ICC to open investigation over alleged crimes against humanity in Venezuela

class=”MuiTypography-root-228 MuiTypography-h1-233″>ICC to open investigation over alleged crimes against humanity in VenezuelaThe WorldNovember 4, 2021 · 9:45 AM EDT

Andreina Baduel wears a T-shirt that reads in Spanish "Justice and freedom" and holds a sign with pictures of people during a protest against political prisoners outside the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, known as the Helicoide, in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 3, 2021.

Ariana Cubillos/AP

Top of The World — our morning news roundup written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Venezuela
On the final day of a trip to Caracas, International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced the ICC is set to open an investigation into allegded crimes of torture and extrajudicial killings by Venezuelan security forces under the rule of President Nicolas Maduro. While it could be years before any criminal charges are presented, the investigation was celebrated by human rights groups and the Venezuelan opposition. If carried out, the probe would be the first of its kind in a Latin American country.

United States
NSO Group, the Israeli company behind the controversial Pegasus spyware, which researchers say is used to target the phones of journalists, human rights activists and others, has been added to a US trade blacklist. Saying the NSO tools have been used to “conduct transnational repression,” the Biden administration announced measures that will limit the company’s access to US-made components and technology by requiring government permission for exports. NSO Group has long maintained that its military-grade spyware is sold to military, intelligence and security agencies from countries with good human rights records.

United Kingdom
Molnupiravir, the first antiviral oral pill found to be effective in treating symptomatic COVID-19, has been approved by a medicines regulator in the UK. Clinical trials show the medicine, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, cut the risk of death and hospitalization by half. The pill interferes with the replication of the virus and can be administered outside of a hospital.

From The WorldA new memoir by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei honors his father's poetry and politics

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei walks by his work "Life Cycle", a migrants' boat made of bamboo, during a press preview of his new exhibition "Rapture" in Lisbon, Portugal, June 3, 2021.

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Chinese political dissident and artist Ai Weiwei has published a new book called "1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows." He took the time to discuss with The World's Carol Hills what it was like growing up as the son of a dissident poet.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia says it wants to get to net-zero emissions by 2060. But critics question its roadmap.

In this photo provided by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry during the Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 25, 2021.

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Saudi Arabia’s economy was built on oil. Now, faced with growing global pressure to replace fossil fuel with cleaner energy, the kingdom has announced plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2060.

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Odd Spot

Talk about a couch potato! 🥔

A New Zealand couple made a surprise discovery while weeding their garden this summer: A 17-pound potato named "Doug," which has now become a town celebrity. Colin and Donna Craig-Brown are trying to preserve the spud while waiting to hear back from Guinness World Records to see if it qualifies for the largest potato ever.

In case you missed itListen: Haitians deported from US focus again on migration

Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande river from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Sept. 20, 2021, to avoid deportation from the US. 

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Less than two months ago, thousands of Haitians were encamped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, just at the Mexico border. Some migrants were eventually let into the US, but the majority were deported to Haiti, often after living away from the country for years. And in Afghanistan, Afghans desperately need foreign aid to get through the winter. But the international community doesn’t want to prop up the extremist Taliban government, which presents a moral dilemma. Plus, how many times over the past 19 months have you been asked, “How are you?” A lot. We hear how answers to that question get expressed around the world.

Don't forget to subscribe to The World's Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

New coronavirus spikes cause concern; India-China clashes may be hard to defuse; Sudan war criminal faces ICC

New coronavirus spikes cause concern; India-China clashes may be hard to defuse; Sudan war criminal faces ICC

By
The World staff

A person receives a parcel inside a residential compound that has been put under stricter virus control measures and surrounded by barbed wire after a new outbreak of the coronavirus, in Fengtai district, in Beijing, China, June 17, 2020.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Chinese officials have described the new outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Beijing as “extremely grave.” More than 60% of flights to the capital have been canceled and China’s emergency warning has been raised to its second-highest level. But China is not alone in dealing with growing cases of the virus, as infections have spiked in the US, India and Iran.

