Nobel Prize Laureate Dies in China

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – Chinese Nobel Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, died on July 13th from multiple organ failure. Liu was a prominent Chinese dissident who participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

Supporters mourning Liu Xiaobo’s death in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of CNBC.

In 2009, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his work with crafting “Chapter 08,” a manifesto calling for political reform in China. The Chinese government sentenced him to prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”

While serving his time at Jinzhou Prison in 2010, Liu was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” However, the Chinese government did not allow him to travel to accept the award and attempted to block the news inside the country. The Nobel organizers placed his award on an empty chair during the award ceremony in his honor.

Due to his illness, Liu was transferred to a hospital in the city of Shenyang to receive treatment. Despite facing much pressure from the international community, China refused to allow Liu to travel abroad to receive treatment.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee recently condemned the Chinese government for not allowing Liu Xiaobo to receive medical treatment abroad. Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that “the Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death.”

Many people, including Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin, described his death as “one of the most crude, cruel and callous political show(s) I have ever witnessed.”

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest and has not been allowed to communicate with the outside world since Liu Xiaobo received the award. Since his death, thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong to hold a vigil for Liu and asked the Chinese government to free Liu Xia.

Carl von Ossietzky, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was the last winner to die under government surveillance. He died in Berlin in 1938.

For more information, please see: 

CNBC – Struck by liver cancer, Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo dies – 13 July, 2017

Alijazeera – China’s Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo dies: official – 14 July, 2017

CNN – Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the unwitting martyr – 14 July, 2017

Reuters – Chinese Nobel laureate’s ashes scattered at sea – 14 July, 2017

Belgian ban on religious head coverings acceptable, European court rules

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

A woman wears a niqab in Brussels. Image courtesy of AP.

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing full-face religious veils in public.

The ban was implemented by the Belgian government in 2011. The full-face coverings, including the niqab and burqa, is religious headwear worn by women of the Islamic faith. Burqas cover the entire face, including the eyes, while niqabs leave the eyes open.

Punishment for wearing these veils in public are as minor as fines, to more serious jail time.

The ECHR held that the ban was not a violation of religious freedom.

It was said that the Belgian government has the right to impose restrictions that “protect the rights and freedoms of others.” They also stated that the ban was “necessary in a democratic society.”

The debate about Muslim face coverings has raged for several years. Multiple European countries have imposed or proposed a similar ban to the one in Belgium. The most recent was in Norway, where discussions began about banning full-face veils in June.

Proponents of the ban argue that it is actually conducive to women’s freedom, rather than restrictive of it. One Belgian policymaker, Daniel Bacquelaine, said that “[forbidding] the veil as a covering is to give them more freedom.” He added, “if we want to live together in a free society, we need to recognize each other.”

It is true that many women in predominantly Muslim countries do not have a choice in wearing head coverings. Saudi Arabia and Iran both require by law that women have their heads covered in public.

Yet many Muslim women in western countries have expressed that they choose to wear head coverings on their own free will. Two of these include the women who brought the Belgian ban to the ECHR.

One of the women did not leave the house for fear of breaking the law for wearing her head covering. The other took off her veil in public.

More European countries have begun support for partial or complete bans on full-face veils.

The decision by the Court can be appealed. There will be three months to bring an appeal to the higher level, where five judges will determine whether there should be a second look at the decision.

For more information, please see:

NPR – European Court of Human Rights Upholds Belgium’s Ban on Full-Face Veils – 11 July 2017

BBC News – Belgian face veil ban backed in European court ruling – 11 July 2017

Independent – European Court of Human Rights upholds Belgium’s bans on burqas and full-face Islamic veils – 11 July 2017

The Telegraph – Belgian ban on Muslim full-face veil is legal, European Court of Human Rights rules – 11 July 2017

JURIST – Europe rights court upholds Belgium burqa ban – 11 July 2017

Reuters – Norway proposes ban on full-face veils in schools – 12 June 2017

The Washington Post – MAP: Where Islamic veils are banned, and where they are mandatory – July 1, 2014

Peru Ponders Pardon for Former President As Tragedy Unveils Slavery Like Conditions for Peruvian Workers

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

LIMA, Peru – At least 2,000 Peruvian citizens protested July 7th, urging President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski not to pardon the country’s ex-leader Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving 25 years in prison for human rights violations.

