Ousted President Morsi To Face Trial For Espionage

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt-Deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi is facing charges of espionage and carrying out “terror attacks” in Egypt, as a third trial against him is due to commence.  The latest court case is part of a relentless government crackdown targeting Morsi and his Islamist supporters since he was ousted by the military on July 3.

Deposed President Morsi behind bars (photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle)

Morsi, along with 35 others former aides and leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood, are accused “of spying for the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, its military wing and the (Palestinian) Hamas movement.”

They are also charged with “carrying out terror attacks inside the country against state property, institutions and their employees to spread chaos.”

Morsi, who was ousted by the military after a single year of turbulent rule, is already on trial for his alleged involvement in the killing of opposition protesters in December 2012.

Morsi is separately being tried on charges linked to a jailbreak during the 2011 uprising that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.  Morsi, along with 130 others, including dozens of members of Hamas and Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement Hizbollah, led the charge during the 2011 military coup.

Further charges are set against the ousted leader as he is also to be tried separately for “insulting the judiciary”.  A date for this trial has yet to be set.

In his most recent public appearance, at the start of his second trial in late January, a defiant Morsi questioned the trial judge’s authority, asking Judge Shabaan el-Shami to identify himself. The trial was adjourned to give lawyers more time to examine files, and is due to begin again on Saturday.

In his previous appearance, Morsi insisted that he remained the country’s legitimate president and challenged the legitimacy of the court, regularly interrupting the judges and prosecutors.

Since Morsi’s ouster, his supporters have faced a relentless crackdown by Egypt’s government that has left more than 1,400 people dead according to Amnesty International, and seen thousands more arrested.

During Morsi’s short-lived presidency, ties between Cairo and Hamas, a Palestinian affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood which rules the neighboring Gaza strip, had flourished.

But since July, Egypt’s military-installed government has accused Hamas of backing Morsi and his Brotherhood and carrying out terrorist attacks inside Egypt.

The army has destroyed several hundred tunnels used to ferry crucial supplies, including fuel, into the blockaded Gaza Strip.

If found guilty, the defendants could face the death penalty.

For more information, please see the following: 

Al Jazeera-Morsi in court for espionage trial-16 February 2014

BBC-Lawyers for Egypt’s Morsi walk out of latest trial-16 February 2014

Deutsche Welle-Morsi faces fresh trial in Egypt on spying charges-16 February 2014

Telegraph-Mohamed Morsi in court on Egypt spying and ‘terror attacks’ charges-16 February 2014

Pakistan Court Order Over Anti-Drone Activist

By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan –The Lahore High Court (LHC) in Pakistan has ordered the government to produce an anti-drone activist, Kareem Khan, whose lawyers say was detained by the country’s intelligence agencies.

Kareem Khan has not been heard from for a week. (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Kahn, whose teenage son and brother were killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan Agency in 2009, went missing days before he was due to testify to the impacts of the CIA-operative unmanned strikes in Pakistan’s troubled northwest border.

Since the death of his son and brother, Kahn has waged a legal battle against the United States.

His lawyers say he was picked up from his residence in Rawalpindi last week and has not been heard from since. Police deny any involvement.

Britain-based rights group Amnesty International, citing the eyewitnesses, has claimed that the Kareem Khan was picked up by a dozen men, some of whom were wearing police uniforms while others were in civilian clothes, on February 5.

“The Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court has sought reply from the intelligence agencies through the government, ordering the intelligence agencies to produce Kareem Khan on 20 February or give the reason behind his arrest in writing to the court,” his lawyer Shahzad Akbar told AFP news agency.

A decade after they first took to the skies over Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, U.S. drone aircraft’s are causing fierce controversy in both the United States and Pakistan.

U.S. officials argue the drone attacks are vital in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants based in the border area of Pakistan and that they take “extraordinary care” to ensure the strikes comply with international law.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for an end to drone attacks in his country, saying the attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Several thousand people have been killed in the attacks, many of them militants – but precise numbers and the identities of victims are in dispute because local claims of the numbers of civilian deaths are almost impossible to prove.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Pakistan court order over missing activist Kareem Khan – 12 February 2014

The Frontier Post – Pakistan court order over missing activist Kareem Khan – 12 February 2014

Al Jazeera – Pakistan pressed over missing drone activist – 12 February 2014

Pakistan Tribune – LHC Orders to Produce Missing Anti-Drone Activist on February 20 – 12 February 2014

Body of Slain Mexican Journalist Discovered

By Brandon R. Cottrell
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – The body of Gregorio Jimenez, a Mexican journalist who was kidnapped from his home several weeks ago, has been found in the town of Las Choapas, along side two other unidentified bodies.

