Auschwitz Bookkeeper Nazi War Crimes Trial

Today started what should be one the final trials for Nazi war crimes in Lueneburg, Germany. Oskar Groening, former guard at Auschwhitz, is facing charges of accessory to the murder of about 300,000 Jews from May to June 1944.

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Mr. Groening leaves the court building after the first day of the trial against him ©Markus Schreiber/AP

Now 93 years old, Mr. Groening was 21 when he arrived in Auschwitz and describes his role as purely executive. Mr. Groening was repsonsible for collecting the belongings of the deportees and counting money confiscated at their arrival. The “bookkeeper” nonetheless admitted his moral guilt, which for him differs from his legal guilt. “If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent,” he told Der Spiegel in 2005.

In a documentary to the BBC in 2005, Mr. Groening has decided to come forward and testify about what he witnessed in Auschwitz. His objective, he said, was to fight Holocaust deniers: “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria.”

Charges were first brought against Mr. Groening in the 1980s, but they had to be dropped because of a lack of evidence. Following more recent jurisprudence, prosecutors now believe Mr. Groening could be convicted just for having worked at the camp. If found guilty, he could face three to 15 years in prison.

2015 International Criminal Court Summer School

Date: 15-19 June 2015

Location: Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, University Rd, Galway, Ireland.

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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 (ICC). The Summer School comprises a series of intensive and interactive lectures over five days given by leading academics and legal professionals working at the ICC. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures, operations, and applicable law. Specific topics covered include international crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity & aggression), jurisdiction, modes of liability, the role of victims and prosecutorial discretion.

This year’s Summer School will include a special session on Palestine and the International Criminal Court, which will involve the participation of the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, Ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek.

The summer school is attended by legal professionals, academics, postgraduate students, journalists and staff of civil society or intergovernmental organisations. A limited number of scholarships are available. To register and for more information regarding the 2015 ICC Summer School, please visit the conference website or send an email. Registrations will close on 30 May 2015.

The Armenian Genocide Legacy 100 Years On

ArmeniaTHE HAGUE – On 5, 6 and 7 March 2015, 22 experts gathered for a conference at The Hague Institute for Global Justice to look at the legacy of the Armenian Genocide from the perspective of law, humanities, media, arts and letters, politics and education. Speakers focused on the influence that this event and its denial have had on research and practice in their disciplines. This event was organized by Alexis Demirdjian (Centennial Project Foundation), the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD) and the University of Southern California Institute of Armenian Studies (USC IAS).

“On the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, organisations and State agencies around the world will acknowledge, reflect and consider its impact and relevance today. Discussions will ignite in academic institutions, classrooms, around dinner tables, in community centres and church halls, in centres of government and in the press. Much of these discussions in the past have focused on the Genocide itself, leaving little space to consider its relevance today. Addressing this issue, therefore, was the contribution of this conference and of the upcoming book to be published by the end of 2015,” said Alexis Demirdjian, an attorney who has many years experience working in the various criminal justice institutions located in the city of The Hague. Continue reading

Event: Hidden Genocides – Summer Course

Date: 12 – 31 July 2015

Venue: Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam

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The Twentieth Century was considered, by many scholars who study political violence, “the century of genocide” with the Holocaust as the epitome of industrial and mechanical violence. Yet there were many genocides before and after that.

The question rises “what is genocide”? How does it differ from other forms of collective violence? What triggers genocide? Why are the acts during genocide so gruesome? What is the cultural of genocide? What are the consequences of its legal definition? Why do people perpetuate genocide?

These and more questions will be answered during this course. We will thereby not only look at familiar cases of genocide, like the Holocaust, Rwanda and Srebenica, but also “hidden” and unknown genocides and the mass atrocities happening right now in South Sudan, Central Africa and Syria/ North Iraq. This course will give you an analytical model to understand and study genocide and measure proper interventions. Continue reading

ICJ Dismisses Croatian and Serbian Genocide Claims

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

Today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected the claim of Croatia that Serbia committed genocide in Croatia in 1991, as well as the counter-claim by Serbia that the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia constituted genocide.

Judge Peter Tomka, president of the ICJ, said that although both sides had carried out violent acts during the war, neither side had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the specific intent required for acts of genocide.

Both countries relied on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) for contending that the other country had committed genocide. The fact that the claims were based only on the Genocide Convention, implied that the Court had no power to rule on alleged breaches of other obligations under international law, not amounting to genocide, particularly those protecting human rights in armed conflict. Continue reading

ICTY: Appeals Chamber Upholds Convictions in the Popović et al. Case

ICTY

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Today, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) completed its largest case to date. The Appeals Chamber issued its Judgment in the Popović et al case, upholding the convictions of five senior Bosnian Serbian military officials for crimes perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 following the takeover of the protected areas of Srebrenica and Žepa.

