Posts Tagged ‘crimes against humanity’

ICJ says human rights defenders alarmed over election results in Sri Lanka

November 19, 2019

Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government must demonstrate that they will uphold human rights and rule of law, and ensure that Sri Lanka sustains its international obligations and commitments to justice and accountability, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on 19 November 2019. “The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after a highly polarizing campaign, has alarmed human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and abroad, who have little reason to believe that someone facing such serious allegations of perpetrating human rights violations can be relied upon to meet the country’s obligations under international law,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Director.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won the presidency with 52.25% of votes, served as Sri Lanka’s Secretary of the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2015 during the tenure of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the height of the armed conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces credible allegations of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place during the country’s armed conflict.

International condemnation of atrocities committed during the conflict led to the UN Human Rights Council demanding that the Sri Lankan government commit to a process of transitional justice, in view of the systematic failures of accountability mechanisms in Sri Lanka in the past, as documented by the ICJ in its submission to the Human Rights Council, and others. Despite commitments from the Sri Lankan government, the transitional justice process has effectively stalled and impunity has prevailed.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that even the limited strides made over the past five years in Sri Lanka on transitional justice, positive constitutional amendments and institutional reform will be reversed,” said Rawski. The ICJ urged the Government to deliver on its commitment to the transitional justice process, including by holding those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable, and complying with the obligations set out in United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.

Gaston Chillier speaks about the values of his NGO, CELS, in Argentina

November 10, 2019

In an interview with Carly Graf of the Buenos Aires Times, Gaston Chillier, the executive director of Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), one of Argentina’s most influential human rights groups, reflects on the organisation’s four-decade fight and the battles that still lie ahead.

Eventually, the grassroots organisation grew into the Centro de Estudios Sociales y Legales (CELS). It would play a fundamental role in bringing to light the abuses and crimes against humanity committed by the military dictatorship and in promoting human rights reform once the regime fell. However, the work did not end with the fall of the military government – over the coming decades, CELS would go on to become increasingly influential in defending the dignity and protecting the human rights of all Argentines. As CELS celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding, its executive director, Gastón Chillier, spoke with the Times to discuss the organisation’s history, future and the most pressing human rights issues in Argentina today.

 

How does the CELS of today compare to the CELS of 40 years ago?

There are many lines of continuity between now and then. It was founded by a group of people with family members who had been “disappeared,” intending to denounce the military government and fight for justice. We continue with that commitment and fight against impunity. Of course, there have been some changes that have broadened our vision beyond only combating institutional violence — the greatest of which is that we now advocate and incorporate groups who don’t have a direct tie to the dictatorship. In the 1990s, we brought into the fold groups like immigrants, the indigeneous, union workers, men and more. In the last 15 years, we’ve worked hard to defend the right to protest. I think of our organisation as many different sectors coming together for a grand commitment to defend human rights.

What is the state of the human rights movement in Argentina?

Argentina has a society that’s mobilised across distinct generations and across distinct movements. We have activated and incorporated a wide variety of interests in a way that’s only grown and amplified the human rights movement. What we have now is something much larger and more diverse, but with objectives that we share in common.

What are the biggest challenges to the movement?

Currently, the regional trend of re-militarisation. First, there’s the use of the armed forces to maintain internal security, using the excuse of things like terrorism or drug-trafficking to justify it. This has led to grave systemic violations like what we’re seeing in Colombia, Mexico and Chile. Then, there’s the return of former military actors to positions of political power. We’re seeing the emergence of leaders on the far right, far more conservative and bolstered politically by rhetoric that directly threatens the rights of most people. We see this in Bolsonaro in Brazil. Many of those leaders also have a strong tie to the business sector and they promote the concentration of wealth and the perpetuation of inequality.

How would you evaluate outgoing president Mauricio Macri and his government in this context?

Obviously, Macri is not the same as someone like Bolsonaro or Donald Trump. But, it seems to me, there are many elements of Macri’s government that do resemble this movement towards the right. His policies are more neoliberal, and his term ended with a phenomenal economic crisis, with thousands more poor people and with higher levels of inequality. He also supported the intensified use of armed forces and police, even if it meant abuse. So, no, he’s not like those others, but he still has a very poor record in these matters.

