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.


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.


Getting Over ‘Sudan Fatigue’

The rainy season in Sudan has begun, and for UN and aid agencies operating just across the Sudan border in the dozens of refugee camps housing those who’ve fled from the indiscriminate bombing of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), a logistic and operational nightmare is very present.

For the hundreds of thousands displaced by the bombing campaign, food and (paradoxically) water shortages have reached crisis proportions.

Last night, Amnesty released its newest research findings in ‘We Can Run Away From Bombs, But Not From Hunger,’ documenting the illegal and indiscriminate bombing campaign of the SAF in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in Sudan.


From the Field: Sudanese Air Strikes Threaten Humanitarian Efforts in South Sudan

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Juba, South Sudan

Indiscriminate bombing by Sudanese forces threatens humanitarian efforts in South Sudan's refugee camps. © Pete Muller

Hopes that last week’s South Sudanese decision to withdraw forces from the Heglig oil fields in Sudan would reduce the tension between the two countries seem to have been dashed.

Sudan had responded to seizure of Heglig by South Sudanese forces with a significant increase in sorties and bombing raids by Antonov and MiG aircraft across northern South Sudan.


From the Field: Researchers Reveal Human Rights Crisis Behind Political Spat in South Sudan

Refugees in South Sudan worry they will be forgotten amid sabre-rattling between Sudan and South Sudan © Pete Muller

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Juba, South Sudan

“Have they forgotten about us?”
–    Sudanese refugee, Yida Refugee Camp, South Sudan

The spectre of war between Sudan and South Sudan has loomed large during our time at the Yida refugee camp over the past week.

Along the increasingly tense border, the mounting conflict between the two countries has loomed in the background as both a distant spectacle and a sinister threat.

But many refugees are concerned that amidst the spiraling possibility of war, they feel increasingly forgotten.


From the Field: Researchers Find Education At Risk in South Sudan

Nuba children take shelter from the sun at South Sudan's isolated Pariang refugee camp. © Pete Muller

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Pariang refugee camp, South Sudan – 17 April 2012

Pariang refugee camp lies in a desolate part of South Sudan, an hour’s drive from Yida, where more than 1,900 secondary school students from Southern Kordofan have come to continue their schooling.

Education is highly valued amongst the Nuba population of Southern Kordofan. Most students travelled to Pariang unaccompanied, leaving their families behind in conflict-torn Southern Kordofan, where the constant drone of Antonov aircraft – driving home the threat of aerial bombardment – forced many schools to close.


From the Field: Amnesty Mission to South Sudan

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Yida Refugee Camp, South Sudan – April 16, 2012

Displaced people from Sudan's Southern Kordofan State wait to register at Yida refugee camp. © Pete Muller

For the past 10 months, some 20,000 refugees from Sudan’s conflict-ravaged Southern Kordofan State have fled across the increasingly volatile border to Yida, an isolated refugee camp just inside newly independent South Sudan.

They have escaped a terrifying campaign of aerial bombardments and ground attacks unleashed by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), which has been fighting pitched battles since last June against the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) for control of Southern Kordofan.


Responding to the Human Rights Crisis in South Sudan

George Clooney, members of Congress, and activists were arrested last month for protesting human rights abuses in Sudan. Despite the attention this act drew to their suffering, the Sudanese people still face grave abuses, and their country remains devastated by years of civil war.

This week, Amnesty International Canada’s Alex Neve arrived in South Sudan. He is participating in a vitally important human rights research mission to investigate deadly attacks on villages and aerial bombings of civilians along the border region of Sudan and the world’s newest country, South Sudan.

Just before he left, Alex made a video about why this trip was so important. Watch the 3-minute video:


Business as Usual

Just over a year ago the African continent saw the birth of its newest country, South Sudan. Like many other African countries, its road to independence was marked by terrible violence and bloodshed.

According to the US Department of State Country report for human rights practices, the 22-year civil war that engulfed Sudan claimed an estimated 3 million lives and impacted tens million more. Like many other African states,  it gained independence with staggeringly little beyond the determination of the people of Southern Sudan and in the ground the blessing and curse of oil reserves.

What was and remains different is that unlike the other waves of independence, Southern Sudan has its former ruler and military adversary right on its borders and sadly what had been hoped to be the end of a terrible conflict only went underground and is now threatening to erupt fully in.


Challenges and Opportunities for Women in the New South Sudan

via Wikipedia

On Saturday, a new nation was born: the Republic of South Sudan.

Formerly a semi-autonomous region within the Republic of Sudan, the new state is the result of a referendum on independence in which roughly 99% of the predominantly African, Christian or animist Southerners elected to split from the largely Muslim, Arab North.

For more than two decades, the two had been engaged in Africa’s longest civil war, a conflict in which staggering numbers of innocent civilians paid the price: 4 million displaced, 2 million killed and 2 million women raped.

A Violent Peace
Although a 2005 peace accord officially ended the war and guaranteed the South the right to peaceably choose whether or not to form its own state, violence continues in disputed territories of Southern Kordofan and Abyei.