By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
Lima, PERU—The Peruvian attorney general has issued an arrest warrant for the former president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, on charges of laundering assets. Prosecutors are accusing the former president of accepting $20 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht.
Prosecutors claim that Mr. Toledo accepted bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for infrastructure contracts. These contracts included the right to build a highway extending from Brazil to Peru. It is believed that Mr. Toledo obtained the payments through Peruvian-Israeli businessman Josef Maiman, who is also being investigated. The Peruvian attorney general, Pablo Sánchez, has requested for the “precautionary imprisonment” of Mr. Toledo for 18 months during the investigation. Currently, Mr. Toledo is in Paris, France and has told the media he is innocent of the accusations. He stated, “Say when, how and where and in what bank they’ve given me $20 million.” Mr. Toledo is set to travel to Stanford where he is a visiting scholar but is willing to travel to Peru as long as he is given a fair trial.
Odebrecht has been involved in similar scandals in the region that involved the Brazilian government and the administration of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In addition, the CEO of Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years of prison for corruption and money laundering charges. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Odebrecht had created a department within its company dedicated to bribing international government officials in exchange for public works contracts.
Mr. Toledo was president of Peru from 2001 to 2006 and rose to power after protests toppled his predecessor, Alberto K. Fujimori, who is currently serving time in prison.
For more information, please see:
by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A new group of female-only “ISIS police” have been administering a new torture technique in which women are “ripped to death with ‘metal jaws’” if they violate the strict rules set by the group. Upon breaking one of the rules set forth by the brigade, a ten-year-old Iraqi girl bled to death after being “bitten” by a poison-lined medieval torture device.
The Iraqi girl, Faten, allegedly stepped over the threshold of her home while cleaning. Per the strict rules imposed by ISIS fundamentalists in Mosul, women are not permitted to leave their homes by themselves. In response, the al-Khansaa brigade, ISIS’ female “morality police,” approached Faten’s mother to ask whether punishment should be administered to her or her daughter. Thinking the punishment would be in the form of a bite delivered by a person, Faten’s mother elected to have her daughter take the penalty instead of herself. Her mother, however, was not aware that the punishment would be administered by a medieval torture device, lined with poison.
The device is described as a “clamp with four ends as sharp as knives, like teeth, which can pierce the skin from both sides when pressed down.” While administering the punishment, the device tore the girl’s flesh in various places. After receiving the “bite,” Faten bled to death from the wounds before the poison could take effect.
The al-Khansaa brigade acts as a religious law enforcer, in which they punish females who violate the strict moral rules set forth by ISIS, including breastfeeding outside, not wearing black socks, wearing high heels, or lifting a full-face veil.
The women of Al-Khansaa have been administering brutal punishment all over Mosul. A woman reportedly died from injuries she sustained after being punished for “slightly” lifting her veil to examine merchandise at a market. She was immediately ordered to sit on the ground by the al-Khansaa and received thirty lashings. A woman who witnessed the death cried out against having to wear a hijab and face veil by stating “[i]t’s like I’m getting into a bag and it’s closed on me so I can’t even breathe . . . .”
For more information, please see:
Daily Mail—Iraqi girl, 10, is ‘bitten to death’ with medieval torture device by female ISIS fanatics after her mother was asked to choose if she or the child would be punished for stepping outside their house—7 February 2017
By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BEIJING, China– China, the world’s biggest manufacturing powerhouse, has never had a strong reputation for its working conditions. China is able to offer competitive prices because it’s manufacturers cut back on other expenses, like worker’s benefits and quality work spaces.
China’s courier services have recently drawn attention in the international media. The world’s largest market for package delivery employs largely unskilled workers, and the job can be low-paying and difficult. Labor activists and legal experts are concerned that many couriers face harsh working conditions and unmanageable hours of employment. Almost one quarter of Beijing’s couriers work more than 12 hours each day, seven days a week, according to a survey conducted by Beijing Jiaotong University.
Most couriers make between $300 and $600 each month, a salary roughly equal to wages earned in China’s migrant factories. Chinese workers lack the right to organize their own worker’s unions. Instead, collective representation of workers falls under the sole authority of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, an organization of officials appointed by China’s communist party. This poses the concern that individuals have no remedy for grievances like low wages and poor working conditions.
