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News Clips – October 15, 2010

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment
  • The loss of leading international human rights scholar Louis Henkin is mourned, while the legal community remembers his long career dedicated to the development of international law and the protection of human rights. [Human Rights First]
  • Moldova has ratified the Rome Statute to become the newest State Party to the International Criminal Court, bringing the total to 114. [UN]
  • Canadian citizen Omar Khadr may have reached a plea agreement with the U.S. government, ending his prosecution by a Military Commission at Guantánamo. [Human Rights First]  Khadr was detained in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old and recently turned 24 while in U.S. custody.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declined to confirm the status of Khadr’s case, but reports indicate that the deal would require Khadr to plead guilty to the war crimes charges against him – including murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy – and serve eight years in prison, the final seven years being served in Canada, contingent on the Canadian government’s agreement. [CBC News]  Khadr’s case has drawn attention because of his young age, but also as one of a handful of cases in which Guantánamo detainees have argued that their home country governments have an obligation to use diplomacy to secure their nationals’ release from Guantánamo.  See INTERIGHTSthird party intervention in Boumediene before the ECHR for relevant jurisprudence and an example of the analysis used in such cases.
  • France has arrested Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, who is wanted by the ICC on charges that he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. [ICC; HRW]
  • Uzbekistan has convicted two journalists, Vladimir Berezovskii and Abdumalik Boboev, on defamation and insult charges in connection with articles written or made available by them which were critical of the Uzbek government’s policies; Boboev was ordered to pay a hefty fine. [VOA; HRW]
  • Kenya will no longer prosecute suspected Somali pirates captured by international forces, as it lets expire an agreement entered into last year with the European Union and several national governments. [Impunity Watch]
  • Indonesian President Yudhoyono cancelled his scheduled trip to the Netherlands last week due to a human rights suit filed in Dutch court against him by a Maluku separatist who was allegedly detained and severely beaten for showing a Maluku independence flag during a presidential speech in 2007. [VOA]
  • Federal district court judge Virginia A. Phillips has granted the plaintiffs permanent injunctive relief against the government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which had allowed the U.S. military to dismiss soldiers for revealing their homosexuality, upon finding that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s substantive due process and free speech protections. [C.D. Cal.]  The federal legislature has recently been deliberating repeal of DADT, but Senate Democrats were unable to overcome Republican opposition to the bill. [WSJ]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on the Rwandan government to protect the rights and safety of opposition leaders, in relation to the detention of the leaders of two Rwandan opposition parties. [HRW]
  • The IACHR has released its hearing schedule for 140th Period of Sessions, to begin later this month. [IACHR]  The Commission’s thematic hearings will address issues ranging from camps for the internally displaced in Haiti to prosecutions for crimes against humanity in Argentina, while the hearings on the admissibility and merits of individual cases will include that of Guantánamo detainee Djamel AmezianeLivestreaming and/or recordings will be available for most hearings.
  • A Peruvian court has convicted Vladimiro Montesinos, former aide to ex-President Alberto Fujimori and de facto head of security, as well as members of the Colina death squad, on charges of extrajudicial killing and injury of 29 individuals in separate incidents, including the massacre of Barrios Altos.  The court (Sala Penal Especial de la Corte Suprema de Justicia) found the acts constituted crimes against humanity, as it similarly found in the case of Alberto Fujimori. [CEJIL]  The Barrios Altos case has been reviewed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found Peru responsible for the deaths and lack of investigation or reparation (merits decision here).
  • Ecuador is receiving negative attention from NGOs and the UN as recent unrest has led the Ecuadorian government to crack down on freedom of the press and of expression. [UN]
  • UN peacekeepers and Democratic Republic of Congo forces have captured a DRC rebel leader accused of orchestrating the mass rape of more than 300 people two months ago. [UN]
  • South Africa’s majority party, the African National Congress, is considering pursuing a bill that would allow the government to imprison journalists for 3 to 25 years for publishing any information that impacts the “national interest”. [Impunity Watch]
  • Following the Nobel Committee’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, UN experts and others have called for his release from detention and respect for fundamental rights in China. [UN]
  • The UN has called for an investigation into the October 8th death in custody of a man detained for throwing stones at DRC President Joseph Kabila’s motorcade last month. [UN]
  • ProPublica reports that the U.S. government significantly altered a federal judge’s decision granting a Guántanamo detainee’s habeas petition while reviewing the order for classified information, removing eight pages of the opinion, including the judge’s criticism of the government’s weak case, and changing key details to make the detainee appear more threatening.  The changes were discovered because the court had published the judge’s original opinion online. [Democracy Now!]
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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]

