International Criminal Court (ICC)
ISRAEL: ICC decides not to prosecute attack on Gaza flotilla in 2010
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the Court will not continue its investigation of the raid by the Israeli Defence Forces on an international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2010. While she acknowledges there are reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes were committed in one of the boats, the Mavi Marmara, she argues that the crimes are not severe enough to be prosecuted by the court, which should give priority to large-scale war crimes. In 2010 Israeli commandos boarded the flotilla in international waters, killing nine passengers – eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent – and wounding several others. The complaint was originally presented to the ICC by Comoros in 2013, as the Mavi Marmara was a Comoros-flagged ship, and because neither Turkey nor Israel are members of the ICC. The ICC prosecutor’s decision was considered a success by some victims’ family members as it recognised that war crimes had been committed, and also by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which was satisfied that what it considered a legally unfounded and politically motivated probe had been closed. The Turkish lawyer representing Comoros, Razaman Ariturk, has accused the ICC of having a double standard, since it refused to investigate the flotilla incident even though it did launch a probe of similar situation in the Abu Garda case, were 11 members of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan were killed in 2007. (Jurist, NY Times, 06/11/14; AP, 14/10/14)
LIBYA: Worsening security situation in Libya prevents the ICC from investigating cases
In its eighth report to the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya, ICC’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has warned that growing violence and political instability are making it difficult to end impunity in the country. According to Bensouda the main current security challenges that fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction are the on-going assassinations in Benghazi; threats to media workers, women, human rights defenders, prosecutors, judges and lawyers; the high number of individuals in detention, some of whom may be subject to torture and may die in custody; and the mass displacement of the Tawerghans. Bensouda notes that the security situation, the split of the country into two governments, and a lack of resources have all significantly hampered the ability of the ICC to effectively conduct investigations in the country. In order to be able to fulfil its duties Bensouda has urged the Libyan authorities to ensure the necessary conditions to facilitate the ICC’s investigations in Libya, and to immediately surrender Saif Al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the ICC’s custody. She has also asked the international community to explore solutions to restore stability in Libya, and to form an international contact group on justice issues to provide material, legal and other support to Libya. In February 2011 the UN Security Council referred the Libyan case to the ICC. Of the three cases it had initially decided to hear for crimes against humanity, only Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s, son of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi accused of two counts of crimes against humanity, is still pending, since former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi was killed and the chief of military intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi is being tried by a domestic court. (ICC, 11/11/14)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
BALKANS: ICTY releases former Serbian leader amid victim’s outrage
The ICTY has decided to release the leader of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party Vojislav Šešelj, who has cancer, for humanitarian reasons after 12 years in custody without a sentence. He would be released as long as he does not interfere with victims or witnesses, and he must return to be present in the ICTY when the verdict is issued, but Šešelj has made public statements against current Serbian leaders and that he would not surrender. Šešelj, who voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY in 2003, is accused of crimes against humanity (political, racial or religious persecution, deportation, and forcible transfer), and violations of the laws or customs of war (murder, torture, cruel treatment, wanton destruction of villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education; and plundering of public or private property) against Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs from August 1991 until September 1993 in different Bosnian regions. While Šešelj pleaded not guilty, prosecutors asked for a term of 28 years in jail. His trial concluded in 2012, but the verdict will not be issued until late 2015. His release has sparked the backing of his supporters, while representatives of several associations of Bosnian and Croatian victims have deplored his release before a sentence is handed down. The European Parliament has also passed a resolution calling for the end of impunity in the former Yugoslavia, and expressing its concern over the radical and extreme rhetoric that produces tension among people and ethnic groups. (BBC, 12/11/14; SBS, 13/11/14; InSerbia, 14/11/14; European Parliament 2014/2970(RSP)