Recently, China has showed some interest in expanding investments in Africa. Currently, China relies on Africa to supply a constant influx of natural resources to sustain its massive manufacturing industry. China, in turn, sells its manufactured products back to African states, builds infrastructure, and provides foreign direct investments. Critics of China’s policies in Africa are concerned that China is establishing itself as a colonial power. Human rights organizations are paying close attention to ensure that China’s labor practices, specifically the sate’s tendency to neglect labor rights, doesn’t carry over into the African labor sector.
For more information, please see:
By Samantha Netzband
Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter
AFRICA– President Donald Trump has reinstated the Global Gag Rule, a policy that affects many African abortion providers. The Global Gag Rule puts a funding restriction on USAID funds that are distributed to foreign nations. Under the Global Gag Rule, funds will not be provided to clinics that provide abortion or counsel patients on abortion. The Trump Administration has gone even further by not only restricting funding for reproductive health services, but health services in general.
Kenyan gynecologist John Nyamu performs an ultrasound.
According to many different providers, this will lead to severe funding cuts as many African providers rely on these aid dollars. Marie Stopes International is projecting that the funding restrictions will have a devastating impact on women’s health in Nigeria.
“Without US funding, from 2017 to 2020, over 1.8 million unintended pregnancies will probably occur; more than 660,000 abortions will happen and over 10,000 maternal deaths will not be averted,” says Effiom Effiom, a country director for Marie Stopes in Nigeria.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation regional office in Africa also stands to lose up to $100 million of US funding because they will not be able meet the requirements without compromising service.
In the end the policy which claims to help reduce the abortion rate will actually most likely work to increase the abortion rate according to the Economist. Because clinics may be forced to shut down because of the funding restrictions which leads to a decrease in the availability of contraceptives such as condoms and birth control. Without these protections unplanned pregnancies and abortions increase and women’s health is endangered.
For more information, please see:
By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On February 3, Puterto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello approved a non-binding referendum to determine whether the U.S. territory will become a state or remain a territory. To be held on June 11, 2017, the referendum will allow voters to either choose statehood or independence. If the majority of voters choose independence, a second referendum will be held in October.
Governor Rossello called the referendum a “civil rights issue” and noted that “the time will come in which the United States has to respond to the demands of 3.5 million citizens seeking an absolute democracy.” Rossello also commented that “colonialism is not an option for Puerto Rico.”
Supporters of the referendum say it could help the territory overcome a decade-long economic crisis. They say it would also grant the territory more equality in that it would allow them to vote in presidential elections, and would grant them more voting powers in Congress. Statehood would also allow Puerto Rico to receive more Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Some are concerned with the way the referendum is worded. Edwin Melendez, director for the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College worries that the referendum “doesn’t leave room for any other options.” Melendez does not believe that it is evident statehood currently reflects the majority opinion.
If the U.S. Congress recognizes Puerto Rico as a state, it could receive an additional $10 billion in federal funds per year, and its government agencies would be able to file for bankruptcy, which they are not currently allowed to do under state and federal laws. Puerto Rico has held four referendums in the past that have resulted in no action from the U.S. Congress, who has the final say in any changes to Puerto Rico’s status.
In addition to the referendum, Puerto Rican legislators are expected to vote on a bill that would allow Governor Rossello to hold elections to choose two senators and five representatives and send them to Congress to demand statehood.
For more information, please see:
by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) issued a statement accusing Iraqi military members of screening men who are fleeing Mosul for Islamic State (“ISIS”) membership and secretly detaining them in undisclosed prisons.
The HRW report indicated that fighters with the Popular Mobilization Units (“PMU”) have been abducting such men and holding them at detention centers for interrogation. HRW urged that the men are at “heightened risk of abuse, including arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance” as PMU’s are not trained in screening. The rights group further highlighted that the screenings and detentions are carried out abnormally, while prisoners are denied contact with the outside world.
The deputy Middle East director at HRW, Ms. Lama Fakih, stated that relatives are increasingly reporting male family members’ disappearance following questioning by PMU fighters. She further stated that the “lack of transparency” with regards to the detained mens’ whereabouts is a “cause for real concern.”
