Latest News and Events

Fate of 1,655 people in Kosovo Still Unresolved

Kosovo victimsThe fate of 1,655 people gone missing in Kosovo during the clashes in 1998 and 1999 remains unresolved, the Working Group in charge of missing persons stated at its 38th meeting on Tuesday.

In the course of ten years of its existence, the Working Group in charge of cases of persons gone missing in Kosovo managed to reduce the number of unsolved cases from 3,200 to 1,655, Chair of the Working Group Lina Milner said.

She noted that the key condition for progress in solving the fate of the missing is embodied in a continuous and constructive dialogue based on humanitarian grounds, without political rhetoric from Belgrade and Pristina.

Milner noted that 68 cases of missing persons have been solved this year and added that considerable progress has been made, especially in terms of exhumation of the grave site at Rudnica near Raska (southern part of central Serbia), as well as victim identification and delivery of the remains to the families. Continue reading

UN Condemns Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

North Korea Human RightsYesterday, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a recent UN Commission of Inquiry report detailing crimes against humanity in North Korea and recommended that the Security Council discuss the report and consider a referral to the International Criminal Court.

The North Korea resolution passed by a vote of 111 to 19, with 55 abstentions. China and Russia voted against the resolution.

While the resolution passed overwhelmingly, North Korea had made recent diplomatic overtures seemingly to try to affect the vote, such as by offering for the first time to engage with the UN human rights rapporteur on North Korea and participating in the Universal Periodic Review process at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Commission of Inquiry report declared that North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.

The report documented massive crimes against humanity in North Korea, including deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, and infanticide, among other crimes – most of them committed in North Korea’s political prison camp systems.

The report concluded that the bulk of the crimes against humanity were committed “pursuant to policies set at the highest levels of the state.”

The commission of inquiry report was based on interviews with dozens of people who had fled and detailed abuses. North Korea has accused people who cooperated with the commission of inquiry of lying.

United Nations Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes

analyticaltoolThe UN Office for the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect recently released a new Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. The document provides indicators to identify and assess a range of both common and specific factors that increase the risk or susceptibility of atrocity crimes, which encompass genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. The guide is meant to improve the capacities of international, regional and local actors in understanding the root causes and precursors of these crimes in order to identify measures that can be taken by States and the international community to prevent these crimes. The Office also provides training programmes for UN staff, government officials and civil society in order to assist in developing capacity to analyze and manage information on genocide. war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Event: The Inaugural LEAP Conference 2014

Court HammerDate: 19-20 November 2014

Venue: Law School of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The LEAP conference will be a unique platform for expert presentations, targeting leadership in governmental and key stakeholder sectors.

It will provide platforms for expert and delegate led break out sessions on pivotal areas of interest to the continent.

The overarching discussion at the conference will focus on the effective Rule of Law in Africa in general and in relation to the following areas:

  • The extractive industries boom on the newly emergent African continent – resource curse of blessing?
  • Land Rights in the age of the African energy and agricultural surge
  • Bribery and corruption – an enemy to integrity, country profile and long term economic growth?

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC will be one of the speakers.

For the conference booklet, click here.

If you wish to register, click here.

Legal Expertise Access Platform (LEAP) is a Not For Profit international initiative, based in Africa, that aims to transform the continent’s access to and hosting of cutting edge socio/legal thinking and practice. LEAP endeavours to become the foremost provider of innovative and multipurpose platforms to increase access to and implementation of top-level legal excellence across the continent in support of the rule of law.

ICC: No Investigation into Gaza Flotilla Raid Case

marmara_donuyor_boyutlar.fh11

The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in a eight-vessel humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has decided to close her preliminary inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists, according to a statement today.

The case was referred to her office on 14 May 2013 by the Union of the Comoros, which is an ICC State Party. One of the ships in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was registered in the Comoros.

On the same day, the Prosecutor announced that her Office had opened a preliminary examination of the referred situation.

“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (…) were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” on 31 May 2010,” said the Prosecutor.

However, “after carefully assessing all relevant considerations”, she concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of “sufficient gravity” to justify further action by the ICC. Continue reading

Latest Analysis

Decision on Flotilla Raid is Latest Turn in ICC’s Consideration of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej*

The decision to not investigate alleged war crimes during the raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010 comes as no surprise, but it highlights the uncertain legal situation surrounding the Rome Statute’s applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Mavi Marmara Passengers

Passengers look down from the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara as the Israeli navy intercepts boats bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 – ©Getty Images

On 5 November, the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers during their raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010. Despite acknowledging a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, the prosecutor concluded that the potential case was not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC. The decision comes as no surprise.

