-hosted by Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, who heads the Knesset Lobby for Strengthening Relations between the State of Israel and the Kurdish people; the IsraAID organization; and the Israel office of the Society for International Development (SID).

"The Jews and the Yazidis share a common history of genocide that has shaped the identity of our peoples, but we must transform our pain into action. I respect how you rebuilt a global Jewish community in the wake of genocide. This is a journey that lies ahead of my community," Murad added in Arabic, speaking through an interpreter.

In August 2014, two months after sweeping across Iraq's Sunni heartland, IS jihadists made a second push into an area that had been under Kurdish security control. Thousands of Yazidi men were massacred when the jihadis attacked the town of Sinjar and thousands of women and girls were kidnapped and enslaved. Mass graves have since been unearthed in the region.

Yazidi community leaders say up to 3,000 Yazidi women may still be in the hands of the jihadis, across the "caliphate" they proclaimed more than two years ago over parts of Iraq and Syria.

The Kurdish-speaking minority is neither Arab nor Muslim and is mostly based around Sinjar Mountain, between the city of Mosul and the Syrian border. It practices its own religion, a unique blend of faiths that is rooted in Zoroastrianism, but borrows from Islam, Christianity and other beliefs.

The UN has called the massacres a genocide, arguing that IS had planned them and then intentionally separated men from women to prevent Yazidi children from being born. The United States House of Representatives in March 2016 unanimously passed a motion declaring the mass killings a genocide, followed by the Scottish parliament weeks later, the British House of Commons in April 2016, Canada in October 2016, and the French National Assembly in December of that year.

Speaking at the event, held during the last week of the Knesset session, before a three-month break, Zionist Union MK Svetlova said she would bring her bill to recognize the Yazidi genocide to a Knesset vote in November, when the parliament reconvenes.

The bill calls on Israel to recognize the massacres as a genocide and mark the event annually on August 3, and recommends the education minister adopt curricula on the atrocities and the prime minister convene an official memorial. As of now, there is only one coalition MK signed on to the bill, Likud MK Yehudah Glick, alongside eight opposition members.

Svetlova, however, was optimistic the coalition could be persuaded to support the recognition, which she warned was still in its "very initial stages."

"It's being discussed right now in the Foreign Ministry," she told The Times of Israel after the meeting. "In principle, we were told there is no problem with the law. Now, does that mean [the coalition's] automatic support? It's very difficult for me to say. I very much hope so. There is no reason for the coalition to oppose something so natural and obvious."

During the meeting, Svetlova argued that Israel has a special obligation for recognition, "as a people, a nation, that experienced a terrible Holocaust."

"'Never again' is a call to action. It's an action that should unify all of humanity who remember the Holocaust," she told the gathering.

"Three years have passed, and we have yet to hear a single official statement from the government of Israel. I think this is a disgrace, and from here I certainly call on our government to open their eyes," said Svetlova.

While the session was attended by opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir, no coalition members were among the audience, after deputy minister Michael Oren, who was slated to speak, could not attend.

Though a UN goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking, Murad, the Yazidi woman, castigated the United Nations for its unwillingness to pursue war crimes charges against the Islamic State.

"Despite various independent reports that have found evidence of an ongoing genocide, and despite repeatedly asking the United Nations to hold ISIS perpetrators accountable, the global community has not responded," she said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State. "The UN has not taken any action to establish a mechanism to prosecute ISIS for their crimes."

In April 2015, the International Criminal Court ruled out prosecuting the Islamic State, as neither Iraq nor Syria were parties of the Rome Statute that gives the body jurisdiction over those countries.

In her address, Murad referred briefly to the siege of Sinjar, which left her mother and six of her brothers dead.

"They surrounded more than 200,000 fleeing Yazidis on Mount Sinjar, without food, water or shelter. Many of my people perished on the mountain," she said.

"They also systematically abducted thousands of women and children including myself. Women and girls were enslaved, trafficked, and forcibly converted. Boys were indoctrinated with ISIS ideology and trained as fighters. Despite some areas having been liberated from ISIS, the genocide continues today."

Murad, who now lives in Germany, managed to flee and has since engaged in advocacy work for her people. In 2016, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

"We Yazidis are a peaceful people," she said. "Never in our 5,000-year history have we fought and killed others. But our peacefulness has not served us well. We have faced 74 pogroms, often motivated by extreme interpretations of Islam. And I'm afraid this genocide, the one that continues today, will be completed if we are not able to return to our homeland."

Iraq: US-Trained Forces Linked to Mosul War Crimes
Human Rights Watch

July 27, 2017

An Iraqi army division trained by the United States government allegedly executed several dozen prisoners in Mosul's Old City, Human Rights Watch said today. Two international observers detailed the summary killings of four people by the Iraqi army's 16th Division in mid-July 2017, and saw evidence that the unit had executed many more people, including a boy.

The US government should suspend all assistance and support to the 16th Division pending Iraq's full investigation of the allegations and appropriate prosecutions, Human Rights Watch said. Under the "Leahy Law," the US is prohibited from providing military assistance to any unit of foreign security forces if there is credible evidence that the unit has committed gross violations of human rights and no "effective measures" are being taken to bring those responsible to justice.

"The US government should make sure it is no longer providing assistance to the Iraqi unit responsible for this spate of executions but also suspend any plans for future assistance until these atrocities have been properly investigated," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Given the widespread abuses by Iraqi forces and the government's abysmal record on accountability, the US should take a hard look at its involvement with Iraqi forces."

Two international observers independently told Human Rights Watch that on a day in mid-July at about 10 a.m. in Mosul's Old City, they saw a group of Iraqi soldiers who identified themselves as members of the 16th Division lead four naked men down an alleyway, after which they heard multiple gunshots. The observers said other soldiers standing in the street told them that the four men were Islamic State (also known as ISIS) fighters.

The observers said that they had been in the area throughout the morning and witnessed no fighting or gunfire in the area. One said they saw the soldiers beat the four men with their rifle butts before leading them away. They said they photographed the incident but a commander later took their camera and deleted the pictures, then ushered them into a nearby building. While they were inside, they heard gunshots. An officer then came in and told the observer to leave the area.

One of the observers said that as they were leaving the area, they saw through the doorway of a damaged house about 20 meters down the street the bodies of a number of naked men lying in the doorway. They said one of the dead men was lying with his hands behind his back and appeared to have been handcuffed, and there was a rope around his legs. The observer returned the next day and photographed three naked bodies and a mattress that appeared to cover additional bodies that they had seen the previous day, and shared the photo with Human Rights Watch.

The observer said the damaged building was adjacent to a building used by the 16th Division as a base in the area. Both observers said that the only Iraqi armed forces they saw while they were in the area were from the 16th Division.

US Defense Department officials have said that they trained and provided support to the Iraqi 16th Division. In November 2015, Maj. Michael Hamilton, an officer of the 82nd Airborne Division, which took a lead in training Iraqi units, told Breaking Defense, an online defense magazine, that, "The 16th Division…was a new unit when we first came in country" and that the 82nd Airborne guided them from "rudimentary training" all the way through operations in Ramadi. He added that, "they were probably the most successful Iraqi army unit participating in that operation." Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm whether US training and support is ongoing.

The Iraqi 16th Division has been implicated in other extrajudicial executions. On the same day they saw the four men being led away, both observers saw a body lying on the rubble near the division's base that appeared to be of a boy about 14. Photos of the body, which Human Rights Watch examined, seem to show a deceased male wearing only underwear, with a gunshot wound to his head and his hands bound by a plastic zip tie. A soldier from the 16th Division told one observer that his fellow soldiers had recently executed the boy because he had been an ISIS fighter.

The next day, two 16th Division soldiers escorted one observer through an area of rubble along the Tigris River and showed the observer the severed head of what the soldiers said was an American female ISIS sniper whom they had decapitated. It was not clear whether they decapitated her alive or after her death. The soldiers then led the observer to a nearby area and showed the observer at least 25 bodies lying on mounds of rubble, and bragged that these were ISIS fighters whom they and their fellow soldiers had executed.

The observer shared photos of the severed head and the bodies with Human Rights Watch.

One of the observers said they saw several bulldozers in the area running over and burying bodies under rubble. The soldiers told them they were aiming to block the exits of any underground tunnels where ISIS fighters might still be hiding.

Throughout the military operation to retake Mosul, Human Rights Watch has documented Iraqi forces detaining and holding at least 1,200 men and boys in inhumane conditions without charge, and in some cases torturing and executing them under the guise of screening them for ISIS-affiliation. In the final weeks of the Mosul operation, Human Rights Watch has reported on executions of suspected ISIS affiliates in and around Mosul's Old City, including the discovery of a mass execution site.

Under the "Leahy Law," the US government is required to suspend assistance to the 16th Division until the Iraqi government takes three steps, which are often known as "remediation components": impartial and thorough investigations; impartial and thorough prosecutions or administrative actions, as appropriate; and proportional sentencing or comparable administrative actions.

Despite acknowledging that Iraqi forces committed violations of the laws of war during the Mosul operation and promising to punish those responsible, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held any soldiers accountable for executing, torturing, and abusing civilians or captured fighters.

Iraqi criminal justice authorities should investigate all alleged crimes, including unlawful killings and mutilation of corpses, by any party in the conflict in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner, up to the highest levels of responsibility. Those found criminally responsible should be appropriately prosecuted. Extrajudicial executions and torture during an armed conflict are war crimes. Despoiling dead bodies and other outrages on personal dignity are violations of the laws of armed conflict and may amount to war crimes.

"The US military should find out why a force that it trained and supported is committing ghastly war crimes," Whitson said. "US taxpayer dollars should be helping to curtail abuses, not enable them."

IS cuts ears of 23 elements who fled battles in Western Nineveh
Iraqi News

By Elwy Elmanzalawy
July 27, 2017

The Islamic State has cut the ears of 23 of its elements over charges of "cowardice" and leaving the fighting fronts, Alsumaria News reported on Thursday.

A local source told Alsumaria that a judge of the militant group's so-called sharia court issued a decision to cut the ears of 23 IS elements who fled the battles west of Nineveh governorate, noting that the punished elements were local residents.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source added that the group executed the judgment in a court in the town of Tal Afar (55km west of Nineveh). The group cut the upper part of the elements' ears before taking them to prison.

Tal Afar, held by IS since 2014, has become the group's most outstanding haven in Nineveh after militants lost their largest bastion, Mosul, to Iraqi forces earlier this month.

Since Iraqi government forces launched offensives to retake areas held by IS in 2014, the group has reportedly imposed various punishments on members whom they believed were delinquent on the battlefield.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi government declared victory over IS in Mosul, ending nearly nine months of battles, and said recently that Tal Afar would be the next target.

NIA court sentences ISIS terrorist to 5 years RI
The Statesman

By Bhawani Negi
July 27, 2017

In a first such case, wherein an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist admitted to his guilt before the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Special Court of NIA in Himachal Pradesh in Shimla on Thursday convicted and sentenced Abid Khan to five years rigorous imprisonment (RI).

He was also fined of Rs 50,000. The court took a lenient view because of age and as he pleaded guilty to all the allegations. He told the court that wanted to join the mainstream and serve the country.

The accused did not opt to defend himself and trial got completed in just around 50 days. This was also a first case of NIA in Himachal Pradesh.

NIA Senior Public Prosecutor Surinder Singh submitted before the court that the 23-year-old Abid Khan was living as a Christian in Kullu when arrested.

Surinder Singh further told the court that Abid was a member of terrorist organisation and connected to Jund-ul-Khalifa-Fil-Hind, which is further working on the ideology of ISIS, international Jihadi terrorist organisation, with a motive to establish a Caliphate by indulging in terrorist activities across different countries in the world including India.

He was charge-sheeted for the conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and owing allegiance to banned terrorist organisation ISIS.

Kullu police had on December 17, 2016, arrested Paul, a Christian who was residing in Believers Church, Banjar, Sidwan, Kullu in Himachal Pradesh.

Further inquiry after verifying from Aadhar Card and identity, revealed that he was Abid Khan, a resident of Bengaluru, Karnataka.

On January 19, 2017, the NIA took over the case.

The investigation unearthed the conspiracy hatched by Abid Khan and his associates to train and motivate Muslim youths to carry out terrorist activities in India and also to shift them to countries like Syria, Iraq.

During investigation, Khan disclosed that Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) was an organisation, whose objective was to resume the Islamic way of life by establishing an Islamic state that executes the systems of Islam.

Khan on the request of engineering students of the civil branch of HKBK Engineering College, Bengluru taught them Arabic, as per the chargesheet. During that period, Khan used to talk about Kashmir political scenario and other vulnerable issues and gradually turned the discussions towards the Islamic world, middle-east, Syria and ISIS.

To hide and evade his arrest, he took shelter in a church, All Nations Church, located at Hormar, Agre Ring Road Signal, Bengaluru with the help of a dentist in January, 2016. Disclosing about his past he expressed his desire to seek atonement.

Khan had an impression that if he went for Baptism, All Nations Church would extend all help to send him abroad. Convinced about his faith in Lord Jesus, he was baptized on March 17, 2016.

He also confided that he had befriended a girl from Indonesia through a chat group. But he was not sent to Indonesia as it was felt that he was new in the Christian faith.

Khan convinced them that he was not comfortable of staying in Bengaluru or any other place in India because he feared that he would be tracked soon if he stayed for a longer time.

With the help the Church, Khan was sent to Sri Lanka between March 21 to April 18 in 2016 and later shifted to Kullu - Manali in HP where he sought shelter in the local church.

Attempt to prosecute Blair over Iraq fails in London High Court

By Estelle Shirbon
July 31, 2017

A British court on Monday rejected an attempt by a former Iraqi general to bring a private prosecution against former Prime Minister Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Blair's decision to join the U.S.-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein has tainted the legacy of his 10 years in office, and his critics in Britain and Iraq have been calling for him to face criminal action for years.

Iraqi General Abdel Waheed Shannan al Rabbat has been trying to bring a private prosecution against Blair and two of his former senior ministers for what his lawyers described as the crime of aggression.

But the High Court on Monday refused permission for a judicial review of an earlier ruling by a lower court that the action could not go ahead as there was no such crime under the law of England and Wales.

The general's lawyers had argued that the earlier ruling, delivered in November last year, was based on an incorrect premise and that it should be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

But two senior High Court judges rejected their arguments, saying they had no prospect of success in the Supreme Court and therefore the judicial review should not be authorized.

The judges accepted that there was a crime of aggression under international law, but said there was no such crime under domestic law, which meant a prosecution for that crime could not take place in domestic courts.

Blair and the two other targets of the action, former foreign affairs minister Jack Straw and former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, have taken no part in the legal proceedings.

Blair's reputation has been severely damaged in the eyes of many Britons by his unpopular decision to go to war in Iraq and by the chaos and conflict that have continued to plague that country since.

In a scathing report on Britain's role in Iraq published last year, a seven-year inquiry described a catalogue of failures in Blair's justification, planning and handling of the war.

Eight months before the 2003 invasion, Blair told then U.S. President George W. Bush "I will be with you, whatever", eventually sending 45,000 British troops into battle when peace options had not been exhausted, the inquiry said.

Blair has always denied lying to parliament and to the British people when he made the case for going to war, and continues to argue that the world is a better and safer place as a result of the toppling of Saddam.

"I did not mislead this country. There were no lies, there was no deceit, there was no deception," the former prime minister said after the inquiry published its report.

[back to contents]


After Syria sarin attack, doctors train to treat chemical weapons victims

By Dominic Evans
July 21, 2017

Wearing chemical suits and gasmasks, Syrian doctors rush to a house where white smoke wafts over a group of people choking and coughing, some calling out for help.

It is a training exercise but the scenario is all too real for many of the doctors, who treated victims of a chemical attack three months ago and suffered symptoms themselves after being contaminated by a deadly nerve agent.

Around 100 people were killed in the sarin gas attack on the opposition-held northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, the international chemical weapons watchdog OPCW said. Two hundred people needed treatment, including medical staff.

The United States and Western allies blamed the Syrian government for the attack - an accusation President Bashar al-Assad dismissed as "fabrication" - and launched cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air force base in response.

The doctors hope the week-long course in southern Turkey organized by the World Health Organization, will leave them better prepared and better protected for any future attack.

It is the most intensive training on chemical warfare provided to Syrian medical staff, who have also treated patients for chlorine gas attacks during Syria's brutal six-year war.

Osama Darwish, a doctor at Maarat al-Numan hospital around 20 km (nearly 15 miles) north of Khan Sheikhoun, said his colleagues were overwhelmed when around 100 victims of the April sarin attack started to be brought in.

"That was the first (nerve agent) case that we had dealt with. We had treated for chlorine, but the symptoms of chlorine are different. They were very severe," he said.

"The hospital wasn't prepared. We didn't have the equipment or the kit for medical teams to protect themselves," Darwish said during a break in training, resting in the shade of a Turkish fire service truck brought in for the exercise.

Like several of his colleagues responding to the April attack, Darwish himself soon started feeling symptoms, most likely through traces of nerve agent on the bodies and clothes of victims brought in for treatment.

