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* Yesterday Kenyan foreign minister Moses Wetangula announced that his government would not host the Intergovernmental Authority on Development meeting dedicated to Sudan. His statement came after the Kenyan High Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, following on the International Criminal Court‘s warrants against Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in March 2009, and for genocide in July 2010. Wetangula at first criticized the Kenyan court’s decision, saying it would complicate the country’s foreign relations and disrupt its mediating role in Sudan. For its part Sudan expelled the Kenyan ambassador, recalled its own, and froze bilateral trade between the two countries. This decision was delayed following a meeting between Bashir and Wetangula, but Bashir says unless the Kenyan court reverses its ruling, Sudan will proceed with sanctions against Kenya.
* Swiss judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet arrived yesterday in Phnom Penh to replace Judge Siegfried Blunk of Germany as the UN half of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ), charged with investigating alleged crimes by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Judge Blunk resigned in October amid international criticism that he had “failed to conduct genuine, impartial, and effective investigations.” In his resignation statement, Blunk said he was routinely subject to pressure that “could be perceived as attempted interference by government officials.” Judge You Bunleng, representing Cambodia in the OCIJ, responded to Ansermet’s arrival by saying that without Cambodian government approval, “[A]ny procedural action taken by Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet is not legally valid.”
The UN-backed Cambodian tribunal’s ineffectiveness has resulted in only one conviction since its conception in 2001, that of Kaing Guek Eav, commandant of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. In a December 6 article, The Investigative Fund pointed out that there is no independent mechanism to oversee the conduct of judges on the Cambodian tribunal.
Meanwhile, on November 22, after hearing opening statements by the defense and the prosecution, Nuon Chea, known as “Brother Number Two,” defended himself against atrocity charges, saying that they were committed by Vietnamese troops, and imposters disguised in the black outfits of Khmer Rouge revolutionaries.
* 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.”
* 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.
* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, better known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, is dropping prosecutions against five high-level officials accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide, and torture. Since the Courts’ establishment in 2006, one conviction has been handed down; only four other Khmer Rouge cadres will now face trial. Amidst criticism from Human Rights Watch and purported interference by the Cambodian government, Co-Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk (pictured above) has resigned, in addition to the investigating judges’ entire UN legal team.
* According to the UN, at least 235,000 people in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile are on the verge of a potential food crisis. As planting season began five months ago in South Kordofan, fighting broke out between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North and the Sudanese Government, displacing more than 200,000 civilians. Food stocks were delivered two months ago but have since been depleted and civilians are now experiencing food shortages. The conflict spread to Blue Nile early last month, causing people to abandon their fields and crops. International aid groups have also been restricted from accessing the area. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for urgent action to prevent a humanitarian and food crisis.
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.”