R2P Monitor, Issue 28

Dear colleague,

I would like to draw your attention to the latest issue of our publication, R2P Monitor.

R2P Monitor is a bimonthly bulletin applying the Responsibility to Protect lens to populations at risk of mass atrocities around the world. Issue 28 looks at developments in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Burma/Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, Burundi, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Central African Republic. To read R2P Monitor please access the document via the following link: R2P Monitor, Issue 28.

I hope you will find this edition a useful tool as we work together to prevent and halt mass atrocity crimes.

Dr Simon Adams
Executive Director

 

 

Ralph Bunche Institute for
International Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5203
New York, NY 10016-4309, USA

 

 

Hundreds of Activists Have Disappeared and Tortured in Egypt Since 2015

By Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — A new report from Amnesty International has documented hundreds of people disappearing since early 2015. The enforced disappearances are being carried out by the Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA) and torturing some of those that are taken.

Egyptian Security Forces Have Detained Hundreds of Activists for Months (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Amnesty International has documented over 630 instances of people disappearing since early 2015 by NSA. This amounts to three to four people everyday being taken by Egyptian security forces. The main targets of the disappearances are political activists, protesters, students, and other opponents to the regime. Those targeted include both Islamists that support the ousted political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and secular activists. People as young as 14 have been victims to these enforced disappearances. Amnesty International says enforced disappearances are a “key instrument of state policy.”

Amnesty International’s report describes that some people, including children, are taken from their home in the night and sometimes blindfolded and handcuffed as they are transported to detention facilities. They are detained for months without access to a lawyer or their family with no formal charges brought against them and they do not stand trial.

The report also lists numerous instances of torture to those that were captured. Some of the examples of torture have ranged from long instances of interrogation to use of electric shocks to force confessions.

One example of torture was the enforced disappearance of Aser Mohamed, a 14 year old. Aser was arrested and held for 34 days in NSA offices in Cairo. While there, Aser suffered electric shocks and beatings to force a confession. Aser was later brought before a prosecutor that warned him more electric shocks would occur if he retracted his confession. When he returned to his family, he had wounds from electric shocks on his lips, head, arms, chest, and genitalia. Aser is currently awaiting his trial before an Egyptian court.

The disappearances and torture may have also extended to foreign activists. An Italian PHD candidate at Cambridge University, Giulio Regeni, was found dead on the outskirts of Cairo with visible signs of torture. The Egyptian government denied any responsibility for his death, but Amnesty International says his case matches the other documented instances.

Enforced disappearances are illegal under Egyptian law. Authorities are required to refer arrested persons to the Public Prosecution within 24 hours of detention. Enforced disappearances are not a new tactic in Egypt but are on the rise recently according to Mohamed Lotfy, Executive Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom. Most of those that forcibly disappear are later charged with terrorism related charges.

The Egyptian government has denied the information that was released in the report and accused Amnesty International of being a “non-neutral organisation motivated by political stances aimed at tarnishing the image of Egypt.” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid told CNN that torture is illegal in Egypt and all suspected cases are prosecuted. Zeid also said that a committee was being formed to investigate the allegations in the report. The United States State Department issued a statement calling the report “deeply troubling.”

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International — Egypt: Hundreds disappeared and tortured amid wave of brutal repression — 13 July 2016

BBC — Hundreds forcibly disappeared in Egypt crackdown, says Amnesty — 13 July 2016

CNN — Amnesty: Hundreds ‘disappeared’ by Egyptian forces — 13 July 2016

NPR — Amnesty International Report Documents Activist Disappearances In Egypt — 13 July 2016

Unpacking the Nuances of Complementarity On International Justice Day

 

July 17, 1998 changed the global landscape of accountability for the most egregious crimes. At that time 120 states ratified the Rome Statute, bringing the International Criminal Court (ICC) into being. It was a day in which nations around the globe took a stand against impunity, which we celebrate annually on International Justice Day.

The Rome Statute linked the newly created ICC to the national courts of its member states, establishing it as a court of last resort. National courts have primary jurisdiction over atrocity crimes, with the ICC serving as a failsafe of sorts to ensure that perpetrators are held to account. This relationship between national courts and the ICC is known as complementarity, a concept critical to understanding the role that the ICC plays in criminal prosecutions and indeed why we celebrate International Justice Day.

Complementarity affects many people beyond The Hague, in the signatory countries where these horrendous crimes have been committed –victims of human rights abuses, activists, lawyers and judicial officials, even journalists and civil society at large.

Because of the central role complementarity plays in the global fight against impunity, this year ICTJ is celebrating International Justice Day with the release of The Handbook on Complementarity: An Introduction to the Role of National Courts and the ICC in Prosecuting International Crimes. Avoiding technicalities, this handbook unpacks the relationship between national courts and the ICC in a straightforward manner for people who are fierce defendants of justice in their own countries, but not necessarily lawyers or specialists. Download the full version for free and explore our multimedia presentation.

Think you’re an expert on how national courts and the ICC work together? Put your knowledge to the test with our interactive quiz!

