The Guatemalan Genocide Case and the Upcoming Amnesty

By Sander Wirken – PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, Sander Wirken is making the documentary Burden of Peace about Guatemala’s former Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. Watch the embedded video to find out how you can become part of that project.

A Guatemalan trial court wrote history on 10 May 2013 when it convicted former president general Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years imprisonment for his role in the genocide and in war crimes committed by the army. It was the very first time that a national court convicted its own former head of state for genocide. Lawyers all over the world applauded Guatemala for the apparent achievement of its national judicial system. Ten days after the conviction, however, the Constitutional Court declared that a procedural error had been committed. The procedural error in question did not amount to a breach of a constitutional right and should hence have been addressed by an Appeals Chamber and not by the Constitutional Court, as one of the dissenting opinions in the 3-2 majority decision pointed out. But the majority opined differently and the conviction was declared invalid on that technicality.

What followed was a concerted backlash to all forces that had supported the genocide trial.

Continue reading

ICC Sentences Germain Katanga to 12 Years’ Imprisonment

Germain Katanga at the ICC today (c) ICC

Germain Katanga (c) ICC

Yesterday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Germain Katanga to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Katanga was convicted on 7 March 2014 by a majority of Trial Chamber II of murder as a crime against humanity and the war

crimes of murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging. The majority held that Katanga had contributed to the commission of crimes by the Forces de Résistances Patriotiques en Ituri, an armed group operating in the DRC who carried out an attack against the village of Bogoro on 24 February 2003.

In his summary of the sentencing judgment, Presiding Judge Cotte highlighted the gravity and particular cruelty with which the crimes were committed, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilian victims including women and children. The Chamber considered that the crimes were also clearly committed on a discriminatory basis targeting the mainly ethnic Hema who populated Bogoro village at the time of the attack. Continue reading

Book Launch – “The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Law and Practice”

Special Tribunal for Lebanonby Doughty Street Chambers International

Date: 17 June 2014, 18:00 – 20:00

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, 2514 JR The Hague, The Netherlands

Chair: Elizabeth Wilmshurst

Speakers:

  • Amal Alamuddin, Barrister, Doughty Street Chamber
  • Norman Farrell, Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • John Jones QC, Barrister, Doughty Street Chamber, Defence Counsel at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • Sir Keir Starmer KCB, QC, Barrister, Doughty Street Chamber, Former Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales

On 17 June 2014 The Hague Institute for Global Justice will host the book launch of “The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Law and Practice”.

This book provides a full analytical overview of the establishment and functioning of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the newest and most controversial of the UN-sponsored international criminal courts.

The Tribunal is the UN’s first attempt at addressing terrorism in an international criminal court, and the first attempt to set up international trials following crimes committed in the Middle East region.

The court’s narrow mandate and unique procedures have led many to question what kind of precedent it will set in a volatile region. This book looks at how the court was established, its foundational principles based on the Statute of the International Criminal Court and Lebanese domestic law, and the possible further development of its case law.

Registration for this event is required. In order to reserve your place, please RSVP to events@doughtystreet.co.uk or contact Jennifer Noone or Furhana Mallick on +44 (0)20 7 404 1313.

Saif Gaddafi Must Be Tried in The Hague

by Miša Zgonec-Rožej*

Seif-al-Islam GaddafiOn 21 May, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague rejected Libya’s bid to prosecute Saif Gaddafi domestically and confirmed that he should be tried by the ICC. The ICC’s decision is the correct one and hopefully Libya will comply with it.

According to the Rome Statute, the ICC cannot try a case where the same case is being investigated or prosecuted by a state which has jurisdiction over it, unless the state is unable or unwilling genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution. The Appeals Chamber confirmed that Libya had not provided enough evidence to demonstrate that it was investigating the same case as the one before the ICC.

The decision comes as no surprise. The situation in Libya has been in a state of near-anarchy, characterized by lawlessness, insecurity, and an ineffective police and judicial system. UN and human rights organizations report widespread abuses, and the government has been unable to control the militias who continue to exert their influence and pressure on Libyan authorities, including the judiciary. Continue reading

Russia and China Veto Security Council Resolution on Syria Referral to ICC

UN Security Council (c) UN/Evan Schneider

UN Security Council (c) UN/Evan Schneider

Today, at 10h00 New York time, the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution introduced by France to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The resolution failed to pass when Russia and China, permanent members of the Council, vetoed the resolution.

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, in her statement following the vote criticised Russia and China for impeding access to justice for the

Syrian people. She also emphasised the importance of holding Russia and China to account:

“While there may be no ICC accountability today, there should be accountability for those members of this Council that have prevented

accountability.”

The US agreed to support the resolution after ensuring that Israel would be protected from prosecution before the Court in relation to its occupation of Golan Heights in Syria. Responding to criticisms that the resolution was biased, Power said:

“I agree. [The resolution] was biased in favour of establishing facts, tilted in favour of establishing peace.”

