International Experts Continue Investigating Cause of MH17 Crash

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – As an international team of investigators continues to look into the cause of the MH17 crash, it appears that the focus has shifted to gathering and protecting witnesses who can support the theory that it was a Buk missile that took down the plane last summer. The Joint Investigative Team (“JIT”) is offering protection to any witnesses who are concerned about coming out for safety reasons.

A map of Ukraine that shows where into pro-Russian territory MH17 crashed. (Photo courtesy of Newsweek)

The JIT is currently “looking for witnesses who have seen Buk crew members or have more information about the identity of those involved in ordering and launching the Buk.” A Dutch report claims that the plane was downed by “high-velocity objects,” which other sources such as the JIT believe came from a Buk missile system. Intelligence appears to show such a system in the area moving prior to the plane going down, and so the investigation is currently focused on finding witnesses who can verify the involvement of this system, or perhaps help find those responsible and fill in some of the missing pieces to this story. It further appears that the Buk launcher crossed into Russia shortly after the plane was downed.

In the meantime, while the second Minsk cease-fire largely holds in Eastern Ukraine, both sides continue to commit minor violations. On Saturday, 22 Russian tanks crossed from the Russian town of Gukovo into Eastern Ukraine via Luhansk and towards Sverdlovsk. The Donetsk regional government also claims that Kiev violated the truce 13 times on Saturday. On Sunday, pro-Russian rebels fired 15 Grad missiles at Horlivka, and they claim to have received the 122mm Grad missiles from one of Russia’s “humanitarian convoys,” which are still arriving.

A survey by Ukrainian agency Interfax, which surveyed over 2,000 citizens in Donetsk and Luhansk, found 45% of residents did not have enough to eat. The United States is also stepping in to help by sending 35 paratroopers from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, to train six Ukrainian National Guard companies over a two-month deployment. Britain has also sent 35 military personnel, along with non-lethal equipment, to train Ukrainians in Mykolaiv during a two-month deployment.

Meanwhile, while Russia continues to deny direct involvement in the Ukrainian fight, some Russians, such as Dmitry Sapozhnikov, claim to have left Russia to go to Ukraine to fight. Not only that, but Sapozhnikov claims that “all operations, especially large-scale ones, are led by Russian officers, by Russian generals… we fulfill the orders.” US Lt Gen Ben Hodges reports that nearly 12,000 Russian troops are currently operating inside Ukraine.

For more information, please see:

RT – MH17 probe looking for witnesses to back ‘Buk missile’ scenario – 31 March 2015

BBC – How Ukraine rebels rely on Russians – 31 March 2015

The Telegraph – Separatist fighter admits Russian tanks, troops ‘decisive in eastern Ukraine battles’ – 31 March 2015

Newsweek – U.S. Sending Army Paratroopers to Train Ukraine Forces – 31 March 2015

BBC – MH17 disaster: Appeal for Buk rocket witnesses – 30 March 2015

The Wall Street Journal – Dutch-Led Probe of MH17 Crash Says Buk Missile Launch is Primary Theory – 30 March 2015

Newsweek – Russian Tanks and Fighters Enter Eastern Ukraine, Says Kiev – 30 March 2015

Bloomberg – Ukraine Says Rebel Attacks Ebb as Tanks Said to Cross Border – 29 March 2015

Bill Browder’s Book, ‘Red Notice’, Launched in Russian Language in the West After Being Banned inside Russia

31 March 2015 – ‘Red Notice’, the Number One New York Times bestseller by Putin critic Bill Browder, hasnow been released in the Russian language, after its successful launch in nine languages and thirteen countries.

Shunned by all major Russian publishing houses and online book distributors because of its controversial content, Browder’s ‘Red Notice’ will now be published by Kiev-based publisher, Laurus, in the Russian language and distributed outside of Russia through Google Play, where the reader can order a hard copy (, and Amazon, where an electronic edition is available (,

The Russian people are the natural audience for ‘Red Notice.’ But because of the fear among Russian publishers of government retaliation for associating themselves with this work, we had to publish the Russian edition outside of Russia. Currently, publishers from twenty different countries spanning from Brazil to Japan to Greece have displayed an interest in publishing this book, but none inside of Russia,” said Bill Browder, author of ‘Red Notice’.