Protesters in Peru display photos of victims as they march against a possible pardon for former president Alberto Fujimori. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

One of President Kuczynski’s chief promises that allowed him to win the election against Fujimori’s daughter Keiko, was that he wouldn’t pardon Fujimori. However, Kuczynski proposed a potential pardon for Fujimori last month for health reasons, just after Kuczynski’s finance minister was ousted by a Congress dominated by Fujimori’s supporters.

Fujimori held office from 1990-2000, and was convicted in 2009 for leading groups which had massacred civilians and kidnapped journalists during his tenure. Despite this, Fujimori has an enormous amount of support due to his role in fixing Peru’s economy and stopping a bloody leftist insurgency. In fact, a May Ipsos poll found that 59 percent of Peruvians back a humanitarian release for him.

President Kuczynski meanwhile, has said that he will follow the recommendation of the doctors evaluating Fujimori, as to whether a pardon should be given for medical reasons. However, in 2013 a medical team which was then evaluating Fujimori said his condition didn’t warrant a pardon, so it is possible that history will repeat itself.

On June 27th, President Kuczynski had condemned the conditions some workers were living in after a fire killed four people imprisoned inside a shipping container by their boss. They had been locked inside to prevent theft, and detection by municipal inspectors. Since then Peru’s public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into human trafficking and labor exploitation. The International Labor Organization described the conditions in which the workers died and 17 others were injured as akin to modern day slavery.

After only Mexico and Colombia, Peru has the third highest rate of cases of forced labor and human trafficking in the region and is 18th worldwide, per the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index. Jorge Toyama, a labor lawyer, claims that the country only has 500 labor inspectors when it needs four times as many, and that many workers in Peru are not aware of their rights.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Peruvians protest against possible pardon for jailed Fujimori – 7 July, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Peru: Don’t Give Fujimori Special Treatment – 6 July, 2017

The Guardian – Peru launches investigation as fire kills workers ‘locked inside container’ – 27 June, 2017

Syria Deeply: Battle updates from Arsal outskirts, a good week for Russia in Syria and thinning ties between the U.S. and rebels

