Philippine President Accused of Having Ordered Extra-Judicial Killings During Time as Mayor

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines– A retired Philippine police officer has confessed to leading a death squad on the direct orders of Rodrigo Duterte, before he became president. The retired police officer, Arthur Lascañas, spoke at a news conference on February 20. Mr. Lascañas alleges that President Duterte had personally ordered extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor of Davao. Mr. Lascañas is the second person to speak out against President Duterte. Last year, Edgar Matobato made similar claims to have received orders from Durterte to commit extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor.

Arthur Lascañas speaks at a news conference alleging that he led a death squad under direct orders of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City. Photo courtesy of: Associated Press.

These accusations come only weeks after President Duterte was accused of sponsoring extrajudicial killings in his own state-sponsored war on drugs. In early 2017, Amnesty International warned that the Philippine police are “systematically planning” such killings against criminals and drug suspects.

The recent accusations against Duterte claim that the former mayor established groups of hit-men to find and kill small-time drug dealers and petty criminals. Mr. Lascañas explained that members of these groups were paid between $400 and $1,000 for the killings, a price dependent on the status of the individuals murdered. Mr. Lascañas said that the groups received allowances for these efforts directly from Duterte’s office as mayor. Eventually, the groups were encouraged to kill not only drug offenders and criminals, but any individual critical of Duterte’s rule.

Mr. Lascañas confirmed earlier statements by Mr. Matobato which claimed that Duterte called for the murder of Jun Pala, who was gunned down near his home in 2003. Jun Pala was a radio commentator who was famously critical of Duterte during his time as mayor of Davao.

Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, urged the country’s Cabinet to declare their president unfit to rule, describing him as a “sociopathic serial killer”. De Lima is now facing arrest on charges that she was involved in the drug trade, accusations which she says were master-minded as a result of her leading an investigation of the recent allegations against Duterte during his time as mayor.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Ex-Officer in Philippines Says He Led Death Squad at Duterte’s Behest – 20 February, 2017

Reuters – Philippine senator urges Cabinet to stop ‘sociopathic serial killer’ Duterte – 21 February, 2017

Japan Times – Ex-cop says Duterte, while Davao mayor, paid him and others to kill crime suspects – 20 February, 2017

CNN – Former Davao Death Squad leader: Duterte ordered bombings – 20 February, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Takes up Case of Mexican Border Shooting

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON D.C., United States — On February 21, the United States Supreme Court took up the 2010 case of an unarmed 15-year old Mexican national who was shot and killed by U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa at the border between Mexico and the U.S.  The shooting was recorded on a cell phone video.

Some of Sergio Hernandez’s relatives visit the Ciudad Juarez area of the U.S.-Mexico border on the anniversary of his death in 2012 (Photo Courtesy of NPR).

The facts of the shooting are in dispute.  The family of Sergio Hernandez, the deceased, claims that their son was playing with his friends along the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas.  The U.S. government, however, claims that the shooting occurred while “smugglers” attempted to cross the border illegally, and were throwing rocks at Mesa.

Hernandez’s family is suing Mesa for violating Hernandez’s constitutional rights.  They were denied legal recourse in the lower courts, who ruled that the boy lacked constitutional protection inside Mexico.  Bob Hilliard, the lawyer representing the family, spoke of a press release issued by the FBI’s El Paso office, and said that “the statement literally says [Mesa] was surrounded by these boys, which is just objectively false” and that the video footage clearly shows there was no one surrounding Mesa at the time of the shooting.

Mesa maintains that he shot the boy in self-defense after being surround by the teenagers throwing rocks.  Mesa’s lawyers claim that this scenario will come to light via video footage from other cameras on the scene that have not yet been released to the public.

At the oral argument for the case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that the case “has, as far as the conduct is concerned, United States written all over it” and cited the actions of Mesa, who was in El Paso when he shot Hernandez.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested there should be some type of civil remedy available for the family.

