Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Race to the Ballot Box – UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

SJAC Update | December 12, 2017
Syrians cast their vote in a controversial presidential election in 2014. Although the government claimed voter turnout was at 73%, many observers criticized the process and said the results were illegitimate. | Photo from Wikimedia

Race to the Ballot Box: UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

Last week, the eighth round of UN-sponsored peace negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition began in Geneva. Leading the talks, Syria Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura prioritized discussion of elections. In March 2016, de Mistura had proposed an 18-month timeline for the election date, and the issue has continued to be on the top of his agenda. His emphasis on elections is likely a strategic one. Elections would symbolize a turning point in the conflict and signal that recovery is on the horizon. It would also lessen an overwhelming obstacle in the negotiations – who will lead in post-conflict Syria – by leaving the decision to the Syrian public. Despite these benefits, the Special Envoy should bear in mind lessons-learned from past transitional elections and avoid prioritizing a short-term win over adherence to best practices.

Some scholars argue the promise of early elections is vital to peace and democracy in post-conflict settings because they facilitate peace settlements, encourage international actors to contribute peacekeeping forces, and expedite democratization processes. But elections also carry a number of risks, particularly in unstable post-conflict contexts:

  1. Renewed violence: In transitional elections, security issues are a primary concern. Early elections in the absence of demobilization or disarmament efforts increases the likelihood that one side to the conflict will reject the results and return to armed conflict. This is especially true when there is no means of power-sharing and government institutions have not been rebuilt. In 2010, a presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire descended the nation into a renewed civil conflict after losing candidate Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power and forces loyal to each candidate took up arms.
  2. Inaccessible ballot locations: Insecurity and violence will also prevent voters from going to the polls. Moreover, some 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the war began. Ensuring that displaced peoples have a safe, confidential, and practical means of voting will require resources, infrastructure, and coordination with states that are hosting refugees. Without security at ballot boxes or an opportunity for the displaced to vote, the results of any election will be skewed and seen as illegitimate.
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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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War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 20 – December 11, 2017

 


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 20
December 11, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

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

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Burundi

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

Iraq

Syria

Afghanistan

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING


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Syria Deeply: Diplomacy and deadlock in Syria; Moscow declares end of ISIS and partial withdrawal of Russian forces

Syria Deeply
Dec. 12th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

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

As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live 30-minute conversation with Rami Khouri, senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and Maxim Suchkov, editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage, about the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions that aims to set the stage for a settlement to the near seven-year conflict. To RSVP and to receive dial-in instructions, click here. To submit questions for our editors or guests, email our community editor Kim Bode (kim@newsdeeply.com) or tweet us @SyriaDeeply with the hashtag #DEEPLYTALKS.

Peace Talks: The Syrian government’s delegation returned to Geneva on Sunday to rejoin United Nations-sponsored peace talks, just a day before Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry announced that a new round of negotiations in Astana is scheduled to start next week.

Two-day talks in the Kazakh capital are expected to begin December 21, days after U.N.-sponsored discussions in Geneva are expected to end. The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, previously said talks in the Swiss city would run until December 15, but as of Tuesday it remained unclear how long negotiations will continue.

The lead negotiator in the government’s delegation to Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari, quit negotiations more than a week ago, and said that there would “be no progress” as long as the opposition did not reverse its call for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad before the start of a political transition.

As they have in previous rounds of Astana negotiations, representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey are expected to attend the talks later this month. However, Iraq’s ambassador to Russia, Haidar Mansour Hadi, said on Tuesday that Baghdad would also like an invitation to Astana, according to Russian TASS news.

“I want to ask the Russian leadership to invite Iraq to attend the talks in Astana,” Hadi said in a meeting with Russian politician Konstantin Kosachev.

Putin’s Promises: President Vladimir Putin said he ordered a “significant part” of Moscow’s troops to begin their withdrawal from Syria on Monday, during a surprise visit to Russia’s Hmeimim air base near the coastal Syrian province of Latakia.

