International Criminal Court (ICC)
KENYA: Charges against Kenyatta dropped by the trial chamber
ICC judges have unanimously decided to drop the charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Trial Chamber decided to bring the proceedings to a close after ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda withdrew the charges against Kenyatta in December 2014, given the difficulty of gathering sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The Chamber has stated that if the Prosecutor can obtain sufficient new evidence, the case could be reopened. The Court has not, however, acquitted Kenyatta as his lawyers had requested in previous submissions. The case will also not be closed, as some proceedings related to the case can be appealed. The case against Kenyatta has been plagued with controversy, including alleged pressure on witnesses and the non-compliance of the Kenyan Government to information requests from one side, and accusations that ICC cases are biased towards African leaders from the other. Kenyatta was prosecuted for his alleged responsibility in the 2007-2008 post-electoral violence, in which about 1,200 people were killed. (ICC, 13/03/15; International Justice Monitor, 18/03/15)
SUDAN: ICC asks the UN Security Council to take measures to press for President Omar al-Bashir’s extradition
The ICC has asked the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to make Sudan comply with its obligations to arrest and surrender Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir. The first warrant of arrest was issued in March 2009, considering that al-Bashir could be criminally responsible for five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes during the armed conflict in Darfour. In July 2010 a second arrest warrant was issued adding three counts of genocide. But Sudan has failed to cooperate with the Court over the past six years. The ICC argues that although Sudan is not a State party to the ICC Rome Statute, it has an obligation to cooperate with the ICC under resolution 1593 (2005) which states that the Government of Sudan should cooperate fully with the Court. In December 2014 ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the suspension of her criminal investigations of the Darfur atrocities because no progress could be made without Sudan’s cooperation and coercive pressure from the UN Security Council. Al-Bashir is the only head of state charged with genocide by the ICC. Although the investigation was launched in response to a request from the UN Security Council, it is not clear whether the UN body will support the ICC’s demands to prosecute al-Bashir. (ICC, NYT, 09/03/15)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
CAMBODIA: Khmer Rouge leaders Im Chaem and Meas Muth charged with crimes against humanity
The international judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Mark Harmon, has charged in absentia former Navy Commander Meas Muth with homicide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (case 003), and Im Chaem, a former district official of the Khmer Rouge regime with crimes against humanity and homicide (case 004). The decision, which would only lead to a formal indictment if sufficient evidence is gathered, was not signed by the Cambodian judge in the tribunal or forwarded to the police. Following a policy of non-cooperation in these cases, as announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the police have also reportedly refused to act on Harmon’s charges. ECCC spokesperson Lars Olsen said it has not been possible to get an arrest warrant for the two accused, who have been under investigation for more than six years. Human Rights Watch has forcefully denounced that the Cambodian government has been obstructing the tribunal for years, and has asked the UN to withdraw its participation from the court and the international donors to end their funding if the Cambodian government does not act on the charges. Prime Minister Hun Sen has justified the Government’s lack of cooperation with the tribunal alleging that further indictments could lead to a civil war in the country, though some link his reluctance to the fact that many of the officials in Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) were Khmer Rouge leaders. Since the establishment of the tribunal in 2006, which to date has cost 205 million dollars, only three people have been convicted. The Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) caused the death of between 1.4 and 2.2 million Cambodians and others, the vast majority due to extrajudicial executions, torture, starvation, and disease. (AFP, 03/03/15; Phnom Penh Post, 13/03/15; (HRW, 22/03/15)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
ARGENTINA – SPAIN: Spain rejects extradition of Franco regime leaders to Argentina
The Spanish Government has announced it will not extradite the 17 leaders of the Franco regime accused by Argentinian judge María Servini of crimes against humanity. The Argentinian judge had invoked universal jurisdiction, but the Spanish minister of justice, Rafael Català, argued that the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes has expired and they are covered by the 1977 Amnesty law. Four UN human rights experts, Ariel Dulitzky, Christof Heyns, Juan E. Méndez and Pablo de Greiff reminded the Spanish state of its obligation to try or extradite the 17 accused, and regretted that the decision by the Spanish government denies the victims and their families the right to truth and justice. They also reminded the Spanish state that crimes against humanity do not prescribe. The Argentinian cause is the only judicial procedure currently open against Francoist crimes. By the end of March, on the International Day for the Right to the Truth, victims of the Franco regime (1939-1975) have demanded in the Senate to know the truth about their missing relatives. All the opposition parties pledged to work for the establishment of a Truth Commission. There is no official data about how many people are buried in unidentified graves, but estimations mention at least 100,000. (El diario, 13/03/15; Público, 24/03/15; UN, 27/03/15)
CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Trial against 82 former Laurent Gbagbo government officials sentences former first lady Simone Gbagbo to 20 years imprisonment
An Ivorian court has found the former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, guilty of disturbing the peace, organizing armed gangs and undermining state security. She has been unanimously sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for her role in post-electoral violence in 2010-2011, when more than 3,000 people died. Other 82 officials during Gbagbo’s presidency were also sentenced to terms of up to 20 years imprisonment. The ICC, which is prosecuting Simone Gbagbo for four crimes against humanity, has said the Ivorian court sentence won’t stop the ICC’s procedures, as the crimes addressed by the International Court are different. One week after the sentence, which doubled what the prosecution was demanding, Gbagbo’s lawyer has appealed the verdict. Some human rights organisations claim that the sentence has a political bias that favours the current president Alassane Ouatara who is pursuing one-sided justice and ignoring the abuses committed by his own supporters. (DW, Reuters, 10/03/15; AP, 17/03/15)
    Truth commissions
URUGUAY: Truth and Justice Group decides it will gather information on missing persons and will promote excavations
In March the Truth and Justice Group started defining the working procedures for a future Truth and Justice Commission that was announced a month earlier by president Tabaré Vazquez. The so-called Truth and Justice Group includes the country’s president and vice-president, two lawmakers, one representative each from the Catholic, Jewish and Methodist churches, a representative of the afro-descendant communities, and a representative from a victims’ families association. The Group has agreed that an additional 20 people would be asked to join and that all of them would work on a non-profit basis. The priorities identified during the definition process include centralising and digitalising information about the missing, collecting new information from the military, and undertaking excavations. The victims’ families association has expressed its doubts regarding the willingness of the Ministry of Defence to cooperate, since, according to the association, it has historically denied access to information. It has also demanded the dismantling of the state’s repressive apparatus and expressed its concern over maintaining in his post the current defence minister, Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro. Some other human rights groups have also questioned the composition of the commission since its members do not represent the organisations that have been most active in demanding the right to truth. At least 174 people disappeared during the Uruguayan dictatorship, according to the inquiry conducted by the Peace Commission in 2000. (El País, 13/02/15; UyPress, 26/03/15)
    Truth seeking investigations
BURKINA FASO: Government authorises Thomas Sankara’s exhumation
The government of Burkina Faso, headed by Michel Kafando, has ordered the exhumation of the remains of former president Thomas Sankara, killed in a coup in 1987. For years Sankara supporters have demanded the identification of his body, but it was blocked by a Court during the previous government presided by Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré, who is accused of being involved in the killing, was ousted from the presidency in October 2014 during massive street protests and substituted by Kafando. The new government has said that Sankara's family would be given the means to help identify the corpse. Miriam Sankara, the former leader's widow, has declared that if the body is identified, it should be done by the judiciary and in the context of a broader judicial inquiry to prosecute President Sankara's murderers. Accordingly, by the end of the month Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida announced that he had ordered a military tribunal to investigate the case. During Thomas Sankara’s presidency (1983-1987) school attendance leaped from 6% to 22%, some 2.5 million children were vaccinated, thousands of health centres opened and ten million trees were planted. Sankara is also known for embracing personal austerity, and rejecting foreign help. (BBC, Jeune Afrique, 05/03/15; All Africa, 12/03/15; 25/03/15)
SYRIA: UN Commission of Inquiry will share names of war crimes suspects with national prosecutors
In a press conference at UN headquarters in Geneva, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic informed that, since it has not been possible to ask to the UN Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the ICC due to Chinese and Russian opposition, the Commission would now adopt a different strategy of seeking prosecutions in national systems. After drawing up five lists of individuals and groups for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, the UN commission of Inquiry on Syria has started sharing the names of suspects with three European countries where the alleged perpetrators are from. Such information will be shared upon receiving a written request from the interested national authorities, either because the suspect is a national citizen or by applying the principle of universal jurisdiction. In four years the Syrian conflict has caused 220,000 dead and more than 10 million displaced people and refugees. (UN, The Guardian, 17/03/15)
CONGO, RD: The ICC rules on reparations for militia leader Thomas Lubanga’s victims
