Latest News and Events

ADC-ICTY Annual Conference: Judge Schomburg Confirmed as Keynote Speaker

ADC-ICTY-300x300The 2015 Annual Conference of the Association of Defence Counsel Practising before the ICTY and Representing Counsel before the MICT (ADC-ICTY)  will be opened with a keynote speech entitled No Justice Without Defence Counsel by Professor Doctor h.c. Wolfgang Schomburg.

Wolfgang Schomburg served as an international Judge at the UN-ICTY first as a presiding Judge and then in the Appeals Chambers. He is an invaluable addition to the ADC Annual Conference.

Date: 5 December 2015

Time: 09:00 to 17:30

Location: Bel Air Hotel, Johan de Wittlaan 30, 2517 JR The Hague

This one-day conference will focus on the situation of Defence Counsel at International Criminal Courts and Tribunals and will feature four distinguished panels on various topics in relation to the role and importance of the Defence.

The closing remarks will be delivered by the ADC-ICTY President, Colleen M. Rohan, and panellists will include renowned Defence Counsel, Judges and representatives from various international criminal courts and tribunals.

Panel I: The Role of Defence Counsel at International Criminal Courts and Tribunals

Panel II: The Necessity of a Defence Office from the International and National Perspective

Panel III: The Importance of a Bar Association for International Criminal Courts and Tribunals

Panel IV: The Future of Defence Counsel on the International and National Level

Confirmed speakers:

Judge Wolfgang Schomburg, Jens Dieckmann, Christopher Gosnell, Gregor Guy-Smith, Dragan Ivetić, Michael G. Karnavas, Xavier-Jean Keïta, Nina Kisić, Novak Lukić, Judge Howard Morrison, Judge Janet Nosworthy, Judge Alphons Orie, Fiana Reinhardt, Colleen Rohan, Héleyn Uñac, Slobodan Zečević

Participation Fee: 35 Euros (including coffee breaks) for the general public,

20 Euros for ADC-ICTY members, students and unpaid interns.

For further information and to register please contact the ADC-ICTY Head Office at

Alleged Islamic Extremist Surrendered to the ICC for the Destruction of Historical Monuments

Tumbuktu Mausoleum Ruins

The ruins of the mausoleum of Alfa Moya in a cemetery in Timbuktu ©AFP

Today, Mr Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi was surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the authorities of Niger and arrived at the Court’s Detention Centre in the Netherlands.

Mr Al Faqi is an alleged Islamic extremist charged of war crimes 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.

Mr Al Faqi is charged in the destruction of 10 historic buildings including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu.

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 Faqi was linked to the Islamic court of Timbuktu and participated in carrying out its orders. Specifically, it is alleged that he was involved in the destruction of the buildings mentioned in the charges.

In a statement issued today, the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said that “Intentional attacks against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion are serious crimes under the Rome Statute […] No longer should such reprehensible conduct go unpunished. It is rightly said that “cultural heritage is the mirror of humanity.” Such attacks affect humanity as a whole. We must stand up to the destruction and defacing of our common heritage.”

This is the ICC first case concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments.

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

International Court of Justice to Hear Chile-Bolivia Coastal Case

International Court of JusticeThe International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction to hear a century-old dispute between Chile and Bolivia in relation to Bolivia’s access to the Pacific Ocean.

Bolivia became landlocked after it lost 400km of coast to Chile during the War of the Pacific in 1879-1884.

In April 2013, Bolivia filed an application to the International Court of Justice instituting proceedings against Chile with regard to a dispute “relating to Chile’s obligation to negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean”. Bolivia stressed that it did not ask for an ICJ ruling on its claim to the 400-km stretch of coast, but that it only wanted Chile to agree to negotiations.

Chile argued that the case did not fall under the jurisdiction of the ICJ as a 1904 peace treaty between the two countries settled their border. It therefore asked the Court to rule that the claim brought by Bolivia was not within the jurisdiction of the Court. Continue reading

Kofi Annan: UN Security Council Must Take In New Permanent Members

Kofi AnnanIn a recent interview, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said the UN Security Council must welcome in new permanent members or risk becoming increasingly irrelevant on the international stage.

