Sir John Chilcot's report on lessons to be learned from the 2003 invasion of Iraq has taken seven years to produce. David Cameron has said it should not be about "punishing" British soldiers, but holding senior people to account. However, 13 years of numerous inquiries and criminal investigations into alleged war crimes by UK military personnel in Iraq have so far produced little in terms of criminal accountability, especially for senior military and political figures.

The mother and son of Baha Mousa hold pictures of him at their house in Basra on September 7, 2011.

© 2011 Reuters

Now that Chilcot's report is out there will be many calls to put senior people on trial for 'war crimes' – including at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. But the ICC is not in a position to do this concerning the actual decision to invade Iraq. The court does not have the authority – yet - to prosecute people for the crime of 'aggression', such as the unlawful military invasion of another country.

But the ICC, which the UK helped establish, does have jurisdiction over 'war crimes' committed during a conflict or military occupation itself. While the ICC is designed to be a court of last resort, its prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has opened a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes by UK nationals in Iraq. Bensouda's office will consider whether the gravity of war crimes — provided there is evidence for them —warrant its involvement and, crucially, whether the UK authorities are willing and able to properly investigate and prosecute war crimes themselves.

Allegations of war crimes by some UK soldiers quickly surfaced after the invasion, but more than a decade on we are little advanced in knowing the whole truth about these claims, let alone in seeing anyone put on trial. Two public inquiries into specific incidents were forced on reluctant British governments by UK courts.

The first, in 2011, found that Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist, had died in British custody in Basra in 2003 after suffering at least 93 injuries over two days of abuse, including food and water deprivation.

The second, the Al Sweady inquiry in 2014, dismissed allegations of deliberate murder of detainees in a 2004 incident, but still found that UK interrogators had committed serious abuses against Iraqis – including deprivation of food and sleep and sight – that have all previously been found to constitute torture. Hundreds more allegations of abuse of detainees by UK nationals have been submitted to various courts, including the ICC.

So far, many of these allegations have not been properly investigated. It seems the only UK conviction for war crimes in Iraq is of Corporal Donald Payne, who received a one-year prison sentence in 2006 after pleading guilty to the war crime of inhumane treatment in connection with the death of Baha Mousa. In 2010 the government set up the Iraq Historic Allegations Team to conduct criminal investigations into alleged war crimes, but six years on there are still no new prosecutions. The findings of serious abuses in the Baha Mousa and Al Sweady inquiries did not result in new prosecutions.

UK authorities have also shown little interest in investigating whether senior military and political figures are criminally liable for any war crimes. This is despite a powerful new law of 'command responsibility' enacted in UK law in 2002, which states that military and civilian commanders should be held criminally liable for war crimes committed by people within their chain of command when they knew, or should have known, of the crimes but failed to take necessary measures to prevent them or ensure they were investigated. For civilians – for example politicians commanding the armed forces - the test is whether they knew of the crimes or 'consciously disregarded' information about them.

Given that some of the crimes allegedly carried on for years, that some allegations were published by the British media early on during the occupation, and even that the International Committee of the Red Cross' concerns about abuses in UK detention reached the desks of ministers, one would expect investigations into criminal liability of senior figures to have been launched. But there is no evidence this has happened.

The UK's previous investigative failures suggest it's more important than ever for senior figures to be held accountable after Chilcot. It is vital that UK authorities now launch prompt and thorough investigations into these grave allegations – without governmental interference – both to clear the innocent, and hold those responsible to account. The UK authorities also need to show themselves genuinely willing and capable of investigating senior military and political figures and, if the evidence warrants, prosecuting them for command responsibility for war crimes. The UK clearly has the law and the resources to bring about these prosecutions. But if it is not willing to do so, the ICC could step in.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am


On May 30, 2016, judges at the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system will deliver their verdict in the trial of former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré. Habré faces charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, and the prosecutor has asked the court to hand down a life sentence. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré was president.

The trial began on July 20, 2015 and ended on February 11, 2016, after testimony from 93 witnesses and final arguments. It was the first trial in the world in which the courts of one country prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes. It was also the first universal jurisdiction case to proceed to trial in Africa. Universal jurisdiction is a principle of international law that allows national courts to prosecute the most serious crimes even when committed abroad, by a foreigner and against foreign victims. The New York Times has called the case “a milestone for justice in Africa.”

The following questions and answers provide more information on the case.

  1. Who is Hissène Habré?
  2. What are the charges against Habré?
  3. What crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the court?
  4. Why did it take so long to bring Habré to justice?
  5. What was the role of the Chadian government in bringing about Habré’s prosecution?
  6. How did the chambers carry out their investigation?
  7. Why was Hissène Habré the only person standing trial?
  8. What about Idriss Déby, Chad's current president?
  9. What were Habré's rights before the Extraordinary Chambers?
  10. Habré and his chosen lawyers refused to cooperate with the chambers. What effect did that have?
  11. How did the trial proceed?
  12. What were some of the highlights of the prosecution's evidence?
  13. What was the defense lawyers' strategy?
  14. How was information about the trial disseminated? 
  15. What is the maximum punishment Habré could receive if found guilty?
  16. What was the victims' role in the trial?
  17. Will the victims receive reparations?
  18. Can there be an appeal? 
  19. How are the Extraordinary Chambers structured and administered?
  20. How were the prosecutors and judges assigned?
  21. What about the trial in Chad of Habré-era security agents?
  22. How are the chambers funded?
  23. What will happen to the Extraordinary Chambers after the trial? 
  24. What were the key steps in the campaign to bring Habré to justice?
  25. What is the significance of Habré's prosecution under universal jurisdiction?
  26. How does this trial fit into critiques of the role of international justice in Africa and claims that universal jurisdiction cases target Africans?
  27. Why wasn’t Habré prosecuted in Chad?
  28. Why couldn’t the International Criminal Court prosecute Habre?


1. Who is Hissène Habré?

Habré was president of the former French colony of Chad from 1982 until he was deposed in 1990 by Idriss Déby Itno, the current president. Habré has been living in exile in Senegal ever since.

A 714-page study by Human Rights Watch documented evidence of Habré’s government’s responsibility for widespread political killings, systematic torture, and thousands of arbitrary arrests. The government periodically targeted civilian populations, including in the south (1983-1985), and various ethnic groups such as Chadian Arabs, the Hadjerai (1987) and the Zaghawa (1989-90), killing and arresting group members en masse when the administration perceived that the groups’ leaders posed a threat to Habré’s rule.

A 1992 Chadian Truth Commission accused Habré's government of systematic torture and said that 40,000 people died during his rule. Most abuses were carried out by his political police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), whose directors reported directly to Habré. The four successive directors belonged to Habré’s inner circle, some to the same ethnic group, Gorane anakaza, and one to the same family as Habré.

The United States and France supported Habré as a bulwark against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who had expansionist designs on northern Chad. Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States gave covert CIA support to help Habré take power in 1982 and then provided his government with massive military aid. The United States also used a clandestine base in Chad to organize captured Libyan soldiers into an anti-Gaddafi force in the late 1980s. Despite the abduction of the French anthropologist Françoise Claustre by Habré’s forces in 1974 and the murder of Captain Pierre Galopin, who went to Chad to negotiate her release in 1975, France also supported Habré against Gaddafi after he took power, providing him with arms, logistical support and information, and carrying out military operations “Manta” (1983) and “Hawk” (1986) to help Chad push back Libyan forces.

2. What are the charges against Habré?

On July 2, 2013 the four investigating judges of the Extraordinary Chambers indicted Habré for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes. On February 13, 2015, after a 19-month investigation, the judges found sufficient evidence for Habré to face charges of crimes against humanity and torture as a member of a “joint criminal enterprise” and of war crimes on the basis of his “command responsibility.” Specifically, they charged Habré with:

  • The practice of murder, summary executions, and kidnapping followed by enforced disappearance and torture, amounting to crimes against humanity, against the Hadjerai and Zaghawa ethnic groups, the people of southern Chad and political opponents; 
  • Torture; and
  • The war crimes of murder, torture, unlawful transfer and unlawful confinement, and violence to life and physical well-being.  

3. What crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the court?

The chamber’s statute gives it competence over the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture as defined in the statute. The definitions generally track those used in the statutes of the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals. The crimes must have taken place in Chad between June 7, 1982, and December 1, 1990, which correspond to the dates of Habré’s rule.

4. Why did it take so long to bring Habré to justice?

The advent of the trial, almost 25 years after Habré’s fall, is entirely due to the perseverance of Habré’s victims and their allies in nongovernmental groups. When Habré was arrested in July 2013, the Toronto Globe and Mail lauded “one of the world’s most patient and tenacious campaigns for justice.” The New York Times wrote that the “Habré case has stood out because of determined victims who were advised and supported by Human Rights Watch and other advocates.” Habré was first indicted by a Senegalese judge in 2000, but for the next 12 years the Senegalese government of former President Abdoulaye Wade subjected the victims to what the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 117 groups from 25 African countries described as an “interminable political and legal soap opera.” It was only in 2012, when Macky Sall became president of Senegal and the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré or extradite him, that progress was made toward the trial. 

5. What was the role of the Chadian government in bringing about Habré’s prosecution?

Habré’s supporters claim that Deby’s government is behind the effort to prosecute him. However, since the victims’ first complaint in 2000, it has been the victims and their supporters who have pressed the case forward, overcoming one obstacle after another. The Chadian government has long expressed its support for Habré’s prosecution, and in 2002 it waived Habré's immunity from prosecution abroad, but it did not otherwise contribute to advancing the case in a meaningful way until it agreed to help finance the court and cooperated with the investigating judges during their four missions to Chad in 2013 and 2014. More recently, the Chadian government seemingly cooled toward the chambers, particularly in Chad’s refusal to transfer additional suspects or to allow Habré-era agents convicted in a separate proceeding in Chad (see below) to testify at Habre’s trial. 

6. How did the chambers carry out their investigation?

The investigating judges began with access to a considerable amount of evidence collected in the years since Habré’s fall, including prior Belgian and Chadian investigations into Habré’s alleged crimes.

A 1992 Chadian Truth Commission accused Habré's government of systematic torture and said that 40,000 people died during his rule. In addition, the chambers’ judges obtained the extensive file Belgian investigators prepared on Habré during four years, which contains interviews with witnesses and “insiders” who worked alongside Habré, as well as DDS documents.

Most important, the chambers’ four investigating judges conducted their own thorough 19-month investigation, and for the most part relied on evidence they developed themselves.

On May 3, 2013, Senegal and Chad signed a “Judicial cooperation agreement” to facilitate the chambers’ investigation in Chad.

The investigative judges conducted four missions (“commissions rogatoires”) to Chad - in August - September 2013, December 2013, March 2014, and May - June 2014. They were accompanied by the chief prosecutor and his deputies as well as police officers. During their visits, the judges gathered statements from 2,500 direct and indirect victims and key witnesses, including former officials of the Habré government.

The judges took copies of DDS files that Human Rights Watch had recovered  in 2001. Among the tens of thousands of documents were daily lists of prisoners and deaths in detention, interrogation reports, surveillance reports, and death certificates. The files detail how Habré placed the DDS under his direct control and kept tight control over DDS operations. Analysis of the data for Human Rights Watch revealed the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention and 12,321 victims of human rights violations. In these files alone, Habré received 1,265 direct communications from the DDS about the status of 898 detainees.

The judges also appointed experts on data analysis, forensic anthropology, handwriting, the historical context of Habré’s government and the functioning and command structure of Habré’s military.

