David Crane Interview on Charles Taylor Trial

By Impunity Watch Africa

Professor David Crane, former chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, will be attending the Charles Taylor trial at The Hague scheduled to begin June 4.   Crane issued the indictment for Charles Taylor and was invited by the current prosecutor to attend the opening statements.

For the full article and interview, please see:

VOA News

Ugandan Rebel Group Threatens War Over Indictments

By Impunity Watch Africa

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in Uganda has threatened a return to war if the International Criminal Court’s indictments against the top leaders are not withdrawn by the end of peace talks.  This has been a long controversy between the government of Uganda and the rebel leaders, who have been in hiding in the DR Congo since the indictments were issued.    The LRA waged a lengthy and savage campaign against the government and civilians in northern Uganda for two decades, resulting in the displacement of almost two million civilians and the deaths of thousands.  The ICC has indicted the top five LRA leaders for crimes against humanity, but none have so far been arrested.   One of the leaders was killed by the Ugandan army in battle, however the remaining four continue to hide.

The government has agreed to issue pardons to LRA members who surrender, however they have continued to refuse to do so for high-ranking officers.   The government has indicted a willingness to persuade the ICC to drop the indictments if the leaders take full responsibility for the crimes committed against civilians through traditional justice.  However, the rebels continue to refuse to accept anything less than lifting the indictments beforehand.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Otti Threatens War Over Warrants – 26 May 2007

Reuters –http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/a08a28c1c879b4da6de68dbc5e0 – May 2007

IRIN – Museveni Gives Rebels Ultimatum Over Northern War – 17 May 2006

New exchange of violence in Gaza

        New Internal fighting between Hamas and Fatah broke out Sunday, May 13, killing 50 Palestinians in Gaza.  In addition, military exchanges between Hamas and Israel occurred throughout the week.  In total, 38 Palestinians died this past week as a result of Israeli air strikes; 25 were militants and 13 were civilians.  In contrast, one Israeli has died this week as a result of the Qassam rocket attacks. 

       On Monday, May 21, a rocket killed an Israeli woman in the town of Sderot in southern Israel.  She was the first Israeli death from a rocket since November 2006.  In addition to the death, 16 Israelis have been injured this past week as a result of rocket attacks.  Many of Sderot’s residents have left the town and sought refuge in Jerusalem.

        In addition to trading missile fire, both Israel and Hamas have traded harsh words and threats.  Both parties have refused to negotiate a cease fire.  Hamas rejected Abbas’ call to stop firing rockets and return ti the cease-fire agreement in place prior to the recent outbreak in fighting; as Israeli air strikes continue.  In addition to continuing military action, Israel has vowed to widen their list of targets to include Hamas’ poltical leaders, such as Palestinian Prime Minister Haniya.  On Wednesday, May 23, senior Israeli officials stated tha hte military will target terrorist infrastructure within Gaza, effectively rejecting the notion that a unilateral cease-fire by Hama will divert any increase in military action in Gaza. 

        During an Israeli security cabinet meeting on Sunday, May 20, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert authorized the military to take action against Hamas leaders in the West Bank, as well as Gaza.  Then late-Wednesday and early Thursday, May 23 and 24, raids occurred throughout the Westbank, where over 30 Hamas officials were arrested/  Chief among the arrested was the Palestinian Education Minister, Naser el-Deen al Shaer.  Also arrested were three parliament members, a top official in the PA Interior Ministery, and hte mayors of Nablus, Kalkilya, Bidya, and El-Bireh.  In addition to the arrest, the IDF also shut down 10 Hamas offices in towns throughout the West Bank, including Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, and Bethlehem. 

        While a fragile cease-fice exists between Hamas and Fatah since last Sunday, no resolution to this new violence between Israel and Hamas is in sight.  By the actions and words of the parties, neither seem willing to negotiate and it appears as though both parties are set to destroy the other. 

 

For more information, please see:

BBC:  “Israel hits Hamas politician home”   21 May 2007.

BBC:  “Israel strikes at Hamas in Gaza”    23 May 2007.

BBC:  “Militants reject Gaza truce call”   24 May 2007.

ME Times:  “Abbas calls for truce, Israel seizes Hamas officials”  24 May 2007.

Al-Jazeera:  “Israel arrests 30 Hamas officials”  24 May 2007.

CNN:  “More wounded as Israel steps up strikes against Hamas”  24 May 2007.

Jerusalem Post:  “500 Sderot residents find temporary peace in Jerusalem”  24 May 2007. 

