Archive for category AU

3 July 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

African leaders vote to give themselves immunity from war crimes charges: On Friday, 29 June 2014, African leaders voted to amend the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to give themselves and other senior officials immunity from war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The amendment, made at an AU summit in Equatorial Guinea, was objected to by forty-two African and international human rights groups who found the immunity violated international law, domestic law and the AU Constitution. Amnesty International considers the amendment “a backward step in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of victims of serious violations of human rights.” (Aljazeera America).

Afewerki reported in Sweden for crimes against humanity: Several high level officials in Eritrea have been reported to the Sweden police for crimes against humanity. Specifically, the report targets Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and some of his ministers by name and lists a series of crimes including indefinite imprisonment without trial, torture, kidnapping, mandatory military service and severe restrictions of freedom of expression. It is estimated that over 3,000 people, about 6% of the entire population, have fled Eritrea because of the human rights abuses. (Asmarino).

Related: Sweden ratifies portion of Rome Statute as national law: On 1 July 2014, the founding statute of the ICC became part of the Swedish penal code. This means, Swedish judges will now have the authority to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide regardless of who or where the crime was committed. Christer Engelhardt, a current MP, said “We are very clear about this: you will be punished, and if you come here, you won’t feel safe [if you have committed such crimes] just because Sweden is an open and democratic country.” (Epoch Times).

Dissenting judge in Kenyatta, Ruto cases resigns for health reasons: German Judge Hans-Peter Kaul resigned from the ICC for health reasons, effective Tuesday, 1 July 2014.  Judge Kaul was elected to the Court in February 2003 and served 11 years. Judge Kaul dissented three times in the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto finding the ICC lacked jurisdiction.  (All Africa).

Serbian government prepared to provide guarantees to Hague for provisional release of Seselj: So long as the former Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj agrees in a legally binding manner to abide by all conditions specified, the Serbian government is prepared to provide guarantees for his provisional release. Seselj notified the ICTY in June that if provisionally released he would be participating in public meetings, giving interviews and appearing on television shows. The former leader said he would not report to the police or wear any electronic bracelet or other device that violated human dignity. (InSerbia).

AU elects four new judges to Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Representatives from AU member states elected four new judges to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Tunisia’s Rafaa Ben Achour, Mozambique’s Angelo Vasco Matusse, Cote D’Ivoire’s Sylvain Ore and Uganda’s Solomy Baling Bossa will be sworn in at the Court to replace retiring judges or those judges whose terms have expired. The Court has been ratified by 27 countries. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

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26 June 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Ruto / Sang trial adjourns to July for final witness: On Tuesday, 24 June 2014, the ICC trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang was adjourned due to the health of a prosecution witness. When the Court resumes in July, the prosecution may present additional witnesses depending on an Appeals Chamber decision. The prosecution sought the compelled testimony of eight witnesses who have refused to testify. (All Africa).

ICTY asks Netherlands and Serbia to comment on possible provisional release of Seselj: The Netherlands, as the host country of the ICTY, and the Serbian government have seven days to comment on guarantees for a possible provisional release of former Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj.  Specifically, Serbia must guarantee the former leader will be escorted by authorities at all times, including to his place of provisional release, upon his return to the Netherlands and for any movements for medical reasons. The Serbian government must also ensure Seselj is placed under house arrest and does not contact or influence victims or witnesses.  Lastly, Serbia must guarantee that the government can immediately arrest Seselj in the event he violates any of the conditions of provisional release. (InSerbia).

HRW calls for investigation into misreporting of human rights in Sudan by AU / UN: Human Rights Watch has urged the U.N. Security Council to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into alleged cover-ups and inaccurate reporting by African Union / U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur. The call by Human Rights Watch comes two months after a report was published alleging peacekeepers failed to accurately report on the bombing of populated areas and the attacking of villages by the Sudanese government. While noting the dangerous situation peacekeepers face and the pressure from the government, a representative from Human Rights Watch nonetheless finds the accusations “devastating.” (Human Rights Watch).

