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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Charles Taylor’s War Crimes Conviction Upheld

Over a decade after he armed the brutal rebel group the Revolutionary United Front in return for so-called ‘blood diamonds’ during Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war of 1991-2002, former Liberian president Charles Taylor has become the first head of state to be convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II. The appeals chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) upheld his conviction on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including terrorism, murder, rape, the mutilation of thousands of civilians and the use of child soldiers. He has been sentenced to 50 years in prison, almost certainly the rest of his life.

The ruling, however, may have created conflicting sets of jurisprudence over the definition of “aiding and abetting” human rights crimes. In February, the appeals court for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that to convict a senior official of aiding and abetting, the prosecution must prove he had “specifically directed” the crime. The SCSL dismissed this ruling, saying that Taylor knew what crimes were being committed by the rebel forces with his aid, even though he had not been found individually criminally responsible for ordering them.

Qatar Subjecting Laborers to ‘Modern Day Slavery’

An investigation by The Guardian has found that Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar have been dying at a rate of almost one per day, largely from sudden heart problems or work-related accidents. According to documents from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, workers have been refused pay and had their salaries retained to prevent them from fleeing; employers have confiscated passports, effectively reducing workers to illegal alien status; and employers have denied workers access to drinking water on construction sites.

The most widely-covered angle of the story is the evidence of forced labor being used to build a huge infrastructure project for the 2022 Fifa World Cup and authorities in Qatar have opened an investigation into the conditions of World Cup workers.

Qatar has the highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population in the world - more than 90% of the workforce are immigrants – and of these, Nepalese make up the single largest group of laborers. Over 100,000 Nepalese left for Qatar in the last year alone.

Possible Deal on Syria Possibly Reached

After weeks of discussion on what should be included in a new resolution requiring Syria’s chemical weapons to be secured and dismantled, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, Russia, China, Britain and France, known as P-5) may have reached an agreement on the key elements. US and Russin diplomats were still negotiating unresolved issues, reportedly including how, exactly, to dispose of the chemical weapons.

A major sticking point has been whether the resolution should be under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows the UN to enforce its decisions through sanctions or military force. Russia would not accept the initial resolution under Chapter 7. The most recent draft only makes reference to Article 25, which declares all security council decisions legally binding – the only reference to enforcement is the threat of punitive measures should Syria fail to comply with the resolution.

Attacks in India-Controlled Kashmir

One day after Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said he would hold talks with Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, militants dressed in Indian Army uniforms stormed an Indian police station and army base, killing up to a dozen people. After striking the police station, three militants with assault rifles and grenades hijacked a truck and drove to the nearby army base. All three were killed after confrontations with government forces.

As with previous attacks this summer, it seemed timed to derail talks between two prime ministers who have repeatedly called for dialogue. Singh condemned the attacks, but said the “enemies of peace” would not deter him from meeting with Sharif to discuss a resolution to the crisis. He ignored thoroughly helpful demands from the hard-line Bharatiya Janata Party to back out of the talks and behead 10 Pakistani soldiers in retribution.

Central Sudan Sees Worst Unrest in Years

Thousands marched through the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Wednesday, torching cars, buildings and gas stations – and, at one point, calling for the fall of the regime – in response to the government cutting fuel subsidies, which caused the price of oil to nearly double overnight. While Sudan has fought armed insurgencies in its peripheral regions like Darfur for decades, the central areas along the Nile have traditionally been calm.

In an attempt to disrupt the protests, the government likely shut down the internet without warning across the country. It was back up Thursday afternoon, with no explanation, but possibly because the police had successfully dispersed the protesters. 29 people have been killed so far and activists are calling for renewed demonstrations Friday.

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