ICC: Bemba sentenced to 18 years in prison

160621-bemba-sentence-10-1Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to 18 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

In March the Chamber had found the former vice-president of the DRC guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crimes of murder, rape and pillaging committed by militiamen under Bemba’s command.

For the crimes of rape the Chamber imposed 18 years of imprisonment while 16 years of imprisonment were imposed for the crimes of murder and pillaging. However, the Chamber decided that the sentences imposed shall run concurrently. Continue reading

Former Auschwitz Guard Convicted

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Mr. Reinhold Hanning at his trial ©AFP/Getty Images

Today, the Detmold Court in Germany sentenced Mr. Reinhold Hanning to five years in jail for his former role as a guard at Auschwitz from 1942 to 1944. The 94-year-old was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people. Mr. Hannig had acnkowledged that he knew what was happening in the camp but that he did nothing to stop it.

During the trial, about a dozen Auschwitz survivors testified. Mr. Hanning told the court “I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologise for my actions. I am very, very sorry.”

Until 2011, German prosecutors were required to provide evidence that defendants were directly involved in the killings. That changed with the conviction of John Demjanjuk, when a judge concluded that his activities as a camp worker in Nazi-occupied Poland amounted to complicity in mass murder.

Commission on Syria: ISIS Committing Genocide Against the Yazidis

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has today released a report establishing that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) is committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Yazidis. The report entitled “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis” focuses on violations committed against Yazidis inside Syria, where thousands of women and girls are still being held captive and abused, often as slaves.

Yazidi women in a refugee camp, August 2014

Yazidi women in a refugee camp, August 2014

“Genocide has occurred and is ongoing”, emphasised Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission. “ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities.” ISIS sought – and continues to seek – to destroy the Yazidis in multiple ways, as envisaged by the 1948 Genocide Convention. “ISIS has sought to erase the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death; the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, including forced conversion of adults, the separation of Yazidi men and women, and mental trauma; and the transfer of Yazidi children from their own families and placing them with ISIS fighters, thereby cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community”, the report says. Continue reading

UNESCO and ICC Join Forces to End Impunity for Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Tumbuktu Mausoleum Ruins

The ruins of a Mausoleum in Tumbuktu

Today, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, met with the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Silvia Fernandez de Gurmandi, and Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, to explore ways to deepen cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against impunity of war crimes.

“UNESCO and ICC have come a long way together, to strengthen the rule of law, to change the mindset about the destruction of cultural heritage, and we are determined to go further, to end impunity for deliberate destruction of cultural heritage,” said Ms. Bokova.

Immediately after the attacks on the people and heritage of Mali, UNESCO raised the issue of the destruction of the mausoleums to the attention of the Court.

On 1 July, 2012, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda declared that this destruction constituted a war crime under the Rome Statute and then launched a preliminary examination into the violence that had been engulfing the country since January 2012.

The first suspect, Ahmed al-Faqi al-Mahdi, was transferred by the authorities of Mali and Niger to The Hague on 26 September 2015. His trial is scheduled to start on 22 August 2016.

The case of Mali made history in the fight against impunity – recognizing the restoration of justice and the rule of law as an essential step of any recovery process. This sets a historic precedent for similar cases in the future.

In this spirit, UNESCO and the ICC are sharing expertise and information about the importance of the sites, about why they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the reason why their deliberate destruction can be considered a war crime.

Latest Newsletter of the ICTY Association of Defence Counsel

ADC ICTYThe Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published its latest newsletter.

This edition covers the recent developments in Stanišić & Župljanin, Prlić et al., Hartmann, Karadžić and Stanišić & Simatović cases.

The newsletter also addresses the recent developments which took place in Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, as well as at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, but also at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, after the reports that one of the accused, Mustafa Badreddine, has been killed.

The newsletter also contains an analysis on the Panel Discussion which took place at the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies about “the Trials and tribulations of the Yugoslavia war-crimes Tribunal.”

STL: Judges Decide to Continue Trial of Mustafa Badreddine

Mustafa Amine Badreddine

Mustafa Amine Badreddine

The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon decided on Wednesday 1 June that the trial in the Ayyash et al. case will continue pending the receipt of further information from the government of Lebanon regarding the death of the Accused Mustafa Amine Badreddine. In a press statement the STL explained that the Judges do not believe that sufficient evidence has yet been presented to convince them that the death of Mr Badreddine has been proved.

Badreddine is being tried in absentia for his alleged role in assassinating Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005.

Media reported last month that the senior Hezbollah commander was killed in a major explosion at Damascus airport in Syria. Hezbollah confirmed Badreddine’s death and held a massive funeral attended by thousands of the party’s officials and supporters, including Badreddine’s brother. Badreddine’s family also declared the death of their relative.

However, the STL Trial Chamber noted that the Prosecution has outstanding requests for assistance sent to the government of Lebanon seeking further information relating to what happened to Mr Badreddine and is awaiting responses.

The standards for establishing the death of a defendant are high under international law. The International Criminal Court did not recognise Ghadafi’s passing until they had received a death certificate, despite a number of widely disseminated videos depicting his violent end at the hands of rebel forces.

Judge Micheline Braidy of the Trial Chamber described in a dissenting opinion that she was convinced that Mr Mustafa Amine Badreddine was indeed deceased.

