Category Archives: Arab League

1 November 2012 — NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS

Redress for human rights violations rare in Sri Lanka: The International Commission of Jurists has released a report criticizing the Sri Lankan government’s responses to human rights violations. In their 150 pages report, the group declared that victims of human rights violations committed in the country are not given access to redress through the country’s courts, and stated that in many cases, the perpetrators of these violations often remain unpunished. The report warned that that country’s failure to bring justice for these crimes removes any deterrent to future perpetrators. The report noted that the government of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa has obstructed attempts to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to task, by evading calls from national and international groups to investigate serious human rights violations committed by partisans in the country’s long 30-year civil war with the Tamil Tigers, which ended in 2008. The report also cautioned that the country’s judiciary has been coming under increasing attack for its attempts to deal with human rights violations, including violent attacks against justices by government supporters, and that its independence as a body is becoming increasingly compromised. The report noted that the compromised nature of the judiciary, along with the government’s lack of support, the report stated that Sri Lanka is in a “serious breach” of their international obligations to promote and protect human rights.

Lawyers press for Gbagbo’s release: Following their failed 1 May 2012 release request filed with the International Criminal Court, lawyers for Laurent Gbagbo continues to argue that the former Ivory Coast president should be released from custody pending a November review of his detainment. Gbagbo is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity stemming from post-election violence in 2010, where Gbagbo’s successor, Alassane Ouattara, was elected president. Gbagbo refused to step down, and in the ensuing five months an estimated 3,000 people were killed as those loyal to each president fought for control. Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011. In July, the Court declared Gbagbo a flight risk, due to the nature of the charges he was facing and the potential for a long prison sentence if convicted. The Court noted in its ruling that Gbagbo had both the political connections and resources to make flight a feasible possibility. The lawyers’ arguments on Tuesday for Gbagbo’s release follow the Court’s decision on 26 October to deny the defense’s appeal of the May decision. In its arguments, the defense stated that Gbagbo’s poor health would prevent him from travel, and thus that he should not be considered a flight risk.

Egyptians call for ICC jurisdiction: The revolutionary movement that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in Egypt is how calling for the nascent government to accept ICC jurisdiction in the country. The ICC was created in 1998, and serves to supersede states’ national courts to try individuals guilty of international crimes, when the states are unable to do so. Currently, only Djibouti, Tunisia and Comoros are the only Arab League countries party to the Rome Statute, which created the ICC and whose signatories accept the jurisdiction of the court to intervene in judicial affairs. The revolutionaries, lead by Samira Ibrahim, have characterized the ratification of the Rome Statute as a needed hallmark of a new, democratic Egypt. In particular, those calling for ICC jurisdiction cite the politicized nature of the Egyptian national judiciary as a reason to accept international oversight to bring criminals to justice. Those in the revolutionary movement have been calling for the indictment of former Mubarak government officials for crimes against civilian populations in Egypt—the type of crimes that are specifically referenced in the Rome Statute. Ibrahim notes that in Egypt’s recent history, massacres and crimes have been committed against minorities and unarmed protesters; bringing the ICC to Egypt is seen as a way to further protect the rights of citizens as the country moves forward.

African Commission requests stay of Nigerian inmates’ executions: The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights called on the Nigerian state of Edo to stay the impending execution of two inmates currently imprisoned there. In its 29 October 2012 release, the Commission asked the Nigerian federal government to intervene in the prisoners’ cases, which are currently on appeal as they await execution. In making its request, the Commission cited a resolution adopted in 2008 by the Commission, calling on all African nations to suspend the execution of death sentences, with a view towards halting the practice entirely. In specific relation to the pending case in Nigeria, the Commission noted that the 2008 resolution forbade the implementation of a death penalty in cases where the convicted were not granted their rights to a fair trial, as defined in the African Charter on Human and People’s rights. The Commission expressed concern that Edo state was looking to execute the prisoners because they had become “unmanageable” while in prison, despite the fact that their case is still on appeal. The Commission’s statement noted that this situation infringes on the prisoners’ African Charter rights to a fair trial, including the right to an impartial tribunal; executing a death sentence in their case would thus be in violation of the 2008 resolution. The Commission expressed concern that, without federal government intervention, the inmates’ sentence could be carried out at any moment, as the governor of Edo state has already signed their death warrants.

