Tag Archives: United Nations

Arab League Calls for New Government in Syria

Bashar al-Assad propaganda

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The Arab League is demanding that the Syrian government start a national dialogue with the opposition within two weeks.

They are also calling for a national unity government, formed within two months, and for President Bashar al-Assad to hand over powers to his vice president following the formation of the new government.

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Khmer Rouge Tribunal Has New Special Expert

The United Nations has named a new special expert to advise the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.

David Scheffer, the former US ambassador-at-large for war crime issues, is ”very well qualified to provide expert advice”, the UN said in a statement released on Wednesday.

He replaces Clint Williamson, whose term expired on September 30, 2011.

The UN-backed genocide court is seeking justice for almost two million deaths under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Ieng Sary pre-trial detention hearing on 11 Fe...

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Mr. Scheffer was involved in the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, said the UN statement. He also helped set up the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Court, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In November 2011, three top Khmer Rouge leaders, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, went on trial for crimes committed during the regime’s rule.

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Aid Delay Cost Thousands of Lives

Thousands of people, mostly children, have died because the international community did not respond to warnings of an impending famine in East Africa.

Photo Courtesy of CNN

A food shortage was predicted in August 2010, but donors did not respond until a famine was declared in July 2011.

The British government estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people have died from the famine, mostly in Somalia.

On Friday, it will be six months since the United Nations declared famine in Somalia.  Tens of thousands will have died of starvation by the time the famine ends. A quarter of a million Somalis are still at risk of starvation, and more than 13 million people need aid.

Via Impunity Watch.

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Somali Women Face Rape and Sexual Assault

English: Najmo, an 8 year old Somali schoolgir...

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Somalia has been worn down by decades of conflict. This year, tens of thousands have died from famine, with countless others cut down in combat. Now Somalis face an increase in rapes and sexual abuse of women and girls.

The Shabab militant group, which presents itself as a morally righteous rebel force and the defender of Islam, is seizing women and girls as spoils of war, gang-raping and abusing them as part of its reign of terror in southern Somalia. Short of cash and losing ground, the militants are forcing families to hand over girls for arranged marriages that often last no more than a few weeks and are essentially sexual slavery.

It is not just the Shabab. In the past few months, there has been a free-for-all of armed men preying on women and girls displaced by Somalia’s famine.

With the famine putting hundreds of thousands of women on the move — severing them from their traditional protection, the clan — more Somali women are raped now than at any time. In some areas, women are used as chits at roadblocks, surrendered to the gunmen at the barrier so that a group of desperate refugees can pass.

In the past two months, from Mogadishu alone, the United Nations has received more than 2,500 reports of gender-based violence. Because Somalia is a no-go zone for most operations, United Nations officials are unable to confirm the reports, leaving the work to fledgling Somali aid organizations under constant threat.

Somalia is a traditional place, where 98% of girls are subject to genital cutting. Most girls are illiterate and relegated to their homes.

The famine and mass displacement, which began over the summer, have made women and girls more vulnerable. Many Somali communities have been disbanded, and with armed groups forcing men and boys into their militias, it is often single women, with children in tow, who set off on the dangerous odyssey to refugee camps.

Aid workers and United Nations officials say the Shabab, who are fighting Somalia’s transitional government and imposing a harsh version of Islam in the areas they control, can no longer pay their several thousand fighters.

Via The New York Times.

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Chinese Lawyer Imprisoned fo Violating Probation

Chinese officials have announced that rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing for two years, will serve three years in prison for violating the terms of his probation.

Photo Courtesy of the Shanghaiist

Mr. Gao was arrested and sentenced to probation in 2006 for defending practitioners of Falun Gong, a banned religion in China. After being sentenced, Mr. Gao disappeared three times. Between his disappearances, he informed reporters that he was tortured.

He reported that he was beaten with electric batons and handguns. He also said that he was forced to sit still for sixteen hours with a hood over his head while being threatened.

Although he was missing for twenty months, the Chinese government maintained that Gao Zhisheng was free on probation since 2006. Some believe that the recent revocation indicates that the lawyer has secretly been in state custody.

Chinese authorities have not identified what probation violations Mr. Gao committed, but his five-year probation would have expired this week, prompting some to believe that the government re-imprisoned him to prevent him from being freed.

Western nations and the United Nations have pressured Chinese authorities to release Mr. Gao but have refused to do so.

In response to international concern, an official for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has stated that other nations do not have the right to interfere in China’s internal affairs.


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Nuon Chea: Khmer Rouge Not “Bad People”

The Number Two leader of Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime told a court he and his comrades were not “bad people,” denying responsibility Monday for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians during their 1975-1979 rule.

Nuon Chea’s defiant statements came as the U.N.-backed tribunal began questioning him for the first time since the long-awaited trial of three top regime leaders began late last month.

Nuon Chea and two other Khmer Rouge leaders are accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture stemming from the group’s reign of terror. All have denied wrongdoing.

Via the Associated Press.

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Fatou Bensouda Chosen as Next International Criminal Court Prosecutor

Parties to the international treaty that created the International Criminal Court (ICC) have selected Fatou B. Bensouda of the Gambia to be the next prosecutor.

Ms. Bensouda is expected to be elected on December 12 at the tenth session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute, the court said in a press release.

She will assume office June 16 next year to replace Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, who has been prosecutor since 2003 and whose term will come to an end.

