Archive for February, 2013
February 28th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Today, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has acquitted Momčilo Perišić, former Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army.
Mr. Perišić was accused of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
On 6 September 2011, the Trial Chamber found Mr. Perišić guilty of aiding and abetting a military campaign of crimes committed between August 1993 and November 1995 in the Bosnian towns of Sarajevo and Srebrenica.
The Trial Chamber also found Mr. Perišić guilty as a superior for failing to punish subordinates for the shelling of civilian areas in the city of Zagreb, on 2 and 3 May 1995, which resulted in the death and wounding of civilians.
Mr. Perišić was sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment.
The Appeals Chamber found that evidence on the record did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Perišić specifically directed assistance towards crimes committed in Sarajevo and Srebrenica or possessed effective control over soldiers at the time of Zagreb’s shelling.
In particular, the Appeals Chamber noted evidence that Mr. Perišić instructed that the shelling of Zagreb cease, but that this instruction was not followed.
Mr. Perišić will be released with immediate effect.
February 28th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
Policy Roundtable by the Organization of American States
Date: 1st March 2013, 10.00 – 12.30 EST (15:00 – 17:30 GMT)
Venue: Rubén Darío Hall, Organization of American States, 1889 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
Speakers: José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS; Maureen Clarke, President of Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM); Marie Yanick Mézile, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights of Haiti; Luz Patricia Mejia, OAS Coordinator of the Follow-Up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention; Tracy Robinson, Commissioner and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); Teresa Inchaustegui, representative of the Legal Research Institute of the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM); Katherine Romero, Senior Attorney for Women´s Link; Carmen Moreno, Executive Secretary of the CIM.
A detailed program is available here.
The meeting will be broadcast live on the OAS Website.
February 27th, 2013 by Julien Maton
iLawyerblog is delighted to announce that one of its members, iLawyer John Jones, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, has been appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Congratulations to John who will be officially appointed in a ceremony taking place on 27th March 2013.
February 25th, 2013 by Julien Maton
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will take place in London from 13 to 22 March 2013.
Through its Film Festival, Human Rights Watch bears witness to human rights violations and empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.
In selecting films for the festival, Human Rights Watch concentrates equally on artistic merit and human rights content. The festival encourages filmmakers around the world to address human rights subject matter in their work and presents films from both new and established international filmmakers.
Among its 19 films, the festival includes Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution.
“Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution” by Alex Meillier
This film is the inspiring story of Kirsty Sword who, moved by the plight of the Timorese, risked her own life to support the resistance movement.
Using the pseudonym “Ruby Blade,” she smuggled video equipment, computers, and audio cassettes to their leader Gusmão, who was serving a life sentence in the notorious Cipinang Prison in Jakarta.
Meanwhile, the communication between Kirsty and Xanana became more intimate and through correspondence, they fell in love.
They ultimately marry and become President and First Lady of the new independent country of Timor-Leste.
Through archival footage, accounts from friends, and interviews with Kirsty Sword herself, the film not only explores their remarkable relationship, but also the history of a decade of resistance that ultimately led to the UN-organized referendum on East Timor in 1999 and the country’s independence.
Alias Ruby Blade will be playing on Tuesday 19 March at 21.00, Ritzy, Brixton and Wednesday 20 March at 18.40, Curzon, Soho.
February 23rd, 2013 by Ellie Geranmayeh
- Jean-Claude Duvalier (c)AP
Haiti’s former ruler, Jean-Claude Duvalier, failed to appear before a scheduled hearing on Thursday at the Court of Appeal of Port-au-Prince in relation to charges of human rights violations committed during his presidency (1971 – 1986). This was not the first time Duvalier has missed a court appearance.
In January 2013, the Haitian lower court ruled that a claim in respect of the systematic abuse of human rights committed by Duvalier had expired under Haiti’s statue of limitations. The alleged victims and their relatives have appealed this ruling which was due to begin this week.
