Bangladeshi opposition leaders Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid have been executed for war crimes committed during the 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan.
The two politicians were hanged in Dhaka’s central jail.
They were convicted of genocide and rape – charges they denied.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury has been an influential politician – he was elected member of Bangladeshi parliament six times. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid was a top leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said they were hanged after President Abdul Hamid rejected appeals for clemency by the two men.
However, family members have dismissed reports that the men had made any such appeals, which would have also required admissions of guilt.
“My father said he did not seek any mercy,” Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury’s son, Humam Qauder Chowdhury, told AFP news agency, after meeting his father for the last time hours before his execution.
“He has always said he’s innocent.”
The Supreme Court upheld their sentences earlier this month.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was the most senior leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party to be sentenced for crimes against humanity.
Two years ago, a special war crimes tribunal found him guilty of nine out of 23 charges including genocide, arson and persecuting people on religious and political grounds.
The prosecution said that his father’s residence in Chittagong was turned into a torture cell during the war.
Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid was the secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami. He was sentenced to death in July 2013.
He was accused of responsibility for the killings of a number of pro-independence Bangladeshi leaders and intellectuals.
The tribunal found him guilty of five charges, including abduction and murder.
Bangladesh’s government says the war crimes trials are necessary to bring murderers to justice.
However, the opposition says they have been used to persecute them and human rights groups have said the tribunal does not meet international standards.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir returns home after fleeing South Africa, pre-empting a court ruling over an international warrant for his arrest.
Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
The Pretoria High Court was due to decide whether Omar al-Bashir should be handed over to the ICC which charged him with the crimes.
Omar al-Bashir was in Johannesburg for an African Union (AU) summit.
A news conference will be held in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, upon his arrival.
On June 14, a judge barred Omar al-Bashir from leaving until the arrest application had been considered.
Omar al-Bashir is accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict.
The UN says that about 300,000 people in Sudan have died and more than two million have fled their homes since fighting began in 2003.
Government forces and allied Arab militias are accused of targeting black African civilians in the fight against the rebels.
At the hearing at the Pretoria High Court, the lawyer representing the South African government says Omar al-Bashir’s name was not on the list of passengers who took off earlier.
On June 15, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the ICC’s warrant for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir must be implemented by countries who have signed up to the court’s statutes.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest anyone charged by the court. Before the summit, the ICC issued a press statement urging the South African government “to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrant”.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over war crimes charges, left Khartoum on June 13 to travel to South Africa for an African (AU) summit, state news agency SUNA said.
The ICC has called on South Africa to arrest Omar al-Bashir.
Omar al-Bashir is wanted for war crimes over the conflict in Darfur.
An ICC statement said South Africa should “spare no effort” in detaining him.
But instead he was welcomed by South African officials on his arrival in Johannesburg, SABC tweeted.
Since the Sudanese president was indicted by the ICC in 2009 over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Darfur conflict, his overseas travel has been severely restricted.
Omar al-Bashir was accompanied by the foreign minister and other top Sudanese officials, SUNA reported.
There are tensions between the ICC and the AU, with some on the continent accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africans.
The AU has previously urged the ICC to stop proceedings against sitting leaders.
The warrants against Omar al-Bashir, who denies the allegations, have severely restricted his overseas travel.
He has, however, visited friendly states in Africa and the Middle East.
The ICC has no police force and relies on member states to carry out arrests.
As a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest Omar al-Bashir if he sets foot in the country, but correspondents say this is unlikely to happen.
The AU has previously refused to co-operate with the ICC, accusing it of bias against African leaders.
Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of states to the ICC, expressed “deep concern about the negative consequences for the court” if South Africa refused to comply with its obligations to carry out the arrest.
Human rights organizations and South Africa’s main opposition party have also called for Omar al-Bashir’s arrest.
Darfur has been in conflict since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government. The UN says more than 300,000 people have died, mostly from disease.
The ICC has ended an investigation into war crimes in the region, but the warrants against Omar al-Bashir remain outstanding. The court accuses him of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed.
Navi Pillay told an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that Israel’s military offensive had not done enough to protect civilians.
She also condemned Hamas for “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel.
Israel launched its offensive on July 8 with the declared objective of stopping rocket fire from Gaza.
“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Navi Pillay said.
Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni described the UN Human Rights Council as an “anti-Israel” body, Reuters news agency reported.
At least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say.
A foreign worker in southern Israel was also killed by a rocket fired from Gaza on Wednesday, police said.
The UN says about 74% of those killed in Gaza are civilians, with medical clinics among the facilities hit by air strikes.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip (photo AP)
“Civilians in Gaza have no safe place to go as 44% of the land has been declared a ‘no-go zone’ by the Israeli army,” the assistant secretary-general at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
“Families are taking the heart-wrenching decision to split to different locations – mother and son to one; father and daughter to another – hoping to maximize the chance one part of the family survives.”
There was heavy fighting in the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
Eyewitnesses say around 5,000 Palestinians, some waving white flags, are fleeing in a state of panic following a ground incursion by Israeli troops.
Meanwhile US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday to try to help negotiate a truce.