The court’s more conservative justices, however, claim that no constitutional claim has been allowed against a federal official for about 30 years.  The justices warned against creating such a claim that would lead to other similar claims made by foreign nationals outside of the U.S.

The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether or not the Hernandez family has the right to sue.


For more information, please see:

ABC — Supreme Court Hearing Case of Teen Shot Dead in Mexico by Border Agent in US — 21 February 2017

CNN — US Border Patrol Shooting of Mexican National goes to Supreme Court — 21 February 2017

NPR — Supreme Court to Decide if Mexican Nationals May Sue for Border Shooting — 21 February 2017

USA Today — Supreme Court Divided Over U.S.-Mexico Border Shooting — 21 February 2017

The Gambia Rejoins the ICC

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

BANJUL, The Gambia–The Gambia has committed to rejoining the International Criminal Court.  The country formally recanted its original withdrawal from the International Criminal Court in a letter to the United Nations on February 10, 2017.  This decision comes after the inauguration of newly elected President Adama Barrow.

Judges at the International Criminal Court.  (Photo Courtesy of ENCA)

The Gambia’s recant of withdrawal leaves two African countries as outliers who are still pursuing withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.  Burundi and South Africa are still hoping to withdrawal from the court.  Both countries have unique reasons why they are trying to withdraw from the court, but one critique of the court has been that only African leaders have been held accountable through the courts justice mechanisms.  However, many of the individuals who have been held accountable were self referrals to the court from their country of origin.

The Gambia’s withdrawal has quelled concerns regarding the uncertainty of the International Criminal Court.  While there has been criticism of the courts jurisdiction, overall the court is the only of its kind that holds people accountable for international crimes.  Secretary General Antonio Guterres applauded the Gambia’s decision to stay: ‘‘The Secretary-General welcomes that The Gambia will remain a State Party to the International Criminal Court’s founding instrument, and remains confident that States Parties will continue to further strengthen the Court through a constructive dialogue.’‘  Clément Capo-Chichi, the Africa Coordinator for the Coalition for the ICC (CICC), a global NGO network, said the “decision to reverse withdrawal from the ICC is a crucial development for victims of grave crimes and the rule of law”.  For now the Gambia has helped quell fears of a collapse of the International Criminal Court, but whether or not this stability will continue remains to be seen.

For more information, please see: 

Africa News – ICC exit: UN chief hails The Gambia’s decision to stay – 17 February 2017

ENCA – Gambia to stay in ICC – 17 February 2017

Human Rights Watch – Gambia Rejoins ICC – 17 February 2017

News Ghana – Gov’t of Gambia to Rescind Decision to Live ICC – 17 February 2017

Japan Accepted 28 Refugees in 2016

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

TOKYO, Japan- Japan is receiving criticism after its government released documentation of having accepted only 28 refugees in 2016. This number is especially staggering given the total number of asylum applications received by Japan last year. 10,901 people sought asylum in Japan in 2016, up 44 percent from 2015, when the country accepted 27 individuals. In 2016, alongside the 28 refugees, Japan accepted another 97 applicants for “humanitarian reasons”, though they are not officially recognized by the government as asylum seekers.

A protestor joins in the rallies to call for more visa grants in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of: Reuters.
A protestor joins in the rallies to call for more visa grants in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of: Reuters.

Human Rights Watch called Japan’s efforts in granting asylum “abysmal”, urging the country to accept more applicants and further their human rights interests. The low acceptance rate of refugees is negligible in contrast to Europe’s influx in the past two years. Though refugee advocates and human rights organizations are criticizing Japan for their reluctance to welcome more refugees, the country has made efforts contribute to the cause.

Between January and September 2016, Japan was the fourth largest donor to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, contributing $165 billion. Japan has also said it will accept 150 Syrian students and their families under a scholarship program. Critics, however, urge that Japan’s current contributions are not enough in a world where forced migration has become so prevalent.

