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France’s Macron admits to military’s systematic use of torture in Algeria war

PARIS — France formally acknowledged its military’s systemic use of torture in the Algerian War in the 1950s and 1960s, a step forward in grappling with its colonial legacy.President Emmanuel Macron issued a statement in the context of a call for clarity about the fate of Maurice Audin, a 25-year-old mathematician and anti-colonial activist who was tortured by the French army and forcibly disappeared in 1957, during Algeria’s bloody struggle for independence from France.Audin’s death is a specific case, but it represents a cruel system put in place at the state level, the Elysee Palace said. “His disappearance was made possible by a system that . . . allowed law enforcement to arrest, detain and question any ‘suspect’ for the purpose of a more effective fight against the opponent,” read Macron’s statement.Benjamin Stora, a leading French historian of Algeria, said Macron’s recognition represented a move away from the “silence of the father” stance that has characterized France’s relationship to its colonial past for decades.“It permits us to advance,” he told The Washington Post, “to exit from denial and to advance in the service of truth.” Stora accompanied Macron on Thursday afternoon on an official visit to Audin’s widow, Josette Audin, 87.Macron, 40, is the first French president born after the war and has shown a rare willingness to wade into the memory of Algeria, arguably the most sensitive chapter in the French experience of the 20th century and one that has had a profound influence on the country’s political institutions.Conquered by France in 1837, Algeria was a colony but also cast as an integral part of the country. By the 1950s, it was home to millions of French settlers, and when France was forced to give up overseas possessions in West Africa and Southeast Asia, it always held on tightly to Algeria.When the country revolted in 1954, the suppression was savage. “Everyone knows that in Algiers the men and women arrested in these circumstances did not always return,” the Elysee statement read. “Some were released, others were interned, others were brought to justice, but many families lost track of one of their own that year, in the future capital of Algeria.”The shadow of the Algerian War on French society has been compared to that of the Vietnam War for the United States, but even more divisive.On a visit to Algeria in February 2017, Macron, then a presidential candidate, called French colonialism “a crime against humanity,” a remark that reignited a bitter national debate.In addition to recognizing state-authorized torture, Macron called for the opening of archives concerning those who disappeared, such as Audin.“A general dispensation, by ministerial decree, will be granted so that everyone — historians, families, associations — can consult the archives for all those who disappeared in Algeria,” the Elysee statement read. “We’re putting the issue of the missing in the center.”Macron’s statement drew hopeful comparisons to the last time a French president publicly atoned for the sins of the past — Jacques Chirac’s 1995 apology for France’s collaboration in the Holocaust, specifically in facilitating roundups of its own citizens who were then handed over to the Nazis.Chirac’s speech represented a major shift in the way the French public and political establishment understood its past. In the years that followed, a more nuanced picture of France’s role in the Holocaust was taught in national schools, and memorials were erected throughout the country, including a prominent Holocaust memorial museum in central Paris.Some wonder whether similar action on Algeria, once unthinkable, could now be possible.The two events are vastly different, said Stora, who was born in Algeria in 1950 to a Jewish family that left for France in 1962, in the midst of the upheaval. But he said Macron’s admission nevertheless presented many former colonial subjects, including French Muslims of Algerian origin, “the sentiment of being respected in their history.”“It will be very difficult for political successors to walk this back,” Stora said.For Yasser Louati, a Muslim community organizer and prominent activist against Islamophobia in France, Macron’s statement is a “historic moment,” but one that does not go far enough.Although the French president has drawn attention to colonial crimes that occurred in Algeria, there is still a reluctance to confront the violence that occurred in France itself, such as the brutal massacre by French police of pro-independence Algerian protesters in Paris in October 1961. Historians estimate that as many as 200 were killed in that event.“We also have to deal with the legacy of the colonial era,” Louati said.France’s current system of government came into being in 1958, in response to an attempted coup by French generals in Algiers.“Giving powers to the president of the republic, strengthening the executive to the detriment of the legislative branch — all that is Algeria,” Stora said. “French political culture lives in the memory of that war.”Macron has hardly shied away from using these colonial-era executive powers, and at times he has relied on security provisions that stem from Algeria, notably the “state of emergency” put in place after recent terrorist attacks.Among other things, the emergency provision, which dates from 1955, gives French authorities the power to place terrorism suspects under house arrest without warrants, which critics and activists said led to French police detaining French Muslims with impunity.Thursday’s presidential decree was widely seen as a victory for the history profession, and one historian in particular — the late Pierre Vidal-Naquet. The official French army position had been that Audin ran away while being transferred. But in May 1958, less than a year after Audin was killed, Vidal-Naquet published a detailed account of the case that argued Audin had been tortured to death.Macron began his statement with a quote from Vidal-Naquet and championed the historian’s work as justification for encouraging further research. “It is important that this story be known, that it be viewed with courage and lucidity,” Macron’s statement read.Source: The Washington PostLEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

