TIME conflict

Al-Shabab Attack on Somalia Hotel Kills at Least 9

Guests make their ways to the roof as they escape from Maka Al-Mukarama hotel during an attack by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab in Mogadishu, March 27, 2015.
Feisal Omar—Reuters Guests make their ways to the roof as they escape from Maka Al-Mukarama hotel during an attack by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab in Mogadishu, March 27, 2015.

At least four gunmen had trapped an unknown number of people inside the building

(MOGADISHU, Somalia) — Al-Shabab militants blasted their way into a Mogadishu hotel and took positions inside, exchanging fire with security forces seeking to regain control of the facility late Friday, a Somali police official said.

At least four gunmen had trapped an unknown number of people inside the building, Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press.

Al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group that has carried out many attacks here, claimed responsibility for the assault on the Maka Al-Mukarramah hotel, which is popular with Somali government officials and foreigners.

The attack started when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car at the gate of the hotel. Gunmen then quickly moved in, according to Hussein, who said he had counted at least nine bodies at the scene.

The death toll is likely to rise as the security forces attempt to regain control of the hotel.

It remained unclear who was being targeted by the militants and how many civilians were inside the hotel when the attack was launched.

Al-Shabab routinely carries out suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in Mogadishu, the seat of Somalia’s Western-backed government — often targeting government troops, lawmakers and foreigners.

Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu between 2007 and 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces. Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in the East African region.

The group has carried out attacks in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose military is part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak government.

At least 67 people were killed in a September 2013 attack by al-Shabab on a mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

TIME conflict

Israel Acts to Ease Tensions With Palestinians With Tax Move

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech after he was formally given the task, by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, to form the next government, at the president's residence in Jerusalem on March 25, 2015.
Menahem Kahana—AFP/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech after he was formally given the task, by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, to form the next government, at the president's residence in Jerusalem on March 25, 2015.

Israel has been under international pressure to release frozen tax funds

(JERUSALEM) — Israel said Friday that it will transfer Palestinian tax revenues it has been withholding as punishment for the Palestinians’ application to join the International Criminal Court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the decision was made following the recommendation of Israel’s security establishment and because of humanitarian considerations. Israel has been under international pressure to release the frozen funds and Israeli security officials had warned that continuing to hold back the revenue could spark violence.

Under existing agreements, Israel collects taxes and customs on behalf of the Palestinians and then transfers the sums to them. It has withheld funds before as retaliation for unilateral Palestinian actions. Over the past three months it has collected hundreds of millions of dollars without transferring the funds.

Israel withheld the tax transfers it collects for the cash-strapped government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after he applied to join the ICC — a move potentially paving the way for a war crimes investigation of Israel.

That and other moves prompted Abbas to complain that Israel had eroded the authority of his self-rule government in the West Bank to the point where it has “no real power here over anything.”

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority hasn’t been able to pay its civil servants and has warned that it is nearing collapse.

Netanyahu said in a statement that it was in Israel’s interest to transfer the money.

“Given the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, one must act responsibly and with due consideration alongside a determined struggle against extremist elements,” he said.

The move may be part of Netanyahu’s attempt to contain the international fallout from remarks he made ahead of elections earlier this month, when he said the current regional climate made it impossible to create a Palestinian state.

The remarks helped him to rally his right-wing base, and his subsequent victory virtually ensured he would serve another term. But the statements enraged Washington, which has pressed for a return to negotiations on a two-state solution to the conflict.

TIME conflict

Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Lead Ground Operation in Yemen, Officials Say

Yemenis search for survivors under the rubble of houses that allegedly were destroyed by a Saudi air strike, in Sana'a, Yemen, March 2015.
Yahya Arhab—EPA Yemenis search for survivors under the rubble of houses that allegedly were destroyed by a Saudi air strike, in Sana'a, Yemen, March 2015.

