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Archive for March 14th, 2012

ICC First verdict: Thomas Lubanga guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate in hostilities

Posted by African Press International on March 14, 2012

By api

Today, 14 March 2012, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided unanimously that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is guilty, as a co-perpetrator, of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003. It is the first verdict issued by an ICC Trial Chamber. At present, 14 other cases are before the Court, three of which are at the stage of trial.

Summary and judgement on Lubanga case:

The present war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities were committed in the context of an internal armed conflict that took place in the Ituri (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and involved the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), led by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, against the Armée Populaire Congolaise and other militias, including the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri. A common plan was agreed by Mr Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in boys and girls under the age of 15 being conscripted and enlisted, and used to participate actively in hostilities.

Mr Lubanga Dyilo was the President of the Union des patriotes congolais (Union of Congolese Patriots) (UPC), the Commander-in-Chief of its military wing, the FPLC, and its political leader. He exercised an overall coordinating role regarding the activities of the UPC/FPLC and he actively supported recruitment initiatives, for instance by giving speeches to the local population and the recruits. Furthermore, he personally used children below the age of 15 amongst his bodyguards and he regularly saw guards of other UPC/FPLC staff members who were below the age of 15. The Chamber, comprising Judge Adrian Fulford (presiding judge), Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito and Judge René Blattmann, found that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor establishes beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Lubanga Dyilo’s contribution was essential to the common plan.

At the request of Mr Lubanga Dyilo, and in accordance with article 76(2) of the Rome Statute, the Chamber will hold a separate sentencing hearing. The Chamber will, furthermore, establish the principles that are to be applied to reparations for victims. The defence is entitled to appeal the conviction within 30 days of receiving the French translation of the Judgment.

Background information:

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was transferred to The Hague on 17 March 2006, pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I. His trial, the first at the ICC, started on 26 January 2009 and the closing statements were presented by the parties and participants on 25 and 26 August 2011.

Over the course of 204 days of hearings, the Trial Chamber has delivered 275 written decisions and orders and 347 oral decisions. The Chamber heard 36 witnesses, including 3 experts, called by the Office of the Prosecutor, 24 witnesses called by the defence and 3 witnesses called by the legal representatives of the victims participating in the proceedings. The Chamber also called 4 experts. A total of 129 victims, represented by two teams of legal representatives and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, were granted the right to participate in the trial. They have been authorised to present submissions and to examine witnesses on specific issues. The Prosecution submitted 368 items of evidence, the Defence 992, and the legal representatives of victims 13.

The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. At present, 15 cases have been brought before the Court in the context of 7 situations that are currently under investigation: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC Judges have issued 20 warrants of arrest (2 withdrawn following the death of the suspects) and 9 summonses to appear. Currently, five individuals are in the ICC custody and 11 suspects remain at large.

 End

source ICC

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International Criminal Court: Angelina Jolie attends hearing to witness Lubanga

Posted by African Press International on March 14, 2012

By api

Today, 14 March 2012, Angelina Jolie attended the reading of the first
verdict rendered by the International Criminal Court (ICC), witnessing
this decision and supporting the considerable advancements in
international justice that the ICC represents. “The delivery of the
ICC’s first verdict today is an important moment for the Court, for the
Democratic Republic of Congo, and for the rule of law. Perhaps today’s
verdict of guilty provides some measure of comfort for the victims of Mr
Lubanga’s actions. Most of all it sends a strong message against the use
of child soldiers”, said Jolie.

 The verdict marks a historic milestone for the ICC. The Prosecutor v.
Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the first trial to be brought before the ICC,
and Mr Lubanga was the first suspect to be arrested under an ICC
warrant. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo has been convicted of enlisting,
conscripting and using persons under the age of 15 to participate
actively in hostilities.

The United Nations estimates that there are tens of thousands of child
soldiers engaged in combat in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Her presence at the hearing today is Ms Jolie’s fourth visit to the ICC
and third appearance at the Lubanga trial proceedings. In addition to
attending the testimony of a victim, a child soldier, and attending
closing arguments in the case, Ms Jolie funded the Lubanga Chronicles.
The Lubanga Chronicles brought news of the trial to the general public
in the international community and local communities in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, through the distribution of written chronicles,
short audio clips via local radio stations in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo and short video clips via internet and other outlets.

 

End

Source: Office of the Prosecutor

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Use of violence must be stopped

Posted by African Press International on March 14, 2012

By api

Around 100 Israelis and Palestinians have been injured and 23 people in Gaza have been confirmed dead since Friday. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre commented, “I urge all parties to refrain from new acts of violence.”

