Middle-East

    Week in Review: US strikes in Syria, while Rwanda remembers the genocide
    09.04.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    International justice saw a new failure this week on Syria. The UN Security Council was unable to agree a Resolution after the “chemical weapons” massacre at Khan Cheikhoun which left dozens dead and injured, including children. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it a war crime, saying that “international humanitarian law has been violated”. Nevertheless opposition from Russia, backer of the Syrian regime, and China prevented a Resolution condemning this massacre blamed on the Syrian air force. This blockage in the UN Security Council has also stopped any moves to refer Syria to...

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    Syrian war crime brings illegal but perhaps legitimate US strikes
    07.04.17
    Pierre Hazan

    Syrian air force use of chemical weapons against civilians is a war crime, or even a crime against humanity. The retaliatory US missile strikes are perhaps legitimate, but certainly illegal under international law.   On Friday August 30, 2013, US President Barack Obama took one of the heaviest decisions of his mandate. He decided to abandon the “red line” that he had himself set. He would not take military action against the Syrian regime, even though it had just used chemical weapons. But new US President Donald Trump took action this Thursday, after seeing the images of dozens of dead...

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    US warns of 'own action' after Syria chemical massacre
    06.04.17
    AFP

    The United States and Russia were on a collision course over Syria on Wednesday after a horrific chemical attack so shocked President Donald Trump that Washington threatened unilateral US action. At least 86 people were killed early on Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun in northern Syria and dozens more were being treated after they were found convulsing and foaming at the mouth. After previous major chemical attacks in Syria in 2013, Trump strongly urged then-president Barack Obama not to order military intervention against Bashar al-Assad's regime. And he came to office promising...

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    Can satellite imagery still prove war crimes?
    31.03.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    A few years ago, satellite images were seen as a decisive technological advance that could reveal the truth about war crimes. Satellite images provided essential confirmation of atrocities in Srebrenica and Sudan. But those who violate human rights have learned from this, and are now devising counter-strategies.   When Bosnian Serb forces massacred some 8,000 Muslims in the enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, photos gathered by US secret service satellites gave the lie to Bosnian Serb nationalist denials. The images of prisoners standing for execution and freshly dug ground at the sites of...

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    Creation of a syrian war crimes database
    09.03.17
    AFP

    Dutch officials on Thursday urged nations to boost efforts to create a database of alleged war crimes in Syria, using evidence smuggled abroad by refugees and investigators. "We already have millions of pages and gigabytes of evidence," Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told a conference gathering more than 150 experts, diplomats, rights activists and international lawyers. "And millions more are waiting -- hidden in suitcases and banana crates, buried in caves and pits," he said, voicing the hope that "we can use that evidence to build airtight cases against those guilty of the worst...

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    Syria regime, rebels committed war crimes in Aleppo: UN probe
    01.03.17
    AFP

    All Syrian sides that fought in the battle for Aleppo committed war crimes and the deal to evacuate civilians following the rebel defeat was a "crime of forced displacement', a UN probe said Wednesday. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) for Syria documented violations including chemical attacks and civilian executions perpetrated during the Damascus regime's five-month siege of eastern Aleppo, which had been a key opposition stronghold. From July 21, 2016 to December 22, when government troops recaptured the city, the Syrian air force and its Russian ally "conducted daily air...

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    Spanish court receives complaint for “State terrorism” in Syria
    09.02.17
    François Musseau, correspondent in Madrid

    French and German judicial authorities have recently been seized of cases against the Bashar Al Assad regime in Syria, which was again denounced this week for allegedly hanging thousands of opponents. But the National Audience in Madrid, Spain’s highest court with jurisdiction in matters of international law and terrorism, is ahead of the game. Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza has recently received a criminal complaint from a woman with dual Spanish and Syrian nationality. In 2014, the Spanish government restricted the country’s ability to act on “universal jurisdiction”, in which Spain had led...

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    Israel settler law angers world powers but Trump
    03.02.17
    AFP

    Israel faced mounting international criticism Tuesday over a new law allowing the appropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settler outposts, but the United States remained notably silent. The United Nations, Britain, France and Israel's neighbour Jordan were among those coming out against the legislation passed in parliament late Monday. "This bill is in contravention of international law and will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. The law legalises dozens of wildcat outposts and thousands of settler...

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    Syrian prisons: accusations of torture and executions
    03.02.17
    AFP

    The Syrian regime, accused by Amnesty International of large-scale hangings, had already been criticised for torture and summary executions in its prisons and intelligence services headquarters. Amnesty said on Tuesday as many as 13,000 people were hanged in five years at the notorious Saydnaya military-run prison near Damascus, accusing the regime of a "policy of extermination". Here are some of the accusations that have been made against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. - 'Torture archipelago' - On July 3, 2012, US-based rights group Human Rights Watch said Syria...

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    Turkey jails a UN judge
    18.01.17
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    For four months, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has been trying to obtain the release of one of its judges, Judge Aydin Sefa Akay, who was  detained in Turkish government purges. The judge, who was appointed by the UN, has diplomatic immunity. Turkish authorities were summoned to The Hague for a hearing on January 17 but failed to attend. It was with apparent indifference that Ankara met the summons of the MICT, the UN body charged with handling residual matters of the ad hoc tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The Turkish authorities, who had been...