"Some (cases) were light but some were heavy and even went to intensive care. Thank God, my symptoms were light - choking and itching," he said.

For other medics the consequences could have been more severe. The OPCW report released three weeks ago said an ambulance went missing for two hours - the driver passed out shortly after picking up patients at Khan Sheikhoun.

The course, near southern Turkey's Gaziantep city, taught medics how to prioritize treatment for the most severely affected victims and protect themselves - using chemical suits and stripping and hosing down all unprotected victims.

Sarin and other nerve agents are banned under international law. The Syrian government said it gave up its stockpile of chemical weapons for destruction after a 2013 sarin attack near Damascus which killed hundreds of people.

Since then, a joint United Nations and OPCW investigation has declared Syrian government forces responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015. It has also said Islamic State militants used mustard gas.

One of the trainers, a veteran of two decades of regional conflict, said the scale of violence in Syria's war sometimes overwhelmed even the most experienced medics.

"I can remember many situations we as doctors, as surgeons inside Syria when we see the severity of injuries, sometimes we cried," WHO technical officer Mohammed Elgazzar said. "Really, we cried when we have seen such kind of injury."

Top general confirms end to secret U.S. program in Syria

By Ali Watkins
July 21, 2017

U.S. Special Operations Commander Tony Thomas confirmed Friday that the U.S. had ended its covert program aiding rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the decision was made after assessing the years-long operation's capabilities and by no means an effort to curry favor with Assad's chief backer, Moscow.

"At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, absolutely not a sop to the Russians," Thomas said at the Aspen Security Forum. "It was, I think, based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we're trying to accomplish, the viability going forward ... tough, tough decision."

It's unclear whether Thomas intended to confirm either the existence or the end of the program, which, as a covert operation, U.S. officials to not publicly acknowledge. The comments appeared to take the CIA — which declined to comment — by surprise.

Thomas almost immediately tried to walk back his comments after leaving the stage, telling reporters he hadn't confirmed anything and was referring only to "public reporting."

Reports surfaced earlier this week that the Trump administration had decided to end the 2013 Obama-led program, in which the CIA armed and trained various rebel groups in Syria and the region who were fighting against Assad in the country's years-long civil war. Its end had not been officially confirmed before Friday.

"It is so much more complex than even I can describe, that's not necessarily an organization that I've been affiliated with but a sister, parallel activity that had a tough, and some would argue, impossible mission based on the approach we took," Thomas said of the CIA and its program during his remarks.

The controversial Syria operation — which began after Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people — has seen mixed results, and has been criticized over the years for a swath of reasons. Officials say the program has helped rebel factions gain significant footholds and territory in Syria.

But critics claim the United States does not adequately vet the groups it arms and trains, potentially putting U.S. weapons into the hands of extremist groups in the region. Still others say the program doesn't go far enough in helping to oust Assad, who has been accused of a range of wartime atrocities.

The U.S. is currently waging an air campaign with allies in Syria against the Islamic State extremist group, along with a Pentagon-run operation that is providing guns and training to Kurdish forces that are also fighting ISIS.

The Washington Post reported Trump had decided to end the program a month ago, which some officials suggested was an attempt to curry favor with the Kremlin, Assad's most powerful and aggressive ally.

Hezbollah-Syrian offensive launched against border militants
BBC News

July 21, 2017

Syrian troops and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies have launched a long-anticipated offensive against militants in the border area, officials say.

Pro-Hezbollah media said the forces were attacking the Jroud Arsal area and Qalamoun mountains from two directions.

The area is home to about 1,000 militants, including Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda's former affiliate.

The operation has raised fears for the safety of thousands of Syrian refugees around nearby Arsal in Lebanon.

Earlier this week, Lebanon's prime minister said the army was preparing its own offensive against militants, who have used Arsal's refugee camps as a safe haven.

Last month, five militants blew themselves up as troops searched camps for suspects and weapons. A young girl was killed and three soldiers wounded by the blasts.

'Refugees flee'

Hezbollah-affiliated media said the operation to flush out "armed terrorists" would carry on indefinitely.

It said Syrian forces and Hezbollah shelled the area, then advanced from Flita on the Syrian side of the border and from the south of Arsal, on the Lebanese side.

Television pictures showed columns of smoke rising as Hezbollah fired artillery towards hills where the militants are based.

Hundreds of militants belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly al-Qaeda's official branch in Syria, are believed to be in Jroud Arsal, and a similar number of IS fighters are thought to be in a neighbouring area.

Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed Lebanese security source as saying refugees were fleeing towards Arsal.

The area around Arsal is home to tens of thousands of refugees from the war in Syria. The influx has heightened sectarian tensions inside Lebanon since the conflict began in 2011.

A Sunni enclave surrounded by Shia villages, Arsal was the scene of an attack in 2014, when more than two dozen Lebanese security force members were seized by militants from al-Qaeda and IS who had crossed the border from Syria.

Sixteen have since been released and four killed by their captors.

Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham take control of Syria's Idlib
Al Jazeera

July 23, 2017

Fighters formerly linked to al-Qaeda took control of Idlib in Syria on Sunday after rival rebels withdrew, strengthening their grip on the northwestern city and its province, one of the last beyond regime control.

At the same time a car bomb exploded in Idlib killing 11 people, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

The latest developments come after the armed group Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham, which is dominated by a former al-Qaeda affiliate and known as HTS, agreed a ceasefire on Friday with Ahrar al-Sham rebels.

"Ahrar al-Sham withdrew from the city of Idlib which is now under the control of Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency.

"Hundreds of rebels left the city aboard dozens of vehicles heading towards southern Idlib province," he said.

The truce ended a week of fierce fighting between HTS and Ahrar al-Sham, which is backed by Turkey and some Gulf countries, that killed at least 92 people including 15 civilians, the Observatory said.

Abdel Rahman said the HTS set up checkpoints across the northwestern city.

The fall of the city and provincial capital is symbolic.

It comes after HTS captured in a bloodless takeover "more than 31 towns and villages" across Idlib province over the past two days, the monitor said.

Former allies

The HTS is dominated by the Fateh al-Sham faction, which was previously known as al-Nusra Front before renouncing its ties to al-Qaeda.

The HTS and Ahrar al-Sham were once allies and fought alongside each other to capture most of Idlib province from Syrian government forces in 2015.

The truce they agreed to on Friday calls for the release by both sides of prisoners and the "withdrawal of armed groups from the Bab al-Hawa" border crossing with Turkey.

Bab al-Hawa, which had been controlled by Ahrar al-Sham, would be handed over to civilian administration, it said.

Abdel Rahman said the presence of Ahrar al-Sham rebels had been greatly diminished in Idlib province, which they once dominated. Rebels were left only in Ariha town and part of Jabal al-Zawiya in the southeast.

Ahrar al-Sham has also been hit by the defection of hundreds of its fighters to HTS.

Syria's conflict erupted in mid-March 2011 with peaceful anti-government protests that were brutally repressed by the government.

It quickly evolved into a war involving local, regional and international players on a multitude of fronts, which has killed more than 330,00 people and displaced millions from their homes.

Syria truce crumbles as air raids hit eastern Ghouta
Al Jazeera

July 23, 2017

Syrian government forces have carried out several air attacks in the eastern Ghouta area outside of Damascus, a day after the Syrian military declared a cessation of hostilities in the area, according to a UK-based monitor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Saturday had been relatively calm after the ceasefire took effect with isolated incidents of shellfire.

But on Sunday, six air attacks hit the towns of Douma and Ain Terma in rebel-held eastern Ghouta, it said.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Jamjoon, reporting from Gaziantep, on the Turkey-Syria border, said the Syrian military released a statement saying that the spirit of the agreement had first been breached by Jaish al-Islam - an armed opposition group.

"This goes to show how difficult it is to try to make these agreements," he said.

"The cessation of hostilities was signed yesterday, but less than 24 hours later the situation is in tatters."

Syria's military declared a "cessation of fighting activities" starting at noon on Saturday in besieged eastern Ghouta.

A statement from the Cairo-based political opposition movement Al-Ghad said the agreement had been reached in Cairo, sponsored by Egypt and Russia and with the involvement of mainstream rebel groups.

There was to be a full ceasefire in eastern Ghouta; no government forces would enter the area and aid would be allowed in, it said.

Numerous attempts at a lasting ceasefire in western Syria, where rebels have lost ground to government forces and their allies over the last year, have collapsed with both sides trading the blame.

The United States, Russia and Jordan reached a ceasefire and "de-escalation agreement" for southwestern Syria this month, which has reduced violence. That agreement did not include eastern Ghouta.

Will Syria's war criminals be let off the hook?
BBC News

By Imogen Foulkes
July 25, 2017

For six years, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria has been painstakingly gathering information about possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict.

The investigators have produced 13 reports, the evidence in each is harrowing. Villages destroyed, crops burnt, wells poisoned, torture, rape, starvation sieges, mass bombing of civilians, and what only a decade ago might have been unthinkable - chemical weapons.

There is no doubt that war crimes have been committed by all sides, the commission says. In each report there is a demand for "accountability" - that no-one should be allowed to commit such horrific acts and get away with it.

"This would be incredible, a scandal," says commission member Carla Del Ponte, who describes the violations in Syria as by far the worst she has ever come across. "But nothing happens, only words, words, and more words."

Ms Del Ponte, as a former prosecutor at the tribunal for Yugoslavia, and the woman who put Slobodan Milosevic in the dock, knows how to bring war criminals to book.

While the Syria commission has no power to prosecute, what it does have is a vast amount of evidence, and a confidential list of names, thought to include figures at the very top of the Syrian government and military.

To bring those individuals (including, Ms Del Ponte thinks, President Assad) to court, the UN Security Council would have to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. And throughout the Syria conflict, the Security Council has been divided, with Russia and China in particular resisting what they regard as unnecessary interference in Syria's problems.

Now, though, the United Nations, under new Secretary General Antonio Guterres, appears to be flexing its muscles.

A new body has been set up, called, rather dryly, the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism or IIIM, to sift the evidence, build cases, and pass them to any court that could have jurisdiction. Some European countries are already opening cases.

At its head is an experienced French judge, Catherine Marchi-Uhel, who has worked on the tribunal for former Yugoslavia, and the Extraordinary Courts of Cambodia, which prosecuted the Khmer Rouge.

"This gives me hope that something is moving," says Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima, a Swiss organisation that works to ensure justice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"I didn't even think this body would be set up… this is proof [the UN] is serious."

Mr Werner's own organisation has already built cases against suspected war criminals from Sierra Leone and Liberia, and his work with victims has shown him, he says, that "the eagerness for justice is immense".

One of his colleagues, Antonya Tioulong, knows personally just how important this can be. Her sister and brother-in-law were tortured and murdered in Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 detention centre during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

In the 1990s, almost two decades after her sister's death, Antonya was able to learn what had happened to her, and she tried to bring a case in the French courts against the Khmer Rouge officers who had run S-21. It was rejected.

"I felt powerless. There was no sign, either, of an international tribunal. I wondered, 'Were the two million victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide so unimportant in the eyes of the world that the criminals did not need to be judged?'"

Antonya had to wait until 2008, when an international tribunal was finally set up. The men who murdered her sister were at last convicted.

She was comforted not just by the verdict, but by the fact that the tribunal was public.

"Thousands of people came from all over the world to attend the hearings in person, showing their desire to understand what happened."

But many thousands of victims still wait. In the Swiss capital, Berne, the Red Cross Centre for Victims of Torture and War had more than 4,000 consultations in 2016 alone.

"Almost the most important thing is that they have the space and time to talk," says psychologist Carola Smolenski. "We have patients from former Yugoslavia who still suffer chronically from their experiences."

For many of these patients, however, there may never be a public tribunal where perpetrators are convicted, and the suffering of their victims formally recognised in a court of law.

Instead, the Red Cross Centre has included a form of "validation" process as part of the therapy.

"We will prepare [together with the patient] a detailed chronological report," says Carola Smolenski. "We recognise the experience together, and we sign it as witnesses."

"It is important that they can say, 'That is my story, and it is being taken seriously.'"

For the millions of Syrians waiting in refugee camps, or trapped in besieged cities, peace cannot come soon enough. But millions of Syrians, too, are waiting to know the fate of loved ones who disappeared into Syria's prisons, or vanished in the heat of battle.

In Geneva, the UN peace process is inching along. In the talks about Syria in the Kazakh capital, Astana, the Russians, Turks, and Iranians are working to negotiate "de-escalation zones" to reduce the violence.

But in neither the Geneva process nor Astana is there much talk of accountability for the undoubtedly massive number of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is unclear whether the newly formed IIIM has a role in the peace process at all.

Could this be because leaders, on all sides of Syria's conflict, might not be motivated to reach a peace deal if they thought a war crimes trial would be their reward?

"You might have put your finger on it," says one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The idea that achieving peace, or at least an absence of war, should take priority over justice is often advanced during tricky diplomatic negotiations.

Some also suggest that war crimes tribunals can sow the seeds of future discord, particularly if victims are from one ethnic group and perpetrators from another.

Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu famously did not want a tribunal for South Africa, pushing instead for a truth and reconciliation process, in which the accused would acknowledge their crimes but also be forgiven by their victims.

The UN's human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, agrees that creating sustainable peace is a complex process, but insists that the authors of Syria's suffering must be formally prosecuted.

"In Syria, there will never be peace if you don't put the victims at the centre of your effort," he says.

"You can have the most finely crafted agreement, but if victims don't feel justice, then it is worthless, a pointless exercise. There has to be an accounting, the central authors must be brought to book."

Nevertheless, he sees prosecutions as only part of the process.

"At a fundamental level, we will never have permanent peace if we don't deal with unresolved issues."

This means, he says, all sides in a conflict recognising their conduct, and showing "contrition".

And there, Mr Hussein says, society must play its role.

During the German trials after World War Two, he points out, there were 7,000 convictions, but few of those convicted showed any remorse.

The push for contrition and remorse came later, through work by German historians, school teachers, and post-War politicians.

Alain Werner agrees that, in view of the scale of the atrocities in Syria, "it is very difficult to think there will be no justice".

But, he adds, because the number of cases is "staggering", justice is unlikely to be swift. "Syria could take 40 years… even 100 years to investigate."

UN struggles to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria
Al Jazeera

July 27, 2017

The United Nations has delivered aid to only a few hard-to-reach areas in Syria and not a single besieged location this month, a senior UN humanitarian official said on Thursday.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller told the UN Security Council in a video briefing from Amman, Jordan, that there have been no UN aid convoys to besieged areas in July and just one a week to hard-to-reach areas, meaning just over 120,000 people got help this month.

Mueller blamed the Syrian government, armed groups, insecurity and fighting.

Other UN partners delivered aid to some hard-to-reach areas, where an estimated four million people live. The UN says 540,000 people in 11 locations are still under siege, mostly by Assad's forces.

Mueller said the UN continues to see a reduction in violence in some areas since Russia and Iran, both supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels fighting Syrian government forces, agreed on a plan in May to establish four "de-escalation" zones in Syria.

But "despite reductions in violence, we have not been able to noticeably increase our reach," she said.

In a letter to the Security Council, ambassadors from 12 Western and Arab nations and the European Union, who attend weekly meetings in Geneva on humanitarian aid to Syria, said they remain "extremely concerned" that the UN is being excluded from sending convoys to besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

"This trend has worsened significantly in recent months," said the letter, obtained by The Associated Press.

"Only two UN supported convoys have been able to access territory besieged by the Syrian authorities since April."

The ambassadors urged the Security Council to underline to Syria its obligation under international law to allow humanitarian aid deliveries - and to take action given its pledge to "take further steps in the case of non-compliance".

Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters: "We're not asking for humanitarian access as a favour. We're asking for it because it's a legal and moral obligation. It's an obligation under successive Security Council resolutions."

Al Jazeera's Rosalind Jordan, reporting from New York, said that a new UN resolution is highly unlikely, according to China's UN ambassador Liu Jieyi, who is acting president of the Security Council.

"[He] told reporters that members of the council are very worried about the humanitarian situation in Syria and that they're looking for a way to try to make it easier for humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine to actually get to the people who need it, but there aren't any new initiatives on the table," said Jordan.

"There are already a number of resolutions calling for increased aid deliveries."

Over 200,000 have fled Syria's Raqqa since April 1

Mueller said that over 200,000 civilians had fled their homes in Syria around Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, since April 1, including over 30,000 displaced just this month as US-backed Syrian fighters try to expel the group.

Mueller told the UN that "an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people remain inside Raqqa city, which is now encircled, and their situation is perilous - there is no way for them to get out."

For those displaced in Raqqa province, she said humanitarian conditions are very difficult with temperatures now approaching 50 degrees Celsius. The UN also has serious concerns over their protection, particularly over their freedom of movement outside the camps many now live in, she said.

Leaving the city of Raqqa remains "extremely difficult due to the presence of mines and other unexploded ordnance, as well as shelling, sniper activities and airstrikes," Mueller said.

