Amnesty International: Croatia: Key International Court Ruling Delivers Justice To Victims Of War Crimes

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

15 April 2011
AI Index: PRE01/210/2011

A judgement handed down today by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicting two Croatian generals of responsibility for crimes against humanity is a strong victory for Croatia’s war victims, Amnesty International said.

The ICTY convicted Ante Gotovina and sentenced him to 24 years. Mladen Markač was also convicted and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. A third general, Ivan Čermak, was acquitted.

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač were found guilty of having participated in a joint criminal enterprise during and after the military “Operation Storm,” carried out from August to November 1995 with the aim of forcibly and permanently removing the ethnic Serb population from the Krajina region of Croatia.

“This judgement is the first step to truth and justice for many victims of crimes committed during ‘Operation Storm’ in Croatia in 1995,” said Nicola Duckworth, director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“It shows that even the most high-level perpetrators of crimes under international law cannot evade justice.”

According to the indictment, crimes against humanity were committed during the 1995 military operation, including persecutions, deportation, murder and inhumane acts. The charges also included war crimes, such as unlawful destruction of civilian property.

In a recent report, Behind a Wall of Silence: prosecution of war crimes in Croatia, Amnesty International documented how justice in Croatia is slow and selective more than 15 years after the war ended, and how a lack of political will to deal with the wartime past prevents many victims from receiving justice, discovering the truth and obtaining reparation.

Only 18 cases are resolved on average each year, adding to a backlog of more than 500 cases. At the current rate of prosecution, some victims of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity would need to wait another 30 years to see justice.

High-level Croatian political figures – including current Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Vladimir Seks – have yet to face investigation. Prosecutions target mostly Croatian Serbs and other minorities whereas crimes committed by the Croatian Army and police forces go unpunished.

Local courts lack witness support and protection measures. The well-known case of the August 2000 killing of Milan Levar, a potential ICTY witness remains unresolved.

“The international community must demand that Croatia investigates and prosecutes its backlog of hundreds of cases to give victims access to justice, truth and reparation,” said Nicola Duckworth.

“Justice must be sought – and delivered – for Croatia’s war victims.”

Only a very limited number of low-level perpetrators have been brought to justice in Croatia for crimes committed during Operation Storm.

Public Document

****************************************

For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email: press@amnesty.org
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

UPDATE: Protests in Burkina Faso Escalate

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Merchants set fire to busses as soldiers continue to riot; Photo courtesy of the AFP
Merchants set fire to busses as soldiers continue to riot; Photo courtesy of the AFP

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso–  Despite dissolving his government, hiring new military commanders and enforcing a curfew, Burkina Faso’s president Blaise Compaore has failed to put an end to the protests and riots that started last Thursday.  Police and students have joined the soldiers who began rioting Thursday night.  The growing discontent of many Burkinabe’s has merged and the violence has spread to other towns.  The protests began late Thursday night when soldiers, frustrated that their pay had been withheld, began shooting into the air in the military compound near Compaore’s presidential residence.  The soldiers then spread into the city, looting shops and stealing citizen’s cars.

After the government failed to reign in the soldiers, merchants in the capital of Ouagadougou retaliated on Saturday, setting fire to busses and the ruling party’s headquarters.  Since Saturday, the military rioting spread to the northern town of Kaya and the southern towns of Po and Tenkodogo.  Though the smaller towns have apparently calmed down since Monday night- when soldiers roamed through the streets firing in the air, looting businesses and firing on the homes of military commanders- merchants in the capital refused to open their stalls in the center market.  This is no surprise given the level of violence- one witness told Reuters, “They are moving through town and they continue to fire in the air. They are taking people’s motorbikes and cars and breaking up shops.”    Since Thursday, 45 people have been taken to the hospital with riot-related injuries.

Analysts are saying this could be the end of Compaore’s rule in Burkina Faso.  Compaore has been in power since 1987 when he took over through a coup.  Since then the government has enacted terms limits, but Compaore is exempt since he was in power before the current constitution took effect.  Opposition from the younger generation of soldiers coming in poses the most serious threat to Compaore’s power.  Said Ashley Elliot of Control Risks,

The loyalists that were with Compaore for the 1987 putsch still pull the strings, but the old guard is ageing and a gulf has opened up between them and the junior officers. . . .The negotiations between senior and junior officers that began this weekend are about conditions and pay, but between the lines they are about redressing a generational balance of power.

For more information, please see;

AljazeeraFresh Riots Reported in Burkina Faso– 18 April, 2011

ReutersANALYSIS- Burkina Faso Unrest Threatens Compaore Government– 18 April, 2011

Mail & GuardianBurkina Faso Mutiny Spreads as Police, Students Riot– 18 April, 2011

BBCBurkina Faso Mutiny Spreads to Fourth City– 18 April, 2011


Libyan Leader Employs Cluster Bombs in Campaign Against Rebels

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Remains of a cluster bomb found in Misrata, Libya. (Photo courtesy of HRW).
Remains of a cluster bomb found in Misrata, Libya. (Photo courtesy of HRW).

MISRATA, Libya – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has shelled the city of Misrata with cluster bombs according to a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Witnesses in Misrata claim several cluster bombs exploded in the city on April 14th and 15th. It remains unclear how many civilians or rebel fighters were killed in these attacks. The cluster bombs were use during a push by Gaddafi-led forces to retake Misrata from the rebels. Fighting between forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi and the opposition continues in both eastern and western Libya.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and the British newspaper, The Guardian, on Thursday and Friday, witnesses in the city of Misrata saw at least four explosions believe to be from cluster bombs. The use of cluster bombs has been banned by most countries because of their potential to inflict damage over a large area. As noted by HRW, cluster bombs “explode in midair, indiscriminately throwing out dozens of high-explosive bomblets” and the submunitions then either explode upon impact or are detonated when an unsuspecting person steps on them or picks them up.

Making this scenario even more troubling is these cluster bombs are being used in an urban environment against both rebel forces trying to defend the city and civilians who have been unable to flee the violence. According to Steve Goose, HRW’s arms division director, the use of cluster bombs in a residential area poses “a huge risk to civilians.”