Six US states have reported record highs of new cases. Texas is among them — it’s seeing thousands of new cases and hospitalizations after the state agressively reopened the economy in May. Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier this week that the recent spike “does raise concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed.”     

After more than three weeks without a new case of the coronavirus, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an “unacceptable failure” in which health officials allowed two women returning from London to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds before being tested. The women later tested positive for the virus. Ardern has now appointed a top military leader to oversee quarantine measures.  

And, while many have pointed to the link between the coronavirus and wet markets, some warn that “in the rush to create a safer food system, culturally significant food practices, which pose comparatively minor public health risks, are coming under threat,” The Guardian reports.

What The World is following

At least 20 people have died in close combat clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on the disputed border in the Himalayas. Soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat and reportedly fought with rocks and nail-studded bamboo sticks. Both countries have lobbed accusations at each other. China has recently taken an aggressive tactic on territory and borders, and over the last several decades has built infrastructure around the Line of Actual Control demarkating the region. With the loss of life in this week’s clashes, de-escalation of tensions may be difficult to achieve.  

Controversial Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has tested positive for the coronavirus, along with his wife and two aides. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s residence now has a disinfectant tunnel to protect him from the disease. But do these tunnels come with more risk

From The WorldTensions continue in Darfur as Sudanese war criminal faces his day in court

After more than a decade evading charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a Sudanese suspect, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, widely known as Ali Kushayb, finally appeared in court. The conflict, which the United States later called a genocide against Indigenous Africans, left an estimated 300,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. For some Darfuris, Kushayb’s arrest is a sign that justice, long-elusive, could be on the horizon.

Remembering Sarah Hegazi, the Egyptian LGBTQ activist arrested for unfurling the rainbow flag

Crowds listening to Mashrou Leila concert in Cairo in 2017. 

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Egyptian Streets/Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Hegazi will be remembered as someone who just wanted to be herself — and was imprisoned and tortured for doing so. During a 2017 music festival in Cairo, Hegazi hoisted a rainbow flag above the crowd — a daring move in a country where homosexuality is taboo. A friend took her photo, and Hegazi became famous after the image spread across on social media. But that moment came back to haunt her. On Saturday, Hegazi died by suicide in exile in Canada. She was 30 years old.

Canadian universal basic income experiment has been life-changing for those unemployed amid coronavirus 

Nick Abrantes walks after purchased three pairs of shoes during a phased reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Toronto, May 19, 2020.

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Carlos Osorio/Reuters 

Canadians who have lost their job or can’t work because of the coronavirus can apply for an emergency jobless benefit from the Canadian government. It’s a temporary program, but it’s also turned into what may be the world’s largest experiment with a universal basic income. More than 8 million Canadians have applied.

As governments scramble to come up with ways to financially support people out of work because of the pandemic, many economists and politicians say the Canadian program is proof the time has finally come for a no-strings-attached, guaranteed income.

Morning meme

Austrian police have fined a man €500 after he provocatively “let go a massive intestinal wind apparently with full intent.” We’re blown away. 💨

Meanwhile in Vienna. https://t.co/de4VQQ0N2C

— Adriaan Louw (@adriaanhlouw) June 16, 2020In case you missed itListen: China imposes restrictions after new coronavirus cases

Police officers wearing face masks and gloves stand guard outside an entrance to the Xinfadi wholesale market, which has been closed following cases of the coronavirus in Beijing, June 16, 2020.

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Tingshu Wang/Reuters

A new cluster of cases of the coronavirus in Beijing is raising concerns about a second wave in China. Also, anger is mounting over the deaths of Indigenous people at the hands of police in Canada, sparked by the killing of George Floyd. And, how South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a new South Africa might be instructive for how the United States might use this unprecedented moment of focus on race.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Tensions continue in Darfur as Sudanese war criminal faces his day in court

Tensions continue in Darfur as Sudanese war criminal faces his day in court

By
Halima Gikandi

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Sudanese war crimes suspect Ali Kushayb, who preferred to be named Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, is seen on a screen during an initial appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, June 15, 2020.