Hissène Habré Sentenced to Life for Crimes Against Humanity

On Monday the 30th of May 2016, the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

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

The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, established especially for the prosecution of Hissène Habré, found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

Habré was the President of the former French colony of Chad from 1982 until 1990 when he fled to Senegal after being overthrown by the current president of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. The United States and France supported Habré as they saw in him an important ally against the government of Muammar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya.

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.

Media report that 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 case against Habré has from the beginning been pushed forward by Habré’s victims. Reed Brody from Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims for many years said following the judgment: “Today will be carved into justice as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”

In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for Habré’s arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal refused to extradite Habré to Belgium. In 2012, the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré or to extradite him.

In March 2015, a special criminal court in Chad convicted accomplices of Habré for crimes of torture and murder.

Habré has been given 15 days to appeal. The Extraordinary African Chambers will be dissolved once the judgment in the case of Hissène Habré is final.

National European Courts Prosecute Syrian War Crimes

While the United Nations Security Council seems unable to reach any agreement on referring the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court or to set up a special tribunal on the ICTY and ICTR models, European courts have started prosecuting Syrian war crimes.

A grieving man in front of a destroyed mosque in Taftanaz after government forces attacked the town on April 3 and 4. ©2012 Robert King/Polaris

A grieving man in front of a destroyed mosque in Taftanaz after government forces attacked the town on April 3 and 4. ©2012 Robert King/Polaris

Prosecutions find legal basis in the genocide legislations adopted by most European countries and providing their courts international jurisdiction. About 15 European states have established units dedicated to investigating and prosecuting war and genocide crimes. Over the past decade, authorities in Europe have launched 1,607 international war crimes cases in domestic jurisdictions, including cases on torture, murder, rape, crimes against humanity and genocide, while another 1,339 are ongoing, according to the European Union judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.

In order to build evidence, European authorities are seeking testimony from some of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Middle East violence, through screening of migrants’ phones or invitations at arrival to testify. The challenge is to identify perpetrators, who may be European citizens who have joined Islamic State – more than 4,000 European citizens are estimated to have left to fight in Syria, of whom around a third have since returned home – others may be militants who have traveled to Europe from Syria or to Europe last year. “You may have lots of victims or witnesses in one place, but you can’t move with a prosecution until you have a perpetrator in your jurisdiction,” said Matevz Pezdirc of the European Union’s Genocide Network.

With both witnesses and perpetrators on their territory, European prosecutors have already brought some cases. A German citizen is on trial for war crimes after Facebook posts showed him posing alongside decapitated heads. Last year, Swedish courts convicted a Syrian on the basis of a video showing him torturing a fellow combatant.

The Trial for the ICC’s First Contempt Case Closes

by Rita Yip

Jean-Pierre Bemba GomboOn Tuesday 31 May 2016, the closing statements in the first contempt case tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, will be made publicly and are expected to last three days.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo – and four other accused are charged for offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. The Prosecution alleges that the accused collectively engaged in a scheme to corruptly influence, illicitly coach and bribe fourteen defence witnesses for false testimony during the trial of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo between 2011 -2013.

The five accused were arrested in November 2013 and were detained at the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague for almost one year. On 21 October 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber granted interim release to the four accused – except Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who remained in custody since 2008.

The trial hearings before the Trial Chamber VII commenced on 29 September 2015. The Prosecution called 13 witnesses and the five Defence teams collectively called six witnesses, including experts in the field of audio recordings, Austrian law and African solidarity.

The closing statements are expected to last three days. The Prosecution and the Defence teams will present its arguments and respond to the others parties’ arguments articulated in their closing submissions filed on 24 May 2016. Two of the accused – Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s former Defence Lead counsel and Fidèle Babala Wanda, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s political associate, have been granted the request to give an unsworn statement during the closing statements.

Earlier this year, on 21 March 2016, Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) for crimes that were committed in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

ECCC: Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch to Testify in Case 002/02

by Tibor Bajnovič

Kaing Guek Eav alias DuchKaing Guek Eav alias Duch, a former chairman of the S-21 Security Centre, is scheduled to testify in Case 002/02 from 26 May 2016. He is called to testify on the topic of Security Centres and Internal Purges, in particular S-21 Security Centre. Duch first appeared as a witness in Case 002/01 in March and April 2012.

Duch was the first Khmer Rouge official to stand on trial before the ECCC in Case 001. On 26 July 2010, the Trial Chamber convicted Duch of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions for his role at the S-21 Security Centre. In that role he oversaw the torture and execution of at least 12,272 individuals. Duch was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment, with a reduction of five years as a remedy for his eight-year unlawful detention by Cambodian Military Court. The sentence caused a widespread public dissatisfaction in Cambodia.

On 3 February 2012, the Supreme Court Chamber — the ECCC’s final court of appeal — overturned the sentence imposed on Duch at trial, increasing it to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court Chamber also refused to provide a remedy for Duch’s eight-year illegal detention on the ground that the ECCC was not responsible for the violation. From a human rights and fair trial perspective, the Supreme Court Chamber’s treatment of Duch’s eight-year illegal detention raised significant concerns.

The Case 002 has been severed into two separate trials, each addressing a different section of the indictment. The trial judgement in Case 002/01 was pronounced on 7 August 2014. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were both found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. Following the appeals filed by both Accused, the appeal hearings in Case 002/01 commenced on 2 July 2015 and were closed by the President of the Supreme Court Chamber on 18 February 2016.

The trial hearings in Case 002/02 commenced on 17 October 2014 and are ongoing. It is expected that evidentiary hearings in Case 002/02 will conclude later this year, with a judgement to follow in 2017.