AFRICAThe Government of Kenyaasked the United Nations Security Council to defer the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against Deputy President William Ruto and radio broadcaster Joshua Sang, who are charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed during post-election violence in 2007 and 2008. The ICC decided not to hold the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen in Uganda. The ICC called on India to arrest Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir – who is wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur – while he visited the country. In Cote d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara was reelected to a second term. The ICC prosecutor warned against war crimes in Burundi, where political divisions and violence have raised concerns about a potential genocide.
AMERICASAs part of the Colombia peace talks, the government and the FARC reached an agreement to work together to locate thousands of people who disappeared during the country’s 50-year conflict. President Juan Manuel Santos apologized for the 1985 raid on Colombia’s Palace of Justice, during which nearly 100 people were killed, and prosecutors identified the remains of three people who were disappeared the siege. Guatemalaopened a new court to hear war crimes cases stemming from the country’s civil war. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – an archive of materials related to abuses committed in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools – opened in Winnipeg. Mexico will reopen its investigation into the disappearance of 43 college students from Ayotzinapa.
ASIANepal’s government limited the number of staff postings at its Truth and Reconciliation Committee to 100 people, 44 fewer than what was originally requested. In Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party won a majority of seats in parliament in the country’s first free nationwide elections in over 25 years. Ahead of the elections, Myanmarsigned a ceasefire with eight armed rebel groups, but the most active militant groups declined to join the agreement. In Sri Lanka, a judge appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa found that allegations that government forces committed war crimes during the civil war – fiercely denied by the Rajapaksa government – are in fact credible.
EUROPEIn Bosnia and Herzegovina, the families of three people killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide petitioned the European Court of Human Rights to prosecute three former Dutch UN commanders for their role in the three men’s deaths. Meanwhile, Serbia said that it will donate $5.4 million to Srebrenica for economic development. Kosovo and Montenegrosigned an agreement of cooperation to find out what happened to over 1,000 people who disappeared during the Kosovo war in the late 1990s. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said that Serbia is laggingbehind on war crimes prosecutions, and the European Union said that Montenegro needs to do more to fight impunity for war crimes. TurkeygrantedCyprus access to military-controlled areas of Northern Cyprus in order to speed the search for missing persons from the conflict that divided the island in the 1960s and 70s.
MENAVictims in Tunisia say that they want a more direct voice in the country’s transitional justice process.Palestinegave ICC prosecutors a file of evidence of war crimes committed during a recent spate of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Journalist and activist Hassam Bahgat was arrested andreleased by Egypt’s military. Lebanon’s human rights record was reviewed by states during the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, and received recommendations on women’s rights, torture, migrant workers, establishment of a moratorium on the death penalty.Kuwait agreed to postpone reparations payments from Iraq stemming from Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait in the 1990s.
By Samuel Miller Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America and Oceania
WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America — A growing number of U.S. Governors are refusing to admit Syrian refugees, citing security concerns highlighted by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Leading Republican presidential candidates called on President Barack Obama to suspend the plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year.
The governors are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders.
As of Monday, the governors of the following states have either expressed hesitation or outright refusal to accept Syrian refugees within their borders: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
For example, Louisiana Governor and 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Bobby Jindal declared over Twitter, “I just signed an Executive Order instructing state agencies to take all available steps to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees to LA.”
Chief among the concerns shared by these governors, and indeed many of those involved, including members of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, have revolved around the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of properly screening and vetting the Syrian refugees. Indeed, because of the Syrian conflict, many of these refugees have little or no documentation records.
Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, has said under the Refugee Act of 1980, governors cannot legally block refugees from settling in their communities.
Several governors acknowledged that they do not have the ability to stop the federal government from accepting and financing the resettlement of refugees to the United States. They too have sought reassurances that the process used to screen refugees is adequate and thorough.
As the list of states blocking refugees grows, the state of Delaware announced that it plans to accept refugees.
Governor Jack Markell said in a statement, “It is unfortunate that anyone would use the tragic events in Paris to send a message that we do not understand the plight of these refugees, ignoring the fact that the people we are talking about are fleeing the perpetrators of terror.”
Along with Delaware, governors from the following states have stated they will accept Syrian Refugees: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
According to the Obama administration, which has stated that it hopes to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees, more than 180 cities and towns have expressed willingness to accept refugees. The U.S. has resettled about 1,800 refugees from Syria so far in 2015, according to statistics compiled by the State Department.
Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring Middle Eastern countries and Europe, and President Obama’s administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months. The U.S. State Department said the refugees would be spread across the country.
By Kaitlyn Degnan Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
GENEVA, Switzerland — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to respect and defend human rights in Venezuela, even of those who oppose state policies. He also questioned the impartiality of the Venezuelan judicial system in political trials, such as that of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in September.
“The Human Rights Committee also recently expressed concerns, which I share, about intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers,” said the Commissioner. He also expressed concern regarding the declared state of emergency lingering in 24 municipalities.
The commentary came at the start of a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the human rights situation in Venezuela.
President Maduro called the Commissioner’s comments “audacious accusations and imperialist attacks … taken from the agenda of global harassment.” He accused the Commissioner’s statement as a break in internal procedure, describing it as “absolutely biased conduct.” Commissioner Zeid’s comments were delivered via a pre-recorded video statement, which was screened prior to Maduro’s speech.
Venezuela, along with member states Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Algeria and Saudi Arabia have announced their intention to lodge a formal complaint.
Maduro also accused the United States of using human rights as a “political weapon” against Venezuela. “The West,” according to Maduro, seeks to “isolate our country.”
Paul Patin, U.S. Mission Geneva spokesperson, responded to Maduro’s accusations, calling the address an attempt to draw attention away from his government’s repressive policies before the national election.
Venezuela was recently re-elected to the Council despite criticism from around the globe. International activists had encouraged U.N. ambassadors to boycott the special session.
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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.