International Criminal Court (ICC)
COTE D’IVOIRE: HRW provides recommendations to the ICC to increase its impact on communities affected by the 2010-2011 post-electoral violence
Human Rights Watch has issued a report that asks ICC officials to make justice more accessible, meaningful and legitimate for the affected communities. Calling for the adequate selection of cases, HRW stated that the Court’s relevance comes from judging those most responsible for grave abuses. This might be the case now as, instead of pursuing the direct perpetrators, the ICC has charged former President Laurent Gbagbo, his wife Simone Gbagbo, and the Minister of Youth Charles Blé Goudé. Nevertheless, HRW criticised the fact that these cases only represent violence committed in the capital Abdijan, and not the rest of the country. It also warned that there is a risk due to the one-sided focus of the prosecution, since officials involved in violence from the pro-Ouattara side have not yet been charged after four years of investigations. HRW recommends increasing efforts to consult the local population and to explain the criteria used to select the cases. It also recommends strengthening the prosecution by other means, such as increasing participation of the victims in the proceedings (which should include mechanisms that would ensure the participation of victims of all violence, not only those linked to the three people charged), providing reparation for victims (which might be done by strengthening the state’s capacity to address reparations), or engaging national judicial authorities and professionals with regard to domestic trials of war crimes. At the beginning of August, the two pro-Gbagbo officials Anselme Seka Yapo and Jean-Noel Abehi were sentenced to 20 and five years imprisonment respectively for their implication in the post-electoral violence. (HRW, 04/08/15)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
CAMBODIA: Tribunal appoints new judge and gets new funding; the accused, Ieng Thirith, dies
After last month’s resignation of Judge Mark Harmon, Judge Michael Bohlander from Germany has been appointed as the new International Co-Investigating Judge in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Judge Maureen Harding Clark from Ireland has been appointed as the new Reserve International Co-Investigating Judge. The EU has also pledged to contribute 8.9 million euros for 2015 and 2016 to provide the needed judicial support to national and international staff at the Chambers. An additional 1.1 million will be used to fund genocide education programs. These two facts will increase the sustainability of the Courts which face structural limitations due to fund shortages and inoperative moves. In August as well, one of the accused, former Minister of Social Action during the Khmer Rouge regime Ieng Thirith, passed away. On 15 September 2010 Ieng Thirith was indicted in Case 002 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, but the proceedings were stayed in 2012 due to her progressive dementia. She was then released under judicial supervision until her death. 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. (Khmer Times, 15/08/15; ECCC, 21, 22, 25/08/15)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
GUATEMALA: Court orders retrial of former President Ríos Montt and Chief of military intelligence Rodríguez Sánchez under special conditions
A Guatemalan Court has ruled that former President José Efraín Ríos Montt and former Chief of military intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez can be judged anew for genocide. Ríos Montt, who is 89 years old and suffers from dementia, will be judged under special conditions: his judgement will be behind closed doors, and he will not be sentenced even if found guilty. Amnesty International has pointed out that delaying justice increases the risk of impunity for those responsible, and has invited Guatemalan authorities to ensure that suspects are brought to court. Two UN experts on genocide prevention and transitional justice have asked the Guatemalan judicial authorities to prevent any further attempts to obstruct justice or manipulate the law. Pointing to alleged pressure against judges and prosecutors working on the case, the experts say that the administration of justice suffers significant flaws. The experts have also criticised that the trial won’t start until January 2016, while two witnesses have already passed away. Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison in 2013 for crimes against humanity and genocide for his responsibility in the killing and torture of 1,771 Mayan-Ixil Indigenous people and the forced displacement of tens of thousands more when he was President and Commander-in-Chief of the Guatemalan Army (1982-1983). However, the country’s Constitutional Court subsequently overturned the verdict on procedural issues. About 200.000 persons were killed or disappeared during the armed conflict in Guatemala (1960-1996). (La Hora, AI, 25/08/15; OHCHR, 27/08/15)
KOSOVO: Parliament creates a war crimes court