Officials would not specify troop numbers

(SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt) — Egyptian security and military officials say Saudi Arabia and Egypt will lead a ground operation in Yemen against Shiite rebels and their allies after a campaign of airstrikes to weaken them.

Three senior officials tell The Associated Press that forces would enter by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. They said Thursday that other nations will also be involved.

They would not specify troop numbers or say when the operation would start, only that it would be after airstrikes weaken the rebels and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

They say the offensive aims to push the rebels into negotiations on power sharing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Read next: Why the U.S. Is Fighting Besides Iran in Iraq and Against It in Yemen

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME conflict

Yemen’s President Flees Country by Sea Amid Rebel Advance

Armed Yemeni militiamen loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, also known as the Popular Resistance Committees, gather at the entrance Yemeni special forces command in the southern city of Aden on March 19, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images Armed Yemeni militiamen loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, also known as the Popular Resistance Committees, gather at the entrance Yemeni special forces command in the southern city of Aden on March 19, 2015.

Officials would not disclose President Hadi's destination

(SANAA, Yemen) — Yemeni security and port officials say that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has left the country by sea, on a boat from the port of Aden, as Shiite rebels and their allies advance on this southern city.

The officials told The Associated Press that Hadi left with his aides after 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The entourage departed by two boats, under heavy security. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

They would not disclose Hadi’s destination. Yemen’s embattled president is scheduled to attend an Arab Summit in Egypt on the weekend.

Hadi’s escape from Yemen comes as the rebels known as the Houthis are closing in on Aden and the city’s fall appears imminent.

TIME conflict

Boko Haram Kidnaps Hundreds of Nigerian Civilians, Official Says

The Islamic rebels went to Damasak's primary schools and rounded up students and teachers

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — Hundreds of civilians, including many children, have been kidnapped and are being used as human shields by Boko Haram extremists, a top Nigerian official confirmed Wednesday.

Several hundred people were abducted by the Islamic militants as they retreated earlier this month from Damasak in northeastern Nigeria, Mike Omeri, the Nigerian spokesman for the fight against Boko Haram, told The Associated Press Wednesday. He said he could not specify how many were kidnapped but local reports say as many as 500 people were taken.

The Islamic rebels went to Damasak’s primary schools and rounded up students and teachers and then retreated, said Omeri.

Troops from Chad and Niger recaptured Damasak, near the border with Niger, from Boko Haram on March 16. The mass kidnapping happened as the extremists were fleeing the advancing troops and information about the abductions has only been confirmed now.

The soldiers who recaptured Damasak found the town largely deserted. Damasak had been held for months by Boko Haram, who used the trading town as an administrative center.

The troops from Chad and Niger who now hold Damasak have discovered evidence of a mass grave, Chad’s ambassador to the U.N. Mahamat Zene Cherif confirmed Wednesday.

International assistance is needed for the thousands of Nigerian refugees who have fled the violence, said the head of the U.N. refugee agency.

Some 74,000 Nigerians have fled to neighboring Cameroon, according to the agency. Over 100,000 more have flooded into Chad and Niger. Troops from the three countries are now helping Nigeria to combat the militants and win back Nigerian towns.

The refugee agency will funnel more resources to Cameroon, said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Wednesday while visiting Maroua, the capital of Cameroon’s Far North region. He stressed that additional assistance is needed.

“Cameroon is today not only a very important protection space for refugees, but it is in the first line of defense of the international community,” he said.

The U.N. agency says the Nigerian crisis is one of the most underfunded in the world. In February, the agency asked for $71 million to assist displaced people in Nigeria and neighboring countries; already that figure appears to be too low, it said this week. Thus far, it has received only $6.8 million in donations, he said.


Moki contributed to this report from Maroua, Cameroon. AP writer Cara Anna contributed from the United Nations.

