Former RUF Rebel Convicted of Contempt in Taylor Trial

By Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – A Sierra Leone man, Eric Koi Senessie, has been found guilty on eight out of nine contempt of court charges following a trial that began on June 11 at the Special Court in Freetown.

Eric Koi Senessie has been convicted of contempt of court for tampering with witnesses in the trial of Charles Taylor. (Photo Courtesy of Sierra Express Media)

The charges arose from allegations that he tried to persuade prosecution witnesses to recant their testimony in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Four of the counts accused Mr. Senessie of offering bribes to witnesses and the other five counts alleged that he attempted to influence witnesses.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Senessie repeatedly harassed at least three of the prosecution’s witnesses at their homes and offered to pay them in exchange for recanting their testimony against Charles Taylor.

The prosecution called witnesses who had testified at Taylor’s trial and reported harassment by Mr. Senessie to testify against him at trial. Mr. Senessie testified on his own behalf and called five  additional witnesses to testify in his favor.

After hearing testimony, Justice Teresa Doherty found that Mr. Senessie had “…knowingly and willfully interfered with the administration of justice…” and convicted him on all counts except for one count of attempting to influence a witness.

The maximum penalty for a contempt conviction is seven years imprisonment, a fine of twenty million leones which equates to approximately $4,600 in American currency, or both. The actual sentence will be determined after the prosecution and the defense submit recommendations on sentencing.

Mr. Senessie was once a member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group that was supported by Charles Taylor during civil war in Sierra Leone. Taylor aided the RUF by abetting in terrorism, murder, rape, conscription of child soldiers and pillage in exchange for diamonds.

Charles Taylor was convicted of eleven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity last month and given a sentence of fifty years in prison.

 

For further information, please see:

Sierra Express Media – Eric Koi Senessie Convicted of Contempt of Court for Witness Tampering – 23 June 2012

Jurist – Sierra Leone War Crimes Court Convicts Former RUF Member of Witness Tampering – 22 June 2012

Voice of America – In Taylor Trial, Tampering Conviction for Ex-Rebel – 22 June 2012

Modern Ghana – Contempt Trial of Eric Koi Senessie Opens at the Special Court for Sierra Leone – 8 June 2012

Crackdown on Student Protests Continues

By: Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Supporters of the Khartoum government have burned down student dormitories in Khartoum University last Monday.

Protests continue over Sudan's austerity measures. (Photo Courtesy of Radio Dabanga)

Composed of students and security agents, these pro-government forces also set ablaze different offices in the University while they attacked and detained student demonstrators.
These assaults were part of a crackdown on the protests that started on June 16 at Khartoum University. Various student groups and youth movements gathered to clamor against President Omar Al Bashir’s announcement that the national government shall raise taxes and prices and cut fuel subsidies. These austerity measures are an attempt to recover from the country’s US$ 2.4 billion deficit which was exacerbated by the split between Sudan and South Sudan in July last year. In a span of 10 days, the protests grew and spilled over to other parts of the country.

The Sudanese police and security authorities responded to these demonstrations with severe force. Reports show that government forces, joined by pro-government students, have fired tear gas and live ammunition injuring the protesters. They have also held several students in custody. Once detained, these students were reportedly blindfolded and beaten. They were also forced to sign a promissory note that they will no longer participate in any protest once they are released. Some of the detainees, meanwhile, have been sentenced to lashings for violating South Sudan’s public order laws. The authorities also conducted widespread raids across the country and arrested relatives of the protesters and members of the opposition party.

When asked to comment on the demonstrations, President Al-Bashir dismissed these as insignificant. He referred to his dissenters as “foreign -backed aliens and bubbles”. He also endorsed the “forceful and immediate” suppression of the protests and threatened to deploy “real jihadists” or “Muhajhdeen” once the demonstrations escalate further.

On June 27, Human Rights Watch released a report urging Sudan to rein in security forces and to release or charge the detainees. Human Rights Watch Africa director Daniel Bekele suggested that Sudan might be using the protests as “an excuse to use violence and intimidation to silence dissenters”. “Authorities should call off their security forces and vigilantes, end the violence immediately, and respect the right of the people to protest peacefully”, he pleaded.

According to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, security forces shall employ nonviolent means as far as possible before resorting to the use force. Authorities shall exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense if the lawful use of force is unavoidable.

