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International Criminal Court likely to shift its focus towards Environmental Crimes

Land grabbing has become increasingly common worldwide, with national and local governments allocating private companies tens of millions of hectares of land in the past 10 years

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FILE - A boy holds a banner reading "Please stop grabbing our land" at a rally by evection victims in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sept. 1, 2014. VOA

Sept 17, 2016: Crimes associated with environmental destruction- the illegal exploitation of natural resources and unlawful dispossession of land will now be the focus of the International Criminal Court, as announced on September 15, 2016.

The United Nations-backed court, which sits in The Hague, has mostly ruled on cases of genocide and war crimes since it was set up in 2002. It now pronounced during a move, widely hailed by land right activists, environmental demolition, and land grabs will lead the governments and individuals being prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

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The court, which is funded by governments and is regarded as the court of last resort, said it would now take into consideration crimes that have been traditionally under prosecuted.

Land grabbing has become increasingly common worldwide, with national and local governments allocating private companies tens of millions of hectares of land in the past 10 years.

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The anti-corruption campaigners from Global Witness say this has led to many forced evictions, the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, malnutrition, and environmental destruction.

“This shift means it can start holding corporate executives to account for large-scale land grabbing and massive displacement happening during peacetime,” Alice Harrison of Global Witness told Reuters.

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The move comes ahead of a decision by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on whether to investigate a case filed by human rights lawyers in 2014 accusing Cambodian officials and businessmen of engaging in illegal land dispossession.

The firm representing the Cambodian plaintiffs said the ICC’s policy shift opens the door for the case to be investigated by the court.

Cambodia’s government has dismissed the case as politically motivated and based on “fake numbers of people being affected by land grabbing.”

Last year was the deadliest on record for land rights campaigners, with more than three people killed each week in conflicts over territory with mining companies, loggers, hydroelectric dams or agribusiness firms, Global Witness said.

-Prepared By Enakshi Roy Chowdhury of Newsgram with inputs from various agencies. Twitter: @enakshirc58

 

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US Forces may have committed War Crimes in Afghanistan, says International Criminal Court

The crimes would have been committed in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan although Kandahar and Helmand seem to be the most affected provinces

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People live in fear in Afghanistan due to Militant attacks. VOA

The Hague, Nov 15, 2016: International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors said that there were preliminary grounds to believe that US military forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

In a report published on Monday evening, the prosecutors said that after a thorough inspection, the US forces were found to have committed war crimes through torture and other types of abuse at secret detention camps, Efe news reported.

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According to the ICC, these detention centres were run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and war crimes took place “mostly between 2003-2004” although “in some cases continued until 2014”.

The crimes would have been committed in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan although Kandahar and Helmand seem to be the most affected provinces, the report said.

The report added that “members of the US military appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture” and that CIA officials allegedly tortured another 27 detainees.

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The ICC prosecutors said they also have good reason to believe that the Taliban and its allies, belonging to the Haqqani Network, have also committed “crimes against humanity and war crimes”, while war crimes and torture would also have been carried out by the Afghan government, particularly by thr National Directorate for Security intelligence agency and the Afghan National Police.

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The ICC prosecution office said it will decide whether to carry out a full investigation into the Afghan issue and, according to the results, could press charges against individuals and even issue arrest warrants.

The ICC was established in 2003 to prosecute serious war crimes and crimes against humanity, but the US under former President George W. Bush was strongly opposed to the establishment of the court, of which the US is not a member. (IANS)

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Siege and Bombardment of Syria’s Aleppo constitute Crimes of Historic proportions, says United Nations

The Russian ambassador accuses Britain and its allies of protecting terrorists from destruction

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People inspect the damage as a civilian walks near blood stains at a market hit by air strikes in Aleppo's rebel-held al-Fardous district, Syria, Oct. 12, 2016. VOA

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein says the siege and bombardment of Syria’s northern city of eastern Aleppo constitute crimes of historic proportions. He is calling on the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Zeid says well over 300,000 Syrians have been killed and countless others wounded and traumatised in the course of more than five years of civil war. He says the relentless bombardment of Aleppo has turned the ancient city into a slaughterhouse.

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Without mentioning Russia by name, the high commissioner blames the indiscriminate airstrikes across the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo by government forces and their allies for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.

He says the violations constitute war crimes and calls for those guilty of international crimes to be held accountable.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, agrees all parties to the conflict guilty of crimes must be brought to justice. VOA
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, agrees all parties to the conflict guilty of crimes must be brought to justice. VOA

“Perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity will only cease to violate the laws of war when it is clear they will be held to account,” he said. “This why referral of the conflict in Syria to the ICC (International Criminal Court) or an ad hoc international justice mechanism is critical to resolving this conflict.”

People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 17, 2016. VOA
People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 17, 2016. VOA

Pinheiro says members of the investigative commission will continue to document war crimes in Aleppo. The British minister for Africa and the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, launched a blistering attack on Syria and Russia.

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“Hospitals have been bombed repeatedly. Hundreds of civilians, many of them children, have been killed since the (Bashar) Assad regime and Russia launched their assault on Eastern Aleppo.”

The Russian ambassador accuses Britain and its allies of protecting terrorists from destruction and allowing them to regroup so they can continue what he calls their barbaric acts. The Syrian representative calls Britain’s accusations baseless and fabricated to enhance its political agenda. (VOA)