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24 April 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Kosovo Parliament approves special war crimes court to try crimes committed by Albanians: Kosovo lawmakers voted on Wednesday, 23 April 2014, to prosecute in a special war crimes court Albanian rebels accused of intentionally killing captured Serbs during the 1998-99 Kosovo war for the purpose of harvesting organs. The EU-backed court, to be seated in both Kosovo and the Netherlands, is expected to apply Kosovo law and be staffed by international judges and prosecutors. Some 10,000 people died and millions left homeless in the Kosovo war. (For more information on this topic, please click here) (Reuters, ABC News).

ICC confirms that Prosecution is still considering complaint calling for prosecution of crimes in Egypt: ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is still considering the Freedom & Justice Party compliant filed last year documenting violations of international law committed in Egypt since the 2013 military coup. Specifically, the Freedom & Justice Party accused the post-coup regime of carrying out widespread and systematic crimes amounting to crimes against humanity. The ICC Chief Prosecutor has yet to make a final decision on whether to initiate a formal investigation of the crimes in Egypt, and thereafter seek charges, or whether to reject the complaint. (Middle East Monitor).

AU Panel to investigate crimes in South Sudan: The African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, a panel tasked with investigating human rights abuses committed in the country since conflict erupted in December 2013, is conducting a 10-day field mission. The panel is made up of international lawyers, human rights activists and a judge and will gather visual and audio evidence, conduct interviews from victims and witnesses and review reports prepared by international and national organizations and experts. Over one million have been displaced since fighting began in South Sudan and 200 alone were killed last week. (For more information on this topic, please click here) (BERNAMA, Sudan Vision).

US investigating Syrian Government’s responsibility in chemical attacks: The U.S., working with the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, is investigating whether the Syrian government is responsible for two alleged chemical attacks on rebel-controlled areas earlier this month which could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. The U.N. passed a Security Council resolution in September 2013 requiring the Syrian government to hand over for destruction the regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated the investigation was in its preliminary stages and declined to comment on whether the April 2014 attacks would show a breach of the U.N. resolution by the Syrian government. (For more information on this topic, please click here) (The National, The Washington Post).

Reparation requests agreed upon before the ECCC: Thirteen projects, including national memorials, mental health centers and a national day of remembrance has been agreed on for civil party reparations at the ECCC. The agreement comes prior to the Extraordinary Chamber’s decision in the first phrase of the trial against senior leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for serious violations of international law, including genocide. (Voice of America).

Kenya President Kenyatta seeks distance from petition of Barasa against the ICC: Kenyan President Unuru Kenyatta filed a motion with the ICC on Wednesday, 23 April 2014, seeking to remove his name from a petition brought by journalist Walter Barasa. Barasa is wanted in The Hague for witness interference and included the Kenyan President’s name in a petition to halt the Kenyan cases at the Court. Kenyatta voluntarily surrendered to the ICC and claimed Barasa’s petition is contrary to his consent. (Capital News).

Bangladesh backs universal ratification of the Rome Statute: On Wednesday, 23 April 2014, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali met with ICC President Sang-Hyun Song in The Hague to discuss Bangladesh’s efforts toward universal ratification of the Rome Statute. The Rome Statute established the ICC and has been ratified by 120 member states. Bangladesh ratified the treaty in 2010. (bdnews24.com).

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17 April 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

France to introduce resolution seeking ICC investigation of war crimes in Syria: In the next few weeks, France intends to present to the U.N. Security Council a resolution referring Syria to the ICC for war crimes; said French Ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud. In the meantime, France presented to the Council a report commissioned on behalf of Qatar containing over 50,000 photographs of alleged human rights abuses committed in Syria. Araud said the report triggered “several minutes of silence” by Council members. (Global Post).

Russia may seek ICC trial for Ukrainian ultranationalists: United Russia deputy Michael Markelov urged Russia to refer Ukrainian nationalist organizations, such as the Right Sector and UNA-UNSO, to the ICC for crimes committed during conflict in Chechnya, South Ossetia and the Balkans. The United Russia deputy hopes the ICC will recognize the “groups as extremists and ensur[e] an international status of political outcasts for them.” The ICC, however, is not legally obligated to consider Russia’s request. Russia, while a signatory to the Rome Statute, has yet to ratify the treaty. (RT).

