Are the FARC narco-traffickers?

Amid peace talks in Havana, Colombia's FARC guerillas issued an angry communique Dec. 14, insisting "We are a rebel group, not narco-traffickers." This was in response to President Juan Manuel Santos' suggestion that FARC drug-trafficking could be considered a "political crime," potentially sparing guerilla leaders prosecution. This of course won Santos howls of outrage from the right; now he gets it from the other side. The FARC statement accused the government of trying to "confuse the minds of Colombians" with a "distortion," and decried the existence of a "capitalist narco-trafficking business" in the country. (El Espectador, El Tiempo, Dec. 14)

Colombia: OAS court rules on Palace of Justice case

On Dec. 10 the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CorteIDH), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), notified the Colombian government that the court held it responsible for serious human rights violations in its handling of the seizure of the Palace of Justice by the April 19 Movement (M-19) rebel group on Nov. 6, 1985. The violations included 11 forced disappearances, four cases of torture, one extrajudicial execution and negligence in the investigation of the security forces' retaking of the building one day later, on Nov. 7, an operation in which more than 100 people died, mostly hostages and rebels. The court ordered the Colombian government to pay compensation to the victims, offer a formal and public apology, and produce a documentary explaining what happened.

Colombia: FARC declare ceasefire —amid fighting

Colombia's army accused the FARC on Dec. 19 of killing five soldiers only hours before confirming a unilateral and indefinite rebel ceasefire to start the next day. The combat took place in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca, where a local army patrol was ambushed by members of the FARC’s 6th Front and its Teofilo Forero elite unit. One more soldier is missing in action and may have been taken prisoner by the guerrillas. The same FARC unit had earlier that day blown up the Panamerican highway at Caldono, leaving a lane-wide crater. Additionally, presumed FARC guerillas left Valle del Cauca's Pacific port city of Buenaventura without electricity after blowing up a key transmission tower on Dec. 18.

Afghan tribes rise against Taliban in east

The Pakistani military said Dec. 6 that it killed Adnan Shukrijumah, a senior al-Qaeda operative, in a raid at Shin Warsak in the Taliban-stronghold tribal agency of South Waziristan. (See map.) One soldier was also killed during the operation. The militants were supposedly under the protection of local Taliban leader Mullah Nazir. (Long War Journal, Dec. 6) Four days earlier, at least five Taliban militants were killed in a US drone strike in Shirzad district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. (See map.) (News Tribe, Pakistan, Dec. 2) The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, have been using Afghan territory as a rearguard but are now under pressure from a renewed effort against them by Kabul and its international backers. According to Reuters, their leaders have had to flee towns along the border for refuge in remote mountain villages. An air-strike on Nov. 24 hit a house where Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah had stayed the night before and killed two commanders, one Taliban source said. The Taliban in this area are also facing opposition from local tribesmen, who have been organized into a paramilitary force. Kunar governor Shuja-ul Mulk Jalala said: "Villagers, backed by a unit of Afghan police and army launched an operation against the Pakistani Taliban. Villagers asked for some support and weapons to fight them. Tribal elders complained that there were no difference between good or bad Taliban and decided to drive them out." (Reuters via Samaa, Pakistan, Dec. 4)

Nigeria: demand war crimes investigation

Access to Justice (A2Justice) and eight other civil rights groups brought an action against Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan before the Federal High Court in Abuja Dec. 1 with the goal of forcing an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by members of the Nigerian military and the state-sponsored militias, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). The rights groups have sought permission from the court to file a mandamus action under Order 34 Rule 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 (PDF). If granted, the order would require the Nigerian government to investigate allegations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by CJTF in northeastern Nigeria. The push for an investigation was sparked by a report from Amnesty International accusing the Nigerian military and the CJTF of war crimes during the ongoing campaign against Boko Haram.

Amnesty: concern over Colombia land restitution

Amnesty International on Nov. 27 released a report detailing its concern that people hoping to gain their land back under the Victims Land and Restitution Law (Law 1448) in Colombia face problems ranging from bureaucratic obstacles to intimidation. The report, entitled "A land title is not enough: Ensuring sustainable land restitution in Colombia" (PDF), describes the violent struggle to control territory during the 50-year-old armed conflict. This report examines whether authorities can guarantee landholders' rights by addressing weaknesses in the law, ongoing threats against land claimants, and impunity for those suspected of responsibility in forced displacements. The report finds that almost six million people have been displaced from their homes since 1985—mostly as result of conflict.

Vigilantes fight Boko Haram with bows and arrows

Two teenage female suicide bombers blew themselves up in a busy market in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri, Borno state, on Nov. 25, killing at least 30 people. Deutsche Welle reports from neighboring Adamawa state (see map) that traditional hunters in rural areas, armed only with bows and arrows, are organizing patrols to protect their villages against Boko Haram. While one vigilante told DW, "our prayers protect us against their weapons," the report was not clear if the force is made up of Muslims, Christians or both. Said Hilary Matfess, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: "What's interesting about the rise of these vigilante groups is the fact that they typically don't fall along sectarian lines. It's an almost spontaneous response by local communities to the failure of the police and military to maintain order." (DWCSM, Nov. 25)  

Philippines: justice deferred in 2011 massacre

Protesters in the Philippines this weekend marked the fifth anniversary of the country's worst political massacre—and the world's worst mass killing of journalists. Nobody has been convicted of the massacre of 32 journalists and 26 others in the town of Ampatuan on the southern island of Mindanao. The victims were shot dead and buried in three pits after being ambushed by some 100 gunmen near the town of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao province. Mary-Grace Morales lost both her husband and her sister on Nove. 23, 2009, when they were part of a convoy to cover the filing of candidacy papers for a local politician. "I want the world to know my husband and my sister died in the massacre and there were many people killed," she told the Radio Australia form the vigil held at the massacre site. "It's been five years and there is no justice. I don't know if there is any justice." Philippine journalist Nonoy Espina said half of the local media workers were "wiped out" in one day.

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