Opinio Juris: Reflections on Burundi’s Withdrawal from the International Criminal Court

by Jennifer Trahan

[Jennifer Trahan is Associate Professor, The Center for Global Affairs, NYU-SPS, and Chair of the International Criminal Court Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association.]

On Friday, October 27, Burundi’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, filed one year earlier, became effective. This sad event —the first ever withdrawal from the Court to become effective — warrants reflection.

While it is frequently recited that the ICC’s Rome Statute needs to move towards “universality” as to ratifications, we should be concerned that the number of ratifying countries (which had stood at 124), has decreased (to 123). Undoubtedly, the situation could be worse, in that other States Parties that have at times threatened individual or mass withdrawal (particularly African States Parties) have not done so. But, it might behoove us to reflect on the slowing pace of ratifications and now this backwards slide.   Burundi’s withdrawal should serve as a wake-up call that States Parties and Civil Society need a revitalized approach to advancing Rome Statute ratifications, because it is only through increasing membership towards universality that the ICC will ultimately escape accusations of double-standards and uneven application of international criminal justice.

Withdrawal of a State Party also illustrates that it is ultimately much more difficult for the ICC to investigate and/or prosecute where state actors are allegedly implicated in crimes. If the state where the crimes occurred is not in favor of the ICC’s involvement, the state can block the ICC from entering its territory, making investigations difficult. Then, the state can refuse to comply with requests for cooperation (as to documents and/or witnesses), and, ultimately, it can ignore any arrest warrants that issue. This is most likely to occur where there has been proprio motu initiation of the ICC’s work (that is, it was the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP)’s initial idea to originate the ICC investigation or prosecution). In such situations the country where the crimes occurred is presumably not in favor of ICC involvement, or it would have made a referral in the first place. (Yes, a State Party, where there has been proprio motu initiation owes Rome Statute cooperation obligations, but these do not always seem to carry the day.)

Where the UN Security Council has referred the situation, one might imagine the Court’s authority would be the strongest, because it could be backed up by the coercive enforcement powers of the UN Security Council. But we all know, this has never happened, and far from exerting the strongest compliance-pull, the situation of Security Council referrals has resulted in no effective follow-up. So here too, the Court is left to try to obtain cooperation from a state that has never sought its intervention and not voluntarily joined the Rome Statute system—so it neither supports the cases being brought, nor does it necessarily support the ICC in any way. Thus, far from the ICC’s power being at its height (which it could be with proper UN Security Council support), the ICC’s power is likely at its lowest ebb.

This then leaves only situations where the State Party has made a self-referral (which presumably means the State would like the ICC to prosecute either rebels or ex-regime officials); only in these situations does one expect the State Party actually has cause to cooperate—but only insofar as the ICC’s work remains aligned with State goals (that is, the prosecutions remain only directed towards rebels or ex-regime officials). In short, the ICC has built-in structural difficulties, stemming from the voluntary nature of the Rome Statute system and a need to rely upon state cooperation. The moment the ICC’s actions do not accord with a state’s self-perceived interests (judged by those in power at the time), the State Party can refuse to cooperate and/or leave the Rome Statute system entirely, as Burundi has now done.

Given all these difficulties, what more can be done to support the ICC?

First, there should be widespread condemnation of Burundi by States Parties at the upcoming International Criminal Court’s Assembly of States Parties. When a country turns its back on justice for the worse crimes of concern to the international community, it is turning its back on its own citizens, prioritizing perceived self-interest in helping perpetuate impunity. (States Parties might also commend The Gambia and South Africa—countries that initially seemed poised on also withdrawing, but ultimately reversed their withdrawals.) A clear distinction should be made between States Parties committed to ensuring accountability for Rome Statute crimes, and non-States Parties, who lack the conviction to endorse the rule of law.

Second, the difficulties the Court is having in terms of non-cooperation need to be more effectively addressed. At present, the Assembly of States Parties is still not playing an effective role in dealing with non-cooperation. An effective role, is one that would impose consequences for violations; absent serious ramifications, non-cooperation will continue. And, of course, most to blame is the UN Security Council. Why make a referral if there is no will to ensure it is effective? One would think the UN Security Council would be concerned about its referral being seen as impotent when it fails to provide follow-up. Perhaps the Prosecutor can state this more forcefully to the Council (although she probably already has) — that by failing to follow up on referrals, the Security Council is undermining not only the ICC’s authority, but also the Security Council’s own authority.

