Europe

Croatia To Present Evidence of Genocide By Serbia At ICJ

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

THE HAGUE – Croatia told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday that it will present its case during a hearing which will include new evidence to support their claim that Serbia committed genocide in Croatian territory from 1991 to 1995.

The hearing began at the ICJ on Monday, and is scheduled to end on April 1st. (Photo courtesy of inSerbia)

Vesna Crnic-Grotic, the head of the Croatian legal team, stated to the Court that Serbian leaders are “in denial” over a genocide carried out in the early 90’s. Croatia is bringing charges against the former president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, of leading the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) to commit genocidal crimes, though they were originally supposed to protect the Yugoslavian people.

Crnic-Grotic stated that the Serbian government in Belgrade turned a blind eye to genocidal acts, and though Croatia did not accuse anyone specific for genocide, Crotia decided to formally bring charges before the ICJ.

On Monday before the Court, the Croatian legal team presented a video that depicted the 1991 violence in Vukovar, as they accused Serbia of using the JNA to eliminate Croatian people. The team stated that they will present evidence of genocidal crimes in both Lovas and Vukovar.

The President of the ICJ, Peter Tomka, summarized the history of the dispute between Croatia and Serbia for the Court. Croatia pressed genocide charges on Serbia in 1999, and Serbia filed a counter-suit in 2010. Now that the hearing has finally begun, President Tomka informed both parties which witness statements will be kept private until the end of the hearing- which April 1st.

In its counter-suit, Serbia is requesting that Croatia provide full indemnity for Serbian people from Krajina for all economic losses and damages inflicted by the genocide. The counter-suit also seeks to create legal conditions and protections for Serbs living in Croatia. The Serbian legal team will present case on March 10th.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Croatia Accuses Serbia of Genocide at UN Court – 3 March 2014

BBC News – Croatia Accuses Serbia of 1990s Genocide – 3 March 2014

inSerbia – Croatia to Present New Evidence Before ICJ – 3 March 2014

Radio Free Liberty, Radio Europe – Croatia Accuses Serbia of Genocide at ICJ – 3 March 2014

Former Nazi Auschwitz Guard Not Fit to Stand Trial Due to Dementia

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany – A German court ruled that a former guard at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp is unfit to stand trial.

A gate to the Auschwitz Death Camp translates to “Work Sets You Free.” (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post

Hans Lipschis, 94, was determined to not be able to stand trial as he is suffering from dementia. Judges at the Ellwangen court in Germany ruled that Lipschis would not be able to understand the proceedings following the charges of being an accessory to murder during his time as a guard as Auschwitz.

“The court has refused to open the trial. The chamber is of the opinion that the 94-year-old is incapable of standing trial. It bases this judgment on its own personal impression and the opinion of a psychiatrist,” a court statement reported.

Lipschis was arrested last May. He had immigrated to the United States in 1956, but was deported in 1983 after he was accused of concealing his past as a Nazi officer. Lipschis avoided prosecution for over thirty years, as prosecutors were unable to link him to a specific crime or victim. However, the recent conviction of Ivan Demjanjuk, a death camp guard, provided a legal precedent for prosecution of Nazi war criminals without specific evidence. In 2011, a German court convicted Demjanjuk of playing a role in the murder of 28,000 Jews at a Nazi camp in Poland.

Lipschis worked as a Nazi guard at Auschwitz from 1941 to 1943, during which twelve prisoner convoys arrived at the extermination camp. Approximately 10,000 of those prisoners were determined unfit for work and executed in the gas chamber upon arrival.

The complaint against Lipschis alleged that he had been a member of the Waffen SS, a Nazi unit that specialized in “systematically exploiting and murdering people because of their race … and other characteristics.” The complaint further stated that Lipschis had been assigned to two different death camps during his tenure.

Lipschis admitted last year to the German newspaper Die Welt that he had been a cook at Auschwitz and stated that he later left the camp in order to fight on the Eastern Front, although he could not remember which he had been assigned to.

Roughly 1.5 million people were killed at Auschwitz. The deceased were mostly Jewish people, but also Roma, Poles and various other groups had been murdered as well.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – German Court Says Nazi Suspect Unfit For Trial – 28 February 2014

AP News – German Court Says Nazi Suspect Unfit For Trial – 28 February 2014

Chicago Tribune – Suspected Auschwitz Guard Found Unfit For Trial – 28 February 2014

Washington Post – German Court Says Nazi Suspect Unfit For Trial – 28 February 2014

 

Ukrainian Accuses Russia of Invading, West Warns Russia against Military Intervention

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine accused Russia of beginning an invasion, stating that the eastern European country can defend itself. Western powers called on Russia to pull back.