‘Red Notice,’ the personal expose by Bill Browder of the events leading to the arrest and murder of Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the subsequent cover-up by the Putin regime and the Western response, has become an instant international bestseller since its release in February 2015 worldwide.

In the first week of sales, ‘Red Notice’ hit the New York Times bestseller list, and has stayed on it for the seven weeks running (

‘Red Notice’ has grabbed readers with widely diverse interests comprising business, politics, and spy thrillers. It is featured this month as number one bestseller in the New York Times’ Crime section (, number two in Espionage, number three in Business section, and number six in Politics.

‘Red Notice’ has also been Number One bestseller in ‘International Business’ on; and it has appeared on the bestseller lists by NPR, USA Today, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and Indiebound, among others.

Readers on commented on ‘Red Notice’:

“This is one of the most captivating and interesting books I have read in a long time.”

“If you start this book, you will keep reading until you have finished, stopping only to weep and also to email your friends to read it, too.”

“This deeply disturbing, tempestuous and Kafkaesque story is written in a no-nonsense and racy style that makes it easy to read and take in.”

“Surprising & informative.”

“Gripping throughout. One of the best books I’ve read recently.”

‘Red Notice’ is on the bestseller list published by The Sunday Times ( in the United Kingdom.

In Canada, ‘Red Notice’ peaked at Number Three as the best-selling book on

In New Zealand, it was number six on the Nielsen weekly bestseller list (

The Swedish edition of ‘Red Notice’ featured in the top 10 purchases on Aldibris, Sweden’s largest online book retailer, and the Dutch edition of ‘Red Notice’ featured on the Holland “Bestseller 60” list. The German edition also featured on the German bestseller list.

To learn more, visit the ‘Red Notice’ website:

For more information, please contact:

Magnitsky Justice Campaign

The Rules Have Not Changed Regarding Armed Conflict

Monday 30 March 2015 at 3:21 PM ET
JURIST Guest Columnist David M. Crane of Syracuse University College of Law discusses enforcing the laws of armed conflict in an age of extremes…

Shortly after three planes went into three buildings on September 11, 2001 the chief law enforcement officer of the US, Attorney GeneralAlbert Gonzalez declared that the Geneva conventions were quite out dated. This amazing and naïve statement followed a similar declaration by then President George W. Bushthat the “rules have changed” related to fighting terrorists. These statements set off a series of policy missteps that led to Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram AFB, secret prisons in Eastern Europe and North Africa and the perceived loss of the moral high-ground by the US related to conflict in the 21st century.

No longer that “bright and shining city on the hill” the US continues to limp into the new century not as a leader regarding the international rule of law, but only as a participant in a series of kaleidoscopic events that seem to challenge the very foundation of the rule of law, particularly the laws of armed conflict. At no time is the rule of law more needed than now in this apparent “age of extremes”. Do the rules really need to be changed?

A recent trial shows those rules do not need to be changed, just followed. Four Polish soldiers were found not to have committed war crimes in an incident in 2007 where civilians were killed. Poland had been part of theNATO led coalition in Afghanistan for 12 years. A military court found that they did not intentionally target civilians, a war crime if proven. The military judges did find them negligent in following orders, a dereliction of duty type offense in the US military. The press seemed to take this as some type of failed judgement. I consider it an affirmation that the laws of armed conflict are alive, vibrant and being used in the way contemplated by the drafters and followed for over 60 years by nations involved in conflict situations.

The laws of armed conflict state that no civilians can be intentionally targeted. The law recognizes that in the heat of combat there are collateral effects to the battle to include civilian deaths excusable in law. Additionally the laws of armed conflict require that all signatories to the Geneva Conventions, when faced with allegations of a war crime investigate, prosecute (under their domestic system of justice) or hand the alleged perpetrators over to a party to the conventions willing to prosecute for the war crime.

The Poles appear to have followed not only the spirit but the letter of the law. They investigated the civilian deaths and charged the four soldiers with war crimes under Polish domestic law. The outcome was decided in a fair and open trial. The fact that it was not proven that they intentionally targeted those civilians was up to the trier of fact in that domestic prosecution. Hence the outcome as reported.

