International Criminal Court (ICC)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: President requests ICC investigation
Central African Republic (CAR) Transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza has requested that the ICC opens an investigation into crimes committed within ICC jurisdiction since August, 2012. According to the CAR authorities, the country courts are not in a position to undertake the necessary investigations and proceedings efficiently, and consequently, need the intervention of the ICC. ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda answered in a statement that the CAR is being preliminary investigated by the ICC since February 2014, and that a decision will be made shortly if the case meets the criteria of the Rome Statute to open an investigation. This is the fifth tima a a State Party - all of them African – require ICC’s intervention. Violence relighted in mineral-rich CAR in March 2013 when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, who had come to power in a 2003 coup. Since then, inter-religious violence has claimed thousands of lives, mostly Muslims, displaced one million people in the population of 4.6 million. More than twenty enclaves containing between 15,000 and 20,000 Muslims are currently under siege by the anti-Balaka militia. The Fédération Internationale pour les Droits de l’Homme has warned in a report about the risk of genocide and social cleansing. (ICC, OnIslam; 12/06/14; Jurist, 13/06/14, FIDH, 24/06/14)
CONGO, RD: Germain Katanga’s sentence accepted, Bosco Ntaganda charges confirmed
Both the Defence and the Prosecutor have withdrawn their appeals to the sentence to Germain Katanga. On March 2014, the Court found Germain Katanga guilty of one count of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes 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. In April Katanga’s Defense and ICC’s Prossecussion Office appealed the Court’s decision. Now Katanga’s Defense has notified he accepts the sentence, and the Prosecutor reacted similarly. In a different case, the ICC has confirmed charges consisting in 18 counts of war crimes and five crimes against humanity against Bosco Ntaganda. The Chamber found that Ntaganda bears individual criminal responsibility regarding widespread and systematic attack against civilian population perceived to be non-Hema (such as Lendu, Bira and Nande ethnic groups) by the Union des Patriotes Congolais/Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (UPC/FPLC) between August 2002 and May 2003, in Ituri Province. (ICC, 09/06/14, 25/06/14)
CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Confirmed charges against former President Laurent Gbagbo
The ICC has confirmed charges against former President Laurent Gbagbo for four crimes against humanity (murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution), in connection with post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 and 2011. Crimes were alledgedlly committed in 16-19th December 2010 during and after a pro-Ouattara march on the RTI headquarters, on 3rd March 2011 at a women’s demonstration in Abobo, on 17th March 2011 by shelling a densely populated area in Abobo, and on or around 12th April 2011 in Yopougon. The Court found that there was enough evidence to try Gbagbo on the grounds of individual responsibility for these crimes. US-based NGO Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision but called on the ICC Prosecutor’s office to investigate also crimes committed by supporters of current Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara. (ICC, 12/06/14; Hirondelle news, 13/06/14)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
RWANDA: Army chief Augustin Bizimungu 30 years sentence is confirmed
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has confirmed the 30 year sentence for former army chief Augustin Bizimungu for his role in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In May 2011, the ICTR Trial Chamber II convicted Bizimungu of genocide, extermination, murder, and rape as crimes against humanity, and murder and rape on attacks in Ruhengeri, Kigali, Gitarama, Cyangugu, and Butare Prefectures in April, May, and June 1994. The court considered that Bizimungu, one of the most senior figures tried by the ICTR, had called for the killing of ethnic Tutsis a few days before he was made army chief, and that he had complete control over the men he commanded who were involved in the massacres. In his appeal, Bizimungu said he had urged military discipline and respect for the dignity of human life. Although the Appeals Chamber reversed some convictions, it affirmed the sentence of 30 years of imprisonment in view of the serious nature of the remaining convictions. (ICTR, 30/06/14, Jurist 01/07/14)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Police arrests three suspects following the discovery of Tomasiça mass grave
Former soldiers of the Serb Republic army Mitar Vlasenko, Rade Vlasenko, and Drago Koncar, have been arrested by local police suspected of war crimes. The prosecutor office acuses them to alledgedly kill seven bosniaks in the area of Kozarac between May and June 1992. The detention follows the discovery last year of what is believed to be the largest mass grave of Bosnia's 1992-95 conflict in Tomašica, near Kozarac. Experts estimate the mass grave contains the remains of about 1,000 victims, from whom 435 people were unearthed last year, among whom 178 were identified through DNA analysis. Around 1,200 people are still registered as missing in the area. (Reuters, 05/06/14)