Syria Deeply
Jul. 28th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.
Battle in Arsal outskirts: Hezbollah and an al-Qaida-linked militant group reached a cease-fire agreement on Thursday, a week after the Lebanese group and the Syrian army launched a joint offensive against militants in the rugged mountainous area along the Lebanese and Syrian border.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security agency, reportedly brokered the truce, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA). Under the terms of the deal, which extends to al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate but not to fighters from the so-called Islamic State, fighters will be granted safe passage to Idlib province in Syria.
At least two dozen Hezbollah fighters and some 150 militants have been killed in clashes since the battle began last week, according to Al Jazeera.
But the battle in the outskirts of Arsal is not yet over. The next phase of the joint operation is expected to target nearby ISIS-held territory.
Russia’s wins in Syria: Four battalions of Russia’s military policy have been deployed around the proposed de-escalation zones in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian media on Wednesday.
Moscow had been in talks for several weeks about deploying its military police to buffer zones on the edges of the four de-escalation zones. At the last round of Astana talks earlier this month, however, Moscow, Turkey and Iran failed to reach a definitive agreement about “which specific forces” would police the zones, Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said. In addition, the opposition delegation told Reuters that they remained skeptical of the proposal.
Less than three weeks later, on Monday Russian military police set up “two checkpoints and four monitoring posts” in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs outside the capital, according to Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian general staff. This followed an earlier deployment in southwest Syria over the weekend, where Russia’s forces set up two checkpoints and 10 observation points.
The deployment comes after two individual cease-fire declarations in the respective areas. Violations have been reported in southern Syria and the cease-fire between government forces and opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta crumbled on Sunday after only 24 hours.
Russia further solidified its role in Syria later in the week, when President Vladimir Putin approved an agreement with the Syrian government that would allow Moscow to deploy at the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province for the next 49 years, with the option of extending the agreement for a further 25 years, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Thinning ties between U.S. and rebels: Days after news broke that President Donald Trump had ended the covert CIA program that provided arms and training to Syrian rebel groups, the U.S.-led coalition urged its Syrian allies to only fight the so-called Islamic State.
“We have made it very clear time and again our goal in Syria and Iraq is to fight ISIS and fight ISIS only [and] we’ve asked [our partner forces] to be committed to that same mission,” coalition spokesperson U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
Ending the CIA program was a “signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia,” a U.S. official told Reuters last week. According to the New York Times, the decision came more than a month ago and revealed that ousting President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a U.S. priority.
The move has led at least one U.S-backed rebel group to split off from coalition forces and pursue independent operations against the Syrian government. In response, Dillon said Washington had begun the “process of ceasing our support,” for Shohada al-Quartyan, a local rebel group that had been fighting ISIS in southern Syria.
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At least 32 children in the besieged Houla region are suffering from an inherited blood disorder that requires frequent transfusions. Though fatality rates for thalassemia are not exceptionally high, the absence of supplies and blood banks has made it life-threatening.
The economic strain of Syria’s six-year civil war has encouraged hidden forms of child labor, as an increasing number of youngsters take up work in dim factory buildings, dusty workshops and in the dingy backrooms of Damascene cafes.
Like all wars, Syria’s conflict has taken not just a massive human toll, it has also had a significant environmental impact. But green initiatives in rebel and Kurdish areas – even failed ones – have brought a small measure of hope to local people.
973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS
Community Insight
Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply
The former head of the U.S. Office of Global Criminal Justice, Stephen Rapp, spoke with Syria Deeply about improving the possibility of holding Syrian war criminals accountable.
Lina Sinjab,  Syrian Journalist and Middle East Correspondent at the BBC
The conflict in Syria has given way to a new class of nouveau riche, dominated by warlords and independent businessmen who benefit from the status quo, and may make it difficult for an international deal to be implemented locally, writes Syrian journalist Lina Sinjab.
Milia Eidmouni, Syrian Independent Media Group  Regional Director for the Syrian Female Journalist Network.
Though international nonprofits hope their empowerment and decision-making workshops will prove useful to Syrian refugee women, many women express a desire for more pragmatic and economic-oriented training courses.
Upcoming coverage
We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.
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International Center for Transitional Justice: World Report July 2017 – Transitional Justice News and Analysis

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ICTJ World Report
July 2017




In Focus

A Noble Dream: The Tenacious Pursuit of Justice in Guatemala

Bring General Rios Montt and other high ranking members of the military to trial in the Guatemalan courts for genocide? In 1999 it was a noble dream for justice, but one with little apparent possibility of ever coming true. On International Justice Day, walk the long path to justice that led to this historic trial?

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Victims of past election violence in Kenya demanded compensation before the next election. In the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, soldiers were convicted for the murder of militia members, which is also where authorities found a dozen more mass graves. The UN denounced the decision by a DRC military tribunal to not prosecute seven soldiers for crimes against humanity. South Africa’s African National Congress political party declared support for the country’s withdrawal from the ICC following a corresponding court decision. An inquiry into the death of an apartheid-era activist has been re-opened. Uganda’s Amnesty Commission failed to reintegrate and resettle ex-rebels. A bishop in Liberia encouraged the establishment of a war crimes court to preserve and ensure the nation’s democracy. In the Gambia, a draft bill on Truth and Reconciliation was beginning to be reviewed by the country’s judiciary. On July 4th, Rwanda celebrated Liberation day, commemorating the day the 1994 genocide ended, while UN court proceedings continued the review of a criminal’s case who had requested exoneration. A parliament member of Zambia called for the inclusion of peace and conflict resolution studies into national education curriculum.

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Colombia’s FARC rebel group disarmed after decades of war. The UN Security Council agreed to monitor Colombia’s peace process until 2020, while the ICC is pushing for prosecutions of members of various generals, corporals and the country’s Armed Forces commander. In Argentina, four former military officers were arrested for crimes against humanity committed in 1976. The former dictator of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, is having his case reviewed after his daughter claimed that he was falsely sentenced. Canada apologized and gave a reparations payment to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, after a court concluded that his rights were abused. In Mexico, dozens of NGO’s requested an ICC investigation of crimes against humanity in a prison in the state of Coahuila.