What do you anticipate from Alberto Fernández in terms of human rights?

I can’t speak to the agenda. But I do believe his election signifies a consensus in Argentina to reject militarisation and the creep towards authoritarianism. It seems there’s a widespread understanding of the importance of human rights. Macri’s one of the only leaders in the region in recent years that wasn’t able to maintain his mandate through re-election.

What do you say to critics who say CELS has become too partisan?

I don’t have a defensive response. We’re consistent with our founders. When we participate in a campaign, it’s because we want to bring in a government with the best human rights platform. Today, individual members of our organisation have their own opinions and, of course, we don’t prohibit them from having those. As for our organisation as a whole, we have an agenda of values, not of politics or partisanship.

Let’s talk about specific human rights issues Argentina faces today. First, the prosecution of crimes against humanity.

These didn’t slow down during Macri’s administration, really, because there aren’t ways for him to simply stop the judicial process. That said, the surrounding agencies that could make things go faster didn’t necessarily help […]

Also, there was such a backlash when the government said the“2×1” [ruling] was applicable in these cases, that the courts and Congress quickly corrected course, saying it couldn’t be used for perpetrators of crimes against humanity. And, now, whenever world leaders come like Trump, Angela Merkel or many others, one of the first things they’re taken to see is the Parque de la Memoria or the ESMA [former Navy Mechanics School, used a clandestine detention centre during dictatorship].

Therefore, I think this government finally understands what it was ignorant to before — here’s great relevance and importance to finding justice and memorialising Argentina’s past both here and worldwide.

And what about the push for abortion reform?

With Macri, we had a lot of ambiguity, especially last year during the failed legalisation fight. But then, we saw him and Maria Eugenia Vidal, the outgoing governor of Buenos Aires Province, with the blue scarf — a sign of the anti-abortion movement — at the end of this campaign […] With Alberto Fernández, we have an explicit position. I believe he’s expected to achieve it, and that he will push it through the legislature […]

Even though the Catholic Church and conservative northern provinces still wield great influence , I think it’s now inevitable, it’s just a matter of time […]

Argentina’s society, especially its younger generations, realise that this is a question of public health and another part of the inequality discussion. It is going to be over soon.

There have been cases too about the use of lethal force by security forces…

It’s one of those things that’s not necessa r ily documented, but it’s clearly risen in recent years, especially under Macri. It’s obvious through the political discourse there’s more support and alignment with security forces. In the case of a potential abuse — as in the case of Luis Chocobar — the government will often protect, ally itself with and celebrate police instead of investigating the officer or guaranteeing the victim’s family justice […]

Fernández is going to have to do a lot to reinstate a feeling of trust and legitimacy in the security forces and to disarm these policies promoted by the highest offices of power.

And what’s your view on the health of Argentina’s institutions?

The legacy of the last four years in this respect is very poor, as poor as the economic legacy […] We see this even in the report that came out from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last week. It points out a number of potential abuses and interventions that could violate the law.

Now, the government under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner didn’t have a good record with institutional corruption, especially as it relates to the Judiciary, but Macri’s government has recorded the same kind of levels […] and Macri ran his campaign selling anti-corruption and transparency as one of the legacies of his administration.

This report goes against that message entirely […] There’s been corruption in our institutions for at least 30 years, not only under him, but it’s led to having a Justice Ministry without any credibility. It would be great to see the incoming government address it.

http://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/gaston-chillier-cels-has-an-agenda-of-values-not-of-politics-or-partisanship.phtml

Human rights defenders to President Weah: the ball is in your camp

January 23, 2018

Africa on Line of 23 January 2018 report that human rights defenders NGOs have urged Liberian President Weah to prosecute war crimes.

