Special Features

Human Rights Watch: World Report 2018

World Report 2018 summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2016 through November 2017.

In his keynote essay, “The Pushback Against the Populist Challenge,” Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the surge of authoritarian populists appears less inevitable than it did a year ago. Then, there seemed no stopping a series of politicians around the globe who claimed to speak for “the people” but built followings by demonizing unpopular minorities, attacking human rights principles, and fueling distrust of democratic institutions. Today, a popular reaction in a broad range of countries, bolstered by some political leaders with the courage to stand up for human rights, has left the fate of many of these populist agendas more uncertain.

Report link: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/201801world_report_web.pdf

The Guardian: CIA rendition flights from rustic North Carolina called to account by citizens

A Gulfstream jet from a quiet airport south-east of Raleigh flew captives to be tortured around the world. The government failed to act but local people have refused to let the issue die

Johnston County Airport terminal for Guantanamo Rendition CIA story

Ayear after he was released from captivity in Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed received a letter from Christina Cowger, an agricultural researcher from North Carolina. Enclosed was a petition of apology signed by nearly 800 visitors to the North Carolina State Fair.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.
 Binyam Mohamed. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

It was “a small gesture”, Cowger acknowledged, but her 2010 letter came with a commitment. North Carolina Stop Torture Now, an organization she co-founded, had been conducting protests, petition drives and legislative campaigns seeking an official investigation into an obscure firm operating flights out of her local airport.

The firm, Aero Contractors, was the CIA front company that operated the Gulfstream business jet that delivered Mohamed to a secret prison in Morocco to be tortured.

Though few government officials supported such an investigation, she wrote, the group pledged “to work toward true transparency and accountability in the United States for the crimes against you and other survivors”.

Seven years later, Cowger sat in the front row of a makeshift hearing room in the Raleigh Convention Center as 11 volunteer commissioners of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture “upped the ante”, as she put it, on that pledge.

Over the course of two days, this “citizen-led truth seeking commission” called 20 witnesses to testify on the damage done by Aero’s rendition operations.

Former Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
 Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Photograph: Handout

One of those witnesses was Mohamedou Ould Slahi, whose Guantánamo Diaryopens as he is stripped, made to wear a diaper, and shackled aboard Aero’s Gulfstream in Amman, Jordan, in July 2002.

Appearing by Skype from his home country of Mauritania, Slahi faced questions from a panel that included a former chief prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal, a multi-tour veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars, a Baptist minister, and a local social worker.

How, the commissioners asked, can we advance an accountability process our elected officials have shunned?

It is a question that North Carolinians have wrestled with before. In 1979, Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi party members opened fire at an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, leaving five dead. State and federal trials ended in acquittals, and a civil lawsuit raised more questions than it answered about the actions of city officials and police during the event.

Now the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture aims to find a way forward from one of 21st-century America’s darkest episodes – the global operation to seize, interrogate and torture terrorism suspects that Aero Contractors facilitated from the Johnston County airport, a rustic, single runway airstrip 30 miles south-east of Raleigh.

Allyson Caison, a local realtor, first heard the CIA was running “a secret little operation” out of the airport around a Boy Scout campfire in 1996. The subject came up again in the early 2000s, when a relative who was a recreational pilot landed at the airport and marveled at its state-of-the-art runway.

She didn’t know that the “little operation” a former Air America pilot set up years ago in a nondescript blue hangar tucked into the pines employed more than 120 people, or that the Gulfstream jet she would hear taking off and landing was one of the most prolific spiders in what the Council of Europe has called a “web spun across the world” by the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation operations.

rendition story graphics Aero contractors
 Photograph: North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture

In April 2005, the New York Times ran a story titled “CIA Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights” that lifted the lid on Aero’s rendition flights. Later that year, 40 peace activists from St Louis joined Christina Cowger and other local residents to protest against the company’s role in the CIA’s torture program.

“It turned out I knew two of the three Aero principals well,” Caison said during a tour around the airport the day before the commission’s hearings convened. “These were prominent, well-respected business people in our community. Their children and mine were schoolmates. I baked their gingerbread houses for Christmas.”

From 2001 to 2004 Aero’s Gulfstream, operated under the tail number N379P, and a second, larger Boeing 737 Aero stationed at Kinston regional jetport in nearby Lenoir County, carried out scores of rendition missions. Together, they accounted for roughly 80% of all the CIA renditions during those years, landing more than 800 times in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Gulfstream was in and out of Guantánamo so often it earned the nickname the Guantánamo Express.

To drive with Caison around the airport is to get a sense of how much nerve this kind of neighbor-to-neighbor activism takes. In the gleaming new Johnston County airport terminal, the young airport manager greeted her with a wary handshake and a gently drawled apology that he could not attend the commission’s hearings.

Down the road, at the recently fortified automatic gate that blocks the access road to Aero’s hangar, there was no pretense of hospitality. It was lunch hour, and a line of cars was filing out the gate. Each slowed at the sight of Caison’s car. One driver, glaring, almost clipped her side view mirror as he inched past.

Allyson Caison.
 Allyson Caison. Photograph: L Siems

Caison said: “I really think we’ve changed some hearts and minds around here. People are quiet about it because of Aero’s long tentacles. But we’ve been persistent. It’s the strength of our little group. We’ve accomplished a lot.”

North Carolina Stop Torture Now has had an impact over the last 10 years. Recently released minutes of a closed 2007 meeting of the airport authority in Kinston, where Aero housed its larger 737 rendition jet, confirmed that Aero sold its hangar at the facility that year. When a member of the airport’s board asked its executive director why the company was leaving, the director “explained that Aero Contractors had not had the aircraft in the hangar for several months due to the negative publicity they were getting from Stop Torture Now”.

The campaign scored successes at state level and in Washington too. In Raleigh, the group pressed the governor and state attorney general to open a criminal investigation into Aero’s rendition operations. Told that the state had no jurisdiction, the group drew on a growing network of support from churches to press for legislation to make participating in CIA kidnappings, enforced disappearances and torture state crimes.

The bill twice stalled in committee, but attracted 12 bipartisan co-sponsors and brought the question of rendition for torture before religious congregations throughout the state.