Experience shows that without the significant help of civil society organizations working in the country where the crimes are committed (and the pressure they can put on governments) the chances of seeing justice tend to be low. We hope that this handbook will be a useful tool in their tireless fight for accountability.

The struggle against impunity remains as important –and precarious –as ever. In recent years, the ICC has come under attack. States that signed the Rome Statute have ignored arrest warrants from the Court, allowing alleged perpetrators to flout the law. Several national efforts to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities have failed. International cases have crumbled. In short: there is serious concern that perpetrators of atrocity may evade justice, and the lives and well-being of millions of people across the planet hang in the balance.

Given these stakes, complementarity is of utmost importance – to understand it is to understand one of the key tools in this fight. The drafters of the Rome Statute had it right by placing the onus on state parties to investigate and prosecute Rome Statute crimes, as the ICC can realistically only play the role of a court of last resort. That does, however, leave many hard questions – and much work – for the rest of us who work to strengthen national judiciaries. Join us as we explore these questions this International Justice Day.

Sincerely,
David Tolbert,
ICTJ President

 

Campaigns Shut Down After Violence in Zambia

By: Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LUSAKA, Zambia—A campaign ban has been put into effect in the Zambian cities of Lusaka and Nawala by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).  The ban comes after a political rally for the United Party for National Development (UPND) turned violent on July 8th.  A police order was issued against the rally being held, but it proceeded as planned anyways.  Police opened fire on UPND protesters when the situation became violent. One person has died as a result of the protest and a number of others are injured.  The suspension of campaigning includes “public rallies, meetings, procession, or door to door campaigns.”

 

Zambia electoral body suspends campaigns

Campaign rally in Zambia. (Photo Courtesy of Today)

 

The United Party for National Development along with the Patriotic Front are cited as being the center of the violence by creating tension as the August elections draw nearer.  Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the UPND, says that the cancellation of campaign events is meant to save face for the current President of Zambia Edgar Lungu, a member of the Patriotic Front.  Hichilema believes that Lungu was experiencing low turnout at his campaign events.

Human rights activists are calling on members of law enforcement to take the campaign break as a time to reflect on the alleged poor treatment of the United Party for National Development.  Activists claim that the UPND has had trouble getting permits for rallies.  Police have already promised to make an inquiry into the death of the one protester.

Forum for Democracy & Development (FDD) party member Antonio Mwanza, who is running for MP, says that the parties inciting the violence should be punished: “What ECZ should do is punish the violent candidates and parties as opposed to inconveniencing some of us who have been peaceful; us who have nothing to do with the madness of violence.”

Despite the ban on in-person campaigning, campaign activities via electronic and print media will still be allowed.  However, these communications will be monitored for hate speech.  Normal campaign activities will start back up on July 18th after a review of the the political situation. In the interim, all campaign vehicles will remain parked.parked and campaign activities will not happen in hopes of stopping the political violence.

For more information, please see: 

All Africa – ECZ Impose 10 Day Ban On Campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala – 10 July 2016

Daily Mail – Zambia Elections Body Halts Campaigning in Capital Over Violence – 10 July 2016

Sun Daily – Zambia Suspends Election Campaigning Over Violence – 10 July 2016

Today – Zambia Electoral Body Suspends Campaigns – 10 July 2016

Zambia Daily – FDD Decries Campaign Ban – 10 July 2016

Accountability for Sectarian and Ethnic Violence in the Anti-ISIS Campaign

On June 28, the government of Iraq announced victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) in the city of Fallujah. ISIS had occupied Fallujah, and the Iraqi military with the help of Iraqi Shia militias took back the city, liberating civilians who were trapped under ISIS control. Celebrations among civilians, however, were short lived. According to the Anbar Provincial Council, 643 civilians have gone missing. They are reportedly held by the Shia militia group Kataaib Hezbollah and are feared dead or in serious condition. In early June, Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to reign in Shia militia forces fighting alongside the army amid reports that the militias were torturing and abusing refugees fleeing ISIS and the fighting in Fallujah. Similarly, in Syria, a US-backed anti-ISIS offensive in Manbij has resulted in reports of Kurdish-led forces committing atrocities against civilian populations. News of the atrocities in Iraq and Syria have been circulated through ethnically-charged and sectarian media coverage in the Middle East which has heightened already rising tensions in the region and has played directly into ISIS’s “us vs. them” ideology.

In both Iraq and Syria, there has been a complete lack of accountability despite the reports of abuse. Although the Iraqi government has responded to mounting international criticism by opening an investigation into the allegations of disappearances, killings, and torture in Anbar Province, it is yet to be seen whether the investigations will lead to arrests or a change in behavior. Meanwhile in Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria have not allowed for independent investigations or reprimand. What is needed is proper training on civilian protection and transparent systems of accountability when allegations of abuse arise. Otherwise, civilians might turn to extremist groups for protection, the cycle of revenge attacks between ethnic and religious groups will continue, and the resulting sectarian rhetoric will be a mounting obstacle to reconciliation and peace.