Third, we should be most concerned for the people of Burundi, who will now be effectively unprotected at the international level if crimes against humanity and war crimes are perpetrated against them. Crimes committed prior to the date of Burundi’s withdrawal, would still be within the ICC’s jurisdiction, and could in theory be prosecuted in the future (as the ICC has an open Preliminary Examination). But these could become hard to investigate and/or prosecute if Burundi refuses to cooperate (which we can now assume, despite its treaty obligations to cooperate, which would technically continue). As to ongoing and future crimes one should explore a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Burundi, so the ICC would continue to have jurisdiction going forward—but only if the UN Security Council also agrees to ensure follow-up to make its referral meaningful.

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 17 – October 30, 2017

Michael P. Scharf
War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 17
October 30, 2017

James ProwseTechnical 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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.




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: Syria negotiations begin again amid intense fighting in Deir Ezzor and dire humanitarian conditions in the Damascus suburbs

Syria Deeply
Oct. 30th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

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

For Syria Deeply’s ongoing feature, Expert Views, we’re gathering fresh insight and commentary from our expert community. This week, we will focus on how the capture of resource-rich territory from ISIS has altered the playing field for Syria’s oil and gas. We invite you to share your insights here.

Talks resume A fresh round of talks kicked off in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Monday. Delegations from the Syrian government and some armed opposition groups, as well as representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, were expected to attend the talks.

Talks in Astana are expected to focus on securing the four de-escalation zones, as well as hostage releases, aid deliveries to besieged areas and the fate of those missing in Syria, according to Al Jazeera.

Last week, United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced that the eighth round of Syria peace talks in Geneva are scheduled to begin on November 28.

De Mistura held talks with United States secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Thursday. Following the meeting, Tillerson told reporters: “The U.S. wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government … We do not believe that there is a future for the Assad regime and Assad family. The [family] reign is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should be brought about.”

Deir Ezzor casualties Dozens have been killed in fierce clashes between pro-government forces and the so-called Islamic State in Deir Ezzor over the weekend.

At least 50 ISIS militants and some 23 pro-government fighters have been killed in the 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday, after ISIS reportedly launched an attack in the provincial capital. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that fighting was ongoing on Monday, and had documented the deaths of at least seven civilians, but expected the death toll to rise.

Pro-regime forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, made strategic advances over the weekend, taking control of parts of al-Hamidiyah neighborhood. ISIS carried out counterattacks in the area overnight on Saturday, but pro-regime forces continued their advance, targeting the neighborhoods of Arfi and Ommal, SOHR reported on Monday.

The fierce fighting began after pro-government forces on Thursday seized the T2 oil pumping station west of the ISIS stronghold of Boukamal near the border with Iraq.

Shelling in Damascus suburbs Pro-regime shelling on the Saqba and Hamouriyah districts north of Damascus on Sunday killed at least 11 civilians, including two women, a child and a media activist.

The Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus are part of a designated de-escalation zone, but violence and siege conditions have persisted in the area nonetheless.

On Friday, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein said at least 350,000 people were trapped in the area, calling on all parties to allow food and medicine deliveries. Earlier last week, UNICEF said that more than 1,100 children in the enclave are suffering from acute malnutrition.

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Inside Rukban Camp, One of Syria’s Most Desperate Settlements

The situation in the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons near the border with Jordan is rapidly deteriorating. International humanitarian groups are close to being overwhelmed, despite local NGOs and rebel groups trying to help out as well.



Eyes on Damascus: Electricity, Pharmacists, Siege and Sports

As the Syrian government and foreign powers look to wind down the war in Syria, we are closely monitoring developments on the ground in the capital for our monthly report from Damascus.



Hostility Toward Militants Grows in Idlib as Turkey Deploys Troops

Residents of Syria’s Idlib province have welcomed Turkey’s latest cross-border campaign and many say they would side against HTS militants if a confrontation were to occur.