7. Why was Hissène Habré the only person standing trial?

The Chadian victims’ goal in seeking justice in Senegal since 2000 has been a trial of Habré, the head of state who directly controlled the security apparatus and had primary responsibility for his government’s actions. The victims also filed cases in 2000 in Chad against other officials of Habré’s government who were still in Chad.

Under article 3 of the chambers’ statute, the Extraordinary African Chambers can prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad during Habré’s rule. In July 2013, the chief prosecutor requested the indictment of five additional officials from Habré’s administration suspected of being responsible for international crimes. These are:

  • Saleh Younous and Guihini Korei, two former directors of the DDS. Korei is Habré’s nephew;
  • Abakar Torbo, former director of the DDS prison service;
  • Mahamat Djibrine, also known as “El Djonto,” one of the “most feared torturers in Chad,” according to the National Truth Commission; and
  • Zakaria Berdei, former special security adviser to the presidency and one of those suspected of responsibility in the repression in the south in 1984.

None of them was brought before the court, however. Younous and Djibrine were convicted in Chad on charges stemming from the complaints filed by victims in the Chadian courts (see below), and Chad refused to extradite them to Senegal. Berdei is also believed to be in Chad, though he is not in custody. The locations of Torbo and Korei are unknown. As a result, only Habré was committed to trial.

8. What about Idriss Déby, Chad’s current president?

President Déby was commander in chief of Habré’s forces during the period known as “Black September,” in 1984, when a murderous wave of repression was unleashed to bring southern Chad back into the fold of the central government. In 1985, Déby was removed from this post, and after a period of study in a military school in France, he was appointed a defense adviser until he left Chad in 1989 to take up arms against Habré.

It is important to note that Article 10 of the chambers’ statute provides that “[t]he official position of an accused, whether as Head of State or Government, or as a responsible government official, shall not relieve him or her of criminal responsibility….” The chambers were thus free to pursue charges against President Déby even though he is currently a head of state, but they did not.

9. What were Habré’s rights before the Extraordinary Chambers?

The process before the Extraordinary Chambers was governed by its own Statute and the Senegalese Code of Criminal Procedure. Habré was entitled to a fair trial in accordance with international law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights outline the minimum guarantees that must be afforded to defendants in criminal proceedings.

In accordance with those standards, the chambers’ Statute provides a number of rights to defendants, including:

  • the right to be present during trial;
  • the presumption of innocence;
  • the right to a public hearing;
  • the right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense;
  • the right to counsel and legal assistance;
  • the right to be tried without undue delay; and
  • the right to examine and call witnesses.

10. Habré and his chosen lawyers refused to cooperate with the chambers. What effect did that have?

Many defendants facing trial for alleged crimes under international criminal law – such as Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić and Charles Taylor– asserted that they did not recognize the authority of the tribunal or that they would not cooperate, or have sought to use the trial as a platform to present their version of events.

The burden always remains on the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if the accused decides to not cooperate in their own trial, that inevitably undermines the exercise of their right to an effective defense, which includes the ability to challenge the evidence against them and the opportunity to call into question the prosecution’s case.

After Habré’s lawyers refused to appear at the opening of the trial in July 2015 because they consider the court to be illegitimate, the court appointed three Senegalese lawyers to defend him and adjourned for 45 days so they could prepare. The first day back, on September 7, Habré was brought in to the court by force, kicking and screaming. After that, he was brought into the courtroom for each session before the doors to the public opened. The three court-appointed lawyers played an active role in questioning each witness and challenging the prosecution’s case, but were handicapped by Habré’s refusal to cooperate with them. Habré has remained silent, as is his right, even when the prosecutor tried to question him in line with standard criminal trial procedure in civil law jurisdictions.

11. How did the trial proceed?

The chambers sat for 56 days and heard from 93 witnesses. The trial examined evidence regarding alleged crimes committed during various periods in Chad under Habré: attacks against the Hadjerai ethnic group (1987), the Zaghawas (1989), and southern populations including the so-called “Black September” in 1984; the arrest and torture of political prisoners, and the treatment of prisoners of war. Some of the most moving testimony came from survivors, who described their experience in prisons and camps. Among the other witnesses were experts on that period in Chad, the president of the 1992 Chadian truth commission, former members the DDS, the Belgian judge who carried out a four-year investigation into a complaint filed against Habré in Belgium, a French doctor who treated 581 torture victims, researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and forensic, statistical and handwriting experts.

The witnesses, after presenting their testimony to the court, were questioned, in turn, by the prosecutor, the civil party lawyers and Habré’s court-appointed lawyers. The judges, in a departure from the French civil law “inquisitorial” model, generally did not put many questions to the witnesses. 

12. What were some of the highlights of the prosecution’s evidence? 

  • Four women sent to a camp in the desert north of Chad in 1988 testified that they were used as sexual slaves for the army and that soldiers had repeatedly raped multiple women. Two were under 15 at the time. One testified that Habré himself had also raped her. 
  • Other survivors testified that rape of women detainees was frequent in the DDS’s Locaux prison in N’Djaména.
  • Ten witnesses testified that they had personally seen Habré in prison or were sent to prison personally by Habré.
  • Prison survivors said that corpses were kept rotting in jail cells until there were considered to be enough to be taken away.
  • Survivors described the main forms of torture, in particular the “arbatachar,” which involved tying all four of a prisoner's limbs behind their back to interrupt the bloodstream and induce paralysis.
  • Bandjim Bandoum, once a top DDS agent, testified about the agency’s inner workings. He explained that when reports on detainees were sent to the presidency, they came back with annotations: E for “executer - execute”; L for “liberer - set free” or V for “vu - seen.” “Only the president could request a release," he said.
  • A court-appointed handwriting expert confirmed that it was Habré who responded to a request by the International Committee of the Red Cross for the hospitalization of certain prisoners of war by writing “From now on, no prisoner of war can leave the Detention Center except in case of death.”
  • Patrick Ball of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group presented a study of mortality in Habré’s prisons, based on the DDS’s own documents, concluding that prison mortality was “hundreds of times higher than normal mortality for adult men in Chad during the same period” and “substantially higher than some of the twentieth century’s worst POW contexts” such as German prisoners of war in Soviet custody and US prisoners of war in Japanese custody.
  • Experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team carried out exhumations at a number of potential mass grave sites. In Deli, in southern Chad, the site of an alleged killing of unarmed rebels in September 1984, the experts located 21 bodies, almost all military-age men, most of whom were killed by gunshot. In Mongo, in the center of Chad, the experts uncovered 14 bodies from another 1984 massacre.
  • Clement Abaifouta, the president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of the Hissène Habré Regime, testified that he was forced to bury the bodies of deceased detainees in mass graves.
  • Souleymane Guengueng, the founder of the victims’ association, showed the court crude eating utensils he had carved in jail.
  • Robert Hissein Gambier, who survived five years in prison, earning the nickname “The man who runs faster than death,” said that he counted 2,053 detainees who died in prison. He brought wooden sticks to demonstrate how his head was squeezed as torture.
  • Abdourahmane Guèye, a Senegalese merchant imprisoned in Chad, testified that his release was won through diplomatic negotiations between the Senegalese and Chadian governments. His Senegalese companion, Demba Gaye, died, according to DDS documents, after being placed in the “cell of death” in the Locaux prison.
  • Mahamat Nour Dadji, the child of a close adviser to Habré, testified that the DDS director arrived at their home in Habré’s car saying, “The president needs you.” Dadji was detained with his father, who was never seen again.
  • Bichara Djibrine Ahmat testified that in 1983 he was taken with 149 other Chadian prisoners of war to be executed. Only he survived to take the truth commission 10 years later to find the mass grave. 

13. What was the defense lawyers’ strategy?

The court-appointed lawyers tried to show that Habré himself was not involved in committing crimes, and challenged the credibility of a number of witnesses, particularly those who implicated Habré directly. They asserted that the accusations against Habré were part of an exaggerated media and political campaign originated by Amnesty International and the Chadian truth commission, and then taken up by Human Rights Watch with the support of the current Chadian government.

The lawyers said that Habré was a patriot, committed to defending Chad against Libyan aggression and secessionist rebels. (“If it were not thanks to President Habré, Chad would not be Chad today, but a province of Libya.”) Habré’s response was to combat insurgents but not civilians. The DDS was not under his authority, but under the Interior Ministry. 

14. How was information about the trial disseminated?

The trial was recorded in its entirety, except for some technical problems. It was streamed live on the internet and broadcast on Chadian television. Almost all the sessions have been posted to the internet. Human Rights Watch considers this a major success in ensuring that the trial was meaningful to, and understood by, the people of Chad and Senegal. The landmark nature of this trial made it all the more important that it was available for viewing by the widest possible audience.

The chambers, through a consortium of non-governmental organizations from Senegal, Belgium and Chad that received a contract from the court, undertook outreach programs to both Chad and Senegal. The consortium has trained journalists in both countries, organized public debates, created a website and produced materials to explain the trial.

Human Rights Watch was part of a separate consortium of non-governmental organizations that facilitated the travel of Chadian journalists to Senegal to cover the trial, and the travel of Senegalese journalists to Chad during the pre-trial proceedings.

15. What is the maximum punishment Habré could receive if found guilty? 

If Habré is found guilty, the chambers could impose a sentence of up to life in prison. This is the punishment requested by chief prosecutor Mbacké Fall in his closing statement on February 10. The prosecution also requested the seizure of Habré’s property frozen during the inquiry - two small bank accounts and a property in an upscale Dakar neighborhood.

If Habré is sentenced to prison, he could serve that sentence in Senegal. However the statute also provides that he could serve it “in one of the African Union member States with which Senegal has entered into an agreement concerning the execution of prison sentences.”

16. What was the victims’ role in the trial?

Victims were permitted to participate in proceedings as civil parties. More than 4,000 victims registered as civil parties. Two teams of lawyers represented the civil parties, questioning witnesses, presenting evidence and participating in the closing statements.

The victims also left their mark on the trial through their long campaign for justice as well as their dramatic testimony. An opinion article in The New York Times reflected that “[n]ever in a trial for mass crimes have the victims’ voices been so dominant.”

17. Will the victims receive reparations?

Under its statute, in the event of a conviction, the chambers may order reparations against the accused. These can be paid into a victims’ fund, which can also receive voluntary contributions by foreign governments, international institutions, and non-governmental organizations. Reparations from the victims’ fund will be open to all victims, individually or collectively, whether or not they participated in Habré’s trial.

The chief judge, Gberdao Gustave Kam, has said that if Habré is found guilty, there will be a second set of hearings on damages for the civil parties

In July 2013, after the chambers arrested Habré, President Déby said that the Chadian government would compensate survivors and relatives of those who died. There is also a Chadian court judgment ordering the government to make reparations (see below). Chad’s responsibility under international law to provide reparations to victims of gross human rights violations is separate and distinct from reparations against the accused. 

18. Can there be an appeal?

Whether Habre is found guilty or acquitted, all parties in the trial – that is the prosecution, the accused and the victims with respect to their civil interests, could appeal. Although Habré does not recognize the Chambers’ authority, the court-appointed lawyers could lodge an appeal on his behalf. If an appeal is lodged by any party, an Extraordinary African Appeals Chamber would be constituted to hear the appeal. 