TIME photography

Bearing Witness to the Legacy of War

Photographer Giles Duley, who lost three limbs in Afghanistan, speaks about his new project

In 2011, photographer Giles Duley began a project that would document the lasting effects of war on people living in cities and towns across the globe where the fighting had ended many years, even decades ago.

That year, while patrolling in Afghanistan with American troops, Duley stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device. The blast nearly took his life; he lost both legs and an arm. After a year in the hospital and nearly 30 operations, Duley returned to photography with a new determination to finish his project, which he calls Legacy of War. The project encompasses 14 countries and comprises photographs, original poetry and music.

Last month, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project, which you can contribute to here. Below, TIME Multimedia Editor Mia Tramz caught up with Duley as he continued his work on the project from Cambodia.

TIME LightBox: What’s the scope of the project and the idea behind it?

Giles Duley: The idea came to me I guess four or five years ago. A lot of my work has been documenting the effects of conflict over the years. One of the things I noticed was that there was a lot of commonality between the stories that I heard, and so I became interested in trying to bring all these different stories together. I was actually going to Afghanistan to start the project when I got injured, so I thought it would never actually happen. My plan was if I could get working again, I would return to doing this project.

The thing that really strikes me is that a war doesn’t end when a peace treaty is signed. In school, as you’re growing up, you’re always taught about the dates of a particular conflict. And I was interested [by] what happens after this final date; what happens when the conflict is supposedly finished. Because what I’ve experienced in my work was that the war is not over if people are still dying from it, if they’re still injured, if their lives are still impaired by it.

My idea was to try and bring together stories from approximately 14 countries, showing various themes that kind of crop up in post-conflict countries. That might be land contamination from land mines, from UXOs and it might be the effects of things like Agent Orange or depleted uranium. But it’s also looking at the physical effects on people who are living with injuries, and people living with the psychological trauma of conflict. I wanted to bring all these different stories together and just get people to reflect on the fact that conflict doesn’t end when a peace treaty is signed.

TIME LightBox: Which countries will you be covering and how did you choose them?

Giles Duley: One of the things I kind of want to do is to bring together stories that may be a little bit more familiar to us with stories that are less familiar. Hopefully, by bringing them together, you get to understand the similarities. In the United States, I wanted to look at the effects of trauma on former combatants, especially soldiers from [the] Vietnam War, how their lives have been affected. The same in the U.K. looking at injured servicemen and [those] with PTSD. Then it’s countries like Vietnam with Agent Orange and UXO; Cambodia, Colombia, Laos and other countries like it by land mines. I’ll be doing stories in Angola, which has a huge legacy of war; in Congo or the DRC, I’ll be looking at the effects of sexual abuse in both men and women. In Northern Ireland, I’m looking at the effects of the troubles, [which have] caused poverty and other social issues.

Other countries [will include] Gaza, [where] I’ll be looking at the long-term effects of conflict there. I’ve already done a story on the refugees in Lebanon, a country which really had two tiers of refugees from war. I’ll be looking at refugees in Sahel Sahara. It’s a vast cross-section of stories.

TIME LightBox: How did you arrive at the aesthetic for this project?

Giles Duley: I actually decided to use film for this project — a mixture of 35 mm and medium format. The main reason for film is that I wanted the images to both have a timeless feel and to serve as documents. Many of the photographs will reflect the period when the conflict happened and at the same time, a print made from a negative has a sense of true documentation. In a period when many question the role of Photoshop and other manipulation in documentary photography, I wanted to return to a simpler process.

TIME LightBox: Outside of the photography, what other components are you working into the project?

Giles Duley: I want this to be more than just a set of photographs. As a child, I was really influenced by the poets of the First World War and the black-and-white photographs covering the Vietnam War. They were the two things that really changed my opinion as a very young teenager about conflict. I grew up as a kid [thinking] that I wanted to join the army. I was fascinated by military history. But as I say, it was reading this poetry of people like Sassoon and Wilfred Owen and looking at the photographs of people like Don McCullin that really galvanized something in me, that made me realize the true consequences of war.

