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Rwanda: ICTR refers genocide case to Rwandan courts

On Wednesday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) referred one of its cases to the Rwandan judicial system. The case is that of Jean-Bosco Uwinkindi, a Rwandan Pentecostal pastor charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and extermination as a crime against humanity. He was arrested in Uganda in June 2010 and has been in the tribunal’s custody since July of that year.

Previous requests for referral to the Rwandan courts were rejected by ICTR judges on the basis that a fair trial could not be guaranteed. In this case, however, the court noted that “Rwanda had made material changes in its laws and had indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by the ICTR adhering to internationally recognised fair trial standards enshrined in the ICTR Statute and other human rights instruments.” Uwinkindi’s referral is the first one granted since Chief Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow filed three new transfer requests based on his determination that the legal climate in Rwanda had changed enough to allow fair trial for the accused.

In their ruling, the ICTR judges requested that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights be appointed to monitor the Rwandan proceedings for fairness.

The ruling, which Rwandan pro-government daily The New Times labeled “a vote of confidence in the Rwandan judicial system,” follows the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1966 asking the tribunal to find ways to wrap up all cases by 2014.

Africa: Civil society groups urge governments to support ICC

A report by African civil society groups and international organizations working in Africa calls on African member states of the ICC to cooperate with and continue supporting the actions of the International Criminal Court. Titled “Observations and Recommendations on the International Criminal Court and the African Union,” the report criticizes AU requests for delays in ICC prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and in the investigation of Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence, and condemns AU reluctance to support Security Council Resolution 1970 on Libya.

The organizations, numbering 125 and based in more than 25 countries, make seven recommendations to Africa’s 32 ICC member states: 1) support the ICC at AU summits, 2) push for accountability for serious violators of international law in Darfur and Kenya, 3) voice objections on Kenya and Darfur to the Security Council rather than the ICC, 4) address concerns about plans to expand jurisdiction of the new African Court of Justice and Human Rights, 5) cooperate with ICC prosecution of crimes in Libya, 6) comply with obligations regarding people targeted by ICC warrants, and 7) take a more active role in selection of the next ICC prosecutor.

Currently the African Court of Justice and Human Rights is allowed to rule on general legal matters and human rights treaties. The AU has proposed widening its jurisdiction to criminal prosecution for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Noting the complexity of these cases and the region’s lack of experience in handling them, the report advises caution. If the African Court moves ahead, says the report, it must adhere to international legal and procedural standards, have access to adequate resources to conduct investigations, and clarify its standing to make sure it doesn’t undermine ICC authority.

The recommendation regarding the Bashir warrant appears to be a response to the AU call for members not to cooperate with the arrest, while the plea for cooperation with the ICC on Libya aims to ensure that African concerns about military action don’t obstruct justice for crimes against civilians.

Photo: Human Rights Watch

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This week’s Guest Preventers on the AIPR blog are Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleiman, codirectors of the 2010 award-winning film The Last Survivor, which follows the lives of survivors of four different genocides—the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and Congo—as they struggle to make sense of tragedy by inspiring tolerance in a new generation. 

From very early on, our goal was to make a film about genocide that left the audience with a feeling of hopefulness and optimism—that there was something they could do to end this tragedy. Now we are working with a coalition of groups to bring The Last Survivor to communities around the globe, spark dialogue about how to prevent genocide in the future, and bring much needed support and attention to the most vulnerable communities of survivors and refugees around the world.

As filmmakers, we believe the most effective way to raise awareness and, ultimately, to prevent genocide is by listening to and supporting the people directly affected by it. Too often, refugee and survivor communities are neglected by the genocide prevention movement, so, as part of our film’s grassroots campaign, we are working to bridge this divide by connecting refugees with anti-genocide activists in the United States. We hope this will help foster personal relationships and provide opportunities for activists to get to know the people they are advocating for, who are living in their own communities. If we learn from each other’s experiences, we can become a stronger force speaking and acting out against genocide.

We hope that you will consider joining us in this effort by bringing the film to your community so your friends and neighbors can learn about these atrocities and hopefully get inspired, like we did, to do something about it.

Everyone has personal reasons for getting involved in the movement to prevent genocide. These are ours.

