Central African Republic: MINUSCA and Complementary Justice Mechanisms

As the United Nations recently took over the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), calls for imminent justice were made earlier this week by Human Rights Groups.

UN Secretary-General meets with internally displaced people camped near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, 5 April 2014 ©UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General meets with internally displaced people camped near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, 5 April 2014
©UN Photo/Evan Schneider

MINUSCA officially started its mission on 15 September 2014. Adopted by the Security Council in April 2014, Resolution 2149 gives mandate to MINUSCA to ensure the security of the civilian population, contribute significantly to the establishment of the rule of law with the redeployment of the public services and help to fight against impunity. This force deployment, in majority composed of the African forces of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) placed under UN command, must continue until April 2015, date on which the mission should reach the total number of 10 000 soldiers and 2 000 policemen. Continue reading

IACHR Questionnaire on the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders

Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez
IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

Following information received in recent years by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) through public hearings and visits, criminal law is allegedly being used against human rights defenders in some countries in retaliation for their work in defending and promoting human rights. Regarding this issue, the Commission, in its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, expressed its concern regarding the issue of criminalization, understood as opening groundless criminal investigations or judicial actions against human rights defenders which not only has a chilling effect on their work, but can also paralyze their efforts to defend human rights since their time, resources, and energy must be devoted to their own defense.

As noted by the Commission, criminalization of the defense of human rights is a complex phenomenon that may be perpetrated in different ways, by both state and individual actors. According to the information received by the IACHR, in some States both public officials and private individuals –including businesses or employees of private companies, for example– reportedly use criminal law to subject human rights defenders to legal proceedings in order to repress or discourage social protest or criticism of public officials. Often, these cases are said to be based on criminal charges devised in ways that run contrary to international law. Moreover, in some States, legal bodies reportedly issue precautionary measures in criminal cases, such as pretrial detention or bond, presumably in order to discourage and restrict the efforts of human rights defenders during critical junctures in the causes they are defending.

Given the seriousness of the situation, the IACHR Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders published a questionnaire of consultation with States and civil society for the elaboration of a report on the the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders through the Misuse of Criminal Law.

The answers must be sent here before October 16, 2014 with the following words in the Subject: Questionnaire on Criminalization.

ICTY Association of Defence Counsel Newsletter no. 74

The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published its newsletter no. 74.

ADC-ICTY-300x300This edition covers the recent Defence cases in Mladić and Hadžić and the proceedings in Prlić et al.. In Hadžić, the ICTY Trial Chamber heard the Defence witnesses, including Goran Šehovac, a Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) soldier and military policeman, Ratko Adžić, President of Ilijas municipality, Milorad Bukva Head of the Security Department in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps (SRK), Milenko Inđić, VRS Liaison Officer for Cooperation with International Organisations, Boško Gvozden, former Commander of the Gradiška Light Infantry Brigade of the VRS, and Radovan Glogovac, Vice-President of the local Serbian Democratic Party.

The newsletter provides analysis on two high-level discussions organized by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut in collaboration with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) on “The Use of Military Evidence in Counter-Terrorism” and with the Grotius Centre and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) on “Illegal Armed Force as a Crime against Humanity”.

The newsletter looks back at various decisions or judgments rendered years ago by the STL, the ICTY and the ICTR but keeps us up to date as well with the current proceedings in front of the Bosnian Constitutional Court, the ICC and the ECCC.

Raising the Bar at the ICC

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

In a recent op-ed, Tiina Intelman, President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC), wrote about the upcoming elections of new ICC judges.

After explaining that the States will go through a complex voting process to choose the most qualified candidates, Intelman highlights the recent establishment of an Advisory Committee designed to assist the States in selecting the best candidates possible and thus raising even more the level of competence of the ICC judges. The Committee will be meeting at the beginning of December in New York in order to interview the candidates and produce a report which will be at the States’ disposal.

The elections are scheduled for the thirteenth session of the Assembly of State Parties, to be held in New York from 8-17 December 2014. The judges will be elected for a period of 9 years.

Takfiris Want to Create a “House of Blood”

Zaid al Hussein

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, addressed the Human Rights Council. Amongst the issues he addressed in his lengthy speech, the High Commissioner lashed out at the Islamist Takfiri group who recently murdered US journalist James Foley and hundreds of other defenceless victims in Iraq and Syria.

The massacres, beheadings, rape and torture attributed to the group “reveal only what a Takfiri state would look like, should this movement actually try to govern in the future,” said Zeid, the first Muslim and Arab to serve as UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.

For him, the jihadist militants who have seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria are intent upon creating “a house of blood”.

Zaid’s speech to the UN’s 47-member council came a week after it held an emergency session on the jihadists, deciding to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq to document the extent of their abuses.

If you wish to read the Commissioner’s full speech, click here.

Kenyan President’s Trial Adjourned Indefinitely

Uhuru Kenyatta ICC

Uhuru Kenyatta at the ICC

Today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested that the trial against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta be adjourned indefinitely.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she still did not have enough evidence to proceed with the trial, which was due to resume on 7 October.