While a majority of Syrians say they do not see themselves or their society as sectarian, traditional and social media are often used to intentionally fuel sectarian divisions. Media outlets often portray attacks as sectarian-driven in order to propagate their viewpoints. Depending on the media source, events in the Syrian conflict are framed as either an Alwaite dictator oppressing the Sunni majority or the Alawite regime fending off a terrorist insurgency intent on wiping out religious minorities. Social media follows a similar vein as well. Unfortunately events in Syria and neighboring countries, like the recent abuses in Fallujah, play into this narrative; media reports and armed groups seem to feed off of each other, creating cycles that drive wedges in Syrian society.

Instead of addressing this growing problem, regional leaders and the international community prefer to ignore the sectarian nature of the conflict. Yet, it seems impossible to imagine a reconciliation or transitional justice process that does not tackle the resulting harm of Syria’s ethnic and sectarian-based violence and rhetoric. In fact, neighboring Lebanon is a striking example of the dangers of turning a blind eye to ethnic and religious violence that occur during conflict. Lebanon’s October 1989 Ta’if Agreement entrenched confessional politics (whereby political power is formally distributed according to religious affiliations) and resulted in a General Amnesty Law that stated la ghalib le maghlub (there are no winners and no losers in the war).

The Amnesty Law encouraged Lebanese people to forget the divisions of the conflict in the hope that the aura of silence would lead to peace and reconciliation among communities. But state-sponsored amnesia has only benefited the political elite whose crimes during the civil war were pardoned and who continue to play roles in government. The rest of the country is still coping with the effects of the war, and identity politics continue to cause low-level conflicts between communities which have escalated since 2011 as a result of the unrest in Syria. Rather than leading to reconciliation, Lebanon’s policy of forgetting has instead sewn resentment. Seeing this first-hand, Lebanese civil society groups have continuously advocated for meaningful accountability to address the harms of the past as the only option for sustainable peace.

Whether in Lebanon, Iraq, or Syria, the memories of recent conflict based on ethnic and sectarian divisions will inevitably build off of the collective memory of historical repression and perceived humiliations. These memories will avalanche and increase sectarian schisms unless there is a dramatic break from the past that provides the space for justice for victims of violence regardless of identity and allows disparate ethnic and religious groups to engage with accountability processes in a way that addresses the interconnected harm caused by cycles of abuses and conflict. The international community, therefore, must not tolerate sectarianism and ethnic hatreds for the sake of defeating ISIS. The focus should not be on expediency, but on ensuring that there are systems in place for civilian protection and internal accountability processes within anti-ISIS coalitions. Because the future of Syria depends on the ability of communities to live together in a future state, preferably not one built on the confessional politics that have stymied both Lebanon and Iraq.

(This article originally appeared on the Syria Justice and Accountability Center’s website and can be read here.)

Venezuelans Cross the Border for Food

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela—The Venezuelan government opened the border between Colombia and Venezuela for 12 hours on Sunday after a group of women broke through the border the previous Tuesday to purchase food. Government officials have also announced the possibility of reopening the border between both nations again in the near future. Colombia and Venezuela are currently in negotiations and are planning to hold a summit.

Thousands line up to enter Colombia to buy basic needs. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Since August 2015, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shut 100 kilometers of the border between San Antonio del Tachira Venezuela and Cucuta Colombia. President Maduro’s reasoning for the border closure was to prevent crime—he claimed the area had been overtaken by gangs and Colombian paramilitaries. Since the closure, in addition to a severe economic downturn in Venezuela, many have been going hungry because there is no food to buy on market shelves.

The situation led 500 women on Tuesday to storm the border connected by the Simon Bolivar Bridge and enter Colombia. The women had organized through social media to gather at the border and cross into Colombia dressed in white. The women pushed past the national guard, bought basic supplies, asked the Colombian guards to let them back through and reentered Venezuela singing the national anthem.

The act by the women prompted the Venezuelan government to open the border on Sunday for 12 hours. Approximately 35,000 people crossed into Colombia crowding the markets to buy rice, oil, toilet paper, medicine and any other basic necessity.

Venezuela’s food scarcity continues to grow causing families, especially children, to go hungry. Venezuela relies largely on imports to feed the nation since it does not produce other goods to fabricate products. Venezuela’s main production and revenue stems from oil. A drop in oil prices globally has caused an economic crisis in the country. A shortage in revenue means that Venezuela cannot import the goods needed to keep markets stocked to feed its citizens. Some critics believe that this is partially the result of government mismanagement. The Venezuelan government says a war is being waged against it for its socialist policies.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian—Venezuelans Storm Colombia Border City in Search of Food and Basic Goods—5 July 2016

BBC—Venezuelan Women Push Past Border Controls for Food—6 July 2016

BBC—Venezuelans Cross into Colombia to buy Food—10 July 2016

TeleSur—Venezuela and Colombia Open Common Border for 12 hours—10 July 2016

PILPG: War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Volume 11 – Issue 9 July 11, 2016

War Crimes Prosecution Watch, Volume 11 – Issue 9 July 11, 2016

Case School of Law Logo

FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER
Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

PILPG Logo

 

 

Editor-in-Chief
Kevin J. Vogel

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Jeradon Z. Mura

Managing Editors
Dustin Narcisse
Victoria Saran

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

AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Iraq

Syria

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

African Union: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC

Originally posted by Human Rights Watch

AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC
Video Highlights Problems in AU Approach


(Nairobi, July 6, 2016) – Activists from across Africa clarify misconceptions about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and highlight the need for African governments to support the court in a video released today by 21 African and international nongovernmental organizations.

