African Americans and Police: To Repair Broken Trust There Must Be a Reckoning First

by David Tolbert*

Milwaukee protestersI have spent my career working in societies across the globe as they confronted legacies of unspeakable human rights abuses. I witnessed the struggle for justice in the former Yugoslavia, Palestine, the Middle East, eastern Europe, Cambodia, Lebanon and a host of other countries where ICTJ works. I have learned lessons from them all. But while my work has taken me far and wide, my roots remain in my native Carolinas. It was there that I started life in the de jure and de facto segregated South –apartheid by another name – and there I first developed the sense of justice that has guided my work since.

I return to the Carolinas this week to take part in a conversation that confronts the legacy of that troubled past. It will be held at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where the confederate flag flew on the statehouse grounds until 2015 and was only removed in the wake of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. While I have taken part in similar conferences across the globe – often in places that are boiling with injustice – this trip resonates at the most personal of levels.

When Republicans were the party of Lincoln and not of Trump, my South Carolina family were Republican activists who opposed slavery, resisted secession, and fought for the rights of African Americans. For this they suffered assaults and abuses, although unlike their African American allies they had a choice on how to live their lives. In 1898, their attempts to help African-Americans vote led to white supremacists murdering over a dozen African Americans and shooting and severely wounding several of my ancestors in what is known in the history books as the “Phoenix Riot.” Thereafter, the Tolberts were repeatedly burned out of their homes, eventually leading them to build a house made entirely of stone with iron furniture, known as the “Rock House”, located outside Greenwood, South Carolina. Continue reading

Habré’s Life Sentence Upheld on Appeal

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Today, the Appeals Court of the Extraordinary African Chambers upheld the life sentence for Chad’s former President Hissène Habré. Chad’s former President had been convicted of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, and sentenced to life in prison on May 30, 2016.

Habré was found guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990. According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000.

Habré is the first African former head of state to be convicted in Africa, and the first former head of any state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country. It is also the first time that a former head of state has been convicted of personally raping someone. It is furthermore the first prosecution in Africa under universal jurisdiction.

The Extraordinary African Chambers, based in Dakar, Senegal, were created by the African Union and Senegal following a complaint filed by Hissène Habré to the Court of the Economic Community of West African States on the principle of non-retroactivity of the Senegalese new criminal provisions adopted in 2007-2008. The Chambers, especially dedicated to the trial of Hissène Habré, are composed of African judges and apply international criminal law, following Senegalese criminal procedure.

2017 International Criminal Court Summer School

Date: 19 – 23 June 2017

Location: Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, University Rd, Galway, Ireland.

Default_conf_TopstripThe annual International Criminal Court Summer School at the Irish Centre for Human Rights is the premier summer school specialising on the International Criminal Court. The summer school allows participants the opportunity to attend a series of intensive lectures over five days. The lectures are given by leading academics on the subject as well as by legal professionals working at the International Criminal Court. The interactive and stimulating course is particularly suited to postgraduate students, legal professionals, scholars, and NGO workers. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures and operations, and the applicable law. Lectures also speak to related issues in international criminal law, including: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression, jurisdiction, fair trial rights, and the rules of procedure and evidence.

This year’s ICC Summer School will include a topical special session on Corporate Crimes and the International Criminal Court.

To register and for more information regarding the 2017 ICC Summer School, please visit the website, download the 2017 Poster or send an email.

Event: Northumbria University Summer Academy

The Northumbria University organizes an inaugural summer academy on “Contemporary Challenges to International Criminal Justice”.

Date: 12th – 16th June 2017

Venue: Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK

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This novel summer academy provides an opportunity for participants to acquire in-depth knowledge on the most pressing issues facing the international criminal justice system from the leading scholars and practitioners in the field. Speakers will share their expertise and experience on a varied range of topics to encourage and inspire postgraduate research in law and criminology.  Continue reading

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its fifteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between November 2016 and March 2017.

The newsletter also discusses the meetings that the HRRP held with the Head of the EULEX Mission in Kosovo. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as the HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

The newsletter also highlights that one of the Panel members, Dr Guénaël Mettraux, has been recently appointed as a Judge with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

The next session of the HRRP will take place in May 2017.

Annual Report of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has published its Annual Report for the period from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016.

The Report contains information on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as a detailed account of its activities over the last year. It also reports on the complaints the Panel dealt with in 2016 and the case-law it developed reviewing those cases.

The HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

ICC: Bemba Sentenced to One Additional Year for Corruption of Witnesses

Jean-Pierre Bemba ©Michael Kooren/AFP/Getty Images

Jean-Pierre Bemba ©Michael Kooren/AFP/Getty Images

Today, Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba to one additional year in prison for his October 2016 conviction of guilty of offences against the administration of justice. The Court had found Mr. Bemba and four other accused guilty of corruption and supporting false testimonies. Mr. Bemba was also fined 300,000 euros. The four other accused were sentenced to imprisonment from 6 months to 2 and a half years, but had their time deduced from the time they have already spent in prison.

