Former ICTY Judge TV Interview

Judge Kwon O-gonFormer ICTY Judge Kwon O-gon gave a TV interview this month during which he shared his story of bringing justice for the victims of one of the most atrocious and devastating wars since World War II.

After sitting in the Korean court of law for more than two decades, Kwon O-gon became the first Korean judge to preside over the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), where he served for the past 15 years.

Judge Kwon was one of the judges in the trial of Slobodan Milošević, the former President of Serbia.

Judge Kwon was also the Presiding Judge for the case of former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadžić, handing him a 40-year sentence last March.

Judge Kwon resigned from the ICTY and returned home earlier this year. Now, he is opening a new chapter in his life and career, as the president of a research institute that specializes in international law.

If you wish to watch the interview, click here.

First Trial Over Cultural Destruction to Open at the ICC

Ahmad Al Faqi Al MahdiThe trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is scheduled to open tomorrow at the seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Mr Al Mahdi is an alleged Islamic extremist charged of war crime through his involvement in the intentional destruction of religious buildings in the city of Timbuktu in Mali between about 30 June 2012 and 10 July 2012.

In 2012, Tumbuktu would have been under the control of armed groups, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (“AQIM”) and Ansar Eddine, a mainly Tuareg movement associated with AQIM.

The Prosecution alleges that Al Mahdi was linked to those groups. His alleged orders consisted in the destruction of historic buildings including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu. They were specifically identified, chosen and targeted precisely in light and because of their religious and historical character. Their destruction was considered as a serious matter by the local population.

Due to Mr Al Mahdi’s announced intentions to make an admission of guilt, the trial is expected to last for about a week, after which the judges will deliberate and in due course pronounce a decision on the guilt or innocence of the accused and the possible sentence.

If the accused does not plead guilty at the opening of the trial, the hearings will be reported to another date.

This is the ICC first case concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments, which the ICC Prosecutor has called “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations, and their religious and historical roots”.

Mali’s government asked the Court in 2012 to investigate crimes committed on its territory. Prosecutors opened an investigation in 2013. Mr Al Madhi is the first suspect detained.

Abbas: Palestine plans lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine, announced his intention on Monday to sue the government of the United Kingdom over the 1917 Balfour Declaration which paved the way for the creation of Israel.

Balfour Declaration published in The Times of London - 9 November 1917

Balfour Declaration published in The Times of London – 9 November 1917

The statement of Abbas was delivered by foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki at the opening of this week’s Arab League summit in Mauritania, in the absence of Abbas.

It is said that the 1917 Balfour Declaration, named after then UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, pledged to support the establishment of a “national home” for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Declaration is seen as a key milestone for the Zionist movement.

The document formed the basis of the British Mandate for Palestine, which was formally approved by the League of Nations in 1922.

Al-Maliki said that the Balfour Declaration led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine. According to al-Maliki, the Declaration “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs”.

In the statement it was further said that the United Kingdom was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the British mandate in 1948.

According to the statement, the lawsuit would be filed “in an international court”, but no further details on the planned lawsuit were provided. Gulf News reported that Dr Hanna Eissa, part of the Palestinian team preparing the lawsuit, mentioned the International Court of Justice, which can issue non-binding advisory opinions.

Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence: Denial of Justice in Cases Involving International Torts

UK Soldiers Iraqby Rishi Gulati and Matthew Nelson*

The decision of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence (No. 2) [2016] UKSC 25 (“Iraqi Civilians”) demonstrates how public and private international law concepts interact and affect the rights of individuals allegedly subjected to grave breaches of rights to access a remedy before courts of law.

 Iraqi Civilians: Background

The claimants, hundreds of Iraqi civilians represented by 14 lead claimants, brought claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and in tort against the UK Ministry of Defence, for damages arising out of alleged unlawful detention and/or physical maltreatment by British soldiers between 2003 to 2008 in Iraq. After the cessation of the major combat operations in May 2003, the UK became an occupying power and began exercising the powers of the Iraqi Government on a temporary basis.

The Supreme Court’s brief decision, delivered by Justice Sumption, concerned the application of limitations to the claimants’ suits that operated as a matter of Iraqi law. Accepting, as the parties did, that Iraqi law applied in relation to questions of the Ministry’s liability in tort, the claimants were, by operation of Article 232 of the Civil Code of Iraq (the “Civil Code”), barred from commencing their applications (though their rights were not extinguished) by virtue of the operation of limitation periods to claims of this kind. Consequently, the claimants sought to invoke an order of the Coalition authorities, Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 (the “Order”), that operated to suspend the taking of proceedings in Iraqi courts against the UK Government, such that it conferred state immunity on the UK Government from legal process in Iraqi courts. It is this order, the claimants’ argued, that had the effect of suspending the limitation periods, as envisaged in Article 435 of the Civil Code. Continue reading

African Union Approves Regional Force in South Sudan

4. Ilawyer Image - African Union Approves Regional Force in South SudanSouth Sudan conflict was one of the main concerns of the last African Union (AU) Summit held in Kigali (Rwanda) on 17 and 18 July 2016, where the African leaders made it official that they were willing to deploy troops in South Sudan.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed his support for the AU deployment.

South Sudan just emerged from the 2013-2015 civil war which displaced 2.2 million people. Notwithstanding, the recent fighting between rival forces which left hundreds of people dead jeopardizes the Peace Deal signed in August 2015.