INTERPOL Secretary General vows to continue to seek justice for Rwanda genocide victims: Speaking at the 6th International Expert Meeting on Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Kagali, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald Noble said the international policy organization will continue to bring to justice those responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Noble asked all the INTERPOL member countries to fully cooperate and apprehend genocide suspects. Representatives from 41 member countries, as well as international organizations are attending the three-day meeting. (all Africa).

Darfur rebel’s ICC trial postponed until further notice due to “logistical difficulties”: The expected 5 May 2014, trial of Abdallah Banda at the ICC for war crimes has been postponed until further notice. Citing “logistic difficulties,” the Court stated it would “decide in due course on the further steps to take, after receiving additional submissions from the prosecution and registry.” Banda, who is not currently in custody as he voluntarily surrendered to the ICC, is accused of leading the September 2007 attack on an AU peacekeepers camp. (Naharnet).

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15 April 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICTY rejects Mladic’s Rule 98bis application and find case to answer: On Tuesday, 15 April 2014, Trial Chamber I of the ICTY rejected Ratko Mladic’s 98 bis application for acquittal, a rule under the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence that allows the Tribunal to acquit a defendant after an oral hearing if there exists no evidence to support a conviction. Upon dismissing the application, the Chamber held that even if Mladic has a defense to all of the counts against him, there is evidence to support all of the charges against him. (ICTY).

Libyan trial of Ex-Gaddafi Officials postponed amid concerns of a fair trial: On Monday, 14 April 2014, the Libyan government opened and subsequently adjourned the trial against Muammar Gaddafi’s sons and his former officials, due to incomplete investigations; particularly the investigation of evidence against Saadi Gaddafi remains incomplete. The case will proceed on 27 April 2014, in order to allow the investigators more preparation time and to set up video links for the sons and officials who were not brought to the court for security reasons. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continue to express that the defendants’ right to a fair trial have been violated. The groups are concerned that not all of the defendants have had access to lawyers; that the defense teams have been restricted in their ability to assess evidence and case files; that interrogation strategies and detention conditions have been unfair; that Libya recently amended its Code of Criminal procedure to allow trials through video links, meaning the defendants, all of whom are being held in prisons and one of whom is being held in a secret location by a militia, will not physically appear at their trials; and that the Libyan justice system is generally unstable, in part because previous attacks against lawyers and judges in Libya have resulted in the suspension of courts throughout parts of Libya. The defense lawyers raised concerns about insufficient access to the case files in court. The ICC is still deliberating on the admissibility of the cases against Saif Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi, and a decision from the Appeals Chamber on whether the Libyan government is able to try them is still outstanding. (Reuters) (For more information on this topic, please click here, here, and here).

Ruto trial hears from satellite imagery expert and breaks for Easter: Lars Bromley, a UN specialist in satellite imagery, testified before the ICC in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and Kenyan journalist Joshua Arap Sang, explaining that at least 506 buildings were deliberately burned down in the Rift Valley following the election, and that 190 more buildings were “possibly burnt.” He based his analysis on satellite images, the deliberate nature of the burnings being evident from burn patters. The defense disputed the expert’s testimony. The trial is currently on break for the Easter holiday, after which the prosecution will likely call a witness who was instrumental in the confirmation of charges against Ruto.  (Institute for War & Peace Reporting) (For additional information on this topic, please click here).

Habre defense team says trial is politically motivated: The defense team of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre claims that the reasons behind his prosecution in Senegal were political and instigated by a Chadian spy agency. Habre, who is charged with having committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture while he was in charge of Chad between 1982 and 1990, will stand trial in Senegal in 2015, where he was in exile for twelve years before being arrested last July. (Legalbrief Today).