Annan said Russia, China, the US, France and the UK should take advantage of the imminent 70th anniversary of the UN to modernise it by taking in powers such as India and Germany.

“One should always take advantage of the accident of the calendar and really push for major reforms […] I firmly believe that the Council should be reformed: it cannot continue as it is.”

The current system has been criticised as an anachronism, setting in stone the global politics of 70 years ago. Among the longstanding proponents of reform are India, Germany, Japan and South Africa, all lobbying for a permanent seat on the Council.

“The world has changed and the UN should change and adapt. […] I think those in privileged positions will have to think hard and decide what amount of power they are prepared to release to make the participation of the newcomers meaningful. If they do that, they will get cooperation; if they don’t, we risk confrontation,” said Annan.

Successive Secretaries General have attempted to push through reforms but have met resistance from the sitting powers. Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of all five permanent members, and at least two-thirds of UN member states.

A text setting out the basic framework for reform is being considered by member states, but experts are pessimistic regarding its implementation, given the lack of interest from big powers such as the United States and Russia.

91-Year-Old Woman Charged Over Nazi Death Camp Allegations

AuschwitzGerman prosecutors have charged a 91-year-old woman as an accessory to the murder of 260,000 people at Auschwitz on allegations she was a member of the Nazi SS who served in the death camp complex.

The woman, who has not been named under German privacy laws, is accused of having served as a member of the SS at the concentration camp.

The 91-year-old woman, a resident of Schleswig-Holstein, is accused of having been an SS radio operator at Auschwitz from April to July 1944.

Although her involvement in the mass killings at the camp may have been peripheral, prosecutors argue she can be held accountable because she helped the camp function.

There are no indications at the moment that the woman is unfit for trial.

Latest Analysis

What’s Taking so Long?

By Nora Jaber*

Court HammerRutkowski and Others v. Poland and Gazso v. Hungary are two pilot cases decided in July 2015 that highlight a major point of contention faced by the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”): the right to be tried within a reasonable time as enshrined within Article 6(1) of the Convention. At the time of the Rutkowski judgement there were over another 650 similar cases pending before the ECtHR, and over 300 Polish cases pending before the Committee of Ministers at the execution stage.

This demonstrates the scale of the relevance of Article 6(1) to the Court’s jurisprudence today. In fact, it is the most contentious issue before the Court, and has been at the forefront of the Court’s caseload for a very long time. The Court has issued hundreds of judgments on Article 6(1) and has stressed the importance of minimising delays in order for justice to be delivered. Despite this, the problem of undue delays in proceedings persists and warrants attention.

It is said that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Delays can and do compromise the effective administration of justice. An excessively long procedure can result in a weakening of the position of the accused by, for example, a deterioration of the quality of evidence or a loss of it. Such situations become more plausible the longer the duration of the trial procedure and should be avoided in order to ensure a proper administration of justice.

Continue reading

Tunisia’s “Reconciliation Bill” Threatens Gains of the Revolution

by David Tolbert*

Tunisia RevolutionTunisia has until now inspired the region and the rest of the world by taking the democratic path after its 2011 revolution. But the current dysfunction of the political system, the deep poverty in the country’s marginalized rural interior and the brutality of extremism are tying a vicious knot that threatens to destroy the transitional process. With the government’s proposed “Reconciliation Bill,” the promises of the revolution are in danger of being crushed. The gains of the revolution are at stake.

In this worrying situation, what is needed is more support for the rule of law, not less. What Tunisians deserve and what the revolution sought was the end of dictatorship and the pursuit of accountability for large-scale corruption and human rights violations, not authoritarian measures and entrenched impunity.

