Archive for category Human Rights Treaties and Charters

30 October 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC rejects Gbagbo application for provisional release: The request by former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo for provisional release was denied by the ICC on Wednesday, 29 October 2014.  Gbagbo, who faces charges of crimes against humanity, had asked the Court to be briefly released in order to attend his mother’s funeral. ICC judges in a written ruling found they could not grant the request “when doing so runs such a risk of endangering the population in Cote d’Ivoire, Court staff and Mr. Gbagbo himself.” (ABC News).

UN HR Committee urges Israel to investigate crimes committed against Gaza: In a report released Thursday, 30 October 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Committee urged the Israeli government to “thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially” investigate crimes committed in the Gaza Strip. The report further requested Israel to uphold the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ensure those most responsible for the alleged violations are prosecuted and sanctioned.  The latest Israel-Palestine conflict this year lasted 51 days and claimed more than 2,100 lives. (JURIST).

Amnesty says war crimes committed by Libyan militia: Amnesty International posted satellite images on its website this Thursday, 30 October 2014, indicating that fighters from both sides of the conflict in Libya have committed war crimes.  Amnesty International also posted a statement finding that “[a]rmed groups have possibly summarily killed, tortured or ill-treated detainees in their custody and are targeting civilians based on their origins or perceived political allegiances.”  The conflict in Libya was triggered in August after armed forces from the western city of Misrata seized Tripoli.  (Reuters).

UN experts calls on UN GA to refer N. Korea to ICC: U.N. human rights expert Marzuki Darusman addressed a committee of the General Assembly on 28 October 2014.  Darusman urged the committee dealing with human rights issues to refer the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity.  Darusman was a member of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK which released a 400-page report in February concerning the situation in the country.  (UN News Centre).

Cases investigated for Syrian war crimes: The Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) is preparing cases against three Syrian government officials allegedly responsible for serious violations of international law.  CIJA leader William Wiley says the group has reviewed over 500,000 pages of documents and information gathered from defectors and prisoners in Syria.  Where the cases would be heard, however, remains unknown.  Courts in Syria have been unwilling to hear the evidence against the government officials and an ICC referral has been prevented by Russian and Chinese veto power at the U.N.  (Reuters).

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29 January 2014 — DECISION REVIEW

Court/Tribunal: Special Tribunal for Lebanon 

Decision Title: Decision on motion filed by counsel for Mr. Badreddine and order to Lebanon to cooperate with the Special Tribunal

Chamber: The Trial Chamber

Case Name: Prosecutor v. Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, Assad Hassan Sabra

Date: 13 January 2013


Executive Summary:

  •  After repeated, unsuccessful attempts by defense counsel and the Tribunal to secure voluntary assistance from the Lebanese government in obtaining requested information, the Trial Chamber issued an order compelling Lebanon to comply with defense’s request for assistance

Principles found in decision:

  • In addition to the requirements laid out in Rule 20(A) of the Statute, in order for an order of compulsion to be issued against Lebanon, the Chamber must be satisfied that the initial request for the State’s assistance identifies specific needed documents, that reasonable alternatives to compelling cooperation have been explored for obtaining the needed information, and that reasonable efforts have been made to convince the State to provide the requested assistance
  • In ordering a motion to compel against Lebanon, the Chamber will consider whether the State’s assistance is necessary to maintaining and ensuring “equality of arms” between the defense and the Prosecution. The maintenance of this parity is particularly important to trials in abstentia, where the defendant is not present to give instructions or assist in defense investigations
  • It is the Chamber’s duty to ensure that the Accused is provided, at minimum, with the right to adequate facilities to prepare his defense

Decision Background: On 24 October 2013, defense counsel for Mr. Badreddine filed an ex-parte motion with the Pre-Trial judge to issue an order of cooperation with the Tribunal to the Lebanese government. The motion follows on original request for assistance filed by defense counsel and directed to the Lebanese government seeking telecommunications data relevant to the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Defense counsel argued that the material was essential to their ability to properly investigate and prepare their case, and that the information was in the possession of the Lebanese government.

On 15 November 2013, the Trial Judge directed the Tribunal Registrar to contact the Lebanese government and request compliance with the defense’s request for assistance by 6 December 2013. Any response from the Lebanese government indicating an inability to comply was due to the court by 27 November 2013. A reply from the First President of the Lebanese Court of Cassation on that date indicated that due to the separation between executive and judicial power in Lebanon, he did not have the authority to direct the Lebanese government to assist the defense. It was unclear from his response whether he forwarded the court’s directive to relevant parties within the Lebanese government.