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Community Insight



Analysis: What the Reconstruction of Raqqa Could Mean for Syria’s War

Aron Lund,  Freelance Journalist and Analyst Specializing in Syria

After the dangerous process of demining Raqqa is completed, the question of who will govern and rebuild the city will become even more crucial and could impact the endgame of the war, writes Syria expert Aron Lund in IRIN News.



Washington’s Partner Problem in Syrian Battle Against ISIS

Barak Barfi,  Research fellow, New America Foundation

Radicalization, attrition and defections mean only questionable partners remain for the U.S. government in the campaign against ISIS in Syria, warns New America Foundation fellow Barak Barfi.


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.

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: The Whack-a-Mole Strategy Against ISIS Carries a Civilian Toll

SJAC Update | October 26, 2017
A bus convoy of ISIS fighters travels from the border of Lebanon to eastern Syria | Photo from Wochit News

The Whack-a-Mole Strategy Against ISIS Carries a Civilian Toll

In mid-October, the US military granted safe passage to hundreds of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants out of Raqqa – the group’s de facto capital –  pursuant an evacuation deal arranged by the city’s civil council and tribal elders. This sanctioned exodus is part of a string of deals, which allow members of the UN-designated terrorist organization to evade capture in exchange for the surrender of territory. Though the US military expressly premises the evacuations on the preservation of civilian life, these agreements have generally been executed only after ground battles and aerial bombardment inflict substantial damage to civilian life and property. Moreover, the evacuation agreements lack a consistent strategy for eradicating extremist militias and the root causes that led to their rise. To build the long-term peace and stability necessary to prevent ISIS’s return, it is imperative the US articulates and implements a strategy for Syria that prioritizes civilian protection and welfare.

The Raqqa evacuation deal, though widely hailed by media as a decisive victory against ISIS, led to several problematic outcomes. On October 14, the US-led Combined Joint Task Force against ISIS issued a press release stating that the evacuation agreement facilitates Raqqa’s liberation while minimizing civilian harm. While the deal did force militants into areas outside of the city, it appeared to have few (if any) conditions. In reality, the fighters simply moved to other ISIS strongholds in Deir ez-Zor province.

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.


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Human Security Centre: Kurdish Fears of New Iranian-Backed Genocide ‘Must Be Taken Seriously,’ Expert Urges


The Algemeiner

October 25, 2017

by Ben Cohen


Kurdish warnings that they face a potential genocide at the hands of the Iranian-backed forces that have swept through Iraqi Kurdistan over the last ten days “need to be taken seriously,” a leading expert on Kurdish affairs said on Wednesday.


“There is a great fear among the Kurds that they could face another genocide at the hands of the Iraqi government and the Shia militia forces backed by Iran,” Julie Lenarz — the executive director of the Human Security Centre, a London-based think-tank with extensive contacts in Kurdistan — said on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, a US group that closely tracks Iran’s growing military power and support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East.


Strongly criticizing US President Donald Trump’s policy of “neutrality” in the face of the Iranian onslaught that has resulted in the loss of 40 percent of the territory controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), Lenarz said there was a serious risk of US and Western “complicity” in a looming civil war “in which we will see the Kurds crushed again.”


Lenarz was speaking hours after the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — one of the main Kurdish political parties — issued a statement noting that “after defeating the Islamic State (ISIS), Kurds are now being drawn into a new wave of sectarian violence by certain radical Shia armed groups that want to impose themselves.”


“If the United Nations, Iraq, and the US do not gain control of the situation, the flames of sectarian conflict might lead to the risk of a Kurdish genocide in the Kurdistani disputed areas,” the PUK warned, as it pleaded for urgent help for thousands of civilians in the Kurdish town of Tuz Khurmatu, which lies south of Kirkuk, the main Kurdish city conquered by Iran and its allies last week.


Shalal Abdul, the mayor of Tuz Khurmatu, said in an interview with Kurdish broadcaster NRT TV that thousands of Kurdish homes and shops had been burned and looted by Iraqi troops and Shia fighters serving under the banner of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia — known in English as the Peoples’ Militia Units (PMU). The KRG’s Independent Commission for Human Rights has accused Hashd al-Shaabi of committing “war crimes” in areas under its control.


Lenarz underlined that the presence of Gen. Qasem Soleimani — commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — in Iraqi Kurdistan over the last week was “no coincidence.” Soleimani is reported by some observers to have explicitly threatened the Kurds with the use of overwhelming force if they refused to withdraw from Kirkuk.