On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reminded the Haitian authorities of their duty to ensure violations of human rights are not given impunity through the imposition of a time bar. Pillay highlighted that there is no statute of limitation under international law in respect of crimes against humanity (such as systematic rape, torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances) which have been recognised since the Nuremberg trial. Pillay stressed therefore that the case against Duvalier could not be defeated on the basis of a time bar. Continue reading ‘“Baby Doc” Duvalier: Second Failed Court Appearance’
February 21st, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
The Extraordinay Chambers in the Court of Cambodia
Defence lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have raised concerns regarding the lack of fair trial guarantees. In a press release published today, the three co-lawyers for a suspect in Case 004, including Göran Sluiter, point out the lack of financial problems which has led to a situation where suspects’ rights to a fair trial can no longer be respected. The lawyers call for sufficient financial means to be made available to the defence, and are prepared to take further steps if the Defence Support Section fails to respond to their request, “including a request to the Co-Investigating Judges to dismiss the case on the basis that the ECCC is unable to provide our client with a fair trial.”
The ECCC is facing serious financial difficulties. Last month, protests came from the tribunal’s staff who had lodged a complaint with the tribunal’s Office of Administration over unpaid wages.
For further information, contact Göran Sluiter.
February 19th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
by Wayne Jordash – iLawyer
The concept of a court’s legacy has been defined by the United Nations (UN) as the “lasting impact on bolstering the rule of law in a particular society, by conducting effective trials to contribute to ending impunity, while also strengthening domestic judicial capacity.” Unless we are supposed to extrapolate from the word “effective”, this UN definition curiously fails to mention the most critical platform for a meaningful and sustainable legacy – the requirement that the trials are, and are perceived to have been, fair in their inception and process. Effective, but selective and unprincipled, trials might not quite deliver the lessons in the rule of law or provide the demonstration effects that are presumed to play their part in ending impunity. As the current crop of international or hybrid courts complete their work, is this not the critical criterion upon which any long lasting or otherwise robust legacy must rest?
Women’s rights activists meet in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone, November 2012. Glenna Gordon/ICTJ
The limitation of this UN definition and the need for the ongoing legacy conversations to be embedded in these considerations was apparent at the recent ICTJ sponsored conference “Exploring the Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone” held in Freetown on the 6-7 February 2013. Attended by a range of international humanitarian and criminal law actors, many with considerable experience of working at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). These were accompanied by an equally impressive array of Sierra Leonean civil and academic society, including Marie Bob-Kandeh from the “Sierra Leonean Association of Market Women”, Sulaiman Jabati, the Executive Director of the “Coalition for Justice and Accountability” and Joe D. Alie from the once- famous Sierra Leone Fourah Bay College, as well as a range of other academic and interested parties. Of the subjects that gave rise to the most vigorous debate within the largely Sierra Leonean audience was the discussion concerning fair ‘case selection’ – viewed as an integral aspect of a broader enquiry, namely, whether those who were selected had received a fair trial. Continue reading ‘Case Selection in ICL and the Legacy of Anomalies’
February 19th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
Momčilo Perišić ©AP
The Appeal Judgment in the case of Prosecutor v. Momčilo Perišić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is scheduled to be rendered on 28 February 2013 at 3:00 p.m. The Judgement will be broadcast live on the Tribunal’s website.
Momčilo Perišić was sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment on 6 September 2011. As the former Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army, Momčilo Perišić was found guilty of aiding and abetting murders, inhumane acts, persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, and attacks on civilians between August 1993 and November 1995 in Sarajevo and Srebrenica. Momčilo Perišić was also found guilty, as a superior, for failing to punish murder, attacks on civilians, and inhumane acts related to the shelling of Zagreb that took place on 2 and 3 May 1995. Judge Moloto dissented from these two findings. Finally, the Trial Chamber unanimously acquitted Perišić of aiding and abetting extermination in Srebrenica, and of superior responsibility for crimes in Sarajevo and Srebrenica.
The Defence appealed the Trial Judgement, and requests that Perišić be acquitted on all grounds. The Prosecution did not file an appeal. The appeal hearing was held on 30 October 2012.
