EU Court Sentences Three Kosovo Albanians For War Crimes

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter

PRISTINA, Kosovo – Three former Kosovo guerrilla fighters were sentenced by a European Union court on Friday in connection with war crimes during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War.  Each of the fighters had fought in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the separatist conflict against Serbian forces.

The EU Rule-of-Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which is in charge of certain war crimes prosecutions, concluded that the three men had participated in the torturing and detention of civilian victims, notably ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.  According to a EU court spokesman, the three were guilty of “war crimes through inhumane treatment of civilian detainees and…beating and torture of civilian detainees.”

Latif Gasgi, Nazif Mehmetim, and Rrustem Mustafa had originally been sentenced in 2003, but two years later a retrial was ordered by the Kosovo Supreme Court.  Gasgi and Mehmeti were sentenced to six and three years respectively, while Mustafa was sentenced to four years in prison.

One incident on which the charges were founded occurred on in July of 1998.  Gasgi, while stationed at a checkpoint in central Kosovo, opened fire on a civilian Kosovo Albanian family after they failed to stop at the checkpoint.  These acts fell within the definition of the war crimes.  “Gasgi committed the criminal offence of war crime against the civilian population, punishable by Kosovo and international law.”

These convictions come on the heels of the EU arresting four Serbians who allegedly committed war crimes during the Kosovo war.

Mustafa is currently a official in the Kosovo parliament and has been a leading political figure in the Democratic Party of Kosovo.  He was also the commander of the KLA during the Kosovo War.

For more information, please read:

AP – Court in Kosovo convicts 3 ex-rebels of war crimes – 2 October 2009

RADIO NEDERLAND – Kosovo jails 3 ex-fighters for war crimes – 2 October 2009

REUTERS – Kosovo jails 3 ex-fighters for 1998-99 war crimes – 2 October 2009

TAIWAN NEWS – Court in Kosovo convicts 3 ex-rebels of war crimes – 2 October 2009

Video Shows Pakistani Army Abuse of Prisoners

 By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN– In a video posted on the social networking site Facebook, Pakistani soldiers are seen abusing Taliban suspects in a 10 minute video.

This video would be clear proof of such abuse, as it shows men in military attire beating suspects as officer looked on giving instructions.  At present time it is not clear where the film was shot, but conversations that are heard on the video suggest that it is recent and possibly shot in the Swat Valley.  

Human rights groups have previously accused the military of being involved in torture and extra judicial killing in the Swat valley region.  The Pakistani army has said that before commenting, it would need to examine the video.  Gen Athat Abbas, head of Pakistan army’s public relations wing stated “This is a very serious accusation,…..I cannot comment o nthe video till we have examined it. This will take some time as the army headquarters will have to be involved in the process.”

In the video it shows and officer interrogating several suspects, including some who are very old, and are presumed relatives of men who are being sought.  When the officer does not receive adequate answers, he orders the soldiers to punish the suspect who proceed to beat the suspect with belts and whips, along with kicking him all over with their heavy boots.  After the first round of punishment, the officer declares that unless the suspect tells all, he would administer “hard punishment”, telling the suspect “You don’t want me to cut off your hands and feet.”

If confirmed this would be the first clear proof of the Pakistani army being involved in the abuse of detainees.  Human rights groups, including The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have accused the army of such violation during the recent Swat campaign, which the army has consistently denied, calling them “baseless”.

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Video Shows Pakistan Army ‘Abuse’– 1 October 2009

Associated Press- Video Appears To Show Army Abuses-2 October 2009

Breaking News 24/7- Video Appears To Show Pakistani Troops Punching, Whipping Militant Suspects– 2 October 2009

 

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

North Korea Revises Constitution


By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea – The new North Korean Constitution, revised in April of this year, explicitly mentions human rights for the first time.  The last time North Korea revised its constitution was back in 1998.

The contents of the newly revised constitution includes putting greater weight on military-first policies, power concentration in the National Defense Commission, emphasis on socialism over communism, as well as naming workers, farmers and working intellectuals as pillars of the nation.