Jerusalem Post:  “Hamas threatens to up resistence”  24 May 2007.

Jerusalem Post:  “IDF arrests Hamas education minister”  24 May 2007.

Landmark Trial for the ICC in Democratic Republic of Congo

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

The ICC is a permanent court created in 2002 to provide for international justice. The ICC is independent from the United Nations and has international jurisdiction. Since 2002, the ICC has investigated the conflict in northern Uganda, “resource-fueled” battles in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Moreover, the ICC recently announced a new investigation into the violence occuring in the Central African Republic.

The Congolese government asked the ICC in 2004, to investigate the atrocities that took place during the Second Congolese War, the five year conflict that ended in 2003, and killed four million people. In Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolose warlord named Thomas Lubanga, became ICC’s prime suspect. He is responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers to fight in his militia. In January 2006, the ICC submitted an arrest warrant for Lubanga, and within two months the Democratic Republic of Congo handed Lubanga over to the court. Lubanga’s arrest marks ICC’s first prosecutorial trial.

The ICC faces certain logistic and security battles to obtain suspects for trial. Since the ICC has no enforcement or marshall service, it is often powerless to act on its warrants. For example, in 2005, the ICC charged five Ugandan rebel commanders with crimes against humanity but have since been unable to arrest the men. Furthermore, the ICC has many international critics, who believe that ICC warrants undermine peace efforts in hostile regions. Others believe that concerns of poor infrastructure and poverty present grave problems in the region and should be concurrently addressed with the court’s actions.

For more information, please see:

Yahoo – ICC Path to Justice Tested in Congo – May 2007

Amnesty International – Amnesty Report Says Rights Situation in Africa Remains Dire – May 2007

Ban on Rallies

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The Zimbabwe police have placed a ban on opposition rally in an effort to halt a series of “disturbances”. The government claims the ban is in effect to protect the people and officers form looting and bombing. Recent crackdown has been focused on the chief political opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, has termed the group, puppets of the British monarchy.

The rise in rallies and violence were led by renewed criticism from West concerning the present state of the country’s economy and claims of human rights violations. Zimbabwe has an inflation rate at more than 3,700 percent, unemployment at 80 percent, and a shortening and scarce food supply.

Initially the government placed the ban prohibiting political rallies and demonstration in parts of the capital Harare for three month due to the country’s state of emergency, that ban expired on May 20. However, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has reported that the government has elected to extend the ban for another month for the city of Mbare, where a police camp was bombed.

The MDC has filed a court petition against the first ban; however the court has yet to review the claim.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – Zimbabwe extends ban on protests, rallies in Harare – 24 May 2007

Yahoo – Zimbabwe police slap new ban on opposition rallies – 24 May 2007

Amnesty International Report on Africa

By Impunity Watch Africa

Amnesty International has recently released their 2007 report on Africa.  Amnesty reports that the human rights situation remained precarious throughout the region in 2006.  Armed conflict, under-development, extreme poverty, widespread corruption, inequitable distribution of resources, political repression, marginalization, ethnic and civil violence, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic have all contributed to the undermining of human rights throughout the region.  While armed conflict on the whole decreased, many countries continue to be affected by it and as a result there are millions of refugees and internally displaced people.  Extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment is still occurring across the region.

Amnesty’s report provides further detailed information on armed conflicts, economic, social, and cultural rights, repression of dissenters, the death penalty, impunity, violence against women and girls, and regional institutions and human rights.

For the full report, please see:

Amnesty International – Amnesty International Report – May 2007

Thousands Flee Lebanese Camps

         The fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah Al-Islam which began on Sunday has temporarily stopped, and thousands of Palestinian refugees seized the opportunity to flee from the refugee camp, Nahr al-Bared.

        The conflict has rendered the camp almost unlivable. Many in the camp have lost electricity, running water, and drinking water. Already 15,000 residents (of the 40,000 residents) have fled to Beddawi, where they have moved in with relatives, or have filled up schools designated by the United Nations for them. The Lebanese army could not enter the camp because of a previous agreement, they had to shell Fatah Al-Islam from outside the camp leading to less targeted warefare and more civilian casualties. One citizen reported to a Reuters reporter, “It’s mass destruction in there. The dead people are strewn on the streets. Nobody is picking them up.” The fighting has killed 32 Lebanese soldiers, 27 civilians, and between 22 and 60 militants.   