“Wherever Solaimani goes, he leaves a trail of death and destruction, and it’s no different this time,” Lenarz said.


Lenarz remarked that the Trump administration’s refusal to side with the Kurds meant that “Iran is laughing while a long term US ally is humiliated and defeated.” Meanwhile, she said, her Syrian Kurdish contacts have expressed fear that they are next in line to be abandoned by the US to the Iranians, now that Raqqa — the capital of the ISIS “caliphate” — has fallen to Kurdish and Syrian opposition forces.


Lenarz also denounced the use of military equipment supplied by the US to the Iraqi government for external defense — including humvee military trucks and M1 Abrams tanks — in the assault on the Kurds. Earlier this week, hundreds of Kurds demonstrated outside the US Consulate in Erbil, the capital of the KRG, holding signs alerting Americans to “Iranian aggression with your weapons.”




“It’s hard to overstate what the Iranians have pulled off over the last two weeks,” Lenarz remarked. “By denying the clear evidence of Shia militia activities on the ground, and by abandoning the Kurds, Washington effectively legitimized Solaimani’s scheme.”


Originally promised independence by Britain and France at the end of World War I, the Kurds were instead divided between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria in 1923. Since that time, their history has been marked by continued attempts to gain independence with little outside assistance, and often resulting in persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide.


In 1988, Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad launched “Operation Anfal” in the same territories now occupied by Iranian-backed forces, using chemical weapons and high-explosive air attacks against the Kurdish population that left thousands dead, around 1.5 million destitute and more than 3,000 communities razed to the ground.


Commenting on the Operation Anfal atrocities, the British historian David McDowall wrote that at the time, “the West was generally inclined to dismiss Kurdish claims of genocide, either because they were politically inconvenient, or because it was suggested such reports were probably wild exaggerations.” McDowell went on to note that evidence collected by human rights groups after the First Gulf War “showed that previous Kurdish claims were not only incontrovertible, but also in many cases an understatement of the ordeal through which Iraq’s Kurds were then passing.”


The latest assault against the Kurds comes at the close of the military campaign against ISIS, in which Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria have played a critical role. On September 25, ninety-three percent of participants in an independence referendum in Kurdistan voted in favor of a sovereign Kurdish state. Kurdish leaders have now offered to “freeze” moves to implement the referendum in the hope of securing an end to the violence.


Copyright 2017 The Algemeiner

Violence at Independence Vote in Catalonia Injures Hundreds

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BARCELONA, Spain – Nearly 900 civilians and over 400 police officers were injured in clashes sparked by the Catalan independence referendum on October 1st.

A Police Officer Struggles With a Demonstrator in Spain. Photo Courtesy of Luca Piergiovanni / EPA-EFE / REX/ Shutterstock.

Videos at the scene show police dragging people out of voting stations, throwing them down stairs and kicking them. Rubber bullets were also fired at civilians.

Human Rights Watch, a human rights organization based out of New York, sent a representative to Barcelona to investigate the allegations of police brutality, declaring that the Spanish state “has a duty to protect the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression.”

Government officials in Spain defended the police action and called it proportional to the threat. Force was used under orders from Madrid to shut down voting stations and seize ballot boxes.

Citizens of Catalonia have long harbored a desire for independence from Spain. Catalonia is a region in Spain with its own language and culture. However, Spain’s constitution of 1978 gives the government exclusive power to hold referendums, and it considered the referendum to be unconstitutional.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had promised to do anything in his power to stop the referendum from taking place. He thanked the police for their “firmness and serenity” in the situation.

Over two million people were able to vote despite the violence. Of those, 90 percent voted for the secession of Catalonia. Many were prevented from casting their votes.

Eyewitnesses report that police were indiscriminate in who they targeted. There were reports of children and elderly people being injured.

“The police didn’t beat just people who were going to vote ‘Yes,” they forced and kicked at everybody, old people included,” said Pau Subira Zirita, a witness.

Violence also ensued between the Catalan regional police and the Civil Guards, a paramilitary force sent in from around Spain.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, urged Spain to conduct “swift, independent and effective” investigations into the conduct of the police and their use of force in the situation.