BANGLADESH: Death sentences for Rahman Nizami, Quasem Ali, Hussain Khokon, and Hossain for war crimes
In separate judgements the International War Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced to death four leaders. The leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Motiur Rahman Nizami, has been convicted for murder, rape and looting in 1971; Jamaat-e-Islami leader and Media Tycoon Mir Quasem Ali has been sentenced on eight charges for war crimes perpetrated in the city of Chittagong in 1971. Zahid Hussain Khokon, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and mayor of the city of Nagarkanda, has been found guilty on charges that include mass killing, murder, rape, pillaging and forcible religious conversion of Hindus. Mobarak Hossain, former leader of the Awami League, was found guilty of murder, abduction and torture. In the case of Mobarak Hossain, it is the first sentence for someone with ties to the Awami league, the party currently in power. All the crimes refer to violent incidents that occurred during the 1971 war. While activists who fought against Pakistan in the 1971 war have celebrated the verdicts the Jamaat-e-Islami party has called for national strikes to protest against the sentences. Created in 2010, the ICTB has been criticised for targeting political opponents. Since 2013 14 people have been convicted of war crimes, ten of which belong to the Jamaat-e-Islami party, and two with links to the BNP. The convictions have sparked Islamist protests that have led to at least 150 deaths since early 2013, mostly caused by security forces. (BBC, 02/11/14; 24/11/14)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
COLOMBIA: Nasa indigenous court convicts seven FARC combatants
An indigenous court in Toribio, Colombia, has convicted seven indigenous combatants of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group for the murder of two leaders of the Nasa indigenous community. The leaders were shot dead after removing a billboard praising FARC leader Alfonso Cano. Two years earlier the Nasa had asked the Colombian army and the guerrillas to leave their territory, saying they were getting caught in the middle of the conflict. The assembly, composed of 3,000 members, has sentenced five of the accused to 40 to 60 years in jail and two others – aged 14 and 17 – to 20 lashes and detention at a rehabilitation centre until they are 18. Following the trial the weapons used by the guerrillas were destroyed in front of the tribal court. The UN representative in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild, said the FARC rebels from Colombia should have been judged by an independent court, as the rebels had no right to defence and were denied their right to appeal. Indigenous authorities in Colombia have jurisdiction in their own territories unless this contravenes national law. About 220,000 people have died in five decades of armed conflict in Colombia. (BBC, 10-12/11/14)
CONGO, RD: General Kakwavu sentenced to ten years
The former militia commander and leader of the Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais (FAPC), Jerôme Kakwavu has been sentenced by a military court to 10 years in prison for war crimes and to pay reparations to a dozen victims. He was accused of committing the war crimes of rape, murder, and torture in the country's eastern district of Ituri in 2004, and for massacres committed in Kobu and Jicho forest against civilian populations in January 2003. Kakwavu’s sentence is significant because he is the first Congolese general convicted for rape. According to a Human Rights Watch report, of the 187 convictions handed down by military courts for sexual violence between July 2011 and December 2013 recorded by the United Nations only three were senior army officers. David Tolbert, President of International Centre for Transitional Justice, has declared that Kakwavu’s conviction is a positive sign in the country’s accountability, but that the number of open investigations of international crimes remains very limited compared to the magnitude of the atrocities committed. (Radio Okapi, 07/11/14; HRW, 10/11/14; ICTJ, 12/11/14)
    Truth seeking investigations
ISRAEL: Israel forbids entrance to UN Human Rights Council to avoid probe into August 2014 air strikes against Gaza
The Israeli government has denied entry to members of the UN Human Rights Council committee set up to investigate possible war crimes during the July and August 2014 air strikes over Gaza. Arguing that the decision was taken because of obsessive hostility towards Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said it will not cooperate with the one-sided UN probe, but that it will however pass on documents indicating that the Hamas Palestinian armed group committed war crimes. Shortly before, the human rights organisation Amnesty International issued a report investigating attacks by Israeli forces that targeted inhabited houses during the July and August air strikes. The report, that documents the bombing of several buildings, concludes that some of the cases amount to war crimes. While the organization has been able to determine that the bombing of some