Event: Crimes against Humanity – Do We Need a New Global Treaty?

Geneva AcademyDate: Wednesday 8 June 2016, 18h30-20h00.

Venue: Villa Moynier (Room Cassese), 120B, Rue de Lausanne, Geneva.

Speaker: Professor Sean D. Murphy – George Washington University; Member of the United Nations International Law Commission where he serves as Special Rapporteur on the topic of ‘Crimes against Humanity’.

The International Law Commission is currently drafting provisions of what could become a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity.

This event will explore the key elements to be covered by such treaty, its necessity and what such a convention could bring to the fight against impunity.

If you wish to register, click here.

Hissène Habré Sentenced to Life for Crimes Against Humanity

On Monday the 30th of May 2016, the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, established especially for the prosecution of Hissène Habré, found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

Habré was the President of the former French colony of Chad from 1982 until 1990 when he fled to Senegal after being overthrown by the current president of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. The United States and France supported Habré as they saw in him an important ally against the government of Muammar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya.

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.

Media report that Habré is the first African former head of state to be convicted in Africa, and the first former head of any state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country. It is also the first time that a former head of state has been convicted of personally raping someone. It is furthermore the first prosecution in Africa under universal jurisdiction.

The case against Habré has from the beginning been pushed forward by Habré’s victims. Reed Brody from Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims for many years said following the judgment: “Today will be carved into justice as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”

In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for Habré’s arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal refused to extradite Habré to Belgium. In 2012, the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré or to extradite him.

In March 2015, a special criminal court in Chad convicted accomplices of Habré for crimes of torture and murder.

Habré has been given 15 days to appeal. The Extraordinary African Chambers will be dissolved once the judgment in the case of Hissène Habré is final.

ICTY: Prosecution Will Appeal the Acquittal of Vojislav Šešelj

Seselj

Vojislav Šešelj

Today, the ICTY Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz stated that his Office will appeal the acquittal of Vojislav Šešelj.

The Office of the Prosecutor considers that there has been “a fundamental failure” by the Trial Chamber Majority to perform its judicial function and to properly adjudicate core aspects of the Prosecution’s case by, among other things, failing to consider large parts of the evidentiary record, making unreasonable and conflicting factual findings, or failing to properly apply the elements of modes of liability such as joint criminal enterprise and aiding and abetting in accordance with established case-law.

Moreover, the Prosecution explains that the Trial Chamber Majority unreasonably allowed for the possibility that criminal conduct was simply a lawful contribution to the war effort, despite the overwhelming body of evidence pointing against it. According to the Prosecution, this led the Trial Chamber Majority to unreasonably credit the possibility that: expelling civilians was a humanitarian gesture; that incendiary hate speech was simply morale boosting for the Serb forces; and that the deployment of ethnic cleansing forces was a measure to protect the Serb population.

Vojislav Šešelj, 61, had been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes over ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between August 1991 and September 1993.

The charges involved the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of civilians; torture, sexual assaults, beatings and other physical abuse of detained non-Serbs; the destruction of homes, religious sites, cultural institutions; and hate speech. Continue reading

Kenya: ICC Terminates the Ruto and Sang Case

Ruto and Sang ICC

William Ruto and Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Today, the Trial Chamber V(A) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided that the case against William Ruto and Joshua Sang is to be terminated.

The Chamber considered the requests of Mr Ruto and Mr Sang that the Chamber find that there is ‘no case to answer’, dismiss the charges against both accused and enter a judgment of acquittal.

On the basis of the evidence and arguments submitted to the Chamber, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji and Judge Robert Fremr, as the majority, agreed that the charges are to be vacated and the accused are to be discharged. They provided separate reasons for this decision.

Judge Fremr found that there is no case for the accused to answer based on the fact that the Prosecution did not present sufficient evidence on which a reasonable Trial Chamber could convict the accused. Accordingly, he considered that there is no reason to call the Defence to bring their case or to prolong the proceedings any further.

Judge Eboe-Osuji, concurring with Judge Fremr’s evidential assessment, also vacated the charges and discharged the accused without prejudice to re-prosecution in the future. However, he declared a mistrial in the case, because it cannot be discounted that the weaknesses in the Prosecution case might be explained by the demonstrated incidence of tainting of the trial process by way of witness interference and political meddling that was reasonably likely to intimidate witnesses. In his opinion, Judge Eboe-Osuji also discussed several matters including reparations, immunities and elements of the “crimes against humanity” definition.

The majority of the Chamber also concluded that a judgment of acquittal was not the right outcome, but only vacation of the charges and discharge of the accused. The majority also agreed that there is no reason to re-characterise the charges. Continue reading

ICTY: Vojislav Šešelj Acquitted of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

Vojislav SeseljThe International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today acquitted Vojislav Šešelj of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990’s.

Šešelj, 61, had been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes over ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between August 1991 and September 1993.

The charges involved the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of civilians; torture, sexual assaults, beatings and other physical abuse of detained non-Serbs; the destruction of homes, religious sites, cultural institutions; and hate speech.

However, the ICTY said that in the absence of any “crucial legal elements” to establish any form of criminal responsibility it was not possible to convict Šešelj for crimes against humanity.

The Prosecution had moreover not provided sufficient evidence to establish that the alleged war crimes were committed.

The three-judge Chamber found that it could not rule out the reasonable possibility that Šešelj incendiary speeches, calling for killing and revenge against his enemies, were “meant to boost the morale” of his followers, and were not crimes.

