Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Lawyers learn the power of forensics

Lawyers, including judges and prosecutors, are being taught how forensic evidence can be used in cases involving political violence.

Some 50 advocates are learning about a range of forensic skills, including techniques for surveying and excavating mass graves and recovering human remains, as well as analysing and identifying them. The course will also look at the preparation of reports and ways of presenting forensic evidence in court.

The five-day event is being run at the Ministry of Justice by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). This is an NGO that was set up in Argentina in 1984 to deal with some 30,000 cases of missing persons, the South American country’s legacy from six dictators. EAAF has also worked in Columbia and Mexico.

“Physical evidence is very important in cases of political crimes,” Luis Fondebrider from EAAF told the Libya Herald, “because people lie, and people forget.”

Forensic skills are particularly useful when looking into crimes committed a long time ago. “Identifying skeletons is much harder than actual bodies,” Fondebrider said, “so DNA has been playing an increasingly important role.”

Organised by the international NGO No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the training will also look at how to work with the families of missing persons.

“It is terrible for families not to know if someone is alive or dead, not to have a body or a grave,” Fondebrider said, “every family has the right to know what happened to a loved one.”

Tuesday 19 March 2013


continue reading

Hex River crash: families identify victims

It has been three days since a Khayelitsha family heard that a relative, Boniswa Kodwa, 34, was on the ill-fated bus that crashed on the Hex River Pass on Friday.

Twenty-four people died, including the driver.

On Monday, Kodwa’s partner, Fumanekile Mbondlololo, and cousin, Lindeka Zilindlovu, 33, were among the 22 families that travelled from Khayelitsha to Worcester to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

But Mbondlololo and Zilindlovu set off from the Site C sports and recreation centre on Monday with high hopes, believing Kodwa was alive and recovering at an unknown hospital.

Zilindlovu said there had been different stories about what had happened to her cousin: “Some people who were in the bus told us they left her on the floor, trapped between seats, and that she was still alive.”

At the morgue, Zilindlovu and Mbondlololo could not find her among the dead.

They were then told to look for her at Worcester Hospital. Their hopes spiralled when hospital staff found a person on their list who matched Kodwa’s description.

But when they went up to the ward they discovered it was not Kodwa.

After going through pictures of the dead and looking at the bodies again, they finally found her. Mbondlololo said most bodies were “badly damaged and it was almost impossible to identify them from their faces”.

Mbondlololo and Kodwa had two children together, aged 6 and 7.

“I was so relieved when I thought she was alive,” said Mbondlololo.

“What am I going to tell them (the children) now? They’ve been asking for her every day. They are so young and they need her… to bath and feed them.”

The families of the dead queued to take their turn at the Worcester Forensic Pathology Laboratory morgue.

The double-decker bus, owned by Atlantic City Liners, was carrying members of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ in Khayelitsha. The group, most of them women, were returning from a national prayer gathering in Secunda.

After identifying his wife - Babalwa Mbele, 31 - an emotional Lwazi Mbele, 37, said her face had been “smashed flat”.

“It was very difficult seeing her like that - hurt so bad. I checked for moles on her feet and back to make sure it was her,” he said.

At the morgue, a representative from the Road Accident Fund, Jacques Furter, told the families that the fund would assist with burial costs.

The church’s leader, Dumisani Ximbi, said the families had been counselled before and after the process. “We made sure they knew what to expect inside as the bodies were badly hurt,” Ximbi said.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


continue reading

10 people dead in fatal Agogo accident

Ten people have been reported dead and several others have been seriously injured in a fatal accident at Agogo in the Ashanti region.

An eyewitness who spoke to XYZ News from the Agogo Hospital said the 207 vehicle was traveling from one of the villages in the Agogo Township to the Central market.

She however added that it not clear exactly what led to the fatal accident but added that the dead bodies have been deposited at the Agogo General Hospital for identification.

She added that the injured have also been rushed to the Agogo General Hospital and other near-by hospitals for treatment.

The number of deaths is yet to be confirmed by the Ashanti regional Police Command.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


continue reading

War of Independence ‘disappeared’ recalled

In the War of Independence, people were abducted, executed and secretly buried, not by the British, but by the Irish Republican Army. A new TV3 series, In The Name Of The Republic, investigates the ‘disappeared’ of 1919 to 1921, as Eunan O’Halpin, professor of contemporary Irish history at Trinity College, attempts to identify them and tells their shocking stories. Of these civilians killed by the IRA, O’Halpin asks “were they spies, were they informers? Some were, some were not.” Buried in unmarked graves or weighed down and dumped into lakes and rivers, they are the forgotten victims of Ireland’s struggle for independence. In his decade of research, Professor O’Halpin discovered executions carried out upon the slightest of evidence. “These deaths cast a dark shadow over the struggle for independence,” he says. With the centenaries of major moments in Irish history looming — 1916, partition, independence and the Civil War — it is timely this darker passage is being revealed.

