Latest News and Events

Event: The Armenian Genocide Legacy, 100 Years On

ArmeniaThe centennial of the Armenian Genocide will be the topic of a two-day conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 6 and 7 March 2015, at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

This major interdisciplinary gathering will bring together academics and professionals from various fields to discuss the impact of the Genocide in various fields of study. Experts will examine such issues as impunity, sexual violence, demographics, compensation, memorializing, political discourse and media approaches.

Keynote speaker, Ronald Suny, will open the conference (Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago and University of Michigan).

He will be followed by experts in the field of Law (Geoffrey Robertson – QC, Susan L. Karamanian, Nolwenn Guibert, Sun Kim, Najwa Nabti, Alexis Demirdjian, Hannibal Travis), historians (Ugur Umit Ungor, Jakub Bijak, Lorne Shirinian), experts in social sciences and humanities (Levon Chorbajian, Seyhan Bayraktar, Nanor Kebranian, Ayda Erbal, Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, Anthonie Holslag), experts in literature, media and journalism (Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Lisa Siraganian, Esra Elmas, Marie-Aude Baronian), and education (Joyce Sahyouni).

The conference is organised and sponsored by the Centennial Project Foundation, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the University of Southern California Dornsife Institute for Armenian Studies.

Additional information and participants’ bio is available here.

Contact details may be found on the website.  The conference is open to the public, free of charge. Advanced registration will open on 6 February 2015.

Event: Alliance Française – International Conferences

alliance-françaiseThe Alliance Française in The Hague is hosting a series of conferences in French on “International Law and European Questions”.

The first one will take place on 20 February at the Alliance Française and will be given by Mr. Gregory Mounier from Europol. The focus will be on the combat against organised crime and terrorism in Europe – the role of Europol.

The second will take place on 29 May and will feature Ms. Heleyn Unac, deputy head of the defence office at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The lecture will focus on the defence of accused persons before the international criminal courts.

For further information, click here.

UN Commission Wants International Tribunal to Prosecute Perpetrators in Central African Republic

CAR Commission

Fatimata M’Baye (right) and Philip Alston, two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (c)Loey Felipe

Two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (CAR), yesterday called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes committed in CAR.

Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, two of the UN Commission’s three members, reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been widely committed by all parties in the ongoing conflict.

M’Baye and Alston warned that “unless the world pays attention and holds perpetrators accountable, the situation in CAR could very much spiral into genocide.”

According to the latest report of the Commission, the UN is currently in negotiations to establish a criminal court to prosecute ‘political players’ who have committed crimes against humanity.

“If that goes ahead we are extremely concerned in making sure that a majority of the judges must come from the international community…We do not believe that national judges have that type of independence,” law professor Alston said.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened investigations into atrocities committed in CAR since 2012. However, according to Mbaye, the ICC can only prosecute a few top leaders and there is a need for justice on a much larger scale.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence resulted in the killing of at least 5,000 people. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders.

ICJ: Judgment in the Croatia vs Serbia Genocide Case on 3 February 2015

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will render its Judgment in the Croatia versus Serbia Genocide case on 3 February 2015, between 10:00 and 13:00.

In 1999, Croatia instituted proceedings before the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) for violations of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Croatia alleged that between 1991 and 1995, Serbia committed genocide relating to Croatia’s war of independence following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.

In 2010 Serbia filed a counter-suit, alleging that Croatia committed genocide during and after Operation Storm when some 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave Croatia in 1995 when Zagreb launched a military operation to retake its territory.

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC is Counsel for the Republic of Serbia (along with Professors William Schabas, Andreas Zimmerman, Christian Tams and others).

Bosnia: No Release until Retrial for War Crime Convicts

©AP/Press Association Images

Refugees from the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica wait for transportation on 12 July 1995 ©AP/Press Association Images

Bosnia’s constitutional court has ruled against the further release of war crimes convicts whose verdicts were quashed for misuse of criminal provisions. More than 20 war crimes cases were found to be invalid as it was ruled that the Bosnian criminal code was wrongly used at their trials, instead of the Yugoslav criminal code, which was in force at the time that the crimes were committed.

The retrials were ordered by the Bosnian Court after the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg ruled in July 2013 that the Bosnian court used the wrong criminal code in Maktouf and Damjanovic. Following the ECtHR decision, several appeals were filed to the constitutional court, leading to the controversial release of convicts. Novak Djukic, one of these convicts originally sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering an artillery strike on the town of Tuzla that killed 71 people, shortly absconded to Serbia after his release, therefore eluding from retrial.

As a result, the Bosnian court decided to block further release until retrials are completed, including the ones of Milorad Trbić, convicted of involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, and Ante Kovac, jailed for war crimes in Vitez in 1993.

Meddzida Kreso, the president of the Bosnian court, stated that the quashing of these verdicts was the biggest challenge for her institution over the past year because “the legal framework for the execution of imprisonment sentences and custody measures ceased to exist in the case of persons who were sentenced for the gravest violations of the international humanitarian laws”.

Latest Analysis

Palestine’s ICC Accession: Risks and Rewards

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej

Handout picture showing Abbas signing international agreements in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signs 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the ICC, in Ramallah on 31 December 2014

On 6 January, the UN secretary-general confirmed that Palestine will accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestine’s accession has, unsurprisingly, prompted certain countries – including Israel, the US and a number of European states – to warn of potentially grave consequences. It is certainly a risky venture for Palestine given political tensions in the region, but it may deter future war crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and marks another step towards statehood for Palestine.