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a reparation order defining the principles and procedures that the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) should follow to guaranty reparations in the Lubanga case. After handing down in July 2012 a 14 year prison sentence for the leader of the armed group Force Patriotique pour la Libération du Congo, Thomas Lubanga, for enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15, the ICC ordered collective reparations in August 2012. The Chamber stated that reparations must be made on a collective, rather than an individual basis; that all victims – not only the 129 that participated in the trial proceedings – should benefit from the reparations; that reparation programs should include measures to reintegrate former child soldiers in the communities; that measures should be gender sensitive, and whenever possible, should reflect local cultural and customary practices unless these are discriminatory. The chamber has also specified that, even though Lubanga was not considered responsible for sexual abuses, reparations should take such crimes into consideration. The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) has announced it will present a draft implementation plan for collective reparations in September 2015 after consulting the victims, the communities and other stakeholders. As Lubanga is currently unable to pay the reparations, the TFV will advance six million euros from its own resources. This is the first time in the ICC’s history that a sentence includes reparations for victims. (ICC, 03/03/15, 20/03/15; RFI, 04/03/15)
ECUADOR: Comprehensive Reparation program for Victims of Human Rights Violations resumes
The Office of the Ombudsman and the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Religious Affairs have presented their program, launched in February 2015, for the Comprehensive Reparation of Victims of human rights violations. The Program will reach the 456 victims identified by the Truth Commission, which was created by in 2007 to investigate crimes against humanity committed in the country between 1984 and 2008. One of the recommendations of the Truth Commission was to pass a Victims’ Law, which was approved in December 2013. The current Program for the Comprehensive Reparation of Victims has been set up to provide reparation that is both material (money provided by the Ministry of Justice) and non-material (medical and psychological care or memorials). The amount of the financial reparations has not been defined yet, but the regulations state that the victims will need to file their claim in the Office of the Ombudsman. According to the Ombudsman, Ramiro Rivadeneira, 104 cases have already been processed. Later in the month General Prosecutor Galo Chiriboga reiterated that the reparation process does not exclude judicial procedures, for which 137 cases are being investigated (Agencia de Noticias Andes, 02/03/15; El Telégrafo, 11/03/15)
BELGIUM – FRANCE: Controversy over euro coin about the battle of Waterloo
On the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo the Belgian State has issued a euro coin to commemorate the episode in which Belgians caused heavy losses to Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops and won the war against France. The French State has complained to the European Council about the coin, saying that it goes against the idea of unity and cooperation in Europe, and that it could trigger hostile reactions in France. Some people on the Belgian side have argued that for years the French monetary institution Monnaie de Paris has been selling commemorative two euro coins at the battlefield site bearing representations of Bonaparte or the Lion symbolising the battle. The Belgian Finance Department announced that it will withdraw the two euro coin, but that it will create, instead, a three or five euro non-official piece. Around 180,000 of the planned 270.000 coins had already been manufactured and have cost the Belgian State 1.5 million euros. (Flanders News, Le Monde, 12/03/15)
RUSSIA: Gulag Museum Perm-36 might close its doors because of political pressure
The civil society organisation in charge of managing Perm-36 for the last 20 years has denounced that the museum is facing too much political pressure. The Gulag at Perm-36, located what was a forced labour camp until 1988, is the only museum about the political repression of the Stalin regime. In 2014 the State created a new administration for the museum. In addition, the Perm local authorities cut off the water and electricity supplies due to unpaid bills and, more recently, local officials took over the site and removed references to Stalinist crimes and to the political prisoners. After failed negotiations with local officials over the content of the remembrance site, the non-governmental group that had been managing the museum since its opening in 1992 has now disbanded. Amidst the war between Russia and Ukraine some voices have criticised the fact that the camp was commemorating Ukrainian nationalists. Up to 4,000 political prisoners were detained in Perm-36 under Stalin’s and Brezhnev’s rule. Although the real number is not known some historians have identified 17 Gulag camps. (; BBC, 03/03/15; DW, 05/03/15)
    Peace talks
SOUTH SUDAN: African Union Commission of Inquiry report leaked at the deadline of the peace talks
A report by the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) leaked on the very last day of the peace talks in South Sudan concludes that the country's president, Salva Kiir, and his former vice-president, Riek Machar, are responsible for organised massacres and large-scale violence, and therefore should be banned from government. In January, the African Union itself announced the indefinite postponement of the publication of the report arguing that it could interfere with the peace negotiations. Multiple international and human rights organisations have since criticised the decision, and have asked the African Union to publish it officially and to take leadership in transitional justice or cede the field to other actors. The AUCISS has the mandate to investigate human right abuses and violations in South Sudan and to make recommendations on the best ways to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing. Seven ceasefires have failed to stop 10,000 killings and 1.8 million displacements in South Sudan’s conflict, which began in December 2013. (The Guardian, 06/03/5; AI, 10/03/15)
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