Archive for January, 2013
January 31st, 2013 by Julien Maton
The U.S. State Department has reassigned Daniel Fried, its special envoy for closing the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
No senior official will replace Ambassador Fried as lead diplomat to persuade countries to resettle Guantánamo inmates approved for release. Instead, those responsibilities will now transfer to the department’s legal office.
Fried helped in the transfer of 40 detainees overseas during his four years as special envoy, assuming the post shortly after Obama first took office and promised to close the prison within a year.
But the outward flow of detainees slowed almost to a halt as Congress imposed restrictions on transfers of detainees to foreign countries, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do.
The Obama administration still hopes to close Guantánamo and send its remaining 166 inmates elsewhere, but officials say congressional restrictions have left diplomatic efforts severely hampered.
“We remain committed to closing Guantánamo, and doing so in a responsible fashion”, said a spokesman for Mr. Fried’s office. He added that “the administration continues to express its opposition to Congressional restrictions that impede our ability to implement transfers.”
Mr. Fried will become the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy and will work on issues including Iran and Syria.
January 30th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt - Photo: AP
José Efraín Ríos Montt, who presided over one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala’s civil war, will stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in connection with the killing of 1771 indigenous Ixil Mayans during his rule in 1982-1983.
The prosecutor Orlando López said during hearings that Ríos Montt wanted to wipe out the Ixil people, considered a bastion of support for guerrilla fighters waging a civil war against the Guatemalan state.
“During the period in which you held office, it is believed that the actions carried out by members of the Guatemalan army, military official and civil defence patrolmen resulted in the deaths of 1,771 people,” the complaint against Ríos Montt reads.
Despite a series of international inquiries finding him responsible for these crimes, Ríos Montt had enjoyed immunity from prosecution for 12 years while he was serving as a congressman, until he lost a re-election race last year. He has been under house arrest since.
Judge Miguel Angel Galvez said there was enough evidence linking the general to the killing of members of the Ixil Maya group to warrant the trial.
During the 1960-96 civil war, more than 200,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians, were killed or went missing and entire villages were exterminated, according to the United Nations.
Ríos Montt ‘s 17 months in power are believed to have been one of the most violent periods of the war.
He is the first former president to be charged with genocide by a Latin American court.
January 29th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Judge Sir Kenneth Keith
by King’s College London
Date: 13 March 2013, 18.30 – 20.30
Venue: Strand Campus, King’s College London, WC2R 1LA London, United Kingdom
Speaker: Judge Sir Kenneth Keith
This lecture provides a special opportunity to hear from Judge Sir Kenneth Keith, a member of the International Court of Justice. The topic of his lecture addresses the complex and changing relationship between international law and national law.
Judge Keith was elected to the ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, in 2006 after a distinguished career in academia, at the Bar and on the Bench. He was a Judge of the New Zealand Court of Appeal (1996-2003) and of the Supreme Court of New Zealand (2004-2006). He also served as a Member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, London. Judge Keith was a faculty member of Victoria University of Wellington (1962-1964, 1966-1991) and Dean (1977-1981); he is now Professor Emeritus.
Participation is free of charge. If you wish to register, please click here.
January 29th, 2013 by Julien Maton
The Antonio Cassese Initiative for Justice, Peace and Humanity has published its first e-letter listing its various activities, past and future
Set up in April 2012 to commemorate Antonio Cassese’s legacy in upholding the ideals of justice in a meaningful manner, the Initiative is committed to promoting education, assistance and training in the disciplines dear to him.
Entirely reliant on the goodwill of the International Criminal Law community and those associated with the Geneva Academy, limited support and sponsorship from the canton at Geneva and the university of Florence, and its membership fees, the Initiative is currently organizing:
• the Antonio Cassese Summer School on Post-Conflict Justice and State building (Geneva 1-12 July);
• a training seminar for magistrates in Burkina Faso; and
• a law clinic on the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission, organized within the framework of the master programme of the Geneva Academy.