Michael Pertnoy, founder and executive director, Righteous Pictures

When I was 18, I had the opportunity to journey to the concentration camps in Poland on a program called the March of the Living. Up until that point I had learned a lot about the Holocaust in school and in many ways it was overwhelming—thinking about the statistics, seeing the horrific pictures and graphic film footage, I felt helpless. But as I walked arm in arm with the Holocaust survivors from my home community, marching through the death camps into the gas chambers, the focus was no longer on the millions of lives lost, but the power of those who had survived; those who had passed through the worst that the world has to offer and emerged with something to give to the world—a renewed sense of purpose, an obligation to provide a firsthand account of one of history’s darkest times, and to share their story so future genocides could be prevented.

On that trip in 2002 I made a promise to the survivors that I would carry on their legacy to my generation and beyond. In 2006 I returned to the camps. By then, the genocide in Darfur had been raging for more than three years. Over 300,000 people had been killed and millions displaced. And I wasn’t even aware yet of the violence in Congo and the other nations around it. It was after this trip back to the camps, as a recent college graduate, that I decided to get involved with the growing anti-genocide cause that was mobilizing across the United States. It was the confluence of these experiences that birthed The Last Survivor, and the rest was history.

Michael Kleiman, cofounder and creative director, Righteous Pictures

My grandmother on my father’s side and her three sisters fled Belgium to escape the Nazi occupation in World War II. I remember hearing stories about how the four of them were hidden in the back of a pickup truck and smuggled out of the country to the south of France, where they hid in a barn for six months before escaping to Portugal and then the United States. I grew up with these stories.

When I was a junior in college, a friend of mine told me in passing about the genocide in Darfur, which had been going on for three years at that point. I was taken aback, not only by the horror but by the fact that I’d never heard anything about it. I considered myself politically aware at that time—mindful of the world around me. So I did what any film student would do: I picked up my camera and made what I now consider to be a terrible short film about the genocide in Darfur and its absence from the news. I always wanted to do more, so when Michael came to me with the idea for a film about genocide survivors, I jumped at the opportunity.

On June 16, the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion titled “Libya and the Responsibility to Protect.” Moderated by Mike Abramowitz of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the panel featured Manal Omar of the United States Institute of Peace, Sarah Sewall of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Ambassador Richard Williamson of the Brookings Institution.

As Abramowitz said in his opening statement, several issues regarding R2P have been raised by the public, commentators, policymakers, and politicians in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and the subsequent NATO intervention in Libya. Those questions include whether the intervention has prevented a mass atrocity, whether NATO’s ongoing actions have gone beyond the original mandate of civilian protection into regime change, and why the R2P principle has been applied to Libya but not other countries facing the threat of mass atrocities. Another question is whether R2P has been useful in dealing with the Libyan situation, or if the Libyan crisis has discredited the principle of the Responsibility to Protect.

Omar of USIP focused on illustrating the situation on the ground based on conversations she had with Libyan civilians and rebels. She highlighted the importance of NATO air strikes to rebels and civilians, and Libyans’ opposition to the possibility of foreign ground troops in their country. She also discussed Libyans’ views that regime change and civilian protection are one and the same in their country, their continued belief in the eventual demise of the Qaddafi regime, and ongoing discussions within and outside the National Transitional Council about transitional justice, reconciliation, and the form of Libya’s future government. Omar added that the people of Benghazi fear mass atrocities experienced in other parts of Libya could reach them without the help of the international community, and that they especially dread the use of rape as a “tool of war.”

Ambassador Richardson noted the tension between realism and idealism inherent in a principle like R2P, especially when it comes to the use of military force, and stressed the need for international legitimacy, multilateral consensus, and careful consideration of the full menu of options. He described the Libyan case as a learning opportunity, emphasizing that R2P, like human rights before it, will take a long time to establish itself as a global norm, and that while mistakes in applying the principle will be made, each time R2P is invoked is a chance for the international community to figure out what it means and how to respond. In the case of Libya, Richardson believes that Britain and France were more anxious to get involved than the United States was because they had greater interests at stake. He also said there may be times when it’s better to negotiate with the perpetrators of mass crimes without an ICC indictment to slow down the killing and save more civilian lives. He concluded by underscoring the need for post-intervention reconstruction and stabilization plans.

Dr. Sewall, one of the authors of the Mass Atrocity Response Operation Planning Handbook, emphasized the Libyan case as a learning opportunity, both politically and militarily, echoing many of Ambassador Richardson’s points. She described R2P as a “work in progress,” and said that even if some doubt the sincerity of the concept’s motives and view it as neo-imperialism, it remains “useful in framing the debate” about cases like Libya. She said the U.S. military’s actions in Libya demonstrated a lack of thinking about MARO operations within the military, noting that outside observers viewed airstrikes—the U.S. military’s primary tool for operations when not allowed to use ground troops—as synonymous with major combat operations aimed at regime change. Dr. Sewall stressed that protection strategies used in humanitarian interventions are defensive in nature, while the primary mode of carrying out U.S. military operations is offensive, creating an obvious disconnect between the goals of the operation and the tools used to accomplish them. Noting that “military power is very imprecise, highly uncertain, and really volatile,” she said civilian casualties could cause a backlash against future interventions, which underscores not only the need to be cautious about military intervention, but also the importance of prevention at earlier stages of conflict.