More importantly, the new constitution uses the phrase “human rights” for the first time.  Article 8 of the new constitution says, “The State respects and protects the human rights of the workers, peasants and working intellectuals who have been previously freed from exploitation and oppression and have become masters of the State and society.”  This is a change from the 1998 revision which stated that the State will “defend and protect the interests” of the same list of workers.

However, observers claim that the reference to human rights is merely to portray a sense of “normalcy” to the international community.  Optimists have suggested that this could be a real effort on the part of North Korea to improve its international reputation, but experts are interpreting this as a “preemptive move against growing international condemnation of Pyongyang’s human rights record.” 

Nk military officersNorth Korean military officers.  Courtesy of Jakarta Globe.   

An anonymous source said, “Pyongyang is not interested in human rights; the labour camps that are still active are proof of that.  The population lives in extreme poverty and famine comes on cyclical basis.”

The introduction of new constitution coincides with U.S. appointing a new special envoy, Robert King, for North Korean human rights.  In 2008, U.S. Congress approved the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act, which calls for “activities to support human rights and democracy and freedom on information in North Korea,” for another four years.

Some have suggested that since North Korea knows that any talks with the U.S. will include a human rights component, the revision was a counter-move.

The revision also comes in time when the media has reported that Kim Jong-il’s health is failing and that he is preparing to hand over his position to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.
For more information, please see:

Asia News – From Communism to the ‘militarised state’, Kim Jong-il introduces new constitution – 30 September 2009

The Daily NK – Human Rights in Revised North Korean Constitution – 28 September 2009

JoongAng Daily – King named as human rights envoy to North – 26 September 2009

The Korea Times – NK Constitution States Kim Jong-il as Leader – 28 September 2009

Taylor Calls Prosecution Racist and a Western Conspiracy

By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

The HAGUE, Netherlands– Charles Taylor called prosecution allegations that he was involved in ritual sacrifice and cannibalism “racist” in Thursday’s testimony. The accused former Liberian president also dismissed his trial as an extension of regime change policies of the United States and the United Kingdom. In Taylor’s second day responding to the testimony of prosecution witness and former member of Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Joseph Marzah, Taylor denied allegations that he buried a pregnant woman at the back of his house as a ritual sacrifice to obtain power in Liberia. Witness Marzah also testified that he feasted on human beings together with Taylor while Taylor served as Chief of Operations for the NPFL. Taylor dismissed the allegations against him as being “racist.” “It is not true. But you know, there is something deeper to this whole thing. I don’t care what the prosecution says but this is racist, it is as racist as it ever gets,” Taylor said in an angry voice.

Taylor expressed to judges that his trial is part of a wave of regime change policies by western powers especially the United States and Great Britain. “I did know that certain countries like the United States and United Kingdom were against me and were seeking regime change in Liberia. I am brought here by Britain and America,” Taylor said.  “At this particular time in the world when there was Iraq and regime change, it was good to go into Africa, snatch one little leader from a small country, let’s set an example of him to show there is no impunity.” “Listen, there is nothing that is just about this, I have no control over it, I am going through it, and I will go through it. There is nothing legal about this,” Taylor said. “Until I go to my grave, there is nothing just about this. The big powers have executed their powers, they have brought me here.”

Witness Marzah had also testified that Taylor gave orders for the execution of Superman, a Liberian commander of Sierra Leone’s rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Witness Marzah said Taylor gave orders to have Superman’s hand cut off and his heart removed. Witness Marzah and Taylor then feasted on Superman’s heart, Witness Marzah said in his testimony. Denying Witness Marzah’s allegations, Taylor said that “there was no hand, no nothing taken to my house. I am not aware of how Superman was killed, when or how. It is not true.” Taylor called Witness Marzah’s entire testimony a “complete set-up and it is as programmed as this.”