        The fighting does not seem to have an end in sight.  The silence is not an official truce, but rather a lull in the conflict to allow the wounded and endangered to flee. The nation’s instability since the assassination of Rafik Hariri has allowed the area to become prime recruiting grounds for the Fatah al-Islam and similar insurgency groups. The Lebanese military told the insurgent group that they will not negotiate with them and instead with “eliminate the Fatah al-Islam phenomenon.” Al-Jazeera. Fatah’s second in command, Abu Midian, has been killed in the conflict, yet the group has vowed to fight on.

Al-Jazeera: Lebanon refugees talk to Al-Jazeera. 23 May 2007.

Al-Jazeera: Lebanon truce lasts just minutes. 23 May 2007.

Al-Jazeera: Protests in Lebanon refugee camps. 23 May  2007.

Reuters: Palestinians Flee after Truce in Lebanon. 23 May 2007.

BBC World: Thousands Flee Lebanon Violence. 23 May 2007.

Human Rights Watch: Lebanon:Fighting at Refugee Camp Kills Civilians. 23 May 2007.

Upcoming Trial for Charles Taylor

By Impunity Watch Africa

Charles Taylor, the former leader of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, is currently awaiting trial for 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law including mass murder, mutilations, rape, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers.  All counts stem from his role in the Sierra Leone civil war.   He was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in March 2003 and arrested in Nigeria in March 2006.  The Special Court will conduct the trial, however they requested permission in June 2006 for it to take place in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed and Taylor was subsequently transferred to the Netherlands where he is currently awaiting his June 4 trial.

Taylor played a large role in the Sierra Leone civil war, trading diamonds for guns with rebel leader Foday Sankoh and providing support and advice to Sam Bockarie. Taylor’s administration is also charged with harboring members of Al-Qaeda sought in connection with the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Charles Taylor- Preacher, Warlord, President – 13 July 2009

AllAfrica – UN-Backed Court in Sierra Leone Unveils Start Date for Trial of Former Leader – 08 May 2007

Trial Watch – Charles Taylor – May 2007

Human Rights Watch – Charles Taylor Hague Trial Must Be Accessible – 19 June 2006

BBC – Taylor Trial to Be Out of Africa – 16 June 2006

Cambodia’s ‘Killing Fields’ Pillaged

Looking for gold, destitute peasants of Sre Leav, Cambodia have dug up about two hundred graves of victims of the Khmer Rouge from the 1970s.  The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and is blamed for the death of 1.7 million people through starvation, illness, overwork, torture, and execution.  The killing fields, which are scattered throughout Cambodia, are mass graves where the Khmer Rouge unloaded victims. 

Of the thousands of killing fields researchers have documented, this is the first reported looting and raid.  Even as Cambodia prepares a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders, some experts find the pillaging to be an indication that past traumas are beginning to fade.  Digging has stopped, however, as villagers pray for forgiveness, fearing  ghosts of the victims will take revenge.

For more information, please see:

Time Magazine – Looting Cambodia’s ‘Killing Fields

The New York Times – Ghosts Wail as Cambodians Plunder Killing Field Graves – 20 May 2007

IHT – Villagers find and loot Cambodian killing field – 15 May 2007

Ecuador’s Removal of Lawmakers

Provincial Judge, Juan Ramirez, was fired after he blocked the Electoral Tribunal from unseating 57 legislators in Ecuador. The tribunal fired Ramirez, saying the removal was justified because Ramirez acted illegally when blocking the Tribunal’s actions. The 57 fired lawmakers were opposing a referendum on a constitutional change that was supported by President Rafael Correa. The change would send a referendum to the people seeking approval for a national assembly to look at constitutional reform and potentially rewrite the Constitution. The Supreme Electoral Court announced that the referendum would proceed. The legislature then replaced the president of the court. The court came back and fired 57 lawmakers out of the 100 member assembly.

Following the removal of the lawmakers, the Constitutional Court found that the firings were unconstitutional and ordered them to be reinstated.  On the following day all nine judges of the Constitutional Court were removed by Congress who stated that the judges terms had meant to expire in January 2007. However, the judges have a four year term under the constitution and were appointed in February of 2006. President Correa insisted that the lawmakers did not deserve their jobs back and condemned the Supreme Court ruling to reinstate the lawmakers as a violation of legal procedures.

Human Rights Watch said that these actions have undermined the country’s democratic institutions and that disagreement between factions cannot justify the removal of judges. Such actions are a gross interference with the autonomy of another branch of government continued Human Rights Watch. There is a trend of Ecuadorian officials resolving political differences by removing their opponents rather then through other, more democratic, means. The democratic institutions in Ecuador have been in crisis for years as presidents have been removed before completing their terms and Congress has fired and replaced Supreme Court judges.

