Dutch State Targeted in Appeal Over Srebrenica Massacre

Image: TOPSHOTS-BOSNIA-WAR-SREBRENICA-ANNIVERSARYThis Thursday, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves victims’ group will launch an appeal in The Hague against a 2014 verdict which held the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of about 300 Bosniaks after the fall of Srebrenica.

The district court in The Hague ruled in July 2014 that Dutch peacekeeping troops had failed to protect 300 Bosniaks after Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb Army on July 11, 1995, and ordered the Netherlands to pay compensation.

But Marco Gerritsen, the lawyer for the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association said that the Netherlands should be found guilty of responsibility for the deaths of all the Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed after the enclave fell – more than 7,000 men and boys.

After Srebrenica was overrun by Serb forces, thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in the UN base just outside Srebrenica, at Potocari, where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.

However, while the women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area, the Dutch soldiers handed more than 7000 men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them that they would be safe. All of them subsequently got killed by the Bosnian Serb army.

The 2014 verdict said that on the night of July 12, 1995 or the morning of July 13, the Dutch authorities “knew or should have known” that there was a possibility that the Bosniaks would be killed, so they were found guilty of the deaths of about 300 people who were handed over from that moment onwards.

But the verdict acquitted the Netherlands of responsibility for the deaths of Bosniaks who had been handed over to Serb policemen and soldiers prior to that.

Gerristen said that during the appeal he would present a document dated July 11, in which the Dutch defence minister said he was afraid for the safety of the Bosniaks.

“Therefore, there is a responsibility of the Netherlands for the death of all Bosniaks whom they handed over,” Gerritsen said.

For Marco Gerritsen, the Dutch authorities were only concerned about the safety of their own soldiers, so “many civilians got killed” thanks to the hurried departure of the Dutch soldiers and the handover of the Bosniaks.

 

UN Whistleblower Cleared of Wrongdoing for Revealing Abuse in Central African Republic

Anders Kompass, representante del Alto C

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Anders Kompass, the UN whistleblower who exposed the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers in Central African Republic, has been completely exonerated after an internal investigation.

Kompass, the director of field operations for the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, leaked an internal UN report on the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in Central African Republic (CAR) to French prosecutors.

Kompass stated that he informed his boss – the deputy high commissioner – that he had leaked the report in order for the French to mount an investigation. The UN disputed this, insisting that he had breached protocols by sharing a secret internal document.

On 17 April 2015, he was suspended by the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and put under investigation for leaking confidential information.

It’s only a few days ago that Kompass was informed in a letter that the internal investigation, run by the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), had cleared him of all charges. Continue reading

UN Report Calls for Special Court to Prosecute Sri Lanka War Crimes

UN Sri LankaToday, a long-delayed report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for accountability for war crimes committed in Sri Lanka, was released to the public. The report includes the principal findings of OHCHR’s investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights committed during the 26-year armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

The OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), a special team established by the former High Commissioner Navi Pillay, identified several crimes that were committed between 2002 and 2011, which, if established in a court of law, could amount to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.

The OISL called on the Government of Sri Lanka to adopt specific legislation establishing an ad hoc hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, mandated to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The OISL also called on the Government of Sri Lanka to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Sri Lanka’s government said on Monday that it was setting up a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to look into the atrocities. However, the UN report found that Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system was not yet ready or equipped to conduct independent and credible investigations into the allegations contained in the OISL report, or to hold accountable those responsible for the violations. Continue reading

UN votes to Allow Palestinian Flag to be Raised over UN

Palestine FlagThe United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday voting in favour of raising a flag of Palestine at its headquarters in New York City.

119 states voted in favour, while eight voted against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, United States) and there were 45 abstentions. European nations were divided on the move with France and Sweden voting in favour while others such as Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Cyprus abstained.

The new resolution comes amid growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood, with several states showing their support in the past year.

The move is of symbolic relevance in highlighting Palestinian aspirations for statehood. “It is a symbolic thing, but another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, ahead of the vote.

Both Israel and the United States have expressed strong opposition, with Israel’s UN ambassador Ron Prosor slamming the move as “a blatant attempt to hijack the UN”.

Palestine has non-member observer status at the UN, together with the Holy See. But late August, the Vatican had asked the Palestinian UN mission to remove all references to it from the draft resolution calling for the flags of Palestine and the Holy See to fly at the UN.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to that of a “non-member observer state” allowing them to take part in assembly debates.

Some 135 countries – many in Asia, Africa and Latin America – now recognise a Palestinian state.

Momentum to recognise a Palestinian state has built over the past years, with Palestine joining the International Criminal Court on 1 April 2015. The Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine, confirming that prosecutors would be looking at the Gaza conflict, as well as other issues that include Israel’s settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands.

UN Ordered to Lift Suspension of Sexual Abuse Report Whistleblower

Anders Kompass, representante del Alto C

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN Dispute tribunal has ordered the United Nations to immediately lift the suspension of a whistleblower who disclosed the alleged sexual abuse of children by peacekeeping troops in Africa to the French authorities.

The judge said that the decision to suspend Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was “prima facie unlawful” and ordered the UN to lift his suspension immediately to prevent further damage to his reputation.

Kompass leaked an internal UN report on the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in Central African Republic to French prosecutors last summer. The French immediately mounted an investigation and revealed last week they were investigating up to 14 soldiers for alleged abuse.

In his statement to the UN dispute tribunal, Kompass stated that he informed his boss – the deputy high commissioner – last July that he had leaked the report in order for the French to mount an investigation. The UN disputes this.

Nine months later on 17 April this year, he was suspended by the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and put under investigation for leaking confidential information – including the names of victims and staff members who conducted the interviews with the children.

The confidential internal report leaked by Kompass contained interviews by a UN official and a member of Unicef with a number of children, aged between eight and 15, who say they were sexually abused at a camp for internally displaced people in Bangui, the capital of CAR, by French troops last year.

The order of the dispute tribunal on Wednesday means Kompass’s suspension will be lifted temporarily while an internal management review takes place into the handling of the case.

UN Condemns Military Actions in Gaza

navi pillay

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay

At an emergency debate held today at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed and that not enough has been done to protect civilians.

“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Ms Pillay said.

She also condemned the indiscriminate attacks of the Hamas on Israel.

“The principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.

Despite her condemnation of Hamas attacks on Israel, Ms Pillay also views Israel’s actions in Gaza as disproportionate. Continue reading

Srebrenica Massacre Survivors Sue the Dutch Government

Mothers of Srebrenica

Mothers of Srebrenica

This Monday, survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre opened a civil suit against the Dutch government. They argue that the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica did not protect the victims of Europe’s worst massacre since the second world war.

“They did not prevent the murder of thousands of civilians,” the group’s lawyer, Marco Gerritsen, told the district court in The Hague, where the case is being heard.

The legal action was first brought in 2007 by victims’ group the Mothers of Srebrenica, in connection with the massacre during Bosnia’s three-year war in the early 1990s.

The Mothers of Srebrenica, representing some 6,000 widows and victims’ relatives, have been seeking justice for several years for the massacre, which the UN’s international court of justice has ruled was genocide. Continue reading