Experts Believe Hannibal Directive may have led to War Crimes in Gaza

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor, Impunity Watch

JERUSALEM, Israel/Palestine – Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in Gaza during, which approximately 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis lost their lives over the course 50-days, drew commendation from members of the international community. Among the most highly criticized operations that took place during the conflict was an Israeli air and artillery bombardment carried out on August 1st that killed 150 people in a matter of hours, the events of which unfolded just as a three-day ceasefire was supposed to enter into effect. Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel inside the Gaza Strip and ambushed three Israeli solders, killing two and taking the third hostage. Hamas representatives claimed the ambush was carried out before the ceasefire was scheduled to take effect while the Israeli military claims it was carried out after. Israeli reacted to the ambush and kidnapping of an Israel solder by invoking the controversial Hannibal Directive.

Palestinians stand on what witnesses say was a house destroyed by an Israeli air strike carried out in Rafah, a city of 200,000 in southern Gaza, in this August 2, 2014 file photo. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The Hannibal Directive is a protocol that calls on Israeli Defense Forces to rescue a captured solider, dead or alive, to ensure that Hamas cannot use the soldier as a hostage. The Israeli Army allegedly invoked the Hannibal directive as an order compelling units to do everything they can to recover an abducted comrade.

The order led to a furious assault on a confined area on the eastern edge of Rafah, the largest city in southern Gaza. The city is home to around 200,000 people. Israeli artillery and tanks bombarded four neighborhoods for several hours – at times firing a shell a minute. Fighter jets also carried out air strikes in the area. Medics in Gaza say around 200 people were wounded, the majority of whom were civilians. 150 people were killed during the bombardments making August 1st the deadliest day of the seven week conflict. Some legal experts say the use of the Hannibal Directive in this matter, which called on the Israeli military to use any means necessary, including the targeting of areas heavily inhabited by civilians, may have constituted a war crime.

The Israel Defense Forces have not clearly defined the Hannibal Directive. The Hannibal directive was first drafted in 1986 after three soldiers from the Givati Brigade were captured in Lebanon. Their saw the vehicle getting away and did not open fire on the captors. Israel has in the past paid a heavy political price for kidnapped soldiers. In 2006, Gilad Shalit was seized near Gaza and spent five years in Hamas captivity. He was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Critics say the Hannibal directive throws international humanitarian law out of the window in the interests of preventing a hostage situation, not only are civilians in the conflict thrown in the crossfire but the directive itself also suggests that the goal of the Israeli military should be to prevent hostage situations at all costs, even concluding that it is better to have a dead soldier than a captured one.

In the weeks since August 1st, civil rights activists, international legal experts and even some Israeli military officers have raised concerns about the legality and morality of the assault. One specific reservation is whether the attack was proportionate and discriminate, specifically whether the abduction of a single soldier could have justified a heavy and relentless use of force in a heavily populated area.

A panel set up by the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission is due to start investigating potential abuses in the war by both sides in the near future, with the August 1st incident in Rafah set as one of several incidents investigators have indicated they will examine. The head of the U.N. Human Rights Commission panel investigating the Gaza war has said any evidence it gathers could be used by the International Criminal Court in a potential war crimes case against Israel. The panel’s final report is due by March next year.

For more information please see:

Al Arabiya – Egyptian foreign policy stages comeback after Gaza summit – 13 October 2014
Reuters – Did Israel’s ‘Hannibal directive’ lead to a war crime in Gaza? – 13 October 2014
BBC News – Palestinian leader accuses Israel of ‘genocide’ at UN – 26 September 2014
The Times of Israel – IDF disputes death toll after Rafah kidnap attempt – 22 September 2014

Appeals Court To Hear Claim for Secrecy Demands for Telecom Records

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America – On 8 October 2014, the United States Court of Appeals addressed a lawsuit challenging the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ability to force Internet and telecommunications firms to produce customer records without revealing the reasoning behind the governments demand.

At the hearing, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit considered the First Amendment as it relates to national security matters. A lower court in San Francisco, previously reviewed the question of whether recipients of national security letters can discuss their nature under the First Amendment. The lower court held that such gag orders by the government were unconstitutional.

The government contends that secrecy is vital to the national security of the United States, because cases dealing with such could have the potential effect of endangering an individual’s physical safety. Additionally, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Douglas Letter, stated that the FBI does not have the appropriate resources to review every case, which may have a national security interest to determine whether or not secrecy is warranted. Requiring such strict review would render the agency unable to function.