“I urge you to ensure, in co-operation with other authorities in charge of law enforcement, that swift, independent and effective investigations are carried out into all allegations of police misconduct and disproportionate use of force during the events of 1 October 2017 in Catalonia,” he said.

Anais Franquesa Griso, a human rights lawyer, is working with several organizations, including Human Rights Watch, to collect information from those injured or whose rights were deprived. This information will be reported to international human rights organizations.

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Catalan Vote: Claims of Police Brutality Probed – 3 October 2017

Los Angeles Times – Amid Scenes of Chaos and Violence, Catalonia Independence Vote is Projected to Pass Overwhelmingly – 1 October 2017

The Local – Council of Europe Human Rights Chief Urges Spain to Launch Probe Into Police Action in Catalonia – 9 October 2017

The New York Times – Catalonia Leaders Seek to Make Independence Referendum Binding – 2 October 2017

Reuters – Madrid Representative in Catalonia Apologizes for Police Violence During Independence Vote – 6 October 2017

Possible body of missing activist found before Argentina’s midterm election

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Candidates in Argentina suspended their campaigns after a body was discovered in a river on Wednesday, October 18. Many believe it to be the missing activist, Santiago Maldonado, who was last seen close to that location.

A demonstration for Maldonado in Buenos Aires on Thursday. Image Courtesy of Marcos Brindicci/Reuters.

Maldonado disappeared in August during a protest for indigenous rights when the federal police force was called in to put down the rally. According to a witness, Maldonado was knocked unconscious by security forces and put into a car.

The remains were found about 1,500 meters from the community guard of the Indigenous Mapuche community in Pu Lof. The body was on the riverbed of the Chubut River.

An expert hired by Maldonado’s family reported that the clothing on the body matches the description found of Maldonado’s clothes from the day of his disappearance. Also, he claims to have found a document in one of the pockets with his name on it. Regardless, his family is not convinced and distrusts the government. They are staying by his body in anticipation of DNA identification. The autopsy will be carried out on Friday in Argentina’s capital.

However, many question this discovery. That area of the river had previously been checked by authorities three separate times, and they have no explanation as to why they found it on the fourth dredging of the river. Maldonado’s lawyer, Veronica Heredia, remarked “we do not understand … we have no physical or legal explanation of why that body was found yesterday.”

Additionally, several other circumstances have raised suspicions that the body was planted. The remains were found only 300 meters from where the protest occurred, and his family questions how Maldonado could have been found upstream from where he went missing.

On top of that, it was recovered only days before Argentina’s legislative election on Sunday. Major parties running in the mid-term congressional election suspended their campaigns as a result. There is tension and disagreement over who actually harmed Maldonado and which party’s campaign will suffer more. As a result of the discovery, an emergency survey revealed that 12% of voters have decided to change their vote.

As a known activist for the Mapuche people, Maldonado spoke out against the Italian fashion giant, Benetton. The company owns 2.2 million acres of land which the indigenous people claims as part of their ancestral land. There have been numerous protests over the forcible eviction of community members from their homes.

Maldonado’s disappearance is a grim reminder of the 1976-1983 dictatorship that ruled Argentina. During that time, around 30,000 young activists vanished after being taken into custody by security forces.

For more information, please see:

Sputnik – ‘Too Shady’: Body Thought to Be Missing Activist Found Ahead of Argentina Vote – 10 October 2017

Guardian – Body found in icy river could sway Argentina’s midterm elections – 19 October 2017

Herald Tribune – Argentines Wait To Learn If Body is That of Missing Activist – 19 October 2017

BBC News – BBC Minute: On Argentina’s missing activist – 19 October 2017

Telesur – Family of Missing Activist Santiago Maldonado: We Await Autopsy Results – 18 October 2017

Generosity: Promoting Transparency and Accountability in NC

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Info NCCIT, Organizer
North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture
Our Story

Watch the video above to learn how North Carolina was part of the U.S. rendition and torture program carried out in the years following 9/11.


The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture is a citizen-driven, non-partisan truth commission established to investigate the state’s role in torture and to issue a report with findings and recommendations.  NCCIT is holding public hearings in Raleigh, NC on November 30 – December 1 to receive witness testimony.  The 11 commissioners will hear from legal experts, doctors, state officials and torture survivors.


