New PhD Thesis – International Criminal Trials: A Normative Theory

Sergey Vasiliev PhdOn Friday 25 April 2014, Sergey Vasiliev was granted his PhD by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) cum laude. Dr Vasiliev’s doctorate is devoted to the trial in international criminal proceedings. It is now available in a book of extraordinary depth and quality, which is highly recommended.

Among the numerous works on international criminal procedure, there has been no study focusing on the international criminal trial as a socio-legal phenomenon and a phase of international criminal proceedings. The book seeks to cover this gap by systematically examining the nature and organization of trials conducted by the historical and contemporary international

and hybrid criminal tribunals from the Nuremberg Tribunal to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The study posits international criminal trials as a distinct object of theoretical and legal inquiry. It combines the methodological, conceptual, comparative, and critical approaches to the subject-matter for the purpose of developing the normative theory of international criminal trials.

STL Summons Journalists for Contempt

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Two journalists and two media organisations have been charged with contempt before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Karma Mohamed Tahsin al Khayat from Al-Jadeed TV, as well as the station’s parent company New TV S.A.L., have been summoned to appear before the STL on two counts of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice. Ibrahim Mohamed Al Amin from Al Akhbar, as well as the newspaper’s parent company Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. have been summoned on one count of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice. The accused are being charged under Rule 60 bis (A) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and all the charges relate to the Ayyash et al. case.

Last year, information relating to confidential witnesses has been broadcasted in certain medias.

Following these events, the Registrar of the Tribunal appointed an amicus curiae. Based on reports by the amicus, the Contempt Judge concluded that there was prima facie evidence that justify proceedings for contempt.

In his decision, the Contempt Judge clarified that publishing purported names of witnesses may amount to interference with the administration of justice, because it reduces the confidence of both actual witnesses and the public, in the ability and the will of the Tribunal to protect its witnesses.

The accused may choose whether to appear at the court in person or by video-link.  The initial appearances of the accused are scheduled for 13 May 2014.

Kosovo Parliament Approves Creation of Special Court

Members of parliament take the oath during its first session in Pristina

Kosovo Parliament

Yesterday, the Kosovo parliament approved the creation of an EU-backed special court for serious abuses committed during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. Parliament approved the special court by a vote of 82 to 22, with 2 abstentions.

The special court will adjudicate cases against individuals based on a 2010 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty. The report accused some members of the ethnic Albanian insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of abductions, beatings, summary executions, and in some cases, the forced removal of human organs on Albanian territory during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The report named some individuals currently in the Kosovo government, including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Thaci, who was the political chief of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, has rejected the allegations as an attempt to tarnish KLA’s reputation.

The Marty report said most of the alleged crimes occurred after June 1999, when NATO’s bombing campaign forced Belgrade to end the war and withdraw Serb forces from Kosovo.

The special court will operate within the Kosovo justice system but, prosecutors and judges will be international. It will have one seat in Kosovo and another abroad, possibly in the Netherlands, which will deal with protected witnesses.

An estimated 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war, the great majority of them being ethnic Albanians. About 1,700 people are still missing.

US Army Sacrifices Military Career of 9/11 Mastermind’s Lawyer

Major Jason Wright

Major Jason Wright

Major Jason Wright, a military lawyer representing the interests of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is retiring from the U.S. Army, which was trying to force him off the defense team on the grounds that he needed to attend a graduate course this year.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is one of five accused Sept. 11 co-conspirators now in pretrial proceedings before a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, where they are also being held. The case is one of the most important in U.S. history, and the defendants could face the death penalty.

Every year, all Army majors designated as attorney must attend a graduate course in Virginia. Though he deferred the course last year, the Judge Advocate General of the Army denied Major Wright’s request this year, meaning that he must either leave the case to attend the course or resign from the army.

“I had to make a legal and ethical decision as to what I was going to do in the best interest of my client, and I chose the option which 100 percent of all defense lawyers would choose. It’s one of these law school scenarios; it’s just being played out in real life.” Continue reading

ADC-ICTY Affiliate Membership

ADC ICTYThe Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has a new membership category. In addition to the constitutional membership categories of Full and Associate Members, the ADC-ICTY now welcomes “Affiliate Members”.

This new category is aimed at young practitioners, scholars, students and interns that have an interest in the ADC-ICTY and its activities. By becoming an ADC-ICTY affiliate member, young professionals will have the chance to stay in touch with fellow colleagues and friends, participate in monthly seminars, trainings and field trips, take part in the ADC Mock Trials and advocacy trainings, and remain part of the ADC-ICTY’s larger network.

