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FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 - Issue 23
January 22, 2018

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Editor-in-Chief
James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

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

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

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Burundi

WEST AFRICA

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Afghanistan

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

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

Central African Republic: At Appeal Hearing, Defense Lawyers Say Bemba Was Denied a Fair Trial
All Africa

By Wairagala Wakabi
January 10, 2018

On Tuesday, January 9, lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba argued at an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo was denied a fair trial and his exculpatory evidence was unjustifiably dismissed, leading to his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III convicted Bemba of crimes committed 15 years ago in the Central African Republic (CAR). At the hearing, defense lawyer Peter Haynes faulted trial chamber judges for allowing the prosecution to access privileged communication between Bemba and his lawyers and for receiving evidence from the prosecution without allowing Bemba to offer his side of the story.

Haynes said the prosecution made several ex parte submissions on the credibility of defense witnesses and Bemba's lawyers, but while some of the allegations were inaccurate, they went unchallenged. Haynes also claimed that on September 7, 2011, judges heard the evidence of Witness P178 in the absence of the Bemba's lawyers, who were never given the opportunity to cross-examine him.

In his week-long testimony, Witness P178, a former insider in Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel group, testified about the group's top commanders and claimed Bemba took looted goods. During his testimony, hearings stalled for undisclosed reasons and thereafter, the testimony of this witness was heard in closed session.

However, the prosecution's Helen Brady said that the hearing conducted in the absence of the defense related to the security and safety of Witness P178, and he did not discuss substantive matters in the case. Haynes countered that, during that hearing, Witness P178 made "particularly pernicious" allegations that were directly relevant to issues in the case and made "materially inaccurate" criticism of defense witnesses, the accused, and defense lawyers.

According to Haynes, judges declined a defense request to recall Witness P178 after information emerged that he had masterminded a scheme for 22 prosecution witnesses to extort money from the court. He said Witness P178 had been ready to return to the court to testify about those allegations.

Members of the prosecution team accessed intercepted communications between Bemba and two of his lawyers as they were being investigated for witness tampering. The three, along with two other Bemba aides, were convicted in 2016 of witness tampering in a separate trial. They appealed the conviction.

Haynes also said trial judges "refused to accept all exculpatory evidence by the defense" including from expert witnesses such as former French army general Jacques Seara, a former chief of staff of the CAR army, and MLC top commanders who, the defense said, had "effective control" over the troops that committed the crimes.

In the conviction decision, judges determined that Bemba maintained effective control over his troops that were deployed in the CAR, although he had remained in neighboring Congo.

The defense also contends that the latitude given to legal representatives of victims to participate in the trial "was erroneous and unfair."

However, Brady said whereas the violation of an accused's fair trial rights is among the grounds specified in Article 81 of the Rome Statute for appealing a decision, for the appeal to succeed the fair trial violations must have had an impact on the conviction decision. "Not every violation renders the whole trial unfair or makes it impossible to rely on the whole body of evidence or constitutes a miscarriage of justice," she added.

The appeals chamber is comprised of Judges Christine Van den Wyngaert (Presiding), Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, Howard Morrison, Chile Eboe-Osuji, and Piotr Hofmanski. It is hearing Bemba's appeal against conviction and appeals by the defense and the prosecution against the 18-year prison sentence handed to him.

Hearings are scheduled to continue throughout this week and will conclude next Tuesday.

Case dismissed against French troops accused of child rape in Central Africa
Punch

January 15, 2018

French investigating magistrates have closed a probe into allegations that French soldiers raped children in the Central African Republic while on a peacekeeping mission, judicial sources told AFP on Monday. French investigating magistrates have closed a probe into allegations that French soldiers raped children in the Central African Republic while on a peacekeeping mission, judicial sources told AFP on Monday.

The magistrates said there was no evidence that members of Operation Sangaris, deployed to keep warring militias apart, had abused children at a camp for people displaced by the fighting in 2013 and 2014, the sources said.

The state prosecutor had last year called for the case to be closed.

While admitting "it is not certain that no sexual abuse took place", the prosecutor said that "differences" in the testimonies of the children who came forward made it impossible to establish guilt among the troops.

No one was ever charged over the allegations.

They were first reported by the British left-of-centre daily The Guardian in April 2015, tarnishing the reputation of the French military.

The Guardian reported that six children aged nine to 13 had said they were abused in a camp in CAR's capital Bangui, in return for food rations.

French investigators travelled to CAR in 2015 and 2016 to question the children concerned.

Six soldiers were questioned but all denied any wrongdoing.

France wound up the Sangaris mission in 2016 after three years, leaving just a rump force in the country as backup to a UN peacekeeping force.

Reports of abuse involving members of various peacekeeping contingents in CAR and other African countries have also emerged.

In Central African Republic, militia violence leaves village devastated
Times Live

January 17, 2018

"We first heard gunshots. Then we saw the horses arrive, each carrying two or three men, armed with Kalashnikovs, rifles, bows and arrows," Charles Tombe says.

"They shot at everyone — we fled into the bush. There are corpses over there, rotting."

Tombe, 52, ran a small medical centre, which he said was burned down along with all the other houses after the village of Bekoro Misso was looted.

He is one of numerous eyewitnesses AFP interviewed about militia violence that has erupted in northwest Central African Republic, sapping hopes of stabilising a dirt-poor, fragile state.

Tombe and thousands of others have sought refuge in the small dusty town of Paoua. Many survivors recount nightmarish stories of gunfire and machete attacks.

Two rival armed groups, calling themselves the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) and Revolution and Justice (RJ), are jockeying for control of the area.

Up until the end of last year, they divided territory and checkpoints — a crucial source of income where businessmen, travellers and farmers are charged a fee to pass through.

But the murder of an RJ leader in November set off a chain reaction of killing and counter-killing.

Civilians targeted

Retaliatory attacks swiftly spread to the local population, suspected of conniving with the other side.

The better-armed MNLC is being supported, according to several witnesses, by fighters on horseback from the Fulani nomadic ethnic group, who have come from Chad.

A 24-year-old motorcycle taxi driver named Prince, from the village of Bedoua, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Paoua, says his mother and younger brother were killed before his eyes.

"They even burned a house with people inside," he says.

Sixteen-year-old Lanissa Ne Oumangue says she fled with her year-old baby after her village, Bemal, 50 kms from Paoua, was attacked by MNLC thugs on January 3.

Her husband was shot dead in cold blood, she says. Armed men, she adds, threw an infant on the ground and then killed it.

Mired in poverty but rich in diamonds, gold and uranium, Central African Republic has been battered by a five-year conflict between militias that began after then-president Francois Bozize was overthrown.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and more than a million people have fled their homes, according to the UN Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was also forced to shut seven health centres in January.

Human influx

In the last few weeks, more than 60,000 people have taken refuge in Paoua, a town whose normal population is 40,000, according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Host families are taking in people who are displaced, despite the enormous strain of feeding them. On the local market, the price of maniochas doubled and that of sugar by a third, partly because supplies, trucked in from neighbouring Cameroon, have drastically fallen because of the violence.

Bernadette Corta, 24, says she has more than a hundred people who have taken refuge in her two houses.

"If we eat, all of us eat, otherwise none of us eats," she says firmly, adding that the closest well to her home has now run dry.

The latest arrivals in Paoua are holed up on land owned by the 20 local churches, sleeping under plastic sheets distributed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), or under the mango trees.

One worry is of long-term impoverishment, for many cotton farmers fled "at a critical moment, during the harvest," depriving them of their income, says Jean Ospital of MSF.

Devastation

NGOs and the UN have so far failed to establish the death toll in the areas outside Paoua as many areas are too dangerous to visit.

A trip to the village of Bedaya, 20 kms from Paoua, reveals why.

The village is almost lifeless. The mud houses are deserted, there are no children or adults, and kitchen utensils lie abandoned by the ashes of an old fire — a possible indication of the haste in which people fled after being attacked.

At first glance, the only inhabitants seem to be half-starving dogs with patchy fur, roaming around, searching for scraps of food.

But as Cameroonian soldiers with a UN peacekeeping force arrive, a handful of men slowly appear, saying they are trying to find food for their families.

Scramble

In Paoua, thousands of hungry people crowd around a truck parked in the square of the Holy Family Church.

Emergency food from the World Food Programme (WFP) is unloaded but disputes erupt when some begin to realise there are not enough rations to go around.

Bags of food are torn apart as people fight over rice and children throw themselves onto the ground to pick up grains in the dust.

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Sudan & South Sudan

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

New clashes outside South Sudan's capital said to kill 4
Fox News

January 9, 2017

South Sudan's armed opposition says four government soldiers have been killed in new clashes just outside the capital, Juba.

The opposition says soldiers in two vehicles attacked their position Tuesday morning in Wunu'Lyet, less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Juba.

It's the latest violation of a cease-fire that began Dec. 24 with the hope of calming a civil war that has entered its fifth year.

Opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel calls the fighting "a clear demonstration that (President) Salva Kiir has no intention whatsoever to respect the signed cessation of hostilities." He says two rebels were wounded.

Army spokesman Lual Ruai Koang says he isn't aware of any new fighting.

South Sudan's civil war has killed tens of thousands. Another round of high-level peace talks is scheduled for February.

South Sudan: In Search of a Path to Peace
Geopolitical Monitor

By Samuel Pence
January 12, 2018

After nearly four years of famine, displacement, and economic disintegration, the civil war in South Sudan remains one of the world's most vexing geopolitical quandaries. Sparked by a 2013 political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, the crisis has since taken on the explosive overtones of ethnic tribalism to morph into a contest between Dinka-dominated government forces and a range of increasingly fragmented ethnic militias. To date, over 60,000 lives have been claimed by the war while four million have been displaced by fighting and famine. Meanwhile, half of those displaced have spilled over South Sudan's borders into neighboring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, threatening further regional strife. In the wake of the failed 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), and in the face of deepening refugee and food security crises, it's clear that future peacemaking efforts must draw upon the influence of regional and international actors while incorporating incentives for all sides of the conflict to come to the table in search of nonviolent solutions.

According to Payton Knopf of the United States Institute of Peace, there are currently five civil wars unfolding within South Sudan's broader conflict: (1) a war of resistance against President Kiir's regime in Juba by the population of the surrounding Greater Equatoria region; (2) a land contest between the Dinka and the Shilluk in the Upper Nile; (3) an intra-Nuer war in Unity State; (4) a drive to establish Dinka primacy in Greater Bahr el Ghazal; and (5) diversionary "crises of convenience" in Lakes and Jonglei that have been exploited by Kiir and his allies. Such varied and widespread conflict, which includes the destruction or takeover of key infrastructure elements, has sent South Sudan into an economic spiral, with hyperinflation, a weak exchange rate, and soaring food prices dimming an already bleak humanitarian picture. Stripped of more conventional means of livelihood, many South Sudanese have turned to petty theft or gang activity to survive. Yet despite a surge in crime, law enforcement salaries have all but ground to a halt, setting off a vicious cycle. Without strong financial incentives for officers to enforce the rule of law — and often without the necessary equipment or fuel needed to do so — a vital civic institution has been compromised, promising a further cascade of criminal activity and fewer means of combating it.

A similarly vicious cycle has emerged in the realm of humanitarian aid. As the most vulnerable areas of the country have been thrown into varying states of lawlessness, humanitarian organizations have begun to reconsider operations in parts of South Sudan. This has been especially true following incidents of violence against aid workers, the most notable of which involved the death of three World Food Programme porters in April 2017. Without the aid and protection provided by such groups, those in the most devastated parts of the country have suffered increasing human rights abuses.

The delivery of consistent and comprehensive aid has also been complicated by the splintering of opposition forces. The World Food Programme's convoys to the city of Yambio, which once lasted two days but now require 13 separate permissions from armed groups along the route from North Sudan, provide a window into such difficulties.

Meanwhile, a host of competing or inconsistent interests outside of South Sudan have only prolonged the conflict. Some, such as Ugandan president Yoweri Musevni, have sought to profit from the fighting by supplying troops, arms, and other forms of aid to government forces in Juba. Others, including most east African leaders, have called for a recommitment to 2015's ARCSS peace accord, urging all warring parties to come to the table. Yet many Western donors have frozen their support for the peace process, and a December 2017 ceasefire sponsored by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development has been repeatedly violated. For the foreseeable future, while facing little external consensus or pressure, President Kiir's forces can be expected to continue making significant strides on the battlefield, leaving little incentive to seek peace.

The way forward

While many paths to peace have been suggested, experts caution against some of the most popular strategies. One common appeal involves the holding of general elections this year, a provision contained in 2015's ARCSS. Such an election would likely end in failure, considering that key metrics of the ARCSS that would ensure the proper institutional foundations required to conduct democratic elections have not been met. Moreover, an election held in South Sudan's current political climate would almost certainly emerge as a fresh channel of conflict, widening the chasm between the country's warring factions. A second option calls for the establishment of a "hybrid court," another ARCSS proviso, in order to investigate and prosecute those involved in the war's human rights violations. Yet considering that those guilty of war crimes stand to benefit more from victory, entrenchment, or hiding rather than from a cease-fire, the pursuit of justice at this stage of the conflict is seen by most observers as a counterproductive one.

Beyond those already mentioned, a variety of factors currently stand in the way of a successful domestic peacemaking process, or National Dialogue. Most significantly, insufficient trust between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) — headed by President Kiir — and the Machar-led Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) has kept the conflict's two primary combatants from entering peace talks despite repeated invitations to the latter. Meanwhile, President Kiir has removed himself as patron of the National Dialogue process, allowing "the South Sudanese people to take the lead." Yet with so many displaced and starving, and with the country's vast restrictions to freedom of the press, such a shift is more likely to be a step backward than forward.

With these caveats in mind, experts have urged regional and international actors to pursue a number of concurrent strategies. First, mediators must harness South Sudan's rich heritage of peacebuilding in the organization of talks and other peace initiatives. Central to this tradition is the establishment of trust between interlocutors, an element which could be incorporated by inviting a broad cross-section of South Sudanese society into the dialogue process. In view of current divisions, it is vital that this cross-section — including tribal elders, local bishops, respected religious groups, and all shades of political opposition — be represented in future talks. The inclusion of women may also be pivotal, a theory supported by an International Peace Institute analysis suggesting that when women are included in peace processes, there is a 20 percent increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least two years and a 35 percent increase in the probability of one lasting at least 15 years. Such findings are supported by the South Sudanese people's own history: at the successful Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Peace Conference of 1999, a third of the delegates were women.

Mobilizing young people to join the peacemaking process may also prove worthwhile. One asset furnished by young people, as Catholic bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio notes, is a shift in perspective. "Unlike you, we [elders] are entrenched in our old habits, prejudices, hate, injustices, and even pettiness," Bishop Kussala wrote in a recent statement. "It is not easy to let go of our selfishness, for it is how we have been able to survive and preserve ourselves in these dark times." Beyond lending this healthier perspective, the bishop's September 2017 statement called on the young to initiate grassroots peace efforts through social media and other forms of communication, a niche that "your bright creative minds are so agile at" exploiting.

As a third pillar of the peace process, experts have called for the proper application of regional and international pressure on the conflict's primary drivers. Most urgently, the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council must continue striving for a comprehensive arms embargo in South Sudan, the successful imposition of which would outlaw the material support of regional governments and build momentum for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Absent immediate multilateral solutions, however, the United States can draw on several forms of financial and diplomatic leverage in order to hamper the Kiir regime. On the question of weapons flows, the United States is in a unique position to alter the shape of South Sudan's conflict given that Uganda, a main transit point of arms and ammunition to Kiir's forces, is also the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in sub-Saharan Africa. Obviously, the United States could threaten to withdraw this support if Uganda continues its attempts to profit from South Sudan's conflict. Targeting Kiir's government more directly, the United States could draw on its influence among global financial bodies (such as the IMF and the World Bank) to block South Sudan's access to channels of international aid. On a more individual level, the U.S. could impose targeted sanctions, asset freezes, or anti-money laundering provisions on top South Sudanese officials who have profited from the conflict.

Finally, the United States has the option of downgrading or severing its diplomatic relationship with South Sudan on the grounds of Kiir's questionable political legitimacy. As a party to the Geneva Conventions since 2012, South Sudan remains bound to the conventions' human rights provisions. Yet there is ample evidence to suggest that the current government has perpetrated both war crimes and crimes against humanity, offenses which have delegitimized regimes in the past. As a sitting head of state, President Kiir's privileges and immunities are likely to absolve him of most wrongdoing over the course of South Sudan's civil war. But if the United States were to question his government's validity, thus jeopardizing such immunities, perhaps Kiir would be more receptive to U.S. peace proposals.

An important consideration in the peace process is the uncertain status of the South Sudanese church, perhaps the country's only remaining institution with the means to broker a dialogue-driven solution to the conflict. In February 2017, a band of government troops ransacked a church bookstore, confiscating titles deemed to be written by government critics. Some months later, Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale of Juba received multiple threatening phone calls, including one in which he was told by an anonymous individual that "Your days are numbered." The Kiir government has been known to falsely accuse the church of working for regime change, and although a Catholic himself, Kiir has called the church "pro-rebel."

The time for action is now

South Sudan, the world's youngest country, has shouldered the burden of war for over 60 percent of its short history. Every day, more of its citizens die while fewer devices for breaking the cycle of violence and vengeance remain on the table.

The time for facilitating peace — a mandate of every nation — is now, and not just for humanitarian reasons. As the country's infrastructure and institutions crumble, instability will inevitably seep into the rest of Africa's volatile peripheries. Such a development threatens to coincide with the political implosion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a perennially conflict-ridden region currently witnessing a face-off between its longtime dictator, Joseph Kabila, and his opponents. If presidential elections are not held by December of this year, the country could suffer its bloodiest bout of violence in decades.

Coupled with impending drama in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current outpouring of refugees from South Sudan has the potential to spark a larger regional war, as occurred when a broader conflict involving nine African governments erupted in the aftermath of 1994's Rwandan genocide. The international community has therefore not only a clear moral reason to invest in ending South Sudan's war, but an urgent security interest in doing so.

A month before leaving office, US president Barack Obama lamented his administration's insufficient response to South Sudan's unfolding conflict. Perhaps this administration, in keeping with its commitment to countermand the policies of its predecessor, could consider treading this path to peace before it disappears

South Sudan's cease-fire broken by both sides, say monitors
Abc News

By Sam Mednick
January 16, 2017

Sixteen people have been killed, including three children, since South Sudan's cease-fire started less than a month ago, say monitors.

Both government and opposition forces have committed multiple violations since the cease-fire began on Dec. 24, according to four separate investigations released Tuesday by the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, an independent body.

The deaths of the 15 who were civilians are "tragic," said the organization.

"Despite commitments we're still observing hostilities on the ground," communications officer for the monitoring body, Ruth Feeney, told The Associated Press.

The reports also say that child soldiers continue to be recruited and sexual violence remains prevalent.

South Sudan's opposition is charged with spearheading an attack on the town of Koch, just hours after the cease-fire was implemented. For its part, government forces are accused of looting civilian property and initiating clashes in and around the town of Mundri in the Equatoria region.

Both sides deny the reports' accuracy and blame each other for the violations.

"We were forced to defend ourselves in Koch and all other places during these attacks," opposition spokesman, Lam Paul Gabriel told AP.

The army said it is unaware of any violations or recent clashes near that area.

South Sudan's civil war has entered its fifth year, with tens of thousands killed, pockets of the country plunged into famine and millions of people displaced.

Renewed peace talks are scheduled in early February in neighboring Ethiopia, but the monitors remain skeptical.

"It's likely that there will be more reports of this nature in the future," said Feeney, who added that the cease-fire violations are "endemic and so widespread."

Farmers Risk Whippings as War Decimates South Sudan Breadbasket
Bloomberg News

By Okech Francis
January 17, 2017

Each time Patrick Okello goes to tend his crops, he has to tell the soldiers or face 50 lashes with a whip when he returns.

They're "always watching and very suspicious," said the 43-year-old who grows cassava and corn on the outskirts of Pajok, his hometown in South Sudan's Greater Equatoria region. This vast and now sparsely populated southern territory has become a major theater in the four-year civil war, with government forces accused of killing villagers, burning their homes and stealing food as they pursue rebels. The army denies the charges.

Maintaining his farm isn't just about Okello's survival. Equatoria was once South Sudan's breadbasket, producing the corn, sorghum and vegetables that fed the nation including the oil-rich north where famine hit last year. Since fighting spread to Equatoria in mid-2016, output has collapsed, adding to what charity Oxfam International says is the likelihood of the country's worst-ever hunger this year. The conflict that began in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

"Fighting and insecurity in Greater Equatoria means that food production is dropping every year," said Ranjan Poudyal, Oxfam's South Sudan director. "Farmers who have managed to stay are only able to cultivate land around their homesteads for fear that lands further afield are too great a risk." That contributed to unprecedented hunger even during the recent harvest season, normally the most plentiful period.

Ghost Towns


Former residents describe many of Equatoria's settlements as ghost towns, with buildings stripped of their iron roofing, doors and windows by looters; all that remain of some villages are burnt ruins. Civilians have fled to neighboring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, raising the number crossing borders to escape South Sudan's war to 2 million and exacerbating what the United Nations in March called the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis.

Aid groups have appealed for $1.72 billion to fund operations countrywide this year. An estimated 5.1 million people — almost half the population — are expected to face acute food shortages in the first quarter as insecurity limits access to farms and markets.

In Equatoria, as elsewhere, non-combatants are bearing the brunt of the violence. Government forces routinely respond to rebel ambushes with "unlawful reprisals against civilians who live in rebel areas and share their ethnicity," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in August. It reported a "climate of fear" and tactics including arbitrary arrests, torture and restricting movement between towns and villages.

Food as Weapon

Amnesty International in July said both government forces and rebels have used hunger as a weapon of war in Equatoria, cutting supplies, looting from markets and homes and targeting civilians for perceived allegiances. Gunmen have also targeted vehicles on the main road to Uganda in the past 18 months.

The war may not end anytime soon. East African nations in December convened new talks between President Salva Kiir's government, the main rebel group led by his former deputy, Riek Machar, and several other armed factions, including from Equatoria. A previous peace deal led to a transitional government in 2016 that quickly collapsed, spurring greater violence. A cease-fire that began Dec. 24 was broken just hours later, and fighting has continued across the country.

Joseph Nangi, a 36-year-old father of four, is trying to ward off hunger in Yambio, the capital of one of Equatoria's nine states. Yet he's sheltering just a half-day's walk from his crops, which he had to abandon when fighting engulfed his village in December 2016. More than 1.9 million people are internally displaced, according to the UN.

Speaking by phone, he described the risk of being killed or abducted if he returns. "Our crops are being eaten by wild animals and looted by armed men," he said.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo

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

UN announces special probe into attacks on peacekeepers in eastern DR Congo
Relief Web

January 6, 2018

The United Nations is launching a special investigation into attacks on peacekeepers in restive eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), one month after 15 'blue helmets' were killed and dozens wounded in the deadliest single assault on a UN mission in nearly a quarter century.

According to a UN spokesperson, Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday announced the appointment of veteran UN peacekeeping official Dmitry Titov of Russia to lead a Special Investigation into recent attacks on peacekeepers and bases in the Beni territory of North Kivu Province, in the DRC.

The probe will include a focus on the 7 December attack on a base of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in Semuliki that killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and wounded 43 others. One blue helmet remains missing.

The UN said the special probe will examine the circumstances surrounding these attacks, evaluate MONUSCO's overall preparedness and response to the events and provide recommendations on how to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future or when they do occur, from having such lethal consequences.

The investigation team will head to the DRC early in January and will also visit relevant countries in Africa's Great Lakes region. Alongside officials of the United Nations, the team will also include two military officers from Tanzania.

Having joined the United Nations in 1991, Mr. Titov served as Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) from 2007 — 2017. He also served as Africa Director in DPKO's Office of Operations.

ICC judges 'prejudiced' say lawyers for DRC's Bemba
News 24

January 9, 2018

The Hague — Lawyers for former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba on Tuesday slammed his conviction for war crimes, accusing judges of "prejudice" and calling for the judgement to be scrapped.

Bemba, 55, is appealing an 18-year jail term handed down by the International Criminal Court in June 2016 after judges found him guilty on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in atrocities committed by his troops in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Once the powerful leader of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) and a wealthy businessman, the court said Bemba had failed to stop a series of rapes and murders by his soldiers in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

But Bemba's lawyer Peter Haynes told a hearing at the Hague-based ICC that trial judges chose to ignore much of the evidence presented by the defence.

"A hatchet was simply taken to the defence case," Haynes told the five appeals judges.

"The trial chamber's approach to evidence was unbalanced. For no articulated reason, the trial chamber ignored important evidence on central issues," Haynes said.

This included the testimony of a retired senior French military officer, Brigadier-General Jacques Seara, who told judges that Bemba was not in command of his troops when they carried out the crimes.

Seara's evidence was totally dismissed by the judges "notwithstanding his wealth of experience which entitled him to give evidence," Haynes said.

"Simply put, the trial chamber deviated so substantially from the essential conditions of a fair trial that prejudice must be presumed," he said.

"No trial judgement can be allowed to stand in such circumstances."

Bemba's case which opened in November 2010 was the first before the ICC to focus on sexual violence as a weapon of war, and the first to underline a military commander's responsibility for the conduct of troops under his control.

In an appeal filed before the court, Bemba's lawyers however said the judges' "findings on effective control fall far outside established military doctrine and practice".

Bemba's trial "invented a theory of command responsibility which is a military impossibility", his defence team said.

In a separate trial, Bemba was also sentenced in March last year to one year in jail and fined 300,000 euros for bribing witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

Bemba is expected to address the hearing, due to last until Monday.

Speakers Concerned About Violent Protests over Delayed Presidential Election as Security Council Discusses Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Relief Web

January 9, 2018

Discussing the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, Security Council members expressed their concern about the recent protests in the country over the delays in holding presidential elections, as well as violence last December that left 15 United Nations peacekeepers dead and many others wounded.

Presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (document S/2018/16), Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement signed last December had given the Council great hope, but one year later its implementation was still incomplete. In addition, violent demonstrations showed that the situation in the country remained fragile.

On a more positive note, preparations for the upcoming elections were advancing despite continued political tensions, he said. The electoral calendar had been published, the amended electoral law had been promulgated by the President, and the voter registration process was near completion. To support those efforts, MONUSCO had enhanced its support to the political and electoral processes and continued to provide logistical and technical support to the Electoral Commission for voter registration and other electoral activities.

The Secretary-General had appointed former Assistant Secretary-General Dmitry Titov to lead a special investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident in North Kivu that resulted in the deaths of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and the wounding of 44 others, said Mr. Lacroix, noting that it was the latest in a string of deadly attacks perpetrated by suspected Allied Democratic Forces.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo emphasized that the focus of all political actors had been on the electoral process and the efforts to revise the electoral register. The country's President had underscored in a public address that the authorities were determined to hold elections. He cautioned, however, that fringe groups of the opposition were not ready to take part in them.

Referring to the holding of public demonstrations, he said that they were regulated by legislation that required the submission of a request to authorities to ensure order and protect demonstrators. The organizers of the 31 December demonstrations did not comply with those requirements, he said. The Congolese national police had not recorded any deaths in places of worship that were associated with those demonstrations, and the only recorded violent deaths on that date had nothing to do with the protests.

Sweden's representative noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo faced surging humanitarian needs, and that the lack of resilience among the population had made it vulnerable to conflict. There were more people forced to flee their homes in that country in 2017 than in any other country in the world, he said.

The representative of Bolivia said that the threat of armed groups had led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had resulted in the internal displacement of 4 million people. On the upcoming elections, he welcomed the publication of the electoral calendar and underscored the importance of holding timely, credible voting that resulted in the peaceful transfer of power.

Also highlighting the need for credible elections in the country, the representative of Côte d'Ivoire said that it was up to all stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure that the 23 December 2018 election date was respected. The parties involved should also work towards the establishment of conditions that were conducive to the holding of democratic and peaceful voting, he said.

Delegates also denounced the incident in North Kivu, with the representative of Kuwait condemning the repeated attacks against MONUSCO, including the armed attack of 7 December 2017. He called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

The representative of the Netherlands noted that her delegation approved of the establishment of an inquiry to investigate the attack in order to determine how MONUSCO should be reformed to ensure its ability to protect civilians. The suffering of the Congolese people had reached unimaginable levels, she said, pointing out that the country's famine was man‑made, and that 7.7 million people faced severe food shortages.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Equatorial Guinea, Poland and Peru.

The meeting began at 9:39 a.m. and ended at 10:57 a.m.

Briefing

JEAN-PIERRE-LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (document S/2018/16), said that last year the Council had met with great hope regarding the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement signed on 31 December 2016. One year later, he regretted that implementation of the agreement was incomplete. Violent demonstrations last year showed that the situation in the country was still fragile. The death of Tanzanian peacekeepers underscored the volatility of certain parts of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, while civilian United Nations workers were also exposed to security risks. The delays in the country's electoral process had created tensions that led to the violence last December.

Although political tension persisted, electoral preparations were advancing, he said. The long‑awaited electoral calendar was published on 5 November 2017, the amended electoral law was promulgated by the President on 24 December 2017 and the voter registration process was expected to conclude in February. It was essential that all political actors play a constructive role in the implementation of the electoral calendar and that the Democratic Republic of the Congo's political leaders adhered to the Constitution, the Political Agreement and the electoral calendar. Further delays in the electoral process risked fuelling political tensions and compounding an already fragile security situation.

In late September, MONUSCO acted decisively in support of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in repelling an attack by Mayi-Mayi Yakutumba on Uvira, the second largest city of South Kivu, he said. MONUSCO's actions, which were critical in preventing the fall of the city, were a tangible demonstration of the Mission's readiness to take measures against armed groups that pose a threat to the civilian population. In Beni territory, North Kivu, the Allied Democratic Forces resurfaced last year and carried out deadly attacks against civilians, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and MONUSCO.