Due to its limited resources, the ICC was never intended to deal with all crimes falling within its jurisdiction. The assessment as to which case meets the threshold of sufficient gravity is based on the scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes and their impact. Given that the court lacks jurisdiction to investigate any other alleged crimes committed in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict or in the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prosecutor concluded that the requisite threshold was not met because the potential case(s) would be limited to an event encompassing a small number of victims of the alleged war crimes. Continue reading

South Africa’s Police Must Investigate Zimbabwe Torture Allegations

By Max du Plessis*

10-11-2014-SAPS-Zimbabwe-Torture-ContentOn 30 October 2014, the Constitutional Court of South Africa handed down its judgment in a landmark case for international criminal justice.

The appeal related to the responsibilities of the South African Police Service (SAPS) under domestic and international law to investigate acts of torture, as a crime against humanity, that were allegedly committed in Zimbabwe.

The decision, by South Africa’s highest court, reaffirms the obligations set out in the South African Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (ICC Act) regarding investigation and prosecution of international crimes.

In March 2008, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) submitted a dossier to the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) detailing allegations of torture in Zimbabwe. The NPA took no action, indicating that they could only do so if the police investigated the allegations and laid charges. Continue reading

The Italian Constitutional Court’s Challenge to the Implementation of the ICJ’s Germany v Italy Judgment

by Dr Filippo Fontanelli

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

With the decision no. 238 of 22 October 2014, the Italian Constitutional Court (the CC) produced the most spectacular display of dualism this side of Medellin. The CC declared the unconstitutionality of Italy’s compliance with the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s judgment Germany v. Italy (Greece intervening). The CC’s ruling – briefly reported – invites speculation on two fronts: 1) What does it say about the application of international law in domestic courts? 2) Is the judgment reasonable by any relevant standards other than Italian constitutional law?

On the practical matters of the follow-up scenario before Italian ordinary courts, I take the liberty to refer to my discussion here (spoiler: Germany will not pay anyway).

In February 2012, the ICJ found that Italy breached its international obligations vis-à-vis Germany. Italian courts had exercised jurisdiction in tort proceedings against Germany, instituted by Italian plaintiffs for World War II war crimes of the Nazi occupation forces in Italy. These proceedings, resulting in Germany being ordered to compensate the victims, constituted internationally wrongful acts, since they disregarded the international custom whereby sovereign states are immune from civil suit in foreign courts, for acts jure imperii. The ICJ reached the same conclusion with respect to the ensuing enforcement proceedings and the exequatur granted by Italian judges to authorise execution of Greek judgments in similar disputes. Continue reading

ICC Releases Suspects to Avoid Unreasonably Lengthy Pre-Trial Detention

by Léa Kulinowski

Aimé Kilolo, Jean-Jacques Mangenda and Jean-Pierre Bemba

Aimé Kilolo, Jean-Jacques Mangenda and Jean-Pierre Bemba

On 21 October 2014, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court ordered the immediate release of four out of the five suspects in the case of Prosecutor v. Bemba, Kilolo, Mangenda, Babala and Arido. Mr. Bemba, who has been held in detention since July 2008 as a result of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, remains detained.

The suspects are charged with offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Statute – the first of its kind before the ICC – including giving false testimony, knowingly presenting false/forged evidence and corruptly influencing witnesses. The penalty for these offences goes from a fine to a maximum of five years of imprisonment.

When granting the interim release, the Single Judge emphasised the protection against unreasonable detention as per Article 60 (4) of the Statute and noted the advanced stage of the proceedings as well as the various delays, holding that “the reasonableness of the duration of the detention has to be balanced inter alia against the statutory penalties applicable to the offences at stake in these proceedings and that, accordingly, the further extension of the period of the pre-trial detention would result in making its duration disproportionate”. Even though the duration of the suspects’ detention was not due to the Prosecutor’s inexcusable delay, the Single Judge found that the Pre-Trial Chamber was under an independent obligation to ensure that that a person is not unreasonably detained prior to trial under Article 60 (4) of the Statute. Continue reading

Rights-Compliant Investment Needed to Keep SEZs Fair for All

by Vani Sathisan*

resident-thanlyin-township

A resident of Thanlyin township sits inside her home after officials posted an eviction notice in February 2013.

The village elder from Mutu, a small village near Dawei, in southern Myanmar, held out the 30 complaint letters residents had sent to Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister U Myat Ko.

The letters sought to highlight alleged human rights violations related to the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and requested that adequate compensation be paid to those affected.

In Mutu and neighbouring villages, farmers and fishermen lamented the displacement of communities, loss of livelihoods and culture, and forced relocations due to the development of the Dawei SEZ and related infrastructure. Some told us they were being charged with trespassing on government land because they had refused to leave their homes after their land had been confiscated.

While the Dawei SEZ has been stalled for some time, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will visit Myanmar – his first official overseas trip – and is expected to hold talks aimed at reviving the project.

But the complaints emanating from Dawei are not isolated incidents. Amid the euphoria of the investment gold rush, Myanmar faces an epidemic of land disputes exacerbated by the development of SEZs. Continue reading