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Newsfile: February 2011

Newsfile aggregates news that might otherwise drop off the horizon about situations affecting humanitarian work and the international situation. It doesn't chase after the most immediate stories which other newsfeeds can offer. Latest items from each region are presented first. To comply with fair-use rules we give only a headline, or enough of the story to explain the headline. All the stories cited are fully detailed. Dollars are U.S. unless stated otherwise.


U.N. Human Rights Council and Libya

At the 25 February session, the Libyan delegation announced, to applause, that it no longer spoke for the Gaddafi government but for the Libyan people.

U.N. Human Rights Council, 25 February 2011.

The U.N. Human Rights Council held a special session on Libya on 23 February 2011, the first time a sitting member was the subject of a special meeting. It was the 15th Special Session of the Council.


D.R. Congo

Colonel sentenced for New Year's Day rapes

A military court on 22 February 2011 sentenced Lt Col Kibibi Mutware, a former rebel integrated into the army in 2009, to 20 years in jail, along with three of his officers, for crimes against humanity on New Year's Day 2011 in the village of Fizi: sending troops to rape, beat and loot. The BBC said it was the first conviction of a commanding officer for rape in eastern D.R. Congo.

Amnesty International commented: "For decades crimes like this have gone unpunished in DRC, their perpetrators never brought to justice." But it called for such cases to come before civilian courts.

Typically, comprehensive reports were difficult to find. The best was AP's, but even this did not give full details of how the trial came about, with financing from the Soros Open Society Foundation, and help from U.N.O.C.H.A., the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Amnesty said the raid was a revenge attack following a brawl that resulted in the death of a soldier. More than one website reported that a mob lynched the soldier after he shot a civilian - allegedly in a fight over a woman. AP, in report reprinted by The Huffington Post, said villagers stoned the soldier who shot dead a shopkeeper.

At least 45 women were raped in the 'revenge' raid.

Five other officers received 10-15 years, one was aquitted and one could not be tried (he was believed to be a minor).

An Advocacy Project commentator remarks: "Lt. Col. Kibibi claims that the perpetrators of this mass rape were soldiers disobeying orders to stay on base. However, as the people of Fizi recounted the horror they survived, it became clear that more than a few witnessed Lt. Col. Kibibi urging his soldiers to attack the people of Fizi, directing them in committing unspeakable acts of violence. These accusations were serious enough to be included in a UN report on the Fizi mass rape. Also, it is not the first time that Lt. Col. Kibibi has been accused of human rights abuses."

This report does not deal in detail with the atrocities, since an earlier U.N. report on the region covers the same ground.

The advocacy organization Take Action described the "mobile gender court" that tried the soldiers as trailblazing in bringing justice to remote areas of D.R.C. The Australian newspaper gave some background: "The mobile court of military judges and volunteer lawyers that tried the case was financed by the Open Society Justice Initiative of George Soros, the philanthropist billionaire, aided by the UN, international agencies and non-governmental organisations."

Reliefweb, reprinting an article in Business Day by the Open Society's Nicole Fritz, said about the initiative: "Since its start in October 2009, the Congo's mobile gender court has conducted about 10 trials a month and has secured 94 rape convictions. It has also trained 150 judicial police officers, 80 lawyers, and 30 magistrates."

The Independent, UK and others.




Festival of Environmental Films

The 6th Festival of Environmental Films was staged in 17 towns of French-speaking Switzerland 17-28 February 2011. The programme included Main bas sur le riz by Jean Crépus, shown at the 2010 Geneva International Festival of Films on Human Rights. For a review see 'We can't name the guilty men'.

Festival du Film Vert 17-28 February 2011