The case concerned crimes committed in July 1995 after the fall of Srebrenica and Žepa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Trial proceedings involved a total of seven accused, who were convicted for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of wars, in part through several Joint Criminal Enterprises. Five of the accused appealed to the judgment of the Trial Chamber. Continue reading

Event: The Armenian Genocide Legacy, 100 Years On

ArmeniaThe centennial of the Armenian Genocide will be the topic of a two-day conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 6 and 7 March 2015, at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

This major interdisciplinary gathering will bring together academics and professionals from various fields to discuss the impact of the Genocide in various fields of study. Experts will examine such issues as impunity, sexual violence, demographics, compensation, memorializing, political discourse and media approaches.

Keynote speaker, Ronald Suny, will open the conference (Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago and University of Michigan).

He will be followed by experts in the field of Law (Geoffrey Robertson – QC, Susan L. Karamanian, Nolwenn Guibert, Sun Kim, Najwa Nabti, Alexis Demirdjian, Hannibal Travis), historians (Ugur Umit Ungor, Jakub Bijak, Lorne Shirinian), experts in social sciences and humanities (Levon Chorbajian, Seyhan Bayraktar, Nanor Kebranian, Ayda Erbal, Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, Anthonie Holslag), experts in literature, media and journalism (Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Lisa Siraganian, Esra Elmas, Marie-Aude Baronian), and education (Joyce Sahyouni).

The conference is organised and sponsored by the Centennial Project Foundation, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the University of Southern California Dornsife Institute for Armenian Studies.

Additional information and participants’ bio is available here.

Contact details may be found on the website.  The conference is open to the public, free of charge. Advanced registration will open on 6 February 2015.

UN Commission Wants International Tribunal to Prosecute Perpetrators in Central African Republic

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Fatimata M’Baye (right) and Philip Alston, two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (c)Loey Felipe

Two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (CAR), yesterday called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes committed in CAR.

Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, two of the UN Commission’s three members, reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been widely committed by all parties in the ongoing conflict.

M’Baye and Alston warned that “unless the world pays attention and holds perpetrators accountable, the situation in CAR could very much spiral into genocide.”

According to the latest report of the Commission, the UN is currently in negotiations to establish a criminal court to prosecute ‘political players’ who have committed crimes against humanity.

“If that goes ahead we are extremely concerned in making sure that a majority of the judges must come from the international community…We do not believe that national judges have that type of independence,” law professor Alston said.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened investigations into atrocities committed in CAR since 2012. However, according to Mbaye, the ICC can only prosecute a few top leaders and there is a need for justice on a much larger scale.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence resulted in the killing of at least 5,000 people. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders.

ICJ: Judgment in the Croatia vs Serbia Genocide Case on 3 February 2015

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will render its Judgment in the Croatia versus Serbia Genocide case on 3 February 2015, between 10:00 and 13:00.

In 1999, Croatia instituted proceedings before the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) for violations of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Croatia alleged that between 1991 and 1995, Serbia committed genocide relating to Croatia’s war of independence following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.

In 2010 Serbia filed a counter-suit, alleging that Croatia committed genocide during and after Operation Storm when some 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave Croatia in 1995 when Zagreb launched a military operation to retake its territory.

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC is Counsel for the Republic of Serbia (along with Professors William Schabas, Andreas Zimmerman, Christian Tams and others).

ECCC: Nuon Chea’s Defence Files Appeal Brief

Nuon CheaLast week, on 29 December 2014, the defence team of the Khmer Rouge regime’s former chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, filed a full appeal against the 88-year-old’s life sentence and convictions for crimes against humanity.

Raising 223 grounds of appeal, Nuon Chea requested an acquittal on all charges for which he and Khieu Samphan were convicted in Case 002/01 by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in August 2014.

The 270-page long appeal brief sets out numerous flaws in the criminal proceedings and in the trial judgment.

The brief first highlights two issues that have plagued the investigation: pervasive political interference and a biased flawed investigative approach of the Co-Investigating Judges.

Nuon Chea’s lawyers alleged that “the lack of independence and impartiality permeating the investigation were equally apparent before the Trial Chamber.” According to the defence, the Trial Chamber is “deeply biased” against the Accused and incapable of impartially assessing the evidence (appeal grounds 3 & 4).

The defence based this claim on a careful and detailed analysis of the judgment, which reveals, according to the Appeals brief, that a substantial portion of the findings are, or would be reasonably perceived to be attributable to a pre-disposition against the accused, and not genuinely related to the application of law, or to the assessment of the relevant facts. Continue reading