International Criminal Court (ICC)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Bemba, Kilolo et al. trial resumes
The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, accused of offences against the administration of justice, has started in the ICC. After the reading of the charges, for which the accused pleaded not guilty, the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda began presenting the evidence. The accused are being prosecuted for alleged offences in connection with witnesses' testimonies in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, between the end of 2011 and 14 November 2013. The charges include corruptly influencing witnesses by giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony, presenting false evidence and giving false testimony in the courtroom. In a separate case, Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo is accused of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes allegedly committed in Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003 as Commander-in-chief of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (Movement for the Liberation of Congo) (MLC). (ICC, 29/09/15)
CONGO, DR: Chief commander Bosco Ntaganda, accused of 18 counts of war crimes, pleads not guilty
The ICC began the trial against Bosco Ntaganda, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC) (Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) among other combatant groups. The chief combatant pleaded not guilty to all charges, and denied being a “Terminator”, as his nickname suggests, but a soldier who protected civilians. Ntaganda is accused of 13 counts of war crimes and five crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ituri, DRC, in 2002-2003. The alleged crimes include recruitment of child soldiers, rape and forced sexual slavery, murder and displacement of civilians. Over the next few months the Office of the Prosecutor will present evidence of the alleged crimes including a large number of documents, videos and witnesses. After that the Defence will present its evidence, including witnesses. No fewer than 2149 victims, including 297 former child soldiers, will also be represented by legal counsel who will present their views and concerns. After evading being captured for seven years under an ICC arrest warrant issued in 2006, Ntaganda surrendered at the US embassy in Rwanda in 2013 and has been under the custody of the Court ever since. His case is the biggest and most complex case in the ICC's history. In a separate case the ICC’s Appeals Chamber unanimously declined to reduce Thomas Lubanga's 14-year prison sentence for war crimes, including conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. (BBC, 02/09/15; BBC, ICC, 03, 22/09/15)
MALI: First ICC trial for the war crime of destroying religious monuments resumes
Ahmad al-Mahdi al-Faqi, member of the armed group Ansar Ed-dine, was surrendered to the ICC by Niger under an ICC arrest warrant issued in mid-September 2015. Al-Mahdi al-Faqi is charged with the war crime of destroying nine mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, between the 30th of June and the 10th of July 2012. During the armed group’s occupation of Timbuktu in 2012-2013, militants vandalised and destroyed mosques and mausoleums, and burnt tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts. The city is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is considered the centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th Centuries. The mausoleums were shrines to Timbuktu's founding fathers, which had been venerated as saints by many of the city's inhabitants, a practice considered blasphemous by Islamists. The court verified the identity of Al-Mahdi al-Faqi, informed him of the charges, and set January 2016 as the date for the confirmation of charges hearing. This is the first case the court will hear concerning the destruction of religious buildings and historical monuments. (BBC, 26/09/15; ICC, 26, 30/09/15)
UGANDA: Court confirms the death of accused Deputy Army Commander, Okot Odhiambo
Following forensic confirmation of the passing of Okot Odhiambo, alleged Deputy Army Commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the ICC has terminated the proceedings against him. The decision was taken following the reception of information and material provided by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda confirming that a corpse exhumed by the Ugandan authorities in March 2015 was identified, through DNA testing, as that of Okot Odhiambo and certifying that he died on 27 October 2013 in Central African Republic. Odhiambo was allegedly criminally responsible for two counts of crimes against humanity (murder; and enslavement) and eight counts of war crimes (murder; intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population; pillaging; and forced enlisting of children). (ICC, 10/09/15)
    Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals
BANGLADESH: Government puts war crimes tribunal on hold due to drop in number of cases
The government has decided to place in abeyance one of the two existing International Crimes Tribunals of Bangladesh (ICTB), according to Law Minister Anisul Huq. Several reasons were behind the decision including a drop in the number of pending cases at the war crimes courts. Judges from the dormant tribunal will work at the High Court, he said, adding that the tribunal would be reopened if necessary. The current government, led by the Awami League, set up the first war tribunal (ICT-1) in March 2010 to make good on the party's election promise to try people who had committed crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. The second tribunal (ICT-2) was set up in 2012 to expedite the trial proceedings of war crimes suspects. The ICTB was set up to address the atrocities committed during the 1971 war, which led to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and in which 500,000 to three million people died. Since their establishment, the two tribunals have tried 21 cases. The ICTB has been accused several times of not meeting international legal standards and of using the prossecutions as a partisan tool. (The Daily Star, 04/09/15; BDnews24, 15/09/15)