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After more than a decade evading charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a Sudanese suspect, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, widely known as Ali Kushayb, finally appeared in court. 

On Monday, the 70-year-old could be seen via video link from an International Criminal Court (ICC) detention center, where he had been transferred last week after surrendering himself in the Central African Republic.

The prosecution in The Hague spent 30 minutes reading out more than 50 charges against Kushayb, an alleged senior leader of the Janjaweed, a government-supported Arab militia responsible for atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

The conflict, which the United States later called a genocide against Indigenous Africans, left an estimated 300,00 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. 

In his initial pretrial appearance, Kushayb dismissed the charges as “untrue,” signaling what would become a lengthy, drawn-out trial.

Still, for some Darfuris, Kushayb’s arrest is a sign that justice, long-elusive, could be on the horizon.

Related: Sudanese women seek justice one year after pro-democracy crackdown

“I was very happy because Ali Kushayb surrender[ing] himself to ICC is an important step to satisfy the victims of genocide.”

Mutasim Ali, Darfuri activist living in Washington, DC

I was very happy because Ali Kushayb surrender[ing] himself to ICC is an important step to satisfy the victims of genocide,” said Mutasim Ali, a 33-year-old activist who recently graduated from George Washington University with a degree in comparative law. 

Ali was 16 years old when the conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003, disrupting his otherwise peaceful rural childhood.

“When the war broke out, my family and I were separated because the village was destroyed by the Sudanese government — the militia.”

His village, Daba Neira, lies in the mountainous Jebel Marra region, which for years was besieged by government-linked militias and “scorched-earth” attacks, according to Amnesty International.

“They’re now living in displaced person camps in North Darfur State,” said Ali, who fled Sudan in 2007 after being arrested for criticizing the government.

Sudan at a crossroads

Kushayb’s arrest comes at a transformative moment in Sudan, where a transitional, civilian-led government is tasked with moving the country toward democracy after 30 years of dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted last year following months of massive protests. 

While the government has made social and political breakthroughs in a short time —  recovering billions in stolen assets, expanding religious freedoms and normalizing relations with the US — it has been slow to deliver justice to victims of the Bashir regime.

Related: A year after revolution, Sudan celebrates but still faces squeeze of sanctions

That’s especially true in Darfur, which has yet to feel the promise of transformation.

“For me, the situation in Darfur is still in bad condition,” said Yahia Shogar, a doctor working in West Darfur, who is part of the rapid response team trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  

As Sudan struggles to fight the coronavirus with limited resources, Kushayb’s arrest has renewed attention to the unique challenges in Darfur, where thousands remain in displacement camps supported mostly by international humanitarian aid.

Insecurity and violence persist, propelled by intercommunal clashes and attacks on civilians by armed militias.

“These conflicts have a direct correlation with health impact. Sometimes we have no way to reach areas far from us.” 

Yahia Shogar, doctor, West Darfur, Sudan

“These conflicts have a direct correlation with health impact. Sometimes, we have no way to reach areas far from us,” said Shogar, who notes there is also distrust toward the transitional government. Some members are linked to crimes in Darfur, notably Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, deputy head of the sovereign council — and former Janjaweed leader.

“People deny there’s coronavirus in Sudan or in Darfur,” said Shogar, who contracted COVID-19 himself.

“People say that it’s a political issue,” he continued, explaining he and other medical professionals are trying to educate distrustful communities. 

Related: Coronavirus exposes Sudan’s broken health care system

“The change that is happening in [other parts of] Sudan is not seen in Darfur,” said Ali, the student.

Sitting in his apartment in Washington, DC, where Black Lives Matter protests have erupted in recent weeks, Ali compares the experience of black Americans to what is happening at home.

“They way they are being treated from slavery until this day. That’s exactly how the people of Darfur are being treated,” he explained. 

He worries that unless the problems in Darfur are addressed, the situation could become “explosive” — especially given the continued proliferation of arms in the region, and the anticipated drawdown of United Nations peacekeepers.