I’m very interested in the educational component. I realized that schools are still studying poetry from the First World War. So what I want to do is update that and get poets and musicians writing about current conflicts and their long-term consequences. For me as a photographer, I hope that the poetry and the music will add a different dimension to the work, so that it’s more accessible to people.

TIME LightBox: What’s your process working with these musicians and poets? Are they seeing the photographs you’re making from those particular parts of the world, or are they just writing or creating from their own experiences, or a mix of both?

Giles Duley: Anybody that’s working with me on this project will either be traveling with me at a later stage in the project, or it will be a process of me meeting them, showing them the photographs, and probably most importantly sharing the testimonies of the people who are photographed.

TIME LightBox: What has surprised you most since you started working on this project about what you’re finding?

Giles Duley: I don’t know if it surprised me, but what I’m becoming very aware of is just the enormity of how conflict affects life. [For example], in Vietnam, Laos and Lebanon and Cambodia — you start to look at one story, and immediately that opens up 10 other stories. It’s often in less expected ways or [something] you just don’t think about. Some of the stories are more obvious, like land mines, etc. But when you look at the long-term impact of a child that was born to a woman who was raped, that is a real legacy of war. And they live with that legacy for all of their lives — the psychological trauma of people affected by war is something that is not often talked about or documented, but whole generations of civilians have been traumatized by conflict.

TIME LightBox: Can you talk about where you see the project living when it’s finished and in what form?

Giles Duley: This is a project that has four phases. The first phase is the photographic phase, which is to go out there and document the initial stories. The second phase is to work with poets and musicians to give more depth to the stories. The third phase is then looking at how that body of work comes together through exhibitions and a book. For me that stage is very important because the exhibitions have to be in public spaces. They have to be in places where people interact with these stories who wouldn’t normally go to a photographic gallery.

And I’m also very interested in taking the project back to the countries that I’ve photographed. One of the things that most surprised me is how interested people are in the other countries I’m photographing. People in Northern Ireland are asking me about the people in Rwanda. The people in Vietnam are very interested in stories that I’m going to be doing in Angola, for example.

One of the key elements is, as well as having the photographs exhibited in the public spaces in Western countries, it’s for the exhibitions to return to the countries where these stories first came from, so the stories are shared. Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about sharing stories. I have no judgments, I have no opinions. I’m merely going out there to try and gather the stories of people affected by conflict and to share those stories.

And then the final stage, the fourth stage, will be educational. And that’s about taking it to schools. It’s about getting it on the curriculum, [so that when] people are taught the historical facts of a conflict, they’re also taught about how a conflict continues to affect people [long after it’s over]. That’s how I see it developing. And hopefully, in the end, it will be something that will kind of take on a life of its own and I can step back and people can continue to share these stories.

TIME LightBox: Your story is also woven into this. How has your experience informed your approach to this project and how it has been integrated into it?

Giles Duley: No matter what I choose to do for the rest of my life, I will live with the scars, both physically and mentally of what happened. So it’s given me a great understanding. But I think more than that it’s kind of focused my ambition and determination to carry this project through because, as I say, every day now I live with a reminder of what conflict does.

It has opened up communication with a lot of people that may have been more suspicious of why I was doing this story; people who see my personal experience and can relate to it. I guess weirdly, although I may be a lot slower as a photographer now and it may be a bit harder for me to work, there’s probably not a photographer in a better position to actually tell these specific stories about the legacy of war.

TIME LightBox: What do you see as the biggest challenges in getting this project done?

Giles Duley: The biggest challenges on a personal level are the travel, the work. I have no legs and I’ve got one hand, and I travel on my own to do this work. It’s not easy. I must admit last year when I found myself in paddy fields in the rainy season in Laos, trying to carry all my cameras and a backpack and my legs getting stuck in the mud, I was thinking, “O.K., who came up with this idea?” [Laughs.] So the obvious challenges like that are there, that in a weird way as I say, also drive me on to complete the story.