 HRW believes the cluster bomb munitions were manufactured in Spain before their use was condemned by the international community. Specifically, HRW believes the cluster bombs are “Spanish-produced MAT-120, 120mm mortar projectiles, which open in mid-air and release 21 submunitions over a wide area. Upon exploding on contact with an object, each submunition disintegrates into high-velocity fragments to attack people and releases a slug of molten metal that can penetrate armored vehicles.”

Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Libyan government has denied cluster bombs are being used in the fighting. He claims “We can never do this, morally, legally. We challenge them [HRW] to prove this. We know the international community is coming en masse to our country. We’re not using them.” It is important to note that Libya has not signed on to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which prohibits the use of cluster bombs and requires states that have stockpiled these munitions to destroy them.

Along with the cluster bombs, more than 100 government rockets have been fired into the city or Misrata as forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi are struggling to retake the city from rebel forces. According to rebels in Misrata, at least eight fighters have been killed as Gaddafi forces continue to push towards the center of the city.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch — Libya: Cluster Munitions Strike Misrata – 15 April 2011

Guardian — Libya: Gaddafi forces ‘using cluster bombs in Misrata’ – 15 April 2011

Mail Online– Gaddafi accused of using cluster bombs on civilians, fuelling calls for allied ground troops to move in – 15 April 2011

New York Times – Qaddafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas -15 April 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald — Libya denies using cluster bombs – 17 April 2011

Swaziland’s King Continues to Crackdown on Protesters; ANC Speaks Out

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Swaziland Protesters; Photo courtesy of the AP
Swaziland Protesters; Photo courtesy of the AP

MBABANE, Swaziland– In the midst of pro-democracy uprisings, Swaziland’s King Mswati II and his administration are taking a strict stance against the protesters and adopting an isolationist policy.  Despite attempted intervention from several African groups and international organizations, Mswati’s officials maintain the problem is ‘outsiders’ and not the need for reform.  Said Mswati’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lutfo Dlamini, “We have been threatened as a nation by outsiders that there will be an uprising. . .We needed to guarantee the safety of all Swazis[.]”

This statement was made on Wednesday in what has proven to be a tumultuous week for the small, land-locked country.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, police fired upon crowds of thousands with tear gas and water cannons.  Police entered the crowd and started beating the protesters with batons, arresting many.  The protesters are calling for reform from the government, namely in the areas of civil service pay and political parties.  Mswati has banned political parties, effectively eliminating the possibility of a multi-party democratic system in Swaziland.  Additionally, civil servant pay has been cut drastically.  The protesters are demanding that political parties be made legal again and the pay cuts be reversed.

Swaziland’s government has maintained throughout the unrest that this is the result of foreign agitators coming into the country to promote violence and treason.  However, the police and security forces seem to be targeting Swazi’s in crackdowns on unions.  On Wednesday, a unions’ headquarters was raided by police where approximately 300 teachers were gathered for a rally.  The forces again used tear gas and water cannons to disperse everyone from the meeting.

These actions have prompted the African National Congress (ANC) to speak out.  ANC Deputy of International Relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim, said on Thursday,

We call on the government of Swaziland to work towards the normalisation of the political environment by unbanning opposition political parties, releasing political activists and engaging in a meaningful dialogue with opposition political and trade union leaders to find a collective solution to the socio-economic situation faced by that country. . .The use of security forces to quell any form of political dissent and failure to address legitimate concerns of citizens can only lead to the worsening of relations between government and civilians, something that does not augur well for economic stability.

This is a strong statement from the ANC, which until Thursday had remained silent, allowing its partner, the trade union group Cosatu to work with the pro-democracy protesters.  Some hope this will change the king’s view of South Africa and the ANC.  Cosatu’s deputy international secretary, Zanele Mathebula, said up until Thursday, the ANC’s silence has given Swaziland’s government a reason to blame Cosatu.  “[The Swazi government] cannot understand how South Africa can allow Cosatu to be so vocal. They blame us- as if we are forcing the Swazi people to revolt against the king.”

Underlying the unrest are the stark realities of economic inequality in Swaziland.  King Mswati is Africa’s last absolute monarch and after years of funneling the country’s profits into private royal accounts, Mswati has become the 15th richest monarch in the world, with an estimated personal fortune of $200 million.  However, a majority of Swazi’s live in poverty, subsisting on less than $1 a day.  Life expectancy in the country is 32 years, a statistic supported by the HIV infection rate of 33 percent, the highest in the world.  Almost half the country is unemployed and up to a quarter of Swazi’s rely on food aid and donations for their survival.  Many believe the protests are the natural consequence of this growing gap between the wealthy royalty and the impoverished Swazis.  Said Deprose Muchena, acting Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), “The Swazi government has shown its true colors to the world – it is repressive and authoritarian and only interested in its own survival.”

For more information, please see;

Mail & GuardianTime For Change in Swaziland, ANC Says– 15 April, 2011

NYTPolice Fight Teachers as Unrest Begins to Mount– 13 April, 2011

Christian Science MonitorIn Swaziland, Heavy Crackdown Beats Back Egypt Inspired Protests– 14 April, 2011

Bahrain Arrests Human Rights Lawyer and Doctors


By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – In an effort to thwart the efforts of pro-democracy protestors, Bahrain has detained a human rights lawyer and two doctors.  Many Shi’ite protestors were inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia to rise up against Bahrain’s Sunni-led government.

Last month’s uprising was the worst that Bahrain has seen since the 1990s.  The government imposed martial law in the capital city and also invited the troops of its Sunni allies, including Saudi Arabian troops, to prevent the protestors from getting out of hand.

Activists claim that at least four people have died from the government’s crackdown and have arrested hundreds more.  Amnesty International has issued a statement, requesting that Bahrain provide information about the whereabouts and status of over four hundred opposition activists who have been detained over the last few weeks.

Human rights lawyer, Mohammed al-Tajer, was arrested on Saturday, when military forces stormed into his home.  Tajer represented the leader of a Bahraini opposition group, Hassan Mushaimaa, who returned from exile in London in February and was subsequently arrested.  Some protestors claim that the government arrested Tajer to instill a sense of fear in lawyers.