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    One man’s struggle for a Palestinian museum in Israel
    16.01.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    Said Abu Shakra is a man of convictions and rarely hesitates to realize them. One of his goals is that visitors coming from Tel Aviv do not stop on the road to Haifa just to get some hummus, but that they get lost in the town of Umm-el-Fahem before arriving at his art gallery. He hopes they will ask their way in the winding streets of this town populated by 50,000 Arabs and so overcome their apprehension of being in hostile territory, even if this municipality is officially part of Israel. Said Abu Shakra explains how the fact of getting lost can be a way for Jews and Arab Israelis to meet...

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    From Berlin to Aleppo: the need to redefine transitional justice
    19.12.16
    Pierre Hazan

    According to Google, it takes 35 hours to drive by car the 3,397.4 kilometres from Berlin to Aleppo. Metaphorically, the distance is infinitely longer between these two symbolic cities. Twenty-seven years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War and gave new impetus to international law. The term transitional justice was about to be invented to reflect the energy of this new wave of democratization that was developing in Europe, Latin America and Africa. Today, from the ruins of tortured Aleppo, we need to rethink transitional justice. In the 1990s, the optimism of...

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    Week in Review: Landmark trials and landmark struggles for transitional justice
    12.12.16
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo

    Transitional justice, the focus of our website, is still a little understood concept, according to Kora Andrieu, an expert in the field. “The problem with transitional justice, he says, is that the term can be taken to mean that it is justice which is in transition, whereas the idea is rather justice applied to the special context of democratic transitions.” And so this week, whether before the courts of Israel or France, transitional justice continued trying to forge its identity. The Israeli case is emblematic. Settlers on Palestinian land and their allies in the Knesset (Israeli...

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    Israel moves to “legalize” all West Bank settlements
    06.12.16
    Aude Marcovitch, correspondent in Jerusalem

    Next to Route 60, a road that crosses the length of the West Bank, to the northeast of Ramallah lies the Israeli settlement of Ofra. If you go through this place peopled by some 3,000 inhabitants, a ribbon of tarmac climbs up a nearby hill. From there you have a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. It is there that a group of radical young Israelis who say they want to “live in a community on our Biblical land”, settled in 1996. This is the outpost of Amona, which now has 40 families living there. It is the biggest “outpost” (unauthorized settlement) in the West Bank and is now...

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    From IS slaves to global voices for Yazidis

    Two Yazidi women who survived a nightmare ordeal of kidnapping, rape and slavery at the hands of Islamic State jihadists won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize on Thursday.Nadia Murad and Lamia Haji Bashar have become figureheads for the effort to protect the Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion with more than half a million believers concentrated in northern Iraq. "They have a painful and tragic story" but "they felt compelled to survive to bear witness," European Parliament chief Martin Schulz told the assembly in Strasbourg. "The courage of these two...

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    Attack on Yemen funeral violated humanitarian law - UN panel, according to IRIN

    A UN panel of experts has accused the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of a deliberate “double tap” airstrike on a funeral gathering in Yemen earlier this month. In a report to the UN Security Council, obtained by IRIN, the panel says that the coalition’s second strike in particular “violated its obligations” under international law and it “did not take effective precautionary measures to minimize harm to civilians, including the first responders” on the scene. The strike in the capital of Sana’a killed over 100 people, including the city’s mayor, several high-level officials affiliated with...

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    ICC makes first cautious visit to Israel
    11.10.16
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    A prosecution delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah from October 5 to 10. This was the first visit to Israel and Palestine since the Court opened a preliminary examination 22 months ago on crimes committed since June 13, 2014 in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It was as if on tiptoe that a delegation from the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor went to Israel and the West Bank from October 5 to 10, 2016. Israel continues to refuse the Court’s jurisdiction in the conflict but has decided in the last year or so to soften its...

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    UN rights chief urges Security Council veto limit over Syria
    04.10.16
    AFP

    The UN rights chief on Tuesday called for action to halt the tragedy unfolding in Syria's Aleppo, and urged the Security Council to introduce a limit on its members' veto power. "Faced with such a ghastly avalanche of violence and destruction, extraordinary steps must be taken," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement, condemning the killing of 100 children in 10 days in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. "The UN Security Council should, without any further delay, adopt criteria to restrain members from using the veto when there are serious concerns that war crimes, crimes against humanity or...

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    Damning report says Syria situation should be referred to ICC
    23.09.16
    Vony Rambolamanana in Geneva

    The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria on September 19 presented a damning report to the UN Human Rights Council on abuses committed there between January 10 and July 20, 2016. The Commission, which was set up under an August 2011 resolution to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law in the war-torn country, stressed in its conclusions an urgent need for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Commission condemned the fact that its members were refused entry into Syria. It therefore had...

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    How a Swiss NGO teaches humanitarian law to Syrian rebels
    16.09.16
    Vony Rambolamanana, correspondent in Geneva

    With 300,000 dead in five years, millions of displaced and refugees, the war in Syria seems the ultimate symbol of human rights violations, the place most foreign to humanitarian law. But Swiss NGO Geneva Call refuses to give up, continuing to work in this controversial field. Geneva Call, which has been present in Syria since 2012, promotes respect of international humanitarian norms by non-State armed actors in conflict. On September 19 it plans to relaunch its audiovisual and Internet campaign on humanitarian law, Fighters not killers, coinciding with the presentation at the UN of a new...

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