by Youk Chhang*
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
We have come a long way in forging a number of valuable instruments and policies to meet the challenge of responding to and punishing violence and mass atrocity. Recognising that the root causes of mass atrocities often stem from the inequalities between identity groups, we have put emphasis on the legal and governmental aspects of violence prevention. In terms of punishment as well, a variety of courts have been created to shed light on the atrocious acts of criminal regimes, and punish leaders who were most responsible.
The proceedings now under way at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, represent one example of how Cambodia has sought to address the horrible crimes perpetrated from 1975-79. The court’s work can be broken down into four cases. Case 001, which was completed in 2012, centred upon the prosecution of the notorious chief of a prison/security centre (S-21), who was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The trial court also recently issued its judgment for the accused senior leaders in the first set of charges in Case 002. Case 002, which has been broken up into separate trials reflecting different charges against the accused, holds importance in Cambodia’s struggle to understand what happened and why during the horrific Democratic Kampuchea (DK) period. Finally, cases 003 and 004 continue to be investigated. Continue reading
The 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
Yesterday, 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.
The UN Office for the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect recently released a new Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. The document provides indicators to identify and assess a range of both common and specific factors that increase the risk or susceptibility of atrocity crimes, which encompass genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. The guide is meant to improve the capacities of international, regional and local actors in understanding the root causes and precursors of these crimes in order to identify measures that can be taken by States and the international community to prevent these crimes. The Office also provides training programmes for UN staff, government officials and civil society in order to assist in developing capacity to analyze and manage information on genocide. war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Date: 19-20 November 2014
Venue: Law School of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The LEAP conference will be a unique platform for expert presentations, targeting leadership in governmental and key stakeholder sectors.
It will provide platforms for expert and delegate led break out sessions on pivotal areas of interest to the continent.
The overarching discussion at the conference will focus on the effective Rule of Law in Africa in general and in relation to the following areas:
- The extractive industries boom on the newly emergent African continent - resource curse of blessing?
- Land Rights in the age of the African energy and agricultural surge
- Bribery and corruption - an enemy to integrity, country profile and long term economic growth?
iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC will be one of the speakers.
For the conference booklet, click here.
If you wish to register, click here.
Legal Expertise Access Platform (LEAP) is a Not For Profit international initiative, based in Africa, that aims to transform the continent’s access to and hosting of cutting edge socio/legal thinking and practice. LEAP endeavours to become the foremost provider of innovative and multipurpose platforms to increase access to and implementation of top-level legal excellence across the continent in support of the rule of law.
By Dr Mia Zgonec-Roej*
The decision to not investigate alleged war crimes during the raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010 comes as no surprise, but it highlights the uncertain legal situation surrounding the Rome Statutes applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
Passengers look down from the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara as the Israeli navy intercepts boats bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 ©Getty Images
On 5 November, the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers during their raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010. Despite acknowledging a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, the prosecutor concluded that the potential case was not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC. The decision comes as no surprise.
Due to its limited resources, the ICC was never intended to deal with all crimes falling within its jurisdiction. The assessment as to which case meets the threshold of sufficient gravity is based on the scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes and their impact. Given that the court lacks jurisdiction to investigate any other alleged crimes committed in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict or in the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prosecutor concluded that the requisite threshold was not met because the potential case(s) would be limited to an event encompassing a small number of victims of the alleged war crimes. Continue reading
By Max du Plessis*
On 30 October 2014, the Constitutional Court of South Africa handed down its judgment in a landmark case for international criminal justice.
The appeal related to the responsibilities of the South African Police Service (SAPS) under domestic and international law to investigate acts of torture, as a crime against humanity, that were allegedly committed in Zimbabwe.
The decision, by South Africa’s highest court, reaffirms the obligations set out in the South African Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (ICC Act) regarding investigation and prosecution of international crimes.
In March 2008, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) submitted a dossier to the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) detailing allegations of torture in Zimbabwe. The NPA took no action, indicating that they could only do so if the police investigated the allegations and laid charges. Continue reading
The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in a eight-vessel humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has decided to close her preliminary inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists, according to a statement today.
The case was referred to her office on 14 May 2013 by the Union of the Comoros, which is an ICC State Party. One of the ships in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was registered in the Comoros.
On the same day, the Prosecutor announced that her Office had opened a preliminary examination of the referred situation.
“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (…) were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” on 31 May 2010,” said the Prosecutor.
However, “after carefully assessing all relevant considerations”, she concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of “sufficient gravity” to justify further action by the ICC. Continue reading
Godin Associés law firm will be organizing a seminar on “Customs Investigations Law” on 18 December 2014 at La Maison du Barreau in Paris.
OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office
Date: 18 December 2014, 9am to 1pm
Venue: Maison du Barreau, Hôtel de Harlay, 2 rue de Harlay – Paris
Speakers: Thierry Fossier, Judge at the Cour de Cassation, will be moderating the debate.
Jean-Luc Albert, Professor of Public Law at the University of Auvergne, and author of Customs Service and Customs Law [PUF, coll. Questions judiciaires 2013], will be discussing whether Customs Law has shifted towards becoming more safety-oriented. Continue reading
A general view shows the destruction in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day on August 6, 2014. Photo credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images
Human Rights Watch (HRW) today released a new report on the attacks perpetrated against houses full of civilians during Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, attacks which have allegedly amounted to war crimes. Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes was elaborated following investigations on eight cases of residential family homes that were attacked without prior warning during Israeli latest operation in Gaza. These attacks cause the deaths of more than 100 civilians, of which 62 were children. In total, it is estimated that at least 18,000 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable and that more that 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including 519 children, were killed during Operation Protective Edge. The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families.
While the report ackowledges that possible military targets were identified in some of the bombed areas, it argues that the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks. Attacks where no military targets could have been clearly identified constitute a war crime. When evidence of possible military targets can be proven, under international law, the report states that they should have been cancelled or postponed as soon as it was evident that so many civilians were present in the house. Continue reading