International Criminal Court (ICC)
COMOROS – ISRAEL: Judges ask the prosecutor to reconsider investigating the Mavi Marmara incident
Judges of ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber have asked General Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to reconsider her decision not to continue with the request by the Union of the Comoros to investigate the attack against a Humanitarian Aid Flotilla by the Israeli Armed Forces on 31 May 2010. In May 2010 the Comorian-registered vessel, the Mavi Marmara, was sent on an expedition to denounce the Israeli maritime blockade in Gaza. The ship was stopped by the Israeli Defence Forces and 10 Turkish passengers were killed in violent confrontations inside the ship. In May 2013 the Union of the Comoros asked the ICC to investigate the violence, but on November 2014 the ICC Office of the Prosecutor announced it would bring the preliminary examinations to a close as the incident was not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court. However, on January 2015 representatives from the Union of the Comoros asked the decision to be reviewed and in July 2015 the Pre-Trial Chamber has now stated that the Prosecutor committed errors in her determination of the gravity of the potential case, and has asked her to initiate an investigation as soon as possible. Bensouda has appealed the decision, adding that the Prosecution may reconsider the decision if new facts or information become available. After the violent incident, Israel launched a probe and concluded that the raid did not violate International Law. A Turkish court is currently judging in absentia four accused Israeli commanders. (ICC, 16/07/15; I24News, 27/07/15)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
CAMBODIA: Judge Mark Harmon resigns amid criticism for the lack of cooperation by the Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai governments
After the controversy caused by the refusal of the Cambodian police to act on warrants to arrest former navy chief Meas Muth and district commander Im Chaem in Case 003 and 004, International Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon has announced his resignation from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. According to the Judge he is resigning for personal reasons, but analysts say that a long list of international judges, prosecutors and investigators have resigned from the court. According to documents declassified by the court in recent weeks, Judge Harmon has unsuccessfully and repeatedly sought the arrest of Meas Muth and Im Chaem over the past year. Before leaving the office Judge Harmon reminded the governments of Vietnam and Thailand that he had requested their assistance to provide relevant documents relating to the investigations for cases 003 and 004 in November 2013, and once again asked for their cooperation. Harmon charged two new suspects, Meas Muth (Case 003) and Im Chaem (Case 004), with crimes against humanity in March 2015, but neither has been arrested and brought to the court. The Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) caused the death of between 1.4 and 2.2 million Cambodians and others, the vast majority by extrajudicial executions, torture, starvation, and disease. (The Cambodia Daily, 07/07/15; VOA, 08/07/15; EEEC, 20/07/15)
KOSOVO: Kosovo Parliament asks to probe EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) for corruption
The Kosovo parliament has approved a resolution asking the EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, to be investigated for alleged corruption. After EULEX prosecutor Maria Bamieh accused the institution’s judicial staff of bribery in October 2014, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini commissioned an investigation report. The April 2015 report concluded that the mission had not properly investigated the corruption accusations, but it had not tried to cover them up either. Meanwhile a team of local and international investigators is still looking into Bamieh’s allegations. The parliamentary resolution also accused the EU mission of arbitrarily taking on cases from local prosecutors even though EULEX was supposed to be downsizing and working on ongoing cases only. The Kosovo Parliament’s suspicions coincide with strong debates on the creation of a Kosovo War Crimes Court that would replace the EU mission. The creation of the court was rejected in June 2015 by the Parliament because the Nationalists fear that combatants from the Kosovo Liberation Army could be prosecuted. A new vote for the creation of the war crimes court will take place again in August. (Balkan Transitional Justice, 23/07/15)
SENEGAL – CHAD: Former Chadian President Hissène Habré’s trial resumes in Dakar