 

For further information, please see:

Sudan Tribune – Sudan Protest: UN Urges Restraint and Respect for Human Rights – 28 June 2012

Sudan Tribune – HRW Urges Sudan to Rein in Security Forces, Release or Charge Detainees – 27 June 2012

Bikyamasr – Sudanese Call for Friday Mass Demonstration Against Bashir – 27 June 2012

Albawada – Sudan Day of Rage: June 29 – 27 June 2012

Radio Dabanga – Dormitories of Protesting Students set Ablaze by Sudan Security Agents – 26 June 2012

Worldwide Release of “S.O.S. — Siege on Syria”: A Short Film Highlighting the Atrocities in Syria and a Call to Action

Syrian artists are calling on the International Criminal Court to hold the Syrian Regime accountable for their crimes against humanity and demand an immediate stop to the murder of civilians, the bombing of hospitals, the rape of women, and the torture of prisoners which are all currently being perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria.

At a special evening for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, commemorating the farewell of the first Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and the welcome of his successor Fatou Bensouda, The Cinema for Peace Foundation, presented the first official screening of “S.O.S. – Siege on Syria”, a short film, which sheds light on the unbelievable atrocities being committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The film follows members of the local Arab community and supporters of the Syrian revolution as they assembled a flash mob in Detroit, Michigan to raise awareness of the ongoing violence in Syria; and aims to bring to attention to the Syrian uprising for freedom and dignity.

The film has already reached several members of the European Union and was screened for a select assembly of U.S. congressmen and the U.S. ambassador to Syria on June 22, 2012. Cinema for Peace is asking everybody to screen this film and distribute it in social media networks, so it can reach a worldwide audience. Since the film’s shooting, the number of Syrian martyrs has already doubled with nearly 20,000 Syrians massacred, many of which have been women and children. As well as targeting civilians with shelling, fighters have also moved in on the ground and brutally shot and stabbed peaceful civilians to death. In addition to the many thousands murdered, there are hundreds of thousands more who have been displaced. A Syrian activist and victim featured in the film declares, “Everyone that can say a word, and doesn’t say that word, the blood of the people dying is on their hands”

In response to this plea, Syrian artists and Cinema for Peace Foundation are releasing “S.O.S. – Siege on Syria” and calling for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime; an urgent deliverance of mediators, emergency supplies and humanitarian aid to the afflicted civilian population, and an immediate stop to the violence and murder of innocent civilians.

Invisible Children have joined the charge, standing with Cinema for Peace Foundation in calling for an international unified voice demanding an end to the violence. “We are a generation who will not stand for the brutality against our brothers and sisters, wherever that may be. As a part of a global connectivity, there is a responsibility that flows from it.” The strength of a worldwide call can provoke change, and Cinema for Peace Foundation in partnership with Syrian artists and Invisible Children are appealing to the international community to be a part of bringing peace and justice to Syria by sharing “S.O.S.- Siege on Syria” as far and wide as possible and appealing for the freedom of the Syrian people.

 

Cinema for Peace Foundation
Friedrichstraße 113
D – 10117 Berlin
Phone: +49 – (0)30 76 77 525 – 22
Fax: +49 – (0)30 76 77 525 – 20
info@cinemaforpeace.com
www.cinemaforpeace.com

Syrian Revolution Digest – Thursday 28 June 2012

THE COMMENTARY IN THIS PIECE DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF IMPUNITY WATCH.  

*WARNING VIDEOS MAY CONTAIN GRAPHIC IMAGES*

The Relics!

When regime propagandists begin describing the majority population in their country as Relics, especially after their president declared war against said majority, chances for the success of a new plan that lacks enforcement mechanisms drop to null, while those for ethnic cleansing on an even larger scale than witnessed so far increase to 100%. But if world leaders expect the relics to go gently into that good night, they are as delusional as Assad and his militias.  

Thursday June 28, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 139. The Breakdown: 59 in Damascus Suburbs (mostly in Douma), 26 in Homs, 17 in Daraa, 15 in Deir Ezzor, 9 in Hama, 9 in Idlib, and 2 in Aleppo.