February 18th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
In its latest report released today, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Republic (‘the Commission’) depicts an increasing violence with both parties to the conflict which have become “reckless with human life” nearly two years after the hostilities started. The Commission found that both pro- and anti-government forces have violated international humanitarian law by perpetrating massacres of civilians. Although the Syrian Government has denied the Commission the possibility to undertake investigations, the panel members conducted 445 interviews relating the radicalization and militarization of the conflict. The report states that “the dynamics of the conflict have become increasingly complex. The war has become coloured by sectarianism, permeated by opportunistic criminality and aggravated by the presence of foreign fighters and extremist groups.” Finally, the Commission asks the the Security Council to “take appropriate action and commit to human rights and the rule of law by means of referral to justice, possibly to the International Criminal Court. ”
Carla del Ponte
In an interview to the New York Times, Carla del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor for international tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and member of the Commission, said “now, really, it’s time — it’s time. We are pressuring the international community to act because it’s time to act. (…) It’s incredible the Security Council doesn’t take a decision”. A referral must be made urgently, she said, “because crimes are continuing, and the number of victims is increasing day to day. Justice must be done.” Previously, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also lamented the failure of the international community particularly the Security Council to take significant actions to stop the conflict.
The report is due to be discussed in the UN Human Rights Council next month. In March, a confidential list of individuals and units believed to be responsible for crimes is to be submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
February 14th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
The Open Society Justice Intitiative (OSJI) has published a report on human rights abuses associated with the US Central Intelligence Agency’s post-September 11, 2001, secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. The 216-page report, entitled Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition, is presented as the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. Globalizing Torture details what was done to the 136 known victims of the CIA’s highly classified program of secret detention and extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The program was designed to place detainee interrogations beyond the reach of law. Suspected terrorists were seized and secretly flown across national borders to be interrogated by foreign governments that used torture, or by the CIA itself in clandestine “black sites” using torture techniques. The report also lists the 54 foreign governments that participated in these operations.
Concluding that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit, Globalizing Torture makes it unequivocally clear that the time has come for the United States and its partners to definitively repudiate these illegal practices and secure accountability for the associated human rights abuses.
February 13th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
The EULEX Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo has opened several seconded positions. The Stabilisation Unit is looking for applications from suitable candidates for the positions advertised here: EULEX KOSOVO Annex I Call for Contribution 1-2013. The positions will all be one year secondments.
Interested candidates are invited to fill the standard application form and to send it to Civilian Planning & Conduct Capability (CPCC), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 12th, 2013 by Julien Maton
Faculty of Law, University of Ljubljana
The Faculty of Law of the University of Ljubljana is organizing a two day international conference entitled ‘Responsibility to Protect in Theory and Practice‘ on April 11-12, 2013.
The conference will be organized as a forum where international legal experts and researchers will have the opportunity to participate in a discourse with international political scientists to advance the scientific research on the issues related to Responsibility to Protect (R2P/RtoP) and the applicability of the concept in practice.
The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Edward Luck, former Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Responsibility to Protect and Dean of Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego at the gala conference dinner held in Grand Hotel Union Executive.
If you wish to register, please click here.
February 12th, 2013 by Julien Maton
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be holding a hearing in the case of Janowiec and Others v. Russia on 13 February 2013. The case concerns complaints about the adequacy of the investigation by the Russian authorities into the 1940 Katyń massacre.
The applicants are 15 Polish nationals who are relatives of 12 victims of the Katyń massacre. The 12 victims were police and army officers, an army doctor and a primary school headmaster. Following the Red Army’s invasion of the Republic of Poland in September 1939, they were taken to Soviet camps or prisons and were then killed by the Soviet secret police without trial, along with more than 21,000 others, in April and May 1940. They were buried in mass graves in the Katyń forest. Continue reading ‘ECHR: Grand Chamber Hearing Concerning Investigation into Katyń Massacre’
February 12th, 2013 by Ellie Geranmayeh
Last week, the UK’s home secretary, Theresa May, has announced amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill (the ‘Bill’) in relation to UK’s extradition laws. The changes transfer ministerial decision making powers to the judicial branch in relation to representations against extradition based on human rights grounds, such as where a suspect may face torture or the death penalty. Pursuant to the proposed changes to the Bill, the British courts may block an extradition in the interest of justice so that the accused can be tried in the UK.
Hacker Gary McKinnon (c)PA
May commented that the proposed amendments would ensure extradition decisions were “fair and balanced”. Currently, requests for extradition are made to the home secretary for a preliminary decision on whether to reject the request on human rights grounds. Where the request is not rejected, it is passed to the courts for a judicial decision. The changes to the Bill would mean that where a request is granted at this court level, any appeals on the basis of human rights will be made to the courts directly, and not the home secretary, as under the present system.
