Archive for category Sri Lanka

17 July 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Sri Lanka brings in foreign experts to investigate war crimes: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to involve foreign experts in the country’s investigation of possible war crimes during its 26-year civil war. The Sri Lanka government said the purpose of the experts was to “double check what [the country] has found so far and to get some international backing.” The President’s decision follows intensified pressure from the international community for Sri Lanka to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for war crimes. (Reuters).

STL: German expert witness identifies fragments of “car that killed Hariri”: A prosecution witness at the Special Tribunal of Lebanon identified the parts of a vehicle involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The expert witness testified that the parts likely belonged to a Mitsubishi truck that was seen by cameras moments before the explosion that killed the Prime Minister. The defense, on the other hand, argued the explosion could have been the result of an underground bomb and have contested whether the vehicle from the camera was present during the time of the bombing. The Special Tribunal is currently trying five men in absentia for the assassination. (The Daily Star).

ICTY prosecution seeks rejection of Seselj’s damages claim: ICTY prosecutor Mathias Marcussen considers the detainment of Vojislav Seselj legal in light of the court order and indictment against the former Serbian leader for serious violations of international law. Seselj recently filed a 12 million euro damages claim against the ICTY for unlawful deprivation of liberty due to his nearly decade long detention. (InSerbia).

ICC names chamber that will hear Barasa case: Bulgaria’s Ekaterina Trendafilova, Italy’s Cuno Tarfusser and Belgium’s Christine Van den Wyngaert will preside over the ICC case against journalist Walter Barasa. Barasa is charged for witness interference related to the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. (All Africa).

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19 June 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC Prosecutor urges Security Council action in Sudan: ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefed the U.N. Security Council this week on Darfur. The Chief Prosecutor expressed concern over the failure to enforce arrest warrants and apprehend suspects. Bensouda urged the Security Council to take decisivie action and bring to justice those accused of crimes against humanity. Bensouda also called for an independent inquiry into recent allegations that the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfar was engaged in manipulations and cover ups. (For additional information about this topic, please click here.) (UN News Centre, Reuters).

UN Human Rights Council reports ongoing crimes in Syria, Iraq: Human Rights Watch reviewed evidence, including satellite images over the city of Aleppo, from October 31, 2013, and April 2, 2014, that strongly suggest the Syrian government used barrel bombs and other weapons in attacks against civilians. Other evidence showed that armed groups opposed to the government used child soldiers and turned schools into military bases and prisons. Human Rights Watch requested the Commission of Inquiry to take steps to punish those responsible and prevent the serious violations of international law. (For additional information about this topic, please click here.) (Human Rights Watch, Reuters).

Sri Lankan Parliament votes against UN Investigation: A motion rejecting a U.N. investigation into crimes committed in Sri Lanka during its 26-year civil war was approved by the Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday, 18 June 2014. 144 out of 225 members of Sri Lanka’s Parliament found the investigation would be “detrimental to the process of reconciliation and peace and [would] erode[] the sovereignty, dignity and statute” of the country. The motion is not binding on a U.N. investigation. (Washington Post).

UN Human Rights Commissioner Pillay concerned about war crimes in Iraq: Navi Pillay, the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, released a statement on Monday, 16 June 2014, finding the executions committed by Islamist militants in Iraq to “almost certainly amount[] to war crimes.” In the past week, the militants seized the northern part of the country and threatened further violence. Pillay condemned the shocking crimes carried out and called for immediate action. (Reuters).

Charles Taylor appeals for prison relocation: Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has filed a motion with the Special Court for Sierra Leone arguing violations of his human rights for being sentenced to jail in the U.K. Taylor claims his family is unable to visit him in the U.K. and that it would be more “humane” for him to serve his sentence in Africa. The former Liberian President was convicted by the Special Court in 2012 for aiding rebels in Sierra Leone. (BBC).

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11 June 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC to explore consideration of rape, sexual violence as war crimes: The ICC prosecutor’s office issued a new policy paper last week providing guidance to the Court on how to deal with crimes related to rape and sexual assault committed in conflict. Specifically, the policy paper lays out a legal foundation on how the prosecutor’s office will include the relevant war crimes charges in cases and hold those accountable. ICC Chief Fatou Bensouda said, in a statement concerning the new policy paper, the “message to perpetrators and would-be perpetrators must be clear: sexual violence and gender-based crimes in conflict will neither be tolerated nor ignored at the ICC.” (Think Progress).

