Latest News and Events

ADC-ICTY and ICLB Mock Trial

Dates: 6 July – 11 July 2015

Venue: ICTY, Churchillplein 1, 2517 JW The Hague

ADC-ICTY-300x300The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before The International Criminal Tribunal For The Former Yugoslavia (ADC-ICTY) is organising another Mock Trial this year with the support of the International Criminal Law Bureau. The Mock Trial is a one-week event hosted by the ADC-ICTY in The Hague. The week includes hands-on evening sessions for young professionals in the field of international criminal law and a one-day Mock Trial exercise in the ICTY courtroom in front of ICTY Judges and Counsel.

The evening sessions focus on practical skills and expertise and are given by experienced Defence Counsel to prepare participants for a career in international criminal law. Topics include “legal drafting”, “oral trial advocacy”, “opening and closing statements” and “ethics in international criminal law”.  Participants will be requested to make written filings in teams as well as perform in the courtroom on the day of the Mock Trial.

Participants will be allocated to one Prosecution team and three Defence teams, or play one of the two witnesses or one of the three accused.

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2015. For application or any other queries, please contact the ADC-ICTY Head Office. For more information, see the Mock Trial Flyer and Programme 2015.

Auschwitz Bookkeeper Nazi War Crimes Trial

Today started what should be one the final trials for Nazi war crimes in Lueneburg, Germany. Oskar Groening, former guard at Auschwhitz, is facing charges of accessory to the murder of about 300,000 Jews from May to June 1944.

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Mr. Groening leaves the court building after the first day of the trial against him ©Markus Schreiber/AP

Now 93 years old, Mr. Groening was 21 when he arrived in Auschwitz and describes his role as purely executive. Mr. Groening was repsonsible for collecting the belongings of the deportees and counting money confiscated at their arrival. The “bookkeeper” nonetheless admitted his moral guilt, which for him differs from his legal guilt. “If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent,” he told Der Spiegel in 2005.

In a documentary to the BBC in 2005, Mr. Groening has decided to come forward and testify about what he witnessed in Auschwitz. His objective, he said, was to fight Holocaust deniers: “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria.”

Charges were first brought against Mr. Groening in the 1980s, but they had to be dropped because of a lack of evidence. Following more recent jurisprudence, prosecutors now believe Mr. Groening could be convicted just for having worked at the camp. If found guilty, he could face three to 15 years in prison.

2015 International Criminal Court Summer School

Date: 15-19 June 2015

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

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The annual International Criminal Court Summer School at the Irish Centre for Human Rights is the premiere summer school specializing on the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Summer School comprises a series of intensive and interactive lectures over five days given by leading academics and legal professionals working at the ICC. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures, operations, and applicable law. Specific topics covered include international crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity & aggression), jurisdiction, modes of liability, the role of victims and prosecutorial discretion.

This year’s Summer School will include a special session on Palestine and the International Criminal Court, which will involve the participation of the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, Ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek.

The summer school is attended by legal professionals, academics, postgraduate students, journalists and staff of civil society or intergovernmental organisations. A limited number of scholarships are available. To register and for more information regarding the 2015 ICC Summer School, please visit the conference website or send an email. Registrations will close on 30 May 2015.

ADC-ICTY Advocacy Training Sessions 2015

ADC ICTYThe ADC-ICTY (Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before The International Criminal Tribunal For The Former Yugoslavia) is organising a number of advocacy training sessions in 2015, focusing on a variety of essential topics in the practice of international criminal law. These are one-day events taking place at the ICTY in The Hague, presented by renowned Defence Counsel and ADC-ICTY members. Certificates are awarded and the sessions count towards CLE credits.

  • 25 April 2015:  Colleen Rohan – Drafting Trial Motions, Final Briefs and Appeals
  • 16 May 2015:  Christopher Gosnell – Preparing Oral Arguments
  • 6 June 2015:  Marie O’Leary – Witness Proofing
  • 22 August 2015:  Dragan Ivetić – Expert Witnesses

 For further information, click here.

ICJ Report on the Flaws of the Arab Court of Human Rights

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) published a report today, highlighting numerous failings in the drafting process and the provisions of the Statute of the Arab Court of Human Rights that fall short of international standards.

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The 48-page report entitled “The Arab Court of Human Rights: A Flawed Statute for an Ineffective Court” calls on member States of the League of Arab States (LAS) to refrain from ratifying the Statute of the Arab Court of Human Rights unless and until it is comprehensively amended.

According to the ICJ, the Statute, approved by the Ministerial Council of the LAS on 7 September 2014, does not permit individuals or groups, including victims of human rights violations, to file a complaint directly with the Court. Only States parties, and NGOs that are both accredited in a State party and are specifically permitted to do so by that State, can bring cases before the Court. 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