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News Clips – October 3, 2010

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment
  • In Ecuador, a state of emergency remains in place following last week’s uprising of members of the military against President Correa’s government, prompting human rights defenders to call for a quick restoration of full civil liberties. [CEJIL] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the attack against Correa. [IACHR]
  • Germany today commemorates 20 years of reunification and will use its experience to assist the South Korean government in moving forward with unification of the Korean Peninsula. [New York Times; VOA]
  • The UN fact-finding mission into the Gaza flotilla incident has issued its report, concluding that Israel used “unlawful” and “unnecessary” violence in its interception of a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid in May and June of this year.  The report was adopted by the Human Rights Council. [UN; OHCHR]
  • The U.S. government has apologized for conducting medical experiments on Guatemalan prisoners, sex workers, psychiatric hospital patients, and soldiers from 1946 to 1948.  The tests purposefully infected approximately 1,500 Guatemalans with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases between 1946 and 1948.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed outrage and regret, while Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom qualified the experiments as a “crime against humanity” and reserved the right to pursue legal redress. [CERIGUA; Reuters]
  • In Venezuela, a riot in the Tocoron prison, which is allegedly run by gang members, has claimed 16 lives. [Impunity Watch]  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has previously expressed concern regarding the overcrowding and conditions in Venezuelan prisons, and last week expressed its concern at the discovery of a child prostitution ring operating out of a Paraguayan prison. [IACHR]
  • Uganda has charged detained Kenyan human rights defender Al-Amin Kimathi with terrorism and murder due to his role in representing the six Kenyans being prosecuted for the Kampala World Cup bombing. [HRW]
  • Cuba may release more political prisoners if they agree to leave the country. [AP]
  • Seven years after Liberia’s civil war, Prince Johnson, a current Liberian senator and former warlord who participated in atrocities committed during the war, has been certified to run for the presidency in next year’s election.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia’s final report recommended that Johnson be banned from holding public office for 30 years and be prosecuted for crimes against humanity (p. 353). [AP]  The Special Court for Sierra Leone is managing the prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in The Hague, for atrocities committed by Liberian and rebel forces under his direction in neighboring Sierra Leone, but the International Criminal Court has not opened an investigation into the crimes committed in Liberia during its civil war.
  • The UN Human Rights Council has confirmed that the right to water and sanitation is binding on States, as embodied in international treaties  [UN]
  • The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term tomorrow with Justice Elena Kagan becoming the third woman on the court.  As quoted in the Washington Post, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated, “When the schoolchildren file in and out of the court and they look up and they see three women, then that will seem natural and proper – just how it is.” Critics note that the the ideological divide among the 9 justices may be seen as partisan, in that each Supreme Court justice viewed as conservative was nominated by a Republican president and each justice viewed as liberal in his or her judicial philosophy was appointed by a Democratic president, which had not previously been true.  [Washington Post]  The Court’s docket this term will include cases related to immigration law, freedom of expression, criminal due process and other issues. [SCOTUSblog]  For an interesting commentary on the Roberts Court’s impact on American constitutional law thus far, see Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick’s article on Slate.
  • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report calling on Nepal to establish an independent body to receive and investigate citizen complaints, following its discovery that security forces are suspected of having committed dozens of extrajudicial killings since January of 2008. [UN]
  • As a series of teen suicides in the United States are attributed to school bullying on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, activist Dan Savage has initiated the It Gets Better Project on YouTube to offer messages of hope to LGBT teens. [ACLU]
  • The trial of former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani for his alleged participation in the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 is set to begin tomorrow in federal court in New York City, drawing further criticism of the continued use of military commissions and detention abroad of terrorism suspects. [ACLU; HRW]
  • Indigenous Chilean prisoners have ended their hunger strike in protest of the terrorism charges levied against them in connection with their anti-poverty protests.  The end of the hunger strike was welcomed by the UN, but Human Rights Watch called on the Chilean government to amend its anti-terrorism laws and limit use of the military court system. [ UN; HRW]
  • Human Rights First urged the UNHCR to continue working to ensure equality and dignity in the treatment of LGBTI refugees, as governments and civil society met in Geneva to discuss the issue. [HRF]
  • The CIA has begun using armed drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an expansion of the highly controversial use of targeted killings. [Washington Post]
  • Bahrain has issued a travel ban against several human rights defenders, preventing them from leaving the country. [HRW]
  • Mexican mayors’ lives are at risk in the country’s ongoing battle against drug trafficking. [Washington Post]
  • Britain has legally recognized  Druidry, an ancient faith whose followers worship the natural world, as a religion by approving the Druid Network’s application to be registered as a religious charity.  [Huffington Post]
  • Liu Xiabobo, a likely contender for the Nobel Peace Prize and Chinese dissident, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion in connection with the publication of Charter 08, a proposal for peaceful democratic reform. [Washington Post]
  • One year after a massacre perpetrated by Guinea security forces claimed the lives of more than 150 people, the government has yet to prosecute the suspects, despite the ICC’s opening a preliminary examination. [HRW]
  • Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been convicted of spreading disinformation and falsifying maps, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Cambodia criticizes “disproportionate use of the law” against the press, activists and political leaders. [OHCHR; VOA]
  • The Thai government continues to invoke emergency powers to limit civil liberties, five months after anti-government protests were suppressed. [HRW]
  • Human Rights Watch calls for an investigation into a recent rash of police brutality and deaths in custody in Vietnam. [HRW]
  • In Zimbabwe, violence and arrests of activists have led to the disruption and suspension of community outreach meetings on Zimbabwean constitutional reform. [HRW]
  • The Global Migration Group, comprised of various intergovernmental organizations including the International Organization for Migration, urges States to ensure the fundamental rights of migrants in irregular situations. [OHCHR]
  • The Al-Jazeera network protested the arrest of two cameramen by NATO forces in Afghanistan. [Washington Post]  The cameramen were released two days later. [Al-Jazeera]
  • Following reports that Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi was to be allowed to vote in upcoming elections and be freed from house arrest, it remains unclear what action the military government will take. [The Hindu; AP]

ICTY Convicts Seven in Srebrenica Massacre Case

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted seven Bosnian Serb military leaders owing to their participation in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, in which over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. Read the judgment summary here. [Impunity Watch, ICTY]  From among the many atrocities committed during the Balkans conflict, the Srebrenica massacre has been singled out by the ICTY and International Court of Justice (ICJ) as an act of genocide.

