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.