The Special Court for Sierra Leone is currently on recess. When court resumes on October 26 2009, Taylor will continue with his direct testimony.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Taylor Calls Prosecution Allegations Against Him Racist; Says His Trial Is Part Of a Western Regime Change Policy– October 1st

Impunity Watch – Taylor Continues to Deny – 01 October 2009

All Africa – Taylor Says He Did Not Order Rebel Attack on Freetown; Calls Zig Zag Marzah A ?Liar?– September 29th

Impunity Watch – Taylor Denied More Allegations in Court – 27 September 2009

ABA Releases Report on Exploring Counterterrorism Detention Alternatives

01 October 2009

ABA Releases Report on Exploring Counterterrorism Detention Alternatives

By Mario A. Flores
Special Features Editor, Impunity Watch Journal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In June of this year, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security brought together a group of legal experts, scholars and practitioners in the field of national security law for a day-long workshop on “Exploring Counterterrorism Detention Alternatives.” The workshop focused on whether new or different detention authority is necessary and wise for effective counterterrorism policy.

This is the third workshop that the ABA has sponsored as part of their series “Due Process and Terrorism.” The workshop that initiated the series was held in October 2007. The next one was in April of this year and focused on “Trying Terrorists in Article III Courts.”

The ABA then releases post-workshop reports that compile the insights and experiences of the expert practitioners and scholars who participate in the discussions.

To read the reports, please click on the following links:

Exploring Counterterrorism Detention Alternatives – September 2009

Trying Terrorists in Article III Courts – July 2009

Due Process and Terrorism – November 2007

Roadside Bomb Kills 30, Injures 39 in Afghanistan


By Alok Bhatt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 MAIWAND, Afghanistan – A roadside bomb planted beneath a crowded inner-city bus travelling along the fringes of Kandahar killed 20 civilians on Tuesday.  Among the dead were 10 children.  Additionally, many more civilians incurred injuries from impact and debris.  The blast left the bus burning and twisted, demonstrating the power of militant groups’ improvised explosive devices (IED).  The victims of the blast were rushed to a nearby hospital in Kandahar.  
 
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 This latest attack signifies the increasing danger Afghan civilians must face when traversing public roads. Although roadside bombs are utilized to kill foreign troops, over 1,500 Afghanistan civilians have fallen victim to these lethal mechanisms.  The western district in which this tragedy occurred has long been a zone of combat between insurgents and Western armed forces.  As a result, many varieties of traps remain strewn about the city streets.  Afghan citizens often travel along roads used by Western military forces where enemy combatants lay roadside bombs and other IEDs.  A Taliban spokesperson stated that the organization does not intentionally target civilians, disclaiming responsibility for the attack.  However, despite the designs of the Taliban and other insurgent factions, IED’s, the deadliest weapons used in Afghanistan, continue to indiscriminately take the lives of the innocent. 

The attack in Maiwand exacerbates over 8 years of war-weariness and discontent felt among the Afghan population.  While a seemingly fruitless war against terrorism continually plagues their land, this summer’s questionable elections suggest that the corrupt officials have moved to silence the political voice of the people.  These travesties represent a violation of Afghan nationals’ fundamental rights to live in peace and democratic right to participate in the selection of their leaders.  

The Obama administration continues to formulate strategies for the Afghanistan front, yet the Taliban and other militant organizations steadily exploit violence to demonstrate their presence in key areas.  Members of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization have expressed pessimism in the West’s ability to prevail in this war.  Until the West begins employing effective tactics, it seems Afghan civilians must continue living in fear of being caught in the tides of war.  

 

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Dozens die in Afghan roadside blast – 29 September 2009

The L.A. Times – 30 killed when Afghan bus hit roadside bomb – 29 September 2009

Yahoo! News – Taliban roadway attacks spread fear in Afghanistan – 29 September 2009

Goldstone Defends Gaza Inquiry, Calls for Accountability

By Meredith Lee-Clark

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

 

GENEVA, Switzerland – Richard Goldstone, lead investigator of the United Nations fact-finding report on Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza during the winter of 2008, called on the UN Human Rights Council to accept the report and to hold both Israelis and Palestinians accountable for violations of human rights laws.

 

“A culture of impunity in the region has existed for too long,” said Goldstone to the UN Human Rights Council on September 29. “The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible war crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point…The ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence.”

 

The Goldstone Report called for the UN Security Council to refer any allegations of war crimes to the International Criminal Court in The Hague after six months from the report’s release if either the Israelis or the Palestinians did not investigate or prosecute those suspected of war crimes.

