International Criminal Court (ICC)
CONGO, DR: ICC convicts PRFI leader Germain Katanga to 12 years imprisonment
The ICC has sentenced the commander of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri, Germain Katanga, to 12 years of imprisonment for war crimes. In March the Court declared him guilty as an accessory of one count of crimes against humanity (murder) and four counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) for providing the weapons used in the attack on the village of Bogoro on 24 February 2003, in Ituri district. He was then acquitted of charges of rape, sexual slavery and use of child soldiers. In the sentence the Chamber stressed that the crimes, which caused the death of 200 civilians, were committed with particular cruelty. Nonetheless, the Chamber also took into account Katanga's active participation in the demobilisation process implemented in Ituri for child soldiers. The ICC did not impose any fines, but decisions on possible reparations to victims will be taken later. (ICC, Jurist, 23/05/14)
KENYA: Kenyan Court of Appeal blocks warrant issued by the High Court of Kenya for the arrest of Walter Barasa, accused of bribing witnesses
In mid May 2014, the High Court of Kenya issued an arrest warrant against journalist Walter Barasa, wanted by the ICC for attempting to bribe prosecution witnesses to persuade them to withdraw testimony against Deputy President William Ruto. However, by the end of the same month the Court of Appeal of Kenya had issued orders blocking the Kenyan High Court's arrest warrant. The issue of witnesses has been very controversial in the Ruto case, as the trial has been delayed because key witnesses have withdrawn due to alleged threats against their security. It is now up to the Kenyan authorities to send Barasa to the ICC, after the arrest warrant was unsealed in August 2013, and after the High Court ruled in March 2014 that Barasa could be extradited to the ICC. William Ruto is charged with crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in inciting the 2007 post-electoral violence, which led to more than 1,100 deaths. (Jurist, 15/05/14, 30/05/14)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
BANGLADESH: The ICTB charges former Jatiya Party member Abdul Jabbar with war crimes
The International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) has charged Abdul Jabbar, former Jatiya Party MP, with five war crimes committed during the nine-month Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. The charges refer to crimes of genocide, the murder of 36 people, the forceful conversion of 200 Hindus to Islam and looting and burning 557 houses. The investigation started in May 2013 and 46 witnesses have testified in the case. Jabbar has been judged in absentia, as he is believed to currently be living in the US. The ICTB has been accused several times of not meeting international legal standards and of using the prossecutions as a partisan tool. (Jurist, Gulf Times, BangladeshNews24, 11/05/14)
LEBANON: STL holds first hearings of journalists charged with contempt
On May 13, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) held its first hearings for the journalist Karma Khayat, the deputy news director of Al-Jadeed TV, and on May 29 for the journalist Ibrahim Al-Amin, editor of the newspaper Al-Akhbar. The journalists and respective media channels are charged with contempt and obstruction to justice for publishing information about the witnesses in the trial for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. While Khayat pleaded not guilty to the charges, Al-Amin declared by video link that he does not recognize the tribunal, and therefore cannot declare himself either guilty or not guilty. Al-Amin challenged the UN Security Council for not creating a Tribunal when in July 2006, shortly after the creation of the STL, the Israeli army killed 1,300 Lebanese. In response the Judge stated that it was outside the Court’s jurisdiction. (Kuwait News Agency, 23/05/14, STL, Al-Akhbar, 29/05/14)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
CANADA – RWANDA: Appeal Court confirms sentence for Desire Munyaneza for war crimes in the Rwandan genocide
The Court of Appeal of Quebec has upheld the conviction of Rwandan businessman Desire Munyaneza for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where 800.000 people were killed. Munyaneza had moved to Toronto in 1997 and was denied refugee status since Canadian officials suspected that he had been involved in the genocide. After a five-year investigation by the war crimes unit of the Canadian Police and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he was arrested in 2005. Munyaneza was convicted in May 2009 and sentenced in October 2009 for seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, enacted in 2000. Shortly after, Munyaneza appealed his conviction, alleging poorly defined charges, irregularities by the trial judge and a lack of credible witnesses. However, the high court has now dismissed these arguments. Munyaneza will serve life in prison and be eligible for parole in 25 years. Munyaneza is the first person found guilty under Canada's war crimes Act, in the first prosecution of someone in a Canadian court for crimes committed abroad. (Times Colonist, 07/05/14; Jurist, 08/05/14)
CONGO, DR: Only two soldiers convicted for mass rapes
Of the 39 soldiers on trial, a Congolese military court has convicted two for raping at least 102 women and 33 girls in Minova in November 2012 in South Kivu province. Another 24 soldiers were convicted of looting, and 13 were cleared. In April, a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (UNJHRO) documented 3,635 cases of sexual violence committed by government forces and rebel groups between January 2010 and December 2013. Despite this widespread practice, rape convictions are extremely rare in the country and this is the largest trial for rape in the DRC's history. Lawyers of the victims have declared that the sentence is an insult and denounced that the time given to conduct investigations had been too short to gather enough evidence. Despite the soldiers’ claim they had been ordered by their superiors to rape women, most of the soldiers were low-ranking. Several victims have said that their rapists were not included among the 39 accused. The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, regretted that the verdict did not reflect the magnitude of the crimes committed and failed to do justice to victims. Bangura has also urged DRC authorities to pay reparations and take immediate measures to protect survivors, witnesses, and human rights defenders. (BBC, Jurist, 05/05/14; UN News Centre 08/05/14)
    Truth commissions
BURKINA FASO: High Court denies exhumation of former President Sankara