The African Extraordinary Chambers began the trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in Dakar, Senegal, for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, which possibly caused the death of 40,000 people between 1982 and 1990. On the first day of the trial Habré was removed from the courtroom for shouting that the process was a neo-colonial farce. On the second day Habré attended without a lawyer and he refused to talk. The judge appointed new lawyers to defend him and scheduled the next hearing for September 2015 to give him time to prepare his defence. Habré’s dictatorship (1982-1990) came to an end when an opposition armed group headed by Idriss Déby, now the President of Chad, ousted him from power. The former President had since been enjoying a comfortable exile in Senegal until 2000 when the first complaint was lodged by victims. In 2002 the Chadian government waived Habré's immunity from prosecution abroad and in 2005 a Belgian Court issued an arrest warrant claiming universal jurisdiction, which Senegal referred to the African Union. The African Union asked Senegal to put Habré on trial and the African Extraordinary Chambers were finally inaugurated in February 2013 within the Senegalese court system, but with African Union backing. To investigate the case the Chambers have used information from the 1992 National Truth Commission in Chad and the four-year Belgian investigation of Habré, which contains interviews with witnesses and Habré’s officials, as well as security documents. The four judges presiding the chamber have also conducted a 19-month investigation, including four rogatory missions to Chad. Chadian victims’ associations and Human Rights Watch have also been instrumental in collecting and uncovering information. Aside from the case of Pinochet, who died before being brought to trail, Habré is the first head of state to be prosecuted by another country for alleged human rights crimes. (HRW, 09/07/15; BBC, 20/07/15)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
DR CONGO: ICTJ Report concludes the prosecution of international crimes in Eastern DRC shows slow progress
The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) has concluded in a report that the number of cases investigating international crimes is very low compared to the large number of atrocities being committed. The research, which has analysed the Congolese judicial authorities’ response to international crimes committed in DR Congo, with a particular focus on the war-torn east (North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri) from 2009 to 2014, has found that only 39 cases were opened for alleged international crimes in this period. This represents a slight improvement over the period 1993-2003, when military courts dealt with just 12 international proceedings, but the majority of the cases initiated from 2009 to 2014 are still in the investigation stage. The report identifies obstacles to pursuing justice, such as ambiguous laws on international crimes, political interference, lack of access to crime scenes where armed groups operate, and international pressure to pursue certain actions. Cases involving sexual violence, according to the ICTJ, are more likely to be prosecuted than the enlistment, conscription or use of children in hostilities, or the pillaging of natural resources, for instance. The ICTJ recommends defining a prosecution strategy to address international crimes, accelerating the Parliament’s adoption of key legislation in the fight against impunity and undertaking a comprehensive mapping of international crimes committed between 2003 and 2014. (ICTJ, 17/07/15)
LIBYA: Nine officers from Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime, including his son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, sentenced to death for war crimes
A Libyan court has convicted 37 officials from the al-Gaddafi era accused of incitement to violence and murdering protesters during the 2011 revolution, including indiscriminate shelling, incitement to rape, giving orders to open fire at demonstrators, recruiting and arming mercenaries and engaging in acts of vandalism, looting and killing. Nine of them, including the former president’s son, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, and the former head of intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi, have been sentenced to death. 23 other former officials were given sentences ranging from life imprisonment to five years in prison, four were acquitted, and one was referred for medical treatment and not sentenced. The sentenced have the right to appeal the verdict to Libya’s Supreme Court within 60 days. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the trial for serious flaws. Many of the defendants have been denied rights such as legal counsel, to remain silent, to be promptly informed of the charges against them, to challenge the evidence brought against them, and to be present at the trial as eight of them, including Saif al-Islam, had to follow the proceedings via video link. The organisation has also asked that the death sentences be overturned on appeal, and that Saif al-Islam should be surrendered to the ICC for a proper trial. The human rights director of the Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Division of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Claudio Cordone, also expressed his concern over the fact that the trials were held in absentia, evidence of criminal conduct was largely attributed to the defendants in general instead of establishing individual criminal responsibility, and death penalties were handed down. (AI, BBC, HRW, UNSMIL, 28/07/15)
VATICAN: The first trial for sexual abuse by a Vatican court is postponed before getting underway due to the alleged illness of the accused, former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski
The first trial for sex abuse in the Vatican was adjourned after the accused fell ill hours before he was due to appear before the court. Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, originally from Poland, is accused of paying for sex with children in the Dominican Republic from 2008-2013, and of possessing thousands of pictures of child pornography. While Wesolowski is being treated in intensive care for an unspecified illness, the trial has been postponed without setting a new date. Wesolowski had already been found guilty by a special Vatican church tribunal and defrocked in June 2014, but this was the first time a Vatican criminal tribunal would conduct such a trial. His case is a milestone in Pope Francis' decision to prosecute sex abuse. The Pope has overhauled the Vatican's justice system to allow bishops to be tried in the Vatican, after accusations of not doing enough to tackle sex crimes against minors. If convicted, Wesolowski could face between six and 10 years in a Vatican jail. There are no figures available for the number of cases of sexual abuse of minors in the Church around the world. (BBC, 11/07/15; Le Monde, 11/07/15)
    Truth commissions
NEPAL: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission defines special procedures to protect victims’ testimonies
A Sub-committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission led by Commissioner Manchala Jha has prepared a victim-friendly procedure to record victims’ statements, with a special focus on women, children and the elderly. An official from the Commission, preferably a woman, and a person chosen by the victim will be present while registering the statement to give them the confidence to declare. In addition, the Victim, Children, Senior citizens, Persons with Disability and Women Friendly Structure Sub-committee has recommended a witness protection centre to boost the confidence of those who want to testify against perpetrators. The procedure was prepared in consultation with stakeholders from four regions since April 2015, after it became clear that victims of rape and sexual assault are reluctant to recount their experiences. The armed conflict caused the death of over 16,000 people, the disappearance of 1,300, and the internal displacement of 80,000. (E-Kantipour, 23/07/15)
MEXICO: The Oaxaca Truth Commission denounces harassment from the National Gendarmerie
The Oaxaca Truth Commission has denounced acts of aggression against their members and their offices by the National Gendarmerie. According to a Commission press release, the Gendarmerie attempted to illegally enter the office of the Oaxaca Truth Commission several times, and illegally detained and forced a member of the judicial division of the Commission to identify himself. The Commission highlights that the incidents pose a risk for both the members of the Commission and those that visit the office, and that the Gendarmerie’s presence in Oaxaca is generating an intimidating climate in some sectors of the population. The Commission has urged both the Secretary of the Interior and the National Security Commission to be held accountable for the presence of the Police forces in the region, and to order commanders to respect security and human rights protocols. The Oaxaca Truth Commission’s mandate is to investigate the human rights violations committed by governmental officials between June 2006 and June 2007. This civil society body investigates the murder of 30 people, the disappearance of another 10, and numerous arbitrary detentions allegedly committed by Police and paramilitary forces. (Comisión de la Verdad de Oaxaca, La Jornada, 21/07/15)
    Truth seeking investigations
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: New Amnesty International report claims evidence of war crimes exists in August 2014 attacks by the Israeli Army
A new Amnesty International (AI) report on the August 2014 attacks in Gaza concludes that there is overwhelming evidence that the so-called Israeli Defence Forces committed disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate attacks that killed scores of civilians and injured many more. The Israeli attacks, in retaliation for the capture of an Israeli Lieutenant by Hamas, led to a minimum of 135 Palestinian civilian deaths, including 75 children, and destroyed hundreds of homes and civilian infrastructures, including hospitals and ambulances. AI has called for an independent and impartial investigation. Considering that no official body in Israel is currently capable of conducting such a probe, AI calls on the international community, and specifically on Israel to collaborate with ICC’s investigations. The Foreign Ministry of Israel has claimed that the report is biased in its methodologies, facts, legal analysis and conclusions. In the last months several human rights institutions such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict have published reports pointing to alleged war crimes by both the Israeli Army and the Palestinian Group Hamas during the 2014 summer attacks in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post, AI, 29/07/15; Jurist, 30/07/15)
SYRIA: Kurdish militia challenged to stop using child soldiers
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Syria's main Kurdish militia of violating the child soldier ban. Based on information provided by local and international organizations, HRW has compiled a list of 59 children, 10 of them under 15, allegedly recruited by or who had volunteered for the People’s Protection Unit (YPG or YPJ, male and female branches of the Kurdish armed group) since July 2014. In June 2014, the YPG-YPJ signed a Deed of Commitment with the nongovernmental organization Geneva Call pledging to demobilize all fighters under 18 within one month. Although nearly 150 children were demobilized in that time, HRW has documented the recruitment of minors in both the male and female branches. By the end of July YPG and YPJ sent a letter announcing they had demobilises 43 boys and girls, and that they had sent circulars to commanders and heads of recruiting centres saying those who recruited or accepted anyone under 18 would face maximum disciplinary measures. A November 2012 HRW report documented that many opposition armed groups are using minors as soldiers in Syria. (HRW, 15/07/15; Jurist, 16/07/15)