On 7 January 2014, the defense filed observations with the Trial Chamber, reiterating their request for an order of compliance directed at the Lebanese government. The defense noted that the Prosecution did not have in its possession the information sought by the defense.

At the time of the decision, about seven months had passed since the original request was directed at the Lebanese government. The court nor the defense had received any substantive response to the request from the Lebanese government. 

Decision Review: Article 15(1) of the agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations establishing the Special Tribunal requires that the government of Lebanon cooperate with all organs of the Special Tribunal. The Lebanese Minister of Justice signed a Memorandum of understanding detailing Lebanon’s cooperation requirements on 28 July 2010.

Rule 20 of the Statue of the tribunal stipulates that where Lebanese authorities refuse to cooperate with a request for assistance, after the passage of 30 days the Parties to the Tribunal may seek from a Pre-Trial Judge or a Chamber, a motion compelling the requested assistance. A Judge or Chamber will only compel the requested assistance, however, in the instances where: the requests for information comply with the procedures outlined in Rules 16(B) and 16(C), the Head Office has determined that the requests are not frivolous or vexatious, the request relations to relevant documents required for the investigation, the documents are both relevant and required for the investigation, and the Lebanese authorities have not without undue delay satisfactorily complied with the requests.

In addition, the Trial Court should also be satisfied that the requests identifies as much as possible specific requested documents rather than broad categories of documents, reasonable alternative efforts short of an order compelling assistance have been explored for securing the information, a reasonable effort has been made to persuade Lebanon to voluntarily provide the requested assistance, and the request will not be unduly onerous on Lebanon.

In reaching its decision, the Trial Chamber also noted several other considerations it will take into account when deciding whether to issue an order to compel. Namely, the Trial Chamber must be satisfied that compelling State cooperation will maintain and ensure the equality of arms between the defense and the Prosecution. The Trial Chamber noted the importance of parity between the parties in situations like the Special Tribunal, where the defendants are tried in abstentia and thus the accused cannot assist with defense investigations or provide instructions. As such, the Chamber noted that it is incumbent upon itself to ensure that the Accused is provided, at minimum, with the right to adequate facilities to prepare his defense.

The Trial Chamber found that the defense request met the main criteria for an order of compulsion against Lebanon. The Chamber also noted the seven months that had elapsed from the initial request, and that over a month had passed since the 6 January 2014 deadline set by the Chamber, in finding that Lebanon was engaged in a protracted period of noncompliance amounting to undue delay.

The Trial Chamber thus found it appropriate to issue the order to compel the requested assistance from Lebanon. Noting that the Lebanese First President does not have the authority to compel the Lebanese government to act, the request for assistance should go to an authority within the government that has the authority to ensure compliance with compulsive orders to produce documents.

To access the full Decision, click here.

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EU lifts Myanmar sanctions: On 22 April 2013, the EU agreed to lift all sanctions against Myanmar except for an arms embargo. The move by the EU may pressure the United States, which suspended most sanctions against Myanmar last year, to permanently lift sanctions.  However, Human Rights Watch and other human rights activists have expressed concern over ongoing human rights abuses. An HRW report accuses the Myanmar government of crimes against humanity relating to the “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims last year.

Kenyan Deputy-President William Ruto selects lead counsel for ICC trial: On 23 April 2013, Kenyan Deputy-President William Ruto, whose ICC trial begins next month, selected Kamir Khan to be his lead counsel. Khan successfully represented Kenyan Francis Muthaura, whose charges were recently dropped by the ICC.  Ruto also filed an application to waive his right to be present at all trial hearings; Khan argued the Rome Statute does not require a suspect to be present during court proceedings.

ICC President of Assembly of States Parties participates in events in Ethiopia and The Hague: On 19 April 2013, ICC President of the Assembly of States Parties Tiina Intelmann returned to The Hague after a four-day tour through Ethiopia.  Upon her return, Intelmann participated in a meeting to assure that top judiciary candidates are appointed to the ICC.  In Ethiopia Intelmann met with the Chairperson of the AU Commission to discuss the capabilities of the ICC to address gender based crimes and she meet with representatives of African state parties to the ICC. Intelmann also participated in a seminar focused on the ICC and complementarity; she said the long-term focus of the ICC is to prevent crimes and strengthening the rule of law.