Image: Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com

Libya: Arrest Warrants for Key Government Figures

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants today for Libyan president Muammar Qaddafi, his son Salif-al Islam, and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Al-Sanussi. The trio has been accused of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the murder and persecution of protestors during the uprising that swept the country earlier this year. While Qaddafi has ultimate control over the Libyan government, Salif-al Islam and Al-Sanussi are considered to have been instrumental in the development and execution of the violent strategies used in the government’s crackdown on the dissention that precipitated the ongoing civil war.

Despite celebration in the rebel capital of Benghazi, government officials there admit that the arrest warrants may make negotiating Qaddafi out of power near impossible. Al Jazeera reported that the rebel government has “made it clear that the door has been shut to any peaceful political settlement of this conflict. They are worried that [Qaddafi], who now is a prisoner in his own country, will fight until the end, until death.”

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge Trials Begin

Trials have begun today for four former Khmer Rogue officials accused of helping to orchestrate the mass atrocities committed under the regime’s rule from 1975 to 1979. Prosecutors for the UN-backed tribunal are claiming that each of the four defendants had direct influence in developing or executing government policies that caused the death of around 1.7 million Cambodians.

All four have pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder, genocide, torture, and religious persecution. Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge second in command, apologized for the deaths but maintains that government officials were acting as liberators, protecting the nation from Vietnamese military incursion. Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, whose ideology heavily influenced government policies, says he was unaware of the killings. The former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, a trusted member of  the regime’s inner circle, is claiming double-jeopardy, citing his conviction in a trial in 1979, for which he later received a pardon. His wife, Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister, who is accused of planning mass killings, said she was also unaware of the atrocities being committed and places the blame instead on Nuon Chea.

The trial is immensely “complex,” according to the New York Times. It includes “a 700-page indictment, hundreds of witnesses, thousands of pages of documentary evidence, scores of lawyers in the courtroom and three working languages — Khmer, English and French.”

Photo: TntMagazine.com

Discussion Paper #5 published by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme is “The Holocaust as a Guidepost for Genocide Detection and Prevention in Africa,” by Dr. Edward Kissi of the University of South Florida. The paper looks back at atrocities perpetrated against the Jews during the Holocaust to draw lessons from them for the prevention of future mass atrocities, especially in Africa.

Looking at the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, Kissi concludes that a state seeking to commit mass atrocities will generally succeed in doing so, and that society’s responses to the killings tend to be tepid. The key to preventing future genocides, he believes, is to get bystanders to do more than just stand on the sidelines and watch. And the three areas Kissi focuses on in this paper are early warning, regional and local initiatives, and education.

One way to do this is to closely monitor volatile situations that have the potential to devolve into genocide. Civil and ethnic conflicts—as well as related phenomena such as hate speech, demonization of target groups, and massive migrations of particular groups—are valuable warnings of future mass killings, since perpetrators of mass atrocities often use war or domestic power struggle as cover for their actions. Leaders who plan mass atrocities often look at past genocides and emulate their rhetoric and tactics, believing they will go unchallenged because past perpetrators of mass killings were not stopped. Kissi points out that hatred and prejudice sparking violence, while often targeted at ethnic or religious groups, may also be directed at groups defined in other ways, such as sexual orientation.

Kissi goes on to discuss the importance of the Responsibility to Protect and the practical means of achieving it. He notes that outside actors, such as the United States or the United Nations, have not had much success in preventing or intervening in genocides, especially in Africa, and that smaller initiatives led by neighboring countries and subregional organizations have a better track record in implementing rescue missions and civilian protection. Empowering civil society, especially local and community leaders, to speak out and exercise their traditional authority against hate speech and other warning signs of genocide may also help to build a local culture that does not condone mass killings.

While international actors can play a role in helping to develop these capacities, Kissi argues that local and regional initiatives, rather than international intervention, may be better suited to implementing the Responsibility to Protect. At the same time this may prevent perpetrators of mass violence from hiding behind criticisms of neocolonialism and accusations of meddling by foreign powers.

