Latest News and Events

Book Launch : Evaluating Transitional Justice – Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone

Evaluating-Transitional-JusticeDemonstrating groundbreaking analysis, this is the first major study to evaluate the transitional justice programme in Sierra Leone. Rather than focusing on a single mechanism, the authors examine how the Special Court, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), local justice initiatives and reparations programme interacted.

Contributors to the book include the Prosecutor of the Special Court and one of the Commissioners from the TRC, alongside a range of experts on transitional justice, on international law and on Sierra Leone.

The authors consider the political and normative drivers of transitional justice and the lessons that the Sierra Leone programme stands to offer other post-conflict situations.

This edited volume makes a significant contribution to the field by demonstrating how contextual knowledge should be used alongside normative standards when evaluating transitional justice.

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC wrote the chapter called “Comparing Fairness and Due Process in the RUF and CDF cases: Consequences for the Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone”

If you wish to order the book, click here.

Palestine Delivers Information to the ICC

On June 25, 2015, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Fatou Bensouda, met with the Palestinian foreign minister, Riad al-Malki, on the cases Palestine wishes to refer under the Rome Statute.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestine, which joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, delivered files to the ICC Prosecutor on two sets of facts that would allegedly amount to war crimes committed by Israel.  The first set would inform allegations of civilian killings and wrongful treatment of prisoners throughout the occupied territories, and more especially 2014 military operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge. The second set of information cover Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The question of whether illegal settlements can amount to war crimes has not yet come before the ICC, but Ms. Bensouda said “The settlements will definitely be part of this examination phase.” While the information delivered by Palestine is not considered criminal evidence, they will inform the Prosecutor’s examination of the situation that began in January 2015 and her decision to possibly open a criminal investigation.

Dutch State Agrees Compensation Deal with five Srebrenica Relatives

Srebrenica MassacreThe Dutch state has reached a compensation agreement with the relatives of three men who were sent out of the Dutch army compound in Srebrenica and killed by Bosnian Serbs.

The five relatives will receive payouts of several tens of thousands of euros, broadcaster Nos says. In addition, defence minister Jeanine Hennis has formally apologised for the way the men were sent to their deaths.

The agreement ends a legal dispute which began in 2002. The Dutch supreme court said in 2013 the Dutch state can be held responsible for the death of the three Muslim men in the siege of Srebrenica during the Yugoslavia war in 1995.

Interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his father and brother, and relatives of electrician Rizo Mustafic said Dutch soldiers serving under the UN flag in the Muslim enclave did not do all they could to protect their relatives from the Bosnian Serb army.

Over 8,000 men and boys were murdered and buried in mass graves when the enclave was overrun and the massacre remains the subject of other legal action. The Netherlands had earlier offered each relative €20,000 but this was rejected as insufficient. Their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the sum which has been agreed is ‘decent’ and that the relatives now hope to find peace.

Naser Oric Will Be Extradited to Bosnia

Naser OricFormer Bosnian army commander Naser Oric will be extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina following an order from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) on Thursday.

“Oric stated at the hearing on this request that he agreed to be extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This permitted the FOJ to approve the extradition immediately in simplified proceedings,” the FOJ said in a statement.

Oric’s extradition was initially requested by Serbia, who had issued a warrant for his arrest last year accusing him of the murder of 9 Serb civilians in Srebrenica in July 1992. Swiss authorities arrested Oric on the 10th of June on this Serbian warrant, but on Monday, the Prosecutors Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina called on Switzerland not to extradite Oric, a Bosnian citizen, to Serbia. The Bosnian authorities urged Switzerland to return Oric to them instead.

According to the FOJ, “The decisive points here are the same criminal acts on which both requests are based were committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Oric is a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

During the 1992-1995 war, Naser Oric was the commander of Muslim Bosniak forces in the Srebrenica region of Bosnia. The region fell to Bosnian Serbs in July 1995 and 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serb forces. Continue reading

UN Investigating Panel on Allegations of Sexual Abuse in CAR

Photos: BINUCA/Balepe Mokosso Dany

Photos: BINUCA/Balepe Mokosso Dany

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a panel to investigate the UN response to allegations of sexual abuse surrounding a deployment of foreign military forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). The three-member independent investigation panel is headed by Former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, the ICTR and MICT Prosecutor Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow and Yasmin Louise Sooka, a South African human rights activist.

