Category Archives: Human rights

ICC: Uganda Ongwen-victim and villain

04.02.2021 The Hague, The Netherlands: War crimes judges deliver their verdict in the case of Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan child soldier turned top field commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group known for extreme violence and forcing women into sexual slavery.

Ongwen, 45, faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity and could be imprisoned for life if convicted. Judges will not address sentencing on Thursday, February 4.

Ongwen’s case is complex because under the law “you have either a victim or a perpetrator and anything in between is very difficult to squeeze in,” said Barbora Hola, senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement.

The ruling at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be the first dealing with crimes by the LRA, New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

It highlights the difficulty of trying somebody who, as a conscripted child soldier, is both an alleged perpetrator and a victim. His lawyers have asked for acquittal.

Detained in 2015, Ongwen remains in the court’s custody, and his 3.5-year-trial ended in March 2020.

Ongwen’s lawyer insisted that the brutal life in the LRA affected his mental health and his capacity to make independent decisions.

“When Ongwen was abducted he had no option, he was made a slave. That slavery continued until he left the bush,” lawyer Krispus Odongo said to the judges in closing arguments.

But prosecutors countered that Ongwen was an adult at the time of the alleged offences and cannot be excused of responsibility.

Led by fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the LRA terrorized Ugandans for nearly two decades as it battled the government of President Yoweri Museveni from bases in the north of the country and in what is now South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

The case at the ICC focused on 2002-2005, when prosecutors said members of the LRA carried out crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, torture, pillaging and the conscription of children under the age of 15 for fighting.

After being abducted by the LRA as a boy, Ongwen worked his way up to a commander, overseeing the Sinia Brigade, one of the group’s four main operational units with up to 800 fighters.

ZAMBIA: EU calls for investigation

Brussels, 24.12.2020 “On Wednesday 23 December, Zambian Police dispersed a large group of supporters of the opposition by use of force. Two people are confirmed to have died. The EU expresses its condolences to their families” says the statement of the spokesperson of the European External Action Service – the official body of the the EU diplomacy.

The Inspector General of Police has committed to investigate the circumstances of these events. The investigation – conducted according to the laws of Zambia – should be comprehensive and open to scrutiny. This is especially important as Zambia approaches an election year, where respect for the Rule of Law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms will be critical for an inclusive, transparent and credible process.

The EU reaffirms the importance it attaches to its partnership with Zambia, a force for peace and stability in Southern Africa, and with the Zambian people”.

President Buhari “detached” speech

Brussels 23.10.2020 “It is alarming to learn that several people have been killed and injured during the ongoing protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria” the head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell said, reacting upon the events in Lagos. “It is crucial that those responsible of abuses be brought to justice and held accountable. Following the Government’s will to deliver on reforms, we expect to see decisive implementation” the EU diplomat has underlined in his Tweet micro blog.

Meanwhile President Muhammadu Buhari addressed Nigerian on the issue of the unrest that has overwhelmed the country in recent days, but without making any mention of the shootings of peaceful protesters at Lekki toll plaza on Tuesday, October 20, night that caused international outrage.

The military opened fire without warning on thousands of peaceful protesters singing the national anthem in the night, killing at least 12 people, according to Amnesty International.

The shootings have been widely condemned but Buhari did not speak of them at all during his Thursday,October 22 address, instead urging the protestors to stop their actions.

“This government will not allow anybody or (any) groups to disrupt the peace of the nation,” Buhari said in his TV address, urging protesters to “resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy.”

“For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and law and order,” he said. “Under no circumstances would this be tolerated.”

Buhari called on Nigeria’s youths “to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage the government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.”

The President responded to the criticism he has received from African heads of state and other world leaders by calling on them “to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position, or rushing to judgement and making hasty pronouncements.”

While as Buhari was addressing the nation, irate Nigerians flooded social media with denunciations.

“President Buhari during his speech refused to acknowledge those dead as a result of military attacked on Lekki protesters #EndSARS,” tweeted Usman Okai Austin.

SA: Ramaphosa on farm murders

12.10.2020 South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa urged not to use murders of white farmers to inflame racial tensions by falsely equating them with ethnic cleansing, a week after a farm killing stoked violent protests.

The killing of Brendin Horner, a white farm manager, in Free State province at the start of this month, triggered riots in the town of Senekal. White demonstrators stormed a police station where two Black suspects were being held. Some fired shots and set fire to a police car. farm murders not ethnic cleansing

“What happened in Senekal shows just how easily the tinderbox of race hatred can be ignited,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly message to the country. “We must resist any attempts to use crime on farms to mobilise communities along racial lines.”

Murders of farmers and members of their families, including young children, the vast majority of which are white from European ancestors, are an explosive issue in South Africa, where some white minority activist groups promote the idea that they are victims of a ‘white genocide’ that aims to force landowners to flee.

