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 HOA: News In Brief


March 19, 2013 (durame) — Thousands of Ethiopian refugees are being held captive for ransom in the border regions of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, according to Mohammed Najad, a Yemeni security official.

Making the situation worsedocumentaries in late February that depict Ethiopian refugees as gangs involved in illicit activities.

As a result, many Saudis and Yemeni vigilante groups have sprung up near their common border, under the guise of defending their territories but in reality, most are there to take Ethiopian migrants captive for ransom.

Fleeing from economic hardship and a repressive dictatorship in Ethiopia, the Middle East is seen as a place where young Ethiopians can earn a higher standard of living to support their families back home.

Despite the dangerous risks involved, over 84,000 Ethiopian refugees cross the traitorous waters of the Gulf of Aden each year, according to the United Nation’s refugee agency.

Once in Yemen, most Ethiopians head straight for the Yemeni-Saudi border, where bandits, vigilantes, and smugglers frequently hold migrants captive and demand thousands of dollars in ransom for their release.

A recent report by UNHCR reveals thousands of Ethiopian men, women and children are being held captive for extortion on both sides of the Yemeni-Saudi border by armed criminal gangs and vigilantes.

The gangs use rape and torture against their victims to make their families pay for their release. Those who fail to have their ransom paid are killed and their organs harvested for sale on the black market.

“It was horrible. If your ransom wasn’t paid, they tortured and raped you,” recounted one of the victims, who requested anonymity. “I am lucky I was able to flee. My friends who came with me were killed.”



Former President George W. Bush lawyer fighting for Kenya prime minister in election loss case

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP)– A former lawyer for President George W. Bush now representing Kenya’s prime minister in his fight to win a new presidential election says he doesn’t think Kenya’s election commission is impartial.

William Burck told The Associated Press that Kenya’s election commission failed in its duty to ensure the March 4 presidential election was fair. Among the faults was what Burck called an inexplicable rise in the number of registered voters just before the vote.

Burck is representing Prime Minister Raila Odinga in his petition to Kenya’s Supreme Court asking that the results be scrapped and a new election held. Uhuru Kenyatta — the son of Kenya’s founding father — was named the winner with 50.07 percent.

The Supreme Court has until a week from Saturday to rule on Odinga’s petition.



Kenya’s Kenyatta urges ICC to drop charges

NAIROBI, Kenya (Aljazeera)–Hearing to consider war crimes charges facing president-elect comes a week after case against his co-accused collapsed.

Lawyers for Uhuru Kenyatta have argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should dismiss crimes against humanity charges against Kenya’s president-elect over post-2007 election violence.

Lawyer Steven Kay asked a three-judge bench at The Hague-based court on Monday to scrap his client’s July trial date and send the case back to the pre-trial chamber, after prosecutors last week dropped all charges against Kenyatta’s co-accused.

The evidence against top civil servant Francis Muthaura was critically undermined by the withdrawal of key witness testimony, and Kay said the five charges against Kenyatta, including rape and murder, should now also be reconsidered.

Should the charges against Kenyatta stand, he will become the first-ever president to have to go to The Hague to face a trial that could last at least two years shortly after taking office.

Pre-trial hearing

The case against Kenyatta, charged with crimes against humanity over deadly violence in the wake of Kenya’s election in 2007, has been further complicated by his victory in a ballot which was held largely peacefully this month.

A status conference, or pre-trial hearing, has been called by judges in The Hague for 14:00GMT on Friday, and will look at the consequences of the withdrawal of the charges against Muthaura for the case against Kenyatta.

Kenyatta and former civil servant Muthaura were among six suspects initially charged by ICC prosecutors with orchestrating violence after the 2007 election, when some 1,200 people were killed.

On March 11, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the decision of a key witness to recant testimony had forced her to drop charges against Muthaura.

Bensouda said the decision would have no impact on Kenyatta’s case.

Kenyatta’s lawyers will call on Friday for the case against him to be dropped or at least postponed, said one lawyer who was familiar with the case, but did not want to be quoted by name.” The collapse of the case against Muthaura has a profound impact on the viability of the prosecution’s case against Kenyatta,” the lawyer said.

The prosecutions are based to a large extent on similar evidence, with both men denying any wrongdoing.

Ethnic divisions

Kenyatta, 51, elected by a slim margin earlier this month, faces a big challenge in bridging Kenya’s ethnic divides even without the court case.

His opponent, Raila Odinga, challenged the election result in court on Saturday, alleging widespread ballot rigging.

The prosecution would then have to show again that it has a strong enough case to go to trial.

Judges have not yet formally dropped the case against Muthaura.

The case is an important test for the Netherlands court, which was set up more than a decade ago as the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, but has so far only secured one conviction.



Car bomb in Somalia’s capital kills 10

NAIROBI (Washinton Post) — A suicide bomber driving a car filled with explosives killed at least 10 people in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Monday, illuminating the lingering security challenges faced by the U.S.- and U.N.-backed government.

Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked militia, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest this year in Mogadishu. The militia continues to stage guerrilla assaults, more than a year after African Union peacekeepers pushed the militants out of the capital.

The bombing appeared to target a group of Somali government officials, including Mogadishu’s security chief, near the presidential palace, but instead struck a minivan filled with passengers, according to police and witnesses. The attack occurred on a main road, lined with shops and tearooms, between the palace and the national theater.

“The suicide car bomber targeted a senior national security officer whose car was passing near the theater,” senior police officer Abdiqadir Mohamud told Reuters, adding that the official was injured and that most of the people who died were civilians on the minibus. “This public vehicle coincidentally came between the government car and the car bomb when it was hit. Littered at the scene are human hands and flesh,” the news agency reported.

Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for al-Shabab, told Reuters that the attack was revenge for the deaths of its members targeted by the Somali national security forces. The militia still controls large swaths of rural Somalia, even as it has been pushed out of major cities, including the Indian Ocean port city of Kismayo, which has severely damaged its ability to raise money.

Since late 2011, security in Mogadishu has improved considerably, prompting the United Nations and some countries to reopen offices and embassies in the capital. A nearly 18,000-strong African Union force still protects the fragile central government.

Nevertheless, Monday’s bombing was a reminder of the militia’s ability to create havoc and disrupt efforts by Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud to pull the nation out of more than two decades of civil war. Mohamud was elected last year in Somalia’s first nationwide vote since the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991, an event that helped trigger the country’s descent into turmoil.

Washington Post



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