Mr. Lacroix said that the killing of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and the wounding of 44 others on 7 December was the latest in a string of deadly attacks perpetrated by suspected Allied Democratic Forces elements. During his visit to Semuliki shortly after the incident, he witnessed the difficult terrain in which the Force Intervention Brigade operated. Despite the heavy losses sustained by the Tanzanian troops, he was reassured by the Tanzanian authorities in Dar Es Salaam that they remained committed to addressing the threat posed by the Allied Democratic Forces and other armed groups in the eastern part of the country. As part of the Secretariat's response to the Semuliki incident, the Secretary‑General had appointed former Assistant Secretary‑General Dmitry Titov to lead a special investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

MONUSCO had enhanced its support to the political and electoral processes and was making the necessary adjustments to its civilian, police and military components to enable a comprehensive approach to the protection of civilians, including monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation, he said. Preparations were under way for the deployment of a third rapidly deployable battalion, which would be operational by next month. The redeployment of the Senegalese formed police unit from Goma to Kinshasa was almost complete, with the unit expected to be fully operational by the end of the week. On the political and electoral front, he noted that MONUSCO continued to provide logistical and technical support to the Electoral Commission for voter registration and other electoral activities.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) strongly condemned the violence committed during the 31 December protests and reiterated the need for respect for human rights and the right to peaceful demonstrations. His delegation called for the proportionate use of force to maintain order. Credible, transparent and peaceful elections were necessary for the stability of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the entire region. He called for the holding of elections, according to the electoral calendar published on 5 November 2017, in line with the terms of the Constitution and in a spirit of consensus. He called on the Congolese authorities to take all steps necessary to enable the quick deployment of the joint team of international experts to support the electoral process. The 31 December 2016 Political Agreement remained as essential as ever and its comprehensive implementation was urgent as well as critical for holding credible and peaceful elections. No credible electoral process could take place in the context of repression, he stressed, adding that the security and humanitarian situation was troubling, and the stagnation in the political process would threaten the entire region. MONUSCO was carrying out critical work in a difficult environment, despite facing severe challenges.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) was pleased at the publication of the electoral calendar and believed it was now up to all stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure that the 23 December 2018 date for the holding of general elections was respected, in line with the commitments freely undertaken by the parties. Those parties must now work toward establishing the conditions conducive to the holding of democratic, credible and peaceful elections. His delegation was concerned by the recent protests that led to the loss of life and significant material damage as well as many arrests of protestors. He called on all political stakeholders to exercise restraint and avoid any violent protests. Côte d'Ivoire was pleased to see unity among the Council members and the tireless efforts of the United Nations to build enhanced synergy with other international and regional organizations with a view toward emerging from the crisis. His delegation expressed concern about the growing insecurity and widespread violations of human rights stoked by the proliferation of armed groups across the country. He condemned the attacks carried out by those groups leading to the deaths of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers. Those armed groups seriously jeopardized stability in the entire region and undermined efforts to overcome the crisis, and in that context, appropriate measures to neutralize those groups must be a priority for MONUSCO.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that his delegation had always closely followed events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it was a brother country whose problems it could not stand by and watch because it saw them as its own. The various Congolese political and social actors must understand that the only possible avenue to extricate the Democratic Republic of the Congo from its current situation was through transparent and frank dialogue. The need for the various actors to understand each other stemmed from the enormous responsibility they had to lead the country to fair elections. All groups should join the process of political dialogue, and the Government should play a proactive role as far as the legislative and logistical aspects were concerned. The contribution of various international bodies including the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, the European Union and others, was essential if there was to be a lasting solution.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) condemned the violence that occurred on 31 December and the threat of armed groups that had led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, which had resulted in the internal displacement of more than 4 million people in the country. He commended the efforts of humanitarian partners and urged them to continue their work. He also encouraged MONUSCO to bolster its presence around the Semuliki base following the horrible attack that took place against peacekeepers on 7 December 2017. He supported local conflict resolution mechanisms that promoted peaceful coexistence among communities, as well as any initiative for the benefit of peace and stability in the region, in coordination with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He welcomed the publication of the electoral calendar and called for the implementation of the timetable and the completion of voter registration. It was important to hold timely, credible elections that lead to a peaceful transition of power, he said.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) recalled that a year ago, the 31 December Political Agreement provided a ray of hope, yet today the challenge was to find a new source of hope that the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be resolved. She welcomed the publication of the electoral calendar and emphasized that Congolese citizens hoped to cast their votes in a free election, yet those hopes were in jeopardy. Peaceful political protests had been met with force, and the goal of free and fair elections was becoming a mirage. She called for respect for human rights by the security forces. The lack of the implementation of confidence‑building measures agreed upon undermined the efforts to hold the elections. All parties must reassert their commitment to the spirit of the agreement and the electoral calendar. Her delegation approved of the establishment of an inquiry to investigate the recent attacks against Blue Helmets in the country to determine how MONUSCO should be reformed to ensure the ability to protect civilians. The suffering of the Congolese people had reached unimaginable levels, she said, with 7.7 million people facing severe food shortages and 2 million children facing severe malnutrition. The country's famine was man-made and it would require an integrated response with a strong humanitarian aspect.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) strongly condemned the attacks against MONUSCO personnel and expressed concern about the recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Government must comply with its international obligations and protect the right to free assembly and freedom of speech. She took note of the long‑awaited publication of the electoral calendar and said it was important to ensure that elections would be held on 23 December 2018, while also avoiding further tension or the escalation of violence in the country. She emphasized the importance of the voter registration process and encouraged women to take part in the electoral process. She encouraged further political dialogue among all actors and believed that regional organizations could play a constructive role in the stabilization process.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) underscored that the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had continued to evolve, including the recent establishment of an electoral calendar, the holding of peaceful protests that were met with violence, as well as the deaths of 15 peacekeepers. Given the worsening security situation in the country, the surging humanitarian needs and the fragile political situation, the key to the democratic transition of power would be the holding of credible and transparent elections. Important building blocks for the elections were already in place, he noted, adding that stakeholders now needed to constructively contribute to ensuring those elections were held. Dialogue and coordination with the region remained key, and the Council should continue to closely follow the situation. The Government must implement the confidence-building measures that had been agreed upon, and in that context, he deplored the recent reports of violations of human rights in the country. Ensuring women's full participation in the elections, including safe access to polling stations, was of great importance to his delegation. The lack of resilience among the population made it extremely vulnerable to conflict, with more people having been forced to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2017 than any other country in the world.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) reiterated the importance of abiding by the appointed date to hold elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018, and underscored that it was equally important to ensure that the process was fair and transparent so that it would be accepted by all stakeholders. Maintaining the international community's support was essential to ensure that the elections took place in a climate of calm and to ensure that the transition of power occurred by the end of the year. He underscored the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that was primarily affecting children and stressed that the international community and donors should present a solution to that problem. He also drew attention to the economic crisis and the inflation that was affecting the most vulnerable. The role of women and children in the political process was important, and he supported any work by MONUSCO to involve them in that process.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) condemned the repeated attacks against MONUSCO, including the armed attack that took place on 7 December 2017, which resulted in the killing of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers. He called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice. He had followed the protests that took place at the end of 2017 with concern, noting that they occurred against the backdrop of the delay of elections. With regard to the humanitarian situation, he expressed concern over the figures reported on that situation by the Secretary-General, particularly over the number of displaced persons.

IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that over the last three months, the attention of all political actors had been focused on the electoral process and efforts to revise the electoral register, which had entered its final phase and would be completed by the end of the month. The number of registered voters was more than 45.8 million, including some 24 million men and 21.7 million women. The President had underscored in a recent address to the country that the authorities were determined to hold elections. All active political forces must work together to uphold the electoral calendar, he stressed, pointing out that the opposition was against any compromise and continued to be very active. While waiting for the elections, all political actors and citizens should do everything possible to prepare for the smooth holding of those elections in a peaceful atmosphere.

Fringe groups of the opposition were not ready to take part in any elections, he said. The holding of public demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was regulated by legislation, which required the submission of a request to the competent authorities to ensure order and to protect demonstrators, if necessary. The organizers of the 31 December demonstrations did not comply with those legal procedures, he said. The Congolese national police did not record any deaths in places of worship associated with the demonstrations, he underlined, and across the national territory, the only recorded violent deaths on that date had nothing to do with the demonstrations. Regarding the security forces that had entered places of worship, those actions had been condemned by the Governor of the affected city and an investigation would be conducted. The Government regretted the events that had unnecessarily taken place, given that the electoral register and calendar had already been established.

On the confidence-building measures, all the so‑called political prisoners had been released except for two prisoners that were being held for unrelated issues, he said. Those individuals were being prosecuted for violations of common law. The security situation had improved in most conflict-affected areas, despite the fact that the Secretary-General's report highlighted increased activities by armed groups. His Government condemned the attacks against the peacekeepers that had resulted in the loss of life. National armed forces would continue their efforts, in cooperation with MONUSCO, to eradicate armed groups to ensure that the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo could live in peace. Authorities had worked diligently to repatriate or resettle combatants in third countries. It was important to note that the Government would like to see the strategic dialogue accelerated so that the next Secretary‑General report on the situation in the country provided a coordinated vision that included the perspective of both parties.

Congo launches offensive against Ugandan rebels in its east
Reuters

By Fiston Mahamba
January 13, 2018

Congolese troops began a military offensive in the eastern city of Beni on Saturday against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel armed group blamed for an attack that killed 15 United Nations peacekeepers last month.

The operation is part of a joint effort by Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda against the group after the suspected ADF attack on a base manned by Tanzanian peacekeeping troops.

That attack, which also killed five Congolese soldiers and wounded another 53 peacekeepers, came amid a rising wave of violence in the mineral-rich, ethnically volatile area.

"Since this morning, we have launched a general offensive against the ADF phenomena," General Marcel Mbangu, commander in charge of Congo's North Kivu province, told a new conference.

"This is, for us, the final offensive. We will fight them until the end, until we have secured our territory," he added.

Residents reported the sounds of gunfire and explosions in Beni on Saturday.

Rival militia groups control parts of eastern Congo long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war in which millions of people died, mostly from hunger and disease.

A surge in militia violence across the country, which followed President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down when his mandate expired just over a year ago, has raised fears Congo could slide into all-out war again.

The Islamist ADF has long been active along the Congo-Uganda border and has been blamed for a spate of massacres. Last month Uganda launched air strikes and artillery attacks on ADF positions on its side.

UN probes DR Congo clashes that killed Burundi refugees
Times LIVE

January 17, 2018

The United Nations announced Tuesday it will investigate the death of 39 Burundian refugees in clashes with soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in September.

The soldiers allegedly opened fire on the refugees in eastern South Kivu province after they protested the detention of a small group of Burundians by Congolese authorities.

Nigerian Lieutenant-General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor will lead the UN investigation of the violence on September 15 in Kamanyola, said a UN statement.

The special investigation will look into the response of UN peacekeepers to the violence and provide recommendations, it added.

UN peacekeepers sought to intervene to halt the clashes that left 39 dead including women and children, and 94 wounded.

A Congolese soldier was killed in the violence.

More than 43,000 Burundians have arrived in DR Congo since 2015.

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Burundi

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

In Portland, Burundian immigrants protest presidential adviser's visit
Portland Press Herald

By Beth Quimby
January 7, 2018

Willy Nyamitwe, a senior adviser and spokesman for the African nation's president, confirms his presence in Maine and denies allegations that there was genocide in that country.

A band of hardy protesters was easy to miss Saturday in Monument Square as they huddled against wind chill factors of minus 20 degrees. But the 30 or so people who turned out, taking refuge in the Portland Public Library at times to escape the extreme cold, said their message was too important to let cold weather keep them away.

"We can't keep silent," said Philemon Dushimire, a Burundian asylee, of Westbrook. Dushimire organized the event to protest the presence in Portland of Willy Nyamitwe, a senior adviser and spokesman for Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose regime has been under investigation since November by the International Criminal Court, the Hague-based tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. A United Nations human rights panel concluded in September that Burundi's top leaders had been involved in killings, torture, sexual violence and other crimes.

Most of the protesters declined to give their names or have themselves photographed for fear of repercussions against their relatives back in Burundi.

Nyamitwe has been in Portland visiting his wife and three children, who are living somewhere in the Portland area and possibly seeking asylum.

Nyamitwe confirmed his visit to Maine in Twitter and email messages after the protest and said he would be leaving "over the weekend."

His presence is viewed as a threat by other Maine Burundians who fled the small, central-east African country to Portland during the past decade to escape the Nkurunziza regime.

There are about 1,000 Burundians living in Greater Portland, one of the largest communities in the United States. Maine Burundians tend to be well-educated, fluent in English and with the financial means to flee their homeland. Many have left behind businesses, real estate and large, extended families.

In recent days, Nyamitwe has been spotted at the Maine Mall and other area locations, said Jamie Wagner, an immigration lawyer who works with the Burundi community in Maine.

Wagner questioned why Nyamitwe had been issued a visa and was "sipping lattes" in Maine coffee shops when other foreigners cannot get permission to travel in the United States.

Nyamitwe posted a news release Saturday on his Facebook page and Twitter account acknowledging the Monument Square protest, denying any genocide in Burundi and claiming he was the target of an assassination attempt in Burundi in 2016.

"While I recognize the right of everyone to express themselves by available legal means, I would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the opinion that the claims made on a 'Genocide being committed by the Government of Burundi' is yet an umpteenth baseless and shameful fabrication," he said in the release. "It is on the record that no genocide is going on across Burundi as people go by with their business on a daily basis."

He also posted comments during the protest.

"Following closely the demonstration in Maine against @willynyamitwe. The organizers fail to mobilize large numbers and urge people to enter the Library to wait for others," he said.

Dushimire, a community organizer who works as a caregiver at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, came to the United States in 2010. He said any Burundian living in the United States came here to escape people like Nyamitwe. Dushimire said he and other Maine Burundians feel unsafe with Nyamitwe in their midst and they want his visa canceled.

The only reason Maine Burundians offer to explain why Nyamitwe's family would be seeking asylum in Maine, where most Burundians despise them, is that the situation in Burundi is out of control, Wagner said.

"He may have some issues with the system in Burundi," Dushimire said.

Nyamitwe said in an email after the protest that he is in the Portland area trying to persuade his wife, who has been terrified since the assassination attempt, to come back to Burundi.

"I am here on visit to try to convince my wife to go back home but she still refuses. In fact, she is still in shock, and is afraid for her life because those who tried to murder me could take revenge on her," he wrote. "Those who claim that she is not welcome are those individuals who lied claiming that there was a GENOCIDE going on in Burundi. They are now exposed as the arguments used in their asylum applications are dwindling down one by one because they are baseless and packaged in lies."

The State Department on Saturday said it could not confirm Nyamitwe's visit to the United States and referred questions to the Burundi embassy in Washington. It was closed Saturday and unavailable to confirm his status in the U.S.

Burundi: Do Global Actors Have What It Takes to Help Burundi?
All Africa

By Priyal Singh
January 15, 2018

Since Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a third term in early 2015, political instability across the country has tested the limits of global conflict prevention responses. This instability has included a failed coup d' état, violent clashes between government and opposition forces, increasing suppression of the media and civil society, as well as targeted assassinations.

The violence has resulted in more than 400 000 Burundians fleeing to neighbouring states and over 55 000 internally displaced, amid allegations of serious human rights violations in the country.

Burundi's instability however appears not to feature the central elements or drivers generally associated with the conflicts of other countries. The presence of transnational organised criminal syndicates has not featured prominently, nor have the influence or proliferation of radical non-state actors. And while the Nkurunziza government has accused regional actors of meddling to fuel conflict in the country, these allegations have remained largely false.

Rejection, impunity and inflexibility have characterised the Nkurunziza government since 2015

Why then, after more than two years since the violence began, have international, continental and regional conflict prevention responses been so ineffective? It seems intractability, in Burundi's case, has found its greatest expression not in the nature of the conflict itself — the interests, agendas and material capabilities of the belligerents — but rather in the limits of normative and institutional global conflict prevention frameworks and mechanisms.

To be fair, international and regional peace and security stakeholders have kept abreast of developments in Burundi and have generally articulated positions highlighting the fragility of the country's peace and security environment. These include the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), and sub-regional actors such as the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

These actors have all either shown concern regarding Burundi's crisis, or attempted to act on this concern. Working within the institutional bounds of its peace and security architecture, both the AU and the EAC have tried to find meaningful solutions to allay crisis in the country, and avoid a relapse into the scale of conflict the country has seen.

Burundi's instability doesn't feature the drivers generally associated with other countries' conflicts

But these efforts have largely failed in the face of the Nkurunziza government's increasingly rigid and uncooperative position. The government rejected the recommendations of a 2014 joint EAC-Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Panel of the Wise, which sought to defuse tensions leading up to the country's 2015 elections. Nkurunziza further rejected exit plans that were initially offered by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni through the early 2015 intervention of an EAC-led negotiation process.

The government has also sidelined (or completely boycotted) EAC summits since 2015. It has further rejected the deployment of the AU's African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU) peacekeeping force which had been authorised by the Peace and Security Council in December 2015 (along with the full deployment of 100 human rights and military observers authorised earlier that year).

The Nkurunziza government, growing wary of international scrutiny, has also consistently refused to cooperate with the UN's commission of inquiry on human rights in the country. The commission's mandate, as of September 2017, has been extended by a year. Most recently, the International Criminal Court authorised an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the country (between April 2015 and October 2017) which came into effect just two days before the country's formal withdrawal from the court.

Rejection, impunity and inflexibility have characterised the Nkurunziza government since early 2015. This has resulted in the incumbent political elite's continued rule through the suppression of the opposition, beyond the scrutiny of external actors and processes geared towards conflict prevention. The situation directly calls into question the capability and coordination of regional and international conflict prevention actors.

Why have international, continental and regional conflict prevention responses been so ineffective?

One such question refers to the readiness and fit-for-purpose capability of sub-regional organisations in leading conflict prevention strategies. While the principle of subsidiarity is important, developments concerning Burundi clearly highlight critical shortcomings associated with divergent sub-regional political agendas and interests — and the impartiality needed to establish and sustain conflict prevention processes.

Further questions concerning the institutional coherence of the AU system, particularly regarding the structures comprising its African Peace and Security Architecture, must be critically appraised.

Gustavo de Carvalho, peacebuilding expert at the Institute for Security Studies, argues that 'in light of the UN's recent prioritisation of conflict prevention, the lack of any clear strategies, implementable plans, concise guidelines and inter-organisational coordination mechanisms to serve this agenda, is becoming an increasingly significant concern'. Opportunities and entry points for greater coordination between the organs of the UN's peacebuilding architecture, for example, with the AU, EAC and ICGLR should be more coherently pursued. Hopefully this would result in more uniform and effective conflict prevention strategies, over longer-term frameworks. Global actors should consider using their existing conflict prevention approaches to effectively urge the Burundi government to commit to an inclusive peace process — in accordance with its international obligations. Failing to do so would raise serious questions on whether conflict prevention can be effectively implemented in practice.

Without the necessary innovation and coordination to make this change, the international community may well have found the limits of its conflict prevention agenda.

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WEST AFRICA

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

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

War against Boko Haram in Lake Chad over, says Buratai
The Guardian

By Njadvara Musa
January 8, 2018

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai has declared that the war against Boko Haram insurgency is over.

According to him, what is left for the troops to do is stabilize areas that have serious security challenges and prepare to crush any such insurrection in the future.

Buratai made the declaration at the weekend while addressing troops of 8 Task Force Division of the Nigerian Army, Monguno. He said the days of Boko Haram insurgents were numbered despite the occasional attacks on soft targets in the Northeast.

"This division has lived up to expectation of containing the Boko Haram chaallenges in this part of the country. You are not the only ones operating here; we have the Nigerian Air Force which has been giving us aerial support.

"The establishment of this division was strategic. It has helped in addressing the challenges of Boko Haram terrorists in the northern part of Borno State. We must remain here to stabilize it," he said.

Buratai, who noted that the Lake Chad region has always been volatile, said it was the reason the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) created the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to tackle threats to security.

He urged the troops to perform similar duties, even after the final clearance of Boko Haram insurgents. He said the army was working hard to make the operational environment more conducive.

The army boss said with the defeat of Boko Haram in northern Borno, troops of 8 Task Force would be deployed to Sokoto State in the North-west for operations. Some of them will remain in Monguno to maintain security.

4 Soldiers Killed, 107 Boko Haram Terrorists Dead in Latest Battle Around Lake Chad
Sahara Reports

January 9, 2018

The troops of Operations Lafiya Dole have said over 107 Boko Haram terrorists were killed in an ongoing operation around Lake Chad general area in Nigeria's northeast.

A statement by issued by the Director of Army Public relations, Brig Gen. Kukasheka Usman to newsmen in Maiduguri on Tuesday, the Army said 4 soldiers were killed while 9 were wounded.

According to the army, Nigeria has made tremendous success in its latest "Operation Deep Punch "

"So far, the troops have neutralized over 50 Boko Haram terrorists, destroyed and captured high calibre arms and ammunition, especially in the Lake Chad general area.

"Troops yesterday Monday, January 8th, 2018, cleared Boko Haram terrorists in Metele village, Tumbun Gini and Tumbun Ndjamena.

During the clearance operations, Boko Haram terrorists abandoned the area in disarray leaving behind livestock, a large quantity of foodstuff, motorcycles and donkeys."

Gen. Usman stressed that in Metele however, the terrorists attempted to attack troops in harbor, but this was stiffly resisted with a heavy casualty on Boko Haram terrorists.

"Troops neutralized over 57 of them, destroyed gun trucks and other equipment. The gallant troops also discovered terrorists' logistics base at Tumbu Ndjamena which held stocks of fish, foodstuffs, fuel and motorcycles. All these items were promptly destroyed."

He added that large caches of ammunition and 6 trucks belong to the terrorists were captured.

"Troops also captured 1 Anti-Aircraft Gun, 116 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition with metal links, 4 Ak-47 rifles, 57 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition (Special), 2 Light Machine Guns, 2 Rocket Propelled Grenade 7 (RPG 7) Tubes, with one RPG Bomb and 2 already primed 36 Hand Grenades. Other recovered items include 1 Small Solar panel with a Gionee mobile phone, 1 Holy Qur'an, 6 Hadith Books, as well as 5 Gun trucks (which were destroyed)."

"Sadly, 4 of our troops paid the supreme price while 9 others were wounded in action. Specifically, a Boko Haram vehicle laden with Improvised Explosive Devices rammed into an MRAP vehicle which exploded killing 3 soldiers, a Civilian JTF and wounding the other soldiers. The remains of the gallant and wounded heroes have been evacuated to 8 Division Medical Services and Hospital, Monguno." Gen. Usman said.

Meanwhile, a journalist with knowledge of Boko Haram operation, Ahmad Salkida, has revealed that a civilian, Baa Masa'a, Baba Mustapha, a 78 yr old retired hunter and farmer who has been valuable support for troops in the Sambisa forest area was killed yesterday when terrorists rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into a vehicle carrying Nigerian soldiers. He described Baa Masa'a as a civilian who was very knowledgeable of the terrain of the Sambisa forest and who had committed himself to rid the area of Boko Haram terrorists even as he barely had enough to cater for himself and family members. Baa'a Masa'a was buried in Maiduguri yesterday according to Muslim rites.

Islamic State affiliate claims deadly attack on U.S. troops in Niger
Reuters

January 13, 2018

The leader of Islamic State's affiliate in West Africa has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed four U.S. special forces and four soldiers from Niger in October, Mauritania's independent Nouakchott News Agency (ANI) reported on Saturday.

The troops were killed when their joint patrol was attacked near the village of Tongo Tongo, on the Mali-Niger border, on Oct. 4 by dozens of militants armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The incident drew attention to the little-known U.S. military presence in Niger — it has 800 troops stationed there — and became a major publicity headache for President Donald Trump's administration.

officials had identified the perpetrators as Islamist militants loyal to Adnan Abu Waleed al-Sahrawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara operating along Mali's border with Niger and Burkina Faso, but there had previously been no confirmation from al-Sahrawi himself.

quot;We claim the attack which targeted the American commandos in the village of Tongo Tongo," Sahrawi, who makes public statements only very rarely, was quoted by ANI as saying.

Privately owned ANI sometimes enjoys privileged access to information on movements of Sahara-based Islamist fighters. Last year it broke news that Mali's main jihadist groups had merged, and in 2013 it had exclusive reports about a militant attack on a gas plant in Algeria in which 38 hostages were killed.

In the statement Sahrawi also claimed a car bomb attack on French troops on Thursday near Mali's city of Menaka, ANI reported. He said it had "killed many of them", although the French military said in a statement that the attack had merely wounded three troops.

Lawlessness across the Sahara has enabled jihadist groups to thrive and launch increasingly deadly attacks on local and Western targets there and in the semi-arid Sahel south of it. They are seen as the biggest threat to the region's stability.

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Mali

Al Qaeda maintains operational tempo in West Africa in 2017
FDD's Long War Journal

By Caleb Weiss
January 5, 2018

According to data compiled by FDD's Long War Journal, al Qaeda and its many allies and affiliates launched at least 276 attacks in Mali and the wider West Africa region in 2017. That means the al Qaeda has largely kept its operational tempo in West Africa consistent when compared to last year.

That number is the combination of attacks claimed by, or attributed to, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), AQIM's Katibat Murabitoon, Ansar Dine (a front group for AQIM), and Ansar Dine's Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front). Beginning in March, these groups merged together to form the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Aside from Mali, assaults claimed or attributed to Ansaroul Islam in Burkina Faso, as well as attacks attributed to jihadists in Niger, were also added.

Of the 276 attacks, 71 came as a result of improvised explosive devices. Another 24 were from mortar or rocket barrages aimed at French, Malian, or UN military bases in northern Mali. There were also 11 kidnappings, with several occurring in both Mali and Burkina Faso. Two were suicide bombings. The remaining 168 attacks were a variation of assaults, ambushes, or assassinations.

The central regions of Mali became the most volatile region of Mali compared to recent years with 90 attacks occurring within the Mopti, Segou, and Koulikoro regions. That marks a significant shift from recent years, as jihadist assaults move progressively south. The Kidal region accounted for 46 assaults in 2017, even though it was the most volatile region in 2016. In Gao there were 41 attacks, while Timbuktu was relatively less violent with just 30 attacks. The final 69 occurred in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Whether the intended target or collateral damage, civilians were targeted 68 times in Mali and Burkina Faso. Malian security forces (military, national guard, gendarmerie, and police) were the primary target for jihadists, with those security forces being the target in 98 instances. The UN's forces were targeted 48 times. Another 16 were directed at French forces. The other 46 were directed towards Burkinabe or Nigerien security personnel.

Prior to the merger which formed JNIM, Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for two attacks while AQIM claimed four. After the merger, JNIM has only claimed direct responsibility for 73 instances. Many instances go unclaimed due to unwanted results, communication problems, operational security, or other issues deemed unwanted by the group. However, attacks were added to the data if local media reported that jihadists were suspected.

This also applies to the data gathered from northern Burkina Faso. The JNIM-linked Ansaroul Islam is thought to be responsible for the majority of the attacks in Burkina Faso's Sahel region, but it has only formally claimed less than a handful of these instances. Local Burkinabe media and residents have provided invaluable reporting as this was used to determine if Ansaroul Islam is suspected, and therefore, should be added to the data.

Clashes between rival Tuareg groups or communal violence were not added to the data, unless the jihadists explicitly claimed involvement. This includes when JNIM involved itself in communal violence in central Mali in March. Instances where the primary motivation appears to have been robbery or other types of banditry were also not added.

Ansaroul Islam was founded by Malam Ibrahim Dicko, a close ally of Amadou Kouffa, who is the leader of Ansar Dine's Katibat Macina. In posts made on its (now deleted) Facebook page, Ansaroul Islam confirmed that Dicko had met with Kouffa in the past. Jeune Afrique has reported that Dicko initially tried to link up with jihadist groups in northern Mali in 2013, but was arrested by French forces in Tessalit and then subsequently released in 2015.

Malam Dicko died earlier this year and was replaced by his brother Jafar, which was confirmed by Le Monde. In addition, the French newspaper has also reported that Ansaroul Islam has around 200 members and is largely based in Boulkessi, Burkina Faso. The group maintains a heavy degree of operational ties with JNIM, which involves taking part in many raids across the border in Mali. JNIM also claimed six attacks in Burkina Faso, giving more evidence to the relationship between it and Ansaroul Islam.

Violence in northern Burkina Faso saw a significant uptick in 2017, including the first ever use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the country. According to FDD's Long War Journal's data, there have been at least six instances of IEDs in Burkina Faso. Most of Ansaroul Islam's attacks are focused on Burkinabe security forces, as well as civilian infrastructure, near the Malian border.

At least two separate attacks, one in Mali and one in Niger, have been attributed to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, but this number is likely higher. This includes the October 4 ambush in which four US Special Forces soldiers were killed in Niger near the Mali border. JNIM claimed one attack in Niger, an ambush on Nigerien troops in the Tahoua Region on July 5.

The large number of attacks represents a resurgent al Qaeda-led insurgency based in Mali, which continues to able to penetrate into the southern and central regions with great frequency and spread across the borders. However, while rate of attacks did go down in the northern Malian regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal compared to last year, al Qaeda continues to be a persistent threat in the north. That said, JNIM's killing of prominent civilians in the north has also exacerbated tensions with some Tuaregs, especially some within the large Kel Ansar tribe, has hurt its public support. The extent of which remains to be seen, though.

Despite a French-led counterterrorism mission and a United Nations peacekeeping force, Al Qaeda still retains the ability to operate openly in Mali. And like last year, Al Qaeda has been able to strike throughout West Africa, though it did not conduct any large-scale terrorist attack like in 2016. The attack frequency and scale is expected to continue in 2018. Since the UN mandate began in 2013, more than 100 peacekeepers have been killed in Mali, making it the deadliest UN peacekeeping force in the world.

Three pro-government guerilla fighters killed in Mali
The Citizen

January 7, 2018

Three members of an armed pro-government group were killed Saturday by suspected jihadists in northern Mali, security sources said, a day after extremists freed two hostages held since July in the troubled region.

Jihadists continue to roam the north and centre of the African country, despite being ousted from key northern towns by an ongoing French-led military intervention in 2013.

"Three members of the GATIA group were killed by terrorists in the vicinity of Anderamboukane, near the border with Niger," a Malian security source told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The guerrilla group was working with the Malian army to secure part of Mali's north, said a local administrative source who confirmed the death toll.

"The GATIA fighters had taken control of an area of Anderamboukane that the terrorists came and attacked," the source said.

GATIA, (Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group) which supports the central government in Bamako, signed a 2015 peace deal with members of the country's former rebel alliance that is aimed at quelling uprisings in the north, but both sides have repeatedly violated a ceasefire.

A 2012 rebellion by the Tuareg-led rebels was hijacked by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda who then seized control of key northern cities, triggering the international military intervention the following year.

A retired soldier and a Malian civilian who were taken hostage last July by Islamists were also freed on Friday in the Timbuktu region in Mali's northwest, a local government representative told AFP.

Meeting to make G5 Sahel Force operational opens in Mali
Journal du Cameroun

January 8, 2018

A ministerial meeting of G5 Sahel member countries (Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad), on Monday opened in Bamako on ways and means to make the G5 Sahel Joint Force operational. APA can report from the Malian capital that the meeting brings together the ministers of foreign affairs and defence of the five G5 Sahel member countries, a body created in 2014 to settle armed conflicts in the Sahel area.

It aims to continue and accelerate the rise of a counter-terrorism force common to the five countries, and which is expected to have 5,000 men, according to reports.