In this first e-letter, you will also find an introduction to the Initiative by Paola Gaeta, member of the Steering Committee of the Initiative, as well as an editorial essay by Joseph Weiler on the General Assembly vote on Palestine’s status as a non-member state of the United Nations.
The Initiative is hoping to publish three issues of the newsletter each year, each time with an essay by a lifetime member of the Initiative and other distinguished scholars and diplomats.
January 28th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Yugoslav Army General Dragoljub Ojdanic withdrew his appeal against the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) verdict (Vol I – Vol II – Vol III – Vol IV) against him, when he was found guilty of deportation and “other inhumane acts” against Kosovo Albanians.
The General confessed that he committed war crimes against Kosovo Albanians in the late 1990s, in a letter signed by him and sent to the ICTY last Friday.
“I fully accept all of the findings made in the judgment [against me]. All that remains is for me to serve out my sentence” […] “I express my sincere regret to all of those who suffered as a result of the conduct for which I have been convicted,” wrote Ojdanic, adding that he was 72 years old and his health had deteriorated in custody.
According to the verdict, the General knew of the campaign of violence against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population conducted by the Yugoslav Army and Serbian forces during the course of the NATO air-strikes, but he refrained from taking effective measures at his disposal.
Armed conflict between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army continued from 1998 to 1999 before NATO intervened militarily from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999 in an attempt to end the violence.
January 28th, 2013 by Julien Maton
The Special Court for Sierra Leone
Date: 6-7 February, 2013
Venue: Jomo Kenyatta Road, New England, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
The Freetown conference will address:
• Sustainability and implementation of the various legacy projects associated with the Court ;
• Impact of the Court on impunity and accountability domestically and in the region ;
• Contributions of the SCSL to the rule of law, legacy and residual issues ;
• Relationship between the Court and civil society ;
• Lessons learned in regards to the prosecution of sexual violence and gender-based crimes.
Invitees will include among others Stephen J. Rapp, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, and iLawyer Wayne Jordash.
January 27th, 2013 by Ravipal Bains
On 24 January 2013, the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) announced an award of US $1.3 billion for two claims relating to damages suffered during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. In a press release, the UNCC said that payments were linked to the “damages to Kuwait’s oil field assets (oil wells, pipelines and related equipment) and associated production and sales losses.”
Burning oil fields in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War (c)U.S. Army
The Commission has to date awarded reparations to over 100 governments and organisations and still has close to US $12.3 billion to payout. The Governing Council of UNCC recognizes six categories of claims of which four are for individuals, one for corporations and another for governments and international organizations. After this award, the total amount of compensation paid out by the Geneva based UNCC stands at US $40.1 billion for 1.5 million successful claimants in all claim categories.
In its previous decision last October, the Commission had awarded US $1.09 billion to the Government of the State of Kuwait.
The UNCC was setup by the United Nations Security Council in 1991 to settle the claims of losses suffered due to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The Commission draws it resources from a 5 percent tax on the exports of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.
January 26th, 2013 by Ravipal Bains
The Cambodian staff of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has lodged a protest with the tribunal’s Office of Administration over unpaid wages. In the protest letter, members of the Supreme Court Chamber as well as the translation and management offices stated that if there was no progress on their demands they could resort to other measures including temporarily halting the work of ECCC.
As per the agreement under which ECCC was set up the salaries of the international staff are paid by the United Nations (UN) while the salaries of the 300 strong national staff including judges, prosecutors, and management officials are paid by Cambodia. Although the international staff has received wages regularly, the national staff has not been paid since December. At that time, Tony Kranh, the acting director of the ECCC’s Office of Administration had said that the national side of ECCC needed a funding of US $9.5 million to operate in 2013. However, unlike the previous years, he added that the national side “received no new funding pledges from donor countries” apart from the already earmarked funding of US $1.8 million pledge from the Cambodian government and US $700,000 from Germany.