The Center for Justice and Accountability describes the two phases of Liberia civil war, which caused the killings of an estimated 250,000 people and request that the atrocities are investigated and prosecuted. “A report by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released in June 2009 found all sides responsible for serious violations of domestic and international law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, widespread and systematic rape and sexual slavery, torture, use and recruitment of child soldiers, and mass executions of civilians,” the release said.

Although the TRC recommended the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal in Liberia to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of serious violations of international criminal and humanitarian law, the only prosecutions to date have been outside of Liberia,” it added. Hassan Bility, Executive Director of Monrovia based Global Justice and Research Project and one of the authors of the open letter said: “Justice must be one of the cardinal points of the President’s new agenda. There must be justice for war crimes, otherwise there will be no lasting peace in Liberia.” Mr. Bility, a former journalist and torture survivor of the civil war, helped initiate the arrests of several Liberian perpetrators in Europe and the U.S. in partnership with the Swiss based NGO, Civitas Maxima.

President Weah, during his inaugural address, assured that his administration would protect human rights and justice for all Liberians: “Today, we Liberians have reached an important milestone in the never-ending journey for freedom, justice, and democracy; a search that has remained central to our history as a nation,” .

Reacting to the speech on Monday, Mr. Bility told FrontPageAfrica the President’s commitment to social justice and human rights would make some difference…“This is an opportunity for him to right many of the things that probably slipped through the safety net of the Ellen administration,” he added.

Recent cases such as the conviction of Jungle Jabbah in Philadelphia and the indictments of other alleged war criminals in Europe and the U.S. have shown that prosecuting war criminals will not reignite the civil war in Liberia, as has often been feared, added  Nushin Sarkarati, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability. “It is time to bring these examples of justice home, and make ending impunity in Liberia a priority.

However, as the the Economist on 4 January 2018 says: Yet there are doubts about the kind of leader Mr Weah will be. Since his election as a senator in 2014, he has rarely attended parliament. Nor has he introduced or co-sponsored any legislation. Mr Weah’s relative lack of education, though, only seems to make him more popular. His supporters see the former slum-dweller as one of them—a champion from their streets. Much will depend on the ministers and advisers with whom he surrounds himself. Liberia needs better roads and schools, more jobs and electricity, and a thousand other things. Presidents, unlike footballers, must aim at multiple goals.

http://www.frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php/news/6709-human-rights-groups-urge-president-weah-to-prosecute-war-crimes

https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21734008-far-beautiful-game-champion-footballer-george-weah-wins-liberias

The Code, a documentary film project, needs support….and soon

July 6, 2017

An ambitious documentary project has 7 days left to find the funding via Kickstarter:

Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who took the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to justice, is leading a movement of legal ‘warriors’ from all over the world to guarantee the international punishment of major economic, financial and environmental crimes. The tool to achieve their goal can be summed up in two words: Universal Jurisdiction. The movement composed of judges, prosecutors and lawyers tries to promote the international denouncement of actions such as food speculation, issuing junk bonds, squandering public funds and large-scale contamination. These crimes should, as genocides and war crimes, be designated as Crimes Against Humanity and prosecuted internationally.

History is filled with visionaries who understood before others that practices such as slavery, colonialism and apartheid were not part of the natural order of things: they were immoral actions carried out by a minority and should be considered as crimes. Today, this international movement led by Baltasar Garzón tries to expose that financial fraud is not a systemic problem but a premeditated act, and should be considered as criminal behaviour. The aim of the group is to foster a new Universal Jurisdiction code of principles and fight alongside the civil society to ensure its application.

During the Universal Jurisdiction Congress (Buenos Aires, September 2015), a new list of Crimes Against Humanity was drafted. After countless debates between experts from the six continents, the list now includes economical and environmental infractions. All these efforts must now work their way to national legislations. On a planet with almost 8 billion people, irresponsible economic decisions can be disastrous. With all their effort, the legal warriors work together towards a common goal: cease with the impunity of economic and environmental crimes.