We need your help to ensure the hearings are a success and have an impact beyond the state.  Financial support for the hearings will increase the reach and effectiveness by going toward:


  • High-quality international teleconferencing to bring the live testimony of those directly affected by U.S. torture into the hearing room.
  • Expanding the capacity of the commission by hiring outside counsel and investigators to research facts surrounding North Carolina’s involvement.
  • Airfares and lodging for prominent witnesses from the UK and other parts of the U.S.
  • Paid and free media, including announcements in North Carolina media to invite testimony from local citizens and hearing attendance.


Visit www.nccit.org to learn more about the history of the issue and the Commission’s plans.


Thank you for your contribution.  It will enhance the work of the Commissioners as they encourage North Carolina to become a human rights leader going forward and ensure our state is never again used in a supply chain for torture.

NPR: State Department Reportedly Revokes Visa Of Magnitsky Act Campaigner

CEO of Hermitage Capital Management Ltd., William Browder speaking with The Associated Press in Davos, Switzerland in 2011.

Virginia Mayo/AP

The State Department has reportedly revoked a visa for British citizen Bill Browder, a hedge-fund manager-turned human-rights activist responsible for the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 U.S. law is aimed at punishing Russian officials believed responsible for the death in a Moscow prison of Sergei Magnitsky, who was allegedly beaten and denied medical care.

The cancelling of Browder’s visa came on the same day that the Kremlin issued yet another international arrest warrant for him via Interpol.

The Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets and bans visas for certain Russians, including those close to Vladimir Putin “touched off a nasty confrontation with the Kremlin, and the two sides have been trying ever since to undermine the credibility of the other. Recently, however, Russian prosecutors have taken that effort to a remarkable new level, claiming that Mr. Magnitsky was actually murdered by Mr. Browder,” according to The New York Times.

Browder, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, was once the largest private foreign investor in Russia. Magnitsky was his accountant and attorney. You can hear him here in a July interview with NPR, with a thorough take here by NPR’s Miles Parks.

As NPR’s Greg Myre reported in July:

“The Magnitsky Act re-emerged has a front-burner topic … in connection with the investigations surrounding President Trump’s campaign and possible links to Russian meddling in last year’s presidential race.

Russia has lobbied hard for repeal of the act. That’s what Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya said she was doing when she met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York.”

Euobserver writes that, as in the previous four “Red Notices” rejected by Interpol, the latest such notice exploits a loophole called a “diffusion notice.”

According to the websites:

“Interpol rejected them all on grounds that they were politically motivated, but Interpol member states can file diffusions without any oversight.

“The diffusions, which are circulated to all members, often stay in national police databases even if Interpol later deletes them from its central system.”

The latest move by Russia has angered defenders of Browder, including Michael McFaul, the ambassador to Russia under President Obama from 2012-2014.

McFaul tweeted “this is outrageous,” and called on President Trump and the State Department to “fix this now.”

McFaul’s concern was picked up by Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired earlier this year by President Trump. Bharara “seconded” McFaul in the retweet, adding in a subsequent tweet that Russia’s allegation that Browder may have murdered Magnitsky is a “farce.”

CorrectionOct. 23, 2017

A previous headline for this story said the State Department had reportedly revoked a visit for Browder. It was a visa that was revoked.

Chile becomes latest Latin American nation to resettle Syrian refugees

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet welcomed 66 Syrian refugees to the country on Thursday. Chile is the latest Latin American nation to offer safe harbor to families displaced by Syria’s civil war.

Fourteen Syrian families welcomed by President Bachelet. Image Courtesy of UNHCR.

The refugees were welcomed during a ceremony at the airport in the country’s capital, Santiago. President Bachelet and a UN Refugee Agency representative, Michele Manca di Nissa, greeted 14 families who were forced to flee their homes because of the Syrian civil war.

“We know you have struggled and what we hope is that, in our country, you will find a place to rebuild your lives,” Bachelet said.

The 34 adults and 32 children arrived from Lebanon last week. Chile plans to resettle them in two communities, Villa Almana and Macul. The families will be given furnished homes and social benefits such as monthly stipends, schooling, and healthcare. Each refugee will attend intensive Spanish-language classes to help them adjust to life in Chile. They will also have access to psycho-social professionals from Vicaría de Pastoral Social Caritas, the organization that will follow up and help them integrate.