Lebanese police is reportedly increasing its crackdown against Syrian anti-regime activists living in Lebanon, with new arrests reported. Previously Lebanese authorities surrendered Syrian activists to the Assad regime despite their refugee status. International community should act now to pressure Lebanese authorities into complying with all norms and regulations pertaining to treatment of refugees.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

The Massacre of Douma (Damascus Suburbs)

Victims: 38 dead, and 150 wounded. Most died in the continuous shelling of the town, but 14 people were executed when pro-Assad militias stormed their neighborhoods, they belonged to one family: Al-Tomei. The dead included 7 children and a 90-year old grandmother

http://youtu.be/3LQpsWk-qzE The victims http://youtu.be/OH2l_6ma1qE ,http://youtu.be/KyEySQA_0Zc The fridge http://youtu.be/86_YL2gdnDI The pounding sets buildings on fire http://youtu.be/k_tN8xJ_pn8 The invading tanks pound their way into the neighborhood http://youtu.be/P50ZWFyQoTg , http://youtu.be/e0zxDte4WcYHelicopter gunships took part in the pounding http://youtu.be/M9c_2nWuzSk Tank in action http://youtu.be/TLVANdGP9pc Nearby Kafarbatna is also poundedhttp://youtu.be/8X83i9CofDo In Arbeen, helicopter gunships take part in the poundinghttp://youtu.be/Ij2b3tUZ_hA

Unfortunately, what could have been a good point to make on the need for providing structural and constitutional protections to the country’s minorities in the future reads like an exercise in pro-regime propaganda. The authors, self-proclaimed intelligence analysts focusing on Syrian-Lebanese issues, adopted regime line on the expulsion of Christians from Old Homs and the nearby town of Qusayr.

Rather than attributing the exodus of 80,000 Christians to the same reasons that paved the way for the simultaneous exodus from adjacent neighborhoods of over 500,000 Sunni inhabitants, that is:  indiscriminate and well-documented shelling of neighborhoods by pro-regime troops, our “intelligence” analysts claim that Sunni fighters took the time to risk their lives to go on a suicidal house-to-house mission to order Christian families out. The presence of Christians in the middle of areas targeted by pro-regime militias was a major complicating factor for the regime, their departure facilitate the intensification of the bombing campaign. Yet, our intelligence analysts want us to believe that local Sunni fighters made this major miscalculation not once but twice: in Old Homs and Al-Qusayr.

A better take on the threat to Christians in Qusayr can be found here.

To date, experts simply refuse to see the real patterns emerging on the ground, patterns which denote active planning for the creation of a future enclave in the coastal and central parts of Syria where the overwhelming majority population is made up of Alawites and Christians. The only beneficiaries of massive population shifts in the country are Assad and his loyalist militias. In fact, most Christians who left Old Homs went to live in Alawite-majority neighborhoods in Homs City and most those who left the town of Qusayr went to live in towns and villages close to majority Alawite towns and villages, although some escaped to Lebanon, and from there to western countries.

Syria’s Turkish Relics

But the most telling development of late is the declaration of war enunciated by Bashar Al-Assad against his enemies, i.e., the majority of the Syrian people, even as world leaders keep speaking of political solutions and peaceful transfer of power. Assad is not interested in taking part in power-sharing arrangements even if they keep him in power for a while or afford him a face-saving exit to U.K. Whether as President of the country, or a warlord with his own major turf, Assad wants to stay in Syria, and no amount of coaxing, plans or talks can change his mind. His bombs speak louder than all words, and his propagandist are already trying to draw a scenario that can justify further ethnic cleansing in the country, on a more mass scale.

The recent dismissal by pro-Assad ideologue on Addounia TV, the network owned by Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf, of the Sunni inhabitants of Homs as “Turkish Relics” from Ottoman times comes as the latest attempt at justifying the ethnic cleansing that took place there. The Assad regime has moved from blatant denial into defiant admission and justification of the crimes its militias are perpetrating all over the country. This is both a sign of weakness and strength. Assad and his advisers know that they are losing the country, they also know, however that their plans for the creation of a loyalist enclave on most ethnic lines are progressing nicely. Putin is buying them the time they need for that.

Power Sharing

In this light, plans for unity government proposed by Kofi Annan seem completely unrealistic, especially considering the absence of any enforcement mechanisms. What would make an Assad who just declared war against 80% of his people and whose militias are busy ethnically cleansing huge swathes of lands from native Sunnis, now deemed as Turkish Relics, stop and decide to allow for such unity government to take place and to pave the way for his replacement, absent any serious threats to is very existence?

