Case School of Law Logo


War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 13 - Issue 2
March 5, 2018


Taylor Frank

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Ashley Mulryan

Managing Editors
Sarah Lucey
Lynsey Rosales

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

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




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo



Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)



Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia






Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives




Central African Republic

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

Lone warriors rescue sex slaves, rape survivors in Central African Republic
Thomson Reuters

By Inna Lazareva
February 23, 2018

BANGUI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — As the wife of a pastor, Hulda was getting ready for Christmas, hanging up decorations and preparing for church services in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, when gunshots shattered all attempts at festivities in December 2013.

Trucks crammed with masked men touting firearms and machetes pulled up on Hulda's street. They broke down her front door.

The rebel fighters yanked Hulda out of a cupboard where she was hiding with her two boys, aged three and five.

"They screamed at me:'Tell us where your husband is so we can kill him. If not, we'll rape you!'," recalled Hulda, who declined to give her full name, sitting as darkness fell in the courtyard of her friend's home.

"I did not say anything, so once they finished ransacking the house, they beat me, and then raped me in front of my children."

Central African Republic has been riven by sectarian conflict since 2013 when Muslim-majority Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, triggering a vicious backlash by predominantly Christian and animist fighters.

Rape is used systematically as a weapon of war and sexual violence is widespread in the Central African nation, according to the United Nations and rights groups.

Exact numbers are hard to find, but human rights activists say there are hundreds of thousands of survivors, while no one has counted the corpses of those who were abused and then shot, hacked, burned or beaten to death.

Only one court in the whole country, roughly the size of France, has ever sentenced anyone for rape, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Despite evidence logged by the United Nations of sexual violence perpetrated by most armed groups, so far not one fighter has been held accountable. Some of those accused have not only evaded justice but remain in positions of power.

In Bangui and beyond, however, activists are trying to assist survivors and fight for justice against the odds.

Monique Nali, former head of gender promotion at the social affairs ministry, spent her career helping women and girls to overcome abuse, learn to read and write, and gain job skills.

In 2013, just after she retired, she was incensed to find gang rapes happening practically on her doorstep.

When she heard about the suffering of her neighbor Hulda, she asked the distraught pastor if he knew of other cases. He returned with a list of 67 names - all from his church alone.


Nali began contacting the women."I would take them to the hospital for medical check-ups, and then I would arrange group meetings with other survivors," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Since then, she has counselled hundreds of women — Christian, animist and Muslim — from across the city, and organized training to build up their confidence and abilities.

Hulda said sharing stories helped to heal her pain.

"I thought my case was the worst — but then I heard of others, whose husband was killed in front of her, whose children were kidnapped," she said.

At the meetings, Hulda met Solange, thrown to the floor and raped by fighters while clutching her two-month-old baby. Her husband, who was tortured for weeks, later abandoned her and her seven children.

Solange cannot work or send her children to school, and depends on her elderly parents. But being in contact with other survivors has at least helped her beat depression and get on with her life.

"If I hadn't been heard, I would have stayed in a state of trauma until today," said Solange, who gave only her first name.

This kind of support for victims goes against the secrecy and stigma surrounding rape in Central African Republic.

"People still point fingers at you in the street, make fun of you," said Hulda.

And the damage is often irreparable — from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases to the marital breakdowns that occur in 99 percent of cases, according to Nali.


Engulfed by violence, Central African Republic has one of the highest proportions of citizens in need of aid worldwide, roughly half of them children under 18, the United Nations says.

Outside the capital, where the state has little control and poverty is rife, armed groups rape and kidnap young girls, said Remy Djamouss, president of the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Children's Rights, a Bangui-based organization.

"Sometimes, rebel chiefs come and tell the parents,'We need your daughter'. It's not a request — it's an obligation," he said."If the parents refuse, they will be killed."

Alternatively, the rebels just rape the girls, knowing families will often marry them off to their abuser, he added.

In one case he cited, an ex-Seleka rebel chief in the town of Kaga-Bandoro, about 250 km north of Bangui, married a 10-year-old girl and started having sex with her at 11. She bore her first child aged 12.

"Today she is 16 and goes with him everywhere as his sex slave," said Djamouss."She lives in an open-air prison, and many others are in the same atrocious situation," he said, putting the figure in the hundreds.

His centre negotiates with armed groups to release the girls, or helps them flee.

Last year, Djamouss rescued five girls, while his colleagues freed 15 others around the country, even though rebel chiefs often threatened their lives, he said.


In the face of widespread impunity, Nali, Djamouss and others like them are lone warriors in the battle against rape.

Outside Bangui, there are only a few functioning courts, while survivors are often too scared to seek legal action, said Carine Fornel of the Association of Female Lawyers, which runs legal drop-in clinics in Bangui and offers counselling.

A 2017 report by HRW noted that of nearly 300 sexual violence survivors surveyed, only 11 tried to file a complaint. They received death threats and were subjected to physical attacks for daring to come forward, the rights group said.

Six of the nine women and girls who reported the abuse to state authorities said they were mistreated by those authorities which demanded they track down their own abusers, refused to accept complaints, or did not follow up their cases, HRW noted.

A recent U.N. report said that in the few cases where the state had taken action, abusers were given derisory sentences, escaped from prison or were moved outside Bangui.

Solange, for example, spotted one of her attackers freely wandering around a market in the capital.

Finance is another obstacle to obtaining justice.

"We don't have the money to open the case, to pay the lawyers, even to pay for transport. A single mother with a child — where can she find the money?" said Solange.


But change could be on the way.

Last month, Rodrigue Ngaibona, an anti-Balaka militia leader known as"General Andjilo", was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of murder, theft and illegal possession of arms.

The sentence marked the first time a warlord had faced justice for crimes committed in the latest conflict.

The trial sent a powerful warning to leaders of armed groups, said Fornel.

"The very fact of having a warlord face a judge is already a good example to help others understand that their actions will have consequences," she said.

A Special Criminal Court, established in 2015 to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Central African Republic since 2003, is also expected to start operating soon.

"We need to track these people down," said Solange."We want them to be condemned... If nothing is done soon, then many others will suffer like we did."

Violence divides CAR along Christian-Muslim lines
Al Jazeera

By Catherine Soi
February 28, 2018

Bria, Central African Republic - Ibrahim Alawad, a "general" in an armed group, is a portly man. He walks with a limp and carries a pistol tucked in the back of his trousers.

He has an easy smile and charisma that can easily draw you in. His limp, Alawad tells us, is from a bullet wound during fighting with a rival armed group.

Alawad sits here in Bria, a strategic territory in the eastern Central African Republic (CAR) that has the biggest diamond mines in the country.

The "general" is part of the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPRC), the largest of four armed groups that broke away from the defunct, Muslim-led Seleka rebel movement, a coalition of fighters who marched to the capital Bangui in 2013 and deposed Francois Bozize as president.

A hurriedly formed, largely Christian group called Anti-balaka countered ex-Seleka and overthrew Michel Djotodia, the man who was put in power after Bozize.

Since then, fighting has never really stopped. More than a million people have been displaced and half the population needs humanitarian aid.

Lawyer by profession

Alawad plays down his role in Bria but all his actions suggest that he is very much the man in charge.

He was educated at Cambridge University in the UK and is a lawyer by profession.

So what is a Cambridge-educated lawyer doing in this corner of CAR as a rebel?

Alawad puts it this way: He wants to save his fellow citizens from bad governance.

"CAR is rich in natural resources. You won't believe that before all this, monthly taxes from diamonds in Bria were about $12m," he told Al Jazeera.

"But look now, we have nothing. No proper schools, electricity clean water — nothing. Before marching to Bangui we had tried to talk to the government on how to help the people.

"We proposed sharing resources in a fair way. The government refused. Our problem is not to rule the country. We want to uplift Central Africans. We have a bad governance system that needs to be fixed."

Though the conflict has an element of religion, it's increasingly turning into a turf war, with armed groups splintering and fighting over mineral resources, trade, cattle and supply routes.

The groups form uneasy alliances across the ethnic and religious divides, but when they break up, civilians bear the consequences.

The worst of fighting

Bria has seen the worst of fighting in recent times. FPRC and the Anti-balaka group briefly united against a Fulani-dominated faction called Union for Peace for Central African Republic (UPC).

The UPC is another group that was once part of Seleka.

When it was defeated, members of the winning coalition turned on each other.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says at least 70,000 people have been displaced in Bria since fighting began at the end of 2016.

Most of the displaced Christians are now in a crowded camp for displaced people at the edge of town and right on the doorstep of a UN peacekeepers' base.

UN officials told us the camp is infiltrated by armed Anti-balaka men.

Alexi Zinga is among the young men in the camp suspected to be part of the group. He denied the claim and told us that, at the height of the conflict, if was not for the Anti-balaka's protection, the people in the camp would be dead.

"They protected us, but they are not here anymore."

Scared or unwilling

Other displaced people we tried to speak with were either too scared or unwilling to say anything about the allegations.

Displaced Muslims took shelter in the town centre, where the FPRC rebels have their main base.

Hundreds are still camped in the compound of the main hospital. The Fulani community also has its own enclave.

These are people who, before last year, lived side by side. Now the situation in Bria, as in so many other towns in CAR, has forced them to create their own ethnic and religious boundaries.

There was hope two years ago that the election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera would bring real change.

But Touadera has been unable to extend his authority beyond the capital, Bangui, and his government heavily relies on the UN Mission and other international partners.

The conflict is escalating and spreading to areas once considered relatively peaceful.

'Christian neighbourhood' Since January, Bria has not seen the kind of violence witnessed last year, and some people are attempting to return to their homes.

Alawad explained to us that his fighters do not want to harm anyone, adding that those displaced should not be afraid.

Benoit Yanny took up that offer and is living in what is now a "Christian neighbourhood", very close to the camp for internally displaced people.

He told us that he is able to go to the Muslim-dominated market during the day but he must leave before nightfall. Yanny also said he does not trust the FPRC.

This is a drama that plays out in many other parts of the country: armed groups mostly fighting for control of "rich" territories; the UN peacekeeping mission and CAR national army overwhelmed; and people such as Yanny caught between the different forces.

6 Aid Workers Killed Amid Chaos in Central African Republic
The New York Times

By Richard Perez-Pena
February 28, 2018

Six educators were killed this week in the Central African Republic, Unicef said on Wednesday, the latest of several attacks on aid workers as that fragmented and war-torn nation slides deeper into chaos.

The attack occurred near Markounda, a small town in the northwest, near the border with Chad — a remote part of a sparsely populated country that is sometimes described as the least developed in the world. Like most of the nation, the area is beyond the control of the central government in the capital, Bangui, and power is wielded instead by an array of militias that often fight one another.

Last August, six Red Cross volunteers were killed in the southeastern part of the country, and there have been other acts of violence against aid workers since then. Days after the August attack, the United Nations warned of rapidly escalating violence and a worsening humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic.

Even the most intrepid aid groups have reconsidered whether it is safe to work in the country. In November, Doctors Without Borders shut down a major operation after a string of attacks and threats.

Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, said the latest victims were attacked on Sunday while traveling to Markounda, where about 7,000 people have taken refuge from the fighting, to establish a program to train teachers who would, in turn, teach refugee children. It identified the dead, all Central African Republic nationals, as a Unicef education consultant, two officials from the central government's Ministry of Education, and three members of a local group that works with Unicef, Bangui Sans Frontières.

"We are shocked beyond words by this brutal and senseless attack on people who have dedicated their lives to helping others," Christine Muhigana, Unicef's Central African Republic representative, said in a statement. "We offer our deepest condolences to the families and the colleagues of the victims."

The group did not give the names of the dead, or any details about how they died or who might have killed them.

The Central African Republic, with a population of about 5 million people, suffered through civil wars from 2004 to 2007, and from 2012 to 2014. The fighting has never entirely abated, and a series of truces have failed, despite the presence of 14,000 United Nations peacekeeping troops.

"We estimate that over a quarter of the country's population has been displaced from their homes," said Lewis Mudge, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. Many people have sought refuge in neighboring countries, like Democratic Republic of Congo, that are troubled themselves. In the area where the attack on Unicef took place, Mr. Mudge said, "the situation has really been deteriorating for the past two years."

The crisis in the Central African Republic has drawn relatively little international attention, overshadowed by wars and humanitarian disasters in Syria, Yemen and other parts of the world. Several times, rival militias have formed coalitions that later fragmented, pitting former allies against each other. Mr. Mudge said militia commanders often have little control over their own fighters, many of whom have devolved into armed bandits.

[back to contents]

Sudan & South Sudan

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

Press Freedom Abuses by Government Continue in South Sudan
GBC News

February 23, 2018

A U.N. report says South Sudan's government continues to censor the media and restrict freedom of expression. The report (Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression in South Sudan) warns that restrictions on freedom of expression are having a "chilling effect" and "are shrinking the space for debate in South Sudan."

Over the past 18 months, researchers with the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights interviewed victims, witnesses, activists and journalists across South Sudan and documented 99 allegations of rights abuses.

Researchers of the 30-page report released this week said they had verified 60 incidents in which the rights to freedom of expression of 102 victims were violated.

According to a Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed by the government and various South Sudanese stakeholders in December, harassing of media personnel is a violation.

UNMISS chief David Shearer told reporters in Juba on Thursday that most of the incidents occurred in government-controlled areas, and many of the victims were media members.

Muzzling free speech

"Journalists and media workers account for a quarter of these victims. These incidents include the killing of two people, arbitrary arrest and detention of 58 others,16 people who have been dismissed from their jobs, the closure or suspension of media houses, censorship of newspaper articles and blocking of websites. Those targeted were deemed critical of the government and accused of tarnishing the country's reputation," Shearer said.

The report named the National Security Service, or NSS, the police, the army, and government officials at national and state levels, along with the South Sudan Media Authority as responsible for muzzling free speech.

The report also singled out the National Security Service as the main perpetrator responsible for 33 percent of the violations, followed by the South Sudan army, the SPLA.

No comment from military

VOA's South Sudan in Focus program made repeated calls to the Ministry of Information and government spokesperson Michael Makuei for comment on the report but has received no response.

South Sudan military spokesman Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang told South Sudan in Focus he had not seen the U.N. report and could not comment in detail. He said he was not aware of any government soldiers muzzling the media.

"Since I assumed office about two years ago, it has not been reported in our office that the SPLA had harassed or arrested any foreign journalists. The primary responsibility lies with the South Sudan Media Authority — that is the body that allows foreign journalists to come into the country," said Koang.

Elijah Alier, head of the media authority, declined to comment on the report, adding he needed time to read it.

Security Service embeds officers

Eugene Nindorera, who heads the human rights division at UNMISS, said most of the verified incidents occurred in government-controlled areas.

He said researchers could not travel to rebel-controlled areas to investigate reported abuses because of a lack of security.

Nindorera said South Sudan's National Security Service embeds its officers in some newspapers' printing establishments, forcing South Sudanese journalists to employ self-censorship.

But Nindorera said the government showed a gesture of goodwill last month.

"A number of positive initiatives were undertaken by the government, civil society and other stakeholders. This includes release of several political activists and journalists who have been arbitrarily held in government custody; provisions of educational opportunity to strengthen national capacities for responsible journalism; training of state authorities and permissible restriction to the exercise of freedom of expression; and efforts made to address certain incidents of hate speech. However, the report highlights that gaps remain," said Nindorera.

Atem Simon, an editor at the Juba-based al-Mougif newspaper, said his organization struggles to report stories in a professional way.

"We have faced many challenges, especially under government directives that we should not balance our stories; we have to report from one side, report on a very crucial issue that needed the stories to be professional," Simon told South Sudan in Focus.

Report welcomed

Denis Elamu, another Juba-based journalist, said he welcomed the report, saying it highlighted the biggest challenge facing the media industry across South Sudan.

"There must be some kind of solution to end this conflict, because this all is a result of the ongoing conflict," Elamu told South Sudan in Focus.

The report said genuine reconciliation and lasting peace could be achieved in South Sudan only if people are free and safe to express their opinions regardless of ethnic or political affiliation.

Gang rapes and beheadings: UN reveals new South Sudan abuses
Fox News

By Sam Mednick
February 23, 2018

The witness accounts remain appalling. One South Sudanese man returned home after hiding from government soldiers to find they had blinded his mother, gouging out her eyes with spears.

She had tried to defend her 17-year-old daughter from being raped by more than a dozen soldiers and didn't succeed. Seventeen soldiers then raped her. The family's father was beheaded.

The latest report on human rights abuses in South Sudan's five-year civil war, released on Friday by a United Nations commission, includes that horrific day in Pagak town and many others as the team collects evidence in the hopes of one day finding justice.

"I did not expect to be confronted with so much ritual humiliation and degradation deliberately done for multiple reasons. The suffering and cruelty was worse than anyone could have imagined," Andrew Clapham, a commission member and international law professor, told the Associated Press.

One South Sudanese woman told the commission that her 12-year-old son was forced to have sex with his grandmother to stay alive, the report says.

The findings, with "sufficient evidence" against both President Salva Kiir's government forces and rebels, identify more than 40 senior military officials, including three state governors, "who may bear individual responsibility for war crimes."

The report will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva next month. They also will be made available to judicial mechanisms such as a hybrid court for South Sudan, which long has been urged by the international community but has never appeared.

Untold tens of thousands have been killed in South Sudan since the conflict erupted in December 2013, just two years after independence from Sudan. More than two million people have fled the country, the largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide 24 years ago. Millions who remain at home face hunger.

The new U.N. report is an account of the gang-rapes, castrations, ethnic violence and other abuses that have left much of the impoverished East African nation in despair, while international frustration with the warring sides grows. An attempt at a cease-fire in late December was violated within hours. Disgusted, the United States announced a largely symbolic arms embargo and urged the U.N. Security Council to do the same.

South Sudan's government did not immediately comment Friday. "The human rights body should start putting the blame directly on the regime instead of blaming both sides," opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told the AP.

While names of alleged perpetrators are being collected by the U.N. commission, they are not shared publicly to help protect witnesses who come forward. The names are being given to the U.N. human rights office in Geneva.

The new report, based on 230 witness statements and other materials, is the second since the U.N. commission was established in 2016 and the first since it was given a stronger mandate to preserve evidence and conduct investigations instead of simply monitoring and reporting.

South Sudan's conflict is splintering into chaos, the new report says. What began as a "power struggle" between Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar has fractured into an estimated 40 armed groups across the country, with many fighting each other.

But consistent patterns stand out, such as government attacks on unarmed, fleeing civilians in areas where no opposition forces were present, the report says. "There is a clear pattern of ethnic persecution, for the most part by government forces," Clapham said.

Despite the latest accounts of abuses, South Sudan experts are skeptical that anything will change amid what the report calls a "grave" lack of accountability.

"The recommendations of these human rights reports have not been implemented in South Sudan, making them useless," Jacob Chol, senior political analyst and professor at the University of Juba, told the AP. He said human rights abusers should be barred from the South Sudan peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia.

Those talks reached a stalemate last week but are expected to pick up again next month.

South Sudan children 'forced to watch rape'
Daily Nation

February 24, 2018

Children in South Sudan have been forced to watch their mothers being raped and killed, the UN says.

Civilians have been tortured and mutilated, and villages destroyed on an industrial scale, it said.

These are some of the horrific abuses that a team of UN human rights investigators has detailed in a report published about the conflict in South Sudan.

War Crimes

The report says that some 40 officials may be individually responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Conflict between government factions has continued in South Sudan despite a peace deal signed in 2015.

The report will be presented to the UN human Rights Council in Geneva, but its real purpose is to provide evidence for a proposed hybrid court to try alleged war criminals.

Of the 40 senior officials identified as potentially responsible for atrocities, five are colonels and three are state governors.

But the court has still not been set up because South Sudan's parliament has not yet approved it.

Violations in S. Sudan amount to crimes against humanity — report
Daily Monitor

February 25, 2018

A United Nations inquiry into allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed during the ongoing conflict in South Sudan has concluded that some of the violations may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Commission, established by the Human Rights Council in March 2016, has identified more than forty senior military officials who may bear individual responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country.

Its public report, which reflects only a portion of the information in the 58,000 documents and 230 witness statements collected, documents abhorrent instances of cruelty against civilians, including massacres, sexual violence as well as the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools.

It documents evidence implicating the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army-SPLA in intentionally killing unarmed and fleeing civilians. It shows that people who tried to defend themselves or their families had their eyes gouged out, their throats slit or were castrated. Victims were also forced to engage in unspeakable acts and some, including children were forced to rape their family members.

The investigators established that the attacks against civilians and the intentional killings are undertaken in retaliation for battlefield losses or killings of SPLA soldiers by opposition forces. The brutality also included the systematic looting and burning of villages, destroying people's sense of security and ability to support and care for themselves.

As a result, millions of citizens have been displaced, and thousands are sheltering in the bush, resulting in untold deaths from starvation, thirst, exposure, and lack of access to medical care.

In addition to investigating allegations, the Commission is also mandated to collect and preserve evidence for use in the Hybrid Court and other accountability mechanisms agreed under the 2015 peace agreement.

Urging for the swift setting up of the court, Yasmin Sooka, the Commission Chair stressed; "ultimately this is the only way to stop the rampant devastation of millions of human lives by South Sudan's leaders."

"Holding those in charge in South Sudan accountable for the intentional suffering they inflict on their own people is crucial to stemming this humanitarian catastrophe," Andrew Clapham a member of Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said.

The report also noted that children have been recruited by all sides in the conflict and forced to kill civilians; in many cases, they have watched loved ones raped or killed. The elderly have not been spared either. Unable to flee on foot they have been left behind in villages only to be hacked to death or burned alive, it adds.

Meanwhile, a separate report authored by the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) and the Organization's human rights wing, OHCHR, indicated that undue restrictions on freedom of expression are having a "chilling effect" and further shrinking the space for debate and dissent in war-torn South Sudan.

The report warned that incitement to hatred continues to cause mistrust, fear and violence as well as of a growing climate of self-censorship in the world's youngest country.

"South Sudan's people have been denied the right to life, the right to justice, and, as this report details, the right to freedom of opinion and expression — rights that are not luxuries but are essential to bring about peace and development," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in a news release announcing the findings.

The report identified 60 verified incidents — including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, closure, suspension or censorship of newspapers, and blocking of websites — in the period from July 2016 to December 2017. It also found that government security forces, including the National Security Service, Sudan People's Liberation Army, and the South Sudan National Police Service, were responsible for two-thirds of the verified cases of human rights violations.

UN peacekeepers from Ghana recalled over sex with S Sudan women

February 27, 2018

Forty-six UN peacekeepers from Ghana have been recalled from their base in northwestern South Sudan following allegations of sexual exploitation of women sheltering at the site, a UN spokesperson said on Monday.

The 46 police were confined to barracks in Juba on Saturday after a preliminary investigation showed that the Ghanaians were "engaging in sexual activity with women" living at a UN site to protect civilians in Wau, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

"The information received indicates that some members of the formed police unit allegedly engaged in transactional sex," he added.

The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has a "zero tolerance, no excuses, and no second chances approach to sexual exploitation and abuse," he said.

Ghana is cooperating with the United Nations to carry out a full investigation of the complaint received on February 8, the spokesperson added.

Under the UN rules, it is up to troop-contributing countries to take action against their nationals accused of misconduct while serving under the UN flag, but the United Nations carries out joint investigations with the national authorities.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has vowed to toughen the UN response to allegations of misconduct against the blue helmets whose mission is to protect vulnerable civilians in conflict zones.

The United Nations has 7000 troops and 900 police in its UNMISS mission. About 200,000 South Sudanese are sheltering at UN sites protected by UNMISS peacekeepers.

The world's youngest nation which achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly four million South Sudanese displaced from their homes.

Government Forces Killed Rebel Base Commander
VOA News

February 28, 2018

A commander allied to South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar was killed during clashes in Yei River state on Monday.

A rebel spokesman said Felix Likambu Faustino, the SPLA-IO base commander for Yankonye village, was killed when government forces attacked his troops.

Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, the deputy military spokesman of the Machar faction, said government forces attacked their positions along the Yei-Maridi road, leading to clashes that lasted several hours.

Government military spokesman Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang denied that government forces attacked the rebels' positions, saying the clashes were between rival opposition forces operating in the area.

"There was no engagement between SPLA forces and different rebel groups. The reports we have been getting for the last three days indicated that the rebel groups loyal to [Thomas] Cirilo and Riek Machar have been fighting among themselves," Koang told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.

Bishop Hillary Adeba of Yei Diocese of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan confirmed fighting occurred on the outskirts of Yei town.

"We are very shocked and worried, because we have been hearing violations of the [recent cease-fire] through gunshots around Yei. The warring parties should observe the cessation of hostilities agreement because people in the rural areas are very tired throughout the four years [of war]," Adeba told South Sudan in Focus.

Adeba said the civilians need peace so they can begin rebuilding their lives.

Gabriel said the SPLA-IO is committed to adhering to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in December at a conference aimed at reviving the collapsed 2015 peace agreement.

Kuong also said his forces are committed to the cessation agreement.

[back to contents]

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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

Two aid workers killed, one kidnapped, in Congo

By Spencer Feingold
February 19, 2018

Two aid workers were killed and one kidnapped over the weekend in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations reported Monday.

The three humanitarian workers were from the French nongovernmental organization Hydraulique Sans Frontières.

"The humanitarian country team condemns, with firmness, the latest attack that led to the tragic loss of colleagues engaged in emergency humanitarian assistance and calls for immediate and unconditional release of the person held hostage," said the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is known as OCHA.

Hydraulique Sans Frontières is based in Chambéry, France, and supports technical projects in developing countries. The nongovernmental organization focuses on clean drinking water, irrigation, sanitation and electrical generation, its website says.

According to OCHA, the attack was carried out by unidentified armed men in the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu, an eastern province that borders Rwanda and Uganda. The area has been embroiled in violence since 1994, when Hutu forces crossed the border from Rwanda fearing reprisals after the genocide there.

"Security conditions are very worrying in North Kivu and represent a major obstacle for humanitarian organizations to access the thousands of people who are in need," OCHA added in its statement.

In December 2017, 15 UN peacekeepers were killed and 53 others injured in North Kivu in what the United Nations said constituted a war crime. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the attack, which was carried out by the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces, the worst offensive on peacekeepers in recent history.

The various armed conflicts and insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have created one of the "world's most complex and longstanding humanitarian crises," OCHA stated on its website. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a population of over 80 million, remains OCHA's largest operation in the world.

"This is an opportunity to make it clear that humanitarian workers must never be targeted," the OCHA statement added.

UNHCR alarmed over reported atrocities in DR Congo's Tanganyika province
The UN Refugee Agency

February 20, 2018

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warned today that a humanitarian disaster of extraordinary proportions was about to hit the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the province of Tanganyika plunges further into violence, triggering spiraling displacement and human rights abuses.

Several areas of the province have seen atrocities and mass displacement, due to entrenched intercommunal conflicts between the Twa, the Luba and other ethnic groups. Moreover, fierce clashes between the Congolese armed forces and militias have continued since the end of January, while new armed groups threaten to wreak more havoc in the province.

People fleeing for their lives near the provincial capital Kalemie have shared stories of horrific violence during attacks against their villages, including killings, abductions and rape. UNHCR partners documented some 800 protection incidents in the first two weeks of February in Tanganyika, marking an upwards trend.

Throughout 2017, UNHCR partners documented over 12,000 reports of human rights violations in Tanganyika and the nearby area of Pweto in the Haut Katanga province, to where the conflict has spread. However, UNHCR fears that the number of the people affected by the violence could be much higher since many areas were too dangerous to reach.

While the majority of the incidents concerned violations of property rights including extortions, plundering and destruction, some 4,700 of these incidents referred to physical abuse, torture, murders, arbitrary arrests, forced labor, rape and forced marriages.

Sexual violence is of particular concern. Despite access challenges and the prevailing stigma for those affected, UNHCR's partners managed to record 523 cases of sexual and gender based violence in Tanganyika and in Pweto, referring survivors to medical services, judicial assistance and psychosocial support. About half of them were children.

Overall, already vulnerable displaced populations most often fell victim to the latest atrocities. These were not only committed in the context of the ethnic conflict, but also by the soldiers deployed to fight the renegade militias.

UNHCR calls on the Congolese authorities to ensure the protection of the civilian population, to effectively follow-up any reports of crimes attributed to the armed forces and to put an end to the perception of impunity related to human rights abuses.

The violence spreading across Tanganyika, which is three times the size of Switzerland with a population of some three million, has now internally displaced over 630,000 people. This number is almost double the 370,000 who were displaced within Tanganyika in December 2016. UNHCR is working with partners to redress this calamitous situation, but is appealing for increased assistance to help the population cope.

Last year, UNHCR received less than US$1 per person in donor contributions for its programmes for the internally displaced in the DRC. This has left many displaced in Tanganyika receiving hardly any humanitarian aid. In Kalemie, thousands of families lack the plastic sheeting which could protect them from the rain. People often suffer from hunger and lack of medical support. Single women and widows without appropriate shelter run an even higher risk of sexual abuse and violence in the displacement areas.