JAPAN: Mitsubishi Corporation apologizes to US prisoners of war for forced labour
As the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII approaches, Mitsubishi´s senior executive officer, Hikaru Kimura, has expressed a most sincere apology to US prisoners of war and their families. During the war up to 876 Americans, together with Philippine, Korean and Chinese prisoners, were subject to forced labour in four mines operated by the firm´s predecessor company, Mitsubishi Mining Co. While the Japanese government issued a formal apology to US war prisoners in 2010, the apology from Mitsubishi is the first one made by a Japanese Company. The special ceremony, held in the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, was attended by a surviving prisoner and relatives of former prisoners. James Murphy, a US former prisoner of war, said he appreciated the sincere and humble statement of apology, after stating that his experience was the equivalent of slavery: there was no food, no medicine, no clothing and no sanitation. In total, about 12,000 American prisoners of war were put into forced labour, and 1,100 of them died. The apologies, which do not include any financial compensation, come amid a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in compensation filed by descendants of hundreds of Chinese men forced to work for the Mitsubishi Company during WWII. (BBC, 19/07/15; Reuters, 20/07/15)
UGANDA: The ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims Launches assistance projects
The ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims, together with the Ugandan Ministry of Health, local government officials, local leaders, women’s grassroots organizations and donors have officially launched in Lira six rehabilitation projects in Northern Uganda. After a competitive process the TFV has selected 6 new partner organizations to deliver integrated physical and psychological rehabilitation assistance services to victims in Northern Uganda until 2018. The projects include medical services for victims of sexual violence; psychological support services; reconstructive plastic surgery; orthopaedic surgical services; repair of prosthetic and orthotic devices; physiotherapy; corrective surgery to remove bullets and/or shrapnel; post-burn contracture surgery and physiotherapy; victim patient community mobilization initiatives; and referrals for post-operative care and follow-up. In addition, the TFV will support community reconciliation and healing through sensitization and awareness raising campaigns to reduce the added stigma and discrimination of victims. The projects have been allocated 735,000 Euros for 2015. It is estimated that the armed conflict in Northern Uganda between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (1987-2006) caused the abduction of around 30,000 children, the displacement of 1.6 million people from Northern Uganda and the death, mutilation and kidnapping of more than 100,000 people. (ICC; 03/07/15)
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Srebrenica commemorations
Tens of thousands of people attended the Potocary memorial cemetery for the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre. The ceremony included a funeral service and the burial of 136 victims whose remains had recently been identified, along with the remains of 6,241 others who had already been identified and buried in Potocary. The coffins travelled in a convoy from Visoko to Srebrenica and Bosnian citizens mourned the death along the way. Parallel mourning activities were held in several other cities and countries, including Belgrade in Serbia. Over 90 high-ranking international delegations attended the ceremonies, including one led by Bill Clinton, the US president at the time, and representatives from Jordan, The Netherlands, UK, Turkey, and all of the neighbouring countries from the former Yugoslavia. More than 2,000 police officers, including 1,200 members of the Republika Srpska police, secured the commemoration, as the presence of Serbian premier Aleksandar Vučić, who is associated with Serbia’s Nationalist past, was not welcome by a sector of the Bosniak attendants. Vučić was indeed attacked with stones and water bottles and had to flee the ceremony. Both the Serb and Bosnian governments condemned the attack and after a joint meeting in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, the leaders expressed their commitment to look to the future. In the week before the commemoration, a UN resolution that stated that “acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation” was vetoed by Russia, Serbia’s ally. About 8,000 Muslims were killed in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces during the Bosnian war, but Serbia refuses to refer to the massacre as genocide. (BBC, 09, B92, 10/07/15; Balkan Transitional Justice, 22/07/15)
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