Immigration is a controversial topic in Japan. The country prides itself on cultural and ethnic homogeneity. Despite the Japan’s aging workforce and shrinking population, it has refused to accept a large influx of unskilled workers. Though forced migration continues, Japan has yet to take a clear political stance on its intentions regarding the issue.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Japan took in just 28 refugees in 2016, despite record applications – 9 February, 2017

Open Democracy – Japan must learn to see refugees not as ‘useful’ subjects, but human beings – 15 February, 2017

The Japan Times – Record 10,910 refugee applicants face abysmal odds of acceptance in Japan – 10 February, 2017 

New Daily – Why Japan accepts a staggeringly low number of refugees – 16 February, 2017

Hundreds of Migrants Storm Fence to Enter Spanish Territory

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain — On February 17, about 700 migrants stormed an 8 kilometer long, 6 meter high barbed-wire security fence separating Morocco from Ceuta, which is a Spanish territory in North Africa.  Security cameras filming the incident showed some migrants breaking through the fence using wielding shears and clubs.

Migrants sit aside Spanish police after storming a fence to enter the Spanish territory of Ceuta (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)
Migrants sit aside Spanish police after storming a fence to enter the Spanish territory of Ceuta (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

498 migrants successfully made it onto Spanish territory.  Those that successfully scale the fence are usually taken to migrant centers where they are repatriated or released, with the majority choosing to seek asylum or work undocumented in Europe.  Those that are intercepted before making it onto Spanish territory are usually returned to Morocco.

Two migrants were hospitalized as a result of the invasion, 30 were treated at a migrant center for fractures and other injuries, 10 members of Morocco’s armed forces were injured, and 11 police officers were injured.  In the video footage, some migrants can be seen with blood on their faces.

The border invasion was one of the largest since the fence was built in 2005.  According to an unidentified Civil Guard spokesman, police officers clashed with the migrants at the Tarajal section of the fence.  The last similar attempt took place on New Year’s Day 2017, when over 1,000 migrants attempted to jump a fence between Morocco and Ceuta.  Only two of those migrants were successful in reaching the Spanish territory, however both required hospital treatment.  Other recent successful attempts were made by 400 migrants in December, and by 200 migrants in October.

The video footage of the invasion captured migrants celebrating their arrival onto Spanish territory.  Some screamed “Libertad, libertad!” while others wrapped themselves in Spanish and European flags.  One migrant was heard shouting “I love you Mamma, long live Spain.”

Hundreds of migrants regularly attempt to enter Ceuta via climbing the fence, swimming along the coast, or hiding in vehicles.  Many consider reaching the Spanish territory as safer than attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  These migrants are hopeful in eventually reaching Europe and fleeing poverty and violence.  The migrant center in Ceuta has recently been struggling to host over 600 migrants, and has been using military tents as makeshift shelters for migrants in nearby parking lots.


For more information, please see:

BBC — Hundreds of Migrants Storm Fence to Reach Spanish Enclave of Ceuta — 17 February 2017

DW — Hundreds of Migrants Storm Spain’s Ceuta, Clashing with Police — 17 February 2017

The Local — Hundreds of Migrants Storm Fence to Enter Spain from Morocco — 17 February 2017

The Washington Post — Almost 500 Migrants Smash Through Border Fence into Spain — 17 February 2017

ISIS Torturing Sunni Arab Women and Girls

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Monday, February 20th, reporting that Islamic State (ISIS) militants are “arbitrarily detaining, ill-treating, torturing, and forcibly marrying Sunni Arab women and girls[.]” The allegation states that ISIS fighters are carrying out such abuses in Iraq, within regions that are still in their control.

Human Rights Watch stated that Sunni Arab women’s sexual abuse is widely unreported (Photo courtesy of Middle East Monitor)

The report released by Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) was prepared based on interviews with six women in Kirkuk. Four of these women stated that in 2016, they had been detained by ISIS for a period of three days up to one month. Another indicated that her cousin, who is an ISIS fighter, had raped her after forcing her to marry him. One woman stated that ISIS fighters had attempted to forcibly marry her after burning down her house in response to her husband’s escape from ISIS. Of the six interviewed women, five indicated that ISIS militants had beat them.

