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Did Haiti's Duvalier get away with murder?

Human rights groups have condemned a decision not to try Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti's former ruler, on crimes against humanity.

A Haitian judge decided this week that Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, should not stand trial for crimes against humanity.

He is accused of the torture and murder of thousands of his own people during his 15 year rule in the seventies and eighties.

A year ago, Duvalier made a surprise return to the country after 25 years in exile.

The judge ruled that his alleged crimes fell outside Haiti's statute of limitations. The judge, however, did say that Duvalier should stand trial on corruption charges. He is accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars during his rule.

n heavily criticising the decision, human rights groups say they gave prosecutors hundreds of documents detailing cases of abuse.

Human Rights Watch called it the most important criminal case in Haitian history.

Duvalier was only 19 when he was named Haiti's president for life in 1971 after the death of his father Francois – known as Papa Doc.

Human rights groups say the Duvaliers used paramilitary group Tonton Macoutes to torture opponents and kill 30,000 people during their combined 29-year rule.

"We cannot have reconciliation without justice. Those people who have committed the crime including Duvalier ought to be tried, and the nation ought to find out exactly what happened. We owe it to all those people who died. … I don't things are going to change anytime soon because the institutions in the country are not working ... the US policy has always been to have a weak government in the country."

- Jean-Yves Point-du-Jour, Haitian American radio host
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Libyan rebel military leader killed.

The head of the Libyan rebel's armed forces and two of his aides were killed by gunmen Thursday, the head of the rebel leadership said.

The death of Abdel Fattah Younes was announced at a press conference in the de facto rebel capital, Benghazi, by the head of the rebels' National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil. He told reporters that rebel security had arrested the head of the group behind the killing.

Rebel security had arrested Younes and two of his aides early on Thursday from their operations room near the rebels' eastern front.

Security officials said at the time that Younes was to be questioned about suspicions his family still had ties to Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Younes was Gaddafi's interior minister before defecting to the rebels early in the uprising, which began in February.

Abdul Jalil said that Younes had been summoned for questioning regarding "a military matter." He said Younes and his two aides were shot before they arrived for questioning.
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Somalia: victim of war, famine and a pestilence of policy.

The news from Somalia is grim. Last week, the UN declared a famine in two southern areas, calling the food crisis Africa's worst since 1991-92 (which was also in Somalia). The UN estimates that a staggering 3.2 million people need urgent assistance.

The immediate cause of the crisis was the recurrent failure of seasonal rains across the Horn of Africa. But it will be exacerbated by the continuing instability in Somalia, where the internationally recognised (and appointed) government controls but a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu. The rest of the country is under the sway of various other groups, including the al-Shabaab militia. For most Somalis, the famine represents a deeper trough of an already existing and perpetual misery of abject poverty and instability.

International policy to stabilise Somalia has been a total failure. Yet, the same policies persist. In 2000, the "international community" set up what it thought was a legitimate government in Somalia, in an attempt to create a political consensus where none existed. Today, the so-called Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is neither transitional nor federal, nor even really a government, in that it offers no prospect of a transition to a more durable alternative, does not represent the rest of Somalia in a meaningful way, and, as a government, provides no services to its people, who did not elect it, in any case. The TFG is, in the words of a recent International Crisis Group report, "incompetent, corrupt and hobbled by weak leadership" and should be given a deadline to shape up, or be removed. Very few observers expect it to shape up: the current system pays the cabal who control it far too well.


The famine in Somalia should not have come as a surprise

n John Vidal's report (22 July) on the famine in east Africa, he says the massive drought appeared "as if out of nowhere". It may have seemed that way, but in reality the shock of this famine underlines a more worrying problem in aid. There is a long-established famine warning system for Somalia, the Food Security and Nutrition Assessment Unit (FSNAU) – the question is, why was it not effective this time?


Somali PM accuses UN of holding back aid

On Thursday heavy fighting erupted in Mogadishu as African Union peacekeepers launched an offensive aimed at protecting famine relief efforts from attacks by al-Qaeda-linked fighters, officials said.

At least six people died.

Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force, said al-Shabab had sent 300 reinforcement fighters to Mogadishu in recent days.

Ankunda said the AU force believes that al-Shabab is trying to prevent aid from reaching the tens of thousands of famine refugees who have arrived in Mogadishu this month.

The drought in southern Somalia has created a triangle of hunger in the Horn of Africa, where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet.

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