The changes, known as the “forum bar”, are hailed to create transparency in extradition cases by allowing final decisions impacted by human rights to be challenged in open court rather than behind closed political doors. Continue reading ‘Extradition v. Human Rights: Proposed Changes to UK’s Laws’
February 11th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
by Dr. Miša Zgonec-Rožej
On Friday, 8 February 2013, Senegal officially inaugurated the Extraordinary African Chambers that has been set up within the Senegalese judicial system to try the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré. Habré is allegedly responsible for international crimes committed during his reign in Chad, including thousands of political killings and systematic torture. Habré, who came to power in 1982, fled to Senegal after being ousted in 1990 by the current president of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, and has since been living there in exile.
Victims of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré ©2007 Klaartje Quirijns
Despite the victims’ attempt to bring Habré to justice, Senegal has continually avoided instituting any criminal proceedings against the former dictator. In July 2012, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case concerning Questions Relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite (Belgium v. Senegal) ordered Senegal to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, if it did not extradite him to Belgium which has been seeking his extradition since 2005, as required by Article 7(1) of the UN Convention against Torture. Continue reading ‘Opening of the Extraordinary African Chambers to try the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré’
February 10th, 2013 by Admas Habteslasie
In a recent article published on the Opinio Juris blog, Kevin Jon Heller discussed the latest development in the Libyan government’s ongoing admissibility challenge in the case of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. Heller critically discusses Libya’s recent request to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to disclose evidence supporting its admissibility challenge on an ex parte basis.
The Libyan government argued that if the Pre-Trial Chamber provides sensitive information to Gaddafi’s lawyers, the Office of the Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD), the OPCD might leak it to “Gaddafi-regime loyalists” who would “undermine national criminal proceedings”.
Libya also argued that its ex parte disclosure is based on Article 59 of the Libyan Code of Criminal Procedure which provides an obligation of non-dislosure of investigative material prior to the accusatory phase of proceedings.
For Kevin Jon Heller, there is a formal problem with Libya’s argument, as read literally, Article 59 applies to disclosures to the Pre-Trial Chamber no less than to the OPCD. However, says Heller, Libya “never explains why it is free to breach Article 59 by disclosing information to the Pre-Trial Chamber but not free to breach it by disclosing information to the OPCD.”
For him, this argumentation simply reflects Libya’s ongoing contempt for the lawyers who work in the OPCD.
On 30 January, the Pre-Trial Chamber rejected Libya’s request to submit evidence ex parte, stating that it failed to assert to what extent the OPCD could be a source of risks that the domestic investigation be prejudiced and/or Libya’s national security jeopardized, if the OPCD was provided with the concerned material.
February 9th, 2013 by Julien Maton
by Daniel Robinson*
The United Nations (“UN”) Human Rights Council has issued a report warning Israel to cease settlement activity in the West Bank or potentially face legal action at the International Criminal Court (“ICC”).
The report, released on 31 January 2013, states that Israel is in violation of international law and calls for both a cessation of all settlement activity ‘without preconditions’ and the initiation of ‘a process of withdrawal of all settlers’. Turning to the ICC, the report highlights the court’s jurisdiction over the settlements under the Rome Statute, stating: “Ratification of the statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims”.
The report follows an historic vote in November by the UN General Assembly (“the Assembly”) recognising Palestine as a non-member observer state, a step up from its former status. Its timing had agreeable symmetry, occurring as it did on the 65th Anniversary of the United Nations vote for a plan of partition of British-mandated Palestine into what would become Arab and Israeli states. Although Palestine cannot vote at the Assembly as a non-member and enjoys the same status as the Vatican, the only other non-member observer state, the change of designation to ‘state’ may prove of more than simply symbolic importance. Continue reading ‘Legal Avenues for Palestine?’
February 7th, 2013 by Ravipal Bains
Navanethem Pillay - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Photo Geneva)
The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday applauded the upcoming entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights enabling individual complaints for economic, social and cultural rights.
