Germany prosecutes ex-Nazi camp guard aged 98

By Laurence Peter from BBC News
Published on September 1, 2023

German prosecutors have charged a 98-year-old man with complicity in the murder of some 3,300 people at a Nazi concentration camp in World War Two.

The man, not yet named, was an adolescent when he served as a guard at Sachsenhausen between July 1943 and February 1945, the indictment says.

He allegedly assisted in the “cruel and insidious” mass killing of inmates.

Since 2011, Germany has prosecuted ex-Nazis for complicity – not only for murder or torture as individuals.

But it is a race against time, as those indicted have been very old and some have died before going on trial.

The Nazi SS imprisoned more than 200,000 people at Sachsenhausen, including political prisoners, Jews, captured Soviet soldiers, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies).

Tens of thousands of inmates died from starvation, forced labour, medical experiments and murder by the SS. The camp was built north of Berlin in 1936.

In the latest prosecution, the case will be handled by a juvenile court, given that the man was an adolescent at the time of the crimes. He now lives in Main-Kinzig, a rural district in central Germany.

Last year, a 101-year-old, Josef Schütz, was found guilty of assisting in mass murder at Sachsenhausen. He was given a five-year prison sentence, but died in April this year, still free while awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

Former Nazi camp secretary found guilty of complicity in 10,500 murders

Article by The Guardian, Kate Connolly, published on Dec, 20 2022

Irmgard Furchner, 97, who worked at Stutthof concentration camp during the second world war, is given a two-year suspended sentence

Irmgard Furchner at the trial in Itzehoe in October. Photograph: Reuters

A 97-year-old former secretary at a Nazi concentration camp has been found guilty of complicity in the murder of more than 10,500 people imprisoned there, and handed a two-year suspended sentence.

Irmgard Furchner, who has been on trial in the northern German town of Itzehoe for more than a year, spoke to the court on one occasion earlier this month to say she was sorry for what had happened, but stopped short of admitting her guilt.

The start of her trial was delayed in September 2021 when she briefly went on the run. Having failed to turn up at court, she was found by police hours later on the outskirts of Hamburg, after which she was held in custody for five days and fitted with an electronic wrist tag.

Furchner had worked at the Stutthof camp between 1943 and 1945 as a secretary to the camp commandant, Paul-Werner Hoppe, when she was 18 and 19. She was tried in a juvenile court owing to her age at the time the crimes were committed.

She is the first civilian woman in Germany to have been held responsible for crimes committed in a Nazi concentration camp.

The judge, Dominik Gross, said the trial would be “one of the worldwide last criminal trials related to crimes of the Nazi era” and took the unusual step of allowing the proceedings to be recorded for “historical purposes”.

The trial, which took place over 40 days of sessions of about two hours’ duration due to the accused’s advanced age, heard from 30 survivors and relatives of prisoners of Stutthof from the US, France, Austria and the Baltic states.

It also heard from historical experts who gave details of the daily life at Stutthof and the role Furchner played in assisting the bureaucratic processing of prisoners, as well as information about the treatment of prisoners, including torture methods and the procedures involved in the systematic murder of thousands of them, to which they said she had been privy.

Many prisoners were left to starve and freeze in the open air. An estimated 63,000 to 65,000 people, about 28,000 of whom were Jewish, were murdered at Stutthof, mostly in gas chambers, some by a shot to the back of the neck, for which the prison had a specially built facility.

One of the most memorable testimonies was that of 84-year-old Josef Salomonovic, who survived Stutthof and gave evidence in December 2021 after travelling to the court from his home in the Czech Republic. His father, Erich, had been executed in Stutthof.

Salomonovic held up a photograph of his father and addressed Furchner directly. Outside the courtroom, he said he had wanted to confront her with the image of his father. “She is indirectly guilty, even if she was only sitting in the office,” he said.

Josef Salomonovic in the witness stand in the courtroom at the trial of Irmgard Furchner (pictured in the background) in Itzehoe, Germany. Photograph: Getty Images

During the trial, court officials including the judge visited the preserved site of Stutthof, near Gdansk, Poland, in what was then territory that had been annexed by Germany. There they saw for themselves the proximity of Furchner’s desk – in the office she shared with other secretaries – to the workings of the camp’s death machinery, including gas chambers, a crematorium and a gallows.

