Tag Archives: Military

George Clooney’s Satellites Help International Criminal Court Investigation

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is compiling evidence of possible war crimes in southern Sudan, allegedly directed by the same man, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, an ICC prosecutor wants to apprehend for alleged crimes eight years ago in Darfur. An ICC memo outlines the Darfur crimes and says Mr. Hussein is “currently central to the commission of similar crimes” along the border between the north and south, including the killings of thousands of civilians.

A significant part of this investigation is based on data from the Satellite Sentinel Project, a network of private satellites and analysts organized by George Clooney in partnership with John Prendergast’s Enough Project. The satellites have snapped pictures of Sudan since December 2010. “We are the antigenocide paparazzi,” Mr. Clooney told TIME.

The investigation comes as ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested an arrest warrant for Mr. Hussein with respect to war crimes from August 2003 to March 2004. Mr. Hussein allegedly engaged in war crimes by dispatching troops and militias to Darfur that killed tens of thousands of civilians to suppress rebellion in the region.

The ICC is building a case that Mr. Hussein is behind the killing of civilians over the past year. The North is seeking to secure control over those oil-rich regions along the border between the north and south.

The ICC investigation memo says evidence suggests that military forces from North Sudan and their militias committed “grave crimes.” Military forces under Mr. Hussein’s command are conducting military operations in these areas and utilizing proxy militias to carry out atrocities. The memo cites the deaths of at least 2,000 civilians since early this year. Tens of thousands have been displaced, the memo adds.

The ICC memo cites Mr. Clooney’s satellites capturing images of the results of bombing of villages in late May that resulted in the displacement of 30,000 people, as well as pictures of the movement of northern artillery and thousands of troops in Karmuk.

The fact that the ICC is investigating Mr. Hussein’s role in possible atrocities in the South does not necessarily mean he will face arrest.

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On This Day…

In 1959, representatives of twelve countries, including the United States, signed a treaty in Washington setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, free from military activity.

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Jury Convicts Soldier of Conspiracy and Murder for Killing Afghan Civilians

A U.S. soldier accused of exhorting his underlings to slaughter three civilians was convicted of murder, conspiracy, and other charges today in a case from the Afghan war.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs was the highest ranking of five soldiers charged in the deaths of the unarmed men during patrols in Kandahar last year. At his seven-day court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the twenty-six-year-old acknowledged cutting fingers off corpses and yanking out a victim’s tooth to keep as war trophies, but he insisted he wasn’t involved in the first or third killings, and in the second he merely returned fire.

Prosecutors said Gibbs and his co-defendants knew the victims posed no danger and dropped weapons by their dead bodies to make them seem to have been combatants.

Three co-defendants pleaded guilty; two testified against him, portraying him as a leader who played with a victim’s corpse, moving the mouth like a puppet. Gibbs insisted they conspired to blame him for what they had done.

The jury deliberated for four hours. The sentencing hearing began immediately after the verdict was announced. The prosecutor asked for life without parole. He told jurors that Gibbs was supposed to protect the Afghan people but caused many to lose trust in Americans, hurting the mission. LeBlanc noted that Gibbs called the Afghans “savages.”

Gibbs’ lawyer, Phil Stackhouse, asked for leniency — life with parole, instead of without it — and noted that Gibbs could be eligible for parole after ten years if they allowed it.

The investigation into the Fifth Stryker Brigade unit exposed widespread misconduct. The wrongdoing included hash-smoking, collection of illicit weapons, mutilation and photography of Afghan remains, and gang-beating of a soldier who reported the drug use.

In all, twelve soldiers were charged; all but two have been convicted.

After the first killing, one soldier alerted his parents and told them more killings were planned, but his father’s call to a sergeant at Lewis-McChord relaying the warning went unheeded. He later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the last killing, saying he took part because he believed Gibbs would kill him if he didn’t.

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On This Day…

Names of Vietnam veterans at Vietnam Veterans ...

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In 1982, the newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C.

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Obama Announces End of Iraq War

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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President Obama announced on Friday that the last American soldier would leave Iraq by the end of this year, drawing to a close an eight-year war that cost the lives of more than 4,400 troops and defined the presidency of George W. Bush.

The decision leaves a vestigial presence of Marine embassy guards and liaison officers staying where more than a million troops have served.

The president’s statement, a day after a NATO air campaign hastened the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, capped a remarkable period of foreign-policy accomplishments for a president who is hindered by a poor economy at home.