19. How are the Extraordinary Chambers structured and administered?

The Extraordinary African Chambers were created inside the existing Senegalese court structure in Dakar. The chambers have four levels: an Investigative Chamber with four Senegalese investigative judges, an Indicting Chamber of three Senegalese judges, a Trial Chamber, and an Appeals Chamber. The Trial Chamber and the Appeals Chamber each have two Senegalese judges and a president from another African Union member state.

The chambers also have an administrator to ensure the smooth functioning of their activities and to handle all non-judicial aspects of the work. The administrator’s responsibilities include financial management of personnel, outreach and media information, witness protection and assistance, and judicial cooperation between Senegal and other countries, such as Chad. The administrator since the opening of the chambers has been Aly Ciré Ba, a Senegalese magistrate.

20. How were the prosecutors and judges assigned?

The prosecutors and investigative judges were nominated by Senegal’s justice minister and appointed by the chairperson of the AU Commission. The president of the Trial Chamber is Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso. 

21. What about the trial in Chad of Habré-era security agents?

On March 25, 2015, a Chadian criminal court convicted 20 Habré-era security agents on charges of murder, torture, kidnapping and arbitrary detention, based on complaints filed by the same group of victims in 2000 but that were stalled until Senegal created the extraordinary chambers. During the Chad trial, about 50 victims described their torture and mistreatment at the hands of DDS agents. The court sentenced seven men to life in prison, including Saleh Younous, a former director of the DDS, and Mahamat Djibrine, described as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad” by the Truth Commission. Both men were also originally wanted for possible indictment by the chambers, but Chad declined to transfer them. Most of the 20 gave their testimony to the chambers when they visited Chad, but the Chadian government also refused to allow them to travel to Senegal to testify at trial. The Chadian court acquitted four others.

The Chadian court ordered the Chadian government to pay half of the US$125 million in reparations to 7,000 victims and those convicted to pay the other half. The court also ordered the government, within a year, to erect a monument to those who were killed under Habré and to turn the former DDS headquarters a museum. These were both among the long-standing demands of the victims’ associations. One year after the court decision, the Chadian government has not implemented any of these compensatory measures. 

22. How are the chambers funded?

The chambers are funded in large part by donor countries. In November 2012, Senegal and donor countries agreed to a budget of €8.6million (US$11.4 million at the time) to cover Habré’s trial. Commitments were made by: Chad (2 billion CFA francs or US$3,743,000), the European Union (€2 million), the Netherlands (€1 million), the African Union (US$1 million), the United States (US$1 million), Belgium (€500,000), Germany (€500,000), France (€300,000), and Luxembourg (€100,000). The Netherlands has also given extra support to the Outreach consortium. In addition, Canada, Switzerland, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have provided technical assistance. A Steering Committee chaired by the African Union and consisting of Senegal and the donors receives and approves periodic reports from the administrator.

23. What will happen to the Extraordinary Chambers after the trial?

The Extraordinary African Chambers will be dissolved once the judgment in the case of Hissène Habré is final.

24. What were the key steps in the campaign to bring Habré to justice?

In January 2000, inspired by the London arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, a group of Chadian victims filed a complaint against Habré in Senegal. In February of the same year, a Senegalese judge indicted Habré on charges of torture, crimes against humanity, and “barbaric acts.” However, after political interference by the new Senegalese government of President Abdoulaye Wade, which was criticized by two UN human rights rapporteurs, appellate courts dismissed the case on the ground that Senegalese courts lacked competence to try crimes committed abroad.

Other Habré government victims, including three Belgian citizens of Chadian origin, then filed a case against Habré in Belgium in November 2000. The Belgian authorities investigated the case for four years, then indicted Habré in 2005 and sought his extradition. A Senegalese court ruled that it lacked competence to decide on the extradition request.

Senegal then turned to the African Union, which in July 2006 called on Senegal to prosecute Habré “on behalf of Africa” before its own courts. President Wade accepted the AU mandate and Senegalese law was amended to give the country’s courts explicit universal jurisdiction over international crimes, including torture and crimes against humanity. However, Wade contended that Senegal needed full up-front international funding of €27.4 million (US$36.5 million) before beginning any prosecution. Three years of halting negotiations over the trial budget ensued, until Senegal and donor countries finally agreed in November 2010 to a budget of €8.6 million (US$11.4 million) for Habré’s trial.

Just days before the budget agreement, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled that Habré should be tried before a “special ad hoc procedure of an international character.” In January 2011, the AU responded to the ECOWAS court ruling by proposing a plan for special chambers within the Senegalese justice system with some judges appointed by the AU. Senegal rejected the plan, and in May 2011, withdrew from negotiations with the AU over creation of the tribunal.

In July 2011, Senegal’s foreign minister ruled out holding Habré's trial in Senegal. The Chadian government then announced its support for extraditing Habré to Belgium to face trial.

In 2011 and 2012, Belgium issued three more extradition requests, which were not properly transmitted by the Senegalese authorities to its courts.

On July 20, 2012, in response to a suit brought by Belgium, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s highest judicial organ, found that Senegal had failed to meet its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré “without further delay” if it did not extradite him.

The new Senegalese government of Macky Sall reacted quickly to the ICJ decision, expressing regret that Habré’s trial had not taken place sooner and reaffirming its commitment to begin proceedings quickly. Negotiations resumed between Senegal and the AU, ultimately leading to an agreement to create the Extraordinary African Chambers to conduct proceedings within the Senegalese judicial system. On December 17, the Senegalese National Assembly adopted a law establishing the special chambers. On February 8, 2013, the Extraordinary African Chambers were inaugurated in Dakar.

25. What is the significance of Habré’s prosecution under universal jurisdiction?

As demonstrated by the Habré case, universal jurisdiction is an important safety net to ensure that suspects of atrocities do not enjoy impunity in a third state when they cannot be prosecuted before the courts of the country where the crimes were allegedly committed or before an international court. There has been an increase in the use of universal jurisdiction over the past 20 years, notably but not exclusively by courts in European countries. To strengthen the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes, it is critical for courts on all continents to use universal jurisdiction. The African Union has encouraged its member states to adopt legislation to give their national courts universal jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and has taken steps to initiate a network of national prosecutors working on war crimes cases. Several investigations have been opened in South Africa and Senegal on the basis of universal jurisdiction.

26. How does this trial fit into critiques of the role of international justice in Africa and claims that universal jurisdiction cases target Africans?

Habré’s trial is an important step forward in African states taking responsibility to prosecute serious international crimes. However, the Habré trial does not negate the importance of the ICC and the use of universal jurisdiction by non-African states, including European courts, for crimes committed in Africa. These tools are often the only available hope for justice for African victims.

International justice has been applied unevenly. Powerful countries and their allies have often been able to avoid justice when serious crimes are committed on their territories, notably by failing to ratify the ICC treaty and wielding their political influence at the UN Security Council.

Nongovernmental organizations have actively campaigned for African governments to work to improve international justice and its reach —as opposed to undermining it— to limit impunity for atrocities. 

27. Why isn’t Habré prosecuted in Chad?

Chad never sought Habré’s extradition, and there are serious doubts that Habré could have gotten a fair trial in Chad, where he had been sentenced to death in absentia for his alleged role in a 2008 rebellion. In July 2011, President Wade threatened to expel Habré to Chad but, days later, retracted his decision in the face of an international outcry over the risk that Habré would be mistreated or even killed. 

28. Why couldn’t the International Criminal Court prosecute Habré?

The International Criminal Court only has jurisdiction over crimes committed after July 1, 2002, when its statute entered into effect. The crimes of which Hissène Habré is accused took place between 1982 and 1990.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Dakar, September 4, 2015) – The trial of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture will begin in earnest on September 7, 2015.

The long-awaited trial of Hissène Habré, was adjourned almost as soon as it was opened, as an outburst from the former dictator of Chad caused a scene in the courtroom.

When the landmark trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system formally opened on July 20, Habré had to be removed from court after an outburst. Habré’s lawyers then refused to appear and the trial was adjourned, giving new court-appointed lawyers time to study the case.  

“After 25 years of campaigning and 45 days waiting patiently, the survivors will finally get their day in court,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the victims since 1999. “Hissène Habré may try to create more disturbances, but he does not get a veto on whether he should be tried, or if the victims get justice.”

Habré has refused to communicate with the court-appointed lawyers, and it is expected that he will try to have them taken off the case. The president of the court, Gberdao Gustave Kam, has made clear, however, that in keeping with Senegalese law and international practice, the lawyers are needed to safeguard the rights of the accused and the integrity of the proceedings.

Habre is accused of tens of thousands of political killings as well as systematic torture during his rule, from 1982 to 1990. The trial is the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.

Habré is standing trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. Judge Kam, of Burkina Faso, president of the Trial Chamber, will hear the case along with two senior Senegalese judges.

The trial is expected to last two months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

“If I get a chance to look Hissène Habré in the face, I will do it without fear,” said Fatimé Sakine, 53, a secretary who was subjected to electroshocks and beatings during 15 months in prison from 1984 to 1986 and who is in Dakar for the trial. “I want to know why we were kept rotting, why so many of my friends were tortured and killed.”

“This case is a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes, in Africa and in the world,” Brody said. “It's taken many years, and many twists and turns, but in the end a group of tenacious survivors have shown that it was possible to bring their dictator to justice.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Dakar, July 17, 2015) – The trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré is a victory for the victims of his government. The trial began in Senegal on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after he was overthrown.  

The trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré is a victory for the victims of his government. The trial will begin on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after he was overthrown.

“The opening of Hissène Habré’s trial, 25 years after he fled Chad, is a tribute to the survivors of his brutal rule who never gave up fighting for justice,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the victims since 1999. “This case warns despots everywhere that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims.”

Habré is charged with crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes. The trial will be the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.

Habré will stand trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, president of the Trial Chamber, will hear the case along with two senior Senegalese judges.

The trial is expected to last three months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

Habré, through his lawyers, has said that he does not want to appear in court. Under Senegalese law, however, the court president can require his appearance. 

“I have been waiting for this day since I walked out of prison almost 25 years ago, “ said Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died of mistreatment and disease in Habré’s prisons, and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH). “I want to look Hissène Habré in the face and ask him why I was kept rotting in jail for three years, why my friends were tortured and killed.”

Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture. After he was deposed by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, in 1990, Habré fled to Senegal. Habré was first arrested in Senegal in February 2000, but Senegal refused to prosecute him then or to extradite him to Belgium in 2005. It was only in 2012, when Macky Sall became president of Senegal and the International Court of Justice, acting on a suit by Belgium, ordered Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré that progress was made toward the trial with the creation of the Extraordinary African Chambers. The chambers indicted Habré in July 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges of the chambers found that there was sufficient evidence for Habré to face trial.

“This case is a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes, in Africa and in the world,” Brody said. "It's taken many years, and many twists and turns, but in the end a group of tenacious survivors showed that even a dictator can be brought to justice." 

On March 25, a court in Chad convicted 20 top security agents of Habré’s government on torture and murder charges. 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program since it was founded in 2001, has worked at Human Rights Watch since 1991. He started working on international justice issues in 1994 when Human Rights Watch attempted to bring a case before the International Court of Justice charging the government of Iraq with genocide against the Kurds. Dicker later led the Human Rights Watch multi-year campaign to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC). He continues to be closely involved on issues that are important at the ICC. He has also spent the past few years leading advocacy efforts urging the creation of effective accountability mechanisms. He monitored the Slobodan Milosevic trial in The Hague and made many trips to Iraq before and at the start of Saddam Hussein's trial. A former civil rights attorney in New York, Dicker graduated from New York University Law School and received his LLM from Columbia University.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

As Co-Director of the US Program, Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno guides Human Rights Watch’s work on criminal justice, drug policy, immigration, national security, and surveillance in the United States.

