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US Citizens Arrested for War Crimes

Two US citizens of Bosnian origin, a man and a woman, have been arrested at the request of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to face accusations that they committed war crimes there 18 years ago.

Edin Dzeko, 39, and Rasema Handanovic, 38, are accused of being members of the Bosnian army’s special unit “Zulfikar”.

On April 16, 1993, the unit attacked Trusina village and killed more than a dozen Croat civilians and prisoners of war, and wounded four civilians including two infants, according to the extradition request.

Dzeko became a naturalised US citizen in 2006 after coming to the United States in 2001 and has lived in Everett, Washington. The extradition request describes him as a former senior staff member of the Bosnian army unit.

During the village attack he allegedly threw a man into the yard of a house, then shot and killed him, according to US authorities. When the dead man’s wife would not stop grieving, Dzeko allegedly shot her in the head and killed her.

Handanovic, who became a naturalised US citizen in 2002, was living in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

US authorities coordinated her arrest with that of Dzeko, and both are named in the same court papers.

During the attack on Trusina, Handanovic shot a civilian woman two or three times in the chest, killing her, and also shot an elderly couple, according to the extradition request.

Both Dzeko and Handanovic are accused of having joined a firing squad-style execution of unarmed Croatian solders and civilians that day.

In Bosnia, the charges against Dzeko and Handanovic are punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, US officials said.

The killings occurred during the 1993-94 war between Bosnian Muslims and Croats, which was ended by a Washington-brokered peace agreement.

A Bosnian State War Crimes Court was set up in 2005 to try thousands of war crimes suspects from that time period and take over mid- and low-ranking cases from the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

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Croatian General Sentenced to 24 Years for War Crimes

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has found Croatian General Ante Gotovina guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.

Gotovina, 55, was sentenced for his role in a campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out against the Serbs at the end of the 1991-95 war that Croatia fought for independence from Yugsolavia and against a Serb insurgency.

Gotovina was convicted of being the commander of a campaign against 200,000 Croatian Serbs in the Krajina region.

Alphons Orie, the judge at the International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague, said Gotovina, with the late President Franjo Tudjman and other top military leaders, was part of a group that wanted the permanent removal of Serbs from Krajina.

Mladen Markac, another senior commander in the campaign known as Operation Storm, received an 18-year sentence. A third defendant, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted.

Gotovina was arrested in the Spanish Canary Islands in 2005, after evading justice for years.

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ICC To Investigate Ivory Coast War Crimes?

The International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has said he is in talks with West African states about referring alleged atrocities in the Ivory Coast to the court.

Aany state that is a member of the ICC can refer a case to the court, requesting the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes.

Ivory Coast is an ICC member state, which gives the court jurisdiction over crimes committed there.

It is possible that France may also refer the case to the ICC.

The ICC is already conducting a preliminary examination into crimes committed in the West African state, including alleged widespread sexual violence in 2002-2005, but is yet to authorize a formal probe.

Moreno-Ocampo has already warned that any leaders planning violence could end up on trial in The Hague.

We hope anyone who has committed atrocities, on either side of the conflict, will be brought to justice quickly.

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Coalition Pilots Liable for War Crimes?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been mandated to investigate war crimes in Libya by a UN Security Council resolution which gives it the power to indict all sides in the conflict. In theory, this could make it possible that some coalition pilots may be exposed to war crimes indictments.

However, the resolution includes a condition which exempts forces from non-ICC states from its jurisdiction. That includes the US and any Gulf Arab states which are not bound by ICC strictures because they have not signed up to the court. Other ICC members, including EU states such as the UK and France, remain liable.

For the moment, the ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, says he has no plans to hold pilots responsible for collateral damage. However, any future ICC prosecutor could take a very different view.

Presumably Mr Ocampo has his hands full, assembling evidence on what is thought to be a growing list of alleged war crimes by the Gaddafi regime. Hague prosecutors are privately confident that they already have enough evidence to bring indictments against Gaddafi, his sons and his generals.

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Nine War Crimes Suspects Arrested in Kosovo

The European Union police and justice mission (EULEX) has said it had arrested nine people on suspicion of committing war crimes during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo.

“The arrests were ordered by an EULEX pre-trial judge of the district court of Pristina based on … suspicion of killings, torture and other offences against Kosovo Albanian and Serb civilians and prisoners of war in a detention centre in Kosovo in 1999,” the mission said in a statement.

The mission, which has some executive powers in cases such as war crimes, corruption and organised crime, said one person had been arrested in a foreign country.

Local media said all nine were ethnic Albanians and members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought Serb forces during the war.

One is a local police commander from the region of Prizren, media said.

Kosovo’s former prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, is on trial for war crimes at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague. His trial is expected to resume this year.

More than 10,000 civilians, overwhelmingly ethnic Albanians, were killed in the 1998-99 war.

Another 800,000 Albanians were forced to leave their homes in Serbia’s former province during the conflict, which prompted NATO bombing of Serbia and ended with the United Nations taking control of Kosovo in 1999.