For more information:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6505485.stm

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/a912a7f83d7a74051cd413b70e5e3376.htm

http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2007/05/11/ecuado15909.htm

http://news.bbc.uk/2/hi/americans/6590245.stm

http://www.iht.com/article

Colombian port city is home to corruption, death, and the impoverished

Buenaventura, a Colombian port city with a population of about 300,000, has emerged as one of the poorest and most dangerous urban centers in South America.

Buenaventura is an important port for both legitimate business and the cocaine trade. In 2005, one-third of all cocaine captured along the Pacific coast was captured in and around Buenaventura. Corruption plagues Buenaventura, even prompting President Alvaro Uribe to demand the arrest of the city’s top security official for taking bribes in 2006.

Cocaine dealers and traffickers combine forces with rebel groups and demobilized paramilitary veterans to fight the overwhelmed 2,000 soldiers and police officers that patrol the area. Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) knocked out the city’s power with a grenade attack a year ago last Friday. These groups control the slums, where young people are recruited to be foot soldiers, informers, or hit men. Killings in this city rose by 30 percent in 2006, giving Buenaventura Colombia’s highest homicide rate (144 per 100,000). This is seven times the rate in Bogotá, the nation’s capital, and twenty-four times the rate of New York City. Two-hundred and forty-four people have been killed so far this year.

Homes here are made of cinderblocks and discarded wood. Fresh water is obtained from rusty barrels that collect drops from metal roofs. The unemployment rate is 28 percent, forcing many to turn to the cocaine trade. The city has a large refugee population: over 42,000 people, mostly Afro-Colombians, have arrived since 1998. Some nongovernmental groups say that Afro-Colombians make up a quarter of the Colombian population. Over 80 percent of Buenaventura’s residents are black, and live on less than three dollars a day. Critics say that authorities have neglected Buenaventura’s problems because Afro-Colombians do not receive sufficient federal attention.

For more info, see:

“Cocaine Wars Make Port Colombia’s Deadliest City” New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/22/world/americas/22colombia.html 22 May 2007

“Colombia Port City Is Battleground” Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/28/AR2006122800636.html 28 December 2006

“Colombia City Power Grid Attacked” BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5001442.stm 20 May 2006.

Terror Trial in Mauritania

By Meryl White

Impunity Watch, Africa

On Monday, May 21, 2007, more than 20 suspected Islamic militants went on trial in Mauritania. The militants include young Mauritanians and religious teachers who received terrorist training from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in Algeria. The Algerian GSPC is linked to the al-Qaeda network. Currently, the GSPC is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations. In June 2005, the GSPC attacked a Mauritanian army garrison and killed 17 soldiers. Moreover, the GSPC claimed responsibility for the triple suicide bombings in Algeria that took place in April, 2007.

This trial marks the first prosecution in Mauritania since civilian president, Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, took office in April, 2007. State officials believe that the new civilian government will give the suspects a fair and speedy trial. “The government is obliged to respect the dictates of the constitution and the laws … this is not just a security issue,” said an unnamed official.

President Abdallahi has indicated that the government of Mauritania will continue to cooperate with the United States to uncover militant training camps in the desert borders. Mauritania will join the Washington’s Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership, and share military cooperation and intelligence with U.S. Special Forces stationed in the region.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Suspected Islamic militants on trial in Mauritania – 21 May 2007

BBC – Mass terror trial in Mauritania – 21 May 2007

Violence, international pressure increases in Sri Lanka

International donors have suspended aid due to Sri Lanka due to the government’s recent offensive against the Tamil Tiger separatists. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany suspended new aid because of the increased numbers of killings. 

Amnesty International has alleged that both the military and the rebels have been killing civilians in indiscriminate artillery raids.

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission has recorded more than 100 abductions and disappearances so far in 2007. Last year, 1,000 people were reported missing. More than 4,800 people have been killed since December 2005. More than 69,000 people have been killed since the war began in 1983.

The Tiger rebel group wants a separate state with full control over its law enforcement and government entities.  But a large majority of the island’s Tamil minority want a system based on federalism and a decentralization of power.