The plaintiff in the case before the 9th Circuit, claimed that the FBI’s gag order surrounding national security letters represents an “unprecedented grant of authority” and violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. Other tech companies have also filed suit against the government regarding how much information the companies can disclose about government surveillance. The companies include: Google Inc., Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc., and Twitter Inc.

Judge Sandra Ikuta, who sat on the 9th circuit panel, states that the law may not violate the Frist Amendment right to free speech because the government only sought secrecy for information that impacts national security, it does not prohibit speech about information someone received independently.

 

 

For more information, please see the following:

BUSINESS INSIDER – U.S. Court To Hear Appeal Over Keeping U.S. Demands For Telecom Records Secret – 8 Oct. 2014.

REUTERS – Update 1 – Appeals Court Wrestles With Secret U.S. Demands For Telecom Records – 8 Oct. 2014.

REUTERS – U.S. Court To Hear Appeal Over Keeping U.S. Demands For Telecom Records Secret – 8 Oct. 2014.

YAHOO NEWS – Appeals Court Wrestles With Secret U.S. Demands For Telecom Records – 8 Oct. 2014.

 

 

British man returns home after being jailed in Morocco for sexual orientation

MARRAKESH, Morocco

Ray Cole, and 70 year old British citizen, was jailed in Morocco for “homosexual acts.” Cole travelled to Morocco for a vacation with a Moroccan man, Jamal Jam Wald Nass, with whom he had developed an online relationship with in the preceding months. The two had explored Morocco; Cole had frequently updated his Facebook with pictures of the sites and cities he visited with his partner. On September 18th, the two men were arrested at a bus stop in Marrakesh, after a police officer had approached the men for suspected homosexuality. After being brought to the police station, Cole and Nass were jailed for being gay.

Ray-Cole-gay-homosexual-equal-rights-519786

Ray Cole- Photo courtesy of Express UK

Cole reveals that the conditions in the jail were horrible. He was forced to sleep on the ground, due to over-crowding, with little more than a blanket. Everything else, including his glasses, were taken away. Cole, who was jailed for nothing more than his sexual orientation, was held with men who had committed serious crimes, including murder. The British consulate worked actively to get Cole home to his family, and on October 2nd, he finally boarded a flight back to the United Kingdom.

 

While Cole returned home to a country that allows citizens to exercise their freedom of sexuality, this episode underlines a serious cultural barrier for homosexuals in Muslim countries—homosexuality is criminalized. As a result, gay and lesbian individuals are forced to keep their identity an absolute secret, or deal with the ramifications of being gay in a Muslim country, which can include prison, stoning, and death. Furthermore, as briefly touched upon, the crime of homosexuality puts offenders in the same category as some of the worst criminals, including murderers. How can these two crimes be reconciled as equally egregious?

 

Film maker Abdellah Taïa uses his work to explore the pain, challenges, and heartache of being gay in Morocco, documenting how a mob had yelled outside of his home about raping him, and not a single member of his family defended him. This sense of abandonment is not uncommon for homosexuals in Morocco and other Muslim countries. Taïa urges that something must change legally and culturally in these countries, as the criminalization of homosexuality is not sustainable.

 

So while Ray Cole returned home to Britain after the ordeal of being jailed for homosexuality, many are still relegated to silence in order to preserve their freedom and lives. While homosexuality remains a crime in Morocco, people that identify as homosexuals will not be able to live without the threat of violence. Will the attention brought to the situation in Morocco by Cole’s experience benefit the homosexual community in this Muslim country?

 

For more information, please visit:

The Guardian- British man jailed for four months for ‘being gay’– Oct 5, 2014

The Guardian- Morocco releases British tourist jailed for ‘homosexual acts’– Oct 7 2014

The Guardian- Moroccan partner jailed with Briton for ‘homosexual acts’ freed– Oct 9, 2014

The Guardian- Abdellah Taia: In Arab countries, homosexuality is a crime. This has to change– Oct 3, 2014

Pakistani Activist Becomes Youngest Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor, Impunity Watch

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, a fierce advocate for girl’s education in Pakistan and around the world. At 17 years old Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Pakistan’s first Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Malala first came to attention in 2009 when she wrote an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu about life under Taliban rule in north-west Pakistan. Two years ago she was shot by Taliban gunmen for her advocacy while she was boarding her school bus in the Swat Valley.After recovering from life-saving surgery, she has taken her campaign for the right to education for all peoples, regardless of gender, to the international stage, giving a speech last year at the United Nations. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated Malala Yousafzai, calling her the Pride of Pakistan. “Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment,” he said in a statement.