"As military operations continue, our concern is further civilian casualties," she said, especially since fighters from the ISIL group have allegedly used civilians as human shields.

US-backed Syrian fighters have captured almost half of Raqqa from ISIL, but the push into the northern city has slowed due to the large amounts of explosives planted by the armed group.

Mueller said the UN and its partners are ready to support the people of Raqqa as soon as security allows it and they can gain access.

"The health situation, particularly the low availability of trauma care services, is a major concern in view of the intense fighting and shifting front lines," she said. "We continue to engage with relevant parties and actors on the ground ... but a lot more needs to be done."

9,000 Syrians, including jihadists, cross from Lebanon to Syria in ceasefire deal

By Ghazi Balkiz, Sarah Sirgany and Tamara Qiblawi
July 31, 2017

Around 9,000 Syrians including jihadists and their families will cross from Lebanon into Syria as part of a ceasefire deal between a former al Qaeda affiliate and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia said in a statement on Monday.

In exchange, five Hezbollah prisoners held by fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra -- which cut ties with al Qaeda when the group re-branded last year -- will be freed.

Jabhat al-Nusra, now known as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), and ISIS took over large swathes of the Lebanon-Syria border region in 2014.

Hezbollah, together with the Lebanese army, has waged a military campaign to recapture the territory. In recent weeks, Hezbollah says it has regained control of around 95% of the area, culminating in the ceasefire deal, which was agreed last week.

In the first phase of the ceasefire on Sunday, the Lebanese Red Cross said 15 of its ambulances shuttled the remains of militants across the border.

Around 150 buses were stationed at the Lebanese-Syrian border Monday to transport thousands of Syrians to the Syrian regions of Idlib and Qalamoun.

HTS took control of most of Idlib province in mid-July.

The prisoner swap was expected to take place in Aleppo, according to the Hezbollah's TV station Al Manar.

The UN refugee agency, which was not involved in the deal, expressed fears that the swaps would endanger civilians.

"UNHCR believes that conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria," spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled told Reuters on Monday.

Khaled said the UNHCR has been trying to reach refugees in the border region of Arsal to determine whether returns were voluntary.

'Exceptional and well-planned defenses'

On Saturday, Hezbollah took journalists, including CNN reporters, on a tour of the mountainous area that it recaptured from HTS in recent days.

"The enemy was spread in the whole area. In terms of armament, they had everything. [Jabhat al-Nusra] had mortars, missiles and ammo. We used several kinds of maneuvers to liberate the area," a Hezbollah field commander said at a press briefing on site.

The unnamed commander praised the militant group's "exceptional and well-planned defenses."

In an address last week, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said the recaptured territory would be handed over to the Lebanese army "when the battle is over."

The Lebanese army has been primarily engaged in a fight against ISIS positions in the area of Ras Baalbek near the Syrian border.

[back to contents]


Exclusive: Iran Revolutionary Guard finds new route to arm Yemen rebels

By Jonathan Saul
August 1, 2017

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have started using a new route across the Gulf to funnel covert arms shipments to their Houthi allies in Yemen's civil war, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

In March, regional and Western sources told Reuters that Iran was shipping weapons and military advisers to the Houthis either directly to Yemen or via Somalia. This route however risked contact with international naval vessels on patrol in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

For the last six months the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has begun using waters further up the Gulf between Kuwait and Iran as it looks for new ways to beat an embargo on arms shipments to fellow Shi'ites in the Houthi movement, Western and Iranian sources say.

Using this new route, Iranian ships transfer equipment to smaller vessels at the top of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The transhipments take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said.

"Parts of missiles, launchers and drugs are smuggled into Yemen via Kuwaiti waters," said a senior Iranian official. "The route sometimes is used for transferring cash as well."

The official added that "what is especially smuggled recently, or to be precise in the past six months, are parts of missiles that cannot be produced in Yemen".

Cash and drugs can be used to fund Houthi activities, the official said.

Kuwait on Wednesday denied Iran was using its waters to smuggle equipment to Houthi forces in Yemen.

A foreign ministry statement said the country's waters were under the total control of the Kuwaiti navy and coast guard and there were no reports of suspicious movements at sea.

Kuwaiti officials had earlier not responded to questions.

Yemen is more than two years into a civil war pitting the Houthis against the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition. More than 10,000 people have died in fighting and a cholera epidemic has infected more than 300,000 in a country on the brink of famine.

In backing the Houthis against a coalition led by its Sunni enemy Saudi Arabia, Iran is stepping up support for a Shi'ite ally in a war whose outcome could sway the balance of power in the Middle East.

Military Equipment

Efforts to intercept military equipment by the coalition have had limited success, with no reported maritime seizures of weapons or ammunition during 2017 so far and only a few seizures on the main land route from the east of Yemen.

Independent U.N. investigators, who monitor Yemen sanctions, told the Security Council in their latest confidential report, which Reuters has seen, that they continue to investigate potential arms trafficking routes.

They said the United Arab Emirates - which is part of the coalition - had reported 11 attacks since September 2016 against its ground forces by Houthis using drones, or UAVs, armed with explosives.

"Although Houthi-aligned media announced that the Sanaa-based Ministry of Defence could manufacture the UAV, in reality they are assembled from components supplied by an outside source and shipped into Yemen," the report said.

The report added that the Houthis "will eventually deplete their limited stock of missiles." This would force the Houthis to end a campaign of missile attacks against Saudi territory unless they are resupplied from external sources.

An earlier UN report in January said the Houthis needed to replenish stocks of anti-tank guided weapons.

The arms smuggling operation may not turn the tide of the conflict, but it will allow the Houthis receive stable supplies of equipment that is otherwise hard to obtain.

Safe Route

"The volume of the activity, I don't call it a trade, is not very large. But it is a safe route," a second senior Iranian official said.

"Smaller Iranian ports are being used for the activity as major ports might attract attention."

Asked if the IRGC was involved, the second official said: "No activity goes ahead in the Gulf without the IRGC being involved. This activity involves a huge amount of money as well as transferring equipment to Iranian-backed groups in their fight against their enemies."

A third senior Iranian official also confirmed the shipment activity and pointed to IRGC involvement.

The IRGC is Iran's most powerful internal and external security force, with a sophisticated intelligence and surveillance network together with elite units which are playing a key role in the war in Syria in support of the government.

The IRGC declined to comment on the arms shipments and Iranian foreign ministry officials could not immediately be reached.

Houthi officials were also not immediately available for comment but in March a Houthi leader, who declined to be identified, said accusations that Iran was smuggling weapons into Yemen were an attempt to cover up Saudi Arabia's failure to prevail in the war there. A U.S. Navy spokesman said he had no information on the matter.

"(The territorial waters of) Iran, Kuwait and Iraq in the northern Persian Gulf butt up against each other," said Gerry Northwood, of maritime security firm MAST and a former British Royal Navy captain who has commanded warships in the region.

"There is still plenty of room for smugglers to operate. In fact the whole Persian Gulf is a hive of small boat activity. And this is in an area where one man's illegitimate trade is another's legitimate trade."

Hundreds of ships sail through the Bab el-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz every day - waterways which pass along the coasts of Yemen and Iran. Many are small dhows, which are hard to track.

Western shipping and security sources said that since March there had been an increase in suspicious activity involving Iranian-flagged ships in waters near Kuwait.

"Waters around Kuwait are being used by Iranians to funnel ... equipment to Yemen," said an international arms dealer based in the Mediterranean area with knowledge of the matter.

"Consignments are either transferred to other craft, such as small boats, or they are dropped near buoys to be picked up by passing ships."

The arms dealer, who declined to be identified, said there were many coves and deserted bays in neighboring Iraq that also provided opportunities for this type of covert activity.

The Western sources said consignments were transported from smaller Iranian ports across the sea lanes near Kuwait, which is 100 nautical miles from Iran.

To avoid detection, the mainly Iranian-flagged vessels switch off their identification transponders, sometimes for days. They rendezvous with other ships or drop supplies close to buoys, so the consignments can be recovered for onward transport, the sources said.

Al Houthi leaders killed in coalition airstrike in Yemen's Shabwa
Gulf News

By Saeed Al Batati
July 31, 2017

Fighter jets from the Saudi-led coalition have killed a number of Al Houthi field leaders who were holding a meeting at government building in the southern province of Shabwa, local government and security officials said on Monday.

An aide to the governor of Shabwa told Gulf News on Monday afternoon that Al Houthi leaders were inside Civil Status Department in Bayhan town when a fighter jet began bombing it. " The building was completely destroyed and the air strike killed all Al Houthi leaders.

"Witnesses who alerted Gulf News about the incident believed there are no survivors," the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

The Bayhan district is the last Al Houthi bastion in the province of Shabwa.

The official said that a number of ambulances were seen rushing to the targeted building and Al Houthi armed men sealed off roads to Bayhan's main hospital and prevented patients from leaving or visiting the hospital.

"The leaders came from outside the province to inspect military activities in Shabwa," the official said, adding that rebels sent ambulances from Dhamar hospital to transport the dead.

Al Houthi official media said the air strike also killed two journalists who were inside the building.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition entered the Yemen conflict in 2015 after an Al Houthi coup against the legitimate government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi came to power in early 2012 after massive Arab Spring protests ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who ruled Yemen for over 30 years.

He was forced to decamp to the city of Aden after escaping Al Houthi-imposed house arrest after the rebels took over the government in a coup in 2014.

Since then, Hadi shifted government headquarters to Aden from where he has led an offensive to liberate Al Houthi-occupied territories.

With help from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, it has achieved widespread gains in many provinces, but Al Houthi's still control the capital Sana'a and most northern provinces including Hodeidah, Ibb, Mahweet, Yareem, Amran, Baydha and Hajja.

Yemen Government Will Not Let Houthis Keep Hodeidah: Minister

By Sami Aboudi and Richard Balmforth
July 31, 2017

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government will not allow its Houthi foes to keep the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, the information minister said, underlining its intention to remove the vital aid delivery point from the control of the Iran-aligned group.

The United Nations has proposed that Hodeidah, where 80 percent of food imports arrive, should be handed to a neutral party, to smooth the flow of humanitarian relief and prevent the port being engulfed by Yemen's two-year-old war.

The government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi accuses the Houthis of using the port to smuggle in weapons and of collecting custom duties on goods, which they use to finance the war. The Houthis deny this.

"The government will not accept that Houthi control of Hodeidah port continues, or that humanitarian aid is obstructed or that its revenues are used for the military effort while state employees have not been paid for 10 months," the minister, Muammar al-Iryani, told Reuters on a visit to Cairo.

Iryani repeated that the government had accepted a proposal by U.N. envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to hand over control of Hodeidah to a neutral party as a way of avoiding military action.

"The government has in principle accepted Ould Cheikh Ahmed's proposals regarding Hodeidah out of a feeling of responsibility for all the people of Yemen, but the Houthis have rejected them," he said.

The Houthis have signaled they are ready to discuss the move as part of measures that would involve assurances that long delayed salaries of state workers be paid and resuming commercial flights from the capital Sanaa.

Yemen has been devastated by more then two years of civil war in which Hadi's government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, is fighting to drive the Houthis out of cities they seized in 2014 and 2015 in a rapid rise to national power.

Efforts to broker a fresh U.N.-sponsored peace talks are stalled, blocked by disagreement over demands that the Houthis hand over Hodeidah to a neutral party and Houthi demands that the government pays civil servants their back-pay.

The Houthis are also demanding that the Saudi-led coalition, which controls Yemen's airspace, allow commercial flights to resume from the airport of the capital Sanaa.

Iryani said that an attack by the Houthis on al-Mokha port last week was an attempt to obstruct plans to rehabilitate the facility and prepare it to be an alternative to Hodeidah.

The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, destroyed Yemen's infrastructure and pushed the country to the brink of famine, and there is no sign that the conflict will end soon.

A cholera outbreak has also killed some 1,900 more people since April and infected more than 400,000 and the number is expected to rise to more than 600,000 by the end of the year, according to estimates by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

[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

Duch film an education on the horrors of S-21
Khmer Times

By Mom Sophon
July 27, 2017

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Rithy Panh's new film is aimed at educating young Cambodians about one of the most notorious men in the kingdom's history – a man responsible for up to 20,000 people being brutally murdered.

The new film, "Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell", is about Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch, and it made its debut yesterday to an audience of 300 students.

Duch was in charge of a Khmer Rouge facility called S-21, which is better known these days as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Yesterday's screening of the film took place on the seventh anniversary of Duch's sentencing at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the international court in Phnom Penh tasked with holding senior leaders of the brutal regime to account.

Seven years ago Duch was given a life sentence in the court, which is officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), for his role as the chief of S-21, where people were brutally tortured until they confessed to crimes and then taken away and killed.

Estimates of those who passed through S-21 and were killed vary from 12,000 to 20,000, and there were only a handful of survivors.

"Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell" is a collaboration between the ECCC and the Bophana Audiovisual Centre.

The film, which runs for almost two hours, is based on interviews with Duch and others involved in the torture and murder of prisoners at S21.

Award-winning filmmaker Rithy Panh said he wanted to make the movie about Duch because he was interested in what made the man tick.

"I wanted to know how Duch could order people to hurt others, as an educated person and a teacher," he said. "I wanted to understand his conscience and how he could do that.

"I met him several times for more than four hours and we talked face to face with each other."

In the film, Duch describes Communist Party theories and political ideologies, explaining how he trained his subordinates to torture and murder prisoners at S-21.

"I wanted to show that we still don't know where most people killed by the regime died, like my parents," said Mr Panh. "They were buried without their names.

"I make this film not out of anger, but to dedicate to the people who died and pay my respects."

The 300 students were silent as they watched the film and the footage of Duch attempting to explain why he committed his crimes. Many who followed Duch's court case said the mass murderer showed little sign of any remorse during the trial. Yin Yit, a student from the Royal University of Phnom Penh who attended the screening, said she was shocked by the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime.

"I felt very scared when seeing Duch confess his crimes of ordering so many murders," she said.

Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the film will provide vital information to young people.

"In the past, people heard only the descriptions from the victims of the Khmer Rouge, but now they can hear directly from one of the perpetrators," he said.

Duch originally ran a similar Khmer Rouge facility in the countryside before the fall of Phnom Penh and many say he honed his skills for extracting confessions both there and in Prey Sar prison, where he spent time before joining the Khmer Rouge.

The majority of the people Duch and his staff tortured in S-21 were accused of being spies for the CIA or Vietnam, and most had no idea who or what the CIA was. The cruelty inflicted on them by Duch and his men resulted in most people confessing to simply put an end to their suffering.

In the early days of S-21, those who confessed were killed in the former school and their bodies were dumped in the empty houses surrounding it. As the torture and killing continued and Duch ran out of places to put the bodies, a new site was found on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. That place was Choeung Ek, commonly known as The Killing Fields.

In an effort to educate young Cambodians about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, this week the Bophana Audiovisual Centre also released an app for smartphones.

Many youths know little about this part of their country's history because family members who survived are reluctant to talk about the horrors they went through.

Professors Schooled in Teaching Khmer Rouge History
Voice of America

By Erin Handley
July 26, 2017

The leading Khmer Rouge documentation center in Cambodia has partnered with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, European Union, and USAID to hold a training course for more than 3,000 educators from around the country.

Vanthann Peoudara, deputy director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) said the training was part of broad compensation efforts ordered by the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

He said the training would improve the university staff's ability to teach Cambodian history with an emphasis on healing the trauma of the past.

"The study can help them heal mentally and could possibly prevent crime, violence or genocide happening again in the future," he said.

Chea Vanny, a university professor, said the training sessions had strengthened participants' understanding of the period of Khmer Rouge rule. "In the training, the professors gain a better grounding in history to educate their students, especially the tragic history of the Khmer Rouge regime," she said.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, was formed in 2006 and has both an international and local sides. While collective reparations have been ordered by the court, civil parties have also requested direct compensation for crimes they suffered.

Neth Pheaktra, ECCC spokesman, said that since there were "millions of victims" of the regime, the court had agreed that only collective reparations made sense.

[back to contents]

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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

STL: Donaldson cites car crash linking phone to Ayyash
The Daily Star

By Morten Larsen
July 20, 2017

Prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson testified Wednesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that a phone linked to the alleged conspiracy to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could be tied to defendant Salim Ayyash. Attributing the phone identified as "Yellow 294" by the investigation into the 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others, ties Ayyash to a network of other phones implicated in the plot. The Prosecution contends that the Yellow phone group was used by those involved in the surveillance of Hariri in the lead up to the Downtown Beirut attack.

Donaldson said Ayyash could be tied to the yellow phones in part, because of his actions when he crashed his black BMW on the Sidon-Beirut Highway 13 years ago. Immediately after the accident, he called his insurance agent with his personal phone "PMP 935" – according to an insurance document.

Seconds after this call was made, another was placed by Yellow 294 in the immediate vicinity. Donaldson claimed this was evidence that Ayyash placed both calls, citing co-location – a method to determine the user of a single phone by the use of other phones nearby.

