Tag Archives: United Nations

BREAKING: U.N. Resolution on Syria Fails

Photo taken during a demonstration in Montreal...

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A United Nations Security Council resolution to pressure Syria to end its crackdown on anti-government demonstrators failed today after China and Russia voted against it.

At least 7,100 people, including 461 children, have died since the start of the Syrian uprising in March, according to a Syrian opposition group.

The U.N. estimated in December that more than 5,000 people had died since March, but the global body has not been able to update that figure because of the insecurity.

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Supreme Court Sentences Duch to Life in Prison

Kang Kek Iew 2009

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The former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, raised his hands to his face in a Buddhist sign of goodwill as judges rejected his appeal and increased his nineteen-year sentence to life imprisonment.

Duch, a born-again Christian, showed no emotion as judges at the United Nations-backed tribunal detailed crimes they said were ”undoubtedly among the worst recorded in human history”.

Eleven appeal judges at the tribunal set up to prosecute Khmer Rouge leaders found that Duch ”deserved the highest penalty available, to provide a fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes invoked in victims”.

In overturning last year’s sentence, the tribunal referred to evidence that Duch commanded a ”factory of death” in Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge’s rule.

They said that Duch, a former maths teacher and prison chief, was ”responsible for the merciless termination of at least 12,272 people, including women and children.”

However, investigators say as many 15,000 people were tortured and sent to their deaths at the Tuol Sleng interrogation center, which Duch commanded for three years.

The tribunal heard evidence that Duch taught the guards to inflict systematic torture on their victims, including rape, water boarding and pulling out nails. Under his command, guards threw babies from second floors. Some victims were set alight while still alive after months of torture.

Wearing a cream jacket and a white shirt, Duch walked solemnly into the tribunal carrying what appeared to be a Bible.

Since being discovered working for a Christian organization in Cambodia in 1999, Duch has admitted his role in the killings but shown little remorse.

He surprised lawyers and judges when he appealed the nineteen-year sentence last year. Duch had claimed the tribunal did not have the authority to convict him as he was not ”most responsible” for the Khmer Rouge’s rule (the tribunal only has jurisdiction over the “most responsible” Khmer Rouge officers) and was merely following orders.

The judges ruled that the earlier tribunal hearing had erred in imposing a manifestly inadequate sentence.

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Khmer Rouge Tribunal Cannot Pay Cambodian Staff

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Cambodia’s U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has run out of money to pay the wages of hundreds of workers as contributions from donor countries have dried up.

None of the more than 300 Cambodians working at the tribunal, from judges to drivers, will be paid this month and may not receive their salaries in February and March either.

Some judges and prosecutors have not been paid since October.

The funding shortfall does not affect the more than 130 international employees at the war crimes court. The United Nations pays the wages of international employees.

Voluntary contributions from donor nations pay the salaries of Cambodian staff members.

The court, set up to find justice for the deaths of two million people during the Khmer Rouge’s rule, is perpetually cash-strapped, but this is the longest period of non-payment.

The tribunal has long been dogged by allegations of political meddling, adding to donor reluctance to stump up more cash.

Court officials will travel to New York in February to meet with donor countries to discuss the court’s budget for 2012-2013.

The court, which has spent $150 million since 2006, has completed one trial, sentencing a former prison chief to thirty years. An appeal verdict in that case is expected on Friday.

A second trial involving the regime’s three most senior surviving leaders is ongoing.

Via The Bangkok Post.

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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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