They concluded that the view she had from her window, her walk to and from the office, along with the orders she was instructed to process on her typewriter and via telephone, were enough for her to have had sufficient insight into and have therefore actively participated in what was going on in the camp.

During the trial, Furchner conversed regularly with the judge through her lawyer, but said little. She typically was brought to court in an ambulance flanked by doctors, wearing sunglasses and a face mask and in a wheelchair.

Her lawyer, Wolfgang Molkentin, said his client did not deny the crimes that had taken place in Stutthof, but denied having been guilty of them herself.

Reacting to the verdict, Manfred Goldberg, 92, who was deported to Stutthof in August 1944 and spent more than eight months there as a slave worker before being sent on a death march just days before the war ended, and finally being liberated in Germany in May 1945, said he could not believe that Furchner did not know what was happening where she worked.

“It is my belief that it would have been impossible for Furchner not to have known what was going on there, as she claims. Everything was documented and progress reports, including how much human hair had been harvested, sent to her office,” he said.

Goldberg, who later settled in the UK where he married and had children, said the importance of the trial was in letting the world know “that there is no limitation of time for crimes of such cruelty or magnitude”, but he was disappointed at the two-year suspended sentence.

“This appears to me to be a mistake. No one in their right mind would send a 97-year-old to prison, but the sentence should reflect the severity of the crimes. If a shoplifter is sentenced to two years, how can it be that someone convicted for complicity in 10,000 murders is given the same sentence?”

Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the trial had shown that the passage of time was “no barrier to justice when it comes to those involved in perpetrating the worst crimes mankind has ever seen.

“Stutthof was infamous for its cruelty and suffering … the testimony shared by survivors during this trial has been harrowing and their bravery in reliving such horrific memories must be commended.”

A Swedish court has sentenced an Iranian Official to life in prison in a historic trial.

Hamid Noury (Abbasi), 61, was a judicial official in the early years of the inception of Islamic Republic of Iran. He was directly linked to Mass executions of 1988 in Gohardasht prison, and sentenced to life in a historic trial by a Swedish court. 

The Trial is of historic significance, as it is the first time an Islamic Republic’s official is held accountable internationally for atrocities committed locally and the violation of international law. 

Hamid Noury worked as Assistant to the deputy prosecutor in Evin Prisons in Tehran and Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison in Karaj From 1982 to 1991. At the time of  the mass executions of the summer of 1988, in which thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience were executed by the judiciary of the Islamic Republic, he was one of the effective members of the execution committee in Gohardasht prison during this massacre.

Historic Significance of the Trial for Universal Jurisdiction

Today on Thursday July 14, 2022, in a historic sentence, the final verdict was issued by Judge Tomas Zander in the Swedish court, and Hamid Noury was sentenced to life in prison for “Mass execution and Torture of political prisoners.”

Hamid Noury was arrested on November 9, 2019 during a trip to Sweden at Stockholm Airport on charges of “premeditated murder, crime against international law and war crimes” for direct role in a serious and widespread human rights violation.

Hamid Noury’s trial began in 2021, and over many sessions witnesses have testified to his role in giving death sentences and walking prisoners to their execution sites. 

Hamid Noury’s Trial is remarkable for many reasons. Most importantly, It is the first time an Iranian official is sentenced in a foreign court for violations of International Law. 

Secondly, the crimes took place about 34 years ago and there has been no site access for investigations and NGO’s Private investigations were submitted for the trial, also the trial largely depended on heart wrenching testimonies of witnesses. 

Thirdly, this was an international effort for justice, as witnesses and activists from across the world set foot forward to testify against Noury’s crimes, in multiple trials that took place over a year. In this rare international effort for justice, the court briefly relocated to Albania to accommodate witnesses that could not be present in sweden. 

This Trial is of historic significance not just for Iranians but for everyone seeking international justice, as it brings hope to possible prosecution of other perpetrators that have committed atrocious crimes years ago and who enjoy impunity locally. 

First ICC trial addressing Darfur war crimes gets underway

Story by Reuters, Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE – The first trial addressing atrocities in Darfur opens at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, nearly 20 years after the Sudanese region was racked by widespread violence that left hundreds of thousands dead.