In the first instalment of the TV series, O’Halpin travelled to Laois to investigate the rumour that the bodies of executed men were dumped on a farm during the War of Independence. Using modern technology and the expertise of an archaeological firm to find evidence of human burials, he tries to establish the identities of the alleged victims.

The only clue he had to work with was a claim that the executed men were from north Tipperary. O’Halpin’s journey took him to the National Archives, where files provided evidence of abduction, executions, and burials. The programme also told the story of Major Compton-Smith, who had commanded the 10th Royal Welch Fusiliers during the First World War. After the war, he served with the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers in Ireland, where he was taken hostage in 1921, before being shot in retaliation for the execution of IRA prisoners. The body was returned, prompting O’Halpin to ask: “Why would the body of an English soldier be returned, but not the bodies of so many Irish people?” Delving deeper into the disappearances was about more than just spies and informants, but about covering up local leadership incompetence and settling old scores.

One of the few bodies recovered from this period was that of Captain Noel Lemass, older brother of the future Taoiseach. One of the last killed during the Civil War, he was abducted in 1923, only for his body to be discovered by chance, four months later, at a remote spot in the Dublin mountains. “Sean Lemass knew his brother’s killers, but never sought revenge,” O’Halpin said.

O’Halpin grew up in a home where stories from the Civil War were knitted into the family history. Both his grandfathers were senior officers in the IRA and his grandmother, Katie Barry, was a leading anti-Treaty activist. Two of his great uncles were killed during the conflict — Kevin Barry, hanged in Dublin in 1920, and Paddy Moloney, shot in Tipperary in 1921. During the years 1920 and 1921, 200 people were abducted, executed and their bodies disposed of — including 180 civilians, as well as policemen and soldiers. “All sides engaged in acts contrary to the conventions of war,” he said. “For the IRA, one of the lasting legacies was that of the disappeared.”

Many files in the National Archives are still not available to public scrutiny, almost a hundred years later. “Many of the Department of Defence files are still closed. It is surely time that we knew what these contain,” O’Halpin said. “The families of the dead, and the public generally, have a right to know how, and why, these people died.”

In the second programme, which screens next Monday, O’Halpin travels to Cork, the county where the War of Independence was most fiercely fought. He uncovers the disturbing story of Martin Corry, a 40-year Fianna Fáil TD, who had a graveyard on his farm for victims he, and associates, executed during, and after, the Troubles. O’Halpin also delves into the activities of the No.1 Brigade and the killing of Lord Mayor Thomas MacCurtain by a Crown murder squad, and the series of revenge deaths that followed, which did not stop until the Civil War ended.

Most chilling is O’Halpin’s visit to an old cemetery outside the village of Knockraha, where the IRA used a medieval vault, nicknamed Sing Sing, as a holding cell. Most of those held there were later marched to a nearby bog, known as The Rea, where they were shot and buried. O’Halpin estimates there could be anywhere from 30 to 90 people buried in the bog.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


continue reading

Bus falls off bridge in India, killing at least 37

A bus packed with passengers crashed through a guard rail and fell off a bridge in western India early Tuesday, killing at least 37 people and injuring another 15, police said.

The overnight bus was carrying passengers from the beach resort state of Goa to Mumbai when it crashed in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, said Mahendra Singh Pardeshi, a police official present at the site. The area is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Mumbai.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.

The driver was among those injured in the pre-dawn accident.

The bus had a capacity of 55 passengers, but Pardeshi said it was not known how many people were on board.

Early, blurred video if the accident showed that the bus broke through the guard rail on the bridge and fell several meters to the bank of the Jagbudi River below.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


continue reading

11 dead, 2 missing as ship sinks off China

At least 11 crew members were killed after a container ship with 14 on board sank off the east coast of China, authorities said today.

Two rescue vessels retrieved 11 bodies while one person was rescued by a helicopter, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescuers are still searching for two missing crew members.The ship, named Guangyangxingang, capsized around 40 nautical miles northeast of Longkou in Shandong Province last evening amid strong winds, the report said.

The ship was travelling from the northern coastal city of Tianjin to Taizhou in eastern Zhejiang Province.

Tuesday 19 March 2013


continue reading