Sri Lanka – Expert Panel Nominated To Monitor Transitional Justice

UN Sri LankaThe Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (“TGTE”) has nominated a panel of five legal experts to monitor the design and implementation of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sri Lanka, including the judicial measures to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (“Monitoring Accountability Panel” or “MAP”).

Following the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka, dated 16 September 2015, and the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,’ dated 1 October 2015, the Sri Lankan Government undertook to establish accountability mechanisms to address the crimes committed during the Sri Lankan armed conflict. These will include a special criminal court with foreign judges and prosecutors.

The MAP will provide independent monitoring, advice, and recommendations, focusing on the effectiveness of accountability measures from a victims’ perspective. It will also consider issues of fair trial and due process for suspects and accused persons. The views and recommendations of the Panel will enable victims and other stakeholders to participate more effectively in the process and thus enhance the legitimacy of the measures.

The MAP shall formulate its opinions independently – irrespective of party political considerations or the agenda of any specific group (including the TGTE) – according to the interests of fair justice, applying international standards and best practices. The initial mandate of the Panel shall run from November 2015 to December 2016.

The Members of the Monitoring Accountability Panel have been selected for their legal expertise in international criminal law and human rights, national war crimes courts, and regional criminal cases. The Panel Members (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Marie Guiraud (France)
  • Peter Haynes QC (UK)
  • Richard J Rogers (UK)
  • Heather Ryan (USA)
  • Justice Ajit Prakash Shah (India)
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC will act as a consultant to the Panel, providing additional independent advice.

For All Kenyans to Be Equal, Kenyatta Must Move Beyond Words on Justice

by David Tolbert*

President Kenyatta (c) AP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (c) AP

President Obama’s historic visit to Kenya came at an important crossroads for the country. While much of the attention of the press was directed at Obama’s Kenyan roots, for many, Obama’s emphasis on justice for all Kenyans is what will be remembered. This is particularly true given that Obama’s visit came four months after President Kenyatta’s official apology to, and announcement of reparations for, the many victims of the 2008 post-election violence, as recommended by Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

The issue of justice, as well as endemic corruption and the stalled reform process in Kenya, will remain long after the cheers for the U.S. President have faded. President Kenyatta has, however, an opportunity in the wake of Obama’s historic visit to go beyond rhetoric and both deliver on his apology and the issues Obama has raised. Kenyatta and the Kenyan authorities should not miss this opportunity.

Kenyatta’s promising announcements require concrete steps and actions without further delay. His four-month old decision to establish a fund to provide relief to victims was followed and confirmed by the inclusion of the first tranche of resources-one billion shillings (almost $10 million U.S. dollars) in the new annual budget. Now is the time to design a comprehensive and gender-sensitive reparations program that starts with the most vulnerable victims. Opening space for the participation of victims and listening to their needs and demands must be the first step. Concurrently, an efficient and transparent administrative system and infrastructure for the program must be created. Continue reading

Hissene Habre’s Trial Suspended Until September

BEL<HISSEIN HABRE EN CONFERENCE DE PRESS  E A LA CEEToday, the trial of Chad’s former ruler Hissene Habre was suspended until September after the court named new lawyers because his defense team shunned the session.

The session was suspended after a few minutes when his lawyers did not show and the presiding judge appointed three lawyers to represent him. The new lawyers were given 45 days to prepare and the trial is due to resume on September 7.

The first day of the trial had been suspended after Habre started shouting slogans against the court and had to be forcibly removed.

Habre, who has refused to recognize the Extraordinary African Chambers trying him in Senegal, had to be forced to appear at the second day of the trial.

William Bourdon, a lawyer for the victims, said Habre’s refusal to cooperate with the court meant he had effectively taken the proceeding hostages. “He is spitting on the Extraordinary African Chambers,” Bourdon said.

Habre, who faces charges of war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, could face a maximum of life in prison.

The Extraordinary African Chambers, an internationally backed court, was set up by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute “the person or persons most responsible” for international crimes committed in Chad during Habré’s eight-year rule.

After a 19-month investigation, a four-judge panel revealed that there was sufficient evidence that serious breaches of international law were committed during Habré’s presidency, which lasted from 1982 to 1990.

