Showing posts tagged as "war crimes"

Showing posts tagged war crimes

14 May
Statement on the Ríos Montt Conviction for Genocide, War Crimes
Guatemala City/Brussels   |   13 May 2013
In a historic decision, a Guatemalan court convicted former military dictator José Efrain Ríos Montt on 10 May of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre, torture, rape and forced displacement of indigenous villagers during counter-insurgency campaigns in the early 1980s. The verdict is unprecedented: never before has a national court found a former head of state guilty of genocide. It sends a powerful message: no one is above the law and everyone – including indigenous communities long marginalized by discrimination and poverty – has the right to seek justice in the courts.
That the trial took place in Guatemala – a country where, as Crisis Group has reported, impunity was long the norm for abusive or corrupt officials, organised crime bosses and common criminals alike – is testament to the courage and persistence of judges, prosecutors, human rights defenders and members of the Maya-Ixil community themselves. Speaking through translators, witnesses recounted harrowing tales of murder, gang rape and flight after the army torched their villages and fields. Although truth commissions led by the UN and the Catholic Church collected similar testimonies in the 1990s, coverage of the trial allowed many Guatemalans to hear and read for the first time about atrocities committed during an armed conflict that began in 1960 and lasted for more than three decades. 
By having the courage to testify in open court – subject to cross examination by defence attorneys – these witnesses may also encourage the victims of more recent crimes to come forward. Impunity feeds a vicious circle in Guatemala: because most crimes go unpunished, few bother to even report them. Opinion polls show that Guatemalans have little confidence in the courts or the police, who are often viewed as either ineffective or corrupt. But over the five-week trial, the country got a rare glimpse of an independent judiciary in action as the three-judge tribunal heard from about 100 witnesses, including indigenous survivors, psychologists, historians, forensic anthropologists and military experts.
The process is far from over. Ríos Montt’s attorneys have motions and injunctions pending in other courts that could annul the trial. They have also promised to appeal his conviction, a process that could take months or even years. Nor is Ríos Montt the only individual targeted for prosecution as a war criminal. The tribunal acquitted his co-defendant, former director of military intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, because it concluded that he had no direct command over troops. But it urged prosecutors to pursue other alleged violators. Among those now facing trial is an ex-guerrilla commander charged with massacring civilians in the village of El Aguacate.
Critics contend that these prosecutions will re-open old wounds in a country where tension is already high in many rural areas over mining and access to land or electricity. But failing to prosecute those responsible for political repression in the past would only perpetuate the cycle of impunity that encourages criminal violence today. President Otto Pérez Molina should continue to support the efforts of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, recipient of Crisis Group’s Pursuit of Peace Award in 2011, to bring criminals to justice, regardless of their military rank, political power or economic might. Pérez Molina has promised to respect the judicial process. By holding to that promise, he will demonstrate to the world – and more importantly to his fellow citizens – that Guatemala is no longer a country where criminals can operate without fear of prosecution.  

Statement on the Ríos Montt Conviction for Genocide, War Crimes

Guatemala City/Brussels   |   13 May 2013

In a historic decision, a Guatemalan court convicted former military dictator José Efrain Ríos Montt on 10 May of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre, torture, rape and forced displacement of indigenous villagers during counter-insurgency campaigns in the early 1980s. The verdict is unprecedented: never before has a national court found a former head of state guilty of genocide. It sends a powerful message: no one is above the law and everyone – including indigenous communities long marginalized by discrimination and poverty – has the right to seek justice in the courts.

That the trial took place in Guatemala – a country where, as Crisis Group has reported, impunity was long the norm for abusive or corrupt officials, organised crime bosses and common criminals alike – is testament to the courage and persistence of judges, prosecutors, human rights defenders and members of the Maya-Ixil community themselves. Speaking through translators, witnesses recounted harrowing tales of murder, gang rape and flight after the army torched their villages and fields. Although truth commissions led by the UN and the Catholic Church collected similar testimonies in the 1990s, coverage of the trial allowed many Guatemalans to hear and read for the first time about atrocities committed during an armed conflict that began in 1960 and lasted for more than three decades. 