Pressure is also credited with helping persuade Senator Richard Burr, then the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, to join in voting to declassify the executive summary of the Senate’s scathing report on the CIA torture program in 2014.

Although that report only examined the treatment of prisoners inside the CIA’s black sites around the world, its release sparked hopes for greater accountability over the rendition to bring suspects to interrogation.

Burr, now chair of the Senate’s intelligence committee, has made clear there will be no further official reckoning for the agency’s post-9/11 human rights violations, and has sought to recall and destroy all copies of the still-classified Senate report.

For the volunteer commissioners of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, this is where their responsibility begins.

“With no meaningful accountability from government leaders, it’s been left to citizens to keep this issue alive,” commission co-chair Jennifer Daskal, a law professor at American University, explained in a break in the hearings.

“We don’t have the power to prosecute, but we can offer an accounting of what happened, and of the costs, to prevent this from happening again.”

“I believe in accountability. I’ve done accountability,” said David Crane, who served as the founding chief prosecutor of the international tribunal that prosecuted Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes and who lives in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains.

“Torture is a clearcut issue: you don’t torture. The American people just need to know the raw facts, and many of those facts are right here in North Carolina.”

The commission invited Aero Contractors to give testimony at the hearings, but received no response. Invitations to the governor, attorney general and several Johnston County officials to attend or send representative to the hearings also went unanswered. Calls to the county manager and county commissioners seeking comment on the hearings and Aero’s operations were not returned.

Christina Cowger
 Christina Cowger: ‘The commission demonstrates by its very being that we are not helpless.’ Photograph: L Siems

The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torturewill collect evidence through the spring, pressing for the release of public records from county and state officials and compiling research and testimony on the lasting harms inflicted by Aero’s rendition flights. It plans to release its final report this summer.

But the commission’s hearings also sharpened their sense of personal responsibility to repair the harm they see caused by Aero’s operations.

As a person of faith, I have to be involved in this,” Caison told the commission near the end of the hearing. “As a mom of two boys, I like to think that if my boys were kidnapped, renditioned and tortured, there would be another mom out there at the other end like me, trying to end an injustice that starts in her neighborhood.”

For Cowger, the priority now is to address the physical and psychological health of those who survived Aero’s rendition flights – a process that involves “acknowledgement, genuine apology, and some form of redress”.

“The commission demonstrates by its very being that we are not helpless,” she said.

Venezuela: A Storm of a Summer and Its Aftermath

By Max Cohen

Impunity Watch Special Features Editor

Edited By Yesim Usluca

Impunity Watch Senior Special Features Editor

It used to be one of the richest countries in South America. Now, citizens are fleeing in droves to any country that will have them. The money isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. And, the government is under the complete control of one man and his political allies. Over the past several months Venezuela has been embroiled by conflict as citizens have marched for change and the government has responded with a violent crackdown, which has only inspired more protests.

The first question on the minds of most is: How did this chaos come to be? Well, it began with an economic crash caused in part due to plummeting oil prices. Oil is Venezuela’s chief export, accounting for over ninety percent of the country’s export revenue, and without the billions that came from the state-owned oil company they could not sustain the social programs and food subsidies that oil money had funded. Because of years of borrowing from other countries, Venezuela has been left with massive debt, dwindling foreign currency, and a drastically drained reserve of funds, which has led imports for things such as medicine to be cut in half. Furthermore, inflation has made it more difficult for citizens to afford food, leading to a growing malnourishment problem. Price controls on goods sold within the country to make them more affordable have only made the problem worse by making them too cheap to justify the costs of production. However, these policies are politically difficult to repeal because they were put into place by the late Hugo Chavez, the still beloved predecessor of current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Then, in 2015, Venezuela’s opposition party won a supermajority in their Congress, the National Assembly.

In January 2016, Venezuela’s Supreme Court suspended the elections of a few opposition party lawmakers for alleged voting irregularities. However, the National Assembly continued to operate regardless of the Court’s order, leading the Court in March 2017 to declare the Assembly in contempt and in the process, effectively giving itself the power to legislate. Protesters took to the streets, and only a few days later the Supreme Court partially reversed its ruling by not taking the legislature’s powers. However, the Court did not address whether the National Assembly was still in contempt. The protests did not end however, as citizens continued to demand a new election to replace Maduro.

Venezuelans protest in La Castellana, a neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Photo courtesy of IRIN News.

Over the summer, as citizens came to the streets in massive numbers, their attempts at peaceful protests were met with excessive force and false arrests as government security forces attempted to quell the demonstrations. Approximately 120 people have died in the protests, and thousands have been arbitrarily detained as demonstrators have been tried in front of military courts, a process usually reserved for military crimes or terrorism. But, in a military court, Maduro could be assured of an outcome in his favor.

Planting evidence and unwarranted charges against civilians have been used to attempt to stifle dissent. One such incident involves Ana Rosa Cisneros, who was shopping at a pharmacy near a protest when she was arrested by the Venezuelan National Guard, and was detained for sixteen days. Now she must report to court monthly because of the charges levied against her.

Furthermore, conditions in the prisons where demonstrators, and those accused of doing so, are held are nothing short of horrific. In one prison called the Helicoid guards allegedly beat inmates, shocked them, and exposed them to tear gas-like chemicals. Prisoners in Venezuela deal with sexual abuse, and in one strange case were even forced to eat raw pasta with human feces in it. Illegal home raids by security forces are another tactic used by the government to intimidate people, with approximately forty-seven illegal raids occurring across eleven districts during the summer. In these raids, the security forces would break into people’s homes without any justification, legal or otherwise. They would search the houses, destroying property and using violence in the process, threaten the people living there, and leave hours later, sometimes outright stealing things as they left.

Wuilly Arteaga, an opposition activist, plays his violin during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro. Photo courtesy of Shaw Global News.