Members will receive the biweekly ADC-ICTY newsletter and are invited to contribute to its Rostrum section. Moreover, the ADC-ICTY will be sending monthly information on job openings and events in the field of international (criminal) law.

Membership fees are 70 Euros per year. A reduced rate of 30 Euros per year is available for students and unpaid interns. Further information is available here.

For the application form, click here.

New Guest Blogger: Professor Alex Whiting

Alex WhitingIlawyerblog is pleased to announce the arrival of Alex Whiting as part of its team as guest blogger.

Alex Whiting is a Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School where he teaches, writes and consults on domestic and international criminal prosecution issues.

Previously, he worked for 18 years as a U.S. and international prosecutor. From 2010 until 2013, he was in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Before going to the ICC, Alex Whiting taught for more than three years as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, again with a focus on prosecution subjects. From 2002-2007, he was a Trial Attorney and then a Senior Trial Attorney with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Before going to the ICTY, he was a U.S. federal prosecutor for ten years.

Alex Whiting attended Yale College and Yale Law School. His publications include Dynamic Investigative Practice at the International Criminal Court, 76 Law and Contemporary Problems 163 (2014), International Criminal Law: Cases and Commentary (2011), co-authored with Antonio Cassese and two other authors, and In International Criminal Prosecutions, Justice Delayed Can Be Justice Delivered, 50 Harv. Int’l L. J. 323 (2009).

Ukraine Accepts ICC jurisdiction over Alleged Crimes Committed between November 2013 and February 2014

UkraineToday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) received a declaration lodged by Ukraine accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes committed in its territory from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. The declaration was lodged under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute which enables a State not party to the Statute to accept the exercise of jurisdiction of the Court.

The acceptance of the ICC’s jurisdiction does not automatically trigger an investigation. It is for the ICC Prosecutor to decide whether or not to request the judges’ authorisation to open an investigation, if the Prosecutor considers that the information available to her establishes the existence of a reasonable basis to open an investigation.

If an investigation is opened, it will also be for the ICC Prosecutor to decide, on the basis of the evidence collected, whether to ask the ICC judges to issue arrest warrants or summonses to appear for persons charged with the commission of crimes falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Syria Torture Photos Displayed at the UN Security Council

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) yesterday examined photographs of about 11,000 Syrians said to have been tortured, starved and killed by the Syrian government’s forces.

Tramline bruises are produced by blows with rod-like objects, the report explains. ©Carter-Ruck and Co.

Tramline bruises are produced by blows with rod-like objects, the report explains. ©Carter-Ruck and Co.

Most of the photographs were collected by a Syrian military police photographer, code-named Caesar, who smuggled them out on flash drives when he defected and joined an anti-Assad opposition group. “Caesar”, a crime scene photographer for the Syrian military police, was assigned in 2001 to photograph corpses at a military hospital that received bodies from three detention centres in the Damascus suburbs. In his testimony, the photographer described a highly bureaucratic system:

“The procedure was that when detainees were killed at their places of detention their bodies would be taken to a military hospital to which he would be sent with a doctor and a member of the judiciary, Caesar’s function being to photograph the corpses… There could be as many as 50 bodies a day to photograph which require 15 to 30 minutes of work per corpse,” the report said. “The reason for photographing executed persons was twofold. First to permit a death certificate to be produced without families requiring to see the body, thereby avoiding the authorities having to give a truthful account of their deaths; second to confirm that orders to execute individuals had been carried out.” Continue reading

ICTY Rejects Ratko Mladić’s Request for Acquittal

In an oral decision delivered yesterday, the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rejected Ratko Mladić‘s request for acquittal.

The request was made under Rule 98bis of the Rules of Procedure of the ICTY, which allows the judges to enter a judgment of acquittal after the close of the Prosecution case where “there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction.”

Ratko-Mladic-007

Ratko Mladić (c) The Telegraph

Mladić, the former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), is charged with several counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes alleged to have been carried out in the course of a joint criminal enterprise to remove Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims from the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is allegedly responsible for the devastating incidents that occurred at Srebrenica in July 1995, where it is estimated several thousand Bosnian Muslim men were executed in the course of a single day.

In his request for acquittal, he argued that the Prosecution had failed to prove (a) the requisite genocidal intent; (b) sufficient control over non-VRS elements which perpetrated some of the crimes with which Mladić is charged; and (c) specific incidents with which he is charged. The prosecution, and eventually the judges, dismissed the defence arguments.

Mladić’s trial commenced on 16 May 2012, 17 years after he was first indicted. The Prosecution closed their case on 26 February 2014; the request for acquittal has come at the half-way point with the Defence due to open their case in May 2014.