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have been recognized by the Nobel Committee for their advocacy for the rights of children including the right to education and the right to live free of exploitation (Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

Young students in Malala’s home region were thrilled with Friday’s announcement “There are not many people in this world — in fact, no one — who is as brave as Malala,” said Badrai Khan, 19, a college student from Swat, Malala’s home region. “This award is an achievement for all girl students of Pakistan.” Khan said”Tomorrow, when I go to school, I’ll be a different, more confident girl, thanks to Malala and this recognition.”

Malala Yousafzai learned that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while she was in chemistry class in England on Friday morning, she said. She wasn’t expecting to get the award. “I’m proud that I’m the first Pakistani and the first young woman or the first young person getting this award.” Malala has stated that she is happy to have been given the opportunity to go to school, thanking her father for not clipping her wings and allowing her to have the same opportunities as boys in her community.

The Nobel Peace Prize was also awarded to India’s Kailash Satyarthi. Both Nobel Laureates were cited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” According to the Nobel Committee, Satyarthi has been known to participate in peaceful protests and demonstrations calling for an end to child exploitation. At the age of 26 he gave up a career in electrical engineering to devote his life to advocating for children, even raiding factories where child workers were held captive. In 1994 Satyarthi started a program called “Rugmark,” now known as GoodWeave International, in which rugs are certified and labeled to be child-labor free. Satyarthi started the program because of the high level of child exportation in the rug industry, children have been historically expatiated in several countries around the world where rugs are woven.

In 2004 Satyarthi said his home and office have been attacked, but he said the danger is worth it. “If I was not fighting against child labor, I don’t know what else I could do. It was always in my heart, I could not live without that,” he said at the time. “It’s really a kind of spiritual feeling which is difficult to explain,” Satyarthi said. “And the smiles come on the face of the children when they realize that they are free.”

The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee commented on the theme of child rights that is the focus of the work of this year’s Nobel laureates, both from historically divided region. He explained that “children must go to school, not be financially exploited.”

For more information please see:

ABC News – 5 Things to Know About Nobel Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi – 10 October 2014
BBC News – Malala and Kailash Satyarthi Win Nobel Peace Prize – 10 October 2014
CNN International – Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi Share Nobel Peace Prize – 10 October 2014
USA Today – Malala’s Nobel Is ‘For All Girl Students Of Pakistan’ – 10 October 2010

Seven Arrested for the Murder of Suspected Witches

By: Danielle L. Cowan (Gwozdz)
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Operator, Africa

DODOMA, Tanzania – Police in Tanzania have arrested and charged twenty-three people for killing seven people for alleged “witchcraft.”

The tortured and burned body of a young woman (photo courtesy of AFP)

Villagers burned the victims alive.

“They were attacked and burnt to death by a mob of villagers who accused them of engaging in witchcraft,” the western Kigoma region police chief said.

“Five of those killed were aged over 60, while the other two were aged over 40,” he added.

Among those killed was the local traditional doctor, or called the “witch doctor.”

Relatives of those killed described the horrific scenes of their family member who had been killed. These images described members hacked with machetes or burned almost beyond recognition.

“When I returned home in the evening, I found the body of my mother lying 10 meters away from our house, while the body of my father was burnt inside the house,” Josephat John told one newspaper.

A Tanzanian human rights group has estimated that about 500 “suspected witches” are killed in Tanzania annually.

BBC has stated reports between 2005-2011 claim more than 3,000 people have been killed after being accused of witchcraft.

One of the villagers detained for the murder is the village local leader.

The village is now empty. The leader of the Murufiti village told the BBC that “[m]en and women have run away from the village. Even child are not there. . . . Everyone was scared of the event, and others feared police search.”

Among the targeted villagers, it has been claimed that villagers with albinism (“albino”) have been targeted because it is believed that their body parts used for charms can bring good fortune and prosperity.

For more information, please visit:
BBC News – Tanzania arrests 23 over killing of seven ‘witches’ – 10 October 2014
Mail & Guardian – Seven accused of witchcraft burned alive in Tanzania – 10 October 2014
The Frontier Post – Seven witchcraft suspects burned to death in Tanzania – 10 October 2014
iAfrica – Seven burnt for witchcraft – 10 October 2014
news24 – 7 witchcraft suspects burned to death in Tanzania – 10 October 2014

Goldcorp Halted in Its Developmental Tracks by Chile Supreme Court

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s Supreme Court suspended the development of the El Morro mine owned by Canada’s Goldcorp on Tuesday.  The Court sided with indigenous groups that oppose the mine because of its potential environmental impact.

