Middle-East

    UN Syria probe awash with war crime evidence
    27.03.18
    AFP

    UN investigators gathering evidence against perpetrators of horrific crimes committed in Syria's seven-year war said Tuesday they had begun sifting through "unprecedented" amounts of information. Catherine Marchi-Uhel, the French judge leading the new UN push to bring Syria's war criminals to justice, said "overwhelming" amounts of data were flooding in and it would be impossible for investigators to probe all of the crimes. "We are faced with unprecedented volumes of information," she told reporters in Geneva, adding that her team was setting up IT systems capable of managing the vast...

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    Armenian 'genocide': the disputed massacres of 1915-17
    23.02.18
    AFP

    Armenia and Turkey are at odds over whether the World War I massacres and deportations of Armenians by their Ottoman rulers should be described as genocide. Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917, and have long sought international recognition that this was genocide. Turkey rejects the term and puts the number of dead at between 300,000 and 500,000. It says what happened was civil conflict and a collective tragedy. Around 20 countries and some parliaments have voted through laws or resolutions recognising there was genocide, to the fury of Ankara. The Dutch lower house on Thursday became the latest to vote such an acknowledgement but made...

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    Unfair ISIS Trial in Iraq Hands Women Harshest Sentences
    22.02.18
    Human Rights Watch

    Six months after about 1,400 foreign women and children surrendered with Islamic State (ISIS) fighters to Iraqi security forces, Iraq’s courts are sentencing the women to life in prison and even to death for non-violent crimes. It’s just one indicator of how people viewed as colluding with ISIS are receiving unfair trials. The women have been charged with illegally entering Iraq and, in some cases aiding, abetting or having membership in ISIS, which carries the penalty of life in prison or death under Iraq’s counterterrorism law. In January, Baghdad’s Criminal Court sentenced a German...

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    Enclaves bombarded by the Syrian regime
    21.02.18
    AFP

    Before Eastern Ghouta there was Homs, Aleppo, Daraya -- rebel towns and enclaves that the Syrian regime pounded and besieged, forcing fighters to give up their arms and civilians to flee. - Homs - Syria's third city Homs was dubbed the "capital of the revolution," after anti-government protests erupted in March 2011, but from 2012 it came under a two-year siege. In 2014, rebels cornered by advancing regime forces agreed to be evacuated, although the government went on to besiege Waer, the last remaining opposition-held district in the city. During the siege nearly 2,200 people were killed in the Homs's Old City, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. In the historic...

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    The US-led coalition in Syria: a timeline
    08.02.18
    AFP

    The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group has avoided involvement in Syria's civil war, but on Thursday it said it killed more than 100 pro-regime fighters in the country. The international coalition was set up in 2014 to drive IS from territories it controlled in Iraq and Syria. Washington has deployed 2,000 soldiers in Syria, mainly special forces, who support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish coalition fighting the IS. - First air strikes - In September 2014, the US and Arab allies launch air strikes on the IS in Syria, opening a new front in the fight against the jihadist group, already targeted by raids in Iraq. - Support for Kurds - In October 2014...

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    Iraq: “Saving manuscripts is also saving people”
    25.01.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    What is the point of saving culture if you can’t save people? That seems a derisory question in the spiral of violence hitting Iraq and Syria for years. But not for Father Najeeb. He has managed to save thousands of precious manuscripts that Daesh wanted to destroy because, he says, “Man is like a tree and cannot live without his roots”. With his soft-spoke manner and obvious kindness, Father Najeeb does not look like a cowboy or an Indiana Jones come to save treasure. This, however, is what this former oil industry engineer born in Mosul has done. For a long time now, he has not been...

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    Syrian chemical weapons attacks
    23.01.18
    AFP

    Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, the belligerents -- in particular the regime of President Bashar al-Assad -- have been accused on numerous occasions of using chemical weapons. Here is a summary. - Damascus threatens - The Syrian government acknowledges in July 2012 for the first time that it has chemical weapons and threatens to use them in the event of military operations by Western countries, but not against its own population. The following month, US President Barack Obama says the use or even movement of such weapons would be a "red line" for his administration. - Sarin attack - In August 2013 hundreds of people are killed in Damascus in chemical weapons strikes...

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    Yemen situation worsening faster than we can respond, says ICRC chief
    07.12.17
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    The violent death of former Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh following his implicit offer to make peace with Saudi Arabia, risks fuelling the proxy war in Yemen between Riyadh and Teheran, according to some analysts, while some now see a possible end to the conflict. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross says the humanitarian situation continues to worsen, as ICRC President Peter Maurer explains. Last Saturday, 48 hours before he was killed by his former allies – Houthi rebels supported by Iran --, Ali Abdallah Saleh had said he was ready to "turn the page” with Saudi...

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    ICC won't prosecute Israel over deadly flotilla raid
    30.11.17
    AFP

    The International Criminal Court will not prosecute Israel over the deadly raid on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid toward Gaza in May 2010, it was announced Thursday. "I have ultimately decided to reaffirm my previous decision of November 6, 2014," ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement, referring to when she ruled the incident was "not of sufficient gravity". However, sticking to that same judgement Bensouda said: "My conclusion remains that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed by some members of the Israel Defence Forces." Nine Turkish citizens died when Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara, among eight ships trying to break a...

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    Persecuted Egyptian activist wins human rights award
    11.10.17
    Frédéric Burnand, correspondent in Geneva

    Egyptian Mohamed Zaree on Tuesday received in Geneva the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The award honours his commitment despite personal risk. It also serves as a protest against the Egyptian President, whose repressive tactics know no bounds according to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), of which Zaree is Egypt Country Director.   Mohamed Zaree was unable to travel to Geneva to receive the Martin Ennals Award because of a travel ban as he faces judicial investigations and the prospect of a possible 30-year prison sentence. His “crime” is a...