Even if a 12 000-strong UN peacekeeping force is already in South Sudan, the African leaders want to put into order a stronger mandate. According to Smail Chergui, the AU Peace and Security Commissioner, “the UN doesn’t have the mandate to impose peace“.

The details on the force are not agreed yet, but it will involve soldiers coming from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda and the model used will probably be similar to the intervention deployed within the UN’s mission in Democratic Republic of Congo held in 2013. Smail Chergui explained that “African troops are ready to engage in very difficult situations“.

The Kosovo Peacekeeping Mission, a “Total Failure”?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Wednesday, 13 July, the Human Rights Advisory Panel submitted a report about the United Nation Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). In this report, the Panel, whose role is to issue recommendations to the UNMIK, described the Kosovo peacekeeping mission as a “total failure”.

The report strongly criticizes the UNMIK’s handling of civilian grievances in Kosovo, including its failures to investigate disappearances and killings as well as negligence in the mass poisoning of hundreds of displaced Roma which were left in squalid United Nations camps built on land contaminated with lead.

According to the panel, “now that the Panel has concluded its mandate, putting an end to an eight-year process of issuing admissibility decisions, opinions, and recommendations, the Panel is forced to proclaim this process a total failure”.

This conclusion is a source of embarrassment for the United Nations, which regularly assails governments for a lack of accountability and defends victims whose human rights have been violated in conflict zones around the world.

The Panel ends its report  apologizing « profusely to the complainants for its role in this sham ».

The United Nations Peacekeeping Department, which oversees UNMIK, said that UNMIK « values the work of its advisory panel » but emphasizes the fact that the Panel is not a Tribunal.

UNMIK officials had no immediate comment on the report.

German Jihadist Convicted of War Crime

2. Ilawyer photo - German Jihadist Guilty of War Crime

© Torsten Silz/AFP

The Oberlandesgericht Frankfurt am Main, a Frankfurt Regional Court, has convicted Aria Ladjedvardi, a 21-year-old German Jihadist with Iranian roots, of two years in prison for committing a war crime for appearing in a set of photos with severed heads of Syrian army servicemen in Syria.

Indeed, between March 8 and April 16, 2014, a group of fighters attacked a checkpoint in the Idlib Province. According to the statement read by the court this Tuesday, they captured, beheaded and impaled the heads of two soldiers on spikes before putting them on public display.

The defendant posed with the heads of those soldiers in three photos found in his mother’s mobile phone, one of which was shared on the social network Facebook.

The Regional Court emphasized Mr Ladjevardi’s inacceptable behavior and held a violation of international humanitarian law for treating the two Syrian army soldiers “in a degrading and humiliating manner”.

Continue reading

ICTY: Goran Hadžić, Croatian-Serb War Crimes Defendant, Dies at 57

Goran HadžićGoran Hadžić, the former Croatian-Serb rebel leader, has died at the age of 57.

Hadžić was on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) over his role in the 1991-1995 Yugoslavia war.

Last April, the Trial Chamber ordered an indefinite halt to his trial, as he battled the advanced stages of terminal brain cancer.

His health significantly deteriorated in the last two months and he spent most of that time in the hospital where he died.

Hadžić was the last fugitive arrested by the ICTY.

He was accused of having participated in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE). It is alleged that the purpose of the JCE was the permanent forcible removal of a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from a large part of the Republic of Croatia in order to make it part of a new Serb-dominated state.

The accusations included the murder of civilians taken from Vukovar hospital in 1991 in one of the conflict’s darkest episodes.

He was also charged with responsibility for the massacre of Croat civilians who were forced to walk into a minefield in the Croatian town of Lovas in October 1991.

His trial opened in October 2012 following his arrest in Serbia in 2011 after seven years on the run.

Investigators had tracked Hadžić down as he was trying to sell an early 20th-century painting by the Italian master Amedeo Modigliani valued at several million dollars.

STL Terminates Trial Against Mustafa Badreddine

Mustafa Amine BadreddineYesterday, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) issued a decision in which it reversed the Trial Chamber’s decision to continue the trial against Mr Mustafa Amine Badreddine in the Ayyash et al. case and ordered the Trial Chamber to terminate the proceedings against Mr Badreddine.

By majority, the Appeals Chamber found that there was sufficient evidence presented before the Trial Chamber to prove the death of Mr Badreddine.

At the beginning of last month, the Trial Chamber decided that the trial against Badreddine could continue pending the receipt of further information from the government of Lebanon regarding the death of the Accused Mustafa Amine Badreddine. The Trial Judges did not believe that sufficient evidence had been presented to convince them that the death of Mr Badreddine has been proved to the requisite standard.

The trial in the Prosecutor v Ayyash et al. case will proceed against the remaining four accused.

A Step Closer to Having the Crime of Agression under the ICC Jurisdiction

1. ilawyer photo - Palestine 30th ratification of the Kampala Amendment… A Step closer to having crime of aggression jurisdiction activated before the ICC

On 26 June 2016, Palestine ratified the amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.

By this ratification, Palestine deposited the thirtieth instrument of ratification which opened the possibility of giving jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) to try the crime of aggression.

Indeed, the provisions of articles 15 bis and ter of the Rome Statute provide that the ICC will not be able to exercise its jurisdiction over this crime until at least thirty States Parties have ratified or accepted the amendments; and a decision is taken by two–thirds of States Parties to activate the jurisdiction at any time after 1 January 2017.  Continue reading