HRW interviewed families which stated that PMU fighters had evacuated their village to a refugee camp. They indicated that five men never returned to the village after they had left to sell sheep. The same men were later shown on a television broadcast depicting them as captured ISIS militants. One of these men stated that he had been attacked and detained by PMUs after leaving the village to sell sheep. Although he had been released and reunited with his family, the remaining men have not resurfaced.
The HRW report stated that the interviewed families all provided the same description for the screening process. Notably, they indicated that screening would be carried out overnight by members of the Iraqi military, who would separate men and boys over the age of fifteen from women and children. The military forces would crosscheck the men and boys’ IDs against Iraqi watchlists for suspected ISIS associations. They would then be detained without any justification for interrogation.
Ms. Fakih indicated that men have been disappearing with increasing frequency, even though official screenings by Iraqi security forces reveal that they are not on a watchlist. She noted that only those with a “screening mandate” should be permitted to screen individuals, while calling upon Iraqi authorities to ensure that prisoners are kept only at “recognized detention center[s]” which provide access to “independent monitors” and guarantee due process rights. She stated that all detention must be based on “clear domestic law.” Ms. Fakih further highlighted the importance of guaranteeing that each prisoner be brought before a judge promptly, as Iraqi law mandates a judicial hearing within 48 hours of detention. Additionally, she also indicated that prisoners’ family members should be made aware of their whereabouts.
PMUs were officially integrated into the Iraqi army in November. Yet they remain autonomous and have attracted widespread criticism regarding mistreatment of prisoners and “carrying out indiscriminate sectarian retributions.”
For more information, please see:
By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
Buenos Aires, Argentina—The Judicial System of Argentina has decided to send Diana Sacayán’s murder case to trial. Diana Sacayán was an activist and transgender leader murdered in 2015.
Diana Sacayán was murdered by Gabriel David Marino and Felix Alberto Ruiz. They stabbed Ms. Sacayán in her apartment in Buenos Aires thirteen times, and her body showed signs of violence. Both Mr. Marino and Mr. Ruiz are accused of aggravated murder and gender violence. The same weekend Ms. Sacayán was murdered, she was set to participate in the National Women’s Conference. Ms. Sacayán was the leader of the International Association of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals, as well as the leader of the Antidiscrimination Liberation Movement. Upon her death, both the president of Argentina and Amnesty International expressed their concern over the murder. Amnesty International Director of Argentina, Mariela Belski, stated, “A dark cloud has set over Argentina’s trans community, unless this latest wave of murders is effectively investigated and those responsible are taken to justice, a message will be sent that attacking trans women is actually ok.”
Prosecutor, Matías Di Lello, and prosecutor of crimes against women, Mariela Labozzeta, submitted the request for trial. They believe there is sufficient evidence that the murder of Ms. Sacayán should be treated as a hate crime and femicide.
The same month Ms. Sacayán was murdered, two other transgender women, Marcela Chocobar and Coty Olmos, were also murdered. The wave of murders within the transgender community is not the first of its kind. Latin America accounts for a significant percentage of all transgender deaths in the world. Statistics from January 2008 and December 2014 demonstrated that seventy-eight percent of the 1,731 reported murders of transgender and gender-diverse people occurred in Latin America.
For more information, please see:
Mass Atrocities, Refugees and US President Trump’s Travel Ban
On 27 January US President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order banning all refugees, migrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries – Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. The discriminatory ban also halts the United States refugee program for an initial period of 120 days, preventing the resettlement of people who are fleeing war and persecution in countries where atrocities are occurring or have previously taken place. The ban includes previously vetted refugees who have survived genocide in Iraq, war crimes in Yemen, or crimes against humanity in Syria.
For years the United States has been the world’s top resettlement country for refugees, accepting nearly 85,000 refugees in 2016 alone. Resettlement programs allow long-term refugees to get out of temporary camps, where they have often spent years, and start to rebuild their lives with access to similar civil rights as those enjoyed by nationals. Refugees can not apply for resettlement, nor choose a country to resettle in, but are selected for eligibility by the UN. Refugees who are selected for potential resettlement to the United States are then scrupulously vetted by eight Federal Agencies, six different security databases, and subjected to rigorous background checks, interviews and biometric testing. For this reason, the process of refugee resettlement takes several years.