At the opening of the meeting, G5 Sahel Permanent Secretary Najim Eladj Mohamed said the strength of the force created by the five member countries will reach full capacity in March.

"It should be noted that the holding of this joint ministerial meeting on the operationalization of the Regional Force takes place in a particular context, marked especially by the full support of the international community through the adoption of the 2391 Resolution of October 23, 2017. The G5 Sahel joint force will reach full capacity by March 2018".

Mohamed made a report on the funding so far received, as part of the functioning of the force.

"To date, the G5 Sahel Force has registered €289 million of contributions to a projected budget of €423 million, representing 69.5 percent of the total".

Mali's Foreign Minister, Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, also the chairman of the G5 Sahel council of ministers, stressed the importance of the rapid operationalization of the G5 Sahel Force.

"This challenge forces us to continue our commitment to showing on the ground, our capacity to restore peace and security in the Sahelian space.

"Our agenda is tight and we must choose the fastest ways to reach the full operationalization of this force, because the urgency that presses us today is beyond words."

The meeting will also discuss the new regulations governing the G5 Sahel Joint Force.

The G5 Sahel Force already has its headquarters in Seware, in central Mali, and two command posts in Niamey, Niger, and in Mauritania.

Mali plans operation to flush Islamists from lawless center
Reuters

January 12, 2018

Mali and neighboring Senegal will deploy 1,000 troops in an operation to pacify central Mali, which has suffered growing violence by Islamists previously confined to its desert north, a security source with knowledge of the plan said.

General M'Bemba Moussa Keita told state radio on Friday that an operation was planned to "secure the central regions".

The security source told Reuters the aim was to enable presidential elections expected at the end of this year to go smoothly. He added it would focus on the area around the medieval Islamic city of Mopti on the Niger river. Some 200 troops from neighboring Senegal would join the operation.

Senegalese army spokesman Abdoul Ndiaye confirmed that Senegalese troops were already being deployed for this offensive — many were in Mali anyway on U.N. peacekeeping duties — though he declined to give the precise number.

Islamist groups have for more than a decade destabilized the sparsely populated desert north, but in the past three years they have exploited conflicts between Fulani cattle herders and farmers in Mali's wetter, more populated center.

That has shifted the battlefield closer to the richer south and capital Bamako, a fact highlighted by a string of attacks blamed on Fulani Islamist fighters from central Mali — most spectacularly one on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in November 2015 that killed dozens of people.

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EAST AFRICA

Uganda

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

Congo launches offensive against Ugandan rebels in its east
Reuters

By Fiston Mahamba
January 13, 2018

Congolese troops began a military offensive in the eastern city of Beni on Saturday against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel armed group blamed for an attack that killed 15 United Nations peacekeepers last month.

The operation is part of a joint effort by Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda against the group after the suspected ADF attack on a base manned by Tanzanian peacekeeping troops.

That attack, which also killed five Congolese soldiers and wounded another 53 peacekeepers, came amid a rising wave of violence in the mineral-rich, ethnically volatile area.

"Since this morning, we have launched a general offensive against the ADF phenomena," General Marcel Mbangu, commander in charge of Congo's North Kivu province, told a new conference.

"This is, for us, the final offensive. We will fight them until the end, until we have secured our territory," he added.

Residents reported the sounds of gunfire and explosions in Beni on Saturday.

Rival militia groups control parts of eastern Congo long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war in which millions of people died, mostly from hunger and disease.

A surge in militia violence across the country, which followed President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down when his mandate expired just over a year ago, has raised fears Congo could slide into all-out war again.

The Islamist ADF has long been active along the Congo-Uganda border and has been blamed for a spate of massacres. Last month Uganda launched air strikes and artillery attacks on ADF positions on its side.

Uganda Law Society Goes to Court to Challenge Age Limit Law
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Anthony Wesaka
January 15, 2018

Hardly two weeks after President Museveni assented to the controversial age limit Bill turning into law, the Uganda Law Society has petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to annul it.

Core to the petition that was filed on Monday morning, the lawyers led by their president, Mr Francis Gimara, aver that the extension of the tenure of the 10th Parliament and that of the local government councils to seven years is unconstitutional since the politicians who would serve under such an arrangement would do so without the people's mandate.

"Some of the amendments took away the authority of the people who allowed a five-year term and by retrospectively applying the provision to the current Parliament and local government councils extended the term for two years without people's will, is unconstitutional," the court documents supporting their suit read in part.

The lawyers are also challenging the effect of the passing of the age limit Bill into law that they say will see the Electoral Commission organise two separate elections of the President and MPs and that this arrangement infects Article 105 (1) of the Constitution and is inconsistent with Articles 1, 8a and 260 (1) f of the Constitution.

They also state that the process leading to enactment of the Constitutional (amendment) Act, 2018 was marred with violence, intimidation, abuse of fundamental human rights, general mayhem, security officers evading Parliament and assaulting MPs, which actions undermined the integrity and independence of Parliament.

The Attorney General has been listed as the only respondent who by press time, had not yet put in his defence.

Three DR Congo soldiers killed fighting Ugandan rebels
The Citizen

January 15, 2018

Three Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers died on Monday while repelling an attack in the eastern Beni region by ADF Ugandan Islamist rebels, who are suspected of murdering 14 UN peacekeepers last month.

The army had on Saturday announced an offensive against the Allied Democratic Forces, one of a number of armed groups acting in North Kivu and South Kivu — the two provinces which border Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

"The ADF attacked our position in Muzambay at 4:00 am (0200 GMT)," said army spokesman Captain Mak Hazukay.

"We have listed five wounded, three of them in a serious condition," he said.

But a witness told AFP he saw the corpses of three soldiers in the morgue of Beni's general hospital. He saw four other troops being treated for wounds at the same facility.

Another source reported seeing an army ambulance transporting two bodies and five wounded soldiers to hospital.

– Ugandan support –

"The firing started very early while we were still sleeping but stopped around 6:30 am," said Aimee Makinda, the wife of a soldier whose house is located near the site of the clashes.

An AFP correspondent in Beni reported hearing heavy and light weapons fire for two and a half hours from 4:00 am.

Gilbert Kambale, who heads a local community organisation, said the ADF had made an "incursion" into Beni.

Present in DR Congo since 1995, the ADF was created by Muslim radicals to oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's rule.

On Sunday, Museveni said Ugandan forces — who claim to have killed 100 ADF fighters in air strikes in eastern DRC last month — would support Kinshasa's offensive "where necessary," but did not go into detail.

– No UN involvement –

Congolese authorities and the UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, accuse the ADF of killing more than 700 civilians as well as combatants in the Beni region since 2014.

The group also stands accused of killing 14 UN peacekeepers in eastern DR Congo last month, the biggest single loss of peacekeepers in nearly a quarter of a century.

A UN source told AFP that the DRC armed forces had launched their offensive without the involvement of MONUSCO, which had vowed to crack down on the ADF after the December ambush.

"They consider us to be a backup force. If we are not involved in planning the attack, we don't join in," the source said.

The fighting in eastern DR Congo is part of a larger mosaic of disorder and violence in the sprawling, volatile country.

Another troublespot is the vast central region of Kasai, where the death of a rebellious tribal chief in August 2016 unleashed clashes with government forces that according to UN figures have led to more than 3,000 deaths and displaced 1.4 million people.

Mineral-rich but mired in poverty and corruption, the country is led by President Joseph Kabila who has been in power since 2001, when he succeeded his assassinated father at the age of 29.

Kabila's constitutional term in office expired in December 2016, but he stayed on — a move that stoked a bloody spiral of violence.

Under an agreement brokered by the Roman Catholic church, he was allowed to stay in office provided new elections were held in 2017. The date has since been postponed to December 23, 2018.

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Kenya

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

Protests as Uhuru takes charge of top security organs
The Star

By Felix Olick
January 15, 2018

Three radical and systematic amendments to a critical police law have given President Uhuru Kenyatta a stranglehold over the police, including sweeping powers that triggered the latest shakeup in the service.

The changes to the law that started soon after Jubilee rode to power have clipped the powers of the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and turned it into a rubber stamp of the Executive.

Critics have said the President's unchecked discretion to hire and fire police chiefs effectively makes appointees Executive puppets and opens the doors to manipulation.

"The Constitution intended that the police should be independent of the Executive. The same Constitution intended that the National Police Service Commission, just like the Judicial Service Commission in respect of the Judiciary, will have an absolute say on those who are appointed to head the police," former Ombudsman chairman Otiende Amollo told the Star.

On January 5, Uhuru sacked Deputy Inspector General of Police Joel Kitili, his Administration Police counterpart Samuel Arachi and DCI boss Ndegwa Muhoro.

On an acting capacity, he appointed Edward Njoroge to replace Kitili, Noor Gabow to take over from Arachi and George Kinoti to succeed Muhoro.

The NPSC, led by its Chairman Johnston Kavuludi, have kicked off the recruitment of substantive officers and the deadline for applications ends today.

However, the changes have triggered protests, with Opposition chief Raila Odinga claiming Uhuru is acting with impunity in the belief that he will never have to face Kenyans again in an election.

Raila's co-principal Moses Wetangu'la also said Uhuru was blatantly violating the law by taking over the powers of independent institutions.

"The trend Kenyatta is embarking on, other than going against the spirit of the Constitution, means there no longer exist any fair chances for all Kenyans to access high constitutional offices because the appointment procedure is getting personalised," Raila protested last week.

In 2009, the Justice Philip Ransley-led taskforce on police reforms concluded that appointment of police bosses by the President make them vulnerable to both political and hierarchical misuse.

Rights activist Cyprian Nyamwamu said that the NPSC cannot be described as a Constitutional Commission and decried that Kenya was headed to becoming a full-fledged police state.

"Very difficult moments in terms of police accountability here in Kenya," he told the Star on the phone.

Adulahi Boru of Amnesty International said Kenyans must not forget the historical rationale for the elaborate oversight mechanism that is provided in the Constitution.

Citing the Waki Commission Report, Boru said it concluded that at least 30 per cent of people who died during the 2007/2008 post-election violence were killed by the police.

The NPSC also come under fire, with some stakeholders claiming, "They have abandoned their independence and allowed the President to usurp their powers."

Yesterday, Otiende described most of the existing independent Commissions as "dead and moribund".

"Commissions are supposed to protect the sovereignty of the people, they are supposed to protect democracy and constitutionalism, individually and collectively. What that means is that every individual commission should jealously guard its independence as granted by the Constitution," Otiende, now the Rarieda MP, told the Star.

"A commission that allows the President to usurp its powers, keeps quiet about it and then purports to certify that by a cosmetic advertisement for a position, to which the President has already appointed somebody, is not a commission worth talking about."

In what is seen as a mere formality, the Kavuludi team on Thursday advertised the three positions and is set to embark on a recruitment process.

However, there is public scepticism, going by past public experience.

In 2016, Kitili was confirmed as deputy IG, following his appointment in an acting capacity by President Kenyatta.

The NPSC interviews were conducted in camera, away from public scrutiny, with the commission terming the exercise as an in-house affair.

Speaking to the Star, Kavuludi said the amendments that are said to have weakened his commission must have been found necessary.

He said his job as the NPSC chairman is to obey the law in the appointment of the police bosses.

"My job as the chairman of the NPSC is to cope with the law to undertake the process of ensuring we go through the due process of appointing substantive office holders," he told the Star.

Former chairman of the Committee of Experts on the constitutional review Nzamba Kitonga, however, said the amendments to The Police Service Act were legal because they were upheld by the High Court.

The first major amendments to the National Police Service Act were made in 2014.

The changes revoked a four-year tenure for the Inspector General of Police and allowed the Head of State to nominate the IG without reference to the Commission.

Despite protests from opposition MPs, Jubilee lawmakers gave Uhuru the powers to unilaterally appoint the IG, with the only requirement being approval by Parliament.

Through The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2015, Jubilee did away with elaborate statutory procedures and requirements for recruiting and dismissing both Deputy IGs and the Director of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

According to the initial law, whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of the deputy IG, the Commission conducts public interviews, vets and shortlists at least three persons qualified for the position.

The names of the persons shortlisted were to be published in the Kenya Gazette before being forwarded to the President for the appointment.

The section was repealed and replaced with this provision: "Whenever there a vacancy arises in the Office of the Deputy Inspector-General the President shall on the recommendation of the Commission within fourteen days from the date the vacancy arises appoint a suitably qualified person to serve as Deputy Inspector-General."

Removal of the IG, his two deputies and the CID boss was also elaborate and could only be enforced by the NPSC through a petition to the Commission.

However, this was removed, with the President given the powers to remove, retire or redeploy the police chiefs at any time.

Kenya Opposition Leader Vows to Inaugurate Self as 'Peoples' President'
Voice of America

By Daniel Schearf
January 16, 2018

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose National Super Alliance (NASA) contests the results of October's re-run election, has defiantly vowed to inaugurate himself the "peoples" president' at the end of January, if there is no dialogue beforehand with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In an exclusive television interview Tuesday with VOA's Swahili Service, Odinga denied criticism the threat to hold his own "inauguration ceremony" on January 30 is a tactic to negotiate for power with Kenyatta.

"So, we're not using the swearing-in as a basis of negotiating with Uhuru Kenyatta. We have said in fact that we don't want any stake in Uhuru Kenyatta government. We want to be the ones who are in government."

Despite his tough words, Odinga said the opposition is seeking a dialogue with Kenyatta's ruling Jubilee Party of Kenya. He said it wants to discuss five points with the Kenyan president - electoral justice, judicial independence, police reforms, devolution of power, and restructuring the executive in the constitution.

"As [for] Jubilee, if they have another item or agenda they want to put on the table, they are free to do so. We are ready to discuss. But, our agenda for swearing-in is not negotiable. We say that if we cannot talk by [the] 30th of ... January we are going to be sworn in. And we will then release our program thereafter."

Kenyatta has hinted at, but not yet agreed to dialogue. Kenya's Attorney General Githu Muigai warned in December that any attempts to swear in Odinga as president would qualify as high treason, which is punishable by death.

'Vote of no confidence'

Kenya was plunged into political crisis after last year's presidential elections, which saw an initial poll voided by the Supreme Court and a second round in October boycotted by Odinga and his supporters.

Kenyatta won the second round with 98 percent of the vote. But, a low voter turnout - 39 percent - led many to question if 56-year-old Kenyatta has the mandate to lead, an uncertainty that 73-year-old Odinga has encouraged.

"So, that election was itself a vote of no confidence in Jubilee," Odinga said Tuesday. "And, therefore it is even shameful that Uhuru Kenyatta can be claiming that he is the president of Kenya on the basis of the 26th of October elections."

Kenya's opposition leader may be defiant, but governance and politics analyst at Interthoughts Consulting Jarvis Bigambo tells VOA he is running out of options. "Because the moment the Supreme Court of Kenya determined and pronounced itself on the issue of the conclusion of elections that were conducted on October 26, that matter sounded a death knell on the issues that the opposition could hop on."

Bigambo says Odinga has no legal ground to stand on. "And that's why their claim to that swearing in is that they want to swear in honorable Odinga as the 'peoples' president' not as the bona fide president of the Republic of Kenya," he said.

But Bigambo warns Odinga, who has no small measure of support in Kenya, should not be dismissed by the ruling party.

"It will also be very dangerous for Jubilee leadership - and here I'm speaking specifically to President Kenyatta - to undermine the political capital that honorable Odinga has. And, it behooves the president therefore to reach out and request the leadership of [Odinga's party] NASA to be gracious, to be diligent, and to be focused on the progress - democratic progress - of Kenya," Bigambo said.

The United States recognized the results of the October election, while calling for a national dialogue to address long-standing issues and deep divisions. The U.S. also urged opposition leaders to work within Kenya's laws to pursue reforms and avoid extra-constitutional actions such as Odinga's planned "inauguration ceremony."

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Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

Why Rwandan refugees in Malawi won't go back home
Face2Face Africa

By Fredrick Ngugi
January 4, 2018

More than 9,000 Rwandan refugees in Malawi are hesitant to return home following the call by the Rwandan government to have all Rwandan refugees repatriated.

Local reports indicate that only 400 Rwandan refugees have accepted to be deported, even after the December deadline issued by the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs (RMDMRA) lapsed four days ago.

In the 2016 announcement, the ministry had warned that those refugees who will not have gone back home by the end of December 2017 risked having their refugee status revoked.

"By December 31, 2017, any Rwandan who won't be home will not be considered as a refugee and neither the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs nor UNHCR will afford to help them repatriate after that date," RMDMRA's minister, Seraphine Mukantabana was quoted by New Times.

Her statement was also echoed by UNHCR's Rwandan representative, Saber Azam, who assured Rwandan refugees living in foreign countries that the situation back home was stable and safe for their return.

He also warned that the repatriation and resettlement allowances won't be available for those who will miss the deadline.

"The situation in Rwanda at the moment is perfect. Refugees should come back home. There won't be postponement of the cessation clause," warned Azam.

Afraid to Return

Authorities in Malawi believe the refugees are reluctant to return home due to fear of being victimized and prosecuted for their roles in the deadly genocide that happened in 1994.

But many of the genocide perpetrators have so far been pardoned in an effort to reconcile communities and households in Rwanda. Last year, the Rwandan government pardoned 21 convicts of the deadly genocide with the promise that they will assist in the search for the remains of their victims.

Other refugees may be afraid to return home because they've already established a new life in their host countries, while some fear that going back home might bring back painful memories of the war.

The genocide, which took place between April and July 1994, left close to one million people dead, most of them Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Woman Working on Appeal in Rwanda Genocide Case
U.S. News & World Report

January 10, 2018

A woman serving a 10-yeaer sentence in federal prison for lying about her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide to obtain U.S. citizenship is working on an appeal.

In August, a federal judge denied an appeal bid from Beatrice Munyenyezi (moon-yehn-YEH'-zee), who was convicted and sentenced in 2013 in the same federal courthouse in New Hampshire where she was granted citizenship years earlier. She's serving a 10-year sentence in Alabama and faces deportation afterward.

Munyenyezi's appealing to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. She says the judge didn't review the stripping of her citizenship.

Munyenyezi was convicted of lying about her role as a commander of one of the notorious roadblocks where Tutsis were singled out for slaughter. She also denied affiliation with any political party, despite her husband's leadership role in the extremist Hutu militia party.

States press France on Rwandan genocidaires
The New Times

By James Karuhanga
January 16, 2018

Several countries on Monday called on France to speed up the prosecution of suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi on its territory.

This was at the start of the 29th session of the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, underway in Geneva from January 15 to 26 during which the next group of 14 States are scheduled to have their human rights records examined under the same mechanism.

"UPR29 States recommend to #France to expedite the prosecution of suspected #genocide perpetrators residing in the country," the UN Human Rights Council, an inter-governmental body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world, tweeted.

The human rights record of France was being examined for the third time.

The New Times understands that UPR States including Guyana, Kenya, Iran, Israel, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda explicitly made recommendations to the Government of France about the truth and justice for Genocide against Tutsi.

Rwanda recommended to the Government of France to, among others, take active steps to either prosecute or extradite suspected Genocide perpetrators residing on its territory; take active steps to declassify and make public all documents that contain government and military information related to the pre, during and post-Genocide period; and to take steps to investigate allegations emanating from various sources of France's role and involvement in the Genocide against the Tutsi.

No reason to decline recommendation

Genocide researcher Tom Ndahiro says it is difficult for France to extradite the suspected mass murderers as it is "not ready to abandon their friends."

A trial of a genocidaire, he says, is a reminder of France's own involvement in the Genocide.

He added: "On the other hand, France would be reducing the burden of being reminded of this role every time Rwandans and friends of Rwanda claim justice referring to those hiding in France. Keeping them there is a sign of their tragic role."

"Rwanda has proven and continues to demonstrate the will to promote justice and human rights. France has no reason to decline this recommendation."

Last June, Genocide survivors and a France-based civil society organisation, Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), separately asked the UN to examine France's role in the 1994 Genocide.

The two submissions were handed over to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council ahead of France's current third Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Genocide survivors made their submission through their umbrella association, Ibuka. Meanwhile, the CPCR, a non-governmental organisation which has spent nearly two decades advocating for the prosecution of suspected génocidaires residing in France, maintained that its sole goal is to obtain the truth and seek justice for the victims of the Genocide.

The CPCR denounces what it sees as systematic refusal by France to extradite génocidaires to Rwanda to face trial. It maintains that 30 individual extradition requests have been rejected by France's Cour de Cassation.

Soon after making their submission last year, CPCR president Alain Gauthier, said they were focused on the refusal by France to acknowledge its role in the Genocide, in which more than a million people were slaughtered between April and July 1994.

He said, by choosing not to extradite or delaying the prosecution of suspected génocidaires residing in France, Paris has blocked efforts to establish the truth and bring about justice.

Kigali would like to see immediate steps taken by Paris to cooperate and bring to justice the likes of Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Rwandan catholic priest implicated in the 1994 Genocide, and former prefect Laurent Bucyibaruta, another Genocide suspect, among others.

The CPCR continues to question deliberate delays by France to prosecute Genocide suspects on its soil. These failures, it says, amount to a breach of international law by France. Ibuka shares and endorses the concerns raised by CPCR.

Ibuka, in its own submission to the UNHRC, appealed to the UN Human Rights Council and UN member states to give the concerns raised due consideration and take necessary action regarding CPCR recommendations.

New revelations last year put the spotlight on a French bank, BNP Paribas, which was sued for financing the Genocide as well as top French officials for issuing re-armament orders for the genocidal regime in breach of an UN arms embargo.

About the Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States.

It is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries.

It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights.

The documents on which the reviews are based are: information provided by the State under review, which can take the form of a "national report"; information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups, known as the Special Procedures, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities; and information from other stakeholders, including national human rights institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Reviews take place through an interactive discussion between the State under review and other UN Member States.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can participate in the UPR process as they can submit information which can be added to the "other stakeholders" report which is considered during the review.

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Somalia

'People were screaming': troops destroy $200,000 aid camps in Somalia
The Guardian

By Moulid Hujale
January 15, 2018

Two weeks after being forcibly evicted from their shelters, thousands of vulnerable families are still living rough in the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Somali security forces went in and destroyed 23 camps for internally displaced people, housing more than 4,000 Somalis, on 29 and 30 December last year according to the UN.

People say they woke up to bulldozers and soldiers demolishing their shelters. "We were not even given time to collect our belongings," said Farhia Hussein, a mother of nine. "People were screaming and running in all directions. Two of my children went missing in the chaos. They are twin sisters, aged six – thank God I found them two days later."

Hussein, 46, came to the city nine months ago from the Shebelle region. "I was a farmer but I lost everything to the drought and I cannot go back now because the security situation is terrible there," she said. "I never thought my own people would treat me this way in Mogadishu, I felt like a foreigner in my own country."

The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (Unocha) said the destruction included health and sanitary facilities, schools, latrines and water points, at a cost of more than $200,000 of donor money.

Witnesses say the police and military personnel involved in the clearances beat up anyone who tried to resist or question them.

Omar Mohamed, 54, and his eight children now share a makeshift shelter with other families in a nearby camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). "It was a nightmare. At least my children are alive. I saw a mother who lost her eight-month-old child because of hunger and heat. They were literally sleeping under the sun in the open air," he said.

Mohamed Ismail Abdullahi, district commissioner of Kahda, where the demolitions took place, said: "The eviction was done for the safety of the IDPs since the area they settled was a disputed private land and the eviction order was issued by a High Court, although there was not a proper notice and it was not well coordinated."

Aid workers and journalists were not allowed to film.

"Security forces stopped reporters from taking photos. It was done quite swiftly and there is not much [reporting] of the eviction in the local press," said aid worker Abdiaziz Hussein.

Land and property disputes by powerful local clans have been increasing in the city, thanks to booming real estate developments. Displaced people, who mostly come from smaller clans, are often caught up in the middle of the dispute.

Famine, conflict and drought displaced one million people throughout Somalia last year alone. Most end up in large towns and cities like Mogadishu where they face being constantly moved on.

In 2015, similar large-scale destruction of such settlements took place in the same Kahda district, with more than 21,000 people forcibly removed from their makeshift shacks.

The district commissioner said only about 600 families had been rehoused so far and they were working hard to shelter the remaining families.

"We managed to secure land, at least for the coming four years, and will hopefully renew the lease or find an alternative solution but our priority now is to help build shelters for those who lost their properties in the eviction and we call upon all parties including the federal government, the UN and other aid agencies to support these people," he said.

Farhia Hussein has been taken in by another displaced family whose camp was not affected. "Imagine sharing a small tent with another family of ten. We are basically sleeping in the open air. There are many charities here but there is not enough support."

Abdiaziz Hussein, who works with a local organisation in the camps, said thousands were in difficulty. "They cannot go back to the camps because the police are still there, guarding the emptied settlements to stop people from coming back," he said.

'Al-Shabaab is recruiting children in Somalia'
Africa News

January 16, 2018

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says al-Shabaab conscripts the children by subjecting elders and religious school teachers to beatings, abductions and intimidation tactics.

The group's campaign has focused on the Bay region in southwestern Somalia, where communities were already ravaged by droughts and years of conflict, according to the report from the international rights group.

The campaign was first reported by VOA's Somali service in September.

"These are communities which have already been hit by drought, very poor, struggling to survive," said Laetitia Bader, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch who interviewed families affected by the campaign, which began in late September 2017.

According to HRW, the armed group has opened several training centers, under the guise of being religious schools in areas under their control. They use strengthened indoctrination, they teach children of a very young age and have pressured teachers into teaching al Shabaab approved programs in schools.

"The last two years have seen a dramatic increase in the abduction of children by al Shabab," explains Zama Neff who heads the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch. "Children have been taken from their schools, from their homes and from the streets. Nowhere is safe."

HRW says hundreds of children have been affected. In one village alone, al-Shabaab abducted at least 50 boys and girls from two schools near Burhakaba town and took them to Bulo Fulay where the militant group runs schools and a major training facility.

The campaign has prompted hundreds of children to flee areas controlled by Al-Shabaab.

"A community's only option to protect their children from recruitment was to send them into government controlled towns, often on their own, just to see if they can get a bit more protection in those towns," Bader says.

In August 2017, an official from the coastal town of Adale in Middle Shabelle told the media that his community was harboring around 500 children. Most of them were between the age of 10 and 15. They had fled forced recruitment in the neighboring regions of Galgudud, Hiran and Middle Shabelle.

This is hardly the first time al-Shabab has been accused of recruiting children.

"We have seen in the past very young children sent to the front line, some children as young as 9 years old, very much being used as a cannon fodder …right at front lines during the fighting in Mogadishu 2010 and 2011 and more recently the large scale offensive in Puntland in 2016," Bader said.

Al-Shabaab's longer term plan, Bader says, is to train at least some of them as fighters.

"What appears to be part of this campaign is to get these children to go to al-Shabaab-managed, controlled madrassas, to put them through their educational system," she said, adding, "In some cases there is a link between children growing in these schools and then being sent to military training. Research also showed children received a mixture of indoctrination and basic military training."

HRW says that while the government had taken some steps to protect schools and students, it should work to identify recruitment drives, assist displaced children and ensure children "are not sent into harm's way."

The Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow successive internationally backed governments in Mogadishu since 2007 and frequently deploys car and truck bombs against military, government and civilian targets.

The Shabaab lost its foothold in the capital in 2011 but still controls vast rural areas.

Somalia's al Shabaab denounces ex-spokesman as apostate who could be killed
Reuters

By Abdi Sheikh
January 16, 2018

Somali al Shabaab Islamist militants, who have carried out frequent bombings in the capital, Mogadishu, said a former leader who defected to the government side was an apostate who could be killed.

Al Shabaab fell out with its former spokesman and deputy leader, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, in 2013. He defected to the U.N.-backed government in August last year.

Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to try to topple Somalia's central government and rule the Horn of Africa country according to its own interpretation of Islamic law.

"If Mukhtar Robow thinks he can destroy Islamic sharia and the mujahedeen, he is deluded. Allah will protect Islam and Jihad will not stop just because of you and your likes who joined the enemies," Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab's spokesman, said in a video posted late on Monday.

It was not immediately possible to reach Robow for comment.

"No doubt, Mukhtar Robow left his religion and joined the disbelievers and the enemies are still the enemies," al shabaab's spokesman said.

"Anybody who joins the line of non-Muslims is an apostate who can be killed."

A report by rights body Human Rights Watch released on Monday said al Shabaab had threatened and abducted civilians in Somalia's Bay region to force communities to hand over their children for indoctrination and military training in recent months.

"Al Shabaab's ruthless recruitment campaign is taking rural children from their parents so they can serve this militant armed group," said Laetitia Bader, senior Africa researcher for the rights body.

The insurgents, who are allied with al Qaeda, were driven out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. They have also since lost nearly all other territory they previously controlled after an offensive by Somali government troops and African Union-mandated AMISOM peacekeepers.

Al Shabaab, however, remains a formidable threat and has carried out bombings both in Mogadishu and other towns against military and civilian targets.

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NORTH AFRICA

Libya

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

Suspected Islamic State bomber surrenders at Libyan checkpoint: official
Reuters

January 11, 2018

A suspected Islamic State militant driving a car laden with explosives surrendered to Libyan security forces at a checkpoint on Thursday rather than go ahead with an attack in the city of Misrata, a security official said.

The Misratan counter-terrorism official, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he had surrendered at a checkpoint near Abu Grain town, but it was not immediately clear why he had handed himself in.

Abu Grain is about 100 km (60 miles) south of Misrata and 140 km west of Sirte, a city that Islamic State controlled until they were driven out by a Misratan-led military campaign in 2016.

"The suspect handed himself in to the security forces early morning on Thursday," the official told Reuters. "The car bomb is now being dismantled by explosives experts."

Since Islamic State's defeat in Sirte, Libyan and Western security officials say militants have been trying to regroup in desert areas to the south, where they were targeted last year by several U.S. air strikes.

They have occasionally set up temporary checkpoints, and had done so in two places on a remote road in the area early on Wednesday, the Misratan official said.

Islamic State also claimed a deadly attack on a courthouse complex in Misrata last year.

U.S. welcomes Libya's destruction of chemical weapons stockpile: statement
Reuters

January 11, 2018

The White House on Thursday congratulated Libya for destroying its remaining chemical weapons stockpile, and also called on Syria to fully eliminate its chemical weapons program.

"The United States congratulates Libya for destroying the last remnants of its Qadhafi-era chemical weapons stockpile," White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement, referring to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was overthrown and killed in 2011.

"The United States calls on Syria to eliminate all chemical weapons, to dismantle fully its chemical weapons program, and to ensure that these weapons can no longer be used against the Syrian people," she added.

UN warns fighting armed groups against attacking civilians in Tripoli
The Libya Observer

By Abdulkader Assad
January 15, 2018

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) warned Libyan parties in Greater Tripoli against attacking civilians and state institutions, in reaction to the deadly clashes that hit Mitiga Airport Monday morning.

