International Criminal Court (ICC)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Appeal denied for Kilolo, Babala and Mangenda, while human rights organizations request new investigations
The ICC’s Appeals Chamber has decided to dismiss the appeal submitted by Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo. A warrant of arrest was issued on 20 November 2013 for the three suspects, accused of corruptly influencing witnesses and presenting evidence that they knew to be false or forged in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. The latter is accused of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes as Commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). After interim president Catherine Samba-Panza formally asked the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation in June 2014, Human Rights Watch has called on the ICC to launch an in-depth investigation into the serious crimes committed since March 2013, although investigations related to the Bemba case are currently underway in the country. Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report has identified several rebel and militia group leaders, including former Presidents Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia, as responsible for the atrocities recently committed in the country. (HRW, 26/06/14; BBC, 10/07/14; ICC, 11/07/14)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
LEBANON: Judge decides court has no jurisdiction to hear contempt of court case related to the al-Amin trial
Judge Nicola Lettieri has ruled that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) does not have jurisdiction to hear cases of obstruction of justice against legal persons. In May, the STL held hearings for the journalists Karma Khayat, deputy news director of Al-Jadeed TV, and Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the newspaper Al-Akhbar, charged with contempt and obstruction to justice for publishing information about confidential court witnesses. In June, Karma Khayat’s defence submitted a motion challenging the Tribunal’s jurisdiction over such offences. The STL is in charge of prosecuting those responsible for the bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in 2005. (STL, 18/07/14, 24/07/14)
    Other International Judicial Institutions
During the African Union (AU) Summit in Equatorial Guinea at the end of June, the Assembly of the AU adopted an amendment that grants immunity from prosecution for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to heads of state and government leaders in the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The immunity would be valid only while officials are in power, but critics warned it could further encourage leaders to remain in power for life. Amnesty International considers that the decision is a step backward in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of victims of serious human rights violations. According to the human rights organisation the decision does not fit with the AU’s Constitutive Act or with other international human rights obligations. The ICC has been repeatedly accused of bias, as all of the eight people indicted by the Court are African leaders. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights seemed to be an appropriate alternative. The decision, however, does not prevent the ICC from prosecuting African leaders. (The Guardian, 03/07/2014; AI, 07/07/2014)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
THE NETHERLANDS – BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: UN peacekeeping mission Dutch battalion considered partially responsible for Srebrenica massacre
A Dutch court has ruled that the Government is liable for the killing of more than 300 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In July 1995, 300 Bosniaks were killed by Serb soldiers after being expelled from the Potocari compound in Srebrenica by the Dutch UN peacekeeping battalion (Dutchbat). The court considered that Dutchbat did not do enough to protect the men, and should have been aware of the potential for genocide. The relatives of the men will be entitled to compensation. The "Mothers of Srebrenica", the organisation that launched the case and which represents 6.000 relatives out of the 8.000 massacred in Srebrenica, has expressed its disappointment, as the court has only recognised its responsibility over the men that were expelled from the compound, and not those that were sheltered around it. By recognising its responsibility for 300 of the deaths and not 8.000, most of the victims are denied compensation. The decision, on the other hand, questions the immunity of the UN, as it recognises the responsibility of the States to prevent atrocities and their liability for wrongs committed during peacekeeping missions. (BBC, 16/07/2014; Opinio Juris, El País, 17/07/14)
THE NETHERLANDS – DR CONGO: The Netherlands Expels Three Congolese ICC Witnesses Seeking Asylum
Three Congolese witnesses who testified before the ICC have been transferred from a Dutch detention centre to Kinshasa, after their asylum petition was denied by a Dutch court. Floribert Ndjabu, Pierre Celestin Mbodina and Sharif Manda Ndadza, accused in Congo of belonging to a rebel group and for committing war crimes, had testified in 2011 in the cases of former Congolese militia leaders Mathieu Ngudjolo and Germain Katanga. After testifying in May 2011, the three men initiated an asylum process arguing they feared for their lives if sent back to Congo. But the ICC's Appeals Chamber ordered their return in January 2014 after receiving guarantees for their safety from Congo representatives. A Dutch court also denied the asylum process in early July arguing that there were reasons to believe they themselves had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity and the 1951 Refugee Convention does not therefore apply to them. Several international human rights organisations, have expressed concern for their safety. Once in Congo the witnesses were transferred to a military prison in Ndolo, Kinshasa. (International Justice Monitor, 02/07/14; HRW, 04/07/14; AP, 07/07/14)
USA - COLOMBIA: Chiquita does not have to face war crimes claim