Attempts at peace

Sudan’s new government is now responsible for making peace with rebel movements on the country’s margins, including South Kordofan, Blue Nile — and Darfur.

“Our main problem in Sudan is to address the root cause of the political problems. That is what we Darfuris demand.”

Nimir Abdelrahman, chief negotiator for the Sudan Liberation Movement Transitional Council, a Darfuri rebel group

“Our main problem in Sudan is to address the root cause of the political problems. That is what we Darfuris demand,” said Nimir Abdelrahman, a chief negotiator for the Sudan Liberation Movement Transitional Council, a Darfuri rebel group. 

This week, Darfuri armed and unarmed rebel groups are negotiating with the Sudanese government in neighboring Juba, South Sudan, with hopes of reaching a peace deal by June 20, which will officially end the conflict in Darfur.

“The security situation in Darfur has deteriorated, it is very bad,” Abdelrahman said. “We are trying for the Darfur [groups] and the government forces to establish a joint military command to help the people on the ground.”

Other Darfuri demands include disarming armed militias responsible for attacking civilians and bringing justice to all those responsible for crimes in Darfur.

“The government in Khartoum should hand over those wanted by the International Criminal Court,” said Abdelrahman. “For those who are not indicted — we agree to establish a Darfur criminal court.”

There are four remaining Sudanese suspects wanted by the ICC for crimes in Darfur, including former President Bashir, who is currently in Kober prison in Khartoum.  

It’s unclear whether those suspects will be extradited to the ICC, or tried jointly in Sudan.

Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

By
Rupa Shenoy

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about a Trump administration executive order on the International Criminal Court as Defense Secretary Mark Esper listens during a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, June 11, 2020.

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When war crimes happen, and victims can’t get justice in their own country, there’s one place they can go: the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But now, that same court is being challenged by the Trump administration.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order placing visa restrictions and economic sanctions on members of the ICC and their families.

Related: What South Africa can teach the US about racial justice and reconciliation

He said he took that action because of the ICC’s investigation into alleged atrocities by US military members in Afghanistan. In March, judges at the ICC gave prosecutors the go-ahead to look into possible torture and other war crimes.

“As US investigations by the military, by the Congress make clear, United States citizens did commit serious violations of international law.”

Katherine Gallagher represents two individuals who remain detained at Guantanamo Bay without charge

“As US investigations by the military, by the Congress make clear, United States citizens did commit serious violations of international law,” said Katherine Gallagher, who represents two individuals who remain detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp without charge. “But we’ve seen for the past two decades no investigations and no prosecutions of senior US officials.”

Therefore, Gallagher said it’s appropriate for the ICC to be investigating US military members. But the Trump administration has long opposed the investigation, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the president has now taken steps that will hopefully stop it. The administration is also concerned about the possibility of the ICC investigating Israel’s actions in Palestinian territories.

“We cannot and we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Pompeo said, “and indeed, I have a message to many close allies around the world: Your people could be next.”

Related: Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

Pompeo said the president is holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate, engaging in a politically motivated investigation, and challenging US sovereignty. Attorney General Bill Barr took it a step further, announcing an investigation by the Department of Justice into the ICC.

“The US government has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC,” Barr said, adding that the DOJ has “substantial credible information” of a long history of corruption and malfeasance at the ICC.

“Worse yet, we are concerned that foreign powers like Russia are also manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda.”

But that concern was rejected by Stephen Rapp, who was US ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Obama administration.

“I mean, this is just absolutely preposterous,” Rapp said. “These are allegations with no proof whatsoever.”

Rapp said that the Obama administration held off an ICC investigation into Afghanistan war crimes by showing the court that they were looking into it themselves. But now, by openly opposing the ICC, he said the Trump administration is undermining the global community’s ability to bring war criminals to justice.

“We’re wounding ourselves, frankly, and making ourselves less of a leader when it comes to upholding human rights in the world.” 

Stephen Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Obama administration

“We’re wounding ourselves, frankly, and making ourselves less of a leader when it comes to upholding human rights in the world,” he said.

