Archive for category Balkans

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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5 December 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

U.K. threatens Sri Lanka with international inquiry: The U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, warned Sri Lanka that if it did not investigate allegations of sexual violence committed by government forces during its 26-year civil war it would be subject to an international inquiry. Hague warned the country that it had until the Human Rights Council met in March to conduct an independent and credible investigation. Sri Lanka is one country that has not yet signed the U.K.’s declaration to end sexual violence during conflict. (Sunday Times).

Bosnian Serbs arrested for CAH: The Bosnian prosecution office has charged nine suspects with crimes against humanity related to the country’s 1992-1995 civil war. The nine Bosnian Serb policeman allegedly “expelled, deported, illegally imprisoned, tortured, or killed non-Serbian civilians . . . in a systematic campaign against the Muslim and Croatian populations.” Nearly 100,000 died and millions were replaced as a result of the civil war. (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty).

Bemba restrictions lifted at ICC: An ICC judge has ordered the immediate lifting of detention restrictions placed on Jean-Pierre Bemba and his recently imprisoned lead defense counsel, Aime Kilolo-Musamba. During detention, the two had been restricted to 30 minute phone calls, one hour monitored visits with family, and an initial 72 hour of no contact. Bemba argued the restrictions violated his right to counsel and Kilolo said it prevented him from presenting an adequate defense. Kilolo was arrested in November on allegations of witness interference and forged evidence. (Bemba Trial).

ICC investigations flawed, says Kenyan lawyers: Lawyers met in Nairobi on Tuesday, 3 December 2013, to protest ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s handling of investigations into Kenya. The lawyers claimed Bensouda and her predecessor forged evidence and relied on unreliable witnesses. One lawyer was quoted as saying: “It appears as though the court was determined to confirm the charges and the prosecution was convinced that there were substantial grounds to proceed with the case even though the investigations were questionable.” The ICC is currently trying Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and the case against the country’s sitting President will commence in February 2014. (All Africa).

Cooperation between ICTY and Serbia positive: It is expected the chief prosecutor of the ICTY, Serge Brammertz, will report positively to the U.N. Security Council on Serbia’s cooperation with the tribunal on Thursday, 5 December 2013. Brammertz met with officials in Serbia last month “to discuss transfer of documents and access to government archives and witnesses.” It appears the transition of matters between the ICTY and Serbia has gone smoothly and efficiently. Brammertz presents his findings twice a year to the Security Council. (In Serbia).

Bosnian war criminals to be released: A local court that issued judgements in over 100 cases since its establishment in 2005 to aid the ICTY is expected to release hundreds of Bosnian war criminals. In July 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the local court erred in convicting and punishing accused under a 2003 criminal code. The ECHR concluded the court should have been applying a less stringent 1976 statute that was in force at the time the crimes were committed. The local court will now need to schedule retrials. (The Malay Mail).

Indonesia offers support to Cambodia and Thailand after ICJ verdict: Indonesia has pledged to aid Cambodia and Thailand as the two countries carry out the ICJ’s recent decision concerning the ownership of a Hindu temple.  Indonesia stated it was “ready to assist in whatever means if both countries ask for its support in implementing the ICJ order.” In November 2013, the ICJ granted Cambodia ownership of the temple located near the Cambodian-Thai border. (Phnom Penh Post).

Sierra Leone Residual Court elects Kenya’s Wiki as President: Kenya’s Phillip Waki was elected President of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone on 3 December 2013. Waki previously served as an alternate appeals judge at the SCSL and sat on the Kenyan Court of Appeals and High Court. Justice Jon Kamanda of Sierra Leone was elected as Vice President. (The Star).

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4 December 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Bensouda says ICC judicial institution only: The ICC will remain free from political interference, says ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Speaking at the ICC Assembly of States Parties last week, Bensouda said the court is an independent party and will implement amendments to the rules of procedure and evidence passed by the ASP. The ASP decided last week to amend the rules to permit Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to be represented by their attorneys during proceedings in The Hague. (All Africa).

New Sierra Leone Residual Court: The legacy of the Special Court of Sierra Leone was handed over to the government on Monday, 2 December 2013. The government will begin operating the Residual Court and continue matters of the SCSL, such as the case against former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council leader Johnny Paul Koroma. Nearly three million dollars has been made to the Residual Court by countries including the Netherlands and America. Former Prosecutor and now American Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp said the new Court was “an important component in the justice system.” (Awoko).

HRW report focuses on Habre: On Tuesday, 3 December 2013, Human Rights Watch released a report charging the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre, with “systematic abuses.” It is reported the former dictator “directed and controlled political police, who tortured and killed those who opposed him or those who simply belonged to the wrong ethnic group.” Habre is being tried by a special court in Senegal for crimes against humanity and war crimes related to his 1982-1990 rule. (UPI).