LEBANON: Special Tribunal clears Lebanese journalist Karma Khayat
Lebanese journalist Karma Khayat and the TV channel she presides, Al Jadeed, have been cleared of obstructing justice by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Khayat and al-Jadeed TV had been accused of revealing details about key protected witnesses in the Ayyash et al. case. Khayat alleged that the list of names she had published had been redacted, which made it impossible to identify any of the witnesses. Although Khayat was cleared of the main charge, Judge Nicola Lettieri fined her with 10,000 euros for contempt of court for failing to remove from the Al Jadeed TV website information on purported confidential witnesses in the Ayyash et al. case, as ordered by the Court on 10 August 2012. The UN-backed tribunal is investigating the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri along with 21 others in a bomb blast on February 2014 in Beirut. In the so-called Ayyash et al. case, five men are accused of that killing and are being tried in absentia. (BBC, STL, 18/09/15; STL 29/09/15)
SENEGAL – CHAD: Extraordinary African Chambers asked to try current President Idriss Déby while former President Hissène Habré appears in court
At the initiative of some victims, Senegalese lawyer Mbaye Jacques Ndiaye filed a complaint before the Extraordinary African Chambers alleging crimes by current Chadian President Idriss Déby for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture. The lawyer argued that former President Hissène Habré, now on trial before the Extraordinary Chambers, cannot be held responsible alone for the atrocities committed during his presidency, and that President Déby had been an army chief at that time. A few days later, the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré, accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, appeared in front of the Extraordinary Chambers located in Senegal. As the trial resumed Habré once again disrupted the proceedings and shouted at the clerk who read the charges against him. Habré’s trial was suspended in July 2015 for his lack of cooperation until a new legal team was appointed. Known as "Africa's Pinochet," Habré is allegedly responsible for ordering the torture and killing of up to 40,000 people during his dictatorship from 1982-90. (Africa Review, 03/09/15; BBC, 07/09/15)
    Ordinary Justice and Traditional Justice Systems
FRANCE – RWANDA: French court blocks extradition of Rwandan genocide suspect
A court in Toulouse, France, has refused the extradition requests for Joseph Habyarimana, a Rwandan man facing charges of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. He is accused of incitement to murder when he worked in a monastery in 1994 and identified Tutsi monks to killers, in addition to being involved in the massacre of refugees and acts of genocide in the health centre of a convent. The court said it had denied extradition because his actions were not crimes at the time they were committed. The French victim’s association Collectif des Parties Civiles du Rwanda (CPCR) has criticized the decision, pointing out that France is almost the only country to reject the extradition to Rwanda of people suspected of contributing to the genocide. Political relations between Rwanda and France have been tense for years over France’s judiciary decisions regarding alleged Rwandan perpetrators of genocide living in France, and due to the relations that the French government used to have with the Rwandan government during the genocide. 800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide, a large majority being Tutsis killed by Hutus, and a minority of moderate Hutu killed by radical Hutu. (RFI, CPCR, Jurist, 15/09/15)
GERMANY – RWANDA: German court sentences FDLR leaders, Murwanashyaka and Musoni, to 13 and eight years of prison for war crimes
After a four-year trial a German court has sentenced Ignace Murwanashyaka to 13 years in prison and his deputy Straton Musoni to eight years in jail for aiding and abetting war crimes. They were accused of 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 counts of war crimes, including ordering militias to commit mass murder and rape in the Kivu region in DR Congo while they led the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) between January 2008 and November 2009. Both were arrested in Germany in 2009 and had been on trial since 2011. Prosecutors said that Murwanashyaka and Musoni were leading the FDLR's activities from a distance despite living in asylum in Germany for more than 20 years. The defence argued that as politicians they had no influence on the military arm of the FDLR that committed the atrocities. This is the first trial under the Code of Crimes Against International Law, adopted in 2002, which allows German courts to prosecute severe cases wherever they are committed. Rwanda had previously said it would seek Murwanashyaka's extradition for alleged crimes committed during the Rwandan Genocide in the early 1990s. The presence of the FDLR in eastern DR Congo aggravated the armed conflict which has caused about five million deaths. (DW, BBC, 28/09/15)
    Truth commissions
SRI LANKA: The government announces transitional justice measures coinciding with the publication of UN human rights council report
