ICC to Investigate Alleged British War Crimes

 New Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart Sworn in by the International Criminal Court ICC, Photo Courtesy of ICC

 New Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart Sworn in by the International Criminal Court ICC, Photo Courtesy of ICC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will launch a preliminary investigation of alleged war crimes committed by British troops during the years of 2003 - 2008.

The claim being analyzed is that there were 52 cases of unlawful killing and more than 170 counts of mistreatment of detained Iraqi soldiers.  Accusations include incidents of electrocution, mock executions, beatings and sexual assault.

The ICC first examined claims of abuse in 2006, but there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter further. However, in January the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the law firm Public Interest Lawyers requested that ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda re-open the case because of new information. The latest update shows that the abuse was much more common, happened over a longer period of time and was more geographically widespread than originally thought.

The UK is the first western country to be under ICC scrutiny. However, the ICC will probably not launch a more formal investigation, as the allegations are now being taken care of by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, a unit the Ministry of Defense created in 2010 to investigate issues of misconduct. The ICC may only officially investigate claims if they feel that national attempts are insufficient, but it will keep a close eye on the internal proceedings to make sure correct protocol is followed.

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese War Lord Convicted

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:10 PM EDT, 10 July 2012

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese Warlord, Photo by ICC-CPITHE HAGUE, Netherlands – Six years after the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) handed Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, over to The Hague for trial, and three years after the start of his trial, Lubanga has finally been received a verdict of 14 years in prison.

He now holds the dubious honor of being the first person to be taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was created a decade ago to address war crimes in places where local courts are unable or unwilling to act.

Fellow warlord, Charles Taylor, 64, former Liberian President was also convicted earlier this year by The Special Court for Sierra Leone, in The Hague. He was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, and sexual slavery. In the court of public opinion, Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Taylor, Lubanga, and Bosco Ntaganda all stand accused of conscripting children into his marauding armies. However, to date only Taylor and Lubanga have been captured and sentenced for conscripting children under the age of 15 to fight in their armies.

In the conflict torn countries – Uganda, DRC, Liberia and Sierra Leone, these children were more than just child soldiers, they were victims of extreme child abuse, who were brutalized and forced to torture and kill innocent citizens, as well as participate in the rape of women who could have been their mothers and grandmothers. Dissent was not an option as failure to participate resulted in their immediate execution.

In the Lubanga’s six year absence, the civil war that has utterly decimated the country continues to rage across the central African nation. Thousands of civilians have been raped and butchered at the hands of his co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, another militia leader who is now a general in the Congolese army in the North Kivu area of eastern Congo.

In the video below Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, was criticizing for his handling of the case, for not including the sexual violence charges as part of the case, and for omitting numerous other war crimes allegedly committed by Lubanga and his compatriots.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYLZKPkjO40]                                                                                                                                                     Prosecutors had sought 30 years in prison for Lubanga but given the diluted charges which did not adequately demonstrate “any aggravating circumstances” plus his cooperation with the court, resulted in a sentence which will only require him to serve 8 years in jail because of time served.  Lubanga who is 51 will be freed before his 60th birthday.

Lubanga's case this year has brought increasing pressure for the arrest of his much more infamous partner in crime, renegade Congolese army Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda had moved on from being a militia leader in Ituri to being the No. 2 leader in a tribal-based rebellion in 2006, when the ICC indicted both men for war crimes involving child soldiers.

Ntaganda and others have accused the court of racism in pursuing Africans, and especially Congolese. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir remains on the court's agenda along with Ntaganda and two other Congolese warlords. Congo's back-to-back civil wars that drew in soldiers from a half dozen nations killed an estimated 5 million people — more lives than any conflict since World War II. (Source: Associated Press)

Initially, the March verdict was hailed by human rights group as a victory, but today’s news was greeted with disappointment. Though other tribunals have been created throughout history to punish atrocities from specific conflicts, such as the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, Lubanga's case may have set a precedent of leniency since he is the first person to be convicted and sentenced directly by the ICC.

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Dutch-Moroccan 'Lover Boy' Pimps

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:46 p.m. EDT, 17 May 2012

Anti-Sex-Slavery Campaign, Photo by Stevens James Collins PhotographyNETHERLANDS - Al Jazeera reported on the release of a film about the explosive increase in the Netherlands of forced prostitution of girls as young as 12 by their Dutch-Moroccan ‘boyfriends.’

The film by Julia Rooke and Caroline Pare features Ibrahim, a Dutch-Moroccan social worker who made the brave decision to speak about this troubling phenomena.

He starts by telling viewers that he is proud of his heritage as a Moroccan of biracial descent; however, this growing problem of ‘Lover Boys,’ who are also often also of Dutch-Moroccan descent, is one that needs to be publicized and eradicated. The term ‘Lover Boys’ refers to young boys and men who woo young women with promises of love and acceptance, lavish attention, and expensive gifts before turning them out into the street as prostitutes.