One woman indicated that ISIS captured her and her three children, along with fifty other women, when they attempted to escape Hawija. She was branded a traitor by ISIS after her husband had escaped the town, and was told that she should marry the local ISIS leader. Upon her refusal, ISIS fighters “blindfolded [her], beat[] [her] with plastic cables, suspended [her] by her arms, and raped [her].” She, and the other women, were held by ISIS in an abandoned house for over one month, while being blindfolded and raped her in front of her children on a daily basis. She noted that the other women were most likely raped in the same manner, and forced to marry their rapists.

HRW’s Deputy Middle East Director, Ms. Lama Faikh, stated that the sexual abuse endured by Sunni Arab women living under ISIS’s control is widely undocumented and unknown. She urged the international community and local Iraqi authorities to take action to ensure that victims receive much needed support.

A foreign aid worker indicated seeing many cases of forced marriage and rape. She noted, however, that most victims do not report the abuse because women tend to cover it up due to fear of societal stigma or retribution. She highlighted the concern that “babies born of rape or forced marriage may also face stigma[,]” while stating that “long-term psychological support and medical treatment” are particularly noteworthy.

HRW indicated that efforts to overcome the stigma associated with sexual violence are present, yet insufficient. The rights group highlighted the “lack of awareness” with regards to services, psychosocial or mental health support, and medical professionals in Kirkuk. A psychiatrist at an international organization in Iraq’s Kurdistan region stated that men are not being adequately informed on how to support women who are victims of gender-based violence. She indicated that male relatives will typically “forbid women” from obtaining counseling.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch—Iraq: Sunni Women Tell of ISIS Detention, Torture—20 February 2017

Middle East Online—HRW says IS jihadists raping, torturing Sunni Arab women too—20 February 2017

Daily Mail—’I was raped every day for a month in front of my children’: Women reveal the horrors they endured as ISIS sex slaves… despite being SUNNI Muslims just like their captors—20 February 2017

Middle East Monitor—HRW: Daesh rapes and tortures Sunni Arab women—21 February 2017

International Business Times—Sunni Arab women raped, tortured and forced to marry Isis fighters, Human Rights Watch says—21 February 2017

PILPG: War Crimes Prosecution Watch Volume 11, Issue 25 – February 20, 2017

Case School of Law Logo


Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 11 – Issue 25
February 20, 2016


Kevin J. Vogel

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Jeradon Z. Mura

Managing Editors
Dustin Narcisse
Victoria Sarant

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 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.



Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)








Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

North Korea


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: Today the UK Parliament Passed Historic Magnitsky Asset Freezing Sanctions

21 February 2017 – Today the UK House of Commons unanimously passed the UK Magnitsky Sanctions legislation.

The Magnitsky Sanctions legislation was voted on as part of the UK Criminal Finances Bill. It will allow the British government to freeze assets of human rights abusers in the UK. The Magnitsky Sanctions amendment which passed was submitted by UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

“The new Magnitsky Sanctions Legislation is going to cause perceptible fear for kleptocrats in Russia and other authoritarian regimes. They all have expensive properties in London and think they are untouchable,” said William Browder, leader of the global Magnitsky Justice Campaign and author of “Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s No 1 Enemy.”

This effort is the result of seven years of advocacy in the name of the late Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered and testified about the US$230 million corruption scheme perpetrated by Russian officials and was killed for his whistle-blowing,” said William Browder.

“Should the House of Lords pass this into law, the UK will be the second country in Europe to pass Magnitsky sanctions and will set a strong example for the rest of Europe,” said William Browder.

The new UK Magnitsky sanctions legislation introduces gross human rights abuse as part of the unlawful conduct, to which civil recovery powers can now be applied under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The UK Magnitsky legislation protects those who “have sought to expose the illegal activity carried out by a public official or a person acting in an official capacity, or to obtain, exercise, defend or promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.” (full text here).