At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s government announced transitional justice measures such as the setting up an independent and credible truth and reconciliation commission to probe the atrocities committed during its civil war (1983-2009). The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, announced that South Africa will advise the government on the best way to provide remedy to victims and to track missing people. Samaraweera also announced that the commission would include a Compassionate Council, made up of leaders of the island’s main religions, to heal victims through the process of discovering the truth. Other proposals include the creation of a criminal justice mechanism and an office for war reparations to grant compensations to victims. The measures have been announced right before the publication of a report by the UN Human Rights Council urging Sri Lanka to deal with impunity in war crimes. Initially scheduled to be published in March, the report was delayed for six months to give the country’s new government, appointed in August 2015, a chance to cooperate with investigators. It concludes that war crimes may have been committed such as extrajudicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence, and enforced disappearances among other unlawful acts, and recommends establishing a hybrid special court to judge the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all parties. Tamil representatives have also rejected the government’s proposal for a truth commission, expressing their concern that crimes would not be properly investigated, and demanding instead an international inquiry. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) armed group. About 40,000 Tamil civilians could have been killed in the final few weeks. (Channel NewAsia, 14/09/16; The Guardian, Adaderana, 15/09/15; Jurist 16/09/15; OHCHR A/HRC/30/61)
    Truth seeking investigations
AFGANISTAN – UNITED STATES: US army accused of overlooking child abuse by Afghan police and militias
The New York Times reported that the Pentagon ordered US troops to overlook sexual abuse of young boys by Afghan police and militias even when those abuses happened on military bases. Based on accounts from numerous soldiers and the father of a marine killed in 2012, the US newspaper claims that sexual abuse of children, called bacha bazi (boy play), has long been a problem in Afghanistan, especially among armed commanders in rural areas. The New York Times said that such a US non-intervention policy is intended to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militia units trained by America to fight the Taliban. The senior NATO commander in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, denied the accusation in a statement saying that such a policy did not exist and that US troops in Afghanistan are expected to report any suspicions of sexual abuse to the chain of command. Similar allegations were reported by Canadian NATO troops in 2008. (BBC, 22/09/15)
ARGENTINA: Argentina military report shows internal abuse during Falklands War
The Argentina Armed Forces has released 700 documents revealing that Argentinean soldiers were tortured and abused by their superiors during the Malvinas/Falklands War in 1982. According to that information, many low level soldiers faced hash conditions such as being ill equipped and being tortured by superiors. Soldiers reportedly endured mock executions and were placed in mass graves while tied up. A group of Argentinean soldiers has tried for years to bring those responsible for the abuses to justice, but in February 2015 Argentina's Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. This group is now appealing to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. The armed conflict between Argentina and the UK in the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands, caused the death of 900 soldiers (655 Argentinean and 255 British soldiers), from April to June 1982. (Jurist, 15/09/15, BBC, 24/09/15)
MEXICO: Special prosecutor appointed for 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa
The government announced that a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa on September 2014, days before the anniversary of the tragedy and shortly after President Enrique Peña Nieto met with the missing students' families. Human rights groups such as the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IMCI) from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have warned of wrongdoings in the investigation, such as allegedly coerced witness testimony and the possible destruction of key evidence. The DNA analysis of the bodies was considered incomplete and insufficient. Only one body out of 43 was identified, while the whereabouts of the other 42 remain unknown. The problem of disappearances is widespread in Mexico, as the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances reported in February 2015. That report denounced that authorities are often involved in enforcing the disappearances of its citizens. According to figures from an official national registry over 25,000 people are missing. HRW stated that official statistics indicate that as of April 2014 no one had been convicted of an enforced disappearance committed after 2006. (HRW, 06/09/15; Jurist, 25/09/15)
JAMAICA – UK: UK Prime Minister Cameron refuses to apologise for slavery
In the first official trip to Jamaica by a top UK representative in 14 years, British Prime Minister David Cameron was called on by several actors to recognise the country’s responsibility in slavery in the Caribbean, and to provide compensation. Addressing the Jamaican Parliament, Cameron acknowledged the wounds of slavery, but refused to apologise officially or provide any kind of compensation. Instead, he promised to invest 25 million pounds to build a prison in Jamaica so that foreign criminals can be sent to serve their sentences in the Caribbean, and a 300 million pound development package for the Caribbean which will provide grants for infrastructure projects. The UK government has been criticised for refusing to apologise and pay compensation for the harm done, especially because Britain paid in 1833 the equivalent of 17 billion pounds in compensation to 46,000 of Britain's slave-owners for “loss of human property” when slaves were emancipated. Other British representatives of the opposition Labour party have expressed their willingness to apologise, such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or Ken Livingstone, who led a ceremonial apology in 2007, when he was London’s mayor, on behalf of the capital for its role in the outrage. According to ship records, about 12.5 million people were transported as slaves from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean from the 16th century until the trade was banned in 1807. Estimates show that compensations could run into the trillions of dollars. Euronews, 29/09/15; BBC, 30/09/15)