Ntaganda’s trial raises DRC nationality question: On 26 March 2013, Bosco Ntaganda, a DRC warlord currently facing charges before the ICC, addressed the charges against him at the ICC.  Ntaganda stated that he was born in Rwanda, but is a Congolese citizen; Ntaganda, however, stated that he prefers to speak in Kinyarwanda, a language connected to ethnic Tutsis and foreign to the DRC.  This statement in front of the ICC began a debate in the DRC on what it takes to be “Congolese.” There is some controversy if Ntaganda is considered to be a Rwandan citizen as Rwanda is not a state party to the ICC. The ICC, however, released a statement that Ntaganda confirms he is a DRC citizen and the crimes he is accused of committing were in the DRC, which is a state party—so there is no issue of jurisdiction.


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Three more witnesses refuse to testify against Kenyatta: On 5 April 2013, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda revealed that three more prosecution witnesses have refused to testify against Kenyan President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta. Bensouda has blamed the multiple witnesses refusing to testify on harassment and threats. The trial of Kenyatta, who is charged with crimes against humanity revolving around 2007-2008 post-election violence, is set to begin on July 11. It is unclear at this time how this will affect Kenyatta’s case going forth; some parties have called for the case to be sent back to the Pre-Trial Hearing to determine if there is enough evidence against Kenyatta to take the case to trial.

Krstic pleads not guilty at ICTY: On 4 April 2013, former Bosnian Serb Army officer Radislav Krstic plead not guilty to contempt of court for refusing to testify in the ICTY case against Radovan Karadzic. Krstic has declared that he won’t testify on behalf of Karadzic because of poor health. However, after investigation, the ICTY chamber stated that Krstic is mentally and physically fit to testify. In 2004 the ICTY sentenced Krstic to 35-years imprisonment for aiding and abetting genocide at Srbrenica in 1995.

Panama to face charges before Inter-American Court of Human Rights: On 26 February 2013, the IACHR began a case against Panama at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for alleged human rights abuses. Panama is accused of failing to meet its obligation to provide its indigenous peoples with “an adequate and effective procedure for access to their ancestral territory.”  Further, the IACHR claims that Panama did not respond to interference by third parties in indigenous territories, amounting to discrimination. Panama’s case was referred to the Court because Panama had refused to comply with recommendations put forth by the IACHR.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights “strongly condemns” military takeover in CAR: On 4 April 2013, the ACHPR released a statement criticizing the military takeover in the Central African Republic. The statement indicated that the lives lost in the takeover were a serious violation of the rights guaranteed by the African Charter and that perpetrators of pillaging and armed violence should be brought before competent courts. The statement further said that the CAR military in charge must still meet its regional and international human rights commitments. Finally, the commission called on the international community, in particular the AU and Economic Community of Central African States, to take necessary steps to restore CAR to constitutional order.

HRW report criticizes Ivory Coast for biased implementation of justice: On 4 April 2013, Human Rights Watch released a report criticizing Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara for unevenly administering justice relating to 2010 post-election violence.  The 2010 violence occurred when former President Laurent Gbago, who is currently facing war crimes charges before the ICC, refused to step down after losing the election, more than 3000 people were killed.  Although Ouattara’s administration admits that his supporters committed human rights violations, none have been charged with crimes while the government has charged more than 150 Gbago supporters of crimes.  The HRW report raises concern that such uneven administration of justice may have great negative impacts long-term.  On a different note, on 4 April the Ivory Coast began an exhumation of the victims of the 2010 violence. The Justice Minister Genenema Coulibaly said that the exhumations will allow families to grieve and the country to hold transparent and fair trials. (For more on the topic, please click here.)

East African citizens call for expansion of EACJ jurisdiction: On 5 April 2013, Justice Johnson Busingye, the Principle Judge of the East African Court of Justice, declared that East African citizens have the right to work for an extension of the jurisdiction of the EACJ.  East Africans have called for the EACJ—which has jurisdiction over matters of interpretation and applications of treaties, employment disputes, and commercial arbitration—to extend its jurisdiction to handle war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide cases.  Busingye mentioned that some East Africans do not support the ICC because of conceptions that it is only targeting Africans; he declared that focusing on empowering regional courts might eliminate anxiety around the ICC.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal receives loan from international side of tribunal:  On 5 April 2013, the international side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal loaned $2-million to the Cambodia side of the tribunal so the court can continue its operations. The loan is a temporary fix that will keep more court staff from boycotting work. The tribunal’s money crisis occurs as the tribunal is trying two former Khmer Rouge Leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the court’s second case since its inception in 2006. International donors have been reluctant to fund the court due to allegations of mismanagement and corruption.