The Parliament of Kosovo has approved constitutional amendments that allow the creation of a war crimes court, and two other laws to create the office of the prosecution and to finance defence counsel for those accused. The court will investigate war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters, allegedly involved in killings, abductions, illegal detentions and the persecution of Serbs, Roma and Kosovo Albanians believed to be collaborators with the Serbs during the 1998-99 war. The vote had been rejected one month earlier with the strong opposition of veterans’ associations and former KLA members that are now high-ranking politicians. It has now been approved after pressure from the US and the EU. Although the court will be under Kosovo law, it will be located in The Hague, Netherlands, to protect the witnesses. It will be funded by the EU and composed of international judges and prosecutors. A few days later the Chief prosecutor, US lawyer David Schwendiman, was appointed. Some war crimes committed during the Kosovo War had been prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and by the EU mission for the Rule of Law EULEX, which is now under scrutiny after being accused of corruption. The war between the Albanian Kosovars and the Serb Kosovars and Serbia caused the death of more than 10,000 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. (Balkan Insight, 03/08/15; Jurist 05/08/15; Kosovapress 10/08/15)
UK – RWANDA – SPAIN: Extradition to Spain of Rwandan Intelligence Chief Karake denied by UK Court
A court in the UK has dismissed a Spanish extradition request for the head of the Rwanda National Intelligence and Security Services, Karenzi Karake, arrested since June 2015 at a London airport. The court ordered his release despite the European Arrest Warrant issued in 2008 for Karake’s alleged role in the killings of three Spanish aid workers and six priests in 1997, which could constitute genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism. The Spanish NGO Forum Internacional para la Verdad y la Justicia en el África de los Grandes Lagos (International Forum for Truth and Justice in the African Great Lakes) filed a complaint in the Spanish National High Court against the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, now in power, for systematic crimes against civilians in Rwanda and DR Congo from 1990 to 2002. The Court investigated the crimes and ordered the arrest warrant against Karake and another 40 officials from the RPF party. The British Court has argued that the crimes specified in the arrest warrant are not recognised by British law. (Jurist, El diario, 10/08/15)
HOLY SEE: Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the only priest accused of child abuse in the Vatican court, dies before trial
Former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, accused of paying for sex with children in the Dominican Republic from 2008-2013 and of possessing thousands of pictures of child pornography, has died before being tried. According to Holy See officials, Wesolowski was found dead in his room in Vatican City and that first checks indicated a natural death. His case was the first trial for sex abuse in the Vatican, but was adjourned in July 2015 after the accused fell ill hours before he was due to appear before the court and the trial was indefinitely postponed. In a press release the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) had denounced two weeks earlier that Wesolowski had been seen walking freely in Rome. The group said that if the Vatican had handed him over to secular authorities he could have had a faster trial that might have uncovered other Catholic officials that had concealed his crimes for years. 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. If convicted, Wesolowski could have faced 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. The SNAP network, which is the largest but not the only support group for clergy abuse victims, has more than 20,000 members. (BBC, SNAP, 28/08/15)
    Truth commissions
MALI: Head of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commission appointed one year and a half after its creation
The government has appointed Ousmane Oumarou Sidibé as the head of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Mali. A former Minister of Employment, he is also the Secretary of the opposition party Union pour la République et la Démocratie (URD). Oumarou Sidibé had also participated in the most recent peace talks between the government and opposition armed groups in May and June 2015. The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR, in its French acronym) was first announced in March 2013. It was officially created in January 2014 and will run until 2017. Its aim is to investigate the causes of the conflict in the north of Mali from 1960 to 2013 to contribute to sustainable peace through truth seeking, reconciliation, and the consolidation of national unity. The Commission should also be composed of 15 members, who have not yet been appointed. Since the Independence of the country in 1960 Tuareg uprisings have taken place in the north of the country. During the most recent insurrection in 2012 many crimes were committed by both the state army and the rebels. (AFP, 04/08/15; Jeune Afrique, 05/08/15)
INDONESIA (ACEH): Human rights organisations demand a Truth Commission among other transitional justice measures 10 years after the peace deal