Earlier this month, the Japanese government had announced a further payment of US $2.5 million to the international side of ECCC.
Apart from financial woes, ECCC is also facing the issue of failing health of its defendants. Within a period of a week, two of the three Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Che have been hospitalized.
January 26th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
CRIMES DE GUERRE DES SOCIÉTÉS : CONDAMNER LE PILLAGE DES RESSOURCES NATURELLES (CORPORATE WAR CRIMES: PROSECUTING PILLAGE OF NATURAL RESOURCES)
de James G. Stewart
Open Society Foundations, New York, October 2010
The English version of this publication can be found here.
Une version française du livre de James G. Stewart Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting Pillage of Natural Resources est désormais disponible sous le titre Crimes de guerre des sociétés : Condamner le pillage des ressources naturelles.
- James G. Stewart
Résumé : Pillage signifie le vol pendant la guerre. Bien que l’interdiction du pillage date de l’Empire romain, piller est un crime des guerres modernes qui peut être poursuivi devant des juridictions pénales internationales et nationales. A la suite de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, plusieurs hommes d’affaires furent reconnus coupables du pillage commercial de ressources naturelles. Et bien que le pillage ait été poursuivi au cours des dernières années, les acteurs commerciaux sont rarement tenus pour responsables de leur rôle dans l’alimentation du conflit.
Ranimer la responsabilité des sociétés en cas de pillage de ressources naturelles ne consiste pas seulement à protéger les droits de propriété durant un conflit, mais peut aussi jouer un rôle important dans la prévention d’atrocités. Depuis la fin de la guerre froide, l’exploitation illicite de ressources naturelles est devenue un moyen répandu de financer le conflit. Dans des pays, comprenant l’Angola, la République démocratique du Congo, le Timor oriental, l’Irak, le Libéria, le Myanmar et la Sierra Leone, le commerce illicite de ressources naturelles dans les zones de conflits n’a pas seulement créé des incitations à la violence, il a aussi fourni aux parties belligérantes les finances nécessaires pour soutenir les hostilités les plus brutales de l’histoire récente.
Le livre est disponible en libre téléchargement. Cliquez ici pour y accéder.
January 25th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights has opened the applications for its 2013/2014 LL.M. Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. The LL.M. provides students with a unique opportunity to follow advanced courses and seminars in all branches of international law applicable to situations of armed conflict and to grasp fully the interplay between them. The Programme aims at preparing students for leadership roles in governments as well as international and non-governmental organizations.
The Master’s core courses are taught in English and exams can be taken either in English or in French. Optional classes and activities are available in both languages. The resident faculty is comprised of professors from the Law Faculty and the Graduate Institute, and the visiting faculty consists of professors and lectures principally from other universities, recognized for their expertise in one of the branches of international law covered in the Master’s programme. In addition, experts and professionals participate by teaching short modules and delivering lectures. As part of the LL.M., students have the chance to pursue internships in Geneva based NGOs and international organizations. The Master’s degree is jointly issued by the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
The Programme is open to candidates holding a degree in law and showing a strong interest in the application of international law in times of armed conflict. The application deadline is set for Friday 15 February 2013. More information on the programme is available here.
January 24th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association ©UN photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
At the invitation of the British Government, the United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai carried out a visit from 14 to 23 January 2013 to the United Kingdom (UK) for the purpose of making an in-depth assessment of the situation of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association in the country. During his ten-day visit to London, Belfast and Edinburgh, Mr. Kiai met senior officials, representatives of the legislature, human rights commissions and other independent monitoring institutions, and civil society. Concluding his visit, Maina Kiai urged the the British Government to review a number of legal and policing measures affecting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
At the end of his official visit, the Special Rapporteur noted significant positive developments in the democratization project within the UK which should be commended and recognized as good practices. But he recalled that “no matter how old a democracy, there is always space for continued improvements.”