The Diaguita community filed a request to cease mining, arguing that the mine could cause pollution in a local river.

El Morro mine | Photo courtesy of newgold.com

The top court ordered the project’s environmental permit be withdrawn until the Diaguita indigenous community is consulted about the $3.9 billion gold and copper mine. In doing so, it overturned a lower court decision dismissing an appeal the Diaguita filed in April.

“The Diaguita people are happy that justice is on the side of the humble, of those who defend Mother Earth, our water resources and our indigenous land,” Diaguita leader Maglene Campillay said after the ruling.

Goldcorp, based in Vancouver, owns 70 percent of the mine, while New Gold Inc. owns the remaining 30 percent.  Currently Goldcorp is trying to determine its next step.

“It may put us back a bit from a time standpoint. But we need… to get that deposit to the point where it’s ready to build anyway,” Jeannes said.

“If we have to go back to … permitting at the very beginning, it could take another two to three years before we’re even allowed to start,” he said.

The company’s five-year plan does not include any production from El Morro.

Goldcorp, the world’s largest gold miner by market value, expects gold prices to increase steadily after next year, when it says its output will peak, but Jeannes said he expected prices to stay roughly between $1,150 and $1,400 through 2015.

Spot gold rose to $1,227.40 an ounce early on Thursday, before paring some gains to trade up 0.3 percent at $1,225.64 by 0708 GMT.

“Goldcorp remains committed to open and transparent dialogue with its stakeholders and to responsible practices in accordance with the highest applicable health, safety and environmental standards,” Marks said.

Chile’s economy widely relies on the mining industry.  Chile is the top copper producer in the world.  The country boasts some of Latin America’s most stable ground rules for mining.  However, mining and energy projects have been delayed  as environmentalists and indigenous communities go to court demanding tougher protections for nearby populations and natural resources.

The mine is expected to be worth USD $4 billion.

The Diaguita stresses that local communities were never consulted on the El Morrow mine.  Goldcorp has ceased construction on the mine twice before in 2012 and 2013.  

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Chilean Supreme Court Orders Halt to Mine – 7 Oct. 2014

ABC News – Chile’s Top Court Halts Goldcorp’s El Morro Mine – 7 Oct. 2014

Jurist – Chile Top Court Halts Mining Development for Consultation – 8 Oct. 2014

Reuters – Goldcorp Looks to Cut Costs on Delayed El Morro Project in Chile -CEO – 9 Oct. 2014

Mass Graves Unearthed in Poland Reveal More About Dark Past

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – A mass grave has been unearthed in Bialystok, Poland. The grave was unearthed near the site of the Bialystok Detention Center, an active prison today currently holding 680 prisoners. More than 280 bodies have already been dug up behind the prison, but more have been found on former prison property behind what is now an apartment complex.

 

Priests and rabbis take part in prayer at the site of a mass grave at Wasosz, Poland. (Photo courtesy of NBC)

According to Zbigniew Kulikowski, the prosecutor in charge of the case, the mass graves were not burial grounds; they were “death fields.” The dead are likely victims of the Soviets, Nazis, and Polish security forces.

First, Soviets swept into Poland in September 1939, when over 100 people went missing. Next, from 1941 to 1944, Nazis killed about 6,000 around Bialystok. Finally, in the 1950’s and until 1956 when there was a shift in Soviet policy, Polish security forces were killing Poles. All three of these eras included holding prisoners, often to be killed, at the Bialystok Detention Center, which was created back in 1912 by the Russian czar.

Andrzej Ossowski, the team’s geneticist, says the team has made 40 identifications, including identifications from other sites. Marcin Zwolski, a historian for Poland’s Institute of National Rememberance, and who discovered the site, tries to find any identifying characteristics before bringing samples to Ossowski. Zwolski says that the sites are difficult to discover because the responsible parties “didn’t want anyone giving respect to the dead people.”

Other similar sites have been discovered elsewhere in Poland. The small town of Wasosz suffered a tragedy in 1941 when around 250 Jews were killed and buried in a pit outside town. While some want to dig up the site and examine the evidence, Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich says exhuming the bodies would violate Jewish law regarding respect for the dignity of the dead.

