today in history

December 13, 2003. Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein captured; he is found hiding in near his home town of Tikrit.

international news

international

Progress made in UN talks to end Yemen war, Envoy lauds ‘positive and serious spirit’


After 5 days of talks, representatives from the Yemeni Government and Houthi opposition discussed the re-opening of the airport in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, the de-escalation of hostilities in the cities of Taiz and Hudaydah, and the exchange of prisoners: media reports suggest that the combined lists of prisoners to be exchanged on both sides adds up to around 15,000 names.The disastrous economic situation in Yemen was also a topic of discussion, said Mr. Griffiths. After four years of conflict, Yemen’s economy has collapsed, contributing to a humanitarian crisis which has left at least 8 million people close to famine, and more than three-quarters of the population reliant on international assistance and protection.According to reports, the UN has proposed that the key port of Hudaydah be controlled jointly by the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni Government, under UN supervision. Mr. Griffiths has been pushing for the Organization to play a leading role in the port, which he has described as the “essential humanitarian pipeline” serving the country.The Special Envoy said that he was encouraged by the “positive and serious spirit” of the two parties, and that he “remains ambitious” about the outcome of talks, mentioning that tangible agreements will be announced by the end of this round, taking place to the north of the Swedish capital, Stockholm.“Hope is the currency of the mediator; if you do not provide a sense of optimism and hope for the parties, you will not encourage people to walk the extra mile. I hope we can make some breakthroughs in the next couple of days,” he said.  Mr. Griffiths also looked ahead to a second round of consultations, currently under discussion with the main parties, which are being planned for early next year.-UN News CentreLeague of Justice Online

December 13, 2018, 11:27 am
international

Prisoner executions in Belarus ‘simply unacceptable’, says UN rights body


The Human Rights Committee, one of 10 UN treaty bodies that meet regularly in Geneva, had appealed to Belarus not to carry out sentencing on Aleksei Mikhalenya, Semyon Berezhnoi and Igor Gershankov, while it examined their cases.Since 2010, Belarus has executed 13 people whose cases were under examination by the UN panel, it said in a joint statement with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.“The repetitive failure of Belarus to respect the Committee’s procedures …is simply unacceptable,” said Yuval Shany, committee chairperson.“The fact that such failures occur in the context of capital cases which implicate the right to life, and which the Committee considers to be the ’supreme right’, is particularly unconscionable.”The prisoners were executed in May and November this year, according to the committee.All three had been found guilty of murder, although “all three cases contain allegations of torture in detention and forced confessions”.In line with standard practice, relatives of the dead were “ignorant of the time and circumstances” of their death, the committee said, while their bodies were also not returned to their families – “an additional, useless pain”.Belarus remains the last country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, according to the Human Rights Committee.In its latest report on Belarus published in November 2018, the UN panel emphasized that Belarus “should consider establishing a moratorium on executions as an initial step towards legal abolition of the death penalty”.The country should also commit to abolishing the death penalty by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it urged, “commute all pending death sentences to imprisonment and increase efforts to change public perception about the necessity of maintaining the death penalty”.-UN News CentreLeague of Justice Online