Several Mexican journalists protesting, in response to their colleague, Gregorio Jimenez’s kidnapping and murder (Photo Courtesy BBC).

Jimenez, who worked for the El Liberal del Sur newspaper, had recently been reporting on the wave of kidnappings in his hometown of Coatzacoalcos.  In particular, he wrote about the disappearance of Ernesto Ruiz Guillen and how there was little being done in that investigation.

Gina Dominguez, a Veracruz state spokeswoman, said authorities believe Teresa Hernandez threatened Jimenez three months ago after a falling out between her son and his daughter.  The four men arrested earlier this week claim that Hernandez paid them to kidnap and kill him.

Several people have been arrested as a result of the investigation, including one of Jimenez’s neighbors.  However, some government officials have said that the murder was in response to a personal vendetta and had nothing to do with his work as a reporter.

Whether that is believable is, however, questionable as in at least three cases involving murdered journalists, the state attributed the murder to personal disputes.  Additionally, Jimenez’s coworker doesn’t “believe in what the government says because Gregorio was not one to get into fights, he was a kind, humble person.”

In response to the kidnapping, Jimenez’s colleagues had organized a social media campaign in hopes that Jimenez would be found.  Now that Jimenez has been found dead, many are outraged and are calling for the resignation of Javier Duarte de Ochoa, the governor of Veracruz.

In addition, Articulo 19, a press rights group, has called for a thorough investigation and said that it is  “unacceptable to rule out the journalistic work of . . . Jimenez as a possible motive for his murder” and that authorities should do more to “guarantee the safety of the victim’s family and the media outlets at which he worked.”

Since 2010, at least a dozen Veracruz journalists have been killed.  Veracruz is plagued by drug related violence and the Zetas cartel has a strong presence in the area.  Consequently, there are numerous accounts of abductions, extortions, and robberies.

Collectively, there have been eighty-seven journalists murdered in Mexico since 2000, which makes Mexico one of the most dangerous countries for members of the media to work in.

 

For further information, please see:

BBC – Missing Mexican Journalist Gregorio Jimenez Found Dead – 12 Feb. 14

Business Week – Few Believe Account Of Mexican Reporter’s Slaying – 13 Feb. 14

Global Post – Mexican Journalists Demand Full Investigation Of Reporter’s Murder – 12 Feb. 14

Global Post – Kidnapped Mexican Journalist Found Dead – 11 Feb. 14

Al-Qaeda Inmates Escape from Yemeni Jail

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen-Fourteen Al-Qaeda inmates escaped from the central prison in Yemen’s capital Thursday while gunmen launched a deadly assault on the facility, reported officials.

Police have sealed off the road to the airport which runs through the neighborhood where the prison is located (photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Seven policemen and three gunmen were killed.  Another two policemen and two gunmen were wounded, and one of the attackers was captured, the foreign ministry said.

The attack began when an explosives-laden vehicle exploded at the facility’s eastern entrance, breeching a hole in the prison fence, security.  Gunmen also attacked guards at the main entrance to create a diversion that allowed the prisoners to escape through the hole in the fence.

Residents reported that an explosion and heavy gunfire rang out near the jail where officials say around 5,000 prisoners are held, before security reinforcements were dispatched to the area.

Nasser al-Wuhayshi, chief of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who is seen by the United States as the network’s deadliest franchise, vowed in August to free imprisoned members of his network.

Wuhayshi escaped from the same Sana’a prison with 22 other members of AQAP in February 2006 and was named as the group’s leader a year later.

The AQAP detainees escaped through a 44-metre (145-foot) tunnel they dug between their cell and a nearby mosque.

Saudi and Yemeni Al-Qaeda branches combined in January 2009 to form AQAP, posing a serious threat to Western interests across the region.

Thursday’s assault was the second major one in the capital in a little over two months.  In early December, a suicide bomber and several gunmen attacked the defense ministry in a brazen operation in broad daylight, killing at least 52 people and wounding another 167.

Former prisoners at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who had been returned to Saudi Arabia in December 2006 later escaped to Yemen, two years ago after completing a reform program.

