By Dialogo April 01, 2012 Transnational organized crime disguises itself as a government in places where state presence is weak, tramples on moral values and brings mourning to Latin American families. The resulting climate of insecurity poisons the ground for economic and social development to take root. To outline strategies and unite efforts against this adversary, which lacks scruples and is rich in resources to finance misdeeds, information operations officers from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and the United States met at U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) headquarters in Miami, Florida, in early March 2012. Organized by SOUTHCOM’s Information Operations Division, the event promoted the exchange of ideas and lessons learned among countries that share similar challenges, despite experiencing distinct political, economic, cultural and social situations. Brigadier General Steve Arthur, deputy director of SOUTHCOM’s operations division, emphasized the need to work together. “It’s very important that some of us unite and make use of our resources, our material assets and our budgets focused on specific objectives, and your presence here, the fact that you’re meeting here and talking about these issues, is essential in order to move forward in our region,” he said in his welcoming address. During two days of presentations and debates, participants insisted that information operations are a high-caliber weapon for regional military and security forces. Colombia’s expertise in the area stood out. Colonel Javier Molina Calero, director of Information Operations Planning of the Joint Integrated Action Bureau of the South American country’s Armed Forces General Command, spoke about the success of the Integrated Action program in the battle to win Colombians’ hearts and minds. Based on the idea that today’s wars are won with intelligence, more than with force, the program offers a combination of security and the presence of the state in areas that have been at the mercy of guerrillas and drug traffickers for decades. The aim is to permanently uproot irregular groups and contribute to promoting social development with a holistic approach. Representatives of Ecuador said that their country’s Armed Forces organize courses for journalists working for the domestic press. This provides the journalists with a revealing look into the life of Ecuadorean Military personnel, they explained. In Ecuador, information operations directly support the military objectives of the Armed Forces Joint Command (COMACO) and the five operational commands distributed in different areas of the nation. In Ecuador’s northern operational command, which protects 700 kilometers of border with Colombia, information operations are essential to counteract the messages of Voz de la Resistencia (Voice of the Resistance), the broadcast operated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Villalba, COMACO’s information operations director, highlighted the equipment and training they have received from the U.S. Embassy’s Military Support Group. In addition, the Ecuadorean Army War College already has an information operations course from which several Ecuadorean officers and a Brazilian Army major have just graduated, Lt. Col. Villalba added. Beyond the Borders Protecting the borders is also on the agenda of the Panamanian security forces. Since Panama is an entry point to Central America from the south, the task of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT) is to prevent the nation from being used by organized crime and drug traffickers. Major Eduardo Araúz, a SENAFRONT information operations officer, explained that his work concentrates on neutralizing the illegal activity of criminal organizations and working with the population to protect it from the influence of those groups. Part of this task concentrates on remote towns where the Colombian flag flew until recently. “We’re beginning to bring our tactical, humanitarian aid, and civil operations there, and information operations so that they feel Panamanian,” Araúz commented. “It’s important that they see for themselves that the state is present in each community, in each hamlet, and that we’re bringing them security,” he added. Borders, on the other hand, sometimes inhibit the free flow of experiences among regional military personnel and security forces. Following two days of dialogue, the information officers who participated in the event committed themselves to maintaining an active exchange of knowledge and lessons learned. Visits, regional workshops and joint training were some of the options mentioned by the attendees. Colombia, for example, said that the doors of the International Missions and Integrated Action School are open to students from other nations, while Ecuador offered help in planning, implementation and the training of officers from Latin American countries that do not have information operations programs, as in the case of Mexico. Finally, Colonel Miguel Hobbs, chief of SOUTHCOM’s Information Operations Division, suggested using the All Partners Access Network (APAN), a social-networking tool, to solidify the ties created during the event and learn from one another. Pamphlets, radio stations and other traditional tools are not sufficient to counteract decades of influence by guerrillas and criminal gangs, Col. Molina said. His department develops information operations campaigns that are intertwined with civic support activities to benefit the affected populations and serve to reinforce the Integrated Action program. Among those efforts, he said, is the campaign Fe en la Causa (Faith in the Cause), which highlights the morale and prestige of Colombian Military personnel, as well as other campaigns that are aimed at promoting demobilization, restoring trust in the legal system and the state, and preventing the recruitment of children, adolescents and women. Say It Yourself As in the case of Colombia, it became clear to the other countries represented at the event that the challenge of getting people to trust military personnel is as important or more important now than ever. According to Colonel Rony Urízar, a spokesman for the Guatemalan Defense Ministry, his country’s Army enjoys a positive credibility rating among 81 percent of the population. This achievement, he said, is due to synchronizing words and deeds and by using transparency in handling information. Col. Urízar said that telling the story first, before others shape it as they see fit, is part of the mission of his work team. “Say it all, say it in time, say it yourself,” he stressed, repeating the words of Eduardo Ramírez, who spoke on behalf of SOUTHCOM’s Office of Strategic Communications.
