Sri Lanka’s Army Displaces and Expropriates Tamil People

sri_lanka_tamils

Sinhalese army and Tamil people

A new report claims that post-conflict harmony in Sri Lanka is undermined by military occupation in north and east, combined with land grabs that have marginalised Tamil people.

The report, published by the US based thinktank the Oakland Institute and entitled “The Long Shadow of War: The Struggle for Justice in Postwar Sri Lanka”, finds little meaningful evidence of reconciliation after the 26-year-long conflict between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists finally ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamils.

It says hopes of peaceful coexistence are being thwarted by the enduring displacement of Tamils, the appropriation of their land by the military, the new government’s refusal to take the country off its war footing, and the delay in investigating allegations of war crimes committed by both state forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The report also describes the Sinhalese army’s ongoing occupation of what the government terms “high security zones” in the north and east of the country. The report estimates that in 2014, there were at least 160,000 almost entirely Sinhalese soldiers stationed in the north, which means that there is one soldier for every six civilians, as the area’s population stands at a little more than 1 million people.

The report argues that the military occupation has long ceased to be about ensuring security.

“The army has expanded non-military activities and is engaged in large-scale property development, construction projects, and business ventures such as travel agencies, farming, holiday resorts, restaurants, and innumerable cafes that dot the highways in the northern and eastern provinces,” it says. “The army officially runs luxury resorts and golf courses that have been erected on land seized from now–internally displaced peoples.” Continue reading

Guatemalan Ex-Police Chief’s Life Sentence Upheld on Appeal

Erwin Sperisen

Erwin Sperisen

On 12 May 2015, Erwin Sperisen, former head of Guatemala’s National Civil Police, was found guilty of 10 murders by the Criminal Division of the Court of Justice in Geneva, Switzerland. Sperisen thereby lost his appeal against a life sentence for killing prisoners in his home country.

On 6 June 2014, Sperisen had been sentenced to life imprisonment for involvement in extra-judicial killings of seven inmates committed during a police raid on the El Pavon prison outside Guatemala City in 2006.

Sperisen fled to Switzerland in 2007, and as a dual Swiss-Guatemalan citizen, he could not be extradited to Guatemala from Switzerland.

On appeal, the Court of Second Instance re-examined the part Sperisen played in the extrajudicial executions of 10 prisoners during operations carried out by the Guatemalan police. The Swiss Criminal Court upheld his conviction for the 7 inmates of El Pavon prison and also found the former police chief guilty of the murder of three prisoners who had escaped from El Infirnito jail the year before.

Given the seriousness of the acts, the number of victims and the lack of empathy and awareness displayed by the former Chief of the Guatemalan National Police, the judges in the Geneva Criminal Court considered that only a sentence of life imprisonment would be likely to punish the accused.

TRIAL, a Geneva-based NGO called the confirmation of Sperisen’s life sentence a victory for the fight against impunity. According to the Director of TRIAL “[T]he sentence passed is proof that the justice system is able to prove the involvement of the State and its representatives in serious human rights violations, and bring them to justice. We hope that Erwin Sperisen’s conviction will set an example, particularly to the Spanish authorities, who must now prosecute his immediate superior, former minister Carlos Vielman, for the same acts.”

Sperisen was detained in 2012, two years after Guatemala issued arrest orders over the killings at the El Pavon prison.The orders followed an investigation by the UN-backed international commission against impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Letpadaung Convictions Taint the Legal System in Myanmar

by Vani Sathisan, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) International Legal Adviser, and Hayman Oo, ICJ Legal researcher, in Yangon

Letpadaung Copper Mine

Letpadaung Copper Mine, Myanmar

“They can imprison my body, but never my mind,” U Nay Myo Zin told us when we asked him whether he expected to be released, right before police led him into the Dagon Township courtroom for the verdict last week. The Court was teeming with police guards and supporters of the accused chanted slogans at the police, “not to kowtow to the military government” and that “the legal system lacks principle.” U Nay Myo Zin then added, “I will never surrender.”

He was one of the six human rights activists, besides Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Daw Sein Htwe, Ko Tin Htut Paing, Daw San San Win and U Than Swe, who were sentenced to four years and four months in prison with hard labour.

