Juliette Rousselot was the International Advocacy Assistant for the Science for Human Rights (SHR) program. In this position, she provided general support to the program, as well as advocacy support for country work on SHR projects, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and the Crisis Prevention and Response work. She holds BAs in International Relations and Communication from the University of Southern California and an MA in International Affairs from the George Washington University. A native of France, she researches conflicts and conflict resolution in sub-Saharan Africa, French security policy and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs on the continent.
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For more than 10 years, victims of former Chadian president Hissène Habré have been waiting for justice. Since he was chased from power in 1990, Habré has been living in Senegal, where, despite being charged by the Dakar regional court in 2000 for crimes against humanity, acts of torture and acts of barbarism, he continues to enjoy impunity for his crimes.
Habré’s role in the violation of human rights in Chad has been well documented. In 1992, a Truth Commission Report concluded that 40,000 political murders and 200,000 cases of torture occurred in Chad while Habré was president. And in 2005, Habré was indicted by a Belgian court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.
While Senegal has taken some very positive steps towards ensuring Habré will face trial, such as arresting him in 2005 and subsequently reforming its laws to remove any legal obstacles to his trial, the fact that his trial still hasn’t begun is unacceptable. Every month, new victims, or relatives of victims, die without having seen Habré brought to trial. But Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade keeps making excuses, claiming a lack of funds to start the trial and demanding that the international community finance the trial before it can start. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Chad’s government seems to have misplaced its copy of the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who was recently charged with the crime of genocide by the ICC, just spent the last two days in Chad, without the Chadian government lifting a finger to respect its obligations under the Rome Statute.
Presumably, Al Bashir was in Chad to discuss the agreement Sudan and Chad signed in January 2010 to normalize their relations while armed insurgencies continue to devastate eastern Chad and western Sudan. Chadian President Idriss Déby had gone to Khartoum in February to meet with Al Bashir, and several weeks later the two governments started to deploy a jointly-commanded military force along the border. But as we noted in our most recent report on Chad, fighting continues to erupt between the Chadian National Army and armed opposition groups. The situation across the border in Darfur remains extremely volatile, especially with the arrival of more than 1,000 new refugees in Chad in May 2010.
Between this refusal to arrest Al Bashir while he was in Chad and the government’s insistence that the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad, MINURCAT, withdraw before the end of the year, human rights are being threatened.
We were already ecstatic when both the House and the Senate voted in favor of a Wall Street Reform bill that included strong provisions requiring companies that use minerals from Congo to be more transparent. But now that President Obama has signed that bill into law, we can really celebrate. Companies that use minerals from the Congo in their products – like our blackberries, computers, digital cameras… – will now be forced to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission the steps they’re taking to ensure they aren’t using minerals from the Congo that fuel human rights abuses.
While this is by no means a fix to all of Congo’s problems, it is a crucial first step in breaking the link between the minerals trade and the human rights violations it fuels. In the coming months, we will be closely monitoring how that legislation is being implemented, to ensure that it doesn’t get forgotten amongst the many other regulations and rules that will come out of the Wall Street Reform bill.
A woman steps across the polluted water course that runs through Soweto village in Kibera, Kenya, 3 March 2009. Copyright Amnesty International
You are a woman living alone in a one-room tin shack that you rent in Africa’s second largest slum. Because you live near the equator, it is completely dark by 7:00 every evening. You don’t have electricity, and there are no street lights. In fact, there are no “streets” – just a maze of well-worn dirt paths. The only light outside comes from paraffin lanterns hanging from kiosks.
You need to go to the bathroom, but your landlord has not provided any toilet facilities for you or your neighbors. The nearest pit latrine, which is shared by more than 100 people, is almost half a mile away, and it takes 10 minutes to walk there. The last time you left your house to walk to the latrine at night, a gang of young men grabbed you and threatened to rape you, saying that no nice girl would be out on her own at that hour. You were lucky to escape when nearby residents heard your screams and came to see what was wrong.
There are no police posts in this slum; the closest police station is several miles away in a middle-class neighborhood. You know if those gang members come back for you, there is nowhere to turn for help. So you decide to use a “flying toilet” – a plastic bag that you use, then throw out into the open sewer that runs alongside the alley outside your house.
Today, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a second arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al Bashirfor three counts of genocide. An arrest warrant was first issued for Al Bashir in March 2009 for five counts of crimes against humanity (which includes murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) and two counts of war crimes (for intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and pillaging).
Satellite images provide evidence of the destruction of villages in Darfur. See more at www.eyesondarfur.org. Copyright 2009 DigitalGlobe
While a trial is the only way to determine whether or not Al Bashir is responsible for the crimes he is accused of, this second arrest warrant shows the determination of the ICC to ensure that those who have suffered the most from conflict in Darfur – civilians – have access to justice.
And while President Al Bashir will most certainly continue trying to evade justice and is unlikely to surrender himself in the near future, this new arrest warrant will certainly not make his life any easier. Even since the first arrest warrant was issued, his travel has been heavily restricted as he has been uninvited or at the very least, discouraged from attending many events in foreign countries.
I woke up to fantastic news this morning. After a long night of compromise, at about 5:00 am this morning, Representatives and Senators participating in the Wall Street Reform conference agreed to an important amendment that will have a long-lasting, and positive, impact on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The amendment will address the devastating trade in certain minerals coming from the DRC, minerals that end up fueling armed groups responsible for human rights abuses in the DRC.