For 2018, UNHCR is appealing for US$368.7 million for the Congolese situation. A total of US $80 million is required to support the internally displaced populations inside the DRC.

Charred bodies, wounded soldiers after Congo army victory

By Goran Tomasevic
February 23, 2018

Discarded military fatigues, boots, trash, a charred corpse inside a smoldering hut: this is all that remains of a Ugandan rebel base in the wake of what the Congolese army says was an important victory.

Democratic Republic of Congo's army launched its latest offensive last month against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist insurgency originally based in Uganda that has moved across the border into eastern Congo.

Congolese authorities accuse the ADF of carrying out a series of attacks around the town of Beni between 2014 and 2016 that killed more than 800 people, many of them hacked to death with machetes during the night. The rebels are also blamed for an attack on a United Nations base in December that killed 15 peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers.

"We're planning how to pursue them until the end," said Colonel Willy Mboneza Babyondo, head of the unit that destroyed the base, as Congolese soldiers hauled their wounded comrades out of the dense forest atop improvised stretchers

"We cannot allow a foreign group to continue to kill, to massacre, our people," he said.

But the victory amid the lush, rugged mountains comes as Congo risks sliding back into the cycle of war that killed millions, most from hunger and disease, at the turn of the century.

The ADF is just one of many groups across the vast, mineral-rich nation that are responsible for a deadly spike in attacks.

More than 4.4 million people have been displaced by violence that has been aggravated by President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down at the end of his mandate in 2016.

More than 532,000 people fled their homes in just two territories along the border with Uganda in 2016 and 2017. The United Nations has warned that the current offensive against the ADF is likely to displace nearly 370,000 more.

But Congolese officers say the operations are necessary and point to one particular disfigured body discovered among the scattered remnants of the ADF base as evidence of their progress. They say the man was Muhammad Kayira, one of the ADF's senior operations commanders.

"I cannot rejoice because this fighter has fallen. I can simply say it is an important step," said General Marcel Mbangu, one of the Congolese army's top commanders in the east. "In the end, the final result we're seeking is nothing more than peace and security."

[back to contents]


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

[back to contents]


Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

[back to contents]

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

Nigerians are demanding answers after another Boko Haram kidnapping
The Washington Post

By Amanda Ericson
February 25, 2018

This story has been updated.

It has been more than three years since Nigeria's government declared victory over Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group, but that assertion has been put to the test several times in the past few months.

In November, Boko Haram militants carried out bombings in Nigeria that killed dozens of people. The next month, the group attacked a Nigerian army convoy accompanying World Food Program trucks, killing four people. Then, last week, Boko Haram staged an attack on a boarding school for girls, one that echoed the 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok.

On Monday, the Government Girls Science and Technical School in Dapchi, a village in northeastern Nigeria, was attacked. NPR quoted witnesses as saying that 12 trucks carrying insurgents and mounted machine guns drove onto the school campus. As the militants approached and set off explosives, dozens of students and teachers fled into the surrounding bush, helping one another scale the compound fence.

Police said initially that the militants had come to raid the school's food supplies and that the girls had not been targeted. But when the attack ended, several girls were missing. School officials suggested at first that many of the local students had simply returned to their families on foot. Nigerian authorities claimed that no girls were abducted and that at least 76 were rescued. (Two bodies also were discovered.)

But by Wednesday, witnesses reported that at least some girls were taken away in trucks. And this weekend, Nigerian officials finally confirmed parents' worst fears: that 110 girls are still unaccounted for.

The government's confused response has left parents frantic. They said it echoed Nigeria's botched response to the Chibok kidnappings, when 276 girls were forced onto trucks at their boarding school and driven into the forest. Researchers and reporters found that local officials had been warned about the attack hours earlier but had failed to send in military reinforcements. Then-President Goodluck Jonathan waited two weeks before addressing the attack and refused international help.

About 60 girls escaped soon after the incident, and an additional 82 were later released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. But about 100 others remain in captivity. Just last month, the Islamist group released a video purporting to show some of the Chibok girls in captivity. Their faces were covered, and they said on camera that they did not want to return home.

Meanwhile, the nearly decade-long war against Boko Haram continues. While the government declared the group "technically defeated" in late 2015 after retaking much of the territory it once controlled, the insurgents' attacks haven't stopped.

As Siobhan O'Grady wrote for the Los Angeles Times, it will take more than money and military might to defeat Boko Haram. "It isn't just a matter of coming in with a stronger military presence," Joe Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told O'Grady. "What the government needs to be doing now is winning the trust of the local population. ... That's the real battle, the next chapter here. … That's where they've failed." Incidents like the school attack last week make that goal even harder to achieve.

1,130 hostages freed from Boko Haram
Al Jazeera

February 27, 2018

At least 1,130 civilians were freed, and 37 suspected Boko Haram militants were killed during a joint offensive by Cameroonian and Nigerian troops in communities around the Lake Chad region on Monday, according to a Nigerian army spokesman.

In a statement on Tuesday, spokesman Colonel Onyema Nwackukwu said the offensives took place in border villages of Kusha-Kucha, Surdewala, Alkanerik, Magdewerne and Mayen, culminating in the destruction of several Boko Haram camps and seizure of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

Four improvised explosive devices were also destroyed.

Nwackukwu said some 603 hostages were freed across Kusha-Kucha, Surdewala, Alkanerik, Magdewerne and Mayen villages; they were taken to the Nigerian Bama town for profiling and handing over to relief agencies.

"The troops also extracted 194 civilians held captive by the insurgents and destroyed makeshift accommodations erected by the insurgents. Additionally, the combined troops successfully cleared Miyanti and Wudila villages, where they rescued three men, 121 women and 209 children," the army spokesman added.

On Tuesday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen condemned the abduction of some 110 schoolgirls from Nigeria's northeastern Dapchi town Monday.

Nigeria orders 'all schools' defended in Boko Haram region
ABC News

By the Associated Press
February 28, 2018

Nigeria's security forces have been ordered to defend all schools in "liberated areas" of the country's northeast to avoid further mass abductions from schools by Boko Haram extremists, the president's office announced Wednesday.

Many in Africa's most populous country have been outraged by the kidnapping of 110 girls in a Feb. 19 attack by Boko Haram on a school in Dapchi town.

It has reminded many of the seizure of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok by the extremists in 2014.

President Muhammadu Buhari's office said leaders of police and civil defense forces have been ordered to coordinate with the military and the governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to "ensure deployment of personnel to all schools."

The order by Nigeria's interior minister "has become necessary to forestall a re-occurrence of the attack on innocent school children," the statement said.

Some parents of students who survived the attack say their children are too frightened to return to class. The Nigerian Union of Teachers this week issued a statement demanding a "24-hour military patrol around all schools" in the region to better protect students and teachers.

Buhari, who made the fight against Boko Haram a key issue ahead of his 2015 election win, now faces growing pressure ahead of next year's vote. His government has repeatedly declared that Boko Haram has been defeated, but the Islamic extremists continue to carry out deadly suicide attacks in the northeast, often using young women who had been abducted and indoctrinated.

It took almost a week for Nigeria's government to confirm the 110 schoolgirls had been kidnapped. On Tuesday it released the names of all the girls seized and said it had established a panel to investigate the attack.

The military has said it withdrew from Dapchi weeks before the attack, saying the town was "relatively calm" and its troops were needed elsewhere, and claiming that security was handed over to police. Police have denied it.

[back to contents]


French raid in Mali leaves at least 10 jihadists dead
France 24

February 15, 2018

French air power on Wednesday killed at least 10 jihadists in northeast Mali near the border with Algeria, local and foreign military sources said.

"French forces on Wednesday led at least one raid near Tinzaouatene, at the Algerian border, against the terrorists," a local Malian military source told AFP.

"There were at least 10 deaths and two vehicles were destroyed."

An ex colonel in the Malian army who had defected, who is close to the jihadists' leader, was killed in the raid, according to an army statement.

"This was the base of the head of the network, Iyad Ag Ghaly, at Tinzaouatene, which was the main target of the operation," a foreign security source in Mali told AFP.

The offensive was part of France's Operation Barkhane, active in Mali as well as four other former French colonies in west Africa Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

These countries form the so-called G5 Sahel, a French-supported group that launched a joint military force to combat jihadists last year.

The Malian source said the French force had been conducting operations in northeastern Mali for several days.

A foreign military source confirmed that "several" raids had been carried out in the region on Wednesday, killing at least 10 jihadists.

Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

However large tracts of the country remain lawless despite a peace accord signed with ethnic Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the jihadists.

On Tuesday in neighbouring Burkina Faso meanwhile, a policeman was killed and two were injured in an attack at a village near the eastern town of Fada N'Gourma, in a region that has largely escaped Islamist unrest.

The assailants' identity was unknown.

Northern Burkina Faso has seen frequent attacks by suspected jihadists, with two police killed late last month in the town of Baraboule.

West Africa's extremism spreading as thousands flee homes
The Daily Herald

By Brahima Ouedraogo
February 18, 2018

West Africa's extremist threat has moved into a new part of the vast Sahel region, with a previously calm area of Burkina Faso facing the kinds of assaults that have forced thousands elsewhere to flee over the past year.

Last week a police station was attacked by about 10 people in the eastern town of Natiaboani, killing one officer and wounding at least two others, according to governor Ousmane Traore. Some 470 ammunition cartridges were found at the scene, he said.

None of the several extremist groups roaming the region has claimed responsibility for the attack about 280 kilometers (174 miles) from the capital, Ouagadougou, which in recent years has been alerted to the jihadist threat by deadly attacks on high-profile hotels and cafes.

Burkina Faso now finds itself joining the front line of a growing regional war on extremism waged by a variety of actors, from France's largest overseas military operation to a new five-country West African force backed by millions of dollars from the United States, wealthy Gulf nations and others.

But the landlocked, impoverished country has few resources for its own defense.

In a telling incident in the past week, some 20 policemen abandoned their station at Deou in Burkina Faso's north to protest a lack of equipment, such as helmets and bulletproof jackets, to fight extremists. The deputy mayor, Moussa Sawadogo, said police also lacked gas to patrol the area in vehicles. The problem is shared by other security agents who say they don't feel prepared to take on jihadists.

"The terrorism and criminal economy threatening the region vastly overwhelm the capacity of any individual country or region to adequately respond," African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat told the Munich Security conference on Saturday, saying the challenge needs a global solution.

Burkina Faso's northern Soum province is home to radicalized preacher Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who has vowed to close all government administration there. His armed supporters have forced schools to close in several rural areas.

But Dicko is not the only threat. Northern areas near the border with Mali have been a regular target of attacks by various extremist groups, some of them vowing to step up deadly assaults in response to the recent deployment of the regional G5 Sahel force. The 5,000-strong force combines troops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, with France leading the efforts to bring in international funding.

The countries' troops join forces where and when they can. In response to the new violence in Burkina Faso's east, troops from Burkina Faso and nearby Mali and Niger have increased patrols. Extremists are thought to be hiding in forested areas in the border region.

High-profile attacks continue, however. In January, 26 civilians from Burkina Faso including women and children were killed while heading to a weekly market when their truck struck explosives just over the border in Mali. Days later, gunmen killed two policemen as they patrolled a market in the northern district of Baraboule.

The deadly uncertainty has led thousands to flee. Teachers who have been threatened over perceived non-Islamic teachings have closed their classrooms and left. As of mid-February, some 98 schools have been closed in Burkina Faso's Sahel region due to insecurity, according to the United Nations children's agency.

In one of the country's largest displacements, some 15,000 people in Soum province have fled their homes in the past year, said the International Committee for the Red Cross.

"This figure is far below reality because some have found shelter in households and others have refused to be registered," said Christian Munezero, the Burkina Faso head of the ICRC.

Many of the displaced are herders and farmers who now have lost their livelihoods while on the run, he said, risking further destabilization of the region.

Anti-jihadist Sahel force to push for more funding
The Sun Daily

February 20, 2018

Efforts to build a five-nation force to roll back jihadism in the Sahel face a funding hurdle this week, with a surge in rebel attacks providing an urgent reminder of the task in hand.

So far more than US $350 million, (RM1,363 million) has already been pledged for the G5 Sahel force, gathering Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — countries in the frontline of a war against Islamist militants yet which rank among the poorest in the world.

The money has enabled the force to set up a headquarters and command structure and carry out two operations, with French support, in the troubled "tri-border" area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

But more is needed to help the force reach its target of 5,000 men, pooled from the five nations' armies, provide training and equipment, and durably restore authority in lawless areas.

Intended to become fully operational in mid-2018, the G5 Sahel force operates alongside France's 4,000 troops in the area and the UN's 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.

The five Sahel countries will make a pitch for funds at a meeting in Brussels on Friday.

The drive behind setting up the G5 Sahel force dates back to 2015, when Mali's government signed a peace agreement with coalitions of non-jihadist armed groups.

Islamist insurgents remained active — violence spread from the north of the country to the centre and the south, and then spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger.

Today, as the new force is starting to take shape, the jihadists are becoming more sophisticated in their operations, say experts.

On Feb 5, the head of French military intelligence, General Jean-Francois Ferlet, said there had been a surge of jihadist attacks in central Mali.

The attacks "are a bit more lethal because (the assailants) are improving their methods," he said.

A European security expert in the Mali capital Bamako told AFP said the jihadists had made strides in the handling of explosives.

"When a mine slices a vehicle in half like a loaf of bread, it's no longer a home-made device," he said pointedly.

Jihadists have carried out killings of UN peacekeepers and Malian soldiers. In one incident in January, 26 civilians were killed when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Boni, central Mali.

Progress against the rebels seems meagre, if the official records are anything to go by. The joint force's second operation, which mobilised Malian and Burkinabe battalions on both sides of the border from Jan 15-28, listed seizures of ammunition, explosives materials and motorcycles, but little else.


Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in a visit to the central town of Boni, argued that the jihadists had been "driven mad" by the emergence of the G5 Sahel and by the "fierce determination" of Malian troops.

On the ground, though, morale is a clear source of concern.

In Jan, 36 Malian officers deserted and a sergeant was arrested for releasing a video in which he complained about incompetence and the lack of military strategy.

The government promised to provide "the best conditions" for the troops and appointed a number of senior state officials in central Mali, in a show of support.

Hearts and minds, too, are another front for the G5 Sahel force to conquer.

A report published earlier this month by MINUSMA's human-rights division found that "at least 20 percent" of recorded incidents in 2016 and in the first of half of 2017 that endangered civilian lives involved the Malian authorities — essentially the security forces.

Four jihadists arrested in "major operation" in Mali
Africa News

February 23, 2018

French force Barkhane on Thursday arrested four suspected jihadists as part of an operation to "neutralize" the group of a major jihadist leader active in north-eastern Mali , near the border with Niger, a security source said.

It is in this zone of the Three Borders ( Mali , Niger, Burkina Faso) that two French soldiers were killed and one wounded Wednesday in the explosion of an artisanal mine at the passage of their vehicle.

According to the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, the incident occurred as part of a "vast area control operation" in this region of Mali deemed to be a refuge for jihadist groups that the G5 joint force Sahel's mission is to hunt.

The suspects were intercepted near an area controlled by Jihadist leader Adnan Abu Walid Sahrawi who proclaimed himself founder of the organization called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

The group recently claimed a series of attacks against the Barkhane force since January in Mali and the deaths of American soldiers and two French soldiers.

Adnan Abu Walid Sahrawi's group said on 13 January that it had formed an alliance with other Jihadist movements to prevent the five-country force.

These arrests come at a time when the financing of the G5 Sahel's anti-terrorist force was at the heart of a meeting that brought together some 20 heads of state and government in Brussels on Friday.

UNHCR welcomes launch of birth certification for Malian refugees in Mbera camp
UN Refugee Agency

February 23, 2018

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes the launch of birth certification for thousands of Malian refugee children in Mbera camp, in south-east Mauritania.

In a ground-breaking development for refugee protection in the country, the Mauritanian authorities have started issuing birth certificates for some 7,600 Malian children that were born to date in the camp. They have also set up a system allowing for all newborns in the camp to be directly registered from now on. Birth certificates will help fight early and forced marriages, as proof of age can be crucial in identifying such cases and providing evidence to the referral institutions. In 2017, UNHCR recorded 97 cases in Mbera camp, but we fear that many more may go unreported. Together with partners, our teams are working to identify and assist children at risk.

Proof of age will also play a significant role in the eventual voluntary repatriation of the refugees, should security conditions in Mali allow.

The birth certification exercise was launched mid-February by the country's population registrar. UNHCR collaborates with authorities to strengthen their technical capacity for the civil registration of refugees, and to provide life-saving assistance in the camp, such as food and water, education and medical services. We also work to lay the groundwork for establishing a national asylum system.

Since 2012, widespread insecurity in northern Mali has triggered displacement into Niger, Burkina Faso, as well as Mauritania which now hosts over 51,000 Malian refugees. Some 1,200 Malians were registered in Mbera in January this year alone. Refugees share accounts of threats, extortion and summary executions by armed groups, along with gruelling living conditions in their areas of origin.

We are particularly worried at the lack of funding for our operation in the country. Despite the US$20.1 million required for our operation in Mauritania in 2018, UNHCR has yet to receive any contributions. This means that the living conditions of refugees could further worsen, with food and water shortages, poor sanitary conditions, increased risk of disease and cuts to education programmes in Mbera.

Al Qaeda-Linked Group Claims Mali Attack That Killed Two French Troops
U.S. News & World Report

February 24, 2018

A Malian militant group with links to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two French soldiers in the West African country on Wednesday.

The soldiers were killed after their armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device near Mali's border with Niger and Burkina Faso, an area that has become increasingly dangerous for international forces seeking to quell Islamic insurgencies in the remote Sahel region.

In October, militants killed four U.S. troops just over the border in Niger, sparking a debate about America's combat role in the vast and unpoliced scrubland just south of the Sahara.

JNIM, which has been responsible for other attacks in Mali and has been linked to the kidnapping of at least six western hostages in recent years, claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack late on Friday on two Mauritanian websites, through which the group has previously communicated.

Islamist militants took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013. But since then the threat has crept back, and attacks have occurred further and further south, into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, and as far afield as Ivory Coast.

In a bid to counter the insurgents, international donors on Friday pledged half a billion dollars towards the G5 Sahel, an international force made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

US focusing on Mali in hunt for Niger ambush attackers

By Barbara Starr
February 26, 2018

US military and intelligence officials believe that the ISIS fighters that ambushed and killed four US troops in Niger last October fled back across the border into Mali and have remained there since, according to an administration official directly familiar with the latest assessment.

The official said the US is working with French intelligence and military who operate in Mali to zero in on an exact location in order to potentially target the fighters.

While the efforts to target the fighters continue, CNN has learned that the lengthy US military investigation into the ambush has been completed and approved by US Africa Command and forwarded to Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Once they both approve it in the coming days, the results will be briefed to the families of the US troops that were killed, members of Congress and the public.

Military and intelligence teams may be able to use a combination of overhead imagery, information from locals on the ground, communications intercepts and social media analysis to attempt to track the ISIS affiliated attackers, the official said.

Any sort of operation to target the fighters would likely to be mounted in partnership with French forces who have thousands of troops in Mali.

Even if the perpetrators are found, there are significant challenges in targeting them officials tell CNN. In that part of the west Africa along the Niger-Mali border, the US would need reconnaissance and intelligence assets —— most likely drones to track them closely until they could be targeted either by aircraft or ground troops.

The emergence of a video circulating online that shows the killing of the American troops has added to the sense of urgency.

One defense official who has seen the video says it shows that the US troops fought until the very end against overwhelming odds. Part of the video appears to show the American troops trying to use their vehicles as cover. It also appears to show one of the US soldiers shot at close range. CNN has not viewed that video, but the military has acknowledged its existence and said it is reviewing it.

The US-led team was traveling with 30 Nigerien soldiers when they were attacked by approximately 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and heavy machine guns. During the subsequent gun battle, which lasted for hours, four US soldiers —— Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright and Sgt. La David T. Johnson —— were killed and two were wounded.

Five Nigeriens were also killed. US-Nigerien forces managed to kill 20 of the militants during the firefight, a defense official previously told CNN.

One potential complicating factor was the role of the CIA which although not directly involved with the mission, passed along intelligence they had about the terror threat in the region, according to officials. Investigators have tried to determine if the ambushed team had the most up to date intelligence. The entire episode had an unusual complexity that may have contributed to the team being vulnerable to attack.

As CNN has previously reported there was a second special operations team working more directly for the US intelligence community. That mission was targeting a regional terror planner and coordinator, codenamed "Naylor Road", according to a senior US military official. The high-value target is also believed to have been involved in attacks in Burkina Faso, the official said.

The ambushed team's primary mission was to train, advise, and assist a larger Nigerien force of 30 soldiers.

That mission did not change, but while on a standard reconnaissance patrol, the team was given a new task, to advise and assist the Nigerien soldiers so that they could be used as the "quick reaction force" if the other US-Nigerien military team encountered difficulty in a planned operation to capture or kill the targeted leader in the "Naylor Road" mission, three US defense officials told CNN.

Before the capture-or-kill operation was launched, however, US intelligence assets observed the terrorist leader abandon his encampment in Niger and cross the border into Mali.

The mission was then canceled, and the team advising the would-be quick reaction force was given a new task: to go to the abandoned encampment and collect potential intelligence on the terror leader. The officials emphasized that the terrorist leader was known to no longer be at the location, something the US military continues to believe, and the team was tasked only with collecting possible intelligence.

On their way back to their operating base, they stopped in Tongo Tongo in order to enable the Nigerien troops to replenish supplies. While there, US troops met with local leaders as a courtesy. The team felt that the villagers were attempting to delay their departure and may have been complicit in the ambush that followed.

The report into the ambush runs for over 3,000 pages with a detailed summary of more than 100 pages according to military officials. It's expected to detail several 'findings" of procedures and processes that may not have been appropriately followed. A second defense official says some of those "process and procedures" for authorizing the mission did not appear to have been properly executed. CNN has learned some senior Green Beret soldiers involved in planning the mission told investigators they believed they followed the rules as they understood them.

Several senior military commanders have told CNN the Niger mission underscores the fundamental risk for special operations forces in remote area far from their traditional support bases and more senior decision makers.

The fundamental question that needs to be answered remains who authorized the mission, and was all the latest risk information and intelligence considered? Several officials say although no final decision has been made it is possible some personnel may receive administrative punishments for not precisely following the rules when the mission was carried out.

[back to contents]



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

ICC team in Uganda assess victims’ trust fund operations
93.3 KFM

By Samuel Ssebuliba
February 20, 2018

A team of senior officials from the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) is Uganda for a five-day monitoring visit to Gulu and Lira districts.

The team is led by the president of the Assembly of State Parties of the ICC, Judge O-Gon Kwon, Trust Fund for Victims (TVF) Executive Director Pieter de Baan and Irish Amb to the Hague, Kevin Kelly.

According to Ms Maria Kamara the ICC Outreach Coordinator for Uganda and Kenya, the team is here to review the implementation of the TFV Projects, raise awareness among stakeholders in Uganda.

In 2002, the International Criminal Court and the Trust Fund for victims were created under the Rome Statute.

While the ICC is responsible for trying criminal cases involving the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the TFVs mission is to respond to harm resulting from crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC by ensuring the rights of victims and their families through the provision of reparation and assistance.

In 2008, the Trust Fund began implementing an assistance programme across Northern Uganda.

Ms Kamara says the team will later on Thursday address the local media in Kampala on its findings.

ICC president asks state parties to provide for the victims of war
New Vision

By Betty Amamukirori
February 22, 2018

The newly elected president of the assembly of state parties, O-Gon Kwon, has called on state parties of the Rome statute to step up providing assistance to survivors of war.

"State parties should guarantee the rights and needs of victim survivors are provided," he said during a press conference held at Sheraton Hotel on Thursday.

Kwon, who became president in December 2017, noted that though the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) is doing a tremendous job in Northern Uganda, there is still a big funding gap that needs to be filled.

"During my mandate I will do my utmost to promote the important work of the Trust Fund for Victims and the need for sufficient funding to carry out its mandate," he said.

The press conference was organised to give an update on the findings of an evaluation visit to northern Uganda by the ICC state parties, to monitor the progress of the implementation of TFV.

TVF was created in 2002 under the Rome Statute as a response programme to the harm occasioned by crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It ensures the right of the survivors and their families through the provision of reparations and assistance. It carries out psychological and physical rehabilitation, and material support.

The implementation of the TFV started in 2008 in northern Uganda and according to Peiter de Baan, its executive director, more than 45,000 people have benefitted directly and about 200,000 people indirectly.

The visit to northern Uganda was also in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute. The joint visit was made by Kwon, representatives from the government of Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, UK and European union.

Mama Koite Doumbia, a TFV board member, noted that the central importance of the Rome Statute is to provide the rights and the needs of victims, including the right to receive reparations and assistance they need.

"Any harm caused by war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is significant and must be addressed," she said.

Mirjam Blaak, Uganda’s ambassador to the Netherlands noted that TFV has made a significant progress in providing assistance to the victims.

"The government of Uganda commits to continue its support to the TFV in assisting many more victims, their families and local partners, to sustain a lasting impact in the country," she said

Lawyers Denounce LRA War Claimants Body
AllAfrica: The Monitor

By Ephraim Kasozi
February 26, 2018

Legal representatives of more than 2,300 victims of the 20-year insurgency in Acholi sub-region have disowned the Acholi War Debt Claimants Association, calling it a 'ghost group".

This comes after the association led by Mr Noah Opwonya petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, last week appealing to her to ask the Ministry of Finance and Attorney General to compensate them.

However, in a February 21 letter to the Speaker, Mr Norbert Adyera, who represented the Acholi claimants in a 2006 High Court case, disassociated himself from the group, saying there is no case that was filed by the association.

"The purpose of this communication is to inform you that there is no case known as the Acholi War Debt Claimants Association. The case that is there is a High Court Civil, which was filed by Norbert Adyera and others and not by Mr Opwonya and the group that appeared before you. They are ghost representatives," reads the petition in part.

According to the petition, the association allegedly obtained Shs7.1 billion illegally from the government, adding that court has since ordered Mr Opwonya to account for it.

In 2015, High Court Judge John Keitirima ordered Mr Opwonya to account for the said money.

According to Mr Adyera, the purported association is misleading Parliament that the money meant for the compensation was diverted by the State to pay Lango Sub region.

Mr Adyera contends that the association is working under the influence of some people to sabotage the government compensation.

When contacted, Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire said instead of going to Parliament to demand compensation, Mr Opwonya should be in prison for embezzlement.

"That man (Opwonya) collected money for Acholi people and embezzled it. He has no moral authority to start complaining on behalf of the people," Gen Otafiire said last week in a telephone interview.

[back to contents]


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

Arrest Bashir if he comes to Kenya, Appeal Court orders State
Standard Digital

By Kamau Muthoni
February 18, 2018

Security officers should arrest Sudan President Omar Al Bashir if he dares step into the country, Court of Appeal has ruled.

In the judgment issued on Friday, Court of Appeal judges Daniel Musinga, William Ouko and Agnes Murgor said Kenya acted in utter impunity for failing to arrest the Sudan leader when he attended the 2010 Constitution promulgation fete.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for a host of crimes against humanity. But the predicament is who will arrest him since the ICC does not have its own police and cannot try a suspect unless he is at its seat.

"Kenya was and is bound by its international obligation to cooperate with the ICC to execute the original warrant issued by the ICC for the arrest of Al Bashir when he visited Kenya on August 27, 2010 and in future should he return to Kenya," the judges ruled.

Bashir's first warrant of arrest was issued on March 4, 2009 and the second on July 12, 2010. He faces allegations of directing attacks against civilians and pillaging and three other counts of genocide- killing.

The crimes were allegedly committed between 2003 and 2008 in Darfur and left nearly 300,000 people killed and more than two million displaced.

The Sudan leader has however been roaming free ever since although he appears to have restricted his movements to choice countries.

Lawyers from the State and a lobby group which wanted Al Bashir arrested, the Kenya section of International Commission of Jurists, argued on whether Kenya should arrest Bashir in the event that he sets foot in the country.

The State in its bid to explain why it could not and will not arrest its friendly neighbor's leader spoke of a catch 22 situation - that it brokered for a truce between South Sudan and Sudan and the African Union Charter which dictates that no member State can arrest a sitting President.

The State said its hands were tied by President's immunity clause.

The Government argued that it is only Interior Cabinet Secretary or the Attorney General who ought to approach the court, in writing, for warrants of arrest immediately they received a request for cooperation. It also came out clearly that the matter was more political than legal. But the three Justices disagreed by holding that individuals who commit international crimes are accountable to the world and ought to pay for their crimes.

"As a matter of general customary international law it is no longer in doubt that a Head of State will personally be liable if there is sufficient evidence that he authorized or perpetrated those internationally recognized serious crimes," the judges ruled.

Retired High Court judge Nicholas Ombija had issued a provisional warrant of arrest in anticipation that Al Bashir would attend Inter-Governmental Authority on Development Summit in Nairobi which was to be held in November 2010.

