Latest News and Events

Switzerland: Arrests and Possible Extraditions of Two Kosovan War Crimes Suspects

Kosovo WarLast week, the Swiss authorities have arrested two Kosovans wanted by Serbia for suspected war crimes.

The men, whose identity was kept confidential, are suspected of committing war crimes as members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998–99 war.

The first man is suspected of participating in armed attacks in 1998 against two villages situated in Kosovo.

Serbia accuses him of a range of crimes, including murder, rape and conducting illegal arrests.

The second man was arrested during a routine check in Geneva and is suspected of having killed a civilian in 1999.

The Serbian authorities have requested their extradition but both men have refused it.

Moreover, Kosovo insists that it should handle cases of suspected war crimes committed by Kosovan citizens, and not Serbia.

In that vein, the Kosovo Justice Minister sent a letter to his Swiss counterpart to object to any plans to extradite the men to Serbia.

The Swiss Justice Ministry confirmed that the Swiss Justice Minister had received a letter, and had responded, addressing his concerns.

100th Newsletter of the ICTY Association of Defence Counsel

ADC-ICTY-300x300The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published the 100th issue of its newsletter.

This edition covers the recent developments in the Mladić case as well as in the Karadžić case, where the Defence filed two motions before the Appeals Chamber of the MICT (Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals) requesting on one hand the Prosecution to disclose statements to the Defence and on the other hand access to Ex Parte Filings in Completed Cases.

The newsletter also addresses the recent developments which took place at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as well as in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where a war crimes trial is held against a former Bosnian Presidency Member, Borislav Paravac, accused of having participated in a joint criminal enterprise, targeting the Bosniak and Croat civilian population in Doboj (Northern Bosnia) between May 1992 and the end of 1993.

The newsletter also contains an op-ed analysis on the recent conviction of Radovan Karadžić and whether his conviction impedes Ratko Mladić’s right to a fair trial.

U.S.: Croatian Woman Can Be Extradited on War Crimes Charges

Azra Basic

Azra Basic

U.S. Federal appeals judges have recently upheld a decision allowing the extradition of Azra Basic to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Muslim Croatian woman accused of murder and torture during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

Basic had challenged a ruling by U.S. District Judge that said Basic could be deported to face trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Basic came to the United States as a refugee in 1994. She settled in Kentucky and became a naturalized citizen in 2007.

Basic’s attorney argued that a treaty does not allow extradition of U.S. citizens to Bosnia and that Bosnian authorities did not issue a proper arrest warrant for her.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the treaty in place between the United States and Bosnia does not bar Basic from being extradited.

The Court of Appeals also said that while there was no warrant of arrest against Basic as such, other documents in the file constituted a valid warrant. Continue reading

Death of John R.W.D. Jones QC

John JonesIt is with extreme sadness that we announce the death of our dear friend and colleague John R.W.D. Jones QC.

John was a pioneer in the field of international criminal law, an adventurer, a great friend and a loving and devoted father.

We will miss John terribly.

Our loving thoughts are with Misa, their wonderful boys and John’s family.

(http://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/news/article/doughty-street-mourns-john-jones-qc)

(http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/articles/statement-defence-support-section-passing-john-rwd-jones-qc)

Event: Trials in Absentia in International Criminal Justice

IBADate: 8 June 2016 from 14:00-17:30

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, The Hague, Netherlands

This event is organized by the International Bar Association.

The Keynote presentation will be delivered by the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Judge Ivana Hrdlicková. 

Following the Keynote presentation, two panels of experts will discuss issues related to the theory and practice of trials in absentia: ‘Trials in absentia: human rights law & the judicial process’ (moderated by Dr Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director) and ‘Effective representation & ethics in trials in absentia‘ (moderated by Ms Anne-Marie Verwiel, expert in international criminal practice).