Ten years after the end of the armed conflict in the Aceh province (1976-2005), a coalition of victims’ organizations and local and international human rights groups has asked the Government to comply with its obligations under the 2005 peace agreement in Helsinki to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. According to opposition figures, the government refuses to create the Commission arguing that the Indonesian Constitutional Court had annulled the law created to establish it. The opposition argues that because Aceh province has a special autonomy status the legal impasse could be solved with political will. The human rights organisations have also asked for: the publication of the investigations on human rights violations conducted by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), and the implementation of its recommendations; the investigation of enforced disappearances; measures to allow the investigation and prosecution of international crimes; and the establishment of a comprehensive reparations program. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the confrontation between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM). Other crimes documented by local human rights organisations include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, forcible displacement of civilians, arbitrary arrest and detention by the Government, and hostage-taking and targeted killing of suspected informers by GAM. (AI, 12/08/15; Channel News Asia, 19/08/15)
    Truth seeking investigations
YEMEN: Amnesty international warns killings of civilians may amount to war crimes
According to an Amnesty International (AI) report, the fighting in Yemen between Huthi militias (now strategically allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh) and anti-Huthi armed groups (loyal to the now exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi) has indiscriminately killed and wounded civilians with airstrikes in civilian neighbourhoods. According to the human rights organisation, fighters on both sides have been operating in residential neighbourhoods, launching attacks from or near homes, schools and hospitals, endangering civilians, and causing entire neighbourhoods to be emptied. AI has called on the countries participating with forces or by providing intelligence, such as Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and UK, to fully comply with international humanitarian law; impartially investigate its violations; and to provide reparations to victims. It has called on the pro-governmental forces and all the involved armed groups to respect international law, and to allow humanitarian organisations to intervene on the ground. It has also prompted the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent commission of inquiry to investigate alleged serious violations by all parties since the beginning of hostilities in September 2014. According to UN estimations, about 4,300 people, half of them civilians, have been killed, and 1.2 million have suffered internal displacement due to violence in the country. (AI, 17/08/15; Jurist, Le Monde, 18/08/15)
WORLD: UN experts call for protocols for the immediate search of the disappeared
Coinciding with the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, experts of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances have urged governments to establish protocols for the search of the disappeared; to immediately activate searches in a systematic way as soon as a case of disappearance is reported, as time is an important factor to find the person alive; and to guarantee the protection of those who report cases of enforced disappearances, witnesses, relatives of the disappeared persons, and all persons taking part in the related investigations. The UN experts have also encouraged families to use the urgent action procedures of the Working Group and of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. The two bodies said that in 2014 they had worked on 246 cases of enforced disappearances, which is only the tip of the iceberg due to the lack of resources for investigating and the insufficient awareness of existing UN international mechanisms. (OHCHR, 28/08/15)
NAMIBIA – GERMANY: A Namibian delegation demands German reparations
Coinciding with the centenary of the end of German rule in Namibia on July 9, a delegation of Namibian leaders, including Herero leader Chief Vekuii Rukoro, lawyers, and heads of civic organisations, travelled to Germany to demand recognition and reparations for its historical responsibility for the genocide perpetrated against the Herero and Nama people. The delegation, which aimed to present a document on the genocide and a petition signed by over 2,000 German public figures including members of the Bundestag, was not received by German President Joachim Gauck, as they had hoped, but by lower-ranking officials, which displeased the delegation. The Namibian delegation has set October as the deadline to get an official answer regarding their demands. In recent years several initiatives have sought reparations: a civil lawsuit presented by the Herero People's Reparations Corporation in 2001 against the German government and several corporations requested 2 billion dollars; in 2004, Germany's development aid minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, apologised for the atrocities committed and promised development aid and stronger German-Namibian bilateral ties instead of compensation for the victims' descendants. In July 2015 the Left Party in the German Parliament asked Chancellor Angela Merkel to give an official apology to Namibia and recognize the massacre as genocide. He criticised the use of development assistance to deal with historical trauma and thus avoid recognising the harm committed. By 1909, 65,000 people had been killed and an estimated 80 percent of the Herero people and 50 percent of the Nama had been wiped out. (DW, 08/07/15; Al-Jazeera, 07/08/15)