Ever since the introduction of the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4128) in November 2009, many of you have worked alongside us to help us ensure that Congress takes action to stop the trade in conflict minerals. A few months ago, over 20,000 of you asked your Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 4128. And just a few days ago, you took action again, this time to ensure conferees wouldn’t strike important language from the conflict minerals amendment.
Until the very last hour of negotiations last night, conferees were being pressured to strike provisions in the amendment that require independent auditing of the minerals supply chains and penalties for those who would source minerals that contribute to human rights violations – provisions which are absolutely necessary for this legislation to work in the way we want it to.
But despite these obstacles, the outpouring of activism from AI members and activists helped secure this huge victory for human rights in the DRC. We couldn’t have done this without you.
Over the past few months, your activism has helped us ensure that Congress would act on conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So it’s great news that House and Senate sponsors of the original bills have agreed on great language to be included in the Wall Street Reform bill. The language would ensure companies are subjected to audits and required to disclose where the minerals they use come from – helping stem the flow of conflict minerals from the DRC.
AI mission delegates being shown coltan and cassiterite, Tchonka, Shabunda territory, South Kivu province, eastern DRC, April 2009. Copyright Amnesty International
But companies are pushing back, putting pressure on conferees not to pass the bill. We need you to make your voice heard. Members of Congress need to hear from those of us who support bringing an end to conflict and human rights abuses in the DRC, not just from the companies who don’t want to have to change their ways.
So take our online action today to tell conferees you support the Congo conflict minerals amendment. You can send them emails between now and Tuesday to make sure Congress does the right thing for the people of Congo.
As you may have noticed, we released our Annual Report today. As always, both state and non-state actors are doing a great job at abusing human rights. But what’s becoming clearer and clearer is that governments are evading their responsibility to ensure justice and accountability for the victims of human rights abuses. This year’s Annual Report highlights this trend: the increasing tendency of governments to block advances in international justice by shielding allies from criticism and acting only when it’s politically convenient.
The need for effective global justice is a key lesson from the past year. Justice provides fairness and truth to those who suffer violations, deters human rights abuses, and ultimately delivers a more stable and secure world – Claudio Cordone, interim Secretary General of Amnesty International
But there’s still hope. On Sunday, State Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) will gather in Kampala, Uganda, for the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the ICC. From May 31st to June 11th, states will have an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to ending impunity for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
This is a fundamental break with history. The old era of impunity is over. In its place, slowly but surely, we are witnessing the birth of a new “age of accountability.” It began with the special tribunals set up in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; today, the ICC is the keystone of a growing system of global justice that includes international tribunals, mixed international-national courts and domestic prosecutions – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
There are three proposed amendment to the Rome Statute that will be considered by State Parties during the Review Conference: the deletion of Article 124, which allows states to exempt themselves from the Court’s jurisdiction for the first seven years after their ratification of the Rome Statute; the addition of the crime of aggression to the Court’s jurisdiction; and the amendment of Article 8 to classify the use of certain weapons, such as poison or poisoned weapons, asphyxiating gases and bullets that expand or flatten easily in the human body, as war crimes in non-international conflicts. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
I checked my email this morning to find this message from Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty Canada, currently in Abeche, Chad, and wanted to share it with you. It’s a powerful reminder of why we all need to speak up now to ensure peacekeepers aren’t forced out of eastern Chad.
We have begun our work on the ground in eastern Chad and in early days much of our focus is on the impending decision of the UN Security Council about the future of the critical UN mission here. Under pressure from the Chadian government, and with the conspicuous absence of the usual strong influence of Chad’s former colonial power, France, the Security Council is poised to agree to begin a pull out of UN troops from the east of the country, to be completed by mid-October. It could very well prove disastrous for human rights protection, development projects and overall security. And at this point in time it seems near irreversible.
My friend Celine Narmandji, a remarkably tenacious women’s human rights defender who I’ve worked with on missions here in the past, put it very well when we met for lunch right after my arrival in Chad. She said:
We were abandoned before. We’re going to be abandoned again. The good news is that in between, for a short while, the world did care about the situation in eastern Chad.
A new study by the United Nations has found that Pakistan has the highest number of newly internally displaced people (IDP). According to the report, in 2009, approximately 3 million people were newly displaced.
Of course, Pakistan isn’t the only country with such depressing statistics. Pakistan’s internally displaced are only 3 million of 27 million IDPs worldwide. The country with the most internally displaced people continues to be Sudan with nearly 5 million. But what these numbers really show us is that the victims of war and conflict are always civilians and that the callous disregard of human rights on the part of warring factions, both government and rebel forces, exacerbates this human rights crisis.
Recently, we launched an interactive website, Eyes on Pakistan, which helps to visualize the trends of the conflict in Pakistan. Many IDPs in Pakistan do not have access to organized camps and often rely on host communities and already existing slums for their safety. And despite their attempts to flee the fighting, displaced communities still come face to face with the conflict every day. In April, two suicide bombers killed 38 people and wounded another 65 at a center for the displaced. These human rights violations are then exacerbated by concerns for public health, mental health, and food supplies, not only for those displaced but also for the host communities.
In a more positive note, the UN report also notes that 2009 saw the largest number of returnees. While this may mean that people feel safe enough to return home, we’re left wondering what it is that they are returning to. Too often, their communities have been left in ruin. The returnees are left to rebuild their shattered homes and communities, with little help from their governments.
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.