Brutality towards protesters has also been a common feature of the government’s response to the demonstrations. One famous incident of brutality by security forces involved Wuilly Arteaga, a protestor who was injured during the protests while playing songs on his violin, including Venezuela’s national anthem. Arteaga gained international celebrity after a video went viral of him crying over a violin broken by government security forces. However, there was a bright side as he received numerous violins from several people, including celebrity salsa singer Marc Anthony. Then in August, after being arrested at a demonstration, Mr. Arteaga was detained for over two weeks, during which time he was allegedly beaten and tortured by the guards. Around the same time, the government released a video in which Arteaga said that he was not mistreated in jail and that the government did not break his violin. According to Arteaga however, the video was doctored, and many of his statements in it were coerced. In a more tragic tale, a young man, David José Vallenilla, was killed after being shot three times in the chest at point blank range by a soldier for hurling rocks over a fence at the La Carlota airbase. In an ironic twist of fate, it turned out that Mr. Vallenilla was the son of Maduro’s former boss from when the Venezuelan leader was a bus driver. Even worse, these are only some of many stories just like them among those who have protested in Venezuela.

Despite the deaths, injuries, and unlawful detentions, protests continued and even became more impassioned after Maduro called for the election of a constituent assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution. Maduro even brought in the military, putting 232,000 soldiers out on the streets, to ensure everything went off without a hitch. But, in the days preceding the vote, millions of people across the country engaged in a two-day strike. Furthermore, even after Maduro declared protests during voting to be a crime punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years, people came to the streets to voice their opposition to Maduro and express their frustration at a vote that many predicted would be fraudulent. Only a few weeks earlier, over seven million citizens had participated in an unofficial vote rejecting the constituent assembly, which was deemed “unlawful” by the government. Venezuela’s opposition party even refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly election before it took place, and thus did not submit any candidates from their party. In a result surprising no one, the pro-government constituent assembly won in an election, where there was no rejection option, that the CEO of the company suppling Venezuela’s voting machines confirmed was fraudulent. Results were reportedly off by at least one million people, and may be off as much as half of the eight million who purportedly voted in the election.

As a result, the Constituent Assembly will govern Venezuela as a legislature until their constitution is rewritten, giving Maduro complete control over the country indefinitely. Among its members are Maduro’s own wife and son, as well as other allies of the embattled president. The United States (U.S.), along with many other countries have stated that they do not recognize the result of this election. The only countries who have recognized the election thus far are allies of the country such as Bolivia and Cuba.

Former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Throughout the troubles in Venezuela, the only government official in Maduro’s administration willing to stand up to Maduro was the former Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, speaking out against her government on the issue of human rights. Her public dissent began when she condemned the Venezuelan Supreme Court for attempting to take away the National Assembly’s powers. Furthermore, after reports of the fraud committed in electing the Constituent Assembly, she vowed to investigate, only to be fired by the Constituent Assembly a few days later, something which had also been attempted by Venezuela’s Supreme Court earlier in the summer. Both times that she was fired, Diaz attempted to continue with her job. The first time she was successful in returning to work and even charged the former head of Venezuela’s National Guard with human rights abuses. But, after being fired by the Constituent Assembly she was prevented by security forces from even entering her building. The Constituent Assembly’s new Attorney General, Tarek Saab, is considered an ally of Maduro and has allegedly turned a blind eye to human rights abuses. Diaz’s change of position towards Maduro’s administration came about because of a multitude of factors including the state of the country, the kidnapping of her children, and the persecution that she felt coming towards her from other parts of the government. Previously she had also been banned from leaving the country and her assets had been frozen by the government. But since being fired, she has fled the country and is now in hiding. Recently she has supplied the U.S. with evidence compromising top officials in Maduro’s government concerning various forms of corruption, including evidence of graft linked to food imports. As recently as November 16th, she accused Maduro, before the International Criminal Court, of being responsible for crimes against humanity amounting to over 8,000 murders since 2015.

Opposition leaders have also been continually outspoken against the abuses of Maduro’s government, only to be met with retaliation. In April, the government had told opposition leader Henrique Caprilles that he was banned from doing any political work for fifteen years. Then in May, he was banned from leaving the country just as he was about to attend a meeting with the United Nation’s (U.N.), Human Rights Council to discuss the turmoil embroiling his country. Two opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, were taken from their homes in August and jailed on suspicion that they were planning to leave the country and had violated the terms of their agreements by making political statements. Both men were under house arrest at the time, and have since been released back into house arrest. Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, was also banned from leaving the country after 200 million bolivars, the equivalent of $11,000, were found in her car. Tintori claims that the cash was from personal funds to help pay for her grandmother’s medical care. All of this came right before Tintori was scheduled to go to Europe to attend meetings to convince European leaders to institute sanctions against Venezuela and the Maduro government.

Opposition members have not been the only victims of the government’s authoritarian acts. In October 2017, three journalists, two of them from Europe, were arrested as they prepared a report on the conditions in a Venezuelan prison. Furthermore, in June, an American citizen was imprisoned for alleged weapons charges. However, many believe it was due to the U.S.’s stance on the Venezuelan government’s authoritarian acts.

In late July, the opposition had also attempted to replace the Venezuelan Supreme Court with appointees of their own, an action that the current pro-government Court declared invalid and inferred that such an action could be treason. One appointee was detained by the government and others were allegedly threatened by government forces. A few of the justices appointed to an alternative Supreme Court created by the National Assembly, were later forced to take refuge in the Chilean Embassy.

The U.N. has also been a steady force standing against Venezuela to the extent that it can. It has denounced the government’s moves from the retaliation against figures like Luisa Ortega Diaz, to denouncing the government’s abysmal handling of human rights. The U.N. has also issued a report documenting the various human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government referring it to the U.N. Human Rights Council for action. However, Venezuela is still currently a sitting member of the council and would be involved in any decision by the body.

Now only one other question remains; what happens next? Two governments currently exist in Venezuela. The official Constituent Assembly, which has all the power, and the National Assembly, which, although it still meets, has done little since August other than to publicly protest Maduro’s government’s actions. The National Assembly though, is that in name only, with no resources, and few lawmakers willing to show up to conduct “business.”