Farm attacks were discussed by parliament last month. Rural safety analysts at some agricultural organisations had noted a new momentum from government level to combat the problem, but the level of distrust runs deep towards government as well as towards populist political parties who still occasionally employ the apartheid-era chant of “kill the farmer, kill the boer”.

There has long been speculation on the racial nature of these attacks and it has been the subject of a number of studies, which have concluded that robbery is the primary motive.

Many farmers conduct trade on their farms, selling livestock, chickens or vegetables, handling large amounts of cash, which has been a demonstrable motive in some previous farm murders.

Robbers on farms also demand firearms, because farmers are often heavily armed, as well as cell phones and computer equipment.

Last month Tommie Esterhuyse, AgriSA’s chair of the rural safety commission, reiterated in a radio interview that they did not consider farm attacks to be racially targeted killings. He referred to Free State statistics showing 40 to 45% of farm attacks included farm workers (mostly black) as well as black commercial farmers and emerging farmers.

It has been estimated that an average of 58 people are every day killed in South Africa, of whom an unusually large number are women and children.

Ethiopia: Oromo arrests

3.10.2020 Ethiopia’s Oromiya region police have arrested 503 people on accusations of planning to incite violence during an annual Thanksgiving festival – Irreecha – this weekend and seized guns and hand grenades, the state affiliated Fana news agency reported.

Fana Broadcasting also reported on Octobere 2 that police and intelligence services had foiled what they said were plans to incite violence in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia ahead of the Irreecha festival of the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group.

The latest arrests happened a week after Ethiopia’s attorney general said about 2,000 people had been charged over deadly violence after the killing of popular Oromo musician and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa in June.

Fana News Agency, quoting Oromiya region police commissioner Ararsa Merdasa, said on October 1 officers seized guns and hand grenades during the arrests, ahead of a celebration in the capital Addis Ababa on Saturday, October 3, and in Bishoftu in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia on Sunday, October 4.

In the violence following Haacaaluu Hundeessaa assassination in June, at least 166 people were killed. More than 9,000 people were arrested, including some politicians from Oromiya, Ethiopia’s most populous province.

Long-suppressed frustrations frequently explode into ethnic violence.

Last year’s Irreecha festival in Addis Ababa was held peacefully amid tight security. But in 2016, a stampede, triggered by a clash between police and protesters during celebrations in Bishoftu, south of the capital, left more than 50 dead.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, is one of the continent’s fastest growing economies and is due to hold elections next year.

Decades of frustration over government repression and democratic reforms by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April 2018, have emboldened regional power-brokers keen to challenge the ruling party.

Kabuga transfer to Arusha UN Court

High-level Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga,84, can be handed over to a United Nations tribunal for trial, a top French court ruled on 30 Septembere.

Kabuga is suspected of playing a major role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsi Rwandans were murdered by a Hutu uprising. Prosecutors accuse Kabuga of chairing a radio station that helped orchestrate the genocide, as well as working to create and fund a genocidal militia in the capital, Kigali. He used to be a wealthy businessman at the time.

The 84-year-old had evaded justice for 25 years but was caught outside Paris in May of this year.

The Court of Cassation in Paris upheld an order from a lower court to send Kabuga to a UN tribunal on charges including genocide, persecution and extermination.

He will now stand trial at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) based in Arusha, Tanzania. The MICT took charge of prosecuting Rwandan genocide suspects after the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) formally closed in 2015.

His lawyers had argued that he should not be extradited due to his frail health and claimed that the UN tribunal would be biased.

Belgium: Commandos versus Africa Museum

Brussels 29.09.2020 The lawyers of seven Belgium associations representing former para commandos and officers who have served in Africa have given notice to the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA, or AfricaMuseum) in Tervuren. They ask that “any damage to the honour and reputation of the Belgian para commandos” be obliterated in a text next to a statue at the large rotunda of the museum, Antwerp newspaper reports

The associations demand that any link between the operation of the para commandos and the “crushing” of the rebels be removed. They want the museum to remove any reference “that damages the reputation of the Belgian para commandos”, by 12 October 2020 at the latest.

In the absence of action within the set term, the associations will start legal proceedings, the lawyers say in the notice of default.

It concerns the statue “La Belgique opportant la sécurité au Congo” (Belgium brings security to Congo) by Arsène Matton. In addition, Belgium is portrayed as protecting a sleeping man and child in the folds of its flag. A semi-transparent veil has been applied over that image, with a postcolonial image intended to evoke a “visual and semantic shock that should shed new light on a heavy heritage”.

The picture shows an armed soldier with the text “A Belgian para commando in Stanleyville in 1964, crushing the Simba rebels. The formal independence of Congo in 1960 has by no means sounded the death knell for foreign intervention ”. The seven associations consider that the first sentence of the text is “particularly misleading, hurtful and an attack on the honor” of the then Belgian para commandos. They already sent an open letter in July to the general director of the museum, Guido Gryseels, with Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in copy.

