The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
On 3 March, the International Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon of the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) charged two former Khmer Rouge members with several crimes committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.
The suspects in both cases, known as Cases 003 and 004, have been charged in absentia. Both suspects are thought to be among those most responsible for Khmer Rouge atrocities committed between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.
Meas Muth, suspect in Case 003, is said to have had authority over sending people to S-21, the notorious security prison, where they were tortured and ultimately killed. A high ranking navy commander in the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea, Muth is accused of torture and killing of Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners captured at sea and on the islands over which Democratic Kampuchea claimed sovereignty. He is also charged with having committed Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
Im Chaem, a former district commander was charged with homicide, the crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts at the Phnom Tryoung security centre in Banteay Meanchey province. She was further charged with the crimes against humanity of murder, enslavement, imprisonment and other inhumane acts for her role at the Spean Sreng work site. Continue reading
Lately there has been a resurgent in the calls from the international community for reform of the United Nations (UN) system in order to better protect populations from mass atrocities. This year commemorates the 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s founding in 1945, which was created to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” but it has sparked debate about the functioning of the different bodies of the UN.
©UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Yesterday, Amnesty International released its 2014/2015 annual report urging the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the UK, China, France, Russia and the US) to renounce their power of veto in situations of genocide and other mass atrocities.
Salil Shetty, the organisation’s Secretary General, said in a statement that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had “miserably failed” to protect civilians and that the UNSC permanent members had used their veto to “promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians.”
A week earlier, Madeleine Albright, chair of the Advisory Council of The Hague Institute for Global Justice and former US Secretary of State, voiced her concern about the world’s attempt to uphold an international order which came into place 70 years ago while an “awful lot of things have changed in the meantime.” Continue reading
The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh
Last week, an independent report into the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh was published. The comprehensive evidence-based report by Geoffrey Robertson QC is the first of its kind and concludes that the Tribunal’s proceedings fall seriously short of international standards.
Since its inception, the International Crimes Tribunal, which has passed a number of death sentences on opposition political leaders for crimes allegedly committed in the 1971 civil war in East Pakistan, has been the subject of significant criticism from both those who have appeared before it and numerous legal experts. All of whom have concluded that the ICT does not adhere to internationally recognised standards.
According to the 126-page report, the major concerns about the ICT are that the Tribunal lacks impartiality, it allows for the death penalty to be imposed without providing a higher standard of procedural safeguards, it permits trials in absentia and there are concerns about witness tampering and intimidation.
Further, the Tribunal appears to have no rules about admissibility of evidence: many of the convictions have been based on hearsay, and in effect, on guilt by association. The Tribunal does not provide the basic guarantees required by international human rights treaties; the rules about providing adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence have been consistently breached, and most notably, defendants are excluded from enjoying the constitutional protections available to all other Bangladeshi citizens. Continue reading
Senegalese authorities have ruled on Friday 13 February that Hissène Habré, a former President of Chad, will stand trial to face charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture.
The Extraordinary African Chambers, an internationally backed court, was set up by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad during Habré’s eight-year rule.
After a 19-month investigation, a four-judge panel revealed that there was sufficient evidence that serious breaches of international law were committed during Habré’s presidency, which lasted 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. The government periodically targeted various ethnic groups such as the Hadjerai and the Zaghawa, killing and arresting group members en masse when it was perceived that their leaders posed a threat to Habré’s rule. Continue reading
“We are at a critical stage in the transition of international criminal justice. The primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting international crimes no longer lies with ad hoc tribunals like the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); rather that responsibility has shifted to national authorities.”
This is the first sentence of the foreword accompanying a manual released on 10 February by the Prosecutor of the ICTR and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), Mr. Hassan Bubacar Jallow, sharing his office’s experience in securing the referral of ten genocide indictments to national jurisdictions for trial.
1998. The trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu begins. With this case, the ICTR becomes the first international tribunal to enter a judgement for genocide and the first to interpret the definition of genocide set forth in the 1948 Geneva Conventions. ©ICTR
According to Mr. Jallow, the shift to primacy of national prosecutions is reflected in the Rome Statute’s principle of complementarity, as well as in the establishment of the MICT, which makes the referral of cases to national jurisdictions a priority in the completion of the ad hoc tribunals’ remaining work.