 

On September 30, Goldstone told CNN that he believed Israel had intentionally targeted civilians, though not as a policy, nor as the primary goal of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. However, Goldstone pointed to evidence that some of the civilian casualties were intentional.

 

“There was no mistake in bombing factories,” Goldstone said. “The Israeli intelligence has very precise information.”

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to the UN Human Rights Council on September 30, urging the Council to “come to its senses” and reject the Goldstone Report. Netanyahu said that the UN Human Rights Council has passed more resolutions against Israel than any other nation, and that adopting this report would harm peace efforts in the Middle East.

 

“It will harm the war on terrorism and it will grant legitimacy to terrorists who hide behind civilians,” said Netanyahu. “It will also harm the UN’s standing and, most of all, it will be a crippling blow to the peace process.”

 

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, emphasized that the Goldstone Report sharply criticized both the Israeli government and the Hamas government, demonstrating the report’s lack of bias. Whitson called on both Israel and Hamas to conduct thorough investigations of the report’s allegations.

 

“Israel has repeatedly shown that it lacks the political will to investigate itself impartially,” Whitson said. “And Hamas’s record on internal investigations is even worse.”

 

For more information, please see:

 

Ha’aretz – Israel to UN Body: Come to Your Senses on Goldstone Report – 1 October 2009

 

Ma’an News Agency – Goldstone: Israel Intentionally Targeted Gaza Civilians – 1 October 2009

 

Al Jazeera – UN Investigator Defends Gaza Report – 29 September 2009

 

Palestinian News Network – Through Women’s Eyes: PCHR Report on Gender-Specific Impact and Consequences of Operation Cast Lead – 29 September 2009

 

Human Rights Watch – US: Endorse Goldstone Report on Gaza – 27 September 2009

 

 

Taylor Continues to Deny Allegations

By Jonathan Ambaye
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

The HAGUE, Netherlands – Today, Charles Taylor again denied additional claims made by witnesses regarding his involvement in the atrocities that took place across West Africa during his time as the President of Liberia.  In his testimony on September 29, 2009 he denies claims by a witness that he ordered rebel attacks against Guinea, Sierra Leone, and The Ivory Coast all during his tenure as President of Liberia. The witness a former member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a Sierra Leonean rebel group, claims Taylor supplied the group with the resources and instruction to carry out their attacks.

In his testimony the witness told prosecutors that the former interim leader of the RUF Sam Bockarie, rather than discuss decisions with his own members, would seek advice from Taylor. It is during his discussions with Taylor that the witness claims Bockarie was encouraged by Taylor to attack Freetown and free RUF leader FODAY Sankoh who had been imprisoned.

In response to these allegations, Taylor said to the judge, “I sure did not plan it. I don’t know if Sankoh did, but I did not. I did not plan any invasion of Freetown, never.” Taylor went on to deny having any knowledge of shipments of weapons used in the Freetown attacks into Liberia, and that he had no idea what the witness was talking about in general.

The Special Court’s Prosecution team is alleging Charles Taylor supplied the RUF with weapons in return for diamonds, further perpetuating the severe conflict taking place in the country at the time. They also allege he was controlling the RUF and planning attacks in not just Sierra Leone but also surrounding countries such as Guinea and the Ivory Coast, in hopes to further his own political agenda.

Taylor vehemently denies all of these claims. In response to the claims that he had RUF rebels attack Guinea, he claims if it was in his best interest to attack Guinea why he wouldn’t use the Liberian’s he had at his disposal to do so. It was a question he posed during his testimony in an attempt to dismiss the witness’s claims as illogical. Taylor’s testimony will continue this week regarding additional witness testimony.

For more information please see:

All Africa – Taylor Did Not Know of Sierra Leone Attack Plans, Nor Order A Rebel
Attack OnGuinea, He Says
– 29 September 2009

CharlesTaylorTrial.org – Taylor Says He Didn’t Order Rebel Attack on Freetown – 29 September 2009

Impunity Watch – Taylor Denied More Allegations in Court – 27 September 2009

All Africa – I Was Not Aware of RUF’s Operation No Living Thing – 8 September 2009