ICTR Prosecutor asks for increased efforts to prosecute all suspects of 1994 crimes in Rwanda: In a commemoration address, Hassan Jallow, the chief prosecutor of the ICTR, asked for an increased effort to find and prosecute perpetrators of the genocide against Tutsis in 1994 who have not been tried, and that countries in which suspects of these crimes are located to transfer these alleged perpetrators to Rwanda in order to stand trial. He specifically mentioned Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, and Augustin Bizimana, all of whom are fugitives and suspected of having played significant roles in the genocide. (AllAfrica).

UN High Commissioner for HR expresses concerns for amnesties in Nepal: Following the Nepalese government’s drafting of a law that would create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on Disappeared Persons, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that this legislation would allow these two panels to recommend amnesties for human rights abuses that occurred in Nepal. The government denies the existence of amnesty possibilities in the legislation, saying that amnesty would only occur with the victims’ consent. (Reuters).

Amnesty claims CAH and war crimes escalating in Nigeria: Amnesty International issued a report stating that violence has increased in northeastern Nigeria due to a higher number of attacks by Boko Haram and responses by Nigerian security forces, which has resulted in the death of at least 1,500 people since the beginning of the year. According the group, these events may be war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the group urged other countries, the African Union, and the UN to launch investigations into these acts. Amnesty International has documented attacks carried out by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces that occurred in January, February, and March 2014. (Amnesty International).

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11 March 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Dissenting opinion in Katanga Judgment alleges violations to accused’s rights: Following the ICC’s 7 March 2014 conviction of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga as an accessory on one count of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes, Judge Christine van den Wyngaert wrote a dissent, arguing that Katanga’s fair trial rights had been violated and that he should be acquitted. Katanga was initially charged as a principal perpetrator under Article 25(3)(a), but the Chamber re-characterized the mode of liability after both parties had rested their case to view him as an accessory under Article 25(3)(d), the timing of which is the basis for Judge van den Wyngaert’s dissent that the defense was given insufficient time to respond to and build a case against the re-characterized mode of liability. Specifically, she argued that the Chamber’s communication of the factual and legal basis for the re-characterization was insufficient for the defense to properly prepare for this change, and that the communication was not specific enough to effectively inform Katanga of the charges pending against him. She also doubted that the “facts and circumstances” of the changes were within the charges the Pre-Trial chamber had confirmed. The dissent also referred to bias on the part of the majority. (International Justice Monitor, Los Angeles Times) (For more information, please click here). 

UN investigation launched to probe HR abuses in CAR: On Monday, 10 March 2014, the UN launched an investigation of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, focusing specifically on reports of genocide in the area. The panel conducting the investigation consists of Bernard Acho Muna, a Cameroonian lawyer and former deputy chief prosecutor for the ICTR; Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister; and Fatimata M’Baye, a Mauritanian human rights lawyer. Muna expressed concern that Christian and Muslim hate propaganda will increase violence, but is hopeful that the investigations will serve to lessen conflict. The Security Council ordered the investigation in December 2013, instructing the panel to collect information and identify perpetrators for prosecution. (ABC News).

Ruto responds to Prosecution application on compulsory testimony of eight witnesses: In response to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s application for the Court to compel the appearance of eight witnesses in the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, Ruto’s lawyers argued that the witnesses’ testimony is irrelevant. They maintained that hostile witnesses would be unable to contribute to the Prosecution’s case and questioned the credibility of the witnesses, referring to one witness’s emotional and behavioral difficulties and the incongruity between that witness’s account and the testimony of another witness. They also asserted that the Court cannot compel a witness to appear, but simply to speak once the witness has appeared voluntarily. Bensouda argues that the Court has the power to compel a witness to both appear and speak, and maintains that the witnesses have been bribed or influenced improperly. (Standard).

Serbia begins defense arguments before ICJ: On Monday, 10 March 2014, Serbia presented its rebuttal in the genocide case Croatia brought against Serbia before the ICJ. Serbia, which filed a counterclaim against Croatia for genocide committed by Croatians against Serbs, alleged that Serbs are victims of genocide and that they also suffered during the Balkan Wars. The Defense expressed regret for the crimes committed in Croatia, but emphasized that the violence was not one-sided. The arguments for the countersuit will be presented in the coming days. (in Serbia).