The site in Bialystok has suffered similar resistance. Maciej Bialous, a sociologist at the University of Bialystok, says that “people don’t talk about it … Some people don’t know about it, others don’t care and a lot of people just want to forget it.” Zwolski confirmed: “Some people still feel it is still safer not to talk about such matters.” Zwolski even reports that his team received anonymous threats and had bricks thrown through windows.

The sheer age of these cases and the nature of the circumstances at the time of these crimes make it very difficult to collect evidence. The lack of interest by some, tied with the strong disapproval of the investigation by others, is getting in the way of bringing closure to families that have suffered over decades. Despite these difficulties, the continued work of Zwolski, Kulikowski, Ossowski, and others on the team will continue to unveil more bodies and identify more victims from the atrocities that happened decades ago.

For more information, please see:

Newser – Polish Dig Unearths Decades of Killings – 6 October 2014

The New York Times – Unearthing a Barbarous Past in Poland – 5 October 2014

NBC – Wasosz Pogrom Mass Murder Investigation Sharply Divides Jewish Leaders – 5 October 2014

 

U.N. Report Reveals 331 Killed by Fighting in Ukraine Since “Cease-Fire” Began

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – A United Nations report has come out that has revealed the toll of fighting in Ukraine, particularly since the cease-fire. According to the United Nations’ human rights office in Geneva, at least 331 people have been killed since the cease-fire was announced on September 5.

The air traffic control tower at Sergei Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk reveals the extent of fighting that has occurred since the cease-fire began on September 5. (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)

Despite the cease-fire, around 10 people have been killed each day in fights between Kiev and pro-Russians. Fighting has been particularly focused over the past month in Luhansk and Donetsk. In Donetsk, pro-Russians and Ukrainian military have been fighting daily over the control of a large airport, and nearby towns have been the targets of military shelling.

All-in-all, at least 3,660 people have been killed, and more than 8,756 have been injured, according to Gianni Magazzeni, a senior United Nations human rights official in Geneva. While the cease-fire has led to a sharp decline in fighting, what fighting has continued is enough to cause concern that the cease-fire will not hold.

NATO has shown a particular concern over the continued fighting. The new head of NATO, former Prime Minister of Norway and now secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, has said that Russia must use “all of its influence” to ensure that pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine respect the cease-fire, as well as Kiev.

In addition to NATO, Germany has come to Ukraine’s aid in order to help ensure the cease-fire holds. After passing customs in Poland, 112 trucks from Germany carrying humanitarian aid, over $12 million in supplies, have arrived in Ukraine. While Kiev did not want to let in earlier Russian trucks that Russia claimed contained humanitarian aid, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for this aid.

Further, German Foreign Office spokesman, Martin Schaefer, has said that “a joint Franco-German effort” will be coming in the next “hours or days”. France and Germany are also debating putting drones into Ukraine to help monitor the cease-fire. Already, two drones from Austria have been deployed into Ukraine. The hopes are that this increased monitoring, run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (“OSCE”), the same group responsible for the cease-fire, will assist in addressing the current problems in order to strengthen the cease-fire.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – At Least 331 Have Died in Ukraine Since Start of Cease-Fire, U.N. Reports – 8 October 2014

Reuters – Death rate 10 a day in east Ukraine despite ceasefire: U.N. – 8 October 2014

RT – 112 trucks carrying German humanitarian aid enter Ukraine (VIDEO) – 8 October 2014

EurActive – Germany to send troops to Ukraine – 7 October 2014

The Wall Street Journal – Drones Arrive in Ukraine for Monitoring Mission – 6 October 2014

Voice of America – NATO Concerned Over E. Ukraine Cease-fire Violations – 6 October 2014

 

Lebanese Municipalities Establish Curfews for Syrian Refugees

By Max Bartels

Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

 

Beirut, Lebanon 

Since the start of the conflict in Syria, many refugees fleeing the fighting have settled in refugee camps across Lebanon. It is now reported that there are some 1.2 million registered Syrian Refugees scattered across Lebanon. There are a reported 45 municipalities across Lebanon who have imposed curfews on these refugees. Some of these curfews have been in place for about a year, many other were recently created. The municipalities in Lebanon, who have adopted these curfews claim that they are a safety measure created in response to the five-day battle that took place in Arsal between the Lebanese Army and jihadist militants from Syria. Arsal is a town on the border of Lebanon and Syria, for five days in August the Lebanese Army fought jihadist militants, over the course of the fighting the Lebanese army suffered many casualties and the militants also abducted many of its personnel.

