U.S.: Croatian Woman Can Be Extradited on War Crimes Charges

Azra Basic

Azra Basic

U.S. Federal appeals judges have recently upheld a decision allowing the extradition of Azra Basic to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Muslim Croatian woman accused of murder and torture during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

Basic had challenged a ruling by U.S. District Judge that said Basic could be deported to face trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Basic came to the United States as a refugee in 1994. She settled in Kentucky and became a naturalized citizen in 2007.

Basic’s attorney argued that a treaty does not allow extradition of U.S. citizens to Bosnia and that Bosnian authorities did not issue a proper arrest warrant for her.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the treaty in place between the United States and Bosnia does not bar Basic from being extradited.

The Court of Appeals also said that while there was no warrant of arrest against Basic as such, other documents in the file constituted a valid warrant. Continue reading

French Court of Appeal Rules to Extradite Suspected War Criminal

Radomir SusnjarToday, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled to extradite Radomir Susjnar, a suspected Bosnian Serb paramilitary, to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Bosnia-Herzegovina wants Susnjar to face accusations he was part of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary group that massacred 59 Bosnian Muslims in the city of Visegrad in June 1992.

Witnesses say Susnjar personally locked the people – most of them women, children or elderly – inside a house and set it on fire. All but eight of them perished.

He was arrested in the Paris region in April 2014.

The court’s ruling in favour of extradition on international principles was a relief to victims, who had called on the court not to set precedent they feared would allow war criminals to find a safe haven in France. Continue reading

ICTY: Prosecution Will Appeal the Acquittal of Vojislav Šešelj

Seselj

Vojislav Šešelj

Today, the ICTY Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz stated that his Office will appeal the acquittal of Vojislav Šešelj.

The Office of the Prosecutor considers that there has been “a fundamental failure” by the Trial Chamber Majority to perform its judicial function and to properly adjudicate core aspects of the Prosecution’s case by, among other things, failing to consider large parts of the evidentiary record, making unreasonable and conflicting factual findings, or failing to properly apply the elements of modes of liability such as joint criminal enterprise and aiding and abetting in accordance with established case-law.

Moreover, the Prosecution explains that the Trial Chamber Majority unreasonably allowed for the possibility that criminal conduct was simply a lawful contribution to the war effort, despite the overwhelming body of evidence pointing against it. According to the Prosecution, this led the Trial Chamber Majority to unreasonably credit the possibility that: expelling civilians was a humanitarian gesture; that incendiary hate speech was simply morale boosting for the Serb forces; and that the deployment of ethnic cleansing forces was a measure to protect the Serb population.

Vojislav Šešelj, 61, had been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes over ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between August 1991 and September 1993.

The charges involved the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of civilians; torture, sexual assaults, beatings and other physical abuse of detained non-Serbs; the destruction of homes, religious sites, cultural institutions; and hate speech. Continue reading

ICTY: Vojislav Šešelj Acquitted of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

Vojislav SeseljThe International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today acquitted Vojislav Šešelj of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990’s.

Šešelj, 61, had been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes over ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between August 1991 and September 1993.

The charges involved the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of civilians; torture, sexual assaults, beatings and other physical abuse of detained non-Serbs; the destruction of homes, religious sites, cultural institutions; and hate speech.

However, the ICTY said that in the absence of any “crucial legal elements” to establish any form of criminal responsibility it was not possible to convict Šešelj for crimes against humanity.

The Prosecution had moreover not provided sufficient evidence to establish that the alleged war crimes were committed.

The three-judge Chamber found that it could not rule out the reasonable possibility that Šešelj incendiary speeches, calling for killing and revenge against his enemies, were “meant to boost the morale” of his followers, and were not crimes.

Moreover, the Court held that it could not dismiss the defence’s argument that Mr Šešelj’s men might have been present in contested regions, not to force Bosniak Muslims and Croats out of areas claimed for a Greater Serbia, but on “humanitarian grounds”.

Judge Latanzi disagreed with almost all of the Majority’s findings. She noted that the Majority failed to take into consideration the climate of intimidation to which Šešelj subjected the witnesses in the case and that the Majority had not provided sufficient reasoning, or no reasoning at all, in support of its findings. Continue reading

ICC: Bemba Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 ©ICC-CPI

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 ©ICC-CPI

Today, Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) unanimously found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo guilty of all five counts he was accused of: two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). The crimes were committed in the south of Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003 (the 2002-2003 CAR Operation) by a contingent of Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) troops. Mr. Bemba, who was the MLC President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armée de Libération du Congo, was found guilty as a person effectively acting as a military commander with effective authority and control over the forces that committed the crimes.

The Chamber discussed facts that occurred during the armed conflict between the Central African governmental authorities, supported among others by the MLC, and the rebel armed group of the Forces armées centrafricaines, that lasted from 26 October 2002 to 15 March 2003. The Chamber found that the MLC soldiers then directed a widespread attack against the civilian population, and that they committed many acts of pillaging, rape, and murder against civilians, over a large geographical area. The Chamber found that acts of murder, rape, and pillaging were committed consistent with evidence of a modus operandi apparent from the earliest days and employed throughout the 2002-2003 CAR Operation. Continue reading

US Judge Approves Extradition to Spain of Salvadoran War Crimes Suspect

Inocente Orlando Montano MoralesA United States Federal judge approved Spanish extradition requests on Friday ordering the deportation to Spain of Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, a former Salvadoran colonel, where he will stand trial for his role in planning the murders of six Jesuit priests and two women during El Salvador’s civil war in 1989. Most of the priests were originally from Spain.

“In short, the government’s evidence shows (Montano) was a decision-maker and member of a group of officers who collectively ordered the unlawful killings of Jesuit priests,” Federal magistrate judge Kimberly Swank wrote.