ICTY 20th anniversary: ICC President Theordor Meron spoke at a conference in Bosnia last week celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ICTY. Meron faced protestors and victims of the early 1990s Bosnian War who displayed signs reading “R.I.P Justice.” Many protesters voiced disappointment in the court’s recent decisions to acquit of all charges senior leaders of the Yugoslav and Serbian army. Despite the opposition, Meron defended the tribunal and stated its work had “exceeded expectations.” (Institute for War & Peace Reporting).

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28 November 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Congolese soldier to remain at ICC; single judge rules: On 18 November 2013, an ICC judge denied release from court custody a Congolese military leader accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Bosco Ntaganda argued his voluntary surrender for two arrest warrants and his lack of travel documents showed his commitment to remain in The Hague and cooperate fully with the ICC. The Single Judge rejected these arguments and found Ntaganda’s “prior ability to escape for such a lengthy period of time, until the moment of his choosing, enhances his motivation to flee when the circumstances allow.” Ntaganda faces charges for enlisting child soldiers and committing crimes of rape, murder and slavery during the 2002-2003 Congolese conflict. (All Africa).

ECCC Chamber rules second trial for Khmer Rouge leaders “imperative”: On Monday, 25 November 2013, the ECCC’s Supreme Court Chamber held it was “imperative” to commence as soon as possible the next trial against Khmer Rouge senior leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. The Chamber found that any delay in trying the two leaders may violate the right to a speedy trial and create issues for continued pre-trial detention. The Chamber noted concerns of “financial malaise” by the ECCC was “irrelevant and inappropriate.” The two senior leaders face charges of genocide in the next trial. (The Cambodian Daily).

Painful visit to Bosnian mass grave for ICTY President: ICTY President Theodor Meron visited a mass grave in Bosnia this Monday, 25 November 2013, where the remains of at least 430 unidentified Bosniak and Croat victims have recently been excavated. Many of the victims were killed in concentration camps and home searches by Serbs during the early 1990s war. Meron, a Holocaust survivor, said it was “very difficult to speak at [a] place where one stands face to face with the horror a man can do to another man.” (Springfield News-Sun).

Bensouda requests additional funds for ICC operations: ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has asked the ICC Assembly of States Parties to approve an additional Sh2.3 billion for next year’s operations. Bensouda said the increased funding was necessary to “carry out deeper investigations to meet the required threshold of proof.” Tiina Intelman, President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, said an increase in the Court’s budget for operations is a process that requires either an amendment to the Rome Statute, which takes time, or a change to the rules, which has a more immediate effect. (All Africa).

Trinidad’s Henderson appointed ICC judge: The Assembly of States Parties elected Geoffrey Andrew Henderson of Trinidad and Tobago to the ICC. Henderson, a graduate of the University of West Indies Law Faculty and the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School, takes the seat of recently named Trinidad President Sir Anthony Carmona. Henderson’s term will end on 10 March 2021. (Carib Journal).

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25 November 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Bemba Case faces arrests, allegations of witness tampering:  The has announced that four high level Congolese people have been arrested for alleged witness tampering in the war crimes trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba.  It is alleged that the suspects were part of a corruption network formed to influence and bribe witnesses.  (For additional information, please click here.)  (UN News, Google News).

ICC confirms Senussi trial to continue in Libya:  The ICC has rejected an appeal by Senussi to have his domestic trial in Libya suspended.  The ICC has stated that the continuation of a domestic trial in Tripoli will not interfere with the case the ICC has against Senussi.  (Saudi Gazette).

Kenyan Government indicates plans to investigate additional PEV cases:  The Kenyan government is in the process of establishing a team of special investigators to deal with Post Election Violence.  5,000 pending PEV cases have already been referred to the police for fresh investigations.  (All Africa).

HRW reports ongoing war crimes in CAR:  HRW has reported that violence in CAR is still bubbling to the surface.  General Hamat claims to be fighting a defensive war against a rebel group known as the anti-balaka.  According to HRW the general is wreaking havoc in many villages and it is not clear if there is a legitimate rebel force amassing or if those who are fighting back are just frightened locals.  (HRW).

Alleged Croatian war criminal wins extradition appeal, remains in Australia:  Serb military commander, Dragan Vasiljkovic, will be allowed to stay in Australia and avoid extradition to Croatia for questioning in connection with war crimes.  Mr. Vasiljkovic has been found to have committed crimes of torture and rape and has admitted to commanding a deadly assault on the Village of Glina in Croatia.  (The Australian).

