genocide

Sri Lanka: no cooperation with war crimes inquiry

Sri Lanka's foreign minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris announced on April 7 that Sri Lanka would not cooperate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country's civil war. The UN Human Rights Council last month voted to launch an investigation into alleged violations committed by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 towards the end of the civil war. However, speaking at a Foreign Correspondents Association forum, Peiris signaled Sri Lanka's intent not to cooperate due to concerns over legality, fairness, and conflict of interest. Peiris also expressed criticism of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay, who has previously been accused of being partial given her Tamil background.

Paraguay: indigenous Aché people charge genocide

The Aché indigenous people of Paraguay on April 8 brought suit in a court in Argentina demanding reparations for "genocide" carried out under the late Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner. The Aché are being represented by Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón, and chose to bring the case in Argentina under the doctrine of "universal jurisdiction" for crimes against humanity, asserting that justice is not possible in Paraguay's own courts. "We still feel enormous pain in our hearts and minds," said Aché leader Ceferino Kreigi Duarte in a press conference announcing the suit. "For this reason we today demand the Paraguayan state must answer for all this damage, not only to our community but to all the peoples of Paraguay who were victims of the dictatorship." Under Stroessner's 1954-1989 rule, the Aché people, who live in the riverine forests of Paraguay's east, saw their population diminish by 60% due to forced relocations, seizures of traditional lands, and abduction of the young to serve as virtual slaves in domestic labor. Most of the population plunge took place in the first five years of the 1970s. (AP via Excélsior, Mexico; EFE via Radio Caracol, Colombia, April 8)

Rights group: more than 150,000 dead in Syria war

The death toll in the three-year Syrian conflict has exceeded 150,000, a British-based human rights group announced on April 2. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 150,344 persons have died since the uprising began in March 2011. The death toll includes 51,212 civilians, including 7,985 children and 5,266 women. The numbers do not include the 18,000 detainees in regime prisons or the "thousands who disappeared during regime raids and massacres." SOHR estimates that the non-Syrian casualties to be approximately 70,000 more than the documented number, "due to the extreme discretion by all sides of the human losses caused by the conflict and due to the difficulty of communication in Syria." Finally, SOHR called on both sides to peaceably end the conflict.

Syria: jihadis target Armenians

An estimated 2,000 Armenians from the town of Kessab, on Syria's border with Turkey, have taken refuge in the coastal city Latakia following the occupation of their town by jihadist forces. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) reported on a number of eye-witness accounts of the looting and seizure of Armenian homes, stores, and churches in Kessab. The armed incursion began March 21, as rebels associated with the Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossed from the Turkish side border. Snipers targeted the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the surrounding villages. Syrian government troops reportedly tried to push the attackers back. (Asbarez, Asbarez, March 25)

Tatars flee Crimea, fearing persecution

Russia's annexation of Crimea has sent hundreds of the region's ethnic Tatars fleeing the peninsula for western Ukraine. Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, said that nearly 1,000 have fled the peninsula since Russian forces took over there some three weeks ago. Dzhemilev decried the exodus, saying, "We did not spend 50 years in exile to be able to now escape under the first threat." Most of the displaced Tatars have made for Ukraine's Kherson Oblast, where there have been reports of Russian military incursions, with a natural gas plant said to be under the control of Moscow's forces. 

Crimean Tatars at issue in Ukraine crisis

A group of some 50 gunmen seized control of parliament and government buildings in Simferopol, capital of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, raising Russian flags above them Feb. 27—just as the US warned Russia that military exercises planned near the border of Ukraine could "lead to miscalculation." With the top floor of the building occupied by the gunmen, Crimea's parliament voted to hold a referendum on the region's future—whether to remain in Ukraine or join Russia. Earlier, in his first statement since being voted out of office by MPs last week, Ukraine's fugitive ex-president Viktor Yanukovich said he had been "compelled to ask the Russian Federation to ensure my personal security from the actions of extremists," and that he still considered himself the legitimate president of Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament in Kiev meanwhile voted to send Yanukovich to The Hague to be tried over the violence that led to at least 82 deaths in Kiev last week. (AFP, The Guardian, BBC News, Globe & Mail, Feb. 27; The Guardian, Feb. 25)

Sri Lanka opposition demand war crimes probe

The main opposition party in Sri Lanka, the United National Party (UNP), released a statement Feb. 13 demanding the government conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes that occurred during the 26 year Sri Lankan civil war that ended in 2009. The Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or Tamil Tigers) have both been accused of war crimes and human rights violations, primarily in the final months of the conflict. According to the AP, the government has been accused of deliberately shelling civilians, blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone and deliberately undercounting civilians caught up in fighting. The Tamil rebels have been accused of using civilians as human shields, killing those who tried to escape their hold and recruiting child soldiers. According to a November 2012 UN report (PDF) an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict.

Bangladesh Islamist dies awaiting war crimes trial

Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) leader AKM Yusuf, died at age 87 on Feb. 9 of cardiac arrest. Bangladeshi authorities arrested Yusuf in May on 13 charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Yusuf became ill while in jail, where we was detained while facing the war crimes charges, which included genocide, arson and rape. The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh ( ICTB) had been scheduled to begin Yusuf's trial on February 12. His defense counsel had previously sought bail due to the man's old age, and now claim that the jail should have provided better treatment.

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