The crimes of which the seven former military and police officials were convicted include: genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, including extermination, murder, persecution, and inhumane acts.  The Trial Chamber found that the crime of deportation had not been proven.  The ICTY’s press release notes:

This trial has been the largest conducted to date at the ICTY. Trial proceedings in this case commenced on 21 August 2006 and concluded on 15 September 2009. The trial took a total of 425 days during which the Trial Chamber heard or otherwise admitted evidence from 315 witnesses: 182 by the Prosecution; 132 by all the Defence teams and one by the Trial Chamber. There are 5,383 exhibits before the Trial Chamber, amounting to 87,392 page numbers.

The Tribunal has indicted a total of 21 individuals for crimes committed in Srebrenica. Among these are Radislav Krstić who was the first individual to be convicted of aiding and abetting genocide in Srebrenica on 2 August 2001. The Appeals Chamber sentenced him to 35 years’ imprisonment on 19 April 2004. The trials of Radovan Karadžić, Zdravko Tolimir as well as Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović are ongoing. To date, Ratko Mladić, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb Army also charged with genocide in Srebrenica, remains a fugitive.

Since its establishment, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001.  Proceedings against 123 have been concluded. Proceedings are currently open for 40 Accused with 25 at trial stage and 11 before the Appeals Chamber.

Radio Free Europe has published an interesting commentary on the implications of the judgment, which is available here.

In March of this year, the Serbian parliament passed a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre and extended a formal apology to the victims and their families, although it did not categorize the massacre as genocide. [Radio Netherlands]  The International Court of Justice found the Srebrenica massacre to be genocide in its 2007 judgment in the case Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), as have the ICTY and the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

As reported by Radio Netherlands, in March of this year a Dutch court upheld a lower court’s decision that the United Nations and Dutch government were immune from suit by families of victims of the massacre who alleged that the UN had abdicated its duty to protect the civilian population. [Radio Netherlands]

Relatedly, former acting Bosnian president Ejup Ganic was arrested in March of this year in London on allegations that he had committed war crimes during the conflict.  Serbia is seeking his extradition from the U.K. despite a previously unsuccessful attempt to secure his prosecution by the ICTY. [BBC, RFE]

See PBS’ interactive timeline of events leading up to the massacre here.

News Clips – May 23, 2010

May 23, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Human Rights Watch urges new British government to reform counterterrorism strategies and investigate British agents’ complicity in torture and rendition. [HRW] Related cases decided by the British courts and ECHR include A & Others (indefinite detention of foreign nationals), Gillan and Quinton v. UK (power to stop and search), and the control order cases Secretary of State for the Home Department v. E and AnotherJJ and Others, and MB and AF.
  • Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzón is temporarily suspended pending trial on misconduct charges in connection with investigation of Franco-era crimes against humanity. [Guardian]  See more on this story here.
  • Egyptian President Mubarak decreed a two-year extension of emergency laws, in place since 1981, allowing extraordinary police powers in terrorism and drug cases. [Impunity WatchBBC]
  • The IACHR completed its visit to Honduras to follow up on the human rights situation following last year’s coup d’etat, and expressed deep concern regarding continuing violations.
  • French parliament will consider fining women in full veil, now that President Sarkozy’s government has forwarded legislation that would impose a $185 fine on women in burqa and/or require them to attend citizenship classes, as well as allowing police to require women to lift their veils to identify themselves. [Washington Post]
  • Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial will move to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon facilities in The Hague, due to scheduling difficulties at the ICC, which had been the venue for the trial since 2006, although theSpecial Tribunal for Sierra Leone continues to prosecute Taylor. [Impunity Watch]
  • report commissioned by Canadian mining company Goldcorp shows its subsidiary violated workers rights and failed to properly consult with indigenous community in Guatemala. Another study published this month reports that individuals living near the mine have potentially toxic levels of heavy metals in their blood and urine. [BBCPhysicians for Human Rights]  The mine is located in the San Marcos department of Guatemala and is the subject of a pending complaint before the Canadian government, alleging violations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises [CIEL]. Mineral mining has become a very heated issue in Guatemala as indigenous communities fight for a say regarding the location, practices, and environmental impact of such mines.  Review more information by Mining Watch CanadaCOPAE,and NISGUA. See Guatemala’s law and regulations on mining here.
  • Malawi sentences gay couple to 14 years’ imprisonment, generating strong criticism. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the sentence “blatantly discriminatory” and urged reform of laws criminalizing homosexuality. [UN]
  • Six Somalis were sentenced to death by a Yemen court last week for the oldest international crime:piracy. [Impunity Watch]
  • The ACLU and other organizations filed a class action lawsuitFriendly House et al. v. Whiting, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, challenging the new Arizona immigration law as an unconstitutional infringement on federal powers and violating the constitutional amendments providing for equal protection, protection against unreasonable seizures and freedom of speech. [ACLU]
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