UN Yugoslav Tribunal Upholds Convictions Stemming from Srebrenica Massacre

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Five convicted in the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica have had their sentences upheld by a judge at the UN Yugoslav tribunal in The Hague.

Drago Nikolic, former Bosnian Serb chief of security, had his sentence of 35 years of imprisonment affirmed. (Photo courtesy of Seattle PI)

In just three days in Srebrenica, around 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed in what was the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Two. Towards the end of the conflict, around 20,000 refugees fled to Srebrenica to escape the Serbian forces, and UN Dutch forces subsequently protected the area. However, Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic led his troops to take Srebrenica from the Dutch, and word of the massacre soon followed the occupation by Mladic. The European Parliament has since decided to recognize July 11 as a day of remembrance for the victims.

Not all of those responsible have received their sentences yet, as evidenced by former Bosnian political leader Radovan Karadzic remaining on trial and Mladic as well, both facing charges such as genocide. However, the five appeals finalized today kept the men in prison, and four of the five kept their sentences. Former Bosnian Serb army security chief Drago Nikolic and brigade commander Vinko Pandurevic retained 35 and 13 year sentences, while Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara had their life sentences affirmed. Only Radivoge Miletic received a lesser sentence, having his imprisonment reduced from 19 to 18 years.

Altogether, the UN Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has charged 19 people. 315 witnesses have testified in trials for those charged, and some remains on trial. There have already been 141 proceedings, and another 15 are still ongoing for crimes stemming from the conflict, but the trials for those responsible for the Srebrenica massacre seems to stand out particularly.

For more information, please see:

The Daily Star – Verdicts upheld at UN tribunal – 31 January 2015

BBC – Srebrenica massacre verdicts upheld at war crimes tribunal – 30 January 2015

The New York Times – The Hague: Srebrenica Massacre Verdicts Are Upheld – 30 January 2015

Die Deutsche Welle – Srebrenica perpetrators lose appeals – 30 January 2015

Mexican Drug Kingpin Wont Be Extradited To The United States

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – After his February arrest in the Pacific Coast tourist resort of Mazatian, notorious drug lord Jaoquin Guzman, best known as El Chapo, will be serving out his jail sentence in Mexico. Guzman headed the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug smuggling enterprises in the world. Captured for the first time in 1993, Guzman was on the run as Mexico’s most wanted man after he escaped from prison in 2001. Jaoquin is currently being housed at a maximum-security prison near the capital.

Joaquin Guzman is pictured during his detention in Mexico City (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

Guzman is wanted in the United States on a number of criminal charges including drug smuggling, money laundering, running a criminal enterprise and murder. US Congressional leaders have called for Guzman’s extradition, but a formal request has yet to be made. Mexican Attorney General, Jesus Murillo, said that a request from Washington was imminent for the extradition of Guzman. Washington wants to prosecute Guzman on drug trafficking charges; however, the Mexican government has no plan to extradite Guzman in the imminent future. Mexican lawyer, Murillo told reporters that El Chapo will remain in Mexico to complete his sentence, and only after his sentence has been completed, which he states is “about 300 or 400 years” from now, will he be extradited to the United States.

Murillo has strongly argued that keeping Guzman in the Mexican prison system is the correct response to the situation. He has adamantly dismissed any concerns that Guzman may escape from prison a second time, stating that the risk “does not exist.” Guzman has stated that while sending the United States would save Mexico money, keeping him in the country is a mater of national sovereignty.

 

For more information, please see the following:

BUSINESS INSIDER – The World’s Most Notorious Drug Kingpin Won’t Be In the US Anytime Soon – 28 Jan. 2015.

DAILY PROGRESS – Mexico: Captured Drug Lord ‘Chapo’ Guzman To Stay Put – 29 Jan. 2015.

THE GUARDIAN – Mexico Rules Out ‘El Chapo’ Extradition – 28 Jan. 2015.

REUTERS – Mexico Not Planning to Extradite Drug Kingpin Guzman: Official – 28 Jan. 2015.

CAR Government Rejects Militias’ Ceasefire Deal

By Ashley Repp

News Desk Reporter, Africa

 

Bangui- Central African Republic

For over a year, the Central African Republic has been in a state of turmoil, chaos, and religious conflict.  In 2013, the Seleka group, a primarily Muslim militant organization, overthrew the government, and installed their choice of president, Djotodia.  The country’s first Muslim president, Djotodia stepped down in January 2014 in response to international pressure.  Djotodia was criticized for his inability to quell the violence and tension that had begun to spiral out of control in CAR in 2013.  Crimes included widespread rape and murder.  Compounding the issue, poverty was severe and widespread as well.

CAR ceasefire
President Catherine Samba-Panza- Photo courtesy Voices of America

 

An interim government, with President Catherine Samba-Panza at the helm, stepped in an effort to attempt, once more, to ease the violence.  Despite these efforts, the Seleka group and the anti-Balaka Christian group, have been struggling against one another, further thrusting the unstable CAR into crisis.  As a result, significant and widespread murder, poverty, and instability have dominated the lives of many CAR citizens.  Nearly a quarter of the population has fled in an effort to avoid the violence.

