Category Archives: Balkans

2 February 2016 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS; Mladic expert witness, AI critical of Nigeria Gen, ICC Bemba decision date

Ratko Mladic. Photo: via Bing (CC).

Ratko Mladic. Photo: via Bing (CC).

Mladic Expert Witness questioned by Prosecution on Srebrenica accounts: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 Dusan Pavlovic, Mladic’s expert witness, again stated that “at least 4,000 to 5,000” Bosnian Army soldiers and civilians were killed while trying to break through Bosnian Serb lines and escape Srebrenica in July 1995. The witness repeated the claim although the prosecution has stated that this information is based on incorrect data. During cross-examination the prosecution called the accuracy of Pavlovic’s report into questions, stating that Pavlovic did not accurately cite eyewitness statements. Pavlovic also said that thousands of Bosniaks were killed “during combat activities when trying to break through” Serb lines. In response the Prosecutor cites statements by witnesses who said the Bosniaks were actually captured by Bosnian Serb forces and “died as victims of mass executions”. Mladic is on trial for the genocide of Srebrenica Bosniaks, and his trial is ongoing. (Balkan Insight)

Amnesty critical of Nigerian General’s re-appointment, citing military killings: Amnesty International has criticized the reinstatement of Nigerian general Maj Gen Ahmadu Mohammed because Gen Mohammed is cited among other officer in a report which accuses the military of killing more than 8,000 detainees. Amnesty International said “It is unthinkable” to reinstate the officer, who was fired in 2014 before an inquiry had begun. A military spokesman told the BBC that the military is investigating the allegations, and that no one should be punished unnecessarily until the allegations are proven. Amnesty says that Gen Mohammed was “in command of operations when the military executed more than 640 detainees following a Boko Haram attack on the detention centre in Giwa barracks on 14 March 2014.” (BBC News)

ICC Chambers to release decision in Bemba Case on 21 March: On Tuesday, 2 February 2016 Trial Chamber III of the ICC issued an order scheduling the hearing to deliver the verdict in the case Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo on Monday 21 March 2016, at 14:00 (The Hague local time). Judges Sylvia Steiner from Brazil presides, along with Judge Joyce Alouch from Kenya and Judge Kniko Ozaki from Japan who together compose the judge panel in Trial Chamber III. The verdict will be read in public and will acquit or convict the accused. Before the ICC the accused is presumed innocent and the Prosecutor must prove the guilt of the accused. The Trial Chamber will only convict if it is satisfied that the charged have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial in the Bemba case started on 22 November 2010 and the submission of evidence closed 7 April 2014 with further testimony offered between 2 and 24 of October 2014. Closing statements were given 12 and 13 November 2014. (ICC Press Release)

26 January 2016 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS Gbago and Blé Goudé Trial; Oric trial in Bosnia Herzegovina; Investigation in Burundi; South Sudan peace process

Laurent Gbagbo. Photo: Paterne DIDI via Flickr (CC).

Laurent Gbagbo. Photo: Paterne DIDI via Flickr (CC).

Gbago and Blé Goudé Trial to begin Thursday, 28 January at ICC: The trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé is scheduled to begin on Thursday 28 January 2016 and will open with a reading of the charges against the two accused. Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé will be asked if they plead not-guilty or guilty and opening statements will be delivered by the Office of the Prosecutor, the Defence teams, and the Legal Representatives of Victims, before the Prosecutions starts its presentation of evidence. Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé are accused of four counts of crimes against humanity; murder, rape, other inhumane acts/attempted murder, and persecution allegedly committed in the context of post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011 which resulted in the death of 3000 people. (ICC Press Release, Yahoo! News)

Bosnia Herzegovina Court begins trial against Orić and comrade: On Tuesday 26 January 2016 the trial of

Naser Oric. Photo: sh.wikipedia.org via Bing (CC).

Naser Oric. Photo: sh.wikipedia.org via Bing (CC).

Naser Oric and Sabahudin Muhic started before the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Court confirmed three counts of the indictment against Oric and Muhic for allegedly killng three prisoners of Serb nationality, Slobodan Ilic, Milutin Milosevic, and Mitra Savic in Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac. On 9 November 2015 Oric’s defence lawyers filed a motion with the ICTY asking it to order the Bosnian court to suspend the proceedings because Oric was tried and acquitted by the ICTY in 2008. The tribunal rejected the request on 11 December saying the new indictment was “significantly different” than the previous charges. (b92)

