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Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? – NYTimes.com

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Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? – NYTimes.com.

UNITED NATIONS — Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, is about to face her toughest trial yet: to demonstrate that the court has enough muscle to tackle the gravest human rights cases, even if it means confronting the world’s most powerful countries.

Since its inception in 2002, the court has been laden with a growing pile of cases, defiant government authorities, and a United Nations Security Council that has called for investigations but done little to advance them. The court has convicted a tiny fraction of those it has charged. Many more have eluded arrest altogether, and the prosecutor has battled charges of bias against African leaders — a charge that Ms. Bensouda, a Gambian, has strenuously rebutted.

Ms. Bensouda, who assumed her job in June 2012, has had to acknowledge her own limitations in recent months. In December, she announced that she would “hibernate” the genocide case against Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, because she had been unable to secure his arrest. The same month, she said she would drop charges against Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, for his role in the violence that swept the country following the 2007 elections, citing his government’s lack of cooperation with her office.

The year ahead brings far more formidable challenges and with them the opportunity to assert the relevance of the court.

The Palestinian situation is no doubt the most politically delicate item on her agenda. Palestine joined the I.C.C. last week, and authorized the prosecutor to scrutinize alleged crimes committed on Palestinian land since last June, before the last Gaza conflict began. Israel and its principal ally, the United States, have forcefully criticized the Palestinian move, and even a preliminary inquiry by her office is likely to face a pushback, including from Washington.

Additionally, Ms. Bensouda has said she is looking into allegations of torture by American soldiers in Afghanistan. There’s a chance, albeit slim, that she could go further and open an official investigation…

I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria’s forgotten massacre | Daily Maverick

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I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria’s forgotten massacre | Daily Maverick.

There are massacres and there are massacres. The Paris massacre was tragic, but it was hardly the worst thing that happened last week. Not even close.

For that, we must head to Nigeria, and to the town of Baga – or at least to the spot on the map where Baga once stood, because there’s not much left of it now.

Reports of the massacre there are necessarily hazy; the nearest journalists are hundreds of kilometres away (even there, they are not particularly safe), and information comes almost exclusively from traumatised refugees and unreliable government sources.

Still, enough facts have emerged to know that something terrible happened here; something apocalyptic.

Baga is in north-eastern Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon. It is no stranger to massacres. In April 2013, nearly 200 people, mostly civilians, were slaughtered by the Nigerian armed forces in a military offensive designed to push out Boko Haram. This, however, was just a teaser. A taste of the horror that was to come.

Over the course of five days, beginning on Saturday last week, Boko Haram fighters entered the city with Nigerian soldiers fleeing before them, and destroyed it and anybody that was too slow in escaping – men, women, children. “The whole town was on fire,” said one eyewitness, while others speak of roads lined with corpses. The body count varies, but Amnesty International puts it at over 2,000 deaths – or the rough equivalent of 133 Charlie Hebdo attacks…

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