In a statement, the UN spokesperson shared that the Secretary-General was “deeply concerned”. Although the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children were made against foreign military forces not under the command of the United Nations in the Central African Republic, the UN has been criticized for its failures and delays in responding to the allegations.

The latest scandal comes after the recent leaked internal UN report detailing accusations of sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers from France, Chad and Equatorial Guinea between December 2013 and June 2014 in Bangui that led to the temporary suspension of Anders Kompass.

The panel will start working in July to review both the allegations, the UN response and any shortcomings in existing procedures covering serious crimes by the Organization and related personnel, host State forces and non-State actors. The investigation report, expected in a ten-week time, will be made public.

Latest Analysis

Twenty Years Since Srebrenica: No Reconciliation, We’re Still At War

by Refik Hodzic*

Image: TOPSHOTS-BOSNIA-WAR-SREBRENICA-ANNIVERSARYRight now, people in the Balkan region are still living a war, this time for the ‘truth’ about ethnic superiority that will shape the attitudes of future generations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is about to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide – a somber moment of remembrance, seen by many as an opportunity to promote the notion of reconciliation between the country’s ethnic groups. The United Kingdom seems to be the leading proponent of such an approach, with a draft resolution commemorating Srebrenica already circulating among the Security Council members and the ‘interested states,’ primarily Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

However, a brief glance at the public discourse around the anniversary paints a very different picture, one of no political agenda for reconciliation, of no social project aimed at overcoming the legacy of the conflict from the ‘90s, of a continuing struggle for ethnic dominance. Indeed, can we constructively talk about reconciliation in a country still gripped by war?

It is not a war for territory anymore, with the cannons having fallen silent 20 years ago with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, but it is a war nonetheless. A war fought by ‘other means,’ a vicious fight for the dominant narrative of the past, for the ‘truth’ as the foundation of political projects largely rooted in wartime goals of ethnic separation and dominance. This war is mainly fought out in political arenas, but also in the media, in classrooms, churches and mosques, at family dinner tables, and its consequences are bound to have a lasting impact on the region’s stability. Continue reading

Letpadaung Convictions Taint the Legal System in Myanmar

by Vani Sathisan, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) International Legal Adviser, and Hayman Oo, ICJ Legal researcher, in Yangon

Letpadaung Copper Mine

Letpadaung Copper Mine, Myanmar

“They can imprison my body, but never my mind,” U Nay Myo Zin told us when we asked him whether he expected to be released, right before police led him into the Dagon Township courtroom for the verdict last week. The Court was teeming with police guards and supporters of the accused chanted slogans at the police, “not to kowtow to the military government” and that “the legal system lacks principle.” U Nay Myo Zin then added, “I will never surrender.”

He was one of the six human rights activists, besides Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Daw Sein Htwe, Ko Tin Htut Paing, Daw San San Win and U Than Swe, who were sentenced to four years and four months in prison with hard labour.

Their conviction, after a trial that didn’t meet basic standards of fairness and due process, highlights the tremendous pressure on the country’s judiciary at a time when Myanmar desperately needs to show improvements in the rule of law. Continue reading

Whistleblower Protection at the UN: Reasons for Despair or Hope?

By Rishi Gulati*

[The author has had no involvement in the cases mentioned below; this entry should not be construed as legal advice in any way or form whatsoever]

Anders Kompass United Nations

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In a recent article in the Guardian, it was disclosed that French authorities thanked a senior UN official, Mr Anders Kompass for disclosing sexual abuse by French troops. That article says in part:

Sources close to the case say Kompass, director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, disclosed the report to the French because of the UN’s failure to act quickly to stop the abuse identified in its own internal report.

Hinting that the allegations represented just a fraction of what had taken place, a UN spokesman said on Friday: “It is possible, it’s horribly possible” that more allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and other soldiers in the Central African Republic could come to light.

The same report says that: “The official, Anders Kompass, has been suspended by the UN and faces dismissal for what the organisation says is a “breach of protocols” in releasing a confidential internal UN document.” I will return to the Kompass case shortly. But before that, some points on the UN whistleblower protection system, or the lack of it.

Problems facing whistleblower protection at the UN

The internal rules of the UN contain several layers, one of these layers is known as the Secretary-General Bulletins. These possess binding force. Under the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on protection against retaliation (ST/SGB/2005/21) the UN Ethics Office protects staff from being punished for reporting misconduct or for cooperating with an official audit or investigation – commonly known as “whistleblower protection.”

But are whistleblowers rights at the UN actually protected? There are some very disturbing findings. Continue reading

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