International Criminal Court (ICC)
CONGO, DR: A report confirms alleged sexual abuses in DRC by former ICC staff
An independent external report concludes that a former ICC staff member working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) would bear criminal responsibility for the sexual assault of four individuals under the ICC’s protection programme, and that other staff members have likely engaged in “inappropriate conduct”. Disciplinary measures, including dismissal, have already been taken in respect of certain staff involved. (ICC, 20/12/13)
KENYA: Indefinite postponement of the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has asked judges to postpone indefinitely the trial for crimes against humanity of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, scheduled for February 5. In her statement Bensouda argued that the decision came after one of the prosecution witnesses indicated two months ago that he was no longer willing to testify and a second key witness confessed at the beginning of the December to giving false evidence. Bensouda said she needs time to gather additional evidence and decide if she has enough to go to trial. Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity in connection with post-election violence in 2007-2008. (Hirondelle News, 20/12/13; ICC, 19/12/2013)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
BANGLADESH: Leader of Jamaat-e-Islami hanged
Bangladesh has hanged for war crimes the Assistant Secretary General of the opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Abdul Quader Mollah, convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) of rape, murder and mass murder, including the killing of more than 350 unarmed civilians. Mollah is the first person to be executed for the violence committed during the country's war of Independence in 1971. Clashes between opposition activists and police have occurred in many regions of the country, with more than 230 deaths since January 2013. Critics of the tribunal denounce it has been used by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to weaken the opposition for the upcoming elections on January 5. Supporters of the Tribunal, that had asked for Mollah’s life sentence to be changed to a death sentence, celebrated that the victims of the 1971 violence had received justice. The UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Christof Heyns, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, had asked the government of Bangladesh to halt Mollah’s execution. By the end of the month, Abdus Subhan, another leader of JI, had been charged with war crimes by the ICTB. (Jurist, 09/12/13; Al-Jazeera, 10, 12, and 13/12/13; BBC, 31/12/13)
LEBANON: Decision to judge Habib Merhi in absentia
The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has decided to try Hassan Habib Merhi in absentia accused of complicity in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The decision was made after receiving reports from the Lebanese authorities detailing their efforts to apprehend and to inform Merhi of the charges against him, as well as considering procedures made by the STL to publicise the indictment and the broad coverage the Lebanese media had provided. The STL is the only international tribunal that allows for trial in absentia, which is permissible under Lebanese law. To secure his defence the Head of the Defence Office has appointed Mohamed Aouini to defend the rights and interests of Mr. Merhi and to set up his defence team. (STL, 20, 23/12/13)
RWANDA: The Tribunal for Rwanda increases sentence of a convicted for genocide
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has sentenced Grégoire Ndahimana, the former mayor of Kivumu during the 1994 genocide, to 25 years in jail. A lower court had sentenced Ndahimana to 15 years for failing to punish communal Police who took part in an attack on a Church where Tutsis had taken shelter in April 1994, and for his tacit approval when a church was razed using a bulldozer, burying alive some 2,000 Tutsis. Ndahimana had appealed the sentence to the ICTR Appeals Court, which has now not only confirmed his conviction for genocide and extermination, but has also elevated Ndahimana’s criminal responsibility from that of an aider and abettor to that of a participant in a joint criminal enterprise. (New Times, 17/12/13; Hirondelle News, 20/12/13)
SIERRA LEONE: The Special Court closes down after accomplishing its mission
The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), created by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN in 2002 to bring to trial those leaders most responsible for violations of international law committed during the country's civil war since 1996, concluded its work in December 2013. During its 11 years of activity it has indicted 13 people. The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone will substitute the SCSL and will review applications by convicts for early release of SCSL prisoners or the judicial review of their convictions, among other tasks. Sixteen international judges were sworn in to sit on the Residual Court and have elected Justice Philip Nyamu Waki from Kenya as President. (SCSL Press releases 02, 05/12/13; Jurist, 05/12/13)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA: Bosnia court rejects request to re-arrest of war crimes convicted