“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” John Kerry said shortly after arriving.
John Kerry flew by military plane to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, as several US and European airlines continue to suspend civilian flights into Israel after a rocket from Gaza landed near the airport.
German airline Lufthansa announced on Wednesday it would extend the ban for another 24 hours.
At least five people died in an air strike in Khan Younis overnight. An Israeli soldier was also killed.
Earlier, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas should be held accountable for rejecting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
Referring to a July 16 Israeli air strike that killed children playing on a beach in Gaza, Navi Pillay said “the disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life was shockingly evident”.
She also condemned rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.
“The principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.
Despite her condemnation of Hamas attacks on Israel, Navi Pillay clearly views Israel’s actions in Gaza as disproportionate.
“Israel is acting according to international law,” Tzipi Livni said.
“It is regrettable civilians are killed, but when we call on them to vacate and Hamas calls on them to stay, then that is what happens.”
A 2009 UN human rights report said that Israel’s military and Hamas had each committed potential war crimes during Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza.
The Goldstone report was rejected by Israel and the US as biased and flawed.
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah against his jail term for war crimes and sentenced him to death.
In February Abdul Kader Mullah, of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was convicted by a special tribunal of crimes during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.
The life sentence imposed at the time sparked angry street protests.
Abdul Kader Mullah’s supporters said the charges were politically motivated but his opponents said that sentence was too lenient.
Thousands staged protests around the country demanding the death penalty for Abdul Kader Mullah, who had been convicted of charges which included overseeing massacres during the bloody struggle for independence.
The protests prompted parliament to amend a law which allowed the state to appeal against any verdict reached by the war crimes tribunal.
This meant that alongside Abdul Kader Mullah’s appeal against his verdict the Supreme Court also heard an appeal from the government which wanted a tougher sentence handed down.
Prosecutor Ziad Al Malum told AFP news agency that the decision to increase the sentence was approved by four to one at the court.
Defense lawyer Tajul Islam told the agency he was “stunned” by the verdict.
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Abdul Kader Mullah against his jail term for war crimes and sentenced him to death
“This is the first time in South Asian judicial history that a trial court sentence has been enhanced by a Supreme Court,” he said.
Local media reports cite Abdul Kader Mullah’s lawyers saying they will petition for this harsher sentence to be reviewed, but the attorney general has said there can be no appeal against a Supreme Court verdict.
Correspondents say the only option left for Abdul Kader Mullah would be to seek a presidential pardon.
Abdul Kader Mullah’s conviction and subsequent sentences handed down to other Islamist leaders by the tribunal over the last few months have unleashed a wave of unrest, pitting supporters of Jamaat, who accuse the government of pursuing a political vendetta, against pro-government groups.
More than 100 people have been killed since January in the violence.
This is just the first of a series of appeals against convictions handed down by the tribunal. Several other high-profile Islamist leaders have been sentenced by it including 90-year-old Ghulam Azam, the former leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, who was jailed for 90 years in July.
Abdul Kader Mullah, 65, was the assistant secretary-general of Jamaat and the war crimes tribunal found him guilty of five out of six charges, including murder.
He was accused of being behind a series of killings including large-scale massacres in the Mirpur area of Dhaka, which earned him the nickname of “koshai” or butcher of Mirpur, and made him one of the more feared Jamaat leaders.
The special court was set up in 2010 by the current Bangladeshi government to deal with those accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who attempted to stop East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was then) from becoming an independent country.
But human rights groups have said the tribunal falls short of international standards.
Bangladesh government figures estimate more than three million people were killed during the independence war. Other researchers put the figure at between 300,000 and 500,000.
The United Nations General Assembly has passed the first global arms trade treaty by 154 votes to three, with 23 abstentions.
Syria, North Korea and Iran had sought to block the treaty governing a trade worth some $70 billion annually.
The UN General Assembly has passed the first global arms trade treaty by 154 votes to three, with 23 abstentions
The treaty aims to prevent abuses against civilians and keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and gangs.
Russia, the world’s second-biggest major exporter, was among those states which abstained from the vote at the UN Assembly in New York.
The treaty also prohibits states from exporting conventional weapons in violation of arms embargoes, or weapons that would be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism.
It also requires states to prevent conventional weapons reaching the black market.
Before the vote, Australia’s ambassador to the UN, Peter Woolcott, had said the final draft of the treaty was a compromise text to bring together the broadest range of stakeholders.
The UN Assembly had heard from member-states’ ambassadors objecting to, or supporting, the draft.
Speaking for Russia, Vitaly Churkin said it was a significant shortcoming that there was no clause in the draft treaty about banning the supply of weapons to non-state entities.
Robert Mood, the former head of the UN observer mission in Syria, says it is “only a matter of time” until President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls.
But Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, who left Syria last week, said Bashar al-Assad’s fall would not necessarily mean an end to the 16-month-old conflict.
Syrian forces renewed their assault on the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, on Friday.
The US state department says it fears a massacre by Syrian government forces.
The pro-government al-Watan newspaper warned that the “mother of all battles” was about to start.