SPAIN – CHINA: Spanish Supreme Court drops againd Chine for alleged genocide in Tibet
Judges of the Spanish Supreme Court have voted 9-7 to drop two judicial investigations into alleged genocide and human rights violations of Chinese leaders in Tibet, among who was former president Hu Jintao. The decision is due to a new law that limits Spanish judges’ jurisdiction to investigate crimes against humanity committed abroad. In February 2014, as the investigation had threatened to damage relations between the two countries, the Spanish Parliament put an end to universal jurisdiction, passing a law that limits the ability of the Spanish judicial system to try cases of crimes against humanity. Under the new law, Spanish courts can prosecute crimes against humanity committed abroad only if the suspect is a Spanish citizen, a foreigner residing in Spain or a foreigner whose extradition has been denied by Spain. The law included a clause to halt current investigations, including the arrest warrants issued in February for several former Chinese leaders for their involvement in the alleged genocide in Tibet. The Chinese authorities, that have been accused several times of use of excessive force in peaceful demonstrations, and of detention and disappearance of Tibetan monks, welcomed the decision. (BBC, 24/06/14, Jurist, 25/06/14)
    Truth commissions
CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Special rapporteur highlights efforts for reconciliation
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène, has recognised the efforts of the government of Côte d’Ivoire to promote national reconciliation, inviting opposition parties to contribute to it. Diène has highlighted the release of am important number of detainees in the post-electoral crisis in 2010-2011, the broadening of the consultations for the reform of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEICI) for the 2015 elections, and the resume of the political dialogue between the government and the opposition parties. The independent expert has also reminded that impartial and equitable justice has a role to play in reconciliation, and asked that the audition of victims in the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Comission (CDVR) contribute to non partisan and interethnic reconciliation. (UNHCHR, 06/06/14)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Darfur launches Justice Comitee and Truth and Reconciliation Committee
In accordance with the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) has launched a Justice Committee, headed by police Maj. Gen. El Tayeb Abdel Rahman Mukhtar, and a Truth and Reconciliation Committee, headed by Ibrahim Abdallah Mohamed. DRA chairman, Tijani Sese, called the committees to be accountable and to avoid impunity related to revenge, and linked the work of the committees to subsequent compensations. The DRA also announced that the integration of the former rebel fighters of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), into the Sudan Armed Forces, will be implemented soon.The creation of the committees has raised the reluctance of representatives of the displaced in the Darfur camps, who declared in May they do not have any confidence in the committees, and ask, instead for an international justice organ. Reluctant voices have also questioned why launching such committees while the country faces escalation of violence by the systematic burning of villages and forced displacement of civilians at the hands of the Rapid Support militias under the command of the government security apparatus. (El Fasher, 24/06/14)
TUNISIA: Truth and Dignity Commission launched
Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission has started its mandate on June 9th, officially launched to investigate gross human rights violations that were committed by the Tunisian State from July 1955, and to provide compensation and rehabilitation to victims. Although the Commission is not a judicial body, it can send the cases of the most severe human rights violations to courts. After a two-year long participatory process, the Organic Law on Establishing and Organizing Transitional Justice adopted on 15th December 2013 by the National Constituent Assembly put in place the Commission, together with other transitional justice mechanisms. It has a four-years mandate subject to one year renewal. Some concerns have been raised regarding the commissioners, as some of them are allegedly unknown figures, without the expected experience in human rights, or even have political ties with the previous regime. Trust on the judiciary independence is still week, as there has been no judicial reform, and judges haven’t been changed. (ICTJ, 06/06/14, RFI, UNDP, 09/06/14)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Government and FARC agree to create a truth commission