In January 2016, the African Union (AU) gave its Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC a mandate to develop a “comprehensive strategy” on the ICC, including considering the withdrawal of African member countries from the court. The committee met in April and agreed on three conditions that needed to be met by the ICC in order for the AU to agree not to call on African countries to withdraw from the court. These include a demand for immunity from ICC prosecution for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials – which is contrary to a fundamental principle of the court.

It is not clear if the AU will consider any of the open-ended committee’s assessments and recommendations at its upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda, from July 10 to 18.

The video features 12 African activists who raise concerns about AU actions toward the ICC.

“The reasons why we supported the establishment of a permanent court as Africa have not changed,” says Stella Ndirangu of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya. “The only thing that has changed is that now leaders are being held to account.”

“To say that the ICC is targeting Africa, I think, is a misrepresentation of the situation,” says Angela Mudukuti of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “It’s more Africans making use of the court they helped to create.”

“The big clash [these days] is over African leaders, the powerful few, who really want impunity for themselves, versus the vast majority, in fact all of the victims of Africa’s continent, who want justice every day,” says Ibrahim Tommy of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law-Sierra Leone.

“Governments of the world must support [the] ICC to give justice to victims in Africa,” says Chino Obiagwu of the Legal Defence and Assistance Project of Nigeria.

Six out of the nine African situations under ICC investigation came about as a result of requests or grants of jurisdictions by African governments – Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda, and the Central African Republic twice. Two other investigations in Africa, the Darfur region of Sudan and Libya, were referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. In Kenya, the ICC prosecutor received the authorization of an ICC pretrial chamber to open investigations after Kenya repeatedly failed to investigate the 2007-08 post-election violence domestically.

In January, the ICC prosecutor opened the court’s first investigation outside Africa, into Georgia, and is conducting several preliminary examinations of situations outside Africa – including in Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq.

The recommendations from the open-ended committee are the latest development in a backlash against the ICC from some African leaders, which has focused on claims that the ICC is “unfairly targeting Africa.” The backlash first intensified following the ICC’s 2009 arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for serious crimes committed in Darfur.

While blanket immunity for sitting heads of state is available in some domestic jurisdictions, it has never been available before international criminal courts dealing with grave crimes.

The AU, in 2015, adopted a protocol to give its continental court authority to prosecute grave crimes, but also, in a controversial provision, grants immunity for sitting heads of states and other senior government officials. That protocol will need 15 ratifications before coming into force, but has yet to be ratified by any country.

The video is endorsed by the following organizations that are part of an informal group that works to promote support for justice for grave crimes in Africa and beyond:

Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (Ghana)
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (Uganda)
Africa Legal Aid
Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (Sierra Leone)
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi)
Children Education Society (Tanzania)
Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Burundi)
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (Global)
DefendDefenders – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda)
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice
Legal Defense and Assistance Project (Nigeria)
Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Réseau Justice Et Développement (Togo)
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia)

The video can be viewed on Facebook here or on the Human Rights Watch media site here .

Berlin Anti-Gentrification Riot Leaves 123 Police Officers Injured

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany — In what authorities are calling the most violent protest in Berlin in over five years, 3,500 leftist protestors marched Saturday through Friedrichshain to oppose the gentrification of a district in the eastern part of the city.  Over the past decade, investment money has flowed into the German capital, making its way to previously run-down neighborhoods of Berlin.  This surge has increased rents in neighborhoods formerly home to artists and squatters.

Leftist protestors light flares on top of R94 in opposition to gentrification efforts (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

The protest began peacefully, and police used a helicopter to monitor the crowd.  The scene quickly turned violent as missiles, cobblestones, firecrackers, flares, and glass bottles were eventually thrown at the police officers.  123 of the 1,800 officers on scene were injured, and 86 protestors were arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, causing injury, and illegal use of explosives.  Police used tear gas, pepper spray, and billy clubs to break up the riot.  Residents who live in housing collectives in the neighborhood banged spoons on pots and pans in support of the leftist squatters.

Since June, there have been movements to evict squatters on the land in furtherance of efforts to gentrify neighborhoods that have been home to the squatters for decades.  The eviction of a house called “Rige Street 94” (R94) occupied by squatters in Friedrichshain on June 22 sparked the onset of aggressive demonstrations, the smashing of shop windows, and the burning of dozens of cars in opposition to the gentrification movement.

