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Global Steps Towards Justice – And One Backlash

Multiple positive advances in global justice issues raise hopes for the end of impunity on many fronts. Please find below a recap of important recent events.

Soldiers Under UN flag Must Protect Victims  – Historic Supreme Court Ruling
Genocide Film Library Co-Founder Hasan Nuhanovic Wins Global Precedent Case

THE HAGUE – In a ruling by the Dutch supreme court, the Netherlands has been found responsible for the deaths of three civilians during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. This landmark judgment now implies that countries providing their troops to act in UN peacekeeping missions can be held accountable for their actions and potential human rights breaches in a court of law. 

The verdict relates to the happenings on July 11th, 1995 in Srebrenica, where Dutch UN troops forced out people seeking shelter in a UN "safe area", eventually leading to them being executed by Serb forces. The legal battle led by UN translator Hasan Nuhanovic against the Netherlands took 11 years to complete but finally ended in victory, which stipulates that UN operations can no longer hide behind immunity but must face the consequences of their actions: if the troops are there to protect the civilians, then that is what they must do. 

The court's decision could possibly raise also questions about wider responsibility and accountability -  for example, should decision-makers exercising their veto right in the UN Security Council bear personal responsibility for their actions? Such as in the case of Syria, where for more than two years, Russia and China have effectively blocked every UNSC resolution aimed at protecting civilians there; should these individuals be brought into court to judge whether their actions are lawful or criminally negligent?

Cinema for Peace Foundation is implementing the Genocide Film Library in Bosnia to record the events of the Srebrenica massacre through interviewing the survivors. The production of a documentary related to the Genocide Film Library has also been started with the Academy Award-winning director Danis Tanovic.
We invite you to watch the following trailers on the Bosnian Tragedy:

  • NO MAN'S LAND by Danis Tanovic is an Oscar-winning satire about the war in Bosnia and the failing of the European Union and UN.
  • WELCOME TO SARAJEVO by Michael Winterbottom tells how journalist Floyd from the US, Michael Henderson from UK and their teams meet at the beginning of the Bosnian war in Sarajevo.
  • A CRY FROM THE GRAVE by Leslie Woodhead is a documentary about the fall of Srebrenica (Bosnian civil war, 1995).

Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict

NEW YORK – To mark the UN General Assembly in New York, actor and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie together with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence Zainab Hawa Bangura have co-authored a "Declaration of commitment to end sexual violence in conflict". The declaration aims to abolish the use of rape as a weapon of war, and seeks endorsement from countries around the world that would thus agree that sexual violence in conflict breaches the Geneva Conventions, meaning that people suspected for such acts could be apprehended wherever they are in the world.

Sexual violence is one of the most commonly used weapons in any conflict, from Bosnia to Rwanda to now Syria. More often than not, however, the people responsible for committing rape are never brought to face justice; instead, special amendments as part of peace deals commonly provide amnesties for such crimes. This new declaration seeks to end such practices, in a similar manner that global treaties banning the use of cluster bombs and landmines have done, respectively.

The Cinema for Peace Foundation is currently expanding the Genocide Film Library specifically related to the issue of rape as a weapon of war.

We invite you to watch the following trailers on rape as a weapon of war:
  • WEAPON OF WAR by Ilse and Femke van Velzen shows how military perpetrators unveil what lies behind the brutal strategies of rape as a weapon of war. Since the filmmakers have showed the film to the military in Congo the amount of soldiers raping women declined from 20% to 5%.
  • THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO by Lisa F. Jackson is a film about the treatment of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, focusing on the systematic use of sexual violence as a tool of war.

Iran, Led by New President, Releases Political Prisoners

– Iran's human rights situation seems to be cautiously improving with the direction of the new president Hassan Rouhani. Iran has recently released a handful of political prisoners, including the notable human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. President Rouhani has also stated that every Iranian should be completely free to think, speak and seek information on the Internet, although subject to "the protection of the national identity".

