Category Archives: Legal and Judicial

UN: Death Toll From Central Mali Massacre up to 134

BAMAKO The death toll from a massacre in a central Malian village rose to 134 dead, the U.N. said, as new video emerged Sunday showing victims strewn on the ground amid the burning remains of their homes.

An ethnic Dogon militia already blamed for scores of attacks in central Mali over the past year attacked an ethnic Peuhl village just before dawn on Saturday.

Among the victims in Ogossogou were pregnant women, small children and the elderly, according to a Peuhl group known as Tabital Pulaaku.

Graphic video obtained by The Associated Press shows the aftermath of Saturday’s attack, with many victims burned inside their homes. A small child’s body is covered with a piece of fabric, and at one point an ID card is shown covered with blood.

In the capital of Bamako, visiting U.N. Security Council President Francois Delattre, condemned the killings as an unspeakable attack” late Saturday.

At least 55 people were wounded and the U.N. mission in Mali said it was working to ensure the wounded were evacuated.”

In New York, the U.N. secretary-general condemned the attack and called on the Malian authorities to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Islamic extremists were ousted from urban centers in northern Mali during a 2013 French-led military operation. The jihadists scattered throughout the rural areas, regrouped and began launching numerous attacks against the Malian military and the U.N. mission. Since 2015, extremism has edged all the way to central Mali where it has exacerbated tensions between the Dogon and Peuhl groups.

Members of the Dogon group accuse the Peulhs of supporting these jihadists linked to violent groups in the country’s north and beyond. Peulhs have in turn accused the Dogon of supporting the Malian army in its effort to stamp out extremism.

In December, Human Rights Watch had warned that “militia killings of civilians in central and northern Mali are spiraling out of control.” The group said the ethnic Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou and its leader had been linked to many of the atrocities and called for Malian authorities to prosecute the perpetrators.

Mali’s Dogon country with its dramatic cliff landscapes and world renowned traditional art once drew tourists from Europe and beyond who hiked through the region’s villages with local guides. The region, though, has been destabilized in recent years along with much of central Mali.

Source: Voice of America

Italy, China Sign Pact Deepening Economic Ties

ROME Italy has signed a memorandum of understanding with China in support of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, which aims to weave a network of ports, bridges and power plants linking China with Africa, Europe and beyond.

Premier Giuseppe Conte and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands during a ceremony in Rome on Saturday, after 29 separate sections of the memorandum were signed by members of both governments.

With the memorandum, Italy becomes the first member of the Group of Seven major economies that includes the United States, to join Belt and Road, following Portugal’s embrace of the initiative in December.

Italy’s involvement gives China a crucial inroad into Western Europe and a symbolic boost in its economic tug-of-war with Washington.

Source: Voice of America

Nigeria Court Says Extradition of Cameroon Separatists ‘Illegal’

LAGOS, NIGERIA � A Nigerian court has condemned as “illegal and unconstitutional” the arrest and deportation of Cameroonian separatists who had applied for asylum in Nigeria, their lawyers said Sunday.

In January 2018, Nigeria arrested and sent back 47 anglophone separatists who had fled Cameroon following a crackdown by the authorities.

The move was denounced by UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, which said most of them had filed asylum claims. It accused Nigeria of breaching international agreements.

“Justice Chikere declared the arrest and detention of the 12 applicants illegal,” said a statement from Nigerian law firm Falana & Falana, referring to a ruling issued last week in the capital Abuja.

“Consequently, Justice Chikere declared the deportation of the applicants illegal and unconstitutional, awarded (compensation) to each of them and ordered the federal government to ensure that they are brought back to Nigeria forthwith.”

Among the 12 Cameroonian claimants in this case was separatist leader Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, president of the self-declared “Republic of Ambazonia”. He and his supporters were among those arrested by Nigerian intelligence agents on January 9, 2018.

Nigerian officials sent the group back to Cameroon a few weeks later on January 26.

For months, the 47 have been held in isolation at a high-security facility at police headquarters in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital.

In December, a military court in Yaounde opened a trial against Ayuk Tabe and nine others for “terrorism” and “secession”.

Just before the start of that trial, Ayuk Tabe was transferred to a lower security prison in the capital where he can receive visits.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 7. Defense lawyers have already argued before the court that the defendants should be returned to Nigeria.