“The conditions for a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations have been created,” Putin said, according to Reuters. “Friends, the Motherland is waiting for you. You are coming back home with victory,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Russia’s commander in Syria, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, said Moscow will withdraw “23 warplanes, two helicopter gunships, special forces units, military police and field engineers.” He did not specify how many soldiers and weapons would remain, but said it would be enough to “successfully fulfill the tasks” of stabilizing the situation in Syria, according to the Associated Press.

Putin has previously made similar statements but they did not result in a major or permanent withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria.

Moscow’s decision comes days after it declared the complete defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Syria. “There is not a single village or district in Syria under the control of [ISIS]. The territory of Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organization,” senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi told reporters.

Syria Deeply has not been able to independently confirm the absence of ISIS in every “single village or district” in the country.

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

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This Week’s Top Articles

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ARTS & CULTURE

Women at the Forefront of Saving Syria’s Heritage

Syrian women at home and abroad are leading efforts to safeguard Syria’s cultural heritage and ensure that traditions are preserved in the wake of years of conflict and widespread displacement.

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WAR ECONOMY

Eyes on Damascus: Exchange Rates, Financial Restrictions and Subsidized Fuel

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.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Escaping Europe: Why Some Syrian Refugees Have Chosen to Leave

The route from Turkey to Greece was once crowded with Syrian asylum seekers fleeing to Europe. But in recent months some refugees have begun to move in the opposite direction because of what they describe as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in host countries.

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

Community Insight

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Conversations: Life as a Paramedic During ISIS’ Rule of Raqqa

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Youmna al-Dimashqi,  Independent Syrian Freelance Journalist

For medical professionals in ISIS’ former stronghold of Raqqa, trying to save lives meant risking shelling, airstrikes and arrest.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Syria’s Largest Militant Alliance Steps Further Away From al-Qaida

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Mona Alami,  Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Alliance is distancing itself from hard-line al-Qaida loyalists in its latest attempt to reinvent itself as a pragmatic local player among the opposition, writes Levant researcher and journalist Mona Alami.

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DISPLACEMENT

A Nation in Pieces: Views From Syrians in Exile

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Sima Ghaddar,  Contributor, The Century Foundation

Syrians living in Lebanon, Europe and the U.S. reveal a common conviction that national unity and a common sense of identity are necessary to rebuild the country, but most say that both seem distant in a country divided along ethnic-sectarian lines.

FIRST LOOK

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.

Business Day: Dutch businessman convicted of Liberian war crimes arrested in Cape Town

Picture: ISTOCK

Picture: ISTOCK

The Hague — A Dutch businessman, convicted in April of selling weapons to ex-Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor, was arrested in SA on a Dutch warrant, officials said on Friday.

“Blood timber” trader Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced as an accessory to war crimes for providing arms to Taylor’s government in violation of a UN embargo. He has been living in Cape Town and had refused to return to the Netherlands for trial, citing health problems. He was not present at the trial.

Dutch prosecution spokesman Bart Vis said Kouwenhoven would appear before a judge in SA on Friday and a court there would rule later on the Dutch extradition request.

Known in Liberia as “Mister Gus”, Kouwenhoven ran two timber companies from 2000 to 2003 and used them as cover to smuggle arms, according to the Dutch court that sentenced him to 19 years in prison in April 2017.

At the time, Liberia was in the grip of a civil war between then president Taylor’s government and several rebel factions. Liberia’s string of conflicts since the 1990s left an estimated 250,000 people dead. Thousands more were mutilated and raped, and all sides in the conflict used child soldiers.

Taylor stepped down in 2003. He was arrested in 2006 and, in 2012, sentenced to 50 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone by the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Reuters

Syria Deeply: Walk-outs in Geneva, Israel strikes near Damascus, and ‘catastrophe’ in Eastern Ghouta

Syria Deeply
Dec. 5th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

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

As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live call next week, examining the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions aimed at setting the stage for a settlement to the nearly seven-year conflict. Keep an eye on your inbox this week for the invitation. 

Peace talks: The eighth round of peace talks opened in Geneva last Tuesday, and by Friday, the Syrian government delegation had quit, saying they would not return without a change in the opposition’s stance toward President Bashar al-Assad.