For Mr. Obama, the announcement fulfills a campaign promise. Its timing, after Colonel Qaddafi’s death and the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, may help insulate him from Republican charges that he is weak on national security.

“Today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” the president said in a midday appearance at the White House. He declared, “Our troops will definitely be home for the holidays.”

Though the president left open the possibility that trainers might still advise Iraqi troops, military officials said the chance of putting any significant American force there was slim.

Mr. Obama gave word of the decision to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, in a video conference call. Mr. Obama’s aides described the call as “poignant,” with the Iraqi leader expressing thanks for the sacrifices of American soldiers. As of Jan. 1, 2012, Mr. Obama said, the two countries will begin “a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

The agreement to leave Iraq dates from 2008, when Pres. Bush made a farewell visit to Baghdad that was disrupted when an Iraqi journalist hurled shoes at him and called him a “dog.”

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Libya Rejoices Over Gaddafi’s Death

Libya rejoiced after reports of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s death were confirmed Thursday, marking the end of a forty-two-year reign of terror.  Shouts praising God, gunfire, and noisemakers pervaded the streets of Tripoli.  Today, the National Transitional Council (NTC) declared the country free and will start transitioning into a democracy.

NTC fighters celebrate their victory after taking control of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

NTC forces captured Gaddafi near his hometown of Sirte after a U.S. predator drone and a French fighter jet fired on a convoy leaving the city to stop its progress.  The Libyan fighters attacked and found the despot.  The nature of his death is unclear.  Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, who has promised to resign after liberation, said Gaddafi died in crossfire between his supporters and the NTC and died en route to a hospital.  Others, including Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, are uncertain whether this is true.  Recently available video footage suggests that he was alive when he was captured.  Pillay wants an investigation.

For Libyans, it was a chance to celebrate.

Car passengers waved the independence flag outside their windows,.  Others on the street sprayed the passing vehicles with orange blossom water, a custom traditionally reserved for weddings.

The international community generally stated its approval of the liberation.

“We can definitely say that the Gaddafi regime has come to an end,” said U.S. President Barack Obama. “The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted, and with this enormous promise the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gaddafi’s dictatorship.”

The Sun, Great Britain’s most popular newspaper, bore the headline: “That’s for Lockerbie!” The headline was a reference to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.  An agent of Gaddafi’s was convicted for conducting the attack.

Libya faces the challenges of building a new government almost from scratch and finding a common goal to keep its people united.

While forming the government will be a major issue going forward, Libyans are able to celebrate right now.  Younis Fenadi, a climate researcher at the Libyan National Meteorological Center, was happy to learn of the news, saying that Gaddafi’s death brings a degree of closure to the country.  Over time, he believes, they will receive answers to questions about Gaddafi’s behavior during his regime.  But more than anything, he is enjoying the potential for a brighter day.

“I am glad that I get a chance, I am 52 years old now, to speak freely in my country,” Fenadi said.

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Obama Administration Waives Ban on Aid to Countries Using Child Soldiers

For the second year, President Barack Obama has waived a ban on military aid for countries that use child soldiers.  The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which took effect in 2010, bans providing foreign military financing, military training, and other military aid to countries that recruit and enlist soldiers under the age of eighteen.

U.S. waives aid ban for countries using child soldiers.  (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

Photo Courtesy of ABC News

The President holds the power to waive the ban, but only if he or she determines that doing so would serve the best interests of the country.  According to a memorandum released by the White House on Tuesday, the countries that will continue to receive military assistance despite the fact that they continue to use of child soldiers in their armed forces, include Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and South Sudan.

Last year, there were five countries identified for their use of child soldiers: Burma, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, and Somalia. This year, Somalia and Burma were not given waivers, presumably because the U.S. military does not have strong military ties with these countries. President Obama’s waiver will allow tens of millions of dollars of U.S. tax dollars to go to Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and South Sudan, which continue to recruit, enlist, and use children soldiers.

The administration justified the waivers in terms of the relevant countries progress’ in reducing child soldiers or the countries’ importance to anti-terrorism efforts.

South Sudan is expected to receive one hundred million dollars this year for military aid.  The administration took the position that the law banning military aid to countries with child soldiers should not apply to South Sudan because it did not exist as an independent country until after the publication of the 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

The administration noted the progress in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo in addressing child soldiers. In Chad, the government issued a plan to prevent child recruitment and discharge current child soldiers.   The administration said that the Democratic Republic of Congo has also taken some very important steps to reduce child soldiers in the military.

