Fate of 1,655 people in Kosovo Still Unresolved

Kosovo victimsThe fate of 1,655 people gone missing in Kosovo during the clashes in 1998 and 1999 remains unresolved, the Working Group in charge of missing persons stated at its 38th meeting on Tuesday.

In the course of ten years of its existence, the Working Group in charge of cases of persons gone missing in Kosovo managed to reduce the number of unsolved cases from 3,200 to 1,655, Chair of the Working Group Lina Milner said.

She noted that the key condition for progress in solving the fate of the missing is embodied in a continuous and constructive dialogue based on humanitarian grounds, without political rhetoric from Belgrade and Pristina.

Milner noted that 68 cases of missing persons have been solved this year and added that considerable progress has been made, especially in terms of exhumation of the grave site at Rudnica near Raska (southern part of central Serbia), as well as victim identification and delivery of the remains to the families. Continue reading

UN Condemns Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

North Korea Human RightsYesterday, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a recent UN Commission of Inquiry report detailing crimes against humanity in North Korea and recommended that the Security Council discuss the report and consider a referral to the International Criminal Court.

The North Korea resolution passed by a vote of 111 to 19, with 55 abstentions. China and Russia voted against the resolution.

While the resolution passed overwhelmingly, North Korea had made recent diplomatic overtures seemingly to try to affect the vote, such as by offering for the first time to engage with the UN human rights rapporteur on North Korea and participating in the Universal Periodic Review process at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Commission of Inquiry report declared that North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.

The report documented massive crimes against humanity in North Korea, including deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, and infanticide, among other crimes – most of them committed in North Korea’s political prison camp systems.

The report concluded that the bulk of the crimes against humanity were committed “pursuant to policies set at the highest levels of the state.”

The commission of inquiry report was based on interviews with dozens of people who had fled and detailed abuses. North Korea has accused people who cooperated with the commission of inquiry of lying.

ICC: No Investigation into Gaza Flotilla Raid Case

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The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in a eight-vessel humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has decided to close her preliminary inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists, according to a statement today.

The case was referred to her office on 14 May 2013 by the Union of the Comoros, which is an ICC State Party. One of the ships in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was registered in the Comoros.

On the same day, the Prosecutor announced that her Office had opened a preliminary examination of the referred situation.

“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (…) were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” on 31 May 2010,” said the Prosecutor.

However, “after carefully assessing all relevant considerations”, she concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of “sufficient gravity” to justify further action by the ICC. Continue reading

HRW: Israel displayed ‘callous indifference’ in deadly attacks on family homes in Gaza

A general view shows the destruction in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day on August 6, 2014. Photo credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

Human Rights Watch (HRW) today released a new report on the attacks perpetrated against houses full of civilians during Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, attacks which have allegedly amounted to war crimes. Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes  was elaborated following investigations on eight cases of residential family homes that were attacked without prior warning during Israeli latest operation in Gaza. These attacks cause the deaths of more than 100 civilians, of which 62 were children. In total, it is estimated that at least 18,000 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable and that more that 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including 519 children, were killed during Operation Protective Edge. The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families.

While the report ackowledges that possible military targets were identified in some of the bombed areas, it argues that the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks. Attacks where no military targets could have been clearly identified constitute a war crime. When evidence of possible military targets can be proven, under international law, the report states that they should have been cancelled or postponed as soon as it was evident that so many civilians were present in the house. Continue reading

Malala and Kailash Satyarthi: 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 to Malala Yousafzay and Kailash Satyarthi.

Ill. N. Elmehed ©Nobel Media 2014

Ill. N. Elmehed ©Nobel Media 2014

With this decision, the Committee chose to recognize their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Moreover, the Committee insisted on the importance to have a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in this common struggle.

Maintaining Ghandi’s tradition, Mr Satyarthi is an Indian child rights campaigner who has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations against the grave exploitation of children for financial gain and who contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.

Malala Yousafzai, laureate of the European Union Sakharov human rights prize in 2013, becomes the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner. Malala has become a leading spokesperson defending the right of girls to education, and gave a powerful speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year.

