Time for a Genuine Commitment to Rule of Law

by Vani Sathisan*

Court HammerThe world observes Human Rights Day on 10 December to mark the momentous strides in international human rights law since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. In Myanmar, recent political changes have been both momentous and transformative. Nonetheless, what was proclaimed by the UDHR as the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, continue to be infringed upon by the arbitrary and highly subjective interpretation and application of laws, some of them dating back to British colonial times.

Successive governments in Myanmar have used overly broad or vaguely defined laws to curtail freedom of expression that is protected under international law. They often invoke the justification, typically inappropriately, of protecting national security, or to prevent public disorder or avoid outraging the religious feelings of a class. None of these efforts have served or can serve to address or respond to sectarian and religious violence.

On behalf of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), I have observed trials of those arrested and detained on criminal defamation charges for their Facebook posts that allegedly defame either the Tatmadaw or a political leader. One of the laws used to charge the accused is the Penal Code, first drafted in 1860.

The ICJ released a briefing paper last month highlighting how the enforcement of Myanmar’s defamation laws can result in violations of a number of international laws and standards protecting human rights, and also have an overall chilling effect on the freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly in the country. Continue reading

ICTY: Retrial of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović

Jovica Stanišić and Franko SimatovićThe Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), quashed the Trial Chamber’s decision to acquit Jovica Stanišić, formerly Deputy Chief and Chief of the State Security Service (SDB) of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, and Franko Simatović, formerly Deputy Chief of the Second Administration of the Serbian SDB and special advisor in the SDB. The Appeals Chamber ordered that Stanišić and Simatović be retried on all counts of the indictment.

In the indictment, the Prosecution alleged that between April 1991 and 31 December 1995, Stanišić and Simatović participated in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) whose purpose was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs, principally Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Bosnian Croats from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The indictment alleged that the JCE involved the commission of murder and crimes against humanity. Stanišić and Simatović were also charged with having planned, ordered and/or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation and/or execution of the crimes alleged in the indictment.

On 30 May 2013, the Trial Chamber found that many of the crimes alleged in the indictment were indeed perpetrated by various Serb Forces. However, the Trial Chamber found neither Stanišić nor Simatović responsible for committing these crimes through participation in a JCE as it found that it was not established beyond reasonable doubt that they possessed the requisite intent to further the common criminal purpose. The Trial Chamber also found that it was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Stanišić or Simatović planned or ordered these crimes and, by majority, that they aided and abetted these crimes. Based on the above, the Trial Chamber, by majority, acquitted Stanišić and Simatović under all counts of the indictment.

As a consequence of the Appeals Chamber’s Judgement, the detention of Stanišić and Simatović was ordered at the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague.

ICTR Delivers its Final Appeal Judgment

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) delivered its judgment of the appeals in the trial of The Prosecutor vs. Nyiramasuhuko et al. (Butare Case) on the 14th of December in the Courtroom of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania.

ictrThis is the final judgment issued by the Tribunal, which was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 with the mandate to try those responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.

The appeal was lodged by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, Sylvain Nsabimana, Alphonse Nteziryayo, Joseph Kanyabashi, Élie Ndayambaje, and the Prosecution. The six accused in the case were, on 24 June 2011, variously convicted of crimes of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for their role in crimes committed against Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Continue reading

Event: The War on Terror, Part II: International Law after Paris

Guest Lecture co-organized by the International Law department of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights as part of the Geneva Academy Wednesdays (GAW) series.

Paris

Date: Wednesday 16 December I 17:30

Venue:
Auditorium A2 I Maison de la Paix (Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2 – 1202 Geneva, Switzerland)

Marko Milanović – Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham and Visiting Professor at the Geneva Academy – will explore the key legal issues and challenges arising from the recent attacks carried out around the world by the Islamic State’s followers. In particular, Professor Milanović will address:

  • The interplay between international humanitarian law (IHL), human rights law and terrorism;
  • The geographic and temporal scope of IHL;
  • The law on the use of force, in light of the recent strikes by France, UK and other countries on Syrian soil.

Antonio Coco and Patryk Labuda will serve as discussants, after which the floor will be opened up to comments and questions.

If you plan to attend, please register here.

Naser Orić Will Face Trial in Bosnia

Naser OricThe United Nations Mechanisms for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has rejected a request from former Bosnian Army General Naser Orić’s lawyers to order the Bosnian state court to stop the case against him because he has already been acquitted of the charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The lawyers argued that Orić cannot stand trial for the same crimes twice.