Rwandan opposition leader sentenced to eight years: On Tuesday, Rwanda’s High Court sentenced Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire to eight years in prison. Ingabire had been found guilty by the Court on terrorism charges, and for denying the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed. Ingabire, the leader of Rwanda’s United Democratic Forces, was arrested in April 2010. She had returned to Rwanda in January 2010, after 17 years of exile in Holland, to challenge Paul Kagame in that year’s forthcoming presidential election. Her arrest stemmed from her questioning why the official national memorial to those killed in the 1994 genocide did not include the names of any Hutus killed in the conflict. Her arrest prevented Ingabire from challenging Kagame. Amnesty International has criticized the 2010 elections in which Kagame won 93 percent of vote, stating that Opposition parties were prevented from contesting the elections, and that the run-up to the elections were characterized by suppression of freedom of expression and association. The sentence handed down by the Court is greatly lower than the life sentence sought by the prosecution. Ingabire has maintained her innocence, characterizing the charges as a politically motivated move aimed at preventing her from engaging in Rwandan politics. She will have 30 days to appeal the verdict.





ICTY drops one genocide count against Karadzic: On Thursday, the Yugoslav war crimes court dropped one charge of genocide against wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, stating that there was not enough evidence to support a genocide charge in relation to killings by Serb forces in Bosnian towns in 1992.  The evidence “does not rise to the level which could sustain a conclusion that the serious bodily or mental harm suffered….in the municipalities” could “lead to the death of the whole or part of the population,” said presiding judge O-Gon Kwon.  Karadzic still faces a charge of genocide for his purported role in the Srebrenica massacre, and also faces nine other charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the three year conflict.  Prosecutors finished their case against him last month, and his defense is set to begin on October 16 of this year.  Karadzic has sought an acquittal on all counts.  (For more information on this story, please click here.)

Haradinaj et al hearings close before the ICTY:  The ICTY has heard the final day of closing arguments against former Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and two ex- Kosovo Liberation  Army fighters, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Ibrahimaj.  In 2008, the trio were acquitted of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the murder, kidnap, torture and rape of Serbs, Roma and Albanians between March and September 1998.  However, they were brought back to the ICTY for partial retrial after the prosecution convinced an appeal judge that it had insufficient time to hear key witness evidence.  On Monday, ICTY prosecutor Paul Rogers told the court that the trio had the authority to prevent crimes committed in the Jabllanica detention camp, but instead encouraged KLA soldiers to kill camp prisoners.  The trio’s defense has focused on the integrity of the prosecution’s witnesses, and contends that the evidence presented does not support the allegations.   Presiding judge Bakone Justice Moloto is expected to announce a verdict in the next two months.

ICTY sentences Vojislav Seselj to two more years of prison:  On Thursday, the ICTY sentenced Seselj to two additional years of prison for refusing to remove information from his website that revealed the identities of witnesses who had been previously granted anonymity.  This is not Seselj’s first contempt conviction – he was first convicted of contempt in 2009 and then again in 2011, receiving a 15-month and 18-month sentence, respectively.  The 57 year old Serb ultranationalist faces nine charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. 

Kofi Annan will convene Syria talks on Saturday:   Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who currently serves as the joint UN-Arab League envoy, will convene a high-level meeting on the Syrian conflict this Saturday in Geneva.  This announcement comes on the heels of increasing reports of violence and escalating conflict.  Annan previously proposed a six-point plan for peace in Syria, which has done little to reduce fighting in the area thus far.  Annan’s recent efforts have focused on setting up a Syrian action group to find a “common position on the proposed outcomes.”  As of Wednesday, Western diplomats had not received a meeting confirmation. 


International groups, regional organizations propose initiatives for Mali: On Monday Human Rights Watch released a report detailing war crimes committed in the northern areas of Mali. HRW reported that armed groups on both sides of the conflict had committed murder, rapes, and abductions, enlisted child soldiers, and looted public areas. Meanwhile, amid rumors of a planned counter-coup d’etat led by Amadou Toure loyalists, The Economic Community of West African States met to discuss potential intervention in the country. The ECOWAS Summit recently concluded in neighboring Ivory Coast, at which time the proposed solution to the situations in Mali and Guinea Bissau was to deploy troops, and ultimately restore constitutional order. (For information on ECOWAS, please click here; for information on potential counter-coup, please click here)

Arab League voices support for domestic trial for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi: In a statement Monday, the Arab League said it supported Libya’s pursuit of a domestic trial for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The announcement follows a decision last week by judges at the International Criminal Court, which dismissed Libya’s appeal against an international trial for the son of former Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi. Although the Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC, the country did not feel any obligation to transfer Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to be tried, and has fought his international prosecution. ICC authorities fear any domestic trial for Gaddafi would fall short of international standards.