Chief government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said there would be “no progress” as long as the opposition did not reverse its call for the removal of Assad before the start of a political transition. The opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC) adopted this position two weeks ago during their own talks in Saudi Arabia, where they had hoped to form a stronger, more unified front before heading to Geneva.

In a televised interview with the pro-government al-Mayadeen TV, Jaafari later said the government would not engage seriously in peace talks if the statement was not revoked, and said the decision on whether or not to resume negotiations this week was in Damascus’ hands.

The previous day, U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that negotiations could run until December 15.

Israel strikes Syria: Israel again threatened Syria over Iran’s presence in the country, saying it would not tolerate Iran-backed forces along its border.

Israel fired missiles toward Damascus on Saturday, reportedly targeting a military site near the capital, according to CNN. Syria’s air defense system intercepted two Israeli surface-to-surface missiles but others caused material damage to the military position, according to state-run SANA news agency.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted an arms depot near al-Kiswa town south of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army, Lebanese Hezbollah or other Iran-backed forces operated the warehouse.

“Let me reiterate Israel’s policy,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Saban Forum, an annual gathering of American and Israeli leaders in Washington hosted by the Brookings Institution.

“We will not allow that regime [Iran] to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.”

Damascus suburbs: Despite being a so-called de-escalation zone, the Eastern Ghouta area in the Damascus suburbs has been under heavy bombardment for more than 20 days. At least 192 people, including 43 children, 21 women and four members of the Civil Defense, have been killed since November 14, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“There has been massive loss of life – hundreds and hundreds have been wounded,” special United Nations humanitarian adviser for Syria, Jan Egeland, said, describing the situation as a “catastrophe.”

“In general, there is no calm in this de-escalation zone. There is only escalation in this de-escalation zone,” Egeland said.

Amnesty International claimed the Syrian government used Soviet-made cluster munitions – which 100 countries have banned – in the Eastern Ghouta, killing at least 10 civilians since November 14.

What’s more, a crippling siege has left as many as 400,000 people trapped in the rebel-held area without access to health and basic living necessities.

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

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This Week’s Top Articles

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GOVERNMENT & PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES

A War Within a War: Chechnya’s Expanding Role in Syria

Over the past year, Chechnya significantly expanded its role and foothold in Syria, including funding the reconstruction of major Syrian mosques and deploying highly trained Chechen military forces to some of the toughest front lines.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Opposition Media Activists Face Uncertain Future

The war in Syria significantly increased the number of so-called opposition media activists who documented alleged human rights abuses and war crimes. But as pro-government forces regain control of rebel-held territory, they fear for their future.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Escaping Europe: Why Some Syrian Refugees Have Chosen to Leave

The route from Turkey to Greece was once crowded with Syrian asylum seekers fleeing to Europe. But in recent months some refugees have begun to move in the opposite direction because of what they describe as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in host countries.

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

Community Insight

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WAR ECONOMY

Ten Experts to Watch on Reconstruction in Syria

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Mel Plant,  Freelance Journalist Currently

From infrastructure and urban planning to funding and democratic dialogue, in this next installment of our “Experts to Watch” series we highlight 10 experts who focus on the different aspects of reconstruction in Syria.

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GOVERNMENT & PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES

The Troubling Triumvirate Ruling Over Aleppo

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Khaled Al-Khateb,  Journalist and Former lecturer, University of Aleppo

Almost one year after rebels retreated from Aleppo, the northern Syrian city is now at the mercy of security services, pro-government militias and the Baath party, who are doing little to improve living conditions, writes Syrian journalist Khaled Al-Khateb.

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WAR ECONOMY

Analysis: No Funds to Foot Syria’s Reconstruction Bill

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Mia Bennett,  Journalist, Specializes in Covering Syrian Economic Affairs

Although the drive to reconstruct Syria has gained momentum in recent months, the government does not have the funds or strategy to lead the recovery process, writes Syrian journalist Jihad Yazigi.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

For our readers in New York, please join us December 6 for News Deeply’s event Advancing Civilian Protection: Human Rights in Times of Upheaval or share this with friends and colleagues in the area.