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In Nepal, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began looking into rights violations. The TRC and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons called on the Prime Minister to extend their term until the probe into war-era cases concludes. Nepalese families of war victims will receive a reparations payment through the Relief and Rehabilitation Unit under the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. In Myanmar, a tribunal will be held this fall to highlight atrocities committed against the Rohingya. The country also released child soldiers that fought under the former junta. In Cambodia, a production honoring victims of the nation’s conflict will begin on a global scale and a peace museum will open to acknowledge the country’s history. The UN-backed Cambodian tribunal trying Khmer Rouge atrocities admitted that only some perpetrators will face justice. Prosecutors delivered closing arguments in the case against Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, focusing on the genocide charges they face. Taiwan will declassify records to continue transitional justice efforts. Additionally, a Taiwanese act took effect in order to protect indigenous languages and cultures.

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In the Netherlands, a Hague Appeals Court confirmed that Dutch UN peacekeepers were partly liable for a 1995 massacre near Srebrenica. An Amsterdam city hall named for a Nazi accomplice is in the process of being renamed. On July 11th, Bosnia remembered the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The appeals chamber of the Bosnian state court confirmed the conviction of a former military policeman for committing crimes against humanity in the Bihac area in the summer of 1992.In Croatia, victims are awaiting justice for crimes committed at a prison camp in Serbia. In Scandinavia, a Truth Commission began in Finland to unveil discrimination of the Sámi people. In France, a former judge was selected to aid the UN in prosecuting Syrian war crimes. Meanwhile, a family seeks in the United States seeks to regain a painting they say was plundered in Nazi Germany. A 98-year old Minnesota man who was accused of Nazi war crimes in Poland. In Kosovo, a court will charge former guerrillas for crimes committed in the country’s war. Elsewhere, holocaust survivors in Romania became eligible for reparations. In Spain a court began investigating a war crime in Syria, on behalf of the victim’s family member in Madrid.

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In Syria, victims of a chemical weapons attack demanded accountability for the crime, and hundreds of refugees returned to their Syrian homes after unsafe conditions arose in Lebanese refugee camps. Lebanon’s human rights minister called for an investigation into the deaths of four Syrian refugees. In Afghanistan, the ICC delayed investigating war crimes due to “substantial” new information from Kabul. Australian special forces are being investigated for war crimes committed in two Afghan provinces. In other news, Israel paid compensation to Turkish victims of a 2010 raid on a flotilla. Regarding Saudi Arabia, British arms sales will continue following a decision from the London high court, despite their use in alleged war crimes in Yemen.

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Not Without Dignity: Views of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon on Displacement, Conditions of Return, and Coexistence

Discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement.

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When No One Calls It Rape: Addressing Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys

Sexual violence against men and boys in times of conflict or repression is alarmingly common— and takes a markedly consistent form across contexts in terms of how it affects victims and societies as a human rights violation that is taboo to talk about. It has been committed in all cultures, geographic regions, and time periods.

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Upcoming Events

November 07 – 08, 2017

The Interface of National Security and Humanitarian Law in Situations of Low-Intensity Armed Conflict / High Intensity Emergency Location: Ulster University, Jordanstown campus View Details

October 09 – 13, 2017

Negotiating Peace and Justice: ICTJ’s 2017 Intensive Course on Transitional Justice and Peace Processes Location: Barcelona, Spain View Details

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Rise For Syria: Syrian Conflict Through an Artist’s Eyes

Syrian Conflict Through an Artist’s Eyes

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Social media gives voice to creative expression in ways that news media could never convey. Photographers may capture destroyed buildings and bloody casualties but through an artist’s eyes you feel the story in a way that is truly personal. Art can be disturbing and healing both in its’ creation and through the experience of the viewer. Artist Moustafa Jacoub of Syria has a profound way  of contrasting the humanitarian crises with the universal desire to dream and play.

Whatever your personal interpretation may be, the feelings are universal within each of us.

We experience earthly angst and sublime beauty with a backdrop of sun and stars as our planet floats through time.

We may be refugees from our place of origin, immigrants traveling across eternity, but there is a place within each of us that is home…

In that place we are all connected despite the circumstances of our personal lives.

Compassion is the thread that stitches the seams of our torn reality.

Rise for Syria is a powerful, citizen-driven initiative to alleviate suffering for those who have lost their homes and are traumatized by the war. Even the smallest amount of generosity will go a long way to helping people heal and rebuild their lives!

