International Criminal Court (ICC)
SUDAN – SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa fails to arrest Sudanese president al-Bashir despite ICC arrest warrant
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who is a fugitive with a 2009 arrest warrant issued by the ICC, attended an African Union Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, without being arrested. An arrest order from a court forced the President to leave South Africa prematurely, and the South African High Court ruled that the government’s failure to arrest al-Bashir was unconstitutional. In a Statement to the UN Security Council, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that al-Bashir’s unanticipated departure is a precedent which indicated that the South African courts and civil society are pushing for accountability. Bensouda has also criticised the continuous non-compliance of Sudan’s obligations under the Rome Statute, and asked the Security Council to take measures to end impunity. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reiterated that the Sudanese leader is accused of being an accomplice in the killing, maiming and torture of hundreds of thousands of people, and reminded South Africa of its obligation to arrest and extradite al-Bashir to the ICC as a signatory country of the Rome Statute. It is estimated that about 400,000 people died and two million were displaced in the Sudanese region of Darfour during the armed conflict that began in 2003. (AI, 14/06/15;, 15/06/15; ICC, 29/06/15)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Special Criminal Court created by law to prosecute war crimes
In early June the President of the Transitional Government, Catherine Samba-Panza, promulgated organic law No. 15,003 for the creation of a Special Criminal Court (CPS) to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity that had been committed in the country since January 2003. With a five year mandate, the Court based in Bangui will have four chambers: Investigating Chamber, Special Prosecutions Chamber, Trial Chamber and Appeals Chamber. The UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) will nominate international judges and a special prosecutor. The Court’s Budget will also be covered by the international community through voluntary contributions. The law also stipulates that the Court will cooperate with the ICC; it is the first time a local Court has been created while the ICC is investigating human rights violations in the same country. Welcoming the establishment of the CPS, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) urged the international community to support the CAR authorities in the establishment of an effective court, especially by appointing magistrates, finding premises and ensuring adequate funding. In December 2014 the UN mandated International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic said the number of people killed in the armed conflict from August 2012 to December 2014 could range from 3,000 to 6,000, but warned that this estimation fails to capture the full magnitude of the killings. (UN, S/2014/928;, 07/06/15; FIDH, 10/06/15)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Human rights organisations ask the president not to close down investigation unit into post-electoral violence
In a letter addressed to president Alassane Ouatara, 19 human rights organisations supported by Human Rights Watch and the FIDH have asked the Ivorian government not to shut down the Special Investigative and Examination Cell in charge of investigating the worst crimes committed during the post-electoral violence in 2010-2011. The organisations have reminded the president that he has repeatedly stated his commitment to impartial justice, and called on him to maintain the budget and the operation of the Cell that the president himself created in June 2011. The decision would be a step backward in the fight against impunity while investigations are closer to reaching conclusions. At least 3,000 civilians were killed and more than 150 women were raped in episodes of post-electoral violence. (FIDH, 17/06/15; HRW, 25/06/15)
RWANDA – UK: UK arrests Rwanda intelligence chief Emmanuel Karake on war crimes warrant
Rwanda National Intelligence and Security Services head, Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, was arrested in the UK on a European Arrest Warrant for war crimes issued in 2008 by the Spanish judge Fernando Andreu. Together with 40 other officials of the former armed group Rwandan Patriotic Front, Karenzi Karake was accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism for the killings in 1997 of three Spanish aid workers and six priests. Two days after his arrest, Karenzi Karake’s lawyers argued in a court hearing that the intelligence chief was in the UK on a diplomatic mission to meet Alex Younger, head of the MI6, the British intelligence service, and therefore had diplomatic immunity. The Rwandan government, lead by the Rwandan Patriotic Front party, heir of the former armed group, strongly criticized the arrest, and has demanded explanations from the UK government. A full hearing to decide on the extradition will take place at the end of October 2015. (El Pais, 23/06/15; Jurist, 24/06/15; BBC, 26/06/15)
    Truth commissions
CANADA: Truth and Reconciliation Commission concludes that residential schools caused cultural genocide
