Court begins Jury selection for Abu Hamza Terrorism Trial

New York court begins today jury selection in the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, known as Abu Hamza al-Masri. Abu Hamza is facing 11 terrorism charges, including providing support to al-Qaeda and trying to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon.

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Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri Photo: EPA

Facts of the case date back to the late 1990s, when Abu Hamza allegedly conspired to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, to arrange for others to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, and to ensure there was satellite phone service for hostage takers in Yemen in 1998 who abducted two American tourists and 14 others. Three Britons and an Australian were killed then as the Yemeni military attempted to rescue the hostages.

At a pre-trial hearing last week, Abu Hamza declared that the will testify on his own behalf, telling US district judge Katherine Forrest “I think I am innocent. I need to go through it, have a chance to defend myself.” Prosecution evidence mainly include media interviews and recordings of Abu Hamza’s weekly speeches at Finsbury Park mosque (London).

Abu Hamza was first arrested in the United Kingdom in 2004 where he was found guilty of 11 charges, including encouraging the murder of non-Muslims, and intent to stir up racial hatred. Abu Hamza was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The same year of his conviction, the United States requested Abu Hamza’s extradition. Following a legal battle, the European Court of Human Rights finally authorized extradition after it was given assurances by the United States that Abu Hamza would neither be designated as enemy combatant (with the consequences that that entailed, such as the death penalty) nor subjected to extraordinary rendition. Abu Hamza was extradited on 6 October 2012. He appeared before the New York court on 9 October and pleaded not guilty to the 11 charges.

Gaddafi Brothers’ Trial Begins in Libya

Saif al-Islam

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi after his capture in 2011 (c) The Guardian

The trial of Saif al-Islam and Saadi Gaddafi, sons of deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, begins today in Tripoli. The brothers are accused of coordinating a campaign to murder, torture, and bombard civilians during the Libyan civil war in 2011. They are also accused of plundering state resources in order to fund their extravagant lifestyles.

They are being tried alongside Abdullah al-Senussi, the former intelligence chief to Muammar Gaddafi, as well as two former prime ministers and 34 senior officials of the old regime.

Security concerns have caused the trial to be moved to the maximum security Al Hadba prison. Yet, when the trial commences, Saif al-Islam will not be present as the rebel militias responsible for his detention in Zintan province continue to refuse to hand him over. He will be tried instead by video link.

Both Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi are the subject of proceedings before the International Criminal Court. In May 2013, judges ruled that Saif al-Islam should be surrendered to The Hague but in October 2013, found that Libya is fit to try al-Senussi for themselves. The latter decision is being appealed by defence counsel for Mr al-Senussi.

Event: Lecture “Addressing Crimes against the Environment under the Rome Statute”

Asser InstituteDate: 23 April 2014, at 6.30pm

Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, The Hague, Netherlands

Organizer: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, in cooperation with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden

Speaker: Steven Freeland is Professor of International Law at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, ‘Marie Curie Visiting Professor’ at the iCourts Centre of Excellence for International Courts, Denmark, and a Visiting Professor in International Law at the University of Copenhagen and University of Vienna.

The lecture is public and free of charge. Registration is not necessary, seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

For more information, click here.

Prosecution and Defence for Germain Katanga Appeal Judgement

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Germain Katanga (c) AFP

On 9 April 2014, both the prosecution and the defence for Germain Katanga filed notices of appeal at the International Criminal Court.

Mr Katanga was convicted by a majority of Trial Chamber II on 7 March 2014 for war crimes and crimes against humanity for arming the Congolese militia who carried out an attack on civilians at the village of Bogoro in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 24 Febraury 2003. His contribution, according to the majority of the Chamber, was to act as the intermediary between the weapons and ammunition suppliers and those who physically perpetrated the crimes. Judge Van den Wyngaert dissented in strong terms with the finding of the majority.

The defence intend to appeal the whole of the judgment convicting Mr Katanga and request a reversal of the verdict on all charges. The prosecution are appealing the finding of acquittal on the charges of rape and sexual slavery.

The trial of Mr Katanga was originally joined to that of Mr Ngudjolo but was severed when the majority of the chamber activated Regulation 55 of the Regulations of the Court to recharacterise the legal qualification of the charges, in a move that has attracted strong criticism.

Srebrenica Massacre Survivors Sue the Dutch Government

Mothers of Srebrenica

Mothers of Srebrenica

This Monday, survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre opened a civil suit against the Dutch government. They argue that the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica did not protect the victims of Europe’s worst massacre since the second world war.

“They did not prevent the murder of thousands of civilians,” the group’s lawyer, Marco Gerritsen, told the district court in The Hague, where the case is being heard.