The Special Rapporteur presented his preliminary observations on freedom of peaceful assembly in England and Wales, in Nothern Ireland and in Scotland, and on freedom of association in an end-of-mission statement. A final report on the visit will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council during its 23rd session in June 2013.
January 24th, 2013 by Ellie Geranmayeh
Event Synopsis at Chatham House: ‘Does the UK need its own Bill of Rights?’
Date: 14 January 2013
Speakers: Philippe Sands QC: Commission on a Bill of Rights for the UK; Barrister at Matrix Chambers; Professor of International Law, University College London. Martin HoweQC, Commission on a Bill of Rights for the UK; Barrister at 8 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn.
Chatham House (Photograph: Nigel Reed QEDimages/Alamy)
Martin Howard QC and Phillip Sands QC, debated the background and motives behind the Commission on a Bill of Rights Final Report (‘the Report’) at a Chatham House lecture last week. Howard and Sands both sat on the Commission on a Bill of Rights (the ‘Commission’) and submitted opposing conclusions as to whether the UK needs its own Bill of Rights (‘BoR’) separate to the provisions under the European Convention on Human Rights (the ‘ECHR’). Continue reading ‘The Politics Behind a UK Bill of Rights’
January 23rd, 2013 by Julien Maton
by the Hague Initiative for Law and Armed Conflict (HILAC)
Date: Tuesday 29 January 2013, at 7pm
Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, The Hague, The Netherlands
Speaker: Professor Yoram Dinstein - Professor Emeritus, Tel Aviv University
With civil wars raging in Syria, Mali and other places around the world, Professor Yoram Dinstein will address the rules applicable during non-international armed conflicts and highlight which challenges the law faces in these contexts when other (international actors) also get involved.
Participation is free of charge and registration is not needed. Seats available on a first-come, first-served basis.
January 23rd, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, will formally launch on Thursday 24 January 2013 an inquiry into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing. The inquiry will focus on the applicable legal framework and provide a critical examination of the factual evidence concerning civilian casualties. The Report is to be presented later this year and should include recommendations to the UN General Assembly concerning the duty of States to conduct effective independent and impartial investigations into the lawfulness and proportionality of such attacks.
A US drone ©Lt.-Col. Leslie Pratt/U.S. Air Force/Reuters
While robots have been long used on the battlefield, their role keeps expanding more and more. The most visible part of this growing technology certainly is the use of US drones in the Pakistani and Yemeni skies in carrying out targeted attacks on Al-Qaeda fighters. Unmanned, these machines are often piloted from halfway around the globe. The distance between robots and humans recently raised the question of fully autonomous weapons. If such weapons do not yet exist, high-tech militaries are developing precursors that illustrate the push toward greater autonomy for war machines. Experts predict that within 20 to 30 years artificial intelligence will have given rise to fully automated war robots. Continue reading ‘International Concerns over the Use of Drones and Unmanned Weapons’
January 22nd, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
Charles Taylor (Photo: REUTERS/Jerry Lampen)
Charles Taylor’s appeals has started today at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) with the submissions of the prosecution. The prosecution put that Charles Taylor should be convicted of giving orders to the rebels, a charge on which he was acquitted by the Trial Chamber, and asked his sentence to be extended to 80 years. The court should “hold responsible not only those who perpetrate the crimes but also those who promote them”, said prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian.
Charles Taylor’s lawyers, calling the verdict a “miscarriage of justice,” ask the decision to be reversed and the conviction to be quashed. More than 40 grounds of appeal were filed by defence lawyers. Especially, they argue that the Trial Chamber’s decision was based on “uncorroborated hearsay evidence”. Taylor’s lawyer Morris Anyah said in court papers that “the colossal judgement, over 2,500 pages in length, is plagued throughout by internal inconsistencies, misstatements of evidence and conflicting findings.” Taylor, said Anyah, “was never in Sierra Leone when these crimes were committed” and furthermore he was so “engulfed at the time in many other domestic issues that it was not possible for him to be leading rebels in other countries to fight wars”.
