Crimes against humanity, War crimes and Genocide

    A scholar’s journey to understand the needs of Pol Pot’s survivors
    John Ciorciari

    Forty-three years ago today, the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia. Their radical regime, led by the dictator Pol Pot, inflicted countless atrocities and left deep wounds. Neighbors turned against one another. Families were fractured. Political cleavages deepened. An estimated 1.7 million people died. Almost everyone suffered personal trauma. Survivors are still in the long process of seeking reconciliation, or putting the pieces back together in lives and societies shattered by conflict. Yet the measures taken to address political and social conflict are not always conducive to...

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    Myanmar and the Southeast Asian press squeeze
    Oliver Slow/ Frontier

    Across Southeast Asia – but especially Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines – journalists are facing arrest, intimidation and violence. On the afternoon of December 12 in Myanmar, Ma Pan Ei Mon asked her husband, Reuters journalist Ko Wa Lone, if she should cook dinner for him and his colleague, Ko Kyaw Soe Oo. “Kyaw Soe Oo was in Yangon from Sittwe,” Pan Ei Mon told Frontier. “But [Wa Lone] told me that they were meeting the police for dinner.” Later that night, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested near a restaurant on the northern outskirts of Yangon. Prior to their arrest, the...

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    As first group of Libya refugees arrives in Switzerland, who is a refugee and who a migrant?
    Julia Crawford,

    As Switzerland receives a first group of vulnerable refugees from Libyan detention centres, we take a look at the international response to Libya's migrant crisis. At the end of last year, CNN reports of detained Africans being sold in Libyan slave markets sent shock waves around the world. It also prompted the European Union and International Organization for Migration (IOM) to step up evacuating migrants from Libya, “because,” says IOM media officer for West and Central Africa Florence Kim, “the EU and African Union decided that we could not leave 20,000 people in detention centres in...

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    Geneva puts spotlight on Myanmar’s Rohingya minority
    Simon Bradley,

    The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya community was the centre of attention in Geneva last week with allegations of “acts of genocide” against the Muslim minority, counterclaims by Myanmar officials, a donor appeal for almost $1 billion (CHF954 million) and a bleak documentary film about a Buddhist monk stirring up ethnic hate. Since August 25, 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar to Bangladesh as security forces carried out brutal crackdowns, following attacks by Rohingya insurgents.  “This is on top of 200,000 Rohingya already living in...

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    Hope for Nepal’s flawed transitional justice?
    Ram Kumar Bhandari

    Nepal’s Commission on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) and victims’ group NEFAD have agreed a common platform, including action on ratifying international instruments on enforced disappearances, effective victims’ protection, integral support to families for their livelihood, security and memorialization, and introducing legal protection for the future by framing a disappearance law soon. This offers some hope for the country’s flawed transitional justice (TJ) process.  After three years of failed implementation and no results, the mandates of the two TJ commissions – the CIEDP and the...

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    Fight against impunity for mass crimes becomes more universal
    Frédéric Burnand

    “Rarely has the fight against impunity been so dynamic” says Geneva-based group TRIAL International. “In 2017, countries in Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America tightened the net on war criminals by resorting to universal jurisdiction.” This is a legal principle under which countries can prosecute foreign war criminals when they visit or live on their territory.  “Last year, war crimes units (WCUs) around the world tightened the net on war criminals,” says the annual report of TRIAL International, which helps victims of mass crimes obtain justice. “While European countries...

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    Week in Review: Philippines to quit the ICC, while populism undermines the West
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    At the International Criminal Court (ICC), registrar Herman Von Hebel this week announced that he is withdrawing his candidacy for a new five-year mandate. Von Hebel of the Netherlands had been severely criticized for his financial management of the Court. Twelve candidates remain in the running to succeed him, but a date has not yet been announced for the ICC judges to elect the new registrar. Still on the ICC, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose country’s withdrawal from the Court became effective at the end of 2017, now has someone following in his path. His equally...

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    NGOs on the frontline of South Sudan’s forgotten war
    Julia Crawford

    As the United Nations Human Rights Council this week heard a new report on abuses in South Sudan, we look at how two Swiss non-governmental groups are working against the odds to help alleviate the suffering of the population. On Tuesday March 13, the Human Rights Council discussed a UN commission report documenting new abuses against civilians in South Sudan, including gang rapes, beheadings and blindings. “We talk of a crime against humanity of persecution with an ethnic dimension,” says commission member Andrew Clapham, professor of international law at the Graduate Institute in Geneva,...

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    Myanmar events 'bear hallmarks of genocide': UN expert

    A top UN rights expert warned Monday that the crackdown on Myanmar's Rohingya minority bears "the hallmarks of genocide" and insisted the government should be held accountable. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago amid accounts of arson, murder and rape at the hands of soldiers and vigilante mobs in the mainly Buddhist country. Myanmar has vehemently denied US and UN allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting it was responding to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in late August. But on Monday, UN special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee suggested that term...

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    Week in Review: Questions in Tunisia, and Switzerland returns stolen funds
    François Sergent

    Tunisia’s transition is certainly chaotic, but it is also lively and resilient, as showed this week. This country, last bastion of the Arab Spring, is questioning the future of its transitional justice processes, notably its Truth and Dignity Commission. “A few months from the end of the Commission’s work in December 2018, the question of what happens afterwards is recurrent”, writes JusticeInfo’s correspondent in Tunis Olfa Belhassine. With 60,000 victims’ cases registered at the Commission, the questions are many. What kind of transitional justice will there be in the...

