EU Tells Croatia It Must Investigate War Crimes

Brussels says Croatia must do more to investigate war crimes, and make its judiciary more independent, if it is to join the European Union.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said that the government in Zagreb would have to improve efforts in a range of policy areas and address issues lingering from the bitter 1991 to 1995 war of independence from Yugoslavia.

Croatia would have to ensure that war crimes from the conflict do not go unpunished, Fule said. The commissioner also stressed that Croatia had to guarantee the rights of a Serbian minority that live in the country.

Serbian war crimes in Croatia during the Balkan conflict have been well-documented. However, Croatian troops are also blamed for atrocities such as the Gospic massacre, in which some 100 Serbian civilians disappeared.

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Congolese Soldiers Accused of Rape

Eleven Congolese government soldiers accused of raping more than 60 women have gone on trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s pioneering “mobile gender court”.

The court exists within the structure of the DRC’s justice system and travels to remote communities that have little access to conventional courts.

The accused – including commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mutware Kibibi – have been charged with crimes against humanity, including rape and imprisonment.

Operating since October 2009, the court conducts about 10 trials a month and has so far recorded 94 rape convictions. It has also trained 150 judicial police officers, 80 lawyers and 30 magistrates.

The mobile court is co-ordinated by the American Bar Association (ABA) and funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa) along with the Open Society Justice Initiative.

This latest trial is seen as a test of whether the government is serious about tackling Congo’s reputation as the rape capital of the world, where sexual offenders do not fear prosecution.

According to one UN estimate, more than 160 women are raped in eastern Congo every week. Aid workers say most rapes are not even reported.

An attack on a village in North Kivu province last year, in which 300 women were raped in a few days, led to increased pressure for action and criticism of UN peacekeepers for not doing enough to protect civilians.

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Nazi War Crimes Suspect Dies

Accused Nazi war criminal Peter Egner, suspected of helping commit genocide as a transport guard for mobile gas chambers and Auschwitz-bound death trains during World War Two, has died before he could be brought to trial in the US.

Egner, 88 was listed by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles as the most wanted Nazi war criminal still known to be residing in the United States.

Egner was typical of many mid-level and low-level Nazi operatives who were actively involved in the mass-murder process, many of whom remain alive around the world. According to the centre, the chance of bringing them to justice is not very high as there are very few countries seeking to out Nazi war criminals.

An ethnic German born in Yugoslavia, Egner entered the United States in 1960 and became a citizen in 1966. Serbia issued an international arrest warrant for him in April last year and formally requested his extradition in November.

Egner had admitted he belonged to a despised Nazi-run security unit but denied he committed war crimes.

The U.S. Justice Department had asked the federal court to revoke his U.S. citizenship based on evidence of his role in a Nazi mobile execution unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serb civilians, mainly Jews, Roma and political opponents, between 1941 and 1943. He was accused of concealing his Nazi past when he applied for U.S. immigration and naturalization.

A proceeding to consider whether to revoke his citizenship was set to begin on February 22 at U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Court documents say Egner has admitted to volunteering to serve in the Nazi-controlled secret police in German-occupied Serbia and to guarding prisoners as they were sent by his unit from the Semlin concentration camp near Belgrade to an execution and mass-burial site about 10 miles away in Avala.

According to court records, Egner’s unit took part in executing over 11,000 individuals, mostly Serbian Jewish men, in the fall of 1941.

The same unit murdered some 6,200 Jewish women and children who had been rounded up and were gassed to death while being transported in a specially equipped van that made daily trips in the spring of 1942 from Semlin to Avala.

Egner has stated that he guarded four transports of prisoners in all, including one that ran to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

IWCR believes that there should be no statute of limitation, or regard to age when considering the prosecution of war crimes suspects.

Everyone guilty of such crimes, regardless of their circumstances, should be brought to justice.

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France Arrest Srebrenica War Crimes Suspect

Milorad Momic, a former Serbian paramilitary suspected of taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims in Bosnia, has been arrested in southeastern France. A judge will decide this week whether he will be extradited to Serbia.

Momic, 47, was arrested on an international warrant issued by Serbia for crimes against humanity. He was living and working in France under a false identity, married to a French woman. He is being held at Varces prison, near the city of Grenoble, while the extradition request is being processed.

Momic was part of a paramilitary group called the Scorpions. Four Scorpion members were given sentences of up to 20 years by a Serbian court in 2007 after a video emerged of them shooting captured Muslims at Srebrenica.

After capturing the then UN-protected enclave on July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs summarily executed around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in just a few days.

France has had a good record recently of arresting war crimes suspects on its soil. We hope other countries will take an example from them.

We will be following this case very closely.

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Hutu Rebel Leader to Appear at The Hague

Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana has been delivered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges of murder, torture and rape of Congolese civilians.

The ICC suspects Mbarushimana of five crimes against humanity and six war crimes including murder, rape and torture committed in Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces in 2009.

French authorities arrested him on an ICC warrant in October 2010 in Paris, where he had been living as a political refugee since 2002 and working as a computer technician. His lawyers had tried in vain to block Mbarushimana’s transfer to the ICC, claiming it would result in him being sent back to Rwanda, where they argued he would not get a fair trial.