The judge also cited evidence that Montano provided information to the killers, including the location of a priest who was considered a primary target, then later threatened a witness’ wife to help conceal the crime. Montano served as the country’s vice-minister of public security and was part of an inner circle of powerful military officers.

The judge ordered that US marshals take custody of Montano so he can be turned over to Spain, pending final approval by the State Department.

The civil war left 75,000 dead and 8,000 more disappeared, the vast majority of whom were victims of the military regime’s “dirty war” against political opponents, leftist activists, and other community organizers, including many religious leaders.

The Jesuits had a long-standing affiliation with liberation theology, and government officials suspected the priests of sympathizing with the insurgency.

To date, the majority of individuals responsible for the widespread human rights abuses committed during the civil war have not been held accountable for their crimes.

ICC Judges Authorize Investigation Into Georgia’s 2008 War

Georgian Troops South Ossetia 2008

Georgian Troops in South Ossetia in 2008

Today, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in and around South Ossetia, Georgia, between 1 July and 10 October 2008.

On 13 October 2015, the ICC Prosecutor submitted her “Request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to article 15” of the Rome Statute, asking for authorization from Pre-Trial Chamber I to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Georgia.

After examining the request and the supporting material, the Chamber concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have been committed in the situation in Georgia.

Such crimes include crimes against humanity, such as murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution, and war crimes, such as attacks against the civilian population, wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against peacekeepers, destruction of property and pillaging allegedly committed in the context of an international armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008.

The Chamber also found that potential cases arising out of the situation would be admissible before the Court and that there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of victims.

In a statement following the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision, the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said that the timing of the Prosecution request for authorization of an investigation into the situation in Georgia was determined by the pace, and eventually, lack of national proceedings. Until recently, the competent national authorities of both Georgia and Russia were engaged in conducting investigations. However, last year, relevant national proceedings in Georgia were indefinitely suspended, which led to the Prosecution’s request for authorization to investigate.

The Office of the Prosecutor continues to monitor relevant proceedings in Russia, which are still on-going.

UK: Inquiries Dropped into Alleged Unlawful Killings by Iraq Veterans

UK Soldiers IraqUK Officials have decided to drop investigations into almost 60 claims of unlawful killings by UK soldiers who served in Iraq.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), set up in 2010 to examine claims of murder, abuse and torture during the Iraq war, has decided not to proceed in 57 cases, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. A further case was stopped by the military’s service prosecuting authority.

Conservative MP Richard Benyon said facing such claims constitute “an intolerable burden for people who have served their country well, knowing they’re innocent.”

However, Lt Col Nicholas Mercer, the army’s former chief legal adviser in Iraq, has criticised the crackdown on legal claims against Iraq veterans. He said the claims were not false and raised issues of “very high importance”, including the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mercer pointed out that the government has paid out £20m for 326 cases. “Anyone who has fought the Ministry of Defence knows they don’t pay out for nothing. So there are 326 substantiated claims at a cost of £20m, and almost no criminal proceedings to accompany it. You have to ask why,” he said.

Victims of US Drone Strike Against The Netherlands

©AFP

©AFP

Two Somali citizens have taken legal action against the Netherlands for war crimes. The two nomads represented by Dutch lawyers Göran Sluiter and Liesbeth Zegveld, claim that they were hit and lost their two young daughters because of an American drone strike in January 2014. The US operation was meant to eliminate Ahmed Godane and resulted in the killing of several Al Shabaab members. At the time, no civilian casualties were reported by any media or Western officials.

The two victims claim that the Netherlands are co-reponsible for the attack since the Dutch intelligence has been providing crucial information on Somali communications to the US. The Intercept has revealed documentation stating that more than half of US interventions in Yemen and Somalia are informed by meta data, which is often provided by foreign partners. The use of these telecommunication data by the US army is the basis of the case brought by the two Dutch lawyers.

Sluiter, one of the lawyer, criticized the so-called precision of targeted done killings: “Drone strikes are only allowed if there are no innocent victims in the area. But obviously the drones are not controlled with due care”, Sluiter said. Controversies have recently became stronger around drone attack.  According to The Intercept, only 35 out of 200 killings by drone from 2012 to 2013 in Afghanistan were intended targets.

Sri Lanka: Judge Says War Crimes Claims Are Credible

Sri Lanka Civil WarA government-appointed Sri Lankan judge, Maxwell Paranagama, says allegations the army committed war crimes during the long conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels are “credible”.

The judge was leading the first government inquiry into the atrocities, one month after the UN released its own findings.

The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, has already vowed to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate further.

In his report, the judge said there were “credible allegations which […] may show that some members of the armed forces committed acts during the final phase of the war that amounted to war crimes giving rise to individual criminal responsibility”.

He called on the government to set up an internationally-backed judicial inquiry, which was also recommended in the UN report in September.

The UN report found that the sheer number of allegations, their gravity, recurrence and the similarities in their modus operandi, as well as the consistent pattern of conduct they indicated, all pointed towards system crimes. It emphasised that violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes were allegedly committed by all parties to the conflict.

Among the crimes that were identified were unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests of civilians by Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary groups as well as brutal use of torture, particularly in the aftermath of the armed conflict when former. The report also says that there are reasonable grounds to believe that rape and other forms of sexual violence by security forces personnel was widespread against both male and female detainees.

The Sri Lankan war started in 1983 when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE) started an insurgency against the Sri Lankan government in order to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. In 2009, the Sri Lankan military defeated the LTTE, bringing the 26-year civil war to an end. The UN estimates that 40,000 Tamils died in the final army offensive.