European Theater

ICC prosecutor to open investigation into Ukraine

The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor said Dec. 11 that a preliminary examination has found that there is a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, justifying the opening of an investigation. The preliminary examination was opened in April 2014 when Ukraine, not formally a member of the ICC, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, accepting the jurisdiction of the court over possible crimes committed on its territory from November 2013 to February 2014.

France: mass protests over new security law

Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris Nov. 28 as some 45,000 filled the streets to protest a new security law, with large mobilizations also seen in Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes. The new law would severely restrict publishing of the images of police officers. The issue was given greater urgency by video footage of Paris police savagely beating local Black music producer Michel Zecler days earlier. President Emmanuel Macron said the images "shame us," but critics point out that their release could have been barred if his new security law had already been in force. Four officers have been suspended over the incident, but there have been no arrests. (Al Jazeera, NYT, EuroNews)

Kosovo president resigns to face war crimes court

President Hashim Thaci resigned Nov. 5 and traveled to The Hague to turn himself in after the Kosovo Specialist Chambers formally confirmed his indictment  for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1990s armed conflict against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) for Kosovo’s independence. Thaci was indicted on crimes of persecution, imprisonment, illegal or arbitrary arrest and detention, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, torture, murder, and enforced disappearance of persons, that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is said to have committed against opponents. Opponents included persons who were or were perceived to have been collaborating with FRY authorities, and persons of Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities. Thaci held a leadership position with the KLA.

Poland: mass uprising for reproductive rights

Warsaw and other Polish cities have seen mass protests since the country's Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling that will virtually end legal abortion. Tens of thousands of protesters—the majority of them women—have taken to the streets of cities and towns across the country, in defiance of pandemic restrictions harshly limiting the size of gatherings. Their anger has been directed against the ruling conservative Law & Justice Party (PiS) and the Catholic church, which are seen as being behind the decision. Protesters have disrupted services and sprayed graffiti on the walls of Warsaw churches. On Oct. 27, clashes broke out in a number of cities between the demonstrators and far-right groups ostensibly organized to defend churches. Two women were also injured that day when a car drove through a group of protesters who were blocking a road in Warsaw.

Greece: Golden Dawn ruled 'criminal organization'

After a trial that lasted more than five years, a court in Greece on Oct. 7 ruled that the far-right Golden Dawn political party is a criminal organization. The party, founded in the 1980s by Nikos Michaloliakos, came to prominence in 2012 when it gained 21 seats in parliamentary elections. The party's politics are openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic, using the slogan "Blood, honor, Golden Dawn!"—adapted from the Hitler Youth slogan "Blood and honor." After the election, party members broke into the homes of Egyptian immigrant fishermen in the port of Perama, brutally beating them with clubs and iron rods. A year after the election, party members murdered Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek anti-fascist musician. In 2016, the party endorsed Donald Trump for US president, hailing him as a "true patriot" who will "not accept illegal immigrants in the USA."

One of Berlin's last surviving squats evicted

Hundreds of demonstrators confronted riot police in central Berlin the night of Oct. 9 to protest the eviction of one of the city's few remaining squats, a symbol of the German capital's once-thriving alternative scene. Hundreds of police were mobilized to remove residents of the Liebig34 squat in the hip and gentrifying Friedrichshain district of the former East Berlin. The eviction itself went off peacefully—but after dark, ranks of masked and black-clad protesters marched in a driving rain from the central Mitte shopping district with a banner: "Defend free spaces, remain on the offensive." Shop windows were smashed and cars set ablaze. Police charges were met with barrages of pelted bottles.

No prosecution for soldiers in Bloody Sunday

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced Sept. 29 that after reviewing the evidence against 15 British soldiers suspected of killing civilians in Derry on "Bloody Sunday," Jan. 30, 1972, they will maintain the decision not to pursue prosecution. The final decision, announced in a statement from the PPS, upholds an earlier one from March 2019, which found that "the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction." After the 2019 announcement, families who lost loved ones and survivors injured in the massacre asked for a review of the decision. In her statement, PPS senior assistant director Marianne O'Kane said, "It is understandable that a number of the bereaved families and injured victims subsequently exercised their right to request a review of decisions relating to 15 of those suspects originally reported." However, she went on to say, "I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers who were the subjects of the reviews."

RFK Jr joins neo-Nazis in Berlin protest

Hundreds of far-right protesters broke through police barriers and tried to force their way into the German parliament building in Berlin on Aug. 29. Many were waving the black, white and red flag of the pre-1918 German Empire that once inspired the Nazis. "The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history," said Robert Habeck, co-leader of Germany's Greens party. The action came as part of a broader demonstration against Germany's pandemic restrictions. The protest, bringing out many so-called "Corona Truthers" who deny the pandemic altogether, was organized by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the deceptively named National Democratic Party (NPD), which is openly neo-Nazi. Some carried signs reading "Trump, please help," and proffered conspiracy theories about Bill Gates seeking forced vaccinations. There were also many images of hearts, flowers, globes and other such feel-good symbols. Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who ironically Nazi-baited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: "Today Berlin is once again the front against totalitarianism." (DW, AP, NYT, Daily Kos)

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