Their conviction, after a trial that didn’t meet basic standards of fairness and due process, highlights the tremendous pressure on the country’s judiciary at a time when Myanmar desperately needs to show improvements in the rule of law. Continue reading

Movie About Guatemala’s First Female Chief Prosecutor

Claudia Paz y Paz

Claudia Paz y Paz

The documentary ‘Burden of Peace’ tells the impressive story of Claudia Paz y Paz, the first woman to lead the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala. The country that has been ravaged for years by a devastating civil war, in which nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians were systematically massacred, is today one of the most violent countries in the world. Claudia Paz y Paz starts a frontal attack against corruption, drug gangs and impunity and does what everyone had hitherto held to be impossible: she arrests former dictator Efraín Rios Montt on charges of genocide. His conviction becomes the first conviction for genocide in a national court in the world history.

Since her first year in office, Claudia Paz y Paz gave acces to filmmakers of Framewerk, Joey Boink and Sander Wirken. It resulted in an intimate glimpse into the life of a woman who wants to change her country and therefore brings immense sacrifices.

There will be a film-screening followed by Q&A with film-maker Sander Wirken and Guatemalan Human Rights Defender Omar Jeronimo. It will be held on Monday 22nd June, from 6pm-8pm, at Doughty Street Chambers, 53-54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS.

For more information about the movie, including the trailer, click here.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its Twelfth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions over the past four months.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations. The Panel met with the new Head of EULEX Press and Public Information Office (PPIO) to discuss future co-operation between the PPIO and the Panel in awareness raising and an outreach campaign in the media.

The Panel also met the Deputy Head of EULEX Executive Division and the Head of Executive Police, as well as the EULEX Executive Police command. The participants discussed human rights issues and challenges the EULEX Police officers face in their everyday work. They also considered the Panel’s case-law which can be relevant and helpful to the work of the EULEX Police.

The HRRP’s 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.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

ICC Deputy Prosecutor Explains Role of the ICC in Colombia

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. James Stewart, spoke at a conference on “Transitional Justice in Colombia and the Role of the International Criminal Court” held in Colombia last week. He noted that the role of the Court had not been without some public controversy and that it was time to put that role into its proper perspective.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Colombia in 2004, which is on-going, but to date it has not proceeded with an investigation.

Mr. Stewart highlighted that a situation of transitional justice, as exists in Colombia, only engages the mandate of the ICC Prosecutor, if the authorities of the State concerned are not themselves conducting genuine proceedings for such crimes, i.e. if they are unable or unwilling to act.

Up to and including June 2013, the OTP has received 141 communications under Article 15 in relation to the situation in Colombia. 94 of these are currently analysed in the context of preliminary examination.

In November 2012, the OTP published an interim report summarising the findings of the preliminary examination into Colombia. According to this report, there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed by various parties to the conflict. It was also suggested that various groups may have been responsible for committing war crimes. Continue reading

ICC Acquitted Defendant Ngudjolo Deported to the DRC

Mathieu Ngudjolo

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui ©ANP

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, the first defendant to be acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been deported to Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on Monday 11 May. Media confirmed that Ngudjolo arrived back in the DRC on Monday evening where he was escorted by five European police officers before leaving the Kinshasa airport surrounded by friends and family.

In a secret video, shared online last week, Ngudjolo spoke out about death threats and his concerns about being killed or receiving the death penalty when expelled to the DRC. He fears his live is in danger in the DRC as he has made incriminating statements about the current leaders of the country during his trial at the ICC.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about Ngudjolo’s return and said that “we and others will be looking to the Congolese authorities to ensure Mathieu Ngudjolo’s safety and security once he is back in Congo”.

The 44-year-old former leader of the Nationalist Integrationlist Front (FNI) militia was acquitted of the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Trial Chamber II of the ICC on 18 December 2012, who ordered his immediate release. Straight after his acquittal he applied for asylum in the Netherlands which was denied by the Dutch authorities, but he was allowed to stay in the Netherlands pending his appeal.

On 27 February 2015, the ICC Appeal Chamber confirmed the decision of the Trial Chamber acquitting Ngudjolo Chui of charges of crimes against humanity, putting a final end to the trial that had started in 2009. After the ruling, the Dutch authorities immediately arrested Ngudjolo and transferred him to Schiphol airport to return him to the DRC that same day. His lawyer filed a new asylum claim at the last minute, and Ngudjolo was escorted off the aircraft. The new claim was rejected a few days later.

Unconfirmed sources say that after his arrival in Kinshasa yesterday, Ngudjolo subsequently fled to an unknown destination. According to the president of the Congolese Association for access to justice (l’Association congolaise pour l’accès à la justice), who is also Ngudjolo’s lawyer, he has currently no information about the whereabouts of his client.