After a wave of deadly Al-Qaeda attacks between 2003 and 2006, Saudi authorities launched a crackdown on the local branch of the group founded by the late Osama bin Laden.

AQAP has taken advantage of the weakening of the central government in Sana’a since a popular uprising that toppled President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

For more information, please the following: 

Al Bawaba-14 ‘mostly Qaeda’ inmates flee Yemen jail after attack-13 February 2014

Al Jazeera-Al-Qaeda inmates freed in Yemen jail attack-13 February 2014

Global Post-14 ‘mostly Qaeda’ inmates flee Yemen jail after attack-13 February 2014

Reuters-Attack on prison in Yemeni capital kills 11-13 February 2014

ICC Opens War Crime Probe in Central African Republic

By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

BANGUI, Central African Republic — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened up an investigation into alleged war crimes taking place in the struggling Central African Republic (CAR).

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Photo courtesy of BBC News)

The preliminary investigation is going to look into recent account of violence in the country, including lynchings and beheading. Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, has reviewed many reports of “extreme brutality” and her offices feels  that allegations of crimes committed “possibly fall within the ambit of the jurisdiction of the ICC”.

“The allegations include hundreds of killings, acts of rape and sexual slavery, destruction of property, pillaging, torture, forced displacement and recruitment and use of children in hostilities….In many incidents, victims appear to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds.”” Bensouda said in a statement.

The CAR has been plagued by violence since Seleka Rebels, who are Muslim, overthrew the government in March of 2013. The conflict has recently started to show religious undertones with the Seleka fighting mainly Christin groups known as as anti-balaka (machete), the favorite weapon of the Seleka.

The efforts of the ICC will be in carried out in conjunction with the African Union and the UN. “In conformity with the complementarity principle, my Office will also be engaging with the CAR authorities with a view to discussing ways and means to bring perpetrators to account, including at the national level,” Bensouda said

The African Union and France have sent troops to the CAR to try to restore order, but so far they have been unsuccessful.

On Wednesday soldiers publicly lynched a suspected ex-Seleka member after a military ceremony. The UN refugee agency said 9,000 people, mostly Muslims, have fled to neighboring Cameroon over the past 10 days alone. The violence has see a marked increase in recent weeks  and has “reached intolerable and unprecedented levels,” the Doctors Without Borders group said in a statement Friday.

“Civilians remain in constant fear for their lives, and have been largely left to fend for themselves,” the charity’s emergency coordinator Martine Flokstra said.

CAR is a signatory to the Rome Statute, which led to the formation of ICC. The court has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

For further information please see:

Aljazeera — ICC to open war crimes probe in CAR– 8 February 2014

BBC News — ICC opens CAR ‘war crimes’ preliminary investigation — 7 February 2014

Detroit Free Press — Muslims flee sectarian violence in Central African Republic amid war crimes probe — 7 February 2014

Global Post — ICC launches C.Africa war crimes probe — 7 February 2014

 

Spanish Universal Jurisdiction May Soon Become Undone

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain – Faced with political and economic pressure from China, Spanish legislatures continued support changes to Spanish universal jurisdiction law. Human rights groups chastised the move as a step backward in international law.

 

China has rebuked Spanish courts for a decision to issue arrest warrants for Chinese officials in Europe, on grounds of universal jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Almost two decades ago, Spain enacted legislation to support universal jurisdiction. The doctrine allowed Spanish judges to reach beyond their borders to investigate serious human rights abuses. In 1998, Spain made headlines by using the doctrine to arrest Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet in London.

When faced with pressure from the US regarding cases relating to Guantanamo Bay prisoners around 2009, Spain limited universal jurisdiction to cases that had a relevant connection to Spain, as long as no other national court would take the case.

In January 2014, the People’s Party (PP) tabled legislation that would curb the use of universal jurisdiction. The new law would essentially erase Spanish universal jurisdiction, applying the doctrine only for defendants who were Spanish citizens or residents, and only victims and public prosecutors could bring a case.

On 11 February 2014, Spanish Members of Parliament voted to continue support for a bill that limits the Spanish judicial power to try extra-territorial criminal cases. According to human rights organizations, the move would end Spain’s role as a leader in enforcing international justice.

PP Spokesman Alfonso Alonso defended the change, calling universal jurisdiction “inefficient” and something that “promises a lot but leads to nothing more than diplomatic conflicts.”