In addition, opposition protestors claim that the government has tried to intimidate doctors, and have even detained a few doctors, to prevent them from providing medical treatment to protestors.

Bahrain claims that Iran is instigating the pro-democracy demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Iran has requested that the United Nations Security Council take action to protect the opposition protestors.

Earlier this week, Bahrain’s Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs also announced that it planned to dissolve the Al-Wefaq opposition party.  Wefaq is the largest of seven Shi’ite opposition group in Bahrain and controls eighteen of the forty seats in parliament.  The United States, among other nations, opposed the government’s plans to dissolve Wefaq, and on Friday, Bahrain abandoned its plan.  In March, Wefaq parliament members resigned from their positions in the legislature to protest the government’s handling of the protests.

For more information please see:
Reuters – Bahrain Arrests Prominent Lawyer, Doctors: Opposition – 16 April 2011

Radio Free Europe – Bahrain Backs Off On Closure of Opposition Group – 15 April 2011

Voice of America – Bahrain Backs Away from Opposition Party Ban – 15 April 2011

CNN – Daughter of Prominent Rights Activist in Bahrain on Hunger Strike – 12 April 2011

Burkina Faso President Dissolves Government After Military Uprising

By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

President Campaore Faces Uprising From His Military; Photo courtesy AFP
President Campaore Faces Uprising From His Military; Photo courtesy AFP

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso– Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Campaore, dissolved the government on Friday following an uprising by soldiers in the capital city of Ouagadougou and the presidential compound.  The soldiers, frustrated by the president’s refusal to pay them wages and promised bonuses, entered the compound on Thursday night, firing guns and rioting until the pre-dawn hours of Friday.  The uprising spread to the nearby barracks and then into the city.  Soldiers began speeding through the city streets in military vehicles and looting stores.  For several hours Thursday night, Campaore fled to his hometown approximately 30 km away, returning Friday.  In a radio address on Friday, Campaore announced he had fired his top military and personal guard commanders.  Part of the announcement read, “The secretary generals of ministerial departments will ensure the execution of current business.”

As the soldiers poured into the city they began stealing from shops in the capital, accosting merchants.  The soldiers also raided at least one radio station, injuring the staff and forcing it off the air.  One taxi driver reported being dragged from his car by soldiers who then drove away in his cab.  Many businesses, including gas stations and banks, have remained closed since the violence broke out Thursday night.  One witness, Pierre Tapsoba, who lives in a western neighborhood of Ouagadougou, said “I was going in the direction of the Lamizana [military] camp when I heard the gunfire. I saw people rushing back towards me, so I turned around and went back home. . . .I haven’t been out since. It’s bad.”  In an apparent effort to deter the soldiers, some shop owners set fire to busses.  As the looting continued Thursday, local merchants felt like the government had abandoned them.  Said one business association leader, Seydou Zangre, “We thought they [the government] were going to take measures for our security, but they did nothing.”

In addition to the dissolution, Campaore effected a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on Saturday and France, the former colonial ruler of Burkina Faso, warned travelers to avoid the country.  This latest clash follows months of turmoil in the country.  In February, students protested against the government after a student in military custody died.  During the protests, several buildings were set on fire and six students died.  On March 22, soldiers led an attack in response to several soldiers who were sentenced to prison terms for rape, freeing some soldiers from jail.

The country has also faced pressure from its neighbors, where unrest has driven up the prices of pantry staples in Burkina Faso.  The violence in Côte d’Ivoire has disrupted supply lines Burkina Faso in addition to Niger and Mali.  This means the prices of several processed foods, such as sugar, vegetable oil and dried milk, have risen dramatically in the land-locked country.  This prompted a march by tens of thousands of protesters in the capital last week against the increasing cost of living.

In the radio address Friday that dissolved the government, Campaore said, “The government reassures the people that steps are being taken right now to resolve this situation and expresses its regret and compassion for all those who have suffered harm.”  Despite these reassurances, many believe Campaore is losing power and that this may signal the end of his 23 year reign as president.  Addressing the resent uprising in Burkina Faso, David Zounmenou, a researcher focusing on conflict prevention at the South African based Institute for Security Studies, said, “It may be the end of Blaise Compaore’s rule. . .The youth are inspired by what is happening in North Africa and you add to this the unhappiness within the army. He might have to think about a transition.”

For more information, please see;

Bloomberg– Burkina Faso President Dissolves Government as Army Rampages– 16 April, 2011

Reuters AfricaBurkina Faso Traders Riot Over Army Looting– 16 April, 2011

The IndependentSoldiers Go on Rampage Over Pay in Burkina Faso– 16 April, 2011

AljazeeraBurkina Faso’s President Dissolves Government– 15 April, 2011

BBCBurkina Faso’s Blaise Campaore Sacks His Government– 15 April, 2011

Mugabe proceeds with takeover of foreign-owned companies

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Mugabe addresses supporters on the takeover of foreign-owned companies. (Photo Courtesy of Associated Press.)
Mugabe addresses supporters on the takeover of foreign-owned companies. (Photo Courtesy of Associated Press.)

HARARE, Zimbabwe – President Robert Mugabe said Thursday that the country will forge ahead with the takeover of foreign-owned firms, a plan laid out in a 2008 law.

During a speech Thursday at the burial of the deputy director of Zimbabwe’s intelligence organization, Mugabe addressed mourners, telling them, “We proceed with our indigenization and empowerment policy, and programs must be worked out to ensure that our resources are managed by us, they are controlled and exploited by us, and that they benefit the majority of our people.”

The Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill was signed into law in 2008, and permits local business owners to take fifty-one percent shareholder control of foreign mining companies that have a net asset value of one million dollars or more.

The Zimbabwe government defended the bill as a way of addressing past racial and historical imbalances and allowing local Zimbabweans to benefit from the country’s rich mineral resources.

However, upon its passage, the bill was met with heavy criticism. Opponents have argued that the law has simply been a way for Mugabe to buy and curry support among his party, ZANU-PF.