Myanmar Denies Human Rights Violations Against Rohingya Muslims

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Myanmar’s government stated that it will not allow members of the United Nations to enter the country to investigate potential human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, led the National League for Democracy party to a majority win in 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

The United Nations Human Rights Council report which was prepared in February stated that thousands of civilians are getting killed and raped by Myanmar’s soldiers. Then in March, three legal experts and human rights advocates were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to lead the operation to investigate the alleged violations.

Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, denied the Council’s request to investigate in May and stated that it is not in keeping “with what is actually happening on the ground.” She further denied “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims and stated that “ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.” The government has previously denied human rights violations by stating that it was “propaganda.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has been condemned for failing to protect more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Historically, Myanmar has not recognized Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group and treated them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Rohingya Muslim minority suffers from discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.  In 2012, around 140,000 – mostly Rohingya – were forced to leave their homes.

Myanmar officials maintains that a domestic investigation is being conducted under the leadership of the former lieutenant general and Vice President, Myint Swe. He has stated that the United Nations fact-finding mission will not contribute to their current internal investigation.

For more information, please see: 

Independent – Burma says it will not let outside world investigate Rohingya ‘genocide’ claims – 30 June, 2017

AP – Myanmar to bar UN human rights investigators from entering – 30 June, 2017

Reuters – Myanmar says it will refuse entry to U.N. investigators probing Rohingya abuses – 30 June, 2017

Venezuela’s Attorney General Banned From Leaving Country

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – On June 28th the Venezuelan Supreme Court, controlled by Maduro loyalists, froze the assets of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz and have banned her from leaving the country. The United Nations expressed concern over this act, and urged the Venezuelan government to abide by the rule of law and allow for peaceful protests. Attorney General Diaz stood against Maduro’s government in March when the Supreme Court attempted to strip the opposition controlled Congress of its powers. She has also recently accused Maduro’s government of committing “state terrorism” based on the response of authorities to antigovernment protests. Her court hearing is currently scheduled for July 4th. Attorney General Diaz has also asked the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for protection.

Luisa Ortega Diaz who has recently become a critic of the Maduro government, and was barred from travel by the Venezuelan Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of BBC.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela has also attempted to strip Attorney General Diaz’s powers by giving Tarek William Saab, a Maduro loyalist and ombudsman, the ability to conduct criminal investigations. Diaz has rejected the ruling, claiming that it gives the power to investigate human rights abuses to the abusers themselves.

A day after this, Attorney General Diaz’s office officially charged Antonio Benavides, the former head of Venezuela’s National Guard, with human rights abuses after months of protests have left approximately 80 people dead. Ortega’s office has claimed that abuses by police are responsible for 23 of those deaths. Benavides was removed from his post last week, but since then he has been reassigned as head of Venezuela’s Capital District government. He was also one of seven individuals sanctioned in 2015 by then US President Barack Obama for human rights abuses.

Approximately one year ago, an American named Josh Holt was arrested in Venezuela on weapons charges. Although, because he hasn’t been given any preliminary hearings makes US officials doubt the reasons behind his detention. Holt had traveled to Venezuela to marry Thamara Candelo, a woman he had met online while practicing his Spanish. Currently, all that’s known is that he’s being held in a prison run by Venezuela’s intelligence police. Maduro has blamed the United States for the protests within his country, although whether this is the reasoning remains to be seen.

For more information, please see:

The Telegraph – Venezuela’s chief prosecutor asks Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for protection – 1 July, 2017

Santa Fe New Mexican – Utah man stuck in Venezuela jail – 30 June, 2017

The Atlantic – Venezuela’s Ex-Security Chief Charged With Human Rights Violations – 30 June, 2017

UN News Centre – Venezuela bans Attorney General from leaving country; UN rights office voices concern – 30 June, 2017

BBC – Venezuela crisis: Attorney general banned from leaving country – 29 June, 2017

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 10 – July 24, 2017



Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 10
July 24, 2017

James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

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)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives


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Syria Deeply: Battle against ISIS, end of CIA aid to rebels and a new offensive on the Syrian-Lebanese border

Battle against ISIS, end of CIA aid to rebels and a new offensive on the Syrian-Lebanese border

Syria Deeply
Jul. 24th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Battle against ISIS: Pro-government forces and U.S.-backed forces intensified their advance against the so-called Islamic State group near Raqqa.