The vote came after a Spanish court ordered Interpol to issue arrest warrants for Chinese officials, including former President Jiang Zemin, for decades-old human rights abuses. While Spain sought to deepen trade relations with China to boost the European country’s economy, the court order caused China to issue a sharp rebuke.

“China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposed to the erroneous acts taken by the Spanish agencies in disregard of China’s position,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying. “But I believe this incident concerns the sound development of bilateral relations, so we hope that the Spanish government can properly deal with this matter and tell right from wrong.”

“This reform makes it even harder to probe into severe human rights abuses,” said Ignacio Jovtis, of Amnesty International Spain. AIS is among nearly two dozen human rights groups urging the government to abandon the change. “It’s a step backwards for human rights and justice.”

Reed Brody, of Human Rights Watch, expressed concerns over the double standards in international justice. “It’s OK to use international justice for El Salvador, Chile and Chad, but when it comes to US or China or Russia, there’s no justice. That really threatens to undermine the entire architecture of international justice.”

To ensure accountability for atrocities committed in the world, the world must deeply consider whether those with great power should run in the face of great responsibility.

For further information, please see:

Euronews – Spain Bows to Chinese Pressure and Backs Law to Curb Pioneering Judges – February 12, 2014

Guardian – Spain Moves to Curb Legal Convention Allowing Trials of Foreign Rights Abuses – February 11, 2014

Reuters – China Bristling, Spain Seeks to Limit Its Judges’ International Rights Powers – February 11, 2014

CNN International – Spanish Judge Issues Arrest Warrants for China’s Former President, Prime Minister – February 10, 2014

Iran Executes Activist Poet, Calling Him an “Enemy of God”

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – According to local human rights groups, Hashem Shaabani, an Arab-Iranian human rights activists has been executed by the Iranian government who called him an “enemy of God” and a threat to national security. According to BBC Persian, officials from the Ministry of Information informed the Shaabani’s family that they had carried out the execution and told them of the location where he had been buried. Both Hashem Shaabani were executed on January 29, without their attorneys or families being notified.

Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shaabani, members of an Arab cultural organization, were executed without their attorneys or their families being notified. (Photo courtesy of The Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center)

Shaabani was a member of Iran’s Arab-Speaking ethnic minority and had spoken out against the treatment of ethnic Arabs in the province of Khuzestan. Shaabani founded the Dialogue Institute, an organization aimed at promoting Arab culture in Iran, and was well known for his Arabic and Persian poetry.

In  statement the human rights group Freedom House condemned Iran’s decision to execute Shaabani, saying: “His judicial murder underscores two important trends in Iran: Violent repression of ethnic minorities, of which Shaabani’s execution is only one among many examples, remains government policy. And the government’s human rights record has not improved under President Rouhani. During the first two weeks of January, some 40 individuals were executed; Iran is believed to be second only to China in the number of executions.”

Shaabani was hanged in an unidentified prison on January 27. He had been incarcerated since February or March 2011 after being arrested for being a Mohareb, or an “enemy of God”. In 2012, he appeared on Iran’s state-run TV, where, according to human rights activist, he was forced to confess to being a “separatist terrorist.” Shaabani was reportedly subjected to torture while in prison.

Last year Iran executed 625 people, including 29 women and political prisoners, many political prisoners faced the charge of being an “enmity against God” or for somehow being a threat to “national security.”

According to Amnesty International Iran executed 40 people over a two week period in January and according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre (IHRDC) more than 300 people have been executed since President Rouhani, called by some a reformist, took office in August. The majority of the executions in January were for drug related charges, according to Amnesty.

Activists are concerned over the steep increase in executions that has been seen in Iran since Rouhani took office last year. (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

The Iranian government has defended its use of capital punishment, arguing the practice is necessary to maintaining order. The state maintains that it is used only when judicial proceedings have been exhausted. However activists have criticized the state for using Capital punishment as a means of suppressing political dissidence.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed and the UN’s expert addressing executions Christof Heyns urged Iran last month to stop the surge in executions that has been going on since the start of the year.

As the Iranian government celebrates 35 years since it came to power during the 1979 Iranian Revolution it is clear that the government remains willing to use “judicial murder” as a means of silencing the voices of those who question it.

