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.

Germany Sued for Genocide against Herero and Nama People of Namibia

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Detail of Battle Between Herero Warriors and German Colonials, February 1904.

Descendants of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia have sued Germany for damages in the United States for a campaign of genocide by German colonial troops in the early 1900s, which led to more than 100,000 deaths.

According to the complaint filed with a US District Court on Thursday, Germany has excluded the plaintiffs from talks with Namibia over possible reparation payments, which are expected to be completed before June 2017. Germany would furthermore have publicly said that any settlement will not include reparations to victims, even if compensation is awarded to Namibia itself.

Colonial Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 to 1915. Between 1904 and 1907 the Herero and Nama people rebelled against the colonial rule, which led to a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment. Thousands died of thirst and starvation and many others were sent to concentration camps.

The complaint was filed under the US Alien Tort Statute which allows victims of serious human rights abuses committed abroad to sue those responsible in US courts. The law’s reach was narrowed by the US Supreme Court in 2013 when it decided in the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co that the law did not cover foreign conduct unless claims sufficiently “touch and concern” the territory of the United States. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that this and later rulings left open the possibility of US courts asserting jurisdiction in genocide cases.

Radovan Karadzic Appeals His Conviction

Radovan KaradzicToday, Radovan Karadzic has filed an appeal to the UN’s Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals against his conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in March this year.

The 238-page appeal “details 48 substantive and procedural errors” that led to an incorrect verdict, according to a statement issued by Karadzic’s lawyer Peter Robinson.

“Unless corrected, flawed trials and unjust judgments like mine will only accelerate the flight of countries such as South Africa and Russia from an international legal system that is politicised and based on double standards,” Karadzic said in the statement.

“It will also ruin the chance for international justice to succeed in the long term by establishing legal precedents based on short-term political expediencies,” the former Bosnian Serb political leader added.

Karadžić was charged with responsibility for atrocities including the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in the Srebrenica enclave. Continue reading

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its fourteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between August and October 2016.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held with officials and international organisations. The Panel met 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 Panel also met with the European Union Special Representative in Kosovo as well as with the European External Service (EEAS) and the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management, (CivCom). The discussions concerned the caseload of the Panel, the implementation of the decisions of the Panel by the Head of Mission and the future legacy of EULEX Kosovo as well as the legacy of the Panel.

This year, the Panel reviewed some twenty-two cases and it has found that EULEX Kosovo committed nine human rights violations. There are currently fifty-seven cases pending before the Panel.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

Ethiopia: After Years on the Run, Eshetu Alemu Will Face Trial

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Door-to-door searches by Red Terror Troops to hunt down opposition members

After years on the run to evade justice, a member of former Ethiopian ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Government faces trial for his role in the 1970s genocide in the country.

Eshetu Alemu’s trial began in The Hague on 21 November 2016.

Eshetu Alemu is brought to trial for war crimes committed in Ethiopia during the Mengistu era in Gojjam Province. This case is the result of a year-long investigation. Even if Ethiopia has requested extradition there is no treaty to that effect.

Eshetu Alemu has Ethiopian origin but also holds the Dutch nationality. He was serving as a member of the Provisional Military Administrative Council during the reign of the Derg, the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987 and which elected Mengistu Haile Mariam’s as its chairman.

He has already been convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in Ethiopia on December 12, 2006 by the Derg-Tribunal in its 12 years ‘Red Terror’ trials, during which former President Mengistu was also convicted for genocide. Eshetu Alemu was among the dozens of the dreaded council’s members who fled into exile. Continue reading

ECCC: Appeal Judgment Affirms Life Imprisonment for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan

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Kieu Samphan (left) and Nuon Chea

On 23 November 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber (SCC) of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) delivered its Appeal Judgment in Case 002/01 against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, were convicted by the Trial Chamber in August 2014 for crimes against humanity committed during the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975 and subsequent forced transfer from other areas, as well as alleged execution of former Khmer Republic soldiers in Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat Province.

Both defendants appealed the decision, asking for a reversal of the trial judgment and to be acquitted of all charges, or failing that, Khieu Samphan asked for a reduced sentenced to a set number of years. Nuon Chea submitted 223 grounds of appeal and Khieu Samphan submitted 148 grounds of appeal. Their appeal arguments related to the constitutionality of the ECCC’s Internal Rules and the fairness of the proceedings; the Trial Chamber’s approach to evidence; the Trial Chamber’s findings relevant to the crimes for which the accused were convicted; and the accused’s individual criminal responsibility.

Continue reading

No Trial for Michel Desaedeleer

 

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Diamond miners working, May 15, 2003, in a diamond mine outside Freetown, Sierra Leone ©Getty

Michel Desaedeleer died on September 28th in a Belgian prison. He was accused of being involved in the trade of « blood diamond » in Sierra Leone. He was arrested in Spain in August 2015 due to allegations that he committed a war crime, more precisly the inhuman and degrading treatment of people through his participation in the blood diamond trade with the former Liberian President Charles Taylor and the Revolutionary United Front (rebel group in Sierra Leone involved in the country’s civil war from 1991 until 2002).