Both phones were in contact with cell towers that covered the specific area of the crash. It was not the first, or only time those two phones were used near each other. "On at least 135 days these phones appeared to move in concert, detailed [by] a call-by-call analysis," Donaldson said.

He added that 52 percent of activations of both phones in quick succession – within 10 minutes of each other – happened in the exact same cell sector, suggesting the phones were used by the same person.

However, the fact that 4 percent of the calls were made between a 10 – 20 kilometer cell tower distance and 1 percent were made more than 20 kilometers apart, marked in red, caught the attention of Judge David Re. "Are we going to the red bits? I'm interested in the red bits – when they are far apart. That's where my interest lies," he said.

Donaldson acknowledged the anomalies, but said that some cases were explicable.

In one instance, the first phone connected to a tower covering an area in eastern Lebanon, and the second phone's activation a few minutes later connected to a tower 13 kilometers away, but which covered an area adjacent to the first area. In rural areas there are fewer towers, so this activity is not unusual, Donaldson said.

One percent of cases, however, Donaldson could not explain.

In one instance, Yellow 294 was activated in central Beirut, and 30 minutes later PMP 935 was activated east of Hammana, near the eastern border with Syria, and one minute later Yellow 294 was once again activated in Beirut.

Donaldson said it was possible that this could also be a result of an error in the data, as PMP 935 was also activated in the same area of central Beirut five minutes after it appeared to have been within miles of Syria. "Is it possible to travel that distance in that time?" Re asked. "No, I don't believe so," Davidson replied.

Defense argues with chamber over legal protocol at STL
The Daily Star

By Betsy Joles
July 21, 2017

Controversy about procedure and the role of international third-party courts emerged Thursday following the prosecution's presentation of evidence at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The prosecution presented evidence, which included witness statements, phone records and other documents, to implicate Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash and Assad Sabra in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in Downtown Beirut.

The defense then cross-examined the evidence, without providing their questions beforehand as required. The chamber also challenged the relevancy of the defenses questions. "These are some of the most extraordinary submissions I've ever seen as a lawyer and a judge," Trial Chamber President Judge David Re said.

Re referred to the chamber's July 18 order to both defense and prosecution to file submissions that clarify the relevance of questions they plan to pose in court. "We ordered you to file submissions at 9 o'clock this morning," Re told Defense Counselor Yasser Hassan. Re added that failing to comply put the defense in direct conflict with the court's orders. "You have full jurisdiction in all matters of this case," Hassan told the court, but claimed there was a contradiction between the July 18 decision and another issued on June 14, which did not specify the chamber's right to pre-screen questions.

Hassan also cited complications with the court as a third party, as it might lack necessary context to be able to understand the relevance of certain submissions. "[Questions] might seem unclear to some," he said. "But in reality, they're of the utmost importance to the defense."

Judge Re said the ability to question the pertinence of cross-examination is a basic function of the court. "It's the foundational application of all systems in the world. It has to be relevant and probative."

The prosecution supported the chamber and the legitimacy of the court's order issued earlier this week. "The requests made by the trial chamber were both reasonable, proportionate and relatively modest," Senior Trial Counsel Alexander Milne said. "You don't have to wait for one of the parties to raise the objection, you may raise it yourself and you're entitled to do that." Hassan requested an extension to file further submissions and has until Friday, July 21, to respond to the order.

U.N. refusal to waive envoy's immunity not suspicious: legal experts
The Daily Star

By Victoria Yan
August 2, 2017

A recent United Nations decision to bar its former envoy to Lebanon Terje Roed-Larsen from providing a statement at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon garnered attention, but legal experts say the move is not unexpected. Established in March 2009 by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1757, the STL calls for cooperation with the investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Due to the sensitivity of the case, any withholding of information has the potential to spark speculation, especially as the U.N. document refusing the request for Roed-Larsen's statement remains confidential.

Local paper Al-Akhbar – affiliated with Hezbollah, which the four men being tried in absentia at the STL are reportedly members of – said the U.N. must have something to hide by preventing Roed-Larsen from making a statement. "Terje Roed-Larsen appears to have information that the United Nations does not want to be presented to the International Tribunal," the outlet wrote in early July, following the U.N.'s decision at the end of June.

The Daily Star reached out to the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs, but did not receive a response to requests for comment on the matter.

The interest in Roed-Larsen stems from meetings he held with Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad in the months before the Downtown Beirut bomb attack that killed Hariri and 21 others.

The former envoy had been sent to Lebanon at this time specifically to facilitate implementation of U.N. Resolution 1559 that called for "free and fair" presidential elections in Lebanon as well as the withdrawal of all "foreign forces" – in reference to Syrian forces in the country. The Al-Akhbar article posited that Roed-Larsen's statement may "blow up the theory" on which the charges of the indicted suspects are based.

However, legal experts revealed that the U.N.'s reasoning for not waiving Roed-Larsen's immunity is more complex.

"Without knowing more, I'm not sure I would infer that the U.N. is trying to hide something here. Immunities are designed to protect broader institutional interests," Alex Whiting, former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and professor at Harvard Law School, told The Daily Star.

"In this case, it would be to protect U.N. employees, ensure that they can do their jobs freely and have candid interactions with other officials without fear that they will become the subject of testimony later on," Whiting added.

According to the former ICC prosecutor, if it is deemed that the withheld information does not outweigh protecting the "broader interest of the immunity," the U.N. may very well decide to preserve Roed-Larsen's immunity, "even if that means that the tribunal will be deprived of information."

Additionally, he added that the sensitivity of the case and the delicacy of the nature of the former envoy's post in Lebanon serve as good reasons for the U.N. to keep him from making a statement.

"The U.N. will be much more reluctant to waive immunity for testimony about sensitive topics, like conversations with government or diplomatic officials, because of the precedent that would set and the chilling effect it could have on future such conversations," Whiting said.

Bruce Rashkow a lecturer at Columbia Law School, and former member of the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs, agreed that the STL case was sensitive. He highlighted that potentially contentious information could have a negative impact on the international community if released.

"I can imagine very easily that for this individual who was engaged in these activities at the highest level, that the U.N. would not waive immunity. The risk of sensitive information that may or may not be relevant to the issue of the case being exposed, risk to ongoing initiatives, risk to current agreements, risk to lives ... all sorts of things which the U.N. has to balance against whether maintaining immunity would impede the course of justice," Rashkow told The Daily Star.

Though unfamiliar with the specifics of the STL, Rashkow noted that there is likely to be a "good reason" for the U.N. to deny immunity "and take the heat of that decision."

Based upon considerable experience at the U.N. legal office, the Columbia lecturer made clear that in general, the U.N. does waive immunity for personnel to testify in domestic cases.

"It is rare to deny a waiver of immunity in domestic courts, for example with routine criminal proceedings, which are really run of the mill," he said, pointing to a recent case in which a man was charged for bribing members of the U.N. general assembly. In such cases he said "The U.N. routinely will make documents and, if necessary, individuals available [to testify]."

Nonetheless, the absent statement from Roed-Larsen raises further questions about Assad and Hariri's relationship at the time. Resolution 1559 spearheaded by then-French President Jacques Chirac reportedly caused a rift between Assad and Hariri who are believed to have had a poor relationship during the period.

"Assad didn't like Hariri because he became a celebrity in Syria and even a Sunni leader [there]. Absolutely, Hariri was perceived as a threat to Assad," Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, told The Daily Star. "In 2005, Hariri was a ... Saudi product and the Saudis and Syrians were not on good terms," the professor added.

Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblatt also testified to their tumultuous relationship in front of the STL trial chamber in 2015. Jumblatt recounted a conversation with Hariri who had just emerged from a tense interaction with the Syrian president.

Jumblatt recalled Hariri saying Assad had threatened him during the meeting, saying, "If Chirac wants to get me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon, I will destroy Lebanon."

When the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commissions launched in the summer of 2008, many believed that the Syrian regime would be at the center of the trial. While this seemed to be the case, attention was then diverted to Hezbollah after initial investigations hit a dead-end.

While the rejection to waive Roed-Larsen's immunity still leaves questions as to what his testimony could reveal, Khashan said that such theorizing is futile and inconsequential.

According to the professor, the STL merely serves as a "legal exercise" with "nothing more to it," an opinion shared by many Lebanese.

"I have always said that after the tribunal was set up in 2009, it would amount to nothing. Saad Hariri [Rafik's son and current prime minister] then trivialized the tribunal after he announced that Hezbollah was not responsible for his father's assassination and the four indicted were acting on their own," Khashan said.

[back to contents]

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

'New chief of war crimes tribunal by 7 days'
Star Online Report

July 21, 2017

Law Minister Anisul Huq today said the chairman of International Crimes Tribunal-1 will be appointed within this week.

The post of ICT chairman fell vacant after its chairman Justice Anwarul Haque passed away on July 13.

The law minister, however, could not say who will be appointed as the next chairman.

"I don't know who will be appointed as chairman of the International Crimes Tribunal-1, as discussion is going on about this issue," he told The Daily Star.

Replying to a question on whether he has consulted with Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha about the appointment, Anisul Huq said, "I will not say anything about this at this moment."

International Crimes Tribunal gets new registrar

July 24, 2017

The government has appointed a new registrar for the International Crimes Tribunal, responsible for trying the 1971 war criminals.

Judge Md Selim Miah, who has been heading the Chandpur's women and children repression prevention tribunal, has been made the registrar, according to a circular by the law ministry.

The current registrar, Md Shahidul Islam has been transferred to Sunamganj as the district judge.

ICT finalises two probe reports against 16 war crimes suspects

July 27, 2017

The investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal or ICT has finalised two reports over 16 people accused of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War.

Four of them are from Mymensingh while the rest are from Jessore and Narail.

The charges include genocide, abduction, torture, loot, arson, rape and murder.

M Sanaul Huq, a senior official of the ICT's investigation agency, presented the summary of the two reports at a media briefing in Dhaka on Thursday.

He said both the reports would be submitted to the prosecution.

Investigation Officer Monwara Begum has prepared one of the reports on four war crimes suspects from Mymensingh.

Aminuzzaman Faruq, Khawaza Doctor and AKM Akram Hossain are currently behind bars while the fourth is a fugitive.

The 54-page report narrates involvement of four in abduction of six people, forced detention, torture, murder, loot and arson.

The report comes as a result of the investigation which started in 2015 and ended in February this year. Depositions of 60 people were recorded in the meantime; 34 of them were made witnesses.

Investigation officer Abdullah Al Mamun has prepared the other report on 12 suspects from Jessore and Narail.

Five of them -- Omar Molla, Omar Ali, Badruddoza, Daud Sheikh and Golzar Hossain Khan – are in detention.

Golzar Hossain Khan has been directly involved with the ruling Awami League while the rest were active in the political practices of BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Muslim League, said Sanaul.

The other report, which has 434 pages, narrates seven crimes allegedly committed by 12 suspects. The investigation has confirmed 76 people who will testify against them.

The investigation started in March 2016 and ended after about one and a half years.

"Police are yet to arrest any of the fugitives.

However, there is a special committee of the ICT to deal with arrests of war criminals," Sanaul said.

"The tribunal will take action if police provide misleading information regarding the fugitives. The investigation agency lacks such mandate."

'ICT,B investigation against Osman Faruque, Moosa underway'
Prothom Alo

Jul 30, 2017

The investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal, Bangladesh (ICT,B) is investigating whether opposition BNP leader Osman Faruque was involved in crimes against humanity during the country's liberation war in 1971.

Talking to newsmen at the Dhanmondi office of the agency on Thursday, its chief coordinator Sanaul Haque also said they are conducting a "primary investigation" into the allegations regarding controversial businessman Moosa Bin Shamsher's involvement in such crimes.

Sanaul said the agency has also finalised investigation report on the involvement of 16 people from Jessore and Sherpur in crimes against humanity during the war.

Different types of crimes – including killing, genocide, abduction, rape and torture – have been brought against them.

He said the agency already submitted the report to the chief prosecutor of the ICT,B.

Talking about Osman Faruque and Moosa Bin Shamsher, Sanaul said the investigation is underway against Osman Faruque and the agency will disclose its findings in the media briefing later.

Earlier on 4 May last year, Sanaul said they got some information about Osman Faruk and 10 other then teachers of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh.

Those teachers had collaborated with the Pakistan army during the liberation war, according to Sanaul.

M Osman Faruque, a former education minister, is one of the vice chairmen of country's major opposition political party – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Besides, the agency had made a clarion call on 29 March last to all to submit to it any information regarding Moosa's involvement in the crimes against humanity, if anyone had.

And accordingly, two journalists, Prabir Shikdar and Sagar Lohani, had submitted their information in report form to the agency on 6 April.

The report said Moosa was involved in the crimes against humanity in Faridpur during the liberation war.

The ICT,B – a domestic tribunal set up in 2009 shortly after the assumption of power by Bangladesh Awami League to investigate and prosecute suspects for the crimes against humanity committed in 1971 – has awarded death penalties to several opposition top figures.

Customs Intelligence charges Moosa bin Shamsher with money laundering

July 31, 2017

Customs detectives have brought money laundering charges against Moosa bin Shamsher, a controversial businessman.

Moosa stands accused of dodging Tk 21.7 million in duties for a sports utility vehicle or SUV and giving 'vague statements' over his Tk 960 billion deposits in his Swiss accounts.

Customs Intelligence Director General Mainul Khan said a case was filed with the Gulshan police on Monday.

On Mar 21, customs detectives seized a Range Rover SUV from the Dhanmondi house of his son's in-laws.

Following the seizure, the businessman was summoned and grilled by officials at the Customs Intelligence office.

Customs officials had then said the car was registered with false import documents.

Khan, the head of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate, said on Monday that the vehicle was registered to one Farukuzzaman from Pabna.

He said the car was registered with a fake bill of entry against Tk 1.7 million paid in duties, but the duty applied for this specific model of SUV is Tk 21.7 million.

In 1997, Moosa attracted huge media attention after offering the Labour Party and Tony Blair 5 million pounds as campaign donation during the UK's general elections. File photo In 1997, Moosa attracted huge media attention after offering the Labour Party and Tony Blair 5 million pounds as campaign donation during the UK's general elections. File photo During interrogations by customs detectives, Moosa said he has Tk 960 billion deposited in his Swiss accounts, according to Khan.

"He, however, did not provide any bank statement or document for source of the fund. He has not submitted the documents despite several reminders."

Moosa has often made headlines in the media for his wealth. One of his sons is married to the daughter of ruling Awami League's Presidium member Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim.

Often referred to as the 'Prince of Bangladesh' in the foreign media, Moosa began sending migrant workers abroad through DATCO Group he founded in 1974 but is better known in the foreign media for his alleged ties to the weapons trade.

In 1997, he attracted huge media attention after offering the Labour Party and Tony Blair five million pounds as campaign donation during the UK's general elections.

There are allegations of war crimes against Moosa in his native Faridpur during the 1971 war, which he denies. File photo There are allegations of war crimes against Moosa in his native Faridpur during the 1971 war, which he denies. File photo The Anti-Corruption Commission or ACC decided to probe him after a newspaper reported he had Tk 510 billion in Swiss banks.

"No-one can make so much money in this country," he said last year after emerging from an ACC interrogation.

He also faces allegations of war crimes in Faridpur, his ancestral district, during the 1971 Liberation War, which the International Crimes Tribunal's Investigation Wing is looking into.

The business tycoon, however, denies the charges

He had gone on record claiming he was at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's house until Mar 25, 1971.

"I, then, went to Faridpur on his (Bangabandhu's) orders. The Pakistan Army came there on Apr 21. They caught me the following day. I was freed on Dec 9," he claimed.

His real name is Abu Daud Mohammad Moosa. His early roots go back to Kajikanda village of Nagarkanda Upazila in Faridpur district.

His father Shamsher Molla was an employee of the jute department before Bangladesh's independence and built home in Faridpur town where Moosa was raised.

Locals said Moosa, fluent in English and Urdu, developed close relations with the Pakistan Army during the war.

[back to contents]

War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Back from visit to Myanmar, independent UN rights expert says situation 'worsening'
UN News Centre

July 24, 2017

While no one expects an overnight transition to democracy in Myanmar, there has to be real progress on human rights, an independent United Nations expert today said, highlighting reported killings, tortures, and an "ongoing humanitarian crisis" for the Rohingya people and other minorities.

In a statement from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee accused national authorities of "presiding over a worsening security and human rights situation" in the country.

Ms. Lee said she catalogued a list of concerns during her 12 day visit to the country, which was held at the invitation of the Government, which also included the use of human shields by security forces and deaths in custody.

"I am disappointed to see the tactics applied by the previous Government still being used," said Ms. Lee, who wrapped up her visit on 21 July.

"We are told not to expect Myanmar to transition into a democracy overnight – that it needs time and space," she continued. "But in the same way, Myanmar should not expect to have its close scrutiny removed or its special monitoring mechanisms dismantled overnight. This cannot happen until there is real and discernible progress on human rights."