The veto has been called an “endorsement of impunity” by the Lithuanian representative and “disgraceful” by the United Kingdom.

The result is unlikely to come as a surprise following the statement made yesterday by Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, who called the resolution:

“simply a publicity stunt which will have a detrimental effect, unfortunately, on our joint efforts in trying to resolve politically the crisis in Syria.”

Today’s vote marked the fourth veto of the Syrian situation in the last three years.

Since Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the Court may only exercise its jurisdiction over the situation if Syria were to accept the jurisdiction of the Court by way of an Article 12(3) declaration or the Security Council were to refer the situation to it.

ICC Appeals Chamber Confirms Admissibility of the Case Against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi

Saif Al-Islam GaddafiToday, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its judgment confirming the decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I declaring admissible the case against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. The Appeals Chamber’s judgment was issued by majority, with a separate concurring opinion by Judge Sang-Hyun Song. Judge Anita Ušacka adopted a dissenting opinion.

On 31 May 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber I had rejected Libya’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and reminded Libya of its obligation to surrender the suspect to the Court. Libya appealed this decision on 7 June 2013.

The Appeals Chamber was of the view that the Pre-Trial Chamber did not err in either fact or law when it concluded that Libya had fallen short of substantiating, by means of evidence of a sufficient degree of specificity and probative value, that Libya’s investigation covers the same case that is before the Court.

The Appeals Chamber also rejected Libya’s arguments that the Pre-Trial Chamber had made procedural errors when reaching its decision. On that basis, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision, according to which Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s case is admissible before the ICC.

Abu Hamza Found Guilty of Terrorism Charges

Abu HamzaToday, Abu Hamza has been found guilty of terror charges by a US court in New York. The 56-year old was facing 11 terrorism charges, including providing support to al-Qaeda and trying to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon.

In New York the jury of eight men and four women reached a unanimous guilty verdict on all 11 terror charges.

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.

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.

He is due to be sentenced on 9 September where he faces a possible life imprisonment.

ICC Prosecutor Reopens Examination of Detainee Abuse in Iraq

(c) Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, today reopened the preliminary examination of the situation in Iraq following the submission of a 250-page dossier of new information in January by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and Public Interest Lawyers. Philip Shiner, human rights solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, claims that the dossier reveals evidence of more than 400 cases of mistreatment or killings by members of the UK armed forces in Iraq. Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and former Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram are named in the file.

According to the OTP’s Policy Paper, the purpose of a preliminary examination is to

“collect all relevant information necessary to reach a fully informed determination of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.”

Under Article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor will examine issues of jurisdiction (temporal, material, and either territorial or personal jurisdiction); admissibility (complementarity and gravity); and the interests of justice in order to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed.

Andrew Cayley QC, director of the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA), has indicated that the ICC may run into issues of admissibility. The ICC’s regime is complementary to that of domestic systems; it may only intervene where a State is unable or unwilling genuinely to carry out investigation or prosecution. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team was set up in 2010 “to review and investigate allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009.” Where investigations conclude that there is sufficiently credible evidence, cases can be referred to the SPA for prosecution. Continue reading

ICC and The Netherlands: Free the Three Congolese Witnesses NOW!

by Göran Sluiter

ICC detention Centre

The ICC detention Centre

This blog is generally the place for academic reflection and analysis, but this posting -I am aware- also may be perceived as having the nature of an (emotional) appeal to both the ICC and the Netherlands.

Representing the three Congolese witnesses in their asylum procedure in the Netherlands -together with colleagues Van Eik and Schüller- I fully and openly declare an interest. That said, it is my conviction that the fate of the three Congolese witnesses in ICC detention has reached the level of absurdity and requires urgent attention.

Those who are not very closely following the ICC express great suprise when I inform them that there are witnesses being detained at the ICC Detention Unit. The starting point and legal basis for the witnesses’ detention lies in art. 93 (7) of the Statute. It is indeed a logical and welcome arrangement to facilitate the testimony of witnesses detained in a State party to have their detention temporarily continued at the ICC.

However, in respect of three Congolese defence witnesses an unprecedented situation arose when they applied for asylum in the Netherlands, because, among other things, they fear reprisals by DRC President Kabila in case of return to the DRC. The witnesses had in their testimonies in the Katanga and Ngudjolo trials implicated Kabila in the commission of international crimes in the DRC. Continue reading

ECHR Orders Turkey to Pay Cyprus €90m for 1974 Invasion

Turkish Invasion Cyprus 1974Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to pay Cyprus €90 million in compensation for its 1974 invasion of the island.

In its judgement, the Court said the passing of almost 40 years did not erase Turkey’s responsibility for the ensuing conflict and continuing division of Cyprus.

It held that the Turkish government must pay €30 million in damages to relatives of those missing in military operations and €60 million for “the enclaved Greek-Cypriot residents” of the Karpas peninsula.

The Karpas peninsula is situated in the Northern Turkish part of the island and is still home to hundreds of Greek Cypriots.

Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that was proclaimed there. Continue reading