buildings was related to possible military targets, this was not true in all the cases investigated, which would constitute war crimes. The report also argues that in those cases where possible military targets were identified the use of force was disproportionate, as no prior warning was given and houses full of civilians were flatten. For these reasons AI asks the international community and the UN Security Council to make possible an ICC investigation. According to AI, during the July and August 2014 attacks in Gaza at least 18,000 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. More than 1,500 Palestinian civilians including 519 children were killed in Israeli attacks. Palestinian armed groups also committed war crimes, firing thousands of indiscriminate rockets into Israel, killing six civilians including one child. (AI, 06/11/14, Haaretz, 12/11/14)
BELGIUM – CONGO, DR: Belgian mining company Groupe Forrest International should compensate victims of forced evictions in DR Congo, Amnesty International says
Amnesty International has issued a report accusing the Belgian mining company Groupe Forrest International of bulldozing hundreds of homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and of denying justice and redress to the victims. According to the human rights organisation the company’s subsidiary, Entreprise Général Malta Forrest (EGMF), supplied bulldozers to demolish 387 homes and forcibly evict hundreds of people living next to the company’s Luiswishi copper and cobalt mine in Katanga between May 2009 and May 2010, in the midst of the country’s war (1998-present). The report also details how the companies and the Congolese government have obstructed attempts to achieve justice for the villagers. Groupe Forrest International has repeatedly claimed that the demolitions were legal, and that the bulldozers only destroyed temporary homes belonging to small-scale miners. But AI has satellite imagery, video footage and the files from a criminal investigation by a government Prosecutor that prove otherwise. The report calls on the Congolese authorities and Groupe Forrest International to ensure full compensation for all losses caused by the demolitions and forced evictions, and to bring charges against all those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law. It also calls on Belgium to properly regulate Belgian multinationals at home and abroad. After the presentation of the report the Congolese Ministry of Justice and Human Rights announced that it has taken steps to prosecute the Kawama demolitions. Competition for minerals is one of the causes of the war in DR Congo. The country is estimated to have 34% of the world's cobalt reserves and 10% of its copper. (BBC, 24/11/14; AI, 24, 27/11/14)
KOREA: Women demand compensation after being encouraged to prostitute themselves to US troops and then left to their fate by the government
Over 120 women who worked as prostitutes in the 1970’s near the US base at Uijeongbu City are demanding compensation from the Korean government for actively encouraging their work to keep American forces happy, but leaving them in poverty now that they are old. The women demand an apology, compensation of 10,000 dollars each, and an investigation of the government’s involvement on the alleged encouragement of poor and undereducated women to work as prostitutes. US Forces Korea now claim they apply a "zero tolerance" policy towards servicemen using prostitutes by patrolling red light districts and going into bars to seek transgressors. Prostitution has also been forbidden in South Korea since 2004. (Daily Mail, 28/11/14)
CHILE: Compensation for 31 former political prisoners
An appeals court has ordered the government to pay around 150 million pesos each (240,000 dollars each) to 31 former political prisoners held from 1973 to 1975 during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship on Dawson island in Tierra del Fuego. The group of prisoners, which included political leaders and government ministers, were held in crowded barracks in sub-zero temperatures and were subjected to forced labour. In a Report by the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture the prisoners were recognised as victims of the state. The plaintiffs presented their suit in January 2008 and demanded 400 million pesos (640,000 dollars) each plus 500 pesos (0.8 dollars) for each day in prison. A previous sentence had recognised their right to reparation, but the State Defence Council appealed the decision arguing that the statute of limitations for the compensation had run out. However, the appeals court has now sentenced that since crimes against humanity do not prescribe, redress for such crimes should not prescribe either. The vice president of the National Organization of Former Political Prisoners of Chile, Victor Rosas Vergara, said the decision is a landmark ruling since redress demands had previously been systematically rejected by courts with the argument that the victims should have filed their claims in the four-year period after having been made prisoner, which would have been right in the middle of the dictatorship. It is estimated that about 38,000 people were tortured during Pinochet’s rule. (La Prensa Austral, 20/11/14; Santiago Times, 25/11/14)