The independent expert also raised concern about the situation of the Rohingya people, and said that State protection and security extend "not only to the Rakhine but also the Muslim communities."

In Kachin and Rakhine states, some 100,000 and 120,000 people, respectively, have remained displaced for more than five years following the eruption of inter-communal conflict between Buddhists and minority Muslim Rohingya.

Ms. Lee said she was particularly dismayed to learn that the situation in northern Shan State was deteriorating, with reports of more conflict, alleged rights violations by security forces and armed groups, and inadequate assistance for civilians.

"There have been numerous reports of killings, torture, even the use of human shields by the armed forces, allegedly in some cases accompanied by threats of further violence if incidents are reported," said Ms. Lee.

The Special Rapporteur, who visited Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw as well as parts of Rakhine, Shan and Kayin States, said she had been "astonished" at Government attempts to limit her activities and movements.

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the confiscation of land to create so-called Special Economic Zones, where land has been confiscated but some farmers still have to pay tax on it.

Ms. Lee will present a full report on her visit to the UN General Assembly in October 2017.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Amnesty calls for release of journalists
Burma News International

July 28, 2017

Amnesty International has called for the release of journalists facing prison over charges linked to reporting from Shan State.

The Myanmar authorities must immediately and unconditionally release three journalists who were arrested in conflict-ridden northern Shan State last month, Amnesty International said ahead of their trial on July 28.

Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Aung, both reporters for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), and Thein Zaw (aka Lawi Weng), a reporter for the Irrawaddy newspaper, were arrested on 26 June, along with four other people they were travelling with.

They have since been charged under the Unlawful Association Act and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Three others arrested with them are also facing charges, including under the same Act, while a seventh man arrested on 26 June has since been released.

"The farcical charges against these journalists must be dropped immediately, they have done nothing but carry out their work peacefully," said James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

"This is a clear attempt by the authorities to intimidate journalists and silence their critical coverage. It is exactly in northern Shan State and the other ethnic areas wracked by conflict, where appalling human rights abuses are rife, that independent journalism is needed the most."

Soldiers from Myanmar's armed forces arrested the journalists on their way back from reporting on a drug-burning ceremony in an area controlled by the ethnic armed group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The media workers were held incommunicado in a secret location for two days after their arrest, before they were transferred to Hsipaw prison in northern Shan State where they are currently detained. Their trial started on 28 July at the Hsipaw Township Court. Legal proceedings to date have been marred by a lack of transparency, and two earlier court appearances were unexpectedly rescheduled, raising concerns about access to lawyers, according to Amnesty.

The Myanmar authorities have for years used a slew of draconian laws to intimidate, harass, arrest and imprison critics and media workers. The Unlawful Association Act is one such law – it grants authorities sweeping powers to arrest people considered to be part of or in contact with an "unlawful association", and is in particular often used in ethnic and religious minority areas.

"Many had hoped that the days when Myanmar relied on its repressive legal framework to silence peaceful criticism were long gone, but sadly the same old patterns of repression continue. The Unlawful Association Act is so vaguely worded that it can easily be misused to jail political opponents as well as journalists on the most flimsy grounds – it must be repealed immediately," said Mr Gomez.

The seven men were detained in northern Shan State, in the north part of Myanmar, an area that has seen intense fighting between the Myanmar Army and a range of ethnic armed groups in recent years. In a report released in June this year, Amnesty International documented how civilians from ethnic minority groups in Kachin State and northern Shan State are suffering appalling abuses, including possible war crimes.

[back to contents]

Israel and Palestine

Six dead in worst Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed for years

By Luke Baker and Ori Lewis
July 21, 2017

Six people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence for years, prompted by new security Israeli measures at Jerusalem's holiest site.

Three Israelis were stabbed to death in a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, hours after three Palestinians were killed in violence prompted by Israel's installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's walled Old City.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the suspension of all official contact with Israel until it removed the metal detectors. He gave no details, but current contacts are largely limited to security cooperation.

"I declare the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at al Aqsa mosque and preserves the status quo," Abbas said in a brief televised speech.

The three Israelis stabbed to death and a fourth who was wounded were from the fenced-in West Bank settlement of Neve Tsuf. Israeli media said the three dead were all members of the same family, two men aged 60 and 40 and a woman of 40.

The wounded woman, 68, was hospitalised with stab wounds to her back, Israeli media said.

A still photo carried by Israeli television showed a kitchen floor completely red with blood. The family had sat down to a traditional Friday evening meal when the attack occurred, according to Israel Radio.

The Israeli army and media said the assailant slipped into the settlement under cover of darkness to carry out his attack.

Israel to raze home of Palestinian who killed 3 Israelis

By Mohammad Daraghmeh and Karin Laub
July 22, 2017

Israel's defense minister consulted with senior commanders in the West Bank on Saturday, a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family in their home and widespread Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted over escalating tensions at the Holy Land's most contested shrine.

The father of the 20-year-old Palestinian assailant said he believes his son was upset over the loss of Palestinian lives and wanted to protect the "honor" of the Jerusalem holy site.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigodor Lieberman said in his meeting with commanders that the attacker's home would be demolished swiftly. He called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attack he described as a "slaughter." Lieberman and army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, visited the scene of the attack.

Earlier, the Israeli military said it sent more troops to the West Bank.

Disputes over the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, have set off major rounds of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in the past. They were also at the root of the current violence which began last week when Arab gunmen fired from the shrine, killing two Israeli policemen.

In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the gates of the 37-acre (15-hectare) walled compound, portraying the devices as a needed security measure to prevent more attacks.

Muslims alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site under the guise of security — a claim Israel denies — and launched mass prayer protests.

On Friday, anger boiled over and several thousand Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and in Jerusalem after noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Three Palestinians were killed and several dozen wounded by live rounds and bullets in some of the worst street clashes in two years.

On Friday evening, a Palestinian identified as Omar al-Abed jumped over the fence of the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank and entered a home, surprising a family during their Sabbath dinner.

The Israeli military said the assailant killed a man and two of his adult children, while a woman was wounded. A neighbor heard the screams, rushed to the home and opened fire, wounding al-Abed who was taken to an Israeli hospital, said the head of Israel's rescue service.

A photo released by the military showed a kitchen floor covered with blood.

Itai Orayon, a medic, said he found "blood everywhere" in the house. He told Israel Army Radio that three people were on the floor, unconscious "with deep stab wounds all over their bodies," and that the medical team was unable to save them.

On Saturday morning, Israeli troops searched the assailant's family home in the West Bank village of Kobar and detained one of his brothers, the army said. Video footage released by the military shows soldiers leading away a handcuffed and blindfolded man.

The army said soldiers searched the house and measured it in preparation for demolition.

The assailant's father said his son had been angered by the escalation at the Jerusalem shrine, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

"The honor of Muslims is only the Haram," Mohammed al-Abed said. "If it's gone, the Muslims' honor is gone. This was the motive for my son."

Ibrahim al-Abed, an uncle of the assailant, said his nephew had been arrested three months ago by security forces of Abbas, the Palestinian leader who presides over autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The uncle said his nephew had spent two weeks in detention and was violently interrogated about alleged plans to attack Israelis before he was released.

The assailant said in a pre-attack Facebook post that he expected to be killed in the attack. He wrote that he wanted his body to be covered by a banner of the Islamic militant Hamas and a photo of Abbas' predecessor, Yasser Arafat, founder of Hamas' main rival, the Fatah movement.

Israel has repeatedly accused Abbas and his Palestinian Authority of permitting anti-Israeli incitement in the public Palestinian discourse.

Michael Oren, a deputy minister for public diplomacy, alleged Saturday that Hamas and Abbas' government are exploiting tensions to incite violence. He said claims that Israel intends to change delicate arrangements at the Muslim-administered Jerusalem shrine are "emphatically untrue."

Oren also argued that metal detectors are a routine security measure at holy sites around the world and that Palestinian leaders seized on the issue as a pretext to whip up anti-Israeli sentiment.

Israeli officials have said they would guarantee continued access to Muslim worshippers but have not said how huge crowds could speedily pass through metal detectors during busy periods.

Abbas has rejected Israeli incitement allegations, saying Israel's 50-year-old occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state is at the root of widespread Palestinian anger and helps drive violence.

Abbas is a staunch opponent of violence and in 12 years in power has stuck to security coordination between his forces and Israeli troops against a common enemy — Hamas.

On Friday evening, Abbas announced that he would "freeze" ties with Israel "on all levels" until the metal detectors are removed from the shrine, but did not say whether this means halting security coordination. Ending such ties would have far-reaching repercussions and sharply raise tensions with Israel.

Even if largely meant for domestic Palestinian consumption, the Abbas announcement dealt a setback to fledgling efforts by the Trump administration to revive long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian talks on a peace deal.

Such efforts now seem moot as Israelis and Palestinians refuse to budge in the showdown over the shrine and violence threatens to escalate.

Israeli soldier who killed wounded Palestinian attacker loses appeal

July 30, 2017

An Israeli military court has rejected the appeal of a soldier who was jailed for 18 months for killing a wounded Palestinian attacker.

Elor Azaria was found guilty in January of manslaughter over the March 2016 shooting of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

Azaria had told a colleague that Sharif, who had stabbed another soldier, "deserved to die".

Israeli military chiefs condemned his actions, but others praised them.

After the hearing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the soldier should be pardoned.

Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said the verdict was "loud and clear" but that he would consider a pardon carefully if a request for one were made.

Azaria - a sergeant and military medic - had appealed against the verdict, while the prosecution was demanding an increased sentence.

As well as rejecting his appeal, the court decided Azaria's 18-month sentence should stand, saying that his version of events had been unreliable.

His "original reason" for killing Sharif was revenge, the Times of Israel reported, quoting the judges.

Azaria had said he acted out of fear that Sharif might have been wearing an explosive vest.

However, "Azaria's shooting [of the Palestinian assailant Abdel Fattah al-Sharif] was not motivated by fear of the terrorist's future action", the judges said.

The judges were also critical of the 21-year-old who, they said, "decided to question the character of nearly everyone who questioned his character, and never expressed remorse or questioned his actions".

He was, however, "a devoted and excelling warrior until the incident", the judges said, according to the Times of Israel.

The case has fuelled debate in Israel over when and how soldiers are entitled to use lethal force against attackers.

The shooting occurred amid a wave of attacks by Palestinians that had killed 29 Israelis over the preceding five months.

Following the incident, military chiefs and the prime minister came under fire from right-wing sections of society - including members of Mr Netanyahu's cabinet - for criticising Azaria's actions.

Azaria's lawyers now have the option of taking the case to the Supreme Court.

[back to contents]


North & Central America

El Salvador issues warrants for guerrillas who killed US soldiers during civil war
The Guardian

By Nina Lakhani
July 25, 2017

Arrest warrants have been issued in El Salvador for three former leftwing guerrilla fighters wanted in connection with the execution of two American soldiers whose helicopter was shot down during the country's 1979-1992 civil war.

The warrants are the first of their kind since a 1993 amnesty law guaranteeing impunity for civil war crimes was annulled a year ago. They were issued amid growing anger at the government's reluctance to pursue perpetrators.

El Salvador's civil war left about 80,000 people dead, 8,000 missing and a million displaced in a country the size of the US state of Massachusetts, according to a 1993 UN Truth Commission report.

The overwhelming majority of war crimes were attributed to the American-backed armed forces and paramilitaries who often targeted civilians they suspected of supporting leftwing rebels. Yet surprisingly, the first warrants issued since the amnesty was declared unconstitutional are for former guerrillas.

The US army helicopter was shot down by a Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) patrol in January 1991 in the San Miguel district in eastern El Salvador, as it was flying back to base in neighbouring Honduras.

The pilot, Daniel Scott, was killed in the crash, but two wounded soldiers - Lt Col David Pickett and Cpl Earnest Dawson - were shot dead after the guerrillas stole the cache of weapons onboard the helicopter, according to the Truth Commission.

During the proxy cold wars that the US fought in Central America in the 1980s and 90s, Honduras was used to provide military support to neighbouring dictatorships and host CIA-backed rebel armies fighting leftwing movements.

Ronald Reagan's administration funnelled the equivalent of $1m a day to El Salvador's military dictatorship despite evidence of death squads and civilian massacres. The conflict ended in 1992, but peace never came to El Salvador.

The ruling rightwing Arena party pushed through the amnesty law in 1993, a week after the UN report was published, guaranteeing impunity for perpetrators of war crimes. Since then, warring street gangs, transnational criminal groups and state security forces have helped make El Salvador the second-most deadly country in the world, after Syria.

Amid growing frustration among victims, the supreme court held a public hearing last week about the lack of progress in prosecutions.

The attorney general, Douglas Meléndez, told the court that there were just three prosecutors dedicated to dealing with 139 complaints of human rights violations committed during the civil conflict. At least 50 are needed to investigate the cases, but the government has not been forthcoming with resources, Meléndez said.

The FMLN, which became a legal political party as part of the 1992 peace deal, has been in power since 2009; the country's current president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the FMLN, was a former guerrilla fighter. Both major parties support a new reconciliation law which would guarantee impunity or at least scrap jail time for numerous fighters-turned-politicians.

Since the amnesty was overturned, the investigation into the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero has been reopened, and some military officers have been summoned to testify in the case of the 1981 El Mozote massacre in which elite government soldiers were accused of killing of between 900 and 1,200 people, mostly women and children.

But both cases are advancing painfully slowly as the fight for justice is being driven by the victims and human rights lawyers, not the attorney general's office, according to the commentator Tim Muth.

Canada revokes Helmut Oberlander's citizenship for the fourth time

July 26, 2017

Canada has revoked the citizenship for the fourth time of a 93-year-old man who has admitted to being a former Nazi death squad member.

Helmut Oberlander says he was forced to act as a translator for the squad and did not participate in atrocities.

He has fought three prior attempts by Canada to strip his citizenship and won.

His lawyer says Mr Oberlander will also fight this latest citizenship revocation, calling it "persecution".

A spokeswoman with Citizenship Canada said in a statement to the BBC that "we don't take citizenship revocation lightly, but it is necessary in cases of fraud and serious misrepresentation".

Canada says that when Mr Oberlander applied for entry to Canada in 1954, he obtained his citizenship by knowingly concealing that he had been an auxiliary of the Einsatzkommando, a force that operated behind the German army's front line in the Eastern occupied territories.

The squad is responsible for killing more than two million people, many of them Jewish people.

"We are determined to deny safe haven in Canada to war criminals and persons believed to have committed or been complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide," said Citizenship Canada's Lisa Filipps.

Mr Oberlander has argued in court that he was conscripted, had no alternative than to work for the Germans, and would have been subject to the harshest penalties had he disobeyed.

Canada has revoked his citizenship three times since 1995. Each time it was overturned on appeal.

In 2016, Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear the government's appeal of a lower court ruling that Ottawa should reconsider its decision to revoke Mr Oberlander's citizenship.

His lawyer Ronald Poulton says Canada "appears prepared to hound Mr Oberlander and his family to his grave".

"In order to find Mr. Oberlander complicit in war crimes, given his limited and forced participation with the German military, they had attempted to stretch fiction into fact and to rely on an outdated archaic principle known as guilt by association," he said.

Mr. Oberlander was born in Halbstadt, Ukraine in 1924, and he obtained his Canadian citizenship in 1960.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, praised Canada for its "tireless" efforts to strip Mr Oberlander of his citizenship.

"This latest development is an important milestone in bringing a measure of justice to his many victims and their families," he said in a statement.

Mr Oberlander's case is expected to be back before a federal court within the next six months.

[back to contents]

South America

Argentina sentences 4 ex-judges for dictatorship-era crimes
New York Times

July 26, 2017

Four former federal judges in Argentina were sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the country's last dictatorship in a ruling human rights groups are calling historic for punishing the regime's civilian accomplices.

The court in Mendoza province ruled that ex-judges Rolando Carrizo, Guillermo Petra Recabarren, Luis Miret and Otilio Romano participated in kidnappings, torture and murders. The men were tried for their failure to investigate petitions of habeas corpus filed by relatives of dissidents who disappeared during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

During the trial, which began in 2014, prosecutors asked to change the charges against the four from being accomplices to primary participants in crimes, arguing their inaction on the petitions preceded the disappearance of more than 20 dissidents.

"HISTORIC: members of the judicial body of state terrorism sentenced to life," read a tweet from the group Sons And Daughters For Identity And Justice Against Forgetfulness And Silence.

Other human rights groups like the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo also expressed their satisfaction with the sentence since they had long been demanding justice for the civilian accomplices of the military regime.

One of the judges, Romano, served on the Mendoza Federal Chamber until his dismissal in 2011. He fled to Chile but was extradited back to Argentina in 2013.

Official estimates say about 7,600 people were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship, but rights activists believe the number was actually as high as 30,000.

Venezuela: UN rights chief 'deeply concerned' by detention of opposition leaders
UN News Centre

August 1, 2017

The top United Nations human rights official today expressed deep concern about the detention of two opposition leaders by Venezuelan authorities after Sunday's elections for a Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolás Maduro.

