Justice Rapid Response’s 2014 Annual Report

Justice Rapid Response has just released its 2014 Annual Report, capturing its growth and achievements for the past year and plans for 2015.

JRRJustice Rapid Response is a mechanism that manages the rapid deployment of criminal justice and related professionals from a stand-by roster. Created by States from North and South to ensure that the capacity and the mechanisms are in place to conduct credible investigations wherever needed, its objective is to give the international community an effective and efficient tool to deliver on its commitment to ending impunity. To meet this goal, Justice Rapid Response established a diverse, global, expert roster of criminal justice and related professionals. These deployments can be requested by the international community: States and international or regional organizations with appropriate jurisdiction, such as various parts of the United Nations system or the International Criminal Court, to investigate, analyze and report on situations where serious human rights and international criminal violations have been reported.

Event: Women’s Power to Stop War

To celebrate its centennial anniversary, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is organizing a large-scale public conference on “Women’s Power to Stop War”.

WILPF 2015

Date: 27 to 29 April 2015

Venue: World Forum, The Hague, NL

Almost 100 years ago, more than a thousand women from twelve countries assembled in The Hague to protest against World War I and formulate conditions for a lasting peace. From this unique conference, of which Aletta Jacobs was one of the organizers, the WILPF originated.

Again in The Hague, WILPF will festively celebrate its 100th anniversary by the end of April 2015 in the form of an international congress at the Peace Palace (accessible for WILPF sections only) where a bust statue of Aletta Jacobs will be revealed, followed by a public conference.

This conference will cover a wide range of topics such as: Human Rights, Disarmament, Social and Economic Justice and Sustainability. These are dedicated to the promotion of peace and the eradication of violent conflicts. The three-day program consists out of several parts: plenary sessions, 40 workshops and roundtable discussions, international speakers, a market, exhibitions, public actions, a music festival and various creative activities.

Everyone is welcome to contribute a bit to a new peace agenda for the 21st century, tackling the very causes of violent conflicts. To register and for further information, click here.

EU Human Rights Review Panel Annual Report

The European Union Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has just released its fifth Annual Report. As in previous years, the Panel continued throughout the reporting period with its review of complaints of human rights violations by EULEX Kosovo in the conduct of its executive mandate in the justice, police and customs sectors.

Family member from Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, 25 March 2014/ Enisa Kasemi ©EULEX

Family member from Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, 25 March 2014/ Enisa Kasemi ©EULEX

In 2014, the Panel conducted five sessions and reviewed 35 complaints and witnessed a considerable increase in its case-load with the receipt of 42 new complaints. The Report details the findings of these cases and of the recommendations submitted to the Head of Mission of EULEX Kosovo to address violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Panel and its Secretariat also continued with its outreach campaign in order to disseminate information about its mandate, including a TV information campaign. It concentrated its efforts primarily on the Kosovo judiciary, human rights and legal aid NGOs, civil society representatives as well as religious bodies in Kosovo.

EULEX is deployment of EU police and civilian resources to support Kosovo on its path to a greater European integration in the rule of law area. In April 2009, EULEX became fully operational. The EU Joint Action of February 2008 and Council Decision of June 2010 and June 2012 provide the legal basis for the Mission. EULEX works within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. EULEX is supported by all 28 European Union Member States and five contributing States (Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States), and its mandate runs until June 2016.

The Annual Report – 2014 of the EU Human Rights Review Panel is available in the Albanian, Serbian and English languages.

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

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its eleventh newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions over the last two months.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held in November with officials and international organisations.

The HRRP met with Mr Gabriele Meucci, the new Head of Mission of EULEX Kosovo. The Panel briefed Mr Meucci on its mandate, procedures and operations. The meeting was also an occasion to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern.

The HRRP also met with its sister institution, the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The Panels compared mutual professional experiences to date, discussed matters of common concern and future challenges.

The HRAP and the HRRP are the first ever institutionalized entities engaged in the assessment of alleged human rights violations by international organizations in the conduct of their executive powers in peacekeeping missions and rule of law missions respectively.

The HRRP also continued its outreach campaign around Kosovo. It met with Mr Srećko Bogajčević, the Political Advisor and the Chief of Cabinet at the Ministry for Communities and Return. The meeting was an occasion to brief Mr Bogajčević on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as its case load and decisions.

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.

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

After Torture Report, Rights of Victims and Accountability for Perpetrators Must Not Be Denied

By David Tolbert*

Torture ReportWith the publication of the much-delayed US Senate Intelligence Committee’s partial report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, at long last the truth is out. Put simply, the abuses it details are sickening. The report documents a period of lawlessness by the US Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that officials at the highest levels of the US government committed very serious and atrocious crimes, including systematic torture in violation of the UN Convention on Torture (of which the United States is a party) and US law.

The Senate report corroborates the findings of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), in a series of reports dating back to 2008, as well as other rights groups: that the systematic practice of torture against detainees in secret overseas prisons was approved and overseen at the most senior levels of the US government. Moreover, as Senator Dianne Feinstein aptly notes in the report’s foreword, these practices were in direct “violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

While we have known for over a decade about many of the details of illegal US detention and interrogation practices, the “Torture Report” establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the US government engaged in widespread and brutal use of torture and other criminal acts against a long list of individuals without a shred of due process or even the semblance of justice.