A US appeals court has found it has no jurisdiction to hear a case against the banana company Chiquita. At least 4,000 Colombians whose relatives were killed or tortured filed seven complaints against the US Company alleging it was liable for aiding and abetting torture and war crimes due to its financial support to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) paramilitary forces. Chiquita has admitted paying 1.7 million dollars in regular monthly payments to the paramilitary group between 1997 and 2004, but said it was a victim of extortion and that it had paid to protect its employees, not because it supported terrorism. The Court has argued that the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute, on which the prosecution was based, cannot be applied extraterritorially. In 2007 Chiquita was fined 25 million dollars by the US for paying a terrorist organisation. (BBC, Law360, 24/07/14)
    Truth commissions
SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan government extends the mandate of the national Commission to investigate missing persons
The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has appointed a three-member international panel of experts to advise the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons, thus extending the role of the commission created to investigate attacks on civilians during the nearly 30-year war. The three advisors, British Desmond de Silva and Geoffrey Nice from Britain, and David Crane from the United States, have gained extensive experience prosecuting war crimes while working with the UN. The announcement comes after the UN Human Rights Council created in June 2014 an international Investigation Team to look into such crimes. The Sri Lankan government rejected that inquiry, arguing that the international community should respect their own process, and said it would not offer any cooperation. Since August 2013 a commission on disappearances has also been holding public hearings in many parts of the country, including the island's Northern Province. By January 2014 it had collected over 15,000 complaints. (The Hindu, 18/07/14; Daily News, 19/07/14)
    Peace talks
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Amnesty International calls for accountability for war crimes in National talks
During the Central African Republic (CAR) National Reconciliation talks taking place in Brazzaville Republic of Congo at the end of July, Amnesty International has called on delegates to ensure that their discussions do not lead to impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations. Around 300 people attended the National Reconciliation talks, including anti-balaka and Séléka leaders. Since December 2013, inter-religious violence in CAR has claimed thousands of lives, mostly Muslim, and has displaced one million people out of a population of 4.6 million. The talks reached an agreement for a ceasefire and the commitment from armed groups to abstain from all forms of violence, but no mention was made regarding transitional justice measures. (AI, 21/07/14; IRIN, 29/07/14)
COLOMBIA: Government-FARC agreement on how victims will participate in Peace talks
The Colombian government and the FARC armed opposition group have agreed upon how victims of the 50 year long armed conflict will participate in the peace talks in Havana, Cuba. Recognizing that the voices of the victims are fundamental to the discussions, both actors have agreed to the direct participation of victims in the ongoing peace talks. Victims’ representatives, who should reflect the variety of human rights violations and come from different regional and social backgrounds, are being chosen through three regional forums and a national forum taking place throughout Colombia. Nevertheless, the agreement does not say how much influence or power the victims will have over the final outcome of the negotiations. Peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government have been ongoing since November 2012. So far, parties have come to agreements on the topics of agrarian land reform, political participation, and illicit drugs. But negotiations have also faced strong opposition from groups representing victims who fear that amnesty will be granted to combatants guilty of serious human rights violations. (Columbia Reports, 17/07/14)
JAPAN: UN Human rights Committee asks for justice and reparation for victims of sexual slavery in WWII
In its one hundred and eleventh session of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN’s Human Rights Committee has expressed its concern over the position of the Japanese government regarding sexual slavery during WWII. The Committee regrets that government officials have claimed “comfort women” were not forcibly deported and have attacked their reputation. The Committee also deplores the fact that victim’s claims for reparations before courts have been dismissed, and that demands for investigation and prosecution of this sexual slavery practice have been rejected. Given that all of the above can be considered an ongoing violation of the victim’s rights, the Committee has asked the Government of Japan to ensure the investigation, prosecution and, if required, punishment of such crimes, as well as access to justice and reparation for victims, disclosure of all information available, and education of the general public about the issue. The Japanese government should also offer a public apology recognising its responsibility, and condemn any attempts to defame victims. A large number of civil society organisations have presented alternative reports for the country to review, including the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, or the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace. (CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6)
CANADA: Controversy over the future of the 38.000 testimonies collected by the Truth and reconciliation Commission
Following a call by the Chief Adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), Dan Shapiro, for the destruction of all records collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Commission has asked the courts for guidance on how they should proceed. In mid-July, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held hearings to decide how to deal with those records. While the survivors of some victims claim they expected the information would remain confidential, others prefer to make it public. During the hearings the lawyer of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Julian Falconer, presented an alternative, to seal the 38.000 collected testimonies for 30 years and then transfer them to Library and Archives Canada. Over the last century and until 1996, about 150.000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were taken away from their families and forced to attend church-run schools, where they suffered physical abuse. (TRC, 20/06/14; The Star, 15/07/14)
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