On 21 March 2016, Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty by the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003. On 22 June, Mr. Bemba was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. In September, the Defence for Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba filed an appeal against his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity in front of the Appeals Chamber of the ICC.

The decision on sentence can be found here.

Hope for Justice in Syria from an Unlikely Source

by David Tolbert*

An independent mechanism established by the UNGA is working towards abolishing the reign of criminal impunity in Syria.

UNGA

The Emir of Qatar, the country that led the efforts to establish the Mechanism alongside Liechtenstein, addressed the UNGA in September 2016 ©Reuters

Six years into the carnage in Syria, atrocious crimes run rampant, with savage abuses committed against all groups in the devastated country, and the murderous regime, abetted by powerful allies, is still in power.

The United Nations Security Council remains in a deadlock and unable to take any steps towards ensuring accountability for the massive crimes, with the International Criminal Court left on the sidelines.

However, amid the terrible loss of life, hope that the slow wheels of justice will finally be put in motion emerged recently from an unlikely source – the UN General Assembly.

In December 2016, the UNGA, led by Liechtenstein and Qatarestablished an “Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since March 2011”.

With this step the UNGA, usually associated with administrative and budgetary matters, has asserted itself in a highly welcome if unusual manner, signaling the deep frustration with the failure of other UN organs and the great powers to stop the killing in Syria.

The move also demonstrates that small states can galvanise the international community around issues of global significance and catalyse a collective response.

The term “Mechanism” indicates that the powers of this newly established body will not mirror those of a court or a commission of inquiry.

Instead, the focus of its mission will be to collect and analyse evidence, which could then be available for courts or tribunals in the future to prosecute these massive crimes. Continue reading

Human Rights Movement Must Come Together to Resist Trump’s Agenda

by David Tolbert*

Donald TrumpDonald Trump’s inaugural speech has fittingly been described, as “dystopian,” as “dark,” as “a declaration of war.” The new president made no call for unity, did not reach out to a soul not already in his camp — despite losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes — nor uttered a word to bring together a fractured nation or address a world deeply nervous at his ascension to the most powerful of offices.

In the first few days as president, his actions mirrored his words. Trump has rushed headlong into creating further divisions and has begun an assault on human rights and basic decency — including a de facto ban on many Muslim refugees from entering the United States and the resurrection of CIA “black sites“ — and promises more to come.

The new president exalts torture, mocks the disabled, casts aspersions on those who defend human rights, appeals to racist sentiments through coded and not-so-coded language and denigrates women in both word and deed. He shows no regard for the Geneva Conventions or the painstaking work of generations of human rights activists, many of them American, to ensure that civilians are not abused in times of conflict and that the vulnerable are protected.

For good measure, he seems to demean virtually every restraint that protects the citizen from the state. His first call as president to a foreign leader was to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, who crushed the protests against army rule, devastated Egypt’s civil society with draconian laws targeting human rights defenders and turned Egypt’s legal institutions into “kangaroo courts.” A chilling signal indeed. Continue reading

Response by the Co-Lawyers to the OCIJ Press Statement on the dismissal of the charges against Ms. IM Chaem

ECCC

ECCC

Dr. BIT Seanglim and Wayne Jordash QC, Co-Lawyers for Ms. IM Chaem, welcome the decision by the Co-Investigating Judges to dismiss the charges against our client. We are grateful to the Co-Investigating Judges for their careful consideration of the facts and the law and their decision to issue the disposition of the Closing Order to ensure Ms. IM Chaem’s rights.

The ECCC has shown with this landmark decision that it is capable of delivering justice that meets international standards. Although we await the full reasoning of the Co-Investigating Judges, we are confident that the decision – that the ECCC lacked personal jurisdiction over our client – reflects a reasonable view of the evidence and the law. We are satisfied that the Co-Investigating Judges adequately and fairly evaluated the evidence to find that Ms. IM Chaem was neither a senior leader nor one of those “most responsible”. As was crystal clear from any reasoned view of the evidence and the law, this was not a case that the International Co-Prosecutor ought to have pursued and it has cost our client dearly.

There are of course no winners in cases such as these. The International Co-Prosecutor ought to have pursued justice for the victims by adopting a more careful and focused approach on relevant suspects. On any reasonable view of the evidence, it was always clear that Ms. IM Chaem was not such a person. Nonetheless, despite these regrettable circumstances and after almost ten years of investigation, our client welcomes the dismissal of all charges. She has always denied every allegation and today’s decision is a significant step towards vindicating her and clearing her name. The decision is a milestone in her long and difficult march towards justice.

Accordingly, the Defence looks forward to receiving the full reasoning in support of the decision in the near future. At this time, the Defence hopes that the International Co-Prosecutor will properly consider and weigh the interests of justice in deciding whether to pursue an appeal of this decision.