Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General announced that it has formally charged former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Algeria’s civil war. In the indictment submitted to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, prosecutors said “Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994…and of committing crimes against humanity.” The indictment alleges that Nezzar “condoned, coordinated or ordered” acts of torture committed by his subordinates. (Map: PCL)
The Supreme Court of Sweden ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss citizen and former CEO of Lundin Oil charged in connection with war crimes in Sudan between 1999 and 2003, may proceed in the Swedish courts. While Lundin Oil is a Swedish-based company, Schneiter claims that he cannot be tried in Sweden because he is neither a citizen nor a resident. The high court held that Schneiter’s alleged crimes are subject to “universal jurisdiction,” which allows anyone to be prosecuted anywhere in the world for serious international crimes. The case concerns an area called Block 5A in southern Sudan, which was then wracked by a pro-independence insurgency. The indictment holds that Lundin demanded that government forces and allied militias provide security for its operations, knowing that this would entail deadly force and enflame the conflict. (Map via Rixstep)
The Assad regime pulled out of UN-brokered talks on Syria’s constitution, with the ninth round scheduled to open in Geneva. The regime used the pretext that Switzerland is no longer neutral because it supported European Union sanctions against Russia over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. A UN spokesperson responded: “We reaffirm the neutrality of Switzerland as a venue…. Discussions on Syria need to be kept…separate and apart from discussions on other topics.” Simultaneously, Syria broke diplomatic ties with Ukraine, in response to Kyiv breaking ties with Damascus over the Assad regime’s recognition of the “independence and sovereignty” of the Russia-backed breakaway enclaves of Luhansk and Donetsk. (Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti/UNICEF via UN News)
Four residents of the Indonesian island of Pulau Pari filed a lawsuit against Swiss cement giant Holcim over the effects of climate change on the island. Swiss Church Aid (HEKS), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) are backing the suit brought in the Swiss courts. The residents claim that climate change has caused rising tides and devastating floods. HEKS warns that the island will be underwater by 2050 if nothing changes. According to a study from the University of Massachusetts, Holcim is the 48th biggest global polluter. A report from the Climate Accountability Institute finds that Holcim emitted seven billion tons of CO2 from 1950 to 2021—more than twice as much as the entire country of Switzerland. Said one plaintiff: “If Pari is submerged, where are we to go, where are we to live?” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)
Peru’s massive Antamina copper mine had to halt operations due to protest blockades on an access road by local campesinos. The company, owned by multinationals BHP Billiton and Glencore, urged the government “to restore order” and open dialogue with the protesters, stating that as long as “these conditions are not met, we cannot continue to operate.” Residents of the local communities charge that Antamina “usurped” campesino lands for the project, which bring no benefit to the community. After a week of blocking the access roads, the campesinos agreed to lift the protest following intercession by the Ministry of Energy & Mines. However, they pledged to maintain the blockades until Antamina signs a formal agreement recognizing them as dialogue partners. (Photo via MercoPress)
France’s highest court overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss charges of complicity in crimes against humanity by cement company LaFarge, which is accused of paying ISIS and other militant groups at least 13 million euros to keep its factory in northern Syria running. The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks a major setback for Lafarge, which contested its responsibility for acts committed with funds it provided to the extremists. The Paris Court of Appeal accepted the company’s argument that the payments were not aimed at abetting ISIS atrocities. But the Cassation Court found that “one can be complicit in crimes against humanity even if one doesn’t have the intention of being associated with the crimes committed. Knowingly paying several million dollars to an organization whose sole purpose was exclusively criminal suffices to constitute complicity, regardless of whether the party concerned was acting to pursue a commercial activity.” (Photo via MEMO)
A trial opened in Switzerland for the first Liberian to face war crimes charges over atrocities during the country’s brutal internal conflict in the 1990s. Former warlord Alieu Kosiah stands accused of murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers, and numerous other crimes during the first of Liberia’s two civil wars, which together killed some 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. Kosiah, who had been living in Switzerland since 1999, was arrested in November 2014 for atrocities he allegedly committed as a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO) between 1993 and 1995. A group of Liberian victims is being represented by the Swiss human rights group Civitas Maxima. The case is being heard under the principle of universal jurisdiction. (Photo: IRIN via JusticeInfo)
Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto announced it will disband following China’s enactment of a “National Security Law” that extends Beijing’s control over the semi-autonomous city. The decision to disband came hours after three of the group’s leading activists, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, issued statements saying they were stepping down from the organization under threat of “political imprisonment.” (Photo: ANSA)
Swiss voters approved a sweeping new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence services broad powers to spy on "terrorist" suspects and cyber criminals.
There is common political content to all the relentless terror attacks—whether they come from the Islamist right or Islamophobie right, they are equally part of the global reaction.
The fight against impunity in Guatemala moves to Europe: an ex-police chief is convicted in Switzerland, and an ex-interior minister awaits trial in Spain.