Ms. Pillay said, “the entry into force of the Optional Protocol is a major breakthrough.” She further added “the Protocol will provide an important platform to expose abuses linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect, which up until now victims have had to endure without any possible recourse at the international level. It will provide a way for individuals, who may otherwise be isolated and powerless, to make the international community aware of their situation.” Continue reading ‘Pillay Applauds Breakthrough on Individual Complaints on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’
February 5th, 2013 by Raphaelle Rafin
Today, the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal – 2 (ICT 2) found Abdul Kader Mullah, the assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami, guilty of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War. Abdul Kader Mullah, who denied all the charges, was convicted of five out of six charges, including murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
- Protests in Dhaka (c)AP
Today’s verdict comes two weeks after the ICT 2’s first conviction of Abul Kalam Azad. The work of the ICT 2 has long been criticized for issuing politically-motivated charges. Jamaat-e-Islami has called a national strike for Tuesday, while clashes between police and protesters broke out on Monday in Dhaka and several other cities.
Abdur Razzaq, the lead lawyer for the Jamaat leaders facing trial, has described the tribunal as “a witch hunt”. In an interview to BBC Bengali on Monday, he said “we are but forced to accept the verdict. However, we will surely appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgement. Although the prosecution says that guilt has been proved, I consider this to be a perverse judgement. The prosecution has failed to prove any charge.”
February 5th, 2013 by Julien Maton
The EU’s Human Rights Review Panel has just published its 2012 Annual Report, which includes a set of important recommendations regarding the future of EULEX with regard to the protection of human rights in Kosovo. iLawyer Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.
February 4th, 2013 by Julien Maton
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France
On the occasion of the Opening of the Judicial Year at the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Theodor Meron, ICTY President, gave an enriching lecture on the relationship, historical and contemporary, between international criminal justice and human rights law. A link to that speech is provided here.
February 4th, 2013 by Julien Maton
- Justin Mugenzi (left) and Prosper Mugiraneza (Photo: AFP)
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today acquitted two former Rwandan ministers whom the Trial Chamber had sentenced to 30 years in jail.
The Appeals Chamber overturned convictions for conspiracy to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide against Justin Mugenzi, who was trade minister during the 1994 genocide, and Prosper Mugiraneza, former minister in charge of civil servants.
The Trial Chamber had convicted the two based on the fact that they attended a council of ministers meeting that decided to sack the Tutsi prefect of Butare, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, who was considered the last obstacle to the genocide in his prefecture.
The judges had ruled that their presence at that meeting and at another meeting two days later where interim president Theodore Sindikubwabo urged the population to kill Tutsis, meant that they were guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide.
The Appeal judges however found that Mugenzi and Mugiraneza did not know that Sindikubwabo was going to make such a speech, and that the dismissal of the prefect could have been decided “for political and administrative reasons” and not necessarily in order to speed up the massacres.
February 3rd, 2013 by Julien Maton
Observers watch the Sept. 11 hearings from a viewing gallery at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, 31 January 2013 (Janet Hamlin, AFP/Getty Images)
A judge overseeing a military trial at Guantánamo Bay ordered the government on Thursday to disconnect the technology that allows offstage censors — apparently including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — to block a public feed of the courtroom proceedings at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The blocked comments came during a pretrial motions hearing on Monday in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other detainees accused of aiding the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
During the censored portion, David Nevin, a defense lawyer, was apparently referring to the CIA’s secret prisons in countries like Romania and Thailand where the agency once held the Sept. 11 defendants and potentially tortured them before transport to Guantánamo.
The judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, normally has sole authority to decide when to close a hearing or stop spectators – including journalists and relatives of the victims – from listening to testimony.
Spectators watch the proceedings behind soundproof glass, and receive audio on a 40-second delay so that a court security officer can switch on a white noise machine while classified information is being discussed.
However, during the hearing, the button in the courtroom had not been hit by the only known censor, a security officer who sits near the judge.
“This is the last time,” Colonel Pohl said, that any party other than a security officer inside the courtroom who works for the military commission “will be permitted to unilaterally decide that the broadcast will be suspended.”
Defense lawyers used the incident as new ammunition in their assertions that the tribunals were unfair.
On Thursday they filed an emergency motion asking to halt proceedings until they could learn more about what kind of technology is in place in meeting rooms and in the courtroom and whether they can be sure that their confidential conversations with their clients and one another are private.
February 3rd, 2013 by Julien Maton
iLawyer is happy to announce that Me Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, Counsel before the ICTR and STL, has now joined the firm Godin Associés. We congratulate Vincent and his new firm.