IACHR to hear extradition appeal from alleged DEA agent murderers: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will be hearing arguments in an extradition appeal by seven Colombian citizens accused of the murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent last year. The seven Colombians were expected to be extradited to the United States to stand trial before the IACHR intervened in this appeal. The appeal claims the United States lacks jurisdiction as the accused are Colombian citizens and the crime was committed on Colombian territory. (Colombia Reports).

Dame Silvia Cartwright,New Zealand judge, named to Sri Lanka human rights probe: It is being reported that Dame Silvia Cartwright will be appointed to the U.N. panel charged with investigating human rights violations committed in Sri Lanka during its 26-year civil war. The panel is expected to begin a 10-month investigation in July 2014. Dame Cartwright was previously a judge at the ECCC. (Colombo Page).

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2 April 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC: Kenyatta trial postponed until 7 October: The ICC trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta has been postponed providing the Kenyan government additional time to disclose documents sought by the prosecution. The request by the President to terminate proceedings and the request by the prosecution to postpone the trial indefinitely were both denied by the Court. The postponement is the second for Kenyatta’s trial which is expected to resume 7 October 2014. (Voice of America).

ICC witness: Dogs and pigs fed on bodies of fallen during post-election violence in Kenya: On Monday, 31 March 2014, a prosecution witness in the ICC case against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang testified to events after the 2007 presidential election in Kenya. The witness said tired police officers failed to collect bodies killed during the violence that were then fed on by dogs and pigs. The witness also testified that members of the Kalenjin ethnic group identified, attacked and torched the homes of Kikuyus. (All Africa).

ICJ orders temporary stay on Japan’s Antarctic whaling program: The ICJ ruled on Monday, 31 March 2014, that Japan’s “killing, taking and treating of whales” in the Antarctic was not “for the purposes of scientific research”. The Court found that Japan’s program, which was designed to study the effects of commercial whaling on the species existence, hunted too large a number of whales and failed to consider non-lethal methods. The Court ordered a temporary stay until the country could redesign it’s whaling program to be more scientific rather than commercial. (The China Post).

Rights group warn of Sri Lanka backlash in wake of UNHRC resolution: The recently passed U.N. Human Rights Council resolution calling for an independent investigation into alleged abuses committed in Sri Lanka is likely to incite backlash against human rights activists; said groups such as Amnesty International and Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice. The rights groups fear Sri Lanka will respond to the U.N. resolution with intimidation and suppression towards those who disagree or challenge the government, citing as an example the arrests of two human rights activists last month in the country. Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa has publicly rejected the U.N. resolution and said it will deter national reconciliation. (CNN World).

Norway pledges $1 million to Khmer Rouge tribunal: The international side of the ECCC received a $1 million pledge from Norway on Tuesday, 1 April 2014. The Court welcomed the pledge and hopes it encourages other donations, particularly to the Cambodian side which is facing extreme shortages of funds for national salaries. The ECCC budget approved last month estimates the cash-strapped Court needs over $60 million to continue operations. (Voice of America).

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11 March 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Dissenting opinion in Katanga Judgment alleges violations to accused’s rights: Following the ICC’s 7 March 2014 conviction of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga as an accessory on one count of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes, Judge Christine van den Wyngaert wrote a dissent, arguing that Katanga’s fair trial rights had been violated and that he should be acquitted. Katanga was initially charged as a principal perpetrator under Article 25(3)(a), but the Chamber re-characterized the mode of liability after both parties had rested their case to view him as an accessory under Article 25(3)(d), the timing of which is the basis for Judge van den Wyngaert’s dissent that the defense was given insufficient time to respond to and build a case against the re-characterized mode of liability. Specifically, she argued that the Chamber’s communication of the factual and legal basis for the re-characterization was insufficient for the defense to properly prepare for this change, and that the communication was not specific enough to effectively inform Katanga of the charges pending against him. She also doubted that the “facts and circumstances” of the changes were within the charges the Pre-Trial chamber had confirmed. The dissent also referred to bias on the part of the majority. (International Justice Monitor, Los Angeles Times) (For more information, please click here). 

UN investigation launched to probe HR abuses in CAR: On Monday, 10 March 2014, the UN launched an investigation of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, focusing specifically on reports of genocide in the area. The panel conducting the investigation consists of Bernard Acho Muna, a Cameroonian lawyer and former deputy chief prosecutor for the ICTR; Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister; and Fatimata M’Baye, a Mauritanian human rights lawyer. Muna expressed concern that Christian and Muslim hate propaganda will increase violence, but is hopeful that the investigations will serve to lessen conflict. The Security Council ordered the investigation in December 2013, instructing the panel to collect information and identify perpetrators for prosecution. (ABC News).

