Daily World News Digest, 11 September 2015

Srebrenica: Eight charged in Serbia’s first court ruling 

The BBC reported on 10 September that war crimes prosecutors in Serbia have charged eight people over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. They are accused of killing hundreds of Bosnian men and boys in a single day at a warehouse near Srebrenica. It is the first time a Serbian court has charged anyone over the massacre of 8,000 people by Bosnian Serb forces. The men charged belonged to a special Bosnian Serb police unit that was operating in the eastern village of Kravica when the killings took place. Those charged included the unit’s commander, Nedeljko Milidragovic, also known as Nedjo the Butcher, who was accused of giving the order for the killings and saying that “nobody should get out alive”. Mr Milidragovic is already facing genocide charges in Bosnia but has been able to live freely in Serbia because of the lack of an extradition treaty. But this changed in March when he and the seven other suspects were arrested as a result of co-operation between the war crimes court in Belgrade and its counterpart in Sarajevo. The eight men could face a maximum sentence of 20 years if found guilty. http://bbc.in/1LmzBkD 

US plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year

The BBC reported on 10 September that President Barack Obama has called for the US to prepare to accept “at least” 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, according to a White House spokesman. That number is significantly higher than the 1,500 Syrians that have been permitted to re-settle in the US since the start of the conflict. The 10,000 figure is still much lower than the 340,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Europe this year. The increase in accepting refugees displays a “significant scaling up” of US commitment to accept people from conflict zones and help provide for their needs, according to the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. http://bbc.in/1FzXYZU

1,000 days since enforced disappearance of Laos activist

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) issued a statement today noting that today marks 1,000 days since prominent Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone “disappeared” at a police checkpoint on a busy street in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Several organizations have called the Lao government to intensify its efforts to conduct a prompt, impartial, and effective investigation into Sombath’s apparent enforced disappearance, to determine his fate or whereabouts, and to take the necessary measures to bring those responsible to justice. At the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos, held in Geneva on 20 January 2015, 10 states made recommendations to Laos to investigate Sombath’s disappearance. In addition, five states raised questions about the issue. There is a failure of Lao authorities to provide any specific information on the status and progress of the investigation since 7 June 2013, FIDH said. This failure has occurred despite the government’s claim in June 2015, during the UPR process, that it was “still thoroughly conducting” an investigation into Sombath’s “whereabouts.” The representatives have also highlighted the Lao government’s refusal to disclose any information concerning other victims of enforced disappearances in the country. The fate or whereabouts of at least 13 individuals, including three student leaders who were arrested on 26 October 1999 for organizing a peaceful pro-democracy protest in Vientiane remain unknown. http://bit.ly/1J1hGhx

Thailand: Dissenting ex-minister secretly detained

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 10 September saying that Thailand’s junta should immediately disclose the whereabouts of a former government minister whom the military detained on 9 September 2015. Pichai Naripthaphan, who was energy minister from 2011 to 2012, is being held in incommunicado detention. On 10 September, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha told the media that Pichai was detained because of his expression of opinions that challenge the authorities and that it is his decision whether harsh of soft measures will be used against him. Col. Winthai Suwaree, spokesperson for the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said that Pichai was in military custody, but refused to provide any information regarding his whereabouts or status. The junta also refused access to Pichai’s family members and legal counsel. Since the 22 May 2014 coup, the NCPO has detained hundreds of politicians, activists, journalists, and people accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or being involved in alleged anti-coup activities, HRW said. http://bit.ly/1KIfgeZ

South Sudan: Hundreds detained without trial

The Africa Report magazine carried a story on 10 September saying that human rights organizations have accused senior government officials and military personnel in one of the South Sudan’s states, the Lakes, of unlawfully arresting and detaining more than 500 people without charge. Innocent people are arbitrarily arrested by army officers and government officials and taken to prison, where they are kept for long periods without trial, according to human rights activist Gideon Luk in Lakes State’s capital, Rumbek. He said there are detainees, who have spent over six months in detention without trial. Some people are only arrested because they are not liked and not because they have broken any laws, he said. Luk said human rights activists had written to the central government of South Sudan complaining about the arbitrary arrests but had not received a response. http://bit.ly/1JZDFqV

Items in Daily World News Digest are summaries of published reports relevant to the issue of missing persons, compiled by ICMP staff.  These items do not necessarily reflect the position of ICMP.