This new brand of pimping is subtle at first but later turns violent. Both the pimps and the prostitutes have a difficult time escaping the lifestyle. Many of the young men are vulnerable, at risks kids who are just trying to survive, and when they are introduced to this method of making money by seducing young girls, they choose this form of crime rather than other more risky ventures such as selling drugs.

In the Netherlands prostitution is a legal and well-regulated industry for women 18 years or older. However, the problem with prostitutes pimped out by ‘Lover Boys’ is that fact these girls are often under-aged and can eventually become so ensnared that they can be sold into sexual slavery after enduring incredible abuse at the hands of their ‘lovers.’

Ultimately, Ibrahim chose to work with the film’s producers, Julia Rooke and Caroline Pare because he felt that the risks outweighed the potential of reducing human suffering. Exposing the problem of ‘Lover Boys’ has the potential of further polarizing the Dutch population, which like other European nations, struggles to assimilate different immigrant populations including Muslims. Anders Brievik of Norway is an extreme representative of a group of Europeans who would prefer to deport all Arabs, even those who were born in Europe.

The silence that masks the problem of 'Lover Boys' is similar to hidden plight of the Bacha Bazi. These unfortunate Muslim boys are used as sex slaves by Afghanis men, but this aberrant practice is relatively unknown outside of the country because the subject of sex and prostitution in Muslim communities is taboo and contrary to the teachings of the Qu’ran.

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Published: 17 May 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Also, the demarcation in Islamic culture between what happens 'inside' and 'outside' the house belies the fact that Islamic nations struggle against many of the same ills that beset every nation - prostitution, pedophilia, rape, etc.

Because of the generally monolithic perception Western cultures have about Islamic culture, hidden human right's abuses continue to exist and flourish unabated. The problem is further compounded by many Muslims refusal to speak out and expose not only the hypocrisy but also the immorality that exists in their communities.

Growing up in Africa I was acutely aware of the diminished status of a woman who is perceived by the community to have ‘compromised’ her virtue. When African and Arab immigrants arrive in America, it has been my experience that they view American and European women as ‘loose,’ and thus can be treated poorly without fear of retribution since they have no men to protect them.

For men from patriarchal cultures where the women are sequestered and their every action determined, ‘outside women’ are viewed as fair game and willing accomplices. When they encounter women who are free to make decisions about with whom they will have sex, when and what venues they will frequent, and make the choice to drink and get drunk, in some (NOT ALL) African and Arab men’s minds these women deserve whatever happens to them.

What is also disturbing is the fact that most of these men are usually married to women in their home country or even in the city to which they have immigrated, but unlike the ‘outside women,’ their wives conform to the strict rules of decorum as determined by their community and are never allowed to venture forth unescorted. By contrast their husbands can and do present themselves as free agents and engage in extramarital affairs.

Some of the men and boys who agreed to be interviewed for the film with the condition of anonymity, gave chilling accounts of their disdain for the girls they pimped, and the callousness they demonstrated toward their former 'girlfriends' was chilling.

The film also interviews some of the girls who were forced into a life of prostitution by their ‘boyfriends,’ but have subsequently escaped. After watching the film I encourage you to visit Al Jazeera to read the entire interview with Ibrahim. (Source: Al Jazeera | Film by Julia Rooke and Caroline Pare)

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Warlord Charles Taylor Convicted

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:55 PM EDT, 26 April 2012

Charles Taylor, Sierra Leone War Lord, Photo by Gilbert ZTHE HAGUE, Netherlands - Today, Charles Taylor, 64, former Liberian President and accused warlord was convicted by The Special Court for Sierra Leone, in The Hague, the Netherlands.

He was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, and sexual slavery. Like the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Taylor also stood accused of conscripting children into his marauding armies which terrorized Liberian and Sierra Leonean citizens during a period between 1991- 2002.

Charges arose stemmed from his involvement in the “Sierra Leone Civil War which began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patiotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government. The resulting civil war lasted 11 years, enveloped the country, and left over 50,000 dead.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Prior to today’s ruling, The Hague court previously convicted RUF fighters of the same charges levied against Taylor. RUF were also charged with crimes against humanity, terrorism, and torture, a charge based upon testimony by victims of brutal mutilation and maiming by machetes.

The prosecution alleged at their trials that Taylor financed the RUF with the proceeds from the sale of ‘blood diamond’ mined illegally in Sierra Leone to encourage the militia to prolong the fighting. The ensuing state of instability allowed Taylor and the RUF to benefit from the sale of contraband.

According to the Voice of America (VOA), Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after the death of Adolf Hitler.

Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor will be sentenced on 30 May 2012.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw_-6zsbGJA]