Liberia’s former President was convicted in May 2012 on all 11 counts of an indictment that charged Charles Taylor with five counts of crimes against humanity; in particular: murder, rape, sexual slavery, other inhumane acts, and enslavement. The Court unanimously sentenced him to 50 years. Oral arguments will follow tomorrow. A live coverage of the hearings is provided by the SCSL.
January 22nd, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
by the International Bar Association and the Nippon Foundation
Free lunchtime event
Date: Thursday 24 January 2013 at 12h15
Venue: The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL
Each year, in January, to coincide with World Leprosy Day, The Nippon Foundation, Japan’s largest philanthropic private foundation, led by its Chairman, Mr Yohei Sasakawa, organizes and promotes a Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy.
This year, ahead of the 60th anniversary of World Leprosy Day (27 January), The Nippon Foundation and the International Bar Association (IBA) have joined forces to combat discrimination against leprosy-affected people still prevalent in the world and sustained in some countries by discriminatory legislation. The Appeal will be launched at midday, followed by lunch.
Chair: Reeta Chakrabarti BBC journalist and presenter
Keynote speaker: Baroness Helena Kennedy Co-Chair of the IBA’S Human Rights Institute
Host: Yohei Sasakawa WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination
Participants: Akira Kawamura Immediate Past President of the International Bar Association; Guntreddy Venugopal Chairman of the National Forum of People Affected by Leprosy in India; Vagavathali Narsappa Vice-Chairman of the National Forum of People Affected by Leprosy in India
Space is limited, priority will be given to early registrants.
To register please send an email to Romana Daniel.
January 21st, 2013 by Ravipal Bains
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) passed a landmark judgment on religious freedoms in workplace. The Court held on 15 January 2013 that religious freedom applies in the workplace, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. With this decision, the ECtHR has recognized religious freedom as a right but not an absolute right.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France
The ECtHR heard four cases together, ruling in favour of one and against in three others. All four cases involved applications by employees who claimed that their religious freedom had been breached.
In the case of Nadia Eweida, the court held that the British Airways check-in operator should not have been refused permission to wear the cross visibly at work. The judges stated that her right to manifest her religion was violated. The Court ordered the United Kingdom government to pay 2,000 euros in damages and 30,000 euros in costs to Ms Eweida.
However, the ECtHR rejected the application of a nurse whose employers forbade her from wearing the cross on health and safety grounds. The Court also rejected the application filed by a city hall registrar who claimed discrimination after she was disciplined for refusing to officiate same-sex civil partnerships. The fourth application brought by a relationship therapist who was dismissed for refusing to provide counseling to homosexual couples was also rejected.
The British Government welcomed the ruling. Writing on Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron said, “delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld – people shouldn’t suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs.”
January 21st, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
Abul Kalam Azad
Today, Abul Kalam Azad (aka Bachchu Razakar), a well-known Bangladeshi Muslim cleric, was sentenced in absentia to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s independence war. Azad’s conviction is the first verdict handed down by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal – 2 (ICT 2). Bangladesh’s second war crimes tribunal was set up in March 2012 by the Awami government to try larged-scale atrocities committed during the 1971 Liberation War.
During the Liberation war, Azad was a junior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and a member of the Razakars. The Razakar was a paramilitary force set up to support the Pakistan army, targeting Hindus as well as civilians suspected of being sympathetic towards Bengali nationalists. The ICT 2 found Azad guilty of seven charges -genocide, murder, rape, abduction, confinment and torture- and acquitted in one.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her satisfaction at Azad’s conviction and found the ICT 2’s verdict to represent “a fresh start for the people of Bangladesh”. Many others called the verdict historic, as it would open the way to similar judgments against other Muslim leaders accused of collaborating with Pakistan when Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) was fighting for its independence.