North Carolina News WNCN: Smithfield-based company accused of flying terror suspects across globe

SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – The CIA is accused of using Aero Contractors, based out of Smithfield, to move terror suspects all over the globe.

Aero Contractors is accused of moving terror suspects from all over the world to secret camps for interrogation.

The flights have been called the “torture taxi.”

If you have been to downtown Smithfield chances are the bright yellow trim at Crickets Diner caught your attention.

What is hidden from your sight, tucked behind the trees and across a field, is an airplane hanger.

The hanger is owned by Aero Contractors, the company said to be transport arm for the CIA.

“I believe there is a large body of evidence that Aero Contractors has been involved in illegal activity, conspiracy to kidnap, assistance to kidnapping and transport of helpless victims to torture,” said Christina Cowger with the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.

According to a 2007 investigation, state officials were more than aware of the operations of Aero Contractors.

In fact, several state legislators asked the attorney general to launch a separate investigation.

There have been no direct allegations that employees of the company were engaged in the torture of terror suspects, but there are allegations that they moved suspects to secret camps all around the globe.

Cowger claims that is a violation of the law. She also says the state and federal government are complicit by Aero to rent space in a taxpayer funded building.

“No, I don’t think it is appropriate that our tax dollars are used to fortify the corner of the airport that Aero Contractors is housed at, I think it is deliberate effort to cover up and conceal from the public what Aero Contractors is doing,” Cowger said.

On the far side of the airport the fence has seen better days, allowing anyone to walk right onto the runway.

A stark contrast to the entrance of Aero.

Cowger says the fence and other security equipment were paid for by you the taxpayer.

CBS North Carolina was turned away at the gate when reporter Richard Essex attempted to take a look.

David Crane, a former intelligence officer and federal prosecutor, claims 9/11 pushed the U.S. into the dark, slippery shadows of interrogation.

“The United States did not torture individuals until after 9/11. It was against policy, and it just wasn’t the way we did business,” Crane said.

The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture is hosting two days of testimony here in Raleigh and are expected to issue a report next summer.

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 19 – November 27, 2017


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 19
November 27, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

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

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Burundi

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

North Korea

Afghanistan

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives


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To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to warcrimeswatch+unsubscribe@case.edu.

Opinio Juris: Reflections on the Mladić Verdict – A High-Point for the ICTY’s Legacy and Perhaps Hope for Victims of Other Conflicts

by Jennifer Trahan

[Jennifer Trahan is an Associate Clinical Professor at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.]

As Jens Ohlin has written, a highly awaited verdict came out Wednesday, November 22, sentencing Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), to life in prison for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed from 1992-1995.

The verdict was not unexpected given Mladić’s lengthy trial, and that his involvement as commander of the troops who committed the Srebrenica massacre was recorded on well–known news footage.  Wire intercepts of his communications were until recently hanging on display on the walls of the Potočari memorial near Srebrenica, in the former battery factory that had also housed UN peacekeepers.

This high-level verdict is an extremely significant one for the ICTY.  Mladić was convicted of:

  • genocide and persecution, extermination, murder, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer in the area of Srebrenica in 1995;
  • persecution, extermination, murder, deportation and inhumane act of forcible transfer in municipalities throughout Bosnia;
  • murder, terror and unlawful attacks on civilians in Sarajevo; and
  • hostage-taking of UN personnel.

The only count of which he was acquitted was the “greater genocide” theory—genocide in additional municipalities in Bosnia in 1992.  The verdict is subject to appeal, as is the sentence.

These were extremely brutal crimes with large numbers of victims—over 8,300 alone in and around Srebrenica, over 13,000 in Sarajevo, after a multi-year campaign of sniping and shelling its citizens.  The ICTY’s proceedings were extensive, thorough, (and lengthy).  Trial commenced in May 2012, and according to the ICTY, there were 530 trial days, 592 witnesses, and nearly 10,000 exhibits introduced into evidence.