"I am deeply concerned that opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma have again been taken into custody by Venezuelan authorities after their house arrest was revoked," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a statement issued by his Office (OHCHR).

He urged the Government to immediately release all those being held for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, noting that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers the detention of both Lopez and Ledezma to be arbitrary.

President Maduro has declared victory in Sunday's elections for the new body, which could replace the current National Assembly.

Mr. Zeid also expressed his regret that at least 10 people reportedly died over the weekend amid demonstrations over Sunday's polls, calling for a prompt, effective and independent probe into these deaths.

He urged the authorities "not to make an already extremely volatile situation even worse" through the use of excessive force, including through violent house raids that have occurred in various parts of the country.

"I appeal to all parties to refrain from the use of violence," he said.

Jailings Raise Fears of Dictatorship in Venezuela
The New York Times

By Nicholas Casey and Ana Vanessa Herrero
August 1, 2017

The government agents barged into the homes of two prominent former mayors, hauling them off to jail in the dark. They dragged one of them into the street in his blue pajamas as witnesses screamed that he was being kidnapped.

The two men, both vocal members of the opposition, had been arrested before. But as the doors shut and the cars sped away early on Tuesday, many Venezuelans worried that it marked the start of a new dictatorship in South America.

President Nicolás Maduro and his leftist movement have seized control of the country, not through a coup, but through a contentious power grab that has gutted Venezuela's democratic institutions and effectively eliminated any official political challenges.

On Sunday, Mr. Maduro carried out an ambitious plan to consolidate power. He held a national vote, instructing Venezuelans to select from a list of trusted allies of the governing party - including his wife - who will rewrite the Constitution and rule Venezuela with virtually unlimited authority until they finish their work.

It was a fait accompli. There was no option for voters to turn down the plan.

Venezuela's new governing body, known as the constituent assembly, will soon take charge as a ruling junta.

"It's a country that has destroyed all of its institutions," said Germán Ferrer, a former member of Mr. Maduro's ruling party. "Any citizen who finds himself at odds with official politics now runs the risk of being attacked."

With resistance to his government growing, Mr. Maduro and his allies have steadily chipped away at Venezuela's democracy in recent years. They have packed the courts with loyalists, blocked opposition lawmakers from taking their seats, overturned laws that the president opposed, suspended elections and even tried, unsuccessfully, to dissolve the legislature altogether.

And for years, politicians like the two former mayors hauled away on Tuesday - Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma - have channeled opposition to the government into a political movement that won a majority of the country's legislature less than two years ago.

But now the new constituent assembly has the power to dismantle the legislature and dismiss any official deemed disloyal. Venezuela - a bitterly divided country rattled by months of antigovernment protests that have left more than 120 dead this year - faces a future in which political opposition within the structures of government may be impossible.

The constituent assembly could effectively liquidate any official channels of dissent, leaving opponents with few options beyond protesting in the street.

"Now the opposition must ask: Do we go home, or do we go for a more radicalized approach?" said Shannon O'Neil, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies Latin America. "It could be a more violent response."

Even the Socialist-inspired movement founded by Mr. Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez, has been shaken.

Gabriela Ramírez, a former top human rights official under both Mr. Chávez and Mr. Maduro, said the constituent assembly had betrayed the movement's legacy by "imposing just one vision" on all of Venezuela and using "the coercive power of the state to create a police state."

Mr. Maduro has made it clear that he will accept no dissent from his own party, with veiled threats on Monday to throw his attorney general, Luisa Ortega, into a mental institution after she said the vote on Sunday was illegal.

Mr. Chávez's movement often repeated the notion that its critics were most readily defeated at the ballot box. But with the new constituent assembly likely to replace the legislature, even the populist underpinnings of the movement seem in question.

"More than supporting the people, there's a determination to stay in power by any means necessary," said Mark L. Schneider, an adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group.

On Tuesday, Venezuelan legislators met at the National Assembly building to continue working despite fears that the new constituent assembly might soon unseat them. In a show of international support, the politicians were joined by ambassadors from Spain, Mexico, France and Britain.

At least 20 countries have rejected the creation of the constituent assembly, and on Monday the United States issued sanctions against Mr. Maduro, calling him "a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people." Mr. Maduro is now one of only four heads of state to be sanctioned this way, along with Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

But the sanctions, dismissed by Venezuelan officials as evidence of American imperialism, may have little effect on the country's opposition. Its power was based not on foreign support, but on having a place in a political system that is increasingly dominated by Mr. Maduro's security forces.

"The opposition has limited ability to challenge the government physically," Mr. Schneider said. "But I suspect you'll soon see the range of weapons that exist around the country, and outbreaks of violence at local levels."

Indeed, in the capital, Caracas, some neighborhoods that have aligned with the opposition are being governed by a sense of mob rule.

Impromptu checkpoints were scattered across a five-mile stretch of the capital on the Friday before the vote, as residents set up makeshift barriers made of trees, garbage, old tires and other debris found on the street.

At one such barrier in the Baruta neighborhood, at least 60 masked men and women gathered around the checkpoint. One woman, armed with a scythe, sharpened her blade in the center divider of the road. The people there said they had come to block the entry of colectivos, or government-aligned militias.

"Why haven't we burned the electoral centers?" one masked woman asked.

By late Tuesday, no one had heard from the two mayors who were taken into custody. Both had been on house arrest before being whisked away in the early hours.

But one of the former mayors, Mr. López, seemed to know that the clock was ticking even before the security forces came.

He had been released into house arrest on July 8 after being sentenced to more than 13 years for causing incitement, among other charges, during protests in 2014.

Before being taken away this time, Mr. López issued a last message to his supporters, telling of the conditions of his imprisonment, urging his followers to continue their resistance and clutching his wife's stomach, saying she would soon give birth to a child.

"If you are watching this video, it's because this is exactly what happened: They came and they made me prisoner again," he said in the message, which was released on Tuesday after his arrest.

On Monday, Mr. Ledezma, the other mayor sent to jail, issued a message of his own, with a strikingly different tone. Standing behind a Venezuelan flag, he offered a damning assessment of the opposition.

He blamed the political parties for being outwitted by Mr. Maduro at every turn. First, the opposition allowed the Supreme Court and electoral council to be stacked by the president's loyalists, he said. Then it stood by as Mr. Maduro ruled by decree. And when a growing effort to recall the unpopular president was swept aside by friendly courts, the opposition did little to challenge it, Mr. Ledezma said.

"They made a joke of the Parliament," he said, looking into the camera. "And we have run afoul of the people. And the people deserve answers."

Yet even the criticism of Mr. Ledezma's own party appeared too much for Venezuela's government to tolerate.

After the video was released, the Supreme Court issued a ruling saying that Mr. Ledezma had violated the terms of his house arrest by making "statements in any medium."

It also said that he and Mr. López were making plans to escape.

In a grainy video posted to Mr. Ledezma's Twitter account, uniformed men in black helmets can be seen pushing a man in his pajamas out of a building and into a vehicle.

"They are taking away Ledezma! Look we are recording it all here!" a woman screams in the background.

Venezuela Slides Toward Civil War

By Austin Bay
August 2, 2017

In the early morning hours of August 1, Venezuelan secret police arrested the country's most prominent opposition political leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, and quickly hauled them off to prison.

Lopez is the gutsy leader of the Popular Will Party and a former mayor of Caracas. Ledezma also served as mayor of Caracas and is a long-time critic of President Nicolas Maduro and his bombastic predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Lopez and Ledezma have been in and out of prison for the crimes of practicing free speech and opposing Venezuela's slide into dictatorship. The Venezuelan Supreme Court, now totally controlled by Maduro, justified the arrests of Lopez and Ledezma by claiming they "violated the terms of their house arrest" when they criticized Maduro's government.

Venezuelan pro-democracy activists managed to record a video of Ledezma's dark hour arrest. In the video a woman can be head screaming "They're taking Ledezma! Please neighbors! It's a dictatorship!"

The courageous woman is absolutely right. Maduro's Chavista regime is a full-fledged dictatorship -- an impoverished, corrupt and anarchic dictatorship that has ruined the once wealthy nation and led it to the brink of civil war.

In May, Maduro announced he would convene a Constituent Assembly that would usurp the power of the opposition-controlled legislature, the National Assembly. Opposition parties have controlled the National Assembly since 2015, when they won a two-thirds majority.

The Constituent Assembly is a hoax Maduro is using to mask his consolidation of power. All 545 members of the Constituent Assembly are Maduro supporters.

At least 80 percent of Venezuela's population opposes Maduro's power grab. No matter, Maduro is going Full Cuba. He controls the police forces and, at the moment, the military. In mid-July, the military announced it backed Maduro's Constituent Assembly proposal.

Senior officers loyal to Hugo Chavez, the former army paratrooper who created the so-called Bolivarian revolution, command Venezuela's politicized military.

Chavez was a lot smarter than Maduro. The charismatic Chavez could deliver a stirring speech. But Chavez is dead and Maduro is no Chavez.

The military knows its economy is an utter disaster. Last week, pictures appeared on the internet showing officers rewarding loyal soldiers with rolls of toilet paper and tubes of toothpaste.

In July 2016, national food shortages were so severe the military took charge of food distribution. In January 2017, it took control of food imports.

Maduro's military supporters benefit from this system. They have access to food. They can also demand bribes from starving citizens in exchange for food.

But there are also calls for a military to end its support of Maduro and his regime. On July 26, Lopez made one, issuing a statement inviting soldiers "to not be accomplices to the annihilation of the republic, to a constitutional fraud, to repression." Venezuela's Catholic bishops demanded that the armed forces fulfill their duty to be at the service of the people" and not "instruments of oppression."

In May, Fox News reported that the regime arrested at least 65 lower-ranking military officers and charged some of them with "instigating rebellion."

This question has surely crossed Maduro's mind: Would commanders order their troops to fire if a hundred thousand Venezuelans "swamped the palace" like Tunisians did in 2011 when they demanded dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resign? Tunisia's military didn't fire on the people.

Venezuelans have reason to rebel. Maduro's Castroite hostility to private businesses and his government's corruption have savaged the economy. Last year, Venezuela ranked 166 out of 176 countries on Transparency International's corruption index. In December 2016, the inflation rate hit 800 percent.

Low oil prices have diminished the oil revenue Maduro uses to pay off the security forces and his loyalists and shield them from the economic horror. International sanctions could reduce his cash flow even more. Maduro has used Venezuela's chronic food shortage to systematically deprive political opponents of food. When the food crisis begins to affect the families of sergeants and privates, watch out.

[back to contents]


Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Inquest into Apartheid Death Hears New Revelations from Former Officer
The Globe and Mail

By Geoffrey York
July 31, 2017

After decades of silence, a former apartheid policeman has revealed that he faced heavy pressure to give a false version of the death of a prominent anti-apartheid activist in police custody.

The testimony at an inquest on Monday is the latest to chip away at the official version of the supposed suicide of Ahmed Timol, who fell to his death from the 10th floor of a notorious Johannesburg police station in 1971.

As it unearths the long-suppressed truth in the Timol case, the inquest is shedding new light on the horrors of the apartheid system, including a pattern of torture, death, lies and deceit. But it is also exposing gaps in earlier inquiries by South Africa's post-apartheid government, including the much-lauded Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mr. Timol was one of 73 South Africans who died in police detention in the final decades of apartheid. Most of those deaths have never been properly investigated, and many of the killers were never obliged to testify at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the late 1990s after apartheid's demise.

Mr. Timol's family, who have spent decades seeking justice for his death, have said they endured a long struggle to reopen the case, even after 1994 when the African National Congress, the former anti-apartheid liberation movement, came to power. Many apartheid victims and their families feel abandoned by the ANC government, a Timol family lawyer told the inquest.

Former police sergeant Joao Rodrigues, a crucial witness because the official apartheid version had described him as the last man to see Mr. Timol alive, was never subpoenaed to testify at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Nor were other policemen subpoenaed by the commission to testify about the Timol case or many other deaths in police custody.

Mr. Rodrigues was thought to be dead, but investigators located him in June, and he was subpoenaed to appear at the new Timol inquest. Now 78 and in frail health, he testified on Monday for the first time since a widely discredited 1972 inquest.

In his new testimony, he repeated the official version that Mr. Timol was calmly drinking coffee in Room 1026 of the police station's 10th floor when he suddenly opened a window and leaped through it. But he also disclosed that several senior police officers had pressured him to lie about the death.

He said the senior officers wanted him to put false statements in his official account, including a false claim that Mr. Timol had fought with him in the moments before his death.

"They wanted me to write this, to protect themselves and their image," Mr. Rodrigues said. "There was a serious confrontation between myself and the officers, because I didn't want to write the lies that they wanted me to write."

Shortly after the 1972 inquest - which concluded that Mr. Timol had died by suicide - Mr. Rodrigues resigned from the police. He said he realized he had no future in the police and no hope of promotions because he had refused to lie.

Mr. Rodrigues will continue his testimony on Tuesday and will certainly face a rigorous cross-examination from Mr. Timol's lawyer, who will seek to discredit the suicide version. Despite his insistence on repeating the suicide claim, his admission that senior officers tried to concoct a false version is another blow to the apartheid account.

In earlier testimony, a series of experts and other witnesses have demolished the suicide theory. They pointed to evidence suggesting that Mr. Timol was tortured and severely injured before his death. A trajectory expert, who studied the position of Mr. Timol's body after his death, testified that the most likely scenario was that he was flung from the top of the police building.

Mr. Timol was held in custody in the much-feared John Vorster Square police station in Johannesburg for five days before his death. Another anti-apartheid activist who was arrested at the same time has testified that he was brutally beaten and abused by interrogators at the police station during those same days. He also caught a brief glimpse of Mr. Timol, hooded and unable to walk, being dragged along by two police officers on the same floor of the police station.

According to forensic pathologists who studied the autopsy report on Mr. Timol, his injuries before his death were so severe that he couldn't have been casually sipping coffee in the moments before his death. Nor could he have flung open a window and dived through it.

Forensic pathologist Shakeera Holland, who reviewed the autopsy report, testified that Mr. Timol had suffered multiple injuries before his death, including an isolated depressed skull fracture and facial fractures that were probably not caused by the fall. The blood vessels to his kidney were severed, and he had many other bruises and scabs, she said.

Because of his fractured skull, Mr. Timol was probably unconscious and barely alive before his fall, she testified.

Another pathologist testified that only 10 of his 35 injuries could be attributed to his fall.

Other expert witnesses noted that the police had brought Mr. Timol's body back into the police building almost immediately after his fall. Yet this violated their own first-aid training, in which they were instructed to leave victims where they fell until an ambulance arrives.

Another witness, private investigator Frank Dutton, said the original police investigation and inquest were so shoddy that they must have been a deliberate cover-up. He cited a litany of basic errors in the police handling of the investigation after Mr. Timol's death.

A former apartheid policeman, Paul Erasmus, described how political prisoners were routinely tortured in those years. He also described how apartheid police had covered up another death of a renowned anti-apartheid activist, Neil Aggett, by pretending it was suicide.

About 80,000 Apartheid Victims Denied Access to Proper Compensation
Business Day

By Farren Collins and Dan Myer
August 2, 2017

When Thamsanqa Zitha returned to SA after more than a decade in exile‚ he reached out to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)‚ hoping to gain an audience.

Zitha‚ a former operative for the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) military wings‚ was kidnapped and tortured by Eugene de Kock's death squad in 1984.

He should have been entitled to compensation for the crimes committed against him by the former government‚ but now Zitha is one of an estimated 80‚000 people who have not benefited from a special reparations fund that currently holds more than R1.5bn‚ according to the Khulumani Support Group.

The Department of Justice has refused to divulge what exactly the money will be used for.

The President's Fund was established - under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act (34 of 1995) - after the TRC recommended that reparations be paid out to apartheid victims who had made successful submissions to the commission.

By 2005, nearly 17‚000 people had received at least R30‚000 each to compensate for atrocities they had experienced under the oppressive regime.

"If I had known [about the fund], I would have gone to them‚ but not to accept the R30‚000. I would have gone as an opposition‚ because what good is R30‚000 for what I've gone through? I would ask them to pay for my education that I missed‚ my medical expenses. How can they give me only R30‚000 when I pay R5‚000 a month for medicine?" Zitha asked.

"You could count the bones on my body. I was so thin and weak. I couldn't even walk. The people who were taking care of me were scared for my life‚" Zitha said.

"I never got a response from the TRC. I wrote out my whole autobiography for them."

Marjorie Jobson‚ national director of Khulumani‚ the country's largest support group for apartheid victims‚ said the process set up by the commission was biased towards "privileged victims", and ignored thousands who could not make submissions due to their circumstances.

"[Victims] who got it are people who lived largely in the cities‚ had access to transport‚ had the capacity to find the statement takers and had TV or radio to know where they would be‚" Jobson said.

Department of Justice spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga would not confirm how the remainder of the fund would be spent‚ and if those with valid claims would be allowed to access it.

