International Criminal Court (ICC)
CONGO, DR: Former FRPI commander Germain Katanga appeals ICC conviction
The lawyers of Germain Katanga, former commander of the Congolese Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), have appealed the whole of the decision of conviction and will seek to reverse the decision on each charge. In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Germain Katanga guilty of one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) for his contribution in the crimes committed by the Ngiti militia on 24 February 2003 during the attack on the village of Bogoro, in Ituri, where about 200 civilians were killed. Since 1999, clashes in the Ituri region have killed at least 60,000 people. The verdict against Katanga is the third by the ICC, and its second conviction since opening its doors more than a decade ago. (AFP, 09/04/14; Jurist, 10/04/14)
KENYA: The ICC summons eight witnesses to appear in Ruto and Sang case
The ICC has summoned eight reluctant witnesses to testify at the trial of Kenya's Vice-President William Ruto, and the journalist Joshua Sang. The court has reminded the Kenyan government of its obligation to serve ICC subpoenas. During the trial witnesses had informed the prosecution that they were no longer willing to testify which forced the prosecution to suspend the trial and search for new evidence. The ICC has now announced that the witnesses will be able to testify by video-link, and has asked the Kenyan government to guarantee their security until they appear before the court. Ruto and Sang are accused of crimes against humanity (murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution) allegedly committed in Kenya during the 2007-2008 post-electoral violence. The withdrawal of witnesses has affected other ICC cases related to the Kenya poll violence. According to the ICC some witnesses were too frightened to testify and another witness had recanted his testimony in the trial against Kenyan former civil service head Francis Muthaura. (ICC, 17/04/14, BBC, 18/04/14)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
BALKANS: ICTY confirms charges against former commander Ratko Mladic
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has ruled that there is enough evidence to judge Ratko Mladic on two counts of genocide for his alleged role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre where 8000 men and young boys died, and for the expulsion of the Muslim Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb populations during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, among other charges. Mladic Lawyers had argued that there was not enough evidence linking him to genocide, but the court found that such evidence does exist. Mladic's trial before the ICTY started in June 2011 and has since been postponed and resumed multiple times and for a variety of reasons, including evidentiary issues and the accused's health. (BBC, Jurist, 15/04/14)
CAMBODIA: The ECCC define the scope of trial in Case 002/02, and find reparation funds for Case 002/01
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have defined the scope of the second part of the trial of Khmer Rouge regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan (Case 002/02). The case will include charges related to genocide against the Vietnamese and the Cham community group, forced marriages and rape, religious persecution of Buddhists, and internal purges and other abuses that took place at four security centres, three worksites and one cooperative. Both men are currently awaiting a verdict for crimes against humanity (Case 002/01), which focuses on the forced eviction of the population from the capital after the Khmer Rouge takeover. The trial was divided into smaller segments to ensure that at least some judgements could be reached before the octogenarian defendants' deaths. The Khmer Rouge regime caused the deaths of up to 2.2 million people between April 1975 and early 1979. The ECCC have also announced that the reparation projects for victims requested in Case 002/01 have received wide support. Over 770,000 USD were raised to be used in 13 reparation projects aimed at mitigating harm and suffering, preserving the collective memory and restoring victims’ dignity. (Voice of America Khmer, The Phnom Penh Post, 07/04/14; The Diplomat, 08/04/14; ECCC, 21/04/14).
