Category Archives: International Justice

Netherlands Apologize for Colonial-Era Mass Murders

Raymond Pierre Paul Westerling

Raymond Pierre Paul Westerling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday, the Dutch government apologized for the mass killing of thousands of Indonesians during colonial occupation which ended in 1949.

The Dutch ambassador for Indonesia, Tjeerd de Zwaan, officially presented the state’s apology at a ceremony in Jakarta.

Dutch Special forces carried out thousands of “summary executions” between 1945 and 1949 in Indonesia. In total, 40,000 people were executed, according to the Indonesian government; the Dutch government has only acknowledged a few thousand of these deaths.

“On behalf of the Dutch government I apologize for these excesses,” De Zwaan said at the ceremony.

“The Dutch government is aware that it bears a special responsibility in respect of Indonesian widows of victims of summary executions comparable to those carried out by Dutch troops in what was then Celebes [Sulawesi] and Rawa Gede [now West Java],” De Zwaan added.

The Dutch government had already apologized for some specific murders, and paid compensation to victims’ families in those cases, but this was the first general apology for all the murders during the colonial era.

Via Impunity Watch.

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Brand Removed from Party for Pointing Out that Event Sponsor Made Money from Nazis

Russell Brand

Russell Brand (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

While speaking at GQ‘s Man of The Year Awards, Russell Brand joked about the fact that Hugo Boss, the event’s sponsor, made a fortune selling uniforms to the Nazis. Via The Daily Mail:

While on stage, Brand told the gathered celebrities and politicians, ‘If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss who made uniforms for the Nazis.’
He then added, with less than subtle irony, ‘But they looked fucking fantastic, let’s face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality.’

Shortly afterwards, Brand was kicked out by the magazine’s editor, Dylan Jones. According to the comedian’s Twitter feed, the two men exchanged angry words, with Jones saying, ‘What you did was very offensive to Hugo Boss.’ Brand replied, ‘What Hugo Boss did was very offensive to the Jews.’

Firstly, what Brand said was amazing because it was uncomfortable and true.

Secondly, as an added bonus, the Daily Mail article cited above is hilarious because it works so hard to point out that Hugo Boss wasn’t an active Nazi, he just joined the party to make an insane profit from Herr Fuhrer’s innocent little Blitzkrieg and took advantage of the forced labor from occupied countries who then occasionally died from the work conditions. In fact, as the Daily Mail reports, Hugo Boss was able to appeal his post-war status to the lesser class of “follower” as opposed to an active promoter of Nazism.

What’s crazy about this whole thing is that Hugo Boss’ tie to the Nazis has been well known. Brand wasn’t saying anything that people didn’t already know; it was just that he was bold enough to say it.

Via The Superficial.

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Why are Chemical Weapons a “Red Line”?

English: Aerial photograph of a gas attack lau...

English: Aerial photograph of a gas attack launched by the Germans against the Russians circa 1916 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chemical weapons, rarely used since World War I, have emerged as an issue after the massacre in Syria last month, that killed nearly 1,500 people, men, women and children.

As in World War I, that represents only a small fraction of the more than 100,000 lives that have been lost during the two and a half years of Syria’s civil war.

Why does the killing of 100,000 or more with conventional weapons elicit little more than a concerned shrug, while the killing of a relative few from poison gas is enough to trigger an intervention?

Whatever the reasons for the distinction, it has long been recognized.

Roughly 16 million people died and 20 million were wounded during World War I, yet only about 2% of the casualties and fewer than 1% of the deaths are estimated to have resulted from chemical warfare.

Nevertheless, the universal revulsion that followed World War I led to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons. The protocol is one of the few treaties that have been almost universally accepted. Syria is a signatory.

No Western army used gas on the battlefield during the global slaughter of World War II. Hitler, himself gassed during World War I, refused to order its use against combatants, however willing he was to gas non-combatant Jews, Gypsies and others.

There have been only a few instances of gas being used since 1925, and in each case the perpetrator never admitted it. In the first two cases, gas was used by authoritarian regimes against those they considered lesser races. In 1935-36, Mussolini used several hundred tons of mustard gas in Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. In 1940-41, the Japanese used chemical and biological weapons in China, where poison gas shells are still being dug up at the expense of the Japanese government.

Via The New York Times.

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Romanian Former Prison Chief Charged with Genocide

Romanian prosecutors have charged the former commander of a Communist-era  prison with genocide.

Visinescu faces genocide charges. (Photo courtesy of Fox News)

Alexandru Visinescu was presented with the charges before prosecutors at a hearing on Tuesday. He declined to comment as he was led to a taxi after the hearing.

