Latest News and Events

Event: Strengthening National Justice for Core International Crimes

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Date: 28 June 2016, from 10:00 to 18:00

Venue: Het Spaansche Hof, Westeinde 12, 2512 HD The Hague, Netherland

The Case Matrix Network is organising a conference on Strengthening National Justice for Core International Crimes: Laws, Procedures and Practices in an Age of Legal Pluralism”. This conference will analyse some of the challenges faced by national and international criminal justice actors, who are working at different stages of accountability processes, as well as the measures being taken to address them.

For further information and to register, you can visit the conference webpage.

Event: ICC Performance Indicators – Debriefing on the Glion Retreat

International Criminal Court New PremisesDate: Tuesday, 24 May, 17:00 – 18:30

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, 2514 JR The Hague

In partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland to the Netherlands, The Hague Institute for Global Justice will host a debriefing on the International Criminal Court Retreat on Performance Indicators which took place in Glion, Switzerland, at the beginning of April. The aim of this debriefing is to share the objectives and outcomes of the retreat with a broader public and to generate a valuable discussion on the topic of performance indicators.

In 2014, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute requested the ICC to “intensify its efforts to develop qualitative and quantitative indicators that would allow the Court to demonstrate better its achievements and needs, as well as allowing States Parties to assess the Court’s performance in a more strategic manner”.

It reaffirmed its interest in the following year.  To assist the Court in this complex exercise, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, in cooperation with the ICC and the Open Society Justice Initiative, hosted an informal retreat in Glion, Switzerland, on 6-8 April 2016.

The discussion was based on the 2015 Report of the Court on the development of performance indicators.

Speakers:

  • Ms. Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi – Judge, President of the International Criminal Court
  • Mr. Jürg Lindenmann – Ambassador, Deputy Director of the Swiss Directorate of International Law
  • Mr. James Goldston – Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Moderator: Mr. Lyal Sunga – Head of the Rule of Law Program, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

If you wish to register, click here.

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.

Amnesty: Report on the Legal and Institutional Implications of the Merged and Expanded African Court

Amnesty InternationalIn June 2014, the African Union (AU) adopted the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human rights (Malabo Protocol), which extends the jurisdiction of the yet-to-be established African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) to crimes under international law and transnational crimes.

While the ACJHR can play a vastly positive role in a continent persistently afflicted by the scourge of conflict and impunity for crimes under international law, there are a number of concerns and implications arising from the proposal to expand its jurisdiction.

This report, written by Rachel Murray in collaboration with Amnesty International, looks at how the expanded jurisdiction will affect relevant stakeholders, including victims of gross violations of human rights, the AU, and Civil Society Organisations. It is hoped that this publication will generate frank and open discussion amongst the relevant stakeholders on the implications of the Malabo Protocol.

ICL Lecture: Lessons from Hybrid Courts

Asser InstituteDate: 8 June 2016, at 19:00h

Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, The Hague, Netherlands

Programme:

19:00: Welcome and introduction by Dr. Christophe Paulussen (T.M.C. Asser Instituut)

19:10: Book Presentation by Mr. Simon M. Meisenberg (Kosovo Specialist Chambers) and Dr. Ignaz Stegmiller (University Giessen): ‘The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

19:30: Keynote Lecture by Dr. Fidelma Donlon (Registrar, Kosovo Specialist Chambers) on “Lessons from Hybrid Courts: The Kosovo Specialist Chambers”

20:00: Q&A

20:30: Closure by Dr. Christophe Paulussen and Mr. Frank Bakker (T.M.C. Asser Press)

Registration for this event is mandatory. To register, click here.

Latest Analysis

Myanmar: New Government Inherits Problems and Promise of Special Economic Zones

By Vani Sathisan (International Legal Advisor, International Commission of Jurists) and Bobbie Sta. Maria (Senior Researcher for Southeast Asia, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)

Myanmar Special Economic ZoneWhile SEZs are supposed to be a driver for Myanmar’s economic growth, their impacts on the rights of affected communities indicate that this growth is reserved for businesses and investors.

This is a long form version of this article published by Reuters on 1st April 2016.

More than half a century of military rule ostensibly comes to a close on April 1, when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) officially takes over Myanmar’s government and the first civilian President since 1962 starts leading the nation. Despite these extraordinary developments, daunting challenges remain in Asia’s second poorest country. Myanmar’s military still controls key governmental functions; the country is barely emerging from decades of civil conflicts; rule of law and institutions are weak; the economy is fragile and dominated by crony companies; corruption, and human rights abuses remain stubbornly persistent.

The outgoing government initiated a number of significant changes, including efforts to encourage economic development through foreign trade and investment. This strategy included heavily promoting foreign investment through three major special economic zones (SEZ): a Japanese supported zone focused on manufacturing in Thilawa, near Yangon; a Thai supported zone initially focused on heavy industry including petrochemicals in Dawei in the south; and a Chinese supported zone in Kyaukphyu in the northwest, envisioned as a trade corridor connecting the Chinese, Indian and ASEAN economies. These were said to build on Myanmar’s strategic location and low-cost production base for export destinations in the region.