Aside from that, obviously this is a project that I’m self-funding. It’s something that I think is important. A lot of NGOs and nonprofits and charities are helping me with the stories. I have years and years of working with NGOs and they’ve been fantastic in supporting this project. So the likes of MAG, which is a de-mining charity; Handicap International; UNHCR; Emergency, which is an Italian NGO; and Find a Better Way, which is another land-mine charity, have all been supporting it. But at the end of the day, I have to find a way to finance these stories, or at least finance the physical costs of the photographic side of it.

The project really I think for me is the defining project of my life. It will probably be the last major overseas project I do because it’s simply so physically draining and difficult for me. But I am determined to carry this out to the utmost of my ability.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Giles Duley is a freelance photographer and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Follow him on Twitter @gilesduley.

Mia Tramz is a Multimedia Editor for TIME.com. Follow her on Twitter @miatramz.

TIME Tunisia

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Tunisia Attack That Killed 23

The attack was the worst at a tourist site in Tunisia in years

(TUNIS, Tunisia) — The Islamic State group issued a statement Thursday claiming responsibility for the deadly attack on Tunisia’s national museum that killed 23 people, mostly tourists.

The statement described Wednesday’s attack in Tunisia as a “blessed invasion of one of the dens of infidels and vice in Muslim Tunisia,” and appeared on a forum that carries messages from the group.

The statement said there were two attackers and they weren’t killed until they ran out of ammunition and it promised further attacks.

“Wait for the glad tidings of what will harm you, impure ones, for what you have seen today is the first drop of the rain,” the statement, which was also announced by U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group.

IS, which is based in Syria and Iraq, has affiliates in neighboring Libya, where many Tunisians have gone to fight and train with extremist groups.

Earlier this week, a prominent Tunisian field commander for IS was killed in fighting inside Libya.

Tunisia’s government, meanwhile, announced the arrest of nine people — four of whom were connected directly to the attack and five others who supported them elsewhere in the country, authorities said.

The attack on the museum, which houses Roman artifacts in Tunis, was the worst at a tourist site in Tunisia in years. The deaths of so many tourists prompted a leading Italian cruise ship line to announce Thursday it was canceling all stops in Tunisia indefinitely.

One of the slain gunmen was known to intelligence services, the prime minister said.

Prime Minister Habib Essid told France’s RTL radio that Tunisia was working with other countries to learn more about the slain attackers, identified as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui. He said Laabidi had been flagged to intelligence, although not for “anything special.”


Associated Press reporters Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Jeff Schaeffer in Tunis, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Harold Heckle in Madrid and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.


The Controversial First Flights of the Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Pilots
Afro Newspaper / Gado / Getty Images Tuskegee Airmen studying maps in Tuskegee, Ala., 1942.

The establishment of America's first black military pilot squadron was ordered on March 19, 1941. 'They were anxious, eager, studied hard, flew hard, busted buttons bulging their chests at inspection,' TIME wrote then

The order from the war department came on this day, March 19, in 1941: a new Pursuit Squadron and Air Base Detachment was to be formed in Illinois, eventually to be based in Tuskegee, Ala.

Though the order never mentioned race, that squadron had a very special place in the history of the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces. By September of 1941, TIME commented that the Tuskegee Institute was home to “something new in the world”: “All twelve of the gray-clad cadets and the one slim young officer student were Negroes, charter members of the Air Forces’ 99th (all Negro) Pursuit Squadron, soon to become the first Negro flying officers of the U.S. Army. ”

But the existence of the Squadron, and those Tuskegee-based groups that followed, known collectively as the Tuskegee Airmen, was entirely welcomed by supporters of racial equality. Though the group integrated the ranks of military pilots, it was in a segregated manner. The question of integrating the Armed Forces was hardly a new one in 1941, but hopes had been high that the exigencies of World War II would hurry the answer along.