Mugabe’s opposition party, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has opposed the law. However, he has not been so vocal about his opposition, which some critics have attributed to his not wanting to be labeled as “pro-white” or “pro-West.”

Last month, Mugabe took the initial steps towards enforcing the bill when he gave foreign mining companies forty-five days to transfer the majority stakes to local investors.

Mugabe’s goal is to take power away from the European and American corporations that dominate Zimbabwe’s economy. He has accused the foreign-owned companies of aligning with the West in an effort to remove him from power. “If our economy is controlled by outsiders, similarly the politics will be controlled by outsiders,” Mugabe said.

Western countries imposed sanctions on Mugabe and ZANU-PF in 2002 on charges of human rights abuses and rigged elections. As recently as 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that ZANU-PF continued to engage in human rights abuses, and that there had been no meaningful progress in instituting human rights reforms. HRW has uncovered rampant abuses by Zimbabwe’s armed forces, including forced labor, child labor, killings, beatings, smuggling and corruption.

Mugabe, who is 87 and has run the country since 1980, does not appear to be slowing down. “We must demonstrate that we are ready to defend our country and sacrifice our lives. The enemy will try by all means to destroy us, but if we are united, we are strong,” he said. The MDC has warned that upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections could bring about a “bloodbath” in Zimbabwe.

For more information, please see:

ZimOnline – Firm takeovers to go ahead: Mugabe – 15 April 2011

CNN – Government takeover of companies in Zimbabwe to proceed, Mugabe says – 14 April 2011

Zimbabwe Mail – Mugabe says to proceed with foreign firm takeovers – April 14, 2011

CNN – Is ‘indigenization’ bad for business? – 7 April 2011

Zimbabwe Guardian – Shape up or ship out, Mugabe warns companies – 28 March 2011

Human Rights Watch – EU: Keep Sanctions on Mugabe’s Inner Circle – 29 January 2010

Brazil Rejects Organization’s Request To Stop Dam

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Members of the Kaiapo tribe protest against the construction of the Belo Monte dam (photo courtesy of Voices of America).
Members of the Kaiapo tribe protest against the construction of the Belo Monte dam (photo courtesy of Voices of America).

SAU PAULO, Brazil – The Brazilian government refused  to suspend work on a huge hydroelectric dam in the Amazon despite pleas from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the project could displace tens of thousands of indigenous people and cause environmental harm. The Belo Monte dam is slated to be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam.

The Commission did not request the complete termination of the project, but rather just to put it on hold until the developers “complied with its legal obligations to consult with indigenous groups.”

Among the Commission’s requests were measures to prevent the spread of diseases that could result from the large population influx during construction.  Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the requests “premature and unjustified.”

The $17 billion dam has long been a contentious issue between the Brazilian government and the indigenous people. The dam would divert the flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch in Pará state. Environmental groups say it would flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and local settlements, displacing at least 20,000 people and releasing large quantities of methane. Brazil’s government does not refute that the dam would displace individuals, but claims that the number is significantly less than 20,000.

David Fleischer, a political science professor at Brasilia University, said the government “is going to move forward with the Belo Monte project regardless of any complaints or protests.” Higher federal courts have rejected legal challenges to the project.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Brazil Rejects Request to Halt Belo Monte Dam in Amazon – 6 April 2011

Forbes – OAS Human Rights Group Weighs in on Brazil’s Amazon Dam – 5 April 2011

New York Times – Brazil Rejects Panel’s Request to Stop Dam – 5 April 2011

Voice of America – Commission Urges Brazil to Halt Dam in Brazil – 5 April 2011

Rights Group Urges Serbia To Stop Forced Evictions

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia— Human rights organization Amnesty International recently called on Serbia to stop forced evictions of Roma. Amnesty International released a report detailing two years of discrimination and forced evictions where Roma were removed to housing conditions that are inadequate in many cases.

The report, Home is more than a roof over your head: Roma denied adequate housing in Serbia, details the forced evictions of at least seven settlements of Roma in the capital Belgrade beginning in April 2009. Those evicted are often removed to metal containers in segregated settlements, while others are forced to live in poverty with inadequate housing in Southern Serbia.

Amnesty estimates that about a third of Belgrade’s Roma population live in informal settlements, which lack sanitation, basic services, and even a regular supply of water. Roma are not allowed to register as citizens of Belgrade and as a result are often denied access to employment, social security, health care, and education.

Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Serbia researcher, said, “[i]nstead of halting forced evictions the Serbian authorities in Belgrade are carrying out more and more, driving Roma communities from their homes and forcing them to live in inadequate housing.”

Amnesty International urged Serbia to comply with their international obligations by ensuring the Roma have access to housing with sanitation within a reasonable distance of public facilities and employment, as well as access to legal remedies. Amnesty has also urged Serbia to make sure the Roma in Belgrade are free from future forced evictions, mainly by developing a legal framework to prohibit forced evictions in the future.

Many of these evictions that have occurred over the last two years are a result of plan enacted by the Belgrade Assembly in 2009 to put into place large-scale infrastructure projects funded mostly by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. According to the Amnesty report, these plans would affect at least 50 of the 100 Roma settlements in Belgrade.

An estimated 500,000 thousand Roma live in Serbia, accounting for 7% of the Serbian population. Many Roma living in Belgrade originally fled Kosovo after the war in 1999. Others have been forcibly removed from Western European countries, after arriving there in search of work or international protection.

For more information, please see:

AP — Amnesty International urges Serbia to stop forced evictions of Roma in Belgrade — 9 April 2011

SOUTHEAST TIMES — Serbia is urged to stop forced evictions of Roma — 8 April 2011

UPI — Roma day marked by demands for rights — 8 April 2011

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL — Serbia urged to stop forced evictions of Roma — 7 April 2011

Girls killed in India before born

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia


2011 census reveals that boys are preferred to girls, leading families to abort girl babies (Photo courtesy of the Nation).

NEW DELHI, India – If you are a girl in India, you are less likely to be born. The figures speak for itself: the latest 2011 census show that the sex ratio, the number of girls to every 1,000, was 914 in the 0-6 age group, which is 13 less than the 2001 census.

