STL Does Not Have Jurisdiction for Contempt Cases Against Legal Persons

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Last week, the Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri issued a Decision on a Motion Challenging the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s jurisdiction. The motion was submitted by the Defence for NEW TV S.A.L and Karma Hohamed Tahsin Al Khayat and questioned whether the Tribunal could hear cases of contempt and obstructions against the proper administration of justice by legal persons (i.e. corporate entities).

The Contempt Judge ruled that although the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) does not have jurisdiction to hear cases dealing with obstructions of justice against legal persons, it does retain jurisdiction to hear cases dealing with offences against the administration of justice against natural persons. This was held to be consistent not only with international case law, but also with Rule 60bis of the STL’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

Last year, information relating to confidential witnesses has been broadcasted in certain medias.

Following these events, the Registrar of the Tribunal appointed an amicus curiae. Based on reports by the amicus, the Contempt Judge concluded that there was prima facie evidence that justified proceedings for contempt.

Two journalists and two media organisations have been subsequently charged with contempt before the Tribunal.

ICC Appeals Chamber Confirms Al-Senussi Case Is Inadmissible

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Abdullah Al-Senussi (c) Libya Herald

Yesterday, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed that the case against Abdullah Al-Senussi is inadmissible.

On 11 October 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber I had declared the case against Mr Al-Senussi inadmissible on the grounds that the Libyan authorities were currently investigating Mr Al-Senussi and that they were willing and able genuinely to carry out domestic proceedings.

In rejecting the defence appeal, the Appeals Chamber held that there were no errors in the findings of the Pre-Trial Chamber that Libya is not unwilling or unable to genuinely prosecute Mr Al-Senussi, or in the exercise of its discretion in the conduct of the proceedings and in the evaluation of the evidence. Judges Usacka and Song appended respective separate opinions agreeing with the conclusion of the majority but formulating their own reasoning on the correct interpretation of the ‘same person, same conduct’ test, which must be satisfied to conclude that a given domestic authority is investigating or prosecuting the same case as that before the ICC.

Mr Al-Senussi held the rank of colonel in the Libyan Armed Forces and served as Muammar Gaddafi’s chief of intelligence before the fall of the regime during the Libyan uprising in 2011. The Prosecution had charged Mr Al-Senussi with murder and persecution as crimes against humanity for his involvement in utilising the State security forces to target the civilian population in an attempt to quell the revolution.

Mr Al-Senussi was charged alongside Muammar Gaddafi (since deceased) and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The latter also challenged the admissibility of his case before the ICC but the Appeals Chamber held on that occasion that the case was admissible.

UN Condemns Military Actions in Gaza

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay

At an emergency debate held today at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed and that not enough has been done to protect civilians.

“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Ms Pillay said.

She also condemned the indiscriminate attacks of the Hamas on Israel.

“The principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.

Despite her condemnation of Hamas attacks on Israel, Ms Pillay also views Israel’s actions in Gaza as disproportionate. Continue reading

Red Cross: “Ukraine is Officially in a War”

Ukraine ConflictAccording to Western diplomats and officials, the Red Cross has made a confidential legal assessment that Ukraine is officially in a war. Such statement would open the door to possible war crimes prosecutions, including over the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH-17.

“Clearly it’s an international conflict and therefore this is most probably a war crime,” one Western diplomat said in Geneva.

The Red Cross has not made any public statement – seeking not to offend either Ukraine or Russia by calling it a civil war or a case of foreign aggression – but it has done so privately and informed the parties to the conflict.

“The qualification has been shared bilaterally and confidentially. We do not discuss it publicly”, said Anastasia Isyuk, the Red Cross spokeswoman.

The designation as a war – either international or civil – changes the situation as it turns both sides into combatants with equal liability for war crimes, which have no statute of limitations and cannot be absolved by an amnesty. Continue reading

Dutch Officials Knew Bosnian Men Would Be Killed in Srebrenica

Dutch Peacekeepers Srebrenica

Dutch Peacekeepers in Srebrenica in 1995 [AP Photo]

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Liora Sion discusses the condemnation of the Dutch State for the deaths of 300 Bosnian Muslims, men and boys, in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995. During the war, these Bosniaks sought refuge in a United Nations base where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed. The Dutch subsequently handed the men and boys to the Bosnian army which decided to kill them afterwards.

For Liora Sion, the Dutch officials knew the danger they caused in Bosnia. She could experience the situation on the ground as she accompanied Dutch NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo as part of her field work for a PhD thesis.

She says that the soldiers she saw were men with little training and that holding them responsible for what happened in Srebrenica would be wrong.

However, she says that the commanders were responsible for the killings as they should have known that these Bosnian men would be killed because there was strong evidence of the Serbs commiting war crimes. Continue reading

Gaza’s Water Infrastructure in Danger

Gaza July 2014

Gaza city, July 2014 (c) EPA

Repeated bombing is devastating Gaza’s fragile water infrastructure, while the deaths of several municipal water technicians highlight the danger they face in carrying out vital maintenance.