December 13, 2018, 11:14 am

african news

africa

South African community wins court battle over mining rights


Environmental activists in South Africa have won a landmark legal victory after the high court ordered the government to get prior community consent before granting mining rights.The judgement represents a major victory for campaigners in Xolobeni, a community in Pondoland, who have been involved in a protracted and sometimes violent struggle against a proposed titanium mine.Their lawyers told the court that the department of mineral resources offered a mining concession to the Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources without the prior informed consent of local residents.The proposed project aimed to generate annual revenues of £140m for the 25-year life of the opencast pit, which would have produced zircon, rutile and titanium for laptop computers, bicycles, golf clubs, watches and drill bits.But local residents said the clearance of the dunes would destroy their homes, their culture and the ecology of the Wild Coast region. They formed the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which staged protests and launched a legal challenge that led to Thursday’s victory.Until now the informal rights of customary communities were not protected by law, but Judge Annali Basson ruled they now have the right to decide how their territory is used.“As such they may not be deprived of their land without their consent,” Basson was quoted as saying in local reports.Several members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee have been killed or threatened, which made the victory more significant.“I’m so happy. This shows that our country has hope because the courts of law provide real justice for citizens despite politicians who are looting South Africa in the name of development,” said Nonhle Mbuthuma whose story was featured earlier this year in the Guardian’s Defenders series.“We’ve set a precedent for all other communities facing this situation across Africa and the world. Until now, mining has been imposed on us. Now this judgment is a tool for communities to protect their land.”Worldwide, the struggle for land and resources is taking a growing toll on lives and the environment. Last year, 207 activists were murdered while defending their land and environment, according to the watchdog NGO Global Witness.-The GuardianLeague of Justice Online

December 12, 2018, 1:55 pm
africa

Burundi and the “Blood Spitting House”


In December 2016, a viral video posted to social media appeared to show a red liquid which looked like blood pouring from a drain outside of a home in Bujumbura’s Kinindo region, in Burundi’s west. It was alleged that  Intelligence officers in the central African nation of Burundi are allegedly using private houses as detention centres to detain and torture the political opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza. However the government quickly released a statement and refuted the allegation as baseless.An investigation launched by BBC Africa Eye has identified the location of the home and spoken to alleged captives and guards who were at the location in the wake of the 2015 Burundi political unrest.The BBC spoke to the home’s owner, Prosper Kaze – who fled Burundi during the 2015 protests as a member of the Burundian opposition and confirmed the house is located at 73 Avenue Ntwarante.“It’s the place where I grew up, so I can’t mistake it,” Kaze told the BBC earlier this year.In 2015, peaceful protests claiming Nkurunziza’s plan to run for a third term in office were unconstitutional turned violent, resulting in people rioting in the streets and hundreds being shot dead.After Kaze and his family left Burundi, images surfaced of the country’s security forces raiding his home and taking control of it.This year, a person known as ‘Pierre’ who claimed to have been held captive in the house revealed the horrific treatment allegedly suffered by individuals at the hands of intelligence service officers.“If they wanted to question someone, they would call him and they would approach the ‘Chief’,” he told the BBC.“If they were not satisfied with your answer, they would torture you. You would hand them your hands and they would beat you with electric cables, also they would cane you… while kneeling.”Pierre also claimed he heard two people who attempted to escape be violently killed in the grounds of the building.“We could hear people shouting and saying, ‘get those dogs, don’t let them escape’,” he said.“When they finally caught them, I could hear them screaming in a way that suggested that they were being killed or being inflicted excruciating pain.“They did not come back in the house after, I think they were killed.“[The ‘Chief’] said, bring socks and stuff in those dogs and load them in the car.”Another person, known as ‘Nathan’ who claimed to have been a security guard at the house in December 2016, told the BBC he witnessed three detainees be killed.“An intelligence agent came and took them out of their detention room to the living room,” he said.“[The chief] ordered his guys to behead them. At that point, one of the guys, who was a tough man, tried to forge ahead and escape.”After the one escapee was allegedly caught and killed, and the other two men beheaded, Nathan said their bodies were disposed of, but their blood remained.Kaze said that, if the blood had been cleaned up and poured into a bathroom drain, it would link up with the gutter that featured in the social media video.Despite that, the Burundian government has always denied any connection to the alleged detention locations and has not commented on the social media video.In response, an anonymous individual told the BBC that while there is currently no unrest in the country, the alleged killings of political prisoners still occur under the name ‘Kamwe Kamwe’ – meaning ‘one by one’.“Some people think that the country is safe now,” he said.“I want to tell you this – this small respite is, for them, the best time to carry out the killings without anyone noticing it.”-BBC News and other news agenciesLeague Of Justice Online

December 5, 2018, 10:24 am

today in history

December 13, 2003. Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein captured; he is found hiding in near his home town of Tikrit.