These Syrian refugees went through a pre-departure orientation session with experienced trainers from the International Organization for Migration. These sessions prepared them for the initial period of resettlement by teaching them about life in Chile. They were provided accurate information to help them make realistic plans for the future.

Additionally, they will receive continued help to make sure they are settled in the community. The children will attend local schools and kindergartens starting in March next year. Also, the adults will receive help finding employment. Chile aims to make these families autonomous and self-sufficient as fast as possible. The host communities aims to facilitate their access to basic healthcare services and help them feel at home. Chile’s Syrian community is actively participating in supporting these refugees.

Chile extends this welcome as part of its refugee resettlement program in which it aims to resettle 120 highly vulnerable Syrian refugees from Lebanon. This program is supported by the UN and is being used in several other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia. These nations have begun accepting refugees in small numbers in an effort to help the humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations reports that more than 2 million people fleeing wars and persecution have become refugees in 2017. The United States and several European countries have started to tighten their borders and implement more restrictive asylum policies.

Currently, Chile is home to 1,736 recognized refugees. Most of these refugees are from Colombia. Since 1999, Chile has resettled 480 refugees of various nationalities. Some of these resettled refugees have been able to obtain Chilean nationality.

For further information, please see:

UNHCR – Chile becomes latest country to resettle Syrian refugees – 13 October 2017 

IOM – Syrian Refugees Resettled in Chile under Migration and Refugee Agencies’ Programme – 13 October 2017

UN News Centre – Chile becomes latest nation to resettle Syrian refugees through UN-backed programme – 13 October 2017

U.S. News – Chile Welcomes More Than 60 Syrian Refugees – 12 October 2017

British Human Rights Activist Denied Entry to Hong Kong

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HONG KONG – The city of Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 from its Colonial overseer, the UK. As part of this deal, Beijing would honor a system called the “one country, two systems” that would allow Hong Kong to remain more open and more democratic than the rest of China. It also allows Hong Kong to control its own immigration policies.

Benedict Rogers was barred from entering Hong Kong. Photo curtsey of The Guardian.

However, this ‘one country, two systems” idea was challenged when a British Human Rights activist, Benedict Rogers, was denied entry into Hong Kong by Chinese Immigration officers. Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong implied that Beijing officials were behind the decision.

Even with repeatedly asking why he was turned away, Rogers was never given any explanation as to the reasoning. He further went on to say, “I feel it is yet another example of, if not the death, then the death throes of ‘one country, two systems’.” The purpose of his trip was to visit friends and learn about the current political situation.

In the past Rogers was vocal about the imprisonment of three pro-democratic activists and Beijing’s political crackdowns in Hong Kong. The Chinese Embassy in the UK warned Rogers that he might be banned from traveling to Hong Kong.

Human Rights activists see this action form Beijing as a threat to the “high degree of autonomy” that Hong Kong was granted in 1997 with the “one country, two systems” policy.  There is a chance that any dissidents will be banned from entering Hong Kong in the future. Denying entry to the UK activist is seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to crack down on dissent and silence opposition.

China says they hold the right to deny entry to Hong Kong.  They justify this by saying that the central government is in control of the foreign matters related to the city.  This is allowed within China’s sovereignty.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – China rebuffs criticism of decision to bar British activist from Hong Kong – 12 October 2017

The Guardian – British Conservative party activist barred from entering Hong Kong – 11 October 2017

The Telegraph – Boris Johnson demands ‘urgent explanation’ from China after activist barred from entering Hong Kong – 11 October 2017

Reuters – China says it has the right to bar people from HOng KOng after British activist expelled – 12 October 2017  

Merkel Agrees to Limit Refugees Entering Germany

 By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to limit the number of refugees allowed to enter Germany each year to 200,000, a decision that has elicited both support and criticism in the nation.

Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union Party. Image courtesy of The Guardian.

The German Christian Social Union and the Christian Democratic Union  were in talks for hours before an agreement could be reached.

Many German voters had been angered with Merkel’s previous open-door policy, which effectively allowed in anyone who could reach the country. In 2015, this policy allowed over one million people in.

In July, Merkel stated “on the issue of an upper limit, my position is clear. I won’t accept one.”