Yemen has received the most criticism from human rights advocates because it continues to receive U.S. military aid despite the fact that it has done very little to cut the amount of children in its armed forces.  In Yemen, children who are fifteen years old and younger have been recruited to fight in the government’s conflicts.

The administration justified this aid by stating that coöperation with the Yemen is a vital piece of the U.S.’s counter-terrorism efforts. For the 2012 fiscal year, the State Department has requested thirty-five million dollars in foreign military financing for the Yemeni government.

Via Impunity Watch.

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First Woman Tried for War Crimes in Bosnia

The trial of Albina Terzic for charges of inhuman treatment of prisoners began Tuesday.  Terzic is the first woman tried for war crimes in Bosnia.  If she is convicted, she will be just the fifth woman in the world convicted for war crimes.  Terzic entered a plea of not guilty in response to the charges.

The trial for Albina Terzic for warcrimes began this week (Photo courtesy of Radio Netherlands)

The trial for Albina Terzic for warcrimes began this week. (Photo courtesy of Radio Netherlands)

Terzic’s indictment, filed in April 2011, states she

used to hit [the detainees] with a police baton on their necks, shoulders and heads, slap them, encouraged dogs to attack them, tortured, abused, humiliated and insulted them in various ways, by, among other things, forcing the detainees into having sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence.

The alleged mistreatment occurred in a school building and a factory from May to July 1992.

Only one other woman from Bosnia has been convicted for war crimes, and she was tried in The Hague.  Biljana Plasvic pled guilty to crimes against humanity and was released from prison in 2009 after serving most of her eleven-year sentence.  Twenty to thirty women are being investigated for war crimes by the State Prosecutor’s office.  Two women accused of committing war crimes were apprehended in the United States earlier this year.

Azra Basic, who went by the alias “Issabell”, was arrested in Stanton, Kentucky last May.  She is accused of abusing and murdering civilians in 1992 in Derventa prisons.

Last April, Rasima Handanovic was arrested in Oregon for helping the Army of Bosnia attack a village in central Bosnia.  The attack left sixteen dead and four injured.

A 2010 report from the International Court Tribunal for Yugoslavia reported only 526 female fatalities out of 62,626 total combatant fatalities in the war.  About 5,360 of the 90,000 troops serving with the predominantly Bosniak Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina were women.

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Gabrielle Giffords Attends Husband’s Retirement Party

In a rare public appearance on Thursday, Representative Gabrielle Giffords attended an event to mark the retirement of her husband Mark Kelly. She pinned a medal on Kelly’s jacket and, while she didn’t make a statement, offered plenty of smiles.

Of Rep. Giffords and her astronaut husband, Vice President Joe Biden offered the following:

It’s not every day you encounter examples of sheer, sheer courage and selflessness and dedication like you see in this couple.

In his remarks to the audience, Kelly said of his wife, “Gabby, you remind me every day to deny the acceptance of failure. I look forward to the next phase of our life together and watching all of your future achievements.”

The next phase includes plans to release a memoir together next month.

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First United States-Born Target Eliminated in War on Terror

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, ta...

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Yemen’s defense ministry reported that Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, was killed on September 30. Tribal sources reported to the AFP news agency that al-Awlaki was killed early on Friday in an air raid that crushed two vehicles travelling through an al-Qaeda stronghold in central Yemen.

The forty-year-old U.S.-born al-Awlaki was a father of five children.

Another U.S. citizen, Samir Kahn, was killed in the air raid. Kahn was the co-editor of al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine and wanted by American and Yemeni authorities.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the killing of al-Awlaki was a “significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Al-Awlaki had been targeted for some time.  In May 2011, a U.S. drone aircraft targeted him but missed. In July 2010, the Obama Administration placed al-Awlaki on its list of terrorism supporters, freezing his assets and banning transactions with him. On December 24, 2010, the Yemeni defense ministry announced his death, only to admit later that he was still alive.

Pres. Obama’s counterterrorism advisor John Brennan directly accused al-Awlaki of having links with Major Nidal Hasan, who is suspected of killing thirteen people at Fort Hood military base in Texas in November 2009. Hassan will face a trial in a military court in March 2012.

Also, al-Awlaki may have had contact with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian student accused of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas 2009.

The news of al-Awlaki’s death comes among daily reports of new violence in Yemen. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has witnessed demonstrators staging protests, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978.

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