Mothers of Srebrenica
Today, a court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the Netherlands is liable for the killings of more than 300 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys at Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995.
During the 1992-1995 war, thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in the UN base just outside Srebrenica, at Potocari, where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.
However, while the women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area, the Dutch soldiers handed more than 7000 men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them that they would be safe. All of them subsequently got killed by the Bosnian army.
The Hague court said that the Netherlands must accept some degree of responsibility for what happened and pay compensation to the families of 300 victims.
The Hague court did not hold the Dutch state liable for the death of the other men killed in Srebrenica, saying that many of the male refugees at the time had not fled to the UN compound in Potocari but rather to the woods in the vicinity of Srebrenica. As a consequence, many of the relatives of the victims wont be entitled to compensation.
The case was launched by
relatives of the victims under the name Mothers of Srebrenica.
Many of remains of the victims still lie in mass graves in Eastern Bosnia.
by Shehzad Charania and John Doyle*
The International Criminal Court
In operation for more than a decade, the International Criminal Court is often the subject of criticism for its lengthy trials and inefficient procedures. The Court has completed three trials in that time, all of which have taken more than six years from the point of arrest to conviction or acquittal. International criminal justice does, of course, throw up numerous complex challenges not found in domestic proceedings. But 12 years of practice at the Court have confirmed that unnecessary delays occur in a number of areas, which have the potential to interfere with the rights of the accused, and, more broadly, the perception of the trial process among victims and affected communities, and the public at large. Finally, delays have financial, logistical as well as other legal implications.
Last week, Sweden, the
United Kingdom and Japan convened an all-day seminar, in conjunction with the Hague Institute for Global Justice. The seminar, entitled Increasing the Efficiency of the Criminal Process, while Preserving Individual Rights, and moderated by Professor Håkan Friman, provided a unique opportunity for interaction, and discussion of radical ideas, between representatives of the Court, including over a third of the Courts Judges, and senior members of the Office of the Prosecutor, the ad hoc tribunals, ICC States Parties, members of the Bar, NGOs and academia. Continue reading
The fate of about 1,400 Nepalese people who went missing in the war is still not known ©BBC
On 11 July 2014, Alan Doss* and David Tolbert* published a joint commentary drifting on their experience as to why efforts at post-conflict justice are so often a source of frustration for victims. The starting point of their concerns was the recent re-election of Colombias president, Juan Manuel Santos and the hopes it brought along. The commentary builds on the failures of post-conflict justices where the mechanisms have proven inadequate and where frustrations prevent social reconciliation, giving examples of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Bosian and Herzegovina, the Nepalese truth commission and Northern Irelands Good Friday Agreement.
Doss and Tolbert also highlight that truth commissions were often established for the wrong reasons and were not considered as they should : they are not a way to avoid justice but to reinforce comprehensive rights-based policies and access to justice. A recent symposium, organized by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Center for Transitional Justice, concluded, truth commissions contribute most to peace by reasserting the rule of law, recognizing victims, and supporting institutional reform. But, in order to succeed, these commissions must be effective, independent, legitimate and adapted to a countrys particular circumstances.
The commentary was published on Project Syndicate.
*Alan Doss is Senior Political Adviser at the Kofi Annan Foundation and a former under-secretary-general at the United Nations.
*David Tolbert is President at the International Center for Transitional Justice and a former assistant secretary-general at the United Nations.
Milan Martic (right) with General Radovan Karadzic (left) in 1994 (c) BBC News
On Monday, a court in Zagreb, Croatia, issued a European Arrest Warrant demanding the extradition of Serbian General Milan “Mile” Martic to stand trial in Croatia for shelling the towns of Karlovac and Jastebarsko near Zagreb in May 1995. During the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Martic was interior minister, defence minister and president of the self-proclaimed Autonomous Region of Krajina located in the south of Croatia near the Bosnian border.
Martic is currently in Estonia serving a 35-year sentence of imprisonment for war crimes committed against non-Serbs in Croatia for which he was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2007. The ICTY concluded that Martic’s activities resulted in the expulsion of all Croatians and non-Serbs from the areas which were under his control.
Croatia had originally indicted Martic for war crimes in 2003 alongside Serbian military leader Milan Celeketic. However, authorities did not decide to proceed with the case against Martic until 2010 when it became clear that the ICTY would not prosecute Martic for the shelling of the towns.
Estonian authorities have requested time to consider the possibility of handing over Martic. Croatian authorities have indicated that the trial will go ahead regardless of the decision of
the Estonian authorities.
The Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its ninth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panels decisions over the last two months.
The newsletter also highlights the visit of students from the Law Faculty of the University of Essex. The Panel was given the opportunity to brief students on its mandate, work and case-load.
An outreach campaign was also recently organized by meeting with the Coordinator of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija in northern Mitrovica on 26 June 2014 to brief on the activities of the Panel and, inter alia, in furtherance of the public outreach campaign in the northern Mitrovica region.