Armed men who appeared at two airports in Ukraine have been the basis for accusations that Russia began an illegal invasion. (Photo courtesy of Haaretz)

On 28 February 2014, Russian officials issued a statement, which outlined President Vladimir Putin’s orders on Ukraine. That statement announced Putin ordered Russia to work with Ukrainian and foreign partners to find a financial package to shore up Ukraine’s collapsing finances.

In the statement, Putin had ordered his government “to conduct consultations with foreign partners, including the International Monetary Fund, on the provision of financial aid to Ukraine.” However, there are doubts that Russia will provide $15 billion in bailout monies to Ukraine, which was first discussed when Russia convinced Yanukovich to spurn the November 2013 trade deal with the EU.

Also, at that time, armed men, believed to be Russians, appeared in a local parliament in Ukraine’s Crimea region. Within hours, against Moscow’s denial, Ukraine accused Russian forces of overrunning two Black Sea airports. Later, reports indicated that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich was seen in Russia. Yanukovich is wanted on accusations of mass murder.

Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev further accused Russia of illegally sending military planes and helicopters into the country. He then said, “We are strong enough to defend ourselves.”

While Sergeyev wrote to Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite about the power of the 15-nation council to investigate disputes or “international friction” to determine whether international peace and security is in jeopardy, a call to the council resulted in no formal action. Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council who can block any actions proposed by Member States, including Ukraine.

In battling Western nations for influence over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy has been to allow his lieutenants to arouse passions in its “brotherly nation” while he watches over them.

Alexei Pushkov, a Putin loyalist and a senior member of parliament said, “No matter what Russia does, Kyiv will be firmly pro-Western. The only question left is are we prepared to pay more for this course or not?”

Yanukovich told reporters, “I think that Russia should act and is obliged to act. And knowing Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s personality, I am surprised that he is still saying nothing.”

While Yanukovich claimed that he had spoken to Putin since Kiev a week ago he denied any meeting with Russia’s president.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said “the United Kingdom believes that any newly deployed troops that do not answer to the Ukrainian government should withdraw.”

Washington was “gravely disturbed by reports of Russian military deployments into the Crimea,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. “The United States calls upon Russia to pull back the military forces that are being built up in the region, to stand down, and to allow the Ukrainian people the opportunity to pursue their own government, create their own destiny and to do so freely without intimidation or fear.”

U.S. President Barack Obama affirmed that stance, warning Russia against military action.

For further information, please see:

Haaretz – Obama warns Russia: There will be costs to any military intervention in the Ukraine – March 1, 2014

Reuters – Conciliatory Words Hide Putin’s Anger over Ukraine – February 28, 2014

Reuters – Ukraine’s U.N. Envoy: ‘We Are Strong Enough to Defend Ourselves’ – February 28, 2014

Washington Post – Ousted Ukraine President Says He’s Surprised by Putin’s Silence – February 28, 2014

Ukraine’s Ousted President Yanukovich is Wanted by Authorities for Mass Murder

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – The former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, is wanted by police for the “mass murder of peaceful citizens”, according to a warrant announced on Monday.

Ukrainian citizens mourn the victims of the violence that has recently occurred. (Photo courtesy of New York Times)

Arsen Avakov, the Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister, announced the issue of the arrest warrant. This comes two days after Yanukovich fled the capital city of Kiev on Saturday, after the country’s Parliament voted to oust him from the executive seat.

“A criminal case has been launched over the mass murder of peaceful civilians. Yanukovich and a number of other officials have been put on a wanted list,” Avakov announced via Facebook on Monday. According to the latest reports, Yanukovich has last been seen at a private home in Baclava, Crimea. However, conflicting reports have led to widespread confusion over Yanukovich’s current location.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to oust Yanukovich and temporarily transfer the duties of President to Oleksander Turchinov, who is the speaker of the assembly.

A conflict between an alliance with Russia and cooperation with the European Union has permeated the Ukrainian government for years. Turchinov stated on Sunday that the Ukraine was ready for discussions with Russia to attempt to improve relations, but made clear that Kiev’s European integration would remain a priority. Turchinov stated that Ukraine’s new administration was ready to bring Kiev-Moscow relations to a “new, equal and good-neighborly footing that recognizes and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice.” “Another priority … is the return to the path of European integration,” Turchinov stated in an address to the country.

