Event: Trials in Absentia in International Criminal Justice

IBADate: 8 June 2016 from 14:00-17:30

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, The Hague, Netherlands

This event is organized by the International Bar Association.

The Keynote presentation will be delivered by the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Judge Ivana Hrdlicková. 

Following the Keynote presentation, two panels of experts will discuss issues related to the theory and practice of trials in absentia: ‘Trials in absentia: human rights law & the judicial process’ (moderated by Dr Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director) and ‘Effective representation & ethics in trials in absentia‘ (moderated by Ms Anne-Marie Verwiel, expert in international criminal practice).

 Topics to be addressed include

  • Issues related to the fairness of proceedings, including notice to the accused, the right to re-trial, and effective assistance of Counsel
  • The tensions between the promotion of the rule of law, fair trial rights and efficiency of proceedings
  • The future of trials in absentia in international criminal law

The panelists include Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former President of the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr François Falletti, the former Chief Prosecutor of the Paris Court of Appeals, Dr Guido Acquaviva, the Deputy Registrar of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Ms Héleyn Uñac, Deputy Head of the Defence Office of the STL, as well as other international experts and practitioners with experience in in absentia trials, including at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal.

Participation is free of charge. However, prior registration is required to attend the event.

You can register by sending the name and email of all attendees to Hague.Events@int-bar.org before 25 May 2016.

For the full programme of the event, click here.

Amnesty International: Israel Must Cease Intimidation of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders

Palestine IsraelAmnesty International issued a report this week calling on the Israeli authorities to end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs) and halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

According to the report, Israel is routinely violating Palestinians’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association in the OPT and are targeting HRDs, including by arbitrary arrest and detention, imprisonment, injury and torture. Israel authorities also are failing to protect HRDs from attacks by Israeli settlers and other extreme right wing activists, and in some cases they have been complicit in such attacks.

The report of Amnesty International lists a number of specific situations where human rights defenders have been intimidated, threatened by death, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.

In February and March 2016, a staff member and the director of Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights NGO, were subjected to a number of death threats. According to the report, these threats are directly connected to the organisation’s work with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Israeli ministers allegedly made calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, against Omar Barghouti, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist, at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016. Continue reading

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

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

Annual Report of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has published its Annual Report for the period from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015.

The Report contains information on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as a detailed account of its activities over the last year. It also reports on the complaints the Panel dealt with in 2015 and the case-law it developed reviewing those cases.

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.

Dealing with the Past Course

Dealing with the pastThe Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is organizing an Advanced Learning Course for Professionals in cooperation with the Swiss Peace Foundation. The Course is called “Dealing with the Past” (DwP).

The DwP Course addresses a range of topics which are central to the implementation of relevant mechanisms for dealing with prior and on-going grave human rights violations. Special attention is paid to case studies, to a gender based approach, to the need to integrate DwP in the negotiation of peace agreements, as well as in the post conflict efforts.

The Course is designed to train professionals from governmental and multilateral institutions as well as from national and international non-governmental organizations, working in countries or regions which are confronted with a legacy of massive human rights abuse.

The DwP Course 2016 will take place from 5 – 13 July 2016 in Switzerland.

For further information on the course, click here.

Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its Thirteenth newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions between June and December 2015.

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

The Panel met with the new EULEX Chief of Staff. Meetings with EULEX representatives are essential for the cooperation between the Panel and EULEX as 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.

The Panel also met with representatives of various bodies, including the new Ombudsperson of Kosovo, as well as local authorities or representatives of the Serbian Government.

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

Training on Understanding Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Date: 28 September – 2 October 2015

Location: Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights,
Villa Moynier – Rue de Lausanne 120B – CP 67 – 1211 Geneva 21 – Switzerland

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The Geneva Academy organizes a training on “Understanding Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”. The courses are taught by academics including, Dr. Christophe Golay and Dr. Joanna Bourke-Martignoni, as well as senior professionals from international organizations and non-profit and are designed for civil society, staff of NGOs and national human rights institutions, representatives of government, staff from UN and other international organizations, as well as academic researchers. Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s Army Displaces and Expropriates Tamil People

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Sinhalese army and Tamil people

A new report claims that post-conflict harmony in Sri Lanka is undermined by military occupation in north and east, combined with land grabs that have marginalised Tamil people.

The report, published by the US based thinktank the Oakland Institute and entitled “The Long Shadow of War: The Struggle for Justice in Postwar Sri Lanka”, finds little meaningful evidence of reconciliation after the 26-year-long conflict between the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists finally ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamils.

It says hopes of peaceful coexistence are being thwarted by the enduring displacement of Tamils, the appropriation of their land by the military, the new government’s refusal to take the country off its war footing, and the delay in investigating allegations of war crimes committed by both state forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The report also describes the Sinhalese army’s ongoing occupation of what the government terms “high security zones” in the north and east of the country. The report estimates that in 2014, there were at least 160,000 almost entirely Sinhalese soldiers stationed in the north, which means that there is one soldier for every six civilians, as the area’s population stands at a little more than 1 million people.

The report argues that the military occupation has long ceased to be about ensuring security.

“The army has expanded non-military activities and is engaged in large-scale property development, construction projects, and business ventures such as travel agencies, farming, holiday resorts, restaurants, and innumerable cafes that dot the highways in the northern and eastern provinces,” it says. “The army officially runs luxury resorts and golf courses that have been erected on land seized from now–internally displaced peoples.” Continue reading

Letpadaung Convictions Taint the Legal System in Myanmar

by Vani Sathisan, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) International Legal Adviser, and Hayman Oo, ICJ Legal researcher, in Yangon

Letpadaung Copper Mine

Letpadaung Copper Mine, Myanmar

“They can imprison my body, but never my mind,” U Nay Myo Zin told us when we asked him whether he expected to be released, right before police led him into the Dagon Township courtroom for the verdict last week. The Court was teeming with police guards and supporters of the accused chanted slogans at the police, “not to kowtow to the military government” and that “the legal system lacks principle.” U Nay Myo Zin then added, “I will never surrender.”

He was one of the six human rights activists, besides Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Daw Sein Htwe, Ko Tin Htut Paing, Daw San San Win and U Than Swe, who were sentenced to four years and four months in prison with hard labour.

Their conviction, after a trial that didn’t meet basic standards of fairness and due process, highlights the tremendous pressure on the country’s judiciary at a time when Myanmar desperately needs to show improvements in the rule of law. Continue reading