The HRRPs mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in
the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.
On 1 July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rendered its Grand Chamber Judgement in the case of S.A.S. v. France.
The case concerned the complaint of a French national, who is a practising Muslim, that she is no longer allowed to wear the full-face veil in public following the entry into force, on 11 April 2011, of a law prohibiting the concealment of one’s face in public places.
In her submissions the applicant said that she wore the burqa and niqab in accordance with her religious faith, culture and personal convictions. As she explained, the burqa is a full-body covering including a mesh over the face, and the niqab is a full-face veil leaving an opening only for the eyes. The applicant also emphasised that neither her husband nor any other member of her family put pressure on her to dress in this manner. She added that she wore the niqab in public and in private, but not systematically. She was thus content not to wear the niqab in certain circumstances but wished to be able to wear it when she chose to do so. Lastly, her aim was not to annoy others but to feel at inner peace with herself
The Court emphasised that respect for the conditions of “living together” was a legitimate aim for the measure at issue and that, particularly as the State had a lot of room for manoeuvre (“a wide margin of appreciation”) as regards this general policy question on which there were significant differences of opinion, the ban imposed by the Law did not breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Court thus held, by a majority, that there had been no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention, and no violation of Article 9 (right to respect for freedom of thought, conscience and religion). The Court was unanimous on the non-violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention combined with Articles 8 or 9.
The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published its newsletter. This edition covers the recent proceedings in the Šešelj case where the ICTY Appeals Chamber upheld the decision of the Trial Chamber to continue the proceedings against Šešelj as soon as the newly appointed judge to the case, Judge Niang, will have finished familiarising himself with the record of the case.
The newsletter also looks back at various decisions or judgements rendered years ago by the ECCC, the ICTR and the ICTY but keeps us up to date as well with the current proceedings in front of the ICC, the STL and the ECCC.
You will also find in the newsletter analyses of recent conferences, among which figures a lecture on the ICC in the Chinese Context. An analysis of the recent book launch in The Hague on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is also provided.
African Leaders at the African Union Summit last week
At a summit of the African Union held last Friday in Equatorial Guinea, African leaders present voted in favour of an amendment that would grant them and “senior officials” immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide before the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
The text of the amendment, which was passed was as follows:
“No charges shall be commenced or continued before the Court against any serving African Union Head of State or Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity, or other senior state officials based on their functions, during their tenure of office.”
It is unclear who will be entitled to immunity as a “senior state official.” Amnesty International have called the move
“a step backwards in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of the victims who suffered serious human rights abuses.”
Ahead of the meeting on Friday, 42 African and international civil society rights groups objected to the proposed amendment noting in an open letter that the resulting impunity violates international and domestic laws as well as the constitution of the African Union.
The vote was part of a larger discussion on the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights is the result of the decision of the African Union to amalgamate the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Court of Justice of the African Union.
Northwestern University School of Laws Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) will award its second annual Global Jurist of the Year Award to Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The awards ceremony and an address by Justice Fisher will take place on Monday, Oct. 20. She will deliver an address to the student body at noon in the Rubloff Building, 375 E. Chicago Ave., on the Law Schools Chicago campus. The event will be open to the media.
Justice Fisher was sworn in as a Justice of the Special Court for Sierra Leone on May 4, 2009. She played a key role in the Appeals Chamber judgment delivered in 2013 regarding the conviction and 50-year sentence of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by rebels during Sierra Leones civil war. Continue reading
Judge Hans-Peter Kaul (c) ICC
Judge Hans-Peter Kaul resigned from the International Criminal Court with effect from today for health reasons. A German national, Judge Kaul served as an ICC judge for 11 years and as the President of the Pre-Trial Division from 2004 to 2009, as well as from 8 April 2014 until his resignation.
During his tenure at the Court, he was involved in proceedings regarding situations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur (Sudan), the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. His seminal dissenting opinion to Pre-Trial Chamber II’s Decision to Authorise the Opening of an Investigation in the Situation in Kenya advocating for a stringent state or organisational policy requirement for crimes against humanity garnered much support in academic literature and continues to be discussed today.
ICC President Judge Song expressed regret at Judge Kaul’s resignation:
“I thank Judge Hans-Peter Kaul wholeheartedly for his dedicated service to the Court and his pioneering role in the ICC’s development, even before the Court was established. I worked closely with Judge Kaul, particularly when we were first sworn in together in 2003 and when he served with me in the Presidency as Second Vice-President from 2009 to 2012. I have enormous respect for his deeply humanist personality and his substantial contributions to international justice, which will continue to guide the Court in the future.”
Prior to assuming office at the Court in March 2003, Judge Kaul had a distinguished career in international law. From 2002-2003, he acted as chief negotiator and head of the German delegation in the negotiations that led to the establishment of the ICC. From 1996-2002, he served as the head of the International Law Division of the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn in which capacity he was involved in the seminal La Grand and Legality of the Use of Force cases before the International Court of Justice.