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who uncovered the massive corruption perpetrated systematically by Russian officials and organized criminals, which included thefts from the Russian treasury, including the theft of US$230 million in 2007. Instead of pursuing the officials who approved the thefts, the Russian government arrested Sergei Magnitsky and put him in pre-trial detention, where he was tortured for 358 days and killed at the age of 37. All officials implicated in his torture and the multi-million dollar thefts have been exonerated.

In response to the impunity demonstrated by the Magnitsky case in Russia, the US passed the Russia-focused Magnitsky Act enacting US asset freezes and visa bans in 2012 and the Global Magnitsky Act which applies to human rights violators around the world in 2016. Estonia passed its Global Magnitsky Act legislation in 2016. Currently, Canada and the EU are considering their own versions of Magnitsky sanctions as well.

“The new UK Magnitsky Legislation deals with asset freezing on human rights abusers. We will continue to campaign for visa sanctions on human rights abusers in the UK under separate legislation,” said Magnitsky campaign leader William Browder.


For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777


Kenya Declares Drought a National Disaster

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

NAIROBI, Kenya– Kenya declared a national disaster on Friday February 10th due to an ongoing drought that started in October.  By declaring a national disaster, Kenya will be able to receive aid and has called for international aid in order to help people across the country.  According to reports 2.7 million people are in need of food aid in the country.

Samburu pastoralists are allowed access on January 24, 2017 to dwindling pasture on the plains of the Loisaba wildlife conservancy

Herding cattle in Kenya. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

Kenya is not due for another rainy season until April, meaning that the drought will most likely remain in place until then.  Aid organizations fear that they will not have enough to contribute to Kenya’s needs.  The United Nations World Food Programme is running $22 million short for 6-9 months.  The World Food Programme works to provide children around the globe with a meal that is sometimes their only substantial meal of the day.

Kenya is also contributing its own funds to alleviate the drought.  President Uhuru Kenyatta released $70 million to be used to combat the drought while local governments released close to $2 billion total.  The country is also dealing with the loss of agricultural land and access to water.  Kenya is facing increased desertification and is experiencing a loss of access to water in the Mau Forest Complex due to human activity.

Kenya is not alone in their struggles with food insecurity and the effects of the long lasting drought.  All of East Africa continues to struggle with the effects of the drought.  The International Federation of the Red Cross stating that 11 million people across East Africa have been affected.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta declares drought a national disaster – 10 February 2017

News 24 – Kenya declares worsening drought a national disaster – 10 February 2017

Sputnik International – Kenya Appeals for International Aid as Drought Threatens Mass Famine – 12 February 2017

Yahoo News – Kenya  declares drought a national disaster, seeks help – 10 February 2017

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: British Parliament To Vote on Magnitsky Asset Freezing Legislation on Tuesday

20 February 2017 – Tomorrow, on the 21st of February 2017, the UK House of Commons will vote on the Magnitsky legislative initiative which seeks to impose asset freezes in the UK on human rights violators from anywhere in the world.

The initiative is presented as an amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill which was introduced to the parliament last October to strengthen and improve the enforcement of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The Magnitsky initiative comes in two forms – the Dominic Raab MP version (supported by a cross-party coalition of MPs), which allows both the British government or third parties to go to court to seek asset freezes of human rights abusers; and the government’s version, which keeps the asset freezing power solely in the hands of the government. Both versions cover conduct which occurred outside UK and would be illegal in the UK.

“This legislation hits kleptocrats where it counts. Nearly every tin-pot dictator who tortures and kills in their own country has an expensive home in London. These people shouldn’t be given sanctuary in the UK. This legislation is also an important tribute to the legacy of Sergei Magnitsky and a powerful instrument protecting whistleblowers,” said William Browder, leader of the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign.

