ICTY: Appeals Chamber Upholds Convictions in the Popović et al. Case

ICTY

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Today, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) completed its largest case to date. The Appeals Chamber issued its Judgment in the Popović et al case, upholding the convictions of five senior Bosnian Serbian military officials for crimes perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 following the takeover of the protected areas of Srebrenica and Žepa.

The case concerned crimes committed in July 1995 after the fall of Srebrenica and Žepa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Trial proceedings involved a total of seven accused, who were convicted for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of wars, in part through several Joint Criminal Enterprises. Five of the accused appealed to the judgment of the Trial Chamber. Continue reading

Event: The Armenian Genocide Legacy, 100 Years On

ArmeniaThe centennial of the Armenian Genocide will be the topic of a two-day conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 6 and 7 March 2015, at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

This major interdisciplinary gathering will bring together academics and professionals from various fields to discuss the impact of the Genocide in various fields of study. Experts will examine such issues as impunity, sexual violence, demographics, compensation, memorializing, political discourse and media approaches.

Keynote speaker, Ronald Suny, will open the conference (Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago and University of Michigan).

He will be followed by experts in the field of Law (Geoffrey Robertson – QC, Susan L. Karamanian, Nolwenn Guibert, Sun Kim, Najwa Nabti, Alexis Demirdjian, Hannibal Travis), historians (Ugur Umit Ungor, Jakub Bijak, Lorne Shirinian), experts in social sciences and humanities (Levon Chorbajian, Seyhan Bayraktar, Nanor Kebranian, Ayda Erbal, Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, Anthonie Holslag), experts in literature, media and journalism (Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Lisa Siraganian, Esra Elmas, Marie-Aude Baronian), and education (Joyce Sahyouni).

The conference is organised and sponsored by the Centennial Project Foundation, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the University of Southern California Dornsife Institute for Armenian Studies.

Additional information and participants’ bio is available here.

Contact details may be found on the website.  The conference is open to the public, free of charge. Advanced registration will open on 6 February 2015.

Event: Alliance Française – International Conferences

alliance-françaiseThe Alliance Française in The Hague is hosting a series of conferences in French on “International Law and European Questions”.

The first one will take place on 20 February at the Alliance Française and will be given by Mr. Gregory Mounier from Europol. The focus will be on the combat against organised crime and terrorism in Europe – the role of Europol.

The second will take place on 29 May and will feature Ms. Heleyn Unac, deputy head of the defence office at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The lecture will focus on the defence of accused persons before the international criminal courts.

For further information, click here.

UN Commission Wants International Tribunal to Prosecute Perpetrators in Central African Republic

CAR Commission

Fatimata M’Baye (right) and Philip Alston, two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (c)Loey Felipe

Two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (CAR), yesterday called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes committed in CAR.

Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, two of the UN Commission’s three members, reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been widely committed by all parties in the ongoing conflict.

M’Baye and Alston warned that “unless the world pays attention and holds perpetrators accountable, the situation in CAR could very much spiral into genocide.”

According to the latest report of the Commission, the UN is currently in negotiations to establish a criminal court to prosecute ‘political players’ who have committed crimes against humanity.

“If that goes ahead we are extremely concerned in making sure that a majority of the judges must come from the international community…We do not believe that national judges have that type of independence,” law professor Alston said.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened investigations into atrocities committed in CAR since 2012. However, according to Mbaye, the ICC can only prosecute a few top leaders and there is a need for justice on a much larger scale.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence resulted in the killing of at least 5,000 people. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders.

ICJ: Judgment in the Croatia vs Serbia Genocide Case on 3 February 2015

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will render its Judgment in the Croatia versus Serbia Genocide case on 3 February 2015, between 10:00 and 13:00.

In 1999, Croatia instituted proceedings before the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) for violations of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Croatia alleged that between 1991 and 1995, Serbia committed genocide relating to Croatia’s war of independence following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.

In 2010 Serbia filed a counter-suit, alleging that Croatia committed genocide during and after Operation Storm when some 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave Croatia in 1995 when Zagreb launched a military operation to retake its territory.

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC is Counsel for the Republic of Serbia (along with Professors William Schabas, Andreas Zimmerman, Christian Tams and others).

Bosnia: No Release until Retrial for War Crime Convicts

©AP/Press Association Images

Refugees from the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica wait for transportation on 12 July 1995 ©AP/Press Association Images

Bosnia’s constitutional court has ruled against the further release of war crimes convicts whose verdicts were quashed for misuse of criminal provisions. More than 20 war crimes cases were found to be invalid as it was ruled that the Bosnian criminal code was wrongly used at their trials, instead of the Yugoslav criminal code, which was in force at the time that the crimes were committed.