By having the courage to testify in open court – subject to cross examination by defence attorneys – these witnesses may also encourage the victims of more recent crimes to come forward. Impunity feeds a vicious circle in Guatemala: because most crimes go unpunished, few bother to even report them. Opinion polls show that Guatemalans have little confidence in the courts or the police, who are often viewed as either ineffective or corrupt. But over the five-week trial, the country got a rare glimpse of an independent judiciary in action as the three-judge tribunal heard from about 100 witnesses, including indigenous survivors, psychologists, historians, forensic anthropologists and military experts.

The process is far from over. Ríos Montt’s attorneys have motions and injunctions pending in other courts that could annul the trial. They have also promised to appeal his conviction, a process that could take months or even years. Nor is Ríos Montt the only individual targeted for prosecution as a war criminal. The tribunal acquitted his co-defendant, former director of military intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, because it concluded that he had no direct command over troops. But it urged prosecutors to pursue other alleged violators. Among those now facing trial is an ex-guerrilla commander charged with massacring civilians in the village of El Aguacate.

Critics contend that these prosecutions will re-open old wounds in a country where tension is already high in many rural areas over mining and access to land or electricity. But failing to prosecute those responsible for political repression in the past would only perpetuate the cycle of impunity that encourages criminal violence today. President Otto Pérez Molina should continue to support the efforts of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, recipient of Crisis Group’s Pursuit of Peace Award in 2011, to bring criminals to justice, regardless of their military rank, political power or economic might. Pérez Molina has promised to respect the judicial process. By holding to that promise, he will demonstrate to the world – and more importantly to his fellow citizens – that Guatemala is no longer a country where criminals can operate without fear of prosecution.  

20 Feb
"Government attacks on the judiciary and political dissent have accelerated Sri Lanka’s authoritarian turn and threaten long-term stability and peace."

from Crisis Group’s recent report, “Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action

Group says Sri Lanka is becoming an autocracy, urges international action | Canada.com
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - An international think-tank says Sri Lanka is becoming an autocracy where the rule of law and post-war reconciliation are under threat, calling for global action.
Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report Wednesday the “politically motivated” impeachment of Sri Lanka’s chief justice last month dismantled the last institutional check on the president and military. The group also said the lack of power sharing and safeguarding of minority rights in the island nation could feed ethnic tensions.
FULL ARTICLE (AP via Canada.com)
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr

Group says Sri Lanka is becoming an autocracy, urges international action | Canada.com

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - An international think-tank says Sri Lanka is becoming an autocracy where the rule of law and post-war reconciliation are under threat, calling for global action.

Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report Wednesday the “politically motivated” impeachment of Sri Lanka’s chief justice last month dismantled the last institutional check on the president and military. The group also said the lack of power sharing and safeguarding of minority rights in the island nation could feed ethnic tensions.

FULL ARTICLE (AP via Canada.com)

Photo: James Gordon/Flickr

Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn
Colombo/Brussels  |   20 Feb 2013
As the UN Human Rights Council prepares to open its 22nd session next week, the Sri Lankan government has made no meaningful progress on either reconciliation or accountability and instead has accelerated the country’s authoritarian turn, with attacks on the judiciary and political dissent that threaten long-term stability and peace.
Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the government’s recent consolidation of power and sets out critical steps for an effective and coordinated international response.
“The Rajapaksa government’s politically motivated impeachment of the chief justice last month reveals both its intolerance of dissent and power sharing and the weakness of the political opposition”, says Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Sri Lanka Project Director. “By incapacitating the last institutional check on executive power, the government has crossed a threshold into new and dangerous terrain. It is threatening prospects for the eventual peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections”.
Analysts and government critics have warned of Sri Lanka’s growing authoritarianism since the final years of the civil war, but the impeachment has considerably worsened the situation. The removal of the chief justice completes the “constitutional coup” initiated in September 2010 by the eighteenth amendment, which revoked presidential term limits and the independence of government oversight bodies.
Sri Lanka is faced with two worsening and interconnected governance crises. The dismantling of the independent judiciary and other democratic checks on the executive and military will inevitably feed the growing ethnic tension resulting from the absence of power sharing and the denial of minority rights. Both crises have deepened with the government’s refusal to comply with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC)’s March 2012 resolution on reconciliation and accountability. While it claims to have implemented many of the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) – a key demand of the HRC – there has in fact been no meaningful progress.
The government has conducted no credible investigations into allegations of war crimes, disappearances or other serious human rights violations and has rejected the LLRC’s recommendations to establish a range of independent institutions for oversight and investigations.
The international community has a number of tools at its disposal to encourage Colombo to account for the deaths of up to 40,000 civilians in the final months of the war; to halt the current trajectory towards authoritarianism; and to build a country for all, not just some, Sri Lankans.  Chief among these are the levers of the UN, including the HRC, Sri Lanka’s reliance on development assistance and the prestige of hosting the forthcoming heads of government meeting of the Commonwealth.
“Strong international action should begin with Sri Lanka’s immediate referral to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and a new resolution from the HRC calling for concrete, time-bound actions to restore the rule of law, investigate alleged war crimes and rights abuses, and devolve power to Tamil and Muslim areas of the north and east”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Sri Lankans of all ethnicities, who have struggled to preserve their democracy, deserve stronger international support”.
FULL REPORT

Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn

Colombo/Brussels  |   20 Feb 2013

As the UN Human Rights Council prepares to open its 22nd session next week, the Sri Lankan government has made no meaningful progress on either reconciliation or accountability and instead has accelerated the country’s authoritarian turn, with attacks on the judiciary and political dissent that threaten long-term stability and peace.

Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the government’s recent consolidation of power and sets out critical steps for an effective and coordinated international response.

“The Rajapaksa government’s politically motivated impeachment of the chief justice last month reveals both its intolerance of dissent and power sharing and the weakness of the political opposition”, says Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Sri Lanka Project Director. “By incapacitating the last institutional check on executive power, the government has crossed a threshold into new and dangerous terrain. It is threatening prospects for the eventual peaceful transfer of power through free and fair elections”.

Analysts and government critics have warned of Sri Lanka’s growing authoritarianism since the final years of the civil war, but the impeachment has considerably worsened the situation. The removal of the chief justice completes the “constitutional coup” initiated in September 2010 by the eighteenth amendment, which revoked presidential term limits and the independence of government oversight bodies.

Sri Lanka is faced with two worsening and interconnected governance crises. The dismantling of the independent judiciary and other democratic checks on the executive and military will inevitably feed the growing ethnic tension resulting from the absence of power sharing and the denial of minority rights. Both crises have deepened with the government’s refusal to comply with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC)’s March 2012 resolution on reconciliation and accountability. While it claims to have implemented many of the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) – a key demand of the HRC – there has in fact been no meaningful progress.

The government has conducted no credible investigations into allegations of war crimes, disappearances or other serious human rights violations and has rejected the LLRC’s recommendations to establish a range of independent institutions for oversight and investigations.

The international community has a number of tools at its disposal to encourage Colombo to account for the deaths of up to 40,000 civilians in the final months of the war; to halt the current trajectory towards authoritarianism; and to build a country for all, not just some, Sri Lankans.  Chief among these are the levers of the UN, including the HRC, Sri Lanka’s reliance on development assistance and the prestige of hosting the forthcoming heads of government meeting of the Commonwealth.

“Strong international action should begin with Sri Lanka’s immediate referral to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and a new resolution from the HRC calling for concrete, time-bound actions to restore the rule of law, investigate alleged war crimes and rights abuses, and devolve power to Tamil and Muslim areas of the north and east”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Sri Lankans of all ethnicities, who have struggled to preserve their democracy, deserve stronger international support”.

FULL REPORT

19 Jul
Mali crisis: ICC launches inquiry into ‘atrocities’  |  BBC News
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary inquiry into alleged atrocities committed in rebel-held northern Mali.
FULL ARTICLE (BBC News)
Photo: A Malian man holds a sign that reads: ‘No to rape’ among reports of rapes in regions taken by Tuareg rebels and Islamic militants in northern Mali. | Credit: Nancy Palus, Voice of America/Wikimedia Commons

Mali crisis: ICC launches inquiry into ‘atrocities’  |  BBC News

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary inquiry into alleged atrocities committed in rebel-held northern Mali.