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    Syria : “These are the Crimes we are Fleeing”
    03.10.17
    HRW

    Over the last six years the Syrian crisis has claimed the lives of an estimated 475,000 people as of July 2017, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. All sides to the conflict have committed serious crimes under international law amid a climate of impunity. A range of groups have actively documented violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Syria. In late 2016, the United Nations General Assembly also created a mechanism tasked with analyzing and collecting evidence of serious crimes committed in Syria suitable for use in future proceedings before any court or...

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    Questions and answers on Israeli settlements
    26.09.17
    AFP

    A Palestinian gunman opened fire at an entrance to the Israeli settlement of Har Adar in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, killing three security personnel and wounding another. Here are some key questions and answers on Israeli settlements: - What are settlements? - Settlements are Israeli villages, towns and even cities built on territory Israel seized during the Six-Day War of 1967. Some 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank, along with 2.6 million Palestinians. A further 200,000 Israelis live in annexed east Jerusalem, along with at least 300,000 Palestinians, who want to make the sector the capital of their future state. Israel also seized part...

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    Carla Del Ponte blasts impunity in farewell speech
    18.09.17
    AFP

    Outgoing Syria war crimes investigator Carla Del Ponte said on Monday she had quit her post out of frustration over "total impunity", in a fiery farewell speech. Del Ponte, an accomplished war crimes prosecutor, announced last month that she was leaving the Commission of Inquiry (COI) for Syria, a UN-backed panel that has collected evidence of alleged atrocities committed in the country since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. "I resign to put an end to my frustration," Del Ponte told the Human Rights Council, after the COI presented its latest report. "Seven years of crimes in Syria...

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    A movie takes on taboos of Lebanon's civil war
    14.09.17
    AFP

    Nearly three decades after it ended, Lebanon's civil war returned to haunt Beirut this week at a screening of the film "The Insult," which forcefully explores the taboos of the conflict. The movie opened to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, earning accolades for its French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri and a Volpi Cup for Palestinian actor Kamel El Basha. The advance screening on Tuesday was overshadowed somewhat by Doueiri's brief detention for filming in 2012 in Israel despite Lebanese legislation banning citizens from visiting the Jewish state. But viewers still packed...

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    Saudi-led strikes against children 'war crimes' in Yeman : HRW
    12.09.17
    AFP

    A series of Saudi-led coalition air strikes which killed 26 children in Yemen in June amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. "The attacks, which struck four family homes and a grocery, in one case killing 14 members of the same family, caused indiscriminate loss of civilian life in violation of the laws of war. Such attacks carried out deliberately or recklessly are war crimes," the New York-based HRW said. Saudi Arabia leads an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after Iran-backed Huthi rebels forced him into exile. HRW is urging the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is...

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    Assad may win war but will preside over a ruined Syria
    11.09.17
    AFP

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad appears to be winning the war against those who sought his overthrow, but he will preside over a ruined country with an economy in tatters. "Assad remains in charge of most of the population and most of the important territory, and I expect him to continue to rule most of Syria," said Aron Lund, a Syria expert with the Century Foundation think-tank. "The war goes on, but in the larger strategic sense he has defeated those who sought to depose him," Lund told AFP. The writing is on the wall even in the halls of the United Nations, where special envoy...

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    Recap of Syrian chemical weapons attacks since 2011
    06.09.17
    AFP

    United Nations war crimes investigators said Wednesday they have evidence showing the Syrian regime carried out an April sarin gas attack in Idlib province that killed dozens of people. The attack was the latest in a string of chemical strikes since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Here is a recap. - Damascus threatens to use chemical weapons - July 23, 2012: The Syrian government acknowledges for the first time that it has chemical weapons and threatens to use them in the event of military operations by Western countries, but not against its own population. The following month, then US president Barack Obama says the use or even movement of such weapons would be a "red...

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    Week in Review: The high price of impunity in Syria and CAR
    11.08.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    This week was marked by the resignation of Swiss war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte from the UN commission investigating crimes in Syria. “This commission does absolutely nothing," explained Del Ponte, accusing UN Security Council members of “not wanting to establish justice”. Russia, ally of Damascus has ever since the commission’s creation six years ago vetoed referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Damascus has never authorized the Commission, which has produced numerous reports, to go to Syria. “Believe me, I have never seen such horrible crimes as are being...

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    Syria and the lessons to be learned from Carla Del Ponte’s resignation
    08.08.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    Criminals like to commit their crimes in the dark. It is on this assumption that justice must be seen to be done if it is to help prevent crime. And so metaphorically, good triumphs over evil and light over darkness. In international public life this conviction has often produced a will to expose publicly the atrocities committed by war criminals, so as to shame them and dissuade others from associating with them. This "naming and shaming" approach was the reason United Nations Commissions of Inquiry were set up and is the preferred method of human rights organizations, convinced that...

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    HRW says Israel stripping Palestinians of Jerusalem residency 'war crime'
    08.08.17
    AFP

    Human Rights Watch said Tuesday Israel had stripped nearly 15,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem of their right to live in the city since 1967 and warned that it could be a "war crime." "Israel claims to treat Jerusalem as a unified city, but the reality is effectively one set of rules for Jews and another for Palestinians," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, said in a report. Israel occupied east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War in a move never recognised by the international community. The more than 300,000 Palestinians there have permanent residency status but are not Israeli nationals. While east Jerusalem residents are allowed to apply for citizenship, most do...

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