In mid-October, there was another round of voting in the nation’s gubernatorial elections, in which those aligned with Maduro won handily. The opposition has alleged fraud, but none of the evidence thus far pans out those claims. However, even though Maduro’s allies won by a sizable margin without inflating the vote count, Venezuela’s most recent elections were far from fair. Just hours before the vote, the government-aligned National Electoral Council moved many pro-opposition polling places leaving half a million people with no idea where to vote. When they attempted to find out by texting a special number, the government would text them back reminding them who the Socialist candidate for their region is. The government told people that its electoral system enabled them to know who had voted, and public-sector employees were brought to the polls by their employers and threatened with firing if they did not vote. The few wins received by the opposition party were rendered almost pointless by Maduro’s demand that, to take office, any elected candidate had to take an oath before the Constituent Assembly and “subordinate” themselves to it.

Russia, a longtime ally of Venezuela since the Soviet Era, has since agreed to restructure Venezuela’s debt payments just as it appears the country is headed for default. A default would mean an even greater disaster in terms of severe shortages of food and medicine. It would endanger not only Venezuela’s economy, but potentially the world economy at large. Additionally, default would result in an immense amount of litigation, and possible seizures of the government’s overseas assets, particularly Citgo which is the American subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. China, another major lender to Venezuela, has shown no interest in lending more money to them, some theorized at the time due to concerns over Maduro’s longevity in his position.

The U.S. has reacted to the Venezuelan crisis much differently, instituting sanctions on the country’s political leaders as well as inclusion of the country in the latest version of President Donald Trump’s now infamous travel ban. Other financial and economic sanctions have also been a part of the U.S.’s action, such as barring any new financial deals with either the government or the state-run oil company PDVSA, which as a result will make it difficult for PDVSA to refinance its debt. However, the U.S. has not yet issued a ban on Venezuela’s main industry, crude oil trading. As the U.S. is Venezuela’s biggest customer of oil, a sanction on the product, if instituted, would do incredible damage to the country’s economy. The European Union has also banned arms sales to the country, and instituted a system to freeze assets and put in place travel restrictions on Venezuelan officials. The U.S.’s involvement in attempting to get Maduro to step down however, has not gone unnoticed and Maduro has made the country the proverbial “boogeyman,” blaming it for the current political and economic instability.

In late November 2017, Maduro replaced the head of the state-run oil company with a general and former housing minister, Manuel Quevedo, with little experience in the industry. Around fifty officials at the company have been arrested in what the government claims is an attempt to clear the organization of corruption. In addition to continuing to clear corruption, Quevedo will also oversee the difficult process of restructuring the company’s debt. Quevedo is also accused of committing human rights violations during the anti-Maduro protests. However, some speculate that Maduro’s true motive may be to clear the field of powerful potential political rivals and tighten control over the country’s only major source of money.

Approximately 27,000 Venezuelans in 2016 and 52,000 thus far in 2017 have applied for asylum. That is only a fraction of those fleeing the country during its most recent economic and political crisis. In the neighboring state of Columbia alone, the estimates range from 300,000 to 1.2 million Venezuelans living there. Also, in Argentina, the number of Venezuelans starting new lives there has jumped from 1,911 in 2012 to 12,859 in 2016. With 8,333 in the first quarter of 2017 alone, it does not appear to be on track to decrease any time soon. Furthermore, Chile too has seen a massive increase, with the average number of visas issued to Venezuelans rising from 758 to 8,381. The mass exodus becomes even more serious as one reflects on that fact that a majority of those leaving are the kind of well educated professionals that Venezuela needs to hang onto if it is going to climb out of its current economic hole.

Countries around the world have slapped Venezuela with sanctions, and will probably continue to do so as the situation there worsens. Protests have dwindled in size out of fear from the government’s now unchecked power. People will continue to flee the country’s dire political and economic conditions for other countries. And, as the morally crushed opposition sinks, Maduro’s grip on the country will grow stronger and eventually stabilize his hold on power. With the stabilization of Maduro’s hold on power, Venezuela’s allies, as Russia did in early November 2017, will be more willing to help the country economically, but even they cannot save it now. The economy will continue to fester and rot as the government keeps the policies preventing growth in place, and may even worsen as oil as a fuel source declines in usage due to energy saving technologies and global action on climate change.

For any lasting change to occur, it will have to come from the people. Standing up to Maduro’s regime will be an enormous risk, but it is one that citizens will need to take if they want to realize the greater rewards that come with true freedom. Waiting and hoping for things to get better is not an option because things are primed to only get worse. It is only through action that things will truly get better.


For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – Venezuela’s crisis explained from the beginning – 14 December 2017

Aljazeera – Venezuela: UN warns of possible crimes against humanity – 11 September 2017

Amnesty International – Venezuela: Repression taken into people’s living rooms as home raids surge – 30 October 2017

Bloomberg – Venezuela’s Empty Elections – 19 October 2017

Business Insider – ‘The tipping point’: More and more Venezuelans are uprooting their lives to escape their country’s crises – 2 December 2016

CBS – Voting machine firm: Venezuela vote rigged “without any doubt” – 2 August 2017

CNN – Controversial Venezuela vote to be investigated, attorney general says – 3 August 2017

CNN – Deadly election day in Venezuela as protesters clash with troops – 30 July 2017

CNN – Putin extends lifeline to cash-strapped Venezuela – 15 November 2017

CNN – Trump administration announces new travel restrictions – 25 September 2017

CNN – U.S. hits 10 more Venezuelan leaders with sanctions – 9 November 2017

CNN – UN: Venezuelan protesters endure excessive force, other rights violations – 8 August 2017

CNN – Venezuela’s high court dissolves National Assembly – 30 March 2017

CNN – Venezuela: How paradise got lost – 27 July 2017

CNN – Venezuelans launch 2-day strike against Maduro as US slaps sanctions – 27 July 2017

CNN – Venezuela’s Leopoldo Lopez returns to house arrest – 6 August 2017

CNN – Venezuelan protester shot dead at point-blank range by soldier – 23 June 2017

Fox – EU adopts sanctions against Venezuela – 13 November 2017

The Guardian – ‘At home, we couldn’t get by’: more Venezuelans flee as crisis deepens – 17 July 2017

The Guardian – I gave US ‘compromising’ evidence on Venezuela officials – ex-chief prosecutor – 13 October 2017

The Guardian – ‘I will be back’: Violin-playing face of Venezuela’s protests injured in clashes – 22 July 2017