As medical technology continues to improve and more commonly implemented in rural areas, the abortion of female fetuses has also increased. This is because technology has made it easier to detect the sex of an unborn child.

Lakshmi Rani, 30, is one of many women who was forced to abort her unborn baby, multiple times. From Bhiwani district in Uttar Pradesh, Ms. Rani’s first three pregnancies were terminated due to family pressure.

“My mother-in-law took me to the clinic herself,” she said. “It wasn’t my decision, but I didn’t have a choice. They didn’t want girls.”

She and her husband are pushing for another pregnancy and she prays that the next one will be a boy. Although sex determination tests, let alone abortion itself is illegal in India, women like Ms. Rani is powerless before family pressure and general societal preference of boys.

There is also a stark regional difference. The divide between the north and south has gotten worse as J&K’s child sex ratio fell steeply to 859, making it the third worst state after Haryana and Punjab. Just ten years ago In 2001, J&K had a better child sex ratio than the Indian average. With the exception of Himachal Pradesh, no state in the north now has a child sex ratio above 900.

The reasons behind the preference of boys over girls are complex, according to the Center for Social Research, a research organization in New Delhi. Ironically, the aborting practice happens in some of India’s most prosperous states — Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh — indicating that economic growth does not guarantee a shift in social attitudes. Ranjana Kumari, spokesperson for the research center gives several factors that may attribute to the preference of boys in many parts of India, especially the conservative north: sons are the source of the family income, daughters marry into another family and are not available to look after their parents, dowries make a daughter a liability and, in agricultural areas, there is the fear that any woman who inherits land might take that property to her husband’s family.

“It (the decline in child sex ratio) was expected, but it is a warning signal for the nation to wake up,” Ms. Kumari said, also adding that law banning sex-based abortion “is not stringently implemented”.

Her findings and facts lead to conclusion that India’s sex ratio is a feature not just of dictatorship and poverty. Unlike China, India is a democracy: there is no one-child policy to blame.

“The caution should be taken seriously. We are leading to a crisis situation,” she said.

For more information, please see:

The Times of India – Sense of Census 2011: Save the Girl Child – 1 April 2011

The Economist – Gendercide in India: Add Sugar and Spice – 7 April 2011

The New York Times – A Campaign Against Girls in India – 12 April 2011

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Volume 6, Issue 1 – 11 April 2011

Volume 6, Issue 1 – April 11, 2011

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

*   Reuters: Wanted Rebel Leader Returns to Eastern Congo
*   Open Society Justice Initiative: Bemba Defense Contests Expert’s Report
*   Open Society Justice Initiative: New Witness Testifies in Closed Session
*   Open Society Justice Initiative: Victims’ Lawyer Denied Permission to Question Witness
*   Open Society Justice Initiative: Central African Top Prosecutor Testifies in Bemba Trial

Democratic Republic of the Congo

*   UPI: DRC Fighters to Testify at Warlord Trials
*   LubangaTrial.org: Trial Resumes with Testimony that Lubanga Ordered Demobilization of Child Soldiers
*   AP: Lawyer for Rwandan Rebel Detained by International Court Seeks Release
*   LubangaTrial.org: Defense Witness Denies Forced Conscription of Children in Second Day of Testimony
*   LubangaTrial.org: UPC Had No Military Objectives, Witness States
*   LubangaTrial.org: Witness Insists Thomas Lubanga was Not a Military Leader
*   KatangaTrial.org: Katanga and Ngudjolo are Responsible for Attack on Bogoro, Victims Claim
*   LubangaTrial.org: Lubanga Not Responsible for Military Takeover in Bunia, Witness Says
*   LubangaTrial.org: UPC Decrees Demobilization of Child Soldiers But Seeks More

Kenya

*   AllAfrica: State Files Request to Stop ICC Cases
*   Daily Nation: ICC Judges Receive Kenya’s Request to Strike Out Cases
*   Daily Monitor: ICC Opens Trial of 6 Kenyan Officials

Libya

*   Reuters: Probing Libyan Killings, ICC Support at Turning Point
*   The Guardian: Muammar Gaddafi’s Exit Hindered by UN Resolution, Law Experts Warn
*   Reuters: Gaddafi Planned Civilian Killings, Hague Court Says

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

*   Hirondelle News Agency: Prosecution Requests Life Imprisonment for Former Rwandan Businessman
*   Hirondelle News Agency: French Lawyer Accuses Prosecution of Colluding With Rwandan Authorities
*   Hirondelle News Agency: Prosecution Requests Life Imprisonment For Setako
*   The New Times: Gatete Judgment Set for Today
*   Hirondelle News Agency: Rwandan Minister Gatsinzi Accuses Colonel Bagosora of Sabotage
*   Hirondelle News Agency: Bagosora Recognizes Rwandan Genocide At Last
*   Hirondelle News Agency: Appeals Chamber Confirms Sentence Against Former Rwandan Military Officer
*   Hirondelle News Agency: One Defence Witness For Nzabonimana Still At Large

Special Court for Sierra Leone

*   New Dawn Liberia: Taylor’s Verdict in December

EUROPE

European Court of Human Rights

*   IberoSphere: Garzón Appeals to Strasbourg over Prosecution for Franco-era Probe

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

*   The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Osman Šego Plead Not Guilty
*   The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Commencement of trial before the Appellate Panel in the Ljubo Tomic et al. Case
*   The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Session Before the Appellate Panel in the Radomir Vukovic et al.
*   The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Closing Arguments of the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH and Defense in the Miodrag Markovic Case
*   The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Plea Hearing in the Bozidar Kuvelja Case
*   The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Status Conference in the Saša Barizanin Case

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

*   International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia: Gotovina et al. Judgement to be Rendered on 15 April 2011
*   Institute for War and Peace Reporting: Prosecutors Want Life Term for Perisic
*   Institute for War and Peace Reporting: VRS Leadership Structure Explained

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

*   Reuters: Serb Police Arrest 1991 Dubrovnik Siege Suspect
*   The Canadian Press: Wife of Europe’s Most Wanted War Crimes Fugitive Mladic Insists He Has Died
*   Croatian Times: War Crimes Convict Arrested in Germany