ICC: The Challenges of the Defence

Court HammerIn a recent article in the French legal review “La Gazette du Palais”, the French Lawyer François Roux discusses the challenges faced by the Defence in front of the international jurisdictions, and more specifically at the International Criminal Court (ICC). After explaining that the creation of the Office of Public Counsel for Defence (OPCD) at the ICC constitutes an important step in order to reinforce the equality of arms and to enable a fair trial, Roux criticizes the fact that the OPCD falls within the remit and the authority of the Registry for administrative purposes and does not constitute per se an organ of the ICC, which is the case of the Office of the Prosecutor for instance.

On the contrary, he says, the Registry wants to replace the OPCD by an Association of Defence Counsel which would be external to the Court. For Roux, current Head of the Defence Office at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, it is essential that the Defence be permanently represented by an independent organ, equal to the Office of the Prosecutor, with the competence to conclude international agreements with States or to intervene at the Assembly of State Parties.

If you wish to read the article in French, click here.

Opening of the Srebrenica Documentation Center

Srebrenica Documentation Center

ICTY’s Vice-President Carmel Agius during the opening ceremony

Last month, the SENSE News agency has inaugurated the Srebrenica Documentation Center. The purpose of the Center is to show how the events in July 1995 in Srebrenica were investigated, reconstructed and prosecuted before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Members of the many victims’ associations such as the Mothers of Srebrenica, political representatives from BH, the diplomatic corps and non-governmental organizations from Sarajevo, Zagreb, Belgrade, Podgorica and entire region were present at the opening ceremony. The opening attracted a lot of media interest.

Various representatives addressed the audience. Amongst them, the speech of the ICTY’s vice-president Carmel Agius caused a great deal of interest. The Maltese judge sees the opening of the Center as an important aspect of the Tribunal’s legacy and the best way to present the Tribunal’s work and to put the archives from The Hague to use. Continue reading

Mass Atrocity Crimes Database

The Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) offers an online database referencing a selection of open-source materials, primarily from the United Nations, governments, and international, regional & civil society organizations, related to the prevention of mass atrocity crimes.

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GAAMAC is a state-led initiative dedicated to the prevention of mass atrocity crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing) at the national and regional level. GAAMAC provides support to states engaged in preventing mass atrocity crimes and assists states that are considering developing preventive strategies. GAAMAC also serves as a platform for exchange and dissemination of learning and good practices.

The first international GAAMAC meeting was held in San José in March 2014 and gathered state representatives around the need of a “Community of Commitment, Community of Practice”.

ICTY Association of Defence Counsel Newsletter no. 74

ADC-ICTY-300x300The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published its newsletter no. 75.

This edition covers the recent cases in Prlić et al., the Defence cases in Mladić and Hadžić and the final briefs in Karadžić. In Karadžić, after the Trial Chamber denied the

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Defence motion to strike the Prosecution’s final brief, the case is now reaching its final stages. The Defence closing arguments will be held from 29 September to 2 October and will be followed by the rebuttal and rejoinder arguments on 7 October, with an expected verdict in October 2015.

The newsletter looks back at various decisions or judgments rendered years ago by the ICC, the ICTR and the ICTY but keeps us up to date as well with the current proceedings in front of the Bosnian Constitutional Court, Croatian courts and the ICC in the Gbagbo case. The newsletter also provides an analysis on the Role and Future of Extremists Groups in the Region in relation to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Human Rights Defender Executed in Iraq

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi

Last week, the so called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) has executed lawyer and human rights defender Samira Saleh Al-Naimi.

Reports confirmed that on the evening of 22 September 2014, a group of masked armed men who belong to

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ISIS opened fire and killed her in a public square in the very heart of Mosul, Iraq. She was kidnapped by ISIS from her home last week after she described as “barbaric” the widespread damage that ISIS inflicted on ancient features of her city.

In reaction to this tragic news, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights has condemned in the strongest terms the execution of Samira Saleh Al-Naimi and urged the UN and relevant international institutions to:

1. Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the execution of Samira Saleh Al-Naimi and other crimes committed by ISIS with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in line with local laws and international standards;

2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and journalists in Iraq are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi was a prominent lawyer and human rights defender and famous for her activities that include defending detainees and supporting the disadvantaged families in the city.