Ruto responds to Prosecution application on compulsory testimony of eight witnesses: In response to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s application for the Court to compel the appearance of eight witnesses in the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, Ruto’s lawyers argued that the witnesses’ testimony is irrelevant. They maintained that hostile witnesses would be unable to contribute to the Prosecution’s case and questioned the credibility of the witnesses, referring to one witness’s emotional and behavioral difficulties and the incongruity between that witness’s account and the testimony of another witness. They also asserted that the Court cannot compel a witness to appear, but simply to speak once the witness has appeared voluntarily. Bensouda argues that the Court has the power to compel a witness to both appear and speak, and maintains that the witnesses have been bribed or influenced improperly. (Standard).

Serbia begins defense arguments before ICJ: On Monday, 10 March 2014, Serbia presented its rebuttal in the genocide case Croatia brought against Serbia before the ICJ. Serbia, which filed a counterclaim against Croatia for genocide committed by Croatians against Serbs, alleged that Serbs are victims of genocide and that they also suffered during the Balkan Wars. The Defense expressed regret for the crimes committed in Croatia, but emphasized that the violence was not one-sided. The arguments for the countersuit will be presented in the coming days. (in Serbia).

AU establishes commission to investigation HR abuses and crimes committed in South Sudan: Following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in December 2013, the African Union established a commission last week to investigate human rights violations and crimes committed during this period. The inquiry body was created through the Peace and Security Council (PSC) decision, and its purpose is to investigate the conflict and make recommendations to ensure accountability and reconciliation. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will head the five-member panel. The conflict has lasted about 10 weeks, and it is estimated that 10,000 people have been killed and nearly one million displaced. (AllAfrica).

Thousands of Tamils in Geneva protest Sri Lankan rejection of international investigation: In response to the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to initiate an international probe into alleged war crimes, 4,000 Tamils gathered in Geneva on Monday, 10 March 2014 to protest the rejection. The protest took place around the UN headquarters, and was made during an annual session of the Human Rights Council, which will be asked later this month to evaluate an international draft resolution calling for a probe into the crimes committed against Tamils during the Sri Lankan Civil War. (Agence France-Presse).

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27 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC urges DRC to detain visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been urged to arrest and surrender ICC indictee Omar al-Bashir as he visits the country for meetings with other African leaders. The Sudanese President, charged by the ICC in 2009, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, arrived in the DRC on Tuesday, 25 February 2014. A number of countries on the continent have already failed to arrest Bashir under similar situations claiming the ICC unfairly targets Africans. (Press TV).

Hariri trial adjourned to add fifth suspect: Proceedings at the Special Tribunal in Lebanon relating to the February 2005, assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri were suspended in ordered to add a fifth accused. The five men, allegedly responsible for killing 23 and wounding some 200 in the attack, will be tried in absentia when proceedings resume sometime in May. The Special Tribunal was established in 2007 and is the only ad hoc tribunal with the power to try at-large accused. (Yahoo News).

Sri Lanka strongly rejects UN war crimes inquiry: Sri Lanka considers a U.N. mandated international investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed during the country’s 26-year civil war “an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.” Sri Lanka’s comments come in response to a report published this week by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay. The report, which calls for an international and independent investigation, precedes a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in March 2014, that is expected to address the issue in Sri Lanka. (Time World).

Defence challenges ICC witness testimony; notes translation inconsistencies: The testimony of a prosecution witness in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang has been challenged at the ICC. Specifically, the defence argued the witness wrongly translated phrases in the Kalenjin language. The witness claimed while testifying that Ruto addressed crowds in Kalenjin. (All Africa).

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26 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

UN human rights chief calls for inquiry into Sri Lanka war crimes: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has called for an “independent, international inquiry mechanism, which would contribute to establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed” in Sri Lanka.  Pillay’s report precedes a U.N. Human Rights Council debate scheduled for next month that may take up and order action in Sri Lanka.  As of now, the U.S. is planning to propose a resolution against Sri Lanka during the debate.  Pillay’s report – which will likely add pressure to the Sri Lankan government – states that thousands of civilians were killed, injured, or remain missing after the conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  “None of these cases has…resulted in the perpetrators being brought to justice,” said Pillay.

ICC has not yet received request to investigate Yanukovich: Earlier this week, Ukraine’s government voted for the country’s President, Viktor Yanukovich, to be sent to the ICC with two members of his government to be tried for “serious crimes” relating to the deaths of more than 100 people.  An ICC spokesman has stated that the ICC has not yet received Ukraine’s request, and noted that it would be up to the ICC prosecutor whether to pursue the investigation after the request is received.

