Archive for category UN Human Rights Council

9 April 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

UN human rights chief: Atrocities committed by Syrian regime “far outweigh” rebel actions: On Tuesday, 8 April 2014, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay briefed the U.N. Security Council on the human rights abuses committed in Syria. Pillay urged the deadlocked Security Council to refer to the ICC both the Syrian government and the opposition groups, but noted “the actions of the forces of the government—killings, cruelty, persons in detention, disappearances—far outweigh” those of the rebels. Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari dismissed Pillay’s comments as biased and claimed the High Commissioner had ignored numerous letters he sent documenting abuse by the opposition. (CBC News).

Atrocities in Rakhine State may amount to crimes against humanity: The latest attacks on aid groups in western Myanmar has caused severe shortages of water, food and medical supplies for Rohingya Muslims. Since last month, over 170 humanitarian aid workers were pulled from the Rakhine State, leaving some 700,000 people vulnerable. U.N. envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana said the recent attacks, coupled with the “long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community . . . could amount to crimes against humanity.” (Arab News).

UN investigator examines N. Korea abductions of Japanese citizens: Marzuki Darusman met with Japanese officials this week concerning the 1970s and 1980s abductions of Japanese citizens in North Korea. Darusman, a member of the U.N. commission that reported in February on North Korea’s crimes against humanity, recognized Japan’s assistance in preparing the report and discussed the next steps in the investigation. The U.N. report received favorable support by the Human Rights Council in March 2014 and is expected to be presented at the 17 April 2014, U.N. Security Council meeting. (Global Post).

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2 April 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC: Kenyatta trial postponed until 7 October: The ICC trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta has been postponed providing the Kenyan government additional time to disclose documents sought by the prosecution. The request by the President to terminate proceedings and the request by the prosecution to postpone the trial indefinitely were both denied by the Court. The postponement is the second for Kenyatta’s trial which is expected to resume 7 October 2014. (Voice of America).

ICC witness: Dogs and pigs fed on bodies of fallen during post-election violence in Kenya: On Monday, 31 March 2014, a prosecution witness in the ICC case against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang testified to events after the 2007 presidential election in Kenya. The witness said tired police officers failed to collect bodies killed during the violence that were then fed on by dogs and pigs. The witness also testified that members of the Kalenjin ethnic group identified, attacked and torched the homes of Kikuyus. (All Africa).

ICJ orders temporary stay on Japan’s Antarctic whaling program: The ICJ ruled on Monday, 31 March 2014, that Japan’s “killing, taking and treating of whales” in the Antarctic was not “for the purposes of scientific research”. The Court found that Japan’s program, which was designed to study the effects of commercial whaling on the species existence, hunted too large a number of whales and failed to consider non-lethal methods. The Court ordered a temporary stay until the country could redesign it’s whaling program to be more scientific rather than commercial. (The China Post).

Rights group warn of Sri Lanka backlash in wake of UNHRC resolution: The recently passed U.N. Human Rights Council resolution calling for an independent investigation into alleged abuses committed in Sri Lanka is likely to incite backlash against human rights activists; said groups such as Amnesty International and Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice. The rights groups fear Sri Lanka will respond to the U.N. resolution with intimidation and suppression towards those who disagree or challenge the government, citing as an example the arrests of two human rights activists last month in the country. Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa has publicly rejected the U.N. resolution and said it will deter national reconciliation. (CNN World).

Norway pledges $1 million to Khmer Rouge tribunal: The international side of the ECCC received a $1 million pledge from Norway on Tuesday, 1 April 2014. The Court welcomed the pledge and hopes it encourages other donations, particularly to the Cambodian side which is facing extreme shortages of funds for national salaries. The ECCC budget approved last month estimates the cash-strapped Court needs over $60 million to continue operations. (Voice of America).