On Tuesday, the 21st of February 2017, the Bill will be considered at the report stage and third reading of the Bill.

Should the Magnitsky initiative pass into law, the UK will be the third country in the world to impose Magnitsky type sanctions.

The new legislation will protect whistleblowers and human rights defenders identified as those “seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by a public official” or “obtain/defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The proposed Magnitsky legislation modifies the current definition of unlawful conduct under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act to include human rights abuse. This allows for civil recovery proceedings to be brought with regard to property belonging to human rights violators.

The proposed Magnitsky legislation will also apply to individuals who financially profited from or materially assisted the human rights violations. It applies to torture whether it occurred before or after the law is enacted.

The US passed the Russia-focused Magnitsky Act imposing US asset freezes and visa bans in 2012 and the Global Magnitsky Act which applies to human rights violators around the world in 2016. Estonia passed its Global Magnitsky Act in 2016. Currently, Canada and the EU are considering their own versions of Magnitsky sanctions as well.

The UK’s Magnitsky amendment was sponsored by Dominic Raab MP (Conservative), Dame Margaret Hodge MP (Labour), Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat), Ian Blackford MP (SNP), Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), and Sammy Wilson MP (Democratic Unionist), and supported by a total of 50 MPs.

For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777


Middle East Briefing: Syria: A Critical Moment for Erdogan/Trump Sets a New Foreign Policy Course/Trump, the GCC and Iran: How This Triangle Can Reshape the Middle East/Make Iran an Offer!

February 20.2017



In Our New Issue of “Middle East Briefing” this week



Syria: A Critical Moment for Erdogan

Following the telephone conversation between the US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, new CIA director Mike Pompeo took off to Ankara February 9 for high level talks with Turkish officials. The mission of Pompeo was …






Trump Sets a New Foreign Policy Course

The resignation of General Michael Flynn is a clear sign that the new administration’s policies are still in a fluid state. However, out of the current fog, comes some identifiable directions and trends. After several weeks, focused on filling the …




Trump, the GCC and Iran: How This Triangle Can Reshape the Middle East

While Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in the middle of his tour in three GCC countries – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani started a short visit to two other GCC countries: Oman and Kuwait. …





Make Iran an Offer!

President Trump has already begun his first major foreign policy project: End Iran’s provocative and destabilizing policies by attaching an expensive price tag to Tehran’s behavior. This should have been done few years ago. When the US failed to do …



Syria Deeply Weekly Update: Inside the ‘universe of degradation’ in Saydnaya; Civilians Under Fire From All Sides In Idlib, Daraa and al-Bab

Syria Deeply
Feb. 17th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
Dear Readers: Here’s your weekly update on the war in Syria.

Despite a nationwide ceasefire that came into effect in December, civilians came under attack this week in several Syrian provinces.

For the first time in more than a year, rebels launched an offensive in the southwestern city of Daraa on Sunday. The offensive, named “Death Rather than Humiliation,” targeted regime-controlled areas in an attempt to prevent their troops from gaining control of the border crossing with Jordan. The Syrian government and Russia responded with intense airstrikes on the city. A Syria Civil Defense worker told Anadolu Agency that bombings destroyed six hospitals in the city, but the civilian death toll is still unclear.

In Idlib, we are beginning to see the civilian cost of excluding groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria, from the ceasefire as factional fighting rages. Thursday’s bombardment on the countryside of the rebel-held province killed at least five people.

In the northern city of al-Bab, at least 45 civilians, including 14 women and 18 children, have been killed since Wednesday by Turkish warplanes and Turkey-backed rebel forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.K.-based monitoring group said at least 110 civilians had been killed in al-Bab since Turkey started its anti-ISIS operation in the city on February 7. Roughly 10 miles (15km) from the Turkish border, al-Bab is the so-called Islamic State’s last stronghold in Aleppo province.



This Week’s Top Articles


After Battle for Wadi Barada, the Damascus Water War Isn’t Over

Muhammad Fares, a Syrian journalist from Wadi Barada, discusses the long history of water as a weapon in the Damascus suburbs and the river valley that contains the larger story of the Syrian conflict.