During last week’s hearing in Abuja, defense lawyer Femi Fakana had argued that the arrest and detention of refugees and asylum seekers constituted a breach of Nigeria’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The judge agreed, saying the expulsion of the group was in “utter violation” of legal obligations which ban Nigeria “from expelling or deporting refugees” from the country.

He ordered the government to ensure they were brought back to Nigeria, and that their fundamental rights were respected.

Mark Bareta, one of the leading advocates of the anglophone separatist cause, welcomed the Nigerian court ruling.

English-speaking Cameroonians “are happy that at least in Nigeria there is an independent judiciary,” he wrote on his Facebook page, which has more than 100,000 followers.

They were hoping that the Nigerian government would respect this legal ruling, he added.

Clashes between the armed forces and separatists take place almost daily in the two Anglophone regions on the western flank of Cameroon.

Resentment there at perceived marginalization by the French-speaking majority boiled over into an armed uprising in late 2016, prompting a harsh government crackdown.

Source: Voice of America

Nigeria Court Says Extradition of Cameroon Separatists ‘Illegal’

LAGOS, NIGERIA � A Nigerian court has condemned as “illegal and unconstitutional” the arrest and deportation of Cameroonian separatists who had applied for asylum in Nigeria, their lawyers said Sunday.

In January 2018, Nigeria arrested and sent back 47 anglophone separatists who had fled Cameroon following a crackdown by the authorities.

The move was denounced by UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, which said most of them had filed asylum claims. It accused Nigeria of breaching international agreements.

“Justice Chikere declared the arrest and detention of the 12 applicants illegal,” said a statement from Nigerian law firm Falana & Falana, referring to a ruling issued last week in the capital Abuja.

“Consequently, Justice Chikere declared the deportation of the applicants illegal and unconstitutional, awarded (compensation) to each of them and ordered the federal government to ensure that they are brought back to Nigeria forthwith.”

Among the 12 Cameroonian claimants in this case was separatist leader Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, president of the self-declared “Republic of Ambazonia”. He and his supporters were among those arrested by Nigerian intelligence agents on January 9, 2018.

Nigerian officials sent the group back to Cameroon a few weeks later on January 26.

For months, the 47 have been held in isolation at a high-security facility at police headquarters in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital.

In December, a military court in Yaounde opened a trial against Ayuk Tabe and nine others for “terrorism” and “secession”.

Just before the start of that trial, Ayuk Tabe was transferred to a lower security prison in the capital where he can receive visits.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 7. Defense lawyers have already argued before the court that the defendants should be returned to Nigeria.

During last week’s hearing in Abuja, defense lawyer Femi Fakana had argued that the arrest and detention of refugees and asylum seekers constituted a breach of Nigeria’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The judge agreed, saying the expulsion of the group was in “utter violation” of legal obligations which ban Nigeria “from expelling or deporting refugees” from the country.

He ordered the government to ensure they were brought back to Nigeria, and that their fundamental rights were respected.

Mark Bareta, one of the leading advocates of the anglophone separatist cause, welcomed the Nigerian court ruling.

English-speaking Cameroonians “are happy that at least in Nigeria there is an independent judiciary,” he wrote on his Facebook page, which has more than 100,000 followers.

They were hoping that the Nigerian government would respect this legal ruling, he added.

Clashes between the armed forces and separatists take place almost daily in the two Anglophone regions on the western flank of Cameroon.

Resentment there at perceived marginalization by the French-speaking majority boiled over into an armed uprising in late 2016, prompting a harsh government crackdown.

Source: Voice of America

Sudanese Opposition Party Leader Calls on Bashir to Step Down

CAIRO � Sudan’s main opposition party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi on Saturday called on President Omar al-Bashir to step down and sit with the opposition to agree on details of a transitional process to end the nation’s crisis, a statement from his party said.

“You can achieve a safe exit for the country which will be appreciated by the Sudanese people and history and will transform the deep polarization into national unity and international isolation into international cooperation,” the

statement said.

The call came after a week of successive measures aimed at combating an unprecedented wave of protests threatening Bashir’s three-decade rule, including declaring a nationwide state of emergency and sacking the governors of Sudan’s 18 states and replacing them with military and security officials.

The statement also called on Bashir to end the state of emergency, end torture and release all political prisoners.

Protests in Sudan, initially over high bread prices, have taken place nearly every day since Dec. 19 and developed into the most sustained challenge that Bashir has faced.

Source: Voice of America