The 57-page long manual, “Complementarity In Action”, shares lessons learned from the ICTR Prosecutor’s referral of international criminal cases to national jurisdictions for trial. The Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP) experiences provide useful lessons for other international courts and tribunals seeking to refer international criminal cases to national jurisdictions. They also provide valuable lessons for national jurisdictions seeking to establish their own ability to fairly prosecute international crimes at the domestic level. Continue reading
The European Union Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has just released its fifth Annual Report. As in previous years, the Panel continued throughout the reporting period with its review of complaints of human rights violations by EULEX Kosovo in the conduct of its executive mandate in the justice, police and customs sectors.
Family member from Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, 25 March 2014/ Enisa Kasemi ©EULEX
In 2014, the Panel conducted five sessions and reviewed 35 complaints and witnessed a considerable increase in its case-load with the receipt of 42 new complaints. The Report details the findings of these cases and of the recommendations submitted to the Head of Mission of EULEX Kosovo to address violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Panel and its Secretariat also continued with its outreach campaign in order to disseminate information about its mandate, including a TV information campaign. It concentrated its efforts primarily on the Kosovo judiciary, human rights and legal aid NGOs, civil society representatives as well as religious bodies in Kosovo.
EULEX is deployment of EU police and civilian resources to support Kosovo on its path to a greater European integration in the rule of law area. In April 2009, EULEX became fully operational. The EU Joint Action of February 2008 and Council Decision of June 2010 and June 2012 provide the legal basis for the Mission. EULEX works within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. EULEX is supported by all 28 European Union Member States and five contributing States (Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States), and its mandate runs until June 2016.
The Annual Report – 2014 of the EU Human Rights Review Panel is available in the Albanian, Serbian and English languages.
iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.
The International Court of Justice
Today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected the claim of Croatia that Serbia committed genocide in Croatia in 1991, as well as the counter-claim by Serbia that the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia constituted genocide.
Judge Peter Tomka, president of the ICJ, said that although both sides had carried out violent acts during the war, neither side had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the specific intent required for acts of genocide.
Both countries relied on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) for contending that the other country had committed genocide. The fact that the claims were based only on the Genocide Convention, implied that the Court had no power to rule on alleged breaches of other obligations under international law, not amounting to genocide, particularly those protecting human rights in armed conflict. Continue reading
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Today, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) completed its largest case to date. The Appeals Chamber issued its Judgment in the Popović et al case, upholding the convictions of five senior Bosnian Serbian military officials for crimes perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 following the takeover of the protected areas of Srebrenica and Žepa.
The case concerned crimes committed in July 1995 after the fall of Srebrenica and Žepa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Trial proceedings involved a total of seven accused, who were convicted for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of wars, in part through several Joint Criminal Enterprises. Five of the accused appealed to the judgment of the Trial Chamber. Continue reading
Fatimata M’Baye (right) and Philip Alston, two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (c)Loey Felipe
Two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (CAR), yesterday called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes committed in CAR.
Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, two of the UN Commission’s three members, reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been widely committed by all parties in the ongoing conflict.
M’Baye and Alston warned that “unless the world pays attention and holds perpetrators accountable, the situation in CAR could very much spiral into genocide.”
According to the latest report of the Commission, the UN is currently in negotiations to establish a criminal court to prosecute ‘political players’ who have committed crimes against humanity.
“If that goes ahead we are extremely concerned in making sure that a majority of the judges must come from the international community…We do not believe that national judges have that type of independence,” law professor Alston said.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened investigations into atrocities committed in CAR since 2012. However, according to Mbaye, the ICC can only prosecute a few top leaders and there is a need for justice on a much larger scale.
More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence resulted in the killing of at least 5,000 people. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders.
The International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will render its Judgment in the Croatia versus Serbia Genocide case on 3 February 2015, between 10:00 and 13:00.
In 1999, Croatia instituted proceedings before the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) for violations of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Croatia alleged that between 1991 and 1995, Serbia committed genocide relating to Croatia’s war of independence following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
In 2010 Serbia filed a counter-suit, alleging that Croatia committed genocide during and after Operation Storm when some 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave Croatia in 1995 when Zagreb launched a military operation to retake its territory.
iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC is Counsel for the Republic of Serbia (along with Professors William Schabas, Andreas Zimmerman, Christian Tams and others).