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26 March 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

South Korea joins Japan and EU on draft resolution on North Korea human rights situation: On Sunday, 23 March 2014, South Korea, Japan and the European Union presented a draft resolution to the U.N. Human Rights Council concerning the alleged human rights abuses in North Korea. The draft resolution urged the U.N. to refer the “systematic, widespread and grave violations” of human rights to an “appropriate” international judicial body. Additionally, the resolution contained recommendations by a U.N. commission established in March 2013 to officially investigate for one year North Korea’s violations of international law. It is expected that the resolution will be voted on by the 47 states making up the U.N. Human Rights Council this week. (Yonhap News Agency).

African rights court hears first freedom of expression case: The first freedom of expression case commenced in the African Court on Human and People’s Rights on Thursday, 20 March 2014. The case came before the African rights court after journalist Lohé Issa Konate was convicted in Burkina Faso of, among other things, defamation and public insult for alleging in his newspaper the State Prosecutor was corrupt. Konate was sentenced to one year imprisonment, a hefty fine and publication of his newspaper was suspended for six months. Amici submissions in the African rights court case argue Konate was denied his right to freedom of expression and his punishment was disproportionate to the crime. A judgment is expected June 2014. (Southern Africa Litigation Centre).

UN report notes Syria’s non-compliance with resolution to permit free access to humanitarian aid: The U.N. released a 13-page report on Monday, 24 March 2014, detailing the Syrian government’s failure to comply with a February 2014 resolution authorizing free access to humanitarian aid. The report, delivered to the U.N. Security Council, described a “worsening” security situation in Syria and requested “an immediate end to violence and a negotiated political solution to the conflict.” The report estimates that 200 people are dying per day in the country and over 3.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid. (Ammon News).

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18 March 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

UN panel lists individuals alleged to be accountable for crimes: On Tuesday, 18 March 2014, the head of the UN panel tasked with investigating human rights abuses committed in Syria said that the panel has identified individuals who were involved in the taking of hostages, executions, and torture in Syria and placed them on a “perpetrators list”. This list includes the heads of intelligence branches and detention facilities in which torture was carried out; military commanders who targeted civilians; airport officials under whose jurisdiction bomb attacks were planned and completed, and leaders of groups who targeted civilians. The panel was established by the UN HRC in order to investigate human rights abuses in Syria since March 2011, and to date, the panel has conducted over 2,700 interviews.  (Fox News).

China opposes UN HR Council Resolution on crimes in N. Korea: China rejected South Korea’s request for China to support a UN Resolution to refer North Korean officials who have allegedly committed human rights abuses within North Korea to the ICC. The U.S., EU, and Japan are in favor of bringing the issue before the UN Security Council in order to bring about a referral to the ICC; however, China may exercise its veto power. Following the UN Commission of Inquiry’s recent conclusion that high-level officials in North Korea have committed crimes against humanity, the UN HRC is expected to decide on a resolution concerning North Korea’s human rights record. (Yonhap News Agency).

Malta approves extradition of Serbian CAH suspect to Croatia: On Thursday, 13 March 2014, a Maltese court ruled that Eror Gojko—a Serbian construction worker who is charged with committing crimes against humanity, kidnapping, torture, and unlawful deportation to concentration camps between 1991 and 1993 in the former Yugoslavia—will be extradited to Croatia for trial. He consented to the extradition, and the Maltese court did not address his charges. The charges against him are related to the disappearance of at least 17 people. (Reuters).

Civil Society petition questions ICTR acquittals: 15 civil society groups have signed a petition addressed to the president of the UN Security Council, questioning the ICTR Appeals Chamber’s decision to acquit and reduce the sentences of political and military officials who had been convicted by the Trial Chamber for crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The petition is specifically against Judge Theodore Meron, the presiding Judge of the ICTR Appeals Chamber. One of the organizations, Rwanda Civil Society Platform, expressed its disagreement with the acquittal of Justin Mugenzi, Prosper Mugiraneza, Protais Zigiranyirazo, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, and François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, as well as the reduction of the sentences of Anatole Nsengiyumva and Aloys Ntabakuze. (allAfrica).

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17 March 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Former Rwanda soldier sentenced in France:  Pascal Simbikangwa was sentenced this Friday to a 25-year jail sentence.  Sambikangwa is a former army captain who rose to become a high level official in Rwanda’s intelligence services.  In 2008, he was arrested and accused of complicity in war crimes and genocide in which took place in 1994.  France’s special genocide unit is hopeful that this verdict will lead to smooth future prosecutions.  (Aljazeera).

