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Thursday, November 21, 2013

DRC Soldiers Tried for Mass Rape

Nearly forty soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will stand trial for their part in the mass rape and battery of over 130 women during the military’s retreat from Goma following clashes with the M23 rebel group last year. Critics say the case, coming more than a year after the crimes took place, only began after Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, the UN mission in the country, issued a sternly worded request for legal action. Kobler’s request implied that the UN would cease funding the DRC’s military unless Congolese officials fulfilled “their obligations … towards the victims of such atrocious acts and their families to whom justice must be rendered.”

According to the BBC, many of the 1,014 people who have been identified as victims of war crimes in Minova said their alleged rapists were not among the 39 accused. Soldiers even admitted they had raped women in Minova. One solider told a british filmmaker, “We raped and we destroyed everything in our path.” Still the soldiers often said they had acted under orders from above. No officers are currently under investigation or on trial. According to a high-ranking police officer source for AFP, the tribunal’s verdict will be final. “There’s no appeal. They are definitively convicted, or if they are to be freed, they are freed.”

Top China Court Bans Torture

China’s Supreme People’s Court suggested the use of torture to extract confessions, despite its long history in the country, is no longer valid. In a statement posted on its microblog, the court said, “Inquisition by torture used to extract a confession, as well as the use of cold, hunger, drying, scorching, fatigue and other illegal methods to obtain confessions from the accused must be eliminated.” Rights advocates have long railed for greater respect of human rights in China, but today’s announcement elicited little enthusiasm. “The problem is always with the implementation,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch. “In the judicial system in China the public security system is by far the most powerful institution, and there are effectively very few checks and balances on how it exerts its power.”

Drone Strike Kills Jan

What appears to have been a pre-dawn U.S. drone strike has killed Maulvi Ahmad Jan, adviser to Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The strike comes just a day after Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz said the United States had promised not to conduct drone strikes while the Pakistani government was attempting to revive peace talks with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. A statement from Azizz’s ministry regarding today’s strike said, “These drone strikes have a negative impact on the Government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.”

Witnesses and officials believe at least three rockets plunged into a religious school, killing four others, but collateral damage appears to have been minimal. According to a local resident, “only the two rooms where Maulvi Ahmad Jan and other Afghan Taliban leaders were staying were hit by the drone. The remaining seven rooms remained intact.”

Latvian Grocery Roof Collapse

Four people died after the roof of Maxima grocery, a busy supermarket in Riga, collapsed during the evening rush hour. Ilze Buksa, a spokesperson for Latvia’s emergency medical service told reporters 22 people were being treated in hospitals with various injuries, some of them serious. Many injured received treatment on site and went home. A rescue official on the scene suggested at least a dozen more could still be caught in the rubble. The cause of the collapse is not yet known, but local media said workers had been building a roof garden on the store. Two firefighters were also killed and seven were injured after another section of roof fell on rescue workers as they began searching for survivors in the debris, according to the Riga Fire and Rescue Service.

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