CHINA – JAPAN: China publishes confessions of WWII Japanese soldiers
The Chinese Central Archives have published a collection of 327 confessions by Japanese World War II soldiers. The publication took place during an act at the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of China's victory in WWII. The declarations reveal atrocities committed by Japanese troops including the Nanjing Massacre, the slaughter of war prisoners and the murder of civilians. A total of 1,109 confessions were collected from Japanese soldiers detained in Fushun in northeast China's Liaoning Province and Taiyuan in north China's Shanxi Province after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. A second part of the confessions will be released by the end of 2015. (Xinhua, 16/09/15)
KENYA – UK: Mau Mau memorial erected by UK unveiled
A ceremony took place in Ururu Park in Nairobi to unveil a memorial to commemorate the killing and torture of Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising. Thousands of veterans attended the ceremony singing war songs from the time of the independence. The monument includes a sculpture depicting an armed fighter receiving food from a woman, in recognition of the role that both men and women played to liberate Kenya, according to the sculptor, Kevin Oduor. The Mau Mau memorial is part of a 2013 settlement in which the British agreed to pay 30 million dollars in compensation to Mau Mau veterans, including the creation of the memorial. The UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Christian Turner, expressed "sincere regret" for abuses committed under colonial rule. Daniel Leader, representing the 5,228 Mau Mau veterans who sued for compensation, said that the memorial represents the first apology by the UK government for abuses. The Mau Mau independence movement against British rule started in 1952. The Kenya Human Rights Commission says up to 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed, and 160,000 people were held in detention camps. (BBC, 12/09/15)
    Institutional reform
BURKINA FASO: The National Reconciliation and Reforms Commission submits recommendations report
The National Reconciliation and Reforms Commission (NRRC) officially presented its recommendations report to Prime Minister Isaac Yacouba Zida. The five hundred page report acknowledges that approximately 145 political killings have taken place since 1960. Its recommendations include: reform the Electoral Code and the Constitution; reduce the number of members in the government; establish a National Council of Security and a Superior Council of Defence; dismantle the Presidential Security Regiment that currently serves as the Presidential guard; create a High Council for Reconciliation and National Unity to deal with the redress of the 5064 collected files that describe political or economic abuses; and create a pool of judges to investigate killings and a pool of defence lawyers to assist victims. The members of the NRRC have announced they would meet with political candidates to make sure the recommendations are followed for the next elections in 2015. The elections would bring to a close the transitional period that began after the former President, Blaise Compaoré, was ousted from his 35-year presidency in October 2014, but a one week long coup d’état by mid-september might desetablish the transitional process., RFI, 15/09/15)
    Peace talks
COLOMBIA: Agreement on transitional justice measures in Havana peace talks
President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Londono, alias Timochenko, met in Havana, Cuba, to celebrate the agreement to create a special jurisdiction for peace as part of an integrated system of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantee of Non Recurrence. Although the details of the deal have not yet been made public, it is known that special peace tribunals will be created to try individuals for alleged crimes related to the armed conflict, regardless of whether they were committed by armed groups or by State forces. An amnesty will be granted for political crimes, although according to international standards crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes are excluded from the amnesty. Penalties will depend on whether the accused recognise the truth and their responsibility. Apart from restricting freedom and limiting rights, the punishment will have a restorative function to repair the caused harm, such as demining work or planting new crops in coca growing zones. To participate in the integrated system FARC members must surrender their arms, in a process that has to start in the 60 days following the signature of the final peace treaty. More than 15,000 FARC members could benefit from the amnesty. Immediately after signing the agreement the General Prosecutor ordered the suspension of all the charges against FARC commanders. The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) celebrated the agreement, but noted that the success or failure of the transitional justice measures depends on the degree of complexity of such measures, and on the resources allocated to put them into practice. Given the magnitude of harm in the Colombian armed conflict, the ICTJ recommends establishing a mechanism to give priority to the most significant cases. Initiated more than 50 years ago, the Colombian war has caused the death of 220,000 people, and has displaced more than five million internally. (BBC, 24/09/15; ICTJ, 25/09/15)
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