Previously, as Deputy Washington Director for Human Rights Watch, McFarland Sánchez-Moreno conducted advocacy before the US government on a wide array of global human rights issues, including matters related to the Middle East and North Africa during the “Arab uprisings” of 2011. Earlier, she held the position of Senior Americas Researcher, covering Colombia's internal armed conflict and working on the extradition and trial of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

McFarland Sánchez-Moreno is the author of the narrative non-fiction book There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia, forthcoming from Nation Books in February 2018. She holds a law degree from New York University School of Law and did most of her undergraduate studies in Lima, Peru, before completing her BA at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a native speaker of both Spanish and English.


"Your Reaction to NSA Curbs," on BBC World Service’s “World Have Your Say” (January 2014)

"Deadly Threats: Successors to the Paramilitaries in Colombia ," (February 2010)

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

President Xi Jinping
General Secretary Office
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street
Xicheng District, Beijing 100017
People’s Republic of China

Fax: +86 10 6307 0900; +11 10 6238 1025

Re: Detention of Five North Korean refugees 

Dear President Xi, 

Human Rights Watch is an international nongovernmental organization that investigates and reports on human rights abuses in over 90 countries, including China, North Korea, South Korea and the United States among others. We work on a wide range of human rights issues worldwide, including protection of refugees and stopping refoulement, ending the use of torture, and combatting restrictions on basic rights, like the freedom of movement to leave one’s home country.

We write to request you urgently stop the forced return of a group of five North Korean refugees back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) who were apprehended by police last week in Shengyang city of Lioaning province. They are currently believed to be detained near Yanji city in Jilin province. Human Rights Watch calls on you to permit these five persons who were last seen in your government’s custody to travel safely to a third country.

If these five persons are returned to North Korea, they will likely face harsh abuses, including possible torture, imprisonment in prison camps, forced labor, and based on past incidents, sexual violence and potentially execution. This information is based on Human Rights Watch’s research as well as and the conclusions of a UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea that produced a comprehensive report in 2014. 

This matter is quite urgent because the most recent information we have received is that these persons are to be imminently sent to Helong city, 70 kilometers southwest of Yanji, near the Chinese-North Korean border. Once they are in Helong, a forced return could happen at any time.  Please find additional information in this press release.  

Your government has labeled North Koreans in China as illegal “economic migrants” and routinely repatriates them to North Korea based on arrangements established by a 1986 border protocol. But Human Rights Watch’s research has found that North Koreans who leave the country without permission face certain and harsh punishment upon repatriation. Because of this, international law requires that they should be considered as refugees sur place – people who become refugees as a result of fleeing their country or due to circumstances arising after their flight. In 2010, North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security adopted a decree making defection a crime of “treachery against the nation,” punishable by death. North Koreans who have fled the country since 2013, or who are residing outside the country but can surreptitiously talk with contacts inside North Korea, have told Human Rights Watch that North Koreans who are repatriated from China face incarceration, torture, inhumane treatment, enslavement, and sexual violence upon their forced return.

As party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, China should uphold its commitments and not send North Koreans - who have a well-founded fear of persecution - back to North Korea, where their life or freedom will be threatened because they left the country without permission.

We noted that in November 2015, the United Nations Committee Against Torture raised serious concerns about China’s actions to forcibly return fleeing North Koreans caught in China to North Korea. We strongly urge the Chinese government to reveal the current whereabouts of the group of five North Koreans, and abide by China’s international obligations under the Refugee Convention to protect refugees and under no circumstances force them back to a place where they could face persecution. 


Phil Robertson 
Deputy Asia Director

Sophie Richardson
China Director

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Seoul) – China should immediately release five North Korean refugees held in Chinese detention and agree not to return them to North Korea, where they would face grave danger, Human Rights Watch said today. China should protect the five refugees and let them travel to safety in a third country, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

North Koreans who are forcibly repatriated after fleeing their country face a real risk of torture, sexual violence and abuse, incarceration in forced labor camps, and public executions, making them refugees in need of urgent protection under international law. 

“China should not force these five refugees back to North Korea, where the government is known to severely violate the rights of those sent back using methods such as torture, sexual violence, forced labor, and long-term incarceration in North Korea’s brutal prison camp system,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Beijing should fulfill its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention by releasing these five refugees and permitting them to go to a third country where they can be safely protected.” 

Late last week, Chinese government officials detained the group traveling to the city of Shenyang, Liaoning province, in northeastern China. Three of the five refugees are relatives of “Lim,” a North Korean now living in South Korea and using a pseudonym. On June 16, Lim received a call from her brother, who was using a smuggled Chinese phone in North Korea. He told Lim that he had crossed the Yalu river, on the border between North Korea and China, with their mother and a cousin. He had been carrying their mother, who was too weak to walk, and needed help because the group had gotten lost on the mountain. Lim’s relatives had no food and her brother eventually lost consciousness from exhaustion and hunger. 

Lim was eventually able to contact someone who could help guide the group and provide them with food and basic assistance. Lim told Human Rights Watch that she spoke to her family a few days later, when the person trying to help them reached the group before departing by car. She has not been able to contact them since then. 

On June 21, Lim learned from her local contacts that the group, including her three relatives, was detained by the Chinese military near Yanji city, Jilin Province. On June 22, she heard that authorities were about to move her family to Helong, 70 kilometers southwest of Yanji. 

China regularly labels North Koreans as illegal "economic migrants" and forcibly repatriates them to North Korea based on a 1986 bilateral border protocol. However, regardless of why North Koreans decide to flee the country, they are virtually guaranteed to face extremely abusive treatment if forced to return. For this reason, international law considers them all to be refugees sur place, or refugees because of circumstances after their departure.

China, as a state party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture, is specifically obligated not to return refugees when that may put them at risk of persecution or torture. The same obligations bind China as a matter of customary international law. Forcing North Koreans back to North Korea amounts to refoulement, or the sending of persons back to territory where they face serious human rights violations. Such a practice forbidden by international treaties to which China is a party.

According to interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch with North Koreans who have previously been apprehended in China and returned to North Korea, the North Korean government harshly punishes all those who leave the country without permission.

In 2010, North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security adopted a decree making defection a crime of “treachery against the nation,” punishable by death. North Koreans who have fled the country since 2013, or who maintain contacts inside the country, have told Human Rights Watch that people repatriated by China face severe penalties. Those caught while trying to go to South Korea can face 7 to 15 years of forced labor in ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso – re-education correctional facilities), incarceration in political prison camps (kwanliso), or even execution. 

North Koreans may be sentenced to more than two years of forced labor in ordinary prison camps for living illegally in China. A former senior official in the North Korean state security service (bowibu) who worked on the border and received North Koreans sent back from China, told Human Rights Watch that officials torture every returnee to find out where they went in China, who they contacted, and what they had done.

Lim remains especially concerned about her family’s treatment because police detained and forcibly disappeared her father in 2010. When detainees vanish without information on whereabouts, trial dates or result, the community assumes the person has been sent to political prison camps (kwanliso). Lim fears that because of their father’s status, her family will be lost in the kwanliso system. 

Political prison camps in North Korea are characterized by systematic abuses and often deadly conditions, including meager rations that lead to near starvation, virtually no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, regular mistreatment that includes sexual assault and torture by guards, and summary executions. Death rates in these camps are reported by former North Korean prisoners and guards to be extremely high. Detainees in ordinary prison camps also face forced labor, food and medicine shortages, and regular mistreatment by guards.

The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea found that those fleeing the country are targeted as part of a “systematic and widespread attack against populations considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership of the DPRK… to isolate the population from contact with the outside world.” It also found that crimes against humanity, including torture, execution, enslavement, and sexual violence, are committed against prisoners and people forcibly returned to North Korea from China. 

Human Rights Watch calls on China to stop repatriating North Koreans, and to allow the UN refugee agency to exercise its mandate and protect people. China should provide asylum to North Korean refugees, let them seek resettlement in a third country, or allow them to pass through Chinese territory without fear of arrest or forced returns.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council again discussed for a third year in a row the human rights situation in North Korea as a threat to international peace and security. In March, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution that strengthens the UN’s work to assess and develop strategies to prosecute pervasive human rights crimes by the North Korean government.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this: if these people are forced back to North Korea, their lives and safety will be at risk,” said Robertson. “The world is watching to see whether Beijing fulfills its duty to protect these five refugees or again becomes complicit with North Korea’s abuses.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan commander in the Lord's Resistance Army, waits for the start of court proceedings at the International Criminal Court in The Hague January 26, 2015. 

© 2016 Reuters

1.      Who are the LRA?

2.      What has the LRA been fighting for all these years?

3.      What is the US Counter-Lord’s Resistance Army Operation and why does it exist?

4.      How many LRA members remain and where are they now?

5.      What has the Counter-LRA efforts meant for people in southeastern Central Africa Republic and other LRA affected areas?

6.      Why is the US pulling out and what does the pull-out mean for people in the Central Africa Republic and South Sudan?

7.      What should the US put in place before it completes the pull-out to improve the potential for security and justice in the region?

8.      What should the RCI-LRA do now that the US is pulling out its troops?

9.      What should the European Union and the United Nations do now that the US is pulling out its troops?

10.         What should happen with the pending ICC arrest warrant for LRA leader Joseph Kony?

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a Ugandan rebel group led by Joseph Kony. The group originated in 1987 in northern Uganda among ethnic Acholi communities. The Acholi suffered serious abuses at the hands of successive Ugandan governments in the turbulent 1970s and 1980s. Kony, an Acholi himself, and the campaign against the government of Uganda initially had some popular backing, but support waned in the early 1990s as the LRA became increasingly violent against civilians, including fellow Acholi. The group abducted and killed thousands of civilians in northern Uganda and mutilated many others. The brutality against children was particularly severe. Various military campaigns against the LRA eventually pushed the group across the border into southern Sudan (now South Sudan) and, in 2005 and 2006, into the Democratic Republic of Congo where they remained active for several years. The LRA has crossed in and out of the Central African Republic since 2008. Although the LRA is no longer based in northern Uganda and has significantly decreased in size, the group continues to commit abuses – though at a much-reduced scale – against civilians in the remote border area of Sudan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, southeast Central African Republic, and the border areas between Congo and the Central African Republic.

Olivier, 16, was abducted in October 2009. He witnessed and was forced to participate in brutal attacks on civilians by the Lord's Resistance Army. Democratic Republic of Congo. 

© 2010 Marcus Bleasdale/VII

In 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity for the LRA’s top five leaders at that time: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Raska Lukwiya, and Dominic Ongwen. The warrants were made public in October 2005. Lukwiya was killed in 2006 and Otti in late 2007. Odhiambo’s body was found in the Central African Republic in early 2015.

On January 6, 2015, US military advisers working with the African Union Regional Task Force in the Central African Republic received Ongwen into custody. He was eventually transferred to the ICC.

Kony remains at large. He has been thought to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, in Darfur, Sudan. However, recent reports indicate that he may have been moving through the Central African Republic as recently as March 2017.

2.      What has the LRA been fighting for all these years?

According to former LRA fighters, Kony’s stated goal has been to overthrow Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and establish a government based on Kony’s interpretation of the bible’s Ten Commandments. Since the LRA no longer operates in Uganda, the group’s current political goals are not clear. Kony’s tactics in recent years appear aimed largely at ensuring his survival and to a lesser extent, the survival of some senior LRA leaders, though there has been dissent in his ranks.