This shows that the rules are working and they do not have to be changed. The NATO coalition followed thelaws of armed conflict. The coalition does investigate and hand over perpetrators to member domestic systems for resolution. Though not perfect, the record does show that coalition forces do hold accountable members of their armed forces who violate the laws of armed conflict in trials and courts-martial.

A further review of the record shows that in combat the coalition followed the law despite the fact that theTaliban and various terrorist groups ignored the law in almost all instances to include the intentional killing of civilians. This is another important tenant of the laws of armed conflict that despite the fact that the other side ignores the law signatories are bound to follow the laws of armed conflict.

It is not intended for this opinion to gloss over and ignore other acts committed by the coalition, particularly the US, as it related to torture and other inhumane acts. These too violate the rule of law at many levels. As noted before, the statements made by the Bush administration led the US down a very slippery slope to where they were operating at the same level as the Taliban and others operating in the extreme related to torture.

In this apparent age of extremes we should continue to fight extremism using the rule of law, such as the laws of armed conflict and a system of laws that are practical and flexible enough to ensure that the battlefield is governed by rules that protect and regulate a given condition—war and conflict. The laws of armed conflict minimize the horror and allow for a return to possible stability at its conclusion. As stated by Albert Einstein decades ago: As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable.

David M. Crane received his JD from Syracuse University. He is a Contributing Editor for JURIST and the former Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone 2002-2005.

Suggested citation: David M. Crane The Rules Have Not Changed Regarding Armed Conflict, JURIST – Academic Commentary, Mar. 30, 2015,


ISIS Sets Booby-Traps in Attempt to Halt Iraqi Advance on Tikrit

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi forces fighting to liberate the strategic city of Tikrit from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) have reportedly found that ISIS forces have booby-trapped, slowing the advance of Iraqi soldiers who have been supported by U.S airstrikes as well as Iranian fighters. “A rapid advance in a city where the ground is littered with bombs and booby-traps is too tough to achieve,” said the Tikrit Mayor Osama al-Tikriti. The use of Bobby-Traps, traps that target objects or persons with special protection under international humanitarian law or traps that are likely to attract civilians are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Iraqi Security Forces check their weapons in the embattled city of Tikrit on March 28, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The security forces and Shia militias, who provided the largest number of fighters, began their offensive against ISIS on 2 March but stopped their operations temporarily after two weeks of fighting after suffering heavy casualties and tensions and seeing high tensions between the Iraqi government and with US officials over Iran’s prominent role in the fight to liberate Tikrit. Ultimately, the United States insisted on the pullback of the Iranian backed Militia as a precondition for involvement in airstrikes, General Lloyd Austin of the United States said. “Once those conditions were met – which included Shia militia not being involved – then we were able to proceed,” he told lawmakers.

Security forces said on Sunday that they were slowly advancing into Tikrit’s western area with the help of US-led airstrikes despite Shia militias boycotting the offensive. “There is some resistance from the enemy, but it’s mainly due to the booby-traps set up on the roads, in the houses, shops and government facilities,” Brigadier-General Thamer Mohamed said. “As you can see, our units are advancing and we have air support.” On Sunday, Iraqi forces attempted to clear a path through booby-trapped areas infiltrate Tikrit from the southern district of Shisheen, however the militants used anti-tank missiles to destroy a bulldozer being used by the Iraqi military create a safer path around booby-trapped roads, an official said.

Coalition airstrikes led by the United States against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) targets in Tikrit began late last Wednesday. According to General Lloyd Austin of the United States, the Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq which has led an operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the strategic city of Tikrit is no longer leading the operation to recapture the city. General Austin, head of United States’ Central Command, said the withdrawal was a precondition for American-led airstrikes. However, even as airstrikes open the door for Iraqi forces to enter the city these strikes do little to protect Iraqi forces and civilians from the dangers they have found in and around the booby-trapped city.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – Booby-Traps Halt Iraqi Forces’ Advance On Tikrit – 30 March 2015

Reuters – Booby-Traps Halt Iraqi Forces’ Advance On Tikrit – 30 March 2015

BBC News – Iraq Crisis: Tikrit Push ‘No Longer Led By Shia Militia’ – 30 March 2015

The Washington Post – U.S. Forces Begin Airstrikes In Tikrit, Where Iran-Backed Militias Are In Lead – 25 March 2015