The Guardian – Trump’s latest travel ban: what’s new, who’s covered, and why now? – 25 September 2017

Human Rights Watch – Questionable Elections in Venezuela – 23 October 2017

Independent – Venezuela’s president accused of crimes against humanity – 16 November 2017

LA Times – Driven by unrest and violence, Venezuelans are fleeing their country by the thousands – 19 October 2017

The Local – Journalists including Italian, Swiss arrested over Venezuela prison report – 8 October 2017

Miami Herald – Venezuela’s opposition leader barred from leaving the country – 18 May 2017

NBC – Venezuela’s New Constitutional Assembly Ousts Anti-Maduro Prosecutor Luisa Ortega – 5 August 2017

New York Times – How Venezuela Fell Into Crisis and What Could Happen Next – 27 May 2016

New York Times – Venezuela’s New Leaders Begin Their March Toward Total Control – 4 August 2017

New York Times – Venezuelan Court Revises Ruling That Nullified Legislature – 1 April 2017

New York Times – Venezuelan Opposition Denounces Latest Vote as Ruling Party Makes Gains – 16 October 2017

New York Times – Venezuela Tries Protestors in Military Court ‘Like We Are in a War’ – 12 May 2017

New York Times – Venezuela Votes for Governors in a ‘Deficient Democracy’ – 14 October 2017

PBS – Venezuelan opposition wins supermajority in National Assembly – 9 December 2015

Reuters – Activist Tintori says she is barred from leaving Venezuela – 2 September 2017

Reuters – Maduro taps major general to lead Venezuela’s deteriorating oil industry – 26 November 2017

Reuters – Slain Venezuelan protester’s father appeals to ‘friend’ Maduro – 23 June 2017

Reuters – Trump slaps sanctions on Venezuela; Maduro sees effort to force default – 25 August 2017

Reuters – Venezuela jails opposition leaders in new crackdown on opponents – 1 August 2017

teleSUR – Supreme Court Declares Opposition’s Naming of Judges Invalid – 21 July 2017

U.N. News Centre – Human rights violations indicate repressive policy of Venezuelan authorities – UN report – 30 August 2017

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

U.N. News Centre – Venezuela: UN human rights chief regrets opposition leader being blocked to travel – 19 May 2017

Washington Post – In Venezuela, prisoners say abuse is so bad they are forced to eat pasta mixed with excrement – 24 June 2017

Washington Post – Report: More than 500 people were killed in two years in Venezuelan government’s anti-crime campaign – 5 October 2017

Washington Post – Venezuela’s democracy is fake, but the government’s latest election win was real – 17 October 2017

Washington Post – A young Venezuelan made his violin an instrument of resistance. The government hit back – 28 August 2017























Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines

By Brian Kim

Impunity Watch Special Features Editor

Edited By Yesim Usluca

Impunity Watch Senior Special Features Editor

On June 30, 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the Philippines’ 16th president. After beating three opponents, Duterte won the presidential election by sixteen million votes with his “change is coming” message. Throughout the campaign, Duterte was referred to as “the Punisher” for his tough policies against alleged criminals and drug dealers.

When first elected to his six-year term, Rodrigo Duterte faced a number of pressing issues. Although the nation of ninety-eight million people was considered one of Asia’s best-performing economies, the sluggish growth since the end of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship was visible to its citizens. With 60% of the total labor being employed by small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), many Filipinos still faced significant financial issues. With its capital, Manila, dominating the economy, terrible traffic and deteriorating infrastructure made the city unlivable.

Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with the outgoing President Benigno Aquino. (Photo courtesy of Ted Aljibe)

Aside from policy issues, Duterte quickly formed his government to begin implementing his initiatives. He surrounded himself with a very capable economic team who could stabilize and build on the current economy. His other cabinet picks included a wide array of politicians with great records. Furthermore, he selected the national police chief who is known for his tough approach to criminality.

Although there were a number of other pressing issues facing the country, President Rodrigo Duterte was most famously elected to “eradicate” drugs, crime and corruption in six months. During his time as the mayor of Davao City for twenty-two years, although challenged by some, he is credited for turning the city from the Philippines’ most deadly into one of its safest.  In the city of 1.5 million, Duterte conducted an operation to execute suspected criminals in the street. As a candidate for the Philippines’ 2016 presidential elections, Duterte vowed to kill 100,000 criminals while in office in order to control the country’s crime problems.

At his election victory event in Davao City, he encouraged ordinary citizens to kill by saying “do it yourselves if you have guns, you have my support.” After he took office, he went further and again urged his citizens to kill drug addicts as “getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” He blatantly stated that he did not care about human rights or due process in his country if it could eliminate the drug and crime issues in the Philippines.

Since taking office, Duterte ordered his police force to eliminate criminals. By rewarding police officers who killed drug lords with cash prizes, police killings in the Philippines rose 400% nationwide.  In fact, Duterte promised to protect the police from prosecution if they killed suspected drug dealers. This began his six-month campaign to fight against the drug problems in the Philippines.

When Duterte was first elected to office, around 1,027 people were killed during police operations based on the national police report data gathered from July 1 to September 5, 2016. With over 15,000 arrests and 686,000 surrendering voluntarily to police, the war against drugs had a huge impact on its citizens from the beginning. At the time, according to records, there were at least 1,500 pending cases under the category of “found dead body, under investigation.” Despite the increased number of police killings in the country, the national survey showed around 91% of Filipinos having a “high degree of trust” with their new government.

Towards the end of September 2016, President Duterte’s government demoted a high-profile politician from serving as the head of a committee investigating Duterte’s extrajudicial killings. Senator Leila de Lima, a former Justice Secretary, had led the opposition against the government’s war on drugs. Senator de Lima had claimed that over 3,000 have been killed in the eleven weeks since Duterte was sworn into office. Among the many deaths, Maria Aurora Moynihan, daughter of British baron Anthony Moynihan, was regarded as one of the highest profile victims. She was found shot dead with a sign over her body reading “drug punishers to celebrities, you’re next.” In a recent investigation, hitman Edgar Matobato testified under oath that Duterte ordered him to assassinate criminals while serving as the mayor of Davao City. He further claimed that Duterte himself had killed an agent and that the President’s own son was a drug user.