During the peace negotiations in La Havana, Cuba, The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have agreed to create a truth commission to recognize victims on both sides of the conflict, and to address victims' rights, reparations and safety guarantees. The negotiations took place eight days ahead the elections between current president Juan Manuel Santos and his right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who threatened to shut down the peace negotiation process. FARC declared a ceasefire from June 9 to 30, the period that will cover the presidential elections. The decision is consistent with the "Legal Framework for Peace" which foresees reduced penalties for rebels who confess crimes related to their membership in illegal armed groups. Althouth the bill was challenged by human rights activits who deplored judicial pardons to rebels, Colombian Constitutional Court declared in August 2013 that the law is constitutional. The peace talks in La Havana to end the 50 year conflict that has killed over 220,000 people, initiated in November 2012. As highlighted by a repport on enforced desapearance of the governmental body Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, about 26.000 people remain anonymously buried in the jungle or in rivers. The Centre reminds that such reports not only can contribute to cure victims, but also can be useful for negociations between armed groups and the government. (El Colombiano, 02/006/14; Jurist, 08/06/14)
ICTJ-KAF: Truth commissions can contribute to peace processes
A new study released by the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) concludes that truth commissions can make important contributions to peace processes if all parties agree on common objectives, there is genuine local political will to probe past events, and they are rooted in rights-based policies and access to justice. Truth commissions, nevertheless, can also hinder peace processes if they raise too high expectations, don’t invest enougth resources, are not independent or legitimate, or don’t genuinely recognize the right of victims to truth. To contribute to a peace process, truth commissions must be set jointly by peace mediators and transitional justice practitioners, and adapted to the circumstances of each country. (ICTJ, 18/06/14)
    Truth seeking
PERU: Biggest mass grave of the internal armed conflict found
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)
SRI LANKA: UNHCHR appoints the investigation team in Sri Lanka
The UN high commissioner for human rights has appointed the team to investigate alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the last years of the armed conflict, as mandated by the Human Rights Council resolution 25/1 in March 2014. The Investigation Team, operational until mid-April 2015, will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialized skills. The team will be advised by the three experts Martti Ahtisaari, UN diplomat and mediator; Silvia Cartwright, judge of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia; and Asma Jahangir, former President of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The appointment of Sandra Beidas to coordinate the investigation team has raised controversy, as she was expelled from South Sudan in November 2012 accused of writing false reports about the conduct of the South Sudanese military, an accusation that the UNHCHR denies. Sri Lanka has claimed that it would not co-operate with the investigation that infringes upon the sovereignty of the country and goes against the principles of the United Nations, defending their own investigation process. (Al-Jazeera, 11/06/14; UNHCHR, 25/06/14)
UK – UN: UN Releases Guidelines on reparations for victims of sexual violence by peacekeeping missions while the UK donates one million pounds for victims
During a summit in London on 'Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict', UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released guidelines about Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, which apply to UN peacekeeping missions worldwide. Redress measures include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantees of non-repetition. While data about this kind of war crimes is difficult to quantify, it affects women, men and children. Civil society organizations representatives have shown their concern about the lack of mechanisms to penalty for non-compliance of the guidelines, and about how UN staff will be trained on this issues, as well as how the socio-cultural context, namely, health, education, economic programming in conflict/ post conflict integrate and address the needs of people affected by sexual violence. During the same summit, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced a contribution of 1 million pounds to the ICC Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) to assist victims of sexual and gender based violence. (UN IPS, ICC, 12/06/14)
BALCANS: Centenary commemorations of WWI raise tensions
Commemorations in Bosnia of the assassination by Gavrilo Princip of Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne on 28th June 1914, have reopen wounds in the country. The facts, that initiated WWI, are interpreted differently by the Bosniak, Croat and Serbo-Bosnian communities in the country. In central Sarajevo, a commemorative concert has taken place in a newly-restored national library which was destroyed during the 1992 siege of the city by Bosnian Serb forces in the Bosnian War with the presence of Austrian President Heinz Fischer. Meanwhile, leaders of Serbia and some Bosnian Serbs boycotted the official events, which they said were designed to incriminate Serbs. Counter-commemorations organised by Bosnian Serbs, included re-enacting the murder under Vivaldi music played by the Belgrade Philharmonic in the town of Visegrad, or unveiling a statue of Princip, seen by them as a national hero who ended years of occupation of the Balkans by the Austro-Hungarian empire, in eastern Sarajevo.(BBC, 28/06/14)
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