Over the weekend, a large number of rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. The Israeli air force has carried out a number of air strikes.

“These incidents are tragic for those affected. It is vital to stop the use of violence and prevent more loss of life,” said Mr Støre.

The increasing use of violence in the south of Israel and in Gaza is also undermining the opportunity to find a solution to outstanding political issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

end

source mfa.no

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South Africa’s gold-mining industry has the highest TB incidence in the world

Posted by African Press International on March 14, 2012

SOUTH AFRICA: Preventative TB trial disappoints

South Africa’s gold-mining industry has the highest TB incidence in the world

JOHANNESBURG,  – After seven years of research, the world’s largest study of preventative tuberculosis (TB) therapy has found that untargeted, community-wide distribution of TB prevention drugs did not improve TB control on South African gold mines.

Conducted among 27,000 gold-mine employees in 15 mines, the Thibela TB study tested the theory that treating an entire community with the first-line TB drug isoniazid could result in long-lasting reductions in active TB cases and TB prevalence.

Workers in eight mines were offered TB screening. Those with active TB were treated, while those without active TB – about 24,000 – were given a nine-month course of isoniazid preventative TB therapy (IPT). Workers in the remaining seven mines were screened and treated according to national guidelines whereby only high-risk individuals with HIV or silicosis would have been eligible for a six-month IPT course.

But according to results released on 8 March at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, the community-wide IPT provision did not reduce TB incidence or prevalence within communities.

In people who do not have active TB, IPT applies one of the two drugs commonly used in combination to treat active TB as a preventative measure. While many people carry TB, only about 10 percent will ever develop it. However, those with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV or silicosis – a lung-destroying respiratory illness often contracted by miners exposed to silica dust – are much more likely to develop active TB.

Gavin Churchyard, the study’s principal investigator and chief executive officer of South Africa’s Aurum Institute for Health, said that while Thibela showed poor results at community level, it did underscore IPT’s proven effectiveness in preventing active TB among individuals who were on the drug course but this protection waned quickly once patients stopped taking IPT.

He added that the long-running trial also revealed important insights on how to better conduct future large-scale, cluster randomized control studies and that these techniques were helping to shape studies evaluating the effects of newly introduced TB diagnostics such as GeneXpert

Researchers are now recommending that governments such as South Africa’s continue targeted IPT provision aimed at high-risk groups. However, Churchyard added that focused rollouts remain difficult when people did not know they were “high-risk”, ie HIV-positive or suffering from silicosis.

Poor working and living conditions, coupled with high rates of silicosis, have fuelled TB on the mines for years, aggravated by the advent of HIV. The South African Department of Health, in its TB Strategic Plan for South Africa 2007-2011, has estimated that the country’s gold-mining industry has the highest TB incidence in the world.

Silicosis is estimated to affect a third of all South African gold miners and autopsies have shown that many miners remain undiagnosed and untreated, particularly black mine workers who traditionally assumed the most dangerous jobs in the mines under apartheid.

With an HIV prevalence of about 18 percent, South Africa has had national IPT guidelines in place since 2002 but eight years later the coverage was estimated to be below 1 percent. Last year, 320,000 people were put on the preventative therapy, according to Churchyard.

Next steps

Thibela is the second large-scale, community-focused TB prevention trial to report disappointing results in the past six months. In October 2011, the ZAMSTAR study conducted among almost 963,000 people in Zambia and South Africa found that enhanced, community-based TB case finding also had no effect on incidence or prevalence. Both Thibela and ZAMSTAR are part of the Bill and Melinda Gates-funded Consortium to Respond Effectively to the AIDS/TB Epidemic.

Thibela and ZAMSTAR researchers are evaluating data that Churchyard said they hoped would tell them why both studies failed to lower new and existing cases of TB at the community level. Thibela researchers will report the findings of these models at the bi-annual South African TB Conference in June 2012.

“The reasons we’re exploring are, broadly, that we didn’t achieve adequate IPT coverage, or there is a high rate of ongoing TB transmission in the mines, or miners’ vulnerability due to HIV and high silica dust exposure undermines IPT’s protective effect at the community level,” Churchyard told IRIN/PlusNews. “It’s likely that all three contributed to the fact that it didn’t work.

“We can’t stop here, we have to seek solutions to control TB in the mines.”