On Friday of last week, heads of both the Seleka group and the anti-Balaka group, met in Kenya to conduct a meeting on the possibility of a cease-fire.  This appears to be one of the first sincere ceasefire agreements between the two groups.  Previous peace talks have been low level and unsuccessful.  Though the details of the engagement are currently unknown, the two groups drafted an ‘accord,’ which calls for a ceasefire between the warring factions that have led to thousands of lives lost.

Despite the efforts of these groups to agree to a ceasefire arrangement, the CAR official interim government refuses to acknowledge the validity of the agreement between the Seleka and the anti-Balaka.  The government is refusing to acknowledge the accord, asserting that the agreement has no legal or functional basis, as it was agreed to and drafted outside of the scope of the official government and had not relationship to government peace talks and efforts.  In fact, government officials have candidly expressed their opposition to the validity of this accord, contending that it is nothing more than an arrangement between two groups that have terrorized, and held hostage, the CAR since 2013.

For more information, please visit:

VOA- Central African Republic’s government rejects militias’ cease-fire accord– 29 Jan. 2015

Reuters- Central African Republic government says rejects ceasefire deal- 29 Jan. 2015

BBC News- Central African Republic factions announce ceasefire deal- 24 Jul, 2014

Daily Mail- Central African militias agree ceasefire days mediator– 28 Jan. 2015

Colombia Takes a Stand Against Venezuela’s Socialist Government

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has decided to crack down on Venezuela’s socialist government as ask for the freedom of a prominent opposition leader.  In the past Colombia has preferred a hands-off approach in dealing with Venezuela, in hopes for the country’s support in peace talks with Colombian rebels.

Colombia and Chile former Presidents denied entrance to prison to see activist Leopoldo Lopez

This changing climate comes at a time when Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis has fellow Latin American countries reconsidering how the renewed unrest from the opposition in Colombia should be responded to.  This is not the first time the countries have been on opposing sides.

In 2008, there was tension that led to talks of war on both sides of the border.  Colombia became the first Latin American country to call for the release of activist Leopoldo Lopez late Monday evening.

Almost a year ago anti-government rallies stormed Venezuela, with Lopez being one of the people at the helm.  Lopez has been incarcerated for almost 11 months on charges of instigating violence at the rallies.  Until Monday Venezuela’s neighbors preferred to push dialogue with the government, while the U.S. and European governments openly condemn Lopez’s jailing.  The governments are also concerned with Venezuelan President Maduro’s crackdown on his opposition after the rallies.

“I don’t pretend for Colombia ever to adopt our socialist model or break its dependence on U.S. imperialism,” Maduro said at a military ceremony. “But nobody can accept lessons imparted from abroad about who can or cannot be jailed.”

It is clear that Maduro is not happy about the countries supporting his opposition.  Over the weekend former Colombian President Andres Pastrana attempted to visit Lopez in jail,  in addition to former Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.  The two leaders were barred from entering the military facility outside of Caracas where Lopez is jailed.  Following this Maduro said in a speech at the wo the countries have “”blood on their hands” for supporting groups trying to oust him.

While Maduro is unhappy, his Venezuelan opposition celebrated Colombia’s statement almost immediately.

“Our hearts are smiling,” Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, told Bogota’s Caracol Radio. “We thank you for this statement because we need your help.”

Maduro has never been friendly with Colombia, constantly claiming that Colombia is working with the U.S., to overthrow him.  Santos has largely ignored Maduro’s jabs, but seems to be interested in distancing himself from the country.

However, Maduro and Santos came to a consensus on Wednesday in Costa Rica, where they both attended a meeting for Caribbean and South American leaders.

For more information, please see: 

Buenos Aires Herald – Free Leopoldo Lopez – 27 Jan. 15

ABC News – Colombia Angers Venezuela With Call to Free Jailed Opponent – 27 Jan. 2015

Colombia Reports – Venezuela defuses diplomatic tensions with Colombia – 29 Jan. 2015

The Washington Post – Colombia Angers Venezuela With Call to Free Jailed Opponent – 27 Jan. 2015

Russia Bans Bill Browder’s New Book “Red Notice”, a Searing Expose Featuring Putin’s Involvement in the Cover up of Sergei Magnitsky’s Murder

29 January 2015 – On February 3rd 2015, Bill Browder, CEO and founder of Hermitage Capital Management, launches an explosive book about Russia entitled “Red Notice: A true story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice” (UK edition: “Red Notice, How I Became Putin’s Number One Enemy” published on 5th February.)

“Red Notice” describes Browder’s fight against corruption and impunity in Russia and is a devastating expose of how Putin and his regime will do anything to illegally acquire wealth, including torture and cover-up of murder.