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US and Uganda suspend hunt for Joseph Kony: On 3 April 2013, United States and Ugandan officials announced the temporary suspension of their joint hunt for suspected war criminal Joseph Kony, due to violence and political upheaval in the Central African Republic. The recent violence, which forced CAR President Francois Bozize to flee the country where Kony is believed to be hiding. Although the CAR rebel groups are not affiliated with Kony or his Lord’s Resistance Army, they have refused to cooeprate with the Ugandan military in their quest to bring justice to the man believed to be responsible for the abduction and employment of child soldiers. The United States has 40 troops in CAR to train and advise the primarily Ugandan forces looking for Kony, and neither country is planning on withdrawing them unless the political situation is unresolvable.

The suspension of the search overshadows yesterday’s announcement by US Secretary of State John Kerry of “up to $5 million for information that leads to the arrest, transfer, and conviction of the top three leaders of the LRA: Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen. All three are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.” (For more information, click here.)

Kenya: Victims call for accelerated proceedings against President-elect Kenyatta due to witness intimidation: On 4 April 2013, counsel for the victims of the post-election violence of 2007 Fergal Gaynor asked the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to accelerate President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial, rather than referring the case to the Pre-Trial Chamber. Gaynor characterized defense counsel’s seeking of confirmation of charges as a frivolous delay tactic. In the companion case against Ruto Sang, counselor for the victims Wilfred Nderitu announced his opposition Kenyatta standing trial in absentia.

US and European ambassadors to attend Kenyatta inauguration: On 4 April 2013, it was announced that, despite warnings of consequences to Kenya for allowing and assisting the alleged perpetrator of crimes against humanity to take office, western countries are planning to send diplomats to the inaugeration of Uhuru Kenyatta. Despite its apparent departure from international norms, Kenya remains of high strategic value to the west, which fears that alienating the country would push it closer to countries such as India and China.

President of Malawi announces ICJ case in dispute with Tanzania: On 3 April 2013, Malawian President Joyce Banda announced that Malawi will file suit in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that the African Forum of Former Heads of States unfairly favored Tanzania by sharing Malawian documents with Tanzania prior to submission. The two countries are disputing whether oil and gas deposits under Lake Malawi are Malawian or Tanzanian territory.

President of Egypt travels to Sudan in efforts to strengthen relations: On 4 April 2013, President of Egypt Mohammed Morsi began a two-day visit to Sudan to meet with the country’s president Omar al Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide. Despite an arrest warrant that has stood since 2009, al Bashir has traveled throughout the region, including Egypt. The two countries, which currently claim most of the Nile River, are strategic allies against upstream countries who seek to renegotiate territory agreements.

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Sudan: opposition groups confirm release of seven political prisoners: On 2 April 2013, head of the Sudanese opposition coalition National Consensus Forces Farouk Abu Issa confirmed that President Omar al Bashir was delivering on his 1 April 2013 promise “to release all political prisoners” by releaseing seven political prisoners from the Kober prison in Khartoum. Rights groups and the opposition believe that many more such prisoners are being held after a crackdown on anti-austerity protestors last year. Bashir’s 1 April speech announced that he was making good of a peace agreement with South Sudan.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda calls for Bashir’s arrest in genocide awareness month announcement: On 2 April 2013, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “call[ed] upon all States, whether parties to the Rome Statute or not, to cooperate with the ICC in seeking [and] pursuing accountability for genocide…we must not forget victims of the Darfur genocide.” President Omar al Bashir was indicted on charges of genocide in 2010, but several signatory states of the Rome Statute have failed to meet their obligation to arrest the indicted President of Sudan, calling into question the relevance and effectiveness of the ICC.

South African National Defence Union calls upon national government to push for ICC indictment of Djotodia: On 1 April 2013, National Secretary Pikkie Greeff called upon the South African government to “initiate the indictment” of Central African Republic (CAR) leader Michel Djotodia for allegedly using child soldiers against the South African National Defence Force as the rebel group took control of CAR last week. Noting that “[u]sing child soldiers to conduct acts of war and aggression is a violation of human rights an an international act of criminality,” Greeff stated that “[t]he South African government has a legal duty to enforce international human rights law,” and that “failing to do so would constitute a tacit but gross condonation of human rights violations and criminal conduct of a warlord abusing children as soldiers.”