Clowning Around: Refugee Women Find Confidence With Circus Skills

Young Syrian refugee women have been learning to juggle, walk on stilts and hula-hoop as part of a new scheme in Turkey designed to break down language and social barriers and help the girls make friends.


Community Insight


How Amnesty Uncovered ‘a Universe of Degradation’ at Saydnaya Prison

Alessandria Masi,  Managing editor of Syria Deeply

Nicolette Boehland, lead researcher on Amnesty’s recent report on Saydnaya prison, discusses the human rights NGO’s yearlong investigation of the Syrian government’s alleged campaign of mass hangings and extermination.


Defeating Terror in Syria: A New Way Forward

Frederic C. Hof,  Director, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

On February 14, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof spoke before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in Washington, D.C., at a hearing titled ‘Defeating Terrorism in Syria: a New Way Forward.’ Here is a transcript of his statement.


Upcoming coverage

Next week, we’ll have a report on the shrinking number of safe spaces around the world for Syrian refugees. We will also keep a close eye on the ongoing conversation between world powers to create safe zones in Syria, as well as the next round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks set to begin in Geneva on February 23.

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: Russia Reissues Arrest Warrant for William Browder and his Magnitsky Justice Campaign Colleague

17 February 2017 – Today, the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow reissued an arrest warrant for William Browder, head of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and his colleague, Ivan Cherkasov, in the latest act of retaliation against the campaigners.

The Russian arrest warrant is in clear response to the global roll-out of the Magnitsky sanctions legislation. In December 2016, the US Global Magnitsky Act was signed by the US president, and on the same day the Estonian Magnitsky Act was signed by Estonia’s president.

In the following month, Russian authorities scurried to produce multiple decrees leading to the current arrest warrant.

The arrest warrant approved by judge Gordeev is issued under the long-running criminal proceedings, orchestrated by the Russian FSB, and used in July 2013 to conduct the posthumous trial against Sergei Magnitsky and in absentia Mr Browder (case No 153123, from which a file was separated and given a new number No 41701007754000008).

The repeat arrest warrant has been immediately dispatched to the Russian National Central Bureau of Interpol.

Russian attempts to use Interpol in their attack against William Browder have been rejected by Interpol three times since 2013 as politically motivated and in violation of Interpol’s Rules.

The UK authorities have also refused multiple requests by Russia for mutual legal assistance in the proceedings against William Browder and his colleague because the British government deemed such assistance would be contrary to UK’s public order, sovereignty and other national interests.

The repeat Russian arrest warrant for Messrs Browder and Cherkasov is the fourth attempt by Russian authorities to try to misuse the mechanisms of international legal cooperation for political purposes.

To justify their repeat arrest warrant, the Russian authorities continue to rely on stale allegations of corporate tax evasion, in spite of the fact that the paid taxes had been stolen by a group of Russian officials in the US$230 mln tax rebate fraud exposed by Sergei Magnitsky.

The latest arrest warrant also alleges that Browder and Cherkasov were involved in “false bankruptcy.” This allegation was made by Russian General Prosecutor Chaika who accused Browder of funding a video exposing the abuse and corruption by Chaika’s family, in which Browder had no involvement.

In support of the repeat arrest warrant, the Russian Interior Ministry produced documents from FSB, Russia’s security service, including testimony obtained from a Russian national at the FSB’s regional headquarters, where, according to him and his lawyer, he was pressured and threatened with death “like Magnitsky.”

The arrest warrant is signed by Russian Interior Ministry Investigator Ranchenkov and sanctioned by a senior Interior Ministry official Krakovsky. Other Russian officials participating in this proceeding are prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s Office Kulikov and Russian tax service official Mostovoi, previously involved in the posthumous trial against Sergei Magnitsky, acting on power of attorney signed by the head of the Russian tax service Mishustin.


