War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Vol. 6 Issue 24

Vol. 6, Issue 24 — February 27, 2012

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Kenya

Libya

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Special Court for Sierra Leone

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

United States

TOPICS

Terrorism

Piracy

Universal Jurisdiction

Gender-Based Violence

REPORTS

UN Reports

NGO Reports

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS

Canada

Kenya

Nepal

Sri Lanka

Thailand

COMMENTARY AND PERSPECTIVES

WORTH READING

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. For more information about War Crimes Prosecution Watch, please contact warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org.

OSCE Special Rapporteur Calls for Prosecutions in Magnitsky Case, William Browder Urges Sanctions in all OSCE Countries

Press Release
Originally sent by Hermitage Capital 2/27/12

Following the annual meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna last week, Coskun Coruz, the OSCE Human Rights Rapporteur and MP from the Netherlands called for the prosecution of Russian officials in Magnitsky case, the termination of his posthumous trial and the end of intimidation of his family by the Russian authorities.

Coskun Coruz, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, said:

“As a member of the OSCE, Russia should fulfill its human rights obligations and adhere to the norms and values of the OSCE. In the harrowing death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Russia’s lawlessness is absolutely not fitting into OSCE ‘s values. What is particularly shocking is the unprecedented prosecution of a dead man. As a lawyer and politician, I will do everything in my power and the power of the OSCE to call on Russia to prosecute Magnitsky’s killers, to cease the posthumous prosecution against him and to protect his family.”

Mr Coruz was responding to an appeal from Ludmila Alexeeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia’s leading human rights NGO. Ms Alexeeva called upon OSCE’s leadership and parliamentarians to intervene in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. In a strongly-worded letter sent on the eve of the OSCE winter meeting in Vienna, Ms Alexeeva urged OSCE members to do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s horrific death in Russian police custody. She called for an end to the unprecedented posthumous trial of Sergei Magnitsky as well as pressure put on his family by the Russian authorities.

“The prosecution of the dead lawyer and the intimidation and harassment of his family by police is a new low and an alarming symptom of the complete degradation of the Russian justice system and the absent rule of law. Posthumous prosecutions were not practiced even during the Stalin purges,” said Ms Alexeeva in her appeal to the OSCE.“They are clearly carried out …to intimidate and silence victims of police abuse and their relatives and to exonerate police officers implicated in serious crimes.”

In addition to Mr Coruz’s call for justice, William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital, was invited to testify at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna last week. In his testimony, Mr Browder described in detail the torture and murder of Mr Magnitsky in custody and the pressure on his surviving family. He called on all parliaments in OSCE countries to pass visa sanctions and asset freezes on the Russian officials in the Magnitsky case.

“Selectively cancelling visas and freezing assets may not be real justice in a case like this, but if we are successful in creating some real and painful consequences in a situation where, until now, these people have enjoyed absolute impunity, perhaps the next time a Russian investigator is asked by his boss to torture a false confession out of an innocent prisoner, he may think twice… This is a new weapon in the fight against human rights abuses,” said Mr Browder.

In her appeal to OSCE, Ms Alexeeva reiterated Russia’s international obligations as a member of the OSCE to ensure that law enforcement officers pursue “legitimate aims” and “are subject to judicial control and are held accountable” as per paragraph 21 of the Document of the Moscow Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension.

“In no way such actions [posthumous trial of Mr Magnitsky and pressure on his family by the Russian authorities] can be viewed as an internal affair of Russia as they run contrary to Russia’s international obligations. The duty of the OSCE is to safeguard universally recognized human rights and freedoms and the rule of law in the territory of the participating countries,” said Ms Alexeeva.

“I ask you to adopt a special Resolution of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and undertake all other possible efforts to protect the family of Sergei Magnitsky from the police tyranny and to urge the Russian government without any further delay to bring to account law enforcement officers implicated in massive corruption, false arrest and torture of Magnitsky, and to put an end to the intimidation of his family,” said Ms Alexeeva in her letter addressed to Petros Efthymiou, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President, Eamon Gilmore, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Coskun Coruz, Rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Human Rights, and OSCE Vice Presidents.