In a last minute decision, the Summit was shifted to Addis Ababa but the judge issued the orders anyway.

It took one year for the High Court to issue the landmark judgment.

Court of Appeal settled that the orders were stale as the wanted man did not show up nor has he come again.

They ruled: "That is a period of nearly one year later. At this point the learned Judge ought to have acknowledged that the urgency which was the foundation of the application had dissipated and the warrant was stale."

Technically, Sudan is not a State member of the Rome Statute. Under President Al-Bashir, Sudan signed the Rome Statute on September 8, 2000 but has not ratified it to this date. It wrote on August 27, 2008 to the ICC saying it had no legal obligation to hand in its President for trial.

Kenya rode on this to argue that courts must respect that Sudan is a friendly neighbor which hosts thousands of her citizens, and in the event Al Bashir is arrested, they may be victimized.

Kenya is not trafficking weapons to South Sudan
The Star

By Beth Mwai
February 26, 2018

The government has dismissed media reports that Kenya is trafficking weapons to South Sudan.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma, in a statement on Monday, said they were dismayed by the comments.

A section of international press outlets quoted UN Special Advisor Adama Dieng alleging Kenya is to blame for the prolonged South Sudan conflict.

The allegations were also levelled against Uganda but it wasn't stated whether they were directly involved. Adama also didn't say if the weapons were for the government or rebels.

Juma said: "The allegations by the senior UN officials are not only unfortunate and misguiding, but they also lack facts. Kenya's record is clear with regard to efforts in the search for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa."

She added that the situation in South Sudan remains extremely complex so such allegations should be avoided.

"This should be [the case] especially at this critical time when the country is trying to solve political and security crises."

The Minister noted Kenya is guided by principles of peaceful co-existence with her neighbours and other nations, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

She reiterated the governments' commitment to lasting peace following the outbreak of the conflict in South Sudan on December 15, 2013.

"The government was instrumental in the establishment of the IGAD initiative to contain the situation," the Cabinet Secretary said.

Kenya has been in the forefront of asking the two main warring factions - SPLM and SPLM/A-IO - to end hostilities and find peace.

Juma said the efforts paid off with the reduction of violent hostilities, intermittent ceasefires and tranquility in Juba and other areas in the country.

Kenya is a guarantor of the Peace Agreement and a member of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission.

"We will continue to encourage and support the South Sudanese signatory parties to implement the peace agreement in good faith," the CS said.

Kenya has issued a travel advisory against that country, citing insecurity in rebel-held areas. The advisory came barely a day after two pilots, who were detained there after their plane crashed, were released. 

Rights body gives fresh evidence of Kenya poll violence
Anadolu Agency

By Magdalene Mukami and Andrew Wasike
February 26, 2018

The Human Rights Watch released a new report on Monday presenting "fresh evidence of election-period abuses" involving police and armed gangs who killed dozens in 2017.

According to the rights body, more than 37 people were killed in capital Nairobi alone between September and November last year during Kenya's repeat presidential election that the opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted.

Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "Authorities need to acknowledge the full scale of election-related violence, and thoroughly investigate each and every killing."

Kenya denies fueling S Sudan conflict
Daily Nation

By Aggrey Mutambo
February 27, 2018

Kenya has denied a UN claim it was fuelling conflict in South Sudan by allowing the flow of weapons, even as Juba defended its right to buy arms.

In what looked like another tiff with the UN, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma Monday rejected claims by UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng.

Mr Dieng had claimed Kenya and Uganda were adding fuel to the chaos in South Sudan.

"The allegations by the senior UN official insinuating Kenya's complicity in trafficking large quantities of weapons and ammunition into South Sudan, are not only unfortunate, but also lack facts," she said, accusing the official of frustrating efforts by regional countries to bring parties to peace talks.


"Kenya remains impartial with regards to the South Sudanese parties, including the political parties as well as the various armed and non-armed opposition groups, as it rallies the regional governments and the international community to sustain pressure on the parties to recommit to the peace process," said Dr Juma.

"Kenya remains committed to peaceful resolution of the conflict and will continue to play its mediation role."

Two weeks ago, Mr Dieng, a Senegalese lawyer, claimed the fighting in South Sudan was mainly because Kenya and Uganda were allowing parties to import arms through their territories.

"It is true that large quantities of weapons and ammunition are flowing into South Sudan through Kenya and Uganda," he told the Voice of America in an interview at the end of January.

Mr Dieng said peace will be achieved in South Sudan only "if we have concerted regional and international efforts to leave no further options to the South Sudanese leaders to stop and start negotiating".

He did not say whether rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir's army were importing weapons.

But Monday, Juba argued it had the right to buy weapons just like any other country.

"We do not get any illegal weapons from any neighbouring country. But, we are a sovereign nation and any sovereign nation has a right to defend itself," Mr Chol Ajongo, South Sudan ambassador to Kenya told the Nation.

"I cannot tell you where the rebels are getting their weapons because only they can say, but I have never seen an independent military unable to defend itself," he said.

South Sudan and Kenya have no agreement on controlling the flow of weapons. But the accusation from the UN came just over a year after the UN fired a Kenyan general (former force commander Lt-Gen Kimani Ondieki) in South Sudan for "negligence", something Nairobi rejected and protested by temporarily withdrawing soldiers in the peacekeeping mission there.

However, Kenya is a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional bloc that supports cessation of hostilities in South Sudan.

Although the UN did not say whether these weapons were legal purchases or smuggled (which would already be illegal), there has been sustained pressure from rights groups and some western powers to have Mr Kiir and Dr Machar sue for peace.

Early this month, the US imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan in a bid to compel leaders to stop violence.

However, Washington does not sell arms to Juba, an indication the ban could have little effect.

[back to contents]

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Official Website of the ICTR

Congo Says Soldiers Killed in Border Skirmish With Rwanda
U.S. News & World Report

By Aaron Ross
February 15, 2018

Congolese soldiers were killed and wounded in a cross-border skirmish with Rwandan troops this week, Democratic Republic of Congo's military said on Thursday.

Each side accused the other of violating the poorly-demarcated border, the scene of periodic clashes in recent years. Around the turn of the century, millions of people were killed in wars in the region.

Guillaume Ndjike, a spokesman for Congo's army in North Kivu province, said he did not yet have exact figures but that Tuesday's fighting broke out when an army patrol came under fire from Rwandan troops 200 meters (yards) into Congolese territory.

"According to our information, there were deaths and injuries during the exchange of fire, which took place several hours before the two countries declared a ceasefire," Ndjike said.

Rwanda's army denied it had crossed the border, writing to the ICGLR, a regional body, on Wednesday that Congolese troops "violated our territorial border and subsequently attacked our defensive position".

Both sides asked the ICGLR to dispatch a team to investigate the incident.

Since the end of two major wars in eastern Congo between 1996-2003, Rwanda has backed a series of insurrections in the region, saying its actions were necessary to neutralize perpetrators of Rwanda's 1994 genocide who fled to eastern Congo.

Why Belgo-Rwandans are set to appear before Belgian parliament to defend crimes of their fathers
The New Times

By Tom Ndahiro
February 20, 2018

The Belgian Federal Parliament is to invite a group of neo-Nazis to hear their representations, ahead of a parliamentary debate on a bill to make genocide denial a criminal offence. Of course, no such invitation has been issued by the Belgian Parliament, but seen with a Rwandan context, what the parliament is actually doing, is little short of that.

On 29th September 2017, a group calling itself Jambo ASBL, a non-profit organisation based in Brussels, sent a letter with a dossier to the Belgian Federal Parliament. The dossier entitled, "Observations on the proposed law against the denial, minimisation, justification, or approval of the genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994", expressed the group's concerns about the proposed bill, and asked for their concerns to be heard. The Parliament duly obliged, and the date is set for 1st March 2018.

As proposed by Gilles Foret, the bill is to "repress the denial, minimisation, justification, or approval of the genocide committed against the Tutsi in 1994". One of the group's objections is that criminalising genocide denial deprives the accused a line of defence. It's a startling, audaciously insidious line of attack, that the denial of genocide should not be criminalised, because, as they see it, it's a valid line of defence for those accused of the crime.

A closer look at the individuals behind Jambo ASBL, and it is clear why for them outlawing Genocide denial would be as big a blow, as allowing the continuation of the status quo would be to genocide survivors, and anyone for whom "Never Again" has to be more than mere words.

This is an organisation that was founded and run by the offspring of the planners and perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi. And it is a realisation of a plan conceived in the jungles of what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by the fleeing genocidal establishment.

As early as 1994 with their arrival in DRC, they were already planning how to convince the world that the Genocide they painstakingly planned, and executed was a spontaneous conflict between two opposing groups.

A military commission to learn "the causes of our defeat" was set up by former Rwandan army chief, Major General Augustin Bizimungu, now in prison for crimes of genocide, after his conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). One of the commission's recommendations was the setting up of a new group, the Rally for the Return of Refugees, and Democracy (RDR).

Its membership was made up of the most extremist elements from the former ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), and another extremist group, the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic, (CDR). The new group would consist of the true believers in the politics of the so called Hutu-Power politics, and would be home to every Hutu-Power faction.

As well as military organisation, the commission identified winning of the propaganda war, especially winning the support of the International Community, as an essential element in their fight back.

To win this support, a strategy that continues to this day was devised: keep known figures from the genocidal establishment in the background, and promote supporters and sympathisers who were not directly implicated in the Genocide, especially the young.

Those who lived, or were abroad at the time of the Genocide were to be especially prized. It would be the RDR which would spearhead these efforts. The RDR was quick to identify Victoire Ingabire, as one of its greatest assets. Committed to the cause, and resident in the Netherlands throughout the mid-90s, she could distance herself from direct involvement of crimes committed in Rwanda.

Now leader of FDU-Inkingi party, Victoire Ingabire was appointed one of the first leaders of RDR. She is now serving fifteen years in prison in Rwanda, for crimes which include conspiring with proscribed groups to overthrow the Rwandan state. Another of the commission's recommendations was to encourage sympathetic journalists to gain access to influential media houses, then keep in touch with them, and through them pump out messages to the world.

It is in this context that Jambo ASBL can be understood. The person trusted with the creation, and leadership of the RDR, following the submission of Bizimungu's commission, was Juvenal Bahufite. Bahufite had been a Lieutenant-Colonel in the defeated Rwandan army. He was highly regarded, and trusted. As a sector commander in Gisenyi, he was, for instance, particularly influential, in the training of Interahamwe militia. On arrival in the DRC, he was appointed head of military intelligence for the genocidal forces.

His daughter, Lilian Bahufite, is one of the leaders of Jambo ASBL. She is not the only one who is promoting her father's cause. The entire staff of the organisation reads like a who's who of the sons and daughters of the Rwanda genocidal establishment. The current chairperson, Natacha Abingeneye, is the daughter of Juvenal Uwiringiyimana. A cabinet minister in Habyarimana's government, Uwiringiyimana was one of the creators of the Interahamwe militia. He was murdered in Brussels, it is believed by his former colleagues, because he was about to enter into a plea bargain with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The former chairman of the organisation, Placide Kayumba, is the son of Dominique Ntawukuriryayo. He was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison by the ICTR. As sous-prefet of Gisagara in what was then Butare prefecture, he was directly responsible for the murder of thirty thousand men, women and children. Robert Mugabowindekwe is the son of Ephrem Rwabarinda, a Colonel in Habyarimana's army. Mugabowindekwe's wife Kami Runyinya is the daughter of Professor Runyinya Barabwiriza, who was a special adviser to Habyarimana. He was also the president of MNRD in Butare prefecture. Among his responsibilities was to oversee the training of the Interahamwe militia in that prefecture.

One of the founder members of Jambo ASBL is Ruhumuza Mbonyumutwa. His grandfather, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, was appointed by the Belgian colonialists as interim president of Rwanda for ten months from 1961. In that short period of time, he would distinguish himself by planning and instigating the first massacres of Tutsi in 1959-60. His son, Ruhumuza's father, Shingiro Mbonyumutwa, was Director of Cabinet to Jean Kambanda, the prime minister in the government the genocidal government. Jean Kambanda was convicted by the ICTR to life imprisonment.

The group maintains close links with others of similar mind. Ruhumuza's brother, Patrice, is vice chairman of the Belgian branch of Victoire Ingabire's FDU-Inkingi. Jambo Asbl styles itself as a "human rights association", whose objectives includes to "carry out projects" aimed at peace, dialogue and justice". In reality it is a Trojan horse for the objectives of the RDR. Jambo Asbl's activities include a YouTube Channel, Jambonews, all of which are revisionist platforms for their forebears, who were part of the genocidal machinary, which at latest count claimed 1,074,017 Tutsi lives.

These activities are shrewdly, if transparently camouflaged as "a human rights association". In their letter to Belgian parliament, they included on their list of speakers Rwanda's Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, knowing full well that she would always give them the widest berth possible. Her inclusion was a ruse to fool Parliamentarians that JamboAsbl was inclusive of all Rwandan opinion.

The almost tragic irony of Jambo Asbl is that, while in Rwanda, the government has assiduously worked to protect children of Genocide perpetrators from the feelings and stigma of inherited guilt, it is the parents, guilty of the gravest crimes of genocide, who now work tirelessly to inculcate their own children into the gravest crimes, committed before most of these had barely entered their formative years.

Belgium was the first country to unequivocally seek forgiveness from the people of Rwanda for their then government's part in the Genocide against the Tutsi. In his speech on his visit to Rwanda in September 2000, then Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt would say, "In the name of my country, I bow to the victims of the genocide. In the name of my country, on behalf of my people, I request forgiveness".

How ironic that it is Rwandans, albeit naturalised Belgians, who would seek to contradict these moving words, in their opposition to the law against genocide denial.

Rwanda flying high in anti-corruption war, eye on SA and Zimbabwe
The Star

By Patrick Vidija
February 22, 2018

Rwanda and Cape Verde are the leading African countries in the war on corruption.

They tied at position 48 out of 180 nations, with 55 points, in Transparency International's report of 2017 rankings.

Rwanda was the leader in East Africa while Kenya jumped improved by two places but was still in trouble as the fourth most corrupt country in the region.

The other countries in EA are Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Rwanda is often touted as an example of what African states could achieve if only they were better governed. Out of the ashes of a horrific genocide, President Paul Kagame has resuscitated the economy, curtailed corruption and maintained political stability.

But the country sacrifices basic human rights – such as freedom of expression and freedom of association – to sustain the ruling party's political hegemony.

In the graft index report released on Thursday, Namibia was ranked 53rd (51 points) and was followed by Mauritius at position 54 (50 points). Sao Tome and Principe took position 64 (46 points) and Senegal 66th place with 45 points.

South Africa was ranked 71st with a score of 43. After Cyril Ramaphosa took over from Jacob Zuma as President, he listed the eradication of corruption as one of his key tasks.

Ramaphosa said his priority will be to champion for patriotism and unity of all South Africans.

The ANC boss also said he will outline comprehensive steps his government will undertake to fight corruption.

"Leaders of other political parties have raised pertinent issues on corruption and enterprises but I want to assure all of us that those are issues on our radar screen and we shall deal with them," he said.

Ramaphosa further said a judicial inquiry into allegations of influence-peddling in Zuma's government was a top priority and that those responsible should be prosecuted.

Zuma has denied allegations that he has allowed his friends to influence the appointment of Cabinet ministers.

Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Tunisia tied in position 74 with 42 points while Ghana and Morocco took position 81 with 40 points.

Benin was ranked 85th alongside Swaziland with 39 points while Zambia followed at position 96 with a score of 37.

Code d' Ivore tied with Tanzania at position 103 with 36 points. Transparency International ranked Ethiopia 107th (35 points) and Algeria, Niger and Egypt 112th with 33 points.

Other rankings were as follows: Gabon and Togo (position 117, 32 points), Djibout, Liberia, Malawi and Mali (position 122, 31 points), Gambia and Sierra Leone (position 130, 30 points), Comoros, Guinea and Nigeria (148 points, 27 points), Zimbabwe (position 157, 22 points) Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo (position 161, 21 points),

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa gave Cabinet ministers and senior government officials until the end of February to declare their assets.

He promised to tackle corruption, especially in public institutions.

This year's Corruption Perceptions Index shows many countries are making little or no progress in ending the vice.

The best performing region was Western Europe with an average score of 66 while the worst performing regions were Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).

[back to contents]


Eighteen Killed in Somalia Attacks
New York Times

By The Associated Press
February 23, 2018

Two car bomb blasts in Somalia's capital killed at least 18 people on Friday and shattered a months long period of calm in Mogadishu. The Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The explosions came a day after Somalia's interior minister warned of an explosives-laden vehicle somewhere in the capital.

The first explosion occurred near the country's intelligence headquarters, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said. He said the second occurred near Parliament's headquarters, where a vehicle tried to speed through a checkpoint.

Mogadishu was the target of a truck bombing in October that killed 512 people, the deadliest attack in the Horn of Africa and one for which the Shabab was blamed.

Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country's security to Somalia's own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be completed in 2020.

Escaping Back to War - Somali Refugees Return From Yemen
All Africa

By Bettina Rühl
February 27, 2018

When civil war broke out in Somalia, Ali Hassan Suufi and his wife fled to Yemen. But after the Yemeni Civil War began they returned to their home country, which had been ravaged by terror and poverty.

On mornings like these, when there is nothing left to eat in the house, Ali Hassan Suufi worries about how he will find the money to send his children to school. Suufi misses his life in the Yemeni refugee camp, where he lived with his family for 20 years.

"We had a good life, we were content," he says, "We had enough to eat every day, even vegetables and milk for the children. I managed to save about 20 dollars a day from the income from my own restaurant. We lived well, as is only possible in times of peace."

Sadly, those times are long gone. Civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991 and Suufi and his wife Farhiya Abdirahman Mohamed fled to Yemen three years later. Their children were born there and went to school at the refugee camp run by the United Nations.

Suufi was eventually elected to be the spokesman for the camp's 20,000 refugees. But in January 2015, shortly before the outbreak of the Yemeni Civil War, he decided to go home. Not because he expected life to be better there. But he was concerned about the constant bombardments, cholera epidemics and other horrors which come with war. The UN has consistently described the conditions in Yemen as horrendous for civilians.

Strangers in a familiar place

And so Suufi and his wife Farhiya took a boat back to Somali's capital Mogadishu. But Farhiya says returning home has been a struggle.

"I feel like a refugee, not like someone who returned home," she told DW, "We used to have a house here, which my husband sold to pay for our flight to Yemen. We just thought about surviving the war. Nobody was thinking about the future. Now I feel homeless."

Terror attacks pose everyday risk

Suufi goes out everyday looking for work. Sometimes he is hired just for the day and brings home 10 dollars. He may end up with 50 dollars for the whole month. But even the most ordinary jobs can be extremely dangerous, as extremist groups like al-shabab carry out frequent attacks in and around Mogadishu. "It is dangerous to work as a cook in Mogadishu," he says, "Twice there were terrorist attacks on the hotels where I worked that day. I was lucky to survive." Hotels and restaurants are al-shabab's preferred targets in the city center. Although Farhiya worries about the safety of her husband, she knows that they have little choice. "I worry very much when my husband is working somewhere," she says," On the other hand, the children get hungry and ask me for food all the time. My husband doesn't really have a choice. He has to trust in God and look for work."

US 'donates' drone war capability to Somalia
Middle East Monitor

February 28, 2018

The US government has stepped-up its support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by supplying unmanned aerial drones to Somalia's military force, Garowe Online reported yesterday.

A new surveillance drone unveiled in Somalia's Baledogle Military Airfield, in Lower Shabelle region, will be used by Somali forces to monitor armed groups on the ground. It is unclear if the drone has hell-fire missile capability, which may lead onto a ramped up rate of targeted killings in the country.

The drones will provide Somalia's forces a much needed "real time" intelligence feed, Francisco Madeira, the special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for the Somalia Ambassador noted while thanking the US for its continued support for AMISOM.

The US has assisted with striking targets in Somalia since 2006, going after Al-Shabaab armed group which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2012. AMISOM, which was formed by a UN Security Council resolution, has been helping the Somali military in its fight against Al-Shabaab since 2007.

The US has previously conducted botched counter-terrorism raids alongside local Somali forces and the Somali National Army, resulting in the killing of ten civilians, including women and children. The intelligence which led to the raid was based on local Somali intelligence gathering. Yesterday, the US conducted an air strike killing two Al-Shabaab fighters, wounding a third, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed. "We assess no civilians were killed in this strike," the statement read.

Drone strikes in Somalia doubled in the first year of Donald Trump's presidency. In one such strike in November last year, the US killed more than 100 Al-Shabaab fighters in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia.

Lawyers and human rights groups have continually voiced concerns over the lack of transparency and accountability for the strikes. Although the US Pentagon insists that these strikes do not claim the lives of innocent civilians, the claims should be treated with skepticism. Former US president Barack Obama previously warned high risk counter-terrorism operations should be used sparingly and only after internal review. Trump has sidestepped that rule and provided the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Military broader powers in Somalia, considering parts of the country "areas of activity hostilities" or temporary battlefields. The US has killed some 713 Somalis and injured 60 since 2007, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an organization which tracks US strikes across the world.

[back to contents]



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

Over 1,000 refugees evacuated from Libya by UNHCR

February 15, 2018

Since November, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has evacuated over 1,000 highly vulnerable refugees out of Libya and is looking for durable solutions for them in third countries. On Tuesday, a flight departed from Tripoli bound for, Niamey, Niger, carrying 128 refugees and on Wednesday, a second plane took 150 refugees from Tripoli to Rome, Italy, bringing to 1,084 the total number of refugees evacuated since the beginning of UNHCR's operation, three months ago.

"These evacuations have provided a new chance at life for more than 1,000 refugees who were detained in Libya and suffered tremendously. By the end of 2018, we hope to evacuate thousands more," said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR's special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean.

With the cooperation of UNHCR's partners and thanks to the crucial support of the government of Niger, the 128 refugees evacuated to Niger on Tuesday, 13 February, are being accommodated in guesthouses in Niamey, where assistance and psychosocial support are made available pending resettlement or other durable solutions. So far, 770 refugees have been evacuated to Niger, including single mothers, families and unaccompanied and separated children.

The 150 highly vulnerable refugees who were evacuated from Tripoli to Rome on Wednesday included children and women who had been held captive for long periods of time. This was the second evacuation from Libya directly to Italy and could not have happened without the strong commitment of the Italian authorities and the support of the Libyan Government. In total, 312 refugees have been evacuated directly to Italy. Upon arrival in Rome, refugees go through medical checks and are provided with warm clothes and a hot meal before undergoing identification procedures. The refugees are then transferred to various reception facilities.

"These evacuations are the best example of the impact that international solidarity can have on refugees themselves; however, much more needs to be done. Only 16,940 resettlement places have been received so far for the 15 priority countries of asylum along the Central Mediterranean route, including Libya and Niger. We call on all countries to come forth with additional places that will provide a tangible solution for many more refugees who are still in Libya," added Cochetel.

Sudanese intelligence official accuses rebel movements of involvement in human trafficking
The Libya Observer

By Safa Alharathy
February 27, 2018

The Deputy Director of the Intelligence and Security Service of Sudan, Jalal al-Din al-Tayeb, accused the rebel movements in his country of being involved in crimes of human trafficking, smuggling, murder, looting, and in recruiting children to fight as mercenaries in Libya.

In a speech at a meeting on illegal immigration held in Khartoum, he called for the need to further cooperate, coordinate and exchange information in order to achieve security and establish the principles of justice in a number of African countries, pointing out that illegal immigration and criminal gangs associated with trafficking in human beings is affecting the security and stability in Africa.

Man killed in indiscriminate shooting in Sabha as clashes continue
The Libya Observer

By Safa Alharathy
February 27, 2018

The spokesperson of Sabha Medical Center, Osama Al-Wafi, confirmed that the hospital received body of a man who fell victim to an indiscriminate shooting during the ongoing clashes in the city.

In a briefing on Monday, Al-Wafi said that the Centre declared a state of emergency as a result of the clashes that hampered the arrival of medical and paramedical personnel to the center and had its substantial effect on the treatment of patients.

Sabha Medical Center announced earlier the transfer of all cases in the paediatric and internal medicine departments to other wards to ensure the safety of patients, after the center was caught up in the random clashes, which resulted in a number of injuries.

[back to contents]


The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

Official Court Website [English translation]

Acquitted Bosnian Croat Fighter Sues for Damages
Balkan Insight

By Albina Sorguc
February 14, 2018

Pavo Glavas's lawyer Branka Praljak told the state court in Sarajevo on Wednesday that her client, who was acquitted of war crimes and cleared of raping two women in Odzak in 1992, needed the compensation because he missed out on earnings from his job in Switzerland while in custody.

She said Glavas had already sued the state and was awarded around 22,500 euros as compensation for the "psychological pain" he suffered as result of 17 months in detention.

In that case however, the court rejected Glavas' request for the additional compensation because of lost earnings, but the Bosnian court appeals chamber then accepted his argument and ordered the case to be heard again.

Praljak proposed to file as evidence Glavas' contract of employment from Switzerland, a document confirming he lost his job after he was arrested and his confirmations of earnings from Switzerland for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The hearing was not attended by officials representing the state.

The main hearing in the case will be held on April 4.

Bosnia Acquits Serb Police Commander of Srebrenica Genocide
Balkan Insight

By Lamija Grebo
February 16, 2018

The state court in Sarajevo on Friday cleared Goran Saric, a former commander of the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry's special police brigade, of involvement in genocide in July 1995.

"On the basis of pieces of evidence presented, the court has not been able to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendant knew about the genocidal intention of the main perpetrators," said presiding judge Stanisa Gluhajic.

Gluhajic said that the prosecution had not been able to prove the counts in the indictment which charged Saric with having been aware of the existence of a plan for killing the Bosniak population of Srebrenica.

The judge also said it was not apparent from the evidence that Saric had interacted with the participants in the joint criminal enterprise aimed at expelling and killing Bosniaks from Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb military and political leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

Saric was acquitted on charges of issuing instructions for the massacres, and cleared of exercising control over his deputy Ljubomir Borovcanin, who the Hague Tribunal sentenced to 17 years in prison for crimes in Srebrenica.

The court said there was no evidence that Saric issued any type of orders to Borovcanin or lower-ranking chiefs of the special police brigade.

Borovcanin was freed in 2016 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Saric was also found not guilty of assisting members of the joint criminal enterprise in committing genocide, which resulted in more than 7,000 deaths and around 40,000 people being displaced.

He was further acquitted of committing war crimes in the Zvornik area.

According to the court, there is no evidence that the defendant saw the Srebrenica captives or the Bosniaks who were killed.

The trial of Saric has lasted around four years.

The verdict can be appealed.

Bosnian Serb Ex-Soldier Tried for Visegrad Wartime Rape
Balkan Insight

By Admir Muslimovic
February 19, 2018

The trial of Vuk Ratkovic, a former member of the Visegrad Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, opened at the state court in Sarajevo on Monday.

Ratkovic is charged with having tortured, abused, raped and beaten a Serb woman on several occasions in the period from June 1992 to January 1993.

"The defendant forced the Serb female to have sexual intercourse with him three times, because she was married to a Bosniak man," state prosecutor Edin Muratbegovic said, reading the indictment.

The victim will appear as a protected witness at this trial. According to the charges, her husband and sons left Visegrad during the war between Bosnian Serb Army and the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while she stayed in the town with her young daughter.

"In mid-June [1992], the defendant, who was armed, came to her building, forcibly took her to her apartment, undressed and beat her and then raped her, telling her she was a Turk's wife. He raped her in her apartment twice when no one else was present," Muratbegovic said.

The prosecutor said the third rape was committed in the woman's apartment in presence of her daughter and niece in mid-January 1993.

"While raping her on that occasion, the defendant told the injured party she had to respect him as her new husband and that she was his property. He told her she would no longer give birth to Turkish, but his Serbian children," Muratbegovic said.

The indictment alleges that the defendant forced the woman's daughter to tell him where her father was, while making her play Serb songs about murders of Bosniaks in the River Drina valley.

The trial will continue on March 5.

Bosnian War Crimes Convict Flees to Evade Prison
Balkan Insight

By Admir Muslimovic
February 22, 2018

Former Bosnian Serb policeman Miroslav Duka did not appear to start serving his prison sentence and is now believed to be on the run, BIRN learned on Thursday.

His lawyer Dejan Bogdanovic said that he had not been in contact with his client for months and that he knew nothing about Duka absconding.

BIRN has learned that after Duka did not turn up at the prison on the date he was given to start his sentence, police could not find him at his home address and believe it is possible that he has crossed the border into Serbia.

"According to the information we have now, he had not reported to the local police station for a significant period of time, and the court was not notified," said a judicial official under the condition of anonymity.

The appeals chamber of the Bosnian court sentenced Duka to 12 years in prison in August last year.

He was found guilty of the torture, abuse and beatings of Bosniak and Croat civilians at the police station and a student centre in Bileca. One of the prisoners died as a result of the abuse.

Duka was one of the commanders at the police station.