The ICT 2 was however criticized for issuing politically-motivated charges. People charged before the ICT 2 include a number of senior Jamaat leaders and a former minister from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Opposition leaders have accused the Awami government of carrying out a political vendetta through the ICT 2.
January 21st, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
by David Tolbert* – President of the International Centre for Transitional Justice
(c)Pep Montserrat for The National
Recent proposals on using transitional justice as a means of stabilising Syria in the aftermath of the eventual fall of the Assad regime – including by providing incentives for loyalists to give up a possible “fight to the death” in Damascus – are a significant development in the debate on Syria.
As someone who deeply believes in the importance of justice as the basis for recovery and sustainable peace in any society confronting a legacy of mass atrocity and repression, such as Syria, the proposals confirm that the concepts of transitional justice have ceased to be seen simply as idealistic and philosophical notions, but are credibly making their way into the politics of peacemaking.
Still, we must proceed with a great deal of caution and examine the preconditions necessary for measures of justice to have their desired effect. What levels of consultation and infrastructure will be needed for justice to have a genuine role in restoring trust between the state and its citizens? What will be needed for victims to feel that justice means something more than a short-term move in the chess game of post-war politics? Continue reading ‘After war, Syrians will need justice and forgiveness. It will not be easy’
January 20th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Judges at International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) denied this week Radovan Karadzic’s request to subpoena Naser Orić, the wartime commander of Bosnian Muslim forces in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica.
Orić is known to the ICTY from his previous indictment for charges of murder and cruel treatment of Serb prisoners and for destroying Serb villages around Srebrenica. He was initially sentenced to two years in prison but was fully acquitted on appeal in 2008.
Karadzic, who represents himself in court, claimed that Orić could provide evidence for his defence that the Bosnian Serb army attack on the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the summer of 1995 was a justified military action.
“Brigadier Orić can testify to inside information that the Bosnian government sacrificed Srebrenica and its residents as part of a greater strategy,” Karadzic stated in his November 13 motion.
The end result of that strategy, Karadzic alleged in the document, was to control the capital Sarajevo and obtain an eventual peace agreement. Continue reading ‘Karadzic Denied Subpoena for Naser Orić’
January 19th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
On 16 January 2012, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, launched an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Mali since the armed uprising of January 2012. This decision is the result of a seven-month preliminary examination of the Situation in Mali opened in July 2012 following a request by Mali’s Government.
Fatou Bensouda, ICC Chief Prosecutor (c)AFP / Daniels Evert -Jan
Following the conclusions of the preliminary examination, the investigation will focus on crimes of murder, torture, intentionally directing attacks against protected objects, the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, pillaging, and rape, crimes mainly committed in the three northern regions of Mali.
“There is still turmoil in North Mali and populations there continue to be at risk of yet more violence and suffering” said Prosecutor Bensouda. “Justice can play its part in supporting the joint efforts of the ECOWAS, the AU and the entire international community to stop the violence and restore peace to the region. Key regional and international organizations have acknowledged the need for justice as part of the resolution of the crisis in Mali. The international crimes committed in Mali have deeply shocked the conscience of humanity.”
The timing of the decision has been questioned, considering that Mali has just entered a new phase in its fight against northern insurgent groups. On 11 January 2013, French forces joined Nigerian and Senegalese troops in support of Mali’s army, while an ECOWAS force is expected to enter Mali in a few days, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2085 adopted on 20 December 2012. The Guardian noticed that the decision to open an investigation in Mali is the first ICC investigation to be so closely timed with the entrance of foreign military units.
January 17th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Myanmar Parliament (c)Cyndi Banks
In a recent report, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges international organisations and foreign governments to lend crucial support to the reform process in Myanmar (Burma), but warns that any assistance must be targeted carefully so as to include all sections of the country’s population.
