By Sander Wirken - PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, Sander Wirken is making the documentary Burden of Peace about Guatemala’s former Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. Watch the embedded video to find out how you can become part of that project.
A Guatemalan trial court wrote history on 10 May 2013 when it convicted former president general Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years imprisonment for his role in the genocide and in war crimes committed by the army. It was the very first time that a national court convicted its own former head of state for genocide. Lawyers all over the world applauded Guatemala for the apparent achievement of its national judicial system. Ten days after the conviction, however, the Constitutional Court declared that a procedural error had been committed. The procedural error in question did not amount to a breach of a constitutional right and should hence have been addressed by an Appeals Chamber and not by the Constitutional Court, as one of the dissenting opinions in the 3-2 majority decision pointed out. But the majority opined differently and the conviction was declared invalid on that technicality.
What followed was a concerted backlash to all forces that had supported the genocide trial.
In an oral decision delivered yesterday, the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rejected Ratko Mladić‘s request for acquittal.
The request was made under Rule 98bis of the Rules of Procedure of the ICTY, which allows the judges to enter a judgment of acquittal after the close of the Prosecution case where “there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction.”
Ratko Mladić (c) The Telegraph
Mladić, the former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), is charged with several counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes alleged to have been carried out in the course of a joint criminal enterprise to remove Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims from the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is allegedly responsible for the devastating incidents that occurred at Srebrenica in July 1995, where it is estimated several thousand Bosnian Muslim men were executed in the course of a single day.
In his request for acquittal, he argued that the Prosecution had failed to prove (a) the requisite genocidal intent; (b) sufficient control over non-VRS elements which perpetrated some of the crimes with which Mladić is charged; and (c) specific incidents with which he is charged. The prosecution, and eventually the judges, dismissed the defence arguments.
Mladić’s trial commenced on 16 May 2012, 17 years after he was first indicted. The Prosecution closed their case on 26 February 2014; the request for acquittal has come at the half-way point with the Defence due to open their case in May 2014.
National University of Ireland, Galway
Date: 16-20 June 2014
Location: Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, University Rd, Galway, Ireland.
The annual International Criminal Court summer school at the Irish Centre for Human Rights is the premiere summer school specializing on the International Criminal Court. The summer school allows participants the opportunity to attend a series of intensive lectures over five days.The lectures are given by leading academics on the subject and by legal professionals working at the International Criminal Court.
The summer school is attended by legal professionals, academics, postgraduate students and NGOs. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures and operations, and the applicable law.
Participants are also given the opportunity to network with the speakers throughout the week. Lectures also speak to related issues in international criminal law, including: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression, universal jurisdiction, immunities, and the role of victims.
A limited number of scholarships are available for the ICC Summer School 2014. Please see here for further information.
Date: Wednesday 9 April 2014
Venue: T.M.C., Asser Institute, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, 2517 JN Den Haag
Lecture: “Genocide Prosecution in a National Court: Guatemala’s Rios Montt Trial in Latin American Context“
Speaker: Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
SCL Lectures are public and free of charge. Registration is not necessary, seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.