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating abuses to First Nation, Inuit and Metis children in residential schools has issued its summary report after a 6-year investigation. The enquiry is based on over 6,750 interviews of victims and, to a lesser extent, workers of residential schools, and will end with the publication of a final report by the end of the year. According to the Chairman of the Commission, aboriginal judge Murray Sinclair, the report indicates that the residential school system was a “cultural genocide” that has never been adequately addressed despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology in 2008. The report makes 94 recommendations to heal the harm of residential schools, including greater police independence to investigate the cases; the launch of a national inquiry on missing aboriginal women; the implementation by governments at all levels of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework of reconciliation; the acknowledgement that the current state of aboriginal health is a direct result of previous Canadian policies, including residential schools; a statutory holiday to honour survivors; and an apology from the Pope on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. From 1874 to 1996, 150,000 aboriginal children were abducted from their families and forcibly enrolled in 132 boarding schools run by Christian churches, where many suffered systematic physical abuse and violations of their cultural rights. (The Canadian Press, AFP, 02/06/15)
    Truth seeking investigations
ERITREA: Commission of inquiry concludes human rights violations could constitute crimes against humanity
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea has published its final report, which concludes that the Government of Eritrea is responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations which may constitute crimes against humanity. The report states that the Army, Police Forces and the President himself are responsible for establishing a totalitarian state that arbitrarily used mass surveillance, prosecution of dissent, forced labour and imprisonment, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, religious prosecution, exploitation during national service, torture and sexual torture. The commission was established in June 2014 to investigate alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea since the country’s independence in 1991. The commission has called for international protection of Eritrean refugees, asylum seekers and migrants across the Mediterranean and other routes who are exposed to human trafficking. Human Rights Watch has urged the Eritrean government to apply the human rights reforms recommended by the UN Commission, and has called on the EU states to protect Eritrean asylum seekers. It is estimated that about 5,000 Eritrean are leaving the country each month. (OHCHR, 08/01/15; HRW, 10/06/15)
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: UN Commission blames both parties for unprecedented violence against civilians that may amount to war crimes
The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 war in Gaza has published a report which gathers substantial information indicating the possible commission of war crimes by both the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups. The Commission argues that the extensive use of weapons in densely populated areas of Gaza and the fact that this was maintained despite the effects on Palestinian civilians indicate that it could be part of a policy backed by the highest level of the Israeli government. At the same time, the Commission denounced the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, with the apparent intention of spreading terror among Israeli civilians living near Gaza. The report recommends that both parties prosecute the wrongdoings of their respective combatants to halt impunity. The commission has also denounced Israel’s decision to close the criminal investigation in the case of four children killed on a beach without interviewing Palestinian and international eyewitnesses. Created in September 2014, the Commission was mandated by the UN to investigate the violence in Gaza in July and August of that year when 1,462 Palestinians and 6 Israelis were killed. During the confrontation, which included an unprecedented level of violence, the Israeli Army conducted 6,000 airstrikes and fired 50,000 tank and artillery shells, while the Palestinian armed groups launched 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars. Amnesty International has welcomed the report as an important step towards accountability for the victims of both sides, and has called the two parties to cooperate with ICC investigations. Human Rights Watch has called on influential governments to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on all parties to urge them to investigate and appropriately punish those who violated the law. (OHCHR, AI, HRW, 22/06/15)
PERU: Progress made on policies regarding disappearances, according to UN
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has visited Peru to gather information on cases of enforced disappearances in the country, and to study the policies adopted to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including issues related to truth, justice and reparation for victims. After interviewing a variety of actors the working group has concluded that systematic violations of human rights do not exist in the country. Additionally, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, of the Vice Ministry of Human Rights and Access to Justice, has been created and hundreds of bodies have been exhumed and identified in a significant effort to ensure truth, justice, reparation and the memory of disappeared people. The working group recommends taking steps to adopt a comprehensive policy to reject disappearances that would include the Armed Forces, which would cooperate with the victims’ families; to define a national plan to search for disappeared people, and a national map of mass graves; to multiply exhumations and identifications; to create a genetic data base; to foster judicial prosecutions; and to provide psychosocial support to victims. About 69,000 people – mostly poor peasants – were killed or disappeared in the crossfire of the armed conflicts (1980-2000) between the Peruvian state and the Shining Path armed group. Of the 3,202 bodies exhumed between 2002 and 2015 1,873 were identified. To date no investigation has lead to a sentence. (OHCHR, 28/05/15, 11/06/15; La República, 11/06/15)
SYRIA: Syrian troops and rebels targeting civilians in civil war