"UNSMIL reminds all parties in the Greater Tripoli area of their moral and legal obligations to safeguard and protect civilians and civilian installations. Direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians are prohibited under international humanitarian law." UNSMIL tweeted this evening.

According to the numbers issues by the Health Ministry, 20 people were killed and 63 others were injured in the fierce clashes that broke out in the vicinity of Mitiga Airport between Brigade 33 of Tajoura district and Special Deterrent Force (SDF) that is in control of the airport.

Brigade 33 started the fighting when it attacked Monday morning the airport in an attempt to free prisoners jailed by the SDF.

Meanwhile, the Head of the Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sirraj, issues an order to dissolve the Brigade 33 Infantry for its part in starting the deadly clashes around Mitiga Airport.

"All the vehicles and weapons of Brigade 33 Infantry shall be possessed by the General Staff and the fighters under the command of the brigade shall be joining other army brigades as the Recruitment and Administration sees fit." The Presidential Council's order reads.

The clashes also caused huge damage to Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways planes, obliging them to transfer their planes from Mitiga Airport to the other locations.

Deadly clashes in Libyan capital force airport to close
Aljazeera

January 15, 2018

Fierce clashes between two rival Libyan groups have left at least nine people dead and forced the closure of the main airport, underscoring the bleak prospects for the North African country as it marks seven years since the Arab Spring uprising.

Security officials told Al Jazeera on Monday that all flights had been suspended from Tripoli's Mitiga airport until further notice, after fighters from the Bugra rebel group attacked the Special Deterrence Force, a group that controls the installation.

Health officials said at least nine people had been killed and 32 wounded, after the Bugra group launched the early morning attack.

Mitiga is a military base near the centre of Tripoli that has been the city's main airport for civilian flights, since the international airport was partly destroyed by fighting in 2014.

The international airport remains out of service.

Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said fighting had calmed by 2pm local time (11:00 GMT) but gunfire could still be heard in the centre of the city.

"The clashes erupted because the Bugra group, led by Basheer al-Bugra, believe that since the air base is located in Tajoura, where they have popular support, they should be charged with protecting it."

Our correspondent said the Bugra group, which is opposed to the Special Deterrence Force and the UN-backed government, had accused them of "extrajudicial practices" at the airbase.

"The roots of the violence stem from the Special Deterrence Force's decision to create a prison at the facility," our correspondent said.

"More than 1,000 suspects are believed to be held at the prison, including fighters from a local ISIL affiliate, former rebels, activists, and criminal suspects."

Libya has been locked in a state of violence since 2011, when the Arab Spring uprising ended with the overthrow and death of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Despite peace efforts since then, the country has remained divided between the GNA in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and a Haftar-backed administration in the east.

A new round of UN-backed talks began in September in Tunis, aimed at preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018.

But the talks broke down about a month later without a deal.

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MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

Dreaded ISIS Executioner 'White Beard' Caught in Iraq, Could Himself Face Execution
The Epoch Times

By Tom Ozimek
January 6, 2018

A prominent ISIS executioner nicknamed White Beard has been captured by Iraqi forces, and now could himself face execution, according to reports.

Abu Omer was known for his appearances in ISIS execution videos and presided over the killings of many who ran afoul of the so-called "caliphate."

He was captured in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last week, according to Yahoo, citing Hisham al-Hishimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government.

Locals tipped security forces off as to the location of the henchman's hideout in Mosul, reported the Iran-based AhlulBayt News Agency (ANBA) reported, citing Iraqi media outlets.

Pictures shared on social media showed Omer with a man who is reportedly a member of the Iraqi security services.

Omer featured in graphic videos of ISIS executions, in which homosexuals were thrown off buildings and others beheaded and stoned to death for minor offenses such as blasphemy.

Now Omer, dubbed White Beard because of his distinctive facial hair, could himself face execution.

The terror group has been nearly entirely driven out of Mosul, according to many reports.

The city, which straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border, is where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the creation of the group's self-declared caliphate in July 2014 after the terror group captured territory in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Now fewer than 1,000 ISIS terrorists remain in Iraq and Syria combined.

According to a Human Rights Watch report released last month, about 20,000 people suspected of having ties to ISIS are being held across Iraq.

It is unclear how many have been slaughtered by the terror group, and according to the Daily Mail, more than three million Iraqis displaced by the conflict remain in camps.

UN estimates say that just in Mosul 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt or restored and about 600,000 residents are unable to return to the city, once home to around 2 million people, according to the Mail.

An Associated Press investigation has found at least 133 mass graves left behind by the defeated extremists, Fox reported, with more expected to be uncovered.

It is estimated that the graves that have been found contain between 11,000 and 13,000 corpses.

Iraq parliament forms committee to investigate war crimes in Tuz Khurmatu
The National

By Mina Aldroubi
January 9, 2018

The Iraqi parliament has voted to set up a committee to investigate possible war crimes in the multi-ethnic town of Tuz Khurmatu following its recapture by Iraqi forces from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Tuz Khumatu, located 90 kilometres south of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, has been at the forefront of deep sectarian tensions for the past few years. The multi-ethnic town is home to Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds and was among the contested areas recaptured by Iraqi troops and pro-government mainly Shiite militias in October last year in the wake of the Kurdish independence referendum.

Before its recapture on October 16, clashes had repeatedly broken out in Tuz Khumatu between Peshmerga fighters and the mainly Shiite militias collectively known as the Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Units or Forces).

Kurdish politicians have accused Iraqi forces, most notably the Hashed Al Shaabi, of carrying out possible violations against civilians in the town.

In December, the United Nations mission in Iraq reported that its team "has observed signs of possible violations in Tuz Khurmatu, indiscriminate targeting of civilians, forced evacuations and destruction of properties prior to but notably after 16 October 2017".

Thousands of residents have been internally displaced to Kirkuk — which was also recaptured by Iraqi forces from Peshmerga fighters — and the cities of Sulaymanyia and Erbil, which lie in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

The parliamentary committee to investigate possible war crimes in Tuz Khurmatu will be comprised of multi-ethnic representatives from Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish backgrounds, the Iraqi parliament said in a statement on Monday.

It will start work next week to ensure that "displaced families are able to return to their homes as soon as possible … reveal the violations and hold violators accountable", it added.

"The representatives will investigate human rights, media, immigration and displacement, legal, and security violations", said Farhad Qadir, a member of the Iraqi parliament for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party.

"The findings of the committee will become the official position and decision of the Iraqi parliament."

Speaking to The National on Tuesday, Arhsed Al Salehi, another member of the Iraqi parliament and the head of the Turkmen Front party, called for the committee to be "comprised of neutral and independent members of Sunni and Shiite backgrounds and not to include any Turkmen or Kurdish representatives".

"We need this committee to uncover the truth about what actually happened in the town," he added.

Mr Al Salehi noted that more than 3,000 Turkmen have been targeted in Tuz Khurmatu since 2003, according to statistics from the Iraqi parliament.

In November, the UN secretary general's special representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said "at least 150 houses belonging to Turkmen and Kurds were reportedly set ablaze and [that] there were other reports of acts of violence".

Mr Kubis called for an immediate end to acts that threaten the security and the safety of Kurdish and Turkmen communities and their civilian residents.

Separately on Tuesday, Iraq prime minister Haider Al Abadi said Iraqi troops were still fighting remaining ISIL fighters but promised that "the country will achieve prosperity like it defeated terrorism".

"We are still following the remnants of the defeated terrorists in the desert and Al Jazira. We will conquer them," Mr Al Abadi said as Iraq's police forces celebrated their 96th anniversary.

"I congratulate the champions of the interior ministry on their day, which comes at times of great victories against ISIL," he added.  

Isis executioner who threw gay men off buildings bribed his way out of prison in 'minutes'
International Business Times

By Josh Robbins
January 9, 2018

A notorious Isis henchman accused of beheading gay men and throwing them off rooftops has escaped from police custody just minutes after being arrested in Iraq.

Abu Omer – known as "White Beard" thanks to his impressive facial hair – was arrested in Mosul at the beginning of the year. Local and international media reported his detention but now it seems that the sadistic jihadi was back on the road in no time at all.

Human rights watch group the Clarion Project described the escape as a "remarkable failure of the Iraqi justice system – [an] Isis religious leader was arrested and released just minutes later after paying a $7,500 [£5,500] bribe."

The grisly executioner has been connected to dozens of killings inside the so-called Caliphate. Most shockingly, he appears to feature in an infamous video from 2015 that shows three men accused of homosexuality being publicly beheaded.

Describing the security debacle, local official Zuheir Hazzen el-Jaburi told Ayn Al Iraq: "I was in Mosul when a force from police intelligence arrested a man. After questioning they were told he was the mufti for the right bank of the [river in the] city – an Isis member.

"We asked people who he was, and they proved he really was an Isis mufti. After he was arrested, he left a motorbike behind. An hour later we saw the motorbike was no longer there.

"We inquired about it. They said he was released 10 minutes earlier after he paid 75 notes [$7,500]."

The official's report was confirmed online by UN ambassador and Yazidi genocide survivor Nadia Murad. She wrote on Twitter: "We heard from media that this Isis terrorist detainee who used to slaughter people in Mosul is now set free by some corrupt officials.

"We ask for justice, we demand UNSC resolution to be implemented immediately."

Isis lost control of Mosul in July 2016 after an attritional offensive by US-backed Iraqi forces that lasted almost a year.

There are estimated to be less than 1,000 Isis fighters left in Iraq and Syria, which the terror group once ruled over swathes of land and millions of people.

Most senior Isis operatives have fled Mosul as the Iraqi Army advanced but Omer appears to have bedded in. He was arrested earlier in the year after locals ratted him out.

However, his swift escape from justice casts doubt on the ability of Iraqi police to enforce the rule of law in a region that has been all but destroyed by a years of brutal conflict.

In the 2015 execution video, a man who appears to be Omer is seen addressing a large crowd from the centre of a roundabout while three alleged homosexuals kneel in front of him.

Other pictures show him inspecting a collection of rocks ahead of an apparent public stoning. There are also reports that he presided over the execution of suspected gay men thrown from the tops of buildings.

She Left France to Fight in Syria. Now She Wants to Return. But Can She?
The New York Times

By Alissa J. Rubin
January 11, 2018

Having spent the last five years living in Syria, where she joined Islamic extremists, Emilie König, 33, wants to come home to France. But does France want her back?

The daughter of a policeman from a small town in Brittany, she converted to Islam as a teenager. After she began covering herself from head to toe in a black abaya and veil, she felt so scorned in France that she left her two small children to go to Syria, eventually becoming a prominent propagandist and recruiter for the Islamic State.

"She would like to come back; she has asked for pardon from her family, her friends, her country," her mother said in an interview with Ouest-France, a newspaper in Brittany, after speaking to her daughter by telephone two weeks ago.

Ms. König's personal story is unusual, not least because she is a convert and gained prominence within the male-dominated Islamic State. Yet the quandary her case poses is an increasingly common one for France and other European countries: What should they do when citizens who are former Islamic State fighters or supporters want to return?

Many, like Ms. König, were taken into custody or surrendered since the collapse of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, in October and are now being held in prison camps in the area of Syria controlled by the Syrian Kurds.

European countries, no doubt, would prefer that the fighters never came back, or that they were prosecuted for war crimes and terrorist activities in the countries where they were captured. But the latter is hard to pull off, given that European countries are opposed to the death penalty and are not confident that countries like Iraq and Syria can hold fair trials.

The Kurdish region of Syria, where Ms. König said she was being held in a video released Monday, is a legal gray area. The Kurds administer justice and carry out many government functions, but as a matter of international law the region is still part of Syria — albeit a self-governing one — and not recognized by France or any other country.

If the fighters do return, while the French can prosecute them for giving support to a terrorist group, it would be difficult to prosecute them for the serious crimes they may have committed while in Syria or Iraq.

On the other hand, the option of letting the former fighters roam free and trying to monitor them presents a daunting security challenge.

Even if the numbers of returning fighters are not as high as officials in some countries had feared, they are still not inconsequential. Some fighters have been killed, while others have migrated back to Europe already, and even individual cases can present nettlesome issues of security and justice.

An estimated 4,300 people had left Europe to fight in Syria and Iraq as of April 2016, according to a recent study by the Hague-based International Center for Counter-Terrorism. Others have put the number at 5,000 or even higher.

French law enforcement officials estimate that about 690 French foreign fighters are still in Syria and that about 43 percent — 295 — are women, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said in an interview in November on FranceInfo.

None of the French government ministries responsible for terrorism-related policy would comment in any detail on Ms. Koenig's case or acknowledge that she was in Kurdish custody.

In November, before her case surfaced, President Emmanuel Macron said that decisions on allowing women and children to return from Iraq and Syria would be made on a case-by-case basis. The government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, made a similarly inconclusive statement last week in an interview with BFM TV.

France favors having its citizens tried where they are caught, he said, but only "if there are judiciary institutions today that are able to grant a fair trial."

His comment drew derision from lawyers representing women who are being held in camps in the Kurdish part of Syria.

"A Kurdish state does not exist, and French citizens cannot be judged by the Kurds," said Marie Dosé, a lawyer representing a French jihadist woman who, like Ms. König, wants to return to France.

In any case, the Syrian Kurds do not seem to want them. A spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish Defense Forces, Mustafa Bali, said his leadership urged "all countries, European or other, to extradite their women and children."

But many European countries appear hesitant.

A Kurdish journalist, Arin Sheikhmus, 30, said he had visited three camps where Arab, Asian and European "war prisoners" were being held. He said he had seen as many as 100 women and children who had been picked up to be turned over to their home countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

"To my understanding, the European governments still haven't reached out to extradite their citizens," he said.

Among the jihadists from France who went to fight in Iraq and Syria in 2015, nearly a third were women — a larger proportion than any other European country at the time, according to intelligence experts and French intelligence documents that are not public but were shared with the French news media.

Among those women, Ms. König may have one of the highest profiles, not least for having the distinction of being listed as a terrorist and subject to sanctions by both United Nations and the United States. (Only one other woman, from Britain, made the lists.)

Ms. König was also atypical even by jihadist standards. The youngest of four children, she was brought up in Brittany and is the daughter of a gendarme, who abandoned the family when she was 2. Her conversion to Islam began in adolescence, said people who know her.

At 27, when she went to Syria, according to United Nations and United States documents, she was older than many of the newly minted French foreign fighters. She had already been married and divorced and had two children, by her own account in a documentary, "Emilie König vs Ummu Tawwab," shot before she left for Syria.

She appears to have made the decision to go to Syria on her own rather than following a husband or boyfriend there, said Agnès de Féo, a sociologist who filmed Ms. König in 2012 for the documentary about French women who wore the full veil.

By then, Ms. König was already thinking of leaving France, saying that she was mistreated and harassed in the street for her attire.

"It is my second skin," she says in the documentary, which shows her making tea and crepes in a tidy kitchen in the middle-class Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. She is entirely veiled except for a slit for her eyes.

Ms. König comes across as at once daring and adrift. As she cooks for Ms. de Féo, she worries that her crepes will not be sufficiently delicate. At other moments she speaks like a committed Islamist, using the word Allah in every other sentence.

Ms. de Féo noted that Ms. König's decision to wear the veil had come only after doing so was made illegal. "She felt she had to be against the law, against the state," Ms. de Féo said. "What she wanted was to be provocative."

At the same time, she seems to want to be accepted, declaring twice: "I am not a monster. I am very far from a monster."

Ms. de Féo recalled that Ms. König reproached herself for having worked in a nightclub even after she converted to Islam and having used drugs.

One of her greatest wishes, as she was on the brink of going to Syria, was to find a man. "She was looking for a virile man, for a man who would fulfill her, who represented a warrior," said Ms. de Féo, adding that perhaps it was linked to having been abandoned by her father.

Once she arrived in Syria, Ms. König began posting many propaganda videos on social media, which are striking for their boldness. She is shown at target practice and makes a full-throated appeal for Muslims to support the Islamic State.

There is therefore unlikely to be much sympathy for her or other jihadist women who want to return. But Ms. Dosé, the lawyer, argues that in any case they have broken French law and should be tried in France.

Another reason to bring them home is for their children. Many of the women gave birth while in Syria and their offspring are French citizens by dint of having a French parent.

"They did not ask to be born in Syria," Ms. Dosé said. "Nor to be detained by the Kurds, and they cannot be held responsible for the choices of their parents."

Suicide attack in Baghdad kills at least 27, wounds 64
Reuters

By Maher Chmaytelli and Ahmed Rasheed
January 15, 2018

At least 27 people were killed and 64 wounded in a twin suicide bombing in central Baghdad on Monday, the deadliest attack so far this year in the Iraqi capital, an interior ministry official said.

Two men detonated explosives vests in Aviation Square, a commercial district and gathering point for day laborers seeking work, scores of whom were killed and injured, according to the official.

Iraq declared victory last month over Islamic State (IS) militants who seized control of nearly a third of the country in 2014. However, IS continues to carry out attacks and bombings in Baghdad and different parts of the country.

The German foreign ministry condemned the devastating attack in Baghdad and expressed its condolences to the families of those killed.

The attack in Aviation Square was one of the deadliest in Baghdad since a massive truck bomb killed at least 324 people in the nearby commercial district of Karrada in July 2016.

The Karrada bombing was the deadliest single attack in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Mass grave with relics of security personnel found, north of Mosul
Iraqi News

By Nehal Mostafa
January 15, 2018

Security forces have run into a mass grave containing relics of more than fifty persons, north of Mosul, a security source said on Monday.

"Troops found the grave at the outskirts of Badush town," the source told Baghdad Today website.

The relics were for 52 of the security personnel working in Badush prison. "The bodies were shot in the heads and chests," the source added.

"The relics were transferred to forensic medicine department in Mosul," the source said. Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State Sunni extremist militants who proclaimed an "Islamic Caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared in July victory over IS militants who had held the second largest Iraqi city since 2014. More than 25,000 Islamic State militants were killed throughout the campaign. Earlier this month, Abadi announced full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.

Last month, Abadi announced full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.

Thousands of IS militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition, was launched in October 2016 to fight the militant group.

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi: The world's most wanted remains at large
Arab News

January 16, 2018

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh remains at large, months after his "caliphate" collapsed in 2017.

But the most wanted man has been traced to a specific place at least three times in the past 18 months, according to British daily The Guardian.

Intelligence agencies in Iraq and Europe believe for most of the past year and a half, Baghdadi has been based in a village south of Baaj — traveling within a small range between Abu Kamal, on the Iraq-Syria border, and Shirkat, south of Mosul.

Late last year, he was traced to a village south of Baaj, through the brief use of a communications device.

The connection was picked up by a signals intelligence network that has penetrated web and phone use in Daesh-held areas. However, it was too brief to pin point his exact location.

However the threat of his return remains. Signs of Daesh regrouping could mean the return of the group's leader.

A US military assessment suggests he is probably hiding in the Euphrates river valley, along the border with Syria.

Meanwhile regional officials say he has returned to land between the Tharthar basin and the desert, closer to where the troubles began.

Policemen injured in sniper attack by Islamic State in Baqubah
Iraqi News

By Mohammed Ebraheem
January 17, 2018

A policeman was injured Wednesday in a sniper attack by the militant Islamic State group in Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, a local source was quoted as saying.

"Islamic State snipers opened fire early on Wednesday against a security checkpoint on the outskirts of al-Abbara district in northeastern Baqubah, leaving a policeman injured," the source told Alghad Press.

"The injured cop was carried to a nearby hospital for treatment," the source said, adding that a manhunt was launched in search of the attackers.

On Tuesday, three people, including a military conscript, were killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire against them in al-Shaab region, north of Baghdad.

Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an "Islamic Caliphate" in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The surge in violence between armed groups and government forces has resulted in over 3 million internally displaced persons across Iraq and left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State's territorial influence earlier in November with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar's western borders with Syria, which was the group's last bastion in Iraq.

Islamic State member killed as Iraqi troops repulse attack, west of Mosul
Iraqi News

By Nehal Mostafa
January 17, 2018

An Islamic State militant has been killed as Iraqi troops repelled an attack, west of Mosul, a security source was quoted saying on Wednesday.

"Tight security measures were taken in western Mosul by Federal Police as an attack was repulsed in al-Haramat region. A militant was killed, while another escaped," the source told Baghdad Today website.

On Tuesday, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper quoted sources as saying that Iraqi troops started purging several regions overlooking Tigris River, south of Mosul leaving three IS militants killed, as they were hiding in the islands in the river.

Earlier this week, a source from Nineveh police told BasNews website that three police personnel were killed as IS members set up an ambush and killed them using their guns in Ain al-Jahsh village, south of Mosul.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared in July victory over IS militants who had held the second largest Iraqi city since 2014. More than 25,000 Islamic State militants were killed throughout the campaign. Earlier this month, Abadi announced full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.

Last month, Abadi announced full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.

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Syria

Opposition: World's Silence is Killing Syrians
Arab News

By Syed Tauseif Ausaf
January 5, 2018

The world's silence regarding atrocities committed by Damascus and Moscow is killing Syrians, opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi said Thursday.

He was reacting to reports that at least 30 civilians were killed Thursday when Russian jets bombed a residential area in a besieged opposition-held enclave of Damascus.

"This stain of shame has been on the world's forehead for seven continuous, painful years," he told Arab News.

At least four bombs flattened two buildings in the Eastern Ghouta town of Misraba, killing around 20 people and wounding more than 40, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters.

Elsewhere in Eastern Ghouta, the last major opposition-held enclave in Damascus, at least 10 people were killed by airstrikes in other towns, rescuers and residents said.

Video footage posted by activists on social media showed rescue workers pulling women and children from rubble.

"If Russia's actions aren't war crimes, what can they be called?" said Al-Aridi. "Russia has used its UN Security Council veto 11 times to protect the criminal Assad regime, because Russia itself is perpetrating war crimes in Syria."

A Syrian opposition delegation "will head to the UN soon" to discuss the issue with the secretary-general and see what the Security Council and the world in general can do about it, Al-Aridi added.

Regime forces on Thursday battled to reach troops trapped in Eastern Ghouta, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

State television said army units had launched an assault to break the siege of the Armoured Vehicle Base, where some 250 soldiers are believed to be cut off.  

Syria war: Hospitals being targeted, aid workers say
BBC

January 6, 2018

At least 10 hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria have suffered direct air or artillery attacks over the past 10 days, aid workers say.

An adviser to a coalition of medical charities told the BBC that the attacks had been the most intense for a year.

A senior UN official also told the BBC that health facilities in Syria had been hit "yet again".

Meanwhile, 17 civilians died in air raids in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, on Saturday, a monitor said.

The most deadly raid was in Hammuriyeh where 12 people, including two children, died, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Last week, at least 25 civilians were reported killed in air strikes on two towns in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. About 400,000 people there have been under siege by Russian-backed Syrian government forces since 2013.

The Syrian government and Russia military have consistently denied targeting civilian areas.

Aid agencies said medical centres hit by recent air strikes included a maternity hospital in Maarrat al-Numan, in Idlib province, which was reportedly hit three times in four days.

Five people died in the worst attack, on Wednesday, according to the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams), and the hospital was temporarily put out of service.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, who advises the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), said other attacks in recent days had targeted hospitals predominantly in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital.

"This has been at a level, again, we haven't seen," he said.

Mr De Bretton-Gordon said many children in Eastern Ghouta needed medical evacuation.

"There are over 125 children needing live-saving surgery, including three very young children [whose injuries are] too graphic almost to describe," he said.

"A six-month old who has lost an eye who will die if he doesn't receive surgery and an eight-year old girl who weighs only 8kg [17lb] who is dying of malnutrition."

The UN's Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Syria, Jan Egeland, also told the BBC that several of the remaining health facilities in the Eastern Ghouta had been hit "yet again".

"This war is continuing as bad in 2018 as it ended in 2017," he said.

Other attacks on medical facilities documented by UOSSM include:

An air strike on a health centre in Harasta, Eastern Ghouta, on 31 December that injured two nurses and damaged the building

A paramedic was killed when an artillery shell struck a hospital in Harasta on 30 December

A barrel bomb attack in Maarrat al-Numan, Idlib, on 28 December killed a woman and injured three children at a primary health care centre

"This fresh wave of attacks on medical facilities is sickening and unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"These attacks force facilities to shut down, terrorise staff and result in undue hardship for patients already suffering."

He added: "Since the beginning of the crisis, there have been hundreds of well-documented attacks on medical facilities in Syria. It's shameful that there has never been a formal prosecution for these war crimes and it severely undermines the UN's credibility."

The Syrian government recently allowed Red Cross teams to evacuate 29 critically-ill patients from the Eastern Ghouta as part of a deal that saw rebels release the same number of prisoners.

However, hundreds more patients are in urgent need of evacuation from the enclave.

The Eastern Ghouta is designated a "de-escalation zone" by Russia and Iran, the government's other main ally, along with Turkey, which backs the rebels.

But hostilities intensified in mid-November when the Syrian military stepped up air and artillery attacks on the enclave in response to a rebel offensive.  

A Bold Idea for Justice
The Huffington Post

By C. Dixon Osburn
January 7, 2018

Twenty years ago, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) launched with a bold idea — could we hold those responsible for torture, war crimes, and genocide accountable in a court of law?

We started by bringing civil cases in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. In our first case in 1998, CJA represented four Bosnian refugees against Nicola Vukovic, the man who had tortured them and was now living in Atlanta, Georgia. Our four clients had faced sheer terror at the hands of Vukovic, a Bosnian Serb soldier in charge of a detention center during the Bosnian War. He beat our clients with bare fists and metal pipes, and used a knife to carve symbols into one man's forehead. CJA won that case.

CJA also worked with U.S. government lawyers who filed criminal immigration cases against our defendants, including former Ministers of Defense from El Salvador. These men were responsible for some of the most emblematic murders during El Salvador's civil war, which had claimed the lives of more than 75,000 men, women and children - and now they were seeking safe haven in the United States. Thanks to our brave clients, CJA won our civil cases against them as well.

Since then, CJA has filed lawsuits in Spain for the Jesuits Massacre and Guatemala Genocide cases; assisted prosecutors in Guatemala for the Mayan Ixil genocide, and in Peru for the Fujimori prosecution; and represented 145 Cambodian American civil parties in the Khmer Rouge Trials in Cambodia.

Today, CJA is pursuing the first Syrian war crimes case against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Working on behalf of the family of American journalist Marie Colvin, one of the top war correspondents of her generation, we will show that Syrian military and intelligence forces are responsible for her assassination when she was reporting from Homs, Syria. CJA is also part of a legal team in a parallel case in France, on behalf of the family of slain photographer Remi Ochlik and injured journalist Edith Bouvier who were targeted in the same missile attacks that killed Colvin.

CJA's vision is a world in which justice thrives — where those who have suffered unimaginable horror and pain are able to chart a course for truth and justice; where courts hold accountable those who commit atrocities; where there are no safe havens anywhere for perpetrators to escape justice; and where survivors gain confidence in the democratic institutions necessary for Never Again to mean Never Again.

We are proud that at CJA we have won all of our cases that have come to trial. Yet despite our successes, we know the world can feel bleak with Syria attacking its children with sarin gas, Turkey arresting 40,000 citizens after a failed coup, Chechnya sending gay men to concentration camps, Rohingya women facing systematic rape in Burma, and the rise of neo-fascism around the globe. Truth is under assault like never before, as autocrats use the "fake media" playbook to deny atrocities, calling the press "the enemy of the people," and judges "so-called" judges. How can we have faith in elected leaders, and the democratic institutions they lead, when they would thwart the Geneva Conventions' prohibition against torture?

Rights are fragile things and we must defend them with all of our might.

There is reason for optimism. From World War II to the present, human rights have blossomed, including the establishment of the United Nations; the adoption 70 years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the ratification of human rights treaties to prevent, mitigate and redress future crimes against humanity; domestication of those treaties into state law; and establishment of international tribunals and special courts to address the atrocities committed in Rwanda, Bosnia and elsewhere.

Not every effort to protect human rights has been a resounding success, but each has been a step forward and together we continue to advance. The international legal framework that has evolved since Nuremberg, has led to more peace, not less; more democracy, not less; greater rule of law, not less. We are on the right path.

CJA's success, and that of the international community, is a remarkable two-decade testament to the unyielding, undaunted, savvy, compassionate strength of those on the front lines, seeking truth and justice and accountability. Truth is at the heart of the work of the Center for Justice and Accountability, and it as at the core of our soul as human beings.

Sometimes there are ruptures in our social fabric, but this only means that we must redouble our efforts to weave our global net of accountability with even stronger threads of love and respect, and law. Twenty years ago we asked the question: can we bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable in a court of law? Today we have our answer. Working together with the brave survivors of these crimes, their families and communities - and with support from an international network of experts and allies - we are building a global net of accountability for atrocity crimes, and creating a world where justice thrives.

Children Under Attack in Damascus Enclave
Human Rights Watch

January 11, 2018

Attacks by Syrian-Russian forces in an area near the Damascus in late October and early November 2017 killed eight children and destroyed or damaged four schools, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks on Eastern Ghouta, 15 kilometers from the Syrian capital, resulted in the closing of schools, depriving many children in the besieged area of access to education.

Impunity for unlawful attacks and a deadly siege of Eastern Ghouta by government forces mean that children in the enclave are at grave risk. The Syrian government and affiliated militia are on the United Nations' "list of shame" of parties responsible for serious violations of the rights of children in armed conflict.

"Syrian and Russian forces appear to view the lives of children in Eastern Ghouta as utterly disposable," said Bill Van Esveld, senior children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The UN Security Council should demand an immediate end to all unlawful attacks, not least those killing children and destroying schools, under threat of targeted sanctions against those responsible."

Human Rights Watch spoke to nine witnesses in November and reviewed photographs, videos, and reports by Syrian human rights and media organizations of the school attacks. The attacks were apparently indiscriminate, in violation of the laws of war.

The Syrian-Russian military alliance has attacked many of the towns in Eastern Ghouta repeatedly. Attacks on the enclave intensified after anti-government armed groups attacked Syrian forces at a frontline location in the area in mid-November, including the use of cluster munitions, and re-started after a brief lull in December. The Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian nongovernmental group, reported that Syrian and allied forces killed 45 boys and 30 girls in the Damascus suburbs from November 1 to January 3.

On the morning of October 31, a mortar round hit the entrance gate of a primary school in Jisreen, a town in the besieged enclave, killing six schoolboys and a man selling sweets from a cart. Half-an-hour later, two mortar rounds landed almost simultaneously, on either side of a school in the town of Mesraba, killing two adults and two children, including a father and his son. Attacks on November 8, including at least one airstrike, destroyed a kindergarten in the town of Hamouriyeh, and badly damaged two elementary schools in the towns of Saqba and Kafr Batna.

