International Criminal Court (ICC)
CONGO, DR: Appeals Chamber confirms the acquittal of the former leader of the FNI armed group, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui
The Appeals Chamber of the ICC has confirmed, by majority, the ruling that acquitted the former leader of the Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (National Integrationist Front, FNI), Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, of charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Ngudjolo Chui was acquitted on 18 December 2012 of three counts of crimes against humanity (murder, rape and sexual slavery) and seven counts of war crimes (using children under the age of 15 to take active part in the hostilities; directing an attack against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; wilful killing; destruction of property; pillaging; sexual slavery and rape). The crimes were allegedly committed in February 2003 during the attack on the village of Bogoro, in the Ituri district of the DRC. In December 2012 the Office of the Prosecutor appealed the verdict on procedural grounds claiming that the Prosecutor had been denied full access to Registry reports in relation to questions regarding the credibility of certain witnesses, but Ngudjolo Chui was released from custody. ICC judges have now confirmed the initial sentence and consider that it was not possible to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the errors concerning witnesses did not affect the outcome of the acquittal decision. Two of the five judges wrote a joint dissenting opinion. As Ngudjolo Chui has been acquitted no reparations payments will be ordered for the Trust Fund for Victims that supports assistance programmes to victims in Ituri (ICC, 27/02/15)
    Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ)
CROATIA – SERBIA: The ICJ rules that Serbia and Croatia did not commit genocide against each other’s populations
The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled in two separate verdicts that Serbia and Croatia did not commit genocide against each other’s people during the war in the Balkans in the early 1990s. Both countries had filed civil lawsuits at the Court, claiming the other had violated the Genocide Convention. Croatia had also demanded extensive reparations for war damages. The verdicts recognize the killings of civilians and the widespread destruction committed by the forces from both sides. However, the large-scale operations to displace people in the two countries did not meet the criteria for genocide. The rulings were expected by the parties and welcomed by official representatives of the two countries, which affirmed their hope that the rulings would start a safer and brighter era. Following the ICJ ruling Amnesty International has stressed that Serbia and Croatia must now focus their efforts on ensuring accountability for war crimes and reparation for victims at the national level. Since accountability for these crimes has been slow and partial in both countries, the human rights organisation has called on them to provide justice, truth and reparation to all victims, particularly victims of sexual violence and missing people. The accusations refer to crimes committed in Vukovar and other settings in the Krajina region, where more than 12,000 Croatian civilians were killed during shelling campaigns, thousands were incarcerated in camps, and up to 100,000 people fled their homes. On the other side more than 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to flee their homes and ancestral lands. (EFE; The New York Times, AI 03/02/15)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
BALKANS: Appeals Chamber upholds conviction of five Bosnian Serb officials
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has issued its Judgement in the Popović et al. case, concerning five military officials from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) for crimes perpetrated in July 1995 in massacres in Srebrenica and Žepa. The judges confirmed the different sentences of the officials for war crimes and upheld most of the convictions issued by the Trial Chamber on 10 June 2010: Vujadin Popović and Ljubiša Beara were sentenced to life imprisonment; Drago Nikolić to 35 years of imprisonment; and Vinko Pandurević to 13 years of imprisonment. The sentence for Radivoje Miletić, however, was reduced from 19 to 18 years of imprisonment. The Appeals Chamber dismissed, unanimously or by majority, most of the Appellants’ challenges, in which their lawyers had argued that there had been factual errors in the original judgement. The Popović et al. case is the Tribunal’s largest completed case to date. Trial proceedings began on 21 August 2006 and concluded on 15 September 2009. Vujadin Popović and Ljubiša Beara are among just a few officials to have been found guilty of genocide. About 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed in just three days in 1995 in Srebrenica, an enclave supposedly protected by UN Dutch soldiers. (ICTY, BCC, 30/01/15)
SENEGAL – CHAD: The Extraordinary African Chambers consider there is sufficient evidence to bring to trial former Chadian President Hissène Habré
After a 19-month investigation, four judges at the Extraordinary African Chambers have found that there is sufficient evidence for former Chadian President Hissène Habré to stand trial for alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture. Habré, who denies the charges and refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the court, is accused of thousands of political killings during his presidency (1982-1990). Habré was indicted in July in 2013 and placed in pre-trial detention. During the investigation the judges organized four missions to Chad, interviewed 2,500 victims and witnesses, analysed thousands of documents, and uncovered mass graves. The trial, expected to begin in May or June 2015, will be the first time that universal jurisdiction is applied in Africa. The court was set up in 2013 by Senegal and the African Union following a decision by the International Court of Justice in 2012. (HRW, 13/02/15; BBC, 14/02/15)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Recommendations to create a Special Criminal Court