Another important component of building capacity to prevent future genocides in Africa is educational programs grounded in examining past atrocities like the Holocaust. The point is to teach children about respect and toleration so it is more difficult for them to accept prejudice against and dehumanization of other groups later on, encouraging them to be more than just bystanders if mass atrocities break out again.

Photo: The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme

The Stanley Foundation in May released a policy report titled The Role of Regional and Subregional Arrangements in Strengthening the Responsibility to Protect. Based on the proceedings of a conference hosted by the foundation, the report analyzes the differences in methods of implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) across different regional organizations.

The report hails the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as one of the most successful in incorporating R2P. The authors attribute this in part to Europe’s commitment to the principles of human rights and conflict prevention and response, which were articulated and matured in European-level institutions before being addressed at the international level. For Europe the provisions of R2P have long been the norm.

Asian regional organizations—specifically the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—have developed impressive policy frameworks to promote regional compliance with R2P. The problem, says the report, lies not in commitment but in capacity: ASEAN is too underfunded to develop adequate crisis prevention and response tools, or to sponsor programs that properly promote norms without outside help. Despite this, one of ASEAN’s greatest strengths is the dialogue it maintains with international organizations—cited as a key factor to successful implementation of R2P.

In the Americas, R2P faces ideological resistance. The Organization of American States (OAS) has tried to balance a firm belief in protecting human rights with an equally firm belief in territorial sovereignty. This has resulted in skepticism towards what some countries within the OAS view as the interventionist tendencies of R2P, leading to policies that are “more reactive that proactive.”

The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have good policies in place, but lack the capacity needed to enforce the policies. While their flexibility allows for a huge array of responses, ranging from political pressure to military force, a lack of capacity has hamstrung their ability to respond to crisis effectively. The authors of the report give the example of the AU’s inability to muster sufficient military force from member states in response to the recent crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.

Despite vast differences between these regions, the report recommends some universal policies necessary for successful implementation of R2P. These include a high level of public engagement and education concerning R2P; the creation or modification of institutions that can viably perform the tasks necessary; and continued development of the capacity of regional arrangements to respond.

Photo: UN.org

Guatemala: Former military chief of staff arrested

Former Guatemalan general Héctor Mario López Fuentes was arrested last Friday in Guatemala City. As the third-highest-ranking military official, he is alleged to have been responsible for massacres and violence against the regime’s opponents during the country’s 36-year civil war. Amnesty International says General López Fuentes planned 12 massacres that killed an estimated 317 indigenous Maya in Guatemala’s Ixil Triangle from 1982 to 1983. A truth commission (Commission for Historical Clarification) backed by the United Nations found that approximately 200,000 people were either killed or disappeared during the civil war, and that 440 massacres in indigenous communities may amount to genocide. López Fuentes faces charges that include genocide, forced disappearances, and crimes against humanity. His arrest follows that of two former heads of the national police force, who are also accused of severe human rights violations during the conflict.

News of the general’s arrest comes not long after the International Crisis Group released a report on the progress of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an investigative body created in 2007 by agreement between the Guatemalan government and the UN to strengthen the Guatemalan judicial system, investigate crimes committed by illegal security forces and clandestine security organizations (CIACS), and dismantle the CIACS, whose origins date back to the government intelligence forces during the civil war. The report states that the judicial system has come to rely on the CICIG too much as a crutch in dealing with issues involving CIACS. According to the report, the Guatemalan judicial system needs to take greater responsibility and initiative in investigating and prosecuting those crimes.

Sri Lanka: Miliband and Kouchner urge action based on UN report

David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, the former British and French foreign ministers, published an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune on Monday, calling on the international community to carry out the recommendations of last month’s UN report on Sri Lanka. “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka” labels abuses committed by both the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and calls for the creation of “an independent, international mechanism to monitor Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts and independent investigations into alleged violations.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s and the global community’s responsibility to protect civilians, the two former ministers said there was evidence the Sri Lankan government had failed to protect Tamil noncombatants from violence. Miliband and Kouchner especially stressed the need for a process to hold human rights violators accountable for their wartime actions. They said if the Sri Lankan government was reluctant to proceed on its own, the international community should move forward with implementing the report’s recommendations, which have been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.

The Sri Lankan government claims the UN report makes judgments based on “unverified information,” and says its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is looking into allegations of human rights violations. Kouchner and Miliband argue that the LLCR “fails standards of impartiality and independence and is deeply flawed.”

Photo: UltimaHoraOnline.com

Sudan: Genocidal escalation?

