Movie About Guatemala’s First Female Chief Prosecutor

Claudia Paz y Paz

Claudia Paz y Paz

The documentary ‘Burden of Peace’ tells the impressive story of Claudia Paz y Paz, the first woman to lead the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala. The country that has been ravaged for years by a devastating civil war, in which nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians were systematically massacred, is today one of the most violent countries in the world. Claudia Paz y Paz starts a frontal attack against corruption, drug gangs and impunity and does what everyone had hitherto held to be impossible: she arrests former dictator Efraín Rios Montt on charges of genocide. His conviction becomes the first conviction for genocide in a national court in the world history.

Since her first year in office, Claudia Paz y Paz gave acces to filmmakers of Framewerk, Joey Boink and Sander Wirken. It resulted in an intimate glimpse into the life of a woman who wants to change her country and therefore brings immense sacrifices.

For more information about the movie, including the trailer, click here.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

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

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations. The Panel met with the new Head of EULEX Press and Public Information Office (PPIO) to discuss future co-operation between the PPIO and the Panel in awareness raising and an outreach campaign in the media.

The Panel also met the Deputy Head of EULEX Executive Division and the Head of Executive Police, as well as the EULEX Executive Police command. The participants discussed human rights issues and challenges the EULEX Police officers face in their everyday work. They also considered the Panel’s case-law which can be relevant and helpful to the work of the EULEX Police.

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.

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

ICC Deputy Prosecutor Explains Role of the ICC in Colombia

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. James Stewart, spoke at a conference on “Transitional Justice in Colombia and the Role of the International Criminal Court” held in Colombia last week. He noted that the role of the Court had not been without some public controversy and that it was time to put that role into its proper perspective.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Colombia in 2004, which is on-going, but to date it has not proceeded with an investigation.

Mr. Stewart highlighted that a situation of transitional justice, as exists in Colombia, only engages the mandate of the ICC Prosecutor, if the authorities of the State concerned are not themselves conducting genuine proceedings for such crimes, i.e. if they are unable or unwilling to act.

Up to and including June 2013, the OTP has received 141 communications under Article 15 in relation to the situation in Colombia. 94 of these are currently analysed in the context of preliminary examination.

In November 2012, the OTP published an interim report summarising the findings of the preliminary examination into Colombia. According to this report, there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed by various parties to the conflict. It was also suggested that various groups may have been responsible for committing war crimes. Continue reading

ICC Acquitted Defendant Ngudjolo Deported to the DRC

Mathieu Ngudjolo

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui ©ANP

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, the first defendant to be acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been deported to Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on Monday 11 May. Media confirmed that Ngudjolo arrived back in the DRC on Monday evening where he was escorted by five European police officers before leaving the Kinshasa airport surrounded by friends and family.

In a secret video, shared online last week, Ngudjolo spoke out about death threats and his concerns about being killed or receiving the death penalty when expelled to the DRC. He fears his live is in danger in the DRC as he has made incriminating statements about the current leaders of the country during his trial at the ICC.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about Ngudjolo’s return and said that “we and others will be looking to the Congolese authorities to ensure Mathieu Ngudjolo’s safety and security once he is back in Congo”.

The 44-year-old former leader of the Nationalist Integrationlist Front (FNI) militia was acquitted of the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Trial Chamber II of the ICC on 18 December 2012, who ordered his immediate release. Straight after his acquittal he applied for asylum in the Netherlands which was denied by the Dutch authorities, but he was allowed to stay in the Netherlands pending his appeal.

On 27 February 2015, the ICC Appeal Chamber confirmed the decision of the Trial Chamber acquitting Ngudjolo Chui of charges of crimes against humanity, putting a final end to the trial that had started in 2009. After the ruling, the Dutch authorities immediately arrested Ngudjolo and transferred him to Schiphol airport to return him to the DRC that same day. His lawyer filed a new asylum claim at the last minute, and Ngudjolo was escorted off the aircraft. The new claim was rejected a few days later.

Unconfirmed sources say that after his arrival in Kinshasa yesterday, Ngudjolo subsequently fled to an unknown destination. According to the president of the Congolese Association for access to justice (l’Association congolaise pour l’accès à la justice), who is also Ngudjolo’s lawyer, he has currently no information about the whereabouts of his client.

UN Ordered to Lift Suspension of Sexual Abuse Report Whistleblower

Anders Kompass, representante del Alto C

Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN Dispute tribunal has ordered the United Nations to immediately lift the suspension of a whistleblower who disclosed the alleged sexual abuse of children by peacekeeping troops in Africa to the French authorities.

The judge said that the decision to suspend Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was “prima facie unlawful” and ordered the UN to lift his suspension immediately to prevent further damage to his reputation.

Kompass leaked an internal UN report on the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in Central African Republic to French prosecutors last summer. The French immediately mounted an investigation and revealed last week they were investigating up to 14 soldiers for alleged abuse.

In his statement to the UN dispute tribunal, Kompass stated that he informed his boss – the deputy high commissioner – last July that he had leaked the report in order for the French to mount an investigation. The UN disputes this.

Nine months later on 17 April this year, he was suspended by the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and put under investigation for leaking confidential information – including the names of victims and staff members who conducted the interviews with the children.

The confidential internal report leaked by Kompass contained interviews by a UN official and a member of Unicef with a number of children, aged between eight and 15, who say they were sexually abused at a camp for internally displaced people in Bangui, the capital of CAR, by French troops last year.

The order of the dispute tribunal on Wednesday means Kompass’s suspension will be lifted temporarily while an internal management review takes place into the handling of the case.