While the verdict is coming late in the day no doubt for some victims and their families (for example, 22 years after the Srebrenica massacre), this is not entirely the ICTY’s fault.  Mladić spent nearly 16 years on the run, and was only captured and sent to The Hague in 2011.

Well-done trials of international tribunals also take time, particularly when so many victims and so many crimes are involved.  Funder states often complain about the high costs of international trials, but these costs pale in comparison to peacekeeping expenditures that might have been required had high-level perpetrators not been indicted and apprehended.  And, if one measures the number of crime scenes involved or number of victims whose crimes were adjudicated, then costs seem not nearly as high.  States’ representatives and tribunal critics who make these cost arguments should reflect:  would they really like to argue to remaining family members that justice for their loved ones is not worth it?

Victims may or may not feel some “closure” at this verdict.  Complete closure is of course impossible, as no one can restore their loved ones.  But hopefully surviving victims and family members of those who did not survive will take some measure of solace from the verdict.

As Marko Milanovic has written, denial of crimes and partial denial of crimes is still a pervasive problem among certain communities in the former Yugoslavia (particularly in Repŭblika Srpska and Serbia), and today’s verdict is not anticipated to change that.  Yet, establishing the facts, hearing witness testimonies, and introducing documentary evidence is extremely significant in its own right, and helps create a solid record that makes denial harder, and perhaps will make it gradually less and less plausible.

Finally, the Mladić verdict can also give us hope for future prosecutions—that justice is sometimes delayed, but remains possible and one needs to remember this.  For years (when I was a junior attorney at Human Rights Watch) there was only an “arrest Mladić and Karadžić campaign,” and we had no idea if these two fugitives from justice would ever be apprehended.  It took years of concerted pressure and economic leverage from the US and the EU, but the arrests did occur, and the trials did occur.  So, as we look on as mass crimes continue today in other countries (such as Syria and Myanmar), and the geopolitical roadblocks to seeing any kind of comprehensive justice solutions, we should remember this long trajectory that the ICTY’s work took, and the need to stay the course.

Syria Deeply: A roundup of what you need to know about the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions on Syria and upcoming political negotiations

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

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

This week saw an unprecedented amount of diplomatic discussions aimed at setting the stage for a settlement to the nearly seven-year conflict in Syria. The uptick came ahead of the eighth round of talks in Geneva and the first Russia, Iran and Turkey-sponsored all-Syria congress aimed at bringing together representatives from the Syrian opposition, government and civil society.

We’ve rounded up what you need to know about Wednesday’s simultaneous but separate meetings between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara in Sochi and the Syrian opposition in Riyadh, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s discussions with several heads of state, including U.S. President Donald Trump, and the upcoming talks on Syria.

Assad Visits Russia: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met his Russian counterpart in the Black Sea resort in Sochi on Monday. Assad reportedly met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for three hours to discuss a possible settlement to the conflict in Syria.

“Regarding our joint operation to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is indeed coming to an end,” Putin said

Assad also spoke to Russian military generals during his surprise visit to Sochi. “I have conveyed to [Mr Putin], and on his behalf to the Russian people, our gratitude for Russia’s efforts to save our country,” Assad told the Russian generals. “In the name of the Syrian people, I greet you and thank you all, every Russian officer, fighter and pilot that took part in this war.”

The visit – believed to be the second time the Syrian president has left the country since the war began in 2011 – came just two days before the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Sochi to discuss settling the conflict in Syria. Moscow had reportedly previously assured Iranian and Turkish leaders that it would “work with the Syrian leadership” to ensure any forthcoming agreement “would be viable.”

Syria On The Line: Putin and Trump then discussed a political settlement for Syria in a phone call on Tuesday. Putin reportedly informed Trump of the “need to keep Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity intact,” according to Moscow’s statement. The two leaders reportedly stressed the importance of U.N.-led peace talks in resolving the Syrian conflict, according to a statement released by the White House. Putin also on Tuesday also discussed Syria with a number of other leaders, including Saudi king Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Reuters reported.