Suspected former Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman faces 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, murder, rape and torture.

“(Tuesday) is a momentous day for victims and survivors in Darfur who never stopped fighting to see the day the cycle of impunity is broken,” Sudanese human rights lawyer Mossaad Mohamed Ali of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said in a statement.

Prosecutors accuse the septuagenarian Abd-Al-Rahman, whom they say was also known as Ali Kushayb, of being a senior commander of thousands of pro-government Janjaweed fighters during the 2003-2004 height of the Darfur conflict.

Abd-Al-Rahman denies the charges. During earlier court appearances he and his lawyer argued that he was the victim of mistaken identity and that he was not educated enough to understand the orders he carried out could result in war crimes.

The alleged Janjaweed leader voluntarily surrendered to The Hague-based court in June 2020 after 13 years on the run.

The trial comes amid an upsurge in what humanitarian groups say is inter-communal violence in Darfur since the end of the United Nations and African Union mission there.

Darfur’s conflict first erupted when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government, which responded with a counter-insurgency.

Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, to crush the revolt, unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and some activists said amounted to genocide.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people were killed and more than 2 million driven from their homes.

Former Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who faces ICC charges of orchestrating genocide and other atrocities in Darfur, was deposed during a popular uprising in 2019 and remains in prison in Khartoum.

According to the charges, militias under Abd-Al-Rahman led attacks on towns and villages. He has been implicated in more than 130 murders and the forcing of tens of thousands of mainly Fur civilians from their homes.

Trials at the ICC typically take at least several years before judges reach a verdict.

German court finds Syrian colonel guilty of crimes against humanity

By Jenny Hill
BBC News Koblenz, Germany

A German court has sentenced a Syrian colonel to life in prison for crimes against humanity in a historic trial.

Anwar Raslan, 58, was linked to the torture of over 4,000 people in Syria’s civil war in a jail known as “Hell on Earth”.

The trial in Koblenz is the world’s first criminal case brought over state-led torture in Syria.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet praised the conviction as a “landmark leap forward” in the pursuit of truth.

It’s hard to imagine what the men and women incarcerated in Syria’s notorious Al-Khatib prison had to endure.

At the heart of it, Raslan was accused of being a high-ranking security service officer under President Bashar al-Assad as mass anti-government protests were violently crushed in 2011.

Syrian campaigner of the Caesar Families Association Yasmen Almashan holds pictures of victims of the Syrian regime as she and others wait outside the courthouse where former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan is on trial in Koblenz, western Germany on January 13, 2022
Syrians stood outside the court in Koblenz clutching photos of victims of the civil war

Many protesters and others suspected of opposing the regime were rounded up and detained in the Al-Khatib facility in Damascus where, prosecutors say, Mr Raslan directed operations.

He was charged with 58 murders as well as rape and sexual assault, and the torture of at least 4,000 people held there between 2011 and 2012.

The ruling is significant, especially for those who survived Al-Khatib and gave evidence during the trial. A criminal court has now formally acknowledged that crimes against humanity were perpetrated by the Assad regime against its own citizens.

Universal jurisdiction

Raslan was arrested in Germany in 2019 having successfully sought asylum there. He denied all the charges against him, saying he had nothing to do with the mistreatment of prisoners and that he actually tried to help some detainees.

Syrian defendant Anwar Raslan arrives at court for an unprecedented trial on state-sponsored torture in Syria, on April 23, 2020 at court in Koblenz, western Germany
The court in Koblenz ruled that Anwar Raslan’s face should not be recognisable in media coverage

His trial was extraordinary for several reasons. It was unprecedented in taking on Syria’s state-led torture and it was prompted by the arrival in Germany of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who’d fled their own country.

Many of the almost 800,000 Syrians who now live in Germany brought with them terrible stories of what happened to those who opposed the Assad regime, and German human rights lawyers took up their cause, using the principle of universal jurisdiction to bring the case to court. This allows serious crimes committed in one country to be tried elsewhere.