Last week, a Moscow court rejected two lawsuits from the Magnitsky family against the Russian Investigative Committee for its failure to investigate and bring high-ranking Russian police officers to trial for the false arrest, torture and murder of the 37-year old whistle-blowing lawyer. Russian courts also rejected Magnitsky mother’s requests for access to her son’s tissue samples and their independent medical examination. The Investigative Committee in charge of Magnitsky’s death investigation is the same body that concealed Mr Magnitsky’s testimonies about the $230 million corruption of Interior Ministry and tax officials. The Investigative Committee also refused to investigate the illicit multi-million dollar wealth of the families of those officials.

Falkland Island Tensions Increase with Denial of Cruise Ship Entry and Enactment of Bill Banning British Ships

by Emilee Gaebler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Tensions between the Argentinian and British governments regarding the Falkland Islands, called the Malvinas Islands by Argentina, are peaking.  This past weekend a couple of cruise ships were denied entry to the Port of Ushuaia in southern Argentina.

The sign in the Port of Ushuaia banning British flagged ships. (Photo Courtesy of MercoPress)

On Friday, February 24, the Adonia ship of P&O Cruises was denied entry and then on Saturday the Star Princess of Princess Cruise Lines was also turned away.  Both ships had stopped in the Falklands the day before.

The port of Ushuaia is right near the Tierra del Fuego national park.  The 3,000 passengers on the two ships were unable to go on shore excursions and tours as planned.  Instead they were forced to remain on the ship at sea.

This comes shortly after Argentina enacted provincial act No. 852, called the “Gaucho Rivero” act.  This bans the entry to any Argentinian port of a ship flying any form of a British flag.  The ban also covers any commercial vessels that are partly owned by British companies.

As reported by MercoPress, the act is named in honor of an Argentinian soldier, a “gaucho” who flew the flag of Argentina on the islands until the British landed and took control of the islands in 1833.  This individual has become a legend and a Malvinas history hero by the administration of President Cristina Fernandez.

Earlier this year the Star Princess  cruise ship was denied entry to the Falklands due to a majority of the passengers contracting a stomach virus.  At the time Argentina claimed the real reason was politically motivated because Argentinian citizens were on board.

Many have expressed concerns over the choice to ban these ships as the bill specifically targets commercial boats involved in the exploitation of natural resources in the area.  Marcelo Lietti, the President of the Ushuaia Tourism Chamber, expressed his the city’s position.

He noted that the tourism industry is not related to the Malvinas dispute and most business in the Ushuaia region centers on the cruise industry so this decision has a negative impact that is deeply felt by the community.

The levels of hostility between the Argentinian and the British governments are at an all time high as the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War approaches.  Britain has refused any negotiations with Argentina regarding giving the islands sovereignty to choose their national identity.

Reports of a British parliamentary committee that oversees defense matters visiting the Falklands within the next month have also contributed to the tensions.  Last week Argentina lodged a complaint with the United Nations regarding the militarization taking place in the Falklands with the dispatch of the HMS Dauntless destroyer ship.

The deployment of Prince William, as a helicopter pilot, to the area is also viewed as a threatening move by the Fernandez administration.  Britain has defended both the deployment of the ship and the placement of Prince William as planned rotations.

 

For more information, please see;

BBC News – Falklands Tension: Argentina “Turns Away” Cruise Ships – 28 February 2012

MercoPress – Port of Ushuaia Refuses Entry of Cruise Vessels that Visited the Falkland Islands – 27 February 2012

Penguin News – Argentine Port Bans Entry to Cruise Ships en route from Falklands – 27 February 2012

The Guardian – Falklands Tension Set to Rise with Visit of Defence Committee MP’s – 14 February 2012

Judge Dismisses Harassment Case; Lectures Atheist for Portrayal of ‘Zombie Mohammed’

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – Some of the most fundamental rights protected by the United States are laid out in the First Amendment of the Constitution: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.  Interestingly, religious groups seem to enjoy more protection than non-religious groups nowadays; specifically, atheists across the country are facing discrimination.  Most recently, a Pennsylvania judge ruled in favor of a disgruntled Muslim who allegedly attacked an atheist at a Halloween parade.