The Syrian army and allied militias seized the al-Daylaa oil field alongside the Zamla gas field in a desert region of southwestern Raqqa province on Monday. Over the weekend, pro-government forces took control of the Wahab, al-Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al-Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields and several other villages in the same area.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clashed with ISIS fighters in central Raqqa and in the southwestern neighborhood of Yarmouk earlier this week.

At least 30 civilians were killed in airstrikes on ISIS-held areas this week: 15 were killed in coalition airstrikes in the village of Zour Shimr, near Raqqa, and another 15 people were killed by what Syrian opposition activists claimed was a Russian warplane in the eastern village of Ayash.

Some 200,000 people are in Raqqa province, many of them in urgent need of food deliveries and humanitarian aid. Last week, the World Food Programme (WFP) was able to make food deliveries to Mansoura and other rural areas north of Raqqa for the first time in three years, after the opening of a land route that connects Aleppo to Hasakah

Trump ends CIA aid to Syrian rebels: President Donald Trump has ended the covert CIA program that provided arms and training to Syrian rebel groups. The move, news of which broke on Wednesday, is an apparent “signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia,” a U.S. official told Reuters.

According to the New York Times, the decision to end the program came more than a month ago and revealed that ousting President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a U.S. priority.

Hezbollah, Syrian army launch border offensive: Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched a joint offensive against militant groups holed up in a rugged mountainous section of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier late Thursday night.

Some 3,000 militants, including al-Qaida-linked insurgents and members of the so-called Islamic State group, are said to be holed up in the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal, which has been buffeted by the war in Syria since 2011.

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This Week’s Top Articles



After The Buses: Life in a Government-Controlled Damascus Suburb

The Damascus suburb of Barzeh, once a thorn in the side of the Syrian government, has been under full government control for less than two months. Syria Deeply takes a look at the current situation in the neighborhood through the eyes of its remaining residents.



Analysis: Shift in Rhetoric Among Kurdish Politicians in Syria

Kurdish political officials in Syria are taking an increasingly anti-Iranian and pro-Saudi Arabia stance amid the rising tensions between Washington, Tehran and their proxies, and the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, writes journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg.



‘I Just Had to Go Back’: Syrian Repatriates Speak of Return

Some 31,000 Syrians have returned to the war-torn country from abroad this year and many are struggling to survive in a country they call home.



Analysis: What a Battle on the Lebanese Border Could Mean For Syria

A battle on the outskirts of a Lebanese border town will have significant implications on the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon and may boost Hezbollah’s capabilities in Syria as it moves to secure a section of the Lebanese frontier, writes Kareem Chehayeb.

973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight



How the Economic Model of ISIS Evolves Post-Caliphate

Haid Haid,  Syrian Researcher

Due to U.S.-led military operations to counter its finances, the so-called Islamic State is not only changing its military tactics but also adapting its economic practices, writes Chatham House fellow Haid Haid.



Leveraging U.S. College Scholarships for Syrian Students

Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply

The Syrian Youth Empowerment initiative guides high-school students in Syria through the U.S. college application process. Its cofounder George Batah explains the importance of Syrians winning scholarships to study in the U.S.


Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Jurist: A Step Backward: The Closure of the Office of Global Criminal Justice

A Step Backward: The Closure of the Office of Global Criminal Justice

JURIST Guest Columnists, David M. Crane, of Syracuse University School of Law, and Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, discuss the widespread implications of the US decision to close the Office of Global Criminal Justice…

ith the raspy barking of a US President in the background trying to “Make America Great Again,” the world shrinks away in surprise and confusion. As the light begins to wane on that bright and shining experiment on the hill called “America”, the international community faces the yawning maw of a retrenching America, once again looking inward, shrinking away from a leadership position it has held since World War II. Unprepared for any of this, the West is losing its way uncertain and weakened. They look for any indication of someone to lead.

It will not be America. From the environment to trade, the US has chosen to step away from not only legal but also moral obligations. This past week another indication of further retrenchment was manifest when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that he was closing the Office of Global Criminal Justice (OGCJ), the office where the US asserts leadership and support for international justice and holding accountable those who feed upon their own citizens. Like much else this new US administration has done, this is wrong!