Wolfgang Kaleck, head of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights which has led the case, says it’s hard to talk about justice given that hundreds of thousands of people have been tortured and tens of thousands have died as a result.Wolfgang KaleckBBC International criminal justice, universal jurisdiction always comes too late and it’s never enough but… I would say it’s an important step forward Wolfgang Kaleck
European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights

But perhaps most importantly the trial gave a voice to those whom the Assad regime tried to silence. Fifty survivors have given evidence to the court in Koblenz; 24 are co-plaintiffs in the case.

Screams of torture

Their stories are horrifying. The court heard how detainees were beaten and doused in cold water. Others were raped or hung from the ceiling for hours on end. Torturers tore out their fingernails and administered electric shocks.

One survivor told me that he could hear the screams of people being tortured all day, every day. Another that his attackers had used special “tools’ and that they had appeared to enjoy what they were doing.

Raslan now faces life in prison and prosecutors sought to bar any possibility of probation after 15 years.

Prosecutors were encouraged by the conviction last year of another Syrian official as part of the same trial. Eyad-al-Gharib, who helped to arrest protesters who were later tortured and killed, was jailed for four and a half years for complicity in crimes against humanity.

Lawyers are preparing cases against a number of other suspects but, ultimately, they’d like to bring to justice those right at the top of the chain of command.

Bashar al-Assad has indicated that he’s following the trial, but he and his government have repeatedly denied accusations of torturing or forcibly “disappearing” hundreds of thousands of his own citizens.

This trial serves another purpose too: to build a body of evidence for use in future proceedings. In addition to witness testimonies, prosecutors in Koblenz have relied on the “Caesar files” – gruesome photographs smuggled out of Syria by a regime whistleblower which show the dead bodies of thousands of people who are believed to have died in detention facilities – many of whom appear to have been tortured.

And it’s a reminder of the ongoing plight of many Syrians.

Attorney Patrick Kroker (C) and co-plaintiffs Wassim Mukdad (L) and Hussein Ghrer (R) answer journalists' questions outside the courtroom during a break in a trial against two Syrian defendants accused of state-sponsored torture in Syria, on April 23, 2020 in Koblenz
Image caption,Twenty-four survivors were co-plaintiffs in the case including Wassim Mukdad (L) and Hussein Ghrer (R)

Wassim Mukdad, who was first detained in 2011 and now lives in Germany, gave evidence to the trial and returned to the court for the verdict.

“For me, this is the first step in a very long way towards justice,” he has told the BBC.

There are many stories that have not been heard, he says: “Either because they are still detained now – while we’re talking, they’re suffering torture and horrible situations in the detention centres. Or because they were murdered.”

And then, he adds, there were those who died as they tried to reach Europe, drowning at sea or freezing on Europe’s borders.

Hamid Nouri: How Sweden arrested a suspected Iranian war criminal

By Joshua Nevett
BBC News, Published on 5 September

In the arrivals terminal of Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Swedish police were expecting someone significant.

On board a flight from Iran, they were told, was an alleged war criminal, an Iranian official named Hamid Nouri.

Unknown to him, police had been tipped off. Mr Nouri walked off the plane on 9 November 2019 and straight into custody.

A short time later, a Swedish official made a phone call to deliver a message: “You can go home now.”

The recipient of the call had been at the airport, nervously waiting for confirmation of the arrest. He was one of several people whose actions had made the arrest possible.

In interviews with the BBC, they each explained their role in an extraordinary case, of significance in Iran and internationally.

Never before has anyone been criminally prosecuted over the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in Iran in 1988. Mr Nouri was arrested and later charged over his alleged role, which he denies.

They invoked the international legal principle of universal jurisdiction to arrest Mr Nouri. He is currently on trial in Sweden.

These crimes were allegedly committed during the war between Iran and Iraq. As the war neared its end, Iran’s then supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, ordered the execution of about 5,000 political prisoners.

Many were linked to the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an opposition group allied to Iraq.

At the time, Mr Nouri was working in a prison near Tehran, prosecutors say.

A courtroom sketch shows Iranian defendant Hamid Nouri sitting in the District Court of Stockholm
The trial of Mr Nouri (second from the left) at Stockholm’s district court opened in August

The case could raise uncomfortable questions for Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, who Amnesty International has named as a member of a “death commission” involved in the 1988 massacre.

It is also a watershed moment for human rights activists who have long campaigned for justice over the executions. Among them is Iraj Mesdaghi, a former Iranian political prisoner who survived the 1988 massacre.

