• Friday, January 29, 2010

    Washington's refusal to talk about drone strikes in Pakistan meets growing opposition

    According to this report (The Canadian Press, January 2009, 2010), criticism is mounting over Washington's refusal to say anything about missile strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan's northwest, prompting even supporters to argue the U.S. needs to be more open to counter militant allegations that only innocent civilians are dying. More information about the CIA-run program could help offset opposition in Pakistan and also assuage concerns that the strikes violate such law. "The U.S. government doesn't even suggest what the proportion of innocent people to legitimate targets is," said Michael Walzer, a renowned American scholar on the ethics of warfare. "It's a moral mistake, but it's a PR mistake as well."

    In October, the Special Rapporteur criticized the U.S. for failing to adequately respond to international concerns that the strikes are illegal, see here.

  • Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Colombia: U.S. Senators seek change in counter-narcotics initiative

    Three influential Democratic senators have written to urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to review the U.S. contribution to the counter-narcotics initiative known as Plan Colombia in light of Bogota’s scant progress in reducing cocaine production or curbing human rights abuses.

    While praising the fruits of U.S.-Colombian cooperation across a wide range of issues, the legislators express concern “that military engagement and support continue to dominate our relationship, despite a continuing pattern of abuses by the Colombian military.”

    The Senators' letter cites the “falsos positivos” scandal, “in which Colombian soldiers killed hundreds of civilians and dressed them in guerrilla clothing in order to inflate body counts. Human rights groups estimate that at least 1,700 innocent civilians were executed by troops eager to qualify for cash bonuses and extra days off; the Attorney General’s Office has accepted 1,056 cases.”

    They also note a report from the U.N. special rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Philip Alston, who found no evidence that the killings were a matter of “official government policy.”At the same time, the senators point to Alston’s conclusion that “the sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military.”

    U.S. Senators seek change to plan colombia (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 28, 2010)

    Senators' letter to Secretary of State Clinton available here.

  • Thursday, January 07, 2010

    Sri Lanka: UN Special rapporteur concludes that video showing executions is authentic

    Following an investigation into footage originally shown by Channel Four in Britain which appears to show the summary execution of bound, blindfolded, and naked Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers, Philip Alston in a press release today called for the “establishment of an independent inquiry to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka.” He announced that investigation, on the basis of detailed analyses conducted by recognised experts in forensic pathology, forensic video analysis, and firearm evidence, strongly pointed to the authenticity of the videotape released by Channel 4.

    Professor Alston commissioned the investigation, comprised of three reports by recognized experts in forensic pathology, forensic video analysis, and firearm evidence, following the publication of four opinions by Sri Lankan experts, all of which concluded that the video was a fake, and the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka that it would therefore not be undertaking any investigation of the allegations made. In response to criticism from the Government of Sri Lanka that Alston had not undertaken his own analysis and to the inadequacies of the reports commissioned by the Government (two of which were prepared by officials of the Sri Lankan army), he initiated his own investigation. Today Alston released the full text of the expert opinions in a “Technical Note”, stating that “together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic”.

  • Friday, January 08, 2010

    Sri Lanka: UN Special Rapporteur's findings on executions receives extensive media coverage


    The UN Special Rapporteur's finding that a video appearing to show the execution of Tamil men is "authentic" received widespread media coverage:

    Monsters and Critics: UN rapporteur urges independent war crimes probe in Sri Lanka

    UN News Centre: Deeming Sri Lanka execution video authentic, UN expert calls for war crimes probe

    AFP: Sri Lanka faces new pressure over war crimes

    AP: UN Expert Cites Video in Call for Sri Lankan Probe

    Reuters: Sri Lanka execution video appears authentic - U.N.

    Xinhua: UN deems video showing Sri Lankan executions authentic, calls for investigation

    BBC News online: Sri Lanka execution video authentic - UN envoy

    CNN World online: U.N. investigator says video of executions appears to be authentic

    Al Jazeera English: S Lanka execution video authentic

    The Times, London: Tamil Tiger video killing is genuine, declares the UN

    It was also reported that the Government of Sri Lanka rejected the report by the UN Special Rapporteur:

    New York Times: Sri Lanka Rejects U.N. Execution Video Report

    BBC News: Sri Lanka rejects UN execution video claims

    It has also been reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is considering appointing a Commission of Experts to advise him further and to assist the Sri Lankan Government in taking measures to address possible violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the last days of the war against the LTTE:

    The Hindu: Fresh row over UN move in Sri Lanka

    Inner City Press: At UN, Ban Cites Old Sri Lanka Calls to Evade War Crimes Findings

    Lanka Times: UN commission to probe Sri Lanka

  • Monday, January 11, 2010

    Kenya: Commission witnesses’ identities leaked, safety in question

    According to Kenyan news reports available here, at least 22 witnesses who testified before the Waki commission on post-election violence under assurance that their identity would remain secret have had their names leaked to the public and have consequently received death threats. The victims reportedly contacted the police and the office of the Attorney General, but no measures were taken.

    The Special Rapporteur reported on post-election violence and impunity for killings after his February 2009 mission to Kenya. His report is available here.