Amnesty International: Launch of a New Platform for the Promotion of Human Rights in International Justice

Amnesty InternationalAmnesty International has recently launched an advocacy platform, called Amnesty International’s Human Rights in International Justice Project.

The platform seeks to promote the latest efforts by Amnesty International, international and national civil society groups and others to strengthen international justice. It will also provide regular opinion pieces on the latest developments and emerging human rights concerns.

By doing this, Amnesty International hopes to provide:

  • better access for victims to national justice and, if that fails, international justice;
  • stronger national and international laws aimed at ending impunity;
  • human rights compliance by all international justice mechanisms.

In order to access the platform, click here.

ICC Al-Bashir case: South Africa Failed to Comply but is not Referred to ASP/UNSC

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the 25th AU Summit in South Africa ©KIM LUDBROOK / EPA

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the 25th AU Summit in South Africa ©KIM LUDBROOK / EPA

On Thursday 6 July 2017, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) found that South Africa failed to comply with its obligations under the Rome Statute in the Omar Al-Bashir case. The former President of Sudan had visited South Africa on 13 June 2015 to attend the 25th Assembly of the African Union.  The South African government then took no steps to arrest Omar Al Bashir, claiming he benefited from immunity as a head of State. In March 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa had ruled the government had shown unlawful conduct “in failing to take steps to arrest and detain, for surrender to the International Criminal Court, the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir.”

The ICC found that South Africa failed to comply with its obligations by not arresting and surrendering Omar Al-Bashir to the Court while he was on South African territory between 13 and 15 June 2015. The Court considered that immunities did not apply as Sudan was in an analogous situation to those of States Parties to the Statute as a result of the UNSC’s resolution, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, triggering the Court’s jurisdiction in the situation in Darfur and imposing on Sudan the obligation to cooperate fully with the Court.

However, the Chamber considered that it is not warranted to refer South Africa’s non-compliance to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) or the Security Council of the United Nations (UNSC). This decision was motivated on the facts that South Africa was the first State Party to seek from the Court a final legal determination on the extent of its obligations to execute a request for arrest and surrender of Omar Al-Bashir and that South Africa’s domestic courts have already found South Africa to be in breach of its obligations under its domestic legal framework.

For the full decision, click here.

ICC Prosecutor Calls for Immediate Arrest of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi

Saif al IslamThe Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday called on the Libyan authorities and all other states who are in a position to do so, to immediately arrest and surrender Mr. Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, to the ICC.

She noted that she was aware of the latest media reports alleging that on 9 June 2017, Mr. Gaddafi was released from the custody of the Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade of the eastern Libyan town of Zintan, where he had been held since November 2011. The Prosecutor stated that her office is currently verifying these reports and is taking all necessary steps to determine Mr Gaddafi’s whereabouts.

The Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, stressed that the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Mr Gaddafi on 27 June 2011 for the crimes against humanity of murder and persecution, allegedly committed in Libya during the uprising that ousted his father in 2011, remains valid.

According to Ms. Bensouda, the purported amnesty law, under which Mr. Gaddafi has said to been freed, does not relieve Libya of its obligation to immediately arrest and surrender Mr. Gaddafi to the ICC.

In the same statement, the Prosecutor called for the immediate arrest and surrender of Mr Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, who is also the subject of an ICC arrest warrant in the Libya situation, made public on 24 April 2017.

Mr. Al-Tuhamy is Muammar Gaddafi’s former security chief and is alleged to be responsible for the crimes against humanity of imprisonment, torture, other inhumane acts, and persecution, as well as for the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, committed in Libya in 2011.

Media outlets report that the release of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi could fuel further instability in the country, which has been under the rule of three different governments since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011. The UN-backed Tripoli government condemned the release.

In July 2015, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli in a mass trial of former Gaddafi government officials. The verdict had drawn condemnation abroad, with Human Rights Watch saying the trial was riddled with legal flaws and carried out amid widespread lawlessness undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

Gaddafi’s Son Saif al Islam Released from Prison in Libya

Saif Al-Islam GaddafiSaif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of fomer Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, has been released. He had been in custody since November 2011 in the town of Zintan, in Libya.

The Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade, a militia of former rebels that controls Zintan, where Gaddafi was detained since November 2011, said he was freed under an amnesty law promulgated by the parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The north African country has rival administrations, with the authorities in the east not recognising the UN-backed government of national accord (GNA) based in the capital.

Gaddafi’s lawyer also said he had been released but would not say which city Saif al-Islam had travelled to for security reasons.

The commander of the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade was set to release a video statement explaining the details of the release.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was captured in 2011 as he was fleeing to neighbouring Niger after opposition fighters seized Tripoli.

He was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli in July 2015 in a mass trial of former Gaddafi government officials. The verdict had drawn condemnation abroad, with Human Rights Watch saying the trial was riddled with legal flaws and carried out amid widespread lawlessness undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

Saif al-Islam is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which issued an arrest warrant in 2011 on preliminary charges of crimes against humanity, murder and persecution for being part of the inner circle of his father’s regime.

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.