Bosnia Hopes to Complete War Crimes Cases in 2023
Balkan Insight

By Dzana Brkanic
February 23, 2018

The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council on Thursday decided to support amendments to Bosnia and Herzegovina's war crimes strategy in order to ensure that all the cases in the country's enormous backlog are finally processed by 2023, BIRN has learned.

As indicated in the draft strategy, which BIRN has obtained, the state prosecution has more than 550 unresolved war crimes cases in which more than 4,500 perpetrators have been identified, and as many cases again with unknown perpetrators.

The state strategy was originally adopted in 2008 and stipulated that the most complex war crime cases should be completed in seven years.

Because this deadline was not met, a working group to draft amendments to the original strategy was set up.

The draft of the revised strategy says that it is necessary for the state court to process the most important suspects as a matter of priority.

When it comes to classification of cases as either 'complex' or 'less complex' ones, it needs to be agreed at which level of the country's court system they will be processed.

One of the goals defined in the strategy is ensuring an efficient distribution of cases to lower-level courts in Bosnia's two entities and the Brcko District - a process which has proved inadequate so far.

"Uneven distribution of cases, as well as processing less complex cases by the prosecution and court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are among the causes of the inefficient processing of the most complex war crime cases and the expiry of the original seven-year deadline specified under the strategy," the new draft strategy says.

Once a substantial number of cases have been transferred to the entity and Brcko courts, it will be necessary to reinforce human resources to deal with these cases, and local ministries will be expected to provide financial resources, the draft strategy says.

To ensure quality work on war crime cases, efforts will be invested in strengthening court and prosecutorial capacities and training and educating personnel, it adds.

Cooperation with other countries in the region must be improved, because the existing cooperation mechanisms have not adequately resolved referrals of war crimes cases from one country to another, or the extradition of suspects who have dual citizenship.

The new strategy also aims to update the register of cases pending before the state court and prosecution.

"Within the deadline of 30 days following the adoption of the revisions and amendments to the strategy, the prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall update the existing registry of war crime cases and classify them either as complex or less complex cases," the draft strategy indicates.

A session of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council on Thursday voted unanimously to support the proposal for the revised strategy and said that it should be adopted by the country's Council of Ministers.

[back to contents]

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

Official Website of the ICTY

Hague Witness: 'Arkan's Men' Killed Bosniaks in Zvornik
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
February 15, 2018

A protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-019 testified at the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday that she was told that Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, led the fighters who killed Bosniak civilians in Zvornik in April 1992.

Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, and his former assistant Simatovic are on trial for persecution, murders and deportations during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, the paramilitary Serbian Voluntary Guard, which was commanded by Arkan, was under the control of the Serbian State Security Service.

Witness RFJ-019 said she was hiding together with other Bosniak civilians in the basement of a residential building in Zvornik on April 9, 1992 when she heard an explosion.

After that, some soldiers wearing face masks entered the basement and took the men out, while some other soldiers came for the women and children.

Once they got outside, the witness and the other women were escorted past the men from the basement, who were lined up next to a wall. RFJ-019 said she heard gunshots behind her back a short time later.

The women and children were taken to a local library, where guards "told us they were Seselj's men and they were good, while those who committed the killings were Arkan's men", witness RFJ-019 said.

The witness told the court she saw Arkan at the library before she was taken away.

When she returned to Zvornik a short time later, RFJ-019 said she saw blood at the place where the men from the basement had been lined up. She said she has never seen the men alive again.

The Hague Tribunal charged Arkan with wartime crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but he was murdered in Belgrade in January 2001 and never appeared in court.

According to the indictment, Stanisic and Simatovic committed their crimes as part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would then be incorporated into a unified Serb state.

The prosecutors allege that the joint criminal enterprise was led by the former Serbian President Milosevic, while other protagonists included Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic.

The defendants both pleaded not guilty in December 2015 after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.

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

Hague Court Says Serbia Must Agree to Try Radicals
Balkan Insight

By Radosa Milutinovic
February 15, 2018

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday called on the Serbian authorities to declare within 30 days that they have the "jurisdiction, willingness and readiness to accept the trial in the case" against the two wanted Serbian Radical Party members, Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta.

Jojic and Radeta are wanted by the UN court for influencing witnesses in the trial of their party leader, Vojislav Seselj.

They are accused of threatening, blackmailing and bribing witnesses to either change their testimonies or to not testify at all.

There has been a long-running dispute between the Hague court and Serbia over the arrest and extradition of the two Radicals, who were charged in October 2012. Belgrade has so far refused to detain them and send them to The Hague for trial.

The Serbian authorities have previously proposed that their trial takes place before a Serbian court, but the court rejected the suggestion.

Judge Aydin Akay said that Serbia must file a written motion on the issue in order for the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals to make a decision on whether to cede the case against Jojic and Radeta to the Serbian judiciary, given the fact that the crime with which they are charged upon was committed in Serbia.

The Tribunal submitted a warrant ordering their arrest in January 2015.

But in May 2016, the war crimes chamber of the Belgrade Higher Court ruled that there were no legal grounds for extraditing the Radicals because Serbia's Law on Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal obliged Belgrade to extradite people charged with war crimes, but not those charged with contempt of court.

In October 2016, the tribunal issued an international warrant for the arrest of Jojic and Radeta, saying that Serbia had refused to act on the Tribunal's order to arrest and extradite them several times.

Interpol then issued 'red notices' for Jojic and Radeta.

The Hague Tribunal has reported Serbia to the UN Security Council several times for non-cooperation in the case.

A third Radical Party member who was also accused in the case, Jovo Ostojic, died in Serbia last year.

The Radicals' leader Seselj was acquitted of wartime crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia under a first-instance verdict handed down by the UN court in March 2016.

The prosecution filed an appeal and the second-instance verdict is expected to be delivered this year.

Seselj was released by the court in 2014 for cancer treatment and returned to Serbia. He has since refused to go back to The Hague.

UN Prosecutors Object to Ratko Mladic's Release Request
Balkan Insight

By Denis Dzidic
February 21, 2018

Prosecutor Katrina Gustafson said on Wednesday said the motion filed by Mladic's defence lawyers should be rejected because there was no guarantee that the former Bosnian Serb Army commander would return to The Hague if he was released.

Gustafson also insisted that Mladic was getting all the medical care he needed at the UN Detention Unit in the Netherlands.

The prosecutor also said that a similar request by Mladic's defence was rejected last year, "because the chamber was not convinced that Mladic would return to the Tribunal, considering the fact that he had previously been on the run for 16 years".

"Mladic was recently sentenced to life imprisonment, which increases the risk of him seeking to flee. The allegations by Mladic's defence that a guarantee by Serbia [that Mladic would return to The Hague] annulled the danger of his flight are unfounded," Gustafson added.

She also said that the defence did not mention in its motion what kind of treatment Mladic could get in Serbia which was not already available to him at the UN Detention Unit.

A description of the exact nature of Mladic's illness was redacted from the motion.

At the beginning of February, Mladic's defence appealed against an earlier court decision refusing his request for temporary release for medical treatment in Serbia.

The defence also filed a motion asking the judges at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals to quash his verdict and terminate proceedings because Mladic was showing signs of "mild dementia".

The Hague Tribunal sentenced Mladic in November last year to life imprisonment for the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

He was acquitted of further charges of genocide in several other Bosnian municipalities in 1992.

Even before the verdict, Mladic's lawyers complained about the medical care their client was receiving at the UN Detention Unit and requested that visits by Serbian and Russian doctors be organised in order for them to determine whether Mladic was getting adequate care.

UN Court Sets Vojislav Seselj Verdict for April
Balkan Insight

By Denis Dzidic
February 26, 2018

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals said on Monday that the second-instance verdict on Vojislav Seselj - who was initially acquitted of wartime crimes in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina - will be handed down on April 11.

But Seselj, who has been at liberty in Serbia since he was temporarily released for cancer treatment in 2014, has insisted that he will not go back to The Hague to hear the verdict.

"He will not go. He has said that many times - that he won't go back to The Hague," Serbian Radical Party MP Vjerica Radeta told BIRN after the UN court scheduled the verdict date.

But the president of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, Theodor Meron, said that the verdict could be pronounced in Seselj's absence.

Under the first-instance verdict in March 2016, Seselj was acquitted of persecution on political, racial and religious grounds as well as crimes against humanity in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The verdict determined that the establishment of a 'Greater Serbia' was Seselj's political goal, but it did not imply the commission of crimes.

Seselj did not attend the pronouncement of the first instance verdict.

In their appeal, the Hague prosecutors asked the court to quash the first-instance verdict and convict Seselj.

Prosecutor Mathias Marcussen asked for Seselj to be found guilty and sentenced to 28 years in prison or undergo a new trial.

The trial of Seselj has lasted around ten years. It was interrupted several times in order to also try the Serbian Radical Party leader for contempt of court, of which he was found guilty.

After being allowed to go back to Serbia in 2014, Seselj returned to politics and is currently an MP.

[back to contents]

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

Amnesty Highlights Continued Rights Failings in Balkans
Balkan Insight

By Maja Zivanovic
February 22, 2018

Amnesty International's annual report, published on Thursday, shone a light on human rights violations in all Balkan countries and pointed especially to a lack of will to deal with war crimes.

The report presented the state of human rights during 2017 in 159 countries and territories.

"As we enter 2018, the year in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, it is abundantly clear that none of us can take any of our human rights for granted … The battle for human rights is never decisively won in any place or at any point in time," it said.

Albania: The report noted that in May 2017, a British court found that hundreds of lesbian and gay people, trafficking victims and domestic violence survivors may have been wrongly deported to Albania since 2011 "because UK courts had relied on incorrect guidance".

It added that impunity persisted for past killings and enforced disappearances and underlined that measures protecting women from domestic violence were inadequately implemented.

"Women and children were trafficked for forced prostitution and labour," it said.

Albania's path to EU membership was being hindered by its slow progress in combating corruption and organized crime, the report said.

On media freedom, Amnesty noted that physical attacks against investigative journalists in Albania were "perpetrated by organized criminals, or owners of private companies".

Bosnia and Herzegovina:"Minorities continued to face widespread discrimination. Threats and attacks against journalists and media freedom persisted. Access to justice and reparations for civilian victims of war remained limited," the report said.

Social exclusion and discrimination, in particular of Roma, LGBT people, and of people with disabilities, remained widespread, it added.

The report said that a pattern of threats, political pressure and attacks against journalists had continued.

"The domestic prosecution of war crimes remained slow, with a backlog of several hundred cases pending before various courts at the end of the year. Despite recent progress, the prosecutions continued to suffer from lack of capacity and resources, ineffective case-management and persistent political obstruction," it noted.

The report also said that although over 75 percent of missing persons from the 1992-5 war in Bosnia had been exhumed and identified, 8,000 people remain missing in connection with the conflict.

"The process of exhumations continued to encounter significant challenges, including reduced funding and limited expertise," Amnesty pointed out, and added that the country's Law on Missing Persons remained unimplemented, with the Fund for Families of the Missing still awaiting dedicated resources.

Bulgaria: The report highlighted that summary detentions, pushbacks and abuses at the border had continued, and that necessary services were not provided to migrants and refugees, including unaccompanied children.

"A climate of xenophobia and intolerance sharply intensified. Roma continued to be at risk of pervasive discrimination," it added.

Amnesty warned also that although Bulgaria was committed to accepting 1,302 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy under the EU emergency relocation scheme, it had only resettled 50 people from Greece by the end of the year.

"It did not receive any Syrian refugees from Turkey under the EU-Turkey 'one-for-one' resettlement deal although it had originally committed to accept 100 people under the scheme," it noted.

The report also pointed to a continuation of a "pattern of threats, political pressure and attacks against journalists".

"A significant portion of the media remained under the tight control of political parties and local oligarchs," it added.

Croatia: The report said that discrimination against ethnic and sexual minorities persisted in Croatia, while refugees and migrants entering irregularly were returned without access to an effective asylum process.

"Croatia accepted less than a 10th of the refugees and asylum-seekers it had committed to relocate and resettle under EU schemes," it said.

The report also underlined that access to abortion "remained restricted" in Croatia.

"Individual doctors, and in some cases health care institutions, continued to refuse abortions on grounds of conscience, forcing women to undergo clandestine and unsafe abortions," it read.

It also added that of the over 6,000 people who went missing during the 1991-1995 war, the fate and whereabouts of more than 1,500 remained unclarified.

"The International Commission on Missing Persons reported that Croatia failed to make significant steps towards fulfilling the rights to truth, justice and reparation for victims, including by failing to account for over 900 unidentified mortal remains in its mortuaries," it said.

The report pointed out that Croatia was committed to accepting 1,600 refugees and asylum-seekers under the EU resettlement and relocation schemes by the end of the year.

"By mid-November, fewer than 100 people had been relocated, and none had been resettled," it said.

Kosovo: "The absence of any agreement on mutual legal assistance between Kosovo and Serbia hampered the prosecution of Serbs suspected of crimes under international law during the 1998-99 armed conflicts, including conflict-related sexual violence," the report said.

It recalled that hundreds of unresolved case files were due to be transferred by June 2018 to Kosovo's Special Prosecution Office.

"Prosecutors, NGOs and survivors of CRSV [conflict-related sexual violence] were concerned that testimonies, known to have been gathered after the armed conflict by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), had not been promptly or adequately investigated," the report added.

Amnesty warned that little progress was being made in locating people still missing from the armed conflict of the late-1990s and its aftermath, and pointed out that some 1,658 people were still missing.

"In May, the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, authorized to monitor the treatment of the people in detention, was refused access to prison hospitals after these had been transferred to the Ministry of Health," the report said.

It added that some detainees were held for long periods before and during trial – while one of them "was detained for over 31 months".

On freedom of the media, the report noted that the Association of Kosovo Journalists reported an increase in attacks, especially on investigative journalists.

Macedonia: "Impunity for war crimes persisted. Asylum-seekers and migrants were unlawfully detained. A court judgment provided for legal gender recognition for transgender people," the report said.

The report also said that "impunity for war crimes, including enforced disappearances and abductions, persisted".

It added that asylum seekers and migrants, including unaccompanied children, were "unlawfully detained at the Reception Centre for Foreigners as witnesses in criminal proceedings against smugglers, for an average of two weeks, after which they were released".

Montenegro: The report highlighted that past murders and attacks on journalists and media workers remained unresolved.

It added that the country's Constitutional Court found that investigations into alleged torture and ill treatment had "failed to meet international standards".

"The funding of NGOs was threatened and human rights defenders were subjected to smear campaigns by media supportive of the government," it noted.

Amnesty also said that civil society members of a commission charged with monitoring investigations into violence against journalists "continued to be denied security clearance to classified documents".

The report noted the poor condition in which almost 1,000 Roma and Egyptian refugees who fled Kosovo in 1999 are housed at Konik, a camp outside the capital, Podgorica.

It is said that these refugees are still awaiting resettlement to adequate EU-funded apartments.

Romania: The report recalled that laws extending pardons and amnesties for corruption and official misconduct were put forward in parliament, sparking protests across the country.

It added that European and international institutions criticized overcrowding in prisons and inadequate detention conditions.

Romania is also criticized for continued discrimination against Roma. "Living conditions in social care and psychiatric institutions for people with disabilities remained extremely precarious," it added.

Serbia: "Former Serbian military leaders released after serving sentences handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, were increasingly afforded influential positions," the report noted.

It also recalled that, in December, despite a UN Committee against Torture ruling against his extradition, Serbia had returned a Kurdish activist, Cevdet Ayaz, to certain imprisonment in Turkey.

The report noted that, in May, Snezana Stanojkovic was elected Chief War Crimes Prosecutor.

"Only three prosecutions, all resulting in acquittals, were concluded at the Special War Crimes Chamber," it said.

"There was no progress towards the prosecution of those responsible for the transfer and subsequent burial of bodies of Kosovo Albanians in Serbia in 1999," it added.

The report noted attacks on NGOs that advocate human rights, and attacks on journalists.

It added that the Serbian authorities also failed to protect LGBTI individuals and organizations from discrimination, threats and physical attacks.

Amnesty also noted that Roma families in Belgrade continued to live in informal settlements.

"Refugees and migrants were trapped in the country; those trying to enter the EU via Hungary and Croatia were repeatedly and violently returned to Serbia," it said.

Discrimination of minorities, media attacks persist in Bosnia
See News

By Michal Huniewicz
February 22, 2018

Minorities continued to face widespread discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while threats and attacks against journalists persisted in 2017, human rights-focused non-governmental organisation Amnesty International said on Thursday.

Social exclusion and discrimination – in particular of Roma, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and of people with disabilities – remained widespread, despite the adoption of a progressive Law on Prevention of Discrimination in 2016, the organisation said in the 2017/2018 edition of its annual report The State of the World's Human Rights.

The 2009 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in Sejdic-Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina which found the powersharing arrangements set out in the Constitution to be discriminatory, remained unimplemented, Amnesty pointed out.

It noted that throughout 2017, the pattern of threats, political pressure and attacks against journalists continued.

In July and August, Dragan Bursac, a journalist with Al Jazeera Balkans, received a series of death threats after publishing a piece in which he condemned public gatherings in Banja Luka city in support of a charged war criminal.

Besides this incident, local journalist associations documented nearly 40 cases of direct pressure, verbal threats and physical attacks against journalists by the end of the year.

In terms of crimes under international law, the domestic prosecution of war crimes remained slow, with a backlog of several hundred cases pending before various courts at the end of the year.

Amnesty commented that despite recent progress, the prosecutions continued to suffer from lack of capacity and resources, ineffective case-management and persistent political obstruction.

Although over 75% of missing persons from the war had been exhumed and identified, there were still 8,000 people missing in connection with the conflict, it added.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is made up of two entities, the Federation and the Serb Republic.

[back to contents]



Grotian Moment: The International War Crimes Trial Blog

ISIL claims attack on pro-government militia in Iraq

February 19, 2018

More than two dozen members of a pro-government militia in Iraq have been killed after being ambushed by disguised Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters.

Twenty-seven members of Hashd al-Shaabi, or the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), were killed after clashes broke out late Sunday in Hawija, a town in Iraq's oil-rich Kirkuk province, the militia said in a statement on Monday.

ISIL - also known as ISIS - claimed responsibility for the attack and said 30 people had been killed in the ambush, local media reported.

It was the deadliest attack against PMF fighters since October when pro-government forces retook Hawija from ISIL.

The killings raise questions about the continued presence of ISIL fighters in Iraq after Baghdad declared victory in its fight against the armed group in December.

The PMF, an Iran-backed paramilitary group aligned with the Iraqi government in its battle against ISIL, said the attackers had been wearing Iraqi army fatigues and were manning a fake checkpoint.

PMF soldiers were conducting security operations around Hawija at the time of the attack, the militia said.

A senior police officer in the province, who asked not to be named, told AFP news agency most of the bodies had been beheaded.

Iraq recaptured vast expanses of territory from ISIL fighters last year, including the major cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah.

Last week, international donors pledged $30bn to help the Iraqi government rebuild the country in the aftermath of the four-year battle against ISIL.

Homes, schools and hospitals across Iraq have been destroyed in the fighting, and the country is struggling to rebuild its shattered infrastructure and economy.

Iraq court sentences 16 Turkish women to death for joining Isis
The Guardian

February 25, 2018

An Iraqi court has sentenced 16 Turkish women to death by hanging for joining Islamic State, a judiciary spokesman said on Sunday.

Iraq is conducting the trials of hundreds of foreign women who have been detained, with hundreds of their children, by Iraqi forces since August, as Isis strongholds crumbled.

The central criminal court issued the sentences "after it was proven they belong to the Daesh terrorist group and after they confessed to marrying Daesh elements or providing members of the group with logistical aid or helping them carry out terrorist attacks", said Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, referring to the militant group using an Arabic acronym.

All the verdicts were subject to appeal, he said.

Thousands of foreigners have fought on behalf of Isis in Iraq and Syria since at least 2014. Many foreign women came – or were brought – from overseas to join the militants.

More than 1,300 women and children surrendered to Kurdish peshmerga in August after government forces expelled the jihadist group from the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar. Their numbers have since swelled to about 1,700 as more foreign nationals surrendered or were captured during operations to root out the militants, according to aid officials.

Another Turkish woman was sentenced to death last week and 10 others of various nationalities to life in prison, all for alleged Isis membership.

A German woman was sentenced to death last month for belonging to the group and a Russian fighter was also sentenced to death in Iraq last year for joining it.

Iraq has handed over to Russia four women and 27 children suspected of having ties to the group, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, adding that they were "tricked" into joining the militants.

Iraq declared victory in December over Isis, which had seized control of nearly a third of the country in 2014. The group has been driven out of all population centres it once controlled on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, but members have continued to carry out bombings and other attacks in Iraq.

Two IS suicide bombers shot dead before blowing themselves up in Mosul
Iraqi News

By Mohammed Ebraheem
February 26, 2018

Security forces have shot dead two Islamic State (IS) suicide bombers before blowing themselves up outside a security headquarters in Makhmur town in southeastern Mosul, a police official was quoted by the Turkish Anadolu agency as saying.

"Two Islamic State militants wearing explosive belts tried to blow themselves up outside a security headquarters at Tahouna village in Makmur, but the troops shot them dead after they rejected to stop," Captain Saad Shahm al-Awsi told the news agency.

"Also, a soldier sustained moderate injuries in the after-midnight suicide attack," Awsi said, adding that the injured soldier was immediately carried to hospital for treatment,.

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops arrested nine wanted criminals in different parts in Mosul, with one of them believed to be a member of the Islamic State group.

On Sunday night, Iraqi troops killed 30 Islamic State militants who were hiding inside a cave in western Mosul.

Acting upon accurate intelligence reports, Iraqi troops fired 27 missiles from a Stryker armored vehicle against a cave in Al-Ba'aj district, 150 km west of Mosul, leaving the cave completely destroyed and all 30 IS militants who were inside it dead.

The cave is believed to be used as an explosives depot as a huge explosion was heard following the missile attack.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced, last July, liberation of the second largest Iraqi city of Mosul from IS militants, who had captured it in 2014. More than 25,000 militants were killed throughout the campaign, which started in October 2016.

Commander urges military operation to strike IS militants in Iraq's Hawija
Iraqi News

By Mohammed Ebraheem
February 27, 2018

The Islamic State (IS) group is still active in Hawija, making it necessary to launch a large pre-emptive military operation to prevent its militants from seizing control of this vital city again, a paramilitary commander was quoted as saying Tuesday.

In statements to Alghad Press, Ali al-Husseini, the commander of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) northern axis, said, "IS militants are still active and take mountainous areas near Hawija on the border between Salahuddin and Kirkuk as shelters."

Husseini further estimated the number of IS militants in Hawija at dozens, however, he warned that they "pose a serious challenge as they continuously move and target security men on a daily basis."

Therefore, Husseini called for "launching a wide-scale pre-emptive operation, based on intelligence reports, to track down and eliminate IS militants in these areas."

But Husseini acknowledged that it is difficult now "to launch this operation due to bad weather and the rugged area."

In October, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that Iraqi troops recaptured Hawija, a main town held by Islamic State in the country.

The town had fallen to IS in June 2014, when the militant group seized control of much of northern and western Iraq and proclaimed the creation of a self-styled "caliphate".

There, Islamic State's reign forced thousands to flee to refugee camps, while hundreds had been executed by the group for attempting to escape the area or contacting security forces.

Iraqi PM office denies declaration of victory over IS was hasty
Iraqi News

By Mohamed Mostafa
February 27, 2018

The Iraqi prime minister has repudiated claims that the declaration of victory over Islamic State extremists was premature, reiterating that the group does not enjoy any territorial influence anymore in the country.

Shafaq News website quoted Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesperson of Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi, saying that "winning the military battle is something we had previously determined, and back then, we never said that terrorist threats disappeared, they are still existent".

"Terrorists had controlled nearly 40% of Iraq, and at present, there is no region under their control, but rather hiding cells at small agricultural or desert areas. That we had predicted, and dealing with through security efforts," according to Hadithi.

Iraq declared victory over IS in December, saying its forces recaptured all towns that had been under the militants' control since 2014. But since then, militants have waged occasional attacks against civilians and security forces, prompting some commentators to argue that it was hasty to declare victory.

The prime minister spokesman's statement came as security forces reinforced their presence around Kirkuk province, days after IS militants ambushed Popular Mobilization Forces members, killing 27 of them.

PMF top leader Hadi al-Ameri was quoted saying, after the incident, that "whoever thins the battle with IS is over is deluded".

[back to contents]


Relentless bombing of civilians in Eastern Ghouta amounts to war crimes
Amnesty International

February 20, 2018

Responding to the news of the escalating bombing campaign by the Syrian government and its ally Russia in Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Countryside which has left scores dead and hundreds injured in the past month, Amnesty International's Syria Researcher Diana Semaan, said:

"The Syrian government, with the backing of Russia, is intentionally targeting its own people in Eastern Ghouta. People have not only been suffering a cruel siege for the past six years, they are now trapped in a daily barrage of attacks that are deliberately killing and maiming them, and that constitute flagrant war crimes.

"For six years, the international community has stood by as the Syrian government has committed crimes against humanity and war crimes with total impunity.

"The United Nations Security Council must enforce its own resolutions which call for an end to sieges of civilian areas and attacks on civilians, and for unimpeded humanitarian access. Permanent members, including Russia, should not block measures to end and redress mass atrocities.

"It is imperative for the Security Council to send a strong message that there will be no impunity for those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. The catastrophe in Syria provides a textbook example of the high price paid by civilians for impunity for mass atrocities.

"All parties involved in the conflict must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and grant safe passage to civilians wanting to flee the area and allow unfettered access for humanitarian organizations, so that they are able to deliver lifesaving aid to the hundreds of thousands of people in need in Eastern Ghouta."


Amnesty International has previously documented the unlawful siege and unlawful killing of civilians, including the use of internationally banned cluster munitions, in Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian government in violation of international humanitarian law.

The organization also documented violations of international humanitarian law by the armed opposition group, the Army of Islam, based in Eastern Ghouta including unlawful shelling of civilian areas in government-controlled areas and restricting the movement of civilians out of Eastern Ghouta.

This morning, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported that five civilians were killed and 20 others were injured after shelling from Eastern Ghouta on the Damascus countryside.

Don't Expect Justice for Syrian War Criminals
National Review

By Jonathan S. Tobin
February 23, 2018

Every once in a while the world wakes up to the fact that one of the greatest human-rights catastrophes ever is still going on in Syria. The Syrian civil war has been raging since 2011, and in that time 500,000 Syrians have been killed, while approximately half of the country's pre-war population of 22 million have been made homeless or driven into exile. While the world obsesses over other conflicts — in particular the one going on next door between Israel and the Palestinians, which over several decades hasn't produced a fraction of the suffering that has taken place in Syria in just the last seven years — the slaughter in Syria continues without most of the international community paying much attention.

Over the past week, as the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad have closed in on one of the remaining rebel strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus, the vicious shelling of civilian targets has become more conspicuous, which is no small feat in a war that foreign correspondents are generally unable to cover. While casualties are inevitable in any war, the mayhem being carried out by the Assad regime and its Iranian, Hezbollah, and Russian allies is deliberately and avowedly aimed at killing civilians and anyone trying to help them. As the New York Times editorial column noted on Thursday, this indiscriminate murder fits the classic definition of a war crime. But the wait for justice for those carrying out these crimes as well as those who are enabling them may be long.

The headline of the Times editorial read, "Who Has Innocent Syrian Blood on Their Hands?" but the answer to the question goes deeper than just the people firing the guns at Ghouta, where hundreds of civilians were killed this week.

Some of Assad's henchmen aren't shy about claiming credit for what's going on. Syrian general Suheil al-Hassan vowed in a video to devastate the area with fire. Lest there be any doubt about his intention of making civilians suffer, and to deter any intrepid aid workers from rendering assistance to casualties and those made homeless by the fighting, he added, "You won't find a rescuer. And if you do, you will be rescued with water like boiling oil. You'll be rescued with blood." That was enough to get the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, to denounce the offensive as a "monstrous campaign of annihilation."

In theory, that ought to mean that the machinery of the International Criminal Court will be getting ready to begin an effort that will ultimately indict a host of players in the Syrian court, in the same manner that was used to bring those who committed atrocities in the Balkan wars of the 1990s to justice. But the problem won't be just a matter of waiting for the dust to settle after the fighting, which appears to be in its last stages in a war that has been won for Assad by Russian and Iranian intervention. It's that the guilty parties do not merely include killers such as al-Hassan or even Assad. The list of those responsible for war crimes in Syria also includes the rulers of Iran, as well as the Putin regime in Moscow.

Just as daunting is the fact that the list of those who have, for all intents and purposes, acquiesced in this crime must include the leaders of the United States and other Western governments who decided not to stop Assad and gave Russian president Vladimir Putin permission to do as he likes in Syria.

The Times editorial noted that the Trump administration has, despite success in the war against ISIS (for which it deserves credit that it has been largely denied by most of the mainstream media), "abandoned America's international leadership role" in Syria.

