Hissène Habré Sentenced to Life for Crimes Against Humanity

On Monday the 30th of May 2016, the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, established especially for the prosecution of Hissène Habré, found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

Habré was the President of the former French colony of Chad from 1982 until 1990 when he fled to Senegal after being overthrown by the current president of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. The United States and France supported Habré as they saw in him an important ally against the government of Muammar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya.

According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000.

Media report that Habré is the first African former head of state to be convicted in Africa, and the first former head of any state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country. It is also the first time that a former head of state has been convicted of personally raping someone. It is furthermore the first prosecution in Africa under universal jurisdiction.

The case against Habré has from the beginning been pushed forward by Habré’s victims. Reed Brody from Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims for many years said following the judgment: “Today will be carved into justice as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”

In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for Habré’s arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal refused to extradite Habré to Belgium. In 2012, the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré or to extradite him.

In March 2015, a special criminal court in Chad convicted accomplices of Habré for crimes of torture and murder.

Habré has been given 15 days to appeal. The Extraordinary African Chambers will be dissolved once the judgment in the case of Hissène Habré is final.

National European Courts Prosecute Syrian War Crimes

While the United Nations Security Council seems unable to reach any agreement on referring the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court or to set up a special tribunal on the ICTY and ICTR models, European courts have started prosecuting Syrian war crimes.

A grieving man in front of a destroyed mosque in Taftanaz after government forces attacked the town on April 3 and 4. ©2012 Robert King/Polaris

A grieving man in front of a destroyed mosque in Taftanaz after government forces attacked the town on April 3 and 4. ©2012 Robert King/Polaris

Prosecutions find legal basis in the genocide legislations adopted by most European countries and providing their courts international jurisdiction. About 15 European states have established units dedicated to investigating and prosecuting war and genocide crimes. Over the past decade, authorities in Europe have launched 1,607 international war crimes cases in domestic jurisdictions, including cases on torture, murder, rape, crimes against humanity and genocide, while another 1,339 are ongoing, according to the European Union judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.

In order to build evidence, European authorities are seeking testimony from some of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Middle East violence, through screening of migrants’ phones or invitations at arrival to testify. The challenge is to identify perpetrators, who may be European citizens who have joined Islamic State – more than 4,000 European citizens are estimated to have left to fight in Syria, of whom around a third have since returned home – others may be militants who have traveled to Europe from Syria or to Europe last year. “You may have lots of victims or witnesses in one place, but you can’t move with a prosecution until you have a perpetrator in your jurisdiction,” said Matevz Pezdirc of the European Union’s Genocide Network.

With both witnesses and perpetrators on their territory, European prosecutors have already brought some cases. A German citizen is on trial for war crimes after Facebook posts showed him posing alongside decapitated heads. Last year, Swedish courts convicted a Syrian on the basis of a video showing him torturing a fellow combatant.

The Trial for the ICC’s First Contempt Case Closes

by Rita Yip

Jean-Pierre Bemba GomboOn Tuesday 31 May 2016, the closing statements in the first contempt case tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, will be made publicly and are expected to last three days.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo – and four other accused are charged for offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. The Prosecution alleges that the accused collectively engaged in a scheme to corruptly influence, illicitly coach and bribe fourteen defence witnesses for false testimony during the trial of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo between 2011 -2013.

The five accused were arrested in November 2013 and were detained at the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague for almost one year. On 21 October 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber granted interim release to the four accused – except Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who remained in custody since 2008.

The trial hearings before the Trial Chamber VII commenced on 29 September 2015. The Prosecution called 13 witnesses and the five Defence teams collectively called six witnesses, including experts in the field of audio recordings, Austrian law and African solidarity.

The closing statements are expected to last three days. The Prosecution and the Defence teams will present its arguments and respond to the others parties’ arguments articulated in their closing submissions filed on 24 May 2016. Two of the accused – Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s former Defence Lead counsel and Fidèle Babala Wanda, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s political associate, have been granted the request to give an unsworn statement during the closing statements.

Earlier this year, on 21 March 2016, Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) for crimes that were committed in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

Event: Strengthening National Justice for Core International Crimes

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Date: 28 June 2016, from 10:00 to 18:00

Venue: Het Spaansche Hof, Westeinde 12, 2512 HD The Hague, Netherland

The Case Matrix Network is organising a conference on Strengthening National Justice for Core International Crimes: Laws, Procedures and Practices in an Age of Legal Pluralism”. This conference will analyse some of the challenges faced by national and international criminal justice actors, who are working at different stages of accountability processes, as well as the measures being taken to address them.

