Habré’s Life Sentence Upheld on Appeal

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

Today, the Appeals Court of the Extraordinary African Chambers upheld the life sentence for Chad’s former President Hissène Habré. Chad’s former President had been convicted of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, and sentenced to life in prison on May 30, 2016.

Habré was found guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990. 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.

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 Extraordinary African Chambers, based in Dakar, Senegal, were created by the African Union and Senegal following a complaint filed by Hissène Habré to the Court of the Economic Community of West African States on the principle of non-retroactivity of the Senegalese new criminal provisions adopted in 2007-2008. The Chambers, especially dedicated to the trial of Hissène Habré, are composed of African judges and apply international criminal law, following Senegalese criminal procedure.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its fifteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between November 2016 and March 2017.

The newsletter also discusses the meetings that the HRRP held with the Head of the EULEX Mission in Kosovo. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as 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.

The newsletter also highlights that one of the Panel members, Dr Guénaël Mettraux, has been recently appointed as a Judge with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

The next session of the HRRP will take place in May 2017.

Annual Report of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has published its Annual Report for the period from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016.

The Report contains information on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as a detailed account of its activities over the last year. It also reports on the complaints the Panel dealt with in 2016 and the case-law it developed reviewing those cases.

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.

ICC: Bemba Sentenced to One Additional Year for Corruption of Witnesses

Jean-Pierre Bemba ©Michael Kooren/AFP/Getty Images

Jean-Pierre Bemba ©Michael Kooren/AFP/Getty Images

Today, Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba to one additional year in prison for his October 2016 conviction of guilty of offences against the administration of justice. The Court had found Mr. Bemba and four other accused guilty of corruption and supporting false testimonies. Mr. Bemba was also fined 300,000 euros. The four other accused were sentenced to imprisonment from 6 months to 2 and a half years, but had their time deduced from the time they have already spent in prison.

On 21 March 2016, Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty by the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003. On 22 June, Mr. Bemba was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. In September, the Defence for Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba filed an appeal against his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity in front of the Appeals Chamber of the ICC.

The decision on sentence can be found here.

Prosecutions of Syrian War Crimes

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. ©REUTERS

On Thursday, the United Nations announced that a new body is being set up to prepare prosecutions of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to name a judge or prosecutor as its head this month.

While the independent panel, which is officially called the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in [Syria] since March 2011, is not able to prosecute individuals itself, it will collect and preserve evidence and prepare files for future prosecutions which states or international courts can use.

In December, the UN General Assembly voted to establish the mechanism. The United Nations aims to recruit 40-60 experts in investigations, prosecutions, the military, and forensics.

A UN Commission of Inquiry has already been collecting evidence since 2011. It has issued 20 reports accusing the Assad government, rebel forces and Islamic State of mass killings, rapes, disappearances and recruiting child soldiers.

Also on Thursday in a landmark ruling, a Swedish Court sentenced a Syrian man to life imprisonment for violating international humanitarian law through his participation in the execution style-murder of seven men in Syria in 2012. Under Swedish law, courts can try Swedish citizens as well as other nationals for crimes committed abroad.

Other European countries have similarly started investigations and prosecutions against people accused of committing serious crimes in Syria. The cases are based on the principle of universal jurisdiction and are possible because of the arrival in Europe of both victims and suspects as refugees.

Amnesty International reported last week the Syrian government executed up to 13,000 prisoners in mass hangings and carried out systematic torture at a military jail.

Myanmar: UN Report Condemns Human Rights Violations against Muslim Minority

Rohingya Village

Rohingya Village in Myanmar

On Friday, a new UN report has accused Myanmar’s security forces of waging a brutal campaign of murder, rape and torture in the Rakhine State against Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority not recognized by Myanmar.

The report, compiled after interviews with more than 200 Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, also cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs.

Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock.

While discrimination against the Rohingyas has been endemic for decades in the Rakhine State, the recent level of violence is unprecedented, says the report.

The testimonies, gathered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, indicate that the attacks against the Rohingya villages make it impossible for them to live in their villages, thereby creating a coercive environment amounting to forced displacement.