Syrian Refugees Protest in their camps in Arsal, Lebanon. (Photo Curtesy of The Daily Star)

Human rights groups have condemned these new curfews as a violation of international law and Lebanese domestic law. The Syrian refugees claim that these curfews are discriminatory and create a hostile environment. The curfews are officially enforced by municipal police forces however, there are reports that vigilante groups have been formed in many of these municipalities and are also enforcing the curfews. This development has created many concerns and increases the possibility of abuse.

The BBC has reported on a number of individual instances where the curfews that been abusive. One man was prevented from going to the pharmacy next to his house in the night to get medicine for his ill child. Another situation was reported where a group of Lebanese men stabbed a Syrian refugee, saying he was not able to go out. These stories show the hostility and tension is growing between the refugees and native Lebanese. When asked by Human Rights Watch to produce evidence to show that the curfews are necessary the Lebanese government did not respond.

It seems that the recent trend to restrict the rights of the refugees is continuing with other security polices. The government has also increased the number of troops at the border and are allowing less and less Syrian refugees into the country; for fear that they may be militants. There have also been an increase of military personnel on the streets and they have been searching amongst refugees for militant group members. With this trend there is a fear among human rights groups that there could be retaliatory actions from the refugees.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch — Lebanon: At Least 45 Local Curfews Imposed on Syrian Refugees — 3 October 2014

Reuters — Curfews on Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Fuel Hostility: Rights Groups — 3 October 2014

BBC News — Lebanon”Imposes Curfews on Syrian Refugees — 3 October 2014

The Daily Star — Lebanon’s Curfew for Syrian Refugees Feeds Hostility: HRW — 3 October 2014

Dictator, Torturer, Kidnapper and Murderer Bignone Sentenced to Additional 23 Years

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina– The last military president in Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship received another prison sentence on Tuesday, this time for the kidnapping and torture of 32 factory workers.

Reynaldo Bignone being escorted by a police officer. Photo courtesy of diaadia.com

A court in Buenos Aires sentenced Reynaldo Bignone to 23 years in prison for the human rights violations. The workers were forcibly disappeared by the military during the so-called Dirty War against leftist dissidents and other opponents.

The 86-year-old Bignone is already serving combined life sentences in more than two dozen cases involving crimes against humanity.

Bignone, was convicted in 56 cases involving torture, illegal detentions and other crimes in one of Argentina’s largest torture centers, the Campo de Mayo army base.  Supposedly 4,000 dissidents were taken to the base and only 50 came out alive.

The same base also had a maternity center where dissidents would give birth.   Their babies were taken away by an official and adopted into a military family.  Nearly 400 infants were kidnapped after birth before their mothers were tortured to death.  About 102 people born to vanished dissidents have since recovered their true identities with the aid of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a leading human rights group, which helped create a national database of DNA evidence to match children with their birth families.

Bignone, was appointed president by the military junta in the final years of the dictatorship and it fell to him to protect the military as Argentina returned to democracy. He granted amnesty to human rights violators and ordered the destruction of documents related to torture and disappearances of political opponents before agreeing to transfer power to the democratically elected Raul Alfonsin.

He has denied responsibility for the crimes in past court proceedings.

“In times of peace the disappearance of a single person means one thing and in times of war it means something else,” said Bignone.

The Buenos Aires court also sentenced former Gen. Santiago Omar to life in prison for his role in dozens of illegal raids, kidnappings, torture and the killing of three people.

According to human rights groups about 30,000 people died or disappeared in Argentina’s brutal dictatorship.

For more information, please see:

Charlotte Observer.com – Another Sentence for Argentine Ex-Dictator – 7 Oct. 2014

BND.com – Another Sentence for Argentine Ex-Dictator – 7 Oct. 2014

ABC News – Another Sentence for Argentine Ex-Dictator – 7 Oct. 2014

Star Tribune – Court Sentences Former Dictator Reynaldo Bignone to 23 Years in prison – 7 Oct. 2014

Huffington Post – Argentine Dictators Go On Trial For Baby Thefts – 1 March 2011

International Center for Transitional Justic: In Focus

War Crimes Prosecution Watch Volume 9 – Issue 14 October 06, 2014

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. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.