How Israel Defence Forces Behaved in Gaza War

Gaza July 2014

Gaza July 2014

The army veterans’ organization has released a report called “Breaking the Silence” containing testimonies of 60 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers who fought during Operation Protective Edge last July and August. According to the group, the testimonies are indicative of a general principle that governed the entire military operation: minimum risk to the Israeli forces, even if it meant civilian casualties.

The rules of engagement basically established that “Anyone found in an IDF area, which the IDF had occupied, was not a civilian. That was the assumption,” one of the soldiers stated.

An armored infantry soldier reported that, at some point, it was understood that any home which Israeli forces entered and used would be destroyed afterward by large D9 bulldozers. “At no point until the end of the operation … did anyone tell us what the operational usefulness was in exposing [razing] the houses,” he said. “During a conversation, the unit commanders explained that it wasn’t an act of revenge. At a certain point we realized this was a trend. You leave a house and there’s no longer a house. The D9 comes and exposes [it].”

There were also several reports of shooting at civilians. A woman who was clearly unstable and no threat was reportedly ordered by the battalion commander to walk westward, toward an area where tanks were stationed. When the woman approached the tank force, she was machine-gunned to death.

The detailed testimonies in the report include other practices that some units adopted during Operation Protective Edge.

The full report is available here.

A Hybrid Court to Try South Sudan Crimes?

South Sudan warSpeaking in Nairobi on Monday during a visit to Kenya, US Secretary of State John Kerry said South Sudan was at “grave risk” as he announced US backing for a “hybrid court” to hold warring parties to account.

Kerry said he supported the creation of “a credible, impartial and effective justice mechanism, such as a hybrid court, in order to hold perpetrators of violence to account.”

A hybrid court would combine international and domestic law.

More than 50,000 people died since the beginning of the war in December 2013, which spread from the capital Juba to the rest of the country, forcing more than a million from their homes.

Kerry said the promise of independence in 2011 was “at grave risk of being squandered”.

Stalled peace talks hosted in Addis Ababa have failed to end the fighting, which Kerry blamed on President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.

“Unfortunately, South Sudan’s leaders, both those in office and those contesting, have not yet chosen to make the compromises needed for peace,” Kerry said.

Human rights activists say that decades of impunity for past crimes have contributed to the current round of civil war and justice must be sought if an end to the cycles of violence is to be found.

In December advocacy group Human Rights Watch proposed the setting up of a “hybrid court” involving both international and domestic judges, as in the case of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

On Monday Kerry endorsed the idea of a hybrid court and pledged $5 million (4.5 million euros) to kickstart the process.

Dutch UN Commanders Not Prosecuted for Srebrenica Massacres

Srebrenica MassacreA Dutch appeals court ruled on Wednesday that three former Dutchbat commanders will not be prosecuted for their role in the massacre of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.

Family members of three victims had asked the Dutch court to order the prosecution of Dutch commanding officer Thom Karremans, his deputy Rob Franken and personnel officer Berend Oosterveen, accusing them of knowingly allowing or forcing three Muslim men to leave the UN peacekeepers compound, which led to their deaths.

The three former UN Dutchbat commanders led the Dutch soldiers during the fall of the Muslim enclave. About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves in mid-July 1995 at Srebrenica by Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic, himself now on trial for genocide and war crimes before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

According to the court in Arnhem, prosecutors had made the right judgment in deciding last year not to prosecute the three soldiers for forcing two of the men to quit the compound after reaching terms with the Serbs. It held that there was no basis to assume that the three former commanders knew about the massacres that had taken place elsewhere (paragraph 9.3 of the ruling). Moreover, the former Dutchbat commanders had no knowledge at the time of the genocidal intent of the Bosnian Serbs (paragraph 11.1 of the ruling). Continue reading

ICC: Witness Intimidation in the Ruto and Sang Case?

Ruto and Sang ICC

William Ruto and Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Last week, the Dutch embassy in Nairobi confirmed that a Kenyan government official was arrested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, carrying false papers. He did not enter the Netherlands but was imprisoned and then sent back to Kenya.

The Kenyan official in question would have tried to meet ICC witness 727 in the Netherlands, who is the last Kenyan prosecution witness set to testify in the Kenyan trials against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang.

Witness 727 is currently hiding in the Netherlands, refusing to testify following serious intimidation, says his lawyer Goran Sluiter.

According to him, “it’s clear that the ICC has fully underestimated these cases. If the Kenyan trials had been calm and quiet, it might have been the right treatment. But now the ICC is ruled by fear of Kenya and the African Union. They should step up action against suspects.”

Many (possible) witnesses are said to have been intimidated in the Ruto and Sang trials. The case against President Uhuru Kenyatta was dropped by the Prosecution because of a lack of evidence.

Auschwitz Bookkeeper Nazi War Crimes Trial

Today started what should be one the final trials for Nazi war crimes in Lueneburg, Germany. Oskar Groening, former guard at Auschwhitz, is facing charges of accessory to the murder of about 300,000 Jews from May to June 1944.

Image:

Mr. Groening leaves the court building after the first day of the trial against him ©Markus Schreiber/AP

Now 93 years old, Mr. Groening was 21 when he arrived in Auschwitz and describes his role as purely executive. Mr. Groening was repsonsible for collecting the belongings of the deportees and counting money confiscated at their arrival. The “bookkeeper” nonetheless admitted his moral guilt, which for him differs from his legal guilt. “If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent,” he told Der Spiegel in 2005.

In a documentary to the BBC in 2005, Mr. Groening has decided to come forward and testify about what he witnessed in Auschwitz. His objective, he said, was to fight Holocaust deniers: “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria.”

Charges were first brought against Mr. Groening in the 1980s, but they had to be dropped because of a lack of evidence. Following more recent jurisprudence, prosecutors now believe Mr. Groening could be convicted just for having worked at the camp. If found guilty, he could face three to 15 years in prison.