Coinciding with meetings between the country’s National Transition Council and the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) to discuss a draft law to establish a Special Criminal Court (SCC), a coalition of 19 local and international human rights organisations have made recommendations regarding its functioning. According to these organisations, the Special Criminal Court (SCC) should investigate and judge war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2012, when the country’s current armed conflict began. These crimes should include murder –including some that were politically and ethnically motivated–, massive displacement of the population, and the looting and wide-scale burning of villages. The Court should be composed of 27 judges –14 national and 13 international– integrated into the CAR’s judicial system for a renewable period of five years. The coalitions has said that life imprisonment should be the maximum sentence, in observance of the CAR’s decision in 1981 to not apply the death penalty, and the court should cooperate with the ICC, which is conducting investigations related to the possible prosecution of a limited number of suspects. (FIDH, 19/02/15; HRW, 20/02/15)
    Truth commissions
NEPAL: Truth and Reconciliation and Enforced Disappearances Commissions will not be able to grant amnesty
The Nepali Government has created two commissions to investigate allegations of war crimes and disappearances that occurred during the nation's civil war (1996-2006) between the State and the Maoist opposition armed group. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will investigate abuses committed during the conflict, and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances will investigate the disappearances of more than 1,300 people still missing. The commissions will start their investigations within six months of their creation and will finish their work in two years. The announcement by the Nepalese Government comes amid criticism for being too slow. Despite the fact that both parties committed to look into the crimes within six months after signing the peace deal, eight years have passed since the peace agreement was signed in 2006. The amnesty provisions foreseen in the Truth and Reconciliation Law (TRL) (2013) that defined the Commissions have also been criticised. Both warring parties have been accused of grave war-time abuses, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rape and torture. Later in February the Nepali Supreme Court ruled on an appeal filed by 234 family victims and rejected the possibility of amnesty granted under the TRL for perpetrators of serious human rights abuses during the civil war. The Government said it would honour the court's decision. (Reuters, Jurist, 10/02/15; Reuters, 26/02/15)
    Truth seeking investigations
SRI LANKA: New Government asks for delay of a UN war crimes report until Sri Lankan mechanisms are put in place
The newly elected Sri Lankan Government presided by Maithripala Sirisena has asked the UN Human Rights Council to delay for several months the release of its report on alleged war crimes until the Government has time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the allegations. The UN report on violence during the civil war, due to be published in March 2015, faced the opposition of the previous Sri Lankan administration, that said that a national inquiry process should take priority. The new Sri Lankan Government, elected in January 2015, has also announced it will undertake a local inquiry, inviting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit to discuss the issue. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera expressed the Government’s will to refer the findings of the report to the Sri Lankan judicial mechanism. UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville responded that the report was still due on March 25. In a written statement to the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International has welcomed new official commitments to end impunity and promote the rule of law, pursue reconciliation between all communities, and rebuild Sri Lanka’s international relationships, and has encouraged the Government to translate this commitment into action. Although the Sri Lankan Government rejects the findings, an earlier UN report estimated that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed, most of them by army shelling, in the final weeks of the civil war (1983-2009), between the Government and the LTTE. (Reuters, 11/02/15; BBC, 12/02/15; AI, 16/02/15)
CÔTE D’IVOIRE: The Government announces the start of victims’ reparations
The director of War Victims in the Ministry of Solidarity, Sylvanus Koré, has announced the Government would start financial reparations as a way to promote true reconciliation. Victims’ associations had urged the Government to take steps to speed up the identification process, as many victims were facing difficult situations. In December 2014 President Alassane Ouattara announced that 10 billion francs CFA (17 million dollars) would be included in the 2015 budget to address grievances caused by the post-electoral crisis in 2010-2011, when at least 3,000 people died. The President of the National Federation of victims of the post-electoral crisis (Fenavipel-CI), Mamadou Soromidjo Coulibaly, criticised the Fund as being insufficient, considering that the number of victims identified is closer to 20,000. (AbidjanNet, 05/02/15)
UGANDA – TANZANIA: Uganda has paid 9.7 million dollars to Tanzania in war reparations
Deputy Minister for Finance Adam Malima announced in Parliament that Uganda has so far paid 9.7 million dollars to Tanzania in war reparations for the gross damages caused by the 1978-1979 war between the two countries. Authorities in both countries are still negotiating so that Uganda completes the agreed payments. Under the leadership of Dictator Idi Amin Dada, Uganda had invaded some parts of Kagera Region in Tanzania. At the end of the war in 1979 the countries agreed that Uganda would pay war reparations to Tanzania amounting to 18.4 million dollars. (East Africa Daily, 05/02/15; AllAfrica, 06/02/15)
GERMANY – UK – USA: Dresden bombing commemorations call for tolerance
