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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 involved in the work of 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.

August 2010

People in the News

ictrThe United Nations Security Council has extended the Terms of Office for judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The tribunal in Arusha said that the Security Council agreed to extend the mandates of all permanent and nine ad litem judges until 31 December 2011 or completion of their assignments. The Terms of Office of the two permanent judges who are members of the Appeals Chamber were extended until 31 December 2012 or until completion of the cases to which they are assigned. Read the ICTR press release here.

rouxMaître François Roux, the foreign co-lawyer for Mr. Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch), currently standing trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), has been asked by his client to withdraw from the case. Duch indicates that he has lost confidence in Maître Roux but will retain his other co-lawyer, Mr. Kar Savuth, a Cambodian national. Read the ECCC press release here. Maître Roux will continue his work at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, where he is Head of Defence.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for genocide committed in Darfur. An earlier arrest warrant for al-Bashir was issued in March 2009 by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

 The warrant is for al-Bashir's alleged role as an indirect perpetrator or indirect co-perpetrator of genocide in Darfur through killing, causing bodily or mental harm, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring physical destruction. See the ICC press release.

ocampoICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, as reported in Reuters Africa, has encouraged heads of state to refuse to meet with al-Bashir in order that he feel the effects of the arrest warrants. Read a more personal appeal for international cooperation in Moreno’s op-ed from The Guardian.

campbellBritish supermodel Naomi Campbell will give evidence at the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor about a "blood diamond" he allegedly gave her. The prosecution of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) alleges the gem was among those Taylor had obtained from Sierra Leone rebels and took to South Africa "to sell... or exchange them for weapons." It believes Campbell's evidence will be direct evidence of Taylor's possession of rough diamonds, a claim he has denied. When the SCSL ordered the model to appear, the Court warned she could face up to seven years in jail if she failed to turn up. Read more in a Google News article.

Developments in International Justice

biijThe International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life has concluded its seventh Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ). Organized around the theme “Toward an International Rule of Law,” BIIJ 2010 hosted 16 judges from 13 international courts and tribunals. Guest speakers included Ms. Patricia O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, and Anthony Kennedy, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. For a summary of BIIJ 2010 and a list of participants, click here. A full report of the proceedings will be published in the coming months. 

mapIn a long-awaited advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008 did not violate international law. The ICJ was asked by the General Assembly to give its non-binding opinion on the legality of the independence declaration by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) of Kosovo. The judges concluded, in a vote of 10 votes to 4, that the declaration breaches neither international law, nor a 1999 Security Council resolution, nor the constitutional framework adopted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on behalf of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Read a UN press release and access the opinion.

gaySame-sex couples in Argentina can now enjoy equal marriage rights, including the ability to adopt children and inherit property. This majority Roman Catholic country follows a few others around the world where same-sex marriage is legal, among them Belgium, Spain, and The Netherlands. In the rest of Latin America, only Mexico City has legalized gay marriage, although same-sex civil unions are legal in Uruguay and some states in Brazil and Mexico. Read more from the LA Times.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Britain to hold off on extraditing four terrorism suspects to the United States, saying it must show that life terms without parole in maximum-security prisons would not violate Europe’s human rights charter. The suspects include three Britons and Mustafa Kamal Mustafa — the Egyptian-born radical cleric also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri.

confineThe ECHR has given Britain until 2 September to respond to questions about the punishment they will face. If convicted of charges filed between 2004 and 2006, they could get lifelong jail terms without parole in maximum-security conditions, including concrete furniture, timed showers, tiny cell windows, and no communication with the outside world. The ruling yesterday opens a new front, this one over the US practice of putting criminals convicted of brutal crimes in spartan, maximum-security prisons for the rest of their lives. Read more from The Boston Globe and download the ECHR decision here. Read a 2009 article from The New Yorker about long-term solitary confinement and whether it constitutes torture.

armyThe British Supreme Court has ruled that British soldiers are not protected by European human rights law while in combat abroad. This decision reverses lower court rulings that the Defense Ministry said would hamper the British war effort in Afghanistan. The 6 to 3 decision came in a case brought by the mother of a 32-year-old reservist from Scotland, Jason Smith, who died of heat stroke while deployed in the Iraqi desert city of Al Amarah in August 2003. The attempted use of human rights law to constrain battlefield actions by NATO allies is being closely watched by the Pentagon, partly for the potential effect on the 46-nation military alliance in Afghanistan. Read more from The New York Times.

The world’s first pirate court has opened in the Kenyan port town of Mombasa. Set up with the help of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the European Union, Australia and Canada, the high-security courtroom will hear cases of maritime piracy and other serious criminal offenses. Lawyers for pirate suspects have argued, unsuccessfully, that Kenya does not have the jurisdiction to try their clients. Read more from the BBC.

sri lanka
Demonstrations led by a Sri Lankan government minister to protest a United Nations expert panel show the government’s open hostility to investigations of alleged war crimes in the Tamil Tiger conflict that ended last year. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s creation of and support for the three-person Panel of Experts on justice mechanisms – despite persistent Sri Lankan government opposition – shows important new resolve to promote accountability for war crimes. Read more from Human Rights Watch.

The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has issued its first judgment. The Trial Chamber found Kaing Geuk Eav (alias Duch) guilty of the international offenses of crimes against humanity and war crimes (violations of the Geneva Conventions), sentencing him to serve an additional 19 years imprisonment. His full sentence was 35 years, with 5 years subtracted to compensate for the violation of his rights through a previous illegal imprisonment, and another 10 years subtracted for time already served. Read the ECCC press release here, which provides links to both the full judgment and the dissenting opinion.

Articles and Publications of Interest

Read “Crimes Against Humanity” by Professor Margaret M. DeGuzman of the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University. This piece will be soon appear as a chapter in the forthcoming Handbook on International Criminal Law, edited by William Schabas and Nadia Bernaz.

The concept of crimes against humanity emerged in reaction to massive government-orchestrated crimes including, in particular, the holocaust. Unlike the other prototypically international crimes – war crimes and genocide – the proscription against crimes against humanity has not been enshrined in an international convention. Instead, the law of crimes against humanity has developed piecemeal, largely through the legal instruments and jurisprudence of the various courts and tribunals adjudicating these crimes. This chapter describes the evolution of the definition of crimes against humanity and argues that the ad hoc development of these crimes has produced enduring normative debates and doctrinal ambiguities.

David Mead, Senior Lecturer in Law at the Norwich Law School, University of East Anglia, has recently published The New Law of Peaceful Protest: Rights and Regulation in the Human Rights Act Era.

The book sets out to explain in detail the domestic legal framework that surrounds the right of peaceful protest, considered fundamental to any democratic system of government. It provides the first extensive analysis of the Strasbourg jurisprudence under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, offering a critical look at recent cases such as Öllinger, Vajnai, Bukta, Oya Ataman, Patyi and Ziliberberg, as well as the older cases that form its bedrock.

For more information on the book, click here.

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