Residents and an education official from Eastern Ghouta told Human Rights Watch that in October schools in the area rescheduled and shortened class time from about 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to keep children safe by reducing the time they were gathered together in classrooms. But attacks continued to kill and maim schoolchildren and forced emergency evacuations of schools and kindergartens. In November, local councils closed public schools in response to these dangers. In one community where a school was attacked, residents opened an "alternative" school in the basement of a residential building for greater safety, but an airstrike destroyed the building in December.

Anti-government armed groups, Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam, control the towns where the schools were attacked. But residents said the armed groups did not have materiel or personnel in the towns, under agreements with local civilian councils. Witnesses and residents said that the mortar attacks originated from areas controlled by Syrian government forces that had been the source of previous and continuing attacks on the towns.

Syrian government forces have besieged Eastern Ghouta, which has a population of about 400,000, since 2013. In October 2017, the government restricted the only entry point for commercial merchandise, exacerbating a scarcity of food and medical supplies. The government has refused to allow in adequate humanitarian aid, which reached only about a quarter of the enclave's residents in 2017, and unnecessarily hindered the evacuation of people with urgent medical needs.

At least three children died in November after Syrian authorities refused to permit their urgent evacuation for medical treatment unavailable in the enclave. UNICEF, the UN children's agency, stated in December that 137 children needed immediate medical evacuation. But the government allowed the Syrian Red Crescent to evacuate only 17 children and 12 adults with life-threatening health conditions, and their family members, from December 27 to 29, reportedly as part of a deal in which Jaysh al-Islam released detainees. One of the children on the list of those due to be evacuated had already died, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, a nongovernmental group.

The laws of war that apply to all parties to the conflict in Syria prohibit attacks that target civilians or civilian infrastructure like schools, fail to distinguish between civilians and military objects, or disproportionately harm civilians. Parties are required to take all feasible measures in conducting operations to avoid, or in any event minimize, loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. The laws of war also prohibit siege warfare if it causes disproportionate harm to the civilian population, and require the parties to provide access for humanitarian aid for civilians in need. Anyone who commits, aids, or abets serious violations of the laws of war intentionally or recklessly may be prosecuted for war crimes.

Russia has repeatedly used its veto as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block accountability for war crimes by all sides in the Syria conflict. Russia and Syria should end their unlawful attacks on schools and civilians. The Security Council, which on December 19 renewed its mandate for cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of desperate Syrian civilians, should demand that the Syrian government immediately end unlawful restrictions on aid to Eastern Ghouta or face targeted sanctions against those responsible.

"In 2017 a mortar blew off a boy's legs at his school gate, a warplane flattened a kindergarten, and children died from illnesses that could have been treated just a few kilometers away," Van Esveld said. "The suffering of children in Eastern Ghouta should shock the conscience, but it continues unabated in 2018 as Russia and Syria persist in their unlawful attacks."

October 31, 10:30 a.m.

Town of Jisreen, mortar attack, boys' elementary school

Seven fatalities, including six children

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. on October 31, 2017, a single mortar round exploded immediately outside the entrance of an elementary school in the town of Jisreen, 10 kilometers east of central Damascus, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. Class had just ended, and children were leaving the school. According to the witnesses and family members, the attack killed six children, all under 12, and a man who sold sweets from a cart near the school gate, and wounded 15 to 20 other children, including a boy who lost both legs.

At that time, the nine schools in Jisreen were open only from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., to reduce the risks to children if schools were attacked, a math teacher and an education official told Human Rights Watch. Mohamad Nasser Ash'oush elementary school had 520 students, all boys, in grades 1 through 6.

Bashar al-Bashash, the math teacher, who worked at the secondary school adjacent to the elementary school, was in the administration office when he "heard the sound of a [round] falling and the sound of children as they left at 10:30," he told Human Rights Watch via WhatsApp messages. "We went out and saw them injured and on the ground. Everyone was crying and the whole place was filled with blood and torn remains."

Bahjat Abou Ali, the director of a local center of the Syria Civil Defense, a search and rescue organization, said he "heard the sound of the [round] falling" and arrived at the school two minutes after the attack:

It was while students were on their way out of the school. It's like they were waiting for the school bell to ring [to launch the attack]. They were at the entrance of the school buying sweets from one of the merchants, who also died. ... It was terrifying. Children were on the ground, remains, all on the ground. We grabbed whoever was alive and took them to the hospitals. There were 20 injuries among students. Jisreen hospital couldn't take them all.

Witnesses and relatives identified the six children killed and provided photographs to Human Rights Watch: Yassin Ghaleb Hashem, Abdel Karim Mohamed Kheir Darwish, Yusuf al-Diyabi, Anas Mara'i, Mohamad Ma'moon Darwish, and Taher Jamil Darwish. The man killed while selling sweets near the school gate was Ghassan Abd el-Wahid Kateb, from Jobar.

Mohamad Darwish's 17-year-old sister, Fatimah, said in text messages that he was 10 years old and in fourth grade. She said his family frantically searched for him after the attack:

People in the town started looking for their children in the emergency [rooms] and in front of the school, because there were many children who were injured or who died. We couldn't find my brother at first because he was transported to a medical point outside of Jisreen, in Saqba, due to his serious injuries. Mohamad was the only boy in our family. In my family we've so far lost my brother, my uncle, my cousin, and five other cousins. In every home, there is sadness and fear. In every home, there is someone injured.

Photographs and videos posted online by local and regional news media groups show a small, shallow crater in the street a few meters outside the school gate, and severe fragmentation wounds to the lower legs of the wounded and dead, consistent with witnesses' descriptions of a mortar projectile exploding on impact at street level.

The witnesses and residents said that the school was located between residential buildings in a civilian area with no fighters, visible materiel, or offices of armed opposition groups. The school had not been attacked previously, but mortar attacks have hit civilian objects in Jisreen regularly and apparently randomly, residents said. Jisreen is under the control of Faylaq al-Rahman, an anti-government armed group, according to the Syrian Organization for Human Rights, a nongovernmental group.

It was not possible to verify the site where the mortar was fired, but all witnesses affirmed they believed government forces had fired it. Al-Bashash, Abou Ali, and the others interviewed believed Syrian government forces in al-Mleiha, a frontline location two kilometers east, were responsible for the mortar attack, on the basis of earlier mortar attacks from the area. Al-Bashash said that the government Air Force Defense Directorate is in that area, and suspected that it was the source of the attack based on previous attacks from that location and its proximity to the town. The Education Office of the Jisreen Local Council also attributed responsibility to Syrian government forces, and posted photos it said were of the burial of victims.

Bassam al-Tunisi, head of press and public relations at the education office for 11 towns in Eastern Ghouta, told Human Rights Watch by phone that the academic year in the area began on September 19, but that most classes were suspended after the October 31 attacks on schools in Jisreen and Mesraba. "We took three days to mourn the dead but also we were afraid they'll hit schools again."

October 31, 11 a.m.

Town of Mesraba, mortar attack, girls' elementary school

Four fatalities, including two children

Within an hour of the attack in Jisreen, between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., two mortar rounds fell close to an elementary school in the nearby town of Mesraba, one on each side of the school. One projectile landed "right behind a wall of the school" and did not cause injuries, but the other landed almost simultaneously near another of the school compound's exterior walls, killing four civilians including two children, a reporter with the Syrian Civil Defense center in Mesraba told Human Rights Watch in a phone call. Syrians for Truth and Justice, a nongovernmental group that interviewed a different Civil Defense worker and a resident of Mesraba, identified the school as the Shahid Soheil al-Tekhla school.

The mortar round killed Ghassan al-Kholi and his son, Mohamad; a young girl, Bara'a Talas; and another man, Adnan Ibrahim Anees, the reporter, the Civil Defense, and the Syria Violations Documentation Center said. Another child and two adults were wounded, the reporter said. All of those killed or wounded were civilians.

The reporter, who sent Human Rights Watch a graphic video he took at the scene, said the two mortar rounds "exploded at the very same moment." When he and his colleagues rushed to the site of one explosion, they found no dead or wounded, but "the people there told us another [projectile] hit behind the back of the school." At the site of the second impact:

We saw people and injuries on the ground, panic and fear. We started to rescue people, based on priority. We requested backup, another ambulance, and took all injuries to nearby hospitals. It's a residential area and the school is between residential buildings, filled with people. There is no armed presence, nothing at all.

Mesraba is under the control of Jaysh al-Islam, an armed opposition group.

The civil defense reporter said that classes had ended and "children were just about to leave" when the attack occurred.A girl apparently wearing a backpack running away from the site is seen in the video. The reporter could not confirm the precise source of the attack, but believed the mortars were launched by government forces stationed at the Vehicles Administration Center (ادارة المركبات) near the town of Harasta, 1.5 kilometers away, because government forces there had previously launched indirect fire at Mesraba. Armed opposition groups in eastern Ghouta attacked the Vehicles Administration center two weeks later, on November 14.

November 8, 2:30 p.m.

Town of Hamouriyeh, airstrike, kindergarten

Three residents of Hamouriyeh told Human Rights Watch in separate telephone interviews that at about 2:30 p.m. on November 8, an airstrike with a single munition hit the Tamayuz ("Excellence") kindergarten, destroying it. They said the building had not been used for military purposes and there were no military objects nearby.

No one was at the kindergarten because all schools in Hamouriyeh were closed from October 15 onward, said Ahmed Hamdan, a media activist who lives in the town. "There were no fatalities […] but it totally destroyed the school," he said. "No one wants to go and die to study."

Abdel Mun'em Issa, a local photographer, said: "It was total destruction. The [munition] hit in the middle of the school, and it went out of commission. It was just one [munition], but had a huge impact."

Abdel Moyeen Homs, another resident, said he was "close to the kindergarten when it was struck" and heard a "very loud explosion. The bomb must have been highly explosive. When we went to the site, we realized it had destroyed the entire kindergarten and some of the houses next to it were heavily damaged." Most people run for cover in basements whenever they hear a plane, Homs said, but the attack on the kindergarten wounded one man and one woman who were still in the street.

The kindergarten was for children aged 5 and 6, and had 250 students who attended in two shifts, Homs said, from 8 a.m. to noon, and from noon to 3:30 p.m. "If the school had been open, there would have been a massacre."

The three men affirmed that the front lines were almost 3 kilometers from Hamouriyeh and that there was no military presence in the town.

The Hamouriyeh Media Office and Ghouta Media Center published multiple photographs and videos showing the damage to the kindergarten and nearby residential buildings. A nonprofit group, Al-Wafa' for Relief and Development, published videos of a "festival" it held for orphaned children in the kindergarten two days before it was bombed.

While Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine whether the attacks were conducted by the Russian or Syrian air force, only Russian and Syrian forces are conducting airstrikes in the area.

Human Rights Watch documented that several airstrikes hit Hamouriyeh at about noon on December 3, one of which destroyed a building where residents had established an informal school – called an "alternative school" – in the basement, after public schools were out of service due to attacks.

November 8

Towns of Kafr Batna and Saqba

Two elementary schools badly damaged

Abou Ali, the director of a Syrian Civil Defense center in the area, said that an airstrike also hit a school in Saqba on November 8, "but thankfully no one was there at the time." The local council of Saqba posted photographs on social media showing what it said was damage caused by the attack to the primary school; an Agence France-Presse photographer documented some of the destroyed classrooms.

Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine whether the attacks were conducted by the Russian or Syrian air force.

The Manarat al-Ola primary school in Kafr Batna, run by the Basmet Amal Foundation, was also badly damaged on November 8, by an unidentified munition. The school posted photographs showing the damage the following day; it had posted photographs of girls studying in un-damaged classrooms on November 5.

Previous attacks on Kafr Batna had forced the emergency evacuation of schools. On November 29, at about 11 a.m., an unidentified munition that local actors attributed to Syrian government forces exploded near a kindergarten in Kafr Batna. Abou Ali said he and his team responded at the scene: "It was terror and fear all over, we evacuated most children to shelters because the strikes never stopped. They were hitting while children were starting to leave [school]. Thankfully, no one died. One child had light injuries." The Syrian Civil Defense and other local groups posted videos of children fleeing from the school.

Syrian human rights groups and local social media reported that an artillery attack by Syrian government forces on October 16 killed a girl, Basma Muhsen, and her mother Ibtisam, in Kafr Batna. Abou Ali said the attack was "near the school."

329 Civilians Killed, including 79 Children, in Two Months of Escalation in Eastern Ghouta
Syrian Network for Human Rights

January 14, 2018

SNHR said in a report released today, "The Security Council is in Deep Sleep", that 329 civilians were killed in Eastern Ghouta, including 29 children, in two months of escalation.

The report notes that the de-escalation agreement, which went into effect in May 2017, have failed to end the massacres, violations, and the indiscriminate, or deliberate, attacks by the Syrian-Russian alliance. The local agreements that followed in Eastern Ghouta region haven't fared any better too. The report records 28 massacres and 84 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 12 medical facilities, from July 22, 2017, the day on which Jaish al Islam and Russian forces signed the agreement, until the time of this writing.

According to the report, only four convoys have had access to Eastern Ghouta since July 2017 even tough the agreements that were struck explicitly stated that the Eastern Ghouta siege must come to an end and all medical cases must be evacuated immediately while relief convoys should be allowed entrance to the region.

The report says that the Syrian regime barred the critical medical cases, which have been increasing rapidly in light of the ongoing Syrian regime's starvation and denial-of-medical-supplies policies, from being evacuated. This crisis, which hit a critical point back in March 2017, concerns nearly 630 critical medical cases, including cancer, chronic diseases, and wounded who need special surgeries.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, added:

"What's taking place in Eastern Ghouta is a violation to three things at the same time: the law of war, the de-escalation agreements, and bilateral agreements struck with Russia. These things, altogether, haven't been enough at all to protect the civilians in Eastern Ghouta from the retaliation of the Syrian-Russian alliance forces. Instead of targeting clash lines and military fighters, families, houses, hospitals, and schools are being, very contemptibly, killed and bombed."

The report draws upon ongoing monitoring for news and incidents by SNHR team, as well as an extensive network of relations that include tens of various sources. The report contains seven accounts that were collected through speaking directly to eyewitnesses, and not cited from any open sources.

According to the report, all the targeted areas were civilian areas where no military centers or weapon warehouses for armed opposition factions or extremist Islamic groups were found before or during the attack. Also, Syrian/Russian forces didn't alert the civilians prior to the attacks as the international humanitarian law requires.

The report outlines the most notable violations of human rights by the Syrian-Russian alliance in the armed opposition-held Eastern Ghouta, Damascus suburbs governorate, between November 14, 2017 and January 11, 2018. The report says that 329 civilians were killed, including 79 children and 54 women (adult female), five civil defense personnel, five medical personnel, and one media activist in the period of time covered by the report. The death toll is divided into 279 civilians, including 71 children and 41 women, killed by Syrian regime forces and 32 civilians, including eight children and 13 women, killed by Russian forces.

Additionally, the report records 20 massacres by the Syrian-Russian alliance forces, where Syrian regime forces were responsible for 17 massacres while Russian forces committed three massacres. According to the report, among the victims were six civilians, including one child and one woman, who died due to lack of food and medications, in light of the siege imposed by the Syrian regime forces on the region.

The report adds that Syrian regime forces were responsible for 43 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including eight attacks that targeted mosques, four that targeted schools, and six attacks that targeted medical facilities whereas local markets were targeted in 13 attacks.

The report notes that Syrian regime forces used cluster munitions four times and poison gases two times in the period of time covered by the report.

The report stresses that the Syrian and Russian regimes have, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted. Also, The Syrian and Russian regimes have violated Article 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing which constitutes war crimes. The report adds that the bombardment has targeted defenseless civilians. Therefore, Syrian and Russian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Additionally, these violations were perpetrated in a non-international armed conflict which amount to a war crime.

The report stresses that Syrian regime forces have breached, through the use of chemical weapons, Security Council resolutions 2118, 2209, and 2235. Also, these forces have breached the CWC which the Syrian government ratified in September 2013.

The report calls on the Russian regime to launch investigations regarding the incidents included in this report and, then, make the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and hold the people involved accountable. Also, the damaged facilities and centers should be compensated. Moreover, the report calls on the Russian government, as a guarantor party in Astana talks, to stop failing de-escalation agreements, and apply pressure on the Syrian regime in order to end all indiscriminate attacks and allow an unconditional passage of humanitarian aids to Eastern Ghouta.

The report also calls on the Security Council Resolution to take additional steps after Resolution 2254 was adopted, which states: "Demands that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment."

The report also calls for the referral of the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and all those who are responsible must be held accountable including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been proven. Also, security and peace should be instilled in Syria, and the Reasonability to Protect norm should be implemented in order to protect the lives, culture, and history of the Syrian people from being destroyed, looted, and ruined. Additionally, sanctions should be expanded to include the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian regimes who are directly involved in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people.

The report calls on the United Nations special envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of the crimes, the massacres, and those who were primarily responsible for shattering the de-escalation agreements. And stop liming the Security Council briefings to the violations of al Nussra Front and ISIS.

Lastly, the report calls for the implementation of the "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) norm, especially after all political channels have proven in effective, starting with the Arab League's agreement and Mr. Kofi Annan's plan and the Cessation of Hostilities and Astana agreements that followed. Therefore, steps under Article VII of the Charter of the United Nations should be taken and the "Responsibility to Protect" norm, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.

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Afghanistan

UN mission says latest Kabul suicide attack amount to war crime
XINHUANET

January 8, 2018

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has warned that the recent Kabul deadly suicide attack may amount to a war crime, the UN mission said on Monday.

The mission released its preliminary findings into the Jan. 4 suicide attack in Kabul, where the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility a body-borne improvised explosive device, that killed at least 13 people including Afghan security forces and injured 19 others, after the arrival of anti-riot police following hours' violent disturbance between security officials and shopkeepers.

"Twelve of the 13 slain were police officials, performing legitimate law enforcement functions of helping to restore order and safety for civilians during a violent incident," said the mission.

"UNAMA reminds all parties that Afghan National Police personnel are regarded as civilians unless they are directly participating in hostilities. The officers killed in the attack were not engaged in the armed conflict. Civilians may never be the object of an attack at any time or in any place," it said, warning the indiscriminate explosive devices, almost certainly to cause immense suffering to civilians, may amount to war crimes.

More than 2,640 civilians were killed and over 5,370 others injured in conflict-related incidents in first nine months of 2017, according to UNAMA's figures.

Military investigating shooting in newly leaked Afghan combat video
POLITICO

By Wesley Morgan
January 10, 2018

U.S. commanders have launched an investigation into video footage that appears to show an American service member firing into the cab of a civilian truck as the two vehicles pass on a road in Afghanistan, an action that could have violated the military's rules of engagement and may hamper the alliance with the Afghan government.

The shooting briefly appears during a gritty montage of combat footage allegedly recorded by U.S. troops battling the Islamic State's Afghan affiliate. An anonymous user recently uploaded the video to YouTube under the title "Happy Few Ordnance Symphony," then quickly removed it.

"The amateur video posted on a public website gives us serious concern," the U.S. Central Command told POLITICO in a statement. "The video in question is not official, not authorized and does not represent the professionalism of the service members of U.S. Central Command.

"We are conducting an investigation into this video, and will take appropriate actions as a result of this investigation," it added.

POLITICO could not independently confirm the authenticity of the video.

The 3-minute, 9-second video doesn't say where it was recorded, but the YouTube caption suggested it was shot in 2017. In the past year, U.S. troops have been engaged in intense combat with the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province, the group's main Afghan stronghold, where teams of special operations advisers are fighting alongside elite Afghan troops to wrest key districts from the militants.

The troops in the video wear uniforms typical of U.S. special operations forces like the Green Berets, SEALs, Rangers and Marine Raiders, and are seen firing machine guns, grenade launchers, rockets, miniguns, mortars and calling in air or artillery strikes. The video, which is also set to music, is typical of the unauthorized combat montages that some troops create to share among themselves, often using footage shot from helmet-mounted video cameras.

But in addition to the rare glimpse of such shadowy operations up close, the brief scene of the truck shooting, 20 seconds in, sets it apart.

The clip in question shows a military vehicle approaching a truck with a white cab and black cargo cabin, of the type Afghans often call "Jingle trucks." Military sources identified the first vehicle to POLITICO as a version of the M-ATV armored vehicle specially outfitted for special operations forces.

The clip is filmed from the perspective of an individual armed with a shotgun who is standing in a rear hatch of the armored vehicle.

As the armored vehicle comes alongside the truck, the individual lowers his military-style shotgun and appears to fire into the truck's driver-side window, causing the glass to shatter.

The armored vehicle appears to continue on its way. It is not clear from the footage whether the driver was harmed. No recoil indicating the firing of the shotgun is clearly visible in the footage, nor is a shell or casing seen exiting the weapon.

Special operations veterans with experience in eastern Afghanistan, who reviewed the video at POLITICO's request and agreed those depicted looked like special operations forces, said shooting a shotgun into the driver's door of the passing truck raised potential red flags — possibly showing "an operator not doing the right thing."

But they were also cautious about drawing any firm conclusions without far more context. It was not possible to tell which unit the shooter was from, or anything else about why the event took place. In particular, they could not tell from the footage whether the shotgun shell was a "lethal" round or a less dangerous "non-lethal" one, such as one designed for breaching doors or windows.

"With the shotgun engagement, you figure it is a lethal round, as you are in combat, but from the video you cannot conclusively determine," one former special operator with experience in Nangarhar said. "It could readily have been a beanbag, hammer, or other non-lethal round, as when it hits glass you are going to get a similar effect."

Nevertheless, another former special operator, also with experience fighting in Nangarhar, said that his unit "never carried non-lethal rounds on mission" because it did not use shotguns for breaching purposes.

"It may have been an operator not doing the right thing and firing a non-lethal round just to be a dick," the first veteran acknowledged. But he suggested other possible explanations.

If the special operations team was responding to an attack or threat from near the truck, he speculated, they might have been closing in on the vehicle from various directions in a larger movement not depicted in the brief video. More fire might have been exchanged than the video showed.

"You do not know if there were ground forces moving on the flanks," he said. "It is hard for me to question the man on the ground."

Still, Central Command, without addressing directly the shooting incident, expressed deep dismay about what the video appears to depict.

"I have reviewed the video and I am disappointed and also concerned that the American people, our Coalition partners, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people will believe that American service members are callous and indifferent to the horrors of war or the suffering of innocent people trapped in conflict," Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of Central Command added in a statement Wednesday. "I can assure you that this video does not represent the professionalism or humanity of the men and women of U.S. Central Command. We reject the unprofessional and callous message this video conveys."

The U.S. military headquarters in Kabul has lauded the Nangarhar mission as a rare success story in the stalemated war effort against the Taliban and other terrorist groups, citing recent success in winning some districts back from ISIS.

But it has come at a cost for the U.S. advisers. Of the 13 American troops killed by hostile action in Afghanistan last year, seven died in Nangarhar, and another Green Beret was killed in the province on Jan. 1.

Older and better trained than conventional troops, special operations personnel operate with more autonomy and in smaller numbers.

That less oversight has also led to periodic allegations of misconduct. In 2009, a top special operations admiral halted his troops' operations after a series of botched raids in eastern Afghanistan.

Those raids led to the deaths of local policemen and civilians, the wounding of a small girl, and protests from the Afghan government and U.S. embassy.

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Yemen

Saudi fighter jet crashes, Yemen rebels claim downing it
The Washington Post

January 7, 2018

Saudi Arabia's Royal Air Force said two of its pilots whose fighter jet crashed during an operation in Yemen on Sunday have been rescued.

An official statement blamed the crash on a "technical failure" but the Yemeni rebel-run al-Masirah television said the British-made Tornado fighter jet was hit while flying in Yemeni airspace over the northern province of Saada, which borders Saudi Arabia. The Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, said the jet crashed on Saudi soil.

A statement by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said the pilots were not injured and were evacuated to Saudi Arabia by ground and air forces. The coalition did not say where the crash occurred.

Multiple Saudi and Emirati fighter jets have crashed over Yemen, killing the pilots on board, in the nearly three years since the kingdom launched a war against the rebels.

The fighting has killed at least 10,000 Yemeni civilians and driven millions to the brink of famine. Despite the coalition's devastating airstrikes, the rebels continue to control the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and much of the country's north.

The rebels overran Sanaa in 2014, kicking out the internationally recognized government, which the coalition is fighting to restore to power.

Air strikes in north Yemen kill at least 14: witnesses, rebels
The Daily Mail

January 11, 2018

Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a marketplace and house in rebel-held northern Yemen have left at least 14 people dead, witnesses and a rebel-run news agency said Thursday.

An eyewitness in the northern province of Saada told AFP that 12 people had been killed in strikes on the marketplace on Wednesday evening, including women.

The rebel-run news agency Saba gave the same toll and accused the coalition of using cluster bombs in that attack in Kataf city.

In the Baqim district of Saada province, two people were killed in a Saudi-led air strike on a house, another witness said.

Saba gave the same toll and said that separate strikes on a house near the Saudi border had left another two people dead although there was no independent confirmation.

Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 with the stated aim of rolling back Huthi rebel gains and restoring the country's internationally recognised government to power.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Yemen since then, according to the World Health Organization.

Saada is a stronghold of the Iran-backed Huthis who continue to hold large swathes of territory in the north including the capital Sanaa.

In early November, the coalition tightened a blockade on Yemeni ports and airports in response to a missile fired by the Shiite Huthis that was intercepted near Riyadh airport.

The country is facing what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi accused of rights abuses in Yemen civilian deaths
Al Jazeera News

January 14, 2018

A UN report on human rights abuses related to foreign intervention in Yemen details the extensive civilian casualties inflicted by the Saudi-led coalition's air attacks.

The United Nations panel examined 10 air attacks in 2017 that killed 157 people, and found that the targets included a migrant boat, a night market, five residential buildings, a motel, a vehicle and government forces, according to a copy of the report shown to Al Jazeera.

"This is a report to the UN Security Council that has not been made public, but I've been allowed to read a copy. It's very hard hitting and very critical of all of the parties in the war in Yemen," Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays said.

The panel said it requested information from the Saudi-led coalition for the rationale behind such attacks, but did not receive a response. The attacks were carried out by precision-guided munitions, so it is likely these were the intended targets, the report points out.

"Even if in some cases, the Saudi-led coalition had targeted legitimate military objectives, the panel finds it highly unlikely that the IHL [International Humanitarian Law] principles of proportionality, and precautions in attack were met," the report stated.

The report also cited a "widespread and systematic" pattern of "arbitrary arrests, deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearances". It was particularly scathing about UAE camps, where it says torture has been taking place.

"The report talks about beatings, electrocutions, constrained suspension, and it talks about something called the cage which is confinement in a cage in the sunlight and the denial of medical treatment," James Bays said.

"Working with the gov of Yemen gives the UAE plausible deniability," he added.

'Threat to peace'

Proxy forces funded and armed by the coalition "pose a threat to peace, security and stability of Yemen", the panel said, and "will do more to further the fragility of Yemen than they will do to hold the state together".

The report also said that southern secession in Yemen has become a genuine possibility, due in part to the length of the war, the lack of military progress and divisions that have emerged in the country.

According to Bays, the report wonders if Yemen can remain one country.

"People in the south are displaying the old flag of South Yemen and they are not loyal to President Hadi even though they are under his command," Bays said.

The report is also critical of Iran's role in the conflict, focusing specifically on supporting Houthi rebels, who stormed the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014 and captured large expanses of the country, with military equipment.

"The report says there have been military equipment and drones that were of Iranian origin and that were introduced into Yemen after the Security Council adopted an arms embargo," Al Jazeera correspondent Bays said.

Since the beginning of Yemen's war, more than 10,000 people have been killed, according to the UN.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a large aerial campaign against the Houthis, aimed at restoring the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

A majority of the more than 5,000 civilian deaths were caused by the Saudi-led coalition, of which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a member, the UN has previously said.

The UN's top human rights official, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, had called for an independent inquiry into atrocities in Yemen for three years before the international community agreed in 2017.

In September, the Netherlands and Canada debuted a draft resolution that would establish an international commission of inquiry to make sure "perpetrators of violations and abuses, including those that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, are held accountable".

The resolution was approved after China signalled its support later that month.

UN report accuses Iran and Saudis over Yemen
CNN

By Richard Roth
January 15, 2018

A confidential UN report has concluded that Iran failed to block ballistic missile supplies from being used by Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led military coalition in war-torn Yemen.

The report, now in the hands of the UN Security Council, does not identify the supplier of the weaponry but says missile debris inspected by UN experts was of Iranian origin.

A UN panel of experts wrote the report examining if a Security Council arms embargo imposed on Yemen was being broken. Portions of the report were shared with CNN by two different UN diplomats who declined to be identified since the report has not been officially released.

The report also criticizes Saudi Arabia and its coalition fighting the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen for not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties.

However, a significant portion of the report blames Iran and could be used to justify further action by the US, which has blasted the Iranians on several fronts and accused of them of arming rebels in Yemen with ballistic missiles.

The report comes days after President Donald Trump avoided upending the nuclear deal with Iran that he has repeatedly disparaged, agreeing to waive key sanctions the US lifted as part of the deal.

The report says: "The Panel has identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were introduced into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo. As a result, the Panel finds that the Islamic Republic of Iran is in non-compliance with paragraph 14 of resolution 2216 (2015) in that it failed to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer, of Borkan-2H short-range ballistic missiles, filed storage tanks for liquid bi-propellant oxidizer for missiles and Ababil-T (Qasef-1) unmanned aerial vehicles, to the then Houthi-Saleh alliance."

Iran has steadfastly denied accusations it is arming the Houthis and charged US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley with fabricating evidence after the diplomat held an event in a US military hangar to demonstrate Iran made a missile that was fired at Riyadh airport in November. A request to the Iranian mission to the UN for comment has not been answered.

Yemen is described by the UN as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Over 10,000 people have been killed in the three years of war, an estimated 7 million are on the brink of famine, and one million people are threatened by an outbreak of cholera.

The country has been become the center of a proxy war between regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia. The report states there is "no evidence" that either side did anything "to mitigate the devastating impact" of attacks on the civilian population. The UN experts traveled to Saudi Arabia late last year to examine remnants from Houthi missile firings into Saudi Arabia.

The new UN report now being studied by council diplomats states that after the years of war Yemen 'has all but ceased to exist". For months, humanitarian aid has been blocked by the Saudi coalition. The report states the Saudi coalition was using 'the threat of starvation as a bargaining tool and an instrument of war".

The experts examined the impact of Saudi coalition attacks inside Yemen and focused on ten air strikes which killed hundreds of people. The report said "measures taken by the Saudi-led coalition in its targeting process to minimize child casualties if any, remain large ineffective".