He says he witnessed unspeakable crimes while imprisoned in Iran.

Etched into his memory, his experiences during that period have shaped his life since he left Iran in the 1990s. From abroad, he has been investigating human rights abuses in Iran ever since, hoping for a chance to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice.

When a potential opportunity arose in October 2019, he acted without hesitation.

Supporters of an Iranian opposition group protest outside Stockholm's district court in Sweden
A large protest was held outside the courtroom in Stockholm on the day Mr Nouri’s trial began

Out of the blue, a source contacted Mr Mesdaghi with some information. An Iranian named Hamid Nouri was planning a trip to Sweden, the source said.

Mr Mesdaghi was familiar with the name. He knew exactly who to call.

Kaveh Moussavi is an experienced British-Iranian human rights lawyer. One conversation with Mr Mesdaghi and a meeting in London were all it took to convince Mr Moussavi to take on the case.

Years previously, he had informally agreed to help Mr Mesdaghi prosecute those responsible for the 1988 massacre in the West, should it be possible to do so.

Now, Mr Moussavi had to uphold his end of the bargain.

“The question was how to organise this with Swedish authorities and not let the cat out of the bag,” Mr Moussavi said.

Some 800 portraits of victims of the 1988 massacre displayed in Paris in 2019
Iranian opposition activists commemorated execution victims in Paris in 2019

With the support of other lawyers, Mr Moussavi gathered witness testimony and prepared a criminal complaint. Meanwhile the source behind the tip-off – who did not wish to be named – shared details of Mr Nouri’s travel plans.

Mr Nouri was coming to Sweden for family reasons, but was led to believe he would be taking an extended trip to several European countries and a cruise as well, the source said.

Once the date of his flight was known, Mr Moussavi submitted his complaint to Swedish prosecutors.

The next step was the arrest, which Mr Moussavi was confident would be done under the rules of universal jurisdiction.

Universal jurisdiction rests on the idea that a national court can prosecute anyone for atrocities, regardless of where they were committed. For human rights lawyers, the concept has proved useful in holding war criminals to account.

The 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the former Nazi bureaucrat who was prosecuted in Israel over his role in the Holocaust, is perhaps the most famous example. More recently, a German court convicted a former Syrian secret police officer for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.

On 9 November, 2019, the principle would be exercised again, this time by Swedish prosecutors.

Hamid Nouri at the airport in Iran before he boarded his flight
Mr Nouri has denied the charges against him and insisted the allegations are a case of mistaken identity

“Until he was arrested I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Mesdaghi said.

Those doubts were put to rest by prosecutors. They would call Mr Mesdaghi to testify at Mr Nouri’s trial, which started almost two years later, on 10 August.

In court, Mr Mesdaghi recalled his experiences in Gohardasht Prison during the mass executions of 1988. He and other witnesses have implicated Mr Nouri.

On the contrary, his lawyers argue, Mr Nouri has been confused with someone else. They have questioned the credibility of the witnesses and their recollection of alleged events 30 years ago.

When the trial concludes in April 2022, the judges will decide which arguments convince them the most.

Nazi trial: 100-year-old SS guard in court in Germany

Published: 7 October by BBC

A 100-year-old former security guard of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp appears in the courtroom before his trial at the Landgericht Neuruppin court in Brandenburg, Germany, 7 October 2021
Image caption,Josef S, who was 21 when he first became a guard at Sachsenhausen in 1942, appears in court

Seventy-six years after the end of World War Two, a former concentration camp guard has gone on trial for assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen near Berlin.

Josef S is accused of complicity in the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war and the murder of others with Zyklon B gas.

Time is running out for Nazi-era criminals to face justice and he is the oldest defendant so far to stand trial.

It was only in recent years that lower-ranking Nazis were brought to trial.

Ten years ago, the conviction of former SS guard John Demjanjuk set a precedent enabling prosecutors to charge people for aiding and abetting Nazi crimes in World War Two. Until then, direct participation in murder had to be proven.

Identified as Josef S, because of German privacy laws, the defendant was led into a specially adapted sports hall at a prison in Brandenburg an der Havel, where the trial began amid strict security.