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

*   VOA Khmer: Defense Calls for Acquittal of Khmer Rouge War Criminal
*   VOA Khmer: In Hearing, a Push for Longer Sentence in Duch Case
*   UN News Centre: UN-Backed Tribunal Concludes Appeal Hearing for Convicted Khmer Rouge Figure
*   Phnom Penh Post: Looking Ahead at the KR Tribunal
*   VOA Khmer: Planning Under Way for Trials of Aging Khmer Rouge

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

*   Naharnet: Riyadh Contributes $10 Million to Tribunal
*   Naharnet: International Tribunal: Indictment Will Name Suspects but not Parties
*   The Daily Star: Special Tribunal for Lebanon Appoints New Spokesperson

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

*   Bangladesh News 24: Alim Produced Before ICT
*   Bangladesh News 24: Alim Out of Jail

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

United States

*   Appeals Court Overturns Release of Gitmo Detainee
*   McCaul Seeks to Have Cartels Designated as Terrorists
*   Little Headway Made at Guantanamo
*   In Reversal, 9/11 Plotter to Be Tried by Military Panel
*   Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo Appeals

TOPICS

Terrorism

*   BBC: Bali Bombing Suspect Umar Patek ‘Arrested in Pakistan’
*   The Telegraph: Terrorist Who Tried to Kill pregnant Fiancée Must Be Considered for Parole, Court Says
*   UPI: Saudis Charge 5,000 on Terror Counts
*   The National: Freed Saudi Arabian Terror Suspects ‘Were Not Innocent’ Piracy
*   AP: Somalia Opens Prisons for Pirates, More Planned
*   Defense News: Solution for Piracy ‘Scourge’ Remains Elusive
*   AP: Pirates Jailed in 17 Nations as Prosecutions Rise
*   Star Tribune: Federal Prosecutors Seek 2012 Trial Date for 14 Suspected Pirates Accused of Hijacking Yacht
*   The National: Pirates Face Prosecution in Federal UAE Court
*   Breakbulk Online: Pirates Sent to Seychelles for Prosecution

Universal Jurisdiction

*   The Jerusalem Post: UK Begins Amending Universal Jurisdiction Legislation
*   The Vancouver Sun: Spain Tries to Extradite Man from Alberta to Face War Crimes Charges

REPORTS

UN Reports

*   AP: UN Votes on Sanctions against Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo
*   UN News Centre: UN-Backed Tribunal Concludes Appeal Hearing for Convicted Khmer Rouge Figure
*   AP: UN Official: Goldstone Must Request Repeal of Gaza War Crimes Report Before it Can Be Canceled

NGO Reports

*   BBC: Burma: Hope and Fears Over New Political System
*   VOA: Ghadafi Forces Reported Using Landmines
*   Reuters: U.N. Rights Body Urged to Act on Syria, Bahrain, Yemen

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS

Kenya

*   Daily Nation: Wagalla: TJRC Calls Ex-Security Men
*   Bloomberg: Kenya Truth Commission Summons Former Chairman, Nation Says

Thailand

*   Bangkok Post: Army Insists Troops Did Not Use Live Bullets

COMMENTARY AND PERSPECTIVES

*   National Times: Australia Left Wanting When Allegations of War Crimes Arise
*   Radio Netherlands Worldwide: Somali Pirates Prove Problem for Dutch
*   Washington Post: Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes

WORTH READING

*   The Dual Foundation of Universal Jurisdiction: Towards a Jurisprudence for the ‘Court of Critique’

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.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Israeli Campaign to Avoid Accountability for Gaza War Crimes Must Be Rejected

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PUBLIC STATEMENT

AI Index: MDE 15/023/2011
Date: 6 April 2011

Israeli campaign to avoid accountability for Gaza war crimes must be rejected

Recent Israeli government calls for the UN to retract the 2009 report
of its Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict are a cynical attempt
to avoid accountability for war crimes and deny both Palestinian and
Israeli victims of the 2008-2009 conflict the justice and reparations
they deserve, Amnesty International said today.

Statements by leading Israeli politicians that Israel’s conduct in the
22-day conflict in Gaza and southern Israel has been vindicated,
following the publication of a Washington Post opinion piece by
Justice Richard Goldstone on 1 April 2011, are based on a deliberate
misinterpretation of Justice Goldstone’s comments. The international
community must firmly reject these attempts to escape accountability
and act decisively for international justice, as it has done on Libya,
Sudan and other situations where war crimes and possible crimes
against humanity have been committed.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, composed of Justice
Goldstone and three other eminent international jurists, examined
violations of international humanitarian and international human
rights law committed by all sides during the 2008-2009 conflict. Its
September 2009 report echoed the findings documented by Amnesty
International, other human rights organizations and independent
observers, and called on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to
conduct credible, independent investigations into alleged war crimes
and possible crimes against humanity within six months or face
potential UN Security Council referral to the International Criminal
Court.

The report’s recommendations concerning potential international
justice mechanisms remain unimplemented more than 18 months later,
despite the fact that the Israeli authorities and Hamas de facto
administration have both failed to conduct investigations that are
prompt, thorough, independent, impartial, and effective, as required
by the UN General Assembly.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, and other senior Israeli
politicians have seized on Justice Goldstone’s new statement that the
Israeli military did not intentionally target civilians during the
conflict and has conducted some investigations to call for the entire
Fact-Finding Mission’s report to be retracted – or, as Prime Minister
Netanyahu put it, “tossed into history’s trash can”. The US State
Department has supported this position, with a spokesperson saying
that the US government did not see any evidence that the Israeli
government had committed any war crimes during the conflict.

As a spokesperson for the Human Rights Council has today made clear,
comments made in an opinion piece do not provide a sufficient legal
basis for overturning a UN report that has been discussed and endorsed
by both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. Nor are the
self-serving calls of Israeli political leaders, some of whom were
members of the Israeli war cabinet which made the policy decisions
during Operation “Cast Lead”, the 22-day conflict in which some 1,400
Palestinians, including some 300 children, were killed by Israeli
forces. Aborting the process towards an international justice solution
would also preclude any possibility of justice or reparations for
Israeli victims of the conflict, who suffered from hundreds of
indiscriminate rockets and mortars launched into southern Israel by
Hamas’ military wing and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.