Burkina Faso' High Court has refused to approve the exhumation of the body of former President Thomas Sankara, arguing it lacks jurisdiction to rule on such a request. A charismatic leader of the country from 1983, Sankara and 14 of his aides were killed during the 1987 coup and their bodies were buried in Dagnoen cemetery in Ouagadougou before their families could identify them. In 2006, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights urged the authorities of Burkina Faso to investigate the former president's murder. In October 2010 Sankara's relatives filed a legal case to demand the exhumation of the body for forensic analysis. Relatives and supporters of the former leader, whose assassination in 1987 brought current president Blaise Compaore to power, protested the decision. (BBC, Modern Ghana, 30/04/14)
ZIMBABWE: Human Rights NGO coalition demands that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission also include truth and justicea
In April 2014, one year after the approval of the new constitution, the Parliament called for public nominations to serve on the Independent Commissions regulated in Chapter 12 of the new Constitution. These Commissions include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of 19 Human rights NGO’s in Zimbabwe, has called on the government to allow for public participation in the commissions by assuring full information of the process in an attempt to guarantee that the commission is independent and not elitist. The Forum is concerned about how the government is going to implement the provisions of the Commissions, the calibre of the persons chosen and how they are going to operate. In addition, it has also called for issues of truth and justice to be included. At the end of the month 31 human rights organizations held elections and created a shadow commission, an eight-member parallel structure to the government Commissions to monitor their activities. (The Zimbabwean, 16/05/14; All Africa, 25/05/14)
CONGO, DR: M23 members accept Government’s amnesty in exchange for end fighting
At least 1,295 former rebels confined in a camp in Uganda have signed an amnesty document in which they commit not to take up arms again. In February 2014 DR Congo President Joseph Kabila had approved an amnesty law that applies to less severe crimes such as acts of insurgency, acts of war and political offences, but excludes more serious transgressions such as crimes against humanity, torture, sexual violence, child conscription and embezzlement and looting. In April, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights publicized a list of beneficiaries of the amnesty law. To date, a total of 271 beneficiaries have been announced. Between August 1998 and April 2007 about 5.4 million people were killed during successive wars in the DRC. (New Vision, 22/04/14¬; 07/05/14; ICTJ, 15/05/14)
TUNISIA: President Marzouki apologizes for State torture
On the National Day against Torture, to commemorate the death on May 8, 1987 of activist Nabil Barakati, Tunisian Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki offered a State apology to the victims of torture over the last 50 years. He also stated that protecting the citizens’ physical integrity and security is a top priority for the government, and has asked the civil society to monitor the State to prevent it from violating human dignity. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, who attended the ceremony, praised the progress made by the new government in its fight against torture, including the adoption of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, the creation of a torture prevention mechanism and the establishment of a Truth and Dignity Authority. (Tunis Afrique Presse, Al-Huffington Post, 8/05/14)
TURKEY – CYPRUS: 90 million euros compensation awarded to Greek Cypriots for Turkish invasion
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to pay 90 million euros to Cyprus within three months for invading the island in 1974. Relatives of the missing from the conflict will receive 30 million euros, and Greek Cypriots that remained in the Turkish part of the Island will get 60 million euros. The Cypriot government will be in charge of paying the awards to individuals. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that the decision was not binding and that the ruling had come at a bad time, as Turkish and Cypriot communities are currently negotiating to reunite the island. Since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, Cyprus is divided into a southern area controlled by Greek Cypriots, and a northern part controlled by Turkey. The decision, which is the largest compensation awarded by the Court, is grounded on earlier ECHR judgments ruling that the invasion and subsequent occupation of the northern third of the island was illegal. (The Guardian, 12/05/14; Jurist, 13/05/14)
GUATEMALA: Guatemalan Parliament denies genocide against indigenous peoples
The Parliament of Guatemala has issued a policy statement which called for national reconciliation while denying the existence of genocide during the 1960-1996 civil war that caused 200,000 dead and disappeared. The non-binding declaration, which was supported by 87 of the 158 members in Parliament, was proposed by Luis Fernando Pérez, member of the Institutional Republican Party, created by the politician and former general Efraín Ríos Montt. This statement has generated much controversy because the Commission for Historical Clarification (1997-1999) recognized that genocide was committed against indigenous peoples, and also because in 2013 Efraín Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for killing 1,771 Maya-Ixil indigenous people during his de facto regime (1982-1983). The conviction was overturned by the Constitutional Court due to a procedural error. (El Faro, 14/05/14; Jurist, 16/05/14)
SRI LANKA: Victory Day parade is a display of Government strength rather than showing its will for reconciliation
On the fifth anniversary of the end of the Sri Lankan civil war the government celebrated Victory Day with a military parade that included tanks, artillery guns, and fighter jets in the town of Matara. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the victory was a testament to the bravery of the armed forces and accused the Tamil Diaspora of working against peace and reconciliation in the country. Meanwhile, police and armed forces prevented members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which rules the Tamil majority Northern Province, and civil society groups from holding memorial commemoration ceremonies for the war dead. Only individual families are allowed to pay tribute to victims. About 100,000 people died in the conflict between the Government and the LTTE separatist armed group, including 40,000 in the final months of fighting. While the Government has stated that it wishes to follow its own process through a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has called for independent international investigations of war crimes to ensure its independence. (Al-Jazeera, BBC, 18/05/14)
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