For more information please see”

National Public Radio – Book News: Poet Hashem Shaabani Reportedly Executed In Iran – 11 February 2014

Al Jazeera – Iranian Poet Executed For ‘Waging War on God’ – 10 February 2014

The Jerusalem Post – Rouhani Orders Executions of Iranian-Arab Poet, Rights Activist – 03 February 2014

Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center – IRI Executes Two Ahwazi Arab Men – 31 January 2014

Al Jazeera – Iran Executes 40 in Two Weeks: Rights Group – 28 January 2014

North and South Korea Engage in ‘High-Level’ Talks

By Brian Lanciault
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea--North and South Korea have held their first “high-level talks” in almost seven years, in an apparent effort to improve strained relations at the suggestion of the North.

The talks, held Wednesday at a border village, came as South Korea and the United States prepared to engage in another round of military drills that have antagonized Pyongyang, Reuters reported.

The meeting was set up with unusual speed and great secrecy at the North’s suggestion last week. This is just the latest example of conflicting signals from Pyongyang, which abruptly cancelled an invitation for a US envoy to visit a few weeks ago.

Kim Jong-un, who requested the negotiations with the South, is believed to be using the talks as a jump-off for future plans to visit China. (Photo Courtesy Reuters)

The North is expected to repeat demands for the South and the United States to abandon their military drills. Both sides have numerous incentives to seek a deal that could break their long stalemate.

“For the North, if it comes back with an accomplishment in terms of improved South-North ties, it will mean a better atmosphere for Kim Jong-un to visit China and a justification to pursue high-level talks with the United States,” Cheong Seong-chang, an expert at the Sejong Institute outside Seoul, reported.

Kim is believed to be plotting a visit to China, Pyongyang’s largest ally and main benefactor, to reinforce his legitimacy as dictator in the eyes of a skeptical international community. Kim took power when his father died suddenly in 2010.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from the South Korean capital Seoul, said while the atmosphere surrounding negotiations appeared “calm,” any major announcement was unlikely to be brought out in the near future.

“We’re all a bit in the dark” as to the content of the discussions, correspondents said.

Seoul officials told the Associated Press that the meeting was requested by the North, which has launched a recent “charm offensive” after raising tensions last spring with threats to fire nuclear-tipped missiles at Seoul and Washington.

Pyongyang, which has repeatedly vowed to expand its nuclear arsenal and further develop nuclear technology, is trying to build nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the continental US. Most experts say the country has yet to master the technology needed to mobilize an atomic bomb via missile.

In addition to demanding a halt to the military drills, North Korea was expected to demand that South Korea agree to restart a lucrative joint tourism project and increase humanitarian aid efforts.

South Korea, meanwhile, was looking to discuss ways to ensure that planned reunions of families separated a half-century ago in the Korean War went smoothly, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

The South Korean delegation is led by President Park Geun-hye’s deputy national security adviser, while North Korea has sent its second-highest ranking official in the ruling Workers’ Party department, who is also in charge of maintaining ties with the South.

The meeting is the highest level in years between the Koreas, which held a series of similar meetings in 2007.

For further information, please see:

ABC–Koreas Hold Senior-Level Meeting at Border Village–11 Feburary 2014

BBC News–North and South Korea hold rare high-level talks–12 February 2014

Al Jazeera–Koreas hold rare talks to ease tensions–12 February 2014

CNN–North and South Korea to hold ‘high-level’ meeting–11 February 2014

Ex-Guatemalen Soldier Convicted for Failure to Disclosure Involvement in Massacre

by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA, United States –  Former Guatemalan special forces officer Jorge Sosa was sentenced Monday to 10 years in a federal prison for failing to disclose information in his immigration documents about his involvement in a massacre back in Guatemala. Sosa will also be stripped of his citizenship as part of the sentence.

Sosa, 55, is expected to be sent back to Guatemala after serving his ten year sentence. (photo courtesy of the LA Times)

Sosa was convicted of lying on his 2007 naturalization paperwork about his participation in the killing of at least 160 unarmed civilians in the village of Dos Erres in 1982.  The former second lieutenant was not tried for war crimes but instead found to have failed to disclose that he participated in the massacre.

Prosecutors said Sosa was able to become a citizen because he did not disclose his affiliation with the Kaibiles, an elite team of soldiers in the Guatemalan military.  During the trial, the prosecutors explained that Sosa’s unit was dispatched to Doe Erres to recover firearms but instead, at Sosa’s direction, his men raped and killed the villagers.  No weapons were ever recovered.

“These are the crimes the defendant lied about and didn’t disclose,” Judge Virginia Phillip said to the court. “The particular facts of what occurred on Dec. 7, 1982, at Dos Erres cannot be characterized in any other way than as crimes.”