The government of Tunisia, regrettably, is responding to the current security crisis with measures that could make the situation worse. The now-departed dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali pointed to extremism to justify policies that led to torture, prolonged detention, sexual violence, and forced exile as well as extreme restrictions on the right to education, religious worship and livelihood. That climate of repression could well return with new draconian provisions. Continue reading

For All Kenyans to Be Equal, Kenyatta Must Move Beyond Words on Justice

by David Tolbert*

President Kenyatta (c) AP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (c) AP

President Obama’s historic visit to Kenya came at an important crossroads for the country. While much of the attention of the press was directed at Obama’s Kenyan roots, for many, Obama’s emphasis on justice for all Kenyans is what will be remembered. This is particularly true given that Obama’s visit came four months after President Kenyatta’s official apology to, and announcement of reparations for, the many victims of the 2008 post-election violence, as recommended by Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

The issue of justice, as well as endemic corruption and the stalled reform process in Kenya, will remain long after the cheers for the U.S. President have faded. President Kenyatta has, however, an opportunity in the wake of Obama’s historic visit to go beyond rhetoric and both deliver on his apology and the issues Obama has raised. Kenyatta and the Kenyan authorities should not miss this opportunity.

Kenyatta’s promising announcements require concrete steps and actions without further delay. His four-month old decision to establish a fund to provide relief to victims was followed and confirmed by the inclusion of the first tranche of resources-one billion shillings (almost $10 million U.S. dollars) in the new annual budget. Now is the time to design a comprehensive and gender-sensitive reparations program that starts with the most vulnerable victims. Opening space for the participation of victims and listening to their needs and demands must be the first step. Concurrently, an efficient and transparent administrative system and infrastructure for the program must be created. Continue reading

The Principle of Ne Bis in Idem in International Law: European Inspiration?

By Myron Phua*

European LawRecent developments in the jurisprudence of both the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) and the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) have demonstrated how international tribunals can collaboratively act to develop the international law principle of ne bis in idem to increase its clout. The ne bis in idem principle exists in Public International Law not as a monolithic rule capable of universal enforcement, but as a rule specific to the jurisdictional regime in which it operates – each differing from the others in scope and content.

The CJEU in Criminal Proceedings Against M. (C-398/12, 5 June 2014) had held, at [37], that ne bis in idem under Article 50 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights had “… the same meaning and the same scope as the corresponding right” under Article 4, Protocol 7 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This enabled the Court to make two conclusions on the merits of the case in relation to the application of ne bis in idem within EU law under Article 54 Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (“CISA”).

First, the Court ruled that, referencing the position under the ECHR as established in Sergey Zolutukhin v. Russia, (no. 14939/03), a ‘non lieu’ ruling by the courts of a given EU Member State was capable of being a final decision which triggered the protection under Article 54 CISA prohibiting subsequent prosecutions in another Member State, regardless of whether “… the exceptional bringing of separate proceedings based on different evidence” remained a possibility. Continue reading

For Hissène Habré, a Trial by Refusal

by Thierry Cruvellier*

DAKAR, Senegal — Surrounded by 10 muscular prison guards, Hissène Habré, his frail body entirely swathed in white, looked smothered in his chair. He was sitting in the front row of the immense courtroom, fingering Muslim prayer beads. His boubou covered all but his eyes, and they were partly hidden by his glasses.

Mr. Habré, the 72-year-old former president of Chad, is accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture regarding the deaths of an alleged 40,000 people during his rule between 1982 and 1990. July 20 was the first day of his trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court he has repeatedly denounced as “illegitimate and illegal.” And almost as soon as it started, it stopped: Mr. Habré, and his lawyers, refused to participate, and on the next day the proceedings were suspended.

The Habré trial is the event of the year in the field of international criminal law. With tensions growing between the African Union and the International Criminal Court — which African states accuse of being biased against them because it prosecutes mostly crimes committed in Africa — the E.A.C. was being touted, at least by Senegal’s justice minister, as the advent of an “Africa that judges Africa.”

Hissène Habré after a court hearing in Dakar in June. Credit Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré after a court hearing in Dakar in June. Credit Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But on the first day of what may be the court’s only trial, Mr. Habré derided the E.A.C., or C.A.E. in French, as the “Comité administratif extraordinaire,” the Extraordinary Administrative Committee. He called the judges — two from Senegal, one from Burkina Faso — “simple functionaries tasked with carrying out a political mission.” As the hearing was about to begin, Mr. Habré stood up and shouted, “Down with imperialism! Down with traitors! Allahu Akbar!” A dozen of his partisans rose from their seats nearby and chanted: “Long live Chad!” “Long live Habré!” “Mr. President, we are with you!” Continue reading