CROATIA – SERBIA: Commemoration of 1995 Operation Storm confronts anew the former opposing actors
In August 2015, on the 20th anniversary of the Croatian victory in Operation Storm in Knin, Croatia, several commemoration activities were held in the city to commemorate the struggle and honour the veterans. Doves were released, a museum was inaugurated documenting “Croatia’s struggle for freedom”, and a statue of Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian President at that time, was unveiled. Thousand of Croatian people travelled from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to attend the celebrations. In parallel, to commemorate the expulsion of the Serbian minority in the region, in Serbia church bells rang and air-raid sirens sounded in memory of the victims, and memorial services were held in several Serbian towns and cities. After the ceremony in Knin, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement protesting that some of the slogans shouted constituted hate speech since they called for the killing of Serbs. He also said Ustasha-fascist symbols were deployed and asked that such acts be punished. Coinciding with the commemoration, several Croatian and Serb organisations launched the site “Storm in the Hague” to publish the findings of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) regarding five issues: the goal of Operation Storm, the purpose of the Croatian military's shelling, the murders that were committed, the destruction and plunder of property, and the prevention of Serb refugee return, as well as the ICTY verdict. Operation Storm caused the death of 2,000 civilians and the displacement of more than 200,000 Serbs citizens from Croatia. Only 133,075 of them have returned, while 32,893 are still living as refugees, mostly in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Balkan Transitional Justice, 31/07/15, 05/08/15; B92, 06/08/15)
JAPAN – USA: Peace statements issued during commemoration ceremonies for the victims of the atomic bomb
Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorated the 70th anniversary of the US atomic bomb attack on the two cities, that caused the immediate death of 70,000 citizens in each city, and about 250,000 radiation-related deaths over the mid to long term. About 40,000 people attended the commemoration at Hiroshima Peace Park on August 6 and 7,000 at the Nagasaki peace park three days later including guests from 75 countries. Commemorations included a minute of silence across the country, bells tolling in the city coinciding with the day and hour of the bombings, memorial services and silent prayers, the release of doves, declarations of peace by Japanese representatives, and the release of lanterns over Hiroshima’s Motoyasu River. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and said that the Japanese had very special responsibility to take action. In Nagasaki, Mayor Tomihisa Taue, together with a survivor of the Nagasaki attack, criticised the Abe government’s push to change the constitution to loosen the restrictions of what the Japanese military can do. (BBC, 06, 09/08/15; Asahi Shimbun, 09/08/15)
    Peace talks
SOUTH SUDAN: Peace agreement plans transitional justie measures
Despite reiterating his reservations, South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement in an official ceremony in the capital, Juba, after negotiating for one year and a half in Ethiopia, and after several broken ceasefires. The peace deal, that comes after the UN Security Council threatened to impose an arms embargo and other sanctions on the country, includes measures such as an immediate ceasefire, the establishment of a transitional government, and the confinement to barracks of all soldiers and their replacement by unspecified "guard forces" and a Joint Integrated Police. The deal also details several transitional justice measures, such as the establishment of a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) to investigate human rights violations committed by all actors from July 2005; the creation of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) with the mandate of investigating and prosecuting individual responsibility for war crimes from December 2013; and the constitution of a Compensation and Reparation Authority (CRA) to provide material and financial support to people whose properties were destroyed by the conflict. After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan entered into an armed conflict in December 2013 between the government, led by President Kiir, and the rebel group Sudan People‘s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), lead by Riek Machar. Tens of thousands of people have died and more than two million, out of a total population of 11 million, have been displaced from their homes since the conflict started. (BBC, 31/08/15; Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, 17/08/15)
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