Cranes to help aid arrives

On Monday, Haley said four US supported cranes had reached the port of Hudaydah in Yemen. She said the cranes would be used to improve the ports capacity for offloading badly needed supplies, such as food and medicine. Haley said "no one should ever have to live the way the people of Yemen are living".

The UN welcomed the arrival of the cranes. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York "the problem that we've had is that the facilities in the port did not enable us to offload and to absorb a greater capacity of ships. But it's an obviously important development and we've been waiting and more importantly the people of Yemen have been waiting for the arrival of these cranes for some time".

But as the war rages on the UN report strikes a pessimistic note. The panel says "all parties to the conflict continue to believe that they can achieve a military victory that would negate the necessity for political compromise" The 79 page report adds "political decision makers on all sides are not bearing the brunt of war. Yemeni civilians are."

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Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Official Website of the Extraordinary Chambers
Official Website of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT)
Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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

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Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War crimes trial creates scope for ending culture of impunity says special tribunal
The Daily Tribune

By Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary
January 11, 2018

The ongoing war crimes trial has not only created a scope for ending the culture of impunity in the country, but also ensured that the people know the truth about the horrific genocide committed by the Pakistan army and their collaborators during the 1971 Liberation War, a special tribunal said yesterday.

"This truth must generate youthquake to go ahead with the spirit of the war of liberation through knowing in exchange of what extent of sacrifice the nation achieved its independent motherland --Bangladesh," it added.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 yesterday made the observations while delivering the verdict in a case filed against five Moulvibazar men for war crimes in 1971.

The three-member tribunal led by Justice Md Shahinur Islam found the accused guilty on charges of committing genocide and crimes against humanity and handed down the death penalty to two of them and jail until death to three others.

Of the convicts, Ujer Ahmed Chowdhury, 63, and Nesar Ali, 75, were given death penalties, while Yunus Ahmed, 71, Samsul Hossain Tarafder, 65, and Mobarak Mia, 66, were awarded imprisonment until death.

The Pakistan army and their local collaborators killed some 30 lakh people. More than 2 lakh women were raped and around 1 crore people forced to take refuge in neighbouring India.

After the country's independence, there was a growing demand for bringing to book the perpetrators of the crimes committed during the nine-month war, and trial of the collaborators of the Pakistan army started.

But the trial proceedings stopped after a political changeover following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975. Subsequently, some identified war criminals were inducted into the cabinet.

After four decades, the Awami League-led government, as per its electoral pledge, formed war crimes tribunal in March 2010 and two tribunals have so far delivered 30 verdicts.

While reading out the historical background and context of the trial, the tribunal yesterday said the nation, particularly the new generation, must know the backdrop of horrific crimes committed in 1971 by the Pakistan army and their local collaborators.

"We consider it expedient to note that the verdict of a court of law is not only meant to render its decision on the arraignment brought," the tribunal said.

"It must also reflect the truth, behind the commission of horrific criminal acts which shall create youthquake to go ahead with the spirit of the war of liberation," it added.

The tribunal said the trial of monstrous and barbaric crimes like genocide even after more than four decades "not only ensures lawful space of coming out from the culture of impunity, but also creates an sphere of knowing the truth -- the truth that horrific 'genocide' was committed by the Pakistan occupation army and their notorious local collaborators in the territory of Bangladesh in 1971, during the nine-month war of liberation."

No progress on plan to confiscate war criminals' properties
Dhaka Tribune

By Shafiqul Islam
January 14, 2018

The interior ministry sent a list of 561 organizations run by Jamaat-Shibir to various law enforcement agencies.

There has been no visible progress on an initiative taken by the government to seize assets of convicted war criminals.

The Liberation War Affairs Ministry had begun an investigation into how this could be done according to existing laws. If needed, laws were to be amended.

There has been no progress in this regard so far.

Earlier in January 2013, the Ministry of Finance directed the Bangladesh Bank to monitor banks and financial institutions owned by the Jamaat-e-Islami and its affiliates. Most of those convicted by the War Crimes Tribunal belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Government agencies involved in business and financial transactions were also asked to increase surveillance.

According to a letter from the finance ministry, financial institutions funded by Jamaat and its student front Shibir is a cause of concern for the government.

On November 22, 2015 the Ministry of Home Affairs sent a letter to Finance ministry's bank and financial institutions division, where the division was directed to take action against banks, schools and financial institutions run by Jamaat-Shibir.

The interior ministry also sent a list of 561 organizations run by Jamaat-Shibir to various law enforcement agencies.

The ruling party leaders suspect that some of these institutions are funding Jamaat activities and working to harm the government's image.

According to Bangladesh Bank sources, four intelligence agencies are involved in the investigation. A meeting was held in this regard between a six-member delegation from intelligence agencies and top Bangladesh Bank officials recently.

A high level committee was also formed to assist law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies and departments in the government in this matter. Officials at the law, finance and liberation war affairs ministry have said that the matter is sensitive so it is being handled by government policymakers.

When contacted, senior secretary of Finance Ministry's bank and financial institutions division Eunusur Rahman told the Bangla Tribune that he was unaware if any decision was made.

"I did not get any direction after joining this section about the initiative from the finance ministry," He said.

This article was first published in Bangla Tribune.

Evidence found against Rajshahi man, Says probe agency; ICT asks registrar to publish ad for Khulna fugitive
The Daily Star

January 15, 2018

The investigation agency of International Crimes Tribunal yesterday said to have found evidence against a Rajshahi man over his alleged involvement in crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War.

Abdus Samad Musa, 61, was "involved" in killings of 15 people, abduction and torture of 21 people and looting and arson in Puthia and Durgapur upazilas of the district, agency's coordinator Abdul Hannan Khan told a press conference at its Dhanmondi office.

Musa, a Jamaat-e-Islami activist and a resident of Puthia, was arrested on January 24 last year and is now in jail.

Hannan said during investigation, they have found involvement of six people in the crimes but all of them except for Musa had died before the probe started.

Later, Faruk Hossain, investigation officer of the case, handed over the probe report, statement of the potential prosecution witnesses and other documents to the Chief Prosecutor Office.

Zahid Imam, conducting prosecutor of the case, said he filed a three-month time petition with the tribunal to scrutinise the documents and if satisfied with those, then they will press charges. Agency's co-coordinator Sanaul Huq said Musa was involved with Muslim League before the war but joined Jamaat and subsequently Razakar Bahini as the war broke out.

Musa went into hiding, most provably in India, after the war but returned to Bangladesh after the political changeover in 1975, Sanaul said.

The senior investigator said Musa tried to hide his original age and even gave false information about the ages of his children in a bid to shrug off the war crimes allegations.

Meanwhile, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 directed its registrar office to publish advertisements in two national dailies asking a fugitive from Khulna to appear before it.

As per the order, Nazrul Islam, one of the seven accused from Batiaghata upazila, has to appear before the tribunal by March 6, said Prosecutor Sabina Yesmin Khan Munni.

Prosecution on November 16 last year pressed four charges against seven persons in a case filed for allegedly committing war crimes. Other six accused -- Shahar Ali, Amzad Hossain Hawlader, Mozahar Ali Sheikh, Atiar Sheikh, Motasim Billah, and Kamal Uddin Goldar -- are in jail.

The charges include killing, abduction, looting, arson and deportation, she said.

Deprived of all privileges, 5 freedom fighters face hardships in Pabna
Dhaka Tribune

By Md Emroz Khandaker
January 16, 2018

Instead, they are facing allegations of claiming to be fake freedom fighters.

Even 46 years after the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the names of five listed freedom fighters in Pabna are not in the final gazette, depriving them of all government support and privileges.

Mired in poverty and hardship, these brave souls who fought for their country in 1971, have been left to fend for themselves. These freedom fighters are visiting door to door in hopes of getting the acknowledgement they rightfully deserve.

These five people answered the call of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and participated in the Liberation War of Bangladesh. They snatched victory from the Pakistani Military Junta and even stood witness in the International Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity during the 1971 war.

It is a tragedy that these five freedom fighters from Ishwardi — Abdur Rahman Sardar, Rezaul Karim, Mantu Malitha, Zamal Uddin and Kamal Hossain, are not getting respect and privileges due for their service to the country.

They are also facing allegations of claiming to be fake freedom fighters.

The names of these five people were included in all five freedom fighters' lists made since the liberation of Bangladesh, but they are yet to be listed in the final gazette.

They stated that a list containing the names of 383 freedom fighters have already been sent to the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, and many of these people are receiving allowances and other facilities from the government.

However, the names of these fighters are yet to be included in the gazette.

Freedom Fighter Abdur Rahman Sardar is a witness in a crimes against humanity case against Razjakar Maulalan Abdus Subhan, and he is fearing for his security.

"I hope that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will look kindly upon us, and I will be formally recognized as a freedom fighter before my death," he added.

Commenting on the matter, Assistant Professor Abul Hashem from Basherbada Degree College, said: "Land Minister Shamsur Rahman Sherif is receiving the privileges of a freedom fighter, but these five people who belong to the same list, are being deprived of their right.

Golam Mostafa, former commander of Ishwardi Muktijoddha Sangsad, told the Dhaka Tribune: "These five people are definitely freedom fighters, but I do not know why their names are not on the final gazette."

On the other hand, Ishwardi Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nasrin Akter said: "If they [the five freedom fighters] appeared in front of the scrutiny committee, their names must have been sent to be included in the gazette.

"If their names are missing from the final gazette for any reason, they can appeal to the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs for inclusion."

These five brave sons of the soil wake up every morning, hoping that the government will take necessary measures to formally acknowledge them as freedom fighters, and grant them the privileges they need to survive.

ICT's decision on indictment Feb 14
The Daily Star

January 18, 2018

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) yesterday fixed February 14 to decide whether it will frame charges against 11 Mymensingh men for allegedly committing crimes during the Liberation War in 1971.

The three-member tribunal led by Justice Md Shahinur Islam fixed the date and kept in record a petition filed by an accused to give testimony as an approver.

For the first time in the history of war crimes trial in Bangladesh, accused Abdul Latif, 58, of Pagla in Mymensingh has decided to give testimony as an approver and filed a petition on December 24 last year.

The tribunal will pass an order on the petition if charges are framed in the case, said Prosecutor Rezia Sultana Chaman.

As per the prosecution, the accused were involved with the Razakar Bahini during the Liberation War and committed crimes that include killing four people, torturing nine, looting and committing arson, abduction and confinement.

On April 5 last year, the prosecution pressed four charges against the 11 men.

Of the accused, six including Khalilur Rahman Mir alias Khalilur Rahman, 62, Md Samsuzzaman alias Abul Kalam, 65, Mohammad Abdullah, 62, Mohammad Abdul Malek Akand alias Abul Hossain, 68, and Md Rois Uddin Azadi alias Akkel Ali, 74 and Latif are now in jail.

The fugitives are ASM Faizullah, 66, Abdur Razzak Mandal, 64, Alim Uddin Khan, 77, Nurul Amin Shahjahan, 69, and Sirajul Islam, 66.

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War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Myanmar's deceitful admission
The Daily Star

January 11, 2018

At last, Myanmar army has admitted to killing 10 Rohingyas in a massacre at Inn Din village, Rakhine. But it does not paint the actual picture whatsoever. In just one month after the army started its killing spree, at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), with countless others subjected to inhumane torture. As of now, nearly a million Rohingya refugees have taken shelter in Bangladesh, with many bearing signs of torture in their bodies, and terrible but consistent stories of mass murder, rape and torture, corroborated by international agencies, human rights and media organisations. These are tantamount to genocide and ethnic cleansing. The flow of refugees continues to trickle into Bangladesh.

Myanmar army's acknowledgement is just a fig leaf that cannot hide the truth. It is a subterfuge intended to pre-emptively conceal or play down the actual extent of the horrible atrocities the army committed against the Rohingya. Even in its deceitful acknowledgement, the army referred the Rohingyas as "Bengali terrorists" thus justifying the massacre.

The military will never commission an independent investigation into the widespread rights abuses because it is itself the chief participant in these carnages. The one it commissioned was not set up to reveal the facts but to conceal them. But, the Myanmar army cannot hide away under the excuse that those killed were "terrorists." It is simply laying itself open to charges of war crimes. If Myanmar truly wants to repent its crimes, it can only do so by allowing international investigators to find out the truth and try those who are responsible for committing the atrocities.

Rohingya insurgents say 10 found in Myanmar grave "innocent civilians"
Channel New Asia

By Thu Thu Aung
January 13, 2018

Rohingya Muslim insurgents said on Saturday that 10 Rohingya found in a mass grave in Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state last month were "innocent civilians", and not members of their group.

Myanmar's military said earlier this week its soldiers had killed 10 captured Muslim "terrorists" during insurgent attacks at the beginning of September, after Buddhist villagers had forced the captured men into a grave the villagers had dug.

It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), whose raids against security posts starting last August sparked sweeping military operations in the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine, said it "whole-heartedly welcomes the admission" of "war crimes" by the "Burmese terrorist army".

"We hereby declare that these ten innocent Rohingya civilians found in the said mass grave in Inn Din Village Tract were neither ARSA nor had any association with ARSA", the group said in a statement on Twitter.

A Myanmar government spokesman said in response to ARSA's statement that sometimes "terrorists and villagers were allied" in attacks" against security forces.

"We have already said it is very difficult to segregate who is a terrorist and who are innocent villagers," spokesman Zaw Htay said. "There will be an ongoing investigating process whether they are members of ARSA or not."

The Myanmar military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

'NEW STEP'

Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday it was "positive" that the country's military was taking responsibility for the actions of troops.

"It is a new step for our country," she told a joint news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Myanmar's capital of Naypyitaw.

"I see it that way because a country needs to take responsibility for the rule of law in the country, and this is the first step on the road of taking responsibility and it is a positive thing," She said, according to a transcript of the news conference posted on her Facebook page.

On Dec. 18, the military announced a mass grave containing 10 bodies had been found at the coastal village of Inn Din, about 50 km (30 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe. The army appointed a senior officer to investigate.

A statement from the military on Wednesday said its investigation had found that members of the security forces had taken part in the killings and action would be taken against them.

Some civilians wanted to kill the 10 men to avenge the death of an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist man in Inn Dinn village named Maung Ni and would face punishment, the military said.

On Saturday, a lawyer for one of Maung Ni's sons said police were seeking murder charges against the son, named Tun Aye, for taking part in the killings. Lawyer Khin Win said a murder complaint against the son was filed with local prosecutors last week in Maungdaw, the nearest town to Inn Din.

Tun Aye was one of four Inn Din villagers detained by police on Dec. 15, said Khin Win. The other three had been released, he said.

National police spokesman Thet Naing said he was not aware of the murder complaint.

The Rohingya crisis erupted after Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 in Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.

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Israel and Palestine

2017 In Numbers: Terrorists Killed 20 Israelis, 3,617 Palestinians Arrested
The Jerusalem Post

By Anna Ahronheim
January 7, 2018

More Israelis died in terrorist attacks in 2017 than in 2016, despite a significant drop in the number of attacks, data the IDF released on Saturday night show.

Twenty Israelis were killed and 169 were wounded in 99 terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank in 2017, up from 17 killed and 263 injured in 269 attacks last year.

It was nevertheless a large decrease from the 93 killed and 882 wounded in the 100 terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank in 2014. Twenty-eight Israelis were killed and another 360 wounded in 226 attacks in 2015.

Since October 2015, Palestinians have stabbed, run over and shot Israeli soldiers and civilians, including some foreign tourists, in a wave of violence in the West Bank and Green Line Israel.

Security forces believe that most terrorist attacks carried out by guns in the West Bank and inside Israel were carried out with weapons produced in the West Bank, most commonly the Carl Gustav-style submachine gun.

Security forces, including the Shin Bet intelligence agency, IDF and police, have increased their efforts to uncover unofficial workshops producing illegal weapons, carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, shutting down weapons factories and confiscating arms, greatly reducing the number of illegal explosive devices and other weapons that could end up in the hands of attackers.

According to the IDF, 42 illegal weapons workshops were closed and 455 illegal weapons were seized in the West Bank in 2017, a slight increase from the 40 gun-making workshops closed in 2016. The number of weapons seized remained the same at 445, still a significant increase from the 170 illegal weapons seized in 2015.

While the violence has since decreased since its peak in the winter of 2016 when there were almost daily attacks, the "lone wolf" has emerged as the face of terrorism. Late last month, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman said that the agency prevented some 1,100 potential lone wolf attacks in 2017, up from the 400 thwarted in 2016.

While lone wolf attacks are hard to prevent, security forces, have increased their efforts to get to the root of the problem in several ways.

Thousands of attacks have been thwarted due to intelligence gathering, including by an increased monitoring of social media activity, and arresting persons who express a desire to set out on attacks or attempt to inspire others to do so.

The IDF has arrested 3,617 Palestinians over the past year, an increase from the 3,143 arrested in 2016.

Palestinian rights organizations in a statement said that Israel detained 6,742 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank over the course of the year.

In a joint statement seen by the Middle East Monitor, the PLO-linked Palestinian Committee of Prisoners and Released Prisoners' Affairs, Palestinian Prisoners Committee, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights said that 1,467 children, 156 women, 14 Palestinian Legislative Council members and 25 journalists were arrested in 2017.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs documentation, the army carried out 162 raids between December 5 and 18, arresting 364 Palestinians, including 63 children.

Israeli army raids villages after settler shot dead
Aljazeera

January 9, 2018

The Israeli army has carried out raids in Palestinian villages near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, following the death of an Israeli settler who was shot in the area.

The shooting incident happened on Tuesday on the main road near the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Gilad, where the 35-year-old settler, a rabbi, resided.

He later died of his wounds in a hospital near Tel Aviv, Israeli media reported.

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Israeli army declared the area to the southwest of Nablus a military zone and raided the Palestinian villages of Tell and Sarra.

There were reports of clashes in the villages, Fawcett said, and Israeli settlers were seen throwing stones in the direction of Palestinian cars.

"After some confrontations, the Israeli forces then withdrew to the entrances of those Palestinian villages," said Fawcett.

"They also went into Palestinian neighbourhoods in the west of Nablus, confiscating security cameras - there were more confrontations with Palestinians there, as well," he added.

The Israeli army said that troops were searching the Nablus area for the suspected attacker or attackers.

Established in 2002, the settlement outpost of Havat Gilad is considered illegal under both Israeli and international law.

Israeli settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power cannot transfer its population into the territory it occupies.

Fawcett said there are a number of illegal settlements and outposts in the area around Nablus, a major town in the occupied West Bank.

"So, it has long been a centre of tension between Palestinians and Israeli settlers," he said.

"Declaring the area a military zone essentially means that the Israeli army has reinforced its positions around there, and it can populate and build up checkpoints with great ease."

Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, welcomed the shooting.

"The operation in Nablus is the first armed response to remind the enemy leaders and those behind them that what they are afraid of is coming," its armed wing said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences to the family of the settler via Twitter.

Two Palestinian teenagers killed by Israeli troops
Aljazeera

January 12, 2018

Two Palestinian teenagers were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers on Thursday as violence continues in the occupied territories.

A Palestinian teen from the Gaza Strip was killed east of the Burij refugee camp after a live round was fired into his chest, the Wafa news agency quoted medical sources as saying.

Three other Palestinians were wounded, one critically, it said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said "violent riots" involving rock-throwing youth erupted at two locations along the Gaza border, and some 50 Palestinians were involved. Soldiers opened fire because the Palestinians "posed a threat".

Denny Cormier, a pro-Palestinian activist who lived in Gaza during the 2014 war, wrote on Twitter that it was likely the Israeli perpetrators knew the children did not pose a serious threat.

In the West Bank village of Iraq Burin, south of Nablus, a 16-year-old boy died in hospital after he was shot by Israeli troops as Palestinians pelted them with stones.

Soldiers manning a checkpoint outside the village opened fire without warning, said Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors illegal Israeli settlement activities in the northern West Bank.

Strict measures have been imposed on tens of thousands of Palestinians following the killing of an Israeli rabbi in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank this week.

Main roads have been closed, villages sealed off, and inspections of Palestinians increased.

The killing of the Israeli settler happened on Tuesday near the illegal Israeli settlement of Havat Gilad, where the 35-year-old rabbi resided.

Israeli settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power cannot transfer its population into the territory it occupies.

Tensions in the region had increased since December when US President Donald Trump announced that Washington recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The status of Jerusalem has ignited tensions between Israelis and Palestinians for decades.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan; the western half of the holy city had been captured in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de facto Israeli control. Israeli jurisdiction and ownership of Jerusalem, however, is not recognised by the international community.

Palestinian leaders want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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AMERICAS

North & Central America

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South America

Colombia war crimes tribunal to begin hearings within 6 months: prosecutor
Colombia Reports

By Adrian Alsema
January 16, 2018

The war crimes tribunal that took force in Colombia on Monday should call the first war crime suspects to trial within six months, the court's chief prosecutor said.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP, will try thousands of former guerrillas and members of the military for the crimes and atrocities committed in half a century of armed conflict.

The chief prosecutor at the court, Giovanni Alvarez, told newspaper El Tiempo on Tuesday that the court will begin public hearings once all logistical preparations are made.

According to Alvarez, the special prosecutors will initially prioritize the prosecution of war crimes related to the recruitment of children, sexual violence and environmental crimes.

The court will have to investigate thousands of war crimes, including mass kidnapping, the execution of civilians and high profile guerrilla attacks on civilians.

The chief prosecutor told the newspaper that the special prosecution office will hire more than 200 officials who will be investigating and prosecuting war crimes committed during the conflict.

The court will call both former FARC guerrillas and members of the military to court. Civilians who are suspected of war crimes can report themselves voluntarily to avoid prosecution before a common court.

The cases brought before the tribunal will be chosen based on the criminal complaints filed by the Prosecutor General's Office, the Ombudsman and victims organizations, Alvarez said.

The office will develop special protocols that will allow the participation of civilians, some of whom continue to be threatened by illegal armed groups. This process will take at least until May, according to the special prosecutor.

Alvarez stressed that the restorative justice system will contribute to peace and reconciliation after more than five decades of armed conflict if his office is able to prosecute past crimes.

The JEP will be in force for a period of at least 10 years. Its mandate can be extended to a period of 20 years.

President Santos Names 30 Justices to Colombia's 'Special Jurisdiction for Peace' War Crimes Tribunal
Finance Colombia

By Jared Wade
January 16, 2018

On Monday in a ceremony in Bogotá, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos officially installed 30 justices, or "magistrates," who will serve on the nation's Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the war crimes tribunal created last year by Congress as part of the country's peace process.

The controversial JEP will seek what is called "transitional justice" for the victims of the nation's 50-plus-year war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that ended in late 2016 after four years of formal negotiations with the Santos-led government.

While the bulk of the roughly 7,000 members of the now-demobilized guerrilla group are expected to receive amnesty as laid out in the peace deal, higher-ranking officials found responsible for atrocities can face some form of limited confinement and will be expected to cooperate in the search for truth about past crimes.

"Victims want truth more than to see their victimizers behind bars," said Santos in a speech from the Casa de Nariño, calling once again for the nation to embrace reconciliation in an attempt to leave decades of conflict in the past. "Victims are better served by reparation than revenge."

While this provision of the accord has been among the most divisive in a nation split over supporting the peace process, Santos stressed that anyone found responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes, or other grave human rights violations will not be granted amnesty. Prosecutors and officials have suggested they will specifically look to try those involved child recruitment, sexual violence, kidnapping, civilian massacres, large-scale attacks, and even acts that severely damaged the environment.

Politicians, members of the military, other armed group actors, and even private citizens from the business world may also be named by the victims who will be heard by the JEP, a prospect that various Colombian politicians and civic groups have pushed to limit.

Nevertheless, Santos said that the tribunal, which may continue its work for a decade or more, will "judge and punish conduct committed on occasion or in connection with the armed conflict, not only of guerrillas or agents of the state, but also of civilians who submit to it and have had active or decisive participation in the most serious crimes."

For years, current Colombian Senator and former President Álvaro Uribe has been the most prominent opposition voice against the peace process. Following the announcement by Santos, the ex-head of state said, on Twitter, that former FARC commander Rodrigo Londoño, aka Timochenko, is currently a "presidential candidate" rather than paying for his crimes.

On Twitter, Uribe asked why does "Santos insist on deceiving us, declaring that there will be no impunity for those responsible for the crimes of humanity when that is not a fact."

Santos has so far named 30 of the 38 justices who will sit on the JEP, a complex body with various components and responsibilities related to truth-seeking, reviewing criminal charges, weighing appeals, and sentencing.

The head of state noted that he has sought diversity in the makeup of the JEP, including people from the judicial branch, the military, private law practice, human rights organizations, and academia. More than half of those appointed are women, Santos also noted.

"Today is a very special day for the construction of peace in our country," said Santos. "It is a very special day for advancing the guarantee of the rights of victims of our conflict. And it is a very special day to continue healing the wounds that more than half a century of internal war have left."

While controversy over the process elements still rages in Colombia, the creation of the JEP in late 2017, despite some key questions raised by Human Rights Watch and others, was largely applauded by international groups as a positive step forward for the peace process.

Last year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) - while recognizing some flaws with the makeup of the tribunal - categorized the JEP as "fundamental for the effective fulfillment of international obligations in the field of human rights."

The full list of JEP judges appointed so far is as follows:

Director of the Investigation and Accusation Unit

Giovanny Álvarez Santoyo

Court of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace

Adolfo Murillo

Alejandro Ramellí Artega

Ana Caterina Heyck Puyana

Camilo Andrés Suárez Aldana

Claudia López Díaz

Gloria Amparo Rodríguez

Gustavo Adolfo Salazar Arbeláez

María del Pilar Valencia García

Raúl Eduardo Sánchez Sánchez

Reinere de los Ángeles Jaramillo Chaverra

Roberto Carlos Vidal López

Rodolfo Arango Rivadeneira

Sandra Rocío Gamboa Rubiano

Ana Manuela Ochoa Arias

Chambers of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace

Alexandra Sandoval Mantilla

Belkis Floretina Izquierdo Torres

Catalina Díaz Gómez

Claudia Rocío Saldaña Montoya

Heidy Patricia Baldosea Perea

José Miller Hormiga Sánchez

Juan José Cantillo Pushaina

Julieta Lemaitre Ripoll

Lily Andrea Rueda Guzmán

Marcela Giraldo Muñoz

Nadiezhda Natazha Henríquez Chacín

Óscar Javier Parra Vera

Pedro Díaz Romero

Pedro Julio Mahecha Ávila

Sandra Jeannette Castro Ospina

Xiomara Cecilia Balanta Moreno

Giovanny Álvarez Santoyo

Peru's Congress Members Waiting For the Fujimori Pardon Casefile
TeleSUR

January 16, 2018

Members of Peru's national congress say they are still waiting to see the casefile for Fujimori's pardon.

Marisa Glave and Indira Huilca of the left-leaning New Peru political party sent a request to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (MJHR) to review the pardon of former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) in early January.

They said today via their twitter accounts they have yet to hear a governmental response.

"We sent the request to the MJHR asking for the case file for (Fujimori's) pardon", tweeted Glave. "We hope we aren't denied the right to review the documents as was the People's Defense. What irregularities are hidden in the file?" questioned the congresswoman.

Glave says the People's Defense also sent a request to MJHR to review the Fujimori case three weeks ago, but the state oversight agency was denied by the ministry.

The MJHR responded to the request that it wished to "protect the family of the beneficiary" and closed the door on the case request.

"The Ministry of Justice should be more transparent with the Fujimori pardon casefile," says Huilca in a tweet. "The culture of secrecy reinforces that there only political justifications for the move, not humanitarian ones," she adds.

"For the health of the country's democracy of the country we should have access to the file. What better way to exercise authority than through transparency. The (People's Defense) is requesting something well within the norms of the constitution" tweets, Huilca.

Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori with a "humanitarian pardon", supposedly for medical reasons on Dec. 24.

The presidential pardon came just after Congress narrowly voted to not impeach Kuczynski for allegedly receiving nearly US$800,000 in kickbacks from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

The pardon and prior failed impeachment are widely seen as a political maneuver by Fujimori's son, Kenji, himself a current Congress member, to salvage Kuczynski so the president would be forced to pardon his father in return.

Prior to Fujimori's pardon, he had been serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity, a term he began in 2009.

New Peru announced today on its website that the party will "continue to take to the streets against the illegal and immoral pardon and the corrupt and impune pact."

"We won't stop protesting until the pardon is annulled, for the memory of the victims" (of Fujimori) "who have been stepped on by Mr. Kuczynski" reads the party's public statement.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, IACHR, which indicted Fujimori has said Kuczynski's move violates international law. The regional court will hold a hearing regarding the pardon on Feb. 2.

Dramatic smart-phone video of slain Venezuelan rebel could trigger ICC probe
Miami Herald

By Andres Oppenheimer
January 17, 2018

Covered in blood, Óscar Pérez says Venezuela government will not allow his surrender.

Óscar Pérez posted a video saying that Venezuelan government forces won't accept his surrender. The bloody face reportedly came as a result of an assault.

The Venezuelan dictatorship's extra-judicial killing of rebel police inspector Óscar Pérez on Jan. 15 may have bigger repercussions than many suspect: It will be a powerful piece of evidence to help open an investigation into President Nicolás Maduro at the International Criminal Court (ICC.)

That's no small matter, because there is nothing Maduro and his top aides fear more than the ICC.

Unlike the human rights agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations, the Hague-based ICC prosecutes individuals - including presidents and ministers - rather than states. If the ICC opens an investigation into Venezuela's human rights abuses and finds Maduro guilty, it could issue an international warrant for his arrest.

Judging from what I'm hearing from well-placed legal experts, Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro and other organizations are getting closer to presenting a formal case against Venezuela at the ICC. The OAS could do it within the next three weeks.

More important, the 12 Latin American countries known as the Group of Lima, which already have condemned Maduro's regime, could officially request the ICC to open an investigation into Venezuela's crimes against humanity when its foreign ministers meet in Chile on Jan. 23 to discuss Venezuela's crisis.

Under a little-known ICC rule, the Court's prosecutor has to open a preliminary investigation into a country when that country's courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals, and another country requests it. This means that if the Lima Group or one of its members asks for a probe into the Maduro regime, the Court's prosecutor would have to open a preliminary investigation.

"If the idea is to stop Venezuela's abuses, the next step should be for any Latin American country to request a preliminary investigation by the ICC prosecutor," says Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the Americas' department of Human Rights Watch. "There is abundant evidence of massive and systematic abuses."

Much like the military dictators of Argentina and Chile in the 1970s, Maduro claims that Pérez died in a clash with security forces after he allegedly tried to open fire against them. But, unlike in the 1970s, there were iPhones this time that recorded everything on video.

The videos, some of which were recorded by Pérez himself and posted on his Instagram account during the siege of his hideout, show Pérez negotiating with a government envoy, and saying he has offered to surrender. Later, another video shows Pérez with his face bleeding, while explosions and shots are heard in the backdrop.