FULL ARTICLE (BBC News)

Photo: A Malian man holds a sign that reads: ‘No to rape’ among reports of rapes in regions taken by Tuareg rebels and Islamic militants in northern Mali. | Credit: Nancy Palus, Voice of America/Wikimedia Commons

Mali asks international court to investigate alleged war crimes  |  Los Angeles Times
By Robyn Dixon
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Mali’s government has requested the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes by Tuareg and Islamic rebels who seized the north of the country in recent months.
FULL ARTICLE (LA Times)
Photo: Magharebia/Flickr

Mali asks international court to investigate alleged war crimes  |  Los Angeles Times

By Robyn Dixon

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Mali’s government has requested the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes by Tuareg and Islamic rebels who seized the north of the country in recent months.

FULL ARTICLE (LA Times)

Photo: Magharebia/Flickr

31 May
Crisis Group

Sri Lanka: Unanswered Questions

31 May 2012: Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President and Special Advisor on Latin America, discusses the recent visit to Washington of G. L. Peiris, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, and the pressing questions that the minister left unanswered. 9:59.

Listen to Podcast (Crisis Group)

Photo: Anuradha/Wikimedia Commons

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21 May
The Washington Times | Clinton urges Sri Lanka to prosecute war criminals
By Ashish Kumar Sen
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris on Friday apprised Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of the steps his government is taking to hold accountable those responsible for committing war crimes during a three decade-long war with Tamil rebels.
“We did discuss accountability and informed them of the machinery that has been set up to deal with that,” Mr. Peiris told reporters on Friday evening.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 appointed a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to examine the conflict and post-conflict efforts. The commission’s report, which lists almost 300 recommendations, does not name any officials – military or civilian – against whom allegations of war crimes have been made.
Mr. Peiris said Sri Lanka’s attorney general has been tasked with examining the commission’s report to determine whether there is any evidence that would justify the institution of criminal proceedings and stand up in a court of law.
The Obama administration has urged the Sri Lankan government to develop a comprehensive action plan for implementing steps on reconciliation and accountability for the alleged war crimes.
FULL ARTICLE (Washington Times)

The Washington Times | Clinton urges Sri Lanka to prosecute war criminals

By Ashish Kumar Sen

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris on Friday apprised Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of the steps his government is taking to hold accountable those responsible for committing war crimes during a three decade-long war with Tamil rebels.

“We did discuss accountability and informed them of the machinery that has been set up to deal with that,” Mr. Peiris told reporters on Friday evening.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 appointed a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to examine the conflict and post-conflict efforts. The commission’s report, which lists almost 300 recommendations, does not name any officials – military or civilian – against whom allegations of war crimes have been made.

Mr. Peiris said Sri Lanka’s attorney general has been tasked with examining the commission’s report to determine whether there is any evidence that would justify the institution of criminal proceedings and stand up in a court of law.

The Obama administration has urged the Sri Lankan government to develop a comprehensive action plan for implementing steps on reconciliation and accountability for the alleged war crimes.

FULL ARTICLE (Washington Times)

20 Mar
Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Australia Pushed to Act on Sri Lanka Atrocities

If Bob Carr is looking for a policy priority in his new job as Foreign Minister, the International Crisis Group says he should look at the atrocities allegedly committed by Sri Lanka against Tamil civilians at the end of the long and bloody civil war in the country in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s government denies being responsible for what a raft of international human rights figures are calling war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

Britain’s Channel Four recently aired a confronting documentary called “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” relying in part on “trophy” footage believed to have been shot by Sri Lankan soldiers at the time. An earlier film also alleged official Sri Lankan responsibility for atrocities including the calculated murder of civilian men, women and children, sexual assaults and deliberate starvation of tens of thousands of people.

Sri Lanka’s High Commission in Canberra published its response to the Channel Four video and the ABC’s proposal to broadcast it here.

International Crisis Group senior analyst and Sri Lanka project director Alan Keenan told 702 Mornings from London that there was “very much” a war crimes case for Sri Lanka’s government to answer, though Colombo has vigorously and repeated rejected such claims. He also said the bulk of the footage used by Channel Four was “reliable”.

FULL ARTICLE (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Photo: trokilinochchi/Flickr

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