“Anybody who previously thought that Putin is a normal leader or that Russia is a normal country will think otherwise after reading this book,” says Bill Browder.

“Red Notice” will be published in 14 countries, but has so far been blocked by all major Russian publishers.

Numerous Russian publishing houses, ranging from Eksmo to Alpina, have avoided involvement in this book, for apparent fear of reprisal from the Putin regime.

Members of Pussy Riot, a Russian punk group who have been jailed for an anti-Putin protest, described the Kremlin position on Browder in their endorsement of “Red Notice” by saying:

“Bill Browder has become one of the most sincerely hated men in the Kremlin over the years – and that is something to be incredibly proud of… This book shows the difference that one person can make when they refuse to back down, as told by a fellow soldier in the battle to hold Putin to account.”

A Russian version of “Red Notice” will be available in the Russian language and published outside of Russia.

“This marks the return of the days of Soviet “samizdat” when books critical of the Soviet government were banned. Many were published abroad, and then had to be secretly copied, circulated by hand and passed from reader to reader,” says Browder.

Some of the Soviet Union’s most acclaimed ‘samizdat’ authors were Varlam Shalamov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, both former inmates of Stalin’s gulag, who drew global attention to Joseph Stalin’s forced labor camps, where millions of Soviet citizens were summarily interned and many ultimately died.

To learn more, visit the ‘Red Notice’ book website: http://billbrowder.com

For more information, please contact:

ICTJ: World Report

AFRICAIn Uganda, members of Parliament have joined civil society leaders in petitioning the government to formulate an official transitional justice policy to address human rights violations in the north. Soon after, Lord’s Resistance Army leader Dominic Ongwen surrendered to authorities earlier this month, and he has been transferred to the ICC. The ICC upheld its conviction of Thomas Lubanga, who had previously been sentenced to 14 years in prison for using child soldiers. Also, closing arguments were heard in the war crimes trial of former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, the first of its kind at the ICC to focus on rape as a weapon of war. Meanwhile, reports indicate that unidentified rebels in the DRC are responsible for killing at least 184 civilians since October. In Rwanda, plans areunderway to digitize and make accessible the documents produced by the Gacaca Courts during the country’s transitional justice process. An international seminar in Mali in November drewrepresentatives of civil society, political parties, members of the security forces, human rights groups and more together to adopt a roadmap for the country’s truth, justice and reconciliation process.

Read More…

AMERICASIn Colombia, FARC announced an indefinite unilateral ceasefire. Since then, President Santos hasasked rebel group ELN to join the ceasefire and to formalize peace talks with the government. The Inter-American Court for Human Rights convicted the Colombian state for disappearing 11 people in the 1985 military retake of the Palace of Justice. In Guatemala, a former police chief was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the 1980 deadly raid on the Spanish embassy. Meanwhile, the retrial on genocide charges of ex-military ruler General Efrain Rios Montt was suspended after it began because the court accepted defense appeals that one judge was not impartial. The Court of Appeals in Chile sentenced eleven former Pinochet agents for their roles in the forced disappearances of two Uruguayan citizens in 1973. In the United States, members of the Ferguson, Missouri community areorganizing a commission to analyze the social and economic conditions that led to the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

Read More…

ASIAIn Nepal, major political parties continue to meet to expedite the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Disappearance Commission. In December, the UN Human Rights Committee gave Nepal a 180-day deadline to report on their delay to bring justice to the victims of enforced disappearances. Meanwhile, political parties have proposed chairpersons for the two commissions, yet victims claim to have been excluded from the entire process. On January 12, the TRC-Recommendations Committee publicized the short list of candidates to both commissions. A total of 69 people have applied for the posts of chairperson or member of the commissions. However, the committee has not submitted a final list to the government. Writ petitions filed by the conflict victims challenging the TRC Act are still subjudice in the Supreme Court. In Myanmar peace talks between ethnic minority groups and the government were jeopardized by the killing of about 23 rebels by the military in November. The second trial of two ex-Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia, set to begin last July, was yet again postponed by boycotts from lawyers representing the defense. Meanwhile, 40 non-Cambodian NGOs have signed a letter to the ICC requesting an investigation into crimes against humanity—including the eviction of over 770,000 Cambodians—by the country’s ruling elite. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is set to begin commissioning its arms this month as preparations for a transitional government are underway.

Read More…

EUROPEThe UN estimates that about 13 people are killed each day in eastern Ukraine since the a ceasefire was issued in September. A UN OHCHR report issued in December accused Kiev-controlled volunteer battalions and the Ukrainian Security Service of torture, enforced disappearances and inhumane treatment of civilians. The government of Ireland will ask the European Court of Human Rights to revisit its decision on the “hooded men”—14 men who say they were subjected to torture during their internment without trial in 1971. Also in Ireland, the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, announced the formation of the Legacy Investigations Unit to replace the Historical Enquiries Team in 2015. Meanwhile, a new murder investigation into the events surrounding BloodySunday will begin this month in Ireland. Police in Bosnia arrested ten Bosnian Serb wartime security officials on accusations of crimes against humanity. Bosnian Serb MP Vasic and two former police officials were charged with for their roles in the Srebrenica genocide in 1995.

