International Criminal Court (ICC)
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: Unexplored possibilities for ICC jurisdiction over possible war crimes in Palestine and Israel
In early August ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, received the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riad al-Malki, to provide clarifications on the mechanisms currently available to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction. After being accused by a British newspaper of not opening war crimes investigation due to political pressure, Bensouda argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over alleged war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories. Considering neither Israel nor Palestine are ICC State parties, there are four ways to guaranty jurisdiction of the ICC in the recent crimes between Israel and Palestine: at the request of the ICC Prosecutor, the UN Security Council, or through an official declaration of acceptance of ICC’s jurisdiction by the Palestinian Authority or by Israel. The Palestinian government declared its acceptance of ICC’s jurisdiction in 2009, but the request was denied by the ICC in 2012 arguing that Palestine was not a UN member State but had an “observer” statute. In order to guarantee ICC’s jurisdiction over the recent crimes occurred in Palestine and Israel, Amnesty International called on the Prosecutor’s office to review its 2012 refusal, invited the Palestinian Authority to resubmit its declaration accepting ICC jurisdiction, called on the Israeli government to sign the Statute of Rome (which it signed in December 2000 and unsigned in August 2002), and urged the UN Security Council to refer the case to the ICC prosecutor for investigation. (AI, 01/08/14; ICC, 05/08/14; El País, 14/08/14; The Guardian, 29/08/14)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
CAMBODIA: Life imprisonment for Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) have found two high ranking members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, guilty of crimes against humanity committed between 17 April 1975 and December 1977. More than 1.7 million people died under the rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. The Trial Chamber, which handed down a sentence of life imprisonment, found that the accused had implemented policies to forcibly evacuate the entire population in terrifying circumstances, had promoted the execution of former Khmer Republic officials, resulting in the execution of at least 250 officials, and had instigated crimes of extermination and other inhumane acts, comprising enforced disappearances. According to the lawyers of the accused, who have yet to face a second phase of the trial with additional charges, they will appeal the sentence. The 222 day first phase of the trial heard testimonies from 92 individuals and was attended by 103,724 people. The ECCC was praised for providing a corrupt judicial system the opportunity to collaborate with a hybrid UN-Cambodian judicial team. Critics deplored that most of the Khmer Rouge accused have died before being judged and that the trials cover a very narrow part of the crimes committed by the regime. (The NY Times, 06/08/14; ECCC, 07/08/14; East Asia Forum, 30/08/14)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
CONGO, DR: Egangela war crimes trial is a test of Congolese military justice, according to UN mission
A military court has initiated in South Kivu region the trial of Lieutenant Colonel Bedi Mobuli Egangela, charged with crimes including murder, rape and torture allegedly committed between 2005 and 2006 in eastern DR Congo. The trial, that is expected to last for about three weeks, will hear the witnesses of about 100 alleged victims, although according to the organization Avocats sans Frontières (Lawyers without borders) more than 900 victims have been identified. Scott Campbell from the UN mission's human rights division noted that the UN Security Council and different special representatives of the UN secretary general consider this to be a test case to see if military tribunals are able to deliver justice when very serious crimes are committed by senior officers. Earlier this year, 39 soldiers were tried for mass rape, but all of them were low-rank soldiers, and only two were convicted for sexual violence. Sexual violence is a major problem in eastern DR Congo, where several armed groups still operate more than a decade after the conflict officially ended in 2002. (BBC, 14/08/14; 22/08/14)
BOLIVIA – ARGENTINA: Bolivia deports Argentine ex-officer Jorge Paez accused of crimes against humanity committed under Argentina's military rule
Argentine officer Jorge Horacio Paez Senestrari was captured in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He was accused of torture and aggravated homicide in Argentina's north-western San Juan province and immediately extradited to the border town of Yacuiba. Paez had been on the run since 2011 after Interpol issued an international warrant of arrest. The accused, one of the most wanted perpetrators of the repression in Argentina, will now face trial for torture, sexual abuse and homicide. Paez has already been sentenced to 25 years prison in another trial for aggravated murder and torture, but was released in 2011 by an appeals court. About 30,000 people were tortured and killed during Argentina’s military rule (1976-1983). (BBC, Infojus Notícias, 11/08/14)
    Truth commissions
CANADA: Court orders destruction of victims’ testimonies after 15 years