AU establishes commission to investigation HR abuses and crimes committed in South Sudan: Following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in December 2013, the African Union established a commission last week to investigate human rights violations and crimes committed during this period. The inquiry body was created through the Peace and Security Council (PSC) decision, and its purpose is to investigate the conflict and make recommendations to ensure accountability and reconciliation. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will head the five-member panel. The conflict has lasted about 10 weeks, and it is estimated that 10,000 people have been killed and nearly one million displaced. (AllAfrica).

Thousands of Tamils in Geneva protest Sri Lankan rejection of international investigation: In response to the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to initiate an international probe into alleged war crimes, 4,000 Tamils gathered in Geneva on Monday, 10 March 2014 to protest the rejection. The protest took place around the UN headquarters, and was made during an annual session of the Human Rights Council, which will be asked later this month to evaluate an international draft resolution calling for a probe into the crimes committed against Tamils during the Sri Lankan Civil War. (Agence France-Presse).

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4 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICTY Prosecutor comments on reconsideration motion in Perišić case: On Monday, 3 February 2014, ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz announced that his Office requested that the ICTY Appeals Chamber reconsider its acquittal of Momčilo Perišić, the former Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army, who had been convicted to 27 years in prison for aiding and abetting crimes committed in Sarajevo and Srebrenica between 1993 and 1995. In its motion for reconsideration, the Office of the Prosecutor argued that the “specific direction” requirements on which the Appeals Chamber based the acquittal is incorrect and should be overturned. (ICTY).

Witness from explosive unit testified at STL: On Monday, 3 February 2014, Abdel-Badih al-Soussi, who was the manager of the explosives unit of the Internal Security Forces at the time Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated, testified before the STL. Although he had not gone to the crime scene immediately following the explosion, he had attended a meeting at the military court that afternoon, to which a member of the explosives bureau had brought car parts from the site. The judge ordered that the parts be examined and the site cordoned off to the public. Soussi testified that he did not ask that the car parts be returned to the crime scene, nor did the judge discuss during the meeting whether parts of the motorcade should be removed. (The Daily Star).

Judge replaced on Kenyatta Trial Chamber: Following a decision by the Presidency of the ICC, Judge Geoffrey A. Henderson replaced Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji in the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta before Trial Chamber V(b). Judge Henderson is from Trinidad and Tobago, and was elected at the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute in November 2013. He will serve as a judge at the ICC until 10 March 2021. Judge Eboe-Osuji had excused himself from the trial. (ICC-CPI).

U.S. urged to suspend aid due to human rights violations in Egypt: On Monday, 3 February 2014, the Working Group on Egypt, as part of the NGO Human Rights First, released a statement that it had sent a letter to U.S. President Obama, urging his administration to cease sending aid to Egypt until the Egyptian government progresses in transitioning to a democracy and improves human rights conditions within the country. According to the NGO, depriving Egypt of aid until progress has been made sends a clear signal that the U.S. does not tolerate the human rights abuses that have occurred in Egypt, which are documented in a report the group recently released. (Human Rights First).

Former Bangladeshi Minister indicted for war crimes: On Sunday, 2 February 2014, the International Crimes Tribunal-2 indicted Syed Mohammad Qaisar, a former Bangladeshi minister from the Jatiya Party, on 16 charges of war crimes, including the commission of genocide. He and his group, the “Quaisar Bahini”, allegedly committed crimes against humanity in Habiganj and Brahmanbaria during the 1971 Liberation War. According to the prosecution, Quaisar had also served as a commander of the Rajakars, which was an auxiliary group of the former Pakistani army. The opening statement of the prosecution will be made on 4 March 2014. (Z News).

AU issues statement urging united front concerning ICC and Kenya, Sudan cases: In a statement issued Saturday, 1 February 2014, the AU expressed that it was not pleased with the UN Security Council’s refusal to defer the trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, and Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir. The AU encouraged all of its members to comply with AU decisions and stand together on this issue in order to defer the proceedings. Botswana is currently the only AU member state that has officially opposed the AU’s decision to challenge the ICC cases. (Sudan Tribune).

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