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18 September 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Seselj verdict delayed at ICTY: On 17 September 2013, it was reported the ICTY’s expected 30 October 2013, judgment against former Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj has been delayed. The news comes less than one month after the removal of Judge Frederik Harhoff for authoring a letter criticizing the Tribunal’s prior acquittal of senior Serbian officials. Seselj is charged with aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the early 1990s Bosnian War. (Washington Post).

First prosecution witness testifies at ICC Ruto trial: The first of 22 scheduled prosecution witnesses began testifying this week in the ICC case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. The protected witness, designated Witness 536, described the day she was locked in a burning church by armed members of Ruto’s political party after the disputed 2007 Presidential election. It is estimated that 36 people were burned “beyond recognition” in the church fire. (BBC News Africa).    

New ICJ Nicaragua v. Columbia case: Nicaragua has filed a new action against Columbia in the ICJ seeking sovereignty of the San Andres archipelago. In November 2012, the ICJ awarded Nicaragua the territorial waters surrounding the archipelago, however, the Court granted Columbia continued control over the islands. Nicaragua recently announced its plans to drill for oil in the Caribbean and the San Andres islands are potentially rich in natural resources. (BBC News Latin America & Caribbean).

ECCC secures loan to pay striking staff: The ECCC has obtained a loan from the U.N. to pay its national staff and end the second strike over unpaid wages this year. The U.N. stressed it was the Cambodian government’s sole responsibility to cover national salaries and expects the country to pay back the loan. The ECCC is currently trying two senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, for crimes against humanity. Closing statements are expected to begin mid-October. (Google News).

Mollah verdict triggers strikes in Bangladesh: Protests erupted in Bangladesh yesterday, 17 September 2013, after the Supreme Court found senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Quader Mollah, guilty of crimes against humanity. The Supreme Court sentenced Mollah to death for ordering the killing of a Pakistani family during the 1971 independence war. Supporters of Mollah, convinced the ruling was “politically motivated” and prejudiced, called for a 48-hour nationwide strike. Many injuries have been reported as protestors threw homemade bombs in the streets and police fired tear gas into the crowds. (The Kansas City Star).      

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5 September 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Rwandan extradition hearing on U.K.’s agenda: A hearing to decide whether the U.K. may legally extradite five men to Kigali has been scheduled in London for 28 October 2013. The five men are suspected of committing serious violations of international law during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Past attempts to extradite the men were unsuccessful following a number of ICTR decisions questioning the credibility of Rwanda’s judicial system. However, after several reforms and the introduction of a special chamber, the country’s ability to try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity has been recognized by the ICTR and the European Court of Human Rights.

ICTY judge seeks clarification of removal: ICTY Judge Frederik Harhoff has requested review of the 28 August 2013, decision removing him from the trial of Vojislav Seslj after a private letter of his criticizing the Tribunal was leaked. Specifically, Harhoff aims to find out whether the appellate chamber considered a memo he wrote to the judges explaining his reasons for the letter. “Haroff claims that by the law and the existing rules, he had the right to express his opinion about the case before the panel of judges.” The Prosecution has also filed a motion arguing the judges erred in removing Harhoff.

Guatemalans file with international court over mining law: The Western Peoples’ Council, a body serving Guatemala’s indigenous communities, filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this week contesting Guatemala’s interpretation of the 1997 Mining Law. In March 2013, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court found that the Mining Law did not require the government to inform or consult with indigenous peoples before taking legislative mining action that impacted their rights and lands. The Western Peoples’ Council argued the ruling violated numerous international and national laws and was in contradiction to the Court’s 2011 decision finding “consultation [was] a constitutional right.”

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29 August 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

U.K. says Security Council unlikely to reach agreement on Syrian crises: U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the U.N. would continue discussing the appropriate response to chemical weapons use in Syria. Hague, however, expressed doubt in the Security Council’s ability to pass a resolution given Russia and China’s known opposition. The Foreign Secretary urged the international community to take the legal and proportionate action necessary to prevent any more war crimes in Syria if the U.N. discussions end with no agreement.

Karadzic moves ICTY for in person interviews: After being denied by the ICTY Registry on 21 August 2013, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic filed a motion with the Tribunal requesting permission to be personally interviewed by a German journalist. Karadzic argued the Registry’s refusal violated his freedom of expression and was disproportionate to the rights afforded other parties who are permitted to engage in direct contact with journalists. Karadzic has provided written interviews to numerous media outlets in the past, however, this particular German magazine has refused to publish the former leaders non face-to-face responses.