UN team to investigate “violations and abuses” in Burundi: On Tuesday 26 January 2016 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that experts mandated by the UN Human Rights Council were not able to enter Burundi to investigate violations and abuses of human rights. The OHCHR set up a team of three experts to investigate and make recommendations on the improvement of the human rights situation and to engage authorities in a dialogue. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated that new trends have been emerging in Burundi including cases of sexual violence by security forces and a sharp increase in enforced disappearances and torture. The crisis is reported to have erupted when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term last April. (UN News Centre)

UN Secretary General urges Sudan, partners to continue efforts for peace: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged South Sudan’s parties to save the peace process after they missed the 22 January deadline to set up the Transitional Government of National Unity and deadlocked over the issue of the establishment of 28 states. Ban Ki-moon stressed that the formation of the Transitional Government is an essential step in implementing the peace agreement and laying the foundation for peace and stability in the country. He also reaffirmed that the UN will continue to do all that it can to support the people of South Sudan. Last month the Security Council increased UN peacekeeping forces in the country with a top priority of protecting civilians by all necessary means. (UN News Centre)

5 January 2016 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS – Ruto / Sang ICC trial to resume, ICTY to address Karadzic and Seselj in 2016 and Sri Lankan Pres speak on WC court

ICC Premanent Premises, The Hague. Photo: by ICL Media Review (rights reserved).

ICC Premanent Premises, The Hague. Photo: by ICL Media Review (rights reserved).

Ruto and Sang trial resume at ICC on 14 January: The case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang will resume 14 and 15 January at the ICC. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda closed her case against Ruto and Sang on 4 September 2015. After that both parties filed a no case to answer motion requesting the ICC acquit them of the charges stemming from post-election violence, including murder, forcible transfer of populations and persecution. The defence submits that the case as presented by the OTP has “completely broken down” and alleges that the Prosecution relies on hearsay evidence. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opposed the motions and stated that the defence arguments are speculative and “fail to provide adequate grounds to dismiss any of the charges.” (All Africa, All Africa)

ICTY to deliver verdict in Karadzic case in 2016: Within the first quarter of 2016, the ICTY is set to deliver the verdict in the case against Radovan Karadzic in which he is accused of genocide in Srebrenica and other crimes allegedly committed between 1992 and 1995. His trial started in 2009 and nearly 600 witnesses testified, and over 11,000 exhibits were presented. The prosecution argued that Karadzic was responsible for masterminding genocide, forced expulsions and persecution on a massive scale with the aim of destroying the entire Bosniak community. Karadzic admitted that crimes were committed during the period but insisted that he never ordered them. The court is also set to address how to proceed with the war crimes cases against Vojislav Seselj and Goran Hadzic. (Balkan Insight)

Sri Lankan President answers questions on special court for war crimes: President Maithiripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka said on Sunday, 3 January 2016 that the government would not act “in haste” in setting up a special court on allegations of violations of human rights in the last stages of the civil war. Mr. Sirisena stated that first an evaluation of what happened during the war should occur, and then “subsequent steps” would be necessary and that the implementation should be a “collective exercise”. The President also said that he would make a statement in Parliament on 9 January to initiate the process of drafting a new constitution, but that only after a “comprehensive, organized and nationwide” debate would a decision be made whether a fresh Constitution was needed, or if amendments to the existing Constitution were sufficient. (The Hindu)

15 December 2015 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS – ICTY AC orders retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic, ICTY issues final judgment, ECCC charges Meas Muth with genocide and more

Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. Photo: theguardian.com via Bing.

Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. Photo: theguardian.com via Bing.

ICTY AC overturns acquittal of Stanisic and Simatovic and order retrial: On Tuesday, 15 December 2015, an Appeals Chamber at the ICTY has ordered two Serbian former security officials, Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, to be detained and retried after overturning an acquittal from 2013 for allegedly helping to orchestrate genocide. The AC said it was a mistake for the Trial Chamber to require evidence of “specific direction” to prove the involvement of top officials in the “joint criminal enterprise” of genocide. Presiding judge, Fausto Pocar said the act of aiding and abetting could take the form of “practical assistance, encouragement and moral support” which made a substantial contribution to the commission of a crime. Trial judges had originally ruled that although Serb fighters did commit atrocities in Croatia and Boania, there was insufficient evidence linking Stanisic and Simatovic to those crimes. Stanisic and Simatovic are in custody awaiting their retrial. (the Guardian, in News, abc News, Yahoo! News, Radio Free Europe)

ICTR logo. Photo: Adam Jones via Flickr (CC).

ICTR logo. Photo: Adam Jones via Flickr (CC).