Read More…

MENAIn December 2014, the families of the missing and forcibly disappeared in Lebanon handed over the official investigation report related to the persons who disappeared during the civil war in Lebanon, to the International Committee of the Red Cross. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced thatPalestine will join the ICC on April 1st. A new Human Rights Watch report has criticized Tunisia in its efforts to pursue accountability for unlawful killings during the recent uprising there. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued its first report on ISIL in November, stating that fighters are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale. Shortly thereafter chief prosecutor of the ICC announced that she was weighing bringing war crimes charges against ISIL. A new law in Egypt has been criticized that allows the military to assist the police in protecting vital facilities. Meanwhile, an Egyptian court dismissed charges against former President Hosni Mubarak, an interior minister and six aides over the killings of protestors following the 2011 uprising. Dozens of Egyptian Islamists have been sentenced to jail for up to 15 years for attacks around the country.

Read More…

 

Publications

Pursuing Accountability for Serious Crimes in Uganda’s Courts: Reflections on the Thomas Kwoyelo CaseThis paper describes proceedings in Uganda’s national courts against Thomas Kwoyelo, a former mid-level commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It analyzes the opportunities and challenges for the prosecution of serious crimes in Uganda and concludes with recommendations to enhance accountability in the country.

View Report

Confronting the Legacy of Political Violence in Lebanon: An Agenda for ChangeThis document presents wide-ranging recommendations for political and social reforms in Lebanon developed by a consortium of Lebanese civil society actors, as part of an ICTJ project.

View Report

More Publications

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ICTJ: Is Uganda’s Judicial System Ready to Prosecute Serious Crimes

 

Last week, Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen willingly turned himself over to the authorities. As second in command to infamous LRA leader Joseph Kony, Ongwen had evaded charges at the International Criminal Court since 2005 for his alleged role in atrocities in northern Uganda. Ongwen was captured by the LRA at a young age of 10. He rose through the ranks and allegedly became one of the most ruthless LRA commanders responsible for atrocities in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.

Following his surrender, the government of Uganda was quick to announce that instead of facing trial at the ICC, Ongwen should answer for his crimes in Uganda, a position consistent with the country’s ongoing resistance to intervention by The Hague-based court. (As late as December, President Yoweri Museveni stated that he was considering withdrawing from the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court completely).

Only 48 hours later, however, Uganda, in cooperation with the United States and the Central African Republic, allowed the LRA commander to be transferred to the ICC. Regardless, Uganda continues to profess its ability to conduct fair trials for serious crimes, and claims that when it comes to accountability for the actions of groups like the LRA, its International Crimes Division is up to the task.

A new ICTJ publication tests this claim, taking a closer look at how Uganda’s justice system has grappled with prosecuting higher-level complex cases involving serious crimes. The new briefing, “Pursuing Accountability for Serious Crimes in Uganda’s Courts: Reflections on the Thomas Kwoyelo Case,” co-authored by ICTJ’s Sarah Kasande and Meritxell Regué, highlights outstanding issues regarding Uganda’s controversial amnesty law that arose during the trial of another former LRA commander, Thomas Kwoyelo, who is being prosecuted in Uganda’s national courts for war crimes.

“The case of Thomas Kwoyelo illustrates how Uganda’s amnesty process is a major hindrance to the pursuit of justice and accountability,” said Sarah Kasande, Program Associate with ICTJ’s Uganda office, and co-author of the report.

“For Uganda to fulfill its national and international human rights obligations—including an effective remedy to victims—parts of the amnesty act should be repealed or amended so those who commit the most serious crimes do not escape the reach of the law.”

Background: Uganda’s International Crimes Division and the 2000 Amnesty Act

The International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda was a product of the Juba Peace Negotiations that intended to end hostilities between Uganda and the LRA. Following a commitment made in 2007 by both parties to promote redress and to prevent impunity for perpetrators of serious crimes, the ICD was created as a special division of Uganda’s domestic judicial system with jurisdiction over those accused of the most serious crimes—including those considered international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as transnational crimes, such as piracy, trafficking and terrorism.

According to the ICTJ briefing, the establishment of the ICD was viewed as a significant opportunity for Uganda to end impunity: If the ICD could successfully carry out its mandate, not only would victims be afforded justice, but its creation could build public confidence in the justice system as a whole.

“The case of Thomas Kwoyelo illustrates how Uganda’s amnesty process is a major hindrance to the pursuit of justice and accountability.”

As the ICD began to incorporate existing domestic and international criminal law into its official rules, one law presented significant challenges to its operation: the Amnesty Act.

The Amnesty Act was enacted by Parliament in 2000 at the height of the conflict between the Uganda’s People’s Defence Force, the LRA, and other rebel factions. It was intended to help end violence and restore security by giving combatants an incentive to lay down their weapons.