Trilateral Talks In Sochi: The presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey then met in the Russian resort town of Sochi on Wednesday to discuss a solution to the conflict in Syria.. Talks wrapped up on Wednesday evening with an agreement between the three countries’ leaders to hold an all-Syria congress aimed at “gathering delegates from various political parties, internal and external opposition, ethnic and confessional groups at the negotiating table,” Putin said.

“The militants in Syria have sustained a decisive blow and now there is a realistic chance to end the multi-year civil war,” Putin said, according to the Guardian.

An official source at Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told state-run news agency SANA that Damascus welcomed the final statement from Sochi, “in light of the Syrian Arab Republic’s commitment to support any political step that respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and contributes to sparing the blood of the Syrian people.”

The congress is expected to take place in early December and assemble 1,400 delegates from the regime, opposition, and civil society groups, Syria expert Sami Moubayed wrote in Gulf News. The opposition has yet to issue a statement about the Sochi agreement.

Opposition Meets In Riyadh: Parallel to the Sochi meeting, Syrian opposition representatives gathered for their own set of talks in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC) is hoping to form a stronger, more unified front ahead of the upcoming Syria peace talks in Geneva.

Wednesday’s meeting came two days after Riad Hijab, top HNC negotiation, announced his resignation, citing attempts to force the opposition to come to terms with Assad’s survival.

“With his resignation, Hijab preempted the Riyadh conference on Wednesday, which was planning to form a (new) HNC, elect a new head coordinator, and form a delegation to Geneva talks,” a senior opposition official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another Round In Geneva: The eighth round of Geneva talks is set to kick off November 28. U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura previously stated that this round of Syria talks in Switzerland will focus on drafting a new constitution that would eventually allow for U.N.-verified elections.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

The Fight – and Plight – of Syria’s Female Journalists

The rise of independent Syrian news outlets created more opportunities for women in the media, but many of Syria’s female journalists still face higher security risks than their male colleagues and rampant sexism in the workplace.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Unlearning ISIS: The Battle to Reclaim Hearts and Minds

As Islamic State continues to lose territory in its major strongholds in Syria, activists and civil society organizations are leading deradicalization efforts, hoping ultimately to erase the militants’ ideological legacy.

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Community Insight

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Children Will Continue to Die of Starvation in Besieged East Ghouta

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Maram Haddad,  Program Assistant, Physicians for Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights program assistant Maram Haddad speaks to doctors and medical professionals in the Eastern Ghouta district outside Damascus about the devastating impact of the intentional use of siege and the lack of medical and food supplies in aid convoys.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

The Security Vacuum in Post-ISIS Deir Ezzor

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Nicholas A. Heras,  Middle East Security Fellow, Center for a New American Security

As ISIS pulls out of eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces will have to contend with stabilizing this territory. But without local allies, the security of SDF-held territory will be challenged, write journalist Omar Abu Layla and security expert Nicholas A.. Heras.

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WAR ECONOMY

Expert Views: After ISIS, Who Controls Syria’s Natural Resources?

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Alessandria Masi,  Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

Syria Deeply’s expert community weighed in on how the capture of resource-rich territory from ISIS in east Syria could affect competition to control the country’s gas and oil and how it could impact the parties fighting ISIS.

FIRST LOOK

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.

International Center for Transitional Justice: In Focus – Challenging Impunity in Haiti

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ICTJ | Justice, Truth, Dignity
ICTJ InFocus
November 2017

In Focus ›
Can the UN’s New Mission in Haiti Work with Activists to Challenge Impunity?
Last month, the United Nations established a new mission in Haiti, focused on strengthening rule of law institutions and human rights reporting. Can it work with activists to challenge impunity? We sat down with Isabelle Clérié, a Haitian civil society organizer, to talk about the mission, what it can accomplish, and how the past is understood in the country.
Read More ›