In the fall of 1940, President Roosevelt dashed those hopes by announcing that military training in the Army would be separate but equal. In fact, TIME’s first-ever acknowledgement of the Tuskegee Airmen was headlined “As Jim Crow Flies.” In 1942, the magazine commented that the situation for the pilots “might have exasperated Job”: that they were accused by some of betraying those who urged real integration, while others thought the Armed Forces had gone too far already.

“A white planter [from near the base] telephoned that he would kill the first Negro soldier who ever again waved greetings to his womenfolk,” TIME reported. “An officer called a meeting of white farmers, told them that this is just what Hitler wanted, just this kind of division among the U.S. people; Goebbels would be delighted.”

But when it came to the problems of actually becoming pilots, however, the men of the Squadron were well-prepared, according to a description from that year:

Tuskegee‘s Negroes faced two problems: 1) learning to fly; 2) learning to become aggressive, when every tradition had taught them submissiveness. The raw material was good. Of these Negro cadets, 57% had had technical studies in school, the average had had three and a half years of college. Of the first 81 cadets accepted, 44 were from the South, 26 from the North, six from the Middle West, five from the Far West. They were anxious, eager, studied hard, flew hard, busted buttons bulging their chests at inspection.

Read the full 1942 story, here in the TIME Vault: The Ninety-Ninth Squadron

TIME Crime

Meet the Historians Who Track Down War Criminals for the U.S. Government

Luis Romero—AP Photo An April 1998 photo shows documents of the nuns Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and layworker Jean Donovan who were assassinated on Dec. 1980 near San Salvador, El Salvador.

These experts don’t just stick to dusty archives

Mark Shaffer’s title is “Special Agent.” He works as a unit chief of a department that tracks down criminals from around the globe, many of whom have evaded capture across the years and across borders. His department recently made the news because of their success in tracing suspected Bosnian war criminals who had escaped to the United States. But despite that action-movie-worthy background, he works with a group of people whose reputation is usually far less tough: historians.

“History’s always been a very big interest of mine,” Shaffer says. “[Working with historians] has been the most interesting work of my almost 20 years in law enforcement.”

After any conflict or crisis, some war criminals manage to escape to other countries and build new lives — often with fake identities. Too often they pose as refugees, fleeing the horrors of which they were guilty. They have lied on paperwork, and avoided admitting their past involvement in crimes overseas.

Committing that kind of fraud during immigration procedures would be grounds for deportation, but it’s not easy to uncover the truth in those situations. Many of the cases are to do with human-rights violations a long time ago, which is where historians come in. In the United States, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department — where Shaffer heads the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit — works with the FBI and the Department of Justice to build cases against these suspects, and prosecute them in immigration court. Just last week, the verdict was passed on one of their more high-profile targets: a panel declared that Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who was a high-level official in El Salvador during a time of severe human-rights abuses in that country, could be deported.

Historians have the background in the culture, language and politics of particular regions of the world; they know where to look for the sources that might prove who was responsible for particular crimes. This kind of research relies on personal testimony, written records, photographs — and today, social media.

An important part of their work is creating the narrative, the story that the U.S. Attorney can present in court. This means putting together the threads that link pieces of evidence, building a full picture of a person’s role in human rights abuses. A particular challenge is state-sponsored abuses, where historians must contend with (in some cases) decades of cover-ups and silencing.

For perpetrators from some countries, the U.S. immigration trial will be the only trial they face. That decision, in a U.S. court, may be the only legal acknowledgment their victims ever receive. The ICE team knows this, and they want to make very case count. “Our historians are absolutely critical to getting these cases moving forward,” Shaffer told me.

Today there are three historians building these cases: one who focuses on Africa, one on the Balkans and one on Latin America.