The law may apply to any fighter who renounces rebellion against the government and meets certain other requirements. Those who qualify are not “prosecuted or subjected to any form of punishment for the participation in the war or rebellion or for any crime committed in the cause of the war or armed rebellion.” Applicants do not have to reveal their role in any specific crime as a condition of receiving the amnesty.

A 2012 estimate by the Amnesty Commission put the number of combatants who have been granted amnesty at 26,000 of which 13,000 are LRA fighters.

Uganda v. Thomas Kwoyelo

Kwoyelo applied for amnesty under Uganda’s Amnesty Act while in detention, six months after his capture. Though required to respond to his application, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) failed to do so and, instead, initiated criminal proceedings against him.

Kwoyelo was charged in August 2010 with 12 counts of violating Uganda’s Geneva Conventions Act, including taking hostages, extensive property damage, and willful killing. Later, the DPP amended the indictment, adding 53 additional violations under the Penal Code Act. This would be the ICD’s first war crimes trial against an LRA leader.

“For Uganda to fulfill its national and international human rights obligations, parts of the amnesty act should be repealed or amended.”

Proceedings against Thomas Kwoyelo began in July 2011. The trial could have been held in Kampala, where the ICD is located, but the government decided to bring Kwoyelo’s trial to Gulu, where the crimes had been committed.

Dozens of local residents visited the Gulu courtroom to observe the trial. At times, the room was so crowded that a live video feed of the proceedings was set up nearby, under a tent, so that residents could follow them on a daily basis.

The defense raised several preliminary objections regarding the constitutionality of the case, particularly the application of the Amnesty Act.

In August 2011 the Constitutional Court addressed the defense’s two main issues. The first was whether or not the DPP and the Amnesty Commission, in failing to respond to Kwoyelo’s amnesty application, had violated his right to equal treatment and nondiscrimination under Uganda’s Constitution.

The second concerned whether the serious charges of crimes could be considered to have taken place in the context of an international armed conflict. The Attorney General raised a counter objection which involved whether certain sections of the Amnesty Act were inconsistent with the constitution.

Finding that Kwoyelo had a legal right to amnesty and that the DPP had failed to present an explanation for not processing his request, the Constitutional Court unanimously directed that he be immediately set free, ending the country’s first war crimes trial.

Shortly after the Constitutional’s Court decision, the Attorney General filed an appeal before the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the decision of the Constitutional court and to resume Kwoyelo’s trial. The Attorney General argued that Section 2 and 3 of the Amnesty Act conflicted with Uganda’s obligation under international law, to prosecute grave breaches and other serious crimes.

In reply, Kwoyelo’s lawyers maintained that he was eligible for amnesty, and it would be contrary to his constitutional right to equal treatment under the law if he was prosecuted for crimes for which other ex-combatants were granted amnesty.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the appeal. Meanwhile, Kwoyelo remains in custody pending the outcome of the Attorney General’s appeal.

The Impact of the Kwoyelo Case on Accountability in Uganda

Kwoyelo’s trial has also opened important debates in Uganda on justice questions, including victim’s participation, reparations, accountability for state actors, and the protection of victims, witnesses and defense lawyers.

According to the new ICTJ report, the Constitutional Court’s decision in the Kwoyelo case highlights the conflicting approaches to transitional justice in Uganda and the dilemma of pursuing criminal accountability while a blanket amnesty remains in place. Perhaps surprisingly, many civil society groups as well as religious leaders are wary of a possible repeal of the amnesty provisions because they believe it could endanger future peace efforts and prevent more combatants from laying down their arms.

“The justice system’s inconsistent application of the amnesty law puts in question Uganda’s commitment to pursuing redress and accountability,” said Kasande. “It protects alleged perpetrators from prosecution, while denying victims’ their right to justice and ignoring their participation in the process.”

The ICTJ briefing outlines several recommendations for Uganda as it works to live up to international standards and promote peace and stability at home. It calls for the Amnesty Act to be amended to exclude those accused of so-called “international crimes”. It also calls for the DPP to publish a prosecution strategy that sets criteria for the selection and prioritization of cases.

“Whenever the Supreme Court decides to hand down its final judgment, it will have major implications—not only for Kwoyelo, but for the future prosecution of serious crimes in Uganda. Hopefully it will mark a step forward towards the fulfillment of victims’ rights to justice,” said Kasande.


Photo: Thomas Kwoyelo, a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion blamed for brutal civilian murders during a 20-year war in the north of the country waits before his court appearance in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu on July 25, 2011. (MICHELE SIBOLINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hezbollah Attack on Convoy Prompts Israeli Response, U.N Peacekeeper Caught in the Crossfire

By Max Bartels 

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East 

 

Jerusalem, Israel 

Three causalities have been confirmed from an attack on an Israeli military convoy and the resulting retaliation by Israeli forces. Anti-tank missiles were fired at the convoy in the Sheeba farms area, an area where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.. Hezbollah has claimed the attack is retaliation for the Israeli airstrike that killed six of its fighters as well as an Iranian Revolutionary Guards General in the Golan Heights Area. The Israeli military responded with ground and air operations including firing at least 50 artillery shells into Lebanon where they claimed Hezbollah operational positions were along the border.