He arrived outside the court in a wheelchair, clutching a briefcase, and entered with the aid of a walking frame. He shielded his face with a blue file to stop photographers getting a view.

Josef S has lived in the Brandenburg area for years, reportedly as a locksmith, and has not spoken publicly about the trial.

His lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, told the court that the defendant would make no comment at the trial on the allegations against him. He would, however, speak about his personal circumstances at Friday’s hearing.

Josef S was 21 when he first became a guard at Sachsenhausen in 1942. Now almost 101, he is considered able to appear in court for up to two and half hours a day. The trial is due to continue until January.

Public prosecutor Cyrill Klement told the court of the systematic killings at Sachsenhausen between 1941 and 1945. “The defendant supported this knowingly and willingly – at least by conscientiously carrying out guard duty, which was perfectly integrated into the killing regime.”

Tens of thousands of people died at the camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, including resistance fighters, Jews, political opponents, homosexuals and prisoners of war.

A gas chamber was installed at Sachsenhausen in 1943 and 3,000 people were massacred at the camp as the war drew to a close because they were “unfit to march”. The prosecutor gave details of mass shootings and murders by gas, as well as through disease and exhaustion.

Holocaust survivor Leon Schwarzbaum holds a picture in the courtroom during a trial against a 100-year-old former security guard of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, at the Landgericht Neuruppin court in Brandenburg, Germany, October 7, 2021
,Leon Schwarzbaum survived Sachsenhausen as well as Auschwitz and Buchenwald

Thursday’s trial was especially important for 17 co-plaintiffs, who include survivors of Sachsenhausen.

Christoffel Heijer was six years old when he last saw his father: Johan Hendrik Heijer was one of 71 Dutch resistance fighters shot dead at the camp.

“Murder isn’t destiny; it’s not a crime that can be legally erased by time,” he told Berliner Zeitung.

Leon Schwarzenbaum, who is a 100-year-old survivor of Sachsenhausen, said this was the “last trial for my friends and acquaintances and my loved ones who were murdered” and he hoped it would end in a final conviction.

There was widespread frustration at Josef S’s refusal to give evidence.

“For the survivors this is yet another rejection, just like it was in the camp. You were vermin,” said Christoph Heubner of the International Auschwitz Committee.

Thomas Walther, the lawyer acting for the co-plaintiffs, said he was not surprised but hoped he would change his mind.

Most Nazi camp guards will not face trial.

Bruno Dey holds a folder in front of his face in court on 23 July 2020
Image caption,Nazi SS guard Bruno Dey was convicted last year of complicity in 5,000 murders

There were 3,000 guards at Stutthof concentration camp alone, and only 50 were convicted. Bruno Dey was convicted of complicity in mass murder there last year and given a suspended sentence,

Only last week, a Nazi secretary at the Stutthof camp, Irmgard Furchner, was due to go on trial north of Hamburg but escaped from a nursing home hours beforehand.

She was eventually caught in Hamburg and her trial was rescheduled for 19 October. She was released from custody earlier this week.

Trial over murder of ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’ opens in Burkina Faso

(CNN) – The trial of 14 people accused of plotting to assassinate Burkina Faso’s former president Thomas Sankara started on Monday, more than 30 years after he was gunned down in one of the most infamous killings in modern African history.

Sankara – a charismatic Marxist revolutionary widely known as “Africa’s Che Guevara” – was killed in 1987 during a coup led by his former ally Blaise Compaore.

Compaore, the main defendant, was charged in absentia in April with complicity in the murder. He is living in exile in neighboring Ivory Coast and has always denied any involvement in Sankara’s death.
“It is a moment we have been waiting for,” Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, told journalists as she arrived at the hearing.

She told the BBC earlier on Monday she was hoping the trial would shed light on the deaths of 12 other people on the day of the coup.

“It is important to all these families,” she said. “This trial is needed so that the culture of impunity and violence that still rages in many African countries, despite the democratic facade, stops indefinitely.”

Compaore’s former head of security, Hyacinthe Kafando, is also being tried in his absence. Twelve other defendants are due to appear in front of military tribunal in the Ouaga2000 conference center in Ouagadougou. They have pleaded not guilty.