Turchinov stated on Monday that the presidential election campaign would begin on Tuesday, February 25, when the election commission would start registering candidates.

The Ukranian Parliament also had voted to oust the country’s foreign minister and was told by the Ukraine’s acting prosecutor that an order had been given to detain the former incomes minister and the former prosecutor-general.

The country’s capital of Kiev was calm on Sunday, a mere one day after  protesters took control of the presidential administration building, and thousands of Ukrainians roamed the suddenly open grounds of the lavish compound just outside of Kiev, where Yanukovich was believed to live.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Yanukovich Wanted for “Mass Murder” in Kiev – 24 February 2014

BBC News – Ukraine Crisis: Russia Brands New Leaders “Mutineers” – 24 February 2014

Kyiv Post – Ousted Yanukovich Flees to Unknown Location as Acting Authorities Accuse Him of Mass Murder – 24 February 2014

New York Times – Acting Officials in Ukraine Seek Stability and Ousted Leader – 24 February 2014

Ukraine Ushers Overwhelming Change, Opposition Victory as Parliament Ousts President

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KYIV, Ukraine – A historic chain of events found Ukrainian protesters in control of the capital Kyiv, opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko free from prison, and President Viktor Yanukovych defiantly claim to still wield power after Parliament voted to dismiss him.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko praised protestors following her freedom from prison. (Photo courtesy of TIMES World)

Since November 2013, Ukrainian protests escalated into a Cold War-style confrontation, as Russia attempted prevent EU and US efforts to strengthen relations with Ukraine.

On 22 February 2014, security forces abandoned President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kyiv. Tens of thousands of protestors who occupied Independence Square discovered nearly-abandoned government and presidential buildings.

Inside Yanukovych’s private estate, Ukrainians found luxuries ranging from a private zoo to a replica galleon floating on an artificial waterway.

“I am in shock,” a retired military servicewoman named Natalia Rudenko said as she inspected the president’s rare pheasant collection and a banquet hall built inside the galleon replica. “In a country with so much poverty, how can one person have so much?”

As Yanukovych gave a television interview from the pro-Russian eastern bastion city of Kharkiv, he denounced the “coup” against him and branded his political foes “bandits.”

In Yanukovych’s absence, Parliament stepped into the power vacuum , voted to oust President Yanukovych, and set new elections for 25 May 2014. Next, Parliament ordered Yanukovych’s pro-EU rival, Tymoshenko free from prison. United States officials applauded Tymoshenko’s release, and wished her “a speedy recovery as she seeks the appropriate medical treatment that she has long needed and sought.”

Tymoshenko appeared in a wheelchair to 50,000 protestors, saying, “You are heroes, you are the best of Ukraine.”

Later, deputies named Tymoshenko ally Arsen Avakov as interior minister in place of Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who is blamed for ordering the police to open fire on unarmed protesters.

The army issued a statement that it “will in no way become involved in the political conflict.” Additionally, the police force declared itself in support of “the people” and “rapid change”.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “Events in the last 24 hours show the will of Ukrainians to move towards a different future, and ensure that the voices of those who have protested courageously over several months are heard.”

“This is a political knockout for Yanukovych,” charismatic opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said in a statement. “Yanukovych is no longer president.”

In a firm voice, Yanukovych vowed to fight any attempt to oust him: “I am not leaving the country for anywhere. I do not intend to resign. I am the legitimately elected president.

However, government buildings stood without police protection as baton-armed protesters dressed in military fatigues wandered freely across his once-fortified compound.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused the opposition of “submitting itself to armed extremists and looters whose actions pose a direct threat to the sovereignty and constitutional order of Ukraine.”

Only time will tell how well the waters of this Ukrainian spring have cleansed a country following months of turmoil.

For further information, please see:

AFP – Protesters Hail Freed Tymoshenko But Ukraine Leader Defiant – February 22, 2014

Aljazeera – Freed Tymoshenko Addresses Ukraine Protesters – February 22, 2014

Euronews – Ukraine: New Parliamentary Speaker Elected – February 22, 2014

New York Times – Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Are Called – February 22, 2014

TIME World – Freed Ukrainian Opposition Leader Yulia Tymoshenko Addresses Protestors – February 22, 2014