ICTR AC delivers final judgment to wind up Tribunal: On Monday, 14 December 2015, the ICTR Appeals Chamber in Ausha, Tanzania, delivered its final judgment and upheld the conviction of former Rwandan government minister Pauline Nyiramashuhuko and her son- before it formally closes down. The Appeals Chamber ruled that Nyiramashuhuko entered into an agreement with members of the interim government on or after April 9, 1994 to kill the Tutsi in the then Butare Prefecture. The court also reduced sentences for five convicts, including Nyiramashuhuko, her son (reduced from life imprisonment to 47 years), and Sylvain Nsabimana (reduced from 25 to 18 years), Alphonse Nteziryayo (reduced from 30 to 25 years), and Joseph Kanyabashi (reduced from 35 to 20 years). The Appeals Chamber considered time already served and ordered the release of Nsabimana and Kanyabashi. (The News Hub, all Africa, all Africa)

 

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Photo: ECCC via Flickr (CC).

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Photo: ECCC via Flickr (CC).

ECCC charges former Navy commander Meas Muth with genocide, CAH and grave breaches: On Monday, 14 December 2015, the ECCC charged Meas Muth, former Khmer Rouge navy commander with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and homicide, as well as willful killing, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, torture, and unlawful confinement of civilians, in addition to other charges. Muth appeared voluntarily to hear the charges, and his defense lawyer Michael Karnavas said that Mr. Meas Muth has been cooperating [with the case] all along. Mr. Muth is also suspected of sending British teacher and explorer John Dewhirst to Tuol Sleng interrogation centre, where all but twelve people survived. These charges come days after ECCC investigating judge Michal Bohlander filed charges against Yim Tith for genocide on  9 December 2015. (The Phnom Penh Post, The New York Times, The Telegraph)

ICC moves to permanent premises in The Hague: The ICC has relocated to its new premises at The Hague, which the presiding judge described as effective to fulfill its mandate. President Judge Silvia Fernandez said “As a permanent institution, the ICC now has a permanent home. It offers essential features for the court to work more efficiently, provide protection for witnesses and victims, and ensure fair and transparent proceedings.” The building complex consists of six towers connected on the ground and first floors and more than a thousand work stations. The Court Tower, the largest tower houses three courtrooms and a media centre. There is also a public area on the ground floor which serves to welcome visitors to the public galleries of the courtrooms, a visitor centre and a café. (the Star)

11 December 2015 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS – UNSC told to refer N Korea to ICC, Rwanda ready to try Ntanganzwa and regional government reacts to Bosnian Serb arrests

Zeid Raad al-Hussein. Photo: cronicadearagon.es via Bing (CC).

Zeid Raad al-Hussein. Photo: cronicadearagon.es via Bing (CC).

UN High Commissioner for HR tells UNSC to refer N Korea to ICC: UN Human Rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein told the Security Council at a meeting on Thursday that it is “essential” that the council refer the human rights situation in North Korea to the ICC. The U.S. as well as eight other members called for the talks on North Korea’s human rights record, with opposition from China and Russia. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said that the abuses represent “a level of horror unrivaled in the world.” The alleged abuses include detaining people in prison camps, where prisoners are gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, and infanticide, as well as the denial of basic rights and freedoms to millions of people. Gender based violence and food security is also an ongoing concern. (The Telegraph, Yahoo! News)

Kim Jong Un. Photo: jalfocea.com via Bing (CC).

Kim Jong Un. Photo: jalfocea.com via Bing (CC).

Rwandan Prosecutor General says court ready to try arrested Ntaganzwa: The Rwandan Prosecutor-General stated that Rwanda is ready to try genocide suspect Ladislas Ntaganzwa. On Thursday, 10 December 2015 Richard Muhumuza told The New Times that Ntaganzwa was still in custody in DR Congo awaiting transfer to the custody of the National Public Prosecution Authority in Rwanda. Ntaganzwa’s arrest in the DR Congo was announced Wednesday by Judge Hassan Bubacar Jallow, the prosecutor of the ICTR and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunal. Ntaganzwa faces charges of participating in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination, and murder and rape as crimes against humanity. (all Africa)

Bosnian Serb regional gov suspends cooperation with court, pros and police over WC arrests: On Thursday 10 December 2015 the Bosnian Serb regional government stopped cooperating with the court due to the arrest of five Serb suspected war criminals. In addition to the arrest, State police searched the local police station and municipality looking for evidence related to the case that they believed had been hidden there. The interior minister of the Bosnian Serb region, Dragan Lukac said the search was a violation of the principles of cooperation. He added that the court could have asked for the evidence, or sent an investigator to view it, but because it didn’t the regional government has ordered Serb police to prevent any further attempts by state police to enter and search any government institutions on the territory of Republika Srpska. Bosnia’s prosecution office said that the search was conducted correctly and in accordance with the law. (The Washington Post, Reuters)

8 December 2015 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS – Pres of Republika Srpska testifies for Mladic, Bosnian general arrested and new UNHRC Pres elected

Ratko Mladic. Photo: via Bing (CC).