Sosa is not the first to be prosecuted for his part in that massacre.  Several members of that unit have been prosecuted in Guatemala.

Sosa claimed innocence, saying he was not in the village during the massacre. His lawyer, Shashi Kewalramani, considered the sentence excessive and announced Sosa’s intention to appeal the conviction. Kewalramani added that the trial served as a forum to try Sosa for his alleged involvement in the massacre and not the charges at hand.

“Over our objections, the government made it a murder case, basically supplanted the Guatemalan court and decided to try that case up in the United States,” Kewalramani said.

For more information, please see:

Fox News – Ex-Guatemalan soldier linked to massacre is sentenced for lying on US citizenship forms – 11 February 2014

ABC News – Ex-Guatemalan Soldier Sentenced to 10 Years in US – 10 February 2014

LA Times – Ex-Guatemalan soldier linked to massacre gets 10-year sentence  – 10 February 2014

SF Gate – Ex-Guatemalan soldier sentenced to 10 years in US – 10 February 2014

USA Today – Ex-Guatemalan soldier sentenced to prison for lying – 10 February 2014

Rwandan Ex-Police Chief Acquitted of Genocide on Appeal

By: Danielle L. Gwozdz
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa

KIGALI, Rwanda – A Rwandan paramilitary police chief found guilty of genocide by a UN-backed war crimes tribunal has been acquitted on appeal.

Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days in 1994 (photo courtesy of AFP)

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted Gen. Augustin Ndindiliyimana in 2011 of genocide, murder and other serious violations of international law for his role in the 1994 Rwandan atrocities.

The former commander of a military reconnaissance battalion, Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, also was acquitted, along with Ndindiliyimana.

Ndindiliyimana was one of the highest ranking officers convicted of taking part in genocide. He was tried alongside Augustin Bizimungu, Rwanda’s former army chief of staff, who was sentenced in 2011 for 30 years. Bizimungu also appealed; however, the special court requested more information on his case.

The judgment said it took into account that Ndindiliyimana had “limited command over the gendarmerie after April 6, 1994 . . . and his opposition to the massacres in Rwanda.”

The BBC says Ndindiliyimana has been living in an International Criminal Tribunal safe house in the Tanzanian town since his release after he was sentenced nearly three years ago.

The appeals chamber said Tuesday that it reversed his conviction because the prosecution conceded that there was no evidence that supported his conviction.

“Consequently, Ndindiliyimana, who had been sentenced to time served by the trial chamber, was acquitted of all counts of indictment,” the court said in a statement.

Ndindiliyimana has been in custody for more than a decade.

Commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the genocide, in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in just 100 days, have already begun, even as efforts to find and punish those responsible go on.

Last week in Paris, a French court opened to genocide trial of a former Rwandan intelligence chief in the first prosecution there of former officials and others who fled Rwanda.

BBC states that Ndindiliyimana is unable to return to Rwanda and that no other country will take him.

Rwanda’s genocide was sparked by the death of former President Juvenal Habyarimana who was killed when his plane was shot down close to the capital, Kigali, on April 6, 1994.

Within hours of the attack, certain members of the government organized ethnic Hutu militias across the country to systematically kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The appeals chamber also found that the trial chamber committed errors of law and fact and concluded that Ndindiliyimana could not be held criminally responsible.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Rwanda’s Augustin Ndindiliyimana cleared of genocide – 11 February 2014
CitifmOnline – Rwanda’s Augustin Ndindiliyimana cleared of genocide – 11 February 2014
ICTJ – Rwanda’s Augustin Ndindiliyimana cleared of genocide – 11 February 2014
GhHeadlines – Rwanda’s Augustin Ndindiliyimana cleared of genocide – 12 February 2014
Nets247.com – Rwanda’s Augustin Ndindiliyimana cleared of genocide – 11 February 2014
UPI – Rwandan genocide court reverses charges – 11 February 2014
NY Times – U.N. Court, on Appeal, Acquits 2 Rwandans in 1994 Genocide – 11 February 2014
Africa Press Review –
Rwanda’s Augustin Ndindiliyimana cleared of genocide – 11 February 2014

 

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey Call For Emergency U.N. Meeting on Syria War Crimes

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RIYADH, Saudi Arabi – Saudia Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to deal with the growing evidence of Syrian war crimes. The request was made in a letter to the U.N. General Assembly dated February 7.