UNHCR facilitated the resettlement of more than 140,000 people in 2016, more than half of whom were from Syria. The majority of refugees entering the United States in 2016 were resettled after fleeing persecution and/or conflict the Democratic Republic of the Congo (16,370), Syria (12,587), Myanmar (12,347) and Iraq (9,880).
Raising concern for the thousands of refugees affected by President Trump’s ban, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has noted that, “refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.”
For background regarding the threat of atrocities facing populations from countries affected by President Trump’s ban, click on the maps.
UNHCR provides additional statistics regarding refugee resettlement in the United States here.
See also the Global Centre’s “Statement on United States President Trump’s ‘Extreme Vetting’ of Refugees.”
*Data on refugees and IDPs was derived from UNHCR’s Country Pages, UNHCR’s Global Trends Report and OCHA.
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|War Crimes Prosecution Watch
Volume 11 – Issue 24
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 email@example.com 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.
- News24: UN extends sanctions on Central African Republic
- UN News Centre: UN fund allocates $6 million to help thousands in violence-hit parts of Central African Republic
- Agence France Presse/Yahoo News: Sudan Opposition Leader Back from Exile to ‘End War’
- Associated Press: Czech FM: 20-year Sentence for Czech in Sudan Groundless
- Sudan Tribune: Eastern Sudan Group Urges ICC to Investigate “Port Sudan Massacre”
- Reuters: Fresh Clashes near South Sudan’s Oil Hub of Malakal
- International Justice Monitor: Ntaganda Trial: Video Link Testimony of Witness P005 Heard in Closed Session
- International Justice Monitor: Hearings in Ntaganda Trial Continue in Closed Session
- International Justice Monitor: Ntaganda Appeals ICC Decision to Try Him Over Rape of UPC Child Soldiers
- International Justice Monitor: Judges at ICC Decline to Grant Protective Measures to Upcoming Prosecution Witness
- International Justice Monitor: Former Congolese Judge Testifies at Ntaganda’s ICC Trial
- The New York Times: Malnutrition Wiping Out Children in Northern Nigeria, Aid Workers Say
- The Washington Post: At Least 4 Killed in Trio of Suicide Attacks in Nigeria
- Yahoo News: Boko Haram in Deadly Ambush on Motorists in NE Nigeria
- The New York Times: UN: 5 Killed in Attack Along Cameroon-Nigeria Border
- ABC News: Jihadism is on the Move in Mali – Why This Matters to Western Countries
- New Vision: Mali Arrests Two Suspects in Planned Terror Attack
- The Guardian: Mali Cancels Return of Famous Music Festival After al-Qaida Attack
- AllAfrica: The Monitor: Uganda: Signaller Reveals LRA Secret Codes At Ongwen ICC Trial
- International Business Times: First LRA fighter testifies during warlord Dominic Ongwen’s ICC trial
- AllAfrica: The Independent (Kampala): Uganda: Former LRA Commander Kwoyelo’s Pretrial Set for Tomorrow
- AllAfrica: The Monitor: Uganda: Mbuya Barracks Attack – Suspects Fail to Present Witnesses
- The Star: Al Shabaab planning major attack in Nairobi, DCI claims
- The Star: ICC starts fresh probe on witness tampering
- Fredericksburg: UN alarm that most of al-Shabab’s force in Somalia are kids
- Al Jazeera: Somalia: Al-Shabab attack at Mogadishu hotel ‘kills 28’
- News 24: Al-Shabaab, Kenya claim dozens of deaths in Somalia attack
- Balkan Insight: Serb Fighters Charged with Visegrad Bosniaks’ Disappearances
- Balkan Insight: Bosnia Charges Serb Woman with Vlasenica Massacre
- United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: ICTY Legacy Dialogues: From the Tribunal to the Classroom
- Balkan Insight: Hague Tribunal Rejects Karadzic’s Cancer Claims
- B92: “Specialist Prosecution not seeking Haradinaj’s extradition”
- Balkan Insight: Serbia’s Ex-War Crimes Prosecutor ‘Barred from Working’
- Balkan Insight: Arrested Kosovo Ex-PM Accuses Serbia of ‘Abusing Law’
- Balkan Insight: Kosovo Victim’s Son Accuses KLA Guerrillas of Abduction
- B92: Haradinaj appears in court, extradition decision on Feb. 9
- The Guardian: Children held in Iraq over suspected ISIS links ‘say they were tortured’
- The New York Times: Papers Offer a Peek at ISIS’ Drones, Lethal and Largely Off-the-Shelf
- UN News Centre: Syria: UN chief Guterres clarifies tasks of panel laying groundwork for possible war crimes probe
- Reuters: Air strikes hit Red Crescent offices in Syria, monitoring group says
- The Washington Post: A photo of her brother’s corpse popped up on her phone. Now Syrian officials could be put on trial for war crimes.