These leftist activists protest the invasion of what they call “yuppies” and “big shots” into the area of Berlin which they currently occupy.  Various leftist websites have supported the anti-gentrification movement, encouraging their followers to cause as much disruption as possible to voice their opposition to the gentrification.

Frank Henkel, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, categorized the riots as “arbitrary terror” and stated that his political party will not allow “lawless areas” to exist in any part of Berlin, including R94.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Berlin Riot : 123 Police Injured in Anti-Gentrification Protest — 10 July 2016

NY Times — Berlin Protests in Support of Squatters Turn Violent — 10 July 2016

Wall Street Journal — Berlin Leftist Rioting Leaves 120 Police Officers Injured — 10 July 2016

Breitbart — Berlin Rocked by Nightly Riots from Left-Wing Extremists — 5 July 2016

SYRIA DEEPLY: July 9, 2016

The Basics · The Government · ISIS · The Opposition · Global Players

WEEKLY UPDATE
July 9, 2016

 

Dear Readers, 

Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first, here is a brief overview of what happened this week:

The week began on a hopeful note in Syria, as opposing international players agreed to cooperate for the sake of a political solution to the crisis, and the Syrian government announced a nationwide cease-fire for the occasion of Eid, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But by the week’s end, the truce had broken down and some 300,000 civilians were besieged in Syria’s largest city.

After more than five months of increased violence in Aleppo, forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have managed to cut the opposition’s only supply route in Aleppo: Castello Road. This most recent offensive for Aleppo is one of the Syrian government’s many attempts at seizing the city’s eastern areas, which have been an opposition stronghold since 2012.

Rebels said they are fighting back and have sent for reinforcements to try to regain their positions, but overnight airstrikes worsened their situation. A volunteer with the Syrian Civil Defense told Syria Deeply that Syrian government and Russian aircrafts were constantly above the city and countryside of Aleppo province. He added that two heavy attacks hit the city on Thursday, both of which the volunteer team believes were by Russian warplanes.

The United States voiced its concerns over the situation in Aleppo and an American intelligence official said, “This campaign exacerbates an already dire humanitarian situation and sets the stage for a humanitarian catastrophe.”

However, U.S. diplomatic decisions took a different tone this week. The day before the siege began, the United States and Russia agreed to increase their military coordination in Syria. The military partnership between Washington and Moscow would see a renewed commitment between the two countries to defeat terrorist groups in Syria.

The announcement came after a week of complicating alliances between foreign powers involved in the Syrian conflict. Ayatollah Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran, said that his country will never work with the U.S. in Syria or in other regional conflicts. Iran is the Syrian government’s biggest supporter and is also aligned with Russia.

Russia gained another hopeful ally this week. Turkey, a partner in the U.S.-backed coalition against ISIS and a supporter of the Syrian opposition, said it is open to cooperating with Russia when it comes to fighting ISIS.

Formerly unfriendly countries may be warming up to each other diplomatically for the fight against ISIS in Syria, but the situation on the ground tells a different story.

The New Syrian Army, a U.S.-backed rebel group, was pushed back into the desert last week after a failed offensive in the ISIS-controlled town al-Bukamal, near the Iraqi border. The U.S. is currently investigating claims that American warplanes abandoned rebels after being diverted from Syria to Iraq.

Weekly Highlights:

Operating Under Siege and Bombs in Aleppo

As eastern Aleppo comes under siege by Syrian government forces, Syria Deeply goes inside one of the last remaining proper hospitals in the eastern opposition-held areas of the city and talks with a general surgeon operating amid the increasing violence.

Dr. Abu Sayyed, a physician in one of Aleppo’s last remaining proper hospitals, discusses how his facility operates with limited staff and supplies. Lindsey Snell and Mustafa Sultan

Conversations: Selling Military Antiques in Wartime

Abu Abdo owns an antique shop in Eastern Ghouta, one of the heaviest-hit areas in the war-ravaged country. The shop owner spoke with Syria Deeply about his decision to remain in his war-torn hometown and keep his family’s business running, despite no longer being able to sell anything.

Antique decorative objects hang on the wall in Abu Abdo’s shop. Eastern Ghouta, June, 2016. Syria Deeply

The Silent Suffering of Syria’s Chronically Ill

In the first installment of our series on chronic illnesses in Syria, we explore how the war has destroyed the country’s healthcare system, left millions of Syrians unable to manage their conditions and led to severe complications and untold unnecessary deaths.Worsening health conditions in Syria have also allowed for the resurgence of life-threatening illnesses that had largely been eradicated.

Syrian government artillery damaged a ambulance in the province of Daraa. Syrian Network For Human Rights

Additional Reading:

For new reporting and analysis every weekday, visit www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

Top image: Abu Abdo holds a dagger called “Karda”. Eastern Ghouta, June, 2016. Syria Deeply

Read the original post here.

SYRIA DEEPLY: July 2, 2016

The Basics · The Government · ISIS · The Opposition · Global Players

WEEKLY UPDATE
July 2, 2016

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first, here is a brief overview of what happened this week:

This week in Syria was marked by shifting international alliances, and events have underlined the Syrian war’s effect on the international stage. Most notably, both Turkey and the United States, two main supporters of the Syrian opposition, have signaled their desire to partner with Russia, a staunch supporter of the Syrian government.