She argued that the case should be delayed until the Kenyan Government complies in full with outstanding ICC cooperation requests.

“Under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for the Prosecution to withdraw the charges against Mr Kenyatta before the Government of Kenya complies with the Revised Request. […] “In the five months since the Prosecution submitted its 8 April 2014 Revised Request, the Government of Kenya has produced a total of 73 pages of documentation. Some are not responsive to the Revised Request; even the responsive material is a fraction of the information sought”, she says.

Kenyatta is charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” for crimes including murder, rape and persecution allegedly committed by others during violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after his country’s 2007 elections. He denies the allegations.

Kenyatta’s lawyers have repeatedly said the whole case should be dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Latest Newsletter of the ICTY Association of Defence Counsel

The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published its newsletter no. 73.

ADC-ICTY-300x300

This edition covers the recent Defence cases in Mladić and Hadžić  and the proceedings in Stanišić & Župljanin where the ICTY Appeals Chamber dismissed the motion that called for reconsideration of the Appeals decision based on the alleged direct correlation of the Šešelj Decision regarding Judge Harhoff.

The newsletter provides a copy of the memorandum sent by the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in response to a proposal from the ICC’s Registry to restructure. A proposed argument of interpretation of drones in the legal context is also provided.

The newsletter looks back at various decisions or judgments 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.

UN Investigation on ISIL War Crimes in Iraq

Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a special session on Iraq to discuss the ongoing crisis and called for an immediate end to the acts of violence and abuses committed against civilians in Iraq, particularly against children and people from various ethnic and religious communities. “The reports we have received reveal acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale,” Flavia Pansieri, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening remarks.

08-07-2014Iraq_Yezidi

Members of an ethnic Yezidi family sleep in the shade in Shekhadi village, Iraq, after fleeing Sinjar. Photo: UNHCR/N. Colt

The UNHRC adopted a resolution requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to urgently dispatch a mission to Iraq to investigate alleged violations and abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated groups.

The resolution condemns “all violence against persons based on their religious or ethnic affiliation as well as violence against women and children”, including “unlawful killing, deliberate targeting of civilians, forced conversions, targeted persecution of individuals on the basis of their religion or belief (and) acts of violence against members of ethnic and religious minorities”. The resolution calls on the office of the UN new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, to dispatch investigators to Iraq to look into abuses carried out by the group that included the filmed beheading of US journalist James Foley. Investigators will update the UNHRC at its next regular session, which starts next week, and their full report is expected at the council’s annual session scheduled at the beginning of 2015.

Requested by Iraq and backed by Iran, the United States, the Arab Group and the European Union, the special session condemned “in the strongest possible terms” systematic violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law resulting from the terrorist acts committed by ISIL and associated groups “which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity…” Reports have gathered evidence on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including brutal persecutions of ethnic and religious groups, systematic and intentional attacks on civilians, forced displacement and use of child soldiers.

Kosovo: Discussions over a Special Court for KLA leaders

Special Representative Farid Zarif. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Special Representative Farid Zarif. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Briefing the United Nations Security Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Friday, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Farid Zarif said that while great strides have been made since last year toward normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, close vigilance remains essential to safeguard achievements and continue dialogue.

Zarif expressed his satisfaction that the trial of five Kosovo Serbs, charged with war crimes and murder, began its proceedings on Tuesday at the Basic Court in Mitrovica. “As I continually stress the crucial importance of respecting judicial independence, I cannot but note that public confidence in the system will be enhanced greatly when justice is perceived to be conducted professionally and expeditiously,” said Mr. Zarif. Additionally, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Investigative Task Force released a statement on 29 July of findings which represents another “milestone in strengthening the rule of law and healing scars of war.”

The issue of a special court to try former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes was expected to feature in the UN Security Council session. According to the Serbian news agency Tanjug, Ban Ki-moon’s report calls on Pristina and the European Union to form the special court at the beginning of the next year at the latest. The establishment of a special court to handle war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), in 1999 was asked by Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s foreign minister. Dacic warned that acquittal due to lack of evidence caused by witness intimidation must never again be allowed for individuals responsible for the crimes. All those involved in intimidation of witnesses also have to be prosecuted and found guilty, he said.

Italy: Renzi’s Reform to Speed up Justice

renzi-firmati-24-contrattiIn an effort to tackle Italy’s notoriously slow justice system, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced a “revolution” that would break down bureaucracy. Friday, the Council of Ministers approved a series of measures designed to improve delays before courts. The “Sblocca Italia” programme provides for first-instance trials to last one year top and to reduce judicial summer break to speed up procedures.

Italy has already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for its slow legal procedures. Civil cases take in average eght years to be resolved. Legal delays have contributed to damage busness activity in a country that has recently slumped back into recession : a business that goes to court to enforce a contract can wait three years for a verdict.