15 Mar 2017 - NPWJ News Digest on International Criminal Justice


Philippine VP blasts Duterte's drug crackdown, cites abuses
by abc News, 15 Mar 2017

The Philippine vice president is raising alarms about the president's bloody crackdown on illegal drug use, which she says can't be solved "with bullets alone," adding that Filipinos should "defy brazen incursions on their rights." Vice President Leni Robredo's videotaped comments, which were issued to the media Wednesday, are some of her sharpest critiques so far of President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign and are likely to antagonize him because they are intended for a meeting of international human rights advocates, whom he has often lambasted. Philippine presidents and vice presidents are elected separately and often come from rival political parties. Robredo, who belongs to the opposition Liberal Party, resigned from a Cabinet post in December, citing "major differences in principles and values" with the brash-talking leader. In her speech to be shown Thursday at a U.N.-linked forum on extrajudicial killings in Vienna, Austria, she raised concerns about the mounting number of killings of mostly poor drug suspects she described as "summary executions," and about a lack of transparency and accountability in Duterte's crackdown. "We are now looking at some very grim statistics. Since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions," Robredo said in the video. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Robredo can speak freely on public issues but should avoid unfounded allegations. Duterte and his national police chief have said they do not condone extrajudicial killings, but have repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death in public speeches.


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Uganda: Ensure Independent Investigation into Kasese Killings
by Human Rights Watch, 15 Mar 2017

(Nairobi) – Killings by Ugandan military and police during joint operations in Kasese, western Uganda on November 26-27, 2016, warrant an independent, impartial fact-finding mission with international expertise, Human Rights Watch said today. On the bloodiest day, scores of people, including children, were killed during a military assault on the palace compound of the region’s cultural institution. Police spokespeople reported the death toll over the two days as 87, including 16 police. Human Rights Watch found the actual number to be much higher – at least 55 people, including at least 14 police, killed on November 26, and more than 100, including at least 15 children, during the attack on the palace compound on November 27. The government has arrested and charged more than 180 people, including the cultural institution’s king, known as the Omusinga, with murder, treason, and terrorism, among other charges. None of the 180 are members of the police or military and no one has been charged for the killing of the civilians, including children. “The assault on the palace in Kasese, which killed more people than any single event since the height of the war in Northern Uganda over a decade ago, should not be swept under the carpet,” said Maria Burnett, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “People in Kasese are still looking for their family members, including children, and they deserve answers and justice for these gruesome killings.

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Experts Say War Crimes Case Against Assad Government Growing
by The New York Times, 15 Mar 2017

Criminal investigators say they have built a case documenting the widespread torture and murder of Syrian detainees by the Assad government, relying on official photos and meticulous documents. More than 700,000 pages from Syrian intelligence and security archives have been smuggled out by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), an independent group of legal experts, through a secret network. "The documentation is, in the main, generated by the security-intelligence, military and political structures of the regime," William Wiley, who has worked for U.N. war crimes tribunals on former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, told Reuters. A key document from 2011 orders the arrest of protesters or people in contact with foreign media, he said in a new documentary "Syria's Disappeared: The Case Against Assad" that tracks Wiley and his group's work in Syria. In another, an official asks what to do with a "hospital refrigerator full of unidentified corpses that have decomposed". "This person copied the Ministry of Justice, so a localized problem is being brought to the attention of the regime," said Wiley, executive director of CIJA, a non-profit foundation that is also preparing cases in Iraq for prosecution. The government of President Bashar al-Assad denies findings by U.N. investigators that detainees are tortured and executed in a policy of "extermination", in the war that is entering its seventh year. "The queen and king of evidence in any criminal investigation is a document. It isn't cross-examined because it is factual, it is truth," Wiley said in the documentary. The film, which had its premiere at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva this week, includes interviews with former detainees and grieving mothers.

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South Africa: DA Welcomes Withdrawal of the Rome Statute Repeal Bill
by AllAfrica, 14 Mar 2017

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision today by Cabinet to withdraw the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Bill [B 23 - 2016]. The DA believes that in light of the recent High Court decision, and now the decision of Cabinet to withdraw this Bill, that we should all take the opportunity to step back and properly assess the situation. It may well be that the International Criminal Court (ICC) requires reform and South Africa should actively engage in discussions around such reform. However this does not mean that South Africa should join the polecats of world in abandoning our commitment to human rights by leaving the ICC entirely. In recent years, numerous decisions by our ANC-led national government have made clear and dangerous departures from the human-rights based foreign policy which was promoted by Nelson Mandela and which aligns with our Constitutional democracy. The original decision was made by the ANC in haste and we are glad that sanity has now prevailed.

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Hope for justice in Syria from an unlikely source
by Aljazeera, 09 Mar 2017

Six years into the carnage in Syria, atrocious crimes run rampant, with savage abuses committed against all groups in the devastated country, and the murderous regime, abetted by powerful allies, is still in power. The United Nations Security Council remains in a deadlock and unable to take any steps towards ensuring accountability for the massive crimes, with the International Criminal Court left on the sidelines. However, amid the terrible loss of life, hope that the slow wheels of justice will finally be put in motion emerged recently from an unlikely source - the UN General Assembly. In December 2016, the UNGA, led by Liechtenstein and Qatar, established an "Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since March 2011". With this step the UNGA, usually associated with administrative and budgetary matters, has asserted itself in a highly welcome if unusual manner, signaling the deep frustration with the failure of other UN organs and the great powers to stop the killing in Syria.

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Philippine 'death squad' member not afraid of Duterte, says more will speak out
by Reuters, 09 Mar 2017

A former policeman who confessed to being part of a "death squad" under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he did not fear him, and believed four other members of his alleged hit team would come forward to testify. In an interview at a safe house, Arturo Lascanas, 56, told Reuters that he felt safer and at ease after publicly admitting his role in what he said were more than 200 extrajudicial killings in Davao when Duterte was a mayor obsessed with wiping out crime. "I'm happy because I know there would still be others who will come forward after me to reveal the killings in Davao," said the second member of the so-called "Davao death squad" to testify at Senate inquiries. Human rights groups documented about 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao during the 22 years Duterte was mayor and critics say the eight-month-old war on drugs he unleashed as president bears the same hallmarks. That crackdown has seen 8,000 people killed, a third in police operations. Police deny involvement in the other killings, for which many have an assassination-style pattern. "Nothing is impossible with God. I feared God but not him," Lascanas said of the president. "I'm confident and happy now because I have done what I have to do, telling all of you what I have done. I may not be saved, but God will take care of me." Lascanas, a policeman for more than three decades, in his sworn affidavit detailed at length several incidents in which the death squad had carried out killings of suspected criminals. On Thursday, he said there was mistrust among those involved in those alleged incidents since he went public last month and they feared they might be "erased".

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