Al-Shabaab Prosecutor Murdered in Kampala

high court of uganda, kampala, photo by tom/Flickr

high court of uganda, kampala, photo by tom/Flickr

KAMPALA, Uganda - It's been almost five years since the perilous al-Shabaab bombings in Kampala, Uganda that left 79 dead during the World Cup Final. But the death toll from this terrorist group rose again after they followed and murdered Ms. Joan Kagezi, the country's chief prosecutor in this case, while she was in the car with her children. She was the head of Uganda's Public Prosecutions's Anti-Terrorism and War Crimes Division, and has been the lead on prosecuting the suspects in these bombings.

Prior to Joan Kagezi's murder, the U.S. Embassy in Kampala issued a warning of possible terrorist threats, and urged Westerners to stay away from spots that typically are known as Westerner epicenters. Depending on what intelligence they received to issue this warning, it is yet to be determined whether al-Shabaab was planning to solely seek out Ms. Joan Kagezi, or if they have other attacks planned that could also target Americans. Security forces in Kampala have now amped up measures in response.

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala issued a Facebook message stating, "[Joan] will be remembered as a brave and tireless promoter of justice, dedicated to ensuring peace and stability in her country...The United States reiterates its support for the Ugandan government’s efforts to combat international terrorism, in which Joan Kagezi played a leading role. We deplore this senseless act of violence and cowardice and join Ugandans in mourning the loss of this heroine in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism."

The loss of this just and influential leader through a profoundly immoral act of violence is entirely unacceptable, and Uganda, along with its international allies with relevant intelligence, must work together to bring those responsible to justice. Beyond that, it must be ensured that these acts will not be tolerated ever again.

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
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ICC to Investigate Alleged British War Crimes

 New Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart Sworn in by the International Criminal Court ICC, Photo Courtesy of ICC

 New Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart Sworn in by the International Criminal Court ICC, Photo Courtesy of ICC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will launch a preliminary investigation of alleged war crimes committed by British troops during the years of 2003 - 2008.

The claim being analyzed is that there were 52 cases of unlawful killing and more than 170 counts of mistreatment of detained Iraqi soldiers.  Accusations include incidents of electrocution, mock executions, beatings and sexual assault.

The ICC first examined claims of abuse in 2006, but there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter further. However, in January the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the law firm Public Interest Lawyers requested that ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda re-open the case because of new information. The latest update shows that the abuse was much more common, happened over a longer period of time and was more geographically widespread than originally thought.

The UK is the first western country to be under ICC scrutiny. However, the ICC will probably not launch a more formal investigation, as the allegations are now being taken care of by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, a unit the Ministry of Defense created in 2010 to investigate issues of misconduct. The ICC may only officially investigate claims if they feel that national attempts are insufficient, but it will keep a close eye on the internal proceedings to make sure correct protocol is followed.

The Butcher of Bosnia's End Game | Ratko Mladić

srebrenica-massacre-grave-photo-by-adam-jones-ph-d.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 19:07 PM EDT, 12 July 2012

Srebrenica Massacre Skull, Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.DTHE HAGUE, Netherlands — Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladić has once again found a way to delay his trial in which he has been charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.

Upon the conclusion of his current adjudication, he is scheduled to be tried for ordering other Serbian atrocities throughout Bosnia’s 1992-95 war that left 100,000 dead.

On 12 June 2012, Mladić was rushed from The Hague courtroom to a hospital after complaining of feeling unwell. After several delays the first witnesses just began to testify this week in against the 70-year-old former general, which makes his sudden illness suspicious and to outward appearances cowardly.

Apparently, the Butcher of Bosnia had the stomach to order his troops to commit mass murder while he watched, but seems unable to face the verbal accusations of his accusers. Though he was sent to the hospital as a precautionary measure, the accommodations that he has and is yet receiving does not seem warranted given the heinous nature of his crimes, especially since his victims were not afforded the luxury of having their executions delayed.

Presiding Judge Alphon Orie suspended the trial and called for a medic after Mladić held his head down and ran his hands through his hair while complaining of feeling ill. Remarkably, he was able to “compose himself” as he was taken from the court to the hospital for tests.

Mladić evaded capture for 16 years until his arrest in Serbia last year. He has since undergone minor surgery for a hernia and has suffered from other ailments such as kidney stones and pneumonia which are common given his advanced age.

The reticence of the court to continue with the proceedings because of Mladić’s claims of illness is understandable given its prior experience in the trial of Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006. His death resulted in a premature end to his genocide case.

However, justice and closure for Mladić's victims is far more pressing and should be given equal weight when deciding to postpone his trial yet again. If even a hint of subterfuge on his part is suspected, and though it is politically incorrect, sometimes death during due process can bring a sense of closure that delayed justice cannot.

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese War Lord Convicted

thomas-lubanga-convicted-by-hague-photo-by-icc-cpi.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:10 PM EDT, 10 July 2012

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese Warlord, Photo by ICC-CPITHE HAGUE, Netherlands – Six years after the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) handed Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, over to The Hague for trial, and three years after the start of his trial, Lubanga has finally been received a verdict of 14 years in prison.

He now holds the dubious honor of being the first person to be taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was created a decade ago to address war crimes in places where local courts are unable or unwilling to act.

Fellow warlord, Charles Taylor, 64, former Liberian President was also convicted earlier this year by The Special Court for Sierra Leone, in The Hague. He was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, and sexual slavery. In the court of public opinion, Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Taylor, Lubanga, and Bosco Ntaganda all stand accused of conscripting children into his marauding armies. However, to date only Taylor and Lubanga have been captured and sentenced for conscripting children under the age of 15 to fight in their armies.

In the conflict torn countries – Uganda, DRC, Liberia and Sierra Leone, these children were more than just child soldiers, they were victims of extreme child abuse, who were brutalized and forced to torture and kill innocent citizens, as well as participate in the rape of women who could have been their mothers and grandmothers. Dissent was not an option as failure to participate resulted in their immediate execution.

In the Lubanga’s six year absence, the civil war that has utterly decimated the country continues to rage across the central African nation. Thousands of civilians have been raped and butchered at the hands of his co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, another militia leader who is now a general in the Congolese army in the North Kivu area of eastern Congo.

In the video below Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, was criticizing for his handling of the case, for not including the sexual violence charges as part of the case, and for omitting numerous other war crimes allegedly committed by Lubanga and his compatriots.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYLZKPkjO40]                                                                                                                                                     Prosecutors had sought 30 years in prison for Lubanga but given the diluted charges which did not adequately demonstrate “any aggravating circumstances” plus his cooperation with the court, resulted in a sentence which will only require him to serve 8 years in jail because of time served.  Lubanga who is 51 will be freed before his 60th birthday.

Lubanga's case this year has brought increasing pressure for the arrest of his much more infamous partner in crime, renegade Congolese army Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda had moved on from being a militia leader in Ituri to being the No. 2 leader in a tribal-based rebellion in 2006, when the ICC indicted both men for war crimes involving child soldiers.

Ntaganda and others have accused the court of racism in pursuing Africans, and especially Congolese. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir remains on the court's agenda along with Ntaganda and two other Congolese warlords. Congo's back-to-back civil wars that drew in soldiers from a half dozen nations killed an estimated 5 million people — more lives than any conflict since World War II. (Source: Associated Press)

Initially, the March verdict was hailed by human rights group as a victory, but today’s news was greeted with disappointment. Though other tribunals have been created throughout history to punish atrocities from specific conflicts, such as the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, Lubanga's case may have set a precedent of leniency since he is the first person to be convicted and sentenced directly by the ICC.

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