About Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards is Managing Director of Crisis Prevention and Response at Amnesty International USA. He has written and consulted extensively on complex humanitarian crises, protection, and armed conflict, and notable publications include “The Chaos of Forced Displacement,” advancing a computational model of forced migration for use in operational planning. Current professional activity focuses on the development of early warning mechanisms for humanitarian crises, as well as the practical use of geospatial technologies for human rights compliance monitoring and research. Scott previously served as Amnesty’s Advocacy Director for Africa, and Director of the Science for Human Rights Program, and is a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. He completed his doctoral work in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, focusing on causes and consequences of violent political conflict.
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On International Justice Day, An Inconvenient Truth

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir takes part in the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. Nigeria's president defended welcoming Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to the African Union health summit despite war crimes charges against him, saying it could not interfere in AU affairs.     (Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images).

Nigeria’s president defended welcoming Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to an African Union health summit this week despite war crimes charges against him, saying it could not interfere in AU affairs. (Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images).

Just as storms overwhelm unattended levees, political strife and armed conflict can overwhelm the system of international law created to ensure we do not repeat the darkest periods of human history. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statue, which established the International Criminal Court to secure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This week also brings continued news of the terrible price paid by civilians as a result of such grievous crimes in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere.

Millions have been victims of these crimes in recent history, yet only very rarely have those responsible been held accountable. In the last two decades, however, progress has been made towards reversing this trend of impunity. With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a clear message was sent around the world that failure to investigate and prosecute such crimes at the national level will not be tolerated.

Yet, every hopeful step is met with new and compelling challenges. Political alliances sometimes supersede international legal and moral obligations, shielding fugitives such as Omar al-Bashir, the sitting president of Sudan, for example, from appearing before a court of law to answer for their alleged crimes. Impunity for grave crimes robs those victimized of justice, and prevents communities and whole countries from recovering from trauma.

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Eritrea’s Independence: 20 Years of Brutal Repression

Explore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in EritreaExplore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in Eritrea (Photo Credit: Amnesty International USA).

Explore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in Eritrea.

As the 20 year anniversary of Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia approaches, the euphoria and – one may speculate – hope, that characterized celebrations on May 24, 1993 could hardly be more incongruent with the bleak reality faced by the Eritrean people today.

The scope of repression in Eritrea is truly striking. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have disappeared into a vast and secret system of detention, many never to be heard from again. This system of abuse is used to silent all dissent and punish anyone who refuses to comply, including suspected critics of the government, journalists, pastors and other members of “unregistered” religious groups, those who have been caught attempting to flee the country and those forcibly returned to Eritrea from other countries.

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The “Terminator,” War Crimes, and the Obama Administration: All Roads Lead to Rome

DJ-Fugitives-Infographic BOSCO

Click on the image above to access the full-size infographic

As news breaks about the surrender of the “Terminator,” Bosco Ntaganda, to the United States embassy in Kigali today, the US State Department was quick to note that it “strongly support[s] the ICC and their investigations on the atrocities committed in the DRC.” Further, Ambassador Stephen Rapp, head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice, tweeted “Bosco #Ntaganda surrenders in #Rwanda and asks to the taken to the #ICC. We are helping to facilitate his transfer.”

This development, and the U.S. administration’s quick signaling of its intent to adhere to obligations to transfer Ntaganda to the court to answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity is welcome, and encouraging. Thus, I will not start with the call that “the US should take all steps to ensure the speedy transfer of Ntaganda to The Hague.”

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Mali Intervention Called a Success…Corpses of Civilians Poisoning Wells.

Idrissa Maiga, a Malian farmer, prays among the graves of his wife and three of his children in a cemetery behind the Konna school on January 27, 2013 who were reportedly killed by French army air strikes on January 11. Maiga's second wife, 41, and two boys and a girl aged from 10 to 14 allegedly perished on the morning of the 11th during the air raid and were buried the same afternoon.  (Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Idrissa Maiga, a Malian farmer, prays among the graves of his wife and three of his children in a cemetery behind the Konna school on January 27, 2013 who were reportedly killed by French army air strikes on January 11. Maiga’s second wife, 41, and two boys and a girl aged from 10 to 14 allegedly perished on the morning of the 11th during the air raid and were buried the same afternoon. (Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

For background information on the French intervention and human rights situation in Mali, see here.

The French Defense Minister on Thursday said publicly that the “French intervention has succeeded.” Insofar as armed opposition and armed Islamist groups have either abandoned areas in the north of the country or tactically retreated—and this is a measure of success—that statement may be true.

Also released Thursday were initial findings from a ten day research mission in Mali by Amnesty International. In an unfortunate confirmation of the realization of  Amnesty International’s fears raised in December, the findings from this mission tell of the executions and disappearances of civilians, arbitrary arrests, beatings and ill-treatment, inter alia.

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Far From New, Far From Over: The Crisis in Mali

France has deployed some 550 soldiers to Mali© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty

France has deployed some 550 soldiers to Mali© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty

(For a helpful cheat sheet of armed groups in the north of Mali, see the end of this post.)