More than 100 journalists from across the world packed into the conference center at the start of the hearing.
Thomas Sankara seized power in a 1983 coup at the age of 33 with promises to tackle corruption and the dominance of former colonial powers.

The former fighter pilot was one of the first African leaders to raise awareness about the growing AIDS epidemic. He publicly denounced the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs and banned female circumcision and polygamy.
Sankara won public support with his modest lifestyle, riding to work on a bicycle during his time as a minister and selling the government’s fleet of Mercedes vehicles when he was president.

But critics said his reforms curtailed freedoms and left ordinary people in the landlocked West African country little better off. Compaore had previously said that Sankara jeopardized foreign relations with former colonial power France, and with neighbor Ivory Coast.

Compaore moved to Ivory Coast after he was himself overthrown in 2014. His lawyers said on Friday that he would not attend the trial, and Ivory Coast has refused to extradite him.

Warlord found guilty of crimes against humanity in northern Uganda, a ‘significant milestone’ – Guterres

News UN – A former Ugandan warlord whose forces attacked camps for the internally displaced across the country, has been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, judges ruled on Thursday, a judgement described by the UN chief as a “significant milestone”.

The Court based in The Hague, Netherlands, found that Dominic Ongwen was “fully responsible” for multiple grave violations in northern Uganda in the early 2000s, as part of a longstanding armed insurgency dating back to the 1980s.

As a brigade commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Mr. Ongwen sanctioned the murder of large numbers of civilians, forced marriage, sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers “to participate actively in hostilities”, among other grave crimes.

Attacks against civilians were justified by the reasoning that they were associated with the Government and were therefore the “enemy” of the insurgents, the ICC said in a statement, noting also that LRA soldiers were “under orders to shoot civilians in the chest and head to ensure that they died”.

According to the ICC verdict summary, “in response to the question whether shooting a civilian during the course of an attack would constitute an offence, Witness P-0142, an LRA fighter, stated that ‘nobody would see it as a crime if a civilian is injured or if a civilian is shot at’.”

Civilian targets

Those targeted “in particular” were those who lived in the many government-established camps for internally displaced people (IDP), according to the court, which examined evidence of attacks on four IDP sites: Pajule, on 10 October 2003, Odek (29 April 2004), Lukodi (on or about 19 May 2004) and Abok (8 June 2004).

Although the court noted that Mr. Ongwen suffered greatly after being abducted by the LRA as a nine-year-old child, it noted that he was being put on trial for crimes committed as a “fully responsible adult and as a commander of the LRA in his mid to late twenties”.

It was during the three-year period under review by the court from July 2002 until December 2005 that Mr. Ongwen rose from LRA battalion commander to head of the Sinia Brigade with the rank of brigadier, overseeing several hundred soldiers.

“The Chamber found that Dominic Ongwen is fully responsible for all these crimes,” the Court said. “The Chamber did not find evidence that supported the claim that he suffered from any mental disease or disorder during the period relevant to the charges, or that he committed these crimes under duress or under any threats.”

‘Systematic’ enrollment

Testimony from a LRA soldier identified as “Witness P0307” underscored the systematic practice of enrolling child soldiers: “Each time we came across young people, we would abduct them and take them to the bush. We had to do this as we had to increase our numbers in the bush. So, abducting new recruits was part of routine activities during attacks so that there was no need for any commander to order you to abduct because this was part of the job.”

In total, Mr. Ongwen, who is 45, was found guilty of a total of 61 crimes against humanity and war crimes between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005.

He faces up to 30 years in prison, although a life sentence can be handed down in exceptional circumstances. The ICC noted that following sentencing, discussions would begin on reparations for victims.

Over the course of 234 hearings from December 2016 to March 2020, the trial judges heard 109 witnesses and experts for the prosecution and 63 for the defence; representatives of victims called seven witnesses and experts.

An astonishing total of 4,095 victims were also represented in court.

Case a ‘significant milestone’ – UN chief

The Secretary-General António Guterres described the judgement as “a significant milestone in accountability and a step forward in efforts to bring justice to the victims of LRA crimes”.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson he said it also marked the first time that the crime of forced marriage has been considered by the ICC, highlighting the “critical need to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence.”

“The Secretary-General’s thoughts are with the victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes for which Mr. Ongwen has been found guilty”, the statement said.