The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has released a report updating the progress made by the Commission, which states that both the Army and opposition rebels are deliberately targeting civilians in Syria's civil war. The report says that the government intentionally carries out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian and protected objects, and imposes sieges and blockades. The report cites new intelligence that chemical weapons were used in two attacks in March and April 2015. The report concludes by calling on influential states to create conditions to foster negotiations. (OHCHR, Jurist, 23/06/15)
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Bosnian court hands down prison sentence and, for the first time, financial compensation
A Bosnian court judging a case against two former Bosnian Serb soldiers for raping a teenage girl during the 1992-95 war has granted compensation for the victim. The former soldiers, Bosiljko Markovic and Ostoja Markovic, have been sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday and ordered to pay 15,160 dollars to the Croat woman they raped during the Serb attack on her village in 1992. The organisation Track Impunity Always Association (TRIAL) says the court’s decision is unprecedented in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and paves the way for the compensation of other victims. According to TRIAL, before this verdict not a single victim of wartime sexual violence or any other war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina has obtained compensation through criminal proceedings. The process of receiving compensation through civil procedures means that victims have to reveal their identities, which are often protected during criminal proceedings, as well as additional costs that many victims are unable to pay. (Justice Report, AP, 24/06/15)
BURKINA FASO: African Court orders compensations for the families of murdered journalists during Compaoré’s regime
The African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) has ordered Burkina Faso to pay financial compensation to the families of journalist Norbert Zongo and three of his colleagues murdered in 1998. The journalists were critical of the government and had been investigating the involvement of president Blaise Compaoré’s brother in the death of one of his drivers. The Court has ruled to grant a compensation of 25 million CFA francs (38,000 Euros) to the spouses, 15 million (22,800 Euros) to each of their children and 10 million (15,200 euros) to each of the parents of Zongo and his companions, and said the Burkinabé judiciary must reopen investigations into the murder. The case was investigated during Blaise Compaoré’s presidency, but dismissed in 2006 alleging lack of evidence. When Compaoré was ousted from power in November 2014, the transitional government announced it would fight impunity. Burkina Faso’s Justice Minister, Joséphine Ouédrago, said the case has been reopened, and that they would consider reparations. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) celebrated the decision as a historical move against impunity and the Burkina Faso Movement for Human and People’s Rights (MBDHP) welcomed the financial reparations and the order to resume the investigations. (JusticeInfo.Net, 11/06/15)
BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA – SERBIA: Srebrenica massacre commemoration faces political and judicial challenges
Several controversies regarding the relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have jeopardized the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced his willingness to attend the commemorations and pay his respects to the Muslim and Bosniak victims of Srebrenica. The announcement by Vucic, who had been a senior member or the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, was seen by some as a move to improve ties with Bosnia, while others, such as the mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, considered it a provocation as long as Serbia refuses to recognise that the Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide. Former Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the 15th anniversary commemoration in 2010, but Vucic is far more closely associated with Serbia's nationalist past. Furthermore, following the arrest of Bosnian Army commander Naser Oric in Switzerland, the organisers of the Srebrenica commemoration announced that it might be cancelled since they were not sure they could guarantee security during the event under such circumstances. Oric, who is considered a symbol for defending his country against the Serbian attacks in Srebrenica, was accused in 2014 of war crimes against the Serbian population in the Srebrenica area. About 8,000 men and children died in the Srebrenica massacre, which is considered the worst in Europe since WWII. (BBC, Reuters 19/05/15)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Negotiators agree on the creation of a Truth Commission
During the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, the Cuban and Norwegian negotiators announced that a truth commission will be set up if a peace deal is reached between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The commission, composed of eleven members and meant to be independent and impartial, would have three years to help clarify complex issues related to the armed conflict; to contribute to the recognition of victims; and to foster peaceful coexistence between people. The commission would hear testimonies from all sides, especially the victims, but none of the evidence collected could be used in future prosecutions. After the publication of its final report a monitoring committee would be set up to implement the recommendations of the commission. The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) welcomed the agreement as an important step forward in the negotiations, which had been at a virtual standstill for months. It was also seen as an opportunity to reflect on the causes and consequences of the armed conflict, to continue ongoing efforts to locate and identify remains, and to create a special mechanism to investigate serious crimes in coordination with the commission. (El Tempo, 04/06/15; El País, 05/06/15; ICTJ, 11/06/15)
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