KOSOVO: The Parliament approves a new International Special Court
The Kosovo Assembly has approved by a vote of 89-22 to create an international Special Court to investigate crimes committed by Albanian Kosovar rebels during the 1998-1999 war with Serbia. According to a Council of Europe report published by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2010, some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the wartime Albanian Kosovar rebel group, were involved in abductions, beatings, summary executions, and in some cases, the forced removal of human organs. The victims were mostly Kosovo Serbs and Roma, but also included Albanian Kosovars suspected of collaborating with the Serbian government before or during the war. The court will be based in Kosovo, although most of the work will be done in the Netherlands by international judges and lawyers, in part to prevent threats against witnesses and judges. While some hope that holding Kosovars responsible for their war crimes will contribute to the reconciliation of the two countries, others consider that establishing a court that will only investigate crimes allegedly committed by one side sends a dangerous message that only some offences are worthy of being investigated. Some others question whether the Special Court is necessary, considering the existence of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, UNMIK and EULEX. (HRW, 11/04/14; Jurist, 24/04/14; Euroasia Review, 01/05/14)
LEBANON: STL charges journalists with contempt and obstruction to justice
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) responsible for trying those charged with assassinating Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005 (Ayyash et al. case), has charged two journalists and two media organisations with contempt and obstruction of justice. Karma Mohamed Tahsin al-Khayat from Al-Jadeed TV and the station's parent company New TV S.A.L. are accused of two counts of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice, while Ibrahim Mohamed Al-Amin from Al-Akhbar, and the newspaper's parent company Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. have been summoned on one count of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice related to the Ayyash et al. case. All counts refer to the publication of information on purported confidential witnesses. According to Judge David Baragwanath, and despite recognizing the importance of freedom of the press, this may amount to interference with the administration of justice because it reduces the confidence of both actual witnesses and the public in the ability and the will of the Tribunal to protect its witnesses. In April 2013, a previously unknown group identified as "Journalists for the Truth" published a list of 167 names of so-called witnesses, saying it wanted to "unveil the corruption" of the STL. Both Al-Akhbar and Al-Jadeed published that list. A group of journalists, as well as the Lebanese Information Minister Ramzi Jreij, has condemned the charges. They argue that prosecuting those that publish information on the case is not the mandate of the tribunal, and complain that the charges are targeting the whistle-blower instead of the source which leaked the information. (STL, Al-Arabiya News, 24/04/14, Al-Akhbar, 28/04/14)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
CONGO, DR: Human rights organisations demand steps to prosecute war crimes in Congo DR
A coalition of 146 Congolese and international human rights organizations released a joint declaration urging the government to establish specialized mixed chambers, and to adopt legislation implementing the Rome Statute of the ICC to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide through its national justice system. This would require that definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide be introduced into Congolese law in accordance with the ICC treaty, and would also regulate the cooperation between Congolese authorities and the court. The organizations that put forth the declaration said they are greatly encouraged by the government’s stated commitments to address atrocities that have been ongoing in the war-torn country. According to the organizations, repeated cycles of violence and impunity over the past two decades, particularly in eastern Congo, have resulted in the deaths of an estimated five million people from violence, hunger and lack of medical care. National armed forces from Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and numerous non-state armed groups have carried out massacres, summary executions, rape, torture, forced recruitment of children, and pillaging and burning of homes. (Jurist, HRW, 01/04/14)
ARGENTINA – SPAIN: No extradition for former policeman Jesús Muñecas accused of torture under Franco regime
The Spanish High Court has declined to extradite to Argentina former policeman Jesus Muñecas Aguilar, accused of torturing 13 people under the Franco regime. The Court considers that the charges do not uncover events that may constitute genocide nor crimes against humanity, crimes that have no statute of limitation, and argues that the crime of torture had already expired since the incidents occurred in 1968; under Spanish law the statute of limitations for torture crimes is ten years. On the other hand, the order invites Argentine institutions to initiate a process in the Spanish courts to allow victims to be heard. In 2012 relatives of the victims filed a complaint before the Argentine courts against four alleged torturers of the Franco regime. Victims have deplored the need to resort to the Argentinean justice system to bring the cases to trial. (Público, 03/04/14, El País, 10/04/14, 25/04/14)
    Truth commissions