The retrials were ordered by the Bosnian Court after the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg ruled in July 2013 that the Bosnian court used the wrong criminal code in Maktouf and Damjanovic. Following the ECtHR decision, several appeals were filed to the constitutional court, leading to the controversial release of convicts. Novak Djukic, one of these convicts originally sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering an artillery strike on the town of Tuzla that killed 71 people, shortly absconded to Serbia after his release, therefore eluding from retrial.

As a result, the Bosnian court decided to block further release until retrials are completed, including the ones of Milorad Trbić, convicted of involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, and Ante Kovac, jailed for war crimes in Vitez in 1993.

Meddzida Kreso, the president of the Bosnian court, stated that the quashing of these verdicts was the biggest challenge for her institution over the past year because “the legal framework for the execution of imprisonment sentences and custody measures ceased to exist in the case of persons who were sentenced for the gravest violations of the international humanitarian laws”.

Ex-Liberian Rebel Commander Arrested in Switzerland

Yesterday the media reported that Switzerland has arrested an ex-Liberian rebel commander accused of participating in civilian massacres during the country’s first civil war in the 1990s.

Mandingoe fighters from ULIMO ©James Fasuekoi

Mandingoe fighters from ULIMO ©James Fasuekoi

Alieu Kosiah, a former rebel commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), was arrested in November 2014 for his alleged implication in civilian massacres committed between 1993 and 1995 in northwest Lofa County, Liberia.

Kosiah’s arrest makes Switzerland the second European country in recent months to have arrested a Liberian accused of atrocities during Liberia’s two civil wars. A few weeks earlier Martina Johnson, a NPFL Front Line Commander, was arrested in Belgium for her alleged role in wartime atrocities. Continue reading

Event: “The International Rule of Law”

logogrotius

Date: Monday 19 January 2015 at 17h15-19h00

Venue: Faculty Campus The Hague, Schouwburgstraat 2, The Hague, NL

The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies is organizing the John Dugard Lecture 2015 on “The International Rule of Law” by H.E. Judge Kenneth Keith, Member of the International Court of Justice.

See the invitation attached. To register, please send an email by 12 January.

Palestine’s ICC Accession: Risks and Rewards

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej

Handout picture showing Abbas signing international agreements in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signs 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the ICC, in Ramallah on 31 December 2014

On 6 January, the UN secretary-general confirmed that Palestine will accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestine’s accession has, unsurprisingly, prompted certain countries – including Israel, the US and a number of European states – to warn of potentially grave consequences. It is certainly a risky venture for Palestine given political tensions in the region, but it may deter future war crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and marks another step towards statehood for Palestine.

Palestine’s accession will confer jurisdiction on the Court in relation to crimes committed within the territory claimed by Palestine. Although Israel has not ratified the Rome Statute, crimes allegedly committed by Israeli nationals in the territory claimed by Palestine will fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The ICC will also have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Palestinians outside the territory claimed by Palestine, including in Israel. Crimes falling within the ICC jurisdiction are limited to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the accession can only confer on the Court jurisdiction over crimes committed after the Rome Statute enters into force for Palestine on 1 April. And until the borders of Palestinian territory are clearly defined and the status of occupied territories resolved, the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction will remain contentious.

In order to bring past crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction, Palestine, on 1 January, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, retroactively accepting the Court’s jurisdiction. Although in principle such declarations can extend to crimes committed after 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute entered into force, Palestine decided to limit it to crimes committed since 13 June 2014. The declaration, if accepted by the ICC, would therefore bring into the ICC’s jurisdiction last summer’s conflict in Gaza but not earlier military operations. Continue reading

ECCC: Nuon Chea’s Defence Files Appeal Brief

Nuon CheaLast week, on 29 December 2014, the defence team of the Khmer Rouge regime’s former chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, filed a full appeal against the 88-year-old’s life sentence and convictions for crimes against humanity.

Raising 223 grounds of appeal, Nuon Chea requested an acquittal on all charges for which he and Khieu Samphan were convicted in Case 002/01 by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in August 2014.

The 270-page long appeal brief sets out numerous flaws in the criminal proceedings and in the trial judgment.

The brief first highlights two issues that have plagued the investigation: pervasive political interference and a biased flawed investigative approach of the Co-Investigating Judges.

Nuon Chea’s lawyers alleged that “the lack of independence and impartiality permeating the investigation were equally apparent before the Trial Chamber.” According to the defence, the Trial Chamber is “deeply biased” against the Accused and incapable of impartially assessing the evidence (appeal grounds 3 & 4).

The defence based this claim on a careful and detailed analysis of the judgment, which reveals, according to the Appeals brief, that a substantial portion of the findings are, or would be reasonably perceived to be attributable to a pre-disposition against the accused, and not genuinely related to the application of law, or to the assessment of the relevant facts. Continue reading