Mhaga said an amount of R550m was paid out to victims in respect of reparations in line with the regulations contained in the 1995 law.

Under the regulations, the government also paid out about R11m for education for victims and their families‚ and more than R1m for exhumation and reburial of deceased victims.

Some victims who received R30‚000 from the fund say the payout has made little difference.

"What can you do with R30‚000 if you are not working?" said Emson Banda‚ who lost the use of his right eye and struggles to walk after being wrongfully arrested and beaten by apartheid police in 1987.

"The government let us down."

Jobson said that many victims ended up paying back the money to the government because of utility debts they had accumulated.

"All of those who wanted to get a chance in life have missed the bus‚" she said. "And if this society is going to be built on a foundation of justice‚ they need to be recognised in a registration process and they need to get compensation."

Khulumani has ongoing advocacy on national justice issues related to the "unfinished business" of the TRC.

[back to contents]


Court Grounds EU Counterterrorism Plan

By Laurens Cerulus and Cathy Buyck
July 26, 2017

Brussels has to go back to the drawing board on a key plank of its counterterrorism strategy.

The European Court of Justice on Wednesday dealt a blow to the EU's policy of sharing information about airline travellers, saying that a long-standing arrangement with Canada ran roughshod over people's privacy.

The court's opinion endangers similar agreements with the United States and Australia, and will surely hinder existing plans to collect passenger data from trains and other modes of transport. Stung by the ruling, Commission officials said Brussels would move to address the court's concerns urgently, calling the program essential to European security.

In its ruling, the ECJ said the Commission went too far when it gave Canada access to detailed information about airline passengers, including what meals a passenger ate, in what company he or she traveled and how he or she bought a ticket - and stored these data for up to five years. The idea is that law enforcement could use the information to map and monitor terrorists' and criminals' travels, and halt them before boarding flights.

The EU created several so-called passenger name record systems (PNR) following major terrorist attacks, including 9/11 and those in Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016. A PNR data-sharing agreement with Canada dates back to 2006, but when it was revised in 2014, the European Parliament asked the ECJ for its opinion on the update before giving the deal its seal of approval. Some MEPs said the surveillance powers of security forces violated EU citizens' rights to privacy.

The opinion forces the Commission to redo the EU-Canada deal and reconsider the entire PNR approach.

The court agreed, saying the Commission was sloppy about how it drafted the deal. The Commission, the court said, lacked a "precise and particularly solid justification" for the measures, and should limit the kind of data being shared and how long they are stored.

"This confirms what we've been saying for 10, 14 years even … Too bad it took that long," said Sophie in 't Veld, the liberal Dutch MEP who led Parliament's charge to forward the agreement to the EU court.

The opinion forces the Commission to redo the EU-Canada deal and reconsider the entire PNR approach to cracking down on terrorist and criminal networks.

Security Commissioner Julian King said in a press briefing on Wednesday that Commission officials are speaking to Canadian counterparts "about ways of addressing the concerns raised by the European Court of Justice on the envisaged EU-Canada PNR agreement."

But King said the opinion did not affect EU countries' obligations to implement the EU's own, internal PNR system. "From the Commission's side we will do what is necessary to ensure [data exchanges with the EU] can continue, obviously in accordance with the court's opinion and with full respect to fundamental rights, in particular the right to data protection," he added.

The Maelbeek metro station in Brussels | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

"The key thing," King said, "is to recall that the exchange of information such as PNR are and remain critical for the security of our citizens."

Privacy advocates and some MEPs dismissed the commissioner's take Wednesday.

"The flaws attributed to the EU-Canada deal can largely be attributed to all the other PNR deals, which means that they are likely all incompatible with fundamental rights recognized in the EU," said Estelle Massé, a lawyer and privacy activist at Access Now.

Birgit Sippel, a Socialist German MEP and key figure on privacy files, said "if you compare the text of Canada PNR with our internal EU PNR, I'm even more convinced that the EU PNR does not fit with fundamental rights."

The European Court of Justice has repeatedly limited the Commission's ability to collect data without proper protections. It has also spoken out against a series of surveillance measures in Europe that empower law enforcement agencies to access data gathered in bulk.

Privacy-minded lawmakers have questioned whether the system that gathers vast parcels of data even works. "This doesn't have anything to do with security: It is all window dressing and political grandstanding between hawks and doves," in 't Veld said.

But German EPP MEP Axel Voss said the court's placement of a higher value on privacy over security is misguided. "On the issue of the fight against terrorism, the protection of the data of all citizens is less important than the protection of the individual," Voss said.

Airlines flying from Europe have been between a rock and hard place on the PNR issue for more than a decade. Some countries demand the data in exchange for giving airlines rights to fly there. Courts say they can't supply the data unless the EU has a specific bilateral deal to share it. But the EU has deals only with Australia, the U.S. and Canada.

The Commission held back on negotiating new PNR deals because of the EU-Canada case before the high court.

The opinion slammed the Commission for allowing data on any EU citizen to be stored for up to five years without that person being involved in any kind of investigation.

The ECJ opinion could be an opportunity for the European Commission to develop a new approach to the transfer of PNR data to countries with which there is no bilateral agreement, the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) Chris Goater said. IATA represents airlines from across the world.

About 15 non-EU countries want air carriers to provide PNR data for EU originating flights, and another 10 or so are plan to follow suit in the coming year.

Airlines are regularly threatened with financial or operational sanctions or even suspension of traffic rights if they do not provide the data.

The court specified a few limits to sharing and probing PNR data.

"The EU court deems that the PNR agreement allows for the transfer of way too many types of personal data," said Peter Van Dyck, partner at the law firm Allen & Overy in Brussels. For instance, exchanging data on a passenger's choice of meals, together with names and birth country, allows to identify someone's religion - which is considered disproportionate intel under EU law, Van Dyck said.

Most of all, the opinion slammed the Commission for allowing data on any EU citizen to be stored for up to five years without that person being involved in any kind of investigation. "This could result in the building of huge databases with data of European citizens of which there are no indications or suspicions that they have any link to terrorism whatsoever," Van Dyck said.

Privacy advocates called the opinion a win for privacy. "Reckless data retention and profiling have no place in a democratic, law-based society," Joe McNamee, executive director at European Digital Rights, said in a statement.

Rights Groups to Sue Qatar over Terror
Gulf News

By Ramadan Al Sherbini
July 29, 2017

Egyptian rights advocates and politicians last week called for filing compensation lawsuits in international courts against Qatar for its support of terrorist attacks in the country.

"The [Egyptian] parliament should pass legislation on compensation for terrorism victims similar to the American JASTA law," Hafez Abu Saeeda, the head of the non-governmental Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), said at a Cairo conference on legal support for victims of terrorism.

He was referring to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, passed by the US Congress last year, allowing families of victims of the September 11, 2011 attacks in New York to sue foreign countries linked to the assaults.

Abu Saeeda said that a team of Egyptian, Arab and foreign lawyers will be formed to sue terror-sponsoring countries, noting that they could go to The Hague-based International Criminal Court that previously handled similar cases.

The team will collect powers of attorney from families of terrorism victims and document groups and countries involved in violence in order to file legal complaints at international tribunals, he explained.

"Reconciliation is not possible in issues related to terrorist acts that cannot be regarded as political opposition. Terrorism is a crime against humanity."

Abu Saeeda called for instituting a global system to compensate victims of terrorism, citing a surge in terror acts in the world, including the Arab region.

The campaign to support victims of terrorism is pursued by the Cairo-based EOHR and the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) headquartered in Geneva.

"The aim of this conference is to discuss all ways aimed at offering legal support for victims of terrorism," said Salah Salem, a member of Egypt's state-appointed national Council for Human Rights.

He accused Qatar and other countries whom he did not name of standing behind a spate of terrorist attacks that have hit Egypt since the army's 2013 overthrow of president Mohammad Mursi, a senior official in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar is a staunch backer of the Brotherhood.

"These countries have to pay damages for victims of terrorism including those whose factories have been closed and plantations destroyed as a result of terrorism," added Salem.

Last month, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over its supporting and funding of terrorist organisations. The four countries have also placed on lists of terrorism dozens of people and groups associated with Qatar.

Alaa Abed, who heads the Egyptian parliament's human rights committee, voiced the panel's backing for the latest anti-Qatar moves.

Special tribunals planned for terrorist financing cases
Dhaka Tribune

By Asif Showkat Kallol
July 30, 2017

The total number of cases of money laundering and terrorist financing stood at 850 till March 2017, of which 609 cases are under trial.

The government is going to set up special tribunals for the disposal of cases of terrorist financing and money laundering in the terrorism and militancy-prone areas of the country.

Concerned authorities have already identified several such areas. The Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry will appoint special judges for these tribunals.

The decision to set up special tribunals for the disposal of money laundering cases was taken at the latest meeting of the National Coordination Council on Combating Terrorist Financing and Money Laundering, presided over by Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the Finance Ministry auditorium.

Officials from the Financial Institutions Division said the Law Ministry was now working on the matter.

Identified crime and terrorism-prone areas according to intelligence reports are Satkhira, Chandpur, Noakhali, Chittagong, Feni, Rajshahi, Gaibandha, Bogra, Mymensingh and Sylhet, among others. These areas are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and law enforcement agencies are maintaining strong vigilance there.

Under the provisions of Section 28 (1) of the Anti Terrorism Act 2009, the government can form special tribunals for the quick disposal of the terrorism and militancy cases.

According to the Police Headquarters, the total number of cases of money laundering and terrorist financing stood at 850 till March 2017, of which 609 cases are under trial.

Financial Institutions Division Senior Secretary Md Enusur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune on Saturday that the government has showed zero tolerance against terrorist financing and money laundering.

"The National Coordination Council recommended special tribunals several years back, but it is a lengthy process and the Law Ministry is now looking into the matter," he said.

"Illegal money transaction will come down to a minimum if the government runs these special tribunals to dispose cases of money laundering and terrorist financing," he added.

Money laundering cases are not given importance in the ordinary courts, the senior secretary said. But he did not elaborate the plan for setting up the special tribunals.

Saudi Arabia seeks to end U.S. lawsuits over Sept. 11 attacks

By Jonathan Stempel
August 1, 2017

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday asked a U.S. judge to dismiss 25 lawsuits claiming that it helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and should pay damages to victims.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Saudi Arabia said the plaintiffs cannot show that the kingdom or any affiliated charities were behind the attacks. It also said it deserved sovereign immunity.

The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the attacks, in which airplanes hijacked by al Qaeda crashed into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died.

Saudi Arabia is being sued for billions of dollars by the families of roughly 2,500 of those killed, more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers.

"It is what we expected," James Kreindler, a lawyer representing the wrongful death claimants, said in an interview, referring to Tuesday's filing. "We have tons of allegations of what many Saudis and the country's alter ego charities did. Saudi Arabia cannot hide from the facts."

In September 2015, U.S. District Judge George Daniels, who oversees the litigation, had dismissed claims by victims' families.

But last September, the U.S. Congress overrode a veto by President Barack Obama and adopted the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which permits such claims to proceed.

In Tuesday's filing, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that JASTA eliminated some of its defenses.

But it said the plaintiffs still could not show that any Saudi official, employee or agent planned or carried out the attacks.

It said this included Omar Al Bayoumi, said to be a Saudi intelligence officer who met with two hijackers in San Diego and been "tasked" to help them, including by finding an apartment and opening a bank account.

"Neither proper allegations nor any evidence support plaintiffs' conclusory assertions that Saudi Arabia caused the 9/11 attacks by knowingly or even recklessly aiding the terrorists who committed them," the kingdom said.

Saudi Arabia also suggested that JASTA might violate the U.S. Constitution if Congress passed it to dictate the result in this lawsuit, encroaching on courts' power to decide cases.

Obama had warned that the law could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits in other countries.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. A U.S. government commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded al Qaeda. It left open whether individual officials might have.

The case is In re: Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 03-md-01570.

[back to contents]


Philippine Forces Hunt Terrorists at Sea
Maritime Executive

By Noel Tarrazona
July 23, 2017

As fighting between terrorists and government forces in Mindanao continues, the Philippine government has rolled out countermeasures to prevent the escape of members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group via maritime routes. Manila has announced two major maritime security initiatives to prevent ISIS-inspired militants from fleeing to neighboring islands near the Malaysian and Indonesian borders.

Making its first move, the Philippine government signed a maritime security agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia to hold joint trilateral naval patrols in the Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia maritime border area.

Under the joint naval collaborative program, called Indomaphil, the three nations agreed that their naval assets will be allowed to enter any of the three countries' maritime territory when pursuing terrorist suspects. In a joint statement, the three nations said that "the collaboration is to prevent extremists from making Southeast Asia or any country a base for their operations."

The Philippine military says that the terrorists in Marawi are not only Filipinos. Some of them were reported to be nationals from Malaysia, Indonesia and Middle East. Defense officials say that one of the challenges of fighting terror in Southeast Asia is that the terrorists can move to three different countries in less than 24 hours.

Domestic Strategy

Aside from the ASEAN collaboration, the Philippine government is also intensifying security measures in Philippine ports to thwart terror attacks from the local terrorist group.

The demand for intense security developed when three members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group attempted to use seaports for their escape. With close monitoring and intensified port security, the three suspects were arrested in the port of Iloilo, Panay on board a ship arriving from Mindanao. The Philippine Coast Guard alerted the sea marshall upon receiving intelligence reports that suspected terrorists were on board the ship and the suspects were eventually caught.

Commodore Joel Garcia, officer-in-charge of the PCG attributed the success of the arrested suspects to the vigilance of shipping companies. "Security will always be dependent on the cooperation of shipping companies to the Coast Guard," Garcia told Philippine journalists.

While countermeasures to prevent terrorist violence on the sea are already in place, the Coast Guard will also be deploying manpower in tourist beach resorts that could be a potential target of terrorists' kidnapping and bombing attacks.

But despite the intensified security measures on the Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia border, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) has warned shipowners to reroute their vessels to avoid identified threats in the region.

ReCAAP was referring to the Sulu and Celebes seas, where two Vietnamese sailors were abducted and later beheaded by suspected terrorists after the victims' families failed to deliver a ransom. ReCAAP reports that about 59 crew members have been abducted in the Sulu Celebes seas and the Malaysian border of Eastern Sabah since last year, and the abductors have been reported to demand huge ransoms for the release of their captives. The Asian media report that the same abductors have raked in at least $12 million from their maritime kidnapping and extortion activities in the region.

Mindanao Conflict Risks Spike in Southeast Asia Piracy
Hellenic Shipping News

July 31, 2017

Since the peak of the Somali piracy crisis at the turn of the decade, the crowded waters of Southeast Asia have replaced those of the west Indian Ocean as the world's most dangerous. A spike in hijackings for cargo theft in the congested Malacca Strait, along with a spate of kidnappings-for-ransom in the Sulu Sea by Abu Sayyaf militants, have prompted many to label the region as the world's new piracy hotspot.

The worst-affected states - Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines - have responded by launching joint naval patrols, resulting in a reduction in the threat level over the past year. However, recent incidents - including the hijacking of a Thai oil tanker in waters off Kuantan in June, and the beheading of two captured Vietnamese sailors on Basilan Island by Abu Sayyaf on 5 July - serve as stark and timely reminders that the threat is far from over.

In fact, Southeast Asia's piracy problem could be about to take a dramatic turn for the worse. The escalating militancy on the Philippines' southernmost island of Mindanao - which has drawn in foreign fighters and developed an international-jihadist element not previously seen in the region - could result in a period of prolonged instability and lawlessness, creating the perfect conditions for a new wave of piracy to develop and thrive.

If the jihadist violence worsens, the potential exists for extremists to turn to large-scale piracy to fund their activities, wreaking further havoc in the Sulu Sea and extending their reach to the region's crowded commercial shipping lanes, where more lucrative and high-profile targets lie in wait.

Nigerian Pirates Abduct Five Seafarers from Freighter
Maritime Executive

August 2, 2017

Moroccan media report that the general cargo vessel Oya 1 (ex name Celia) was boarded by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea on the night of July 29. The attackers reportedly abducted two Moroccan officers, Ahmed Janani and Abdelkader Benhala, and three other crewmembers.

The ICC IMB Piracy Reporting Centre confirmed that the Nigerian Navy responded to an attack on a general cargo ship 15 nm southwest of Bonny Island at about the same time. IMB said that it was reported that some crew members were missing, and that the Nigerian Navy towed the vessel into port for an investigation.

Nigeria pushes back on maritime piracy

The Nigerian Navy recently extended a surge operation to counter attacks on merchant shipping in the Gulf of Guinea, which spiked last year with multiple hijackings and kidnappings. The service's chief of staff, Vice Adm. Iboke-Ete Ibas, said that the Nigerian Navy had reduced the count of successful piracy incidents by 90 percent year-on-year for the period from January through June. "This improvement in security situation within Nigeria's offshore maritime domain is attributable to the intensive patrols and efforts of Operation Tsare Teku," he said. "The Nigerian Navy remains absolutely committed to creating a secure and enabling maritime environment for economic activities to thrive toward national growth."

