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Widespread arrests of sub-Saharan Africans by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) have become a cause of concern for human rights organizations.

“It’s a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The NTC should stop arresting African migrants and black Libyans unless it has concrete evidence of criminal activity. It should also take immediate steps to protect them from violence and abuse.” After interviewing detainees, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found that the majority of arrests were based on skin color, following from the fact that Muammar Gaddafi used sub-Saharan Africans as mercenaries. “The NTC has legitimate concerns about unlawful mercenaries and violent activity, but it can’t simply arrest dark-skinned men just in case they think they might be mercenaries,” Whitson said.

Amnesty International focused its study on the Tawargha tribe, in a town of the same name used as a Gaddafi stronghold. North Africa researcher Diana Eltahawy said there was no doubt that some Tawarghas fought alongside Gaddafi, “But anyone responsible should be brought to justice in fair trials; not dragged out of hospital beds on the assumption that all Tawarghas are ‘killers’ and ‘mercenaries’. The whole population should not have to suffer.”

The Human Rights Watch report, released September 1, said, “the sub-Saharan Africans were in overcrowded cells with a putrid stench; one cell had 26 people and six mattresses. The African men Human Rights Watch interviewed complained of inadequate water, poor sanitation, and not being allowed to make phone calls to ask family members to bring their documents.”

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The prosecutors of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have demanded harsh sentences for six former Bosnian Croat officials and military commanders: Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic.  The men are accused of crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 war, Adnkronos International has reported.

The term Mass Atrocity Prevention and Response Operations, or MAPRO, is gathering momentum in the Pentagon, evidenced by its support of a new initiative to use drones and other overhead surveillance gear in order to prevent genocide. Wired states that drones will be used to “place watchful eyes on the perpetrators of mass atrocities,” jammers used to stop the radio transmissions of aspiring genocidaires, and text and social media to alert the American forces about civilians at risk.

Human Rights Watch has stated that the sentencing of a Rwandan opposition politician to four years in jail for inciting ethnic division by the High Court was a sign the country was using the judicial system to stifle criticism. Reuters Africa has reported that President “Paul Kagame has been praised for restoring stability after the genocide, implementing reforms and fostering robust economic growth in recent years, but critics say his leadership is authoritarian and intolerant of dissent.”

Photo: Crunch Gear

In November 2010, the International Peace Institute (IPI) published a report by I. William Zartman titled “Preventing Identity Conflicts Leading to Genocide and Mass Killings.” Published in cooperation with the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide at the United Nations, the paper discusses stages in the prevention of identity conflicts and the tools available for the international community to use. Read it here.

In “Putting Complementarity into Practice: Domestic Justice for International Crimes in DRC, Uganda, and Kenya,” published by the Open Society Foundations, Eric A. White argues that the “principle of complementarity, under the Rome Statute, not only sets forth a key test for admissibility of cases in The Hague; it also places a heavy burden on individual states to help achieve the Rome Statute’s overarching goal: ending impunity for grave atrocities.”

The Stanley Foundation has published a policy analysis brief titled “Mass Atrocities and Armed Conflict: Links, Distinctions, and Implications for the Responsibility to Prevent,” by Alex J. Bellamy.  The document analyses atrocity prevention through a common prevention agenda.  For anyone interested in genocide prevention, it is definitely worth a read!

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach programme has also published Discussion Paper #5, “The Holocaust as a Guidepost for Genocide Detection and Prevention in Africa,” by Edward Kissi. The paper focuses on remembering and drawing lessons from the crimes committed against the Jews during the Holocaust so the world can “prevent similar tragedies in the future.”


From January 24-31 the African Union Summit is being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The 2011 theme is “Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values.”  Daily Nation reported on the 29th that some critical issues during the summit will include the Cote d’Ivoire crisis, Kenya’s stance on the International Criminal Court and the recent referendum in Sudan inclusive of the continuing arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.  Al Jazeera published an in-depth interview with Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s current president, focusing on the success of the country after the 1994 genocide.  The interview highlighted the issues of institution-building, corruption, human rights and the rule of law in building a successful and safe nation.

On January 28, Cambodia’s UN-assisted genocide courts (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) received a pledge from Japan for a further  $11.7 million contribution to assist with the proceedings.  The tribunal convicted its first defendant last year and is currently trying four members of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Associated Foreign Press reported on February 1 that three of these men applied to be released whilst they await trial for genocide.


Holocaust memorial day is commemorated annually on January 27. The day follows General Assembly Resolution 60/7 adopted on November 1, 2005.  At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German and Polish Presidents urged global vigilance to prevent crimes against humanity. At Germany’s official Holocaust remembrance day ceremony the first Roma guest of honour also noted how his people face new threats, including discrimination and exclusion.

On January 25, it was reported that Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, who is accused of committing war crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo, will be extradited from France to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face such charges. Mr Mbarushimana was arrested in Paris in October 2010 following a request from the ICC, as the BBC reports.

On January 23, the UN published a report on the worsening situation in Darfur as reported by Reuters Africa. The report noted the “worrisome increase” in fighting between rebel and government forces in Sudan’s western Darfur region. The Associated Press further reported on January 27 that the US is calling for peacekeepers in Darfur to be more “aggressive.”

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