Amnesty reports ongoing violence, civilian displacement in Darfur:  As violence is Darfur intensifies almost half a million people have been forced from their homes of the last year.  Eyewitnesses in the midst of the conflict have described large attacks carried out by armed militias against civilians.  (Amnesty).

UN sends rights monitors to Ukraine; Security Council fails to pass Crimea Resolution:  The UN Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution which urged countries not to recognize the results of this weekend’s referendum in Crimea.  In addition to this event, the UN has deployed a monitoring team to Ukraine to help establish facts surrounding alleged human rights violations.  For additional information on this topic, please click here)  (UN News).

Human Rights Council highlights ongoing plight of children in conflict:  Ongoing armed conflicts have made a number of countries, such as Syrian, making them very dangerous places to be a child.  SRSG Leila Zerrougui spoke in front of the HRC this past week highlighting that in Syria, South Sudan, CAR and in other countries children our being exploited and killed.  She also urged the HRC to take action in order to prevent the deprivation of lifesaving humanitarian assistance to children.  (UN News).

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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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5 March 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

UN report accuses Syrian rebels of crimes against humanity, cites international community for inaction: A new report released by the U.N. Human Rights Council accuses Syrian rebel groups of crimes against humanity. Specifically, the report claims certain non-government groups in al-Ragga province engaged in systematic detentions and torture of ethnic Kurds.  The report further condemned the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council for failing to uphold international obligations and take action during Syria’s civil war in which more than 100,000 have been killed. (Deutsche Welle).

ICC witness testifies about ODM plan for post-election violence in Kenya: On Tuesday, 4 March 2014, a prosecution witness in the ICC case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang testified to events leading up to the 2007 presidential election. The protected witness claimed leaders of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) organized secret meetings to encourage voters to reject the rule of the Kikuyus. The witness also testified that Sang used the radio to accuse other tribes of rigging votes. (Standard Digital).

Rights groups call for al-Bashir’s arrest on fifth anniversary of his indictment: Several human rights groups, such as United to End Genocide and the International Justice Project, penned a letter yesterday urging the U.N. Security Council and the ICC to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Yesterday, 4 March 2014, marked the fifth anniversary of the ICC’s indictment against the sitting President for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The letter calls for all member parties of the ICC to “stand for justice and make this year the last year of Bashir’s impunity.” It is estimated some 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million displaced since violence broke out in Darfur in 2003. (kens5.com).

ICJ sets decision date in Japan/Australia whaling case: The ICJ judgment in the case between Japan and Australia over whaling in the Antarctic will be delivered 31 March 2014. Australia brought the issue before the ICJ back in 2010, claiming Japan was engaging in illegal commercial whaling under the disguise of scientific research. The Court conducted a three-week hearing last year. (The Australian).

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27 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

ICC urges DRC to detain visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been urged to arrest and surrender ICC indictee Omar al-Bashir as he visits the country for meetings with other African leaders. The Sudanese President, charged by the ICC in 2009, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, arrived in the DRC on Tuesday, 25 February 2014. A number of countries on the continent have already failed to arrest Bashir under similar situations claiming the ICC unfairly targets Africans. (Press TV).

Hariri trial adjourned to add fifth suspect: Proceedings at the Special Tribunal in Lebanon relating to the February 2005, assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri were suspended in ordered to add a fifth accused. The five men, allegedly responsible for killing 23 and wounding some 200 in the attack, will be tried in absentia when proceedings resume sometime in May. The Special Tribunal was established in 2007 and is the only ad hoc tribunal with the power to try at-large accused. (Yahoo News).

Sri Lanka strongly rejects UN war crimes inquiry: Sri Lanka considers a U.N. mandated international investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed during the country’s 26-year civil war “an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.” Sri Lanka’s comments come in response to a report published this week by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay. The report, which calls for an international and independent investigation, precedes a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in March 2014, that is expected to address the issue in Sri Lanka. (Time World).