 Topics to be addressed include

  • Issues related to the fairness of proceedings, including notice to the accused, the right to re-trial, and effective assistance of Counsel
  • The tensions between the promotion of the rule of law, fair trial rights and efficiency of proceedings
  • The future of trials in absentia in international criminal law

The panelists include Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former President of the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr François Falletti, the former Chief Prosecutor of the Paris Court of Appeals, Dr Guido Acquaviva, the Deputy Registrar of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Ms Héleyn Uñac, Deputy Head of the Defence Office of the STL, as well as other international experts and practitioners with experience in in absentia trials, including at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal.

Participation is free of charge. However, prior registration is required to attend the event.

You can register by sending the name and email of all attendees to Hague.Events@int-bar.org before 25 May 2016.

For the full programme of the event, click here.

Latest Analysis

Myanmar: New Government Inherits Problems and Promise of Special Economic Zones

By Vani Sathisan (International Legal Advisor, International Commission of Jurists) and Bobbie Sta. Maria (Senior Researcher for Southeast Asia, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)

Myanmar Special Economic ZoneWhile SEZs are supposed to be a driver for Myanmar’s economic growth, their impacts on the rights of affected communities indicate that this growth is reserved for businesses and investors.

This is a long form version of this article published by Reuters on 1st April 2016.

More than half a century of military rule ostensibly comes to a close on April 1, when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) officially takes over Myanmar’s government and the first civilian President since 1962 starts leading the nation. Despite these extraordinary developments, daunting challenges remain in Asia’s second poorest country. Myanmar’s military still controls key governmental functions; the country is barely emerging from decades of civil conflicts; rule of law and institutions are weak; the economy is fragile and dominated by crony companies; corruption, and human rights abuses remain stubbornly persistent.

The outgoing government initiated a number of significant changes, including efforts to encourage economic development through foreign trade and investment. This strategy included heavily promoting foreign investment through three major special economic zones (SEZ): a Japanese supported zone focused on manufacturing in Thilawa, near Yangon; a Thai supported zone initially focused on heavy industry including petrochemicals in Dawei in the south; and a Chinese supported zone in Kyaukphyu in the northwest, envisioned as a trade corridor connecting the Chinese, Indian and ASEAN economies. These were said to build on Myanmar’s strategic location and low-cost production base for export destinations in the region.

The NLD recently announced that while it supports the zone in Thilawa, it will reconsider the continuation of the Dawei and Kyaukphyu SEZs, study commitments made by the former government to investors, and speak with relevant stakeholders. This is a crucial process and many hope that the NLD does not lose sight of its commitments in its Election Manifesto, including encouraging “foreign investment in line with the highest international standards”, and laying down “paths for economic cooperation that can bring sustainable long-term mutual benefits”. Continue reading

The Yugoslavia Tribunal also Engages in Debt Collection

by William A. Schabas*

ICTYAlongside yesterday’s very important judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was a rather more pathetic manifestation of the fight against impunity. While the judgment was being issued, Security officials of the Tribunal, with the apparent assistance of the Dutch police, arrested French journalist Florence Hartmann. She is now in detention at the Tribunal’s prison. For a photo of her arrest, look here.

Florence Hartmann served as press officer at the Tribunal about a decade ago, When she left, she published a memoir entitled Paix et châtiment. The book referred to decisions of the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber that were supposed to have remained confidential. After being tried and convicted of contempt of court, she was sentenced to pay a €7,000 fine. When she failed to pay the fine, the Tribunal converted the sentence into one of seven days’ imprisonment. She now has six more days to go, that is, unless the Tribunal applies its policy of early release after service of two-thirds of the sentence.