Many see the policy as a concession to the demands of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which was propelled in September’s elections where Merkel lost millions of voters. The AfD campaigned on an anti-Islam, anti-migrant platform, becoming the third largest party in Parliament. The new measure is seen in many as a way of winning back voters.

Many believe that Merkel must negotiate with smaller parties in order to form a cohesive coalition government. Ms. Merkel believes the policy is necessary, saying that “Germany needs a stable government and the prerequisite for this was a common negotiating position.”

In 2016, the number of refugees capped at 280,000. That number has since fallen drastically, with fewer than 124,000 people applying for asylum in the first eight months of 2017. Experts are saying that the proposed limit is in line with current immigration trends.

The new policy is not being described as a limit, as no one who is seeking asylum will be turned away at the borders once the 200,000 limit has been reached. The figure can be altered should a new refugee crisis emerge.

The policy is being criticized, with Karl Kopp, director for European Affairs at Pro Asyl, a German refugee charity, saying that the policy is “not compatible with international law” and “totally unacceptable.”

Simone Peters, head of the Green Party, claimed that “The figure is completely arbitrary, fixed purely ideologically. As far as we’re concerned the fundamental right to asylum applies. When you throw together asylum seekers, refugee contingents, resettlement programs and family members joining refugees all in one pot, and then set a limit of 200,000, one group will be thrown under the bus.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Merkel Changes Tune on German Refugee Cap – 9 October 2017

The Guardian – Germany: Merkel Agrees to 200,000 Refugees Cap in Bid to Build Coalition – 9 October 2017

The New York Times – Germany’s Angela Merkel Agrees to Limits on Accepting Refugees – 9 October 2017

74 Foster Children Missing in Kansas

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

KANSAS, United States – More than 70 children are missing from Kansas’ privatized foster care system. In total, there are 74 children missing from the Kansas foster care system. KVC Kansas, the contractor for the cases in eastern Kansas has 38 of the missing children under its supervision and 36 more are under the supervision of Saint Francis Community Service’s in the western part of the state.

Three sisters, under the care of their great aunt, have not been seen since late August. Phyllis Gilmore, the head of the Kansas Department for Children and Families was not aware of the sisters’ disappearance before the Kansas City Star first reported it. Gilmore claims that tracking children in foster care is just one of the department’s responsibilities. She says the department has policies in place to attempt to find missing children and return them to their foster homes. “These children who run away are not under lock and key; they are generally in family foster homes, older youth, who attend school and activities, and they often miss their biological families,” she said.

Phyllis Gilmore, head of the Kansas Department of Children and Families was not aware three sisters in foster care have been missing since August. Photo Courtesy of HPPR.

Kansas has approximately 7,100 children in foster care as of August 2017. The missing 74 are 1% of the total children in the foster care system. That number is on par with the national average. The United States Department of Health and Human Services reported that during the 2015 federal government’s fiscal year, approximately 4,600 foster care children were listed as runaways which is about 1.1% of the almost 428,000 total.

Rep. Linda Gallagher said even if the number of missing children is on par with the national average, it is still too many. Chad Anderson, chief clinic officer at KVC Kansas, acknowledged to the child welfare task force that contractors can do a better job. “I don’t know that we as contractors have shared as much in terms of missing youth and the day to day as we probably should,” Anderson said. He added that contractors update the Department of Children and Families every 30 days on missing children.

During a meeting of an oversight panel at the Statehouse in Topeka, foster care contractors provided the information in response to questions about the disappearance of the three sisters. Rep. Steve Alford, chair of the task force, said he really was not surprised by the number of kids missing after the meeting. “There’s a break between DCF and the contracting,” he said. “Once the children … [go from the court] into the possession of the secretary, she hands them off to the contractors and it’s their responsibility, you know, it’s kind of like out of sight, out of mind in a lot of aspects.”

For more information, please see:

Fox News – More Than 20 Kids Missing From Kansas Foster Care System – 12 October 2017

HPPR – More Than 70 Kids Missing From Kansas’ Foster Care System – 11 October 2017

Time – ‘Flabbergasted.’ More Than 70 Children are Missing From Foster Care – 11 October 2017

US News – 70 Plus Children Missing From Kansas Foster Care System – 11 October 2017