Although Duterte’s government justified the removal of Senator de Lima by stating that she was using the committee for “personal political vendettas,” many strategists believe that it was due to the recent incident with Matobato and his testimony.

Moreover, soon after Matobato’s testimony, President Duterte released a list of 1,000 “narco-politicians” and other officials with suspected drug links. Many analysts believed that the list indicated that the anti-drug campaign would be longer than six months and that Duterte was ready to ask for an extension.

Since Senator de Lima’s removal from her post, many began to doubt the country’s democracy. Human Rights Watch stated that Senator de Lima’s removal was a “craven attempt to derail accountability for the appalling death toll from the abusive war on drugs.”

In October 2016, President Duterte gave a speech in Manila which included police statistics on his drug war operation. In his speech, he claimed that two policemen were dying everyday due to the war with illegal drugs. However, based on the official data, only thirteen police officers were killed in a three-month period. During this time, numerous reports came out claiming that Duterte was exaggerating statistics to make a claim for his campaign. In fact, on July 25, 2016, President Duterte, during his inaugural address to the nation, claimed that there were 3.7 million “drug addicts” in the Philippines. However, based on a survey conducted by the Office of the President’s Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) in 2015, the Philippines has fewer than half the number of “drug addicts” stated by Duterte. Based on DDB data, about a third of the 1.8 million drug users had taken drugs only once in the previous thirteen months. The records also showed that around 860,000 consumed drugs, such as crystal meth, or shabu, which are considered highly addictive drugs.

Rodrigo Duterte appoints Aaron Aquino as the head of the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency. (Photo courtesy of EPA)

In his address in September 2016, Duterte claimed that the number of “addicts” would rise to four million and declared that the anti-drugs operations in his country would go on until June 2017.

In addition, a booklet handed out by Duterte’s government in September 2016 at a regional summit in Laos stated that 75% of the country’s “heinous crime” is drug-related. However, per the booklet, the definition of heinous crimes include murder, rape, human trafficking and treason, not drug crimes.

Keeping his promise, the anti-drug campaign extended into 2017 and the Philippine police released additional statistics. According to newly obtained information, the government performed over 40,000 anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to January 7, 2017. During this time, over 2,000 drug abusers were killed and around 44,000 people were arrested for drug-related offenses.

Furthermore, the police visited six-million houses during this period to persuade suspected abusers to submit themselves to a drug rehabilitation program. Based on these visits, over one-million people surrendered. The police further recognized that over 4,000 suspects were killed by vigilante-style killings, which is considered the most controversial feature of Duterte’s campaign. Finally, around thirty police officers and three soldiers were killed during the six-month period.

Many supporters of President Duterte and his campaign viewed these statistics as positive figures as the country vows to turn its tide on drug related crimes. However, many human rights organizations raised serious concerns over how the campaign was being carried out in the country.

The campaign came to a brief halt in January 2017 when rogue officers killed a South Korean businessman, Jee Ick-joo. Following the death of Mr. Ick-joo, President Duterte stated that he was “embarrassed” that the officers engaged in kidnapping which led to the South Korean’s death. Duterte’s police chief, Ronald de la Rosa stated that the police “will dissolve all anti-drug units in the police.” Although the killings did not stop entirely, around sixty-nine people were killed in March, which is at a much slower pace than previous rate of killings.


After the killing of Jee Ick-joo, President Duterte has tapped the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to lead the anti-drug campaign. Since the agency took over the campaign, Duterte was reported to take a “hands-off” approach when dealing with the drug war. He went even further and instructed the agency to not provide reports to him and left it completely up to the agency to execute the operation.

Despite the brief pause, President Duterte solidified his campaign in September 2017. In a vote of 119 to 32 in the country’s congress, the Philippines government reduced the annual budget of the Commission on Human Rights from $17 million to just $25.

The opposition members believed that this was the government’s retaliation against the Commission on Human Rights for being critical of President Duterte’s war on drugs. Phelim Kine, deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, accused the government of attempting to eliminate independent institutions from investigating President Duterte’s possible examples of abuse of power. Congressman Edcel Lagman, who opposes the budget cut, stated that the President is “virtually imposing the death penalty on a constitutionally created and mandated independent office.”

As President Duterte’s anti-drug war continued, in September 2017, the President’s eldest son, Paolo Duterte appeared before the Senate and denied any connection to a seized shipment of $125 million worth of drugs from China. Many opposition members alleged that Paolo Duterte assisted in easing the entry of the drugs, but the President’s son denied the allegations. President Duterte has repeatedly stated that he will resign as president if any of his family members were involved in corruption.

The international community has been critical of President Duterte’s war on drugs. Recently, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) called upon Duterte’s government to end all extrajudicial killings in the country. The organization cited “several credible reports and documentation” showing that many extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, and internal displacements were occurring. Moreover, as an organization with a consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the group cited that “the number of individuals suspected to be involved in illegal drugs who apparently fell victim to extrajudicial or summary killings during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte ranges from 8,000 to 12,000 dead.”

In addition, earlier in November 2017, many human rights experts at the United Nations released a joint statement insisting Duterte’s government to cease any attacks and killings under the president’s war on drugs.

Conversely, President Duterte was also vocal in the international stage. At the 31st Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November 2017, Duterte shared harsh words with Canada’s Justin Trudeau for commenting on his war on drugs campaign. Duterte characterized the comments made by the Canadian prime minister as “insulting” and said that “I only answer to the Filipino. I will not answer to any other bullshit, especially foreigners. Lay off.”

Last year, Duterte made headlines for insulting former President Barack Obama when he raised serious concerns about Duterte’s campaign and its human rights violations. After the comments were made by the former president, Duterte announced that he would break all ties with the United States. However, since President Donald Trump took office, the relationship has regained its strength.

