Archive for category Balkans

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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5 June 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Santiago steps down as ICC judge, cites health issues: Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago is stepping down from the ICC due to health concerns; she announced in a letter addressed to President Sang-Hyun Song this week. Santiago was elected in December 2011, and was the first Asian from a developing country and first Filipino to sit on the Court. Santiago requested her letter to ICC President Song be distributed to all parties of the Rome Statute “with thanks.” (Business World Online).

African Attorney Generals seek more African judges at the ICC: At a meeting in Ethiopia last month, African Attorney Generals said they will push for more African judges at the ICC. Additionally, the AGs agreed to seek an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the issue of presidential immunity. The AGs previously recommended an amendment to the Protocol of the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to allow for presidential immunities. (the Star).

Special Court for Sierra Leone grants application for Senessie’s conditional early release: Yesterday, 4 June 2014, the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone granted Eric Koi Senessie an application for conditional early release. Senessie was convicted of contempt by the SCSL in June 2012, for bribery and interfering with a witness. Senessie received two years imprisonment after admitting his guilt in a formal statement to the SCSL. (the Hague Justice Portal).

Three Bosnian Serb former soldiers arrested for war crimes following mass grave discovery: Mitar Vlasenko, Rade Vlasenko and Drago Koncar were arrested today, 5 June 2014, in the northwestern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The three former Bosnian Serb soldiers are suspected of war crimes committed against Muslim Bosniaks during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict. The arrests stem from last year’s discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of some 1,000 victims. (Chicago Tribune).

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28 May 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ECHR rules Croatia has right to bring war crimes charges: The European Court of Human Rights “declared inadmissible” a complaint filed by a former Croatian soldier alleging his right to not be tried or punished twice in respect to the same criminal charges was violated. Fred Margus was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in 2007 by a Croatian court for the same offenses as those terminated in a 1997 case under the General Amnesty Act. The ECHR found that the General Amnesty Act did not apply to offenses “amounting to the gravest breaches of humanitarian law or to war crimes.” The ECHR concluded that the Croatian court acted in compliance with international law when charging suspects previously granted amnesty under the Act for war crimes committed during Croatian war. (dalje.com).

IACHR orders protections for leaders of campesinos movements: On 8 May 2014, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered protection for 123 leaders of campesino movements in the Lower Aguán River Valley in northern Honduras. Campesinos in the Aguán have been engaged in an ongoing conflict with powerful land owners since the 2009 military coup in Honduras. The request for protection filed in October 2013, reported that over 100 campesinos had been killed. (World War 4 Report).

Experts optimistic about development of Arab Court for Human Rights: A two-day conference with international experts and judicial systems began yesterday, 27 May 2014, in Bahrain to discuss and finalize the articles of association necessary for the establishment of the Arab Court of Human Rights. The Foreign Minister of Bahrain opened the conference expressing hope the articles of association will “lay[] a standard that puts into account a margin of appreciation for the states, a margin of appreciation also to the culture in the Arab region, and also to be in conformity of international standards.” The articles once finalized will need to be ratified by seven nations in order to be enforceable. (Bahrain News Agency).

DRC official warns of legal action against Congo-Brazzaville regarding the treatment of DRC nationals: The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing a complaint to be filed in the ICC and Congolese courts alleging the Congo-Brazzaville government committed physical and sexual violence, looted property and illegally deported DRC nationals. DRC Information Minister Lambert Mende recognized the Congo-Brazzaville government’s right to expel foreigners but stated that when doing so the country must respect human rights, the dignity of the person and his property. (Voice of America).

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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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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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