Craig Young took three wickets on his Ireland debut as Scotland toiled in their Intercontinental Cup clash. Kevin O’Brien also took two wickets and a catch as he started his 200th game for Ireland by helping his side into a commanding position on the first day. Ireland forced Scotland out for 138 and had eaten 35 runs into the total without loss by stumps in Dublin. Only a 56-run eighth-wicket partnership from Safyaan Sharif and Moneeb Iqbal prevented Scotland from real humiliation at Clontarf. Fresh from their World Cricket League double over the Scots, Ireland started strongly following a rain delay when Max Sorensen bowled out Hamish Gardiner for a duck in the third over. And Sussex bowler Young had Scotland in serious trouble when he took the wickets of Freddie Coleman, Richie Berrington and Preston Mommsen to leave the visitors on 33 for four. O’Brien then took over, taking the wickets of Calum MacLeod and Craig Wallace, either side of pouching a catch which removed Majid Haq, to leave the Scots 68 for seven. At this stage Berrington was Scotland’s top scorer with a meagre 14 runs but Sharif and Iqbal then frustrated the hosts with nine boundaries between them in a vital stand. Graeme McCarter, who took three wickets in all, bowled Iqbal out for 25 and Scotland’s innings came to an end when Sharif fell for 41. William Porterfield (23 not out) and Paul Stirling (11 not out) saw Ireland safely through their first six overs to further consolidate the home side’s advantage. Press Association
US Human Rights Reports in 2015 has branded the Judiciary and the entire justice system of Liberia as “corrupt.”Accordingly, acceptance of bribes by judges and juries, police harassment and extortion of money from drivers and biased treatment given alleged corrupt government officials are highlighted in the 2015 report concerning Liberia.In line with the Liberian Constitution, the report says, there should be an independent Judiciary, but the third branch of government that is responsible for interpreting the law is highly influenced by corruption.“The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but judges and magistrates were subject to influence and corruption. Uneven application of the law and unequal distribution of personnel and resources remained problems throughout the judicial system. The government continued efforts to harmonize the traditional and formal justice systems in particular through campaigns focused on trying criminal cases in formal courts. These cases included murder, rape, and human trafficking, as well as some civil cases that could be resolved in either formal or traditional systems,” the report says.The report went further to note that bribery was a factor in determining which cases were tried and what the outcome of cases would be.“Some judges accepted bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes solicited bribes to try cases, release detainees from prison, or find defendants not guilty in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable decisions from judges, prosecutors, and jurors. Corrections officers sometimes demanded payment to bring a detainee before the Magistrate Sitting Program.”It is also stressed in the report that there is an overwhelming pretrial detainee problem at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), which is in violation of the Liberian Constitution and the international convention on human rights.“Although the law provides for a defendant to receive an expeditious trial, lengthy pretrial and pre-arraignment detention remained serious problems. An estimated 78 percent of prisoners were pretrial detainees as of November, despite the large number of detainees released by the Magistrate Sitting Program during 2014 to reduce Ebola virus disease (EVD) transmission in overcrowded prisons. Unavailability of counsel at the early stages of proceedings contributed to prolonged pretrial detention. A 2013 study of the MCP population revealed pretrial detainees were held on average more than 10 months. For example, an LNP officer was detained for nearly four months without a formal charge on suspicion of manslaughter after a civil disturbance in Paynesville in April.”Juries are also accused in the report of being partial due to acceptance of bribes that influence their decisions.“Trials are public. Juries are used in circuit court trials, but not at the magistrate level. Jurors were subject to influence and corrupt practices that undermined their neutrality. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their case. Defendants have the right to be informed of the charges promptly and in detail. If a defendant, complainant, or witness does not speak or understand English, the court provides interpreters for the trial. Defendants also have the right to a trial without delay and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, although these rights often were not observed. Defendants are presumed innocent and they have the right to confront and question adverse witnesses, present their own evidence and witnesses, and appeal adverse decisions. These rights, however, were not observed consistently.”The Liberia National Police (LNP) is accused in the report of misconduct and corruption as evidenced by suspension or dismissal of several of its officers.It further indicated that in January of 2015, police authorities dismissed and referred to the judicial system for trial of two officers for alleged misappropriation of L$2.9 million entrusted to them for the EVD control operations.The Report also indicated that “The LNP’s Professional Standards Division (PSD) is responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct, and referring cases for prosecution. In January 25 officers of the division participated in a three-day training activity related to a plan intended to decentralize its operations into five regions; training covered PSD policy and procedure, investigation, and report writing. “The National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) reported that violent police action during arrests was the most common complaint of misconduct.”However, the report also alluded to the fact that regular LNP officers are poorly equipped, ineffective, and slow to respond to criminal activity; although foot patrols met with some successes in curbing crimes in some areas.Limited transportation, communication and forensic capabilities, and lack of capacity to investigate crimes including violence constitute some of LNP’s challenges.“The lack of a crime laboratory and other investigative tools hampered police investigations and evidence gathering that, in turn, hampered prosecutors’ ability to prepare court cases,” the report emphasizes.In reference to the Constitution on free movement within Liberia, foreign travel, emigration and repatriation, the report noted that the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) and the LNP subjected travelers to arbitrary searches and petty extortion at unofficial checkpoints.Regarding corruption in government, the report said some officials engaged in corrupt practices and went with impunity. It did not state who were involved.It mentioned low salary for civil servants, minimal job training, and little judicial accountability as conditions that exacerbated official corruption and contributed to a culture of impunity.According to the report, the President will dismiss or suspend some officials for corruption, while others will be dismissed and sent to court for prosecution; something that seems to manifest conflict of interest in decision making on the part of the President.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)