Related: Shocked Afghans ask why perpetrators targeted a maternity hospital and a funeral 

Trump administration officials point out the United States isn’t a member of the ICC, but the country has worked regularly with the international court to bring war criminals to justice. And the court has the mandate to prosecute crimes committed in any of the 123 countries that are a part of the ICC, including Afghanistan.

“It boils down to the fundamental of — you can’t escape accountability when you go elsewhere and commit crimes,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “We need to cut through the veneer of what’s really driving what this is, which is a fundamental position of the US government that it should not be held accountable, and its closest ally, Israel, shouldn’t be held accountable.”

The new US sanctions on ICC personnel probably won’t stop the court’s investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan, said Nancy Combs, a human rights lawyer at the College of William and Mary Law School.

“Once the United States comes out with guns blaring this way and tries to intimidate the court in the way that it has, one might expect a counterproductive response; the ICC prides itself on its independence. And so now, if it were to not bring prosecutions against the United States, it might look as though it’s been intimidated,” she said.

Related: Iranian border guards allegedly drowned 45 Afghan migrants. Their families want answers.

The International Criminal Court has released a statement that says it stands by its staff and its commitment to justice. O-Gon Kwon, president of the ICC’s oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, said he’s convening a meeting next week for the group to consider how to renew its “unwavering commitment to the Court.” 

Trump authorizes sanctions over ICC Afghanistan war crimes case

Trump authorizes sanctions over ICC Afghanistan war crimes case

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks to US troops, with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani standing behind him, during a visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 2019.

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US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order authorizing US sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) employees involved in an investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan suggesting that the Hague-based tribunal is threatening to infringe on US national sovereignty.

In announcing the action on Thursday, Trump administration officials also accused Russia of manipulating the ICC to serve Moscow’s ends.

“We cannot, we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in announcing the move and warned other nations.

“I have a message to many close allies in the world. Your people could be next, especially those from NATO countries who fight terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside us,” he said.

Neither Pompeo nor any of the top officials who were present at the announcement — Defense Secretary Mark Esper, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Attorney General William Barr — took questions from the press.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the alleged torture of prisoners by Afghan authorities and, to a lesser extent, by US forces and the CIA. The ICC investigation was given the go-ahead in March.

Rights activists assailed Trump’s move. Andrea Prasow, the Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said the action “demonstrates contempt for the global rule of law” and represents a “blatant attempt at obstruction.”

Trump’s order authorizes Pompeo, in consultation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to block assets in the United States of ICC employees involved in the probe, according to a letter sent by Trump to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi accompanying the order.

It also authorizes Pompeo to block entry into the United States of these individuals as well as their family members.

‘Low point’

The ICC was established in 2002 by the international community to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It has jurisdiction only if a member state is unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities itself. The United States has never been a member of the court.

The US action is the latest under Trump taking aim at an international body. Trump, who has promoted an “America First” policy during his presidency, last month said he would end the US relationship with the World Health Organization.

Afghanistan is a member of the ICC, though Kabul has argued that any war crimes should be prosecuted locally.

“The Department of Justice has received substantial credible information that raises serious concerns about a long history of financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels in the office of the prosecutor,” said Attorney General William Barr, who did not offer evidence.

He also said the court was being manipulated by Russia, but did not elaborate on how. He hinted there could be more actions against the ICC. “The measures announced today are an important first step in holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate and violating the sovereignty of the United States.”

John Bellinger, the State Department’s former top lawyer under Republican former President George W. Bush, said the two sides could have avoided the conflict but chose not to.

“It’s unfortunate that the long-running US dispute with the ICC has reached this new low point. … It’s not surprising that the Trump administration has reacted forcefully with threatened sanctions, especially in an election year,” he said.

The Trump administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees a year ago.

The ICC decided to investigate after a preliminary examination by prosecutors in 2017 found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

A senior Trump administration official, describing the order to reporters on a conference call, said the directive authorizes sanctions against any individual directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate American personnel without US consent.

By Steve Holland, Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed/Reuters