BRAZIL: Former colonel Paulo Malhães killed after testifying before the National Truth Commission
Shortly after testifying before the National Truth Commission (CNV) former Brazilian colonel Paulo Malhães was murdered at his home in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. In March Malhães claimed to have tortured and killed people that went missing during the military dictatorship and said he had been fulfilling his duty. Members of the CNV fear that he was murdered so that he would not reveal any new information and as a warning to other witnesses who want to cooperate. Since 2011, the Commission has been investigating the deaths and disappearances of some 450 people during the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 but perpetrators have not been prosecuted because of the amnesty law passed by the military government in 1979. A few days before Malhães’ death, and coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the coup in the country, the Army had promised to cooperate with the CNV investigations. (LA Times, 04/02/14, BBC, 25/04/14, 28/04/14)
BURUNDI: The Parliament creates a truth commission criticized by the opposition
The Parliament of Burundi has passed a Bill to create a Truth and Reconciliation Committee with a mandate to probe the conflicts wracking Burundi since its independence from Belgium in 1962. According to the bill, approved by the ruling CNDD-FDD party in absence of the opposition parties, President Pierre Nkurunziza himself will have the power to appoint its members. Opposition parties and civil society organizations have warned that the committee will be biased and will shield the ruling party from accountability for past crimes, and have recommended that the commission be made up of international and local experts selected independently. (RFI, Reuters, 18/04/14)
SRI LANKA: The United Nations will investigate the war crimes committed during the last stage of the armed conflict
The United Nations Human Rights Council will conduct an investigation into possible war crimes committed by the parties to the armed conflict that pitted the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil guerrilla group LTTE for nearly three decades and ended in 2009. The resolution that called for the investigation to start passed with 23 of the 47 members of the Security Council voting in favour and had the support of countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. In February, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called for an international investigation considering that domestic authorities failed to properly investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes. Sri Lankan authorities rejected the calls for an international inquiry and defended their country's own processes. The 25 year long conflict between the LTTE Tamil rebel group and the majority-Sinhalese government caused up to 100,000 deaths, with nearly 40,000 people dying in the last five months of fighting. (Press Trust of India, 02/04/14; IB Times, 08/04/14; The New York Times, 28/03/14)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Preliminary agreement on a truth commission between the government and the FARC
As part of the peace talks in Havana (Cuba), the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army (FARC-EP) announced that they have agree on the establishment of a Truth Commission when a peace agreement is signed. However, the FARC-EP has proposed that a previous Commission be created to clarify the origin and truth of the history of Colombia's internal conflict, which is essential in assigning historical responsibilities for the dispute. Meanwhile, the Colombian government rejected the proposal stating that the committee would not be a real instrument of peace but a tactical tool in the negotiations, and that such a commission should be created after the peace agreement, not before. Furthermore, General Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre said at a forum on political participation that veteran guerrilla fighters who have only committed political offenses and will be demobilized in the future may receive amnesties or pardons and be eligible for public posts through a system of transitional justice. (El Tiempo, 03/30/14, El Espectador, 03/30/14, 24/04/14)
NEPAL: The creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on the Disappeared allows amnesty for severe human rights violations
The Nepalese parliament has passed a bill that establishes two bodies to address war crimes: a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on the Disappeared. The commissions will investigate accusations of war crimes and hold hearings to determine if those found guilty of serious crimes qualify for full pardons, which the commissions will be authorized to grant subject to approval by the victim(s) of the amnesty offer. They will also take over current investigations and hearings that are presently pending in other courts and will have discretion over whether to transfer certain cases to another special court established by the legislation. The commissions are the result of an agreement contained within the peace deal ending the conflict, which planned to establish them to focus on peace and reconciliation rather than punishment. The bill has stirred some controversy from some victim's rights groups and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who warns that, according to international law, amnesty cannot be applied in cases of gross human rights violations. In January 2014, the Nepali Supreme Court handed down a decision concluding that some sections of the bill should be revised to be constitutional and meet international standards, but these have been included word for word in the approved bill. (Eurasia Review, 18/04/14; Jurist, 24/04/14)