All of the international tribunals have wasted a lot of resources on prosecuting so-called ‘offences against the administration of justice’. The time and money these matters have consumed could have been usefully devoted to more serious cases involving genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the early 1990s, the International Law Commission conceived of an international court that would not concern itself with issues like contempt of court, perjury and tampering with witnesses, leaving thus to the national courts. If Florence Hartmann, or the others, really committed an offence against the administration of justice, it would make a lot more sense for them to be dealt with by domestic justice systems. Continue reading

Myanmar: Rule of law depends on reform of Union Attorney General’s Office

By Daniel Aguirre and Vani Sathisan*

Recent political discussion in Myanmar revolves around the formation of a new government and selection of a president, but not enough attention is focused on the position of the attorney general, who holds a critical function in upholding rule of law and respect for human rights.

Students arrested in a police crackdown on their peaceful protests against the education law in March 2015 arrive for a court hearing on May 12, 2015. Lawyers and activists complain the trial is taking too long. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

Students arrested in a police crackdown on their peaceful protests against the education law in March 2015 arrive for a court hearing on May 12, 2015. Lawyers and activists complain the trial is taking too long. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

The attorney general is Myanmar’s most powerful legal officer: As a member of the executive, the AG provides legal advice to the President and the hluttaw, analyses international treaties, drafts and amends laws, and represents the government in judicial proceedings. The attorney general also directs the prosecutors’ office and ensures that cabinet actions are legally valid, in line with the constitution and international human rights law.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), international donors and development partners discussed the attorney general’s powerful role on the sidelines of the launch for the Union Attorney General Office’s (UAGO) Strategic Plan 2015-19 in Nay Pyi Taw last week. All expressed hope that the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government will appoint an attorney general committed to reform, the rule of law and human rights, in line with their election manifesto promise to ensure that executive and judicial systems support the rule of law. Continue reading

Japan’s Apology to South Korea Shows What Public Apologies Should (Not) Do

by DavildTolbert*

South Korea Comfort WomenJapan’s most recent and controversial apology to the government of South Korea for sexual slavery committed by its military against “comfort women” during WWII has raised important questions about apologies for crimes and serious human rights violations during armed conflict. What is the proper role of an apology for such massive crimes against humanity? What can apologies do and what should they not be meant to do for survivors and victims?

The latest Japanese apology, which some have seen as part of a strategic geopolitical deal struck between Japan and South Korea, has led to protests among the 46 surviving South Korean victims as well as the victims in other countries occupied by Japan during the war.

After working for 15 years on reparations for victims in over 50 countries, ICTJ has found that many victims feel that an apology unaccompanied by other forms of reparation does not constitute justice, even as material reparations, such as compensation, without a meaningful acknowledgement of responsibility also falls short.

An estimated 200,000 women in Asia were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army just prior to and during World War II. Japan systematically established an extensive network of “comfort stations” throughout its occupied territories, to which “comfort women” were trafficked and used as sexual slaves. Many of these “comfort women” were barely teenagers when they were enslaved and the surviving few are now of very advanced age and dwindling in numbers. Continue reading

Time for a Genuine Commitment to Rule of Law

by Vani Sathisan*

Court HammerThe world observes Human Rights Day on 10 December to mark the momentous strides in international human rights law since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. In Myanmar, recent political changes have been both momentous and transformative. Nonetheless, what was proclaimed by the UDHR as the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, continue to be infringed upon by the arbitrary and highly subjective interpretation and application of laws, some of them dating back to British colonial times.

Successive governments in Myanmar have used overly broad or vaguely defined laws to curtail freedom of expression that is protected under international law. They often invoke the justification, typically inappropriately, of protecting national security, or to prevent public disorder or avoid outraging the religious feelings of a class. None of these efforts have served or can serve to address or respond to sectarian and religious violence.

On behalf of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), I have observed trials of those arrested and detained on criminal defamation charges for their Facebook posts that allegedly defame either the Tatmadaw or a political leader. One of the laws used to charge the accused is the Penal Code, first drafted in 1860.

The ICJ released a briefing paper last month highlighting how the enforcement of Myanmar’s defamation laws can result in violations of a number of international laws and standards protecting human rights, and also have an overall chilling effect on the freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly in the country. Continue reading