- Reuters: Eleven civilians killed in air strikes in Iraq, Syria: U.S. military
- New York Times: Renewed Fighting and Drone Strikes in Yemen Kill About 75
- The Guardian: Suspected US drone strikes kill three al-Qaida suspects in Yemen, officials say
- The Guardian: UK accused of failing to defend rights of Yemeni children against daily violations
- ReliefWeb: Yemen Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #5 Fiscal Year (FY) 2017
- ABC News: UN Experts Say Yemen Opponents May Have Committed War Crimes
- VOA Cambodia: New Documentary to Shed Light on Khmer Rouge Survivor’s Struggle
- VOA Cambodia: Q&A: Lawyers Nushin Sarkarati and Daniel McLaughlin on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
- The Daily Star: Dispute arises over investigator’s qualifications at STL
- The Daily Star: STL looks at location data for plot command structure
- Bdnews24: Bengali officers of Pakistan Army under shadow of 1971 war crimes probe
- Bdnews24: Enayet Ullah, accused of war crimes, dies
- Bdnews24: Investigators press war crimes charges on four from Netrokona
- Anadolu Agency: Violence displaces 92,000 in Myanmar Rakhine state: UN
- ABC: Bangladesh plans to relocate Rohingya refugees to prevent ‘intermingling’
- The New York Times: Myanmar Arrests 4 in Fatal Shooting of Prominent Rights Lawyer
- Jurist: Belgium court orders arrest of former Israel top official for war crimes
- Press TV: Teenage patient dies in Gaza after being denied access to hospital
- Deutsche Welle: Emboldened by Trump, Israel announces 2,500 more illegal West Bank settlements
- CBC News: Federal Court denies bid to block Canada-Saudi Arabia arms deal
- TeleSur: UN Warns US, West over Support for Saudi ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen
- Ynet news: Chile court rejects Palestinain suit
- Colombia Reports: Prosecutor warns ICC will try military commanders if Colombia transitional justice fails
- Colombia Reports: Surrender of Colombia’s FARC child soldiers to begin February 1: govt
- CBC News: Delays, tricky logistics hamper peace process in Colombia
- News Ghana: Burundi lacks expertise to identify massacre victims
- Kathmandu Post: Transitional Justice process hangs in balance: Victims worried about being left out in cold
- Bangkok Post: Abhisit urges govt to mull all unity advice
- Awoko: Sierrra Leone News: CRC presents Report
- AllAfrica: Gambia: The Five Big Questions Facing the New Gambia’s New Government
- CBC News: Reconciliation report card: Work remains for cities.
- RadioFreeEurope: Austrian Authorities Say Terrorist Attack Prevented In Vienna
- The Sun: Terror attack numbers soar by 25 per cent – with ISIS fanatics responsible for a third of the killings
- The Washington Post: Designating the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization” puts academic researchers at risk
- The Washington Times: Islamic State finds success infiltrating its terrorists into refugee flows to West
- Department of Defense News: U.S. Service Member Killed in Raid on Terrorists in Yemen
- Forbes: Most Terrorists In The U.S. Since 9/11 Have Been American Citizens Or Legal Residents
- Maritime Executive: Suicide Attack on Saudi Frigate Kills Two Sailors
- Reuters: Suspect in Canada mosque shooting sought money, scouted site
- The Washington Post: German police arrest Tunisian suspected of plotting Islamic State terrorist attack
- Reuters: TitlFlorida nightclub gunman’s widow knew of his plan: U.S. prosecutorse
- In Homeland Security: Kidnappings at Sea on the Rise Despite Global Piracy Decline
- Maritime Executive: Philippines Continues to be Piracy Hotspot
- The Washington Post: What do pirates want? To steal riches at sea so they can pay for wars on land.