Judge Paul Perell has ruled that the testimonies of the 38,000 survivors of human rights abuses in Canadian residential schools should be destroyed for privacy reasons unless the victims choose to maintain their records in an archive. Over most of the last century about 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend residential schools as part of government efforts to “integrate” Indians. Many suffered human rights abuses at the church-run schools. While some argue that the material was intended to be confidential and should be destroyed once the claims are processed, others, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, called for the documents to be preserved to ensure that the historical record is as complete as possible. The Commission will now start an information process to notify the 38,000 claimants of their right to preserve their testimony. (The Star, The Canadian Press, 07/08/14)
ARGENTINA: A leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo finds her “stolen grandson” after 36 years
Estela de Carlotto, president of the organisation that searches for abducted people, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo), has found her grandson Guido Montoya Carlotto/Ignacio Hurban after a 36-year search. Ignacio Hurban was stolen from his parents when he was a baby, and given for adoption in 1978. His biological father was shot in December 1977, and his mother was executed in June 1978, shortly after giving birth. After meeting his grandmother, Ignacio Hurban declared it was a beautiful experience and encouraged other people that might suspect that they are in the same situation to come forward. He is the 114th abducted child to be identified by the organisation, although more than 400 need yet to be found. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has celebrated the news, highlighting the role of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo organisation, which advocated the creation of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances in 1980, and pushed for the draft and adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The OHCHR has also urged all Governments to fully support the families of disappeared people and the organizations working on their behalf in the search for their loved ones. (BBC, OHCHR, 08/08/14)
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: UN Human Rights Council creates an Inquiry Commission over alleged war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
The Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law committed since 13 June 2014 in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. William Schabas and Doudou Diène have been appointed to the committee, with a third member yet to be determined. The Commission of Inquiry was established in July 2014 to present a written report in March 2015. While Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri has welcomed the decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that the UNHRC should probe war crimes in countries other than Israel, and has warned that Israel would not cooperate with the Commission. According to the UN, the Israeli army has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians – 69% of them civilians, including 495 children and 253 women – since the beginning of the confrontation on 8 July. The Palestinian armed group Hamas has killed 66 Israeli soldiers a 7 civilians. Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, have denounced that the attacks against six UN schools and the only existing power plant might amount to war crimes. These two organizations have also deplored that Palestinian armed groups have stored ammunition in UN facilities and other civilian buildings, thus endangering Palestinian civilians. (AI, 30/07/14; Jurist, 01/08/14, 12/08/14; OHCHR, 11/08/14; Times of Israel, 13/08/14; El País, 14/08/14)
SPAIN: Lack of truth and justice with regard to the Franco regime, Special Rapporteur says
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, has concluded in a report that Spanish policies have severe gaps regarding truth and justice after his field visit in February 2014. De Greiff regrets the lack of official information, of mechanisms to seek truth, the privatisation of exhumations that is left to the responsibility of the victims and generates problems of homologation and official recognition of the truth. In the field of justice a too restrictive interpretation of the 1977 Amnesty law denies access to justice and prevents any kind of investigation. On a more positive note, the report acknowledges the democratisation of the armed forces. The Special Rapporteur calls on the Spanish Government and civil society to open a debate on how to address what remains to be done: establish mechanisms to make truth official; assume responsibility over exhumations; guarantee access to all documentary funds; remove or reinterpret the remaining Francoist symbols; provide training for the security forces on the severe human rights violations that occurred during the dictatorship; extend reparation programs, consider alternatives to the 1977 Amnesty Law; and collaborate with other states that prosecute crimes related to the Franco regime (1939-1975). (OHCHR, 22/07/14 (A/HRC/27/56/Add.1); El Diario, 28/08/14)
SYRIA: UN inquiries denounce high impact of war on civilians
