A Wrong Turn for Human Rights

by David Tolbert*

A Palestinian woman reacts upon seeing her destroyed house in Beit Hanoun town

Gaza, August 2014

The world has plunged into a period of brutality, with impunity for the perpetrators of violence. Syria is suffering untold civilian casualties as a divided United Nations Security Council sits on the sidelines. Gaza was pummeled to dust yet again with the world watching on. Iraq is in flames, with no end in sight. Atrocities are mounting in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, which are also being swept by an epidemic of sexual violence. Even Europe is not immune: a civilian aircraft was shot down over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, and officials were prevented from investigating.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than a decade after the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), shockingly little is being done to stop these abuses, and the prospects of the victims ever getting justice, let alone bringing the perpetrators to account, seem ever more remote.

For many years, the world seemed to be progressing toward greater recognition of human rights and demands for justice. As democracies emerged in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, these issues assumed increasing importance. Although wars, conflicts, and atrocities continued, the global powers tried, and occasionally managed – albeit chaotically and usually late – to stop the killing. Continue reading

STL Does Not Have Jurisdiction for Contempt Cases Against Legal Persons

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Last week, the Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri issued a Decision on a Motion Challenging the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s jurisdiction. The motion was submitted by the Defence for NEW TV S.A.L and Karma Hohamed Tahsin Al Khayat and questioned whether the Tribunal could hear cases of contempt and obstructions against the proper administration of justice by legal persons (i.e. corporate entities).

The Contempt Judge ruled that although the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) does not have jurisdiction to hear cases dealing with obstructions of justice against legal persons, it does retain jurisdiction to hear cases dealing with offences against the administration of justice against natural persons. This was held to be consistent not only with international case law, but also with Rule 60bis of the STL’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

Last year, information relating to confidential witnesses has been broadcasted in certain medias.

Following these events, the Registrar of the Tribunal appointed an amicus curiae. Based on reports by the amicus, the Contempt Judge concluded that there was prima facie evidence that justified proceedings for contempt.

Two journalists and two media organisations have been subsequently charged with contempt before the Tribunal.

Shireen Avis Fisher To Receive Global Jurist of the Year Award

Justice FisherNorthwestern University School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) will award its second annual Global Jurist of the Year Award to Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The awards ceremony and an address by Justice Fisher will take place on Monday, Oct. 20. She will deliver an address to the student body at noon in the Rubloff Building, 375 E. Chicago Ave., on the Law School’s Chicago campus. The event will be open to the media.

Justice Fisher was sworn in as a Justice of the Special Court for Sierra Leone on May 4, 2009. She played a key role in the Appeals Chamber judgment delivered in 2013 regarding the conviction and 50-year sentence of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Continue reading

Challenging the Conventional: Can Truth Commissions Effectively Contribute to Peace?

Geneva AcademyDate: 19 June 2014, 12:30

Venue: The Graduate Institute, Auditorium Ivan Pictet, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, Switzerland.

Truth commissions created after armed conflicts have tended towards uniformity in their mandates even though awareness of the complex challenges facing such commissions has become increasingly evident. Despite increased awareness of these issues, several truth-seeking processes have gone through near-paralyzing crises.

In the light of experience and practice, this conference re-examines assumptions about how truth commissions are established and what makes them operate effectively.

Moderator:

> Päivi Kairamo, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, Geneva

Speakers:

> Ruth McCoy, Executive Director, Kofi Annan Foundation

> David Tolbert, President, International Center for Transitional Justice

Discussant:

> Frank Halderman, Professor of Law, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

If you wish to register, click here.

Lecture: “The ICC in the Chinese Context: Perceptions and Prospects“

Asser InstituteDate: 18 June 2014, 7 p.m.

Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut, R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22, The Hague, The Netherlands

Speaker: Michael Y. Liu, Secretary-General of the Chinese Initiative on International Criminal Justice

Michael Liu is a Civil Party Lawyer in the ECCC and teaches international law at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Cambodia. After working with the ICRC, ICC and ECCC, he created the Chinese Initiative on International Criminal Justice, an independent NGO mandated to promote a better understanding of international law, in particular international criminal law and its judicial process, in the Greater China Region. In this lecture, Mr. Liu will share perceptions of the ICC and international law in China and examine future prospects.

This lecture is public and free of charge. Registration is not necessary, but as space is limited, seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Conference: Proof In International Criminal Trials

Court HammerFrom 27-28 June 2014, Bangor Law School and the Bangor Centre for International Law will host a conference on Proof in International Criminal Trials.

There is now an impressive body of literature on the precise scope, context and application of rules of evidence in international criminal trials. However, issues surrounding proof and reasoning on evidence in international criminal law have remained relatively under-examined to date.

By bringing together judges, practitioners and leading scholars on evidence, international criminal procedure and analytical methods, this conference will comprehensively address issues related to proof in international criminal proceedings.

These issues include, inter alia, the means by which inferences are drawn, how reasoning on findings of fact is articulated in judgments, and how witness credibility is assessed. Participants will analyse some of the challenges of fact-finding in the complex context of international criminal trials, which often involve large masses of evidence and hundreds of witnesses.

In order to register, please click here.

New PhD Thesis – International Criminal Trials: A Normative Theory

Sergey Vasiliev PhdOn Friday 25 April 2014, Sergey Vasiliev was granted his PhD by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) cum laude. Dr Vasiliev’s doctorate is devoted to the trial in international criminal proceedings. It is now available in a book of extraordinary depth and quality, which is highly recommended.

Among the numerous works on international criminal procedure, there has been no study focusing on the international criminal trial as a socio-legal phenomenon and a phase of international criminal proceedings. The book seeks to cover this gap by systematically examining the nature and organization of trials conducted by the historical and contemporary international and hybrid criminal tribunals from the Nuremberg Tribunal to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The study posits international criminal trials as a distinct object of theoretical and legal inquiry. It combines the methodological, conceptual, comparative, and critical approaches to the subject-matter for the purpose of developing the normative theory of international criminal trials.

Event: International Weapons Law Course

Geneva AcademyDate: 4-29 August 2014

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

Aim and Objectives of the Training:

The aim of the course is to instil participants with a detailed understanding of international weapons law: police use of force, use of weapons as a means or method of warfare, disarmament, and small arms control.

Objectives:

  • Acquire detailed knowledge and understanding of international legal regimes governing weapons.
  • Be able to apply the law to use of force by police, military, private security companies, and armed non-state actors.
  • Understand the characteristics and effects of different weapons from a handgun up to a nuclear weapon.

Lecturers:

The training course is taught by members of academia and senior professionals from international organisations and NGOs. In addition to staff from the Geneva Academy, former police officers, and experts on robotics, biological and chemical weapons, and others will provide the tuition.

If you wish to apply, click here.