“Water and electrical services are affected  as a result of the current hostilities. If they do not stop, the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis,” according to Jacques de Maio, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.

To make matters worse, the intensified fighting is preventing technicians from carrying out essential repairs. Following the deaths of several municipal water technicians over the past few days, Gaza’s water service provider has suspended all field operations until the safety of its staff can be guaranteed.

As a result, hundreds of thousands more people will soon find there is no water when they turn on the tap.

“Gaza’s water system has been deteriorating for years. The latest attacks are the last straw. Safe drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce in the Strip, just as temperatures are soaring. Water is becoming contaminated and sewage is overflowing, bringing a serious risk of disease,” said ICRC water and sanitation expert Guillaume Pierrehumbert. “In recent days, ICRC teams have helped the authorities conduct essential emergency repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza, improving the situation for over 90,000 people, but bolder action is urgently required.”

Under international humanitarian law, the parties to a conflict must distinguish between military objectives and civilian objects and between combatants and civilians. They must also avoid harming civilians or civilian objects, and protect them from the effects of military operations. This includes protecting water technicians, water networks and electrical supply systems.

Dutch State Found Liable for 300 Srebrenica Deaths

Mothers of Srebrenica

Mothers of Srebrenica

Today, a court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the Netherlands is liable for the killings of more than 300 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys at Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995.

During the 1992-1995 war, thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in the UN base just outside Srebrenica, at Potocari, where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.

However, while the women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area, the Dutch soldiers handed more than 7000 men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them that they would be safe. All of them subsequently got killed by the Bosnian army.

The Hague court said that the Netherlands must accept some degree of responsibility for what happened and pay compensation to the families of 300 victims.

The Hague court did not hold the Dutch state liable for the death of the other men killed in Srebrenica, saying that many of the male refugees at the time had not fled to the UN compound in Potocari but rather to the woods in the vicinity of Srebrenica. As a consequence, many of the relatives of the victims won’t be entitled to compensation.

The case was launched by relatives of the victims under the name “Mothers of Srebrenica”.

Many of remains of the victims still lie in mass graves in Eastern Bosnia.

Post-Conflict Justice and Victims’ Frustration

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The fate of about 1,400 Nepalese people who went missing in the war is still not known ©BBC

On 11 July 2014, Alan Doss* and David Tolbert* published a joint commentary drifting on their experience as to why efforts at post-conflict justice are so often a source of frustration for victims. The starting point of their concerns was the recent re-election of Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos and the hopes it brought along. The commentary builds on the failures of post-conflict justices where the mechanisms have proven inadequate and where frustrations prevent social reconciliation, giving examples of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Bosian and Herzegovina, the Nepalese truth commission and Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.

Doss and Tolbert also highlight that truth commissions were often established for the wrong reasons and were not considered as they should : they are not a way to avoid justice but to reinforce comprehensive rights-based policies and access to justice. A recent symposium, organized by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Center for Transitional Justice, concluded, truth commissions contribute most to peace by reasserting the rule of law, recognizing victims, and supporting institutional reform. But, in order to succeed, these commissions must be effective, independent, legitimate and adapted to a country’s particular circumstances.

The commentary was published on Project Syndicate.

*Alan Doss is Senior Political Adviser at the Kofi Annan Foundation and a former under-secretary-general at the United Nations.
*David Tolbert is President at the International Center for Transitional Justice and a former assistant secretary-general at the United Nations.

Croatia Demands Extradition of General Martic

Milan Martic

Milan Martic (right) with General Radovan Karadzic (left) in 1994 (c) BBC News

On Monday, a court in Zagreb, Croatia, issued a European Arrest Warrant demanding the extradition of Serbian General Milan “Mile” Martic to stand trial in Croatia for shelling the towns of Karlovac and Jastebarsko near Zagreb in May 1995. During the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Martic was interior minister, defence minister and president of the self-proclaimed Autonomous Region of Krajina located in the south of Croatia near the Bosnian border.

Martic is currently in Estonia serving a 35-year sentence of imprisonment for war crimes committed against non-Serbs in Croatia for which he was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2007. The ICTY concluded that Martic’s activities resulted in the expulsion of all Croatians and non-Serbs from the areas which were under his control.

Croatia had originally indicted Martic for war crimes in 2003 alongside Serbian military leader Milan Celeketic. However, authorities did not decide to proceed with the case against Martic until 2010 when it became clear that the ICTY would not prosecute Martic for the shelling of the towns.

Estonian authorities have requested time to consider the possibility of handing over Martic. Croatian authorities have indicated that the trial will go ahead regardless of the decision of the Estonian authorities.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

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

The newsletter also highlights the visit of students from the Law Faculty of the University of Essex. The Panel was given the opportunity to brief students on its mandate, work and case-load.

An outreach campaign was also recently organized by meeting with the Coordinator of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija in northern Mitrovica on 26 June 2014 to brief on the activities of the Panel and, inter alia, in furtherance of the public outreach campaign in the northern Mitrovica region.

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.