3.    What is the US Counter-Lord’s Resistance Army Operation and why does it exist?

In 2009, bipartisan legislation was introduced in both houses of the US Congress. After significant advocacy from US-based groups who sought an end to the protracted conflict, in May 2010 President Barack Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The act called on the US government to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians and to work with the governments in central Africa to “apprehend or otherwise remove from the battlefield” LRA leaders. In November 2010, President Obama published his strategy, which outlined four primary goals for US engagement with the LRA crisis, including stopping LRA leaders, protecting civilians from LRA attacks, encouraging escape and defection from the LRA, and providing humanitarian assistance to affected communities.

Initially the US assistance was mostly logistical and intelligence support to the Ugandan armed forces. Eventually, in 2011, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council authorized the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the elimination of the LRA (RCI-LRA) which included the Regional Task Force (RTF), as the military component. While the AU’s RTF drew its operational forces largely from the Ugandan army, in 2013 the US also trained Congolese military personnel dedicated to the RTF. The US announced in October 2011 that it would send 100 US Special Forces personnel as military advisers to the Ugandan army and other armed forces in the region to assist in apprehending LRA leaders. In recent years and as the LRA has shifted its primary location, many US military advisors and Ugandan army soldiers deployed to the RTF have been based in southeastern Central African Republic, despite some continued, smaller-scale attacks by the LRA in neighboring Congo and South Sudan. 

The US has spent more than $ US 780 million on anti-LRA activities since 2008. In addition to military support, the US has provided humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the LRA, both in northern Uganda and other countries where the LRA operates. The US also supported the development of early warning networks and infrastructure rehabilitation such as erecting mobile phone towers in key town centers in northern Congo’s Haut Uele and Bas Uele districts and support of similar warning networks and community radio projects in the Haut Mbomou and Mbomou provinces in the Central African Republic.

4.    How many LRA members remain and where are they now?

It’s not known exactly how many LRA members remain active but those interviewing defectors estimate there are about 120 remaining, with roughly 80 fighters carrying arms. Numbers of abducted civilians and children born into captivity have varied over the years, but are currently estimated to be approximately 80-100. Splintered groups of LRA members are believed to be moving between the Kafia Kingi enclave of Darfur, Sudan and Haute Kotto, the Central African Republic.

5.     What have the Counter-LRA efforts meant for people in southeastern Central African Republic and other LRA affected areas?

The presence of Counter-LRA forces in southeastern Central African Republic has had a positive effect on general security for civilians in the region. The Central African Republic has been in crisis since late 2012, when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels began a military campaign against the government of Francois Bozizé, seizing the capital, Bangui, in March 2013. Their rule was marked by widespread human rights abuses, including the wide-scale killing of civilians. The presence of Ugandan and US forces in the southeast contributed to preventing the Seleka from reaching that area in mid-2013. Later in 2013, the Christian and animist anti-balaka militia organized to fight the Seleka. Associating all Muslims with the Seleka, the anti-balaka carried out large-scale reprisal attacks against Muslim civilians in Bangui and western parts of the country. The center and west of the country spiraled into chaos, and today there is acute violence in the country’s Ouaka, Haute-Kotto provinces and western parts of the Mbomou province.

Towns where there is a Ugandan or US military presence have been some of the most stable areas in the Central African Republic over the last four years, despite limited government control of the area. Keeping armed groups like the Seleka out of the southeast has been a positive, if indirect, benefit of the AU’s RTF.

6.    Why did the US pull out and what does the withdrawal mean for people in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo?

The United States has provided the most support of any government in the effort against the LRA by countries in the central African region. On March 29, the US announced that it would end the Counter-LRA operations, due the fact that the LRA has been severely weakened. The mission’s cost was also a factor in ending operations. The Ugandans also announced their withdrawal. In May, security in the southeast was formally handed over to forces from the Central African Republic.

LRA attacks on civilians are at lower levels than in previous years, and defections have drained the LRA of manpower. But in many ways, the withdrawal could not come at a worse time for civilians in southeastern Central African Republic, as it runs the risk of worsening an already precarious security situation. In late 2016 the Seleka split into several factions, some allying with anti-balaka groups, and started to fight among themselves. This violence has resulted in the killings of hundreds of civilians, at least, in the center of the country. In March the violence spread east to areas that had been stable for years. Two towns north-west of Rafaï in the Mbomou province, Bakouma and Nzako, saw intense fighting between Seleka groups and serious human rights violations perpetrated against the civilian population. In May, at least 100 were killed after intense fighting in Bangassou, in the Mboumou province.

The withdrawal of Ugandan and US forces means that Seleka fighters may be emboldened to move into areas they once feared to tread. Conflict could spread to Rafaï, Zémio, Djéma and Obo, towns that, until now, had been spared the violence that has engulfed the country over the last four years.

Seleka groups have no qualms about making alliances with former enemies – as shown by the alliance between one faction and anti-balaka groups in the center of the country – and the Seleka have been in contact with the LRA in the past. If it was in their interests, Seleka groups could potentially align with the LRA and help them reconstitute their forces. No matter what occurs regarding these groups, civilians in southeastern Central African Republic will remain vulnerable to attacks from various armed groups, as there is little security or effective governance in the area.

In neighboring war-torn South Sudan, the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Counter-LRA forces could encourage southern Sudanese rebels to move into and operate out of eastern Central African Republic. The government’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces could move into the area and replicate the abusive scorched-earth counterinsurgency strategies that they have pursued in southwestern South Sudan since late 2015.

Meanwhile, the withdrawal of US forces may also have an adverse impact on the volatile security situation in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. LRA splinter groups as well as South Sudanese armed groups, poachers and bandits continue to attack the local population in this isolated and underdeveloped region. Large-scale abductions, primarily for short periods of time to carry looted goods, and ambushes remain frequent occurrences. The influx of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in the Central African Republic and South Sudan over the past year have added further strain on Congolese communities.

7.     What should the US put in place before it completes its withdrawal to improve the potential for security in the region?

The US and Ugandan pullout will leave a security and protection vacuum in southeastern Central African Republic, leaving civilians vulnerable to the risk of that various armed groups could seize control and commit abuses against them. Due to and depending on multiple factors, the potential revitalization of the LRA remains a possibility.

Currently the only force with any capacity to secure towns and villages for civilian protection is the United Nations peacekeeping mission, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, also known as MINUSCA. The mission took over from an AU mission in 2014 and has 12,870 forces, but it is overstretched with the fighting in the center and northwest of the country.

MINUSCA has a presence in Obo, where Counter-LRA activities in the Central African Republic are based, but it does not currently have the logistics or manpower to monitor the whole region as the Ugandan and US militaries did.

The Central African army, known as FACA, disbanded when the Seleka took power and has been reconstituting itself over the past few years with international support. Two battalions have been trained by the European Union, one of which took over for the Ugandan military in Obo. However, questions remain as to the battalion’s level of preparedness.

The US has made statements that it will continue training national forces that continue to search for the LRA, like the FACA, but to date there are few details as to how this would be conducted and there are concerns that doing so would run afoul of US law, given the FACA’s history of abuse.

To prevent the southeast from becoming engulfed in the country’s broader violent conflict, the US should take several initial steps. First, it should hand over materials such as vehicles and buildings used in the Counter-LRA effort to MINUSCA, enabling the mission to be ready to respond to any violence or attacks. Second, it should articulate how it will conduct training for FACA troops, assuming they pass required human rights vetting procedures, and begin this training immediately. Finally, it should recommend the troop ceiling for MINUSCA be raised, allowing the mission to find manpower to fill the void in the southeast. 

8.    What should the RCI-LRA do now that the US is pulling out its troops?

On May 12, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union renewed the mission’s mandate until May 2018.  However, until there is international financial support, the military component of the RCI-LRA is over. Uganda has already sent many troops home.

The Ugandan forces leave behind a mixed legacy. While they were instrumental in helping to secure the region, allegations of crimes committed by Ugandan troops, including sexual abuse, remain unaddressed.  With or without African Union hatted soldiers on the ground, it is critical that civilians in the Central African Republic who feel they have been aggrieved by soldiers operating under the Regional Task Force have access to justice and remedies.

Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about on-going allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse as well as sexual violence by Ugandan soldiers deployed in southeastern Central African Republic. The United Nations Secretary-General’s 2003 Bulletin on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse states that exploitation involves situations where women and girls are vulnerable and a differential power relationship exists. Exploitation is “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.”

“Karin,” a 15-year-old girl in Obo who was eight months pregnant at the time of photo. She told Human Rights Watch that a Ugandan soldier paid her up to 5,000 CFA (approximately $8.30 USD) to be his local “wife.”

©2017 Lewis Mudge/Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch has interviewed 16 survivors in Obo, some of whom had a child or children with Ugandan soldiers who have since left. Most of the women we interviewed were involved in sex-for-money or food schemes and were encouraged to be a Ugandan soldier’s “local wife.” Multiple women and girls said they were promised they would be taken to Uganda when the soldier’s rotation was finished. In many of these cases, sexual relations occurred on the Ugandan base. Women and girls said that Ugandan soldiers had threatened them not to talk to United Nations or Ugandan investigators.

Some survivors nevertheless tried to file a complaint at the Ugandan base and seek assistance in Obo. Three women and one girl said their allegations were ignored, while one woman said she received small amounts of food and medicine for a limited period.

According to available information, Ugandan investigators interviewed at least six survivors in the past year, but those survivors told Human Rights Watch that there has been no follow up or subsequent communication. The survivors said they had no means with which to contact the investigators.

The Ugandan military has announced investigations into these allegations.

Ensuring that these cases are properly investigated and addressed and that civilians negatively affected by the Counter-LRA operations have access to justice mechanisms and redress – despite the withdrawal – remains critical.

9.    What should the European Union and the United Nations do now that the US is pulling out its troops to ensure civilian protection?

In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA is the only force capable of addressing the threat posed to civilians by the LRA and spillover of violence into the south-east from the Ouaka, Haute-Kotto and Mboumou provinces. MINUSCA is mandated by the UN Security Council to protect civilians throughout the territory of the Central African Republic and has a crucial responsibility in this regard. It should use the Ugandan and US withdrawal to justify raising its troop ceiling to account for the loss of these international forces. In the meantime it will have to use a force that is already stretched too thin.

The European Union has provided critical support and training to the FACA. This support should continue to enable the Central African forces to eventually address insecurity by armed groups on its territory.

If AU states can propose a strategy to arrest Kony, countries sould consider supporting such a plan.

10.  What should happen with the pending International Criminal Court arrest warrant for LRA leader Joseph Kony?

Joseph Kony is charged with 12 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes committed in northern Uganda after July 1, 2002, and his forces are implicated in many other grave crimes committed across central Africa.

Kony should be arrested and surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face the charges against him.

The drawdown of the Counter-LRA Operation poses new challenges to Kony’s arrest as the resources and expertise from the operation will no longer be available to facilitate his surrender. While views are mixed on the impact of the operation to date, it is notable that Dominic Ongwen came into the custody of US forces in the operation and was then transferred to the ICC in 2015.

States that are committed to justice for Kony’s alleged crimes will need to work together to develop a strategy for advancing Kony’s arrest in the absence of the Counter-LRA Operation.

ICC states parties that are donors in the region—such as France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, along with the European Union and the United States—should take the lead in such efforts in close collaboration with regional governments.