- Security News Desk: With a threat from terrorists and pirates ever-present, are there choppy waters ahead for cruise ship security?
- Maritime Executive: Sailors’ Society Launches Asian Crisis Response Network
- Times of Oman: South Korean envoy thanks Oman for anti-piracy assistance
- United Press International: Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte wants China to patrol international waters
Hitler’s rhetoric in those days formed the murky beginnings of a far darker political dynamic, but the German people — Dem Deuctshevolk — shop workers, shopkeepers and farmers, looked beyond this darker theme and focused on a more promising future in a proud and assertive Germany. As he ran for Chancellor, Hitler focused on the economic issues of the time, promising to restore the German economy and bring back jobs. “German business first” was what a German citizen liked to hear.
Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, barely more than eight years after he was released from a Bavarian prison for the Beer Hall Putsch. The first year of his rise to power was a heady time where money poured into infrastructure and rebuilding the German army, in blatant violation of the Versailles Treaty. The concept of a people’s car, a Volkswagen, became a reality to be driven on the world’s first interstate road system, called the autobahn. German citizens saw jobs, better pay, and a brighter future.
Then the nibbling at Germany’s democratic principles began, subtle at first, but picked up over the next few years, and by the time of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, led to a state policy to shift power from the people to one person, a Fuehrer. Backed by the Reichstag, new laws were passed shifting the power to a single executive. Additionally, as this happened, Adolf Hitler began to raise the stakes against perceived enemies of the state by using fear to cause the German people to give away their freedoms one at a time to fight the threat — Bolsheviks, Slavs, and Jews. Claiming a conspiracy to keep Germany weak, various minorities were singled out as a threat to the country and its people. It was this existential threat from within and outside the country that Hitler built upon a fear so much so that the citizens of Germany turned to their leader, their Fuehrer, to protect them.
The intellectual elite of Germany and much of the middle class at first stood back, amused, embarrassed, disbelieving that this proud nation of culture, of tolerance, of openness would elect this small little man who ranted and raved about a great German nation, a Reich that would last a thousand years. They could not believe that he would last long politically and stood aside in the early years thinking that the political system in place would cause his demise. By the time they realized the shift of almost complete power to one man had actually happened, it was too late. They had only one choice: swear allegiance or leave. Some left when they still could, but most stayed and accepted their national fate.
I have faced down dictators most of my professional life. To understand my adversary I have studied the twentieth century’s dictators, how they came to power, their psyche, and their methods of destroying their own citizens. There are patterns, similarities, regarding despots, dictators, and thugs who rise to and hold power in their countries. Their track record is horrific with the destruction of over 95 million human beings at the hands of these dictators in the last century.
Understanding the similar conduct of largely ordinary men rising to absolute power can help us in many ways: from investigating and prosecuting them for violations of domestic and international crimes, identifying those politicians or political movements trending toward despotism, to prevention and counter measures to blunt their move to power. Liberal democracies today need to understand the past, the present trends, to protect our futures. The consideration of these traits are instructive today in the United States and elsewhere.
So what are those similarities among despots and dictators? First in a country where a dictator comes to power, there is an anger towards the establishment, a long term disappointment and lack of trust in their government.They use this loss of faith in the centralized government to start building a political base to gain power. Dictators want to “drain the swamp,” to clean house, to start over.
Second, the rising dictator uses fear to shift that frustration away from their policies to what is called “a boogey man.” Dictators for a century all used a “boogey man” to focus their citizenry away from their absolute power to a threat outside the country. The Three Pashas in Turkey blamed the Christian Armenians for the loss of the Ottoman Empire; Adolf Hitler blamed the Jews for weakening Germany; Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung focused on Western capitalism; and the Ayatollah of Iran blamed the Great Satan of America for their economic problems. Outsiders who were different, who had a different religion became an internal and external threat and were either accounted for and interned or deported. Those who sought admission to their country were banned for who or what they were.