The waters off Nigeria continue to lead for maritime kidnappings, with 31 crewmembers abducted in the year to date, according to the IMB. The Gulf of Guinea also leads for armed attacks on vessels. Nigeria's legislature has taken note: the leader of the Nigerian house of representatives, Yakubu Dogara, recently introduced a bill to increase funding for anti-piracy operations. "The increasing level of attacks and violence in the gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image," he told Nigeria's The Cable. "The major component of this bill is the creation of the maritime security fund . . . that will empower the Navy to secure our waters as part of its primary responsibility."

Using Artificial Intelligence to Track Illegal Activities at Sea
Satellite Today

By Kendall Russell
August 2, 2017

ImageSat International (ISI) has been investing heavily in its development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) analytics in hopes of capitalizing on the abundance of new satellite-based imagery. In an interview with Via Satellite, ISI Business Development and Product Manager Ori Zeisel detailed the technology that drives the company's maritime domain awareness service, Kingfisher.

According to Zeisel, ISI developed Kingfisher to address the range of issues related to tracking maritime assets, including Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, foreign military activities at sea, and counter-terrorism and piracy. Specifically, the service works by shining a light on ships - known as non-cooperative vessels by NATO and other organizations - that would otherwise fly under the radar of maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS).

Until a few years ago, AIS was the only way to keep track of goings-on in the middle of the ocean, Zeisel said. "The problem with this solution is that only the good guys are using AIS," he explained. "If you want to do illegal fishing … or nautical trafficking or even military activity, you do not use AIS because you do not want the other side to understand what you're doing. Basically, all the criminal and military activity is being kept in the dark."

To add another layer of visibility for its customers, ISI has turned to commercial satellite imagery, using algorithms run by AI to analyze the data collected from its disparate sources. "We start with analyzing open-source intelligence and AIS. By doing this, we can focus on hotspots [where] there is higher probability for detection of illegal activity," Zeisel said.

Once ISI has an idea of where to look, the company tasks satellites from commercial providers to image the hotspot and downloads the data to be inspected by a combination of human analysts and automatic AI detection. Tasking commercial satellites can sometimes be a time-intensive process, Zeisel said, in which case ISI reorients its own Eros B satellite to provide the necessary data.

ISI then cross-references the data with AIS signals from the specific time the image was taken. "From this stage we get the output of vessels that do have AIS and vessels that were detected only in the imagery but do not transmit AIS. And now it's a new ball game," Zeisel said.

In order to catch illegal fishers red-handed, for example, ISI must be able to predict where the vessel will be in a few hours' time to know where to aim the cameras of high-resolution optical satellites. To achieve this, the company turns again to AI algorithms, leveraging multi-agent simulation and deep learning techniques alongside AIS historical behavior. "[We're] simulating all the possible positions of the vessel," Zeisel said. "At the end, you get a heat map with a statistical probability of where the vessel can be in up to 12 hours."

As proof of concept, ISI partnered with the Coast Guard of an unnamed South American country to monitor its Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). In one situation, a vessel cruised along the outside edge of the country's EEZ before switching off its AIS system and sailing out into international waters. Using Kingfisher's predictive behavior AI algorithm, ISI was able to forecast the vessel's sailing pattern, which allowed the Coast Guard enforcement team to pursue and engage with the unlawful fishing vessel.

Other than AIS, Kingfisher relies largely on electro-optic satellites to image the visual characteristics of vessels, as well as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) due to its ability to cover large areas and penetrate cloud cover.

Zeisel believes the technology can be applied to a number of use cases in the maritime domain where AIS alone falls short. "We understand that satellite images are becoming a commodity because of companies like Planet," he said. "It's very logical business-wise to put the focus more on the analytics side and not just providing images."

[back to contents]

Commentary and Perspectives

How the Ongwen Trial Is Influencing Discussions on Accountability in Northern Uganda
International Justice Monitor

By Lino Owor Ogora
July 27, 2017

In northern Uganda, intense debate surrounds the question of whether the government of Uganda or the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) bears greater responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the two-decade conflict. The trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the LRA, currently underway at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has become a focal point for discussions on accountability. This article reflects some of the views heard in those discussions, based on questions put to civil society organization (CSO) representatives and community members.

Ongwen 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.

It is, however, a well-known fact that Ugandan government forces also committed crimes during the two-decade conflict that rocked northern Uganda. Community members and CSO representatives who expressed their views for this article frequently cited acts of arbitrary killings, torture, looting, and sexual and gender based violence committed by government forces in northern Uganda. As one human rights activist based in Gulu summarized, "All the crimes that Dominic Ongwen has been charged with, the government soldiers should be equally charged with."

When asked for their opinion about whether the government of Uganda or the LRA bore the greatest responsibility for crimes committed in northern Uganda, interviewees gave varied responses. Some argued that the government should carry the greatest blame because it had the mandate to protect its citizens and prevent the commission of crimes.

"The government holds the blame because the constitution provides that the role of the government is to provide the security and protect the people and property. This does not mean that the rebels are not to be held responsible for the crimes or acts of human right violations, because whatever their grievances, they should not have targeted civilians," said a human rights activist.

"The government carries more blame because it is the government's responsibility to protect the people in the country. But the government failed to grant protection to the people of northern Uganda. The government also had all the responsibility to end the war but it failed," said a CSO activist.

Another CSO activist said, "The government was responsible for protecting the citizens of this country, but they instead killed them and they should be answerable for that. There should be equality in handling criminal cases by the ICC. All those who committed crimes in northern Uganda should be made accountable."

Other people believed that the LRA bore the greater blame because of the gruesome nature of atrocities committed against civilians.

"Much as the government carries a big portion of the blame, the LRA leader Joseph Kony carries the greatest blame since he decided to start the war, thereby leading to all the crimes in northern Uganda" said a former LRA abductee.

In the opinion of many respondents, both the government and LRA are equally to blame. As one prominent religious leader and peace activist in northern Uganda summed it up, "In the situation of northern Uganda, both the government and the LRA have to be blamed and held accountable and responsible for their actions against humanity."

Respondents were also asked whether they thought the ICC was being fair by focusing only on the LRA, and not the government, as demonstrated by Ongwen's trial. A majority of the respondents did not believe that that the ICC was being fair.

A human rights activist based in Gulu said, "To me, in the name of justice, if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the government for similar offenses then the ICC should do so. If, in their wisdom, they did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute the government, then it will be right. But if they do not prosecute because they are in fear of the government then that is very unfortunate."

"The ICC is not being fair by prosecuting only the LRA, yet the truth on the ground is that both parties committed crimes in northern Uganda," said a former abductee.

A civil society representative from eastern Uganda said, "To level the ground, the ICC should have also prosecuted some people from the government. However, this would need to be specific to commanders who committed crimes during the war. This would make people feel that justice is prevailing as both sides are brought to book."

Asked why they thought the ICC had not prosecuted any government soldiers to date, the respondents cited a variety of reasons. One CSO representative opined that the ICC had no choice in the matter because of its limited jurisdiction. "Although it is unfair, we should remember the mandate of the ICC which limits the scope of crimes to be investigated to after the year 2002. For me, I think it is already a positive step by the ICC to prosecute one of the five top [LRA] commanders," he said.

Many respondents cited the principle of state cooperation, enshrined in the Rome Statute, as limiting investigations of government actions. Article 86 of the statute stipulates, "States parties shall, in accordance with the provisions of this statute, cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court." Some respondents therefore reasoned that the ICC's independence was compromised by the fact that it was reliant on the cooperation of the Ugandan government.

As stated by one CSO representative, "Uganda as a state should be the one to refer the case of its soldiers to the ICC. So if the government has not referred the case of its soldiers, then there is no way the ICC can prosecute them."

Another added, "The government signed an agreement to cooperate with the ICC but the government has taken advantage of this to avoid prosecution from the ICC."

In the words of another, "I think the agreement that was signed by the ICC and the government makes the government safe from prosecution. However, in the future reality will have to be faced by the ICC given that many people still blame the government. It is just a matter of time."

In criticizing the limitation of the ICC's jurisdiction, a human rights activist said, "Unfortunately the ICC says it does not try crimes that were committed before it was created. This is not the essence of justice because it does not matter when the crime was committed. If you are for justice, the perpetrator should be punished whether a crime is committed now or in the future. It is just like saying let us not talk about the crimes previously committed which are very wrong."

A prominent religious leader and peace activist based in northern Uganda summarized, "Well they say power respects power. So at the moment the government is in power and the ICC has no power over the government even if it wants to prosecute. The most common example is where Bashir of Sudan refused to report to the ICC."

Asked whether Ugandan government forces who committed crimes should also be held accountable by the ICC, many people replied in the affirmative.

A human rights activist said, "Yes why not? If it is in the constitution that the role of the government is to protect the life and property of citizens, then did the government really perform that role to their best expectation or are there incidences where they failed?"

"The government should be held responsible but individual perpetrators are the ones who should be made accountable and not the entire government, just like the five top commanders of the LRA were identified and handed over to the ICC," said a CSO activist from eastern Uganda.

Asked if they see other alternatives to the ICC for holding the government of Uganda accountable, the respondents gave various suggestions, with some suggesting the use of domestic courts in Uganda such as the International Crimes Division (ICD).

"They can be handled by domestic courts in Uganda provided there will be transparency, no corruption, and fairness," said one CSO representative.

Another said, "They can be prosecuted in the courts of Uganda and if found guilty, they should be imprisoned and punished so that the rest of them who might think of committing the same crimes can be deterred. If they are left unpunished, it will encourage the rest to commit similar crimes."

Ongwen's trial has attracted mixed reactions from people in Uganda regarding whether or not it is fair. The above views demonstrate the strong convictions that people have, particularly regarding crimes committed by government of Uganda soldiers during the conflict. They also demonstrate that regardless of the outcome of Ongwen's trial, the population in northern Uganda will continue calling for accountability for all of those who committed crimes.

Serbia, End Your Impunity for War Crimes
Huffington Post

By Kadire Tahiraj
August 1, 2017

When the newly-elected president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, went to the White House recently and met with Vice President Mike Pence, a statement was issued calling for "further progress in normalizing the relationship with Kosovo." What was not mentioned was the continuing impunity for those in Serbia who were responsible for ethnic cleansing and other war crimes in Kosovo almost two decades ago and who today hold high office in Belgrade.

Mr. Vucic has been described as a reformer, for he speaks of democracy, peace and stability in the Balkans, and no doubt he was received as such in Washington. But as I watched the news of his visit here in Drenica, where I live in this hilly central region of Kosovo, I see only the daily reminders of the brutal campaign that in 1998 and 1999 was ordered by the dictator Slobodan. Milosevic and killed thousands of civilians, saw women raped, and destroyed homes. Mr. Vucic was then an aide for Milosevic and his cronies.

Nowhere was the killing and destruction and rape and torture more brutal than here in the Drenica valley, for this was the birthplace of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Serbian forces hunted down Kosovo Albanians with ferocity, and they raped thousands of women.

Today, we have largely recovered from the physical losses, because we are resilient and are determined that our children must have a different and better future. But the women who were raped are still deeply affected; their future was stolen from them.

So Mr. Vucic should be reminded that the progress he promotes must hinge on his and Serbia's recognition of the war crimes committed in Kosovo, which included an estimated 20,000 rapes. Most of the rapes were during the 78 days of the 1999 NATO air campaign, led by the United States to halt Milosevic's ethnic cleansing.

Women were in their homes when they were raped, often in front of their families and children. Many were held in rape camps, and many were in their early teenage years. Some lost pregnancies and their chance to become mothers. They could have been the lucky ones, for they were not killed after being abused, but today they do not consider themselves lucky. When their families abandoned them because the stigma of rape was too hard to bear, or when they still cannot sleep at night because of their nightmares, survivors die a little every day.

We have sought justice for 18 years, and justice, including that of international tribunals, has failed us. Cases have been taken to the International Criminal Tribunal For The Former Yugoslavia, where there has been an occasional admission of responsibility for sexual violence, but there have been no convictions and the perpetrators continue to walk free.

Their leaders included the current Chief of the Serbian Army, General Ljubisa Dikovic, who was commander of the forces which burned down our villages, raped us, killed our loved ones and then engaged in coverup by taking away their bodies. The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center has amassed damning evidence against him, but he remains untouched. What's even more offensive to us, he has been promoted, and like him other officials of the criminal Milosevic's regime.

To us, the image of Mr. Vucic from the 1990s is that of a valet to the Serbian leaders who ordered the war crimes. First as Serbian prime minister and now as president, Mr. Vucic speaks of reconciliation, but in practice he has done little to change the image we have of him as serving war criminals. Mr. Vucic has consistently tried to avoid admitting Serbia's responsibility for war crimes by throwing a blanket of culpability over Kosovo and the former Yugoslav republics.

President Vucic often pleads with the U.S. and others for understanding how difficult it is for Serbs to relinquish Kosovo. In doing so, he ignores the fact that he is talking about a country whose people still wear the wounds inflicted on them in the name of Serbia. He continues to obstruct Kosovo's development, and he has no political will to address his country's brutal past.

We will continue our quest for justice and we count on the United States, which came to our defense in 1999 because of the very horrendous crimes committed against us and has helped us build the foundations of a democratic country since then, to demand that Serbia ends the impunity over the crimes it committed in Kosovo.

Third of British People Want to See Tony Blair Tried as a War Criminal over Iraq, Finds YouGov Poll

By Chloe Farand
August 1, 2017

Tony Blair should be tried as a war criminal over the Iraq War, according to a third of Britons surveyed in a new poll.

Carried out on the same day that the High Court blocked a bid by a former chief of the Iraqi Army's staff to bring a private prosecution against the former prime minister, the YouGov survey asked 3,264 adults representative of the population in Britain to pick one of five statements that best summed up their views about him in respect of the Iraq War.

A third - 33 per cent - of those taking part in the survey chose "Mr Blair knowingly misled Parliament and the public and should be tried as a war criminal".

The number of respondents who said Mr Blair should be tried as a war criminal was higher among those aged above 65, with 42 per cent choosing that answer compared with only 26 per cent of those aged 18 to 24.

Overall, about 27 per cent answered they did not know which statements best summed up their views on the matter and 15 per cent said they agreed that he "knowingly misled Parliament and the public but we should now move on and take no action against him".

Nearly half of the 18 to 24-year-olds, or 47 per cent, said they did not know which statement to pick.

Among the respondents, 13 per cent chose the sentence: "Even if some of the details were wrong, Mr Blair was right to warn that Saddam Hussein's regime was extremely dangerous."

12 per cent said Mr Blair misled Parliament and the public about the scale of the threat from Iraq "but did not intend to do so".

Of those who identified as Conservative voters, 40 per cent said they wanted to see Mr Blair tried as a war criminal compared with 31 per cent of Labour voters and 25 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

Among SNP voters, 39 per cent said they wanted to see him tried, as did 54 per cent of Ukip voters.

The findings come as the debate over criminal proceedings against Mr Blair resumed after Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed General Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat's application for private prosecution, saying there was "no prospect" of the case succeeding.

The general has accused Mr Blair of committing a "crime of aggression" by invading Iraq in 2003 to overthrow its leader Saddam Hussein. He wanted to prosecute Mr Blair along with former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith, the then Attorney General.

His application to the High Court for a judicial review was an attempt to overturn a ruling by the House of Lords in 2006 that there is no such crime as the crime of aggression under the law of England and Wales.

The general lives in Oman and does not possess a passport to travel to the UK.

The UK was part of a US-led coalition which invaded Iraq after former US President George W Bush and Mr Blair accused Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having links to terrorists.

But the Chilcot report, which summarised the findings of a public inquiry into Britain's role in the war, concluded Mr Blair deliberately blurred lines between what he believed and what he knew.

It found that the former Prime Minister had convinced himself with unjustified certainty that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, when intelligence reports had not established "beyond doubt" that they existed.

[back to contents]

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

Dean Michael P. Scharf

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


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

Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Jessica Joyce, Senior Associate Editor

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

Shanleigh Kennedy, Senior Editor
Jonathan Engelke, Associate Editor

Lake Chad Region
Shanleigh Kennedy, Senior Editor
Alex Kish, Senior Associate Editor


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

Stephanie Ripma, Special Senior Editor

Stephanie Ripma, Special Senior Editor
Mindy Garland, Senior Associate Editor

Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor

War Crimes Investigations in Burma
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
Jessica Joyce, Senior Associate Editor

Ellen Denum, Associate Editor

Arne Bussare, Associate Editor

North Korea
Sarah Lucey, Associate Editor


North and Central America
Aliza Lopes-Baker, Senior Editor
Christopher Colombo, Associate Editor

South America
Aliza Lopes-Baker, Senior Editor
Sabrina Turner, Associate Editor


Roberta Harter, Senior Editor
Katelyn Pierce, Senior Associate Editor

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:

Frederick K. Cox International Law Center:

Cox Center War Crimes Research Portal:

Public International Law & Policy Group -

To subscribe or unsubscribe from this newsletter, please email