That's true up to a point. Trump's efforts to ingratiate himself with Putin haven't paid any diplomatic dividends for the U.S. or caused the Russians to moderate their stance in Syria. Nor has the president figured out how to resolve the contradiction between his open desire for a rapprochement with Russia and his hostility to Iran. While Trump is right to condemn Iran's adventurism in the region, being soft on Iran's Russian ally has prevented the U.S. from taking any strong stand against Tehran's successful effort to convert Syria into a base of operations for a military confrontation with neighboring Israel.

Yet the opening for Russia and for Assad to butcher his opponents and countless civilians didn't come from Trump. It was the work of President Obama, whose name went unmentioned in the Times editorial. It was Obama who recklessly warned Assad in 2013 that his use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that he would cross at his own peril. He then backed down and not only allowed Assad to escape punishment but punted responsibility, both for tracking down the chemical weapons and for what would follow in the war, to Russia. This happened even though Obama knew that Russia's goal in Syria was the preservation of Assad's rule and that Moscow would, as it has done elsewhere when it perceived a chance to start reassembling the old Soviet empire, act ruthlessly to achieve that despicable purpose.

To note these facts is not merely a matter of settling scores with Trump's predecessor. However, if we are to answer the question about who is responsible for the blood of Syrian innocents that has been shed, we must point out that Assad's continued use of chemical weapons as well as the atrocities that followed that humiliating retreat should weigh heavily on Obama's conscience as well as on those who applauded and rationalized his failure.

This does not get Trump off the hook for dealing with the mess he inherited. The fact that Syria has become not only a slaughterhouse but also the focal point for an Iranian effort to create another frontline threat to Israel is now Trump's problem to solve. If he continues to ignore it, it will not only endanger Israel and increase the chance of a new, bloody Middle East war involving Iran and its terrorist auxiliaries; it will also threaten the moderate Arab countries that look to Jerusalem as a counterweight against an Iran that was enriched and emboldened by Obama's nuclear deal.

But if anyone is serious about calling out those responsible for the war crimes in Syria that are happening in plain sight of the international community, it won't be enough to try to arraign Assad and his killers. Russia and Iran are equally at fault, and each has played a significant role in the ongoing massacres.

The sad fact is that those who let Iran and Russia win the war for Assad are in no position to complain when those same powers stonewall inquiries or a tribunal that will be charged with applying what is left of the concept of international law to what happened in Syria. We also know that as long as the U.S. and the rest of the West continue to act as if what happens in that country doesn't matter, the slaughter will continue and the murderers will never be brought to justice.

What a Chemical Attack in Syria Looks Like
CBS News

By Scott Pelley
February 25, 2018

This past week Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unleashed one of his heaviest bombardments on civilians in a struggle to end the civil war that threatened his family's dynastic dictatorship. Assad has committed just about every war crime under international law. His worst atrocities involve banned chemical weapons. This is the story of one of those massacres. It is hard to watch, and it is not for small children, but it is important to see because chemical assaults have now become routine in Syria with nearly 200 over seven years. This past November, Syria's ally, Russia, shut down the United Nations investigation into who is responsible. But our investigation continues. We have found a number of witnesses to a nerve gas attack that happened on April 4th, 2017. We'll begin with video that has not been seen until tonight.

The images were shot by a Syrian Civil Defense volunteer. So many victims fell at once, first responders used fire hoses to wash them. There was a chance, a small one, that stripping contaminated clothes and dowsing the skin might save a life. These are the people of a small farming town called Khan Shaykhun. They fell after a warplane dropped a bomb nearby. They're civilians. There's no military target here. But the village does lie in territory held by rebels fighting against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

What is striking is the number of children. Inhaling just a hint of the gas overwhelmed their nervous systems. All of their nerves fired at the same time, muscles seized, and paralyzed lungs left their last breath stuck in their throats.

The civil defense worker with the camera is repeating the name of the village—Khan Shaykhun, Khan Shaykhun—as though he feared the atrocity itself might be washed away and forgotten.

Edmond Mulet: Very early in the morning, between 6:30 and 7:00 in the morning on the 4th of April-airplanes were flying around and over Khan Shaykhun.

Edmond Mulet led the investigation of chemical attacks in Syria for the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Edmond Mulet: We have these airplanes flying; these bombed launched. More than, 100 people were killed. More than 200 people were affected, mainly children and women

The emergency response was coordinated by the famed White Helmets, civil defense volunteers, supervised by Mustafa al-Haj Yousef.

Mustafa al-Haj Yousef: Some people were fainting completely unconscious. There were cases of trembling and convulsions, foam coming out of the respiratory tract and mouth. Some people appeared to be already dead.

He counted the bodies of more than 30 children.

Mustafa al-Haj Yousef: There were young children. I was treating them, but it was already over. The doctor who was with us there said: 'Leave them, they're dead.' Young children, three months, four months, five months, some two years old.

The day before the attack, warplanes bombed local hospitals, ensuring a longer trip to medical care. White Helmet volunteers loaded those still gasping onto a truck -- with 30 miles to go to reach one of the nearest surviving hospitals, where Dr. Abdulhai Tennari was working.

Dr. Abdulhai Tennari: There were patients who had lost consciousness. Patients suffering from shortness of breath. People were doing CPR. There were many children, women, the elderly. Every age. From the very first minute, we were positive that the gas that was used was sarin.

Sarin nerve gas was invented in a Nazi program. In 1997, sarin and other chemical weapons were banned by international law.

Scott Pelley: Tell me about some of the patients from that day that are still in your mind.

Dr. Abdulhai Tennari: The case that affected me the most was one where there were two girls who were five and six years old. They seemed to be sisters. They were brought to the hospital and I started doing CPR right away, but it was clear that the two girls had died hours ago.

Dr. Mamoun Morad told us:

Dr. Mamoun Morad: A boy arrived gasping for breath, with foam coming out of his mouth and with pinpoint pupils. We washed the boy. We washed and we washed and we washed. We gave him what treatment we could, and tried to resuscitate him but he didn't make it.

Scott Pelley: Weren't you concerned about being exposed yourself?

Dr. Mamoun Morad: The situation is more desperate than I can describe. There are no words. It was like Judgment Day, the Apocalypse. You just can't even describe the scene, can't even begin to scratch the surface of explaining what happened. We didn't have any protective equipment for gas.

Scott Pelley: You're feeling the effects of this even now?

Dr. Mamoun Morad: Yes. My voice. Do you hear my voice?

The Khan Shaykhun attack drew immediate retaliation from the Trump administration, which fired 59 cruise missiles into a Syrian airbase. But only hours later, according to doctors and witnesses, the Syrian dictatorship dropped another banned chemical weapon, a chlorine bomb. The worst of the chemical attacks came in 2013, when 1,400 civilians were killed by sarin near Damascus. In response, the U.S. and Russia pressed Syria to hand over its chemical weapons. 1,400 tons of poisons were destroyed. So the attack on Khan Shaykhun should not have been possible. The head of the U.N. investigation, Edmond Mulet, told us the Syrians had an explanation.

Edmond Mulet: The Syrians have been claiming since the very beginning that this incident in Khan Shaykhun was staged. It was something that was created by the opposition, by the rebels, by the terrorists in order to blame the Syrian government. They claimed that the bomb that created the crater was an IED, an improvised explosive device, that was placed on the surface of the-- of the road-- of the asphalt that morning, that IED contained sarin and that's how it was released, but it did not come from an aerial bomb.

Evidence at Khan Shaykhun was gathered by the White Helmets. Chemical attacks have become so common that advanced equipment and training are being provided by an international charity called Mayday Rescue.

Mohammad Kayal: We collected samples from the body of the missile, and a soil sample. We also took a sample from the clothes of the affected, as well as animal samples, a cat, a pigeon. We took hair as well.

And, the samples were all positive for sarin.

Scott Pelley: Why was it so important to you to document what happened in the village?

Mohammad Kayal: Our job is to be humanitarians. The goal of the strike was to target civilians. It didn't target fighters on the front. We must document a chemical strike such as this one, so we can show the entire world.

We spoke to the U.N.'s Edmond Mulet about three hours before he lost his job. Russia, the Syrian dictatorship's chief ally, ended Mulet's investigation with a veto in the security council. Russia called his investigation's results "very disappointing."

Scott Pelley: Who's using the sarin?

Edmond Mulet: Only the Syrian government.

Scott Pelley: How do you know that?

Edmond Mulet: Well, the investigations we have conducted have proven that the sarin that has been used in Syria has come from the original stockpile that was produced and created and distilled by the Syrian government some years ago. We have been able to determine and compare what had been used in the field recently in Syria with the original stockpile, and they matched completely.

Scott Pelley: Does anyone else in that theatre of war possess sarin gas, to your knowledge?

Edmond Mulet: No. No, nobody else. Because it's so difficult to produce, you need very sophisticated and big laboratories to do that. The manipulation of the sarin is extremely complicated. It's extremely volatile. One single drop here right now would be killing everybody in this studio immediately. So, it's not anybody that can do that.

One question not answered by the U.N. investigation was 'why.' Why resort to a war crime? To find out we traveled into the province where Khan Shaykhun is located. Idlib province, largely controlled by an Islamist extremist group, Hai'yat Tahrir al-Sham.

Here we found the dictatorship had used conventional bombs against hospitals and schools, in addition to the nerve gas in the neighborhoods.

So what's the point of using the world's most grotesque weapon on civilians, on children? This is a refugee camp in rebel-occupied territory inside Syria and there are hundreds of them, they dot the landscape. Millions of Syrians have been forced from their homes. The Assad dictatorship is essentially clearing out any part of the country that it cannot control. Bombing the hospitals kills the here and now. Bombing the schools kills the future and dropping sarin suffocates whatever might have been left of hope.

We found Abu Hassan in a refugee camp with his family, at least what remained of his family. He lost two adult sons and a grandson in the gas at Khan Shaykhun.

Abu Hassan: My son, they brought him to a hospital in Turkey and he died. His brother, who came to rescue us, well he got dizzy, collapsed and he died. My grandson also died.

His wife, Um Hassan told us:

Um Hassan: My sons were young and these are their children. What was the fault of these children to live without a father? What was their fault?

Scott Pelley: How do you explain this to these children?

Um Hassan: What can we tell them? This one was injured with us. I told [one] your father is dead. He said: "Don't tell me dad is dead! Don't say that dad is dead!" But, what can we tell them, how can they understand? We have a neighbor, poor woman, her children, her grandchildren. All 12 in the house died, not a single one lived, not a single one.

Edmond Mulet: This is a crime against humanity using chemical weapons. if we allow this to happen in Syria, this might happen somewhere else and if impunity prevails and people can carry out doing these things without any consequences, this might give ideas to others and I've said this to the Russians. This will happen in many of your own Republics in the future if you don't help to put an end to this right now.

But, impunity does prevail. Bashar al-Assad will soon win the war. He may remain president or step down in the course of negotiations, but, either way, victors never face judgment. Still, even without a war crimes trial, the evidence will remain indelible.

[back to contents]


Yemen attack: at least 14 killed in raid on Aden counter-terrorism headquarters
The Guardian

February 24, 2018

At least 14 people have been killed and 40 wounded when car suicide bombers and gunmen tried to storm the headquarters of a Yemeni counter-terrorism unit in Aden on Saturday, security and medical sources said.

Islamic State, in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, claimed responsibility for what it described as two "martyrdom operations" targeting the camp in Tawahi district in south-western Aden. The agency provided no immediate evidence for the claim.

Security sources said two suicide bombers detonated two cars laden with explosives at the camp's entrance while six gunmen tried to storm the facility. They were all killed by guards and their bodies taken to a military hospital, a medical source told Reuters.

Aden police said in a statement on Facebook that security forces had foiled a major attack. "All the ... terrorists were liquidated immediately before they could reach the outer gate of the anti-terrorism headquarters," it said.

Security sources and medics said at least three security men, a woman and two children died in the attack, while 40 other people, many of them civilians, were wounded.

The attack was the first of its kind in southern Yemen since gun battles erupted in January between southern separatists and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government over control of the city. Aden is the temporary capital of Yemen's internationally recognised Hadi government, which is now operating out of Saudi Arabia.

Backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, Hadi's government has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement since 2015 in a war that has driven the country to the verge of famine.

In a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency, Hadi described the attack as a "cowardly act aimed to destabilise security in the temporary capital ... but it will not dissuade people from their will to achieve security, safety and decent living."

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited the war in Yemen to carry out assassinations and bombings, mostly in lawless southern Yemeni areas nominally controlled by the government.

Yemen: Three days of air strikes on Houthi-controlled Hudaydah
Middle East Monitor

February 26, 2018

The Saudi-led coalition has carried out a three-day intensive air strike campaign in Hudaydah which came to an end yesterday, Al Jazeera reported.

Dozens of Houthi fighters have been killed in the strikes, while thousands of civilians have been displaced.

The Houthis have claimed on open source networks that the Saudi-led coalition is either bombing Hudaydah or continuing its blockade. But Saudi Arabia reportedly lifted the air, land and sea blockade on Yemen back in November last year.

The former UN Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh, successfully prevented Saudi Arabia from executing a deadly assault on Hudaydah, which is the only life-line left for civilians in Yemen. Despite this momentum by the UN, it appears Saudi Arabia is continuing its strikes on the port at a steady pace.

Amnesty International's 409-page report published recently warned that Saudi Arabia has "held up shipments of food, fuel and medicine", cutting off the country's northern ports. Using starvation as a tool is a violation of international law, the report added as it documented Saudi-led coalition air strikes against "funeral gatherings, schools, markets, residential areas and civilian boats".

The Houthi group reported that the Saudi-led coalition also executed strikes in Saada, Ta'iz and Hajjah yesterday. The number of civilian deaths was not reported apart from damage to "public and private property", insinuating some civilian casualties.

In early January 2018, the United Nations announced that cranes crucial for the import of cargo will be replaced as Saudi-led coalition jets destroyed them in 2015, drastically reducing the number of imports.

In February 2018, Saudi Arabia executed 46 air strikes within 48 hours in the Nehm district of Sana'a, more than 58 Yemenis were killed raising questions on legality.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states to neutralise territorial threats posed by the Houthis, who currently control swathes of territory from northern Saada to Sana'a. It joined the civil conflict in March 2015 following a request from the internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the civil war, while more than 11 per cent of the country's population has been displaced.

Saudi-led friendly fire kills 6 Yemen troops
Gulf Times

February 26, 2018

A Saudi-led air strike killed at least six allied Yemeni soldiers on Monday in friendly fire attacks on their base 50 kilometres east of Sanaa, a military source said.

"An erroneous strike by coalition warplanes killed six troops -- one officer and five soldiers," a military source based in the government stronghold Marib told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said another 15 troops were wounded in the strike on a national army camp in the mountainous region of Nihm, a contested territory halfway between rebel-held Sanaa and Marib.

A second government military source gave a higher toll of 20 killed, including three prominent commanders.

The Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Saudi Arabia launched its Yemen military alliance in 2015 with the stated goal of restoring the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power and rolling back Houthi rebel gains.

In recent months, coalition-backed Yemeni troops have overrun multiple Houthi bases in Nihm -- held by the insurgents since 2014.

A bloody battleground, Nihm is a key gateway to the capital, which remains elusive with the military advance impeded by the treacherous mountain terrain and thousands of land mines planted by the Iran-backed rebels.

Air strikes kill five civilians in Yemen: Reuters witness

February 27, 2018

Air strikes killed five civilians and wounded at least 14, including four children, outside the northern Yemeni city of Saada on Tuesday, a Reuters witness and medics said.

A Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen's war in 2015 to try to restore its president to power has conducted frequent air strikes targeting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and has often hit civilians, although denies ever doing so intentionally.

Medics and a Reuters photographer who saw the wreckage in Saada said an initial air strike destroyed a house in the outlying Sohar district of the city, the main stronghold of the Houthis who control much of northern Yemen.

The medics said two further air strikes hit paramedics who were trying to lift the victims from the rubble.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.

The coalition entered Yemen's conflict three years ago against the Houthis after they ousted the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country - already the poorest on the Arabian Peninsula - to the verge of widespread famine.

[back to contents]

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Official Website of the Extraordinary Chambers
Official Website of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT)
Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

[back to contents]

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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

STL: Oneissi defense sets out argument for acquittal
The Daily Star

By Finbar Anderson
February 21, 2018

The defense team for Hussein Oneissi made their submissions Tuesday for the acquittal of their client, in what was a tense day at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, lead counsel on Oneissi's defense team, sought to persuade the judges that there was insufficient evidence linking his client to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in an attack that also killed 21 others, and that the evidence that had been presented by prosecution teams was flawed.

Defense teams are entitled to submit a judgment of acquittal upon the close of the prosecution's case, which took place Feb. 7. They must successfully argue that there is insufficient evidence to convict their client, which would result in charges against the client being fully or partially cleared.

Courcelle-Labrousse attempted to argue that Oneissi could not be proved to be complicit in the assassination in its definition under Lebanese law, the standard in this case. "Lebanese law generally requires an accomplice to know of the crime committed," he noted, arguing that, while Oneissi may have known he was involved in an illegal act, no evidence existed to show that he knew he was involved in the assassination of the prime minister.

Pressing Courcelle-Labrousse on this point later, Trial Chamber President Judge David Re asked if "recruit[ing] someone to make a false claim of responsibility after an attack cannot be part of the entire attack," making the analogy that a getaway driver may be involved in a bank robbery without taking part in the actual robbing of the bank.

Courcelle-Labrousse was also highly critical of the prosecution's reliance on cellphone evidence in its case, saying evidence against his client "relies on one person only, Mr. Gary Platt ... who apparently can read into telecoms data as if it were a crystal ball." Platt was a regular prosecution expert witness who gave significant testimony regarding contentious cellphone records that made up the foundation of the prosecution's case.

Courcelle-Labrousse further argued that the evidence against his client was not "hard" evidence, saying, "there are no prints, there are no phone taps, there are no photographs, there is no CCTV footage."

The defense lawyer noted the 15 percent margin for error with cellphone evidence, though Judge Re countered that other forensic evidence could also have similar margins.

Re at one point called Courcelle-Labrousse out for not providing sufficiently detailed indexing in the bundles provided to the court, making it difficult for the chamber to follow the defense counsel's arguments.

Courcelle-Labrousse responded: "I don't want to be interrupted, your honor [but] you cannot interrupt a defense lawyer when making his submissions." Re replied that he wanted to address several issues, "and I'm going to answer them as politely as I can. ... The court is entitled to interrupt any lawyer. I as the presiding judge have been elected to control the proceedings."

The chief prosecutor, Norman Farrell, was also singled out by Courcelle-Labrousse, who complained about an article in L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper on Feb. 19 in which Farrell was quoted as saying that the evidence against the accused was "irrefutable." Courcelle-Labrousse implied that Farrell's failure to appear in person Tuesday at the Trial Chamber to hear his submissions was disrespectful, to which Re responded that few chief prosecutors in tribunals like the STL attended proceedings in person, normally having counsel speak on their behalf.

The Oneissi defense team will conclude their submissions Feb. 21.

Prosecutors at Hariri Tribunal call for rejecting the motion to dismiss charges against suspect
Asharq Al-Awsat

February 21, 2018

Prosecutors at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri urged on Wednesday judges to reject a motion for early dismissal of charges against two of the four suspects.

Prosecutor Alexander Milne acknowledged "a lack of direct evidence" in the case. The four suspects are all charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and murder, or being an accomplice to murder, in the waterfront bomb blast that killed Hariri and 21 others.

But Milne said circumstantial evidence was compelling.

"The pattern only emerges when you see all the pieces," Alexander Milne told the court in The Hague.

Earlier, court-appointed defense lawyer Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse said the prosecution’s evidence, based mainly on analysis of telecoms data, is "built on a fictional world".

Representing suspect Hussein Hassan Oneissi, the lawyer argued were "no prints, no photos, no texts, no email" nor any video evidence linking his client to the alleged bomb plot to kill Hariri. Lawyers for Salim Jamil Ayyash also said the prosecution had not met its burden of proof.

Oneissi is charged as an accomplice and co-conspirator in the plot. Prosecutors accuse him of organizing a video-taped false claim of responsibility intended to shield the true perpetrators of the devastating bombing.

Lawyers for the two other suspects, Hassan Habib Merhi and Assad Hassan Sabra, did not seek early acquittal.

The suspects -- all with links to Lebanon’s Iran-backed "Hezbollah" movement -- are all fugitives.

The tribunal was established in the Netherlands in 2009 after Lebanon’s then-government said it lacked the resources and means to investigate the killing.

Judges will rule on the applications for acquittal as soon as practicable, a court spokeswoman said.

Earlier this month, prosecutors wrapped up their case after four years. They called more than 260 witnesses and showed judges some 2,470 exhibits as they laid out their case that the four suspects plotted together to blow up Hariri with a massive truck bomb.

Defense attorneys have not yet presented any evidence.

All four suspects insist they are innocent and "Hezbollah" also denies involvement in Hariri's assassination.

The case against a fifth suspect was halted in 2016 after he was killed in Syria.

[back to contents]

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

Bangladesh, Myanmar meet over stranded Rohingya
Channel News Asia

February 20, 2018

Bangladesh and Myanmar were to hold a border meeting Tuesday (Feb 20) on the fate of some 6,000 Rohingya refugees stranded in no man's land between the two countries, officials said.

The 6,000 at first refused to enter Bangladesh in the influx that poured across the border after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown against the Muslim minority last August.

Now they say they are not allowed to enter Bangladesh and the United Nations and aid groups have called on the Dhaka authorities to let them in.

Bangladesh refugee commission chief Mohammad Abul Kalam said a team led by a regional government administrator would meet Myanmar officials to discuss the Rohingya stuck in limbo near the Tombru border point.

Kalam said Myanmar wanted Bangladesh's help to persuade the stranded Rohingya to return to their homeland in Rakhine state.

"We will know what kind of cooperation they want once we reach there," he told AFP.

A Myanmar minister visited the strip of land at Tombru last week.

The minister warned the Rohingya refugees, who live in makeshift settlements, that they will face "consequences" if they do not take up a Myanmar offer to return.


A video circulated on social media shows deputy minister for home affairs Aung Soe addressing refugees through a barbed wire fence.

The no man's land Rohingya told AFP they live in fear as the Myanmar army had recently set up bunkers near the fence.

"They tell us that we should leave this place or else they will shoot us," said Rashid Ahmed, 32.

Another Rohingya, Ismail, said some 400 Myanmar soldiers regularly patrol near the border line, creating panic among the refugees. "They often fire blanks," he said.

The stranded Rohingya featured last week in Dhaka talks between home ministers of the two nations. The two decided to send a mission to the border strip on Tuesday.

Kalam said the stranded Rohingya technically live on the Myanmar side of the border and that they had previously refused to take shelter in camps inside Bangladesh.

Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since the crackdown that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

The two governments have agreed a programme to repatriate the refugees. But the start of the returns has been indefinitely delayed, even though Bangladesh last week handed over a list of 8,032 Rohingya to Myanmar for repatriation.

Many Rohingya say they do not want to return until Myanmar agrees to give them citizenship and guarantees their safety.

Myanmar regards the Rohingya as migrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship, even though they have been there for generations.

A UN refugee agency spokeswoman, Caroline Gluck, told AFP that any return decision must be voluntary.

"Some members of this group in no man's land have said they fear returning home and wish to seek safety in Bangladesh," Gluck said.

"We appeal to the Bangladeshi authorities to allow them to do so. At the same time, Myanmar should ensure conducive conditions for the safe and sustainable return of those who wish to do so voluntarily."

'It's not a concentration camp': Bangladesh defends plans to house Rohingya on island with armed police
CBC News

February 22, 2018

Bangladesh is racing to turn an uninhabited and muddy Bay of Bengal island into home for 100,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar, amid conflicting signals from top Bangladeshi officials about whether the refugees would end up being stranded there.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Monday that putting Rohingya on the low-lying island would be a "temporary arrangement" to ease congestion at the camps in Cox's Bazar, refuge for nearly 700,000 who have crossed from the north of Myanmar's Rakhine state since the end of August last year.

However, one of her advisers said that once there, they would only be able to leave the island if they wanted to go back to Myanmar or were selected for asylum by a third country.

"It's not a concentration camp, but there may be some restrictions. We are not giving them a Bangladeshi passport or ID card," said Hossain Toufique Imam, adding that the island would have a police encampment with 40-50 armed personnel.

Relocation could be decided on lottery basis

British and Chinese engineers are helping prepare the island to receive refugees before the onset of monsoon rains, which could bring disastrous flooding to ramshackle camps further south that now teem with about one million Rohingya. The rains could start as early as late April.

Hasina's adviser, Imam, said the question of selecting Rohingya in Cox's Bazar to move to the island was not finalized, but it could be decided by lottery or on a volunteer basis.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement: "We would emphasize that any relocation plan involving refugees would need to be based on and implemented through voluntary and informed decisions."

Humanitarian agencies criticized the plan to bring Rohingya to the island when it was first proposed in 2015. Aid workers who spoke to Reuters said they remain seriously concerned that the silt island is vulnerable to frequent cyclones and cannot sustain livelihoods for thousands of people.

But work on the project has accelerated in recent months, according to architectural plans and two letters from the Bangladesh navy to local government officials and contractors seen by Reuters.

British, Chinese helping

A year ago, when Reuters journalists visited Bhasan Char — whose name means "floating island" — there were no roads, buildings or people.

Returning on Feb. 14, they found hundreds of labourers carrying bricks and sand from ships on its muddy northwest shore. Satellite images now show roads and what appears to be a helipad.

Floating Island, which emerged from the silt only about 20 years ago, is about 30 kilometres from the mainland. Flat and shape-shifting, it regularly floods during June-September. Pirates roam the nearby waters to kidnap fishermen for ransom, residents of nearby islands say.

The plans show metal-roofed, brick buildings raised on pylons and fitted with solar panels. There will be 1,440 blocks, each housing 16 families.

Chinese construction company Sinohydro — better known for building China's Three Gorges Dam — has begun work on a 13-kilometre flood-defence embankment for the $280-million project.

A Sinohydro engineer on Bhasan Char, reached by telephone later, said the company had "confidentiality agreements" and that questions about construction on the island should be referred to the Bangladesh government.

HR Wallingford, a British engineering and environmental hydraulics consultancy, is advising the project on "coastal stabilization and flood protection measures," the company told Reuters in a statement earlier this month.

"The coastal infrastructure design is expected to include a flood defence embankment protecting the development area to international standards, set back from the shoreline," it said. The company referred further inquiries to the Bangladesh Navy.

Monsoons in area

Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for rights group Amnesty International, said there was "no one in the humanitarian community we spoke to who thought this was a good idea".

"This is a silt island that only emerged into view recently," he said.

Residents of nearby Sandwip island, which is larger and less remote, say monsoon storms regularly kill people, destroy homes and cut contact with the mainland.

However, a senior member of the prime minister's staff, Kabir Bin Anwar, said humanitarian organizations critical of the plan were "absolutely wrong because they don't understand the topography" of Bangladesh.

The government was building cyclone shelters on the island, he said, adding that there were salt-tolerant paddies and people living there could fish or graze cows and buffalo.

Anwar also dismissed concerns about delivering basic aid to the island.

"We don't need help from any foreign NGOs or local NGOs. We can feed them," he said.

Bangladeshis living on nearby islands are critical of their government's efforts for the Rohingya.

Farther from home

Belal Beg, 80, who was born on Sandwip island, said there was resistance to settling Rohingya on Bhasan Char because huge numbers of Bangladeshis are displaced by coastal erosion each year with no measures taken to protect them.

"We should first care for our own people but the government is deciding to give shelter to immigrants," Beg said.

Many Rohingya also reject the idea of moving to an island even further from Myanmar, which many of them have called home for generations.

Jahid Hussain, a Rohingya refugee at Chakmakul refugee camp in Bangladesh, said he had fled Myanmar to save his life and would not risk it by living on Bhasan Char.

"I would rather die right here," he said.

The latest unrest in Myanmar's Rakhine state began in late August, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base, prompting an army counter-offensive that forced entire villages to flee. They joined about 300,000 Rohingya already in Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest and most crowded nations, who had fled previous bouts of violence.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel peace laureate and leader of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, has been heavily criticized by Western nations for not speaking out against what the United States and the United Nations have branded ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar denies that ethnic cleansing has taken place and says it has been conducting legitimate operations against terrorists in northern Rakhine.

Describing the island, Hasina told a news conference in Dhaka that "from a natural point of view, it is very nice" and said although the initial plan was to put 100,000 people there, it had room for as many as a million.

[back to contents]

War Crimes Investigation in Burma

Atrocities in Myanmar cannot go unexamined
The Journal Gazette

February 19, 2018

In the coastal village of Inn Din, located in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, also known as Burma, two groups long coexisted, Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. The villagers fished in the Bay of Bengal and raised rice in paddies.

But what happened at Inn Din on Sept. 2 marked a turning point in a war on the Rohingya by Myanmar security forces that should galvanize the world.

Ten Rohingya – fishermen, shopkeepers, two teenage students and an Islamic teacher – were massacred and their bodies dumped into a shallow grave.