Óscar Pérez, the Venezuelan policeman wanted after attacking the headquarters of the Supreme Court and the Ministry of the Interior from a helicopter, posted a video asking Venezuelan government forces to stop shooting at him. Perez says, "we are going to surrender."

"They are shooting at us with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," Perez tells the camera. "We said we've turned ourselves in, but they don't want to let us turn ourselves in. They want to kill us!"

Another video shot from outside and shown on CNN en Español shows government forces shooting at Pérez's hideout with an RPG, causing a huge explosion. It looked like Kosovo, or any other country at war.

Later in the day, the Maduro regime said that Pérez and four other "terrorists" were killed after they had opened fire on the security forces that were surrounding them.

Pérez was being sought by the Maduro regime since he threw grenades at government buildings from a helicopter he stole in June, and read a proclamation demanding Venezuela's return to democracy. Pérez's helicopter stunt had left no one dead nor injured.

By comparison, when late President Hugo Chávez led a coup attempt in 1992, his attack left at least 32 dead and hundreds wounded. Chávez was pardoned and set free after spending two years in prison.

To open a formal investigation into the Maduro regime, the ICC has to find evidence of crimes against humanity that are widespread and systematic. Among the evidence cited by legal experts are Maduro's decrees ordering the brutal repression of street protests that left more than 100 dead last year, more than 5,400 arbitrary arrests over the past 12 months, and at least 114 political prisoners such as opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Now, the videos of Pérez's extra-judicial execution after he had offered to surrender should put even greater pressure on the ICC prosecutor to start a probe. There is no excuse for not doing it.

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TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Achieving reconciliation in the Alberni Valley
Times Colonist

By Robert J. Dennis Sr., Derek Peters, and Shannon Janzen
January 7, 2018

Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is the foundation for strong, healthy and sustainable Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across British Columbia and Canada.

Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides the best framework for achieving this reconciliation - both Canada and British Columbia have taken the historic step of endorsing that framework.

Now the hard work begins. As Premier John Horgan said: "Will it be easy? No. Reconciliation is not for wimps."

We all must do our part. As the commission noted, we must all practise reconciliation in our everyday lives - this includes ourselves and our families, and in our communities, governments, unions, schools and in our businesses.

In the Alberni Valley, Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Western Forest Products Inc. have started the hard work of defining what reconciliation means to them and are piloting a shared vision of what reconciliation could look like in the forest sector. We are hopeful our success will serve as one example of a path forward for all those who work and live in the Alberni Valley.

Reconciliation begins with all of us acknowledging that for millennia before commercial logging operations began on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Huu-ay-aht and neighbouring First Nations used and occupied the area now covered by forest tenures. For decades, the interests of Huu-ay-aht and other First Nations were ignored or only minimally accommodated as successive companies harvested the land base, including tree-farm licence 44.

Today we are changing that story, and WFP and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation are moving forward together by building a new relationship across the Huu-ay-aht Ha-houlthee (traditional territory) including Huu-ay-aht Treaty Settlement Lands and the tenures we respectively hold.

Last year, Western and Huu-ay-aht concluded a series of agreements, including the purchase and long-term lease-back of Western's dry-land sort at Sarita, a 200,000-cubic-metre timber sale from Huu-ay-aht's lands, and an employment and training agreement. In partnership, we are implementing those agreements as we look for opportunities to operate together across a larger land base.

The joint exploration of future opportunities will combine respect for Huu-ay-aht's exclusive jurisdiction over their Treaty Settlement Lands with an examination of shared decision-making over other lands within the Huu-ay-aht Ha-houlthee. This will include seeking further ways to incorporate traditional values and customs in forestry management across the Huu-ay-aht Ha-houlthee. Importantly, this reconciliation effort will be pursued in a manner that enhances - not jeopardizes - the economic viability of TFL 44.

While forestry is the focus of our relationship, we recognize that everyone succeeds if the economy of the Alberni Valley is strong, healthy and diverse. While there will be ups and downs in the world economy that affect our success, Western and Huu-ay-aht are committed to a common vision of reconciliation that supports mutual benefits, sustainability, and a bright future for everyone living on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

This vision creates room for all - we will achieve much more by all working together, with good faith and respect guiding the way.

Zim won't progress without justice, reconciliation: Mnangagwa
Zimbabwe Daily

By Nqobani Ndlovu
January 16, 2017

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said Zimbabwe will not achieve much progress without justice and reconciliation, a statement which has come at a time when many pressure groups have ramped up pressure on his administration to deal with past human rights abuses.

Mnangagwa made the statements on his Twitter handle President of Zimbabwe @edmnangagwa on Sunday, a day after opening it.

The President officially confirmed the page through a video clip posted on Twitter on Saturday.

"I am proud to announce that this is my official Twitter page," he said, joining several African Presidents such Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta who are active on the micro-blogging site.

On Sunday, Mnangagwa - whose administration has been put under the spotlight by the clergy, opposition political parties, civic groups and other pressure groups - said Zimbabwe could not progress without justice and reconciliation.

"When we go to the elections, you should not fight. When people support their parties, it's their choice. We should work for the people and not be selfish. There should be justice and national reconciliation because we cannot progress when communities are in conflict. God bless Zimbabwe," he said.

The statement comes a week after he signed into law the National Peace and Reconciliation (NPRC) Bill to operationalise the commission, setting up the framework on how the commission will conduct its duties in addressing past human rights violations such as Gukurahundi and Operation Murambatsvina, among others.

The government has not yet outlined how it intends to deal with the past human rights abuses.

Reverend Ray Motsi, a theologian and peace-building expert, said Zimbabwe needs national dialogue to facilitate truth, justice and reconciliation efforts over past wrongs, but only if the government takes ownership and responsibility.

"If government is serious about this, even about the NPRC, then there must be need to repeal some of these primitive laws and the attitude that we have particularly from the powers that be. National dialogue must be aimed at leading the government to a national acknowledgement of what happened and to take ownership and responsibility to address what happened," Motsi said on Friday at a Sapes Trust forum in Bulawayo.

NPRC: Achieving peace, reconciliation for all
The Herald

By Sharon Hofisi
January 17, 2018

This study focuses on the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). It specifically deals with the need to foster and recommend realistic and practical solutions to healing and reconciliation in Zimbabwe. It offers these solutions to Governments, policymakers, victims, activists, civil-based organisations, civil society, and the donor community to consider.

National peace is simply presented here as absence of national turmoil whereas reconciliation is seen from the new dimension of moving away from a retributive form of punishment towards restorative justice for the victim and rehabilitation for the perpetrator.

The art of achieving peace and reconciliation differs from one country to another and from person to person, ethnic group to another or one race to another. Essentially, a people-oriented approach will consider the injuries that were committed on various groups who need healing and reconciliation. The basics for peace and reconciliation must be cross-cutting and must end on helping the victim and the perpetrator.

For Zimbabweans, we may have perhaps heard some statements on peace such as those popularised by the late Vice President John Nkomo that "peace begins with me, peace begins with you, and peace begins with all of us".

We may also be familiar with the words of former and first Executive President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Robert Mugabe who said a lot on "peace today, tomorrow and forever". Cde Mugabe was also credited with promoting reconciliation between whites and blacks when Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980.

In theory, it is fine, but at an implementation level, we need to understand that peace-building must focus on a wide range of issues such as family displacements in mining and damming areas; financial losses that were occasioned by the economic downturn, environmental degradation, land redistribution, hate speech, and so on.

Some may even look at increasing conflicts in churches, violence in families or hooliganism in sport, trivialising language in court processes or impulsive profiteering in business.

The whole point is that the functions of the NPRC spelt out in terms of section 252 of the Constitution must guide the peace, healing and reconciliation process.

The Constitution looks at peace and reconciliation by considering post-conflict institutions; national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe, including peaceful resolution of disputes; truth-telling about the past and facilitating the making of amends and provision of justice; dealing with torture, persecution and other forms of abuse in a rehabilitative way and support-based approach; establishing a complaint mechanism; devising incidental models of peace and reconciliation; establishing methods of dispute resolution such as conciliation and mediation; and above all, making recommendations on legislative responses on persons affected by conflicts, pandemics or other circumstances.

The recommendation on conflicts, pandemics and other circumstances is very important in delineating the role of the NPRC beyond conflicts. The tone is also pitched on the need to deal with pandemics such as cholera, typhoid and the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. People lost their relatives to epidemics and other national disasters such as cyclones, accidents and so on.

It also broadly deals with those 'affected' who include the families. Further, other circumstances, which may be considered, include language exclusion in the curriculum, cultural erosion, food distribution, family displacements and disappearances and so on.

It should also be noted that dealing with past wounds, or rather, opening past wounds, demands that the actors in this endeavour find wholesome ways of nursing those wounds. Any approach that ignores this may create a fertile ground for intractability and intransigent behaviour. The social, economic and political costs may be a burden too heavy to bear for our nation. Zimbabwe has a grim past in areas such as pre-colonial wars where ethnic brutality abounded, and colonial repression where racial oppression was dominant.

Add the Entumbane uprisings or Battle of Bulawayo in 1980 and 1981, the much-talked about Gukurahundi debacle and the 2008 electoral violence, to the monetary losses in 2008 and so on and the Peace and Healing Bill becomes open to political, social, legal and economic considerations.

From the perspective of addressing problems of conflicts, Zimbabwe adopts a "peace and reconciliation" approach which involves a "truth-telling" that also deals with pandemics and other situations. What is presupposed is that the past wrongs are being acknowledged but going forward, we need to bring closure to past injuries.

Whereas national peace and reconciliation is done by the NPRC in Zimbabwe, elsewhere, both negotiating a grim past and the making of memory were done under a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). For South Africa, the records of the hearings of the TRC are the repository of South African memory (Nuttall and Coetzee 1998). I may not deal with whether or not Zimbabwe needs a TRC because such an argument has been overtaken by events.

Suffice to state that critics of TRCs like Ingrid De Kok, in the article, "Cracked heirlooms: memory on exhibition", 1998, developed notions of the TRC as elegy: a way of remembering, which allows the bereaved to reassemble life, but always with the acknowledgment of the destruction and contradictions that caused bereavement.

De Kok considered the South African TRC as both a cornerstone of political transformation and a fatal compromise; the result of years of negotiation, 300 hours of committee hearings, and a marathon five-hour debate in the National Assembly, and the country's attempt to effect national reconciliation on the basis of respect for the historical record, for human rights, for individual and collective trauma.

Other countries established institutional containers designed to sustain peace and reconciliation at community level such as the Gacaca courts in Rwanda which have been seen, as their name suggests, and from the manner in which they operated to deal with perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, as a real "bed of soft green grass".

This is because the traditional way of resolving conflicts took into consideration the wisdom and guidance of community leaders and created champions of social change in concerned communities.

Add the International Peace Institute's 2013 Report on the AU Panel of the Wise, which focused on peace, justice and reconciliation in Africa and it becomes important to use extensive approaches to combat impunity and lasting peace and reconciliation in Zimbabwe.

The Report deals with seminal cases for countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Morocco, Ghana and Liberia, but is important for Zimbabwe because it also deals with emerging cases in countries such as Burundi, Togo, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Using the African concerns and the United Nations' triangle of peace and security, human rights and development to add to our normative framework under the Constitution, it can be forcefully argued that the NPRC must strive for institutional legitimacy lest it be labelled as an appendage of the State.

Readers may need to consult the "Handbook on Reconciliation after Conflict" that was prepared by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, edited by David Bloomfield, Theresa Barnes and Luc Hyse in 2003.

In a foreword to this handbook, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said "there is no handy roadmap for healing. There is no shortcut or simple prescription for healing the wounds and divisions of a society in the aftermath of sustained violence. . . examining the painful past, acknowledging it and understanding it, and above all transcending it together, is the best way to guarantee that it does not - and cannot - happen again". From all this, we learn that processes and theories on memory are not done in a particular way, usually using national events and circumstances.

The absence of a duly constituted NPRC was for long seen as an ongoing constitutional violation and the severity of the violation was exacerbated by the fact that in terms of section 251 of the Constitution, this Commission would be rendered defunct 10 years after the Constitution became effective, that is, in August 2023 (CISOMM 2016: 20).

By 2016, about 20 percent of the NPRC's lifespan had already expired before it had become operational. There was even fear that it could either be one of the Commissions that could have been removed on the basis of fiscal "bleeding" or could be bundled together with the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ibid).

There is contention on whether or not it is necessary for the operations of the NPRC to be backed by an enabling law. Those who believe that the NPRC is at large to operate without some guiding legal framework rely on section 342 (3) of the Constitution to use the "reasonable necessity or incidental" doctrine, while those who support the need for a law or at least, the interpretation of the intention of the framers of the Constitution.

For now, the relevant constitutional provisions have not been brought before the courts of law so that judges will review the intention of the framers. Constitutionally speaking though, the NPRC is one of the five independent commissions that are envisaged in Chapter 12 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013.

Now that the NPRC does not have a substantive chairperson following the passing on of its Chair, we may simply need to emphasise that such appointment is a prerogative of the President who does so "after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders". Although the framing of the constitutional provisions may give the sad impression that the President is given insurmountable powers to disregard the roles of the JSC and Parliament in that he is not obliged to appoint the chairperson 'in consultation' with both institutions, it may be stated here that the NPRC is located among constitutionally established independent commissions and must provide for a favourably normative version of memory.

Constitutionally speaking, the NPRC must also protect, promote, respect and fulfil the objectives of independent commissions spelt out in section 233 of the Constitution such as: supporting and entrenching human rights and democracy; protect the sovereignty and interests of the people; promote constitutionalism; promote transparency and accountability in public institutions; secure the observance of democratic values and principles by the State and all institutions and agencies of government, and government-controlled entities; and ensure that injustices are remedied.

Individual or popular sovereignty can only be meaningful if the Constitution is also considered as the sovereign, which encourages political will. Although the NPRC is also affected by national sovereignty, and the use of Presidential powers, it must also operate from the perspective of sovereigns such as Parliament, the people, and the Constitution.

Further, there is need to adopt a grassroots approach which involves thousands of people who feel that negotiating the past must be predicated on certain benchmarks. Some think we should consider pre-colonial, colonial or post-colonial past. There is also need to balance between normative approach to NPRC operations as well as traditional methods of achieving peace such as involving traditional leaders in the exhumation of bodies of mass killings during the liberation struggle.

What we learn from this is that the NPRC must involve the people in benchmarking the extent to which transitional justice, peace and reconciliation should go from a Zimbabwean perspective. It must not, say, focus on Gukurahundi as a stand alone issue. In essence, achieving healing and reconciliation for all goes beyond "mighty is right", "white and black", "Shona and Ndebele" or "civilisation arguments".

We must go beyond the need to get international or political sympathy and move towards real empathy, genuine peace and reconciliation in a rainbow lifestyle, as well as emphasise on equitable resource distribution, respect of the provisions of the Bill of Rights and all these must foster a sustainable culture of peace and reconciliation.

Admittedly, events such as Gukurahundi have dominated the national debate for long; they bear on the social cost of peace and healing in national healing, but we need a sustainable solution across all spheres of victimhood mentioned above. At one point, Cde Mugabe described Gukurahundi as a "moment of madness". This statement shows that the NPRC must go beyond mere focus on various conflicts and move towards empowering victims to forgive and forget; and to empower them towards being survivors and victors as informed by the Victim-Survivor-Victor (VSV) model. Those affected such as the families of the victims must also be included in the healing and reconciliation process.

For instance, Zimbabwe is politically divided into 10 provinces. Each province has real problems and the NPRC must look at that. We even need behavioural healing and reconciliation in pockets of political administration such as sports where hooliganism and tribal cards are played periodically.

What do the processes on peace and reconciliation mean to Zimbabwe? Is it about past injuries, the present or the future? At the centre of these questions is the need to scale conflicts in Zimbabwe. Some would want to focus on pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods. When we combine the reality of injuries with the methods of dealing with the same, we can speak without exaggeration of a national healing and reconciliation crisis.

There is need to prevent present and future wounds by using rights-based approaches to peace and healing. Chief among them are the constitutional functions shown above. There is also need to promote constitutional literacy for all Zimbabweans using a broad strategy which involves civil society organisations (CSOs) or community-based organisations (CBOs), law-based organisations and academic institutions and working groups on transitional justice. These institutions will make the grassroots approach effective since they are close to the people. Their inputs will also feed into the NPRC's institutional legitimacy.

From the perspective of working groups, the NPRC must also consider guiding principles for transitional justice policy and practice in Zimbabwe as laid down in the National Transitional Justice Working Group Zimbabwe (NTJWGZ), 2015.

For instance, Zimbabwe has no TRC and one of the reasons for not establishing such is steeped in amnesty. The NTJWGZ suggested that amnesties must have strict guidelines although they play an important role of persuading perpetrators to cooperate, these must not apply to perpetrators of international crimes, crimes against humanity, murders and sexually related crimes.

Eventually, constitutional principles on good governance such as vertical and horizontal accountability must be considered important. This is because the amnesty process must not end up benefiting perpetrators at the expense of the victims. Further, the Constitution enjoins the NPRC to respect sovereignty and interests of the individual. As such, the guiding principles chosen by the NPRC must be acceptable to stakeholders especially the victims.

From the perspective of civil society organizations, collective reports are very important. For instance, the Civil Society Organisation Stakeholders Report of 2016 on Zimbabwe Second Cycle United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UNUPR) had 68 CSOs, which had been monitoring implementation of 130 recommendations accepted during the first UN UPR review in October 2011.

The Report noted that Zimbabwe had committed to ensure that the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) fully implemented its mandate. It also noted that whereas the Constitution provides for the establishment of the NPRC, the NPRC Commissioners were appointed to deal with a Commission that was not yet operational. The Government of Zimbabwe was encouraged to ensure that the NPRC is constitutionally compliant, effective and independent in spirit, word and action.

Law-based organisations may need to focus on the role of litigation or alternative dispute resolution methods in ensuring that victims are compensated while academia and CSOs may immensely contribute to advocacy and research.

Researchers in countries Sierra Leone partnered local Non-Government Organisations like Fambul Tok to evaluate the impact of community based reconciliation. They found that while the program led to greater forgiveness of the perpetrators and improved social capital, it also worsened psychological health. Ultimately, this research would inform government and CSOs on areas of future partnerships. The NPRC must also work with various partners to fund its operations.

As we look into the future, it is also necessary to look at the general relationship between the three branches of government and independent institutions from the perspective of international organisations. We may use the Latimer Principles to illustrate this position. There has been talk about the need for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth and the belief is that section 12 of the Constitution which deals with foreign policy will be instructive in this regard.

In the likely event that Zimbabwe rejoins the Commonwealth, it has to be noted in this article that the Latimer Principles are important in signposting how the NPRC can both be independent and normatively operate. On a cursory basis, we may understand a lot on this operation from the Commonwealth (Latimer) Principles on the Three Branches of Government.

Although Zimbabwe is currently out of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth is an organisation of values, and the values-or principles of Latimer House were strengthened in the declarations in Singapore (1971), Harare (1991), and Millbrook (1995). The primacy of the accountability of State institutions and the relationship between the three branches, and their independence can still be informed by the Commonwealth Principles which are situated on the need to establish or enhance appropriate oversight bodies in accordance with national circumstances. Such institutions must play a key role in enhancing public awareness of good governance and rule of law issues.

Now that the NPRC is "too late too little", it must not have selective visibility if it is to make an impact in peace and reconciliation. It must use the reports from other national independent institutions to inform its processes. It must also utilise social media to get a measure of the concerns of the general populace in benchmarking conflict, pandemics and other circumstances on healing and reconciliation. Equally important, its pursuit of peace and reconciliation must always be backed by veneers of legality and legitimacy. At the top of what is both legally and legitimately consequential should be the respect of the general will of the people. The people are the important source of institutional legitimacy, including independent commissions.

Similarly, Zimbabweans must also support the NPRC so that its roles are there for us all to see. They must contribute towards good governance by respecting the constitutional principles, asserting their sovereignty, and respecting vertical and horizontal applicability of the Constitution. Hopefully, this will enable the NPRC to maintain a national character or at most deal with the pertinent question on whether it is an appendage of the State.

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Terrorism

Brother of ISIS fighter gets 10 years in prison after informant's testimony
San Diego Union-Tribune

By Kristina Davis
January 12, 2018

When news spread that former San Diego City College student Douglas McCain had died in battle in Syria - making him the first U.S. citizen to be killed fighting for the Islamic State - the investigation quickly pivoted close to home. How had he gotten there, and who had been supporting him?

The FBI scrutiny landed on his brother, Marchello McCain, living in an apartment in east San Diego, and a close-knit group of friends the siblings had made growing up in Minnesota - some of whom were radicalized when they previously lived in San Diego.

On Friday, one arm of the investigation culminated with a 10-year prison sentence for Marchello McCain. The 35-year-old factory worker had pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and lying to the FBI as they probed his brother's terrorism ties.

But, in arguing for a stiffer prison sentence, prosecutors accused Marchello McCain of far more sinister motives, laying out for the first time in great detail evidence they say shows he was part of a conspiracy to support terrorism in Syria, and that he planned to eventually join his brother in the jihad there.

Bolstering their case was an informant, a 22-year-old former San Diegan and one-time jihad supporter who testified for a few hours during the sentencing hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan.

The testimony by the informant, Abdirahman Bashir, gave incredible insight into how a network of young men in the United States became radicalized, the powerful recruiting methods they used on family and friends, and the logistics of leaving everything behind to fight for martyrdom overseas.

The McCain brothers grew up in Minneapolis, with Douglas moving first to San Diego in 2005 and Marchello following a year later. Douglas moved with two friends who were brothers - men who would end up radicalizing during their time in San Diego and recruit others in their circle to join the movement, Bashir testified.

Bashir, a middle-schooler at the time, and Hanad Mohallim, another youth who was cousins with the two men, were instructed to watch radical Islamic videos online that spoke of the paradise and blessings for foreign fighters, as well as the evils of American policies on Muslims.

"If you die a martyr you can intercede for family members, they are sinning," Bashir said of some of the teachings. "If a few of us (die), generations can be saved from the hellfire."

The two radical mentors - Hamsa and Hirsi Karie - later moved to Canada, strengthening their ideology, and continued to groom the two youth. Meanwhile, the McCain brothers also remained close associates. And then all that talk - about the duty of all Muslims to join jihad, about the paradise that awaited martyrs - was put into action. The Karie brothers left for Syria - the site of a bloody civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and numerous rebel groups. Some of those groups were more moderate and backed by the U.S., while others were developing a reputation for extreme violence and religious views. The Karie brothers joined the latter - the Islamic State.

Mohallim also wanted to follow in his cousins' footsteps. According to testimony, he told Bashir that his original plan was to travel to Syria with Marchello McCain in January 2014. That didn't happen.

But other plans were being made that January. Authorities say another cousin of Bashir's - Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi, aka "Phish" - and others robbed a jewelry store in Edmonton, Canada, to fund his relatives' journeys to Syria. (Although, in emails uncovered by authorities, he admitted it was harder than he imagined to unload the loot for cash, according to evidence presented in court. He is in custody for that crime but is also charged in San Diego in a newly unsealed indictment with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists.)

In March 2014, Abdullahi wired about $3,000 to Douglas McCain and Mohallim, authorities said. Marchello McCain then deposited $2,600 into his wife's bank account, prosecutors said. On March 8, plane tickets to Turkey were bought with the wife's credit card. Douglas departed for the Middle East the next day, from San Diego.

Mohallim also left that day, from Minneapolis. His friend Bashir drove him to the airport, Bashir testified. Bashir said that he had long struggled with what to make of the conflict in Syria, but he decided that moment that if Mohallim found that true jihad was being waged there, then he would try to join his brethren.

When Mohallim's mother learned of the trip shortly after, she flew to Turkey to try to bring him home. She finally reached him in a phone call, and he refused her pleas to return from Syria, said Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shane Harrigan and Caroline Han.

Before Mohallim left, he gave Bashir access to an email account that he and the other fighters were using to communicate in secret: gonepast21@yahoo.com. The friends would write draft emails to one another - fighters would update their movements in Syria, describe exciting battles and urge fellow Muslims to join them, while those in the U.S. would write letters of support and ask about logistics in getting there, according to evidence presented in court.

The emails used code words, often basketball and football terms, to speak of battle and jihad. "A good three point shot" was expert marksmanship and "skills on da court" were battle skills, Bashir testified.

Marchello McCain was one of the people on that email chain, Bashir testified, writing under the nickname "Vicious" and also being referred to as "Jabril."

In one email draft, Marchello wrote to "Phish" about their duty to join their friends: "I know that you know we missing out on all the rewards and blessings akhi (brother) … We supposed to be with them and we need to make the preparation to get to them ASAP," according to the evidence.

Marchello also allegedly asked his friends already in Syria if it was safe to bring his wife, who was pregnant at the time, plus their other child: "is there other sisters there. I hear there is a lot of sisters from the (European Union)" read one message. He also wrote his wife was willing to go: "She would rather be there then here cuz she know how grimy these devil worshippers are and she knows what plans they have for the mumineen (faithful believers of Islam)."

One of the fighters asked if Marchello's wife had any friends who might be willing to travel to Syria and marry him, but Marchello allegedly shot the idea down quickly, saying he didn't want anyone to tip off law enforcement about their travels: "About the friend situation: you already know that not too many people see things the way they are and they are probably gonna say we crazy for going in the first place."

Douglas McCain, too, wanted his wife with him in Syria. In a WhatsApp message with his wife the summer of 2014, he wrote: "I have to send for you and bring you to the islamic state … it is the khilaafah said we must bring our family under the islamic state … woman I am in jihad … bombs go off in the everyday … Kids are dying here."

When they discussed her travel there, she told Douglas, "I thought I was leaving with Jibril (Marchello)" and he responded "he (Marchello) needs to come by himself," according to court documents.

Even Bashir made an attempt to join his cousins and friends, but his travel plans were foiled as the FBI caught on and other youth in Minnesota were getting arrested. He eventually turned into a cooperator and worked as an informant, testifying against six friends on terrorism-related charges.

Douglas, 33, died in August 2014 fighting in a battle against the Free Syrian Army. That November, the Karie brothers and Mohallim were also killed.

The FBI came knocking on Marchello's door soon after his brother's death. In many interviews, he lied about his brother's reason for travel and denied any personal involvement.

He was arrested months later, in January 2015, on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms. Social media showed he had shot at a San Diego firing range three weeks before Douglas' departure, and a raid of his apartment, garage and a storage unit turned up multiple firearms, including a stolen gun, and body armor, as well as drug sales paraphernalia dirtied with traces of marijuana and methamphetamine, authorities said.

Marchello is prohibited from possessing guns following a 2005 conviction in Minnesota. The crime involved Marchello firing several shots at two employees of a fitness center who had asked him and his friends to leave, according to records.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to the gun, ammunition and body armor possession charges and to three lies, but maintains that he thought his brother was traveling to Syria to fight against the country's dictator, not for terrorists and certainly not for the Islamic State.

"… Terrorists are supposed to be people at war with Western governments and the United States. That is simply not true of Douglas McCain nor Marchello McCain," said Marchello's attorney, David Zugman, in sentencing papers. "They had no intention of taking up arms against the U.S. or committing gruesome acts to usher in the 12th Imam. Our best defense against the terrorists is the superiority of our rule of law. Those rules require that we not fight the irrational with the irrational. This is a war of ideas and this Court has the chance to show that ours are better."

In a letter to the judge, Marchello's mother describes her son as sweet, hardworking, caring and "not the monster the news say he is."

Marchello turned to his mother at the end of the hearing Friday and apologized to her and vowed to move on with his life.

Zugman is expected to appeal the sentence.

AFP issues 20 arrest warrants for terror suspects
Herald Sun

By David Hurley
January 16, 2018

Federal police have obtained 20 arrest warrants to hunt down Australian jihadis who journeyed to Iraq and Syria to wreak death and destruction.

Australian Federal Police in Turkey are working closely with local authorities to snare fighters who they believe are planning to sneak over the border and return home after the fall of IS.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said: "A real concern is a hardened Islamic State fighter returning from the conflict zone into Tullamarine Airport, given the threat they may pose. If they do return to Australia we want to be able to mitigate the risk with a priority of prosecuting (them)."

Among the 20 is Melbourne-born Neil Prakash, Australia's number one terrorist suspect, in custody in Turkey. Since 2012, about 220 Australians have gone to Syria or Iraq.

The AFP believes 40 have returned; 110, many of whom may be dead, are unaccounted for.

The AFP, Victoria Police and the nation's spy agency ASIO believe that any terrorist assault is most likely to be of a low level of sophistication, and mounted by a lone-wolf attacker.

The Herald Sun can reveal that counterterrorist police are investigating 215 people in Australia.

Some of the 215 suspects are before the courts facing charges, including planning a terrorist act and providing support for foreign fighters.

Authorities said the thwarting of a plot to smuggle an improvised explosive device on an Abu Dhabi-bound plane from Sydney last August had been a reality check.

"We will allege through the Sydney court case that IS had the capability and the capacity to direct co-ordinated attacks on Australia soil," Mr McCartney told the Herald Sun.

"It wasn't so much a surprise but a reality check in terms of methodology."

AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said: "A real concern is a hardened Islamic State fighter returning from the conflict zone into Tullamarine Airport, given the threat they may pose." Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Since the national terrorism threat level was raised in September 2014, there have been 14 major counter-terrorism operations in response to planned attacks in Australia.

Of the 40 people to return from the Middle East, most have been assessed as not being a security concern.

Mr McCartney said the terrorist threat would "continue to morph". He said: "However, the Australian community should be assured that Australia has strong law enforcement strategies in place to combat this threat."

Neil Prakash, 26, was arrested trying to sneak across the border from Syria on October 24, 2016.

Police want to bring him back to Australia to face charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation and of carrying out "incursions into a foreign state with the intention of engaging in hostile activities'' - essentially, of becoming a foreign fighter.

Reports this week linked Prakash with an American who was plotting to bomb New York's Statue of Liberty.

Other suspects for whom the AFP have issued arrest warrants in recent years include Mohammad Ali Baryalei, believed dead, and doctor-turned-IS medic Tareq Kamleh. Queenslander Oliver Bridgeman also went to Syria but his family maintain he went to carry out humanitarian work.

Isis fanatic planned simultaneous London terror attacks with 'death squad sent by Allah', court hears
Independent

By Lizzie Deaden
January 16, 2018

An Isis supporter planned to launch simultaneous terror attacks at Big Ben, Westfield shopping centre, Heathrow Airport, on public transport and numerous others targets, a court has heard.

While allegedly plotting how to mount bomb and car attacks, Umar Haque is accused of brainwashing children he taught at an Islamic school and mosque and making them act out atrocities.