President Donald Trump and President Duterte met during a bilateral meeting at the ASEAN Summit. During the visit, President Trump did not mention Duterte’s drug war. Instead, Trump praised Duterte’s hospitality. The White House stated that the meeting primarily focused on ISIS, illegal drugs, and trade. However, the Philippines government stated that the two leaders talked at length about the Philippine’s war on drugs. Unlike former U.S. leaders, President Trump did not mention human rights issues. The two men spoke previously over a phone call where President Trump commended Duterte on his anti-drugs operations. Moreover, during the call, Trump allegedly criticized his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and stated that he “did not understand” the drug issues facing the Philippines.

The recent reports out of the Philippines still showed a strong support for President Duterte’s war against drugs. Since the beginning of his pledge to control drugs and crime in the country, international human rights organizations reported that around 13,000 people have died from extrajudicial killing in the country. However, Duterte remains a very popular figure in the country as most are not impacted by his campaign. Statistics show that seven out of ten Filipinos still support Duterte’s war on drugs. Many believe that it is because the killings are happening in the poorer parts of the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting at the ASEAN Summit. (Photo courtesy of New York Times)

In an address to his country, Duterte instructed the Philippine National Force to stop all operations related to the campaign. Although the killings have not stopped completely, it is seen as a positive step towards stopping extrajudicial killings in the country. Following the recent changes, President Duterte appointed a new chief to the Philippines’ anti-drug agency, PDEA, Chief Aaron Aquino. Since Chief Aquino began his position, only one suspect had been killed in 1,341 operations.

Under Chief Aquino’s leadership, the agency vowed to wear body cameras when conducting operations to show that they are following the law. In a recent statement, he stated that he hoped the operations would be transparent and asked “the media to join in on the operations so they will see everything from the very start of the operations to the end.”

The PDEA has stated that they have arrested more than 400 people in the month of October and apprehended around $1 million worth of illegal drugs. Although the Philippines National Police (PNP) withdrew from leading Duterte’s anti-drugs operations, Chief Aquino noted that the PNP is still being consulted on “high level” operations. This is partly due to the shortage of officers available to PDEA as the PDEA has around 2,000 officers compared to the country’s 165,000 police officers.

President Duterte recently stated that if the drug problems worsen, he is willing to put the PNP in charge of the operations once again.


For more information, please see: 

ABC – Philippines: Commission on Human Rights budget cut to almost nothing amid Duterte’s drug crackdown – 13 September, 2017

ABS CBN – Int’l lawyers’ group urges Philippines to end killings, rights abuses – 30 November, 2017

Al Jazeera – Philippines: Inside Duterte’s killer drug war – 8 September, 2016

BBC – Duterte drug war: Philippines cuts rights body’s budget to $20 – 12 September, 2017

BBC – Philippine anti-drug agency chief vows ‘rule of law’ – 23 November, 2017

CNBC – Doubts grow over democracy in the Philippines after Senator Leila de Lima’s ousting – 22 September, 2016

CNBC – Trump does not publicly rebuke Duterte for drug war killings – 13 November, 2017

CNN – Rodrigo Duterte inaugurated as Philippines president – 30 June, 2016

The Diplomat – Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ in the Philippines: By the Numbers – 9 January, 2017

The Guardian – Rodrigo Duterte calls Justin Trudeau’s questions about war on drugs an ‘insult’ – 14 November, 2017

The Guardian – Thousands dead: the Philippine president, the death squad allegations and a brutal drugs war – 2 April, 2017

Huffington Post – Duterte Deploys Questionable Data To Justify The Philippines’ Drug War – 24 October, 2016

The Independent – Philippines cuts its human rights budget to £15 – 13 September, 2017

NPR – Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte Sustains Support For Deadly War On Drugs – 13 November, 2017

Time – Rodrigo Duterte Has Been Sworn In as President of the Philippines – 30 June, 2016






Jurist: First It’s the Muslims – An Evolution to Dictatorship

JURIST Guest Columnist David M. Crane of the Syracuse University College of Law discusses some alarming similarities between the early days of the Trump administration and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler…

How did a great country with a strong and respected place in the world, a center for culture and tolerance, elect a man who would plunge the world into what a commentator called “a place of anguish and fear”? This is a question many historians and policy makers asked themselves about Germany in the 1930’s.

The manner in which Adolf Hitler came to power initially was legitimate and within the constitutional bounds of German law. An obscure former corporal in the German army, he ran for the highest political office in his country on a platform of nationalism, essentially declaring it time to make “Germany great again.” Stung by the humiliating terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany retreated inward burdened by reparations and eventual economic depression; this liberal democracy struggled to redefine itself in a post-WWI world. Hitler’s speeches declared that Germany could be a great country again, with a strong people, who could move forward to reclaim their historic place in Europe. All this rang true to a defeated people.

Hitler’s rhetoric in those days formed the murky beginnings of a far darker political dynamic, but the German people — Dem Deuctshevolk — shop workers, shopkeepers and farmers, looked beyond this darker theme and focused on a more promising future in a proud and assertive Germany. As he ran for Chancellor, Hitler focused on the economic issues of the time, promising to restore the German economy and bring back jobs. “German business first” was what a German citizen liked to hear.

Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, barely more than eight years after he was released from a Bavarian prison for the Beer Hall Putsch. The first year of his rise to power was a heady time where money poured into infrastructure and rebuilding the German army, in blatant violation of the Versailles Treaty. The concept of a people’s car, a Volkswagen, became a reality to be driven on the world’s first interstate road system, called the autobahn. German citizens saw jobs, better pay, and a brighter future.

Then the nibbling at Germany’s democratic principles began, subtle at first, but picked up over the next few years, and by the time of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, led to a state policy to shift power from the people to one person, a Fuehrer. Backed by the Reichstag, new laws were passed shifting the power to a single executive. Additionally, as this happened, Adolf Hitler began to raise the stakes against perceived enemies of the state by using fear to cause the German people to give away their freedoms one at a time to fight the threat — Bolsheviks, Slavs, and Jews. Claiming a conspiracy to keep Germany weak, various minorities were singled out as a threat to the country and its people. It was this existential threat from within and outside the country that Hitler built upon a fear so much so that the citizens of Germany turned to their leader, their Fuehrer, to protect them.