Publications ›

Other News
ICTJ Course Examines the Place for Justice in Peace Negotiations
From Syria to Colombia and beyond, how do societies navigate the pursuit of justice in peace processes? That question animated ICTJ’s annual Intensive Course on Transitional Justice and Peace Processes, which this month gathered 31 participants from nearly 20 countries in Barcelona to discuss the place of justice in negotiations to end conflict. Go behind-the-scenes with our instructors and participants.
Read More ›
Amid Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar, Where Does Transitional Justice Stand?
During the past month, over 400,000 members of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community have been driven from their homes as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign led by the military. What lies at the root of the current violence, how is it connected to political transition, and does transitional justice have a role to play? ICTJ’s Anna Myriam Roccatello answers those questions and more.
Read More ›

Upcoming Events ›
December 07 – 09, 2017
Present Past: Time, Memory, and the Negotiation of Historical Justice ›
Location: Columbia University, New York City

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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Universal Children’s Day – Syrian Children Need More Attention, Support from International Community

Syrian refugee children attend a lesson in a UNICEF temporary classroom in northern Lebanon, July 2014- Photo Credit DFID – UK Department for International Development

Universal Children’s Day: Syrian Children Need More Attention, Support from International Community

Today, November 20, the international community celebrates Universal Children’s Day, promoting the welfare of children. This day also marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and Convention of the Rights of a Child. In Syria, the legal principles enshrined in these international instruments have failed to protect the rights of millions of children and youth. Syria’s so-called “lost generation” – youth facing a pervasive lack of education, resources, and prospects for future success – remains in desperate need of greater international attention to ensure their immediate basic rights. Consideration is likewise needed in the transitional justice process to address pervasive rights violations and ensure their long-term security and prosperity.

Children are acutely vulnerable during conflicts, and the Syrian war has caused the country’s youth to suffer both immediate harm and severe long-term injury in developmental growth. Some of the most prevalent violations against Syrian children include:

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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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Quartz: Robert Mugabe is reportedly under house arrest as situation in Zimbabwe looks increasingly like a coup

Harare, Zimbabawe

Zimbabwe’s longtime leader president Robert Mugabe is reportedly under house arrest after soldiers took over the state broadcaster on Nov. 15 in a move that has all the classic hallmarks of a coup, although the army insists it’s not one.

There is a strong military presence on the streets of Harare and Zimbabwe’s parliament and the president’s offices have also been cordoned off. Universities deferred exams and asked students to stay home.

No one has heard from Mugabe or his wife Grace Mugabe since tanks were spotted rolling into Harare on Nov. 14. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (livestream) reported that the first couple is under house arrest. The country’s finance minister Ignatius Chombo and several ministers loyal to Grace Mugabe’s faction have been detained, according to Reuters.

Zimbabweans woke up on Wednesday morning local time to discover that leaders of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces had taken control of the state broadcaster with a promise to restore order to the country, but insisted that it was not a military coup.

Around 1am local time, major general Sibusiso Moyo on behalf of the ZDF, came on air in camouflage fatigues, announcing that president Robert Mugabe and his family are “safe and sound” with their security “guaranteed.”

“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” said Moyo.

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

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Major general Sibusiso Moyo on ZBC. (screen shot)

But in a message to the international community, Moyo said: “We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government. What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict.”

The takeover of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in Harare comes after around 48 hours of unease in the country, after the ZDF’s top officer, general Constantine Chiwenga challenged president Mugabe’s treatment of former war veterans from the country’s independence struggle and, significantly, the sacking of vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Chiwenga was called treasonous by Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.

On Tuesday, army tanks and trucks rolled into the capital city Harare heightening tension in a country that has never experienced political intervention from its armed forces since independence in 1980. After hours of uncertainty about the reasons for show of military force in the city, soldiers eventually took control the broadcaster.

Moyo’s Wednesday statement seemed determined to ensure that the country, which has been ruled by president Mugabe for all the 37 years since independence, would not descend into chaos. He called on war veterans, traditional leaders and other security services to play a “positive role in ensuring peace, stability and unity” in the country.

But he also warned, “Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threats in our country, therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

After the announcement, the TV stations have returned to showing videos of martial music.

Lynsey Chutel reported from Johannesburg. Additional reporting by Yinka Adegoke in New York City.

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 18 – November 12, 2017


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 18
November 12, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
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 warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

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

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Burundi

WEST AFRICA

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING


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To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to warcrimeswatch+unsubscribe@case.edu.