The 25-year-old and three co-defendants denied terror offences at the opening of their trial at the Old Bailey.

The court heard Mr Haque became "fascinated" by the Westminster attack in March and discussed bringing his own "death squad" to the capital.

In a bugged conversation four days after the first Isis-claimed attack in London, he allegedly told a friend: "So what I want to personally is launch different attacks in all the different areas, one in Westminster, one in Stratford, one in Forest Gate, one...in so many different areas, yeah.

"Immediately there's one focus to all the police. Get off the streets. Civilians get off the streets. London will be, not just Westminster attack, entire London...we're here to cause terror, my brother.

"We are a death squad sent by Allah and his messengers to avenge my Arab brothers' blood."

Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, told jurors Mr Haque and his fellow conspirators were set on carrying out violent attacks with others on civilian and police targets in 2016 and early 2017.

"Umar Haque was fascinated by the warped and extreme ideology of Islamic State [Isis]," he added.

"He had identified methods and targets. Those targets were numerous but included for example, the Queen's Guard, the courts, Transport for London, Shia Muslims, Westfield, banks in the City of London, Heathrow, west London, Parliament, Big Ben, the English Defence League or Britain First, embassies, media stations."

Abuthaher Mamun, 19, Muhammad Abid, 27, and Nadeem Patel, 26, who knew Haque through his local mosque in Barking, east London, are accused of aiding his plot.

Mr Mamun assisted attack planning and raised money through trading in options, Mr Abid was involved in "discussion and lower level of support" while Mr Patel agreed to provide a gun, jurors were told.

While they continued to plot, Mr Haque allegedly showed children videos of beheading in a bid to foster extremist ideology at an Islamic school where he worked.

He taught pupils aged between 11 and 16 at the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school in Leyton, east London, between September 2015 and September 2016.

Mr Heywood said told the court Mr Haque showed his pupils images of guns, burning of passports and beheadings with a knife or sword to "encourage them into his mindset".

He had also assumed the role of a teacher at the Ripple Road Mosque in Barking, jurors were told, which Mr Mamun was involved in running.

In the months before his arrest early last year, Mr Haque allegedly "manipulated" children, telling them he intended to die a martyr and Isis was "good".

The court heard he showed them "horrifying" images, including one of a dead boy, saying they would meet the same fate if they did not "join" and promise to become a martyr.

Mr Haque allegedly made the children do "push-ups, races and grappling" and act out the roles of police and attackers in scenarios involving weapons and a car bomb, while he shouted "Allahu Akbar".

Mr Heywood told jurors the defendant swore the children to secrecy, adding: "He said whatever they spoke about in the mosque must stay in the mosque."

Mr Haque came to the attention of authorities when he tried to travel to Turkey from Heathrow in April 2016, with the route closely watched after being used by hundreds of British jihadis who joined Isis in Syria.

An intelligence operation saw conversations in Mr Abid's home and car, and Mr Haque's vehicle covertly recorded, the court heard, showing the pair discuss fears of a "snitch" and justification for killing civilians during one five-hour conversation.

Mr Haque allegedly discussed using a car, leaving bombs in a lift, and going for "a quick spin" around Westminster, and separately compared Isis gaining more territory to "us winning the world cup".

UK security services preparing to launch new crackdown on terrorism

He and Mr Mamun are charged with preparing acts of terrorism between March and May 2017.

Mr Haque is further charged with preparing terrorist acts by leading exercises with children at the mosque and dissemination of terrorist publications at the Lantern of Knowledge school.

Mr Abid is accused of having information about Haque's plans and Patel is charged with plotting with Haque to possess a firearm or imitation firearm.

The defendants, who are from east London, have denied those charges.

But Mr Haque has admitted separate charges over the collection of terrorist information and dissemination of terrorist publications at the mosque, while Mr Patel has admitted possessing a prohibited weapon.

The trial continues.

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Piracy

Anti-piracy mission helps China develop its blue-water navy
Asia Times

By Emanuele Scimia
January 8, 2018

China's 27th and 28th naval escort task forces have recently completed their mission handover in the Gulf of Aden. Anti-piracy operations by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have become a constant in the area. And this has both immediate and long-term strategic implications for Beijing's military projection away from its traditional perimeter of action in East Asia.

China started patrolling waters off the Horn of Africa and the Somali coast in 2008, marking the return of a robust Chinese navy in the western Indian Ocean after nearly 600 years. These counter-piracy activities have boosted the PLAN's ability to deploy in the "far seas." Beijing is eager to improve expeditionary capabilities of its naval forces. It has made clear it is ready to protect its increasing overseas interests and rights, particularly international routes vital to Chinese trade and energy needs.

A stable presence in the Indian Ocean

The European Union's anti-piracy mission in the Arabian Sea reports that at the peak of Somali piracy in January 2011, pirates held 736 hostages and 32 vessels. After efforts by the international community, those figures were cut to zero in 2016. The PLAN played a significant role in this multilateral action coordinated by the United Nations.

Since the beginning of its anti-piracy operation, the PLAN has escorted more than 6,400 Chinese and foreign ships, according to China Military, the PLA's official English-language website. What's more, the Chinese navy has so far prevented about 3,000 suspected pirate boats from launching attacks, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a report last October.

A Chinese naval task force in the Gulf of Aden generally consists of two guided-missile frigates and a supply ship. These are supported by two ship-based helicopters and 700 troops, including dozens of Special Operations forces. To make a comparison, the EU-led naval mission in the region normally comprises about 1,200 personnel, four to six surface combat vessels, a replenishment ship, some embarked helicopters and two to three maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

The PLAN's anti-piracy operations can now rely on China's first overseas military base. Beijing says the Djibouti outpost is only a logistics station. It will have to support its escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian activities in Africa and Western Asia.

Djibouti is a tiny nation in the Horn of Africa. Located at the entrance of the Red Sea, it serves as a gateway between the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. This area is a key segment of China's Maritime Silk Road, the sea-based leg of President Xi Jinping's infrastructure plan to integrate East Asia with Europe and Africa.

China also has a logistics support base in the midst of the Indian Ocean. Indeed, the PLAN uses the supply ship engaged in the escort operations in the Gulf of Aden as a mobile supply point for other Chinese warships sailing through this body of water. Such a logistical mode was initiated last July when the Chinese supply ship Gaoyouhu, included in the 26th convoy fleet, refueled the destroyer Hefei and the frigate Yuncheng on their way to the Baltic Sea to conduct military exercises with the Russian Navy.

Training expeditionary capabilities

While peacekeeping operations in Africa and elsewhere are an invaluable training experience for Chinese ground troops, escort missions in the western section of the Indian Ocean are fundamental to develop the PLAN's expeditionary capacities, notably if China organizes its naval units as carrier strike groups in the future.

As well, the PLAN's voyages to the Gulf of Aden are conducive to honing the skills of embryonic Chinese battle groups in reaching the Indian Ocean through the Makassar, Sunda and Lombok straits, which could be safer and more suitable for the transit of large warships than the Malacca chokepoint during a conflict or a crisis threatening China's sea lines of communication - a scenario that would likely see Beijing face an enemy blockade of these passages.

However, for the creation of a powerful expeditionary naval force to succeed, China will also have to improve long-range airpower in support of its ocean-going task forces, set up an underwater surveillance network in the Indo-Pacific region like that run by the United States, and increase the number of overseas bases and access points in East Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia.

The development of the Xian H-20 stealth long-range bomber and the expanding use of an underwater glider for deep-sea explorations in the Indian Ocean, along with the focus on Gwadar, Pakistan, as a possible site for its second offshore naval facility, prove that Beijing is leaving nothing to chance in building its blue-water navy.

Pirate attacks at 22-year low worldwide
Seatrade Maritime News

By Marcus Hand
January 10, 2018

Pirate attacks worldwide on shipping were at a 22-year low in 2017, however, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warns of continuing danger off West Africa and Somalia.

The IMB said that 180 piracy incidents were reported to its Piracy Reporting Centre last year the lowest number since 1995 when 188 attacks were reported.

Last year saw 136 vessels boarded, 16 fired upon and six ships hijacked. Kidnapping and violence a threat with 76 seafarers kidnapped from 13 vessels, three killed and six injured.

While the total number of pirate attacks has continued to fall IMB warned of a persistent threat in areas such as West Africa.

The majority of kidnappings took place waters in or around Nigeria 65 crew members kidnapped in 10 incidents.

"Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB.

The previous piracy blackspot of Somalia also saw a rise in incidents to nine last year, up from two in 2016. Incidents included an attack on a containership 280 nm east of Mogadishu where pirates attempted to board the vessel and fire two RPGs at the boxship.

"This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline," Mukundan said.

Indian, Japanese coast guard to hone skills to fight pirates
The Times of India

January 13, 2018

Indian coast guard and Japanese coast guard are to hone skills in Bay of Bengal next week to fight pirates in Straits of Malacca in South east Asia and Philippines sea. Indian and Japanese coast guard ships already patrol these areas because the sea route between India and Japan and South Korea pass through these pirate infested area.

With trade increasing, anti-piracy operations are becoming important. Joint exercise will help better coordination. An Indian Navy ship had just returned from South Korea and Malaysia. Japan Coast Guard (JCG) ship Tsugaru reached Chennai Port on Friday. After the welcome ceremony organised by Indian Coast Guard Japan Coast Guard ship Tsugaru's commanding officer Yuji Yamamoto said, "We are here for anti-piracy cooperation.

This is the fifth time a Japan Coast Guard ship has come to Chennai." Indian Coast Guard ship Shaurya was in South Korea and has returned to Chennai a few days ago. The forces are also in close association with Malaysia and Singapore as well to bring in a combined effort to tackle pirates.

A senior official of Indian Coast Guard said that pirate activity had gone down considerably. "But we need to work together on these sensitive shipping lines to ensure that trade can be carried out without the risk and delays associated with piracy," he added.

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Gender-Based Violence

Case dismissed against French troops accused of child rape in Central Africa
Punch

January 15, 2018

French investigating magistrates have closed a probe into allegations that French soldiers raped children in the Central African Republic while on a peacekeeping mission, judicial sources told AFP on Monday.French investigating magistrates have closed a probe into allegations that French soldiers raped children in the Central African Republic while on a peacekeeping mission, judicial sources told AFP on Monday.

The magistrates said there was no evidence that members of Operation Sangaris, deployed to keep warring militias apart, had abused children at a camp for people displaced by the fighting in 2013 and 2014, the sources said.

The state prosecutor had last year called for the case to be closed.

While admitting "it is not certain that no sexual abuse took place", the prosecutor said that "differences" in the testimonies of the children who came forward made it impossible to establish guilt among the troops.

No one was ever charged over the allegations.

They were first reported by the British left-of-centre daily The Guardian in April 2015, tarnishing the reputation of the French military.

The Guardian reported that six children aged nine to 13 had said they were abused in a camp in CAR's capital Bangui, in return for food rations.

French investigators travelled to CAR in 2015 and 2016 to question the children concerned.

Six soldiers were questioned but all denied any wrongdoing.

France wound up the Sangaris mission in 2016 after three years, leaving just a rump force in the country as backup to a UN peacekeeping force.

Reports of abuse involving members of various peacekeeping contingents in CAR and other African countries have also emerged.

Soldiers Committed Gang-Rapes in South Sudan's Capital, Group Says
Bloomberg Politics

By Okech Francis
January 17, 2017

Men in army uniforms sexually assaulted more than 150 women and children around South Sudan's capital last year, in some cases mutilating the victims, a group monitoring the four-year civil war said.

There's "clear evidence" that such violence by government soldiers and security personnel is prevalent in the capital, Juba, and surrounding central Equatoria region, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism said in a report dated Monday. It identified 154 reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence between February and December and said many others go unrecorded.

South Sudanese army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said by phone he wasn't aware of the number of reported assaults. He said two such cases had been brought to the military's attention and were successfully prosecuted.

The conflict that erupted in the East African nation in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives and been marked by frequent reports of atrocities including sexual violence. Several victims recounted gang-rapes by two or three soldiers who broke into houses in the early morning, according to the monitoring group that was set up in 2015 by an East Africa bloc trying to mediate a peace deal.

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Commentary and Perspectives

Will Canada finally deal with its Afghan war skeletons?
The Globe and Mail

By Erna Paris
January 5, 2018

Eugene Ionesco's comic play, Amédée, featuring a "corpse" in a closet that extends grotesque members during an urbane dinner party, was almost certainly intended to spoof the blindness of the French to their wartime collaboration with the Nazis; but the playwright's metaphor can be extended to other willful hidings, including one now facing the government of Canada.

Canada's unexamined role in transferring captured Afghans to notorious prisons where they were certain to be tortured is another stubborn entity that keeps popping out of the cupboard. Both former prime minister Stephen Harper and current PM Justin Trudeau have tried to ignore the unwelcome visitor, but it will not be snubbed.

Torture is a war crime, and you don't have to be the torturer to be culpable. A state that intentionally transfers a detainee to torture is guilty under international law, including the Geneva Conventions, which state "the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given to prisoners of war."

In November, Craig Scott, a former NDP MP and a professor of law at Osgoode Hall, sent a 90-page brief to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in which he argued that Canada has abdicated its legal obligation under the Rome Statute, the ICC's underlying charter, to investigate long-standing reports of having handed prisoners over to torture. His timing is propitious: Earlier that same month, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan involving Afghan forces and the Taliban - and American troops. Mr. Scott believes there is enough evidence to warrant adding Canada to this list; he claims that there are "multiple persons" who know much, but who will come forward only if there is an official ICC probe.

He hasn't had to look far for evidence. In 2007, Graeme Smith researched an investigative feature for The Globe and Mail in which he interviewed 30 men who'd been transferred by Canadian soldiers to Afghan jails. They spoke of being whipped, starved, frozen and choked. They did not accuse Canadians of inflicting the abuse; they did say that the soldiers were aware of these events.

Although Mr. Smith's reporting exploded like a bombshell (and is raised by Mr. Scott), the determined denizen of the closet also made other appearances. After a similar article appeared in La Presse, two Canadian international law experts, William Schabas and Michael Byers, wrote to the ICC requesting a preliminary investigation.

In 2009, Richard Colvin, a high-ranking diplomat in Afghanistan, testified that as far back as May, 2006, he had informed his superiors in Ottawa about torture in Afghan prisons. His reports, he said, were ignored. He was ordered to stop putting them in writing. Worse still, he received a warning missive: "We trust that you will conduct yourself according to the interpretation of the Government of Canada" - and a second notice informing him that the Justice Department would take legal action if he filed documents. In other words, he might end up in jail. Mr. Colvin was ridiculed. General Rick Hillier dismissed his claims as "ludicrous." Peter MacKay, then defence minister, said "Let us get beyond the rhetorical flourishes."

They were rightly scared; the implications of Mr. Colvin's revelations were potentially ruinous. Canada's governing party - the keeper of our country's vaunted commitment to the rule of law and human rights - stood accused of ignoring criminal behaviour. At the time, the Liberal opposition was outraged by the presumed cover-up.

With the recent announcement that an investigation will be opened - and that the United States will also come under scrutiny - Mr. Scott's brief to the prosecutor has a strong chance of success. The Trudeau government has acknowledged that, like the Conservatives, it has never addressed the issue. Because both Canadian parties failed to do so when in power, it now falls to the ICC prosecutor to pursue the case.

How ironic that Canada, whose current leader has fashioned his mandate on human rights and the rule of law, may be subject to an international investigation for having failed to respect the rules of the world's first court to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity - the very tribunal this country worked so hard to create.

Only a full investigation will serve the interests of justice. Canada's reputation in the world may soon depend upon its willing compliance.

Yugoslavia's War Crimes Tribunal Showed the Promise - and Limits - of International Justice
Foreign Policy in Focus

By Benjamin Ward and Param-Preet Singh
January 8, 2018

Hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers' eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson. These are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.

This chilling description of the Srebrenica genocide was written by a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague in November 1995, only months after Europe's worst crime since the Second World War. In July of that year, Bosnian Serb forces seized control of the Srebrenica enclave - a designated United Nations safe area - from international peacekeepers. They separated the men and women and in the days that followed killed more than 7,000 men and boys.

As Ratko Mladic, the wartime commander of Bosnian Serb forces, begins his life sentence as an architect of those crimes and with the court that convicted him having closed on December 21 after almost a quarter of a century, it's a good moment to look at the tribunal's achievements - and its limits.

A Success on Its Own Terms

The break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that began in 1991 unleashed a series of wars - in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later in Kosovo and Macedonia.

The bloodiest of them, in Bosnia, gave birth to a new phrase "ethnic cleansing," because of the deliberate forced displacement of civilians belonging to a particular ethnic group to create ethnically homogenous areas. The world watched in horror as Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, was besieged, its people shot by snipers as they went to gather water or firewood.

The unfolding atrocities documented by a UN commission of experts, nongovernmental groups, and journalists led the UN Security Council to set up the court in 1993 with a simple purpose: "prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia."

On that score, it has been a remarkable success. All of the court's 161 indictees - including many top wartime political leaders and military commanders - faced justice before it for horrific crimes including the Srebrenica genocide, or have died.

The tribunal's success was not a foregone conclusion. While it was hoped its mandate would help deter abuses and bring those responsible for the worst crimes to justice, the tribunal was slow to make good on those promises. Building on the work of the UN commission, it gathered evidence and issued indictments. But lacking a police force, it had difficulty getting those it indicted into the dock in The Hague.

In 1997, two years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the tribunal had only eight suspects in custody, most of them "little fish." More than 50 remained at large in Bosnia, and the prospect of arresting high-level suspects seemed remote.

That changed because of the efforts of human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, and supportive governments, first through pressure to get the NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia to arrest suspects in that country, and later though political pressure on Croatia and Serbia by the EU and US to hand over suspects on their territory.

As time marched on and diplomats' memories of the grim human rights violations faded, it became harder to get the EU to remain firm on the conditions it had set for possible membership by Serbia and Croatia, including turning over suspects. Some EU governments wanted to embrace Croatia and Serbia without any guarantee of the handover of key suspects.

But ultimately, with non-governmental groups pressing the issue and magnifying the voices of victims, media scrutiny, and the fortitude of the Netherlands and a handful of other EU states, the EU held firm. That meant that the big targets - including the Croatian general Ante Gotovina, the Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic, and Mladic - were eventually arrested and sent to The Hague to face justice.

Justice Isn't Perfect, But It's Possible

Through its work, the ICTY gave life to the idea that justice is possible, and can reach the untouchable, even if its realization seems impossible while conflict is raging. It helped develop international criminal law in relation to genocide, crimes against humanity, the responsibility of commanders for the crimes of their subordinates, and rape and sexual violence in conflict as war crimes.

The ICTY also contributed to the momentum that led to the creation of the International Criminal Court to tackle impunity around the world. So far, 123 states are members of this court, which is currently investigating atrocities in 10 countries. The ICC faces many of the same challenges that plagued the ICTY in its early days, including inconsistent political support (the United States, for example, has refused to join) and cooperation from countries in securing evidence and in arresting suspects.

These ongoing challenges offer a stark reminder of the difficulties of realizing justice for unspeakable horrors. They also illustrate the importance of pressing on, as the victims of these crimes too often have little hope of seeing justice otherwise.

The ICTY was not perfect, of course.

Crimes against minorities during and after the 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo arguably didn't get enough attention, and the cases that were brought were undermined by witness intimidation. The court was slow to make its judgments known and understood across the region, which left space for hostile politicians to sow misperceptions about its work.

The tribunal's judges sometimes struggled to strike a balance between fairness to defendants and efficient prosecution of the trial, with defendants like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic using the courtroom to broadcast political messages to audiences at home and dragging out their trial for years. Milosevic infamously died before the court issued its verdict. That led to understandable - and intense - disappointment and frustration for victims and their families.

Ongoing Divisions

While the ICTY was ultimately a success in accomplishing what the UN Security Council established it to do - prosecuting and trying some of the key architects of the wars in the former Yugoslavia - its impact and legacy in the Western Balkans is mixed.

Critics point to the deep divisions that remain in the region, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as evidence of the court's failure. Many of the foot soldiers who carried out the atrocities as well as mid-level commanders remain free, and the domestic war crimes prosecutions that were supposed to deal with them have been slow and limited in scope. Politicians in some communities have successfully characterized the ICTY's conviction of their wartime leaders as evidence that it is an instrument of persecution, feeding into existing narratives of victimhood.

The critics are mostly right on the facts, but mostly wrong to pin the blame on the ICTY. The court's registry woke up too late to the importance of outreach, by which time the region's political leaders had already established their own poisonous narratives. And it perhaps could have transferred the evidence and skills to local prosecutors and courts sooner to build national capacity for war crimes justice, although lack of political and financial support from Bosnia's international partners is arguably a much more important factor.

But those who malign the ICTY's failure to bring reconciliation and end political division in the region had outsized expectations of what it could deliver. A better question to ask is this: How would the region and its politics look today without the ICTY? As difficult as things are in the region today, they would have been incalculably worse had leaders responsible for unleashing and directing horrific political violence remained in office and in command.

A More Comprehensive Approach

To help heal the political divisions in the region and move toward reconciliation, the Western Balkans needs a regional truth commission, a goal long pushed by nongovernmental groups. And governments in the region need to intensify efforts to prosecute war crimes in local courts. That requires the EU, the U.S., and other international actors to invest the political and economic capital to make it happen.

Now that the ICTY has pulled down the shutters, the urgency of pressing for a more comprehensive approach to documenting the truth is even more apparent. The Western Balkans has far too long been neglected by the EU and United States. The joint statement by the EU High Representative and US Secretary of State on December 5 on the importance of reconciliation in the region should signal an intensification of EU and U.S. support for those efforts.

The ICTY has had a necessary and important, even if limited, impact on establishing the truth behind those bearing responsibility for the atrocities and devastation that followed the onslaught of the wars in the Balkans. Its closure only underscores the importance of supporting and continuing the hard and necessary work to bring full justice and reconciliation to Western Balkans.

Kosovo Leaders' War Court U-Turn is Self-Destructive
Balkan Insight

By Krenar Gashi
January 9, 2018

Instead of a cold Balkan winter, this past holiday season in Kosovo brought political heat. Out of the blue, the country's top politicians decided to turn their back on the West and attempt to withdraw the country's commitment to impartially investigate, prosecute and try war crimes.

There is no logical framework that can explain such a move, except for their personal fear of prosecution, but this infantile behaviour is unlikely to go without consequences, no matter how futile such attempts appear to be.

The issue is no longer about war crimes, impartial prosecution or ethics, but rather an issue of international relations, and therefore crucial for the country's statehood.

How did it all begin?

In 2014, when the United States and the European Union came up with the idea of establishing an international tribunal for war crimes committed during the Kosovo war, I wrote a lengthy argument against it.

In my view, an international body could not have more powers and competencies than the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, already had. The idea for an international courtroom, I maintained, was more an attempt to externalise responsibility for EULEX's mediocre results in prosecuting war crimes.

In spite of all the objections, however, Kosovo's political elite promoted the war crimes court as a must-do for the country. A Council of Europe report by Dick Marty had already cast a shadow over Kosovo's young statehood and the discourses promoted by the political elite were those of cooperation with the international community when it came to prosecuting war crimes.

Legal and constitutional changes were enacted and the so-called Specialist Chambers are now formally part of Kosovo's judiciary, although they will operate independently from the system, funded and supervised by the EU and operating in The Hague.

Whereas parts of the Kosovo society continued to see the court as an anti-Kosovo Liberation Army institution, such opinions were mainly limited to former fighters and more nationalist circles. In spite of reservations, the majority of society as a whole accepted the new reality, adhering to its promoters' discourse that the court would take off a huge burden off Kosovo's shoulders and the new country could seek further legitimacy for its statehood and move towards full integration into the international community.

Given this whole process, the sudden shift of position by Kosovo's former fighters turned politicians on the eve of the holiday season was a major shock, as MPs from the ruling coalition parties staged an attempt to revoke the law that enables the Specialist Chambers to operate. The US ambassador to Pristina described it as 'backstabbing' and the British ambassador assessed it as the worst event in Kosovo since the war.

Kosovo's political elite, probably for the first time ever, was inducing a major policy shift without any prior consultation with their Western partners, who they owe a great deal for the country's independence and statehood.

A direct obstruction of justice

It is, of course, pure political infantilism to believe that a government that barely holds a majority in the parliament of a country that is now about to turn ten years old could stop an international arrangement that has the support of virtually the entire Western world.

The EU has already dedicated a large budget to the Specialist Chambers, a portion of which has already been spent. The chambers have now a functional system in place and the first indictments are expected very soon.

As many legal minds in Kosovo have already pointed out, repealing the law that enabled the creation of the chambers would be a direct obstruction of criminal justice.

Such a move, however, would merely delay the proceedings, as the chambers would still be established through the UN Security Council, as the Council's Resolution 1244, based on which Kosovo declared its independence, is still applicable.

The question that begs asking, then, is why did the Kosovo leaders change their minds when it comes to the Specialist Chambers, or as they are referred to by the public, the Special Court?

Since no analytical framework enables us to provide an answer to that question, we are left only with personal motives. Having been also the leaders of the KLA, Kosovo's three top men - President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and parliamentary chairman Kadri Veseli - could easily be on the new court's radar.

Thus the only reasonable explanation we are left with is that they decided to put their personal interest first, against the country's interests, and attempt to buy more time for whoever is going to be indicted.

The moral of the story

While Kosovo MPs are probably not going to support their political leaders' initiative and repeal the legislation that opened the way to impartial prosecution of war crimes, the attempt alone has caused quite some damage.

The country's political elite has once again showed complete immaturity and irresponsibility. Functioning as an informal group of powerful people, the current elite has ruled the country through decisions made in late-night bars and at family gatherings. The West - that is the US and the EU - has been ignoring such a behaviour for a long time, and has even silently supported it.

In their eyes, the former guerrilla fighters were mainly seen as partners and the only ones who could maintain stability in Kosovo. The West's support for this political class has been uncontested and absolute.

Yet, as the Quixotism over the war crimes court over the past weeks has shown, it is the end time for such persistent support to end.

At the time when Kosovo is yet to consolidate its democracy and pursue the further legitimation of its statehood in the domain of world politics, turning its back on its long-term partners and virtually the whole Western world is a self-destructive move indeed.

And while Kosovo society may now allow a few individuals to hold its future hostage, there has never been a stronger signal that the current political elite is unreliable and that for the country to prosper, the West's support for that elite must end.

Such support, in the immediate future, should be given to issues and ideas rather than to individuals.

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WORTH READING

International Justice Outside of Criminal Courtrooms and Jailhouses
By Mark A. Drumbl
Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas, Margaret M. deGuzman and Diane Marie Amann, eds, January 2018

January 11, 2018

This paper examines alternate forms of transitional justice, notably, customary forms of dispute resolution, restitution, reparations, amnesties, and civil sanctions. It suggests that the international community's preference for criminal trials as accountability mechanisms in the aftermath of genocide results in the 'othering' of these alternate forms of justice. Such 'othering' narrows legal pluralism to questions of the location of criminal process and the imposition of custodial punishment (who prosecutes, who sentences?), rather than a richer examination of how deployment of a conceptual diversity of overlapping mechanisms could promote shared objectives of accountability, justice, and transition.

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War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

Founder/Advisor
Dean Michael P. Scharf

Editor-in-Chief
James Prowse

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Senior Technical Editors
Leah Slyder
Ellen Dunem
Jaclyn Cole

Associate Technical Editors
Ashley Mulryan
Lysette Roman

Emerging Issues Advisor
Judge Rosemelle Mutoka
Contact: warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org

Africa

Central African Republic
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Megan Maccallum, Associate Editor

Sudan & South Sudan
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Vito Giannola, Associate Editor

Burundi
Taylor Frank, Senior Editor
Regen Weber, Associate Editor

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Elizabeth Connors, Associate Editor

Kenya
Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Aji Drameh, Senior Associate Editor
Alexandria Serdaru, Associate Editor

Libya
Alex Lilly, Senior Editor
Jessica Sayre Smith, Associate Editor

Ivory Coast
Rina Mwiti, Senior Editor

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)
Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Aaron Childs, Senior Associate Editor
Lauren Garretson, Associate Editor

Mali
Taylor Frank, Senior Editor
Alexandra Hassan, Associate Editor

Lake Chad Region
Taylor Frank, Senior Editor
Abby McBride, Associate Editor

Somalia
Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Angela Kengara, Associate Editor

Uganda
Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
John Dagon, Senior Associate Editor
Logan O'Connor, Associate Editor

Europe

Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Section
Katie Rourke, Senior Editor
Mark Antiporda, Senior Associate Editor
Julia Ozello, Associate Editor

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Katie Rourke, Senior Editor
Lynsey Rosales, Associate Editor

Domestic Prosecutions in the Former Yugoslavia
Katie Rourke, Senior Editor
Andreana Paz, Associate Editor

Middle East and Asia

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
Ariana Pike, Associate Editor

Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Katie Rourke, Senior Editor
Mark Antiporda, Senior Associate Editor
Mary Preston, Associate Editor

Iraq
Alex Lilly, Senior Editor
Gloria Neilson, Associate Editor

Afghanistan
Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
Ariana Pike, Associate Editor

Syria
Alex Lily, Senior Editor
Elen Yeranosyan, Associate Editor

Bangladesh
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
Amelia Wester, Senior Associate Editor
Sofia Panero, Associate Editor

War Crimes Investigations in Burma
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
Nicolette Creegan, Senior Associate Editor

Yemen
Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
James Nichols, Senior Associate Editor

Israel/Palestine
Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
Arne Bussare, Senior Associate Editor
Teresa Azzam, Associate Editor

North Korea

Americas

North and Central America
Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
Julie Menke, Associate Editor

South America
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Shelby Wade, Senior Associate Editor
Amy Kochert, Associate Editor

Topics

Terrorism
Richard Urban, Senior Editor
Jordan Dinsmore, Associate Editor

Piracy
Richard Urban, Senior Editor
Fritz Darnell, Senior Associate Editor
Kurt Harris, Associate Editor

Gender-Based Violence
Estefanía Sixto Seijas, Special Senior Editor
Rachel Adelman, Associate Editor

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Richard Urban, Senior Editor

Commentary and Perspectives

Richard Urban, Senior Editor
Tia Garcia, Associate Editor

Worth Reading

Jim Prowse, Special Senior Editor
Andrew Schiefer, Associate Editor

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is prepared by the
International Justice Practice of the Public International Law & Policy Group
and the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center of
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
and is made possible by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York
and the Open Society Institute.

Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog:
http://law.case.edu/grotian-moment-blog/

Frederick K. Cox International Law Center:
http://law.case.edu/centers/cox/

Cox Center War Crimes Research Portal:
http://law.case.edu/war-crimes-research-portal/

Public International Law & Policy Group - http://www.pilpg.org/

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