Ratko Mladic. Photo: via Bing (CC).

President of Republika Srpska testifies at ICTY for Mladic: Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska testified for Mladic’s defence and was cross examined at the ICTY on Monday 7 December and Tuesday 8 December 2015. Dodik testified “I can say today I am totally confident that the official policy of that time was not ethnic cleansing.” And that expelling Muslims and Croats from Republika Srpska was “never given as a goal” and on the contrary that there “were attempts to involve Bosniaks and Croats in the Assembly of Republika Srpska.” He testified that as a political and institutional separation of peoples was occurring, it was a goal of the Repulika Srpska as well, but that “It was not our intention to divide ourselves based on ethnic cleaning and killings.”

On cross examination Dodik emphasized that despite the Republik Srpska parliament’s declaration to separate Serbs from Bosniaks and Croats that “the primary objective was the defence of the population from Muslim, and later from Muslim-Croatian aggression.” He states that Brcko was “an important communication point and a legitimate military target, but nor from the standpoint of ethnic cleansing. When confronted with a statement from a Republika Srpska MP that referenced an “ethnically pure state” Dodik did not remember the individual or the statement. Dodik states that all of the Bosnian Serb’s actions were to preserve Yugoslavia after the secession of the Bosniaks and Croats from the state. (Balkan Insight, Balkan Insight)

Bosnia arrests former general Sakib Mahmuljin for war crimes: Bosnian police arrested former Bosnian army general Sakib Mahmuljin, for suspected war crimes against Serb prisoners in the 1992-95 conflict. In a statement Tuesday, 8 December 2015, the prosecutor’s office said that Sakib Mahmuljin is “suspected of having not prevented a [paramilitary unit] that operated on the territory he was in charge of in central Bosnia from kidnapping and killing 50 prisoners that Mahmuljin’s units arrested during a 1995 battle.” The prisoners were taken by regular Bosnian army units but then abducted and executed. (abc News)

UN Human Rights Council. Photo: United States Mission Geneva via Flickr (CC).

UN Human Rights Council. Photo: United States Mission Geneva via Flickr (CC).

UNHRC elects South Korean, Choi Kyong-lim, as president: The U.N. Human Rights Council elected South Korean diplomat and representative of Seoul’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, Choi Kyong-lim, as president. Choi will chair council meetings involving the UNHRC’s 47 member states and will also be responsible for carrying out the Universal Periodic review. According to a statement attributed to the foreign ministry, “[t]he U.N.’s decision shows the international community highly values South Korea’s rapid democratization and improvement of human rights conditions.” Choi will be the tenth president of the council, and replaces Joachim Rucker for a one year term. (Korea Times)

2 December 2015 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS – ICTY arrest warrants, Mladic defense witness, Sri Lankan war crimes court

ICTY issues warrant for two Seselj attorneys, alleges witness tampering:  On Tuesday, 1 December, the ICTY made public arrest warrants for two lawyers and a former associate of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj.  Specifically, the lawyers are “charged with contempt of the Tribunal for allegedly having threatened, intimated, offered bribes to, or otherwise interfered with two witnesses.”  The ICTY initially issued the three arrest warrants as confidential in January of this year but decided to make them public as the Serbian government had not complied.  The arrest warrants request Serbia to surrender the three suspects to the Tribunal or “immediately report . . . if they are unable to execute this warrant or arrest and indicate the reasons for such non execution.”  (Yahoo).

Mural of Ratko Mladic. Photo: Emmanuel in Europe via Bing (CC).

Mural of Ratko Mladic. Photo: Emmanuel in Europe via Bing (CC).

Witness for Mladic describes Serb hope for “self-determination”:  A defence witness testified that “Serbs advocated separation” in the ICTY trial against Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic on Tuesday, 1 December.  The witness, a Serbian historian, indicated Serbs during the 1992-95 war did not believe they could share “a common state” with Bosniaks and Croats.  The testimony is meant to disprove that the expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from the Serbian state was “evidence of ethnic cleansing.”  Mladic currently faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes at the ICTY.  (Balkan Transitional Justice).