There will be no trial for Michel Desaedeleer, even if it was supposed to take place in a near future. The international jurisprudence will thus not see its first trial dealing with crimes allegedly committed in furtherance of natural resource trade. Indeed, Desaedeleer was the first businessman arrested on international charges of pillaging blood diamonds and enslaving civilians and hailed the case as a landmark. As Alain Werner, the Director of Civitas Maxima said in 2015: “This is a landmark case, the first of its kind, and it will help to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by financial actors in the trade of mineral resources that fuel armed conflicts in Africa and elsewhere”.

The case was built against him by Luc Walleyn, lawyer in Brussels, Civitas Maxima in Gevena and the CARL (Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law). The work accomplished until now will still be usefull as the arrest of Michel Desaedeleer, his imprisonment and the beginning of the judicial process represent a victory for the victims who were enslaved.

MICT: Stanišić’s Defence Requests Stay of Proceedings

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Jovica Stanišić

This week, the Defence for Jovica Stanišić filed a request in front of the Trial Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) to stay the proceedings until the Prosecution respects the principle of finality and the Appeal Chamber’s order for retrial.

On 31 May 2013, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Jovica Stanišić, formerly Deputy Chief and Chief of the State Security Service (SDB) of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, and his co-accused, Franko Simatović, formerly Deputy Chief of the Second Administration of the Serbian SDB and special advisor in the SDB.

In December 2015, the ICTY Appeals Chamber ordered that they be retried on all counts of the indictment.

In September 2016, the Prosecution filed its Pre-Trial Brief and other pre-trial materials.

In its request, the Defence submits that the Prosecution’s approach to the retrial amounts to ‘’such an egregious violation of the Accused’s rights that it is detrimental to the Court’s integrity, contravenes any sense of justice, and makes a fair trial impossible’’. The Defence submits that the Trial Chamber should stay the proceedings until the Prosecution fully respects the res judicata and non bis in idem principles and the order of the Appeals Chamber for a retrial on the previous Indictment without addition or expansion of the counts or charges. Continue reading

ICC: Gambia to leave the International Criminal Court, following South Africa and Burundi

The Gambia announced on Tuesday that it will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), following similar announcements earlier this month from South Africa and Burundi.

Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang accused the Court of being “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.

Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh, President of the Republic of the Gambia, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 25, 2014 ©REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh, President of the Republic of the Gambia, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 25, 2014 ©REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

He said that the ICC had failed to go after Western war crimes, citing the omission to investigate the European Union over the deaths of migrants on the Mediterranean sea and the ICC’s failure to indict former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his involvement in the Iraq war.

The withdrawal of the Gambia would be especially painful for the ICC since its chief prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda, is from the Gambia and previously held the post of Gambian justice minister. Other high profile international jurists also come from Gambia, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Chief Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow.

Last week Friday, South Africa announced that it had officially initiated the process of withdrawing from the ICC. South Africa reasoned that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts were at times “incompatible” with the interpretation given by the ICC of obligations raised in the Rome Statute.

South Africa’s withdrawal followed a controversy last year when it failed to arrest President Omar Al Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC, when he attended an AU summit in South Africa. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the government had violated national laws and its international obligations for not having arrested Bashir. Continue reading

South Africa to Withdraw from the ICC

International Criminal Court New PremisesSouth Africa has formally begun the process of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Rome Statute, under which the ICC was set up, requires the arrest of heads of state for whom a warrant was issued.

The country’s Minister of justice, Michael Masutha, said that South Africa was “hindered” by certain parts of the Rome Statute, primarily the one that “compels South Africa to arrest persons who may enjoy diplomatic immunity under customary international law, who are wanted by the ICC for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, to surrender such persons to the International Criminal Court.”

He said that South Africa wishes to give effect to the rule of customary international law which recognises the diplomatic immunity of heads of state and that the Rome Statute is ”in conflict and inconsistent” with such rule.

Last year, a South African court criticised the government for refusing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

Mr Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over the conflict in the Darfur region.

Mr Bashir was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, when the South African government ignored an ICC request to arrest him.

Human Rights Watch has criticised South Africa’s decision.

“South Africa’s proposed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court shows startling disregard for justice from a country long seen as a global leader on accountability for victims of the gravest crimes,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the NGO’s Africa division senior researcher.

“It’s important both for South Africa and the region that this runaway train be slowed down and South Africa’s hard-won legacy of standing with victims of mass atrocities be restored,” Mr Mavhinga said.

A written notice of South Africa’s intention was submitted to the UN secretary general. The withdrawal from the ICC will be formalized one year after the notification. During the 12 months’ notice period, South Africa will remain under the Rome Statute.