Third, dictators view the press as their enemy and initially seek to limit press access to their regimes, then ban or control the press entirely. They consider the press an enemy of the state and take appropriate action. The liberal press is blamed for factual distortions. The dictator declares they are not using real facts and fashion their own truths, what you would call today “alternative facts.” Joseph Goebbels stated that “if you lie to the people long enough, they will believe it as the truth.” In a dictatorship the truth is the first casualty.
Fourth, a dictator surrounds himself (yes, they are all men) with only those people who tell him what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear. The truth becomes dangerous to the government and to those who know it. The dictator does not want to know the truth, they fear the truth and those who work with and for the dictator fear knowing and telling them the truth. They could lose their influence, power, jobs, even their lives, as well as their family’s lives if they are truthful. It’s a downward paranoid spiral.
Fifth, the dictators of the twentieth century also suffered from some type of psychological disease or defect. From paranoia, schizophrenia, depression, and narcissism these men slipped farther and farther away from reality the longer they stayed in power. A perfect illustration is when Joseph Stalin fell dying on the floor in his bedroom and laid there for fourteen hours, the doctors and handlers were too afraid to declare him dead in fear of the repercussions of even saying, let alone knowing that he had died.
Sixth, dictators over time consider the law only as a guide, to be broken, modified, or ignored. The longer in power the more they feel they are above the law and take action according to their own whims. A political cult develops around them. They become above all men. Society is what the dictator says it is. The national identity becomes the dictator. Where once government workers or members of the armed forces swore allegiance to the law, they now must swear allegiance to the dictator himself without question. The refusal to do so is expulsion or death.
In the United States we now have a President who fits several of these traits and has acted accordingly — all within two short weeks as President. The surprising thing is how easily he has been able to do this without any institutional resistance. America is not used to someone of this caliber. We sit back stunned, cowed, or in quiet glee as this new President begins to “make America great again.” Is he becoming America’s first “dictator”? This remains to be seen.
Our only counter to this “new type” of President is the Constitution of the United States. The founders of this nation contemplated a Trump and put in the necessary checks and balances to ensure that America did not create a king or dictator. The power was reserved to the people, us; and all those elected answer to that people, not the other way around. The other two branches of government will be critical to our republic with this power grabbing new President. They must do their constitutional duty and pay heed to the law and to the people to counter his seeking absolute power.
Another point, the recent singling out of Muslims seeking entry into our country from several countries appears to be, and is touted to be, a national security issue protecting our country. Beware when our federal government tells you the reason they are doing something “in the name of national security.” The results were: “The Red Scare,” Japanese internment camps, McCarthyism, unauthorized medical testing, the electronic surveillance program, torture, secret camps, and Guantanamo, to name a few. It is easier to govern a people when they are afraid. Fear is the life blood of a dictator. Singling out a people to blame because they are different and can possibly cause us harm, hoping to play upon our fears is just a first step to despotism.
In times of real or perceived crisis we must hold tight to our Constitution, not push it away as a hindrance to making our country safe. Thomas Jefferson throughout his life looked to the people to keep the United States on track, our leaders honest, and our focus on the rule of law. Even in the Declaration of Independence he hinted that it is the people who shape that government and have the right and the obligation to change that government should it challenge our constitutional rights.
It is heartening to see people in the United States and around the world who are standing up to the new President’s policies. Make no mistake, we have a man in power who manifests the traits of a dictator. A citizenry who raise the banner of the rule of law holding our elected officials accountable to our Constitution, and not to a man, will eventually cause the Trump administration to reign in their policies or face legal consequences. If we do not, I fear for America. Remember Germany…
David M. Crane is a Professor of Law at the Syracuse University College of Law. He is the former Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone, 2002-2005. He is also the founder of Impunity Watch, the Syrian Accountability Project and the IamSyria Campaign.