Visinescu ran the Ramnicu Sarat prison, where the  pre-Communist élite and intellectuals were incarcerated between 1956 and 1963.

Prosecutors have stated that under Visinescu’s command, prisoners were  subjected to starvation, beatings, a lack of medical treatment, and exposure to cold.  Visinescu could face life in prison if convicted.

Visinescu, 87, is the first Romanian to be charged with genocide since 1989, when former leader Nicolae Ceausescu was tried and executed.

Approximately 500,000 Romanian priests, teachers, peasants, doctors and diplomats  were condemned as political prisoners in the 1950s as the Communist government sought to crush any dissent. Nearly one-fifth of those imprisoned died.

Visinescu also was reportedly a member of the execution squad that killed Ion Mihalache, the founder and leader of the Agrarian Party in Romania. After the execution, Visinescu became the commander of a women’s penitentiary, where he was a notorious torturer, before eventually becoming the commander of Ramnicu Sarat.

Via Impunity Watch.

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Tunisian Rappers Sentenced for Song “Police Are Dogs”

On Monday, Tunisian rappers Ala Yaacoubi, known as “Weld El 15″, and Ahmed Ben Ahmed, known as “Klay BBJ”, were sentenced to twenty-one months in prison. They were convicted of insulting the police and undermining public decency after their performance at a concert in Hammamet on August 22.

Ala Yaacoubi is a Tunisian rapper well-known for his criticism of the police. (Photo Courtesy of AFP)

The court’s ruling was in absentia. According to the rappers’ defense lawyer, Ghazi Mrabet, the two artists were never summoned to appear.

“We are surprised by this verdict…Our clients have not been summoned for trial as it is stipulated by law,” Mrabet told the private radio station Mosaique FM.

Following the concert, the artists were detained by police and questioned before being released. Mrabet added that his clients were physically assaulted by police during the detainment and that a doctor had documented Yaacoubi’s injuries.

In June, Yaacoubi made headlines when he was convicted of insulting police and sentenced to two years for his song “Police Are Dogs” (Boulicia Kleb). The anti-police song has a music video that has a montage of police beatings. After outrage from human rights and censorship groups, Yaacoubi had his sentenced reduced to six months and suspended.

The authorities have accused Yaacoubi and Ahmed of performing “Police Are Dogs” at the August 22 concert.

Both rappers are  in hiding while they await the appeal process, despite demands to turn themselves in. Mrabet was adamant that the court’s decision violated free speech and would be appealed. “I will speak to my clients to challenge this ruling, but jail sentences demonstrate that the relentless campaign against artistic freedom, freedom of expression, continues,” said Ghazi Mrabet.

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh denied that freedom of expression is an issue in Tunisia, pointing to Yaacoubi’s June conviction “for inciting hatred and calling for the death of police and magistrates.”

Via Impunity Watch.

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200 Khmer Rouge Tribunal Workers Strike for Unpaid Wages

Khmer Rouge Legacy

Khmer Rouge Legacy (Photo credit: NewportPreacher)

Nearly 200 Cambodian workers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have gone on strike to protest unpaid salaries.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are due to file closing submissions for the trial’s first phase by September 19, with oral arguments to begin October 16. A prolonged strike could hold up translation and administrative work and delay this timetable.

Cambodian authorities – technically obliged to bankroll the court’s domestic arm – have largely relied on foreign donors to pay the bill, while the U.N. is responsible for up keeping the court’s international arm.

The Khmer Rouge, a radical Marxist movement, came to power in Cambodia in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and sought to create an agricultural utopia in the Southeast Asian nation. The Communist group killed educated citizens and forced urban residents to move to rural collectives, failed spectacularly. About one-quarter of the country’s population perished from starvation, disease, overwork and executions.

The proceedings against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan is the tribunal’s second trial, which has already lost two of its original four defendants since it started in 2011. Ieng Sary, foreign minister during the Khmer Rouge regime, died at age 87 in March. His wife, Ieng Thirith, the regime’s social affairs minister now aged 81, was released last year after being deemed unfit to stand trial due to severe dementia. Trial observers and victims groups fear that Nuon and Khieu could die before their trial is completed.

The tribunal’s only conviction occurred in 2010, when former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav was found guilty of crimes against humanity relating to the torture and deaths of about 15,000 people. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge officer, has opposed further indictments.

Via WSJ.

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2 Million Refugees Have Fled Syria

Logo of United Nations Refugee Agency.Version ...

Logo of United Nations Refugee Agency.Version made by user Kashmiri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The number of Syrian refugees has passed two million. One year ago, the number of Syrian’s registered as refugees or awaiting registration stood at 230,671 people.

Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,” said António Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. “The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.”

More than 97% of Syria’s refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, placing a burden on their infrastructures and economies.