ECCC announces payment of overdue salaries: On 30 March 2013, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced that it would pay the overdue salaries, owed for the months of January through April, to its employees, but did not specify the amounts to be paid. Despite spending $141.1 million from its establishment in 2006 to the end of 2011, the tribunal has only obtained one conviction, calling into question the relevance and effectiveness of the ECCC.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulates Kenyatta on victory: On 30 March 2013, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Kenyan President-Elect Uhuru Kenyatta, acknowledging his victory which was made official by the Kenyan Supreme Court this weekend. Ban also called upon Kenyans to remain calm and congratulated Prime Minister Raila Odinga for acknowledging his defeat following the ruling. Ban did not address the issue of Kenyatta’s current imprisonment in The Hague for allegedly inciting the violence that followed the country’s last elections which left 1,100 people dead, 3,500 injured, and over half a million displaced.

US Department of State spokesperson will not ignore ICC charges against Kenyan President-elect: On 1 April 2013, United States Department of State Spokesperson for African Affairs Hilary Renner announced that the country “cannot ignore the serious charges that have been set out in the International Criminal Court indictment, and will calibrate [US] engagement accordingly.” This is consistent with United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson’s previous warning to the Kenyan government. Although Renner did not specify what the US response would be, she called upon Kenya to “uphold its international obligations” and called upon Kenyatta, Ruto, and the Kenyan government “to live up to commitments of seeking justice for the victims of the 2007-2008 post-election violence, including by cooperating fully with the ICC process.”

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Nepal court blocks domestic truth commission: On 1 April 2013, it was announced that the Supreme Court of Nepal has suspended an attempt by the government to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes that took place enduring the country’s 10-year civil war.  Justice Sushila Karki issued the interim order after concerns that the new law could allow for amnesties for serious crimes became evident.

Former foreign minister of Egypt opposes joining ICC: On 1 April 2013, the former foreign minister of Egypt Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said that any move by Cairo to ratify the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hurt the country’s interests.  Last month the Egyptian justice minister Ahmed Mekki said that the government will soon join the ICC after figuring out a workaround to the issue of Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who is wanted by the Hague-based court on ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.

Human rights watch demands due process for extradited Libyans: On 30 March 2013, Human Rights Watch released a statement which stated that Libya should ensure that two Libyans with ties to the previous government of Muammar Gaddafi who were extradited from Egypt on March 26, 2013, are treated humanely and granted their full due process rights. Libya should grant humanitarian and human rights organizations access to them to monitor their detention conditions and treatment and respect for their basic rights as detainees – including giving them access to a lawyer and promptly taking them before a judge.  Many Libyans who worked officially or unofficially for the previous government fled Libya in mid-2011 after Gaddafi fell, most of them to Egypt and Tunisia.

Kiobel decision expected soon: On 1 April 2013, it was reported that the United States Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling in the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum. The stakes are enormous – the case will determine whether victims of human rights abuses on foreign soil, who often lack any other viable legal remedy, can bring suit against corporations in US courts. According to the plaintiffs, Royal Dutch Petroleum, parent company of Shell, was complicit with the brutal Nigerian dictatorship in “a widespread and systematic campaign of torture, extrajudicial executions, prolonged arbitrary detention, and indiscriminate killings constituting crimes against humanity to violently suppress this movement”. The Kiobel case is the first time the issue of corporate liability under the ATS has reached the Supreme Court.

UN HR experts ask for an end to Bangladesh violence: On 29 March 2013, a group of United Nations independent human rights experts called for an immediate stop to violence in Bangladesh and a return to peaceful demonstrations following reported large-scale protests since early February. The demonstrations are largely linked to the decisions of the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal, which was established in 2010 to try people accused of committing atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the South Asian nation, including during the country’s 1971 independence war.  Clashes in recent weeks between security forces and activists have reportedly killed at least 88 people and injured hundreds of others.  Clashes in recent weeks between security forces and activists have reportedly killed at least 88 people and injured hundreds of others.

New Deputy High Commissioner for HR: On 15 March 2013, it was announced that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Flavia Pansieri of Italy as the new Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Ms. Pansieri will replace Kyung-wha Kang of the Republic of Korea.  Most recently, Ms. Pansieri served as the Executive Coordinator of the UN Volunteers (UNV) Programme. She brings to her new position nearly 30 years of experience with the UN around the world, including in Yemen, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos and New York.

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