Moreover, the Court held that it could not dismiss the defence’s argument that Mr Šešelj’s men might have been present in contested regions, not to force Bosniak Muslims and Croats out of areas claimed for a Greater Serbia, but on “humanitarian grounds”.

Judge Latanzi disagreed with almost all of the Majority’s findings. She noted that the Majority failed to take into consideration the climate of intimidation to which Šešelj subjected the witnesses in the case and that the Majority had not provided sufficient reasoning, or no reasoning at all, in support of its findings. Continue reading

ICTY: Karadžić Convicted to 40 years in Historic Verdict

Radovan KaradzicRadovan Karadžić, the war-time President of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today.

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

The Yugoslav Court, sitting in The Hague, found Karadžić guilty in 10 of 11 counts, including genocide, crimes against humanity (in the form of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and inhumane acts) and violations of the laws and customs of war (including murder, terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and taking of hostages).

Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon found that Karadžić had been responsible for genocide in Srebrenica, where close to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered in 1995, on the basis of his membership in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE), but not in other Bosnian municipalities. He was further convicted of persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer and murder in connection with a campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages claimed by Serb forces during the country’s 1992-1995 civil war.

Karadžić, currently 70 years, was sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment, while receiving credit for the time already spent in detention (8 years).

Radovan Karadžić was a founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was President of the party from July 1990 to July 1996. He acted as Chairman of the National Security Council of the so-called Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (later Republika Srpska). He was President of the three-member Presidency of Republika Srpska from its creation in May 1992 until December 1992, and thereafter sole President of Republika Srpska and Supreme Commander of its armed forces until July 1996.

The verdict has been labelled as the most important moment in the 23-year existence of the ICTY. Ilawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux called the process exemplary in that it has demonstrated the ability of the international community to prosecute crimes of such magnitude while guaranteeing the fundamental rights of the accused. Continue reading

ICC: Bemba Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 ©ICC-CPI

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 ©ICC-CPI

Today, Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) unanimously found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo guilty of all five counts he was accused of: two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). The crimes were committed in the south of Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003 (the 2002-2003 CAR Operation) by a contingent of Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) troops. Mr. Bemba, who was the MLC President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armée de Libération du Congo, was found guilty as a person effectively acting as a military commander with effective authority and control over the forces that committed the crimes.

The Chamber discussed facts that occurred during the armed conflict between the Central African governmental authorities, supported among others by the MLC, and the rebel armed group of the Forces armées centrafricaines, that lasted from 26 October 2002 to 15 March 2003. The Chamber found that the MLC soldiers then directed a widespread attack against the civilian population, and that they committed many acts of pillaging, rape, and murder against civilians, over a large geographical area. The Chamber found that acts of murder, rape, and pillaging were committed consistent with evidence of a modus operandi apparent from the earliest days and employed throughout the 2002-2003 CAR Operation. Continue reading

John Kerry: IS is Committing Genocide in Iraq and Syria

John Kerry delivering his statement on IS on 17 March 2016

John Kerry delivering his statement on IS on 17 March 2016

United States Secretary of State John Kerry today officially determined the Islamic State group (IS) is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups in Iraq and Syria. His statement meets a congressional deadline for a decision that was long expected. Though the declaration is not related to any obligation of the United States (US) to take further action against IS or to any prosecution against members of this group.

On 14 March, the US House of Representatives passed by 393 to 0 a non-binding resolution that declared that “the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.” Continue reading

Landmark Rape Convictions of Militaries in Guatemala

Mayan Women pictured at the trial ©CNN

Mayan Women pictured at the trial ©CNN

Two former militaries were found guilty by a Guatemala court of murder, rape and sexual enslavement of indigenous women and were respectively sentenced to 240 and 120 years imprisonment.

The ruling is the first successful prosecution for sexual violence committed during Guatemala’s troubled decades. The facts date back to the 1980s, during Guatemala’s 36 year-long civil war that only ended in 1996 with the signig of Peace accords. At the time, armed forces repeatedly attacked the village of Sepur Zarco and Mayan communities were caught in the opposition between the army and the leftist rebel groups. As a result, several men were killed and soldiers considered the women as being “available”. It was reported that women were required to report every third day to the base for “shifts” during which they were raped, sexually abused, and forced to cook and clean for the soldiers.

Former Lt. Col. Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Giron, who was the commander of the Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij were found guilty of holding 15 women in sexual and domestic slavery and for killing one woman and her two daughters.

“This is historic, it is a great step for women and above all for the victims,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, who attended the hearing.

Joint NGOs Letter on Draft Convention on Crimes Against Humanity

Crimes against HumanityThis week, 12 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), amongst which Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, sent a joint letter to the Special Rapporteur of the International Law Commission on crimes against humanity regarding his work on the draft articles for a Convention on crimes against humanity.

The NGOs urge the Special Rapporteur to set out provisions which among others oblige states to exercise their competence when a person suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity is found in any territory subject to their jurisdiction and permit States to initiate investigations based on universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity suspects.

The NGOs say that “no safe havens whatsoever should be available for those who perpetrate crimes against humanity”, as those crimes are so grave that they harm the entire international community.

For them, such approach is consistent with the principle established in Nuremberg and would also be the most appropriate framing of jurisdiction, given the position under customary international law and the relationship between crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

The Special Rapporteur will soon be presenting a set of draft articles, mainly on the scope of States’ jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, for the consideration of the International Law Commission.