Latest News and Events

Fair Trials International New Training Programme

flagFair Trials International is organising a Practitioner Training Course for lawyers from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland on fair trial rights in criminal proceedings in partnership with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. The course on “the EU directives on fair trial rights in criminal proceedings” will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from 21st to 23rd November 2014.

Venue: Westin Hotel, Warsaw, Poland

Dates: 21-23 November 2014

Language: English

For Lawyers from: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland

Application deadline: 12 September 2014

Cost: There is no charge for the training.

The application form is available here. To apply or for more information, send an email or visit Fair Trials’ Website.

HRW : Egypt Rab’a Killings Likely Crime Against Humanity

Rabaa sit in dispersal on 14 August 2013. Photo: Mohamed Gamil/DNE

Rabaa sit in dispersal on 14 August 2013. Photo: Mohamed Gamil/DNE

In a report published yesterday and following a year-long investigation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asserts that the systematic and widespread killing of at least 1,150 demonstrators by Egyptian security forces in July and August 2013 probably amounts to crimes against humanity. In the August 14 dispersal of the Rab’a al-Adawiya sit-in alone, security forces, following a plan that envisioned several thousand deaths, killed a minimum of 817 people and more likely at least 1,000.

The report, entitled, “All According to Plan: The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt,” documents the death on 14 August 2013 of hundreds of protesters calling for former President Mohamed Morsi to come back. Describing a “mass killing” that could amount to a crime against humanity, HRW calls for an investigation several officials, including Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, who was elected President in May 2014. “In Rab’a Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This wasn’t merely a case of excessive force or poor training. It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for.”

Kenneth Roth arrived at Cairo airport on Monday to present the report along with Sarah Leah Whiston, executive director of HRW Middle East and North Africa Division. Both were banned from entering Egypt for “security reasons.”

Image2

Top Khmer Rouge Leaders Found Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity

Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea appe

Nuon Chea (left) and Khieu Samphan

Today, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found the last two surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime guilty of crimes against humanity. Kieu Samphan, the former head of state of Cambodia, and Nuon Chea, former president of the national assembly, have both been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Trial Chamber found that both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan participated in a joint criminal enterprise to achieve the common purpose of implementing a rapid socialist revolution through a ‘great leap forward’ by whatever means necessary. The Chamber found that this common purpose was implemented through, amongst other means, policies to forcibly displace people from cities and towns and between rural areas. As a result, during the first phase of the movement of the population at least two million people were forcibly transferred from Phnom Penh in April 1975 by Khmer Rouge soldiers under false pretexts and threats, often at gunpoint, with almost no prior warning and in terrifying and violent circumstances.

During the second phase of the movement of the population, between September 1975 and December 1977, at least 330,000 to 430,000 people were forcibly displaced from various locations throughout Cambodia. Most people were ordered to leave their locations and transferred under armed guard. Those who refused transfer or attempted escape were arrested, detained or transferred in a further round of movements. Continue reading

Launch of an Online Forum on the Extraordinary African Chambers

Chambres Africaines ExtraordinairesAn interactive forum on the Extraordinary African Chambers (CAE) has been launched online.

This forum was chosen to bring information on the proceedings following the agreement between the African Union and Senegal to prosecute “those primarily responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990” to the attention of people in Senegal, Chad, Africa and throughout the world.

Since the beginning of 2014, an outreach campaign has made it easier for people in Chad and Senegal to access information through meetings, public debates and information workshops taking place in the capital and in the provinces. These events involve the general public, CAE members, administrative and judicial authorities of Chad and Senegal, lawyers, victims, researchers, the media and civil society. The campaign also aims to encourage debate around the contribution of the CAE in the framework of international criminal justice. Continue reading

Amnesty International: ICC is the Key to Break Injustice in Gaza

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Following Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Amnesty International is urging the UN Security Council, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to do everything within their power to enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring to justice those responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current and past Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

“An International Criminal Court investigation is crucial to end the pervasive culture of impunity. All sides must push for the Court to investigate such crimes in order to halt the vicious cycle of violations and injustice once and for all”, says Amnesty.

Amnesty asks the Security Council to take immediate steps to refer the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the Prosecutor of the ICC. For Amnesty, “the UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities. It must seize this moment to act decisively for justice.”

Amnesty International is also calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to support a Security Council referral, and take other measures that would allow the ICC to step in and ensure their co-operation with the Court. Continue reading

Latest Analysis

The Day AU Leaders Justified the Existence of the ICC!

by Arnold Tsunga and Wayne Jordash QC

African leaders

African Union Summit, July 2014

There is a general notion that the law is like a spider’s web. It only catches the weak.

The decision adopted by the AU heads in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to grant immunity from prosecution for serious human rights violations to heads of state and senior government officials at the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights only serves to reinforce this perception.

Heads who faced justice

Few African heads of state have been tried for serious human rights violations of their own people. Those that come to mind are Charles Taylor (Liberia) and Hosni Mubarak (Egypt).  Charles Taylor was tried by a hybrid tribunal set up under the auspices of the UN in Sierra Leone (sitting in The Hague, a city that has become the seat of international justice). After being overthrown in a revolution, Mubarak was tried by domestic courts in what some view as flawed victor’s justice. The AU was not involved in either of these proceedings.

Others await or are going through trial. These are Laurent Gbagbo (Cote D’Ivoire), Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir (Sudan), Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto (Kenya) at the ICC, and Hissène Habré (Chad) at an AU sponsored tribunal in Senegal. The Hissène Habré case has been awaiting trial since shortly after the millennium. Legitimate concerns have been raised about the willingness of the AU leaders to see Hissène Habré face justice and the completion of the trial. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir has been largely protected by the AU heads that have refused to cooperate with the ICC to effect his warrant of arrest. Continue reading

Immunity under Pressure: The Case of Hugo Carvajal

by Philippa Webb

Hugo Carvajal

Hugo Carvajal © Reuters

A recent legal flurry on the island of Aruba (population: 100,000) has raised interesting questions about the nature and scope of diplomatic/consular immunity.