“In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a regime that is using such heavy military power and disproportional violence against the civilian population is going to fall,” Maj. Gen. Mood told the Reuters news agency.
Separately, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay appealed to both sides to spare civilians, citing concerns of “the likelihood of an imminent major confrontation”.
Navi Pillay said she had received “as yet unconfirmed reports of atrocities, including extra-judicial killings and shooting of civilians by snipers” in Damascus.
Saying she had also received more reports of opposition fighters torturing or executing prisoners, Navi Pillay stated her belief that “crimes against humanity and war crimes have been, and continue to be, committed in Syria”.
Robert Mood, the former head of the UN observer mission in Syria, says it is only a matter of time until President Bashar al-Assad's government falls
An activist based in Fardos in Aleppo said at least 15 people had died on Friday morning during the military’s bombardment of a building.
“We have medical supplies but no doctors or equipment to treat the injured. The situation feels hopeless,” said the activist, identified only as Ramy.
“The people of Aleppo are not coping with this crisis. They are dying. It is a massacre. People can leave their homes and move around the city but who would really want to take the risk of being shot or bombed?”
He insisted that activists would continue to resist the government forces.
“Activists are prepared to engage in a guerrilla war, from street to street if necessary,” he said.
The Red Crescent has suspended some of its operations in Aleppo because of the heavy fighting.
Rebels have been stockpiling ammunition and medical supplies in preparation for the expected assault.
Syrian troops fired from helicopter gunships on south-western neighborhoods on Friday morning, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the AFP news agency.
A convoy of tanks from Idlib province, near the border with Turkey, arrived in Aleppo overnight and was attacked by rebels, the Observatory said.
The US State Department said the deployment of tanks, helicopter gunships and fixed-winged aircraft around Aleppo suggested an attack was imminent.
But the US would not intervene, said spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, except by continuing to channel non-lethal assistance (such as communications equipment and medical supplies) to the rebels.
A Syrian MP from Aleppo has fled to Turkey, Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency says.
Ikhlas Badawi, a mother of six, said she was defecting in protest at the “violence against the people”.
Meanwhile, another defector, Gen. Manaf Tlas, has put himself forward as a possible figure to unite the fractious opposition.
In an interview with a Saudi newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat, he said: “I am discussing with… people outside Syria to reach a consensus with those inside.”
However, some in the opposition regard Gen. Manaf Tlas – who fled earlier this month – as a compromised figure too close to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
For its part, Turkey has said it will not tolerate the creation of a Kurdish-run region in northern Syria.
This follows reports that Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq had formed an alliance with a Kurdish party across the border in Syria.
Turkey would strike against “terrorists” in northern Syria, warned Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the same way it has attacked bases in northern Iraq used by militants linked to the Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK).
Turkey is concerned that the creation of a Kurdish authority in the north of Syria could provide a sanctuary to Kurdish rebels fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s southeast.
General Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander, is set to go on trial on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide.
Ratko Mladic, 69, is the last of the main protagonists in the Balkan wars of the 1990s to face an international trial in The Hague.
He is accused of orchestrating the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim boys and men at Srebrenica in 1995.
Ratko Mladic calls the accusations “monstrous” and the court has entered a “not guilty” plea on his behalf.
He spent 15 years on the run before being apprehended by Serb forces last May and sent to The Hague.
He has been awaiting trial in the same prison as his former political leader Radovan Karadzic, who was arrested in 2008 and is now about half way through his trial on similar charges to General Ratko Mladic.
In the hours leading up to the opening of proceedings, members of the Mothers of Srebrenica group gathered for a vigil outside the court.
General Ratko Mladic is set to go on trial on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide
Judicial authorities have rejected defense calls to delay proceedings, most recently a petition to have the Dutch presiding Judge Alphons Orie replaced on grounds of alleged bias.
The number of crimes of which Ratko Mladic stands accused has been almost halved to speed up his trial.
Ratko Mladic is accused of committing genocide and other crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Croats in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing that began in 1992 and climaxed in Srebrenica in 1995.
Then, Serb fighters overran the Srebrenica enclave in eastern Bosnia – supposedly under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers. Men and boys were separated off, shot dead and bulldozed into mass graves – later to be dug up and reburied in more remote spots.
Ratko Mladic is also charged in connection with the 44-month siege of Sarajevo during which more than 10,000 people died.
These were the worst atrocities in Europe since the end of World War II.
Over 200 hours, the prosecution will make its case against General Ratko Mladic, taking testimony from more than 400 witnesses.
Pre-trial hearings have been characterized by ill-tempered outbursts from Ratko Mladic, who has heckled the judge and interrupted proceedings.
“The whole world knows who I am,” he said at a hearing last year.
“I am General Ratko Mladic. I defended my people, my country… now I am defending myself.”
The case has stirred up strong emotions among watching survivors, with some shouting “murderer” and “killer” from the court gallery.
Ratko Mladic suffered at least one stroke while in hiding and remains in frail health.
The architect of the Balkan wars, former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, died in detention in his cell in 2006, before receiving a verdict.
Ratko Mladic charges
• Counts 1/2: Genocide of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Srebrenica