September 16, 2018, 9:24 pm

Female activist faces death penalty in Saudi Arabia

(CNN)A female activist is facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for participating in and documenting Shia anti-government protests, human rights groups said on Wednesday. If convicted, she could become the first female activist ever beheaded in the ultraconservative kingdom.Israa al-Ghomgham and her husband are two of five Shia activists facing execution over charges relating to their involvement in protests calling for more rights for about two million Shia Muslims in the kingdom's Eastern Province, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Germany-based Saudi activist Ali Adubisi. A sixth co-defendant is standing trial but is not facing the death penaltySaudi Arabia is a predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom.The charges against the group range from joining a terror group affiliated with an enemy state to participating in a protest and posting footage of it online, Adubisi told CNN.But according to a statement from HRW, the charges "don't resemble recognizable crimes" and are "solely related to their peaceful activism."The prosecutor called for the death penalty for al-Ghomgham, her husband and three other men during a court hearing earlier this month, according to Adubisi. It was the activists' first time in court following more than two years in detention in a Saudi prison.The same Specialized Criminal Court, which handles terrorism cases, sentenced firebrand Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr and seven other men to death for their role in Shia protests in the same province. Al-Nimr and at least three other Shia men were executed in January 2016.Saudi authorities have so far not responded to a CNN request for comment."Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement.Reforms and crackdownsSaudi Arabia, which adheres to some of the strictest interpretations of Sunni Islam in the world, has long faced criticism for laws that discriminate against women.Over the past two years, the kingdom -- under the guidance of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- has implemented a mixed bag of social reforms, opening its first cinema in decades and loosening several morality laws, including notorious rules requiring that women receive a male guardian's permission to travel, receive an education and sometimes work and receive health care.In June, the country ended its ban on female drivers following decades of activism from both inside and outside the Gulf nation. But in recent months, the government also arrested a number of high-profile women who had campaigned to overturn the driving ban, casting doubt on the sincerity of the Crown Prince's much-touted reforms.While some have since been released, a handful of the women remain detained without charge, according to HRW.Source: CNNLEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