At the Balkans desk is Michael MacQueen, who has made news over the last 25 years for his work pursuing war criminals: first Nazis, now those from more recent Balkans conflicts. He joined the Justice Department in 1988, when he left a PhD program at the University of Michigan in Eastern European studies. Fluent in German and Polish, his task was to trace former Nazis who had operated in Eastern Europe. Among his many coups, it was his research that led to concentration-camp guard John Demjanjuk (AKA Ivan the Terrible) being stripped of his U.S. citizenship and sent to Munich to face trial in 2009.

Today, younger historians are following in his footsteps. Latin America expert Ann Schneider is a prime example of how knowledge of history can help enforce global justice. When Schneider was a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, she wrote a dissertation about issues of reckoning with dictatorships, and legacies of state violence in Latin America. Five years ago, the opportunity came up to join ICE and pursue some of the criminals she had studied. “I can’t turn this down,” she recalls thinking, “to have my work really contribute to judicial processes.”

Schneider’s interest in human rights and accountability goes back to her childhood. In the fourth grade, she heard of four Catholic missionaries being murdered in El Salvador The nuns who ran her school held annual remembrances, and over the years the lack of justice for this brutal attack was part of what led Schneider to pursue a career examining how we deal with human rights abuses.

Two of the men in power when the death squads carried out this and other attacks were José Guillermo García (the minister of defense) and the aforementioned Vides Casanova (a national guard general, later also defense minister). Both had found their way into the United States in the late 1980s, having avoided prosecution.

Various groups campaigned against these men, but the challenges of proving their knowledge and culpability were compounded by the fact that these men had been part of a regime that previous U.S. administrations had supported. Finally in 2014, an immigration court in Miami found they were guilty of immigration fraud and human rights abuses, liable for “countless unnamed victims.” Vides Casanova’s appeal was denied on March 11, 2015. Garcia’s case is still pending, but the decision on Vides Casanova suggests his appeal will also be denied.

Vides Casanova and Garcia may never be tried in El Salvador. That country’s Amnesty Law prevents prosecution of crimes committed during their decades-long civil war.

Since its founding in 2003, ICE has deported more than 650 known or suspected human-rights violators from the United States. And while their mandate was originally to remove offenders, they are now working preemptively as well, helping NGOs to produce lists of suspects and put them in the lookout system to prevent them gaining access to the USA.

They continue to gather information from refugee groups in the USA too. A major concern for victims who have fled to safety elsewhere in the world is that they might encounter their attackers in the very same refugee communities in which they live.

The unit is working today to prevent this happening. Over the last four years, ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crime Center has issued more than 67,000 lookouts for people from more than 111 countries and stopped 140 human rights violators or war-crime suspects from entering the United States.

Their work sends a message to victims: you will be heard. And to perpetrators: you cannot simply walk away. It’s a lesson that, appropriately, fits neatly with the historians’ perspective. Just because something is past doesn’t mean it’s over.

TIME conflict

Read the Letter That Changed the Way Americans Saw the Vietnam War

American "Huey" helicopters during My Lai massacre
Ronald L. Haeberle—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty American military helicopters in flight during the My Lai massacre on Mar. 16, 1968 in My Lai, South Vietnam

The My Lai Massacre took place on Mar. 16, 1968

It was late April of 1968 when Ronald Ridenhour “first heard of ‘Pinkville’ and what had allegedly happened there.”

Thus began the letter that he sent to several government officials, including President Richard Nixon, in March, 1969. What followed was an account of the March 16, 1968, massacre at My Lai. “Ridenhour did not witness the incident himself, but he kept hearing about it from friends who were there,” TIME, which misidentified him as “Richard,” recounted after the news became public. “He was at first disbelieving, then deeply disturbed.”