Perce dressed as a zombie Mohammad and his friend, dressed as a zombie pope. (Image Courtesy of Youtube)

On October 11, 2011 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Ernie Perce, a self-proclaimed atheist participated in a Halloween parade.  According to CNN, Perce was dressed as a “Zombie Mohammed,” wearing a long fake beard, a white turban, and green face paint.  A fellow member of “The Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania” was dressed as a zombie-themed pope, an apparent jab at the Catholic religion.

During the parade, a Muslim man named Talaag Elbayomy allegedly attacked Perce, grabbing him, choking him, and attempting to take an unsavory sign off Perce’s neck.  He was charged with harassment based on Perce’s claims and went to court, according to CNN.

On December 6, to many a surprise, District Judge Mark Martin dismissed the case saying that it was one person’s word against another’s, and that a video clip of the incident was inadmissible, according to The Huffington Post.

Judge Martin said there was not enough evidence to proceed, but did not stop his commentary there.

Judge Martin told Perce that “you have that right, but you’re way outside your boundaries of first amendment rights,” reported The Huffington Post.  He went on, “[T]his is why we are referred to as ugly Americans, because we are so concerned about our own rights we don’t care about other people’s rights as long as we get our say . . . .”

He also told Perce his actions against the tenets of Islam made him “look like a doofus,” according to The Washington Post.  Perce believes that his “lack of belief” played a role in the judge’s decision.

Scholars and rights groups alike found the judge’s comments shocking.  According to The Huffington Post, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University wrote, “[Judge Martin’s] legal views seem grotesquely out of place.”  A blog post by the group American Atheists said, “That a Muslim immigrant can assault a United States citizen in defense of his religious beliefs and walk away a free man, while the victim is chastised and insulted . . . is a horrible abrogation.”

Judge Martin defended his actions saying that he is not biased towards Islam and that he has always fought to preserve the right to freedom of speech.  According to CNN, Judge Martin spent 27 years in the military and has spent over two total years in Iraq and Afghanistan where he learned much about the Muslim culture.

He reiterated that he dismissed the case because there was not enough evidence to show that Elbayomy was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that is it.  However, he expanded on his courtroom speech by saying, “With rights come responsibilities.  The more people abuse our rights, the more likely that we’re going to lose them.”

The Washington Post reports that Judge Martin stands by his decision and would not do anything differently, even considering the hundreds of calls he has received in the last week.

According to CNN, former terrorism prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy accused the judge of allowing the Muslim suspect to “invoke a Sharia defense – what he claimed was his obligation to strike out against any insult against the prophet Mohammed.”

Turley (the professor from George Washington Law) went on to say that the decision is “greatly disturbing to people that believe in free speech.”  According to CNN, he continued, “You can say things that are hurtful to others.  We hope that you don’t, but you most certainly can be protected.”

As for Elbayomy, he admitted in court to approaching Perce and laying his hands on him.  He said that he took his kids to watch the parade and when he saw Perce pass by he was “shocked” because he could not believe what he was seeing, according to LF Press.  He said, “I teach my kids how to respect everybody.  Any religion, it doesn’t matter what your religion . . . I teach them to be respectful for everybody.”

At the time, Elbayomy believed that it was illegal for Perce to mock Mohammed, according to LF Press.  He actually went to a police officer himself to report Perce’s costume and actions.

Perce and other atheists throughout the country remain upset about the comments Judge Martin made in the decision.  Many believe – beyond the dismissal of the case – that the six minute lecture telling Perce how bad he was offending Islam was out of line.

For more information, please visit:

CNN — Judge’s Dismissal of Atheist’s Harassment Claim Against Muslim Makes Waves — 28 Feb. 2012

The Washington Post — PA Judge’s Dismissal of  Harassment Case Criticized After ‘Zombie Muhammad’ Posts Trial Audio — 28 Feb. 2012

The Huffington Post — Pennsylvania Judge Dismisses Case Against Muslim Accused  of Attacking Atheist Dressed as ‘Zombie Muhammad’ — 27 Feb. 2012

LF Press (London) — ‘Zombie Muhammed’ Alleges Muslim Attack — 27 Feb. 2012

Fox News — Pennsylvania Judge Dismisses Case of Attack on ‘Zombie Mohammad’ — 24 Feb. 2012