One month after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled that Bosnian judges violated the rights of nine individuals convicted of war crimes by imposing a harsher criminal code than the one in place at the time the offenses had occurred, Bosnian prosecutors demanded their re-arrest. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has however rejected the request arguing that Bosnian law does not contain provisions to re-arrest someone already convicted of a crime. Six of the nine men were convicted of genocide in relation to the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre, where over 1,000 Muslims died during the 1992-95 Bosnian Civil War, but were released in November due to procedural errors. (Jurist, 05/12/13)
CHILE: Eight members of the Caravan of Death sentenced to three to fifteen years
A Chilean judge found eight former military members of the “Caravan of death” guilty of murder for their roles in killings in the city of Antofagasta. The accused have been handed down sentences that range from three to 15 years in prison, although they may still be appealed. Sergio Arredondo González, Marcelo Moren Brito, Juan Chiminelli Fullerton y Patricio Ferrer Ducaud have been sentenced to 15 years, Pablo Martínez Latorre to five 5 years, and Pedro Espinoza Bravo, Luis Felipe Planco Gallardo and Emilio de la Mahotiere González to 3 years. The Caravan of Death operations, aimed at suppressing political opponents, executed nearly 100 people in at least 16 towns between September and October 1973 after the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. (La Nación, 23/12/13; Jurist, 24/12/13)
SERBIA: Serbia Office of the Prosecutor of War Crimes has sentenced more than 100 people in ten years
Serbia’s Office of the Prosecutor for War Crimes celebrated its 10th anniversary highlighting that during this period it has issued 106 sentences for such crimes, amounting to 1,200 years in prison. It opened cases against 407 people and raised indictments against 161 who killed more than 3,000 people. According to the Center for Research on War, War Crimes and Missing Persons, courts in Bosnia Herzegovina are also prosecuting more Serbs (79 prosecuted, amounting 1.258 years of prison), than Croats (13 sentenced, amounting 158 years of prison) or Bosniaks (15 cases, amounting 153 years of prison), which does not give an accurate picture of responsibilities in relation to war crimes or ease reconciliation. (InSerbia, 06/12/13, 11/12/13)
    Truth commissions
BRAZIL: Truth Commission concludes former president Kubitschek was murdered
The Sao Paulo truth commission has concluded that Juscelino Kubitschek, president of Brazil from 1956 to 1961, was murdered by the military regime. Kubitschek died in 1976 following a car accident on a motorway between Rio and Sao Paulo. The municipal commission, which investigates the crimes committed by the military regime between 1964 and 1985, has reached this conclusion after analysing more than 90 pieces of evidence. A National Truth Commission, which reports to the Brazilian Congress, is also investigating the death of Kubitschek and a number of other human rights abuses that allegedly took place during Brazil's military rule. (Agência Brasil 09/12/13; BBC, 10/12/13)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Victims of state ask for accountability
The Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) has presented a report compiling incidents that amount to over 200,000 victims of multiple human rights violations, including 70,000 forced disappearances and 4.000 cases of “false positives” (civilians killed as if they were guerrilla combatants). The report, that aims to have an influence on peace negotiations in La Habana, states that war crimes and crimes against humanity must not be subject to amnesty, in compliance with international agreements. It also calls for the creation of a Truth Commission, and demands that civil servants involved in human rights violations be removed from office. (Tercera Información, 02/12/13)
CONGO, DR: Deal between the Congolese government and the M23 excludes blanket amnesty
A peace deal in two separate documents has been signed in Kenya by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the M23 rebel movement. One was signed by the M23 which confirms its dissolution as an armed group and the other was signed by the Government with a commitment to promote the demobilization and reintegration of the M23. Government spokesman Lambert Mende said that no blanket amnesty was included in the agreement. The M23 took up arms in eastern DR Congo in April 2012 and accused the government of marginalising the ethnic Tutsi minority. The group was defeated in November 2013 following an offensive by government and UN forces. At least 800,000 people fled their homes during the conflict. (BBC, All Africa 12/12/13)