In the Kickstarter post, the Director, states For me it’s an important task to help people understand the juridical language, given the historical isolation of the judicial power and its perverse use by the political and economic powers. Democratize juridical language, understand judicial mechanisms and point out their actors, all this with the support of a hundred of the most prestigious international jurists who have united to fight against impunity in major economic and environmental crimes, is a noble objective.  This documentary is about heroes, brave jurists, classical characters of film noir

Our team has been working on this project for three years now and is very committed to it. We think that if the fight of the legal warriors is made public, citizens will be able to pressure their political powers to include changes in national legislations and international relations.  We are talking about establishing a new code of social conduct, a code of human relationships, consistent with the challenges of living on a planet in constant evolution.  We interviewed tens of professionals and filmed in three countries so far: Argentina, Spain and Senegal, where we attended in May 2016 to the end of Hissène Habré’s trial for crimes against humanity during his dictatorship in Chad.

We now need your support to finish the production and get this film out to the world where it can make a difference! After three years working on this project, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign to find the necessary funding to finish the film. All funds we raise will enable our team to finish production, access film footage, and cover the editing and postproduction costs. We are confident that if we meet our goal, we will be able to finish the film before the end of 2017.

This is how we will use the money:

 

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/universal-jurisdiction/

Remembering Clyde Snow, unusual human rights defender

September 26, 2014

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Only now did I see the tribute paid by filmmakers Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates to the American forensic anthropologist turned human rights defender Clyde Snow who passed away on 16 May 2014.  Clyde was a tall Texan with an easygoing manner that masked a tenacious commitment to finding the truth and advancing justice through the science of forensic anthropology, applied to the exhumation of victims of mass atrocities. As Clyde often said, “the bones tell stories.”  And these were stories that often helped land the perpetrators of heinous crimes in prison, from Argentina to Guatemala, the Balkans, Rwanda and beyond.

Clyde’s work lives on through the crack forensic anthropology teams he formed in Argentina, Guatemala and Peru, two of which are featured in the films “State of Fear” (Peru) and “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” (Guatemala).

This Saturday 27 September there is a memorial service in Norman, Oklahoma, where he lived with his wife Jerry.

 

North Korea: the UN report in images

February 20, 2014

There was considerable attention in the media for the new United Nation report that has found that crimes against humanity are occurring in North Korea and calls for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, but you may have missed the 14-minute video produced by Human Rights Watch on 17 February 2014. The report, by a UN Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights carry out investigations. The three person commission, which was chaired by Australian jurist Michael Kirby, will formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council on or around March 17, 2014. The council will then consider a resolution to act on the commission’s recommendations.

Video clip on Internal Criminal Court (ICC)

August 16, 2013

On 29 June 2012 (yes a year ago) AI published a short video on the Internal Criminal Court, which for some reason I had missed, so here is the link to the video which is a simple but clear assessment of 10 years ICC, it’s successes, it’s failures and the challenges it still faces in bringing to justice those accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

You can also visit and explore the new interactive world map and join the campaign:http://demandjusticenow.org/

 

Guatemala Genocide Trial Must Resume, Say Woman Human Rights Leaders

May 2, 2013

A coalition of seven female Nobel Prize winners, including Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala, called April 25 for the trial of former dictator Efraín Rios Montt to proceed. Montt was indicted in January for genocide and crimes against humanity, including widespread rape. The trial in Guatemala City was suspended last week mere days before observers expected it to conclude when a lower court judge on April 18 unexpectedly issued a ruling on a legal technicality. Guatemala’s attorney general has called the ruling illegal. The trial marks the first time a head of state has been tried for genocide by his own country’s justice system. Rios Montt is accused of ordering the killings of over 1,700 Ixil Maya people in 1982 and 1983, when he was army general and de-facto president of Guatemala. Read the rest of this entry »

Haiti: victims of Baby Doc stil waiting for justice says dictator hunter Reed Brody

February 21, 2013

Human Rights Watch Uploaded on this video some time back on 20 April  2011, but I had missed it. Insiders will recognize the face and voice of Reed Brody, who has made chasing dictators (such as Baby Doc and Hissene Habré (see below) his life’s vocation.HRW_logo Read the rest of this entry »