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* The UN backed trial of three of the most senior members of the Khmer Rouge began today with opening statements in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The officials included Nuon Chea, also known as “Brother Number 2,” former head-of-state Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary, who was foreign minister for the Khmer Rouge. All three defendants deny the charges, which include genocide and crimes against humanity. Each of the three defendants are in their eighties, and many fear they will die before any convictions can be handed down. Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister and Ieng Sary’s wife, was deemed physically unfit to stand trial. Since its establishment in 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has convicted only one person, Kaing Guek Eav, head of the notorious Tuol Sleng torture center.

* In Libya, human rights organizations are calling for the surrender of Saif al-Islam, a son of Muammar Gaddafi, to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Saif al-Islam is subject to an ICC arrest warrant for crimes against humanity in an investigation authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970. Saif al-Islam is reportedly being held in the town of Zintan by rebel forces. “The authorities will send an important message that there’s a new era in Libya, marked by the rule of law, by treating Saif al-Islam humanely and surrendering him to the ICC,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “His fair prosecution at the ICC will afford Libyans a chance to see justice served in a trial that the international community stands behind.”

Photo: crimesofwar.org

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* Yesterday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted former Rwandan mayor Gregoire Ndahimana of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentencing him to 15 years in prison. Ndahimana was convicted of the killings at Nyange parish, which was bulldozed while 2,000 Tutsis hid inside during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, by virtue of his “command responsibility.” In April 2001, an indictment was issued against Ndahimana, who was found hiding in Congo in 2009.

* In Bangladesh, five men in charge of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s Islamist party, are facing charges of crimes against humanity, which carry the death penalty. The trial is being held under a version of the country’s International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, wherein government investigators have wide-ranging rights to detain and question, while suspects lack the usual rights to information and legal advice. Recently, there have been reports of defense lawyers and witnesses being harassed. Further developments, as outlined by Human Rights Watch, include the arrest of one key defense witness and the preparation of criminal charges against nine more. Furthermore, media reports are admitted with no forensic scrutiny. Lastly, the court has rejected a petition of recusal against its own chairman, who had been involved in a contentious inquiry into Jamaat’s alleged liability for atrocities.

* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has ruled that 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea, is unfit to stand trial and ordered her unconditional release. Thirith was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and other former leaders of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.

* Today Majlis-e-Wehdat Muslameen (MWM) claimed that Pakistani government intelligence agencies were supporting terrorist organizations in an ongoing genocide of Shia Muslims in Balochistan Province, Pakistan. MWM is a coalition of Shia organizations created in April 2010 to advocate on behalf of the Pakistani Shia community vis-à-vis the government. MWM alleges that over 700 Shias have been killed between 1984 and 2011, and that government agencies have aided terrorist organizations in a genocidal plot against the Shia in Pakistan, citing the frequent acquittals of terrorists by the Lahore High Court. On October 17 hundreds of Shia Muslims staged a two-hour sit-in at Main Kachari Road Multan in Southern Punjab to condemn “the ongoing genocide,” and demanded that the Pakistani government recognize the links of the Lahore High Court to the terrorist organizations it is charged with trying. In an October 18 report documenting two more assassinations of Shia Muslims by Sunni terrorist organizations, Ahlul Bayt News Agency claimed that the United States was the mastermind behind these terrorist organizations, such as Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, in a “conspiracy to destabilize the country.”

* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced yesterday that substantive proceedings for the trial of four top former Khmer Rouge officials would start on November 21. The defendants are Nuon Chea, chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, head of state; Ieng Sary, foreign minister; and Ieng Thirith, minister for social affairs. Each faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. This announcement follows years of interference by the Cambodian government, resulting in only one person, Kaing Guek Eav, being convicted, despite the $100 million the trials have cost since being established in 2006. On October 11, German co-investigating judge Siegfried Blunk resigned from the ECCC, citing interference by Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen and other government officials. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, declared last week that further trials were “not allowed,” prompting Judge Blunk’s resignation. Following this setback, Patricia O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for legal affairs,  announced she would pay a visit this week to Phnom Penh to meet with government officials and others about the tribunal.

Photo: babulilmlibrary.com

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