UK (NORTHERN IRELAND): Controversy in Stormont talks over lack of results, offensive language and funding misuse
The inter-party talks taking place in Stormont to address controversial legacy issues, such as flags, parades and the past, has sparked civil society and media criticism. Several newspapers have raised concern over the lack of progress after weeks of negotiation. A senior politician from the Democratic Unionist Party, Gregory Campbell, has used offensive language against the proposals made by the Sinn Fein party and parodied an Irish accent to show his rejection for an Irish Language Act. Similarly, Sinn Fein’s leader Gerry Adams had to apologise for calling the radical unionists “bastards”. Analysts and civil society representatives have deplored such attitudes, questioning the examples that these so-called representatives are setting for the rest of society. At the same time the Police have started investigating the alleged misuse of funds by some DUP and Sinn Fein members participating in the Stormont negociations. An investigation into the potential criminality was launched after two BBC documentaries reported cases of alleged misuse of public Money. As pointed out by a report of the Northern Ireland Office presented to the parties during the current Stormont talks, reaching an agreement over legacy issues is critical. The report states that the current approach is not sufficiently meeting the needs of the victims, that controversy over the past can destabilise decision making, that dealing with legacy issues costs more than 50 million pounds (78 million dollars) per year, and that legacy obligations are stretching the capacity of the Police. (Belfast Telegraph, 26/11/14; BBC, 12, 27/11/14)
    Institutional reform
SERBIA: Reforms in the judiciary needed to end impunity over war crimes committed in the 1990s, AI says
Amnesty International (AI) has called on the Serbian government to tackle impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by Serbian police, and military and paramilitary forces during the Balkan wars in the 1990s. According to AI, ten years after the opening of a Special War Crimes Court in Belgrade, only about 160 perpetrators have been judged for those crimes and few victims have received any reparation. To end impunity the human rights organisation proposes: to provide sufficient staffing and resources to the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor; to create an effective Police War Crimes Investigation Unit; to ensure adequate witness support, including specialised support for victims of sexual violence; and to end intimidation of witnesses protected by the Witness Protection unit. AI considers that the process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union is a unique opportunity to address the shortcomings of its legal system. In its October 2014 Progress Report on Serbia the European Commission has also noted the failure to investigate high-ranking military and police officials, the lack of effective witness protection and witness support, and the lack of access to reparation, including compensation for the majority of the victims of war crimes. (AI, 04/11/14)
    Peace talks
MALI: Peace negotiations must make sure that serious crimes are prosecuted, HRW and FIDH say
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that the draft agreement to end the violence in northern Mali called “Elements for a peace and reconciliation agreement in Mali”, does not adequately address the prosecution of serious international crimes committed by all parties. The organisation points out that previous peace agreements to stop violence in the country allowed impunity and weakened the rule of law. HRW recommends that the final agreement states clearly that no immunity will be given to people who committed crimes; calls for investigations of all international humanitarian law violations; provides details on an international commission of inquiry; supports the establishment of mobile testimony gathering units; strengthens an independent Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and ensures the vetting of security force personnel involved in serious human rights abuses. Similarly, a meeting held by the Fédération Internationale pour les Droits de l’Homme (FIDH) has drawn up a roadmap for reconciliation, requesting that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR) created in January 2014 listen to victims of all forms of political repression and grave violations of human rights, and that amnesty be forbidden. CVJR members should be chosen for their competence, independence, impartiality and fairness, excluding members of the armed forces, security services, armed groups, and political leaders, and it should be composed of an equal number of men and women. Crimes perpetrated in the 2012-2013 armed conflict include summary executions, looting, pillage, sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, amputations, destruction of shrines, enforced disappearances and torture. The Malian government and certain opposition armed groups started in November 2014 their fourth round of “inter-Malian dialogue”. Although this round has finalized without reaching any agreement, conversations will restart in January 2015. (HRW, 10/11/14; FIDH, 14/11/14; MaliWeb, 28/11/14)
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