According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000. The government periodically targeted various ethnic groups such as the Hadjerai and the Zaghawa, killing and arresting group members en masse when it was perceived that their leaders posed a threat to Habré’s rule.

Dutch State Agrees Compensation Deal with five Srebrenica Relatives

Srebrenica MassacreThe Dutch state has reached a compensation agreement with the relatives of three men who were sent out of the Dutch army compound in Srebrenica and killed by Bosnian Serbs.

The five relatives will receive payouts of several tens of thousands of euros, broadcaster Nos says. In addition, defence minister Jeanine Hennis has formally apologised for the way the men were sent to their deaths.

The agreement ends a legal dispute which began in 2002. The Dutch supreme court said in 2013 the Dutch state can be held responsible for the death of the three Muslim men in the siege of Srebrenica during the Yugoslavia war in 1995.

Interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, who lost his father and brother, and relatives of electrician Rizo Mustafic said Dutch soldiers serving under the UN flag in the Muslim enclave did not do all they could to protect their relatives from the Bosnian Serb army.

Over 8,000 men and boys were murdered and buried in mass graves when the enclave was overrun and the massacre remains the subject of other legal action. The Netherlands had earlier offered each relative €20,000 but this was rejected as insufficient. Their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the sum which has been agreed is ‘decent’ and that the relatives now hope to find peace.

SCL Lecture: “Improving Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC”

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  • Date: 10 June 2015
  • Time: 19:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Institute
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Institute, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22 , The Hague , Netherlands

Opening remarks and moderation: Gaelle Carayon, REDRESS

Panel discussions:

–          Facilitating the choice of counsel and representation, views from civil society, Jean Philippe Kot, Avocats sans Frontieresµ

–          The challenges of providing effective representation, views from a victims’ legal representative, Fidel Nsita, LRV

–          Ongoing and prospective avenues for an improved representation, views from the Registry, Fiona McKay, Head Victims Participation and Reparation Section

SCL Lectures are public and free of charge. Registration is not necessary, seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Fate of 1,655 people in Kosovo Still Unresolved

Kosovo victimsThe fate of 1,655 people gone missing in Kosovo during the clashes in 1998 and 1999 remains unresolved, the Working Group in charge of missing persons stated at its 38th meeting on Tuesday.

In the course of ten years of its existence, the Working Group in charge of cases of persons gone missing in Kosovo managed to reduce the number of unsolved cases from 3,200 to 1,655, Chair of the Working Group Lina Milner said.

She noted that the key condition for progress in solving the fate of the missing is embodied in a continuous and constructive dialogue based on humanitarian grounds, without political rhetoric from Belgrade and Pristina.

Milner noted that 68 cases of missing persons have been solved this year and added that considerable progress has been made, especially in terms of exhumation of the grave site at Rudnica near Raska (southern part of central Serbia), as well as victim identification and delivery of the remains to the families. Continue reading

Post-Conflict Justice and Victims’ Frustration


The fate of about 1,400 Nepalese people who went missing in the war is still not known ©BBC

On 11 July 2014, Alan Doss* and David Tolbert* published a joint commentary drifting on their experience as to why efforts at post-conflict justice are so often a source of frustration for victims. The starting point of their concerns was the recent re-election of Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos and the hopes it brought along. The commentary builds on the failures of post-conflict justices where the mechanisms have proven inadequate and where frustrations prevent social reconciliation, giving examples of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Bosian and Herzegovina, the Nepalese truth commission and Northern Ireland’s Good Friday

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Doss and Tolbert also highlight that truth commissions were often established for the wrong reasons and were not considered as they should : they are not a way to avoid justice but to reinforce comprehensive rights-based policies and access to justice. A recent symposium, organized by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Center for Transitional Justice, concluded, truth commissions contribute most to peace by reasserting the rule of law, recognizing victims, and supporting institutional reform. But, in order to succeed, these commissions must be effective, independent, legitimate and adapted to a country’s particular circumstances.

The commentary was published on Project Syndicate.

*Alan Doss is Senior Political Adviser at the Kofi Annan Foundation and a former under-secretary-general at the United Nations.
*David Tolbert is President at the International Center for Transitional Justice and a former assistant secretary-general at the United Nations.