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    World must act on a litany of crimes, says outgoing Human Rights Commissioner
    Frédéric Burnand, Geneva correspondent

    Presenting his last annual report to the UN Human Rights Council as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein highlighted a series of mass crimes needing investigation by commissions of inquiry, referral to the International Criminal Court or other courts able to act under universal jurisdiction. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s four-year mandate ends this summer. And the Jordanian High Commissioner could only present an alarming picture of the human rights situation across all continents. The resurgence of brute force in relations between State powers is rocking a crisis-hit world...

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    Switzerland : Is the Abacha accord a model for returning ‘dictator funds’?
    Julia Crawford

    A recent Swiss agreement with Nigeria and the World Bank to return hundreds of millions in so-called “Abacha funds” is being hailed as a model for how other countries deal with dictators’ assets. But civil society organisations in both Switzerland and Nigeria have reservations. Switzerland has been working for several years to clean up its image as a haven for “dirty money”, having returned more than CHF2 billion ($2.1 billion) in stolen assets since 1986. The latest example is $321 million that has already been transferred from Switzerland to a Nigerian government account, part of assets...

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    Tanzania's legendary "tranquillity" under threat

    Since President John Magufuli’s election in late 2015, Tanzania has been losing its reputation as a haven of “peace and tranquillity” previously envied by its neighbours. Murders and attempted murders of opponents, suspension of media deemed critical, disappearances of journalists, harassment of human rights activists and artists have reached an unprecedented level. Given this situation, the Tanzanian Catholic church, viewed as close to the regime, has recently crossed the Rubicon to denounce the excesses of the president. A few days later, some 100 local organizations launched a joint...

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    Sri Lanka launches probe into war-era disappearances

    Sri Lanka has appointed commissioners to a special panel tasked with investigating war-era disappearances, three years after President Maithripala Sirisena was elected promising justice for victims of the island's bloody ethnic conflict. The Office of Missing Persons was officially launched Wednesday by Sirisena, who has faced international censure for repeated delays in probing atrocities by troops and Tamil rebels during the decades-long civil war. Sri Lanka narrowly avoided sanctions when Sirisena came to power in January 2015 pledging investigations into war-time abuses, which the previous regime refused to even acknowledge. Parliament agreed two years ago to the first steps...

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    Myanmar's government, the Rakhine crisis and media access

    The Myanmar government’s response to an Associated Press report about civilians buried in a mass grave at a northern Rakhine village has again focused attention on a counterproductive media access ban to the area imposed nearly five months ago. Foreign media coverage of Rakhine State made headlines again this month when the Union government denied a report by the Associated Press about the discovery of mass graves containing civilians and accused the American newsagency of harming the country’s image. The report also angered the Rakhine State government, which said it planned to...

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    Human Rights Watch slams police brutality and slow reform in Tunisia
    Olfa Belhassine, correspondent in Tunis

    Human Rights Watch recently published two reports on the human rights situation in Tunisia. One concerns police brutality during a wave of protests in January 2018, and the second is part of a 2018 World Report on human rights situations. Amna Guellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch, tells in this interview about the mixed picture of human rights in Tunisia today. During popular protests this January against the rising cost of living, the authorities called activists of Fech Nestanew (“What are we waiting for?”) hooligans, and accused them of...

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    Brazil: Court decision puts spotlight on crimes against indigenous people
    Fabio Cascardo

    In a historic decision regarding crimes against humanity committed by the military dictatorship (1964-1985) against the indigenous Kinja people (also known as Waimiri-Atroari), the Brazilian Federal Justice of the state of Amazonas put out restraining orders against the Federal Government and the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), opening the way for an unprecedented judicial acknowledgement of the violence suffered by the Kinja Indigenous during that period. In this first writ on 01.19.2018 the court obliged the Federal Government to present in the next 15 days all the documents...

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    How political violence can become criminal violence
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    According to the Gallup survey institute, the five most dangerous countries in the world in 2017 were Venezuela, South Africa, El Salvador, South Sudan and Liberia. With the exception of Venezuela, they have all been through civil war, and in South Sudan there is still war. South Africa, El Salvador and Liberia, on the other hand, all turned the page on political violence a long time ago, but criminal violence has taken its place. More awareness is needed to better understand the links between armed conflict and criminal violence.  South Africa, El Salvador and Liberia all have in common...

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    Wake up to suffering of Georgian victims, NGOs tell international court
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    In a report published on February 5, human rights organizations express concern for the situation of victims of the summer 2008 Russia-Georgia war.  Two years after the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation, they are calling on the Court to go faster. In The Hague, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) asserts that the investigation is “progressing at full speed”. The 50-page report calls for the world not to forget victims of the lightning summer 2008 war (August 7-12, 2008) that pitted Russia against Georgia for the separatist province of South Ossetia. It is published...

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    Gambia: Many Jammeh loyalists still in high posts, says human rights defender
    Maxime Domegni, West Africa correspondent

    A year after the fall of Yahya Jammeh’s bloody 22-year dictatorship, there is a wind of freedom blowing in The Gambia. But, at the same time, many Gambians are worried that the new government is trying to do “new things with old faces”. One of them is Fatou Jagne Senghor, a Gambian human rights defender who is West Africa regional director for the freedom of expression group Article 19. She spoke to JusticeInfo about her concerns, starting with how the secret service, formerly the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), is managed. JusticeInfo: What was the role of the National...

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