Amnesty International has monitored and critiqued the Israeli military
investigations into its actions during Operation “Cast Lead”, and has
condemned both the continuing failure of the Hamas authorities to
investigate alleged violations committed by Palestinian armed groups
during the conflict and the ongoing firing of indiscriminate rockets
into southern Israel.

In consequence of the failure of both the Israeli and Palestinian
sides to conduct proper independent investigations and ensure
accountability and justice for the victims, Amnesty International has
called on a range of international actors to now bring international
justice mechanisms to bear in order to meet these objectives and end
impunity.

In particular, Amnesty International has called on the General
Assembly to consider the Fact-Finding Mission’s report at its 66th
session starting in September 2011, and submit the report to the UN
Security Council with a recommendation that the latter body consider
referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International
Criminal Court (ICC). This recommendation was also included in a
resolution passed by the Human Rights Council on 25 March 2011.

Amnesty International also urged the ICC Prosecutor to seek a legal
determination from the Pre-Trial Chamber on whether an investigation
could be launched on the basis of a 2009 declaration by the
Palestinian Authority accepting the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes
committed on the Palestinian territories. Finally, we have
consistently called for national authorities of other states to
exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes committed during the
2008-2009 Gaza conflict, just as we urge states to exercise universal
jurisdiction over war crimes in other conflicts where the domestic
authorities are unwilling or unable to act.

Background

In a personal op-ed, Justice Goldstone contrasted the investigations
conducted by the Israeli military into alleged violations by Israeli
forces with the Hamas de facto administration’s failure to investigate
alleged violations by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. He also
commented that the Israeli military investigations indicate that
civilians in Gaza “were not intentionally targeted as a matter of
policy” by Israeli forces. The op-ed is available at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/0

While Justice Goldstone’s comments question one of the Fact-Finding
Mission’s conclusions – that certain Israeli attacks during Operation
“Cast Lead” intentionally targeted civilians – the op-ed in no way
constitutes a retraction of the entire Fact-Finding Mission report.
The other three members of the UN Fact-Finding Mission have not issued
similar public comments questioning any of the report’s conclusions.

The Fact-Finding Mission report examined 11 incidents in which Israeli
forces launched direct attacks against civilians that resulted in
civilian deaths, and found that in these incidents, “the conduct of
the Israeli armed forces constitutes grave breaches of the Fourth
Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing
great suffering to protected persons and, as such, give[s] rise to
individual criminal responsibility.” Justice Goldstone’s op-ed
mentions only one of these incidents, an Israeli attack on 5 January
2009 which killed 21 members of the al-Sammouni family, which is the
subject of an ongoing Israeli military investigation. Assessing
whether specific Israeli attacks on civilians during the conflict were
deliberate is extremely difficult because the Israeli military has not
released the evidence that would allow independent parties to evaluate
its conclusions. Amnesty International has not argued that the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) targeted Palestinian civilians “as a matter of
policy”, but rather that IDF rules of engagement and actions during
the conflict failed to take sufficient precautions to minimize
civilian casualties. Justice Goldstone’s recent comments do not
dispute this assessment.

Amnesty International, the Fact-Finding Mission, and other human
rights organizations documented many other serious violations by
Israeli forces, including war crimes, during the conflict. These
include indiscriminate attacks and the use of weapons such as white
phosphorus and flechettes in civilian areas; wanton destruction of
civilian property and infrastructure; attacks on UN facilities,
medical facilities and personnel; and the use of Palestinian civilians
as “human shields”. While the Israeli authorities have investigated
some of these incidents, all the investigations have been conducted by
the Israeli military, and overseen by the Military Advocate General
Corps, the same body which was responsible for providing legal advice
to the IDF during Operation “Cast Lead”.

As noted in the recent report of the UN Committee of Independent
Experts appointed to monitor and assess the investigations, Israel has
failed to investigate the actions of “those who designed, planned,
ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead”, the Israeli military
investigations have lacked transparency, and more than one third of
the incidents highlighted by the Fact-Finding Mission are still
“unresolved or unclear”. To date, only four Israeli soldiers have been
indicted on criminal charges relating to Operation “Cast Lead”, and
only one has served prison time for credit card theft.

Amnesty International’s own assessment of the Israeli investigations
concurred with the Committee of Independent Experts’ report. More than
two years after the conflict, there is no way for objective, impartial
observers to view Israel’s investigations as adequate, independent, or
effective in bringing perpetrators of alleged violations to justice.

The Committee of Independent Experts’ report, released on 18 March
2011, is available at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/16session/A.HRC.16.24_AUV.pdf

Amnesty International’s latest assessment of the Israeli and
Palestinian investigations into the Gaza Conflict, released on 18
March 2011, is available at:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE15/018/2011/en

Following Gbagbo’s capture, Ouattara is called upon to investigate mass human rights abuses

By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

Laurent Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, surrender at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan (Photo Courtesty of New York Times/Getty Images.)
Laurent Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, surrender at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan. (Photo Courtesty of New York Times/Getty Images.)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – After a disputed election plunged Ivory Coast into four months of violent civil war, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat after last November’s presidential election, surrendered on Monday to his rival and Ivory Coast’s leader, Alassane Ouattara.

“The fighting is over,” Gbagbo said on television after his arrest, a dramatic event involving a military assault on his residence in Abidjan.

When Gbagbo failed to cede power in November’s presidential election, the country was thrown into violent conflict. Despite international calls for his resignation from the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, pleas from African diplomants and severe economic sanctions, Gbagbo refused to give up his power.

His refusal to surrender led to the dramatic scene at his residence on Monday morning, where French and U.N. helicopters struck and partially destroyed Gbagbo’s residence. Tanks surrounded his compound, under which Gbagbo and his family sought cover in a bunker protected by security forces. But by the middle of the day, Gbagbo and his wife retreated to the Golf Hotel, where his surrender was complete.  The Golf Hotel serves as the headquarters of both Ouattara and the United Nations.