For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777


Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Atrocity Alert: South Sudan, Syria and Democratic Republic of the Congo

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

South Sudan

During January renewed fighting erupted in several regions of South Sudan. In particular, violence between the Sudan People’s’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) has escalated in Central Equatoria and Eastern Nile states, while additional violence has resulted in mass civilian displacement from Yei and Kajo-Keji.

The current fighting has caused the indefinite suspension of humanitarian activities in several parts of the country. More than 52,600 people fled South Sudan to Uganda during January. The UN Refugee Agency announced on 10 February that more than 1.5 million people have fled conflict in South Sudan since December 2013 and an additional 2.1 million continue to be internally displaced.

Despite expressing his commitment to the national dialogue scheduled to start in March, President Salva Kiir has threatened war if the opposition refuses to participate. Meanwhile, significant parts of the August 2015 peace agreement remain unimplemented.

The government needs to take expeditious steps to assist in the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) and establish the Hybrid Court to investigate atrocities committed during the civil war and hold perpetrators accountable. The UN Security Council should immediately impose an arms embargo and expand targeted sanctions until all parties meet their obligations under the existing peace agreement and in relation to Resolution 2304.


Despite the formal ceasefire that has been in place across the country since 30 December 2016, parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 8 February a Syrian Arab Red Crescent distribution center in Aleppo was targeted in airstrikes, killing two humanitarian workers. On 10 February the UN Children’s Fund reported that an increase in indiscriminate attacks across the country, particularly in Idlib governorate, had led to the deaths of at least 20 children. Additionally, Human Rights Watch released a report on 13 February detailing the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces during the offensive to retake Aleppo in November and December of 2016.

In response to ongoing atrocities, UN member states should provide immediate financial and technical support for the “International, Impartial, Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes Under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.” Due to the failure of the UN Security Council to hold perpetrators in Syria accountable for their crimes, the investigative mechanism was established by the UN General Assembly during December 2016. On 19 January the UN Secretary-General submitted a report to the General Assembly containing the terms of reference for the investigative mechanism, including steps to ensure its speedy establishment.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

From 9-13 February violent clashes between the Kamuina Nsapu militia and the army (FARDC) escalated in the area of Tshimbulu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). FARDC soldiers reportedly killed at least 101 people, including 39 women, while indiscriminately firing at militia members. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that reports indicate “excessive and disproportionate use of force by the soldiers.” Prior to this incident, the UN reported that clashes between the FARDC and Kamuina Nsapu had resulted in over 100 people being killed in the Kasai provinces between August 2016 and January 2017. The UN has accused Kamuina Nsapu of perpetrating atrocities against the population in Kasai Central, including recruitment of children. The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC has deployed a monitoring team to the region to “prevent, investigate and document” human rights violations.

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ICTJ: In Focus: Taking to the Airwaves to Empower Victims in Nepal

ICTJ ICTJ In Focus 65
February 2017

In Focus


Light in the Darkness: Light in the Darkness: “The Story Kitchen” Turns Victims into Reporters in NepalJaya Luintel was a radio reporter in Nepal during the country’s civil war, covering the conflict’s impact on women. Now, she’s helping female victims produce and broadcast their own stories to a national audience. Discover how her organization, The Story Kitchen, empowers women in Nepal.

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Panel Discussion Explores Women's Experiences in WarPanel Discussion Explores Women’s Experiences in WarDepicting women as subjects, not objects: a panel of policy and media experts discusses women’s experiences in war at the New York City premiere of our new documentary.

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Reflections on the Struggle for Justice: Cristián CorreaReflections on the Struggle for Justice: Cristián CorreaTo mark 15 years of ICTJ, we asked staff past and present for memories that stand out to them – moments that throw the stakes of our work into sharp relief and resonate with them years later. Cristián Correa, Senior Associate in ICTJ’s Reparative Justice Program, shares a story about a Chilean mother’s thirst to tell her daughter the truth about their past.

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