The United States proposed new military cooperation with Russia. The proposal would see Russia working alongside the U.S. to target Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria. In return, Russia would have to pressure the Syrian government to halt its campaign against U.S.-backed rebel groups and designate certain areas as “safe” from Syrian aerial bombing.

Turkey, a primary backer of several Syrian opposition groups, appears to also be making moves to get closer to Russia. A Russian news agency quoted Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying that the two countries should work closer together to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

As the U.S. and Turkey inch closer to Russia, the Syrian opposition is calling on the international community to limit Moscow’s power in the war-torn country. Syria’s main opposition body, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) presented a detailed document to the European Union calling on them to impose sanctions on Russian companies aiding the war in Syria, specifically those that deal in arms shipments.

Some 24 NGOs, including the Syrian Civil Defense and the Syrian Network for Human Rights, threatened to quit the Geneva-based peace talks for political transition in Syria. The letter states that the ongoing fighting in Syria had made their presence at peace talks “meaningless” and “unnecessary.”

One month away from the August 1 deadline, the U.N.-brokered peace talks are far from being completed. The talks officially collapsed in late April when the HNC suspended its participation in negotiations. However, this week the U.N.’s Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura stated that progress with political transition in Syria would still be possible by the deadline.

On Syria’s battlefields, the weekend began with a devastating attack in Deir Ezzor. At least 45 people, including children, were killed in a series of heavy airstrikes from Russian and Syrian forces on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The attack targeted the town of Qourieh, which is largely controlled by the so-called Islamic State group.

The battle continued in Aleppo this week. Some 70 government and rebel fighters were killed in the 24 hours leading up to Friday in Aleppo’s suburbs, as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continue their campaign to seize Aleppo’s strategically significant supply lines.

The Teacher: How One Woman Educated an Entire Camp

Umm ’Abdu abandoned her education when she got married. But after the war broke out in Syria, she fled the opposition-held neighborhoods of Aleppo for government-controlled Tartus, and devoted her life to tutoring children. One day, she hopes to fulfill her dream of becoming a midwife.

Umm Abdu’s daughters, Siham, Hala and Nur in the Old Garage camp in Syrian government-controlled Tartus. Ghenwa Yusuf/Good Morning Syria

Children are Fighting on All Sides of Syria’s War

Whether it is with the Free Syrian Army or the pro-government National Defense Forces militia, ISIS or the Kurds, children across the war-torn country have consistently been recruited to fight in Syria’s war.

Abu Talha, 15, is fighting with opposition forces in Daraa, Syria. Roxana.fm/Syrian Independent Media Group

How Hafez al-Assad Divided the Alawite Sect

It may have been 16 years since the death of former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, but his legacy still lives on in the war-torn country’s sectarian politics.

Porcelain plates bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father, the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, are displayed in a souvenir shop outside the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

Additional Reading:

For new reporting and analysis every weekday, visit www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
You can reach our team with any comments or suggestions at info@newsdeeply.org.

Top image: Umm ʿAbdu’s daughter, Siham, drew her own map of Syria with all the governorates on the tent where her mother teaches in government-controlled Tartus. Ghenwa Yusuf/Good Morning Syria

The original post can be found here.

Rethinking the Death Penalty and Complementarity… Neither Amnesty Nor Execution Would be a Good Result in the ICC’s Libya Cases

The International Criminal Court’s two Libya cases, against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi, appear potentially poised to end in Libya, in an amnesty and an execution: neither would be an appropriate result.

After the UN Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, the Court rendered divergent rulings on complementarity— that Saif Gaddafi should be tried at the ICC, while Senussi could stand trial in Libya. Saif was never transferred, as he reportedly was held by a militia in Zintan and not governmental authorities. Both men were then sentenced to death in a flawed domestic trial in Libya. Now, new, unconfirmed news reports suggest that Saif has been amnestied. Senussi appears still to be under a death sentence.

From death sentence to amnesty for Saif

In her recent May 26 briefing to the U.N. Security Council, the chief prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda had announced new efforts to get Saif transferred to The Hague – asking the Pre-Trial Chamber to direct the ICC Registry to send the request for Saif’s arrest and surrender directly to the head of the militia. This approach may prove moot if reports are true that he was amnestied (and one report, now contradicted, was that he had been released). These events then present the concern of him potentially escaping accountability, depending on whether or not his ICC case would proceed if there is a (valid) domestic amnesty of him. This presumably will now be litigated at the ICC – that is, what becomes of the ICC case after a flawed domestic trial in Libya that was never supposed to happen because he was supposed to have been transferred, and in light of a possible domestic amnesty that may or may not be valid.

The need to reopen admissibility regarding Senussi

Disappointingly, in her May briefing, the Prosecutor did not announce any intention to revisit complementarity (admissibility) in the Senussi case. This is unfortunate. When the ICC ruled that Libya could try him, there were before the Court only initial indications that his trial in Libya might face fairness challenges — lack of counsel in early phases of the proceedings. The Court did not reach other issues, finding them speculative.