Israeli artillery strikes open farmland past a village in Southern Lebanon. (Photo Curtesy of Yahoo News)

Two of the causalities were Israeli soldiers in the convoy as well as one U.N Peace Keeper. The U.N did not release the nationality of the peacekeeper however, the Spanish Prime Minister’s Twitter feed expressed sadness at the death of a Spanish Soldier in Lebanon. The Spanish Defense Ministry later confirmed that the peacekeeper was a Spanish soldier. A spokes person for the U.N force in Lebanon urged maximum restraint to prevent an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah. At this point it is unknown whether the Israeli military or Hezbollah killed the Spanish soldier, the IDF is reported to be investigating the incident. Some reports suggest that the peacekeeper was killed by the Israeli retaliatory strikes in Lebanon.

An hour after the attack on the convoy an Israeli military position on Mount Hermon came under mortar fire and Israeli authorities evacuated a nearby ski resort. Israel reports that none were harmed during the attack. Lebanese officials stated that to their knowledge none were harmed by the Israeli artillery strikes, which reportedly missed populated villages in Southern Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called the attack on the convoy a “criminal terror attack” and further stated that Israel will not hesitate to retaliate on all fronts. Recently Israeli aircraft bombed Syrian Army artillery positions after rockets were fired from Syria into the Israeli occupied Golan Heights region. These recent events have been the most deadly since the 2006 Hezbollah attack on an Israeli convoy that started a month long war in Lebanon. Both U.N and Israeli officials have expressed their hope that events do not escalate further.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Three Killed as Israel and Hezbollah Clash on Lebanese Border — 28 January 2015

CNN News — 2 Israeli Soldiers, Peacekeeper Reported Killed in Israeli- Hezbollah Fighting — 28 January 2015

Aljazeera — Two Israeli Soldiers Killed in Missile Attack — 28 January 2015

Yahoo News — Lebanese Hezbollah Hits Israeli Convoy, Killing 2 Soldiers — 28 January 2015

 

Inside Argentina’s Secret Relationship with Iran

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina / Photo courtesy of NPR

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina has come under fire in the press in the past few days with the suspicious murder of Prosecutor Alberto Nisman.  Nisman was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head just hours before he was expected to come before Congress and charge President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of having illegal dealings with Iran.

His allegations, in part, accuse Fernandez and top officials with deep ties to labor unions, social movements, and attempting to strike a deal between 2011 and 2013 in which they would export food products to Iran in exchange for importing oil.

In exchange, the Kirchner government would attempt to remove eight Iranian suspects in the AMIA Jewish Community Center bombing from an Interpol arrest list.

The so-called “oil for food” deal never materialized, which Nisman attributed to Foreign Minister Hector Timerman’s inability to persuade Interpol to remove the Iranians from its list.

Mr. Timerman has responded to these allegations by calling them “baseless”, and states that Argentina has never imported oil from Iran as evidence to the fact. He claimed that: “We don’t have too much trade with Iran.  In fact it was Iran who placed an embargo against Argentina because of the accusations about their role in the bombing … and that they lifted unilaterally in 2007. But our trade with Iran is very small”

Furthermore, Fernandez claimed that Argentina had never imported petroleum from Iran.  Which is false.  In another statement Fernandez noted that Argentina does not import crude oil from Iran, because they do not have the facilities to process it.  Also a false statement.

While the trade data shows, that no “oil for food” agreement was ever reached, Iran and Argentina have a clear trading partnership.  This comes at a time when Iran’s trading partners are few due to US sanctions against companies that choose to trade with the country.  Iran is benefitting from Argentinian food and Argentina has proven their willingness to disregard US sanctions.

Also, Fernandez is calling for the dissolution of the intelligence agency after the Nisman’s death, stating that it’s time to reform the intelligence service, because the existing one “has not served the national interests.”

For now Nisman’s death will remain a mystery, but there are many conspiracy theories in the air.

For more information, please see:

Business Insider – All Of Argentina Is Questioning Its Relationship With Iran — Here’s What That Relationship Actually Is – 27 Jan. 2015

Bueno Aires Herald – Iran’s representative in Argentina Denies Parallel Diplomacy – 25 Jan. 2015

NPR – Argentina’s President Dissolves Intelligence Agency, Citing Prosecutor’s Death – 26 Jan. 2015

CNN – Argentina’s President pushes intelligence shakeup after Nisman scandal – 27 Jan. 2015

Canadian Prime Minister To Announce New Security Legislation

By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada- Canada is planning on introducing new legislation aimed at giving more power to its police in the wake of two attacks by Muslim converts last year. Last October, a gunman attacked Canada’s Parliament, fatally shooting a soldier at a nearby war memorial. The attack came two days after another Canadian convert ran down two soldiers in Quebec. Days after the attack Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised new laws giving police more power to detain and arrest suspected terrorists.

Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to announce new security legislation after October Attacks (Photo Courtesy of Reuters).

Immediately after the Parliament attack, Canada’s Conservative government introduced a bill to enhance the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spy agency.“These measures are designed to help authorities stop planned attacks, get threats off our streets, criminalize the promotion of terrorism, and prevent terrorists from traveling and recruiting others,” Harper stated. The bill is expected to  remove safeguards on police powers to arrest, detain and restrain people without charge or the commission of an actual crime. The new laws would also give authorities more powers to track terror suspects abroad.

The bill will also make it easier for police to disrupt suspected terror plots by reducing the legal prerequisites required to obtain court-ordered peace bonds. Such orders can substantially affect the quality of living of national security targets. Failure to comply with the laws can result in a one-year jail sentence.

The Canadian Bar Association says the change in legislation would be a “big mistake.” Experts in constitutional law have noted that law enforcement agencies already have a very wide-range of powers.Those opposed to the new legislation have expressed concern that arresting and detaining people based on inchoate evidence is dangerous in regards to human rights. They argue that under the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act the government added safeguards to ensure these rights would not be violated.

Harper said the new legislation would not infringe on constitutionally protected rights such as free speech, association and religion. The nation’s leading independent organizations have not yet briefed or consulted on the government’s looming new anti-terror legislation.

 

For more information, please see the following:

BUSINESS TIMES – Canada To Unveil New Security Legislation After 2014 Attacks: PM – 25 Jan. 2015.

OTTAWA CITIZEN – Anti-Terror Bill: Can Government Balance Security and Civil Rights? – 25 Jan. 2015.

REUTERS – Canada To Unveil New Security Legislation After 2014 Attacks: PM – 25 Jan. 2015.

YAHOO – Canada Seeks To Beef Up Security After Attacks

Kurdish Forces Close To Regaining Kobani

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

DAMASCUS, Syria – Kurdish fighters, supported by U.S.-led air strikes targeting areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), are reportedly close to regaining full control of the embattled Syrian town of Kobani situated near the Turkish border. Kobani has largely been under the control of ISIS fighters, from Islamic State fighters. Kurdish officials as well as Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a human rights group based in the United Kingdom, reported the advance of Kurdish fighters on Monday.

 

Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border. Syrian activists and Kurdish officials say the extremist Islamic State group has been nearly pushed out of the Syrian border town of Kobani. (Photo courtesy of Boston Herald)

Kobani was seen as a key strategic city for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group saw the town’s location in relation to the Turkish border as part of a critical brought for the flow of weapons and fighters from Turkey, including several fighters from Europe, into the Islamic State controlled regions of the country. After declaring victory in reclaiming the city Kurdish fighters raised a Kurdish flag on a hill that once flew the Islamic State group’s black banner. For the Kurdish fighters The victory represents a key conquest both for the embattled Kurds as well as  the U.S.-led coalition, whose American coordinator had predicted that the Islamic State group would “impale itself” on Kobani.

Kobani, also called Ayn al-Arab, has become a symbol in the battle against ISIS and other insurgent’s movements in the region who have captured large expanses of both Syria and Iraq. ISIS first launched a campaign to capture the town and incorporate it within its self-proclaimed caliphate in July of Last year. “Our forces are making progress but until now the YPG has not declared that is has taken all of Kobani back. We think tomorrow Kobani will be free,” Kobani official Idris Nassan told reports from Reuters by telephone. Nassan said that as a result of the assault of ISIS half of the town has been completely destroyed and the rest of the town has suffered damage, leaving many people homeless. He also said the town now lacked water, electricity, hospitals and food needed to support the struggling population.

Syrian Kurdish YPG forces who have been attempting to win-back land from ISIS and protect the regions Kurdish population has often been supported by Iraqi Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish forces in the town are still battling Islamic State on the eastern outskirts of the town. Since September of last year ISIS has captured some 300 Kurdish villages forcing tens of thousands of Kurds from Syria and Iraq to flee the Kurdistan region.

For more information, please see:

Boston Herald – Islamic State Group Nearly Pushed Out Of Syria’s Kobani – 26 January 2015

CNN International – Opposition Group: Kurdish Fighters Advance in Kobani, Syria – 26 January 2015

The Jerusalem Post – Kurds Drive ISIS Out Of Kobani after 4-Month Struggle – 26 January 2015

Reuters – Kurds Close to Driving Islamic State Out Of Syria’s Kobani: Monitor – 26 January 2015

Syria Deeply: The Executive Summary, 1/23

Syria Deeply

Syria: The Executive Summary, 1/23

To give you an overview of the latest news, we’ve organized the latest Syrian developments in a curated summary.