According to the associations, this sentence establishes a “direct and unmistakable link” between the operation of the Belgian para commandos in Stanleyville, the former name of the current Kisangani, and the crushing of the Simba rebels. “This link is a clear historical untruth”, it sounds. “The intervention of the Belgian para commandos in Stanleyville from November 24 to 28, 1964 was after all a humanitarian operation that made it possible to free 2,375 hostages and was in no way intended to” crush the Simba rebels “. The humanitarian operation of the para commandos had no military purpose; and if Simba rebels were killed by para commandos during the humanitarian operation, it was only in situations of absolute necessity. ”
The associations demand that any link between the operation of the para commandos and the “crushing” of the rebels be removed. They want the museum to remove any reference “that damages the reputation of the Belgian para commandos”, by 12 October 2020 at the latest.

In the absence of action within the set term, the associations will start legal proceedings, the lawyers say in the notice of default.

Zimbabwe: EU demands liberation of activists

«The Constitution of #Zimbabwe guarantees the right to peaceful protests; a right that @efie41209591, @advocatemahere and others exercised today. They should be released from police custody. #EU4HumanRights,» reads the Tweet of the European Union delegation to Zimbabwe, demanding immediate liberation of Tsitsi Dangarembga (pictured), the novelist, and Fadzayi Mahere, the lawyer.

The EU’s cooperation with Zimbabwe, under the current funding period (2014-2020), aims to preserve the country’s democracy, bring stability, and build resilience to build a strong basis for an inclusive and sustainable growth.

At present Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis in more than a decade, marked by hyperinflation, a local currency that is rapidly depreciating against the US dollar and acute foreign exchange shortages. An estimated 90% of Zimbabweans are without formal employment.

The 11th European Development Fund (EDF) National Indicative Programme (NIP) focuses on:

– health
– agriculture-based economic development
– governance and institution building

The 11th EDF NIP amounts to €287 million. It is in line with the country’s agenda for sustainable socioeconomic transformation (ZimAsset) and the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (2018-2020).

Zimbabwe is a low income country faced with several political and development challenges. However it has an educated population, is rich in natural resources, and has great potential for agriculture and manufacturing, but its development remains constrained by political and institutional bottlenecks.

Since the early 2000s, Zimbabwe has actually seen increased poverty, economic deterioration, and frequent droughts.

EU expresses concerns about Zimbabwe arrests

«Recent developments in Zimbabwe are deeply worrying. The work of human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society organisations is essential to support reforms that stand the test of time. Upholding constitutional rights is a principle which cannot be compromised» the European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

A court ruled on July 24 that a journalist charged with inciting violence was a danger to the public and extended his detention until August, while the United Nations and the European Union expressed concern that authorities could be violating the fundamental freedoms.

Hopewell Chin’ono (pictured) and opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested on July 20 on allegations of promoting planned protests against corruption in government on July 31, which police insisted degraded to violence.

Both arrested, who deny the charges, face up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.

Chin’ono’s lawyer Doug Coltart said a Harare magistrate had ruled that the journalist “is a danger to the public because he has not yet completed his mission of inciting people to demonstrate on 31 July.”

Chin’ono, who has gained a following on social media by being critical of the government’s handling of the economy and corruption, told reporters as he was being taken to prison cells: “Journalism has been criminalised. The struggle against corruption should continue. People should not stop, they should carry on with it.”

He will be kept in prison until the next court hearing on August, Coltart said he would appeal the ruling extending his detention until that hearing.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement it was concerned by allegations that Zimbabwean authorities may be using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“Merely calling for a peaceful protest or participating in a peaceful protest are an exercise of recognised human rights,” it said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed an overnight curfew and tighter restrictions on movement from July 22 to combat rising coronavirus infections. But activists say the measures are meant to stop the July 31 protests.

Image above: Hopewell Chin’ono Facebook page

Libya: abduction of Mrs.Shiham Sergewa

“Today marks one year since the abduction of Mrs. Siham Sergewa, an elected member of the House of Representatives from Benghazi and one of the prominent female voices in Libya. Her fate remains unknown, increasing the concerns about her safety and well-being’ reads the text of the statement by the spokesperson of the European External Action Service on the anniversary of the abduction of member of parliament Siham Sergewa.

“Since the beginning, the European Union has been calling for the immediate release of Mrs. Sergiwa and requesting those who hold responsibilities to investigate her abduction and ensure accountability. These calls have remained unheeded and we are yet to hear that an investigation is ongoing.

“The abduction of Mrs. Sergewa is an unacceptable attack as well as an attempt to intimidate other women, journalists and human rights activists participating in the country’s political life.

“We will continue to follow closely the cases of enforced disappearances and other systematic attacks directed against the civilian population in Libya.

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