Civilians in Homs gather to evacuate the city during a three-day ceasefire agreement. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

 

“U.N. officials have been repeatedly expressing their frustration and disappointment at the lack of progress in addressing the grave humanitarian situation and growing body of evidence pointing to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the request said.

It also expressed frustration with the lack of implementation of U.N. sanctions required by “the Security Council presidential statement date Oct. 2, 2013,” which is “unacceptable.”

The request was sent directly to President of the U.N. General Assembly John Ashe. Ashe will reply to the request after consulting other U.N. members including the Security Council.

The letter also cited the Syrian parties inability to reach a long-term agreement during the first round of peace talks in Geneva.

“Although the parties agreed to reconvene in Geneva on Feb. 10 of 2014 for the second round of talks, the inability to reach an agreement in the first round to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people is an urgent issue of serious concern for the international community.”

The Syrian delegation arrived in Switzerland on Sunday ahead of this week’s peace talks. The request for an emergency meeting may increase pressure on both sides to reach an agreement.

On February 7, the Syria government and opposition agreed to a three-day ceasefire in Homs to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged city. Reportedly, 600 residents, including elderly men, women and children, were placed on buses and removed from the combat zone. Syria’s Red Crescent delivered food and medical aid to the areas of the city under rebel control.

However, the cease fire agreement has been broken several times. Eleven people were killed during operations conducted by the U.N. and Syria’s Red Crescent. The emergency vehicles also had difficulty entering and traveling throughout the city. Despite the violence, the cease was extended for another three days on Monday.

For further information, please see:

Inquisitr – Saudi Arabia Calls Emergency UN Meeting On Syrian War Crimes – 10 February 2014

CNN – Cease-fire in Syrian city of Homs extended for another three days: U.N.  – 10 February 2014

Kuwait News Agency – S. Arabia, Qatar, Turkey ask GA President to convene urgent meeting on Syria – 10 February 2014

Al Aribiya – Saudi Arabia calls for urgent U.N. meeting on Syria – 9 February 2014

Guatemalan Court Upholds Top Prosecutor’s Ouster

By Brandon R. Cottrell 
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America 

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – The Guatemalan Supreme Court has upheld its ruling that Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz must step down in May, which is seven months prior to her term’s natural expiration.

Guatemala’s Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz was recently ousted (Photo Courtesy AP).

U.S. Ambassador Arnold Chacon, in a statement this week described Paz as “an example of an honest, capable public servant of integrity.”  Paz y Paz, since taking office in May 2010, has put four civil war era generals and organized crime suspects on the stand to face charges of crimes against humanity and for genocide.  Prior to her appointment, these cases had been at a stand still for decades.  As of now, however, only one of those cases has been brought to trial.

Additionally, Paz y Paz has moved for international training of prosecutors, so that the prosecutors will “carry out more scientific prosecutions.”  This movement has resulted in the successful prosecution of several high profile cases.

The prosecution of General Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled from 1982 to 1983, is perhaps Paz y Paz’s highest profile case.  That case resulted in an eighty-year sentence for Montt, who knew about the slaughter of nearly two thousand Mayans during the Civil War.  That sentence, however, was annulled on appeal.

The annulment of Montt’s sentence is seen by many as a sign of the lingering influence of the military and its backers.  This is only further verified when considering that Ricardo Sgastume, the lawyer who brought the constitutional challenge to out Paz y Paz is a member of the National Convergence Front Party, which was founded by former military officials.

Jorge Santos, a member of the Convergence for Human Rights, has criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling saying that they (the Convergence for Human Rights) “believe the court’s decision doesn’t do anything to defend the Constitution and instead works in favor of vested interests that want to maintain impunity.”

In a statement, Paz y Paz did not comment as to whether or not she thought her ouster was motived by political reasons.  She did say, however, that “the magistrates have to interpret laws according to their values and criteria and according to what the Constitution says and they can’t act based on other types of influences.”

A commission has since been formed to find Paz y Paz’s replacement.  The commission was formed after 94 of 158 lawmakers voted in favor of replacing Paz.

 

For further information, please see:

ABC News – Guatemala Begins Process To Replace Top Prosecutor – 10 Feb. 14

AP – Guatemalan Court Upholds Top Prosecutor’s Ouster – 8 Feb. 14 

Washington Post – Guatemalan Court Upholds Top Prosecutor’s Ouster – 8 Feb. 14