Khmer Rouge tribunal orders physical/psychiatric assessment of Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea : In a 17 February filing released earlier this week, the trial chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal has ordered that Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea undergo physicals and psychiatric assessments to determine if they are fit to proceed with the trial’s second (and quite possibly final) segment. Doctors have been appointed for the octogenarian defendants and have been tasked with reporting to the court on their physical and cognitive ability.  The examinations are to take place in late March, shortly before a tentatively scheduled hearing on 28 March that will provide the parties to question the medical experts about their conclusions.  Though neither defendant has claimed to be unfit to stand trial, both have requested briefer and less frequent courtroom hearings to accommodate their diminished ability to remain engaged in lengthy proceedings.

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20 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Sri Lanka explores South Africa’s post-apartheid truth commissions :  Earlier this week, a five member delegation led by Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva headed to South Africa in an attempt to better understand the impact of the country’s post-apartheid truth commission.  This exploratory mission coincides with mounting pressure on the Sri Lankan government to adequately address allegations of war crimes against ethnic Tamils.  UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has pushed for an international investigation into allegations that Sri Lankan troops murdered approximately 40,000 civilians during the government’s conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels.  South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established two decades ago in the wake of apartheid.  “The delegation will sepnd two days studying the TRC and also keep the South African President Jacob Zuma informed about the reconstruction work we have done in the northeast [where much of the fighting was concentrated],” said the Health Minister’s spokesman. (The Daily Star)

Bemba lawyer to Court: Bar prosecutors from contacting witnesses: .  Lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba, who faces charges at the ICC as a result of his alleged involvement in the rapes, murders, and pillaging carried out by the Movement for the Liberation of Congo fighters, have filed a petition with the ICC requesting that prosecutors be barred from contacting witnesses who testified on behalf of Bemba.  Charges of witness coaching and bribery were brought against Bemba last November, as well as against two of his associates and two members of his defense team.  “The witnesses have…previously been informed that they had no obligation to meet with or talk to the prosecution, and that any contact would not occur without their consent,” said defense counsel Peter Haynes.  Notably, pre-trial judge Cuno Tarfusser authorized the prosection to interview defense witnesses last May in order to investigate allegations of witness tampering.  Protocol dictates that Bemba’s lawyers should have been notified of the communication, though the judge held that he was “granting an exception to the court’s established protocol.”  Defense counsel Haynes argued that the “prosecution’s desire to build a case on witness tampering allegations could not automatically trump the safeguards put in place to ensure witness safety and dignity.”  (All Africa)

China: UN North Korea report is “unfair criticism” : The UN report on alleged war crimes in North Korea released earlier this week noted that China – North Korea’s only ally – may be aiding and abetting the commission of these crimes by forcibly repatriating North Koreans.  China disagrees with the characterization, deeming the repatriated North Koreans “illegal migrants.”  “We totally don’t accept this accusation,” said Spokeswoman Ha Chunying.  “On the North Korean defector issue, our position is very clear.  We properly deal with that in accordance with international law and humanitarian principles.” (BCC)

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29 January 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICJ redraws border, gives Peru claim to sea under Chilean sovereignty: The ICJ has granted Peru a “fish-rich” portion of the Pacific Ocean claimed by Chili since the late 1800s. Earlier in the month, both presidents expressed their countries intent to respect what the ICJ judges have now ruled an “equitable solution.” Peru brought the case before the international court back in 2008, disputing the maritime boundary line between its country and Chili.

After indefinite postponement, Kenyatta seeks excusal from presence in ICC trial: Defense lawyers for Uhuru Kenyatta have moved the ICC to excuse the Kenyan President from physical presence in The Hague. The lawyers claim Kenyatta’s “extraordinary” presidential duties are too demanding for even presence via video link.  The lawyers made note of the President’s role in national security as the country is threatened by terrorists. The ICC judges only last week postponed Kenyatta’s 5 February 2014, trial date indefinitely.

Sri Lanka says war crimes inquiry would bring “chaos,” reconciliation needs more time: Secretary to Sri Lanka’s President, Lalith Weeratunga, fears an international investigation into war crimes committed during the country’s 26-year civil war would likely cause chaos. Weeratunga has asked for at least five years to start reconciliation. The secretary stated: “It’s a very delicate, delicate process. Reconciliation is not a task that can be achieved in a day or two.” Both the U.K and the U.S. have pushed the Sri Lankan government for an international investigation this year.