“Finally, we have reached the dawn of a new era of hope,” Ouattara said in a televised address on Monday. “We had hoped this transfer had been different, but we have to focus on today.”

Noting that the “country has just turned a painful page of its history,” Ouattara called for legal proceedings to be initiated against Gbagbo, his wife and his colleagues. Ouattara also said that a truth and reconciliation commission would be set up.

Aside from Ouattara’s calls to cease the violence, United States President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Gbagbo’s capture and urged calm in Ivory Coast. Obama said that Gbagbo’s “illegitimate claim to power has finally come to an end.”

Despite the relief that has come with Gbagbo’s capture, Ivory Coast is still reeling from atrocities committed by supporters of both Ouattara and Gbagbo.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported last week that forces loyal to Ouattara murdered and raped Gbagbo supporters and burned ten villages. Gbagbo supporters murdered more than one hundred Ouattara supporters.

The abuses documented by HRW occurred during March and April. In one horrific event, hundreds of Guéré civilians and Gbagbo supporters were murdered by Ouattara supporters in the town of Duékoué.

HRW has called on Ouattara to address these atrocities and violations of international law and “urgently investigate and prosecute all those responsible for abuses to bring an end to Côte d’Ivoire’s longstanding cycle of impunity.”  Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at HRW, made clear that forces loyal to both Ouattara and Gbagbo have committed numerous atrocities, and that is in Ouattara’s hands to ensure that those responsible on both sides are brought to justice.

But Ouattara remains hopeful. In his televised speech, he said, “Today a white page opens in front of us, white like the white of our flag, symbol of hope and peace.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Ouattara urges Ivory Coast calm – 11 April 2011

CNN – Ivory Coast president urges calm after Gbagbo is arrested – 11 April 2011

Human Rights Watch – Côte d’Ivoire: Ouattara Forces Kill, Rape Civilians During Offensive – 9 April 2011

Independent – Stripped of dignity, stripped of power – 12 April 2011

New York Times – Former Leader of Ivory Coast Is Captured – 11 April 2011

Bolivia to Grant Nature “Human Rights”

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LA PAZ, Bolivia—In a revolutionary move, Bolivia is set to pass a law that essentially grants nature the same rights as human beings.  It will become the first law of its kind in the entire world.

Called the Law of Mother Earth, the legislation is expected to be the first step in a new radical environmental conservation policy.  The policy’s long term goals include diminishing pollution and exploitation within Bolivia.

The Law of Mother Earth, which defines Bolivia’s famous mineral deposits as “blessings,” has already experienced popularity among politicians and social organizations alike.  The law makes reference to nature’s right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

Further, 11 new rights for nature are set forth in the law, including: the right to life and existence; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to clean water and air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right not to have cellular structures modified or genetically altered.

The South American nation has struggled with environmental difficulties ranging from rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and extreme weather like floods, droughts and mudslides.  The country has also been heavily mined for its rich tin, silver and gold deposits.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera has praised the Law of Mother Earth, saying, “It makes world history.  Earth is the mother of all.  It establishes a new relationship between man and nature.”  The law has been shaped in part by the indigenous Andean belief that human beings are equal to all other things.

While it remains unclear what specific legal protection the law might grant the ecosystems, the government plans to create a ministry of mother earth and endow communities with legal powers to control polluting industries.

For more information, please see:

Ahmedabad Mirror-Mother Earth to be granted human rights under Bolivian law-12 April 2011

Sydney Morning Herald-Bolivia to pass a law granting nature “human rights”-12 April 2011

Albuquerque Express-Bolivia set to pass “Law of Mother Earth”-11 April 2011

Human Rights Court: Italy Violated Ban On Torture

By Christina Berger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently ruled that Italy violated the ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in deporting a man to Tunisia in 2009. The deportation took place despite the ECHR’s repeated requests at the time to stop the transfer due to the risk of torture the man faced once in Tunisia.

Ali Ben Sassi Toumi, a Tunisian man married to an Italian, was sentenced in Milan, Italy in 2007 to six years on charges related to international terrorism. His sentence was remitted and he was released in May 2009. Toumi was then detained in Italy while awaiting deportation. During that time, the ECHR communicated on three separate occasions the request to stay the transfer based on the opinion that Toumi was at a significant risk of being tortured once returned to Tunisia and deportation would seriously hinder the Court’s ability to rule on the protection of Toumi’s asserted rights.

Toumi applied for asylum in Italy, but was denied because he had been convicted of a serious crime. He was forcibly returned to Tunisia in August 2009, where he claims he was held and tortured for 10 days by the Tunisian authorities before being released under threat to keep his silence regarding his detention. Toumi’s Italian lawyer was denied access to him during that time.

The Italian government maintained that Toumi had only been held for three days while he was legitimately questioned in connection with an international terrorism case, and that he had not been subjected to ill-treatment, a version of events the Court found unlikely. In asserting this claim, the Italian authorities relied only on information provided by Tunisian authorities.

The Italian authorities claimed they had relied on diplomatic assurances by Tunisian authorities before deportation that Toumi would not face ill-treatment and he would receive a fair trial once returned to Tunisia. The ECHR reprimanded Italy in the judgement opinion for relying on such assurances given that “reliable international sources” indicated that claims of torture and ill-treatment were not properly investigated by Tunisian authorities, who were “reluctant to cooperate” with human rights organizations.

Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights in Europe, said in response to the Court’s ruling that the “Italian government completely disregarded the European Court’s authority and used dubious promises from the Tunisian authorities to justify its actions. People cannot be sent to countries where they risk being tortured or otherwise ill-treated, under any circumstances, and assurances from a government known to torture cannot serve as a guarantee of safety on return.”

For more information, please see:

AFP — EU rights court censures Italy for Tunisian’s deportation — 5 April 2011

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL — Italy violated torture ban during Tunisia deportation — 5 April 2011

ECHR PRESS RELEASE — Another removal of a terrorist from Italy to Tunisia notwithstanding the Court’s indications and the risk of ill-treatment — 5 April 2011