Ms. Bensouda has served as ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor since September 2004 and worked as a Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where she rose to the position of senior legal adviser and head of the legal advisory unit.

The consultations for nominations lasted four weeks and included a series of meetings of the New York Working Group of the Bureau, where the four candidates shortlisted by the search committee were given the opportunity to present themselves to States Parties.

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Arab League Recommends Sanctions against Syria

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria

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Arab League finance ministers recommended Saturday that sanctions be levied against Syria for its part in ongoing violence within its borders. Arab League foreign ministers will meet at 11 a.m. Sunday to consider the proposal.

Syria failed to respond to a Friday deadline to allow Arab League observers to watch the government’s response to civil unrest.

The Arab League suspended Syria from its membership this month after President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime ignored demands to end its crackdown on citizens.

President al-Assad has resisted mounting calls for his resignation in recent weeks. He says his government is battling armed terrorist groups.

The United Nations says more than 3,500 people have died in the course of an eight-month government crackdown on protests.

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Opening Statements Begin against Three Senior Khmer Rouge Officials

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Opening statements in the United Nations-backed trial of Khmer Rouge leaders began today with a detailed account of the atrocities of a regime responsible for the deaths of one-fourth of Cambodia’s population. Though the accusations were familiar, their presentation in a coherent narrative, studded with examples, was powerful and caused some Cambodians to shed tears.

The three defendants, former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, listened as a prosecutor, Chea Leang, accused them of turning the country into “a massive slave camp producing an entire nation of prisoners living under a system of brutality that defies belief.”

This trial, involving a roster of witnesses, is the centerpiece of the prosecution of leading figures in the Khmer Rouge under a U.N.-Cambodian tribunal established in 2003.

The defendants include Nuon Chea, the party’s chief ideologue, who received reports and gave directions as to “who would be arrested and who would be killed.” One witness who will testify to receiving these instructions is Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, the commandant of the movement’s main prison, who was sentenced in July 2010 to thirty-five years in jail, later commuted to nineteen.

A second defendant is Ieng Sary, the foreign minister, who recalled Cambodian diplomats from embassies abroad and ordered their arrests and executions. Mr. Ieng said at one point, “I am very regretful for the deaths of the intellectuals because I was the one who gathered them to come home and help build the country.”

The third defendant is Khieu Samphan, the head of state, whom Mr. Cayley accused of having knowledge and involvement in the Khmer Rouge crimes despite his claims to have been unaware of the atrocities around him.

The defendants, visibly aged since they were arrested in 2007, mostly appeared to be following the hearing: Mr. Nuon wearing the dark glasses that have become his trademark; Mr. Khieu looking intently, sometimes with his chin in his hands; and Mr. Ieng, who seemed alternately to listen and doze.

At one point, Mr. Ieng tried to rise from his seat and leave the courtroom, but a guard prevented him. Mr. Ieng has said that he would not take part in the trial.

In a daylong presentation, Ms. Chea, the co-prosecutor, asserted that the atrocities were part of an “organized and systematic” system with a “high level of integration” that kept the defendants constantly informed of the actions of their subordinates at all levels. “These crimes were committed in accordance with the Communist Party center,” she said. “The accused participated in the giving of these orders or were fully aware of the crimes. They failed to act in their capacity as superiors to prevent the crimes or to punish the perpetrators.”

Her statements and those of Mr. Cayley emphasized a crucial accusation, that the defendants were engaged in a “joint criminal enterprise” in which they had knowledge of and supported the implementation of a common criminal plan.

“None of the accused here ever soiled his hands with blood,” Mr. Cayley said, “but all set in motion a series of policies which unleashed an ocean of blood.”

The three men are charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Mr. Cayley broke down the accusations into five categories. Among these are the forced evacuation of two million residents from Phnom Penh; enslavement of people in work sites and agricultural cooperatives where many died of overwork; and use of violence to eliminate perceived enemies through a nationwide network of 200 re-education and security offices like Tuol Sleng, the main Khmer Rouge prison.

The prosecutors will focus on the targeting of ethnic Cham and Vietnamese and the crushing of the Buddhist religion, which are the bases for the charge of genocide, and the practice of forced marriage, involving rape and the abuse of women.

“These were not unauthorized, random crimes,” Ms. Chea Leang said. “The Khmer Rouge leadership, which included the three defendants, was kept constantly informed by periodic reports,” she said, and were “often directly involved in purges.”


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South Korea Will Send Medical Aid to the North

South Korea has decided to resume aid to North Korea after a year and a half suspension. In a letter to the United Nations, South Korea requested the remaining seven million of the thirteen million dollar donation it made to the World Health Organization in 2009 for aid to North Korea be released to the North for humanitarian aid purposes.

Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after their November 5 meeting (Photo Courtesy of Yonhap News)

The announcement comes day after South Korea’s Unification Minister met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss how to help North Korea.

The aid will primarily be used to improve medical services.

South Korea planned to send the full thirteen million dollars of aid to North Korea in 2009 until North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship.

After flooding ravaged the North in October, South Korea prepared an aid offer to the North of baby food, biscuits, and instant noodles. The North never responded to the offer.

Over six million North Koreans need food. After visiting North Korea, Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs estimated that one in three North Korean children are malnourished.

North Korean children are much shorter the South Korean children due to their poor diet. Malnutrition is delaying North Korean children’s cognitive development.

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