Defence challenges ICC witness testimony; notes translation inconsistencies: The testimony of a prosecution witness in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang has been challenged at the ICC. Specifically, the defence argued the witness wrongly translated phrases in the Kalenjin language. The witness claimed while testifying that Ruto addressed crowds in Kalenjin. (All Africa).

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26 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

UN human rights chief calls for inquiry into Sri Lanka war crimes: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has called for an “independent, international inquiry mechanism, which would contribute to establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed” in Sri Lanka.  Pillay’s report precedes a U.N. Human Rights Council debate scheduled for next month that may take up and order action in Sri Lanka.  As of now, the U.S. is planning to propose a resolution against Sri Lanka during the debate.  Pillay’s report – which will likely add pressure to the Sri Lankan government – states that thousands of civilians were killed, injured, or remain missing after the conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  “None of these cases has…resulted in the perpetrators being brought to justice,” said Pillay.

ICC has not yet received request to investigate Yanukovich: Earlier this week, Ukraine’s government voted for the country’s President, Viktor Yanukovich, to be sent to the ICC with two members of his government to be tried for “serious crimes” relating to the deaths of more than 100 people.  An ICC spokesman has stated that the ICC has not yet received Ukraine’s request, and noted that it would be up to the ICC prosecutor whether to pursue the investigation after the request is received.

Khmer Rouge tribunal orders physical/psychiatric assessment of Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea : In a 17 February filing released earlier this week, the trial chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal has ordered that Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea undergo physicals and psychiatric assessments to determine if they are fit to proceed with the trial’s second (and quite possibly final) segment. Doctors have been appointed for the octogenarian defendants and have been tasked with reporting to the court on their physical and cognitive ability.  The examinations are to take place in late March, shortly before a tentatively scheduled hearing on 28 March that will provide the parties to question the medical experts about their conclusions.  Though neither defendant has claimed to be unfit to stand trial, both have requested briefer and less frequent courtroom hearings to accommodate their diminished ability to remain engaged in lengthy proceedings.

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19 February 2014 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

U.N. panel finds widespread human rights abuses in North Korea: A 400-page investigatory report documenting alleged human rights abused being carried out in North Korea was released by a special U.N. commission.  The report, which has already gained support from countries such as the U.S. and South Korea, reveals widespread and systematic acts of torture, starvation and executions. International scholars, who argue the acts could warrant an ICC prosecution, fear China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a close ally of North Korea, would veto a referral to the permanent international court. North Korea has yet to respond to the report that is expected to be presented next month in Geneva to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Wall Street Journal).

Kenyan AG Githu Muigai addresses  ICC: Domestic law prevents the disclosure of the Kenyan President’s financial records, said Attorney General Githu Muigai while speaking to ICC judges in The Hague on 13 February 2014. The attorney general informed the judges that proper procedure required the request for records to be submitted first to the local prosecutor for authorization. Muigai also denied that Kenya’s failure to comply with the ICC prosecution’s request for financial records violated its responsibilities to the Court.  (Institute for War & Peace Reporting).

Frankfurt: Genocide trial of Rwandan mayor begins: A German higher court commenced proceedings on 18 Tuesday 2014, against former Rwandan mayor Onesphore Rwabukombe. Rwabukombe, an ethnic Hutu, is charged with the mass killing of nearly 4,000 ethnic Tutsi during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Some 50 witnesses are expected to testify in the first Rwandan genocide case tried in Germany. Rwabukombe faces life imprisonment if convicted. (The Local).

Socio-Political Scientist Herve Maupeu testifies at Ruto/Sang ICC trial: The trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang resumed in The Hague on 17 Monday 2014 after the Christmas recess. An expert witness on Kenya’s social and political history, Herve Maupeu, testified that the country’s sitting head of state Uhuru Kenyatta had been a member of the Orange Democratic Movement’s leadership circle. Deputy President Ruto is a supporter of the Orange Democratic Movement which is alleged to have planned attacks against the rival political party. (Standard Media).

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