That letter would soon change the way American citizens thought and talked about the war in Vietnam. This is how Ridenhour described what had happened:

One village area was particularly troublesome and seemed to be infested with booby traps and enemy soldiers. It was located about six miles northeast of Quang Nh,ai city at approximate coordinates B.S. 728795. It was a notorious area and the men of Task Force Barker had a special name I for it: they called it “Pinkville.” One morning in the latter part of March, Task Force Barker moved out from its firebase headed for “Pinkville.” Its mission: destroy the trouble spot and all of its inhabitants.

When “Butch” told me this I didn’t quite believe that what he was telling me was true, but he assured me that it was and went on to describe what had happened. The other two companies that made up the task force cordoned off the village so that “Charlie” Company could move through to destroy the structures and kill the inhabitants. Any villagers who ran from Charlie Company were stopped by the encircling companies. I asked “Butch” several times if all the people were killed. He said that he thought they were men, women and children. He recalled seeing a small boy, about three or four years old, standing by the trail with a gunshot wound in one arm. The boy was clutching his wounded arm with his other hand, while blood trickled between his fingers. He was staring around himself in shock and disbelief at what he saw. “He just stood there with big eyes staring around like he didn’t understand; he didn’t believe what was happening. Then the captain’s RTO (radio operator) put a burst of 16 (M-16 rifle) fire into him.” It was so bad, Gruver said, that one of the men in his squad shot himself in the foot in order to be medivaced out of the area so that he would not have to participate in the slaughter. Although he had not seen it, Gruver had been told by people he considered trustworthy that one of the company’s officers, 2nd Lieutenant Kally (this spelling may be incorrect) had rounded up several groups of villagers (each group consisting of a minimum of 20 persons of both sexes and all ages). According to the story, Kally then machine-gunned each group. Gruver estimated that the population of the village had been 300 to 400 people and that very few, if any, escaped.

After hearing this account I couldn’t quite accept it. Somehow I just couldn’t believe that not only had so many young American men participated in such an act of barbarism, but that their officers had ordered it.

The full letter, which is widely available these days, ran to about 2,000 words worth of evidence that “something very black indeed” had happened. Further publicity came in the form of an investigation by reporter Seymour Hersh — which originally ran in a Washington news service after LIFE magazine rejected it.

In the fall of 1969, one of the leaders of the platoon implicated in the massacre — his name was actually spelled Calley — was charged with murdering civilians; other charges against other soldiers and officers followed. Comparisons to the Nuremberg Trials were many, especially as many of the soldiers there argued that they had just been following orders. There were several legal difficulties in pursuing a lawsuit against them, both logistical and sentimental, as TIME polls found that many Americans either did not believe Ridenhour’s account or thought that such killing was a natural result of war.

Several trials did move forward, however. In 1971, Calley was found guilty. (Other trials for those present continued, but Calley was the only one convicted.) The sentencing did not end My Lai’s reverberations. At a protest in New York, future Secretary of State John Kerry read this statement: “We are all of us in this country guilty for having allowed the war to go on. We only want this country to realize that it cannot try a Calley for something which generals and Presidents and our way of life encouraged him to do. And if you try him, then at the same time you must try all those generals and Presidents and soldiers who have part of the responsibility. You must in fact try this country.” The verdict split the U.S. between those who thought that punishments for the massacre should instead go all the way up to the Commander-in-Chief, and those who thought that condemning soldiers for killing was a travesty in its own right.

“The crisis of conscience caused by the Calley affair is a graver phenomenon than the horror following the assassination of President Kennedy,” TIME opined. “Historically, it is far more crucial.”

Though the nation was divided at the time, history has come out fairly firmly on one side: in 1998, three men who turned their weapons on fellow soldiers instead of My Lai residents were honored in Washington — shortly before Ridenhour died at 52 of a heart attack — and in 2009 Calley apologized for his role in what happened. “There is not a day that goes by,” he said, “that I do not feel remorse.”

Read TIME’s 1969 issue about the fallout from My Lai: The Massacre: Where Does the Guilt Lie?

See how LIFE reported on My Lai: American Atrocity

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