The notion that Mali faces crisis is not new. For the better part of a year, Amnesty International has been documenting and reporting the long catalogue of abuses and outright atrocities committed in the country, by the Malian military and Junta government, and the various armed opposition groups in the North: amputations and other gruesome corporal punishment, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual violence, child soldiering, torture, stoning, disappearances, and arrests and killings based on ethnicity, to name just the most egregious.

Indeed, on this very blog, as early as May 2012, the situation in Mali was described as a “forgotten crisis” and by July, an “urgent crisis.” There are many human rights situations that could be called a crisis, to be fair. But with the catalyzed attention as a result of French intervention at the request of the Malian government last week, recognition of the crisis in Mali warrants an urgent appeal to stave off a disastrous worsening of the conditions and abuses faced by Malians, in the north and south, as well as those displaced to neighboring countries.

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Horrific from North to South: Mali’s Urgent Human Rights Crisis

Supporters of the Military Junta in Mali

Mali military junta supporters (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

The gruesome and horrific stoning of a man and woman in northern Mali is the latest event to remind the world of the crisis that has engulfed the West African country Mali. Since a military coup overthrew the democratically elected government in March, armed groups have taken control of the north of the country, committing abuses in an attempt to change behavior in accordance with a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

In the south of the country, political instability is compounding the abject human rights situation, where soldiers loyal to the Junta (the so-called “Green Berets”) have carried out egregious crimes, especially following an attempted counter-coup on April 30. The ECOWAS-supported transitional government appears to exercise little control in the south, and in a report released yesterday, Amnesty International detailed findings from a 10-day mission documenting likewise horrific crimes and disappearances.

In May, my colleague Christoph Koettl was among those sounding the alarm to the forgotten crisis that was Mali at the time. Three months later, brutal executions such as the couple stoned to death in the North continue to add to the list of grave abuses, including torture, extrajudicial executions, rape and sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, and many others that have engulfed the whole of Mali. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 Steps Forward, 5 Steps Back: Catching and Convicting War Criminals

international justice fugatives

Click image to view full infographic and list of wanted fugatives

Today, supporters of human rights mark the Global Day for International Justice, an anniversary the need for which makes ‘celebration’ difficult, if not impossible.  A cursory look over last year of developments as it relates to securing justice for the most egregious of crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide—might yield cause for optimism, however.

Five Steps Forward for Justice

  1. Over the last year, following a UN Security Council referral of Libya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found reasonable grounds for issuing arrest warrants for top Libyan officials, even as conflict was ongoing, demonstrating the ability and importance of the court in active crises.
  2. The ICC saw the first verdict and sentence handed down as Thomas Lubanga answered for conscription of children in devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  3. Also over the last year, Laurent Gbagbo, the former head of state of Cote d’Ivoire, became the first head of state to be surrendered to the ICC for alleged crimes, only one week after his indictment.
  4. At the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ratko Mladic finally faces prosecution for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for the largest mass murder in Europe since the end of World War II.
  5. The first conviction of a former head of state since the Nuremburg trials, as my colleague Angela Chang describes, was a historic step for international justice.

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A Historic Declaration of Internet Freedom

sopa protesters

SOPA protesters in New York, January 2012 (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, Amnesty International joined more than 100 organizations, academics, startup founders and tech innovators to sign on to a Declaration of Internet Freedom, a set of five principles that—if realized—would prove monumental in the longstanding fight for online freedom and universal human rights.

Many of these groups also banded together to educate about the risks and advocate for the defeat of the PIPA/SOPA bills in the US Congress (to read about our concerns with the bills, read this post).

The principles in the Declaration are simply stated:

Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.

Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.

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Israel As Safe Haven For Refugees? Not Even Close.

Sudanese refugee in Israel

A South Sudanese girl awaits deportation to South Sudan from Israel on June 17, 2012. (Oren Ziv/AFP/GettyImages)

Earlier this month, an Israeli court paved the way for Israeli authorities to deport over 1,500 South Sudanese migrants back to South Sudan, where they face an uncertain future, and may face threats to physical security depending where they end up.

One might get the sense that Sudanese are unwelcome in Israel.

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body,” said Miri Regev, member of the Knesset during a public demonstration in Tel Aviv, which saw African passersby attacked.

Today is World Refugee Day—a day marked to remind the world of the tens of millions who face uncertainty, threats to physical security, and persecution by repressive governments.

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Google, the Benevolent Behemoth?

google censored

Google's new transparency report documents an alarming rise in censorship by governments, from the US to China.

If you are not familiar with Google’s transparency reporting, you should be.

By monitoring access to Google services and publishing that data in real time, Google’s transparency tool “visualizes disruption in the free flow of information, whether it’s a government blocking information or a cable being cut,” which has great potential to augment early warning efforts for mass repression.

At any time, you can see requests for url removal from search results for copyright claims, and see who those purported owners are. As we know from discussion on this blog around PIPA and SOPA, Google’s efforts to combat infringement of intellectual property rights—at least narrowly defined—are in keeping with human rights law, and important for staving off really bad policies.

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