The 115-page detailed report entitled ‘The Rule of Law in Myanmar: Challenges and Prospects’ shows that the path ahead for Myanmar is marked with both opportunities and challenges. The Report is based on research conducted by, and material gathered, during a high-level IBAHRI fact-finding mission to Myanmar in August 2012.
The delegation found the country’s laws and the 2008 Constitution formally guarantee a number of important rights, but national institutions frequently lack the capacity to put them into effect. The success of future reforms will therefore require the creation of transparent bodies and processes that practically safeguard fundamental rights for all the people of Myanmar – regardless of gender, ethnicity and other irrelevant factors – by providing them with an effective remedy for violations.
The Rule of Law in Myanmar makes recommendations to the government of Myanmar, the national parliament, appropriate judicial authorities, civil society organisations and other concerned institutions.
January 16th, 2013 by Julien Maton
by John RWD Jones* - iLawyer and Co-Counsel to Mustafa Amine Badreddine before the STL
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was created by the UN Security Council (UNSC) to try those responsible for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in a bomb blast on 14 February 2005. The trial is scheduled to start on 25 March 2013, but with the significant absence of any defendants, the only trial which will be held before the STL will almost certainly be a trial in absence.
Four defendants have been indicted – Badreddine, Ayyash, Oneissi and Sabra – all allegedly members of Hezbollah, and counsel have been assigned to each of them. A number of significant motions have been filed by defence counsel to date, including challenges to the legality of the STL and to the decision to proceed to hold trials in absentia. The STL Trial and Appeals Chamber have ruled on these motions, holding that the tribunal was established lawfully and affirming the decision to hold trials in absence.
However, the Appeals Chamber’s reasons for rejecting the challenge to the STL’s legality are unconvincing, given in particular the chamber’s refusal (president Baragwanath (NZ) dissenting) to recognise any power on its part to review the legality of UNSC resolutions at all, and thus to entertain any serious challenge on the issue. Continue reading ‘The STL’s First Steps’
January 15th, 2013 by Julien Maton
A prison camp in North Korea
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights has called for an international investigation into human rights violations committed by the North Korean government over the last decades.
The high commissioner said the elaborate network of political prison camps, forced labor and torture in the country cannot be allowed to continue.
Navi Pillay expressed regret that there had been no improvement since Kim Jong-un took power a year ago. Instead, she said, North Korea’s self-imposed isolation had “allowed the government to mistreat its citizens to a degree that should be unthinkable in the 21st century.”
Ms. Pillay pointed to North Korea’s network of political prison camps, believed to contain at least 200,000 people and to have reportedly been the scene of rampant violations including rapes, torture, executions and slave labour. These “may amount to crimes against humanity”, she said.
She added that it was unfortunate that international concerns over North Korea’s nuclear programme and rocket launches were overshadowing the deplorable human rights violations which have “no parallel anywhere else in the world.”
According to the New York Times, some 40 activist organizations support the inquiry and a possible Japan-sponsored resolution at March’s Human Rights Council session could launch the effort.
January 14th, 2013 by Julien Maton
United Nations Security Council (Photograph by: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)
This Monday, Switzerland sent a letter on behalf of fifty-seven states to ask the UN Security Council to refer the Syria conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a war crimes investigation.
The signatories included all European Union member states, with the notable exception of Sweden.
Australia, New Zealand, Japan and a number of African and Pacific nations also endorsed the initiative.
The letter points to a pervasive climate of impunity in Syria and concludes that the Security Council must therefore act to fill this accountability gap.
“We are firmly of the view that the Security Council must ensure accountability for the crimes that seem to have been and continue to be committed in the Syrian Arab Republic and send a clear signal to the Syrian authorities […] the most efficient way to ensure accountability in this serious situation would be a referral of the situation to the Court”, reads the letter.
The permanent members of the Security Council are Russia and China, which have been traditional Damascus allies, and the United States, Britain and France, which are calling for President Bashar Assad to step down and actively support the opposition.
Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC, so the only way the Court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council. The Council has previously referred conflicts in Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the Court.