First of Bemba victim witnesses to testify Tuesday: The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo will resume Tuesday, when the first of five victim witnesses will provide testimony. The case before the International Criminal Court heard forty prosecution witnesses before the recess began one month ago, and the number and timing of the victim witnesses was debated until judges authorized live testimony from the five individuals. The witnesses will represent the 2,744 victims currently participating in the Bemba Trial, and are expected to provide evidence on rapes, pillaging, and murder, among other crimes, committed in the Central African Republic.

Bosnian war crimes court convicts, jails first female accused: On Monday a Bosnian woman began her prison sentence for killing Bosnian Croats in a brutal attack in April 1993. The Bosnian War Crimes Court convicted Rasema Handanovic after she pled guilty to charges stemming from the murder of six Bosnian Croats in Trusina. Handanovic was part of the “Zulfikar” arm of the Bosnian army, which reportedly killed 18 Croat civilians and four prisoners of war in the incident in Trusina. She was extradited from the United States and sentenced to five and a half years in prison, in exchange for testimony against remaining members of her group. The judge considered as mitigating factors that Handanovic had been raped during the war and had seen several family members killed in the conflict.


Syrian Crisis tops Arab League summit agenda: The Syrian crisis topped the agenda at the Arab League’s summit in Baghdad on Thursday.  U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon presented a U.N.-endorsed plan to end Syrian fighting, calling for an end to hostilities and a daily cease-fire to allow for humanitarian aid delivery.  Meanwhile, Syrian violence continued, with the Britain-based Syrian Human Rights Observatory reporting 23 civilians killed Thursday.  This comes on the heels of UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay’s announcement earlier this week that there is enough reliable evidence to bring charges against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his crackdown on protestors. (For more information on this topic, please click here).  

Former prison chief testifies that Chea ordered killing of prisonersFormer Khmer Rouge prisoner chief Kaing Guech Eav (also known as “Duch”) testified in the trial of former Pol Pot deputy Nuon Chea (also known as “Brother Number Two”) at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Thursday.  Guech Eav testified that Chea ordered all prisoners be killed on January 3, 1979, four days before the liberation of Phnom Penh.  Guech Eav is currently serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity.   (For additional information on this topic, please click here).

ICC names judges to try suspects in Kenya’s post-election violenceOn Thursday, ICC first vice president Sanji Mmasenono announced that Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, William Ruto and Joshua Sang (also known as the “Ocampo 4”) will be tried by Judges Christine van den Wyngaert (Belgium), Kuniko Ozaki (Japan) and Chile Obeo-Osuji (Nigeria) in Trial Chamber V.  The Ocampo 4 are charged with crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 election violence in Kenya.  According to ICC spokesman Fadi el Abdallah, the trial date will not be set until the defense has received all of the prosecution’s evidence, including its witnesses and their statements.  He noted that such disclosure may take months.

Amnesty International urges Ivorian authority cooperation in ICC probe: In a statement released Thursday, Amnesty International urged Ivorian authorities to fully cooperate with an ICC probe into human rights abuses that followed the contested 2010 presidential election.  An International Commission of Inquiry previously concluded that both sides of the March 2011 post-election conflict committed human rights abuses that could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Amnesty International said that, to its knowledge, none of those suspected to be responsible for these crimes has been brought to trial.  Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to the ICC in late 2011, where he is accused of murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts. 

ICT of Bangladesh accepts 15 witness statements as evidence:  The ICT of Bangladesh will receive statements of 15 witnesses as evidence against Delwar Hossain Sayedd, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader charged with 20 counts including murder, rape and arson during the Independence War of Bangladesh in 1971.  The order stated that the court would weigh these statements at their discretion, noting that the witnesses were not cross-examined when they gave their statements to an investigation officer.  The prosecution petitioned the court to receive a total of 46 witness statements, but the court found the prosecution did not make a successful case and rejected the petition with regards to the other 31 witnesses. 


