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 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.

ICTR Appeals Chamber Delivers Judgements in Three Cases

ICTR

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today delivered its judgement in three cases: Édouard Karemera and Matthieu Ngirumpatse; Ildéphonse Nizeyimana; and Callixte Nzabonimana.

Édouard Karemera and Matthieu Ngirumpatse

On 21 December 2011, Trial Chamber III convicted Karemera and Ngirumpatse of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, genocide, extermination and rape as crimes against humanity, and murder as a serious violation of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II. The Trial Chamber sentenced Karemera and Ngirumpatse to life imprisonment.

The Appeals Chamber affirmed Karemera’s and Ngirumpatse’s convictions.The Appeals Chamber reversed certain findings of the Trial Chamber, which, however, did not result in the overturning of any of Karemera’s or Ngirumpatse’s convictions. The Appeals Chamber affirmed Karemera’s and Ngirumpatse’s sentences of life imprisonment. Continue reading

Kenya President Requests Excusal from ICC Trial

President Kenyatta (c) AP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (c) AP

Yesterday, the defence team for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta filed a request before a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to excuse the Kenyan President from attending in person a Status Conference scheduled for 8 October 2014. In the “urgent request”, lawyers for Kenyatta explain that his position as President of the East African Community requires him to chair a regional summit in Kampala, Uganda on the day in question. The meeting is to address economic development and regional security issues.

The request was filed pursuant to Rule 134 quater of the ICC’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which states that an accused subject to a summons to appear (as President Kenyatta is) may request excusal from attendance at trial when mandated “to fulfil extraordinary public duties.” The Trial Chamber shall grant the request when it considers excusal to be in the interests of justice and provided that the rights of the accused are fully ensured.

The rule is a recent amendment to the Rules of Procedure, which was adopted by the Assembly of States Parties in November 2013 following a request by the African Union.

President Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity perpetrated during the post-electoral violence in 2007. The start date of his trial has been postponed on numerous occasions amidst Prosecution complaints that the Kenyan Government has failed to disclose requested documents.

Crimes Against Humanity Trial in Romania

Alexandru Visinescu

Alexandru Visinescu

Today, a former Communist-era prison commander, Alexandru Visinescu, has appeared in a Romanian court accused of crimes against humanity, in the country’s first trial of its kind.

The accused, 88, ran the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963, where inmates were allegedly tortured and starved.

Mr Visinescu is the first of 35 men whom the Romanian state plans to try for similar offences.

He has denied the charges, saying that he wasn’t responsible for the rules in the prison and followed his superiors’ orders.

The trial has now been adjourned and will resume next month.

Nicknamed “the prison of silence” because detainees were held in solitary confinement, the facility housed intellectuals, dissidents, priests and others deemed enemies of the Communist Party.

Since 2006 the Romania’s state-run Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes has been gathering evidence against those responsible by exhuming graves and looking for surviving victims from a number of prisons.

About 500,000 Romanians became political prisoners in the 1950s as the country’s Communist government sought to crush dissent.

Central African Republic: MINUSCA and Complementary Justice Mechanisms

As the United Nations recently took over the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), calls for imminent justice were made earlier this week by Human Rights Groups.

UN Secretary-General meets with internally displaced people camped near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, 5 April 2014 ©UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General meets with internally displaced people camped near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, 5 April 2014
©UN Photo/Evan Schneider

MINUSCA officially started its mission on 15 September 2014. Adopted by the Security Council in April 2014, Resolution 2149 gives mandate to MINUSCA to ensure the security of the civilian population, contribute significantly to the establishment of the rule of law with the redeployment of the public services and help to fight against impunity. This force deployment, in majority composed of the African forces of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) placed under UN command, must continue until April 2015, date on which the mission should reach the total number of 10 000 soldiers and 2 000 policemen. Continue reading

IACHR Questionnaire on the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders

Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez
IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

Following information received in recent years by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) through public hearings and visits, criminal law is allegedly being used against human rights defenders in some countries in retaliation for their work in defending and promoting human rights. Regarding this issue, the Commission, in its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, expressed its concern regarding the issue of criminalization, understood as opening groundless criminal investigations or judicial actions against human rights defenders which not only has a chilling effect on their work, but can also paralyze their efforts to defend human rights since their time, resources, and energy must be devoted to their own defense.