Syria Deeply: Victory and loss in Deir Ezzor, plus Moscow and Washington’s agreements on Syria, and dire humanitarian conditions in Eastern Ghouta

Syria Deeply
Nov. 13th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

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

Victory and Loss in Deir Ezzor: After various claims of victory and days of intense clashes between pro-government forces and so-called Islamic State fighters in Deir Ezzor, ISIS apparently recaptured Boukamal, its last stronghold in Syria, on Saturday.

On Thursday, the Syrian government had declared victory over the militant group in Boukamal, but ISIS launched a counterattack just hours later. Fierce fighting ensued as ISIS “began surprise attacks with suicide bombers and rocket attacks after the Iranian militias were duped that Daesh had left the city,” Qahtan Ghanam al-Ali, a tribal leader, told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS..

By the weekend, reports said Iraqi militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah had retreated from Boukamal and were “1 to 2 km [0.6–1.2 miles] from the city limits,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), told Agence France-Presse.

Between Friday and Sunday at least 50 people, including 20 children, were killed in shelling and artillery bombardment in the countryside near Boukamal along the Euphrates river, the SOHR reported. Two camps for the internally displaced were among the targeted areas, according to AFP.

Diplomatic Response: Russia and the U.S. issued a joint presidential statement on Saturday affirming that there is “no military solution to the conflict in Syria” and reiterating their commitment to fighting ISIS.

U.S. president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin also “agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces,” the statement said.

The statement, which was released after Trump and Putin met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, said both presidents agreed that, ultimately, the solution to the conflict in Syria must be reached through the Geneva process.

Israel signaled that it would continue to strike Syria in an effort to push back advancing Iranian-backed militias from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. This comes alongside a separate agreement between Trump and Putin to expand a cease-fire in southwestern Syria, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Dire Situation in Eastern Ghouta: The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Sunday for immediate humanitarian access to the besieged Eastern Ghouta area in the Damascus suburbs.

As many as 400,000 people are trapped in the rebel-held area without access to health and basic living necessities. More than 240 people need “urgent advanced medical care,” at least 29 of whom need medical evacuation, according to a statement from the United Nations health agency.

“The situation is heartbreaking,” said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria. “We have now reached a critical point, where the lives of hundreds of people, including many children, are at stake. If they do not immediately get the medical care they urgently need, they will most likely die.”

On Thursday, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters in Geneva that 29 civilians, including 18 children, were at risk of imminent death. Seven others had already died, he said.

“I feel as if we are now returning to some of the bleakest days of this conflict again,” Egeland said. “Nowhere is it as bad as in Eastern Ghouta.”

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DISPLACEMENT

Back Home in Homs: Challenges Facing Returnees to Syria

For many Syrians displaced from Homs over six years of war, going home means facing a gap in public services, the absence of social and economic support systems and security risks. Many who have returned have found debris where their houses once stood.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Women at Forefront of Humanitarian Demining Efforts in Syria

The explosive remnants of war pose a long-term threat to reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts in Syria. Women, however, are playing a notably growing role as humanitarian groups shift their focus to land-mine clearing and risk education..

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Conversations: Fleeing ISIS Conscription in Deir Ezzor

When ISIS ordered the forced conscription of all men of fighting age in Deir Ezzor, Ali knew he had no other choice but to enlist a smuggler and escape the eastern province.

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

Community Insight

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

What an ISIS Retreat in Boukamal Could Mean for the War in Syria

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Hashem Osseiran,  Deputy Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

The Syrian government is trying to capture the last ISISstronghold in Syria. If it’s successful, it would be positioned for both a military and economic boost as it moves to secure a section of its frontier with Iraq, according to Fabrice Balanche of the Hoover Institution.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Chemical Weapons Investigations in Syria Must Continue

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Rogelio Pfirter,  Argentine Diplomat

The U.N. Security Council’s failure to renew the inquiry into chemical weapons in Syria unjustly questions investigators’ important work, according to Rogelio Pfirter, former director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

FIRST LOOK

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 emailTwitter or Facebook.