Al-Bashir attends Arab League Summit in Baghdad: Sudanese officials reported that Wednesday that President Omar al-Bashir left for Baghdad, Iraq, where he will attend the Arab League Summit as lead delegate for his country. The Iraqi Government reportedly welcomed al-Bashir’s visit, and suggested that it would respect his head of state immunity rather than comply with an outstanding International Criminal Court arrest warrant. Iraq is not currently a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC. (For additional information on this topic, please click here)

Sudan-South Sudan violence causes international concern: Following reports of violence in South Kordofan, Sudan, international governments and organizations expressed concern that Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan could be returning to a war scenario. South Sudanese representatives claimed that Sudanese forces bombed an oil field and used additional force against targets in South Sudan; allegations that Sudanese officials deny. It is the first reported conflict since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan last July. Meanwhile, reports that South Sudan armed rebel groups in Sudan were met with criticism from international parties. Officials from the United States and the European Union condemned the military activities and cautioned against further provocation from either nation. (For additional information on this topic, please click here)

Australia gives $1.7 billion to ECCC: The Australian Foreign Minister announced this week that the Australian Government would contribute an additional $1.7 million to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The donation comes after reports that the tribunal was suffering from insufficient funding. Australia has contributed $19.3 million to the hybrid court since 2006.

Karadžić claims Srebrenica casualties were overstated: While cross-examining a Prosecution witness Wednesday, ICTY accused Radovan Karadžić suggested that the number of Bosnian Muslims who were massacred during the Balkan Conflict was generally overstated. He asserted that the 7,000 killed at Srebrenica, as presented by the Prosecution, was inaccurate and was in fact much smaller. Karadžić is participating in his own defense before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his involvement as President of the Republica Srpska and Commander of its military.

Italian Authorities seize Gaddafi assets at ICC request: On Wednesday Italian authorities reported they had seized $1.5 billion in Gaddafi family assets, including fixed and movable assets, bank accounts and numerous stocks. The seizure came following an International Criminal Court request to remove Gaddafi Family access to assets and facilitate its investigation. The European Union also recently authorized the freezing of Gaddafi assets to hinder international movements of the Gaddafi family. (For additional information on this topic, please click here)

Syria accepts UN peace plan; reports of violence, deaths persist: On Tuesday, Kofi Annan announced that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted an international, United Nations-sponsored peace plan, which would reportedly remove troops from and provide humanitarian aid to embattled regions of the country. Mr. Annan is the lead delegate on the UN-Arab League mission to broker a peace and humanitarian solution in the region. However, Wednesday the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said that Syrian Authorities continued to commit abuses against civilians, particularly children. In addition, reports of military bombardments continued in towns and villages throughout the country. (For additional information on this topic, please click here)


UN Human Rights Council approves resolution urging Sri Lanka to conduct war crimes probe:   The U.N.’s top human rights body urged Sri Lanka on Thursday to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the country’s 25-year conflict with the Tamil Tiger rebels.  Sri Lanka and its allies strongly oppose the U.S.-backed resolution, saying it is an improper interference with the country’s domestic affairs.  The resolution’s backers, including the U.S., European Union, and India, argue that the probe is an essential step towards achieving justice and equality in post-conflict Sri Lanka.

Libya vows trial for Senussi before election, extradition remains uncertain:   The fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s former spy chief remains unclear Thursday, as Libya’s new rulers, under pressure from human rights groups, vowed to try Senussi before the country’s June elections.  Senussi is also wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during last year’s revolt that ousted Gaddafi.  Ahmed Jehani, Tripoli’s representative at the ICC, said that the Court is putting pressure on Libya to begin the trial or “hand him over” to the tribunal.   Senussi, who remains in Mauritania where he was arrested at Nouakchott airport last week, is also wanted by France for his involvement in a 1989 attack on a French plane.

Iraq guarantees Bashir’s security at Arab League Summit :  Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will travel to Iraq next week to participate in the Arab League Summit in Iraq.  The ICC has issued two warrants for Bashir, one in 2009 for five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes, and one from 2010 for three counts of genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.  INTERPOL has notified Baghdad about their intent to arrest Bashir should he attend the summit, but the Iraqi foreign ministry has issued a statement emphasizing that Bashir’s security is “100 percent guaranteed.”

U.N.: Impunity at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge war crimes court will not be tolerated: The United Nations said Thursday it would not tolerate impunity at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge war crimes court in its deteriorating dispute regarding whether to pursue additional suspects.  A UN spokesman expressed serious concerns after the second international judge in six months resigned over difficulties investigating two cases linked to the 1975-1979 regime blamed for almost two million deaths.  Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, the latest judge to resign, alleged that his Cambodian counterpart made access to drivers and translators difficult and blocked investigation efforts at every turn.  Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has consistently objected to potential new cases in the court.