International Commission of Jurists find Brunei Sharia penal code violates international human rights law: The International Commission of Jurists warned the Brunei government that its re-introduction of Sharia law this past October violates international human rights. The Sharia penal code in Brunei would, among other things, criminalize and impose severe sentences for extra-marital affairs and homosexuality. The NGO expressed disappointment in the tiny island’s “backward step.”

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28 January 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICTY Appeals Chamber affirms Đorđević judgment but reduces sentence: On Monday, 27 January 2014, the ICTY Appeals Chamber affirmed Vlastimir Đorđević’s guilt for crimes committed against Kosovo Albanians in 1999. However, the Appeals Chamber also reduced his prison sentence from 27 to 18 years, because it reversed Đorđević’s convictions for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as certain findings of the Trial Chamber concerning Đorđević’s participation in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE). Đorđević was originally convicted in 2011 for having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity through his participation in a JCE. (ICTY).

Mladic refuses to testify in ICTY Karadzic case: On Tuesday, 28 January 2014, Ratko Mladic refused to testify at Radovan Karadzic’s case before the ICTY. He refused to take an oath, and referred to the Court as “satanic.” After answering Karadzic’s first question concerning the posts and dates of his military career,  Mladic subsequently refused to answer questions, citing to his health and the possibility of self-incrimination. Karadzic is facing 11 charges, including allegedly committing genocide at Srebrenica during the Kosovo conflict. (BBC).

ICC Prosecution witness questioned on USAID actions in Kenya: On Monday, 27 January 2014, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto’s defense counsel Karim Khan questioned witness 356 testifying before the ICC about whether the witness knew of American Ambassador to Kenya Michael Rannerberger “trying to get people to give evidence against Mr Ruto”. The question was part of the defense’s argument that NGOs funded by USAID had influenced witnesses to testify against Ruto by paying them, and that Ranneberger had traveled to the North Rift region in order to discourage people from supporting Ruto. The witness said that he was not aware of the ambassador’s travel and USAID’s funding. When asked, the witness also said that he had not been influenced to testify by the $20,000 he received from the ICC’s Victims and Witnesses Unit. Khan asked further questions in a private session. (For additional information about this topic, please click here) (Kenya Monitor, Standard Media).

Lebanese firefighter testifies at STL about Hariri bombing scene: On Monday, 27 January 2014, Khaled Tubaily, a Lebanese firefighter who was one of the first to arrive at the site in Beirut where former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed by a bomb, testified before the STL. He said that “volcanoes of fire” were erupting from the site, and that the damage reached as far as 4 kilometers away, which will help the prosecution in asserting that the bombing occurred above ground, whereas defense lawyers have stated that the explosion was likely underground. Five Hezbollah members have been indicted for the 14 February 2005 attack. (The Daily Star).

HRW Report criticizes Kenya’s protection of human rights and culture of impunity: Kenya has rejected a recent report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which criticizes Kenya for failing to properly address impunity, citing to the country’s failure to address the 2007-2008 post-election violence. Specifically, the report points to the government’s lack of support for the trials of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto before the ICC. The report also criticizes slow reforms in the Kenyan police force, which allegedly unlawfully tortured and killed 120 individuals between May and August 2013. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs labeled the report as “outrageous and incomprehensible” and asserted that Kenya is complying with international law and that the allegations of force used by the police were based on security actions taken years ago. (Sabahi).

Resolution passed by Sri Lanka council on international investigation into war crimes: On Monday, 27 January 2014, two months before UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay will deliver a report concerning the Sri Lankan government’s progress in addressing  war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan Civil War before the UN Human Rights Council, passed a resolution for an international probe into these alleged war crimes. Specifically, the resolution calls for an inquiry into the “ethnic cleansing” that allegedly took place and rejects Sri Lanka’s national inquiry mechanism in favor of an international inquiry.

Former Peruvian Government cleared of CAH for forced sterilization: Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was cleared of the allegation that he and his cabinet forcibly sterilized about 300,000 indigenous women as part of a national program in order to reduce birth rates in poor, rural areas of Peru during his term in office. The prosecutor, who interviewed women affected by the procedures, determined that Fujimori had not committed crimes against humanity and that the women had not been coerced into undergoing sterilization procedures. Multiple human rights groups had urged the government to prosecute the cases of about 2,000 women affected by the procedures, and in 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights directed Peru to investigate the death of a woman who had undergone such a sterilization procedure. (Chicago Tribune).

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