The 47-year-old will remain at the UN detention centre until his appearance before a pre-trial chamber on Friday to be officially informed of the allegations against him.

The Rwanda government has said that Mbarushimana should also be tried for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide of about 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Well done France. IWCR will regularly be keeping updates on the proceedings.

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Canadian Citizen Arrested on War Crimes Charges

A naturalised Canadian and US citizen, wanted in Guatemala on charges of war crimes, has been arrested in Canada.

Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa, 52, is wanted in Guatemala for the killing of 251 men, women and children during the Central American nation’s civil war in the early 1980s.

Sosa, a karate expert, was arrested by 8 police officers but he was apparently compliant during his arrest.

Sosa is one of 17 men sought by the Guatemalan government for their alleged involvement in the commando unit responsible for the massacre at a village called Dos Erres in December 1982.

An indictment by the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleges that Sosa was the commanding officer of the special commando unit sent to the village.

“The special unit proceeded to systematically kill the men, women and children at Dos Erres, by among other methods, hitting them on the head with a sledgehammer and throwing them into a well,” reads the indictment.

“Members of the special patrol also forcibly raped many of the women and girls before killing them. Defendant Jorge Sosa participated in the crimes committed at Dos Erres, including but not limited to murder.”

A question which needs answering is how did a war crimes suspect manage to receive both US and Canadian citizenship?

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John Demjanjuk Charged With War Crimes Again

Spain has charged 90-year-old John Demjanjuk with war crimes for his role in a German concentration camp. This is the fourth time a nation has accused the former Seven Hills’ autoworker of being a Nazi guard.

Demjanjuk has been on trial in Germany since November 2009, charged with complicity in the deaths of more than 28,000 people at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He went on trial about six months after he was deported from the United States for lying about his wartime past.

The allegations are that Demjanjuk worked as a guard at the Flossenburg concentration camp in Germany while 155 Spanish prisoners were held, where it is alleged sixty of them died.

“You have to scratch your head,” said John Broadley, Demjanjuk’s attorney in the United States. “Spain must have a surplus of money they don’t know what to do with. They’re spending time and money to go after a 90-year-old man already on trial.”

Demjanjuk was first accused of being a Nazi guard in 1977, when U.S. government lawyers accused him of being a sadistic camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible,” a case based on eyewitness testimony. He was convicted in Israel and spent about six years on death row. In 1993, his conviction was overturned.

After he returned to Seven Hills, federal prosecutors accused him again, this time using wartime documents to link him to the concentration camps.

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Croation War Crimes Suspect to be Tried in Croatia?

On January 5th, Croatian war crimes suspect Tomislav Purda was arrested at the border between Bosnia and Croatia on a Serbian arrest warrant for allegedly committing crimes against ethnic Serbs during the 1991 war in Yugoslavia.

He is now in jail in Bosnia awaiting an extradition request from Belgrade. Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor has discussed Purda’s arrest with Serbian President Boris Tadic.

IWCR understands that Serbia is likely to hand Purda over to Croatia in order to be tried there, as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries’ justice departments.

If these two previously bitter foes are able to cooperate over war crimes trials, and reign in their respective nationalist wings who tend to insist on regarding war crimes suspects as national heroes, then perhaps there is hope after all that war crimes suspects can successfully be separated from national politics and tried like the common criminals they really are.

Only time will tell.

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Bosnian War Crimes Suspect Arrested in Sweden

A man has been arrested in Sweden on suspicion of war crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Swedish police have confirmed.

The man who was in his mid-40s, was believed to have been in Sweden since 2009 but is not a Swedish citizen. The man, believed to be a citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina, had been hiding in the small town of Ostersund in the central Swedish province of Jamtland.
Bosnian authorities had issued an international arrest warrant for him and they have been notified of the arrest.

There have been consistent rumours that there are many alleged war criminals hiding all over the EU. In 2008, Sweden set up a special police unit tasked with tracking and investigating alleged war criminals.

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Serbian War Crimes Suspect Arrested in Montenegro

A member of a Serbian paramilitary group alleged to have committed war crimes in Kosovo has been arrested in Montenegro. Milojko Nikolic, nicknamed Sumadija, belonged to the paramilitary Sakali (Jackal) unit which is accused of atrocities committed against ethnic Albanian civilians during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

Nikolic, who is suspected of having committed war crimes against civilians, was arrested at the request of Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic. It is expected that Nikolic will be extradited in accordance with an extradition treaty signed between Belgrade and Podgotica in October.

The Sakali are accused of having killed at least 43 civilians in the village of Cuska, near the western Kosovo town of Pec, on May 14, 1999.

According to the indictment, the defendants committed murders, rapes and robberies in an “extremely brutal” way, with “the main aim of spreading fear among Albanian civilians in order to force them to leave their homes and flee to Albania.”

Seven members of the Sakali have been arrested and are on trial in Serbia. Six more people, still at large, are suspected of the same crime and international arrest warrants have been issued for them by Interpol.

It seems that Serbian justice is gradually, very gradually, beginning to investigate, and more importantly prosecute, crimes committed during the conflicts in Kosovo and in Bosnia.

Could this be because finally the realisation has dawned that European Union membership depends on this happening?

However, the real proof of that would be the arrest of Ratko Mladic.

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