Contents

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Central African Republic & Uganda

Darfur, Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kenya

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

AFRICA

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Mali

EUROPE

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

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA

United States

  • Washington Post: U.S. General on Training Syrian Rebels: ‘We Have to Do It Right, Not Fast’
  • Washington Post: Islamic State Militants Switching Up Tactics After Airstrikes, General Says
  • Reuters: Prosecutors Call Karadzic ‘Driving Force’ Behind Bosnian Genocide
  • New York Times: Mending Alliance, U.S. and Afghanistan Sign Long-Term Security Agreement
  • Bloomberg: Al-Qaeda Spokesman’s U.S. Plea Deal Approved by Judge
  • Washington Post: White House: Israel Faces Estrangement from Allies If Settlement Building Proceeds

South & Central America

Colombia

  • Colombia Reports: Partial Colombia Peace Deals Release to Avert ‘Opposition Rumors’

Ecuador

  • Efe: 60 Convicted for Role in 2010 Uprising in Ecuador

Guatemala

  • Associated Press: Guatemala Ex-Police on Trial in 1980 Embassy Fire

Mexico

  • Los Angeles Times: CMass-killing Prosecution Will Test Mexican President Peña Nieto

TOPICS

Piracy

  • The Maritime Executive: Fight Piracy Intelligently
  • CNBC: The Link Between Illegal Fishing and Piracy
  • Bakken: Black Gold Buccaneers: Is Nigeria’s Failing Amnesty Causing Rise in Oil Piracy?
  • The Indian Republic: India Lacks Clear, Unambiguous Mechanism for Prosecution of Pirates: Ranjit Sinha
  • BBC World News: Somali Pirates in Deadly Clashes Over Ransom

Gender-Based Violence

  • International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics: Prosecutor: FGM Getting Riskier in Kenya
  • International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics: UK Opens First FGM Clinic
  • International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics: Iraqi Kurdistan ‘Against FGM’
  • All Africa: Rwanda: Prosecution. Experts Discuss Handling GBV Evidence in Courts

REPORTS

UN Reports

  • Scoop World Independent News: Tamils to Rally against Sri Lankan President
  • McClatchy DC: Israeli Probes into Possible Gaza War Crimes Draw Criticism
  • The National: In War-Crime Trials, the Issue of Jurisdiction is Paramount
  • Sahara Reports: Nigerian Anti-Corruption Coalition Wants Modu Sheriff And General Ihejirika To Face International Criminal Court For Sponsoring Boko Haram
  • UN News Centre: International Criminal Court Opens Second Probe into Central African Republic Violence
  • Reuters: Sri Lanka President Uses U.N. Speech to Assail War Crimes Probe
  • GlobalPost: U.N. Body Demands to Probe War Crimes in Nepal
  • U-T San Diego: UN Rights Body to Share Syria War Crimes Evidence
  • TASS Russian News Agency: Joint Probe by UN, CE, OSCE into War Crimes in Donetsk Urged by Russia’s Civic Chamber
  • Firstpost: Twenty-Two Countries Back Sri Lanka against UN Probe into War Crimes

NGO Reports

  • Amnesty International: China’s Trade in Tools of Torture and Repression

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS

Sri Lanka

Brazil

Nepal

 

Hong Kong Protest Ebbs and Turns into Stalemate

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HONG KONG, China – Monday morning was the deadline that Hong Kong authorities gave to the pro-democracy protesters to clear streets. The number of protesters has dwindled down to a few hundred, and they allowed government workers back to return to their offices after a weeklong occupation of the streets. The workers went to the government complex through a small path that student protesters created.

Even though the protesters have not fully accepted the city’s request to disperse, as they let the government officials back in the building, the police force is trying not to provoke the protesters by keeping a distance.

The situation in Hong Kong seems to be turning into a stalemate. The student leaders of the protesters have different opinions about whether or not they will continue the protest. However, it appears that they at least agreed to strategically arrange the group, allowing the civil servants to enter the government buildings.

Some protesters have remained on the streets, defying the deadline. These protesters have said that they will not disperse unless the government makes a meaningful change and accepts their demands: promoting democracy in Hong Kong.

 

A protester sleeping in front of barricades (Getty Images)

Schools in Hong Kong also re-opened on Monday. They had been closed since September 29, but students and teachers have resumed their work and study. Interestingly, elementary schools decided to remain closed for safety reasons. During the protest week, 30 to 40 bank branches in Hong Kong had closed, but now the number has been reduced to about seven.