News Clips – September 20, 2010

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment
  • In a heartbreaking blow to Afghan hopes for peace, several U.S. soldiers are under investigation for murdering at least three Afghan civilians last year as part of a rogue “kill team” that was allegedly formed when a staff sergeant who had served in Iraq in 2004 joined the platoon stationed in Kandahar province. [Washington Post]
  • The French Senate has approved a ban on the use of full-face veils in public, subject to a fine of 150 Euros ; the legislation will now be reviewed by the Constitutional Council [Impunity Watch; BBC]
  • On Thursday, the U.S. state of Virginia will execute Teresa Lewis, following her conviction for the 2002 deaths of her husband and stepson; she will be the first woman to be executed in the state in 98 years and is reported to have “severe learning difficulties”. [Guardian]
  • Polish police have detained exiled Chechen leader Akhmed Zakayev, who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 2003, but Polish authorities have not determined whether he will be extradited to Russia, where he is sought on charges of armed revellion, murder and kidnapping. [BBC; RNW]
  • Italy and Libya’s joint agreement to intercept would-be migrants at sea has led to several incidents where Libyan patrols have fired upon Italian boats in the mistaken belief that they were carrying migrants. [Impunity Watch; Human Rights Watch]
  • Ecuador and Colombia have met to discuss the plight of the approximately 135,000 displaced Colombians living in Ecuador, due to ongoing violence [Impunity Watch; ADN]
  • Leading Russian gay rights activist, Nikolai Alekseyev, has been released after being held by Russian authorities for two days while they allegedly pressured him to withdraw a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights. [Radio Free Europe]
  • A U.S. citizen has been released from Iranian custody after inadvertently crossing Iranian border from Iraq while hiking; meanwhile, while Amnesty calls attention to 30,000 held in Iran without trial and prominent Iranian human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. [Guardian; NYT; Amnesty]
  • The Philippine National Police will support the installation of a human rights desk in every police station, following torture accusations levied against the police. [Manila Bulletin]
  • In Kyrgyzstan, human rights reporter Azimjon Askarov has been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges the Committee to Protect Journalists says are completely unfounded. [CPJ]
  • Peruvian President Alan Garcia approved a repeal of recent Legislative Decree 1097, amidst fears that the law would provide amnesty for security forces members accused of human rights violations. [Peruvian Times]  The repeal was viewed favorably by the IACHR, which had criticized the decree. [IACHR]
  • Citing “the lack of the right to legitimate defence in Rwanda today”, a French court has rejected Rwanda’s request to extradite Eugene Rwamucyo, a doctor wanted for his alleged involvement in the Rwandan genocide. [RNW]
  • Hamas and UN Relief & Works Agency clash over human rights curriculum in schools. [NPR]
  • The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders has released its annual report, Steadfast in Protest, provides a region-by-region analysis of government  protection (or repression) of the media and civil society (note that the Table of Contents is at the end of the 500-plus page report).  The report is choc-full of individual examples of human rights defenders who were subjected to harassment or prosecution, and instances of dissent which were stifled – particularly during elections – in 2009. [FIDH]
  • Human Rights Watch calls for the establishment of an international Commission of Inquiry for Burma, to investigate past abuses by the military and armed groups.  [HRW]
  • The U.S. Senate is poised to vote on legislation, which has been approved by the House of Representatives, and which would repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gay and lesbian members of the military. [ACLU]
  • Kashmiri separatists protest curfew laws and Indian occupation in bloody battles with Indian troops, in which at least three protesters have lost their lives, while Human Rights Watch calls for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which protects members of the Indian military from prosecution and grants broad powers to use force and conduct warrantless arrests. [BBC; HRW]
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing warns of the high rate of forced evictions in Kazakhstan. [OHCHR]
  • The IACHR has presented a case to the Inter-American Court involving Chilean courts’ denial of parental custody rights to a lesbian mother because of her sexual orientation.  Karen Atala’s petition is the first to be decided by the Commission relating to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. [IACHR]
  • UN expert calls on Sudanese authorities to investigate the September 2nd killing of dozens of civilians in North Darfur. [OHCHR]
  • A Reprieve investigator reports that the FBI has been deeply involved in the questioning and detention of individuals connected to the World Cup bombings in Kampala this year, the investigation of which has included the arbitrary detention of two Kenyan human rights defenders arrested in Uganda last week.  They had been working on behalf of three Kenyans subjected to extraordinary rendition and charged in Uganda for their alleged role in the Kampala World Cup bombings. [Huffington Post]
  • Organizations call for the immediate release of 19-year-old blogger being held incommunicado in Syria for nine months now.  [AFP; HRW]
  • Attacks against journalists threaten lives and freedom of expression in Mexico. [Impunity Watch]
  • The Costa Rican Supreme Court has ruled that the high crime rate in the country cannot justify arbitrary police checkpoints on public roads, which may be established only when there is substantiated evidence or actual notice of a crime having been committed. [CEJIL]
  • 18 protesters were injured, and one killed, in a confrontation between Peruvian police and protesters opposed to a dam and agricultural irrigation system which residents of Espinar fear would leave them without water. [Reuters; AlertNet]
  • In Thailand, planning for anti-government protests is underway as the fourth anniversary of the military coup approaches. [Democracy Now]