The strategy should include plans for continued coordination among forces in the region to advance surrender, while respecting and promoting protection of civilians, and support for such efforts. It should also include diplomacy with regional governments where Kony may be located or moving around in to highlight the continued importance of his surrender.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Saif al-Islam, son of deposed strongman Muammar Gaddafi, sits behind bars during a court session in Zintan, Libya on May 2, 2013.

© 2013 AFP/Getty Images
(Beirut) – The authorities vying for legitimacy as Libya’s government should take all feasible steps to facilitate the surrender Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of Muammar Gaddafi, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said today. Independent international observers have not seen or heard from Gaddafi since June 2014, and do not know his current whereabouts.

The now disbanded Abu Baker al-Siddiq Brigade, which had been holding him in an unknown location in the western town of Zintan, said in an online statement on June 10, 2017, that it had released Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on June 9, citing an amnesty law passed by Libya’s parliament. Gaddafi is subject to an ICC arrest warrant to answer allegations of crimes against humanity in an investigation authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970.

“The reported release of Gaddafi based on a flawed amnesty law does not change the fact that he is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity,” said Richard Dicker, International Justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The Zintan brigade, which alleges that it released him, should urgently disclose his current whereabouts.”

The unanimous Security Council resolution requires the cooperation of Libyan authorities with any ICC investigation, including the surrender of suspects. Gaddafi is wanted by the ICC for his alleged role in attacks on civilians, including peaceful demonstrators, during the country’s 2011 uprising. On June 14, the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for Gaddafi’s immediate arrest and surrender.

The Abu Baker al-Siddiq Brigade had held Gaddafi in Zintan since capturing him during his attempted escape from the country in November 2011. The Brigade is allied with the Interim Government, one of three authorities vying for legitimacy in Libya, and the Libyan National Army forces in eastern Libya. In April 2016, the Interim Government ordered Gaddafi’s release based on the amnesty law. Human Rights Watch was unable to reach either the Zintan brigade or representatives of the Interim Government for comment.

The Brigade held Gaddafi incommunicado and subjected him to solitary confinement for long periods, which amounts to torture. In January 2014, Human Rights Watch interviewed Gaddafi in an office at a base in Zintan. During the visit, Gaddafi said that he had not had access to a lawyer of his choosing and had been interrogated a number of times without legal counsel. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in November 2013 that Gaddafi’s detention was arbitrary.

An official from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by the Tripoli-based Presidency Council, told Human Rights Watch that the Presidency Council had no information on Gaddafi’s current whereabouts. A June 12 news report quoting the Interim Government’s deputy justice minister, stated that the ministry did not have “accurate and official information about the release of Gaddafi's son or not.” Separately, on June 11, the Zintan municipal and military councils condemned Gaddafi’s release.

Although it never had custody of him, Tripoli’s Court of Assize put Gaddafi on trial in Libya in March 2014, along with 36 other former Gaddafi officials and employees, on charges of serious crimes during the February 17 revolution that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. The authorities established a closed-circuit video link to enable Gaddafi to participate from Zintan, but he was only able to join for 4 of the 25 trial sessions, according to the UN. The court convicted and sentenced him to death in absentia on July 28, 2015. Al-Siddiq al-Sur, the chief prosecutor in the case, said that Gaddafi would have the right to a retrial once he was in the custody of the authorities in Tripoli.

The trial, which convicted 32 other Gaddafi-era officials, was undermined by serious due process violations including lack of meaningful legal representation for defendants, repeated violations of defendants’ right to communicate with their lawyers in confidence, and no opportunity for defendants to question prosecution witnesses in court. In February 2017, the UN issued a comprehensive report that concluded the criminal proceeding against Gaddafi and others failed to meet international fair trial standards. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also concluded in its November 2013 opinion that the gravity of the due process violations in Gaddafi’s case made it impossible to guarantee him a fair trial in Libya.

Following Gaddafi’s in absentia conviction in July 2015, Libya’s parliament passed a general amnesty law. The law stipulates that those who commit crimes of terrorism, rape, torture, corruption, and murder by race or ethnicity may not receive an amnesty. However, it fails to rule out amnesty for other serious human rights crimes, such as forced displacement, forced disappearances, and unlawful killings.

On June 11, 2017, the Tripoli-based acting General Prosecutor, Ibrahim Massoud, asserted that Gaddafi was wanted for a retrial and did not qualify for the amnesty, and that in any event, only judicial authorities were authorized to determine who met the criteria outlined in the amnesty law. Massoud also reiterated that Gaddafi was wanted by the ICC. Libyan law stipulates that if a defendant is convicted in absentia, a retrial is to take place once the defendant is apprehended.

The internationally-recognized Government of National Accord is struggling to assert control over the country’s institutions and territory. In western Libya, it competes for control and legitimacy with another self-proclaimed authority, the Government of National Salvation. Libya’s parliament supports a third authority, the Interim Government in the eastern town of al-Bayda, as well as the Libyan National Army forces under Khalifa Hiftar. The parliament has failed to confirm the GNA cabinet.

In May 2014, an ICC appeals chamber upheld an earlier decision rejecting Libya’s bid to prosecute Gaddafi domestically. The court held that Libya had not provided enough evidence to demonstrate that it was investigating the same case as the one before the ICC, a requirement under the ICC treaty for such challenges. The ICC also held that Libya was genuinely unable to carry out an investigation of Gaddafi.

Following Libya’s failure to surrender Gaddafi to The Hague, ICC judges held in December 2014 that Libya had failed to cooperate with the court and forwarded their finding to the UN Security Council for follow-up. Though the Security Council has a range of options to encourage Libyan cooperation including resolutions, sanctions, and presidential statements, it has not formally acted. However, individual Security Council members have consistently stressed Libya’s outstanding obligation to transfer Gaddafi to The Hague, including at the ICC prosecutor’s last Libya briefing to the Council in May.

Al-Hadba Corrections Facility in Tripoli, where Gaddafi-era officials were being held pending an appeal of their conviction, was overrun on May 26 by the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, an armed group under the command of Haitham al-Tajouri and allied with the GNA through the Interior Ministry. The Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade moved the detainees – including Abdullah Sanussi, the Gaddafi era intelligence chief, former prime minister and former head of foreign intelligence Abuzeid Dorda, and al-Saadi Gaddafi, a brother of Saif al-Islam –  to an undisclosed location, according to a family member of one of the detainees. But media reports said that Sanussi and other former Al-Hadba detainees were seen on June 12 in a Tripoli hotel controlled by al-Tajouri having a meal with family members and others.

In April 2017, the ICC unsealed a separate arrest warrant issued in 2013 for the former head of Muammar Gaddafi’s Internal Security Agency, Mohamed Khaled Al-Tuhamy, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Libya between February-August 2011. His whereabouts remain unknown.

While the ICC has a mandate over crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide committed in Libya since February 15, 2011, the ICC prosecutor’s cases remain limited to officials from the former Gaddafi government. Human Rights Watch research in Libya since 2011 has shown rampant ongoing violations of international law, including mass long-term arbitrary detentions, torture, forced displacement, and unlawful killings. In the face of mounting atrocities, Human Rights Watch has called on the ICC prosecutor to urgently pursue an investigation into the ongoing crimes by all sides, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity.

In May, Bensouda said her office was examining the “feasibility” of opening an investigation into migrant-related crimes should the ICC’s jurisdictional requirements be met, and was committed to making the Libya situation a priority in 2017. Given the serious crimes committed in Libya and the challenges facing the authorities, the ICC’s mandate remains essential to ending impunity in Libya, Human Rights Watch said.


Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari (L) administers the oath of office to the newly-elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba (R), in the presence of outgoing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal also known as Prachanda (2nd L) and Constituent Assembly chairperson Onsari Gharti Magar (3rd L) at the presidential building in Kathmandu, Nepal June 7, 2017.

© Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

The office of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Nepal is located next to the peace and reconstruction ministry. The message and optics seem appropriate: to achieve lasting peace after a decade-long brutal conflict, truth and accountability is key. The decade-long war with Maoists in Nepal ended in 2006 with a peace agreement between political parties that also committed to truth and reconciliation. That promise has evaporated in the decade that followed, regardless of the political party in power.

Unfortunately, the commitment to justice appears to end with setting up an office, and arranging photo-ops with dignitaries.

Even as a new prime minister takes office in Kathmandu, there is little indication of political will to ensure justice. The commission falls short of Supreme Court orders setting out its powers. Diplomats say that while there is interest in supporting a transitional justice process in Nepal, it can only be one that meets international standards. Even the conflict’s victims are not quite sure what they can hope for.

In 2002, Suman Adhikari’s father, a school headmaster who refused to submit to extortion, was picked up by Maoist fighters in front of his students, then stabbed, shot, his body left hanging from a tree. Adhikari is now part of a victim group seeking justice and says they have waited long enough for the truth commission. Now they are disappointed. “The TRC Act is faulty, the process is faulty. We don’t trust the commission, but we have filed petitions to test it. What choice do we have?”

The key to changing this situation is international pressure, particularly from the US, UK and India, to ensure that he and other victims have a chance to receive answers.

None of the political parties—including the Maoists, and the military—have responded to police complaints or court orders seeking investigations and prosecutions. Even in cases where courts have ordered arrests or convicted people, the accused have refused to submit. The political leadership often refers to war time cases as “politically motivated” cases which should be handled by the TRC instead. The law specifically recommends amnesty in contravention of international practice.

In April 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the inspector general of Nepal Police to arrest Maoist leader Bal Krishna Dhungel, who was convicted for murder by a district court in 2004. Although the ruling was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2010, Dhungel, a member of parliament, has evaded arrest thanks to political protection. While the Supreme Court says the failure to arrest Dhungel can be treated as contempt, Maoist leaders insist that the murder should be treated as “a political case” and handled by the TRC, not the courts.

The military too, routinely ignores the court, refusing to produce suspects before judges, or ensure that those convicted are arrested. On April 16, 2017, the Kavre district court sentenced three officers to life imprisonment for the murder of Maina Sunuwar, a 15-year-old girl who was tortured to death in army custody in February 2004. The trial took place in the absence of any of the four accused, despite repeated court summons. An arrest warrant issued in 2008 was never enforced by Nepali authorities, with the police telling the court they were unable to trace the accused. The three officers convicted are no longer in the army and are believed to have fled abroad. 

Political leaders seldom cover up their lack of interest in justice. The new prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was also prime minister for some time during the conflict, has said that state security forces cannot be punished for human rights violations that occurred during the decade-long insurgency.The usual refrain, echoed by a TRC member to Human Rights Watch: “If perpetrators are to be prosecuted, how can there be reconciliation?” 

This is often a popular argument against conflict-related accountability anywhere in the world: that abuses occur during war, but once there is peace, those violations should be accepted as a tragedy, but set aside to focus on future peace.

But time and experience have proven that without justice, peace efforts stumble. The government of Nepal and the international community, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have a clear responsibility and should support victims and civil society efforts to ensure justice, including with offers for technical support to victims.

Nepal’s international partners cannot allow conflict-related abuses to be swept under the carpet, and nor should they condone any further delays. But that can only happen if the laws are amended as ordered by the Supreme Court. These standards are set out succinctly in a technical note issued by the UN.