The actual group trial that included both Senussi and Saif was riddled with fair trial violations:

• inadequate assistance of counsel;
• lack of adequate time and facilitates to prepare the defense;
• lack of an opportunity to present sufficient defense witnesses;
• lack of an opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witnesses;
• lack of impartial and transparent proceedings; and
• lack of a reasoned ruling—the failure to make individualized determinations as to individual criminal responsibility.

Additional fair trial violations may include denial of the right to remain silent, to be promptly informed of the charges against one, and to challenge the evidence presented. Saif was also largely tried in absentia, and there are allegations that both were tortured.

The ICC Appeals Chamber unfortunately set a very high standard before it would consider due process violations in a national court process when evaluating admissibility. It required a showing that national proceedings were “so egregious that the proceedings can no longer be regarded as being capable of providing any genuine form of justice to the accused.” This, in the author’s view, is too stringent a standard, especially where the death penalty is involved; the Court’s ruling merits reconsideration.

Absent reconsideration, however, given all the fair trial violations that occurred after the Court’s ruling, this standard is arguably met — new information reveals that due process was indeed egregiously violated when compared to the appropriate international standards. Furthermore, the Court should err on the side of caution, in a death penalty case, which warrants even more exacting adherence to due process. Thus, both the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) and Senussi’s council should move to reopen admissibility. The death sentence against him suggests the urgency of doing so.

Complementarity & the death penalty – the need to adopt a policy of requesting diplomatic assurances

Beyond the complication of the two Libya cases, States Parties should revisit the issue of complementarity and the death penalty. There is currently nothing in the Rome Statute to preclude the judges from ruling a case “inadmissible” at the ICC, thereby permitting trial in a country that applies the death penalty. Yet, most Rome Statute States Parties oppose the death penalty, and would never extradite someone to stand trial in a country that uses the death penalty without assurances that it would not be used.

Because Senussi was never in The Hague, it didn’t look like the ICC was transferring him to a country that applies the death penalty, because there was no transfer involved. But giving the green light to his trial in Libya has the same result. In negotiating the Rome Statute, states may have agreed to allow national countries to use all the penalties on their books when exercising complementarity, yet, as more and more countries reject use of the death penalty, States Parties at the upcoming Assembly of States Parties meeting should request the Court to adopt a Policy of requesting diplomatic assurances of non-use of the death penalty in any ICC cases ruled inadmissible.

It is troubling for the ICC to play a role in allowing domestic executions. UN-backed tribunals such as the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals did not apply the death penalty, nor does the ICC when a case is still before it. The Rwanda Tribunal even waited until Rwanda abolished the death penalty before transferring its rule 11bis cases back to Rwanda.

If one (or both) of the Libya cases ends in execution, this will be a bad outcome:

–for the UN Security Council, which made the referral,

–for the Court, which ruled that Libya could try Senussi (and failed to get Saif transferred),

–for States Parties (particularly those that do not permit the death penalty), in failing to recognize their role in creating an institution that can have a hand in domestic executions when it rules cases “inadmissible,” and

— not least, for the accused, as the Libyan trial was by all accounts palpably flawed.

For the same reason – that the trial was palpably flawed – it is also troubling if Saif’s case ends with a domestic amnesty (an outcome we can expect the OTP to fight). In neither case, was justice done.

Regardless of the outcome of these cases, the linkage between the ICC and the death penalty remains in the Rome Statute and warrants revisiting.

Jennifer Trahan is Associate Clinical Professor, at The Center for Global Affairs, NYU-SPS, and Chair of the American Branch of the International Law Association’s International Criminal Court Committee. The views expressed are those of the author.

(This op-Ed originally appeared on IntLawGrrls and can be accessed here.)

Israeli Government Approves More Settlements

by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel — The Israeli government approved the construction of hundreds of new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem areas. The settlement expansion comes days after an Israeli teenager was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager.

Clashes at the Qalandia Checkpoint Following Announcement to Expand Settlements (Photo Courtesy of Al-Jazeera)

The Israeli government announced that 560 housing units will be built in Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest settlement areas in the West Bank. Another 240 units will be built in neighborhoods in Eastern Jerusalem. Israel claims these neighborhoods are Jewish, but Palestinians claim this is the future site of the Palestinian capital. Finally, another 600 homes would be built in Beit Safafa, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

The international community condemned the expansion of settlements in the West Bank area. United States State Department spokesman John Kirby said these actions are a “systematic process of land seizure.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon stated these actions by Israel are a roadblock to peace and questioned Israel’s long term intentions. The European Union called the expansions illegal under international law. Last week, the Middle East “Quartet” comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, published a report asking Israel to stop building settlements. Israel responded saying that the building of settlements is not a roadblock to peace.

The decision to build more settlement homes in the region comes after the death of an Israeli teenager. Last week Hallel Yafa Ariel, a 13-year old Israeli girl, was stabbed to death in her sleep when a Palestinian teenager broke into her home. The Palestinian teenager was shot to death as he tried to exit the neighborhood. Following the attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to expand settlements in the area.