Palestine’s accession will confer jurisdiction on the Court in relation to crimes committed within the territory claimed by Palestine. Although Israel has not ratified the Rome Statute, crimes allegedly committed by Israeli nationals in the territory claimed by Palestine will fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The ICC will also have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Palestinians outside the territory claimed by Palestine, including in Israel. Crimes falling within the ICC jurisdiction are limited to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the accession can only confer on the Court jurisdiction over crimes committed after the Rome Statute enters into force for Palestine on 1 April. And until the borders of Palestinian territory are clearly defined and the status of occupied territories resolved, the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction will remain contentious.

In order to bring past crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction, Palestine, on 1 January, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, retroactively accepting the Court’s jurisdiction. Although in principle such declarations can extend to crimes committed after 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute entered into force, Palestine decided to limit it to crimes committed since 13 June 2014. The declaration, if accepted by the ICC, would therefore bring into the ICC’s jurisdiction last summer’s conflict in Gaza but not earlier military operations. Continue reading

After Torture Report, Rights of Victims and Accountability for Perpetrators Must Not Be Denied

By David Tolbert*

Torture ReportWith the publication of the much-delayed US Senate Intelligence Committee’s partial report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, at long last the truth is out. Put simply, the abuses it details are sickening. The report documents a period of lawlessness by the US Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that officials at the highest levels of the US government committed very serious and atrocious crimes, including systematic torture in violation of the UN Convention on Torture (of which the United States is a party) and US law.

The Senate report corroborates the findings of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), in a series of reports dating back to 2008, as well as other rights groups: that the systematic practice of torture against detainees in secret overseas prisons was approved and overseen at the most senior levels of the US government. Moreover, as Senator Dianne Feinstein aptly notes in the report’s foreword, these practices were in direct “violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

While we have known for over a decade about many of the details of illegal US detention and interrogation practices, the “Torture Report” establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the US government engaged in widespread and brutal use of torture and other criminal acts against a long list of individuals without a shred of due process or even the semblance of justice.

The full 6,700-page report has not been released yet, but its lengthy, heavily redacted executive summary nonetheless paints a repulsive picture of criminal and immoral practices far beyond what had been previously made known to the public. It also exposes the facile lie that torture somehow disrupted terror plots or saved American lives. The report, based on over 5 million pieces of evidence sourced from the CIA itself, decisively debunks this claim, and under the weight of direct evidence the CIA’s contorted claims fall like a house of cards. Moreover, it establishes in clear terms that the CIA’s torture program was perpetuated through misinformation to the public, Congress, and even the White House. Continue reading

The Impact of the ECCC

by Youk Chhang*

ECCC

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

We have come a long way in forging a number of valuable instruments and policies to meet the challenge of responding to and punishing violence and mass atrocity. Recognising that the root causes of mass atrocities often stem from the inequalities between identity groups, we have put emphasis on the legal and governmental aspects of violence prevention. In terms of punishment as well, a variety of courts have been created to shed light on the atrocious acts of criminal regimes, and punish leaders who were most responsible.

The proceedings now under way at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, represent one example of how Cambodia has sought to address the horrible crimes perpetrated from 1975-79. The court’s work can be broken down into four cases. Case 001, which was completed in 2012, centred upon the prosecution of the notorious chief of a prison/security centre (S-21), who was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The trial court also recently issued its judgment for the accused senior leaders in the first set of charges in Case 002. Case 002, which has been broken up into separate trials reflecting different charges against the accused, holds importance in Cambodia’s struggle to understand what happened and why during the horrific Democratic Kampuchea (DK) period. Finally, cases 003 and 004 continue to be investigated. Continue reading

Decision on Flotilla Raid is Latest Turn in ICC’s Consideration of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej*

The decision to not investigate alleged war crimes during the raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010 comes as no surprise, but it highlights the uncertain legal situation surrounding the Rome Statute’s applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Mavi Marmara Passengers

Passengers look down from the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara as the Israeli navy intercepts boats bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 – ©Getty Images

On 5 November, the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers during their raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010. Despite acknowledging a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, the prosecutor concluded that the potential case was not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC. The decision comes as no surprise.

Due to its limited resources, the ICC was never intended to deal with all crimes falling within its jurisdiction. The assessment as to which case meets the threshold of sufficient gravity is based on the scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes and their impact. Given that the court lacks jurisdiction to investigate any other alleged crimes committed in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict or in the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prosecutor concluded that the requisite threshold was not met because the potential case(s) would be limited to an event encompassing a small number of victims of the alleged war crimes. Continue reading

South Africa’s Police Must Investigate Zimbabwe Torture Allegations

By Max du Plessis*

10-11-2014-SAPS-Zimbabwe-Torture-ContentOn 30 October 2014, the Constitutional Court of South Africa handed down its judgment in a landmark case for international criminal justice.

The appeal related to the responsibilities of the South African Police Service (SAPS) under domestic and international law to investigate acts of torture, as a crime against humanity, that were allegedly committed in Zimbabwe.

The decision, by South Africa’s highest court, reaffirms the obligations set out in the South African Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (ICC Act) regarding investigation and prosecution of international crimes.

In March 2008, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) submitted a dossier to the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) detailing allegations of torture in Zimbabwe. The NPA took no action, indicating that they could only do so if the police investigated the allegations and laid charges. Continue reading