Sri Lanka to start up war crimes court on UN suggestion:  Top Sri Lankan officials announced on Tuesday, 1 December, that the Sri Lankan government would soon establish a special court to investigate alleged war crimes committed during the end of the county’s 26-year civil war.  Chandrika Kumaratunga, head of the reconciliation unit of the Sri Lankan government, stated the special court would be domestic but agreeable to international technical assistance.  Kumaratunga said “No reconciliation is possible without accepting the mistakes of the past. They will not be chasing behind every soldier, but the main line of command will be looked at.”  (Reuters).

1 December 2015 – NEWS ABOUT THE COURTS – ASP 14th session, ICTY contempt warrants, testimony for Mladic, ECCC counsel withdrawn, and more

Assembly of States Parties. Photo: bashirwatch.org via Bing (CC).

Assembly of States Parties. Photo: bashirwatch.org via Bing (CC).

ASP concludes 14th session in The Hague: The 14th session of the ASP concluded last week after meeting from 18-26 November in The Hague. The key issues discussed and presented at the session by the State Parties included the ICC’s budget, effectiveness, independence, cooperation and the need for States to incorporate or enhance domestic mechanisms to prosecute atrocity crimes. Victims’ participation, rights and protection were also discussed, as well as gender crimes and how to enhance the ICC’s impact on the ground. There was also discussion about the conflict in Syria and south-eastern Ukraine and how to avoid impunity for any crimes being committed. The main decisions that resulted were a budget increase of 6.83%, the deletion of article 124 of the Rome Statute, and the election of Mama Koité Doumbia to the Trust Fund for Victims. (Coalition for the ICC, ICC ASP Sessions Documentation)

ICTY indicts 3, including lawyers, for contempt in Seselj case: On Tuesday, 1 December 2015, the ICTY unveiled arrest warrants previously issued confidentially on 19 January 2015 for Mr. Jojić and Ms. Radeta, members of Vojislav Šešelj’s defence team, as well as for Jovo Ostojić. The individuals have been charged with contempt of the Tribunal for allegedly having threatened, intimidated, offered bribes to, or otherwise interfered with two witnesses in the trial against Vojislav Šešelj and a related contempt charge against him. The warrants reportedly state that Mr. Jojić pressured a witness to give defence a statement which was “untruthful” and “contained false allegations”. Ms. Radeta reportedly persuaded a prosecution witness to testify for the defence in exchange for help and payments. Šešelj is accused of leading Serb volunteers in a campaign to “cleanse” large parts of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia’s northern Vojvodina region. (Global Post, ICTY Press Release)

Serbian historian testifies for Mladic: Serbian historian Milos Kovic testified in Ratko Mladic’s defence stating that the Bosnian Serbs’ key actions during the war occurred as a response to Bosniak and Croat secession moves and aspirations for sovereignty. Kovic told the ICTY that the conflict “was a secessionist civil war in which the Serbs tried to stay together and respond to the secessionist moves.” Kovic stated his opinion that prosecution experts Patrick Traynot and Tobert Donia were “taking the facts out of context of history.” He said that the Bosnian Serb Army’s actions in Sarajevo were provoked by blockades of the Yugoslav People’s Army barracks in the city in 1992 and the creation of militias that evolved into the Bosnian Army. During cross-examination, Kovic stated “I do not deny the suffering of the Muslim civilians in Sarajevo and Bosnia” in response to a question by prosecutor Arthur Traldi, but also said that Donia did not mention the Serb victims in the capital. (Balkan Insight)

ECCC accused, Samphan, excuses co-international lawyer: According to a letter

Khieu Samphan. Photo: Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia via Flickr (CC).

Khieu Samphan. Photo: Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia via Flickr (CC).

released by the ECCC Monday, 30 November 2015 Khieu Samphan has excused International Co-Lawyer Arthur Vercken from his defence team after the French attorney decided to cease representing him in the second phase of Case 002. Although Mr. Vercken was present at the first appeal hearing on 17 November he would not be part of the rest of the appeal process. According to a letter by Khieu Samphan, Mr. Vercken returned to France shortly after the attack in Paris. Victor Koppe, international defence counsel for Nuon Chea informed the court on 23 November that he would continue representing his client. (The Cambodia Daily)

Pakistan reacts to Bangladesh accusation of war crimes: On Monday, 30 November 2015 Pakistan denied that its armed forces had committed war crimes during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971 in response to criticisms by the Bangladesh government. Pakistan rejected Bangladesh’s assertions that Islamabad was complicit in crimes of war or atrocities during the struggle of independence against Pakistan as “baseless and unfounded”. A spokesperson for Pakistan said that the State [desires to] further enhance relations with Bangladesh, and that the 1974 Tripartite Agreement is the bedrock of relations between the two countries. (Pakistan Today, Daily Times, The Hindu)

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