According to the protest organizers, there was a conversation between the protest leaders and the government representatives on Sunday, but they failed to reach an agreement. They decided to continue their talks on Monday hoping to have a conversation with mutual respect.A protester sleeping in front of barricades (Getty Images)

Lester Shum, the Deputy Secretary General for the Students’ Federation, said that the dialogue must be ongoing and the student leaders must be treated equally. He added that actual political reforms in Hong Kong must be derived from the conversation. Those are the conditions for continuing to talk with the government.

The main requests of the protesters are resignation of current Hong Kong Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, and a democratic election to be held in 2017. Previously, Beijing announced it would appoint only pro-Beijing candidates for the election. Beijing worried about spreading the demand of democracy over to Mainland China since it is also facing similar issues in Tibet and Xinjiang. The Chinese government declared the protest in Hong Kong illegal, but left resolution of the issue to the discretion of the Hong Kong government.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post – As authorities’ deadline passes, Hong Kong protest turns into stalemate – 5 October 2014

Reuters – WRAPUP 3-Hong Kong democracy protests fade, face test of stamina – 6 October 2014

The Washington Post – Hong Kong protests appear to be headed into a smaller but durable holding pattern – 6 October 2014

The Guardian – Hong Kong protest numbers dwindle as exhaustion sets in – 6 October 2014

Amidst Drug Trafficking Investigation Peruvian Governors Re-Elected

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru — The unofficial count of election ballots from Peru Monday evening shows at least two gubernatorial candidates under investigation for drug trafficking related crimes have won their elections.  An additional two face run-offs, after a nationwide vote for mayors, governors and municipal councils.  While many on the outside are shocked at the outcome, others are not.

Peruvian man votes. From livinginperu.com

Hundreds of candidates suspected of ties to drug trafficking were on the ballot Sunday in what authorities called the Andean nation’s most violent campaign since 2000.

The Ipsos Apoyo polling firm compiled unofficial results of the election.  According to their tally the winners included Manuel Gambini, a former coca grower in the Amazon state of Ucayali.  Gambini is known for promoting the planting of Cocoa beans and other alternative crops, in place of the crop that produces cocaine.  A clean image that earned him praise from the U.S. and a trip to Miami to showcase his efforts.

However, this past August a judicial order launched an investigation of Gambini, detailing that he amassed a fortune and extensive land holdings, which would have been unlikely funded by his salary as mayor.  Gambini vehemently denies the allegations saying they are lies pitted against him by his competitors.

Also victorious was Gilmer Horna in the northern state of Amazonas.  The owner of a chain of chicken restaurants, he is under investigation for possible money laundering.

One of every three Peruvian voters lives in a region where candidates were investigation, on trial or previously convicted of drug-related crimes. Peru’s state attorney for drug enforcement, Sona Medina, said her office had identified 700 such candidates.

Electoral authorities reported more than 100 incidents of election-day violence, including the destruction of ballot boxes, temporary seizures of polling stations, threats to elections officials and destruction of vehicles.

“We haven’t had situations of this magnitude in Peru for some time,” said Gerardo Tavara, secretary general of the citizen watchdog group Transparencia.  “Hit men are being hired to assassinate candidates” he said.

Two mayoral candidates were slain in gangland-style killings during the campaign, both in cocaine-trafficking corridors, and on Friday, two police officers were shot and killed in an ambush blamed on drug-funded rebels in the Apurimac and Ene river valley, the world’s top cocaine-producing region.

Peruvian law allows convicted criminals to run for office as long as they have been rehabilitated by court order. More than 1,300 candidates convicted of crimes — including rape and graft — were on Sunday’s ballot, and two governors jailed under preventative detention pending possible corruption trials were re-elected, according to unofficial results.

This election day boasted 30 deaths from car accidents.  Mostly from people attempting to navigate Peru’s mountainous terrain.  In Peru voting is mandatory, if a citizen does not vote they can be subject to fines.

Official electoral results remained incomplete Monday.

For more information please see:

Sky News.com.au – Thirty Killed in Peru Election Day Accidents – 6 Oct. 2014

ABC News – 2 Peru Governor Candidates Win Despite Drug Probes – 6 Oct. 2014

Fox News – In No.1 Cocaine-Producer Peru, Narco Candidates are Tainting Nationwide Elections – 4 Oct. 2014

SBS News – 30 Killed in Peru Election Day Accidents – 6 Oct. 2014