August 23, 2018, 12:18 am

african news


Violence Continues to Disrupt Life in Many Parts of Cameroon

BUEA, CAMEROON —People are deserting the English-speaking regions of Cameroon after hundreds of armed separatists and the military were involved in Tuesday's bloody conflicts in five towns and villages leaving at least 15 people dead. Residents complain that the army was slow in responding to simultaneous attacks by the separatists.Intensive shooting between an unknown number of armed separatists and at least 50 soldiers of the Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, an elite corps of Cameroon's military is going on at Mile 16, Bolifamba, a neighborhood in the southwestern town of Buea.As the military shoots, some of the troops clear the wreckage of vehicles, abandoned containers, trees and heavy metals that the armed separatists are said to have used in blocking all entrances into the town before the military arrived. The military said the attackers also burned vehicles, houses and shops.Some residents are rushing to various destinations, including the bush.Businessman Peter Bongkiyung, 24, says he saw two corpses, including that of a soldier, and no longer feels safe in the town."I am still believing that, come whatever, I have to go," he said.Jenine Ita, a 47-year-old jurist working in the town, is also leaving with her three children and wounded husband. She says the armed men invaded Mile 16 as early as 5 a.m. Tuesday, blocking the road and setting some transport buses on fire. Ita said she was surprised that the military, stationed at various entrances to the town, came late."We cannot continue living in such an environment where you cannot trust your neighbor. Where are the armed men coming from? How do they get into town without the knowledge of the military?" she said.Similar simultaneous attacks were reported in four other villages in the Northwest and Southwest regions including Bamenda. Mamfe and Wum.Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the Southwest region, said he is pleading with the separatists to drop their guns and stop the carnage. He said next month's presidential election should offer an opportunity for them to democratically express their views should they be disgruntled with the government."The presidential election is a very important moment for all the countries in the world and the southwest should not miss to be fully involved in the presidential election on October 7. We should stop the killings, the kidnappings, the disturbances and all the nuisance that the present crisis has brought in our region," he said.The government has been assuring voters that they will be protected.Unrest in Cameroon began in November 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers demonstrated against the overbearing use of the French language. Separatists took over and started demanding the independence of the English-speaking from the French-speaking regions of the bilingual country.Last Saturday, armed Anglophone separatists burned buses and blocked traffic into and out of the capital of the English-speaking Northwest region and said the action in Bamenda was to disrupt next month's presidential election.The United Nations reports that 300 people including 130 policemen and the military have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled for their lives to the bushes and towns in the French-speaking regions. At least 20,000 have crossed over to Nigeria.Source: VOALEAGUE OF JUSTICEONLINE

September 16, 2018, 9:40 pm

I'm a revolutionary, not a criminal, Congo's 'Terminator' tells ICC

Bosco Ntaganda faces 30 years in jail for alleged war crimes committed in DRCA notorious Congolese warlord known as the “Terminator” for his alleged brutality has protested his innocence at the close of his trial at the international criminal court, telling judges: “I am a revolutionary, not a criminal.”Bosco Ntaganda is charged with 13 counts of war crimes and six of crimes against humanity, all allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003 in Ituri in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He told the court he was “at peace with myself … I hope that you now realise that the ‘Terminator’ described by the prosecutor is not me.”Lawyers have presented their closing arguments against Ntaganda, a tall man with a thin moustache who has replaced his cowboy hats and military fatigues with a dark suit and glasses for his trial in The Hague.The ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in 2006, for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The charges against him include murder, rape and sexual slavery; he ordered his men to rape women to keep “morale high” and to strike terror into the local population, according to prosecutors.In her closing arguments, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said: “The crimes were not random, isolated or spontaneous. They were part of a carefully planned, coordinated and executed campaign of violence, deliberately targeting the Lendu and Ngiti civilian populations and other non-Hema ethnic groups.”On Thursday Ntaganda’s lawyers presented a very different character, complaining that his nickname was “entirely wrong” and that Ntaganda was actually a father figure to his troops.“The army was a family … The ‘children’ in the family does not mean that they are children,” Ntaganda’s lawyer, Stephane Bourgon, said. “They are the members of the army and military commanders take care of their ‘children’.”Bourgon said his client “took multiple measures to ensure discipline, prevent crimes and punish perpetrators”.He added: “Bosco Ntaganda’s involvement in these events resulted in a lesser number of victims rather than more; he should be acquitted on all counts.”The charges include crimes committed against Ntaganda’s own troops, the alleged rape of child soldiers, while he was a commander of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. They do not, however, cover Ntaganda’s involvement in the M23 rebel militia, which took over the city of Goma in 2012. The M23 was defeated by Congolese and UN forces in late 2013.Having lost support in his own rebel group and the patronage of Rwanda, Ntaganda arrived at the US embassy in Kigali on a March morning in 2013 and asked to be handed over to the ICC. The maximum sentence for the crimes he is charged with would be 30 years, but some analysts say the prospect of a jail term served quietly in a European country would be preferable to Ntaganda than the alternative under Congolese or Rwandan authorities, or going on the run.Ntaganda’s explanation was that he wanted to “set the record straight”, he told the judges on Thursday. “I truly felt the need to surrender voluntarily and face the charges against me.”Source: GuardianLeague of Justice Online.

August 31, 2018, 11:16 pm