Latest News and Events

ECCC: Second Ex-Khmer Rouge Official Charged in Case 004

On 27 March 2015, the International Co-Investigating Judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) charged former Khmer Rouge official Ao An, also known as Ta An, with crimes against humanity and premeditated homicide.

Ao An, aka Ta An, photographed in 2011. Photo Courtesy DC-CAM

Ao An, aka Ta An, photographed in 2011. Photo Courtesy DC-CAM

Ta An appeared in person at the court to hear the charges related to purges and executions at the crime sites of Kok Pring execution site, Tuol Beng security centre and Wat Au Trakuon security centre.

Ta An, the former deputy secretary of the Central Zone during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, is the second suspect charged in Case 004. Earlier this month, the UN-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal charged former district commander Im Chaem in the same case. Continue reading

Charles Taylor’s Request for Transfer to Rwanda Denied

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor

The Trial Chamber of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone has denied former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s request to serve the remainder of his 50-year sentence in a prison in Rwanda.

On the 25th of March, the Public Information Section of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a press release with the decision. Although the Trial Chamber had already arrived at its decision on 30 January 2015, it had waited with the public release of its decision as a related motion had still been pending.

Since his conviction was confirmed by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) in September 2013, Mr Taylor has been incarcerated at Frankland Prison in Durham in the United Kingdom. However, all other persons convicted by the SCSL are serving their sentences at Mpanga Prison in Rwanda, and Mr Taylor is the only prisoner convicted by an international court forced to serve his sentence on another continent. Continue reading

Chadian Court Convicts Accomplices of Hissene Habre

BEL<HISSEIN HABRE EN CONFERENCE DE PRESS  E A LA CEE

Hissene Habre

A special criminal court in Chad has convicted accomplices of Chad’s former President Hissene Habre for crimes of torture and murder committed between 1982 and 1990.

The criminal court in Ndjamena sentenced seven ex-policemen to life imprisonment. Three others were sentenced to 20 years of hard labour. The other convictions ranged from 7 to 20 years in prison. Four of the in total 28 accused have been acquitted.

The defendants were accused of murder, torture, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, and assault and battery. Many of them were top security agents under Habre’s rule and kept key positions in the Chadian administration until they were arrested in 2013 and 2014.

Among the seven men sentenced to life imprisonment were Saleh Younous, former head of the Directorate of Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), Habre’s political police, and Mahamat Djibrine, described by a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission as one of the “most feared torturers in Chad”. Continue reading

Amsterdam Law School: Master’s International Criminal Law (LLM)

Amsterdam Law School

Amsterdam Law School

Columbia University School of Law and the Amsterdam Law School offer a joint LLM programme in International Criminal Law. The Master’s programme in International Criminal Law is the first programme to focus on international criminal law as a distinct field of legal study. The central aim of the programme is to train a new style of international criminal lawyers by offering a broad and deep understanding of relevant issues and supporting the development of academic skills through the analysing of such issues.

The programme is unique because of the dual perspective it offers on international criminal law: the common law and criminal law-oriented focus from Columbia University and the civil law and criminal law perspective offered by the Amsterdam Law School.

The deadline for application is 1 April.

The Armenian Genocide Legacy 100 Years On

ArmeniaTHE HAGUE – On 5, 6 and 7 March 2015, 22 experts gathered for a conference at The Hague Institute for Global Justice to look at the legacy of the Armenian Genocide from the perspective of law, humanities, media, arts and letters, politics and education. Speakers focused on the influence that this event and its denial have had on research and practice in their disciplines. This event was organized by Alexis Demirdjian (Centennial Project Foundation), the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD) and the University of Southern California Institute of Armenian Studies (USC IAS).

“On the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, organisations and State agencies around the world will acknowledge, reflect and consider its impact and relevance today. Discussions will ignite in academic institutions, classrooms, around dinner tables, in community centres and church halls, in centres of government and in the press. Much of these discussions in the past have focused on the Genocide itself, leaving little space to consider its relevance today. Addressing this issue, therefore, was the contribution of this conference and of the upcoming book to be published by the end of 2015,” said Alexis Demirdjian, an attorney who has many years experience working in the various criminal justice institutions located in the city of The Hague. Continue reading

Latest Analysis

Can International Law Change the World?

By Shehzad Charania

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

This week, at the Residence of the British Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ambassador Sir Geoffrey Adams opened the British Embassy Annual Lecture Series on International Law.  The guest speaker for the Inaugural Lecture was Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood of the International Court of Justice.

Ambassador Adams explained that the lecture marked the occasion of the Global Law Summit, which took place this week in London, as well the year in which we commemorate 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta of 1215.

Judge Greenwood’s lecture was entitled “Can International Law Change the World?”.  He began by referring back to the Magna Carta itself.  He explained that Magna Carta had changed “a world”: the law of England, albeit slowly and tentatively.  It established equality before the law; in particular, that even the King was subject to the law; and that justice was not to be sold or denied to anyone.  These principles form the foundation of the rule of law.

So could international law change the world in a similar way, Judge Greenwood asked.  He used as his point of reference the First and Second Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907.  The inspiration for those conferences had been a belief that international law could indeed change the world.  Specifically, the hope was that these conferences would legislate on the way war was conducted, including the reductions of certain armaments and prohibition of others, and set up an international court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which would enable States to settle their differences by law rather than war. Continue reading

Is the International Community Abandoning the Fight Against Impunity?

by David Tolbert*

Court HammerTwenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than a decade after the establishment of the International Criminal Court, shockingly little is being done to stop massive human rights abuses. The prospects of victims receiving justice, let alone bringing perpetrators to account, seem ever more remote.

In recent days, we have witnessed horrific atrocities by Boko Haram, with only a limited response by the international community. The bloody handiwork of ISIL is grabbing headlines, and there seems to be no coherent strategy to address its barbarity. In Syria conflict rages, with untold civilian casualties as a divided UN Security Council sits on the sidelines. Gaza is struggling to recover after its umpteenth destruction. Eastern Ukraine is rocked by daily attacks on civilian targets, and very few seem to remember the downing of a civilian airplane there, in which 295 people died. This somber list could go on and on.

In my view, the response by the international community to these horrors is one primarily of lip service and well-worn shibboleths. Indeed, powerful states often seem to be casting support to whichever group of killers best suits their interests, with only faint rhetorical nods to human rights.

This is not only a professional reaction to these disturbing trends; it is also born of deep personal concerns and experiences. I joined the United Nations in 1993 to work on issues in Palestine and started my new job on the very day the Oslo Accords were signed, marveling at both the apparent breakthrough and my seeming good fortune to be part of an era of peace building. Several years later I joined the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and later sat across a jail cell desk from one of the principal architects of the Balkan tragedy, Slobodan Milosevic, whose prevarications were then being made from behind bars, far from the halls of power. In 1998, I was in Rome for negotiations on the International Criminal Court; I was both awed by the apparent flowering of international justice and a bit nervous that the world perhaps did not understand fully the implications of such a groundbreaking step. Continue reading

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