Thibela investigators will also present their findings at an April 2012 ministerial meeting of the Southern African Development Community. The meeting in Luanda, Angola, is expected to bring together ministries of health, finance and labour and industry representatives, to discuss TB in the mining sector. The meeting is expected to produce a SADC declaration on the issue by August 2012 and a regional plan of action to inform future TB interventions.

llg/kn/mw
 source www.irinnews.org

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Somalis in the diaspora are helping to fund schools, hospitals, even universities

Posted by African Press International on March 14, 2012

SOMALIA: Diaspora for development

Somalis in the diaspora are helping to fund schools, hospitals, even universities (file photo)

LONDON,  – Somalis living abroad send home more than US$1 billion – perhaps even as much as $2 billion – every year, and they have kept on doing so, despite bureaucratic obstacles. Now a report commissioned by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) considers how the outside world can help Somalis abroad contribute to the country’s development.

Almost every member of the Somali diaspora sends money home to their family, to help with food, rent, school fees and other daily expenses. But clan and hometown groups also collect money to build schools and clinics, even hospitals and universities, and to repair damaged infrastructure. Professionals in the diaspora support their colleagues back home with money and expertise. And investors help entrepreneurs, large and small, to create business ranging from tea stalls to international mobile phone companies.

The study was written by Ali Ibrahim Dagagne, an agriculture and livestock specialist who used to work with UNDP, and Laura Hammond of London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Hammond hails the effectiveness of diaspora support as one of Somalia’s success stories. “The Somali diaspora have succeeded in some ways where the international community has not been able to succeed,” she says. “Over the past 20 years, since the state collapsed, the diaspora has been a lifeline really for the country, and one of the reasons why we haven’t seen much more suffering.”

While the international community has concentrated predominantly on humanitarian relief, the diaspora is more engaged in reconstruction and development, and their money reaches parts of the country where international organizations and foreign-supported NGOs find it very hard to work. Most of the money sent home goes through kinship and similar networks and because people are personally known to each other, the level of trust between donors and recipients is very high.

The money is usually sent via the hawala system of money transfer agents, some of which, like Dahabshiil, have grown into major international companies. “One of the amazing things,” says Hammond, “is that the transfer industry has moved with the people, and so even if people have been displaced, you are still able to reach them, because the agent on the receiving end has moved as well.”

The report identifies various problems, some related to the marginalized nature of diaspora communities. Somalis tend to have to wait longer than most migrants for their status to be recognised, they struggle to find employment and stable housing, and low wages mean they have little money to send. Once communities get more settled and better integrated, their ability to help increases; the authors think the countries where they settle could do more to speed up this integration.

Even where help might be available, Somalis do not always use it. Some community associations, for instance, are registered as charities in Britain, but many more are not, simply because their founders do not understand this means they would get substantial extra funds from tax rebates. The authors also found suspicion and mistrust of international organizations, which prevented what could be useful collaboration on projects in Somalia.

Finally, the Somali diaspora and their money transfer companies have had to cope with the fallout of 9/11. Banks in the US have stopped dealing with them, and compliance regulations have become ever stricter. Individuals and community groups fear falling under suspicion of fund-raising for Al-Shabab or Al-Qaeda.


Photo: Mohammed Amin Jibril/IRIN
Somalis living abroad are helping to fund schools and hospitals (file photo)

Dagagne and Hammond say the challenge for the international community is to work out how to help without interfering. They can provide a more enabling environment, encourage collaboration, and seek to create a multiplier effect.

Making a difference

At the launch of the report, Safi Farah and Sahra Abdillahi, both from Somaliland, a self-declared independent northwestern province, spoke to IRIN. They work with Somali women’s groups in the UK and collect money from the community for clinics and hospitals. Abdillahi said: “We raise money to build hospitals, to build schools, to train midwives. And when something bad happens, like the recent drought, we clubbed together with Islington Council and we raised half a million.” They say they want help in the form of training and funding, so they can do the work rather than using outsiders who do not understand the language or the culture.

Mohamed Abdulkadir is a young mental health worker. He told IRIN, “My parents and four of my young brothers and sisters are in Kismayo, which is still in the hands of Al-Shabab, and I was glad this study has come out really, because it will make the western world understand that we are sending [money] to our parents, not to Al-Shabab. Because here when we send money they will say, ‘Where does it go?’ There is suspicion about where the money goes.”

Abdulkadir would like to visit his parents, but feels he cannot because, as a young man going to an Al-Shabab area, he would fall under suspicion.

Mohamed Keenan said he was one of those who struggled to find the money to send to his aunts and sister in Mogadishu. But for him the only thing that can really help is political stability. “As long as it is politically stable, then people can go out and get a job, and I can save my [$100] a month and go back there myself and contribute.”

eb/mw
source www.irinnews.org

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