The legal action was first brought in 2007 by victims’ group the Mothers of Srebrenica, in connection with the massacre during Bosnia’s three-year war in the early 1990s.

The Mothers of Srebrenica, representing some 6,000 widows and victims’ relatives, have been seeking justice for several years for the massacre, which the UN’s international court of justice has ruled was genocide. Continue reading

New Issue of the International Justice Tribune

International Justice TribuneAfter almost a two-year break, the International Justice Tribune is back.

In their newsletter, you will find analyses on the legal dispute between Serbia and Croatia in front of the International Court of Justice over the alleged commission of genocide by Serbia in the early 1990’s. The issue also comprises comments on the Gbagbo case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) but also on the asylum trial faced by Mathieu Ngudjolo after his acquittal by the ICC. The newsletter finally addresses the case of General Augustin Bizimungu in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The International Justice Tribune is also finalizing a new website which will be launched soon.

The ICC and ICTY: Upholding International Criminal Law?

ICC Prosecutor Bensouda (c) Max Koot

Last week, Chatham House hosted a guest lecture entitled “The International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: upholding international criminal law?”. The panel was composed of Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and Judge Meron, President of the ICTY and chaired by Dr Abiodun Williams, President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

The session tackled the difficult issues that have been faced by the ICC and the ICTY including both courts lack of police powers to enforce the decisions of its judges, the recurring criticism that the ICC’s prosecutorial strategy is biased against African nations and the recent series of contradictory decisions from the ICTY Appeals Chamber, which some argue have introduced uncertainty into the law on aiding and abetting under international criminal law. Continue reading

No Release for Detained Counsel

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

Aimé Kilolo, Jean-Jacques Mangenda and Jean-Pierre Bemba on trial at the IC

On 14 March 2014 and 17 March 2014, respectively, the requests for interim release of Me Aimé Kilolo Musamba, former lead counsel for Mr Bemba, and Mr Jean Jacques Mangenda, former case manager for Mr Bemba, were denied.

Under article 60(2) of the Statute, upon an application for interim release, the Chamber has to determine whether “the conditions set forth in article 58 paragraph 1 are met”. In the negative, the person shall be released “with or without conditions”.

It is worth noting that in the contempt case in relation to which Messrs Kilolo and Mangenda were detained, the Prosecution did not decide to make use of the alternative enshrined in the Statute at Article 58 (7), namely to request the Pre Trial Chamber to issue a summons for the person to appear. The accused did not therefore have the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to appear voluntarily before the Court.

In its decisions, a Single Judge denied the requests for interim release on the basis that, in his view, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the accused have committed the crimes they are accused of, and, among other reasons, that there are concrete flight risks. Continue reading

ICJ Rules in Timor-Leste’s Request for Provisional Measures Against Australia

by Shehzad Charania*

International Court of JusticeOn 17 December 2013, Timor-Leste instituted proceedings at the International Court of Justice against Australia. The application related to the seizure and detention of “documents, data and other property” by “agents of Australia” from the offices of Timor-Leste’s legal adviser in Canberra, pursuant to a warrant issued by the Australian Attorney General under the Australian Security Intelligence Act. Timor-Leste claimed that the material seized related to a pending arbitration in which the 2006 Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea was invalid because Australia had bugged the offices of the Timor-Leste cabinet room for a number of

years, thereby gaining an unfair advantage in treaty negotiations. In their application, Timor-Leste argued that the material should be returned, and copies retrieved and destroyed. They demanded an apology, and a declaration from the ICJ that Australia’s actions were illegal under international law.

The same day, Timor-Leste submitted a request for provisional measures. They sought the delivery of the seized documents to the ICJ; information relating to, and destruction of copies made; and an assurance that Australia would “not intercept or cause or request the interception of communications between Timor-Leste and its legal advisers, whether within or outside Australia or Timor-Leste”. Continue reading

International Criminal Court Summer School

Nui Galway

National University of Ireland, Galway

Date: 16-20 June 2014

Location: Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, University Rd, Galway, Ireland.

The annual International Criminal Court summer school at the Irish Centre for Human Rights is the premiere summer school specializing on the International Criminal Court. The summer school allows participants the opportunity to attend a series of intensive lectures over five days.The lectures are given by leading academics on the subject and by legal professionals working at the International Criminal Court.

The summer school is attended by legal professionals, academics, postgraduate students and NGOs. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures and operations, and the applicable law.

Participants are also given the opportunity to network with the speakers throughout the week. Lectures also speak to related issues in international criminal law, including: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression, universal jurisdiction, immunities, and the role of victims.

A limited number of scholarships are available for the ICC Summer School 2014. Please see here

for further information.