For further information and to register, you can visit the conference webpage.

Event: ICC Performance Indicators – Debriefing on the Glion Retreat

International Criminal Court New PremisesDate: Tuesday, 24 May, 17:00 – 18:30

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

In partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland to the Netherlands, The Hague Institute for Global Justice will host a debriefing on the International Criminal Court Retreat on Performance Indicators which took place in Glion, Switzerland, at the beginning of April. The aim of this debriefing is to share the objectives and outcomes of the retreat with a broader public and to generate a valuable discussion on the topic of performance indicators.

In 2014, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute requested the ICC to “intensify its efforts to develop qualitative and quantitative indicators that would allow the Court to demonstrate better its achievements and needs, as well as allowing States Parties to assess the Court’s performance in a more strategic manner”.

It reaffirmed its interest in the following year.  To assist the Court in this complex exercise, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, in cooperation with the ICC and the Open Society Justice Initiative, hosted an informal retreat in Glion, Switzerland, on 6-8 April 2016.

The discussion was based on the 2015 Report of the Court on the development of performance indicators.

Speakers:

  • Ms. Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi – Judge, President of the International Criminal Court
  • Mr. Jürg Lindenmann – Ambassador, Deputy Director of the Swiss Directorate of International Law
  • Mr. James Goldston – Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Moderator: Mr. Lyal Sunga – Head of the Rule of Law Program, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

If you wish to register, click here.

ECCC: Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch to Testify in Case 002/02

by Tibor Bajnovič

Kaing Guek Eav alias DuchKaing Guek Eav alias Duch, a former chairman of the S-21 Security Centre, is scheduled to testify in Case 002/02 from 26 May 2016. He is called to testify on the topic of Security Centres and Internal Purges, in particular S-21 Security Centre. Duch first appeared as a witness in Case 002/01 in March and April 2012.

Duch was the first Khmer Rouge official to stand on trial before the ECCC in Case 001. On 26 July 2010, the Trial Chamber convicted Duch of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions for his role at the S-21 Security Centre. In that role he oversaw the torture and execution of at least 12,272 individuals. Duch was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment, with a reduction of five years as a remedy for his eight-year unlawful detention by Cambodian Military Court. The sentence caused a widespread public dissatisfaction in Cambodia.

On 3 February 2012, the Supreme Court Chamber — the ECCC’s final court of appeal — overturned the sentence imposed on Duch at trial, increasing it to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court Chamber also refused to provide a remedy for Duch’s eight-year illegal detention on the ground that the ECCC was not responsible for the violation. From a human rights and fair trial perspective, the Supreme Court Chamber’s treatment of Duch’s eight-year illegal detention raised significant concerns.

The Case 002 has been severed into two separate trials, each addressing a different section of the indictment. The trial judgement in Case 002/01 was pronounced on 7 August 2014. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were both found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. Following the appeals filed by both Accused, the appeal hearings in Case 002/01 commenced on 2 July 2015 and were closed by the President of the Supreme Court Chamber on 18 February 2016.

The trial hearings in Case 002/02 commenced on 17 October 2014 and are ongoing. It is expected that evidentiary hearings in Case 002/02 will conclude later this year, with a judgement to follow in 2017.

Amnesty: Report on the Legal and Institutional Implications of the Merged and Expanded African Court

Amnesty InternationalIn June 2014, the African Union (AU) adopted the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human rights (Malabo Protocol), which extends the jurisdiction of the yet-to-be established African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) to crimes under international law and transnational crimes.

While the ACJHR can play a vastly positive role in a continent persistently afflicted by the scourge of conflict and impunity for crimes under international law, there are a number of concerns and implications arising from the proposal to expand its jurisdiction.

This report, written by Rachel Murray in collaboration with Amnesty International, looks at how the expanded jurisdiction will affect relevant stakeholders, including victims of gross violations of human rights, the AU, and Civil Society Organisations. It is hoped that this publication will generate frank and open discussion amongst the relevant stakeholders on the implications of the Malabo Protocol.

ICL Lecture: Lessons from Hybrid Courts

Asser InstituteDate: 8 June 2016, at 19:00h

Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, The Hague, Netherlands

Programme:

19:00: Welcome and introduction by Dr. Christophe Paulussen (T.M.C. Asser Instituut)

19:10: Book Presentation by Mr. Simon M. Meisenberg (Kosovo Specialist Chambers) and Dr. Ignaz Stegmiller (University Giessen): ‘The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

19:30: Keynote Lecture by Dr. Fidelma Donlon (Registrar, Kosovo Specialist Chambers) on “Lessons from Hybrid Courts: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers”

20:00: Q&A

20:30: Closure by Dr. Christophe Paulussen and Mr. Frank Bakker (T.M.C. Asser Press)

Registration for this event is mandatory. To register, click here.