We know of this atrocity because intrepid journalists from Reuters investigated it and the news service has published their searing account. "Bound together," the story says, "the 10 Rohingya Muslim captives watched their Buddhist neighbors dig a shallow grave. Soon afterwards, on the morning of Sept. 2, all 10 lay dead. At least two were hacked to death by Buddhist villagers. The rest were shot by Myanmar troops." The report is based on eyewitness accounts, including from Buddhist villagers who admitted to burning Rohingya homes, burying bodies and killing Muslims. It is bolstered by heart-rending photographs.

The massacre at Inn Din is only one chapter in a horrific campaign against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar security forces. The violence was triggered by an attack Aug. 25 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a small Rohingya militant group, on about 30 Myanmar security posts.

In retaliation, the military plundered villages and burned them to the ground.

About 650,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where they remain. Myanmar has blocked international observers and foreign journalists from seeing the devastated region.

The Reuters piece is especially important because of the harsh treatment of two journalists whose bylines are atop the report, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They were detained by authorities Dec. 12 for allegedly obtaining confidential documents, and in January charged with obtaining state secrets and violating the Official Secrets Act, a British colonial-era law with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

In January, the military acknowledged that 10 men had been killed at Inn Din but said they were terrorists. The Reuters article shreds that shoddy coverup. The journalists have been rightly honored with PEN America's PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. If Myanmar has any respect left for democracy, it must release them immediately and drop the charges.

It is deeply unsettling that the atrocities and the assault on journalists have come as Myanmar's leader, at least in name, is Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and long a champion of democracy.

We have often sympathized with the restraints she faces in power, including the continued strength of the country's generals.

But the massacre at Inn Din cries out for a voice of moral clarity. Myanmar cannot hide any longer from a full international investigation into these crimes, and those who committed them must be held to account.

Wake up and stop Rohingya 'genocide', Nobel laureates urge Suu Kyi

February 27, 2018

Three Nobel Peace Prize winners urged fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday to speak out about violence against the Rohingya minority, warning she otherwise risks prosecution for "genocide".

The trio — Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire — implored the embattled Myanmar leader to "wake up" to the atrocities after visiting squalid camps in Bangladesh home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees.

"This is clearly, clearly, clearly genocide that is going on by the Burmese government and military against the Rohingya people," Maguire said on Monday, using another name for Myanmar.

"We refuse this genocide policy of the Burmese government. They will be taken to the ICC (International Criminal Court) and those who are committing genocide will be held responsible."

The UN has described the systematic violence by Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state as possible genocide and ethnic cleansing, but has stopped short of outright accusing the army of war crimes.

Suu Kyi, once a global rights icon, has witnessed her reputation among the international community crumble over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Critics have called for the Nobel prize she won under house arrest in 1991 to be revoked.

Her fellow three female laureates issued a personal appeal to the beleaguered leader as they toured the overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar district on Sunday and Monday, hearing firsthand stories of rape and murder against the Muslim minority.

Karman, a Yemeni rights activist, warned Suu Kyi that she risked being hauled to the ICC if she did not intervene.

"If she will continue her silence, she will be one of them," said Karman, fighting back tears, after meeting Rohingya refugees. "It's an appeal to our sister Aung San Suu Kyi to wake up, otherwise she will be betrayed (as) one of the perpetrators of this crime."

Myanmar has staunchly denied the charges and blocked UN investigators from the conflict zone in Rakhine state, souring relations with a host of western allies.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have sought sanctuary in Cox's Bazar after fleeing a Myanmar army crackdown launched last August, sparking a humanitarian emergency in the Bangladesh border district.

Critics have accused Suu Kyi of adopting a siege mentality as global condemnation has mounted.

Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal "Bengali" immigrants but has signed an agreement with Bangladesh to repatriate some 750,000 refugees back across the border.

The process has stalled, as the UN warns any returns must be voluntary and rights groups warn Rohingya could be forced into ghettos once in Myanmar.

[back to contents]

Israel and Palestine

Palestinian farmers evacuate lands as Israeli forces open fire in southern Gaza
Ma'an News Agency

February 22, 2018

Israeli forces opened fire on agricultural lands in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, according to local sources.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli forces opened fire on lands in the Khan Younis district of southern Gaza.

No injuries were reported amongst farmers working in the area, though many told Ma'an that they "were forced to leave their lands in fear for their lives."

Israeli military incursions inside the besieged Gaza Strip and near the "buffer zone," which lies on both land and sea sides of Gaza, have long been a near-daily occurrence.

The Israeli army also regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen, shepherds, and farmers along the border areas if they approach the buffer zone, as the authorities have not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.

The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sector of the blockaded coastal enclave, which has been under an Israeli air, land, and sea blockade for 10 years.

Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in the West Bank

February 22, 2018

A Palestinian man has been killed by Israeli security forces following a confrontation in the occupied West Bank on Thursday.

A Palestinian official described the killing as an "execution", while the Israeli military said it was in self-defence.

Yassin Omar al-Saradih, 33, died shortly after being taken into custody by Israeli security forces in Jericho early on Thursday, Palestine's Maan news agency reported.

The Israeli troops had launched an operation to arrest "suspects" in the town, the Israeli military said in a statement without elaborating.

Video footage of the incident - published by Israel's Haaretz and Times of Israel news sites - showed soldiers kicking and striking a man, identified by Palestinian officials as al-Saradih, after appearing to have shot him.

The Israeli military confirmed the video shows an incident that took place early Thursday in Jericho, Hareetz reported.

Issa Qarage, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs, said al-Saradih's death was caused by severe blows to his head.

The killing was a "crime, execution, and premeditated murder at the hands of [Israeli] occupation forces", Maan quoted Qarage as saying.

The Israeli military said the man had attempted to attack soldiers and it was investigating the incident.

"In response to the immediate threat, the troops fired toward the assailant and confronted him from close range and were able to stop him," the statement said.

"A knife was also found in his possession. Troops evacuated him to a hospital to receive medical treatment. His death was later announced. The incident is being reviewed."

The killing comes a week after Israeli forces detained more than 30 Palestinians in raids across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem in 1967. Today, between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 200 Jewish-only settlements on occupied land, which are illegal under international law.

Amnesty International: Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians
Ynet News

February 22, 2018

The crisis in Myanmar and reported massacres of Rohingya Muslims are the consequence of a society encouraged to hate and a lack of global leadership on human rights, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The human rights group said in its annual report covering 159 countries that "hate-filled rhetoric" by leaders was normalizing discrimination against minorities.

"We saw the ultimate consequence of a society encouraged to hate, scapegoat and fear minorities laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty.

Israel was mentioned in the Amnesty report 115 times. "June marked 50 years since Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories and the start of the 11th year of its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, subjecting approximately 2 million inhabitants to collective punishment and a growing humanitarian crisis," the chapter about Israel stated.

"The Israeli authorities intensified expansion of settlements and related infrastructure across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and severely restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians.

"Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians, including children, and unlawfully detained within Israel thousands of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), holding hundreds in administrative detention without charge or trial.

The human rights organization further accused Israel of "torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children."

According to the report, "Israel continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and in Palestinian villages inside Israel, forcibly evicting residents. Conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned. Thousands of African asylum-seekers were threatened with deportation.

"Palestinians carried out stabbings, carrammings, shootings and other attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and in Israel. The attacks, mostly carried out by individuals unaffiliated to armed groups, killed 14 Israelis and one foreign national. Israeli forces killed 76 Palestinians and one foreign national. Some were unlawfully killed while posing no threat to life."

Last week, the United States urged the UN Security Council to hold Myanmar's military accountable for what it said was the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine and taken refuge in neighboring Bangladesh since the Myanmar military launched a crackdown on insurgents at the end of August, according to the UN.

More than 6,500 Rohingya are currently trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Amnesty said the international community had failed to respond robustly to "crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen."

It said that leaders in countries such as the United States, Russia and China were not standing up for civil liberties and instead were "callously undermining the rights of millions."

Amnesty said President Donald Trump had taken backward steps on human rights that were setting a dangerous precedent. Shetty described his move to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries in January last year as "transparently hateful."

Last year's report accused Trump of "poisonous" rhetoric.

Free speech will be a key issue for those concerned about human rights this year, the report said.

Amnesty said its staff were arrested at an unprecedented rate in Turkey in 2017, which along with Egypt and China was also among the biggest jailors of journalists.

Two Reuters reporters in Myanmar were arrested while investigating the killing of Rohingya Muslims. Court proceedings are ongoing.

"In 2018, we cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. In fact, speaking out is becoming more dangerous," Shetty said.

Autopsy aside, Israeli army says tear gas killed Palestinian
ABC News

February 23, 2018

An initial inquiry suggested that a Palestinian whose beating by soldiers was caught on video died from tear gas inhalation, the Israeli military said Friday, ahead of a planned autopsy.

However Channel 10 TV on Friday evening said the autopsy, attended by a Palestinian doctor, showed he died from gunfire. The military said it was aware of that report but had no further comment.

The incident under investigation by the military took place early Thursday during a raid in the West Bank town of Jericho.

The army said in a statement that the Palestinian ran at them with an iron bar. It said "in response to the threat soldiers fired toward him but he was most likely not hit." Soldiers then "used force in order to subdue the suspect," the statement added.

It said the man had a knife on him and had tried to grab a soldier's weapon. The statement added that a medic examined the detainee at the time and assessed his condition to be "normal,"

In a security camera video, several soldiers are seen kicking and beating the man with rifles while he is on the ground.

The army statement added that the Palestinian's condition deteriorated when he was later exposed to tear gas fired by soldiers trying to disperse Palestinian protesters. The man was later identified as a 33-year-old Jericho man who, according to relatives, did not suffer from health problems.

The daily Haaretz also reported that the autopsy revealed a gunshot wound to the stomach.

Meanwhile, Palestinians staged protests in more than a dozen West Bank locations and on the Israel-Gaza border after Muslim noon prayers Friday, the army said. Protesters threw stones and fire bombs and rolled burning tires toward soldiers who responded with tear gas and "selective fire at main instigators," the army said.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 22 Palestinians were hurt along the Gaza border, most by rubber bullets and some by gunfire to the legs. In the West Bank, 13 Palestinians were wounded, eight of them by live fire and the others from rubber bullets, according to the ministry.

Palestinians have staged regular protests since President Donald Trump's recognition in December of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as a future capital and view Trump's decision as a sign of a pro-Israel bias they say disqualifies Washington from a continued role as the sole Mideast broker.

On Friday, two Trump administration officials in Washington said the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will open in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence.

More than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza died from Israeli blockade

February 25, 2018

The Gaza Strip's collective of charitable organisations said more than 1,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the ongoing Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave.

The coordinator of the organisations, Ahmad al-Kurd, also said on Sunday that five premature babies born in the past few days died because of a lack of available medical treatment.

"Out of the 1,000 or so victims of the blockade, 450 died as a result of the collapse of the health situation in Gaza, such as the lack of medical supplies and the crisis of medical referrals for outside treatment."

Gazans continue to face a desperate situation because of the blockade with water and electricity shortages, as well as a lack of medicines and doctors unable to perform surgeries.

Kurd said the use of alternative electricity by residents of the Gaza Strip since 2006 has caused the deaths of 100 people.

"The use of candles, firewood or generators has resulted in house fires that claimed the lives of children and adults alike," he said.

Furthermore, the number of workers who were killed in the fields of agriculture, fishing and commercial tunnels has reached 350.

'Heinous crime'

One fisherman was killed on Sunday after the Israeli navy fired at his boat. Two other fishermen were wounded.

The spokesperson of Palestine Fishermen's Union said the vessel was targeted as it made its way back to Gaza's port.

"The fisherman killed was 18-year-old Ismael Abu Riyaleh," said Nizar Ayyash, adding the other two, Ahed Abu Ali and Mahmoud Abu Riyaleh, were taken into Israeli custody.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), all Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen have taken place within the six nautical miles zone.

Hamas spokesperson Abdulatif al-Qanoo' said, "The killing of a Palestinian fisherman by the Israeli naval forces is a heinous crime that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for."

In a statement, the Israeli army said the boat had breached the fishing zone.

"The naval force followed instructions to arrest the three suspects onboard, which included warnings and firing in the air and at the boat," the statement said. "One of the fishermen was seriously injured as a result and later died in hospital."

Under the Oslo Accords, Palestinians are permitted to fish 20 nautical miles from Gaza's coast, yet for years Israel has shrunk the zone to six nautical miles.

It is estimated there are 4,000 fishermen in Gaza who provide for 50,000 people.

Disaster area

Kurd described the Gaza Strip, where two million Palestinians live, as the world's largest prison.

"Gaza is a disaster area in all areas - health, environmental, social, and energy," he said.

Solutions must be found to the crisis of power cuts that last between 18-20 hours a day, he added.

The Palestinian government "must provide the needs of the Gaza Strip regarding medical supplies, social assistance, pay the salaries of government employees, and exert pressure to open the border crossings," Kurd said.

[back to contents]


Millions of Afghans tell court they're war crimes victims
CBS News

February 16, 2018

Since the International Criminal Court began collecting material three months ago for a possible war crimes case involving Afghanistan, it has gotten a staggering 1.17 million statements from Afghans who say they were victims.

The statements include accounts of alleged atrocities not only by groups like the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but also involving Afghan Security Forces and government-affiliated warlords, the U.S.-led coalition, and foreign and domestic spy agencies, said Abdul Wadood Pedram of the Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization.

Based in part on the many statements, ICC judges in The Hague would then have to decide whether to seek a war crimes investigation. It's uncertain when that decision will be made.

The statements were collected between Nov. 20, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018, by organizations based in Europe and Afghanistan and sent to the ICC, Pedram said. Because one statement might include multiple victims and one organization might represent thousands of victim statements, the number of Afghans seeking justice from the ICC could be several million.

"It is shocking there are so many," Pedram said, noting that in some instances, whole villages were represented. "It shows how the justice system in Afghanistan is not bringing justice for the victims and their families."

The ICC did not give details about the victims or those providing the information.

"I have the names of the organizations, but because of the security issues, we don't want to name them because they will be targeted," said Pedram, whose group is based in Kabul.

Many of the representations include statements involving multiple victims, which could be the result of suicide bombings, targeted killings or airstrikes, he said.

Among those alleging war crimes is a man who asked The Associated Press to be identified only by his first name, Shoaib, because he fears for his safety.

Shoaib said his father, Naimatullah, was on a bus in Dawalat Yar district in Afghanistan's central Ghor Province in 2014 when a band of gunmen stopped it and two other buses, forced the passengers off and told them to hand over their identity cards. The 14 Shiites among them were separated from the rest and killed, one by one, he said.

The slayings outraged the country. A Taliban commander was soon arrested and brought before the media, but no news about a trial or punishment was ever reported, said Shoaib, who is in his 20s.

Displaying a photo of the man he believes killed his father, Shoaib said he doesn't go to the authorities for information about the incident because the commander had connections with the police and the local government administration.

Shoaib is still afraid.

"Please don't say where I live, or show my face," he implored a reporter. "What if they find me? There is no protection in Afghanistan," he said.

"Everybody knows that they have connection in the government," he added. "I think in Afghanistan, if you have money, then you can give it to anyone, anywhere, to do anything."

Several powerful warlords, many of whom came to power after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001 following the U.S.-led intervention, are among those alleged to have carried out war crimes, said Pedram, who also is cautious about releasing any names.

After receiving death threats last year, Pedram fled Kabul briefly and now keeps a lower profile, no longer speaking to local media.

"The warlords are all here. You have to be very careful," he said. "In the morning, I kiss my little son goodbye, I kiss my wife goodbye because I don't know what will happen to me and when, or if I will see them again."

Established in 2002, the ICC is the world's first permanent court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The ICC can only investigate any crimes in Afghanistan after May 2003, when the country ratified the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court.

Former President Bill Clinton signed the treaty, but President George W. Bush renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.

In November, when ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought judicial authorization to begin the investigation, she said the court had been looking into possible war crimes in Afghanistan since 2006.

Bensouda said in November that "there is a reasonable basis to believe" that crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed by the Taliban as well as the Haqqani network. She also said there was evidence that the Afghan National Security Forces, Afghan National Police and its spy agency, known as the NDS, committed war crimes.

Bensouda also said evidence existed of war crimes committed "by members of the United States armed forces on the territory of Afghanistan, and by members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan," as well as in countries that had signed on to the Rome Statute. The secret detention facilities were operated mostly between 2003 and 2004, she said.

It was the first time that Bensouda has targeted Americans for alleged war crimes. Bensouda said an investigation under the auspices of the international tribunal could break through what she called "near total impunity" in Afghanistan.

The prosecutor's formal application to the court set up a possible showdown with Washington. While the U.S. is not a member state of the ICC, its citizens can be charged with crimes committed in countries that are members.

At the time of Bensouda's announcement, a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. Defense Department does not accept that such an investigation of U.S. personnel is warranted. The U.S. State Department has said it opposes the court's involvement in Afghanistan.

Another Afghan who went to the ICC is Hussain Razaee, whose fiancee, Najiba was among 30 people killed in July when a Taliban suicide attacker rammed a car bomb into a bus carrying employees from the Ministry of Mines.

For months, Razaee said he contemplated suicide. He had spent two years convincing Najiba's parents to allow them to marry, and they had finally agreed. Unlike most Afghan couples, theirs was not to be an arranged marriage.

"I lost the person I loved," he said.

Razaee said he went to the ICC because he wants those responsible to be punished, even if a peace deal with the Taliban is reached.

"I am pursuing this because I want the ICC to record these cases so that if there is a peace agreement, the Taliban leaders will be required to identify the people behind the killings," Razaee said.

"I don't trust the international community to bring any of these warlords or Taliban to justice, but if an international legal body rules according to the law, then the government could be forced to enforce it," he said.

The ICC must hold the US accountable for crimes in Afghanistan
The Guardian

By Katherine Gallagher
February 16, 2018

As dignitaries and civil society gather in The Hague this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Court stands poised to demonstrate its maturity as it weighs a request to investigate members of the US Central Intelligence Agency and the US armed forces for torture and other serious crimes committed in Afghanistan or in Eastern Europe in the so-called "war on terror."

A criminal investigation of US torture – and other serious crimes in Afghanistan – is long overdue.

In November, the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, lodged a request to open a formal investigation following a decade-long preliminary investigation into possible international crimes committed in Afghanistan since it became a member of the court in May 2003, as well as to related crimes in other member states since July 2002.

It also follows longstanding efforts by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to hold high-level Bush administration officials accountable, through the principle of universal jurisdiction, for many of the human rights violations that the imminent ICC prosecution would encompass.

We've pursued former US officials in Canada and around Europe, seeking to hold them accountable for torture at Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and secret "black sites" around the globe.

To date, no high-level US official from the civilian leadership, military, CIA, or private contractor has been prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. An ICC investigation could finally change that – bringing an end to the impunity US officials have enjoyed and, critically, some measure of redress to victims of the US torture program.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber is now considering whether the proposed investigation – which would cover international crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban and affiliated armed groups, Afghan authorities, and members of the US military forces and the CIA – will go forward.

The investigation would cover not only serious crimes in the context of the armed conflict in Afghanistan but also crimes committed on the territory of other countries that are a member of the ICC where the crimes have a nexus to those committed in Afghanistan, such as Romania, Poland and Lithuania – all known to have hosted CIA black sites.

The prosecutor laid out the case for investigating torture, cruel treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution on the basis of gender, among other crimes. The ICC is able to conduct an investigation that could lead to the prosecution of high-level former US officials, despite the United States not being a state party to the court because the court has jurisdiction over all international crimes committed on the territory of a state party regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators.

The ICC is unique among international criminal tribunals in that victims have an opportunity to participate in all stages of the proceedings, separate and apart from any role they might play as witnesses for the prosecution. In the short time-frame given to victims, thousands of victims presented their views on the proposed investigation – with most coming from Afghanistan, at a time when near-daily bombings targeting civilians continue – and almost all urged the Pre-Trial Chamber to authorize the investigation.

To that end, the Center for Constitutional Rights submitted "victim's representations" on behalf of two of our clients, Sharqawi Al Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran, emphasizing the importance of an ICC investigation of US officials for serious crimes arising out of post-9/11 detention and interrogations, detailing Al Hajj and Duran's experiences and expanding upon the potential scope of the ICC inquiry.

Both Al Hajj and Duran have been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay for over a decade. Before arriving there, both were detained by the CIA in black sites or "proxy-detention" by other countries, tormented, and tortured. Drawing from publicly available information, CCR has detailed their cases and urged that any investigation include looking into extraordinary rendition and proxy detention sites overseen by the CIA, and continuing crimes at Guantánamo.

We have argued that the prosecutor should investigate crimes against humanity, ie, a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, as well as war crimes by US officials. In pressing for such an investigation CCR is asking the ICC to reject the "war on terror" paradigm advanced by the US to justify not only its detention and interrogation program but also its global campaign of so-called "targeted killings" and drone attacks in the wake of September 11.

CCR also set out for the ICC why it should focus its investigation on senior leadership of the Bush administration, including George Bush, Dick Cheney, and former CIA Director George Tenet, as well as private contractors who played a key role in developing the CIA torture program.

Overall, Al Hajj and Duran's victim's representations make the case for a thorough investigation that brings an end to impunity for over a decade of international human rights violations related to the war in Afghanistan.

The ICC is deemed a court of last resort, the place to go when other courts in other countries have proved unable or unwilling to prosecute. The responsibility of US parties for crimes related to the war in Afghanistan, for which impunity has reigned for nearly 15 years, is exactly the sort of case the ICC was designed to take on.

An investigation will make clear that all victims of serious crimes have recourse to an independent and impartial process for having their claims heard. It will show that those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious international crimes will be held accountable. In short, it will demonstrate that no one is above the law.

This is especially important in the face of a US president who has shown disdain for human rights, disregard for the law, and zeal for escalating the use of force in Afghanistan that will likely result in even more death and destruction.

It is high time an international body takes action. The ICC Pre-trial Chamber should authorize the investigation.

Afghan military accused of war crimes in joint operations with U.S. forces
The Washington Times

By Carlo Muñoz
February 21, 2018

An international watchdog group is accusing the Afghan military of engaging in egregious human rights violations, in some instances outright war crimes, against civilians during joint combat operations with U.S. forces in the country.

The allegations were included in a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch, which says Afghan troops opened fire on fleeing civilians during missions in Maiwand and Panjwai districts of the Taliban-held Kandahar province. In one instance, Afghan forces — backed by U.S. airpower — reportedly killed 20 civilians in clearing operations in the Band-e Timor area of Kandahar.

"The alleged deaths of at least twenty civilians in Band-e Timor demands a prompt and impartial investigation," said Patricia Gossman, a senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"Summarily executing people in custody, whether they are fighters or civilians, is a war crime. Only a full investigation can uncover all who may be responsible," she added in a statement issued by the group.

Coalition spokesman Capt. Tom Gresback confirmed to Voice of America that U.S. forces did partner with their Afghan counterparts during the operations in Band-e-Timor, but no reports of civilian casualties were passed along to command officials in Kabul.

"All of those killed in the operation were identified as Taliban fighters. A number of Taliban suspects were detained, and seven kilograms of opium seized," he said, adding that any instance of civilian casualties will be handled "as appropriate, in Afghan courts."

The claims of extrajudicial killings come as Washington is poised to take a more aggressive role in the 17-year Afghan war, one that will see U.S. forces more engaged in the fight against the Taliban and other extremist groups for the first time since Washington officially ended combat operations in the country four years ago.

American and NATO commanders intend to "focus on offensive operations and … look for a major effort to gain the initiative very quickly as we enter into the fighting season," U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel said in an interview with The Associated Press last month.

Afghan security forces, with ramped up assistance from the U.S. and NATO-led coalition, must "keep the pressure on all the time and work to gain the upper hand as quickly as we can. So that as we get into this next fighting season, we can build on the initiative," Gen. Votel said.

[back to contents]


South America

Army Stonewalls on Rio Killings
Human Rights Watch

February 23, 2018

Brazil´s army is not making its personnel available to talk with state prosecutors in the investigation into the killing of eight people during a joint raid with civil police in Rio de Janeiro on November 11, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today.

On November 28, state prosecutors attended a meeting about the case with General Walter Braga Netto, chief of the Eastern Military Command. Immediately afterward, the prosecutors requested a copy of transcripts of statements made by members of the army who participated in that operation, and asked to interview the army participants, a justice official present at the meeting told Human Rights Watch. Braga Netto´s staff agreed, but almost three months later have yet to provide either.

"The stonewalling by General Braga Netto shows a lack of any serious commitment to justice for the victims in this case and a flagrant disrespect for civilian authorities," said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. "This does not bode well for regular citizens during his tenure as head of public security in Rio de Janeiro."

On February 16, 2018, president Michel Temer gave General Braga Netto command over all police forces in Rio de Janeiro and its prison system, after decreeing a federal intervention of public security in the state. It was the first such move since Brazil introduced a new Constitution in 1988, shortly after the end of a two-decade military dictatorship.

During 2017, army commanders, including Braga Netto, repeatedly called for "legal protection" for troops deployed in policing operations and urged Congress to shield those accused of unlawful killings from civilian court trials.

In October, Congress acquiesced, approving a law that puts the investigation into killings of civilians during policing operations by members of the armed forces, as may have happened in this case, into the armed forces' hands. Any potential trial would be before a court dominated by military officers. This law virtually guarantees that there would be no independent and impartial investigation of these cases, violating international and regional human rights norms. This measure should be repealed immediately, Human Rights Watch said.

While the law prevents state prosecutors from investigating army personnel as suspects in such killings, the prosecutors can interview them as witnesses. That testimony is crucial to finding out what happened on November 11 and determining the role of civil police, over whom state prosecutors do have jurisdiction.

Homicide investigators and the Group of Specialized Action in Public Security (GAESP, in Portuguese) -prosecutors responsible for investigating unlawful killings and other abuses by state police- have followed their usual procedures to interview civil police personnel involved in the case. In contrast, more than three months after the killings state prosecutors have not been able to find out even the names and units of the soldiers who participated in two raids in the area in which the killings occurred.

Under the October 2017 law, federal military prosecutors can file homicide charges against members of the armed forces in military courts. A federal military prosecutor opened an inquiry into the case, but there have been no signs of any progress.

Even though the federal military prosecutor has the authority to take statements from members of the armed forces, she told Human Rights Watch in December that she would rely on the army itself to take the statements from those who participated in the November operation. She said she trusted army procedures.

On November 7, army helicopters transported personnel to a forested area within the Complexo do Salgueiro neighborhood of São Gonçalo, near the city of Rio de Janeiro, as part of a large-scale security operation, the Eastern Military Command said later. The soldiers hid there waiting to intercept suspects passing by the Estrada das Palmeiras road, but the operation failed, apparently because someone tipped off local gang members, a justice official told Human Rights Watch.

In the early hours of November 11, CORE -the civil police elite unit-and the army conducted a similar operation in the same area, but with fewer personnel, to prevent leaks, the justice official said. When they reached the Estrada das Palmeiras road aboard three armored vehicles, they found people who had been shot and injured, CORE personnel said. Seven died there, and one more died of his wounds weeks later.

Two people who were injured told prosecutors and reporters that the shots came from the forested area, and that the people who shot them had emerged from the trees. A survivor said they wore black and had laser-vision rifles and helmets. A justice official told Human Rights Watch that such equipment is typical of military special forces and that the CORE does not possess it.

A representative of Defezap -an independent phone service to which people can report police abuse-told Human Rights Watch that they received calls from residents reporting that at around 11 p.m. on November 10, they saw men rappelling from helicopters into the forest without lights.

On November 11, the Eastern Military Command said in a public statement that those who participated in the operation had encountered "armed resistance by criminals." Later, the command amended that story, saying only that army personnel "heard shootings."

The command said that no army personnel had fired their weapons, and that therefore, the army would not open an investigation into the killings. The federal military prosecutor opened her inquiry anyway, but is relying on the army to investigate.

Under international and regional norms, cases involving alleged extrajudicial executions and other grave human rights violations should not be tried before military courts. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights has ruled that "military criminal jurisdiction is not the competent jurisdiction to investigate and, if applicable, prosecute and punish those responsible for human rights violations."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has held that it is not appropriate to try violations of human rights in military jurisdictions, given that "when the State permits investigations to be conducted by the entities with possible involvement, independence and impartiality are clearly compromised."

"Brazilian authorities should ensure that the ´legal protection´ that military commanders repeatedly demand for their troops is not used as a carte blanche to commit abuses," Canineu said. "As chief of all security forces in Rio de Janeiro, Braga Netto needs to show that he is not trying to bury the case and is committed to finding the killers and ensuring justice, as is his duty."

Colombia's FARC guerrillas under pressure over assets
Colombia Reports

By Adrian Alsema
February 27, 2018

Colombia's authorities are increasing pressure on demobilized FARC guerrillas after the prosecutor general began investigations into assets that could be hidden from authorities.

The guerrillas have insisted that they reported all the assets they obtained in more than 50 years of armed conflict and that Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez is trying to prevent their political participation.