THE NETHERLANDS – BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: The Dutch government compensates three families for the Srebrenica massacre, while denying responsibility for the rest of the victims
The organization Mothers of Srebrenica, representing the families of 6,000 victims of the Massacre in Srebrenica in 1995, have filed a civil suit against the Dutch government arguing that Dutch peacekeepers failed in protecting the victims from genocide. The Muslim enclave of Srebrenica was under UN protection until July 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic, causing the death of 8000 people. The Dutch state's lawyer has argued that the Dutch blue helmet unit was not under the control of The Netherlands but of the UN. Although Mothers of Srebrenica already had taken legal action in 2007, the Dutch Courts initially refused their request to prosecute the UN for the killings, saying the international organisation had immunity, a decision that was confirmed by the European court of human rights in 2013. However, in September 2013 the Dutch courts did rule that the state was liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims who worked in the Dutch compound and were expelled from there into the hands of Bosnian Serb forces. For the Mothers of Srebrenica this was taken as a green light to continue with their case and they resubmitted it to the Dutch courts. Shortly later, the Dutch government announced it will pay €20,000 euros in compensation for the death of the three Bosnian Muslim workers expelled from the Dutch compound. The lawyer of the families, Liesbeth Zegveld, has stated that the amount is shameful, and that the families have not decided if they would accept the money. (The Guardian, 07/04/14; Jurist, 07/04/14, 10/04/14)
CHILE: Homage to six victims of the Caravan of Death
The remains of six dissidents of Augusto Pinochet’s military regime, Carlos Berger, Carlos Escobedo, Luis and Hernan Moreno, Mario Arguelles and Jeronimo Carpanchay, executed in October 1973 in the town of Calama by the Caravan of Death, have been buried and honoured at the Memorial for Disappeared Detainees and Executed Political Prisoners in Santiago de Chile. On that date, 26 political prisoners were released from Calama jail and shot on the outskirts of the city. In January 2013 the Legal Medicine Service presented its findings that identified the six bodies, found in 1992 in a clandestine mass grave. To date, it has been able to identify the remains of 18 executed people. It is believed that the Caravan of Death killed 97 military coup opponents, and that during the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) 3,065 people were killed or went missing, and more than 40,000 people were victims of serious human rights abuses. (La Nación, El Dinamo, 08/04/14, BBC, 13/04/14)
IRELAND – UK: First Irish sate visit to the UK highlights the memory and the path towards reconciliation
During the first state visit to the UK by an Irish head of state, Irish President Michael D. Higgins spoke of his country's deep and enduring friendship with Britain. He declared that despite the fact that there was still a road to be travelled to reach lasting peace both countries can be proud of their work towards peace in Northern Ireland and reconciliation with the UK. President Higgins visited several memorials in Westminster Abbey such as the Grave of the Unknown Warrior the tomb of a British soldier who fought in WWI in Westminster Abbey, and a memorial to the Queen's cousin, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979. President Higgins's trip comes after the Queen became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland three years ago, and laid a wreath at a memorial to those who died fighting for Ireland's independence. President Higgins recognized before his visit that there were a lot of very difficult memories and that it would be wrong to wipe the slate clean. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland secretary from 2005 to 2007, Peter Hain, suggested there should be no more prosecutions for offences committed before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He said his proposal was not an amnesty, but a special judicial process where people could come forward and admit crimes but not be sentenced. (BBC, 08/04/14)
RWANDA: Commemoration over Rwandan genocide
Rwanda held a week of official mourning to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide were at least 800,000 people -mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus- died. The week of mourning began with a ceremony at the national genocide memorial, followed by the lighting of a flame at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, where UN peacekeepers protected thousands of people during the genocide. The torch, carried across 30 districts in the country during three months, will burn for 100 days - the duration of the genocide. In the ceremony, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that the UN is still ashamed of its failure to prevent the genocide. The French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira had cancelled her plans to attend the ceremony after Rwandan President Paul Kagame denounced the direct role of Belgium and France - ally of the government in place at that time - in the political preparation for the mass killings in 1994. Although France has acknowledged serious errors during the genocide, it has recently contributed to the prosecution of Rwandans through the establishment in France of a genocide investigation unit. (BBC, 06/04/14; 07/04/14)
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