Trial in a Wounded Nation

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, visiting a mass grave. / REUTERS

In the end, the stench was too strong.

Seif al-Islam, charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, will be tried on Libyan soil after all.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s top prosecutor, had traveled to Tripoli to argue for trying the son and one-time heir apparent to Muammar Qaddafi at the international tribunal in the Hague. International human rights organizations had argued that the younger Qaddafi could not get a fair trial at home.

Moreno-Ocampo visited the site of a massacre in Tripoli, where the remains of some 53 activists and fighters lay in a shed on a former military base controlled by the government. He talked with the parents of some of the victims. He vowed the ICC would investigate the circumstances of the killing, and accepted that a trial would unfold on Libyan soil, where al-Islam could face the death penalty.

The ICC, he said, would play a consultative role.

Where, exactly, the trial will take place in Libya however remains an open question. Fighters from Zintan, the southern city where al-Islam was taken after his capture in a desert outpost, insist on a trial in Zintan, but rebel leaders say the trial should take place in the capital.

Sweep to Libya can try Qaddafi son if conditions right

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has fired the chairman of the country’s leading anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, giving no reason. Farida Waziri, who was appointed to the job in 2008, had recently taken on a number of former state governors, charging them with looting government coffers while in office.

She has, however, come under criticism for failing to secure convictions of those she investigates–a fact that Waziri herself attributed to an inept and slow-moving judicial system. Earlier cases against 19 former governors are now languishing in Nigerian courts.

Human Rights Watch, which issued an earlier report on problems within the corruption commission, said the firing would do little to fix the troubled agency without wider systemic reforms, and a guaranty of independence from political interference in the future. Waziri is the second chairman of the commission to have been fired mid-term since its founding in 2003.

“The EFCC’s mandate is to fight corruption that the political system actually rewards, and to accomplish that by working through institutions that are either broken or compromised,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “That’s an almost impossible job, no matter who is in charge.”

Sweep to EFCC boss Farida Waziri Sacked

The rationale for imposing stiff fines on companies that violate pollution standards in the United States is only partly punitive. The second reason is to set an example that will deter other companies from also ignoring the law.

But a recent study of some 2,143 press releases issued by the Environmental Protection Agency between 1994 and 2009 shows the agency systematically discloses these penalties when they are likely to have the least impact: on Friday afternoons, when reporters are eager to head home, sources are hard to reach and financial markets have closed for the weekend.

The study, by the not-for-profit environmental group, Resources for the Future, suggests that the EPA, often a lightning rod for criticism, might time releases for minimum disruption to avoid “negative attention.” It recommends penalties and settlements over violations of environmental standards be announced earlier in the week for greater impact.

A thanks to Sabrina Pacifici at, for unearthing the report.

Sweep to Strategic release of news at the EPA 

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.