Commemoration ceremonies were held in the city of Dresden to mark the 70th anniversary of the massive bombings that killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians. Almost 10,000 people formed a human chain along the Elbe River to commemorate the dead and call for peace. Speaking at the city's Church of Our Lady, destroyed during World War II, German President Joachim Gauck remembered German victims, as well as the victims of German warfare. Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz said the events would demonstrate the city's core values of openness to the world and tolerance, as the city has been the host of the anti-Islamisation marches launched by the Pegida movement since October 2014. Ceremonies to commemorate the bombings have been claimed by both neo-Nazi and anti-fascist groups. Over a period of four days in February 1945 British and American attacks left 33 km2 of the city in ruins and killed up to 25,000 people, many of them refugees fleeing from the advance of the Russian Army in East Germany. (DW; BBC, 13/02/15)
NORTHERN IRELAND: Criticism over the Stormont Agreement on how to deal with the past
Shortly after the Stormont House Agreement in December 2015 several actors have criticised its limited capacity to deal with the past. In its annual report Amnesty International raised its concern that the approach to investigating past human rights abuses is fragmented and partial, as the Government refuses to investigate high-profile cases of killings, and that the Stormont House Agreement leaves so many unanswered questions. Human rights organisations, together with other political actors, have deplored the lack of funds to effectively investigate past troubles. On a different level, the Northern Ireland Arts Council has created the online Troubles Archive that collects close to 500 pieces of art, by more than 100 artists, produced during the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1999. Writer and journalist Malachi O’Doherty commented on the value of the archive, highlighting its non partisan, non sectarian, individual and humane approach as a good counterweight to propaganda and simplification. (Irish Central, 19/02/15; BBC, 25/02/15).
    Institutional reform
LIBYA: Parliament drops law which banned Gaddafi-era officials from taking part in State bodies
Libya's internationally recognized parliament in Tobruk has revoked a law passed in May 2013 which banned officials who had served under former President al-Gaddafi (1969-2011) from holding any political posts or leadership position in the country's state firms, universities and judicial bodies. The law had been criticised by human rights groups who described it as sweeping and denounced that it was adopted under the pressure of armed groups that besieged government buildings in Tripoli for days until it was approved by the then transitional assembly. There is no guarantee that the parliament in Tobruk will be able to apply this law since there are two parallel parliaments in the country, the House of Representatives in Tobruk (east of the country) created in June 2014, and the General National Congress in Tripoli, created in 2012. Since the fall of former President al-Gaddafi in 2011 Libya is facing violent conflict between rival militias battling for control of cities and resources. In several reports published in February Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have denounced violent attacks, kidnappings, intimidations, threatening, the killing of Libyan journalists with impunity, and the killing of more than 50 Egyptian Copts that may constitute war crimes, among other serious violations of human rights due to the armed conflict. (BBC, 02/02/15; Al-Jazeera, 03/02/15; HRW, 09, 16/02/15; AI, 23/02/15)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Historic Commission reports on the origins of the armed conflict
As part of the country’s peace process, the Historic Commission on the Conflict and its Victims in Colombia has presented in Havana, Cuba, an 800 pages report on the causes and origins of violence in the country. The Commission, which was composed of 12 Colombian historians, was approved by the two negotiating delegations, the Government and the armed opposition group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC, Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia). The report has not revealed a specific “historic truth” but has identified some areas of consensus (the fact that one of the main causes of the conflict are long-lasting injustices in rural areas and the inability of leftist political forces to assume political power without violence, or that the initiatives taken by the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC were crucial in launching the peace talks) and other areas where opinions differed (such as the date the conflict began). The authors have stressed that the report is contributing to the peace talks by promoting plural debates and an understanding of the complexity of responsibilities. It provides basic material for a future truth commission and will help to avoid repetition. The Havana Peace talks aim at ending a 50-year war that has caused about 7 million victims. (El Colombiano, 10/02/15; Colombia reports, 11/02/15)
SOUTH SUDAN: Publication of war crimes inquiry report postponed to avoid interfering with peace negotiations
The first African Union commission on war crimes in South Sudan, which is investigating atrocities and crimes committed by the warring parties, announced at the end of January the indefinite postponement of the publication of its report. The chair of the African commission on war crimes, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, said the decision aims to support the ongoing efforts to reach a peace agreement and to form a transitional government. The European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, among others, supported the publication of the report to deter further violence against civilians. The EU diplomatic body also urged the South Sudanese parties to conclude a peace agreement no later than March 2015. The South Sudanese factions of the historical Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed a unity deal in Arusha in January 2015, followed by another agreement in Addis Ababa that established the composition of a transitional government to prepare reforms. The civil war, which started in December 2013, led to at least 10,000 deaths, in addition to other violence such as rape and civilian massacres based on ethnicity. (Soudan Tribune, The Guardian, 04/02/15)
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