News Clips – July 18, 2010

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage, becoming the second country in the Western Hemisphere to do so. [Washington Post]
  • The Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC has issued a second arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Al Bashir, who is wanted to face charges of genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.  The first warrant was based on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [ICC]
  • ACLU files suit alleging  U.S. “No Fly List” is unconstitutional, on behalf of individuals placed on the list without explanation or recourse, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. [ACLU]
  • In its admissibility decision in Babar Ahmar and Other v. United Kingdom, the ECHR requested additional information from the parties and extended interim measures to suspend the extradition of the applicants to U.S., where they could face life imprisonment in supermax prisons. The Court sought further information on the conditions of detention in such prisons, the reach of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and the reducibility of the life sentences potentially imposed – in order to determine whether the transfer would constitute a violation of Article 3’s prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment. [Huffington PostBBCECHR]
  • Jorge Rafael Videla, the former Argentina dictator whose de facto government was in power for most of the Dirty War years, has gone on trial again this month, in connection with the murder of 32 political prisoners in 1976. [BBCLa Nación]  Videla was previously convicted on kidnapping and other charges and later benefited from Argentina’s amnesty law, but began serving a life sentence in 2008 after his pardon was overturned [BBC].
  • IACHR welcomes the release of 7 Cuban political prisoners, which belatedly, partially complies with the Commission’s 2006 merits report in the case of several dozen journalists and human rights activists detained in Cuba, in which it recommended their release. [IACHR]
  • Attorney Lynne Stewart’s sentence has been increased on appeal to 10 years, following her2005 conviction of conspiring to aid terrorists for conveying messages on behalf of her client, who was detained on terrorism-related charges. [Democracy Now!]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on Iran to spare civilians in its military operations  surrounding Kurdish villages in Iraq. [HRW]
  • Human Rights Watch’s new publication Hellish Work denounces Philip Morris’ labor practices and exploitation of migrant workers in Kazakhstan. [NYT]
  • Internal Israeli report finds that the Gaza aid flotilla deaths were justified. [Impunity Watch]
  • President Medved says killer of human rights defender Natalya Estemirova has been identified, as European Commissioner for Human Rights calls on government to bring to justice those responsible. [VOA]
  • Zimbabwe faces continued allegations of human rights abuses in its diamond mines, as Kimberly Process and World Diamond Council approve Zimbabwean diamonds for sale. [NPR, Newsweek]
  • Conditions for Haitians displaced by earthquake are criticized, as nearly 2 million remain homeless.  [truthdig]
  • Last week, thousands commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Impunity Watch]
  • IACHR laments deaths in Uruguay prison fire. [IACHR]
  • South Korean human rights commission to review chemical castration of sex offenders, approved by parliament last month. [Dong-a Ilbo; MSNBC]
  • Egyptian Bedouin rights activist freed following three years of detention under Egypt’s emergency law. [Impunity Watch]
  • Russian Duma expands Russian security services’ powers, amidst protests. [Business Week]

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.

New Human Rights Watch Publications on DRC Massacre and Vigilante Justice in Burundi

April 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This week, Human Rights Watch published two new reports documenting abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi.  The first, Trail of Death, reports the findings of HRW’s fact-finding mission to the Makombo area, in the aftermath of a December 2009 massacre committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.  The second, Mob Justice in Burundi, documents official complicity in acts of both organized and spontaneous mob violence against suspected criminals in Burundi.

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