Bangladesh Executes Islamist Leader Nizami for War Crimes  

Motiur Rahman NIzami

Motiur Rahman NIzami

Just after midnight local time on Wednesday, Motiur Rahman NIzami, the 73-year old leader of the Jamaat-e-Islamy party, was hanged to death after having been convicted for war crimes during Bangladesh’s violent independence struggle from Pakistan in 1971, media report. His final plea against the death sentenced was rejected by the Supreme Court on 5 May.

Nizami was convicted by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal for genocide, rape and orchestrating the massacre of top intellectuals during the war.

Nizami is the fifth person to be sentenced to death by the war crimes tribunal since 2013, and the fourth executed Jamaat leader. Ali Ahsan, Mohammad Mojaheed, Abdul Quader Molla, and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman were all executed on similar charges. All those sentenced to death were opposition politicians.

According to Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the Asia division at the Human Rights Watch, the trial was neither free nor fair as the court was cutting corners on fair trial standards, Al Jazeera reports.

“For example, Nizami was allowed to have only four defence witnesses as a man fighting for his life. And the court did allow defence to challenge the inconsistencies in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses,” he told Al Jazeera from Bangkok.

At the beginning of last year, an independent report into the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal by Geoffrey Robertson QC concluded that the Tribunal’s proceedings fell seriously short of international standards. According to Robertson, although the Court was set up entirely properly for a legitimate objective, the Act establishing the Tribunal being drafted with the assistance of the International Commission of Jurists, the Tribunal is in practice ordering the execution of the governments’ main opponents.

Media report that the controversial execution raises fears of fresh political violence. In 2013, the convictions of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders by the tribunal triggered some of Bangladesh’s most deadly political violence in decades, with hundreds of people killed, mostly in clashes between Islamists and police. Jamaat-e-Islami reportedly called for a nationwide strike on Thursday in protest of the execution.

Event: Legal Diversity and the Universal Vocation of International Law

Court HammerDate: 2 June, 2016 – 9:30 to 17:00

Venue: Schouwburgstraat 2, 2511 VA Den Haag, Netherlands

McGill University’s Faculty of Law and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University, invite you to a one-day Symposium on the theme of legal diversity and the theory and practice of contemporary international law.

The speakers will be:

  • The Ambassador of Canada to the Netherlands, H.E. Sabine Nölke
  • Professor Daniel Jutras, Dean, Faculty of Law, McGill University
  • Judge Hisashi Owada, International Court of Justice
  • Hans van Loon, former Secretary General, Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • Alex Mills, Reader in Public and Private International Law, Faculty of Laws, UCL
  • Norman Farrell, Prosecutor, Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • Justice David Baragwanath, Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • James Stewart, Deputy Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
  • Justice Bertram Schmitt, International Criminal Court
  • Payam Akhavan, Associate Professor, McGill University Faculty of Law (and Counsel at PCA, ICJ, ECtHR, ITLS, ICC, ICTY)
  • Silke Studzinsky, Trust Fund for Victims, International Criminal Court (previously Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC))
  • Sergey Vasiliev, Assistant Professor in Public International Law, Grotius Centre, Leiden University

The speakers will be asked to address one or more of the following themes:

  • Legal pluralism, legal diversity and international law: retrospective and prospective views; experiences from the practice of various Hague legal institutions; traditions of multiculturalism and legal pluralism (including the McGill Law Faculty educational method);
  • Human rights, peremptory norms, international legal standards and legal /cultural diversity;
  • “Cosmopolitan attitudes, methods & officials” in the practice of international law;
  • “Harmonious coexistence rather than obligatory universality” & universality through diversity;
  • The enrichment of international law through principles and approaches of diverse traditions / legal systems ;
  • Envisioning future pathways for international law / institutions in the light of global legal diversity.

Conference proceedings will be inspired in part by the works of the late Professors Patrick Glenn and Roderick Macdonald of McGill University, Faculty of Law, including their study of legal traditions of the world and legal pluralism, interlinked with Canadian traditions of multiculturalism.

For registration or additional information please email: events.grotius@cdh.leidenuniv.nl

The Ambassador of Canada, H.E. Sabine Nölke, will host a post-conference reception that evening, at the Canadian Official Residence (Groot Haesebroekseweg 44, Wassenaar), from 18:30 to 20:30.