The intellectual elite of Germany and much of the middle class at first stood back, amused, embarrassed, disbelieving that this proud nation of culture, of tolerance, of openness would elect this small little man who ranted and raved about a great German nation, a Reich that would last a thousand years. They could not believe that he would last long politically and stood aside in the early years thinking that the political system in place would cause his demise. By the time they realized the shift of almost complete power to one man had actually happened, it was too late. They had only one choice: swear allegiance or leave. Some left when they still could, but most stayed and accepted their national fate.

I have faced down dictators most of my professional life. To understand my adversary I have studied the twentieth century’s dictators, how they came to power, their psyche, and their methods of destroying their own citizens. There are patterns, similarities, regarding despots, dictators, and thugs who rise to and hold power in their countries. Their track record is horrific with the destruction of over 95 million human beings at the hands of these dictators in the last century.

Understanding the similar conduct of largely ordinary men rising to absolute power can help us in many ways: from investigating and prosecuting them for violations of domestic and international crimes, identifying those politicians or political movements trending toward despotism, to prevention and counter measures to blunt their move to power. Liberal democracies today need to understand the past, the present trends, to protect our futures. The consideration of these traits are instructive today in the United States and elsewhere.

So what are those similarities among despots and dictators? First in a country where a dictator comes to power, there is an anger towards the establishment, a long term disappointment and lack of trust in their government.They use this loss of faith in the centralized government to start building a political base to gain power. Dictators want to “drain the swamp,” to clean house, to start over.

Second, the rising dictator uses fear to shift that frustration away from their policies to what is called “a boogey man.” Dictators for a century all used a “boogey man” to focus their citizenry away from their absolute power to a threat outside the country. The Three Pashas in Turkey blamed the Christian Armenians for the loss of the Ottoman Empire; Adolf Hitler blamed the Jews for weakening Germany; Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung focused on Western capitalism; and the Ayatollah of Iran blamed the Great Satan of America for their economic problems. Outsiders who were different, who had a different religion became an internal and external threat and were either accounted for and interned or deported. Those who sought admission to their country were banned for who or what they were.

Third, dictators view the press as their enemy and initially seek to limit press access to their regimes, then ban or control the press entirely. They consider the press an enemy of the state and take appropriate action. The liberal press is blamed for factual distortions. The dictator declares they are not using real facts and fashion their own truths, what you would call today “alternative facts.” Joseph Goebbels stated that “if you lie to the people long enough, they will believe it as the truth.” In a dictatorship the truth is the first casualty.

Fourth, a dictator surrounds himself (yes, they are all men) with only those people who tell him what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear. The truth becomes dangerous to the government and to those who know it. The dictator does not want to know the truth, they fear the truth and those who work with and for the dictator fear knowing and telling them the truth. They could lose their influence, power, jobs, even their lives, as well as their family’s lives if they are truthful. It’s a downward paranoid spiral.

Fifth, the dictators of the twentieth century also suffered from some type of psychological disease or defect. From paranoia, schizophrenia, depression, and narcissism these men slipped farther and farther away from reality the longer they stayed in power. A perfect illustration is when Joseph Stalin fell dying on the floor in his bedroom and laid there for fourteen hours, the doctors and handlers were too afraid to declare him dead in fear of the repercussions of even saying, let alone knowing that he had died.

Sixth, dictators over time consider the law only as a guide, to be broken, modified, or ignored. The longer in power the more they feel they are above the law and take action according to their own whims. A political cult develops around them. They become above all men. Society is what the dictator says it is. The national identity becomes the dictator. Where once government workers or members of the armed forces swore allegiance to the law, they now must swear allegiance to the dictator himself without question. The refusal to do so is expulsion or death.

In the United States we now have a President who fits several of these traits and has acted accordingly — all within two short weeks as President. The surprising thing is how easily he has been able to do this without any institutional resistance. America is not used to someone of this caliber. We sit back stunned, cowed, or in quiet glee as this new President begins to “make America great again.” Is he becoming America’s first “dictator”? This remains to be seen.

Our only counter to this “new type” of President is the Constitution of the United States. The founders of this nation contemplated a Trump and put in the necessary checks and balances to ensure that America did not create a king or dictator. The power was reserved to the people, us; and all those elected answer to that people, not the other way around. The other two branches of government will be critical to our republic with this power grabbing new President. They must do their constitutional duty and pay heed to the law and to the people to counter his seeking absolute power.

Another point, the recent singling out of Muslims seeking entry into our country from several countries appears to be, and is touted to be, a national security issue protecting our country. Beware when our federal government tells you the reason they are doing something “in the name of national security.” The results were: “The Red Scare,” Japanese internment camps, McCarthyism, unauthorized medical testing, the electronic surveillance program, torture, secret camps, and Guantanamo, to name a few. It is easier to govern a people when they are afraid. Fear is the life blood of a dictator. Singling out a people to blame because they are different and can possibly cause us harm, hoping to play upon our fears is just a first step to despotism.

In times of real or perceived crisis we must hold tight to our Constitution, not push it away as a hindrance to making our country safe. Thomas Jefferson throughout his life looked to the people to keep the United States on track, our leaders honest, and our focus on the rule of law. Even in the Declaration of Independence he hinted that it is the people who shape that government and have the right and the obligation to change that government should it challenge our constitutional rights.

It is heartening to see people in the United States and around the world who are standing up to the new President’s policies. Make no mistake, we have a man in power who manifests the traits of a dictator. A citizenry who raise the banner of the rule of law holding our elected officials accountable to our Constitution, and not to a man, will eventually cause the Trump administration to reign in their policies or face legal consequences. If we do not, I fear for America. Remember Germany…

David M. Crane is a Professor of Law at the Syracuse University College of Law. He is the former Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone, 2002-2005. He is also the founder of Impunity Watch, the Syrian Accountability Project and the IamSyria Campaign.

Suggest citation: David M. Crane, First It’s the Muslims: An Evolution to a Dictatorship, JURIST – Academic Commentary, Feb. 3, 2017, http://jurist.org/forum/2017/02/David-Crane-evolution-to-dictatorship.php

This article was prepared for publication by Sean Merritt, an Assistant Editor for JURIST Commentary. Please direct any questions or comments to him at commentary@jurist.org<hrheight=’1′></hrheight=’1′>

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