Suggest citation: David M. Crane, First It’s the Muslims: An Evolution to a Dictatorship, JURIST – Academic Commentary, Feb. 3, 2017, http://jurist.org/forum/2017/02/David-Crane-evolution-to-dictatorship.php
February 3, 2017
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 Syrian army, Turkey and the United States-led coalition continued their separate offensives against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) group in northern Syria. The Syrian army plans to move on militants in the northern Aleppo countryside. In recent weeks, they advanced to within 4 miles (6km) of the ISIS-controlled city of al-Bab, where Turkish military and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels are also fighting militants.The Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces, are advancing on ISIS’s de facto capital, Raqqa. As they get closer to encircling the city, the SDF is also planning the next phase of the operation in other ISIS-controlled areas such as neighboring Deir Ezzor province to the south. The U.S. is assisting the operation with airstrikes, which reportedly destroyed a pipeline near Raqqa, cutting off the water supply to the militant stronghold, and by providing supplies. An SDF spokesman said on Tuesday that the coalition provided them with armored vehicles for the first time.In Idlib, infighting between rebel groups reached a tipping point over the weekend, when several Syrian Islamist armed groups announced a merger with the former al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS). The new alliance, named the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Committee), is now fighting against Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful rebel group on the ground.As fighting continues on the ground in Syria, the United States dealt a devastating blow this week to those trying to escape the conflict. Syrian nationals are now banned from entering the United States, after U.S. president Donald Trump signed an executive order barring the entry of nationals from seven countries in the region for 90 days. The order also suspends the entry of all refugees for 120 days, but Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely.We will be keeping a close eye on diplomatic developments next week as Iran, Russia and Turkey are set to meet for the second round of peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Tuesday. They will discuss how the cease-fire in Syria is being implemented, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The talks will be followed by the next round of U.N.-sponsored Syria peace talks in Geneva, which has been scheduled for February 20, after being briefly postponed last week.
Following Trump’s executive order barring Syrians indefinitely from the U.S., Tania Karas reports on how its chaotic implementation hit one Syrian family who were already in transit as the order was inked.
Hanan, 8, and Lian, 5, were meant to be reunited with their father, Fadi Kassar, last Saturday, after years of a meticulous procedure that legally qualified them for family reunification. But Trump’s ban barred them and their mother, Razan, from entering the U.S. Family Photo
Rebel fighters of the Syrian Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) pay their respects during a funeral ceremony in the village of Afrin, August, 2013. AFP/STR
The whirlwind of executive orders from the new administration risks alienating the bureaucrats needed to implement them. Former USAID senior official Jeremy Konyndyk says U.S. government bureaucracy is now entering uncharted territory.
Top image: Protesters take part in a rally to oppose President Donald Trump’s executive orders. AP/Elaine Thompson
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.
On 29 January reports emerged that the Iraqi provincial government in Salah ad-Din governorate had enacted a new policy of evicting families accused of ties to members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from their homes. At least 345 families in the city of Tikrit have been sent to Al-Shahama camp for displaced persons outside the city, while another 200 families are reportedly being held in a school and at Rubaidha camp. Several of those forcibly displaced reported that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had demolished their houses because of a family member’s alleged ties to ISIL.
Local authorities have said this policy of collective punishment is intended to force members of ISIL to pay a personal price for joining the organization. However, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has criticized the policy. The targeting of civilians who have taken no active part in hostilities, including the families of terrorists, is illegal under international law. As the ISF continue their military offensive against ISIL, the government must actively prevent reprisals against Sunni civilians and pursue accountability for human rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict.
Despite efforts by the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to encourage parties to the conflict to recommit to peace negotiations and a ceasefire, fighting between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces has escalated in southern Yemen. On 31 January the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, raised concerns regarding civilians fleeing violence in Al Mokha and Dhubab, in Taizz Governorate, calling upon all parties to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law. As many as 30,000 people remain trapped in Mokha, where civilians have been killed by airstrikes, shelling and snipers. Fighting also continues in northern Yemen along the border with Saudi Arabia.
On 27 January the UN Panel of Experts for Yemen submitted their annual report to the UN Security Council, documenting attacks by the Saudi-led military coalition that “may amount to war crimes.” The report reminds all members of the coalition and its allies of their responsibility to uphold international humanitarian law.
Over 7,000 people have been extrajudicially killed in the Philippines as a result of a seven-month “war on drugs” initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte. On 1 February Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II responded to evidence that the killings amounted to crimes against humanity by declaring that drug offenders are not “part of humanity.” On 31 January Amnesty International reported on the role of police and armed vigilantes in extrajudicial killings. To date no police have been held accountable for their actions.
Linus G. Escandor II/PRI