The United States has been the cornerstone for the creation of modern international criminal law. It played the leading role at the International Criminal Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945, the subsequent Council 10 trials, up to and including the establishment of the tribunals and courts for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, as well as the International Criminal Court. BUT FOR the support of the United States, most of these justice mechanisms would not have come into existence or would have had existential and overwhelming challenges at the beginning. The United States has always been at the forefront in creating justice mechanisms.

Past administrations have had policy differences with the world community on the administration of international justice, but, at the end of the day, they did not waiver in the perception that the rule of law is important for a more stable world. This administration, a newly forming kleptocracy, is facing the rule of law with almost a blatant disregard, certainly a jaw-dropping disrespect not seen in the history of the republic. Ruefully, commentators have said that in Washington “nothing matters.”

The reasons for the closure of the OGCJ appears to be couched in the devastating cuts that must come from a 30% reduction in the State Department’s budget this fiscal year causing necessary cuts throughout the department. Efficiencies need to be made, but closure of the OGCJ will actually bring greater cost in the end. A small office with no operating budget other than the few personnel costs and the like, really does not cost the department much at all. Yet their global footprint is much larger than the numbers assigned to the OGCJ, almost equal to the more expensive bureaus.

The office travels the world, sits at all of the key meetings, conferences and other efforts putting the moral force of the world’s leading liberal democracy forcefully on the table of justice to ensure that reasonable outcomes and solutions are had as the world deals with unprecedented challenges related to atrocity, unrest and instability around the world.

Closing the OGCJ removes the United States from efforts to take on these challenges resulting in further insecurities that will challenge the national security of the United States. The small cost savings in closing this influential office will cost much more as the State Department, as well as other national security agencies, like the Department of Defense are drawn into future unrest because we no longer have the ability to prevent the destabilizing effects of atrocity, civil war and conflict. The OGCJ helped through dialog to settle disputes, unrest and the like before they developed into threats to our national security. If there were atrocities to prevent, the OGCJ contributed in the establishment of mechanisms to hold accountable those who commit those atrocities. In closing we would use the analogy that the United States built the house that we now call international criminal justice. With the closure of the OGCJ, the United States is walking out the front door and throwing the keys to the dictators, thugs and warlords who kill their own citizens.

The authors are the founding Chief Prosecutors of the international tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.

Suggested citation: David M. Crane and Richard Goldstone, A Step Backward: The Closure of the Office of Global Criminal Justice, JURIST – Academic Commentary, July 21, 2017,

This article was prepared for publication by Dave Rodkey, Managing Editor for JURIST. Please direct any questions or comments to him at<hrheight=’1′>.

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST’s editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