 

For more information, please see:

Aid weapon used against Sri Lanka http://www.ft.com/cms/s/54315d20-087b-11dc-b11e-000b5df10621,_i_email=y.html

600 killed in Sri Lanka battles http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070520/ap_on_re_as/sri_lanka

Sri Lanka: Tamil Tigers abducted us, say Indian fishermen http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070520/wl_sthasia_afp/indiasrilankaunrestkidnap

Moves by Sri Lanka Military Worry Human Rights Group http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/17/AR2007051702386.html?referrer=emailarticle

20 Tamil rebels killed in fresh fighting: Sri Lanka http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070517/wl_asia_afp/srilankaunrest

8 reported killed in Sri Lanka fighting http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070514/ap_on_re_as/sri_lanka

Foreign aid cut fear as Sri Lanka fails on human rights http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/275876/1/.html

Lebanese troops battle militants in refugee camp

        Fighting between Fatah al-Islam militants and Lebanese troops on May 20 and 21 resulted in the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990).  Street fighting broke out in Tripoli on Sunday May 20, when Lebanese troops raided a Fatah al-Islam safe house where suspected bank robbers were hiding.  The street fights led al-Islam militants to take over army posts near the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli.  an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinian refugees live in the camp.  While Lebanese troops have not entered the camp, in accordance with a forty year old agreement with the PLO, they have bombarded the camp with artillery.

        There is great concern over the safety and welfare of the refugees within the camp.  Without food, electricity or medical supplies and with the constant bombardment, the conditions within the camp pose a great threat to civilian life.  Since the Lebanese troops are focusing the attack on the outer perimeter of the camp, the refugees have retreated into the center of the camp.  As a result, the refugees are imprisoned within the camp.  A short lived truce allowed medical organizations to evacuate 16 wounded civilians on Monday, however an unestimated number of injured civilians remain in the camp, with no access to medical care or supplies.  In addition, an estimated 25 civilians have died as a result of the fighting.

        Fatah al-Islam is a Palestinian group and is suspected to be either a Lebanses branch of al-Qaeda or connected with Syrian intelligence.  The Palestinian government has been working with the Lebanese to broker a cease-fire.  However, some within the Lebanese government are determined to destroy the group and the fighters based in Palestinian refugee camps, which they hold responsible to terrorist attacks throughout Lebanon. 

        Regardless as to what affiliation or what the group’s objectives are, this current conflict may cause the fragile Lebanese government to collapse. The government faces international and domestic criticism for their use of force within the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. If the conflict continues, Fatah al-Islam threatens to extend fighting beyond the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. If the fighting escalates, Lebanon

may be drawn into civil war, more devastating than the first.

For more information please see:

Al-Jazeera: “Lebanese Troops shell Palestinian refugee camp” 21 May 2007

Al-Jazeera:  “Clashes between Lebanese troops, rebels leave 38 dead” 21 May 2007.

AP: “Lebanese Army Pounds Palestinian Camp” 21 May 2007.

BBC: “Fighting rages in Lebanese Camp” 21 May 2007.

BBC: “Fresh Clases in Northern Lebanon” 21 May 2007.

Christian Science Monitor: “New Fight Rips at a Fragile Lebanon” 21 May 2007.

The Daily Star: “Army Steps up Shelling of Militants at Nahr al-Bared” 22 May 2007.

The Daily Star: “Palestinian factions offer to help fight Fatah al-Islam” 21 May 2007.

The Daily Star: “22 Troops, 19 Fatah al-Islam Fighters dead” 21 May 2007.

Middle East Times: “Death toll mounts as Lebanon troops pound Islamist” 21 May 2007.

Homemade Bomb Kills Six in Juliaca, Peru

A bomb made of dynamite and nails concealed in a backpack exploded in a market in Juliaca, Peru on Friday, May 18th. The blast occurred around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. local time, officials say. The blast killed 6 and wounded 48 attending a 40 year anniversary celebration. Juliaca is just over 500 miles south of Lima, Peru’s capital, near the Bolivian border.

Officials have made contradictory statements: one claimed it was merely fireworks for the celebration, but local police have stated that they have not ruled out a terrorist attack.

The influence of Peru’s rebel group, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) has decreased in recent years. Sendero Luminoso was responsible for massacres, bombings, and assassinations in the 1980s and 1990s. Their leader, Abimael Guzman is serving a life sentence after being captured in 1992. It is worth noting, however, that this terrorist group made their first armed attack almost to the day over 27 years ago, when it burned ballot boxes before a presidential election on May 17th, 1980.

“Homemade Bomb Kills 6, Wounds 48 in Peru” New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Peru-Bombing.html. 19 May 2007.

“Homemade Bomb Kills 6 during celebration in Peru” CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/05/19/peru.bomb.ap/index.html. 19 May 2007.

“Blast kills 6 in southern Peru” BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6673669.stm. 20 May 2007.