BRIEF: Attempt to Halt Rwandan Trials

BRIEF: Attempt to Halt Rwandan Trials

NAIROBI, Kenya – The lawyers for Rwanda’s leader Paul Kagame are demanding the suspension of the trial and investigation against Kagame. President Kagame and his Tutsi rebels are credited with halting the 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus within 100 days.

Judges in France and Spain has called for the prosecution of Kagame and 40 of his associates for the killing of thousands of civilians including nine Spaniards. In November 2006, a Paris anti-terrorist judge issued a summons for Kagame to stand trial for the murder of his predecessor, Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death instigated the genocide. Kagame has denied the claims.

France and Spain could not prosecute Kagame since he has immunity as a head of state. Peter Erlinder, head of the Defense Lawyer’s Association, requests an independent investigation by the U.N. Security Council of manipulation of the prosecutor’s office. Defense lawyers claim the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) should cease investigations because it is biased.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News (Reuters) – Lawyers Try to Halt Rwanda Genocide Tribunal – 27 February 2008

China Willing to Resume Human Right Talks

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – China said it would resume a human rights dialogue with the United States after a five-year halt, taking a step to prevent rights advocates from boycotting Beijing’s Olympic Games in August.

After a close talk with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made the announcement that Chinese government is willing to resume the human rights dialogue.  He said that the Chinese people enjoy the full extent of human rights and religious freedom, and are willing to exchange and interact with the United States and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and noninterference in internal affairs.

China suspended the regular U.S.-China human rights dialogue in 2004, after the U.S. State Department cited the execution of a Tibetan and the arrests of pro-democracy activists as ‘troubling incidents’ that showed China was ‘backsliding’ on human rights issues in a resolution at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  Even without the formal dialogue, U.S. officials have made human rights a routine topic in discussions with Chinese government.

During the talk, Rice reminds Yang that human rights are ‘near and dear’ to the United States and raised three specific cases of particular interest to the Bush administration.  She also called on China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to speed the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program.

Recently, many western human rights groups are increasingly accusing China of being unfit to host the Olympics because the rights abuses.  In addition, some human rights activities and American celebrities have mounted a campaign against China as host of the Game because of Darfur.  Yang’s declaration appeared designed as a response to these criticisms.

For more information, please see:

Bloomberg – China Willing to Resume Human Rights Talks With U.S. – 26 February 2008

New York Times – China Says It Will Resume Human Rights Talks – 27 February 2008

Washington Post – China Set to Resume Human Rights Dialogue – 27 February 2008

UPDATE: Agreement Reached in Kenyan Peace Talks

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), have signed an agreement that will create a new coalition government.The agreement comes after more than one month of negotiations brokered by Kofi Anan. The agreement, which is expected to be released later today, will detail the plans for the sharing of power between members of the current government and opposition leaders.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Kenya rivals agree to share power – 28 February 2008

Impunity Watch – Update: Anan Calls for Break in Kenyan Negotiations – 26 February 2008

Chemical Ali Execution Approved

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On February 29, Iraqi officials announced that its presidential council approved the execution of “Chemical Ali”, whose real name is Ali Hassan al-Majid.  In June 2007, an Iraqi court convicted Majid of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in the Alfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988.

In 1988, Majid was the commander of Iraqi forces in northern Iraq and following the cease-fire ending the Iran-Iraq war, he ordered the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.  Alfal, meaning “spoils of war” was a campaign that targeted Iraq’s Kurdish population, who supported Iran during the war.  During Majid’s trial, the court heard that as many as 182,000 died in attacks that he oversaw.

During the trial, Majid remained defiant and showed no remorse.  At one hearing, he said, “I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers. I am not apologizing. I did not make a mistake.”

His conviction and death sentence was upheld by an appeals court in September 2007.  Iraqi law states that executions must be carried out within 30 days of it being approved by the presidential council.  The US military stated that they have not received a request to turn Majid over; however, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said that Majid will be hung in a “matter of days.”

While his sentence was affirmed by an appeals court in September, his execution has been delayed due to legal and political concerns.  Majid was convicted along with two other top officials of the Hussein government – Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, a senior military chief, and the former defense minister, Sultan Hashim al-Tai.

The presidential council, which comprises Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shia, disagreed over the sentence of Hashim.  Iraqi Sunnis protested his sentence and  Hashemi was among prominent Sunnis who insisted Hashim was simply following orders and should be reprieved.

The US military, who has custody of the three former leaders, refused to surrender  any until the presidential council reached agreement.  While the council approved Majid’s execution, they have not yet approved the executions of Tikriti and Hashim.

For more information, please see:
Al Arabiya News Channel – Iraq Council Approves ‘Chemical Ali” Hanging – 29 February 2008

BBC – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution Approved – 29 February 2008

Guardian – Chemical Ali to be Executed within 30 Days – 29 February 2008

Telegraph – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution Approved in Iraq – 29 February 2008

Washington Post – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution OK’d in Iraq – 29 February 2008

Egypt Delays Verdict for Muslim Brotherhood Trial

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – On February 26, an Egyptian court delayed delivering the verdict for a case involving 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The court postponed the verdict until March 25, one week after the nominations for the upcoming local elections.  According to the brotherhood, the court’s delay was politically motivated.

The municipal elections were scheduled for April 2006 but were postponed after members of the Muslim Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in the parliamentary elections in 2005.  It is speculated that group will win a landslide victory if its leaders are allowed to participate in the local elections scheduled for April 8.

In the past, the local councils have had relatively little power in national politics.  However, constitutional amendments in 2005 require that presidential candidates obtain 140 recommendations city councils before they could run.  If the Muslim Brotherhood wins enough seats in the local elections on April 8, they could challenge Mubarak for the presidency in the next presidential election.

Of the 40 defendants, 33 have been held since their arrest December 2006 and the other seven are being tried in absentia.  The defendants are being tried by a military tribunal for charges of money laundering and terrorism.  Earlier, an appeals court held that the defendants should be tried in a civilian court, but the state overturned the decision and the military tribunal resumed last year.

On February 24, nearly 2,500 students, most of whom are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, protested the trial.  At Ain Shams University, in Cairo, and al-Azhar University, in Assiut, students shouted anti-government slogans and condemned the trial.  Also, when the postponement was announced, several hundred protesters gathered outside the court at the Haekstep military base.

In the past two weeks, over 250 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested.  Many of those arrested are potential candidates in the local elections.  In total, the group claims that over 600 of its members are imprisoned.  Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, an influential Brotherhood member, warned that there could be up to 10,000 arrests by the time polls close on election day.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, has been banned in Egypt since 1954.  The organization is the current government’s greatest opposition.  The Egyptian police officials state the many of the recent detainees were arrested under suspicion of being members of the banned group.

For more information, please see:
AHN – Egyptian Protesters Angered at Military Trial Verdict Delay – 27 February 2008

Al Jazeera – Egypt Accused of Delay Tactic – 27 February 2008

Reuters – Egypt Delays Brotherhood Verdict and Arrests 17 – 26 February 2008

International Herald Tribune – Over 2,000 Egyptian University Students Protest Against Islamist Leaders’ Military Trial – 24 February 2008

International Herald Tribune – Muslim Brotherhood Says Egypt’s Government Trying to Block it from Key Local Elections – 21 February 2008

BBC – Egypt Detains Brotherhood Members – 20 February 2008

CNN – Egyptian Security Forces Raid Muslim Brotherhood – 20 February 2008

Jurist – Egypt Police Arrest 70 more Muslim Brotherhood Candidates Ahead of Local Elections – 20 February 2008