Rearming CAR’s forces in a transitional justice framework

(This post has been modified from a previous article published by the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory)

As international forces scrambled to provide security for the visit of Pope Francis to the Central African Republic (CAR) and recent, largely-peaceful elections, local and international actors have called for the rearmament of the country’s armed forces following the re-emergence of sectarian violence. However, such a move is fraught with danger, including threats by certain ex-Séléka factions to invade the capital Bangui should it occur.

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CAR’s national armed forces (FACA) in Bangui, photo credit: AFP

CAR’s recent wave of sectarian violence followed a civil war that erupted in December 2012, when the Muslim-led Séléka alliance headed by Michel Djotodia took up arms and toppled President Francois Bozize’s regime with help from Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries. Ensuing clashes between Séléka fighters and the mainly-Christian “anti-balaka” militias were estimated to have killed over 3,000 people before a ceasefire was signed in July 2014.

Following many months of relative calm, Bangui witnessed a renewal of intense fighting in late September this year. The apparent trigger was the stabbing death of a Muslim taxi driver, with residents of the capital’s PK5 neighborhood taking to the streets. Since then, at least 90 people have been killed and 40,000 displaced, according to United Nations estimates.Cameroonian and Burundian peacekeepers with the UN’s mission in CAR (MINUSCA) were among the dead. National political leaders have also been abducted and the myriad, well-armed militia groups continue to threaten the country’s transition after years of civil conflict.

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The latest twist in the case of Thomas Kwoyelo

by Paul Bradfield

Kwoyelo

Thomas Kwoyelo awaits the start of his trial in Gulu, July 2011. Photo: Justice and Reconciliation Project

A few days ago, former Lord’s Resistance Army (‘LRA’) rebel commander, Thomas Kwoyelo, seemingly made a direct appeal to President Yoweri Museveni to be pardoned for crimes he is alleged to have committed in northern Uganda during the civil war. In an interview with the government-sponsored newspaper, the New Vision, Kwoyelo is quoted as saying:

“Having undergone various rehabilitation programmes, I have realised my past mistakes like any other Ugandan who erred.

I pray that the President gives me a second chance in life.” Kwoyelo, who is currently on a peacemaking and reconciliation programme, said he has benefited from the course and pledged to practice what he has learnt because it calls for reconciliation with God and the society he wronged.

“I am willing to work with the Government at all cost. Once considered for clemency, I swear never to go back to rebel activities,” he said.

This plea for clemency, and the timing of it, is intriguing for a number of reasons. But first, some background and context for those not familiar with the case of Thomas Kwoyelo.

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A Proposal to Compensate the Acquitted and Promote Reconciliation in the Balkans

by Alex Fielding, @alexpfielding on twitter

In light of the ongoing Seselj drama following the disqualification of Judge Harhoff for his pro-conviction bias (see my earlier post here and recent developments here) and the controversial acquittals of Momcilo Perisic, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac by the ICTY Appeals Chamber, and those of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic at trial, I keep coming back to the question of compensation for acquitted persons for the years spent in detention. While this may not, on its face, be a popular proposition for human rights activists and a general public whose primary concern is ‘ending impunity’, consider the following figures.

Momcilo Perisic, Photo: ICTY

According to my calculations, Momcilo Perisic, former Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army, spent approximately 4 years, 5 months and 10 days in detention prior to his acquittal on appeal on 28 February 2013 (note that these figures are NOT including the periods of provisional release from the ICTY’s detention facility in The Hague, which in Perisic’s case amounted to an additional 3.5 years).

Ante Gotovina, former Colonel General of the Croatian Army and Commander of ‘Operation Storm’, spent approximately 6 years, 11 months and 12 days in detention prior to his acquittal on appeal on 16 November 2012.  His co-accused Mladen Markac, former Operational Commander of the Croatian Special Police, spent 5 years, 7 months and 12 days in detention prior to his acquittal on appeal.

Ante Gotovina & Mladen Markac, Photo: Guardian

Ante Gotovina & Mladen Markac, Photo: Guardian

Including time spent on provisional release (I couldn’t find the relevant detention figures that do NOT include provisional release), it took 10 years from the time Jovica Stanisic, former Chief of the Serbian State Security Service, was sent to the ICTY to his acquittal at trial on 30 May 2013.  His co-accused Franko Simatovic, member of the Serbian State Security Service, waited 9 years, 11 months and 19 days for his acquittal at trial. Both men have been released pending the Prosecution’s appeal. They have also submitted arguments on appeal to the effect that the trial judgment was tainted by the bias of one of the sitting judges on the case, Judge Harhoff, but more on this later.