Kosovo court rejects “key evidence” against war crimes suspects: A Kosovo court has rejected “key evidence” in the case of ten former Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers suspected of war crimes and, pending the final verdict, has ordered their release.  The former KLA soldiers are accused of killing at least 22 Serb and Albanian civilians in detention camps during the ethnic Albanian rebellion in the late 1980’s.  The trial was based on the statements and diaries of another KLA soldier who described killing and torturing Serbs and non-loyal Albanians in detail.  The soldier was found hanged last year, and his prior statements were found unacceptable to the court because the prosecutors had failed to “fulfill certain procedural standards.”  German police ruled the death a suicide, but the soldier’s family claims he was killed.


ICC issues first verdict, finds Lubanga guilty of conscripting child soldiers: On Wednesday, 14 March, the International Criminal Court issued its first ever verdict in the case of Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Trial Chamber I unanimously declared that Lubanga was guilty of conscripting and enlisting child soldiers to engage in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lubanga was charged as a co-perpetrator in the crimes of conscripting child soldiers between 1 September 2002 and 13 August 2003 in the Ituri region of the DRC. Wednesday judges found that he participated in a common plan to utilize boys and girls under the age of fifteen in hostilities and other activities to further military and political objectives in the DRC. Further, as President of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and Commander-in-Chief of the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC), Lubanga was responsible for coordinating militia activities and supporting child recruitment efforts. He will be sentenced at a separate hearing, at which time reparations to victims will also be determined. (For additional information on this topic, please 1. click here 2. click here and 3. click here)

Arab League calls for independent Syria inquiry; Kuwait condemns violence at UN Summit: This week the Secretary General of the Arab League called for an independent investigation into crimes committed in Syria by President Bashar al-Assad’s Regime. Following news that the Syrian leader was silent on proposals from United Nations-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan, as well as reports that Syrian military were laying landmines along the border, the Arab League persisted in its call for international action. Meanwhile, on Tuesday 13 March, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United Nations voiced his country’s strong condemnation of the ongoing violence and human rights abuses in Syria. (For additional information on this topic, please click here)

International Community urges Sri Lanka investigation: This week international voices called for further investigations into potential war crimes and other human rights abuses committed during its 26-year civil war. The discourse was renewed at the United Nations Human Rights Council Summit in Geneva, where Amnesty International introduced a report detailing continued abuses, including torture and disappearances, that have occurred since the war ended in 2009. The Amnesty Report suggested that the Sri Lankan Government has not been held accountable for crimes committed against Tamil Tiger Separatists during the civil war, and have persisted in committing abuses against suspected Tamil sympathizers.

ICTR Prosecutor appeals portions of Karemera Judgment: This week the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda reported its ongoing effort to appeal one element of the Trial Chamber decision in the cases of Matthieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera. The Prosecutor filed an application on 5 March, asking the Appeals Chamber to find that the conspiracy to commit genocide count was appropriate. The Trial Chamber in its December judgment held that a conspiracy to commit genocide charge was excessive, after it found Ngirumpatse and Karemera guilty of genocide, and thus dropped the charge.


Sudanese Defense Minister makes first visit post ICC arrest warrant:  On Sunday, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein attended a two day regional conference on border security in Tripoli.  This was the first trip outside Sudan the Defense Minister made since the ICC issued an arrest warrant against the Defense Minister in early March.  Though the ICC indicted Defense Minister Hussein on 20 counts of crimes against humanity, Libya is not bound to arrest Hussein during his visit as Libya is not a party to the Rome Statute. 

French Foreign Minister calls for ICC trials as Syrian President refuses Kofi Annan:  French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé asked in a speech before the Un Security Council that Syrian leaders be held to account before the ICC for crimes committed during the Syrian crackdown.   Juppé said that preparations should be made for the ICC to be called to investigate the crimes, as the ICC cannot investigate independently because Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute and the ICC needs UN referral to investigate.  Since Juppé’s statement before the Security Council, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has refused an offered from the joint UN and Arab League envoy for Kofi Annan to help mediate the situation and bring an end to the violence.  Al-Assad’s refusal explained that he doesn’t recognize Annan as a representative of the Arab League and the Syrian forces would not end the violence until the opposition lays down its arms.  (For additional information on this topic, please click here). 

ECCC convicted Duch to testify in Case 002 next week:  Kaing Guek Eav better known as Duch will take the stand as soon as Monday of next week to testify against the three accused Khmer Rouge leaders in Case 002 of the ECCC.  Duch, a former jailer in the Khmer Rouge regime was convicted by the ECCC and sentenced to life imprisonment.  This has prompted questions on how cooperative Duch will be during his testimony as the cooperative nature of his testimony will not affect his own sentence.  Further reports have noted that Duch and one of the accused in Case 002, Nuon Chea, are on bad terms with each assigning blame to the other for aspects of their respective cases.

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