The full 6,700-page report has not been released yet, but its lengthy, heavily redacted executive summary nonetheless paints a repulsive picture of criminal and immoral practices far beyond what had been previously made known to the public. It also exposes the facile lie that torture somehow disrupted terror plots or saved American lives. The report, based on over 5 million pieces of evidence sourced from the CIA itself, decisively debunks this claim, and under the weight of direct evidence the CIA’s contorted claims fall like a house of cards. Moreover, it establishes in clear terms that the CIA’s torture program was perpetuated through misinformation to the public, Congress, and even the White House. Continue reading

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Calls for Prosecution of CIA Officials

Court HammerIn a statement made yesterday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, welcomed the publication of the summary of the Feinstein report on crimes of torture and enforced disappearance of terrorist suspects by the CIA during the Bush-era.

“The summary of the Feinstein report […] confirms what the international community has long believed – that there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law”, said the Special Rapporteur.

Ben Emmerson added that it is now time to take action and bring to justice the individuals listed in the report, irrespective of the fact that the policies revealed in the report were authorised at a high level within the US Government.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted that international law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture and therefore that CIA officers who physically committed acts of torture bear individual criminal responsibility for their conduct

“This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes”, he said.

For Ben Emmerson, the heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorisation of these crimes. Moreover, he said, former Bush Administration officials who have admitted their involvement in the programme should also face criminal prosecution for their acts.

The Special Rapporteur concluded that torture being a crime of universal jurisdiction, the perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country they may travel to. However, he added that the primary responsibility for bringing those responsible to justice rests with the US Department of Justice and the Attorney General.

UN Condemns Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

North Korea Human RightsYesterday, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a recent UN Commission of Inquiry report detailing crimes against humanity in North Korea and recommended that the Security Council discuss the report and consider a referral to the International Criminal Court.

The North Korea resolution passed by a vote of 111 to 19, with 55 abstentions. China and Russia voted against the resolution.

While the resolution passed overwhelmingly, North Korea had made recent diplomatic overtures seemingly to try to affect the vote, such as by offering for the first time to engage with the UN human rights rapporteur on North Korea and participating in the Universal Periodic Review process at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Commission of Inquiry report declared that North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.

The report documented massive crimes against humanity in North Korea, including deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, and infanticide, among other crimes – most of them committed in North Korea’s political prison camp systems.

The report concluded that the bulk of the crimes against humanity were committed “pursuant to policies set at the highest levels of the state.”

The commission of inquiry report was based on interviews with dozens of people who had fled and detailed abuses. North Korea has accused people who cooperated with the commission of inquiry of lying.

Rights-Compliant Investment Needed to Keep SEZs Fair for All

by Vani Sathisan*

resident-thanlyin-township

A resident of Thanlyin township sits inside her home after officials posted an eviction notice in February 2013.

The village elder from Mutu, a small village near Dawei, in southern Myanmar, held out the 30 complaint letters residents had sent to Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister U Myat Ko.

The letters sought to highlight alleged human rights violations related to the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and requested that adequate compensation be paid to those affected.

In Mutu and neighbouring villages, farmers and fishermen lamented the displacement of communities, loss of livelihoods and culture, and forced relocations due to the development of the Dawei SEZ and related infrastructure. Some told us they were being charged with trespassing on government land because they had refused to leave their homes after their land had been confiscated.

While the Dawei SEZ has been stalled for some time, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will visit Myanmar – his first official overseas trip – and is expected to hold talks aimed at reviving the project.

But the complaints emanating from Dawei are not isolated incidents. Amid the euphoria of the investment gold rush, Myanmar faces an epidemic of land disputes exacerbated by the development of SEZs. Continue reading

Human Rights Defender Executed in Iraq

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi

Last week, the so called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) has executed lawyer and human rights defender Samira Saleh Al-Naimi.

Reports confirmed that on the evening of 22 September 2014, a group of masked armed men who belong to

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ISIS opened fire and killed her in a public square in the very heart of Mosul, Iraq. She was kidnapped by ISIS from her home last week after she described as “barbaric” the widespread damage that ISIS inflicted on ancient features of her city.

In reaction to this tragic news, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights has condemned in the strongest terms the execution of Samira Saleh Al-Naimi and urged the UN and relevant international institutions to:

1. Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the execution of Samira Saleh Al-Naimi and other crimes committed by ISIS with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in line with local laws and international standards;

2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and journalists in Iraq are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Samira Saleh Al-Naimi was a prominent lawyer and human rights defender and famous for her activities that include defending detainees and supporting the disadvantaged families in the city.

Event: “Conflicts between Human Rights”

The Human Rights Centre of Ghent University is organizing a symposium on “(How) Should the European Court of Human Rights Resolve Conflicts between Human Rights?”

Date: 16 October 2014gent

Venue: Human Rights Center, Ghent University, Convention Center Het Pand (Zaal Rector Vermeylen), Onderbergen 1, Ghent, Belgium.

The Symposium aims to evaluate the legal reasoning of the European Court of Human Rights in conflicting rights cases and to propose novel methodological tools and frameworks for the judicial resolution of conflicts between human rights in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In order to tackle these challenges, a number of renowned scholars have been invited to present their views on how (specific) conflicts between human rights ought to be resolved. First, a small number of scholars will set the stage for the debate by outlining their general approaches, frameworks and tests for the judicial resolution of conflicts between human rights in the ECHR context. Following these general presentations, a larger number of panels will address specific types of conflicts. To ensure productive and spirited debate, the participants in the specific panels have been asked to present their views on how certain pre-selected ECtHR cases should be (or should have been) resolved.

In order to increase the practical relevance of the Symposium and to offer the speakers useful feedback on the practicality of their advocated approaches, a number of (former) ECtHR Judges have been invited to comment on the practicality and feasibility of the proposed approaches.

Download the full programme here.

Registration: If you would like to attend the event, please register before 10 October 2014 by sending an e-mail to the attention of Stijn Smet.