Vojislav Seselj, former President of the Serbian Radical Party, has already spent 10 years, 8 months and 25 days in detention (although 4 years and 9 months were a result of his three convictions for contempt of court) as he awaits a trial judgment that may be fatally flawed. Closing arguments wrapped up in March 2012 and the judgment had been scheduled for delivery on 30 October 2013 but then Judge Harhoff was disqualified for bias on 28 August 2013. Since there was no reserve judge in this case, the acting President of the ICTY Judge Agius controversially appointed Judge Niang to replace Judge Harhoff on 31 October 2013, even though he was not present during the entirety of the trial itself.

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The Creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo

pc3a9tition

(La version en langue française de la présente note est ci-après)

(Note: the translated portions of the original French letter below are not an official translation)

The summer of 2013 witnessed the launch of a petition, initiated by “52 prominent women” including the Congolese lawyer Ms. Hamuly Rély, calling for the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The petition, which is still open for signature, was addressed to the French President François Hollande, the American President Barack Obama, the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki Moon, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Chaiperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Secretary General of the Organisation for Francophonie Abdou Diouf, President of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy, and the Presidency of the UN Security Council.

Before giving some personal thoughts (III) and addressing the potential judicial consequences of the establishment of such a Tribunal (II), this note focus on the content of the petition (I).

I. The Content of the Petition

1. Regarding the arguments and motivations:  Continue reading

What I say may not be true, but it’s always for peace.

BTH_22-8-13

During a recent conversation with one of Ituri’s many local leaders, he said something that I keep thinking about. He was telling me about his role in the community. In his words, he was a man of the peace, working always towards la pacification. Here is a rough translation of his words:

I’m a man of peace, always working for the pacification of Ituri, even during the war! People know this about me, so they come to me with questions and for information. And I tell them things. Sometimes they’re true and sometimes they’re not true. But they’re always for peace!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this man (full disclosure: he’s not the guy in the photo, which I took…but I think this photo kind of speaks to the issue). He clearly was on the side of peace. Even during the war he would leave the capital, Bunia, to get messages of peace to the villages in his native territory (if what he told me was true of course…). On one trip he was attacked with a machete (that’s true–he showed me the scar). So his response alarmed me. He said it with a large grin, almost as further proof that he really was a man of the peace: willing to lie in the name of peace!

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Lost in reconciliation? Poland, Ukraine and the Volhynia massacres

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Photo: Roger Gorączniak, via Wikimedia Commons

The crime of genocide was recently at the heart of one of the Polish parliament’s most heated and publicized debates of the past months. The crime was discussed in relation to the Volhynia massacres – one of those episodes in Eastern Europe’s World War II history which until now have not been ultimately reckoned with and continue to stir unwelcome animosities.

Prior to WW II, ethnic tensions in Volhynia worsened gradually in the thirties. This was largely due to Poland’s departure from the toleration policy it had initially adopted towards  the Ukrainian majority living in eastern borderlands of the country. The rise of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists triggered further repressive measures inflicted on the Ukrainians by the Polish government. These tensions eventually led to horrifying events. It is estimated that between 1943 and 1945 up to 100 thousand Poles were killed by units of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists−Bandera fraction (OUN-B) and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) (OUN-UPA). The so called “butchery” took place mainly in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia between February 1943 and February 1944 and reached its peak in mid-July 1943. The supposed objective was to clean the Volhynia of ethnic Poles and thereby lay groundwork for an independent state of Ukraine. Although Poles were probably the main target of this OUN-UPA campaign they were not the only one. Many of those belonging to Jewish, Czech, Armenian and other ethnic groups which inhabited Vohlynia and Eastern Galicia were killed. Among the victims were also Ukrainians, either politically opposed to OUN-UPA or simply those whom the organization considered as too lenient towards the Polish occupant. In response to the attacks Poles soon organized themselves in self-defense groups and killed Ukrainians in acts of retaliation. It is estimated that 10 to 30 thousand Ukrainians lost their lives in the 1943 – 1947 clashes that continued in Volhynia and Western Galicia. To complete this brief summary of events, straight after the war, the newly formed communist government of Poland forcibly re-settled thousands (estimated at over 140 000) of Ukrainians from the south east of the country to the former German territories ceded to Poland at the Potsdam Peace Conference of 1945. The official aim of this Wisła operation was to remove any possible OUN-UPA support.

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