Good News for International Justice

For years, rebel group leader Callixte Mbarushimana has been living in France, enjoying impunity for heinous crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).   Callixte leads the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group operating in the eastern part of the DRC, that has been responsible for innumerable killings of civilians, rape, abductions of women and girls for sexual slavery, recruitment of child soldiers, destruction of villages and other human rights abuses.

But fortunately, Mbarushimana’s spate of good luck may be ending. On October 11, French police arrested him on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has charged him with five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts and persecution) and six counts of war crimes (attacks against the civilian population, destruction of property, murder, torture, rape and inhuman treatment). France’s actions have signaled its commitment to the ICC and to arresting war criminals.

In addition to France’s move, there are two other positive developments in the fight for international justice.  Moldova recently became the 114th country to join the ICC.  And the ICC trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is finally set to begin on November 22, 2010, despite his last-ditch effort to appeal his case as inadmissible.  Bemba is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) for his role in crimes committed in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

You can join us in the fight for international justice. Ask the US to support the ICC’s investigations.

MINURCAT's Future Still Hangs in the Balance

MINURCAT’s future still hangs in the balance. Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously decided to postpone making a decision on whether or not MINURCAT, the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad and northern Central African Republic, should be renewed.

Refugees in Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad. Copyright Amnesty International

Refugees in Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad. Copyright Amnesty International

All 15 members of the UNSC felt they needed more time to think about the recommendations put forward by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and to determine Chad’s capacity to protect civilians without the help of the peacekeeping mission.

We’ve been pushing for the UN Security Council to continue protecting civilians in the region by renewing MINURCAT’s mandate. At least 10,000 people worldwide have already taken action. There is still time to add your voice take action now and ask Secretary Clinton to support MINURCAT’s renewal.

Human Rights Flashpoint – September 15, 2009

AFGHANISTAN – Election Recount
The United Nations Electoral Complaints Commission has ordered a recount of about 10 percent of votes from Afghanistan’s recent president election. The recount could reduce President Hamid Karzai’s lead to below the 50 percent threshold, which would in turn force a second-round runoff. The recount will involve polling stations throughout Afghanistan and not only in the south, where Karzai finds his strongest ethnic support and where the worst of the cheating is alleged to have happened.

Second-place candidate Abdullah Abdullah has welcomed the move but believes that a higher percentage of votes should be recounted, claiming the fraud is much more extensive.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, predicts the US may require many more troops in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, despite a doubling of the force this year. Mullen was speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing for his second term as President Barack Obama’s senior military adviser. US Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is expected to make a request for more troops in the next couple weeks.

Must Reads

Overheard

We will press for an investigation of all fraud allegations. It is important that the elected president is recognized and respected by the entire population of Afghanistan – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, September 15, 2009

A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces. And, without question, more time and more commitment to the protection of the Afghan people and to the development of good governance - Admiral Mike Mullen, September 15, 2009

UGANDA – Still Chasing the LRA
As the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to terrorize civilians throughout the region, the Ugandan army is stepping up efforts to put an end to their rebellion. On Friday, the UN reported an increasing number of “brutal” attacks in South Sudan, which have included burning villages, killing civilians and abducting children. There have already been seven attacks leading to civilian displacement in September alone.

Meanwhile, the Ugandan military has captured Okot Atiak, a feared senior rebel of the LRA, while pursuing a military campaign in southeast Central African Republic (CAR). Although Atiak is not one of the 3 LRA commanders indicted by the ICC, his arrest is proving useful to the Ugandan military as he is providing intelligence to troops in the field.

In a separate development, at least 15 people were killed and hundreds arrested following pro-monarchy protests in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Reuters reports that the police had barred the Buganda monarch, the “Kabaka,” from visiting a town claimed by his kingdom, which triggered riots in Kampala and other central towns. This is part of a long-simmering row over land and power between the Ugandan government and Buganda. Ugandan President Museveni accuses the King of Baganda of overstepping his authority and trying to meddle in politics. Human Rights Watch has accused the Ugandan police of having used unnecessary lethal force during the protests.

Calm has now returned to Kampala, but some analysts say that this is just one of several incidents which point to increasing turmoil ahead of the 2011 elections.

Must Reads

Overheard

Many innocent people are losing their lives every week, and the United Nations is very concerned about the killing, abduction, maiming and displacement of innocent civilians – Ameerah Haq, UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, September 11, 2009

It was agreed that since (LRA leader Joseph) Kony is a regional problem, he should be pursued into Central African Republic where he had gone - Uganda military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Felix Kulayigye, September 7, 2009

Upcoming
September 14-October 2: 12th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
September 14: US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell starts trip to Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

Juliette Rousselot contributed to this post.

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team.