The mission has also started investigating a Council of Europe report that accused members of the KLA of carrying out abductions, gun- and drug-running and trafficking in body parts from ethnic Serbs in the late 1990s

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Carla Del Ponte

To celebrate International Women’s Day, IWCR has decided to post a profile of the inimitable and courageous Ms Carla Del Ponte, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

In 1981 Ms Del Ponte was appointed an investigating magistrate and public prosecutor at the Lugano district attorney’s office. As public prosecutor, Ms Del Ponte dealt with cases of money laundering, fraud, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism and espionage, often looking into the many international links forged in Switzerland’s role as a global business centre.

It was during that period that she and Investigative Judge Giovanni Falcone uncovered the link between Swiss money launderers and the Italian drug trade in the so-called “pizza connection.” Judge Falcone was killed by a large Mafia bomb. Del Ponte was more fortunate as the half a tonne of explosives planted in the foundations of her Palermo home were discovered in time for her to escape the attempted assassination unhurt. Falcone’s death nurtured Del Ponte’s resoluteness to fight organised crime. Her enemies in the Cosa Nostra call her “La Puttana” (“the whore”). She therefore became the first public figure in Switzerland to require round-the-clock protection and armour-plated car.

After serving for five years as Switzerland’s attorney general, in 1999 Del Ponte joined the International Court Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court Tribunal for Rwanda to deal with war crimes as prosecutor. In an interview in late 2001 about war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, Del Ponte said: “Justice for the victims and the survivors requires a comprehensive effort at international and national level.”

In late December 1999, in an interview with The Observer in London, Del Ponte was asked if she was prepared to press criminal charges against NATO personnel for alleged war crimes in Kosovo by NATO pilots and their commanders. She replied “If I am not willing to do that, I am not in the right place. I must give up my mission”.

In January 2002, she was chastised for reportedly accusing the former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of being an accomplice to war criminals for refusing to extradite Mr Milosevic.

In 2005, she accused the Vatican of helping Croatia’s most wanted war crimes suspect evade capture.

In 2008, Del Ponte published a book “The Hunt” in which she collected extensive evidence that the Kosovo Albanians were smuggling human organs of kidnapped Serbs after the Kosovo war ended in 1999. Her book created an international controversy.

In 2008 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe authorized Carla Del Ponte to lead a formal investigation and report her findings to the Parliament.

In January 2011, the EULEX mission to Kosovo announced that 5 people were to be indicted for human organs trafficking. According to a draft Council of Europe report cited by The Daily Telegraph, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was one of the key players in the traffic of organs of Serb prisoners after the 1998-99 conflict.

In the course of her career she has implicated a Russian president in a financial scandal, frozen the bank accounts of a Pakistani prime minister and seen that over $100m was confiscated from the brother of a Mexican president.

Carla Del Ponte is a real heroine in the fight for justice for the victims of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

IWCR salutes her.

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War Crimes Whistleblower Faces Execution in US

Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence officer stationed in Kuwait, is being held in solitary confinement for allegedly leaking documents to WikiLeaks. The documents allegedly show US service personnel committing war crimes and officials covering them up.

His charges include improperly leaking classified information, disobeying an order, aiding the enemy and general misconduct.

The charge of aiding the enemy carries a death sentence.

Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Basin in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and is barred from exercising. It has also recently been revealed that he is denied bed sheets and a pillow and is stripped of his clothing at night.

The alleged crimes by US forces that Manning revealed, which include murder of civilians (including children), rape and torture, have yet to be investigated properly and the suspects remain at large.

It seems in the US Armed Forces you are much better off committing a war crime than exposing one.

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UN Security Council Refers Libya To ICC

The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation into “widespread and systemic attacks” against Libyan citizens.

This is only the second time the Security Council has referred a member state to the International Court in the Hague. The Security Council cast a similar vote before, in 2005 when it called for an investigation of violence and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region of Sudan. The court has since indicted Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of genocide.

In the vote in 2005, the US abstained. There was some doubt whether China would support the resolution this time, but in the end the resolution was passed unanimously, making it the first time this has happened.

Could this mark the beginning of a historical change from the international community’s previous reluctance to prosecute member states for war crimes?

We hope so, but only time will tell.

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Civilian Deaths Direct Result of World Inaction On War Crimes?

Normally at IWCR we like to keep to a policy of maximum facts, minimum opinion.
This post is an exception.

In our opinion, what is happening in the Middle East, particularly in Bahrain and in Libya, could be regarded as a direct result of the failure of the world to prosecute war crimes.
Everybody in power, from the top leaders through the ranks of the military and government institutions right down to the individuals who are asked to shoot at unarmed protesters, should be aware that at some time in the near future, they may have answer for their actions in a court of law. If this were to be true, governing powers would take this into consideration when deciding on the course of actions they should take against unarmed civilians, and in many cases would decide against such actions.

Regrettably, governing powers currently do not have to take this into consideration as they are aware the chances of their being made to answer for their crimes by the international community are very low. This means there is very little deterence for those in power to avoid committing such crimes.

As a result of this, there may be at this very moment, innocent people who are being arrested, tortured, raped, assaulted and murdered with impunity.

The moment the international community is able to persistently, successfully and routinely prosecute war crimes suspects, regardless of their position, nationality, race or religion is the day innocent people will be afforded some protection from the horrors we are now witnessing.

Prosecuting War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity is one of the most important issues facing the international community today, and its success will mean a concrete improvement in many people’s lives throughout the world.

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