Hugo Carvajal, the former chief of Venezuelan military intelligence and retired General whose nickname is ‘el Pollo’ (the Chicken), was detained in Aruba on 23 July. He had been admitted to the island on a diplomatic passport and had been named Consul-General to Aruba by Venezuela earlier in the year.

According to news reports, he was detained at Aruba’s international airport pursuant to a request from the United States. He is accused of conspiring with Colombian drug traffickers to export cocaine to the US. In 2008, the US Treasury Department put him on a blacklist, alleging he had protected drug shipments from FARC and provided them with weapons and logistical assistance.

Venezuela’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs rejected the ‘illegal and arbitrary detention of [a] Venezuelan diplomat’ and invoked the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. A local judge in Aruba, however, rejected the claim of diplomatic immunity on 25 July. The judge pointed out that Carvajal’s nomination of Consul General had not yet been accepted by the Dutch authorities, which was required since Aruba is part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The judge ordered Carvajal to be held pending extradition proceedings. Continue reading

The Net is Closing in on Guatemalan Criminals

by Sander Wirken

Former Guatemalan national police chief Sperisen sentenced to life in Switzerland

Erwin Sperisen

Erwin Sperisen

An accused standing trial for the murder of ten people is not a common occurrence in Swiss criminal courts. Erwin Sperisen, a former Guatemalan police chief (2004-2007) and dual Guatemalan-Swiss national, stood trial for just that this year. On 6 June 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the extrajudicial execution of seven prisoners in a campaign of ‘social cleansing’ directed by the national police leadership. The ruling marks an important victory for justice and signals that fleeing to another country is no longer a guarantee of impunity for Guatemalan criminals.

During the Oscar Berger government (2004-2008), a parallel structure emerged in Guatemala within the Ministry of the Interior and the National Civilian Police, led by the police top leadership and the Minister of the Interior. Amongst other activities, the structure dedicated itself to ‘social cleansing’, i.e., ridding Guatemalan society of what those involved in that process regarded as ‘undesired elements’.

The charges against Sperisen revolved around two incidents. First there was the case of three inmates that had escaped from the El Infiernito prison in October 2005. The escapees allegedly resisted their arrest and died in an armed confrontation with police officers. The bullet impacts, witness testimonies and other evidence were inconsistent with that scenario however and pointed rather at the escapees having been executed, after which the crime scene had been altered to resemble an armed confrontation. The Swiss court was convinced that the three escapees had indeed been extra-judicially executed. However, the court was not convinced beyond any reasonable doubt of Sperisen’s personal involvement in the killings, as Sperisen had not been present at the scene of the crime and no clear evidence linking him to the material authors of the executions was provided. Continue reading

Brazil: Extra-Time For Human Rights?

by Natacha Bracq of Global Rights Compliance LLP

Maracana 2014

Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, February 2014, (c) ME /Portal da Copa

Although it is considered to be the world’s seventh wealthiest country, Brazil’s human rights record is faltering at best. However, this year’s 2014 FIFA World Cup has brought some overdue international attention, as well as stirring up large internal protests. The contrasts could not be starker. Despite its impressive economic development and the enormous expenditure associated with the World Cup, government corruption, poor public services and police violence continued to blight the lives of ordinary Brazilians and have given rise to understandable public outrage. For over a year, Brazil has experienced waves of protests with around a million people on the streets. However, as tens of thousands of tourists descended upon the 12 hosting cities, little appears to have been done to answer Brazilians’ call for justice or improvements. Given the police and military conduct, one might be mistaken for believing that the authorities care little for responses, except those that are accompanied by tear gas and violence.

Reporter Brasil (a Sao Paulo based NGO) identified six main categories of human rights abuses that are associated with the hosting of the World Cup: the right to decent work, the rights of children and adolescents, the right to protest, the rights of stakeholders, housing rights, and the rights of immigrants and temporary workers. Tellingly, rather than amending laws to address societal need, the Brazilian Congress instead enacted the General Law of the World Cup that, in the main, restricted rights guaranteed by the Constitution and other legislation. The changes mainly serve the interests of FIFA and its sponsors, meanwhile doing nothing to address the country’s human rights record. Continue reading

Increasing the Efficiency of the Criminal Process at the International Criminal Court, While Preserving Individual Rights

by Shehzad Charania and John Doyle*

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

In operation for more than a decade, the International Criminal Court is often the subject of criticism for its lengthy trials and inefficient procedures.  The Court has completed three trials in that time, all of which have taken more than six years from the point of arrest to conviction or acquittal.  International criminal justice does, of course, throw up numerous complex challenges not found in domestic proceedings.  But 12 years of practice at the Court have confirmed that unnecessary delays occur in a number of areas, which have the potential to interfere with the rights of the accused, and, more broadly, the perception of the trial process among victims and affected communities, and the public at large.  Finally, delays have financial, logistical as well as other legal implications.

Last week, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Japan convened an all-day seminar, in conjunction with the Hague Institute for Global Justice.  The seminar, entitled “Increasing the Efficiency of the Criminal Process, while Preserving Individual Rights”, and moderated by Professor Håkan Friman, provided a unique opportunity for interaction, and discussion of radical ideas, between representatives of the Court, including over a third of the Court’s Judges, and senior members of the Office of the Prosecutor, the ad hoc tribunals, ICC States Parties, members of the Bar, NGOs and academia. Continue reading