Judge Liu Daqun said in his decision that Orić was acquitted by the ICTY of command responsibility for the killings of one Serb at the Srebrenica police station and six others in the local municipality building.

However the charges in Bosnia allege he personally killed one Serb in the village of Zalazje and took part in the killings of two other Serbs in Bratunac along with another Bosnian Army fighter.

“I note that in the present case, the murder charges in the Bosnian indictment fundamentally differ from the murder charges in the Hague indictment with respect to the alleged victims and the nature, time and location of the alleged crime,” said the judge.

The Bosnian court recently said that Orić’s trial will open once the MICT reaches its decision.

Rwanda Genocide: Arrest of Ladislas Ntaganzwa

Ladisla NtaganzwaOne of the last suspects wanted for alleged involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, has been arrested in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ladislas Ntaganzwa, 53, is accused of organising mass rapes and the massacre of thousands.

He was one of nine suspects still wanted by the United Nations for their alleged role in the genocide, which left about 800,000 people dead. The others are still at large.

The genocide saw militias from the majority Hutu ethnic group killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The indictment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) describes his involvement in 1994 in the killing of more than 20,000 Tutsis between 14 and 18 April.

It says he “substantially participated in the planning, preparation and execution of the massacre”.

He told a group including Hutu civilians to surround Cyahinda parish, in southern Rwanda, “so that no Tutsis could escape and told them to kill Tutsis”, the indictment adds.

The ICTR has transferred his case to Rwanda.

ECCC: New Suspect Charged with Genocide in Case 004

ECCCThe International Co-Investigating Judge Michael Bohlander of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) has charged Ta Tith, or Yim Tith, with crimes including genocide in Case 004.

A statement released today shows that the accused has been charged with genocide against the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority from Southern Vietnam, as well as with the crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and forced marriage, and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Ta Tith was a secretary of the Khmer Rouge’s Northwest Zone at the time of the genocide which took place in the country from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

The Cambodia Daily reported that Ta Tith had been charged in person at the Court, after which he returned home with his lawyers.

Im Chaem and Maes Muth, suspects in Cases 003 and 004, had been charged with crimes allegedly committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime earlier this year on 3 March 2015. Maes Muth was a high ranking navy commander in the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea. Im Chaem was allegedly secretary of Preah Net Preah District in the North-West Zone. Ta An, or Ao An, the former deputy secretary of the Central Zone during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, had been charged on 30 March 2015.

As a result of the formal charges, Ta Tith and his lawyers now have access to the complete case file and are able to participate in the investigation.

Cases 003 and 004 are opposed by the Cambodian government, with Cambodian police having refused to execute arrest warrants issued by the International Co-Investigating Judge last year for suspect Meas Muth and Im Chaem.

Former Bosnian Commander Arrested Over Serbs’ Deaths

Sakib Mahmuljin

Sakib Mahmuljin

Today, former Bosnian Army commander Sakib Mahmuljin has been arrested on suspicion of failing to prevent Islamic volunteer fighters committing war crimes against Serb civilians and prisoners of war in 1995.

The Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency arrested Mahmuljin on suspicion that as the commander of the Bosnian Army Third Corps, during battles in the village of Vozuca near Zavidovici from May to October 1995, he failed to stop or punish crimes against civilians and prisoners of war.

According to the prosecution, “members of the El Mujahedin unit killed around 50 Serb prisoners who they had previously taken over from the Bosnian Army Third Corps units which captured them during the battles.”

The prosecution said that Mahmuljin had information that members of the El Mujahedin unit were preparing to commit these crimes.

Mahmuljin is also suspected of inhumanely treating 20 prisoners of war and civilians.

Mahmuljin will be handed over to the prosecution, which will then decide whether to file a custody motion.

 

Publication: The Armenian Genocide Legacy

The Armenian Genocide LegacyOn the centennial of the acts commonly referred to as the Armenian Genocide, academics and professionals from a variety of disciplines discuss the impact of the Genocide in their respective fields.

In this volume, they assess why it still remains relevant to discuss the Genocide today, as well as its global ramifications and its equally long-lasting mark.

Some contributions make the case for the use of aspects of the Armenian Genocide for comparative studies, in order to study the emergence of patterns between conflicts. Others focus on the impact of the Genocide on their specific fields of study.

Tackling this theme from the perspective of history, law, sociology, anthropology, political science, literature, education and media studies, The Armenian Genocide Legacy relies on an interdisciplinary approach to expose the complexity of the genocidal process, while marking the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

To order the book, please click here.