The FARC surrendered a list of assets worth $330 million in August last year. Guerrilla leaders who are found hiding assets could be stripped of the judicial benefits negotiated in the peace deal.

The prosecution last week accused a family that owned a supermarket chain in central Colombia of being money launderers for the former guerrilla group.

The FARC financed much of its armed conflict with the state through criminal activities like drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion.

It is unclear whether the assets found by the prosecution affect the FARC as they were owned by a third party.

Inspector General Fernando Carrillo sent a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos in which he warned that "if the FARC have hidden assets they would be deemed to lose the benefits" agreed in the 2016 peace agreement.

Carrillo urged to be given access to the prosecution's investigation, "which requires the cooperation of the National Government, and its institutions and agencies."

"Special vigilance by the Inspector General's Office is required," said Carrillo.

The prosecutor general is one of the founding member of Radical Change, a center-rightg party that has actively opposed the country's peace process in Congress.

The FARC has claimed that Martinez is overstepping boundaries by carrying out investigations that should be investigated by a special prosecutor that is part of a transitional justice court.

Carrillo urged to be involved in the proceedings to secure they are carried out correctly and prosecution investigations end up on the desk of this special prosecutor.

The war crimes tribunal is set to take force within half a year.

Argentina Dirty War ex-general Luciano Menéndez dies at 90
BBC News

February 27, 2018

Former Argentine army general Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, convicted of crimes against humanity, has died aged 90.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment for kidnapping, murdering and torturing hundreds of opponents of Argentina's brutal military regime.

Menéndez, also known as "The Hyena," was the military commander of ten Argentine provinces from 1975 to 1979.

Some 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the military in its infamous Dirty War against dissidents.

Menéndez was also convicted for abducting children from detained anti-government activists and giving them up for adoption.

The children were often adopted by families of military officials, who strived to give them a non-communist upbringing.

For his crimes, Menéndez was sentenced 12 times to life in prison.

He died in hospital in the central city of Córdoba, where he was based in the 1970s.

Menéndez was under house arrest, having served time in jail.

He began carrying out operations against left-wing activists during the government of President Isabel Martínez de Perón in the mid-1970s.

When the junta led by General Jorge Rafael Videla seized power in March 1976, he expanded his activities.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 2,500 people were taken to La Perla clandestine detention centre in Córdoba province.

Survivors say almost all women detained there, and some of the men, were sexually abused.

Hijos, a campaign group founded by the abducted children of anti-government activists, posted a note on Twitter calling him a "mass murderer" and saying he was responsible for genocide.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Argentina's best-known human rights group, has so far managed to identify through DNA testing 126 children stolen from their parents during military rule, between 1976 and 1983.

[back to contents]


Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Like South Africa, Kashmir needs a truth commission to bring hope
The Times of India

By Sagarika Ghose
February 18, 2018

"If Sardar Patel had been the first Prime Minister of the country then entire Kashmir would have been ours," thundered PM Modi in Parliament in a belligerent attack on Jawaharlal Nehru's failures in Kashmir. But while Nehru was forced to accept the partition of Kashmir, the Modi government is creating a far bigger crisis. Nehru may have lost only a part of Kashmir's territory, but Modi is in serious danger of losing the hearts and minds of almost all Kashmiris.

As videos of Kashmiri students being beaten up in Haryana go viral in the Valley, mistrust of India was never greater than it is now. The middle ground is disappearing in the Valley with even moderates no longer inclined to give the Indian state the benefit of doubt. Modi's aggressive Hindu rashtra with its policy of all guns and no roses is creating militants in every hamlet.

Nehru, the passionate secularist who regarded Kashmiris as his own people, repeatedly rushed to Kashmir, trekking through its villages, swimming and surfboarding in Negin lake, galloping along Sonmarg and Gulmarg, exhorting India's chief ministers through letters to ensure that India's secularism was well protected so that the Kashmiri would feel secure in India and not be tempted towards Pakistan. Nehru knew that to build bridges in Kashmir, India must hold fast to secular ideals and never let nationalism be mixed with religion. Whatever his diplomatic blunders, the Nehruvian state was constantly benevolent and sheltering of Kashmiris. This enduring legacy was proudly invoked by the late J&K CM Mufti Sayeed when he declared in 2015, "I am a politician of the Nehru era."

Modi, however, believes the entire era from Nehru to Manmohan Singh was a dark age of blunders and weakness and the "glory" years of India began only in 2014 . Yet where Manmohan Singh was able to successfully "soften" the Indo-Pak border by encouraging cross-border trade and people-to-people contacts, this government has created an unprecedented violent turbulence.

A total of 263 soldiers were killed in Kashmir in 2014-2017 in contrast to 177 in the previous four years, and the number of civilians killed in 2017 has been the highest in the last four years, at 57. In the Manmohan years even the 2008 Mumbai terror attack did not see the kind of catastrophic escalation of violence in Kashmir as we are seeing now, the latest being on Sunjuwan army camp in which five jawans have died.

The Modi government is getting Kashmir badly wrong. Yes, elements in Pakistan's army remain determined to inflict a "thousand cuts" on India but the Modi government's so-called "muscular" policy - its wannabe Israeli stance pretending Kashmir is the Gaza Strip - is a horrible misreading of what the situation demands. Trapped in the RSS worldview whose core belief is that Kashmir is a piece of land to be conquered and subdued by revoking Article 370 and that every Kashmiri Muslim is anti-India, the Modi government is failing to create an urgently required political process in Kashmir. More innocents will keep dying unless this happens.

Unnatural from the start, the BJP-PDP alliance stands revealed as a failure, the hostile Hindu supremacist "Jammu mindset" only deepening the chasm on both sides. Any attempt by CM Mehbooba Mufti to reach out to Kashmiri sentiments such as withdrawing of FIRs on stone pelters is met by howls from the BJP in Jammu. In 2015 when Kashmiri truck driver Zahid Ahmed was killed over cow slaughter rumours, New Delhi maintained a studied silence. For Kashmiris, a stone-hearted regime in Delhi is increasingly an object of blind rage.

Modi sarkar must now make an extraordinary and risk-taking move. It must realise, as Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh did, that there's no ready solution to Kashmir, there is only a process that explores solutions, the process itself an enabler of normalcy. Small gestures make up the larger mission. New Delhi must get rid of the spooks and statusquoist babus who make up New Delhi's security-speak-dominated "Kashmir Ministry". Instead it must set up a people's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the lines of post-apartheid South Africa. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission for J&K should comprise both Indian and Pakistani democratic peacemakers. This commission must be headed by a known apostle of peace like Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and must begin immediate reconciliation and truth-telling. A recent civil society dialogue in Anantnag showed how desperate Kashmiris are to vent their sorrows at injustice. Through a commission like this a shot of hope would be injected into a bleak, bloodied landscape. India would be lauded by the world, and a signal would be sent out that even though Modi sarkar rejects Nehru, at least it embraces Gandhi.

Using U.S. Courts to Promote Accountability for the 1990 Liberian Church Massacre and Beyond
Just Security

By Cristian Gonzalez and Nushin Sarkarati
February 26, 2018

Between 1989 and 2003, civil war consumed the small West African nation of Liberia, resulting in the estimated deaths of 150,000 to 250,000 men, women and children, and the displacement of over half the country's population. All parties to the conflict, government and rebels alike, were responsible for grave crimes and human rights atrocities, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, summary executions, and forced conscription of child soldiers. Since 2003, Liberia has made significant progress on security, yet major obstacles remain to long-term growth and sustainable peace, not least an enduring culture of impunity for civil war-era atrocities.

The civil lawsuit that the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) filed recently on behalf of four survivors of the St. Peter's Lutheran Church Massacre aims to help rectify this impunity. On July 29, 1990, soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) executed approximately 600 unarmed men, women, and children-mostly of the Mano and Gio tribes-that had sought refuge from the violence of the civil war at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Monrovia. At the time of the attack, the church was providing shelter and humanitarian assistance to over 2,000 civilians and the compound was clearly marked by Red Cross flags on all four corners. Some of the survivors of the attack, including CJA's plaintiffs, were forced to hide under dead bodies while witnessing the slaughter of their loved ones with guns and machetes.

Plaintiff Jane W and her family were sleeping inside the church when government soldiers entered. Jane's daughter and aunt were killed before her eyes, while her husband tried in vain to rescue their youngest child and flee. Plaintiff John X survived the massacre by hiding under dead bodies. His wife, daughter, and two brothers, however, were all killed in the massacre. Plaintiff John Y, only 12 years old at the time, hid near the pulpit at the front of the nave. In the chaos, his aunt and cousin were killed and a bullet hit John Y in the leg. John Y and his father survived the attack but were separated from his mother and brother for two years in the aftermath of the massacre. Plaintiff John Z was sleeping outside in the Church compound when soldiers entered the front courtyard. John Z hid amongst the bodies and was bayoneted in the arm by a soldier trying to make sure victims were dead. The plaintiffs must remain anonymous given the current security situation in Liberia and the real risk of reprisals.

The survivors of the attack brought this case against one of the alleged commanders of the Lutheran Church Massacre, the former head of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit of the AFL, Col. Moses Thomas, who has sought safe haven in the United States since 2000 and currently lives in the outskirts of Philadelphia. The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was brought pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), two federal statutes that permit civil suits in U.S. federal courts to remedy a limited set of human rights violations, including those that occurred abroad. The complaint alleges that Thomas is liable for extrajudicial killing, torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity-including the war crime of targeting a building designated for religious and humanitarian purposes, and crimes against humanity for mass execution and persecution of civilians based on their tribal affiliation.

To date, no one has been held responsible for the Lutheran Church Massacre. Although in 2009 Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended the creation of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of civil-war-era crimes, including the Lutheran Church Massacre, Liberians are still waiting to see whether an in-country court will be established. The lawsuit is the first seeking to hold accountable a commander of then-President Samuel Doe's government forces for grave violations of international law, and the first to confront a high-ranking commander for the perpetration of one of Liberia's deadliest attacks on civilians during the country's civil war.

This case comes in the context of an international effort by victims of the Liberian Civil War to be heard on a global scale, a movement which will continue to grow in 2018. The case against Thomas follows the successful 2009 U.S. prosecution of Charles "Chucky" Taylor, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, for torture; and the successful 2017 Mohammed "Jungle Jabbah" Jabateh immigration fraud case in Philadelphia. Expected cases in 2018 include the trial of former National Patriotic Front (NPFL) Defense Minister Tom Woewiyu in the United States for immigration fraud related to human rights abuses in Liberia; NPFL Commander Martina Johnson in Belgium for atrocity crimes in Liberia; United Liberation Movement (ULIMO) Commander Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland for crimes against humanity and torture; and Agnes Reeves Taylor in the United Kingdom for her alleged role in NPFL abuses in Liberia.

It is true that the country where an international crime occurred is the preferred jurisdiction to obtain justice for victims. On a practical level, the collection of evidence, including the participation of witnesses, is much easier when a trial is held closer to the crime. The territorial state's courts may also be more attuned to the needs and arguments of the parties. The reality in Liberia, however, is that the culture of impunity is rampant. Despite the potential of the TRC created in 2003, Liberia has done little to implement the body's recommendations related to prosecutions, sanctions, an alternative justice mechanism, reparations, and memorialization. Although the lack of prosecutions can be partly attributed to the state of Liberia's legal system, some commentators also point to a lack of political will. Others, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, have expressed concern that implementing the TRC's recommendations for prosecutions would create instability in Liberia, and should be ignored in the interest of peace. It is unclear whether incoming President George Weah will follow suit. Presently, no international criminal tribunal has jurisdiction over Liberia's wartime atrocities.

U.S. Justice Robert H. Jackson, then chief U.S. prosecutor, noted in his opening statement before the Nuremberg Tribunal that the law must reach those who "make deliberate and concerted use of [power] to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched." Twenty-eight years after that tragic day in Monrovia, this profound aphorism rings hollow to the victims of the Lutheran Church Massacre. Indeed, U.S. law may not provide reliable criminal sanctions for war crimes, like those committed during the Lutheran Church Massacre, even when alleged perpetrators have sought safe haven within U.S. borders. For example, the 1996 War Crimes Act provides that an offense is prosecutable only if the perpetrator or the victim is a U.S. national or member of the U.S. armed forces. Other criminal statutes, such as the 1994 Torture Act, were enacted after the Massacre and may not be applied retroactively. In fact, the Torture Act has been used only once (coincidentally for post-1994 atrocities in Liberia by "Chucky" Taylor). These legal limitations thus result in prosecutions of alleged human rights abusers based on immigration crimes, rather than on war crimes or torture (as was the case with the prosecution of Mohammed Jabateh). With no hope of accountability in Liberia, CJA's plaintiffs-as well as other victims of earlier mass atrocities whose perpetrators are in the United States-must resort to the civil remedies provided by the ATS and the TVPA.

CJA's brave clients have waited a long time to discover the truth of what happened the night of July 29, 1990, and to have their day in court. Civil litigation through the ATS and TVPA may give them that chance. Moreover, this case and others may ultimately propel the Liberia accountability movement forward with respect to the many other perpetrators of human rights violations during the war, including and especially in Liberia itself. As the victims themselves recognize, only through accountability within Liberia will the country be truly en route to a robust rule of law and sustainable peace.

Forgiveness, reparations essential for truth and reconciliation: U of Regina scholar
Regina Leader-Post

By Ashley Martin
February 27, 2018

Kaicombey survived the civil war in Sierra Leone, then worked with its truth and reconciliation commission before immigrating to Winnipeg in 2005.

"Reconciliation is a process and it starts from the individual, so the individual has to forgive," said Kaicombey, who is pursuing his master's degree in justice studies at the University of Regina.

"I was able to forgive my perpetrators, that is the people that came and killed my family, the people that took guns to run after me … the people that made me lose most of my education, my future, that set me back."

After a bachelor's degree in human rights and global studies from the University of Winnipeg in 2013, Kaicombey is now comparing Canada's truth and reconciliation work to that of Sierra Leone's.

"Some people can argue that in the Canadian context, it is not a war," said Kaicombey, who grew up in Segbwema. "But … there is one common thing there, which is abuse. It is a human rights abuse.

"In the context I'm looking at is that sustainable reconciliation can only take place … if really we look at forgiveness. Forgiveness starts from the individual; it goes to the community and the nation."

The Sierra Leone TRC was borne of the Lomé Peace Agreement in 1999 between the federal government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The Truth and Reconciliation Act was proclaimed in 2000.

At least 70,000 people are estimated to have been killed during the war, which officially ran from 1991 to 2002.

The TRC heard from victims and perpetrators who had experienced, or inflicted, amputations, abductions, rape, sexual slavery, cannibalism and general destruction.

Canada's TRC was established in June 2008 and its final report was issued in December 2015. It explored the history of Canada's Indian residential schools and the impact of decades of systemic injustice towards Indigenous people.

Kaicombey took statements from victims and perpetrators in Sierra Leone for about a year. He moved to Canada believing his life was at stake; he spoke against dictatorship as a youth leader, and spent a year of the war in exile.

The TRC "looked at the community and the victims; we bring them together and the (perpetrator) asks for forgiveness and the community forgives themselves," said Kaicombey.

Today, Sierra Leone is in a much better place, said Kaicombey, with most victims re-integrated into the community.

But, "What brought the war is still there. Just like when we look at the system here, the colonialism, what really happened is still happening in most contexts there."

Those problems include poor governance and corruption, and people's needs not being met, he added.

Like Canada, Sierra Leone was colonized by the British.

The Sierra Leone TRC issued financial reparations to victims following their testimonies.

In Canada, there was a settlement agreement in 2006, two years before the TRC launched.

While reparation and restitution are crucial to reconciliation, said Kaicombey, they should come after consultations with the people.

"The first thing the government did was to put a financial symbol at the reparation, giving money to them. In my own context, in most other countries, reparation comes as the result from the final report of the truth commission. You first have to come sit with the people, talk to the people," said Kaicombey.

"I can't say money is bad," he added, "it's good, but in terms of engaging the people themselves, involving them to be more participatory, in terms of developing or addressing their own needs, that will help to be more sustainable because they will be part of the process."

[back to contents]


Anxiety, frustration in courts over collapse of terror trials
Standard Media

By Joackim Bwana
February 27, 2018

Poor intelligence sharing was among concerns cited for the State's inability to successfully prosecute most terror trials.

Judicial and prosecution authorities in Mombasa proposed that an inter-agency committee be set up to review the prosecution of terror suspects in order to speed up trials and secure convictions.

Magistrates, prosecutors, and State security officials expressed concern that most terror trials ended in acquittal for lack of evidence or poor investigation.

Some reports indicated that a committee had been proposed to surmount this challenge.

While the collapse of the prosecution's case sounded like music to the ears of the defence, the latter lamented that the trials took too long, thereby amounting to miscarriage of justice.

Defence lawyers have been invited to provide views suggesting changes to criminal procedures to foster the greater ends of justice and reform of the criminal justice system.

It was established that the key cause of spectacular collapse of terrorist trials was lack of inter-agency sharing of information or inability of the Kenyan court system to admit certain intelligence information that could lead to conviction, as is the practice in some jurisdictions.

Yesterday, Assistant Senior DPP Alexander Muteti admitted that the State was under pressure to speed up trials and secure timely convictions but was often hampered by lack of evidence because prosecution witnesses do not always cooperate.

"Most witnesses are [only] willing to give detailed information to police but are shy to do the same and when they appear in court and end up giving only half of what they know," according to Mr Muteti, who believes fear of reprisals was the leading cause of the reluctance to cooperate.

Eric Makori, the Chief Magistrate in Mombasa, suggested that critical State departments such as the intelligence sector, could provide crucial information to assist the police conduct investigations to secure actionable evidence that was of probative value in a Kenyan court.

All officials interviewed on Monday said no such committee exists but other sources indicated otherwise.

Makori said he believed terrorism trials should be presided by special magistrates and judges and some cases held in camera. Makori, who is chairing a special committee on terror trials, recently acquitted two suspects - Ahmed Ali Abdalla and Nassir Skanda Ali - who were on trial on four terror charges in Kisauni.

They were charged with committing a terrorist act contrary to section 4 (1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act No. 30 of 2012, with the State alleging that on May 3, 2014, they "jointly with others not before the court committed a terrorist act by detonating an improvised explosive device, endangering the life of the general public."

The accused denied the charges and the prosecution called 14 witnesses.

The accused were placed on their defence, testified on oath, and called just one witnesses in their defence and were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Although the State relied on two witnesses who alleged during interrogation that they saw the suspects plant a bag laden with explosives near a hotel entrance, besides a forensic analysis showing the accused alleged clothes were found to contain ballistic residue, the case collapsed when the witnesses were cross-examined.

They recanted their testimonies while the State was unable to demonstrate that the clothes laced with ballistic residue belonged to the accused.

The defence, led by Chacha Mwita, submitted that key State witnesses could not even identify the hotel's physical location and that the prosecution had not linked the alleged explosive to the accused or their residence.

Makori said the collapse of the trial provided vital lessons and a chance for reform to enable better prosecution prospects.

Muteti said that by its nature, investigation of terror crimes was complex, expensive and tedious and often spread across borders. This meant that such an investigation should involve many agencies.

Muteti added that the "nature of the evidence gathered by the intelligence is sometimes difficult to convert into a form that is admissible in court."

According to Muteti, intelligence reports should be used to support detectives bolster their evidence or guide their investigation.

He also supported the establishment of secret or closed courts, as is the practice in the UK and other nations, where "material is made available to a judge/magistrate and special advocate, which puts into perspective the anticipated prosecution case."

He lamented that in Kenya intelligence reports or terrorist suspects were "kept in the dark and such reports do not gain use in investigation and the judicial process."

The magistrate proposed that specialist judges and magistrate handle terrorist trials 'to deal with these matters expeditiously'.

Czech court orders release of Syrian Kurd leader despite Turkish extradition call

By Robert Muller
February 27, 2018

A Czech court on Tuesday ordered the release of a Syrian Kurdish leader, causing a diplomatic row with Turkey which had sought his detention pending an extradition request.

Saleh Muslim formerly headed the PYD, the major component of a coalition that governs Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria and deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey.

He was detained in Prague at the weekend at the request of Ankara, which accuses him of aggravated murder and disrupting the Turkish state.

"The court ruled Mr. Muslim will be released," said Marketa Puci, a spokeswoman for the Prague Municipal Court. She said the court ruling had taken effect as both the state attorney and the defense gave up their rights to appeal.

The decision means Turkey can file an extradition request within a 40-day period, but Muslim is free to leave the country.

He told the court he would remain on European Union territory and cooperate in further proceedings. Assessment of an extradition request can take months and if courts find it acceptable, the final decision rests with the Czech justice minister.

Muslim said allegations against him were false and that he was surprised by his detention, given he had previously traveled to Belgium, Germany and France.

"Nobody was taking it (charges by Turkey) seriously, I didn't know they would take it seriously here," Muslim said. "First of all, I am a citizen of Syria, I am not a citizen of Turkey, second thing, I am a politician."

Muslim said he had not yet decided where he would go next, but said he had permission to reside in EU-member Finland.

Turkey described the court ruling as political and against international law. "It is a decision that is a very clear support for terror. The decision will negatively impact relations between Turkey and the Czech Republic," Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said any extradition request would be handled according to an international convention and law. "The Czech Republic strongly rejects any accusation of support of international terrorism," it said in a statement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would follow Muslim "wherever he goes".

Turkey's Ambassador to Prague, Ahmet Necati Bigali, said the decision was "not befitting our friendship with the Czech Republic. This decision has surely cast a shadow over our relations."

Turkey launched a military offensive last month in Syria's Afrin region against the Kurdish YPG militia, the PYD's armed affiliate, which it deems a menace along its border.

Ankara sees the PYD and YPG as extensions of the outlawed Kurdish PKK movement which has waged a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil. The groups say they are independent.

Muslim is on a "wanted terrorists" list on the Turkish Interior Ministry's website, accused of links to two bombings in Ankara that killed dozens of people.

Tougher sentences for lower-level terrorism `may make offenders more dangerous´
Daily Mail

February 27, 2018

Increasing the severity of sentences for lower-level terrorism offences risks making the perpetrators more dangerous after they are released, the Parole Board has said.

Pointing to concerns about extremism in prisons, the body argued de-radicalisation programmes for less serious offenders are more likely to be successful in the community than in jail.

The Parole Board, which assesses whether serving prisoners in England and Wales are safe to be released, responded to a consultation on new sentencing proposals drawn up last year amid a shift in the terror threat.

The board's response was referenced in a report released by the Commons Justice Committee on Tuesday.

It said the board "raises concerns about radicalisation in prisons", adding: "In the board's assessment, there are concerns that increasing the penalties for less serious offenders will result in them becoming more likely to commit terrorist acts when they are released."

The report does not specify terror-related crimes that could fall under the "less serious" heading.

The committee quoted the board as observing: "Most of the rest of Europe is devising interventions in the community to de-radicalise less serious offenders.

"These programmes are more likely to be successful in the community than in prison where the influence of extremist inmates is likely to be stronger."

In October the Sentencing Council published a draft of the first comprehensive guidance for a host of terrorism offences in England and Wales.

The guidelines are designed to equip courts for the "new category" of terrorists, whose plans escalate rapidly and involve attacks using cars or knives.

The main proposed change applies to offences under section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which covers the preparation of terrorism.

The new guidelines will keep the same maximum sentence of life with a minimum term of 40 years.

But the council is proposing that the sentencing range for the lowest level preparation of crimes is set at three to six years - compared with 21 months to five years under existing guidance.

Cases that could fall into this category include those where preparations are not well developed, or where the person offers a small amount of assistance to others.

Other crimes covered by the guidelines include encouragement of terrorism, terror fundraising, and supporting a banned organisation.

In these cases the draft proposals are expected to result in some sentences which are more severe than previously but the Sentencing Council anticipates the need for additional prison places to be minimal.

Separately, the Government is examining whether the length of custodial sentences for terror-related offences are sufficient as part of a major review launched last year as Britain was hit by a wave of attacks.

Ministers have already announced a rise in the statutory maximum sentence for collecting terrorist information from 10 to 15 years to clamp down on offenders who repeatedly view illegal material on the internet.

There were 213 individuals in custody in Britain after being charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offences at the end of September, a rise of more than a quarter on the previous year.

Separate figures suggest that authorities are managing more than 1,000 inmates identified as extremist or vulnerable to extremism at any one time.

Last year the Ministry of Justice launched three specialist units to hold up to 28 prisoners after a review concluded Islamist extremism was a growing problem in jails.

Justice Committee chairman Bob Neill urged the Sentencing Council to carefully consider responses to its consultation.

He added: "Terrorism is a very serious offence and it is right that the guideline reflects public concerns and the grave threats that it poses to society."

The Sentencing Council, which will publish final guidelines next month, said it considers all responses received during the consultation period.

[back to contents]


Ship crew in southern Philippines sea repels pirates using oil and boiling water
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

February 17, 2018

The crew of a ship on the southern Philippines sea has repelled a pirate attack using boiling water mixed with oil.

Twenty-seven sailors aboard the Philippines ship MV Kudos stopped 12 pirates trying to board the ship in the Basilan sea, by splashing the armed men with the concoction of hot water and oil.

This prompted the pirates to fire their guns, according to the Philippines Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Western Mindanao Command Chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr said two crew members sustained minor injuries in the attack.

Lieutenant General Galvez Jr praised the courage of the sailors.

"We were pleased that the crew did not lose their presence of mind," he said in a statement.

"Their raw courage enabled them to pour hot water to the pirates who were already attempting to climb the vessel."

Coast Guard and Navy vessels rushed to the scene after receiving a distress signal, and escorted the ship to safety.

It was carrying steel bound for Manila from the southern Davao port when attacked.

West African pirates taking hostages for ransom as oil prices tank
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

By Andrew Thompson
February 19, 2018

Key points:

● 65 of the 75 recorded piracy kidnappings worldwide last year were off the Nigeria coast

● The spike in kidnappings is a recent trend due to a downturn in oil prices

● There have been groups with political agendas, but most pirates are criminals motivated by money

Chirag Bari's merchant ship MT Marida Marguerite was nearing the Gulf of Aden when the vessel was boarded by Somali pirates.

"I approached the bridge; I heard noises coming from inside the bridge," he said.

"Then I saw the pirates.

"I could see a person with an AK47 in his hand, pointing the gun on to me."

The chemical cargo ship was meant to be travelling from Mr Bari's native India to Belgium.

Instead, he and his fellow crew members were towed into waters off the Somali coast and held hostage.

It was 2010 when Somali piracy was at its peak, with clandestine robbers boarding international merchant ships and demanding millions of dollars in ransom.

"They tied us up with nylon ropes … they put electrical cable bands on our genitals and they were enjoying it as we were screaming in pain," Mr Bari said.

"It made them happier to listen to our cries."

At the time Somalia was a failed state, without a functioning government and navy, allowing pirates to take easy refuge in the coastal waters.

Piracy off the Somali coast has now been quelled - largely due to a newly formed Somali national government and a massive internationally co-ordinated patrol campaign.

That made a significant dent in the number of annual global piracy cases, but while passage along East Africa's coastline may be less dangerous, there's been a spike in pirate kidnappings off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is 'a very different beast'

Mr Bari, who now works with The International Seafarers Welfare Assistance Network, is working to help the latest victims of piracy.

He's helped develop a training program, providing sea fearers with best response practices, should they be boarded by pirates.

However, piracy in this part of Africa is a very different beast from that conducted off the coast of Somalia.

While hostage situations carried out by Somali pirates were often long and drawn out, with a degree of patience and strategy, Mr Bari said pirates off the West Coast were trigger happy and more inclined to fire if provoked.

They prefer smash and grab tactics; boarding vessels with high powered armoury, grabbing several crew members, then retreating into the swampy networks in the Niger Delta and making their ransom demands.

Figures from the International Maritime Bureau show the number of actual and attempted piracy attacks off the coast of Nigeria in 2016 and 2017 was more than double that of the previous two years.

Last year, 65 of the 75 recorded piracy kidnappings worldwide were off the coast of Nigeria.

Kidnappings spike linked to downturn in oil prices

Chris Trelawny, special adviser of the International Maritime Organisation, said piracy in the region had long been a problem, but the spike in kidnappings was a recent trend due to a downturn in oil prices.

The pirates used to target oil tankers for their cargo, but shifting global markets has forced pirates to re-focus their operations.

"More recently when the oil price tanked, you've seen a switch to more kidnap for ransoms," he said.

Mr Trelawny said it was vital the trend was addressed.

While there have been groups with political agendas, Mr Trelawny said most pirates were criminals motivated by money.

With more than 10 nations sharing the shores of the Gulf of Guinea, Mr Trelawny said establishing a co-ordinated anti-piracy framework had often proven to be difficult.

Unlike Somalia, which was without a central government until 2012, international navies and private security forces don't have free reign to patrol the Gulf of Guinea waters.

There is no UN international framework for third party navies to operate in these waters.

"Many of those countries don't want armed security teams in their waters," Mr Trelawny said.