Whistleblower Protection at the UN: Reasons for Despair or Hope?

By Rishi Gulati*

[The author has had no involvement in the cases mentioned below; this entry should not be construed as legal advice in any way or form whatsoever]

Anders Kompass United Nations

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In a recent article in the Guardian, it was disclosed that French authorities thanked a senior UN official, Mr Anders Kompass for disclosing sexual abuse by French troops. That article says in part:

Sources close to the case say Kompass, director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, disclosed the report to the French because of the UN’s failure to act quickly to stop the abuse identified in its own internal report.

Hinting that the allegations represented just a fraction of what had taken place, a UN spokesman said on Friday: “It is possible, it’s horribly possible” that more allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and other soldiers in the Central African Republic could come to light.

The same report says that: “The official, Anders Kompass, has been suspended by the UN and faces dismissal for what the organisation says is a “breach of protocols” in releasing a confidential internal UN document.” I will return to the Kompass case shortly. But before that, some points on the UN whistleblower protection system, or the lack of it.

Problems facing whistleblower protection at the UN

The internal rules of the UN contain several layers, one of these layers is known as the Secretary-General Bulletins. These possess binding force. Under the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on protection against retaliation (ST/SGB/2005/21) the UN Ethics Office protects staff from being punished for reporting misconduct or for cooperating with an official audit or investigation – commonly known as “whistleblower protection.”

But are whistleblowers rights at the UN actually protected? There are some very disturbing findings. Continue reading

Book Launch: Arabic Translation of Antonio Cassese’s International Criminal Law

Antonio Cassese International Criminal LawOn 20 May 2015, the Arabic translation of Antonio Cassese’s International Criminal Law will be officially launched in Beirut.

The book International Criminal Law is one of the most popular textbooks available in the field and provides a concise introduction to both international criminal law and international criminal procedure.

During the launch event, organised by the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon and Sader Legal Publishing, in cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, distinguished speakers, including  H.E. Ashraf Rifi, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lebanon and H.E. Francois Barras, Ambassador of Switzerland to Lebanon, will make remarks on the relevance of International Criminal Law for Lebanon and the MENA region.

This will be followed by a panel discussion, during which Christopher Gosnell, lawyer and co-reviser of International Criminal Law, will speak about the content and the relevance for academia and other professionals of the book.

Olga Kavran, head of Outreach and Legacy at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, will elaborate on the impact of the STL on the development of international criminal law and on Lebanon.

Judge Mohammad Amin El Mahdi, former Minister and current Head of the Supreme Administrative Court and Conseil d’Etat in Egypt, will tell the audience about the importance of international criminal law and its relevance in the MENA region.

And Dr. Camille Habib, dean of the Faculty of Law at the Lebanese University, will emphasise the importance of educating Lebanese students in international criminal law.

Antonio Cassese is among the most distinguished figures in international law and international criminal justice. He was the first President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Special Court for Lebanon, offered constructive suggestions on the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court and actively contributed to the development of international criminal law, amongst others by his book International Criminal Law (2008).

The event will take place at the Maison de l’Avocat in Beirut, from 4-6pm and will be followed by a reception.

Leiden Summer School on International Children’s Rights

by Leiden University and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies

Venue: Leiden and The Hague

Date: 6-10 July 2015

Summer School 2015 International Children Rights

The Leiden Summer School on International Children’s Rights offers a great opportunity to engage with eminent professors, children’s rights experts and colleagues from all over the world and acquire state of the art knowledge of the most important global children’s rights themes.

The one week programme offers insight in highly relevant and topical issues including migration and children’s rights, children and digital technologies, children in armed conflict and conflict situations, child justice and child protection. In addition, you will be challenged to engage with experts in strategic litigation, monitoring of children’s rights and the role of civil society in implementing children’s rights.

The summer school is held in the beautiful cities of Leiden and The Hague and includes excursions to the Leiden Children’s Rights House, a youth institution and the International Criminal Court, as well as social activities. Previous editions have attracted professionals and advanced students from all over the world

The course will be coordinated by Professor Ton Liefaard, UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, and by Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Professor of Children’s Rights in the Developing World at Leiden Law School

Guest speakers  will include Human Rights experts and academics.

Tuition fees for professionals are: €1100, and for students: €900.

A limited amount of applicants will be admitted to this summer school. The course is mainly aimed at professionals, but advanced students are invited to apply as well.

If you wish to apply, click here.

The deadline for applications is 1 June 2015.