The NLD recently announced that while it supports the zone in Thilawa, it will reconsider the continuation of the Dawei and Kyaukphyu SEZs, study commitments made by the former government to investors, and speak with relevant stakeholders. This is a crucial process and many hope that the NLD does not lose sight of its commitments in its Election Manifesto, including encouraging “foreign investment in line with the highest international standards”, and laying down “paths for economic cooperation that can bring sustainable long-term mutual benefits”. Continue reading

The Yugoslavia Tribunal also Engages in Debt Collection

by William A. Schabas*

ICTYAlongside yesterday’s very important judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was a rather more pathetic manifestation of the fight against impunity. While the judgment was being issued, Security officials of the Tribunal, with the apparent assistance of the Dutch police, arrested French journalist Florence Hartmann. She is now in detention at the Tribunal’s prison. For a photo of her arrest, look here.

Florence Hartmann served as press officer at the Tribunal about a decade ago, When she left, she published a memoir entitled Paix et châtiment. The book referred to decisions of the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber that were supposed to have remained confidential. After being tried and convicted of contempt of court, she was sentenced to pay a €7,000 fine. When she failed to pay the fine, the Tribunal converted the sentence into one of seven days’ imprisonment. She now has six more days to go, that is, unless the Tribunal applies its policy of early release after service of two-thirds of the sentence.

All of the international tribunals have wasted a lot of resources on prosecuting so-called ‘offences against the administration of justice’. The time and money these matters have consumed could have been usefully devoted to more serious cases involving genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the early 1990s, the International Law Commission conceived of an international court that would not concern itself with issues like contempt of court, perjury and tampering with witnesses, leaving thus to the national courts. If Florence Hartmann, or the others, really committed an offence against the administration of justice, it would make a lot more sense for them to be dealt with by domestic justice systems. Continue reading

Myanmar: Rule of law depends on reform of Union Attorney General’s Office

By Daniel Aguirre and Vani Sathisan*

Recent political discussion in Myanmar revolves around the formation of a new government and selection of a president, but not enough attention is focused on the position of the attorney general, who holds a critical function in upholding rule of law and respect for human rights.

Students arrested in a police crackdown on their peaceful protests against the education law in March 2015 arrive for a court hearing on May 12, 2015. Lawyers and activists complain the trial is taking too long. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

Students arrested in a police crackdown on their peaceful protests against the education law in March 2015 arrive for a court hearing on May 12, 2015. Lawyers and activists complain the trial is taking too long. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

The attorney general is Myanmar’s most powerful legal officer: As a member of the executive, the AG provides legal advice to the President and the hluttaw, analyses international treaties, drafts and amends laws, and represents the government in judicial proceedings. The attorney general also directs the prosecutors’ office and ensures that cabinet actions are legally valid, in line with the constitution and international human rights law.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), international donors and development partners discussed the attorney general’s powerful role on the sidelines of the launch for the Union Attorney General Office’s (UAGO) Strategic Plan 2015-19 in Nay Pyi Taw last week. All expressed hope that the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government will appoint an attorney general committed to reform, the rule of law and human rights, in line with their election manifesto promise to ensure that executive and judicial systems support the rule of law. Continue reading

Japan’s Apology to South Korea Shows What Public Apologies Should (Not) Do

by DavildTolbert*

South Korea Comfort WomenJapan’s most recent and controversial apology to the government of South Korea for sexual slavery committed by its military against “comfort women” during WWII has raised important questions about apologies for crimes and serious human rights violations during armed conflict. What is the proper role of an apology for such massive crimes against humanity? What can apologies do and what should they not be meant to do for survivors and victims?

The latest Japanese apology, which some have seen as part of a strategic geopolitical deal struck between Japan and South Korea, has led to protests among the 46 surviving South Korean victims as well as the victims in other countries occupied by Japan during the war.

After working for 15 years on reparations for victims in over 50 countries, ICTJ has found that many victims feel that an apology unaccompanied by other forms of reparation does not constitute justice, even as material reparations, such as compensation, without a meaningful acknowledgement of responsibility also falls short.

An estimated 200,000 women in Asia were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army just prior to and during World War II. Japan systematically established an extensive network of “comfort stations” throughout its occupied territories, to which “comfort women” were trafficked and used as sexual slaves. Many of these “comfort women” were barely teenagers when they were enslaved and the surviving few are now of very advanced age and dwindling in numbers. Continue reading

Time for a Genuine Commitment to Rule of Law

by Vani Sathisan*

Court HammerThe world observes Human Rights Day on 10 December to mark the momentous strides in international human rights law since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. In Myanmar, recent political changes have been both momentous and transformative. Nonetheless, what was proclaimed by the UDHR as the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, continue to be infringed upon by the arbitrary and highly subjective interpretation and application of laws, some of them dating back to British colonial times.

Successive governments in Myanmar have used overly broad or vaguely defined laws to curtail freedom of expression that is protected under international law. They often invoke the justification, typically inappropriately, of protecting national security, or to prevent public disorder or avoid outraging the religious feelings of a class. None of these efforts have served or can serve to address or respond to sectarian and religious violence.

On behalf of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), I have observed trials of those arrested and detained on criminal defamation charges for their Facebook posts that allegedly defame either the Tatmadaw or a political leader. One of the laws used to charge the accused is the Penal Code, first drafted in 1860.

The ICJ released a briefing paper last month highlighting how the enforcement of Myanmar’s defamation laws can result in violations of a number of international laws and standards protecting human rights, and also have an overall chilling effect on the freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly in the country. Continue reading