Archive for July, 2009

By Seth Mydans, New York Times, 14 July 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — “Where were you tortured and when?”

For the past two weeks, judges and lawyers in the trial of a Khmer Rouge prison chief have probed for details about the suffering of victims of a regime that caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people between 1975 and 1979.

As personal stories of terror and brutality fill the courtroom for the first time, even the defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, has at times dropped his hard mask and broken down in tears.

“I send my respects to the soul of your wife,” he told one witness, Bou Meng, whose wife died in the prison and whom Duch (pronounced DOIK) had come to know when he pulled him from a row of shackled prisoners and put him to work as a painter.

Bou Meng put his face in his hands. Duch, his lips quivering, turned his back on the courtroom, and both men wept.

Duch, 66, is the first of five central figures from the Khmer Rouge regime to be tried here in a United Nations-backed tribunal. He faces charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes as commandant of Tuol Sleng prison, where at least 14,000 people were tortured and sent to their deaths.

Duch has taken responsibility for the torture and killings at the camp, and he expressed “heartfelt sorrow” when he took the stand. But he has also placed himself within a chain of command where disobedience often meant death.

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(CNN) July 14 09 — Former Liberian President Charles Taylor took the stand Tuesday as the first defense witness at his trial on war crimes charges at The Hague in the Netherlands. Taylor, 61, is accused of fueling a bloody civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone that led to widespread murder, rape, and mutilation. The conflict ended in 2002.

He has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts, including murder, sexual slavery, terrorism and torture. In his first statement to the court Tuesday, Taylor responded to accusations that he is a murderer and a terrorist.

“It is quite incredible that such descriptions of me would come about. Very, very, very unfortunate that the prosecution — because of this information, misinformation, lies, rumors — would associate me with such titles or descriptions,” he said.

“I am none of those, have never been, and will never be, whether they think so or not. “I am a father of 14 children, grandchildren, with love for humanity,” Taylor said.

“[I] have fought all my life to do what I thought was right in the interest of justice and fair play.

“I resent that characterization of me. It is false, it is malicious, and I stop there.”

The war in Sierra Leone, which involved riches from the diamond trade, was fought largely by teenagers who were forced to kill, given addictive drugs to provoke violent behavior, and often instructed to rape and plunder.

Taylor is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and violence, and enslavement. He also faces five counts of war crimes, including acts of terrorism and torture, and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

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allAfrica.com, 06 July 2009

Rwanda has criticized Switzerland’s refusal to extradite former Rwandan Minister for Environment, Gaspard Ruhumuriza, wanted by the justice of his country for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide, reports Hirondelle Agency.

Quoting Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, Izuba Rirashe (The Rising Sun), a tri-weekly newspaper, reported Monday that the source of the refusal was the position of the judges of the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide, who have constantly rejected the UN Court’s Prosecutor’s requests to transfer some of the accused to Kigali to face trials.

The judges have rejected the applications on grounds that the suspects may not get a fair trial in Rwanda.

Bern announced its refusal last week because of strong human rights code in place.

However, Rwanda has the possibility of requesting Switzerland to try Ruhumuriza for criminal prosecution.

Ngoga added that ICTR’s continued transfer rejections only served as a pretext for certain countries “to refuse to send us persons accused of participation in the genocide perpetrated against ethnic Tutsis”

Ruhumuriza is wanted by the Rwandan authorities for genocide and war crimes and he is the subject of a wanted notice on the Interpol website.

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Reuters, 30 June 2009

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Prosecutors will try to charge Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with genocide in Darfur after the International Criminal Court (ICC) denied this count in March, prosecutors at the court said on Monday.

The ICC indicted Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture and issued an arrest warrant for him in March but said it had insufficient grounds for a charge of genocide.

The court said last week it would allow prosecutors to appeal its ruling.

Prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement they would appeal on or around July 6 against the ICC’s decision to exclude the genocide count.

The court, set up in 2002 by international statute, could change its decision if the prosecution could gather additional evidence, the ICC said in March.

Bashir, 65, has dismissed the allegations made by the ICC, the world’s first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes, as part of a Western conspiracy.

The ICC warrant was the first issued against a sitting head of state by the Hague-based court for a conflict that United Nations officials say has killed as many as 300,000 people since 2003.

Bashir has refused to deal with the court and has continued to travel to countries which oppose the indictment despite the arrest warrant.

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By Luis Moreno Ocampo, New York Times, 01 July 2009

THE HAGUE — In 1998, more than 100 states adopted the Rome Statute to end impunity for those crimes that we had thought, over and over, would never happen again, only to see them occur, again and again: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The states accepted their shared duty to punish massive atrocities and created a new actor, a judicial actor, on the international scene: a permanent International Criminal Court, which would step in when national courts failed to act.

An independent, permanent court with a global reach was the object of strong debate in Rome and, for some states, a motive to oppose the court.

The drafters of the Rome Statute were not naïve idealists. They were the ultimate realists. In their lifetimes, they had watched the Khmer Rouge kill millions, they had let Srebrenica happen and they had let Rwanda happen. They had failed the “never again” promises of their fathers.

During their careers as political leaders, diplomats and negotiators, they had tried every solution: They shook hands with devils, sent them off to golden exiles, tried to appease them with promises of immunity, power and wealth. Each time they gambled on impunity and each time they lost.

They learned the need to adjust tactics to a lasting solution. By integrating in one justice system states and an independent international court, the drafters provided incentives for states to prosecute the worst crimes themselves. If the states didn’t do it, the I.C.C. would.

Less than four years after its adoption in Rome, more than 60 states ratified the statute and it entered into force. In 2003, 18 judges representing the five continents were appointed, and I was given responsibility to be the prosecutor. Together, we had to transform the idea of ending impunity into a reality.

During our first year, we found that the gravest crimes under our jurisdiction were committed in Uganda and Congo. The presidents of these countries decided to refer those situations to the court. One year later, in March 2005, Britain and France spearheaded the U.N. Security Council decision to refer Darfur to the court.

No one could have predicted the speed of this integration between the international system of peace and security and the new permanent system of international justice.

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By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, 30 June 2009


At issue is how to strike a balance between the quest for justice in Darfur and the pursuit of a political settlement to end an ongoing civil war in the western region of Sudan. In recent months, African and Arab leaders have said the Argentine lawyer’s pursuit of the Sudanese president has undercut those peace prospects.

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and Gabon’s Jean Ping, the two leaders of the African Union, are mounting a campaign to press African states to withdraw from the treaty body that established the international tribunal. “The attacks against the court by African and Arab governments in the last nine months are the most serious threat to the ICC” since the United States declared its opposition to it in 2002, said William Pace, who heads the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, an alliance of 2500 organizations.

Moreno-Ocampo defended his work in a lengthy interview, saying that his office offers the brightest hope of bringing justice to hundreds of thousands of African victims and halting mass murder in Darfur. “It is normal: When you prosecute people with a lot of power, you have problems,” said Moreno-Ocampo, who first gained prominence by prosecuting Argentine generals for ordering mass murder in that country’s “dirty war.”

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