The War in Videos

In Khan Al-Sibil, Idlib province, where fighters managed to take control of an anti-aircraft battery, they now target the helicopter gunships targeting their communityhttp://youtu.be/UDkLOYVs52o

Basra Al-Harir, Daraa, comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/u7nPZWd84jo Al-Hraak gets pounded at night http://youtu.be/fTNyaS3ZI-w Daraa City (Sadd) comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/DRVjuOLHODQ , http://youtu.be/lWRuLgJdBqQ ,http://youtu.be/8MD1Rhk3DNM

Zamalka, Damascus Suburbs, comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/WLNtD3L6Bg8 ,http://youtu.be/ctFdQtnCwI8

The sounds of war in Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/os9DlVXzw68where ,http://youtu.be/TIHCt2PcldI local fighters destroyed three attacking tanks, and mass defections continue to take place on a regular basis. Pro-Assad militias in these parts often draw on members from Sunni Arab tribes in Hassakah and Raqqah which is why defections are quite common. The aftermath of pounding http://youtu.be/dk–JjUQVz8 Helicopter gunships take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/ZHQ_u5wdIrk The tanks taking part in laying siege to the city http://youtu.be/sW8ibkRtu4o

In Homs Province, the pounding of Talbisseh continues http://youtu.be/i7COl3Q4S_c ,http://youtu.be/cii6BMh_Ocs and the pounding of Houla http://youtu.be/XLdeOc_TKngand the pounding of Rastan http://youtu.be/aX0GbRIwLuQ The pounding of Old Homscontinues (Jouret Al-Shayah) http://youtu.be/l08ueytnkOg , http://youtu.be/p_Q-wkZH0qI , http://youtu.be/qHNEdwlaM68

The pounding of Jabal Shahshabo, Hama Province, continueshttp://youtu.be/sJFxdC_TjRI

Lattakia, Jabal Al-Akrad, the pounding continues http://youtu.be/mtQuri00GX4

Still, whenever people have the chance to demonstrate peacefully, they do in droves:

In Damascus: Daraya http://youtu.be/aQ9HzUhifCQ Dafalshawkhttp://youtu.be/g4Kgi4KxGgY Barzeh http://youtu.be/O0_64MvOssQ Qabounhttp://youtu.be/qrgdaT-nhhQ Halbouni http://youtu.be/iucP9OOxZcQ

In Hama: Bab Qibli http://youtu.be/ZWOvTM6vIPQ

In Homs City, Wa’er http://youtu.be/jYLaCSAnVho

In Idlib: Marrat Al-Nouman (funeral) http://youtu.be/SO88LjB-OjY Kafar Ouaidhttp://youtu.be/gYZvRa7QRR8

Israeli Settlers Leave West Bank Settlement

By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel — On Tuesday, Israeli authorities began enforcing a court order calling for the dismantling of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Residents await evacuation from Ulpana. (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

The evacuation comes after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in September that five of the fourteen buildings in Ulpana, housing thirty families in total, sit on Palestinian land.  Temporary housing has been provided for the families in the larger town of Beit El, of which Ulpana is a suburb.  Hoping to find a way to relocate the buildings instead of destroying them, the government asked the court to delay the removal of the structures, which was scheduled for July 1.  The government’s request was denied, leading to the evacuation this week.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the building of additional housing in the disputed territory.  Three hundred homes are to be built in Beit El, with an additional five hundred to be constructed in other parts of the West Bank.  The announcement came as supporters of the settler movement, mainly right-wing critics within Netanyahu’s Likud party, spoke out against the removal of settlers from Ulpana.

Israel Harel, a senior fellow at the Institute for Zionist Strategies, has mixed feelings about the compromise of building new settlements in Beit El to replace the housing abandoned in Ulpana.

“In the general arena, the settlers’ movement made a big victory,” he said.  “But there is a big inner debate about if this compromise should be accepted.”

Tzaly Reshef, a founder of Peace Now–an Israeli group opposing the settlements–believes there will be no two-state solution with the presence of settlements in Beit El.  “While Netanyahu may say from here to eternity that the Israelis will negotiate, the Israelis will compromise, what he does on the ground shows his real intentions,” he said.  Experts believe the settlements in Beit El would become a part of the Palestinian state if the two-state solution moves forward.

Israel captured the land where the settlement is located as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967.  The decision to create new settlements in the area fifteen miles north of Jerusalem has been criticized by the Palestinians and the U.S.  They argue that building new structures within the disputed territory undermines the peace process.  Critics of the East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements, citing the 2003 road map for peace and Israeli law, also claim that the buildings are illegal under both local and international law.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – West Bank Jewish Settlers Leave Ulpana Outpost – 26 June 2012

New York Times – Settlers Begin Evacuation of a West Bank Outpost – 26 June 2012

Times of Israel – No Violence As Fifteen Families Leave Homes at Givat Ulpana Outpost – 26 June 2012

Jewish Journal – Ulpana Residents Agree to Leave Peacefully – 20 June 2012