Violence in the region has escalated since the stabbing death and Netanyahu’s announcement to expand settlements. An elderly Palestinian man died due excessive tear gas inhalation fired by Israeli troops who were clashing with Palestinian protesters at the Qalandia checkpoing. In the West Bank City of Hebron, a Palestinian woman was shot to death after an alleged stabbing incident. In Otniel, an Israeli man was killed and three of his relatives were injured following an alleged attack from a Palestinian shooter.

Israel first captured East Jerusalem and regions in the West Bank in 1967 during the Six-Day War. Since the war Israel has had direct control over the territory and built housing units for Israelis to live in. The United Nations has passed resolutions telling Israel to withdraw from the territory and end the building of settlements. Many consider the annexation and building of settlements to be in violation of international law.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera — Israel vows more settlements amid West Bank violence — 2 July 2016

BBC — US criticises Israel over plans for new settlement homes — 6 July 2016

CNN — Israeli government approves new settlement housing — 6 July 2016

International Business Times — Israel’s West Bank, East Jerusalem Settlement Expansion Plans Roundly Condemned — 6 July 2016

Police and Protesters Clash in Zimbabwe as Protests Turn Violent

HARARE, Zimbabwe— Police and protesters clashed in Harare and other towns in Zimbabwe on July 4th.  Minibus and taxi drivers were protesting excessive road blocks where police often collect bribes.  Drivers said that the payment of these bribes is costing them nearly $50 a day.  This is in a country where most of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

 

zimbabwe

Protests turn violent as police clash with protesters. (Photo Courtesy of VOA)

The protests started out peacefully, but negotiations soon broke down between police and protesters.  Protesters began to set up barriers to mock the road blocks that they deal with from the police.  Local businessmen tried to negotiate between the police and protesters, though violence broke out despite their efforts. Police launched tear gas and water cannons to clear the crowds. A warning against public violence was also published by the government and said that “all those who are inciting and engaging in violence that such misconduct will be severely dealt with.”  Media reports show that 30 protesters have been arrested.

Zimbabwe has been facing economic difficulties since gaining independence from Britain in 1980.  The country’s leader President Robert Mugabe has faced criticism over his inability to stimulate the economy since he came to power.  Most recently, banks have run out of notes and government employees have not received their paychecks.  These unpaid government workers are were expected to strike by Tuesday if not paid.

For more information see:

Africa News – Zimbabwe police cracks down on protesting drivers – 4 July 2016

Al Jazeera – Taxi drivers’ protest turns violent in Zimbabwe – 4 July 2016

BBC – Zimbabwe police clash with rioting minibus drivers – 4 July 2016

VOA – Riots Rock Zimbabwe – 4 July 2016

Investigation Demonstrates President Rousseff’s Innocence – and Guilt

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil—Impeached president Dilma Rousseff was found innocent of fiscal pedaling in an investigation conducted by government auditors in a 233 page report. Although she was found innocent of fiscal pedaling, the auditors did find that Dilma Rousseff signed three executive orders providing supplementary credit without the approval of Congress—a crime of fiscal responsibility.

President Dilma Rousseff claims her innocence. (Photo Courtesy of Forbes)

The impeachment process against President Rousseff began when her administration was accused of making late payments from the treasury to the public banks, as well as hiding budget shortfalls. It is believed President Rousseff’s mishandling of the budget was part of an attempt to win re-election.

The impeachment proceedings  against President Rousseff are also closely related to the Petrobras investigation. Petrobras is an oil company that many political appointees and those within the private sector have used for fiscal pedaling.

The dual findings of the report have been leveraged by Rousseff’s supporters and her critics. The report is not the final word on the subject, the verdict will be announced the day before the close of the Rio 2016 Olympics. If she is indeed impeached, interim President Michel Temer will replace her permanently.

Currently, Rousseff is raising money through a crowd-fund created by her supporters since her government funds have been frozen. She is using the funds to campaign through out the country against the illegitimacy of the impeachment. In one day she raised $155,000 from supporters. She claims her impeachment was a cover for a coup led by opponents. Her claims of a coup have gained momentum these past few weeks through the release of leaked tape recordings in which opposition leaders were heard discussing obstructions in the Petrobras investigation. And this latest report by the auditors continues to bolster her claims.

The unstable political climate and the Petrobas scandal have led to a failing economy putting Brazil on the brink of an economic disaster. The debt in Brazil may increase by 10% within the year and about 11 million nationals are unemployed.

For more information, please see:

Forbes—Latest Brazil Study on Impeachment Unlikely to Save Dilma—June 27, 2016

Telesur—Senate Report Clears Rousseff of Budget Manipulation—27 June 2016

Folha de S. Paulo—Rousseff is Guilty of Decrees, but not Fiscal Pedaling, According to Investigation—28 June 2016

Business-Standard—Rousseff Raises Funds to Fight Impeachment—1 July 2016