All this comes as a promising development after the 8-year-rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a period that was characterized by the regime's crackdown on the freedom of speech and human rights as well as by markedly strained relations with the US due to the Iranian nuclear program, which the new president has suggested to be ready to renegotiate.

We invite you to watch the following trailers on the Iranian human rights issues:
  • STONING OF SORAYA M by Cyrus Nowrasteh, winner of Cinema for Peace Award for Justice 2010, is a drama set in 1986 Iran and centered on a woman who is murdered through stoning according to Sharia Law.
  • PERSEPOLIS by David Assmann & Ayat Najafi, Cinema for Peace Most Valuable Movie of the Year 2008, is a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.

Magnitsky-Case Asset Freezes in the US

magnitsky.jpgNEW YORK – A New York district prosecutor has frozen over $20 million worth of property assets in Manhattan that have allegedly been used to launder money from the $230 million tax fraud that took place in Russia in 2006. The lawyer that uncovered the tax fraud, Sergei Magnitsky, was imprisoned on false grounds and was eventually murdered in a Moscow jail in 2009.

Investigations revealed that the property assets were linked to shell companies operating from Cyprus, which is a well-known tax haven used by many Russians and already at the center of investigations related to the Magnitsky case. Since the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, Bill Browder has been actively campaigning to bring those responsible for his death to justice. 

The efforts have included pushing for global asset freezes as well as visa restrictions on Russian officials thought to be involved in Magnitsky's murder; so far, 18 Russians have been barred entry to the US through the so-called Magnitsky Act. The global campaigning led by Browder is a dangerous task, given the precedents of silencing critics of Russia: in 2006, former spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London, the journalist Anna Politkowsjaka was murdered on Putins birthday and in November 2012 a whistleblower in the Magnitsky case, Alexander Perepilichny, died in mysterious conditions in the UK.

The Magnitsky Act was retaliated by Russia by placing a ban on US citizens adopting Russian children (the law was named after a Russian child who died in the US because the new foster parents forgot him in a car) as well as making a list of their own on people denied entry to the US. The case has caused a lot of tensions between the US and Russia, including the public arrest of the main CIA-spy in Moscow and support for the whistleblower Snowden.

Hollywood is currently developing a movie about the Litvinenko case, which has been postponed due to threats and missing funds. Cinema for Peace is co-developing a film about Bill Browder and Magnitsky; the book rights sold at the London book fair for nearly 1 million USD, which was the second best result after a book on the Beatles.

We invite you to watch the following trailers on the Sergei Magnitsky case:
  • JUSTICE FOR SERGEI by Hans Hermans and Martin Maat, winner of the Cinema for Peace Award for Justice 2012, is a documentary film on Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in November 2009 at the age of 37 under excruciating circumstances in a Moscow detention centre.
  • LITVINENKO by Andrei Nekrasov unravels the dark secret of the Kremlin in this story of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in London in 2006.

A Backlash in Justice: Sudan's al-Bashir to Attend UN General Assembly?

Bashir_darker.jpgKHARTOUM – There is also bad news among all these encouraging advances in ending impunity: the President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir is planning to travel to New York to take part in the UN General Assembly next week, although he is a war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court. He is indicted for crimes against humanity in connection with the genocide in Darfur, while also currently carrying out a similar campaign of bombing and starvation against the indigenous people in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. The UN Security Council has refered the Darfur case to the ICC.

Please sign this petition by the Enough Project to urge President Obama to act and respond to Bashir's planned visit.

Sudan experts, human rights groups and genocide prevention activists such as George Clooney, Don Cheadle, John Prendergast and Omer Ismail released a public letter addressed at President Obama, seeking him to stop al-Bashir's travel to the US.

Cinema for Peace is planning an emergency film screening on Thursday at 3PM in New York, just before al-Bashir is set to speak at the UN. Films to be shown include "The Devil Came on Horseback" as well as current footage of a documentary on the conflict shot in the Nuba Mountains by Andrew Berends, co-financed by Cinema for Peace.