Venezuela’s defeated Capriles to bring action at IACHR: Venezuelan politician Henrique Capriles intends to submit a motion to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights challenging his 1.49 percent defeat in the 14 April 2012, presidential election against Nicolás Maduro. The Commission has the authority over state parties to review challenges, provide recommendations, and refer appropriate matters to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Of note, the Venezuelan government withdrew from the Commission last year, effective 10 September 2013, because it viewed the Commission and the Court as merely a servant of the United States.

Witnesses in ICC’s Ruto case threatened: It has been reported that five prosecution witnesses in the ICC case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalists Joshua arap Sang have been relocated outside the country as a matter of safety. Seven other witnesses are currently being protected in Kenya unless the situation worsens. The witnesses claimed to have “received threatening phone calls and text messages warning them about their participation in the trial.” The ICC declined to comment.     

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14 August 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Lawyers demand ICC trial of Gadhafi’s former “spy chief”: Defense counsel for Abdullah Senussi requested this week that local proceedings be postponed and Libya’s former military intelligence chief be surrendered to the ICC. Senussi’s lawyers argued the persistent political pressure from the militia, the threats and assassination of judges, and the latest practice of “revenge death sentences” would prevent Libya from conducting a fair trial. An arrest warrant for Senussi was issued by the Court in 2011 for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Libya’s civil war. Libya is not currently a state party to the Rome Statute and has repeatedly objected to the ICC’s jurisdiction. 

ICC issues Ruto trial schedule and manner of procedure: On 9 August 2013, ICC Trial Chamber V issued a general directive on scheduling and procedure in the case against Kenya’s current Deputy President William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang. The directive, inter alia, reduced the time limit on the prosecution’s case, ordered an updated prosecution witness list, and gave instructions on how to seek site visits or request protective measures. The trial is expected to begin on September 10.

ICTY precedent may jeopardize prosecution of senior officials: The ICTY’s recent acquittals of Momičlo Perišić, Jovica Stanišić, and Frank Simatović has worried many in the international community that a new legal precedent has been established allowing senior officials impunity for past human rights violations. The three Serbian commanders were charged by the Tribunal for aiding and abetting war crimes during the 1990s Bosnian War. However, the judges found in each case that the prosecution failed to provide evidence showing the accused “specifically directed” subordinates to commit crimes. International law experts fear the Tribunal’s interpretation of the requisite mental state for aiding and abetting could make it extremely difficult to hold senior officials responsible. This could include former Liberian president Charles Taylor who was convicted and sentenced last year to 50 years imprisonment. Taylor’s appeal is pending in the ICTY’s sister tribunal.

Investigations into Syria chemical use delayed: The U.N. team specifically tasked with investigating chemical weapons use in Syria has been delayed in entering the country. Deputy spokesman for the U.N., Eduardo del Buey, announced on 13 August 2013, that “details [were] being worked out” before the Syrian government would allow the team to visit five sites allegedly attacked with chemical weapons. According to del Buey, the U.N. team conducted final preparations for the Syrian investigation this past weekend.

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22 July 2013 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Krstic cleared of ICTY contempt charge: On Thursday, 18 July 2013, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Radislav Krstic of contempt of court. Krstic, who was subpoenaed as a key witness in the case of Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic and expected to testify in January 2013, refused to testify on account of his poor mental health. He was charged with contempt of court and tried this past May. On Thursday a majority of the ICTY Trial Chamber deemed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which Krtic asserted as a defense, to be adequate grounds for refusing to testify. Krstic himself was convicted and sentenced in 2004 for aiding and abetting the Srebrenica Massacre. He is serving 35 years in prison.

Kenya Prosecution Case loses additional witnesses: Last week, two prosecution witnesses withdrew from the case against Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the Prosecution team released a document last week explaining that two witnesses would no longer be able to testify because of serious security concerns. The loss of the two witnesses highlights ongoing difficulties encountered by the Prosecution team, to craft its case against the Kenyan President-elect. Kenyatta was charged with crimes against humanity, for his involvement in the 2007 post-election violence that killed approximately 1,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands. He is scheduled for trial 12 November 2013.

ICC rejects Libya request to delay Gaddafi transfer: On 18 July 2013 the Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court rejected an application by Libyan authorities to suspend the transfer of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the ICC for trial for crimes against humanity. The decision came after a request in June of this year, when Libya applied for a delay of Gaddafi’s transfer until his ongoing appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber’s admissibility decision was issued. Judges had denied Libya’s admissibility challenge, saying a trial at the ICC would not impose an unjust domestic outcome. The ICC on Thursday reminded Libya of its obligation to turn Gaddafi over for international prosecution. (For additional information on this topic, please click here)

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