Inside the TRC office, in rows of steel cupboards, are the nearly 59,000 petitions from conflict victims. In addition, the disappearances commission has received another 3000 complaints. These families deserve answers and justice, without further delay.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(London) – The United Kingdom authorities’ arrest of Agnes Reeves Taylor in London for her alleged role in torture committed during Liberia’s first civil war is a meaningful step for justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Reeves Taylor, the former wife of imprisoned former Liberian president Charles Tayler, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes unit on June 1, 2017, and subsequently charged with torture.

Reeves Taylor, who has been living in the UK, is expected to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on June 3, said a statement issued by British authorities.  She was alleged to have committed the crimes while working with the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by her former husband during his bid to unseat then-president Samuel K. Doe.

“The actions taken by the United Kingdom to address crimes committed during Liberia’s brutal civil war will no doubt be welcomed by victims in Liberia,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch. “The NPFL committed horrific abuses against civilians but no one has ever been held to account for the crimes. The Liberian authorities should themselves take steps to ensure that those responsible for civil-war-era crimes are brought to justice.”

Liberia has made no effort to hold to account those responsible for crimes that violate international law during the conflict in the country, from 1989 to 1996, which left tens of thousands dead. But this is the third arrest by European authorities of a suspect associated with atrocities in Liberia. The first case involved the NPFL Commander Martina Johnson, who was arrested in Belgium in September 2014, and the second was Alieu Kosiah, a commander from the opposing United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy who was arrested in Switzerland in November 2014.

Reeves Taylor is the first person to be arrested under UK universal jurisdiction laws for crimes committed in Africa. The UK has previously adjudicated three other cases under such laws. The first was the case of Anthony Sawoniuk, convicted for Nazi-related crimes under the War Crimes Act of 1991, which is specific to crimes committed during World War II. The second was the conviction of Faryadi Zardad, an Afghan warlord charged with torture. The third case was the charges of torture against Colonel Kumar Lama from Nepal, who was recently acquitted.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A Palestinian medic inspects a damaged room at Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital, in Deir el-Balah, central Gaza Strip, after the building was shelled by the Israeli army on July 21, 2014, killing at least 3 people and wounding about 40 others.

© 2014 Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

(New York) – Deadly attacks on hospitals and medical workers in conflicts around the world remain uninvestigated and unpunished a year after the United Nations Security Council called for greater action, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 25, 2017, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2286, which condemned wartime attacks on health facilities and urged governments to act against those responsible. Guterres should commit to alerting the Security Council of all future attacks on healthcare facilities on an ongoing rather than annual basis.

“Attacks on hospitals challenge the very foundation of the laws of war, and are unlikely to stop as long as those responsible for the attacks can get away with them,” said Bruno Stagno-Ugarte, deputy executive director for advocacy at Human Rights Watch. “Attacks on hospitals are especially insidious, because when you destroy a hospital and kill its health workers, you’re also risking the lives of those who will need their care in the future.”

Workers collect human remains at the yard of a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Abs district of Hajjah governorate, Yemen, after it was hit by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, killing 19 and wounding 24 staff and patients, on August 16, 2016.

© 2016 Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

A report by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, a coalition of international nongovernmental organizations, published in May, found that attacks on health facilities and medical workers continued to occur at an alarming rate in 2016.

International humanitarian law, also known as the laws of war, prohibits attacks on health facilities and medical workers. To assess accountability measures undertaken for such attacks, Human Rights Watch reviewed 25 major attacks on health facilities between 2013 and 2016 in 10 countries. For 20 of the incidents, no publicly available information indicates that investigations took place. In many cases, authorities did not respond to requests for information about the status of investigations. Investigations into the remaining five were seriously flawed.



No one appears to have faced criminal charges for their role in any of these attacks, at least 16 of which may have constituted war crimes. The attacks involved military forces or armed groups from Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and the United States.

The UN system, under its Human Rights Up Front initiative, should collect information on all health facility attacks, press governments to fully investigate them, and recommend avenues for accountability.

The 25 incidents reviewed resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people, including 41 health workers, and injured 180. The attacks also had significant impact on health services as 16 hospitals were partially or completely closed, at least temporarily.

Rescue workers and others remove rubble while looking for survivors in the ruins of a destroyed hospital supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres that was hit by an airstrike, killing 25 health workers and patients and injuring 11 others, in Marat Numan, Idlib province, Syria, February 16, 2016.

© 2016 Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

In the 20 incidents without apparent investigations, governments ignored credible allegations about the attacks, publicly denied responsibility, or blamed other parties without conducting an inquiry. In several cases, authorities claimed to have initiated investigations, but have either failed to present any findings or have not conducted any investigation whatsoever.

In one example, neither Iraqi nor US-led coalition forces acknowledged an October 2016 airstrike that hit the main health facility in a village near Mosul, Iraq, destroying half the clinic and killing eight people, though the forces carried out airstrikes near Mosul on that day.

In another, in February 2016, airstrikes hit the two largest hospitals serving the city of Ma’aret al-Nu’man, Syria, destroying one of the hospitals and killing 20 people, including 11 health workers. But Russia and Syria, the parties most likely responsible for both attacks, immediately denied responsibility and claimed that US-led coalition forces carried out the strikes. US authorities denied this allegation. None of the parties investigated the incident.

Five of the 25 incidents Human Rights Watch reviewed appear to have been investigated in some form. But Human Rights Watch found that investigating authorities either left critical questions about the circumstances unanswered or failed to draw appropriate conclusions from their findings.

For example, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition task force investigating potential violations by their forces in Yemen concluded that an August 2016 attack on a hospital in the city of Abs, Hajjah governorate, was an “error” but failed to determine whether the attack violated the laws of war.

Hospital beds in the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan about six months after US airstrikes killed 42 patients and medical staff and wounded dozens of others, on April 26, 2016.

© 2016 Josh Smith/Reuters

Following the October 2015 attack by the US military on a trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 42 people and injured dozens of others, a US Defense Department investigation concluded that the attack violated the laws of war, but was not a war crime because the hospital was not targeted intentionally. However, the US investigation’s findings indicated criminal recklessness by US forces, which could amount to a war crime.

The Defense Department disciplined 12 military personnel, including by demoting an officer, publicly apologized for the attack, and made changes to policies to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Some of the incidents were in war-torn countries without functioning justice systems. In countries such as Central Africa Republic, Libya, and South Sudan, almost no domestic investigations have been conducted into any alleged laws-of-war violations.

The council should react promptly to every serious attack on a health facility, including by demanding credible investigations and accountability.

Bruno Stagno-Ugarte

Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy

In some cases, UN-affiliated commissions have investigated incidents in which health facilities have been attacked, but at most they can recommend cases for criminal prosecution.

In many instances, the only possible option for accountability rests with international justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court, or under universal jurisdiction laws in other countries. The ICC has taken up two cases of attacks on health facilities.

“The UN Security Council needs to do much more to deter attacks on hospitals,” Stagno-Ugarte said. “The council should react promptly to every serious attack on a health facility, including by demanding credible investigations and accountability.”

Selected Incidents

The eight incidents below illustrate failures of accountability for attacks on hospitals and health workers. The selected cases reflect the variety of responses to these incidents, including denial of responsibility or simple disregard, stalled and flawed investigations, and situations without functioning justice systems.

For this research, Human Rights Watch collected information on 25 incidents that occurred across all major conflicts in which attacks on health facilities were reported between 2013 and 2016. Information on attacks and government responses to them were gathered through interviews with witnesses, health workers, and representatives from humanitarian organizations. This was supplemented by open-source searches, reviews of relevant UN and other publications, analysis of photographs and videos posted on the internet, and analysis of satellite imagery where relevant. Where possible, we spoke to government officials and sent letters with our findings to appropriate investigative bodies.

Airstrike on Hammam al-Alil Health Clinic in Iraq, October 18, 2016

On October 18, 2016, an airstrike destroyed half a clinic in the ISIS-controlled town of Hammam al-Alil, Iraq, 30 kilometers south of the embattled city of Mosul. Eight people were killed, including a 72-year-old man who had taken his two grandsons to the clinic for a polio vaccination. Health workers reported that about 50 people were at the clinic, the main healthcare facility in the area, with a population of 70,000. The strike destroyed the radiation department, vaccination division, and human resources and administrative departments.

Both the US-led coalition and the Iraqi military were conducting airstrikes near Mosul that day in the fighting against ISIS. Human Rights Watch was unable to identify the source of the attack.

A health worker told Human Rights Watch that after ISIS took control of the town in July 2014, fighters took over an office in one of the treatment wards. Health workers said that three ISIS fighters, including the transportation minister, were killed in the attack.

ISIS military use of the hospital was in violation of international humanitarian law. But while the presence of ISIS fighters in the hospital made it a military objective, and thus a possible legitimate target of attack, international humanitarian law requires that attacks on medical facilities only be carried out after a warning has been given, setting a reasonable time limit to heed the warning, and after that time limit has expired. Health workers said that there was no warning.

Moreover, attacks on military objectives must be proportionate: the expected harm to civilians and civilian property cannot be greater than the anticipated military gain from the attack. This incident raises serious questions about whether it met the proportionality requirement. Yet, neither the Iraqi government nor US-led coalition forces have provided information on the intended target of the attack or made a commitment to investigate it as a possible violation of international humanitarian law.

Airstrike on Abs Hospital in Abs, Hajjah, Yemen, August 15, 2016

On August 15, 2016, Saudi-led coalition forces carried out an airstrike that hit a vehicle parked between the emergency and triage areas of Abs Hospital, a facility supported by MSF. MSF reported that the attack severely damaged the hospital’s emergency department and left 19 dead, including one of the hospital’s staff members, and 24 wounded, including 11 staff members.

According to MSF, the hospital had been the only one functioning in the western part of Hajjah governorate, and had been a lifeline to the 300,000 internally displaced people in the region. In the year before the attack, the facility’s 14-bed emergency room had handled more than 12,000 outpatient visits, and hospital staff had helped 1,631 women deliver babies.

Following the attack, the facility was out of service for more than a week. Ten days later, the emergency room, maternity ward, and lab reopened, though attendance remained low.

After the attack generated headlines, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), a body set up by the coalition to investigate potential violations of international humanitarian law committed by their forces in Yemen, opened an investigation into the incident. On December 6, Saudi state media reported that JIAT had concluded that the coalition had targeted a vehicle it considered to be a “legitimate military target” and that the damage to the hospital building was unintentional.

Key findings of the JIAT investigation, as reported by the media, directly contradict MSF’s account and visual documentation of the attack, and raise concerns about the investigation’s thoroughness. For example:

  • JIAT claimed that the building “had no signs of being a hospital before the bombing,” whereas MSF said that it had repeatedly provided the coalition with GPS coordinates of the facility, including on August 10, five days before the incident. MSF’s internal investigation’s report also included photos that show the MSF logo clearly painted on two roofs, which also appeared in videos posted by local media soon after the attack that Human Rights Watch reviewed; and
  • JIAT concluded that seven people were killed in the attack; MSF put the number at 19 and video footage and photos of the site suggest a higher death toll than seven.

Moreover, the JIAT investigation did not address whether the attack violated international humanitarian law and did not recommend a criminal investigation. It did recommend that the coalition apologize for the error and compensate those affected, and that the incident should be “further investigated” without clarifying by whom.

To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, the Saudi government has neither provided compensation for those harmed nor offered a public apology.

Raid on Clinic in Tangi Saidan, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, February 17-18, 2016

On the night of February 17 to 18, 2016, soldiers reported to be Afghan Security Forces supported by international troops, raided a medical clinic in Tangi Saidan, Wardak province, west of Kabul. The soldiers reportedly handcuffed staff members and made them lie down on the floor, then searched the 10-bed facility for Taliban fighters.