U.N.-Approved Cross-Border Aid Reaches 600,000 Syrians in Six Months

In the latest monthly report to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon said 54 cross-border aid shipments to Syria helped 600,000 Syrians in six months, Reuters reports.

“Food assistance had reached 596,000 people, non-food items had been delivered to 522,000, water and sanitation supplies had reached more than 280,000 and medical supplies some 262,000,” according to the report.

Despite the improved access, Ban warned that the situation inside Syria is continuing to “deteriorate rapidly.

“Widespread fighting across the country, administrative hurdles and lack of agreement from the parties continued to constrain humanitarian access across the country, affecting the humanitarian capacity to deliver at planned scaled,” Ban said.

12.2 million Syrians are in need of assistance, 7.6 million have been displaced, and an additional 3.8 million people have fled, according to the U.N. figures.

“It is completely unacceptable that the people of Syria continue to face grave abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law by the parties to the conflict and that they are denied access to the basic requirements for their survival,” Ban’s report said.

The report follows the renewal of a resolution allowing cross-border aid delivery in Syria for another 12 months. In July 2014 the Security Council authorized U.N. agencies to cross conflict lines using border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. It was an unprecedented decision to authorize delivery of aid into the country without the consent of the Syrian government.

United States Gives $6 Million to Syria’s Opposition Government

The United States has given $6 million to Syria’s opposition government, the first direct U.S. financial support for the group, AFP reports.

“The money is for development and relief projects in “areas liberated by the moderate Syrian opposition,” the rebel group said in a statement.

Interim government chief Ahmed Tohme said $1.6 million would be used to used to strengthen local government in rebel-controlled areas and for emergency responses, and $4.4 million would be “devoted to reconstruction and the purchase of heavy equipment include generators, water pumps and tankers.

“Mamdouh Soud, operations manager for the programme dispersing the funds, said they would be spent mostly in northern Aleppo province and northwestern Idlib province for now.

“In the next two months, we hope to expand into northern Latakia and northern Hama provinces,” he told AFP.

Moderate rebel groups inside Syria are facing the prospect of complete annihilation as a result of internal challenges, a lack of resources and support, and the reality of a three-front fight against the regime, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition and the interim government have been criticized forbeing out of touch with Syrians on the ground and with the militant groups fighting the Assad regime.

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Interpol Definitively Rejects Russia’s Request to Issue an International Arrest Warrant for Bill Browder

Press Release

For Immediate Distribution

 

Interpol Definitively Rejects Russia’s Request to Issue an International Arrest Warrant for Bill Browder

 

26 January 2014 – Interpol, the international police organization, has definitively rejected Russia’s attempt to add Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, to its Red Notice international arrest warrant system. This is Russia’s third unsuccessful attempt to issue an Interpol Red Notice for Browder. A Red Notice would have meant that Browder would be arrested at any international border and potentially extradited back to Russia. Over the last eight weeks, Interpol’s Commission for the Control of Files has reviewed Russia’s application and concluded that the Russian warrant was illegitimate because it was “predominantly political.”

 

This attempt by the Russian government follows a long series of acts of retaliation against Browder for his role in the successful passage of the US Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa sanctions and asset freezes on Russian officials who killed Sergei Magnitsky, were involved in the $230 million theft he had uncovered, or perpetrated other human rights abuses.
Previously, Interpol refused two similar requests from Russia for Browder. In the summer of 2014, Interpol said Russia’s requests to arrest Browder were invalid because they violated Interpol’s Constitution which prohibits the organization to be used for political persecution.

 

Instead of complying with the previous two Interpol’s rulings, the Russian authorities began an intensive high-level lobbying campaign to influence Interpol to reverse their decision. In January 2014, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office dispatched officials to Lyon, France, where Interpol is headquartered, who persuaded Interpol to re-open the Browder case. To help convince Interpol, Russian President Putin invited General Secretary of Interpol Ron Noble to his private residence near Moscow at the end of October 2014. Russian authorities also lobbied Interpol member states to elect their representative to Interpol’s governing body, the Executive Committee.

 

To make their latest application to Interpol for Browder, the Russian authorities used the posthumous trial against Browder’s murdered Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. This trial was condemned around the world as a gross abuse of justice.

 

“This latest episode with Interpol is an important example of how Putin applies Russia’s sovereign power to abuse its membership in international organizations. While the Interpol decision was the correct and right one, there are many other victims of the Russian regime in less high-profile cases who are being unjustly arrested in foreign countries as they flee political persecution in Russia. It’s time that Russia’s failing judicial system is taken into account by international organizations for their constant abuse for political or corrupt motives,” said Bill Browder.

 

Next week, on February 3rd 2015, Bill Browder will be responding with his own “Red Notice” on Putin’s Russia.

 

Browder’s book entitled, “Red Notice: A true story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice” (UK edition: “Red Notice, How I Became Putin’s Number One Enemy”) will be launched in the US and in the UK. Browder’s “Red Notice” will show that Putin is more akin to a crime boss than a legitimate world leader.