Awoko Newspaper: Sierra Leone News – War Crimes & Justice

Sierra Leone News: War Crimes & Justice

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) accomplished an incredible feat in convicting those most responsible for the atrocities of the Civil War (1990-2002). Their Court decisions did not bring back the many innocents who died or repair the trauma so many endured amidst the fighting, but from what I’ve read it did provide some sense of closure for a country committed to a peaceful future. According to a 2013 survey, 91% of Sierra Leoneans believed the SCSL had contributed to sustained peace in the region.
The Court tried and convicted nine people, including leaders from the RUF, the CDF, the AFRC, and even the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. No special court tribunal had ever indicted a sitting head of state, so the SCSL set an important precedent that even presidents cannot commit war crimes with impunity. They were also the first court to convict people for the use of child soldiers, for forced marriages as a form of sexual slavery, and for attacks on UN peacekeepers. According to SCSL materials, the Court was the first international criminal tribunal to achieve their mandate since the Nuremberg trials regarding crimes by Nazi leaders during WWII.
But the legacy and implications of the SCSL goes far beyond the borders of this country. Their judicial approaches and established precedents remain a model for future criminal tribunes to follow, which might happen sooner than I thought.
Calls from human rights groups and governments across the world are growing to create a criminal tribunal for war crimes committed in Syria. Their government, lead by autocrat Bashar al-Assad, has waged a brutal war campaign against rebel groups throughout the country. It is estimated that almost half a million people have died in the six-year civil war, which shows no signs of slowing.
Early this year, Assad used the chemical weapon Sarin gas against innocent civilians killing almost 100. Many of the dead were children. The use of Sarin gas is banned throughout the world and any use of this deadly nerve agent is categorically defined as a war crime. Evidence of countless other war crimes have been levied against the Assad regime – extrajudicial killings, torture, aiding terror campaigns – and international organizations are busy gathering and protecting evidence of these atrocities.
The Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) has already collected 700,000 pages of Syrian intelligence documents including 55,000 photographs of the bodies of dead prisoners that a former forensic investigator smuggled out of the country. The UN recently established an independent organization to collect evidence that will assist in the future prosecution of those most responsible for crimes during the Syrian Civil War.
International law experts have already started to think about what that tribunal might look like. In the final months of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, international experts drafted a blueprint for the future special court to prosecute atrocity crimes during the Syrian Civil War. The committee included two former SCSL prosecutors and drew influence from the founding documents of Sierra Leone’s criminal tribunal. I can only hope that any Syrian tribunal will be as successful at the SCSL, but some experts have doubts a judicial system like the SCSL’s could be implemented in a post-war Syria.
The SCSL was hybrid system where the court was comprised of both local and international judges. Sierra Leone’s government, at the end of the war in 2002, was eager to hold war criminals accountable, so they partnered with the UN to do just that. The two entities both contributed funding, judges, and expertise to their joint goal of convicting rebel leaders and President Taylor.
That approach won’t work in Syria while Assad is still in power. He runs the government and has no interest in allowing UN prosecutors into his country to bring him and his advisors to court. The SCSL’s hybrid model will only work after Assad has been ousted from Syrian leadership. Until then, Syrian won’t know the closure Sierra Leone felt after Charles Taylor and the rebel leaders were sent to jail. Without accountability, they won’t enjoy the lasting peace that has endured in this country for the last 15 years.
Timothy’s Take
Wednesday July 19, 2017.

Saudi Woman Released from Prison after Arrest for Wearing Skirt in Public

By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabian police officers have released a woman who was arrested after she was walking through a fort in the historic neighborhood Ushayquir in a skirt and crop top, seen in videos online.  The woman, known by her given name Khulood, was arrested on Tuesday and turned over to prosecutors.  She was released a few hours later after questioning and was not charged with any crime.  The videos were posted to Snapchat originally, According to Khulood, the videos of her walking in the skirt and crop top were posted without her knowledge.

“Khulood” walking through Ushayqir in a skirt (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Many have criticized the woman’s outfit for not being conservative or traditional enough.   Critics say that because she chooses to live in Saudi Arabia, she should accept its laws and customs.  Saudi write Ibrahim al-Munayif tweeted that “[j]ust like we call on people to respect the laws of countries they travel to, people must also respect the laws of this country.”

Others have shown their support for the woman’s freedom to choose her own outfit.  Supporters suggest that her choice was brave, and point out that when foreigners visit the country they are exempted from the country’s dress code.  Some have pointed out that on their trip to the country in May, neither Melania nor Ivanka Trump wore abayas.  Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, commented that “Saudi Arabia’s continuing obsession with policing women’s clothing choices shows authorities haven’t moved on from the paternalistic and discriminatory mind-set that hampers women’s lives.” Whitson further noted that “Saudi Arabia’s purported plans to reshape society and advance women’s rights will never succeed as long as authorities go after women for what they wear.”

A number of people have called for an official investigation into the video, asking authorities to take action against those who made the video.  Saudi Arabia’s religious police released a statement assuring that they were looking into the matter.

Amongst a strict dress code for women, Saudi Arabian women also need to permission of a “male guardian” to travel or work, and they are prohibited from receiving driver’s licenses.


For more information, please see:

ABC News — Saudi Arabia Releases Woman in Viral Miniskirt Video that Sparked Public Outcry Without Charge — 19 July 2017

The New York Times — Saudi Arabia Releases Woman Arrested for Wearing Skirt in Public — 19 July 2017

Time — Saudi Woman Arrested for Wearing Miniskirt has been Released — 19 July 2017

The Washington Post — Saudi Arabia says Woman Arrested for Wearing Skirt in Viral Video has been Released — 19 July 2017

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative 2016 Annual Report

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