The soldiers took two patients, one of whom was under 18 years old, and a 15-year-old boy from the clinic and shot them dead outside the clinic’s grounds. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, which supports the clinic, reported that local staff had observed at least two soldiers wearing foreign uniforms and speaking a language that sounded like English.

On February 25, NATO told IRIN News that its Joint Casualty Assessment Team had begun “a preliminary probe to determine if the allegations concerning civilian victims are credible.” Since then, NATO has made various statements that its investigation had found “absolutely no evidence to support that allegation,” without specifying which allegation it was referring to, or whether international military forces were present at the raid and claiming not to have access to health workers who witnessed the incident. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan told IRIN that it had “been in contact with NATO and agreed upon a procedure to take testimony from SCA staff.” NATO has not released any findings or conclusions from its investigation.

Reports published in the week after the raid indicated that the Afghan government opened an investigation into the incident concerning the conduct of its forces, but no findings have been released publicly.

Airstrikes on al-Hamadiya Hospital and the National Hospital in Ma’aret al-Nu’man in Idlib, Syria, February 15, 2016

On February 15, 2016, starting at about 9 a.m., at least four separate airstrikes hit two of the largest hospitals serving the city of Ma’aret al-Nu’man within a period of three hours. The northern city is in an area of Idlib governorate, controlled by Syrian opposition groups.

The humanitarian medical organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders, or MSF) reported that two strikes in quick succession hit al-Hamadiya Hospital, destroying the four-story building, killing at least 9 medical personnel and 16 patients and caretakers, and injuring another 11 people. Following the attack, emergency medical personnel began transporting the wounded to the National Hospital, six kilometers north of al-Hamadiya Hospital.

At about 11 a.m., the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the Idlib Health Directorate reported that the Ma’aret al Nu’man National Hospital had been struck by two munitions. SAMS, which supports the facility, said that the first munition hit about three meters from the hospital. Ten minutes later, another munition fell close to the hospital’s entrance, where the wounded from the al-Hamadiya hospital were being shuttled in. The attack killed at least four people, including two nurses in training, according to SAMS. Hospital administrators told Human Rights Watch that the facility did not receive advance warning of the attacks.

Both facilities were attacked from the air, making it likely that Syrian or Russian air forces were responsible. A detailed analysis by Forensic Architecture suggests that the attack on the first hospital was carried out by the Russian Air Force, and the second by the Syrians. The Russian and Syrian governments immediately denied responsibility. On February 16, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, rejected claims made by MSF, which supported al-Hamadiya Hospital, that either the Russian or Syrian air forces were responsible for the attack on the hospital in Ma’aret al-Nu’man, calling the allegation “unacceptable.”

In a statement to the UN press corps, Bashar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the UN, denied Russian responsibility for the attack and claimed that the Syrian government possessed information that it was the US-led alliance that struck a hospital in Syria on February 15, 2016. The US Air Force spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve denied these allegations in a tweet.

The Russian government has not responded to a February 2017 Human Rights Watch letter inquiring whether it had investigated these incidents.

Airstrikes on Trauma Center in Kunduz, Afghanistan, October 3, 2015

On October 3, 2015, the US Air Force carried out an aerial attack on an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attack killed 42 people, including 14 MSF staff members, and injured dozens more. MSF’s internal review of the case found that much of the hospital’s vital facilities were destroyed, including the intensive care unit, operating theaters, and emergency room.

The hospital was the province’s most advanced medical facility and was the only one of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan. Before it opened in 2011, severely injured patients had to travel to Kabul or Pakistan for treatment. Since 2011, it had conducted more than 15,000 surgeries and treated patients during more than 68,000 emergency room visits.

The day of the incident, the US government confirmed that its military had carried out the attack and promised to investigate. In November 2015, the US Defense Department released a summary of its investigation, which concluded that the attack was the result of a combination of human errors, equipment failure, and miscommunication. A redacted investigation report was published in April 2016, and found that US forces committed several serious violations, including initiating an attack that was unlawfully disproportionate to the expected military gain, as well as failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians. The report ultimately concluded that the attack did not constitute a war crime because forces had not intentionally targeted the medical facility.

However, the report shows overwhelming evidence of recklessness on the part of US forces, which could amount to the necessary criminal intent for a war crime. For instance, the ground commander had authorized the strikes on the basis of a single source, despite being “9 km from the [facility]” and not having a visual “line of sight.” None of the commanders used “resources available … that would have confirmed” that the attacked location was a medical facility and not the intended target, a grouping of Taliban attackers. Moreover, commanders allowed the air crew to continue shooting at the hospital for an additional eight minutes, even after MSF alerted commanders that they were attacking a hospital.

The US government apologized for the attack and made significant changes to military operating procedures to prevent a similar attack in the future. The investigation identified sixteen servicemembers who were involved in the attack, and twelve were given administrative punishments, according to the Defense Department. One officer was demoted and removed from Afghanistan, the others either received letters of reprimand, were sent to counseling, or went through mandatory retraining. The US government also offered compensation to the families of the victims and approved funds to reconstruct the MSF facility.

None of the servicemembers involved faced criminal charges.

Furthermore, the Afghan government’s investigation into the role of Afghan troops in the incident was never completed. While Afghan forces played a crucial role in supplying the US airship first with GPS coordinates of the original target and later with a physical description of the hospital’s compound, the Afghan government has not reported on whether troops knowingly provided their US allies with a description of the hospital, rather than the intended target. Moreover, Afghan officials have repeatedly claimed the hospital compound was being used by the Taliban for military purposes, stating the day after the attack, for example, that the Taliban had taken control of the compound prior to the airstrike. MSF rejected those claims.

On October 10, 2015, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had appointed investigators to look into the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz and the US airstrike on the hospital. However, the final report did not mention the airstrike.

Attack on Shuhada’ al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza, July 24, 2014

On July 21, 2014, at about 2:40 p.m., Israeli tanks repeatedly fired on the Shuhada’ al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza while patients and staff were inside. The attacks reportedly resulted in three or four civilian deaths and injured about 40 people, including medical staff and patients. The surgical and intensive care units, as well as two ambulances, were damaged, Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq said.

In June 2016, the Israeli Military Advocate General responded to complaints submitted by multiple Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, saying that the incident was still under review.

An investigation by the UN human rights office found the facility was not given advance warning of the attack.

Established in 2001, Shuhada’ al-Aqsa Hospital was the only major hospital in the central district of the Gaza Strip, which had a population of about 260,000. In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, the hospital’s emergency department had more than 90,000 patient visits, and its surgical department admitted 4,521 patients.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson told the media that initial investigations into the incident found “that a cache of antitank missiles was stored in the immediate vicinity of the Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital.” However, Israel has not published findings of any additional investigation.

The Military Advocate General has not responded to a February 2017 Human Rights Watch letter seeking more information about its investigation into this incident.

Shelling of Railway Hospital in Liman, Ukraine, June 3, 2014

On June 3, 2014, nine mortar shells hit the Liman City Hospital (known as the “Railway Hospital”) in Liman, seriously damaging the facility’s pharmacy and general therapy, surgery, and gynecology wings. Health workers told Human Rights Watch that the hospital’s only surgeon was hit in the head by a shell fragment and died several days later. The hospital’s chief doctor said that he believed that Ukrainian government forces, which at the time were fighting for control over the area against Russia-backed rebel forces, fired the mortars.

The hospital had 90 beds and was used primarily by railway workers. Approximately 80 patients were inside the facility at the time of the attack, though none were injured.

The Human Rights Watch investigation found that the hospital may have been intentionally targeted, as it suffered far greater damage from shelling than the surrounding area. Moreover, medical personnel said that soldiers from the Ukrainian military arrived at the hospital on June 4, the day after the attack, and asked to be shown through its wards, referring to the hospital as an “insurgent hospital.” Another group of soldiers searched the hospital on June 9.

A day after the attack, the Ukrainian National Guard denied any involvement, saying its forces had not been in Liman that day. The hospital’s chief doctor said that he had promptly filed a complaint with the district prosecutor’s office and had submitted all shell fragments to prosecutors. He said that the prosecutor’s office also recorded his testimony and examined the hospital grounds. The district prosecutor, however, has not published any findings of the investigation – it remains unclear whether a formal investigation was ever opened.

The Ukrainian government has not responded to a February 2017 Human Rights Watch request for information about any possible investigation into the incident.

Raid on Amitié Hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, December 5, 2013

At 6 a.m. on December 5, 2013, a group of anti-balaka fighters brought several injured people to Hôpital de l’Amitié (Amitié Hospital) in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, according to a report by the International Commission of Inquiry on Central African Republic. A few hours later, fighters from the opposing Seleka militia arrived at the hospital and searched for anti-balaka fighters. They took between 8 and 20 young men – the exact number remains in dispute – out of the hospital at gunpoint and shot them.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, former President Michel Djotodia, who was the leader of the Seleka militia at the time of the attack, acknowledged the killings but denied responsibility: “I control my men. The men I can’t control are not my men.”

Amitié Hospital is one of four hospitals in Bangui. After the attack, it was closed until January 2014, when Save the Children helped to reopen it.

Since the country descended into political and communal violence in 2013, the government has struggled to maintain control. The domestic justice system no longer functions, with limited capacity to investigate or prosecute the large numbers of serious crimes the various armed groups have committed. The killings of patients at Amitié Hospital have not been investigated.

Since September 2014, the office of the prosecutor of the ICC has been investigating the situation in the Central African Republic, focusing on alleged crimes in the country since August 2012, the second investigation by the court into crimes committed in the country.

In June 2015, the country’s then-transitional president promulgated a law to establish a Special Criminal Court, consisting of national and international staff, to investigate the gravest crimes committed in the country since 2003, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. In February 2017, a prosecutor was named to the court. It remains unclear whether the Special Criminal Court will investigate the raid on Amitié Hospital and other attacks on health facilities in the country.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

On Friday, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson convened a high-level debate on North Korea’s nuclear program at the United Nations Security Council, as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and foreign affairs ministers took to the floor in turn expressing their growing concern about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a Security Council meeting on the situation in North Korea at the United Nations, in New York City, U.S., April 28, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

But a number of the speakers went further. Several states, including the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, and Italy, noted the link between the nuclear program pursued by the regime’s leaders and the gross deprivations faced by North Korea’s people. Tillerson warned that “North Korea feeds billions of dollars into a nuclear problem it does not need while its own people starve.”

Last month, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, made the case that, “systematic human rights violations help underwrite the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs” as “the government forces many of its citizens, including political prisoners, to work in life-threatening conditions in coal mines and other dangerous industries to finance the regime’s military.”

The Security Council is increasingly recognizing that Pyongyang’s nuclear aspirations are inextricably linked to its cruel treatment of its citizens – which a UN-mandated commission of inquiry found amounted to crimes against humanity. This offers a glimmer of hope to North Korea’s countless victims that their plight will not be forgotten in the pursuit of security.

What was left largely unsaid, however, was the importance of holding people responsible for abuses – abuses that had no parallel in terms of their gravity, scale, and nature, according to the UN commission of inquiry. Asking North Korea to do so is a non-starter, since the state is responsible for the policies that led to gross violations.

In today’s briefing, Tillerson asked “the community of nations to help us preserve security and protect human dignity” of the people of North Korea. A critical part of that effort should include bringing those responsible for crimes of humanity to justice.



Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am