While he said Nigeria had made significant efforts to police their waters, resources are strained.

"How many kidnappings are happening ashore? They have Boko Haram running around in the north of the country," he said.

"They have a lot of other issues."

Gulf of Guinea piracy far worse than official statistics

He also points to issues of corruption, as well as the lack of a legal framework in many countries to effectively prosecute piracy crimes.

The International Maritime Bureau runs a 24-hour global hotline service for shipmasters to report piracy.

The Bureau's assistant director, Cyrus Mody, said piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was far worse than the official statistics indicate.

According to Mr Mody, that is due to several reasons. There's a belief that justice is rarely carried out, local investigations involve costly shipping delays, there's fears of retribution and increased insurance rates.

"It needs a massive movement politically and financially to even scratch the surface and then start moving towards improvement," Mr Mody said.

International support needed to combat piracy

Rather than take charge, as happened in the waters off Somalia, Mr Mody said international organisations and other nations needed to play a supporting role with the countries in the Gulf of Guinea.

"If technology is needed, if patrol boats are needed - training is needed to understand how to use the technology efficiently and properly.

"That supporting role will always take a far greater amount of time, as it has to be accepted by the community and then you slowly start to move forward."

In the meantime, pirates' tactics of ambushing and holding hostages in the Niger Delta continue.

"It's worse if you're taken away from your ship, taken away from your environment, which you are familiar with, taken away from your colleagues and held in a jungle in a house in a very hostile environment until the ransom is paid.

"We have to understand that a seafarer is not trained for these sorts of things."

Bari and his crew spent nearly eight months as hostages

Mr Bari's seafaring days are now over.

After an exhaustive negotiation process, which started at $US15 million ($18.9 million), the shipping company finally agreed to pay a ransom of about $5.5 million ($6.9 million).

A contract helicopter dropped the cash in a plastic bag into the water.

The pirates collected the bag, counted it and soon after left the ship.

Fuel and supplies were then dropped off, before the ship sailed away towards the first safe port in Oman.

All up, he and his crew spent seven months and 20 days as hostages on board the ship - cut off from the rest of the world.

Once back on land, Mr Bari was told his mother had died while he was captive.

Recovering from physical and mental trauma

Mr Bari returned to India and managed to rebuild his life, taking months to recover from the physical and mental trauma.

The International Seafarers Welfare Assistance Network provides support for families and returned captives, affected by loss of income and social displacement.

He hopes his horrific experience, if nothing else, can at least provide some insights and resilience for future hostage victims.

"We offer a course where they get to mentally prepare and how to cope in captivity," he said.

"I'm not here to stop piracy. We cannot stop piracy from its roots.

"So we are only trying to educate seafarers.

"You should co-operate. You should not offer resistance to them.

"The pirates might have hijacked you, they have kidnapped your physical body, but mentally they cannot capture you."

Chemical tanker attacked off Somalia, pirates repelled
Reuters World News

By George Obulutsa
February 23, 2018

Suspected Somali pirates attacked a Singaporean-flagged chemical tanker on Friday but were repelled by guards on board, the European Union's Naval force said, the first such incident in several months.

EU Navfor said in a statement the 50,000 metric tonne MT Leopard Sun was sailing from Sohar in Oman to Cape Town, South Africa, when it was attacked by two skiffs 160 nautical miles (295 km) off the coast of Somalia.

"The skiffs approached from the stern and fired upon her, after which the on-board Private Armed Security Team returned fire with warning shots," EU Navfor said.

The incident lasted around 20 minutes, and the vessel and crew were safe.

The attack, likely to be piracy related, was the first of its kind in the area since November 2017, EU Navfor said.

Pirate attacks off the Somali coast surged in that year following years of relative calm. The peak year was 2011, when pirates launched 237 attacks and held hundreds of hostages, data from the International Maritime Bureau shows.

Several foreign navies, including from the European Union and China, operate regularly in the area as part of anti-piracy missions.

Gulf of Guinea piracy evolving, crew on moving vessels 'easiest targets'
Tanker Shipping & Trade

By Jamey Bergman
February 27, 2018

Piracy is becoming a more significant problem for vessels operating in the Gulf of Guinea in spite of a worldwide drop in piracy during 2017.

International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Assistant Director Cyrus Mody told Tanker Shipping and Trade that there have been 17 incidents reported in the region in the first two months of 2018, nearly half the 36 incidents reported to the group in the whole of 2017, with the majority occurring in the waters off Nigeria and Benin.

"We have on record 15 incidents between Nigeria and Benin, and four were in the Cotonou Anchorage," Mr Mody said.

The number of incidents reported to the IMB, however, pale in comparison to those cited by Africa Risk Compliance, a security contractor and consultancy specialising in operations in Africa. Fleet operations director in the group's London office Max Williams told Tanker Shipping & Trade that the group was aware of well over 100 incidents in the region in the last 12 months.

The discrepancy - and possibly the recent uptick in piracy reports from the region - could be explained by systematic underreporting.

Mr Mody explained "There is a huge underreporting from vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, and we would hope that we are seeing these higher numbers from increased repoting in the region. We always encourage masters and operators and owners to report these incidents as soon as possible. We always alert authorities to respond to reports of piracy, but reporting also helps other masters in the area to know where incidents are occurring."

Independent shipping brokerage Asket, which publishes its own daily security alerts for the shipping sector, said piracy strategies in the Gulf of Guinea are shifting to focus on human crew.

"We have certainly seen a change in tactics in the Gulf of Guinea over the past 12 months and it is likely that these will develop further throughout 2018," Asket's business and compliance director Emma Mitchell-Biggs told Tanker Shipping and Trade.

Ms Mitchell-Biggs said protection measures such as safe anchorages, escort vessels and co-ordinated response to incidents on the part of the Nigerian Navy had made ship-to-ship siphoning thefts more difficult for pirate gangs patrolling the region.

The downturn in product theft, she said, had resulted in an increase in attacks at sea aimed at capturing crew and ships to be held for ransom.

"Increase in protection around the ports and fields … means that the easiest targets are now attacks on vessels underway," she said.

In the wider region, however, attacks on ships at anchor have seen an uptick. Recent high-profile incidents over a period of a few weeks in late January and early February 2018 saw two tanker vessels and their crews taken hostage off the coast of Nigerian neighbour Benin in the Gulf of Guinea.

"We've seen two hijackings so far this year, and this is something which we have not seen since 2011. In 2011, we had reports of around eight hijackings from around the Cotonou region," Mr Mody said.

Ms Mitchell-Biggs warned there was no reason to believe these types of attacks would stop.

"We have seen gangs who are boarding vessels at anchor - most notably in the Cotonou anchorage offshore Benin - where the vessel is sailed away from the coast with the intent to conduct short-term hijacks for kidnap and ransom," she said.

"There is no reason why this trend will not spread further west, for example in Abidjan anchorage [Ivory Coast] where several boardings were seen last year."

Ships at anchorages can pose relatively easy targets for pirates operating in small, lightly armed and difficult to detect teams of one or two skiffs. These teams are capable of staying mostly hidden among similar small craft at anchor while looking for targets and disappearing quickly if discovered, she said.

According to Ms Mitchell-Biggs, preparation is key to avoiding this type of attack.

"Good planning and rehearsals for the whole crew, the use of intelligence and all round situational awareness including alert lookouts, the management of AIS, and use of radars tuned to pick up smaller targets," are some of the measures she suggested.

Ms Mitchell-Biggs also cited the fourth iteration of IMO's Best Management Practices for Somali-based piracy as a starting point for preparing ships to resist attacks.

"Adapted BMP4 type measures are key to controlling access and ingress," and, she said "a secure and equipped citadel has been proven to work time and again."

At least one tanker operator has responded to increased piracy in the region by implementing ship-hardening measures.

[back to contents]

Gender-Based Violence

Stopping Gender-Based Violence
Massis Post

February 27, 2018

The Armenian International Women's Association (AIWA) decries the recent physical assaults upon two women who are members of the Yerevan City Council. On February 13, city councilor Marina Khachatryan, along with her colleague Sona Aghekyan, were attacked by fellow councilmen during the first session of the Yerevan City Council. The attack came just as the two women were trying to bring samples of sewage (in glass jars) from the Nubarashen district in Yerevan to underscore the negligence of the mayor and the city government in failing to address the longstanding problem of leaking sewage from the nearby prison. This has become an enormous health hazard for everyone living in the vicinity.

This outrageous behavior comes just shortly after Armenia passed legislation criminalizing domestic violence. This incident, along with prior cases of attacks on women protesters in various public settings, further exposes how public forums and political spaces in the country have frequently become unsafe places for women in Armenia. They reveal a systemic attempt to exclude women from public discourse and political decision-making.

This assault on elected female councilors was especially egregious, as the violence was committed by colleagues on the city council. Such violence against female activists must stop, as it corrodes the fragile democratic institutions in the country and intimidates women from entering politics. Violence as an instrument of political discourse is illegal and unethical. It is also profoundly unproductive, as it can silence free speech, innovation and initiative, thereby degrading governance and polarizing society.

It has been demonstrated that the empowerment of women is a necessary precondition for democratic progress, economic growth and sustainable security arrangements in conflict regions. Patronizing, intimidating and harming women - whether in the home or in a public space - is a direct assault on Armenia's prospects for a successful future. To sustain the moral fabric of the country, it is essential that everyone - especially elected officials - respect the dignity of all women.

This recent display of violence further erodes public trust in Armenia's institutions and threatens the development of a still-young democracy struggling in an increasingly authoritarian region. The brave women council members who were bringing much-needed attention to a major public health and environmental crisis in a large Yerevan community should be praised and honored. Those who attacked them should be held accountable for their actions. Regardless of how offended they were by the jars of sewage, they had no right to resort to physical violence. We understand that a criminal investigation has been launched, and this process should be watched closely by the public.

Most important, we all need to work together to change the cultural norms that promote and reward this kind of assault. Everyone - especially men and boys - need to explore how we can all become part of the solution to stop gender-based violence, whether it occurs in war, at home, on the streets, or at work. Fortunately, there are men around the world now changing the public discourse to include ideas about positive masculinity that would promote a safer and stronger world for everyone. A healthy society requires that we all respect human dignity, and this incident in Yerevan offers one more opportunity to raise our voices in calling for systemic change to create a culture that would never foster or condone this kind of violent behavior.

The Armenian International Women's Association was founded 26 years ago to connect, inspire and mentor Armenian women to embrace their power and value as advocates for social change and as leaders in society. As Armenian men and women throughout the world become more actively engaged citizens, AIWA will continue to support social, economic and educational policies and systems that bring equal representation to Armenian women and improve the quality of life for women and girls.

Syrian women and girls 'forced to exchange sex for aid'
The New Arab

February 27, 2018

A new report has shed light on the alarming extent to which Syrian internally displaced people (IDPs), specifically women and girls, have for years been subject to sexual exploitation from local men working for the UN and aid organisations, in order to access basic necessities such as food, medicine and shelter.

The report, published by research group The Whole of Syria, expresses deeply disturbing findings on the incidence of gender-based violence among internal refugee communities in Syria.

It highlights the "common risk" faced by women and girls of sexual exploitation by humanitarian workers when trying to access aid.

The report comes shortly after similar reports that Oxfam workers in Haiti and Chad exchanged aid for sex with women afflicted by humanitarian and natural disasters.

The effects of the ongoing conflict; poverty, displacement, and women being head of the household, coupled with gender inequality, have acutely exacerbated the problem of sexual exploitation, according to the report.

Worryingly, unaccompanied girls, or those living in a female-headed household - which is common in IDP communities - are perceived to be highest at risk from this type of exploitation, the report stated.

"Thirteen-year-old girls go to the bakeries to make little money. I know that people exploit those girls sexually in return for buying bread from them. This is very common," one Syrian man told researchers.

Widows and divorced women are also particularly at risk from sexual exploitation, as their limited sources of income leave them with few options to support their families, researchers said.

"I know a woman whose husband died and who has seven kids. Her cousins work as smugglers and are well off. Her cousins tell her they would pay her 100,000 Syrian pounds (£140) per month if she comes to them whenever they tell her to… She needs the money because she has seven kids and it takes an enormous effort to bring them all up alone," one interview participant was quoted as saying.

The report stated the prevalence of men in positions of power abusing their authority to make sexual advances on women and girls, in exchange for goods or services necessary for survival.

Researchers explained how refugee women feel ashamed and uncomfortable by these practices, and that many even avoid accessing these vital services and aid for fear of sexual exploitation, or what might happen if they turn down the degrading advances.

"We have heard about a few cases where women are exploited during aid distributions. Some distributors might ask for a woman's phone number, or they might give her a lift to her house to take something in return," one Syrian woman told researchers.

"The more the girl gives to the distributor, the more aid she will receive," said one teenage girl, according to the report.

Women are also commonly forced into unwanted sexual encounters in order to secure housing for themselves and their families.

"She could not pay the rent of the house she was living in, yet the property owner allowed her to live there for free providing that he could sleep with her daughters whenever he wanted," one woman told researchers.

British aid worker Danielle Spencer has shared her experience of sexual exploitation of female IDPs - and how it has been ignored throughout the seven-year conflict - in a new video for the BBC.

She explains how local Syrian men, working on behalf of the UN and other humanitarian agencies, exchanged aid for sex.

"Women and girls need to be protected when they are trying to receive food, and soap, and basic items to live. The last thing you need is a man who you're supposed to trust and receive aid from then asking you to have sex with him and withholding that aid from you," Spencer said.

"The UN and the system as it currently stands have chosen for women's bodies to be sacrificed. Somewhere, there has been a decision made that it is ok for women's bodies to continue to be used, abused, violated, in order for aid to be delivered to a larger group of people," she added.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria. The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

[back to contents]

Commentary and Perspectives

The ICC must hold the US accountable for crimes in Afghanistan
The Guardian

By Katherine Gallagher
February 16, 2018

As dignitaries and civil society gather in The Hague this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Court stands poised to demonstrate its maturity as it weighs a request to investigate members of the US Central Intelligence Agency and the US armed forces for torture and other serious crimes committed in Afghanistan or in Eastern Europe in the so-called "war on terror."

A criminal investigation of US torture - and other serious crimes in Afghanistan - is long overdue.

In November, the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, lodged a request to open a formal investigation following a decade-long preliminary investigation into possible international crimes committed in Afghanistan since it became a member of the court in May 2003, as well as to related crimes in other member states since July 2002.

It also follows longstanding efforts by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to hold high-level Bush administration officials accountable, through the principle of universal jurisdiction, for many of the human rights violations that the imminent ICC prosecution would encompass.

We've pursued former US officials in Canada and around Europe, seeking to hold them accountable for torture at Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and secret "black sites" around the globe.

To date, no high-level US official from the civilian leadership, military, CIA, or private contractor has been prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. An ICC investigation could finally change that - bringing an end to the impunity US officials have enjoyed and, critically, some measure of redress to victims of the US torture program.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber is now considering whether the proposed investigation - which would cover international crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban and affiliated armed groups, Afghan authorities, and members of the US military forces and the CIA - will go forward.

The investigation would cover not only serious crimes in the context of the armed conflict in Afghanistan but also crimes committed on the territory of other countries that are a member of the ICC where the crimes have a nexus to those committed in Afghanistan, such as Romania, Poland and Lithuania - all known to have hosted CIA black sites.

The prosecutor laid out the case for investigating torture, cruel treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution on the basis of gender, among other crimes. The ICC is able to conduct an investigation that could lead to the prosecution of high-level former US officials, despite the United States not being a state party to the court because the court has jurisdiction over all international crimes committed on the territory of a state party regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators.

The ICC is unique among international criminal tribunals in that victims have an opportunity to participate in all stages of the proceedings, separate and apart from any role they might play as witnesses for the prosecution. In the short time-frame given to victims, thousands of victims presented their views on the proposed investigation - with most coming from Afghanistan, at a time when near-daily bombings targeting civilians continue - and almost all urged the Pre-Trial Chamber to authorize the investigation.

To that end, the Center for Constitutional Rights submitted "victim's representations" on behalf of two of our clients, Sharqawi Al Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran, emphasizing the importance of an ICC investigation of US officials for serious crimes arising out of post-9/11 detention and interrogations, detailing Al Hajj and Duran's experiences and expanding upon the potential scope of the ICC inquiry.

Both Al Hajj and Duran have been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay for over a decade. Before arriving there, both were detained by the CIA in black sites or "proxy-detention" by other countries, tormented, and tortured. Drawing from publicly available information, CCR has detailed their cases and urged that any investigation include looking into extraordinary rendition and proxy detention sites overseen by the CIA, and continuing crimes at Guantánamo.

We have argued that the prosecutor should investigate crimes against humanity, ie, a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, as well as war crimes by US officials. In pressing for such an investigation CCR is asking the ICC to reject the "war on terror" paradigm advanced by the US to justify not only its detention and interrogation program but also its global campaign of so-called "targeted killings" and drone attacks in the wake of September 11.

CCR also set out for the ICC why it should focus its investigation on senior leadership of the Bush administration, including George Bush, Dick Cheney, and former CIA Director George Tenet, as well as private contractors who played a key role in developing the CIA torture program.

Overall, Al Hajj and Duran's victim's representations make the case for a thorough investigation that brings an end to impunity for over a decade of international human rights violations related to the war in Afghanistan.

The ICC is deemed a court of last resort, the place to go when other courts in other countries have proved unable or unwilling to prosecute. The responsibility of US parties for crimes related to the war in Afghanistan, for which impunity has reigned for nearly 15 years, is exactly the sort of case the ICC was designed to take on.

An investigation will make clear that all victims of serious crimes have recourse to an independent and impartial process for having their claims heard. It will show that those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious international crimes will be held accountable. In short, it will demonstrate that no one is above the law.

This is especially important in the face of a US president who has shown disdain for human rights, disregard for the law, and zeal for escalating the use of force in Afghanistan that will likely result in even more death and destruction.

It is high time an international body takes action. The ICC Pre-trial Chamber should authorize the investigation.

Nominating Commission for Attorney General Receives 39 Applications, but Faces Criticism and Legal Challenges
International Justice Monitor

By Eric Witte
February 22, 2018

The Nominating Commission (Comisión de Postulación) to recommend finalists for the post of Guatemalan attorney general has received 39 applications. However, it has faced significant criticism from civil society organizations over what they say are deficiencies in its procedures that leave openings for political manipulation. Even as the Commission meets this week to determine which applications meet minimum requirements, various individuals have filed four constitutional challenges (amparos) to its work. Three seek amendment of its procedures, and one seeks its total dissolution.

The Nominating Commission met four times in January. On January 22, its 15 members selected officers from their midst, approved the Commission's working methods, approved interview guidelines, and established a timeline for the Commission's work. On January 25, the Commission approved the candidate profile. On January 29, it approved the "gradation table " that determines how applications are to be evaluated. On January 30, it approved an application form guidelines for the presentation of curricula vitae, and a public call for application; it also instructed the Attorney General's Office to proceed with a public call for applications.

The public announcement appeared in an official paper and two other major newspapers on February 5. The application period ran from February 6-16, during which time 39 individuals submitted applications. On Monday and Wednesday of this week, the Commission met to review which candidates meet the minimum requirements.

The Commission's meetings have all been public. They are taped and posted online, along with. Additionally, the Commission has provided time at the end of each of its meetings for anyone from the public to speak about the process.

Civil society organizations in Guatemala have largely welcomed the Commission's transparency with regard to public access to working documents and meetings and its openness to public comment. However, many national and international non-governmental organizations have expressed deep reservations about some of its decisions. Generally, critics fear that the Commission's procedural decisions create openings for the recommendation or exclusion of applicants based on reasons other than merit.

Critics fault the Commission for a lack of transparency with regard to the reasoning of its members. When members vote by raising hands (with 10 of the 15 needed for approval), only those who oppose a decision are encouraged (but not obligated) to state their reasoning. Those voting in favor of a decision, including a decision to recommend particular candidates following their evaluation using the gradation table, are not asked to explain their votes.

Last Tuesday in Guatemala City, several civil society organizations and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights convened an expert panel to discuss the attorney general's role in combatting grand corruption. The experts concluded that without having to provide justifications for their votes, other guidelines for the Commissioners' deliberations have little meaning.

Another criticism the Commission faces has to do with how it has narrowly defined the scope of formal accusations (tachas) against candidates that may be considered in weighing their applications. The Commission's gradation table states that ethics qualifications are not measureable but that the absence of tachas constitutes proof of ethical behavior. According to guidelines the Commission adopted, the tachas may not be submitted anonymously and cannot include any open claims, lawsuits, or legal proceedings in courts or with administrative agencies, but only final criminal convictions or other matters that have been definitively resolved.

In other words, as it weighs candidates' integrity and ethics, the Commission has placed beyond consideration whether a candidate is under criminal investigation or has been convicted at trial of crimes but is appealing that ruling. This is happening in a context where many cases and proceedings take years to reach final resolution because the judiciary has been prone to extensive delay tactics through frivolous legal claims. Further, the Commission guidelines state that any accusation made on the basis of media accounts will be rejected. Civil society groups argue that the Commission should consider any open legal or ethical complaints, ask applicants about them, and draw appropriate conclusions based on the merit of the information presented.

A third main criticism of the Commission that has been especially highlighted by theAmerican Bar Association also relates to the limited information it has decided to collect on each candidate. For example, candidates are not asked for financial and property statements that could help to establish whether they have been living within their means as a result of salaries and other legally and ethically explainable sources. Further, the Commission does not encourage people to come forward with information about the candidates, both positive and negative, that could help its members understand the person beyond their academic and professional backgrounds.

These concerns formed the core observations and recommendations in a letter to the Commission's president from nine Guatemalan and international civil society organizations (including then Open Society Justice Initiative) on February 16. They also form the basis of two legal complaints (amparos) to the Constitutional Court filed by groups of individual petitioners on February 8 and 13. An amparo filed by two individuals on February 7, by contrast, argues that the call for applications went too far in requiring applicants to state such information as whether they have pending fines before the Constitutional Court. The first amparo, filed by a judge on January 24, seeks the Nomination Commission's dissolution because two of its members (including the chair) have pending legal complaints against them.

'Premature and improper'

By Teofila Lazo
February 28, 2018

Like lawyer Jude Josue Sabio, who recently lodged a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Duterte on the "war on drugs," I am also scared. However, unlike him, what I am afraid of is the probability that his act will become a precedent to disgrace and violate the independence of both our sovereignty as a state, and our legal and judicial system.

As once a student of public international law, I was taught that there are certain parameters that must first be satisfied before the ICC can take cognizance of any controversy, situation, or case presented before it. First, the crimes submitted for the tribunal's consideration must be among those explicitly enumerated by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court - genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.

But things don't end there because the next question that needs to be resolved is whether or not the controversy brought before it is "admissible." Essentially, under the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court, a case may not be admitted by said
tribunal for consideration unless: a) the state is unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the investigation or prosecution of the acts complained of; b) the state has decided not to prosecute the person/s concerned due to such unwillingness or inability; c) the person concerned had been tried in another court already but whose proceedings were for the purpose of protecting the former from criminal responsibility or were not conducted independently and impartially; or d) the case is sufficient enough to justify further action by the Court.

Considering the foregoing, it must be noted that anyone who invokes the jurisdiction of the ICC must first and foremost ascertain not just the kind and nature of the acts or crimes complained of, but more importantly, whether or not all the legal and administrative remedies available and sanctioned by the state involved have all been exhausted. Otherwise, any act done by the ICC upon the case referred to it shall constitute a blatant interference both of the sovereign right and duty of such state to independently prosecute individuals, who disrupt its law and social order.

Applying these to the instant case, I believe Sabio's resort to invoke the jurisdiction of the ICC is premature and improper under present circumstances. What he should have done was to initiate a legal proceeding, sanctioned under our laws, that shall pave the way for the due prosecution and punishment of those who may be responsible for the alleged inhumane and unlawful implementation of President Duterte's flagship program against illegal drug use and abuse.

Why go all the way to the Netherlands when he could have looked for a trial court with the proper jurisdiction? If the aforesaid fundamental legal principles are known to mere law students like me, with more reason that full-fledged lawyers like him must be aware and mindful about these.

Ultimately, Sabio's recent endeavor, albeit admirable or inspiring to some, creates the impression that our country is not capable of administering our domestic affairs so much so that interference from an international court is warranted. As an officer of the Philippines' courts of law bound by his oath and responsibility as lawyer to "promote respect for law and legal processes," it is painful to witness how he himself disregards the independence of the legal system to which he took all the rigors and sacrificed a lot for.

[back to contents]


The Prospects, Problems, and Proliferation of Recent UN Investigations of International Law Violations
By Zachary D. Kaufman
Journal of International Criminal Justice (2018)

February 25, 2018

Atrocity crimes rage today in Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Burundi, and Yemen. Given their potential to establish facts and promote accountability, recently opened United Nations investigations of international law violations in each of these states are thus a welcome, even if belated, development. However, these initiatives prompt questions about their designs, both in isolation and relative to each other.

This article describes the investigations into alleged violations in these five states, examines their respective sponsors and scopes, and presents a wide range of questions about the investigations and their implications, including their coordination with each other and their use of evidence in domestic, foreign, hybrid, and international courts (such as the International Criminal Court). The article concludes that, while seeking accountability for international law violations is certainly laudatory, these particular investigations raise significant questions about achieving that goal amidst rampant human rights abuses in these five states and beyond. International lawyers, atrocity crime survivors, and other observers thus await answers before assessing whether these investigations will truly promote justice.

Proportionality Under IHL: The 'Reasonable Military Commander' Standard and Reverberating Effects
By Ian Henderson & Kate Reece
Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 51, No. 3, Forthcoming

February 17, 2018

The principle of proportionality protects civilians and civilian objects against expected incidental harm from an attack that is excessive to the military advantage anticipated from the attack. However, despite its status as a fundamental norm of IHL, key terms are not defined in relevant treaties nor benefit from critical judicial explanation. This has caused challenges for both academics and military commanders alike in explaining and applying the test for proportionality.

The article expands upon two points that were raised and generated interesting discussion at The Second Israel Defense Forces International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict during a panel that dealt with contemporary issues in proportionality. Those two issues are:

a. What does the "reasonable military commander" standard for assessing proportionality entail?

b. Should "reverberating effects" (i.e., collateral effects that are only expected to materialize in the long term) be accounted for as part of the assessment of collateral damage?

Immunity Ratione Materiae of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction: Where is the State Practice in Support of Exceptions?
By Sean D. Murphy
Forthcoming online in AJIL Unbound (2018)

February 22, 2018

This essay, a contribution to an AJIL Unbound symposium on "The Present and Future of Foreign Official Immunity," considers the adoption in 2017 by the U.N. International Law Commission of a draft article (and annex) for its project on immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction. Draft Article 7 identifies six "crimes under international law in respect of which immunity ratione materiae shall not apply": genocide; crimes against humanity; war crimes; crime of apartheid; torture; and enforced disappearance. Given the divergences within the Commission when considering and adopting draft Article 7, it is difficult to conclude that the Commission is expressing a view that draft Article 7 reflects lex lata. But there is a further reason to doubt its status as lex lata: the lack of State practice – let alone widespread, representative and consistent State practice – in support of denying immunity for those crimes under customary international law. At best, Article 7 might be regarded as a proposal by the Commission for a new rule that could be embodied in a treaty, which States might choose to accept or reject.

[back to contents]

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Staff

Dean Michael P. Scharf

Taylor Frank

Managing Editors
Sarah Lucey
Lynsey Rosales

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Ashley Mulryan

Senior Technical Editors
Leah Slyder
Ellen Dunem
Jaclyn Cole

Associate Technical Editors
Lysette Roman

Emerging Issues Advisor
Judge Rosemelle Mutoka


Central African Republic
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Megan Maccallum, Associate Editor

Sudan & South Sudan
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Vito Giannola, Associate Editor

Taylor Frank, Senior Editor
Regen Weber, Associate Editor

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Sarah Lucey, Senior Editor
Elizabeth Connors, Associate Editor

Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Aji Drameh, Senior Associate Editor
Alexandria Serdaru, Associate Editor

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

Alexandra Hassan, Senior Editor
Alexandra Hassan, Associate Editor

Lake Chad Region
Alexandra Hassan, Senior Editor
Abby McBride, Associate Editor

Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
Angela Kengara, Associate Editor

Stephen Keller, Senior Editor
John Dagon, Senior Associate Editor
Logan O'Connor, Associate Editor


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

Alex Lilly, Senior Editor
Gloria Neilson, Associate Editor

Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
Ariana Pike, Associate Editor

Alex Lily, Senior Editor
Elen Yeranosyan, Associate Editor

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

Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
James Nichols, Senior Associate Editor

Morgan Austin, Senior Editor
Arne Bussare, Senior Associate Editor
Teresa Azzam, Associate Editor

North Korea


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


Richard Urban, Senior Editor
Jordan Dinsmore, Associate Editor

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:

Frederick K. Cox International Law Center:

Cox Center War Crimes Research Portal:

Public International Law & Policy Group -

To subscribe or unsubscribe from this newsletter, please email