As noted by the Commission, criminalization of the defense of human rights is a complex phenomenon that may be perpetrated in different ways, by both state and individual actors. According to the information received by the IACHR, in some States both public officials and private individuals –including businesses or employees of private companies, for example– reportedly use criminal law to subject human rights defenders to legal proceedings in order to repress or discourage social protest or criticism of public officials. Often, these cases are said to be based on criminal charges devised in ways that run contrary to international law. Moreover, in some States, legal bodies reportedly issue precautionary measures in criminal cases, such as pretrial detention or bond, presumably in order to discourage and restrict the efforts of human rights defenders during critical junctures in the causes they are defending.

Given the seriousness of the situation, the IACHR Rapporteurship on Human Rights Defenders published a questionnaire of consultation with States and civil society for the elaboration of a report on the the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders through the Misuse of Criminal Law.

The answers must be sent here before October 16, 2014 with the following words in the Subject: Questionnaire on Criminalization.

ICTY Association of Defence Counsel Newsletter no. 74

The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published its newsletter no. 74.

ADC-ICTY-300x300This edition covers the recent Defence cases in Mladić and Hadžić and the proceedings in Prlić et al.. In Hadžić, the ICTY Trial Chamber heard the Defence witnesses, including Goran Šehovac, a Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) soldier and military policeman, Ratko Adžić, President of Ilijas municipality, Milorad Bukva Head of the Security Department in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps (SRK), Milenko Inđić, VRS Liaison Officer for Cooperation with International Organisations, Boško Gvozden, former Commander of the Gradiška Light Infantry Brigade of the VRS, and Radovan Glogovac, Vice-President of the local Serbian Democratic Party.

The newsletter provides analysis on two high-level discussions organized by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut in collaboration with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) on “The Use of Military Evidence in Counter-Terrorism” and with the Grotius Centre and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) on “Illegal Armed Force as a Crime against Humanity”.

The newsletter looks back at various decisions or judgments rendered years ago by the STL, the ICTY and the ICTR but keeps us up to date as well with the current proceedings in front of the Bosnian Constitutional Court, the ICC and the ECCC.

Raising the Bar at the ICC

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

In a recent op-ed, Tiina Intelman, President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC), wrote about the upcoming elections of new ICC judges.

After explaining that the States will go through a complex voting process to choose the most qualified candidates, Intelman highlights the recent establishment of an Advisory Committee designed to assist the States in selecting the best candidates possible and thus raising even more the level of competence of the ICC judges. The Committee will be meeting at the beginning of December in New York in order to interview the candidates and produce a report which will be at the States’ disposal.

The elections are scheduled for the thirteenth session of the Assembly of State Parties, to be held in New York from 8-17 December 2014. The judges will be elected for a period of 9 years.

Takfiris Want to Create a “House of Blood”

Zaid al Hussein

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, addressed the Human Rights Council. Amongst the issues he addressed in his lengthy speech, the High Commissioner lashed out at the Islamist Takfiri group who recently murdered US journalist James Foley and hundreds of other defenceless victims in Iraq and Syria.

The massacres, beheadings, rape and torture attributed to the group “reveal only what a Takfiri state would look like, should this movement actually try to govern in the future,” said Zeid, the first Muslim and Arab to serve as UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.

For him, the jihadist militants who have seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria are intent upon creating “a house of blood”.

Zaid’s speech to the UN’s 47-member council came a week after it held an emergency session on the jihadists, deciding to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq to document the extent of their abuses.

If you wish to read the Commissioner’s full speech, click here.

Kenyan President’s Trial Adjourned Indefinitely

Uhuru Kenyatta ICC

Uhuru Kenyatta at the ICC

Today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested that the trial against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta be adjourned indefinitely.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she still did not have enough evidence to proceed with the trial, which was due to resume on 7 October.

She argued that the case should be delayed until the Kenyan Government complies in full with outstanding ICC cooperation requests.

“Under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for the Prosecution to withdraw the charges against Mr Kenyatta before the Government of Kenya complies with the Revised Request. […] “In the five months since the Prosecution submitted its 8 April 2014 Revised Request, the Government of Kenya has produced a total of 73 pages of documentation. Some are not responsive to the Revised Request; even the responsive material is a fraction of the information sought”, she says.

Kenyatta is charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” for crimes including murder, rape and persecution allegedly committed by others during violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after his country’s 2007 elections. He denies the allegations.

Kenyatta’s lawyers have repeatedly said the whole case should be dropped because of a lack of evidence.