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International Justice in the News

The International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life brings you a monthly selection of news about the people who work in international courts and tribunals, significant developments in international justice, and articles and publications of interest. We hope that this brief selection will help you keep abreast of the field and lead you to sites where you can inform yourself further.

November 2009

People in the News
  • KaradzicThe genocide case against Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is being challenged by the defendant’s refusal to appear in court. Karadzic is charged with two counts of genocide and a multitude of other crimes committed against Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992-1995 war. Read more details about the charges in an ICTY press release. The presiding judge at Karadzic’s trial, O-gon Kwon, has suggested that the court may be obliged to appoint a lawyer to represent the defendant so that the trial can proceed, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor. By some accounts, Karadzic is still considered a hero in his native Serbia. Read about this point of view in an Expatica article.  
  • Two new judges will be elected to fill vacancies on the bench of the International Criminal Court at the upcoming meeting of the Assembly of States Parties in November 2009. There are currently five nominees, four of whom are from the Latin American and Caribbean States group. To find detailed information about the various candidates, click here

Developments in International Justice

  • GuineaThe International Criminal Court has opened investigations on recent events in the West African nation of Guinea. In late September, soldiers opened fire on protesters in the capital of Conakry, killing 157 people, and raped many women publicly during the ensuing commotion.  Read more in an article from the BBC and an ICC press release. Local and regional stakeholders support the move for an investigation, as reported by the UN News Centre. Human Rights Watch has since carried out its own investigation into the incident and alleges that the massacre and widespread sexual violence were organized and were committed largely by the elite Presidential Guard. Following a 10-day research mission in Guinea, Human Rights Watch also found that the armed forces attempted to hide evidence of the crimes by seizing bodies from the stadium and the city’s morgues and burying them in mass graves. Read the Human Rights Watch news report here
  • This year has been an encouraging one for the establishment of international treaties. “2009 was a very good year in terms of progress towards a universal participation to international treaties,” reported UN Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien. At the recent General Assembly General Debate, there were 57 signatures and 43 ratifications, accessions and acceptances, two objections and one withdrawal of a reservation, with this year’s participation representing an increase of 20 States compared to 2008. 

Read the UN press release here.
  • UN logoThe United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has opened a regional office in Brussels to serve the European Union. This new office joins ten other regional centers in Asia, Latin American, Africa, and the Middle East. Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner, says the new regional office will help focus attention on efforts to combat racism and discrimination and to take on human rights violations related to migration and poverty. Read a UN news item here.  
  • The Dutch Justice Minister has drafted a bill that will extend the possibility of detecting and prosecuting genocide. The bill allows the Netherlands to better address war crimes and genocide suspects retroactively and to work more closely with international criminal courts. The proposed bill stipulates that cases dating back as far as 1966 could be dealt with. Read more from Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
  • Abu GhraibThe US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has reversed a lower level court’s ruling that CACI International, a company that supplied interrogators for the US military, must face a lawsuit regarding alleged abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the court found that the lawsuit should be dismissed since the interrogators were under the authority of the US military and not the contractor itself. Read more in a Washington Post article
  • The Czech Republic has become the newest State Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, following close upon Chile where the Statute entered into force a month earlier. This newest member brings the total of ICC State Parties to 110. Read the ICC’s press release.

Articles and Publications of Interest

  • The government of Israel has reacted strongly to the report issued in September by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza.  The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs states, “The agenda and tone of this Report clearly undermine the role it might have played in any genuine dialogue about the complex challenges faced in the Gaza operation.” Read the full response here.
  • casseseThe president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Antonio Cassese, has issued a report on the progress of the new institution. Entitled “The STL Six Months On: a Bird’s Eye View,” the report highlights a number of challenges facing the tribunal, including the absence of cooperation by states in the relocation and protection of witnesses. Read more on this issue in an article from the Lebanon Wire. Download the report here
  • displacedSeventeen Member States of the African Union recently signed the innovative Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. Millions of Africans – in countries such as Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan – are displaced due to conflict and natural disasters. The new Convention is particularly significant given that close to half of the world's 26 million internally displaced people are in Africa. A call has been made to the remaining AU Member States to sign the convention and for those who have already signed to ratify it. Download the text of the Convention here.  
  • FictionsAnthropologist Kamari Clarke of Yale University has recently published Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralsim in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge University Press). This book documents how notions of justice are negotiated through everyday micropractices and grassroots contestations of those practices. These micropractices include speech acts that revere the protection of international rights, citation references to treaty documents, the brokering of human rights agendas, the rewriting of national constitutions, demonstrations of religiosity that make explicit the piety of religious subjects, and ritual practices of forgiveness that involve the invocation of ancestral religious cosmologies – all practices that detail the ways that justice is made real.

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