France's highest court on Sept. 7 overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss charges of complicity in crimes against humanity by cement company LaFarge, which is accused of paying ISIS and other militant groups at least 13 million euros to keep its factory in northern Syria running. The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks a major setback for Lafarge, which contested its responsibility for acts committed with funds it provided to the extremists.
A trial opened in Switzerland Dec. 3 for the first Liberian to face war crimes charges over atrocities during the country's brutal internal conflict in the 1990s. Former warlord Alieu Kosiah stands accused of murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers, and numerous other crimes during the first of Liberia's two civil wars, which together killed some 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. Kosiah, who had been living in Switzerland since 1999, was arrested in November 2014 for atrocities he allegedly committed as a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO) between 1993 and 1995. A group of Liberian victims is being represented by the Swiss human rights group Civitas Maxima. The organization has worked with the Global Justice and Research Project in Liberia since 2012 to document crimes committed during the country's civil wars. The case is being heard by the Federal Criminal Court in the city of Bellinzona under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto announced it will disband following China's enactment of a "National Security Law" that extends Beijing's control over the semi-autonomous city. The decision to disband came hours after three of the group's leading activists, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, issued statements saying they were stepping down from the organization under threat of "political imprisonment."
Swiss voters on Sept. 25 approved a new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence services broad powers to spy on "terrorist" suspects and cyber criminals, as well as to cooperate with foreign intelligence agencies. While the right to privacy is traditionally considered very important in Switzerland, the new law will allow security agents to tap phones and computer networks. This marks a drastic change from previous surveillance capabilities, under which intelligence agencies relied solely on information from public sources and other authorities. Some left-wing groups have protested, saying the new legislation violates citizens' rights and will undermine Switzerland's neutrality. Amnesty International said the law would lead to "disproportionate" levels of surveillance and was harmful to "freedom of expression." Despite opposition, the new law garnered 65% of the vote.
The relentless terror attacks and massacres are now a near-daily occurrence—even if we limit ourselves here to industrialized countries supposedly at "peace." But they are ot as random as many commentators assume. Just over the past week... On July 26, two men armed with knives took over a church in the French town of St.-Étienne-Du-Rouvray during mass, taking hostages and killing the elderly priest. The attackers were killed by the police. ISIS released a statement saying its "soldiers" carried out the attack. (NYT) That same day, a former employee of a care center for the disabled in the Tokyo suburb of Sagamihara stabbed 19 to death as they slept in their beds, injuring 26 more. Upon turning himself in to the police, he boasted: "I did it. It is better that disabled people disappear,." (The Guardian)
On June 6 a criminal court in Geneva, Switzerland, sentenced Erwin Sperisen ("El Vikingo"), Guatemala's national police chief from 2004 to 2007, to life in prison for his participation in the extrajudicial execution of seven inmates in 2006 during a police operation at the Pavón prison near Guatemala City. Swiss authorities had detained Sperisen, who holds dual Guatemalan and Swiss citizenship, in August 2012 in response to arrest orders Guatemala issued in 2010 following an investigation by the United Nations-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Under Swiss law citizens cannot be extradited, but they can be tried in Switzerland on foreign charges. The Geneva court acquitted Sperisen of three other charges due to lack of evidence; these concerned the killing of three escaped prisoners in October 2005. One of the former police chief's lawyers said the defense would appeal the convictions in the Pavón case.
Swiss prosecutors announced Aug. 31 that Erwin Sperisen, former commander of Guatemala's National Civil Police, was arrested in Geneva. The arrest is based on evidence submitted in 2011 by Guatemalan authorities linking Sperisen to extrajudicial killings. Sperisen, 42, holds both Swiss and Guatemalan nationalities; because of his Swiss citizenship he cannot be extradited, but authorities say he will be put on trial in Switzerland. He is accused in at least 10 homicides carried out in Guatemala's prison during his time as police commander from 2004 to 2007, thought to be part of a campaign of "social cleansing."
Hundreds of anarchists from all over the world gathered Aug. 8-12 in the town of Saint-Imier in the Jura region of Switzerland to mark the 140th anniversary of a congress which saw the anarchists break with the workers' movement dominated by Karl Marx. The International Anarchism Gathering called for public protests and strikes to oppose austerity measures imposed in response to the European debt crisis. "Capitalism goes from crisis to crisis, so this is an opportunity for us," said Aristides Pedraza, one of the event organizers.