MYANMAR: Amnesty to most political prisoners
The Myanmar Government has issued an amnesty to free all dissidents by the end of 2013 as part of other reforms implemented since outright military rule ended in 2011. Although Presidential spokesman Ye Htut announced that there are no more political prisoners, human rights organisations maintain that that is not the case. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) stated that the amnesty fails to take into account that people detained for political reasons but charged with non-political offences are still in prison. While welcoming the release of prisoners of conscience, the AHRC asks for longer term rule-of-law solutions to arbitrary detention, in particular, through urgently needed reform of courts. (Agence France-Presse, Asian Human Rights Commission, 31/12/13)
NORTHERN IRELAND: Debates to regulate unsolved aspects of the conflict
Appointed by Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, US diplomat Richard Haass and Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan have launched discussions with political parties and community groups on how to solve the issues of flying flags, controversial parades and the violent past in Northern Ireland. So far, they have held about 100 meetings, met with 500 individuals and received 600 submissions. Although they have failed to reach a deal, the parties did make some progress on a proposed investigative body that would probe all unsolved “Troubles crimes” and human rights violations. An agreement on the use of flags or behaviour in parades has yet to be reached. Around 3,500 people were killed in the conflict, with 3,000 of those murders still unsolved. (BBC, 09, 10/12/13; The Guardian, 31/12/2013)
NORTHERN IRELAND: Belfast guidelines aim at preventing illegitimate amnesties
The Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) has published the Belfast Guidelines to help design amnesties so that they enhance state compliance with international law and ensure accountability. The guidelines, drafted by a group of 18 international experts, stress that prosecution and punishment are not the only forms of accountability, and that amnesties that are either unconditional, prevent investigations or ensure impunity for those most responsible for serious crimes, are generally illegitimate. Legitimate amnesties are those that require offenders to engage with measures to ensure truth, accountability and reparations. The guidelines also suggest that acts that qualify for amnesty should be clearly specified and limited in scope, and that there should be public engagement –including victims – in the design of an amnesty process. (TJI, 02/12/13, The Belfast Telegraph, 11/12/13)
TUNISIA: Law on Transitional Justice includes redress for victims
In the third anniversary of the revolution the National Constituent Assembly has passed a Transitional Justice Law that seeks truth, accountability, and reparation. The law creates a Truth and Dignity Commission, formed by 15 people, which will be the main body in charge of putting the law into practice. The Commission will deal with reparations for the victims of the Bourguiba and Ben Ali regimes, accountability, institutional reform, vetting, and national reconciliation. The law also creates a Fund for the Dignity and Rehabilitation of Victims of Tyranny and special chambers with trained judges to deal with cases of human rights violations. (Al-Huffington Post Maghreb 15/12/13; All Africa, 19/12/13; GlobalNet 26/12/13)
JAPAN – SOUTH KOREA – CHINA: Japan honours to WWII shrine exacerbate regional tensions
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the World War II Yasukuni shrine has increased tensions with the governments of China and South Korea. The memorial honours 2.5 million Japanese that died in the war, but it also includes 14 people that the Tokyo trials held after the war classified as “Class A” war criminals, or those involved in planning the war. While Abe justified his act as an anti-war gesture, China considered the visit absolutely unacceptable, and the South Korean parliament expressed regret and anger. (BBC, 26/12/13; RT, 27/12/13; Voice of America, 31/12/13)
SWITZERLAND – ARMENIA: The ECHR rules that Armenian genocide denial should not be prosecuted
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that prosecutions for statements denying that the killing of Armenians by the Turks in 1915 was genocide are unjustified and constitute an attack on freedom of expression. The case concerned the conviction of a Turkish person for publicly challenging in Switzerland the existence of the Armenian genocide. The statements of denial were found by Switzerland's Lausanne Police Court to constitute racial discrimination within the meaning of the Swiss Criminal Code. The ruling comes when France prepares to present a law that would ban the denial of the Armenian genocide. (Jurist, 17/12/13)
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