The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has presented its eighth report documenting the suffering caused to civilians. It accuses the Governmental forces of crimes against humanity (massacres, widespread attacks on civilians, systematic murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance) and war crimes (murder, hostage-taking, torture, rape and sexual violence, child recruitment, targeting civilians, disregard of the special protection of hospitals and humanitarian personnel, disproportionate aerial bombardment, and the use of chlorine gas, which is illegal). Non-State armed groups are similarly accused of war crimes (murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking, enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, child recruitment, targeting journalists and medical personnel, and shelling civilian neighbourhoods). In a separate report, the UN Human Rights Office states that more than 191,000 people have died in Syria between March 2011 and April 2014. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed regret over the lack of attention given to the conflict despite the enormity of the suffering of the population. Blaming international paralysis, Pillay has requested that the Security Council refer the case to the ICC, and that governments stop providing arms and other military supplies. (OHCHR, 13/08/14 (A/HRC/27/60); OHCHR, 22/08/14)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Group of victims joins the Havana peace talks
The first group of 12 victims of the Colombian armed conflict have joined the peace negotiations between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which are taking place in Havana, Cuba. Each of the victims has explained its expectations regarding the truth, justice and reparation process, and has formulated recommendations. A total of 60 victims will eventually be heard by the members at the negotiating table. They have been selected by the university research centre Centro de Pensamiento y Seguimiento al Diálogo de Paz, the Colombian church, and the UN in Colombia, based on criteria such as type of victimization (displaced/ disappeared...), aggressor (state/ guerrillas/ paramilitary) or geographic and social diversity. As highlighted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the participation of victims in a peace negotiation table is unprecedented and a potential model for other countries dealing with issues of justice, peace and reconciliation. Victims and civil society in general have participated in the peace talks through different channels, such as victims’ forums, where 3,000 victims have participated, or regional (and online) conversation tables that have received more than 7,500 proposals with regard to the issues on the negotiation agenda. (El Tiempo, 15, 16, 17/08/14; BBC, 17/08/14)
CAMBODIA: The Extraordinary Chambers announce 11 reparation initiatives
In their sentence in the case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) recalled that 11 reparation initiatives are currently being implemented. These projects, designed to acknowledge the harm caused to Civil Parties by the Khmer Rouge regime, include: the institution of a National Remembrance Day project; the construction of a memorial in Phnom Penh to honour victims of forced evacuations; a testimonial therapy project; self-help groups; a permanent exhibition; a mobile exhibition and education project; the inclusion of a chapter on forced population movement and the executions at Tuol Po Chrey in the Cambodian school curriculum; the construction of a peace learning centre; a booklet on adjudicated facts and civil party participation at the ECCC; two editions of the verdict in the Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan Case; and inclusion of Civil Party names on the ECCC website. The human rights organisation Amnesty International has welcomed the Chamber’s decision to endorse these 11 reparation projects and has called for them to be fully implemented. The organisation has also urged the government of Cambodia to put greater effort into repairing the harm suffered by victims. (ECCC, AI, 07/08/14)
GERMANY – FRANCE – BELGIUM – UK: French and German leaders commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI
The German and French and presidents, Joachim Gauck and François Hollande, commemorated the 100th anniversary of Germany's declaration of war on France in August 1914 by paying tribute to soldiers in Alsace. They laid the first stone for a Great War memorial at Vieil Armand cemetery, which contains the remains of 12,000 unidentified soldiers. Some 30,000 men were killed in the mountains around that site. The two leaders express their gratitude for the soldiers’ sacrifice and celebrated the current friendship of the two countries as an example to the world whenever peace is threatened. Other remembrance acts have taken place in Liège – where 50 heads of state were invited –, Mons (Belgium), London, and Glasgow (UK) with the heads of state of those countries. The war between 1914 and 1918 left 17 million soldiers and civilians dead. (BBC, 03/08/14; 05/08/14)
GUATEMALA: Ixil bury 31 civilians killed by the army in 1982 massacre during the civil war
Relatives of victims of the Ixil indigenous community have held a ceremony to bury 31 civilians killed in the village of Xecax in February 1982. Four years ago the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala began the exhumation of the 31 bodies (28 complete remains and three partial), but only eight of them were eventually identified. The civil war in Guatemala between the state and several guerrilla groups (1960-1996), caused more than 200,000 deaths. According to a UN report 93% of the victims were caused by governmental armed forces, with 83% being indigenous Mayans. To date no responsibility for the massacre has been determined. Some members of the community blame Otto Pérez Molina, current president of the country. Pérez Molina, who has denied this accusation, was a military commander in Quiché, the region where the Xecax massacre occurred. (AP, Tico Times, 30/07/14)
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