The information also demonstrates that the victims were targeted based on their belonging to a particular ethnicity and religion.

Many victims mentioned that soldiers and officers taunted them by saying that Islam is not the religion of Myanmar; that Rohingyas are Muslim Bengalis; and that Rohingyas would be eliminated from Myanmar.

The report says that the attacks against the Rohingya population in the area seem to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.

An estimated 65,000 members of the Muslim minority community have fled to Bangladesh since violence broke out in Myanmar last October.

Germany Sued for Genocide against Herero and Nama People of Namibia

battle-between-herero-warriors-and-german-colonials

Detail of Battle Between Herero Warriors and German Colonials, February 1904.

Descendants of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia have sued Germany for damages in the United States for a campaign of genocide by German colonial troops in the early 1900s, which led to more than 100,000 deaths.

According to the complaint filed with a US District Court on Thursday, Germany has excluded the plaintiffs from talks with Namibia over possible reparation payments, which are expected to be completed before June 2017. Germany would furthermore have publicly said that any settlement will not include reparations to victims, even if compensation is awarded to Namibia itself.

Colonial Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 to 1915. Between 1904 and 1907 the Herero and Nama people rebelled against the colonial rule, which led to a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment. Thousands died of thirst and starvation and many others were sent to concentration camps.

The complaint was filed under the US Alien Tort Statute which allows victims of serious human rights abuses committed abroad to sue those responsible in US courts. The law’s reach was narrowed by the US Supreme Court in 2013 when it decided in the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co that the law did not cover foreign conduct unless claims sufficiently “touch and concern” the territory of the United States. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that this and later rulings left open the possibility of US courts asserting jurisdiction in genocide cases.

Radovan Karadzic Appeals His Conviction

Radovan KaradzicToday, Radovan Karadzic has filed an appeal to the UN’s Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals against his conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in March this year.

The 238-page appeal “details 48 substantive and procedural errors” that led to an incorrect verdict, according to a statement issued by Karadzic’s lawyer Peter Robinson.

“Unless corrected, flawed trials and unjust judgments like mine will only accelerate the flight of countries such as South Africa and Russia from an international legal system that is politicised and based on double standards,” Karadzic said in the statement.

“It will also ruin the chance for international justice to succeed in the long term by establishing legal precedents based on short-term political expediencies,” the former Bosnian Serb political leader added.

Karadžić was charged with responsibility for atrocities including the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in the Srebrenica enclave. Continue reading

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its fourteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between August and October 2016.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations. The Panel met with the Head of the EULEX Mission in Kosovo. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as 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.

The Panel also met with the European Union Special Representative in Kosovo as well as with the European External Service (EEAS) and the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management, (CivCom). The discussions concerned the caseload of the Panel, the implementation of the decisions of the Panel by the Head of Mission and the future legacy of EULEX Kosovo as well as the legacy of the Panel.

This year, the Panel reviewed some twenty-two cases and it has found that EULEX Kosovo committed nine human rights violations. There are currently fifty-seven cases pending before the Panel.

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

Ethiopia: After Years on the Run, Eshetu Alemu Will Face Trial

red-terror-martyrs-memorial-18

Door-to-door searches by Red Terror Troops to hunt down opposition members

After years on the run to evade justice, a member of former Ethiopian ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Government faces trial for his role in the 1970s genocide in the country.

Eshetu Alemu’s trial began in The Hague on 21 November 2016.

Eshetu Alemu is brought to trial for war crimes committed in Ethiopia during the Mengistu era in Gojjam Province. This case is the result of a year-long investigation. Even if Ethiopia has requested extradition there is no treaty to that effect.

Eshetu Alemu has Ethiopian origin but also holds the Dutch nationality. He was serving as a member of the Provisional Military Administrative Council during the reign of the Derg, the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987 and which elected Mengistu Haile Mariam’s as its chairman.

He has already been convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in Ethiopia on December 12, 2006 by the Derg-Tribunal in its 12 years ‘Red Terror’ trials, during which former President Mengistu was also convicted for genocide. Eshetu Alemu was among the dozens of the dreaded council’s members who fled into exile. Continue reading