Military operations by the Sudanese Army continue in the state of South Kordofan in a resurgence of violence that many fear is indicative of a return to genocidal conflict. Attacks by government troops have so far been concentrated in areas accused of having been friendly to Southern rebels during the decades-long civil war.

Reports have surfaced that government soldiers are carrying out house-to-house arrests and executions based on individuals’ ethnic affiliation, and purposely targeting civilians during military operations. There have also been unconfirmed reports of mass graves around the South Kordofan capital of Kadugli.

The UN peacekeeping force in the area has proven too small to adequately protect civilians. The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have already been displaced, and that if the fighting continues, aid organizations will be unable to reach at least 400,000 people reliant on them for food and other necessities.

President Bashir has said the government attacks are in response to Southern aggression against Northern forces. But many believe that Bashir initiated the fighting to prevent the oil-rich disputed border region from seceding along with the rest of the South come July 9, when the country is due to split into two independent states.

Libya: New documentation of crimes

The Guardian reported that dozens of files pulled from police stations and army bases in Misrata directly implicate Muammar Qaddafi and other senior Libyan officials in war crimes. In response to the discovery, the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor called for arrest warrants for these individuals.

Qaddafi denies accusations that he has violated international human rights law in attempting to squelch the revolution in Libya. But the recently unearthed documents include direct orders from him and other high-ranking military and government officials sanctioning illegal actions against both civilians and combatants during the siege of the city.

In one instance a command was given to stop all supply trucks from entering Misrata, effectively leaving its inhabitants without food, water, or fuel. In another, an order was given to hunt down wounded enemy combatants, violating the rules of war laid out in the Geneva Conventions.

The documents were only saved thanks to a few young Libyan lawyers who persuaded protestors to protect the buildings against arson. According to the Guardian, this “represent(s) a landmark in international justice because no significant war crimes trial in the short history of international courts has had access to documents directly implicating the lead players in the commission of war crimes.”

Photo: ENOUGH Project

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect published a policy brief May 19 titled “Tackling the Threat of Mass Atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Applying the Responsibility to Protect.” This report examines the ongoing violence in the DRC and what steps international organizations, donor governments, and the Congolese government can take to fulfill their obligations under the Responsibility to Protect.

Conflict between armed rebel groups and the DRC armed forces (FARDC), dating back to 1996, has resulted in war crimes and crimes against humanity on both sides, including mass murder, rape, looting, pillaging, extortion, forced labor, forced conscription, and the displacement of over 1 million people. Despite a 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO), an ICC investigation, and UN Security Council sanctions, the security situation remains unstable.

Within the Congo itself, the brief identifies several key issues for the government to address with regard to the FARDC, including corruption, absence of a clear command-and-control structure, lack of training in civilian protection and human rights, linkages of certain units to individual politicians, persistence of impunity for perpetrators of abuses, and conflict over natural resources and mines. The brief also calls on the DRC to take steps to fulfill its Responsibility to Protect, and urges foreign governments and multilateral organizations to support Congo’s government in doing so.

The brief says MONUSCO should deploy preventively rather than reactively, and improve communications with the local population to better protect civilians. The most urgent need, according to the Global Centre for R2P, is for security sector reform to rein in the FARDC, including prosecution of known human rights abusers in the military. Stronger and more unified institutionalization of the FARDC, standardized and coordinated training that includes civilian protection and human rights components, and civilian oversight are critical for effective security sector reform, the brief says.

Lastly, the report argues that disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs should shift focus from short-term disarmament to longer-term efforts to reintegrate demobilized combatants into civilian society.

Photo: Operation Broken Silence

Sri Lanka: New documentary reignites debate

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields (watch it here; viewer discretion advised), a British documentary that details the last days of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war, has reignited discussions about the prosecution of war crimes possibly committed at the end of the conflict. Sri Lanka’s government has long maintained that it perpetrated no crimes in its 2009 offensive into territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Despite a post-conflict UN investigation that found credible evidence of war crimes on both sides, neither the UN nor Sri Lanka itself has shown any interest in acting on the investigation’s findings, and Security Council members Russia and China supported the Sri Lankan government’s claim that it took justified and necessary measures to end a stubborn resistance.

The documentary, which aired yesterday on the UK’s Channel 4, depicts evidence of crimes including indiscriminate bombardments, extrajudicial executions, and rape and murder.

NGOs and governments alike have released statements calling for further investigation. But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that he can only call for an investigation if the Sri Lankan government consents.

Photo: TamilCanadian.com

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