With an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into neighboring countries every day, the need to increase humanitarian aid and development support to host communities is critical. In view of the pressure the refugee exodus is placing on surrounding countries, ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will meet with UNHCR in Geneva on Wednesday in a bid to accelerate international support.

A further 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria. Taken together, these numbers mean that more Syrians are now displaced than is the case with any other country.




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Hawks, Non-Interventionists Square Off Over Syria (with Possible 2016 Implications)

President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain...

President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain in a press conference, taking place on March 4, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Congressional vote on whether to strike Syria offers insight into which wing of the Republican Party — the traditional hawks or a growing bloc of non-interventionists — has the advantage in foreign policy debates.

Republican divisions on national security have flared over drone use, aid to Egypt, and the National Security Agency surveillance practices. Tensions have played out in battles between Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. In a rare moment of clarity, Sen. McCain called Mr. Paul and his compatriots “wacko birds.” In return, Mr. Paul suggested that hawks like Mr. McCain were “moss covered.”

Former spats could pale in comparison with the fight over whether to attack Syria, an issue on which Sen. McCain and Sen. Paul will be the leading spokesmen for their party’s two wings.

Mr. McCain has long advocated intervention in Syria’s civil war. After meeting with President Obama at the White House on Monday, he said that it would be “catastrophic” if Congress did not approve the president’s proposal and that such a rejection would result in the United States’s credibility being “shredded.”

Mr. Paul on Sunday made clear his opposition to Mr. Obama’s proposal, taking to Twitter and the talk shows to taunt Secretary of State John Kerry. “John Kerry is, you know, he’s famous for saying, you know, how can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?” Mr. Paul said. “I would ask John Kerry, how can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?”

Mr. Paul is very aware that the vote offers just that chance to reorient the Republican center on foreign affairs, and the debate gives him the chance to re-establish himself as the voice of the Tea Party movement.

Syria has important implications for the 2016 Republican presidential contest. White House hopefuls in Congress will be forced to choose between the wishes of Tea Party activists opposed to a strike and the wishes of more traditional Republicans, whose ranks include some major donors and Israel supporters. A “yea” vote on taking action in Syria would put opponents of Sen. Paul, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, on the same side as Pres. Obama.

Via The New York Times.

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Russia Issues Travel Advisory against United States

Sheremetyevo Airport of Moscow. Terminal C. Vi...

Sheremetyevo Airport of Moscow. Terminal C. View inside. Русский: Аэропорт Шереметьево в Москве. Терминал C. Вид изнутри. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry cautioned people wanted by the United States not to visit nations that have an extradition treaty with it.

“Warning for Russian citizens traveling internationally,” the bulletin said. “Recently, detentions of Russian citizens in various countries, at the request of American law enforcement, have become more frequent — with the goal of extradition and legal prosecution in the United States.”

The Ministry said, “Experience shows that the judicial proceedings against those who were in fact kidnapped and taken to the U.S. are of a biased character, based on shaky evidence, and clearly tilted toward conviction.”

Extradition has been a contentious issue between Russia and the United States, but the disagreements have been particularly sharp in recent months over the case of Edward  Snowden. In response to the demands for Mr. Snowden’s return, Russian officials have said the United States has routinely ignored extradition requests from Russia. Russian officials cited the lack of an extradition agreement as a main reason they could not forcibly return Mr. Snowden from the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.

Russia has often accused the United States of overstepping and potentially violating international law in its treatment of Russian citizens accused of crimes. The Foreign Ministry said Russian citizens could not expect to be treated fairly in the American justice system. 

Via The New York Times.

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Syrian Rebel Leader Backs Obama Decision to Go to Congress


Syria (Photo credit: Yishac – Isaac Alvarez i Brugada)

On Monday, the general of the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, said his group understands and supports President Barack Obama’s decision to seek authorization for military intervention in Syria from Congress.

Gen. Salim Idris told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Secretary of State John Kerry called him Monday and filled him in on the situation in the United States.

“We support President Obama’s decision to go to the Congress to get authorization to carry out strikes against the Syrian regime, and we understand really the decision-making mechanism in the democratic countries and realize that congressional support for the decision will make it stronger and more effective, and we hope it will encourage other friendly countries to participate in the international campaign against the regime,” Idris said.

Idris said he understands the decision may take days or weeks, but he fears bloodshed in that time. The Syrian general also denied that if the U.S. were to send weapons directly to the rebels, they could end up in the hands of Al Qaeda. He said only a small fraction of rebel fighters in the country work with terrorist groups, and the Syrian Free Army does not coöperate with them. Idris said he would give “any kind of guarantee” that aid from the U.S. would only go to the right hands.

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