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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.

December 2011

People in the News

   theodor meron
Judge Theodor Meron (BIIJ 2006, 2010, and 2012) and Judge Carmel Agius (BIIJ 2007) have been elected to serve respectively as the President and Vice-President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Each will serve a two-year term starting November 2011. Judge Meron was previously President of the ICTY between March 2003 and November 2005. Both judges currently serve on the joint Appeals Chamber of the ICTY and its sister court, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Read their full biographies in the ICTY press release. Read Judge Meron’s first official statement upon taking office here.

cOver 5,000 cholera victims in Haiti have sued the United Nations for introducing cholera into the country through Nepalese troops serving with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. As of Octoctober 26th, the disease has caused 6712 deaths and infected more than 485,000 people, making it the largest cholera epidemic in the world. Petitioners are seeking compensation, an apology from the UN, and an improved UN response to end the epidemic, which would include boosting medical treatment for current and future victims and building a clean water and sanitation infrastructure. Read more from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. 

sNow that Saif al-Islam, son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has been found and detained, where should he be tried for the crimes he allegedly committed? The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for him, but ICC Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo has conceded that if a fair trial can be conducted in Libya, it should be done there. Members of  Libya’s National Transitional Council are eager to show that a trial in Saif’s home country can be independent and impartial. Some human rights organizations and Western leaders, however, are calling for an international proceeding, given the gory end that Saif’s father suffered at the hands of a mob. In the end, the decision lies with the judges of the ICC itself. Read more from The Telegraph and an ICC press release.

Serbian radical leader Vojislav Seselj has been sentenced to 18 months for contempt of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Seselj was charged with having revealed the identities of witnesses in his trial for war crimes. This is Seselj’s second sentence for contempt of court. He was first sentenced in July 2009 to 15 months imprisonment for revealing the identities of three witnesses. Read more from Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

fThe ICTY’s contempt of court issues don’t end there, however. The tribunal recently issued an arrest warrant for Florence Hartman, former spokeswoman of the ICTY Prosecutor, for failing to pay the fine ordered in her 2009 contempt conviction. Mrs. Hartmann was convicted of disclosing confidential documents and subsequently fined 7000 euros.  The court said that the sum had not been paid and has converted her fine into a 7-day jail sentence. Ms Hartmann has insisted that the money was deposited into a French account. Read more details from Sense Tribunal and a critique of the ICTY’s actions from Opinio Juris.

rFormer mayor of Kivumu Commune in Kibuye Prefecture, Grégoire Ndahimana, has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He was convicted for taking part in the destruction of Nyange church and the killings of Tutsi civilians. The court found him guilty of genocide and extermination for aiding and abetting the killings and by virtue of his command responsibility over the police in Kivumu. Read more from CNN.

Developments in International Justice

dThe European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that internet providers are not required to monitor their customers for illegal sharing of music and other copyrighted material. The decision stated that such a requirement would not represent a “fair balance between the right to intellectual property, on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the right to receive or impart information, on the other.” Although the ruling could be seen as a setback for music copyright holders, the music industry is not reacting with alarm. Read more from The New York Times and Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. Access the full judgment through the ECJ press release.

The trial of three top Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide has begun at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Defendants “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, ex-head of state Khieu Samphan,  and former foreign minister Ieng Sary are accused of having committed crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture during a reign that left up to two million dead. Read more about the case here.

              theary seng
The ECCC allows for the participation of victims as civil parties in its trials, and now Cambodian Americans are beginning to take part, as reported in the Kansas City Star. However, Theary Seng, the first recognized civil party of the Extraordinary Chambers of Cambodia (ECCC) and representative of the Orphans Class, has withdrawn her civil party status and denounced the ECCC as an “irredeemable political farce.” Ms. Seng had previously championed the court, but due to recent events, no longer wishes to have any legal association with the ECCC. Read more here.

aA Buenos Aires court has convicted 16 former military officials for crimes against humanity committed decades ago. These included the arbitrary detention, torture and unlawful killing of dozens of people at a secret detention centre set up in a military school in Buenos Aires. Out of those convicted, 12 were sentenced to life in prison without parole and four received jail sentences ranging from 18 to 25 years. The trial lasted two years and included testimony from more than 150 witnesses. Read more from Amnesty International.

kIsrael’s Knesset is currently considering two laws designed to prevent foreign governments and international organizations from funding progressive Israel human-rights groups. One law would  drastically limit the amount of funding such groups could receive, and the other would impose a tax of nearly 50% on foreign funds received by human-rights groups that do not receive Israeli funding.  These laws have been criticized by various governments, including the British government and others in the European Union, who believe that passage of the legislation could harm Israel's standing in the West as a democratic country. Read more from Ha’aretz and The Jewish Exponent.

sThe Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called upon Nepal’s political parties to reject the granting of amnesty for serious human rights violations by Nepal’s soon-to-be-formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The AHRC believes that by granting a blanket manesty to the perpetrators of such violations, Nepal would breach its international obligations and destabilize its peace process by alienating the people of Nepal and weaking the country’s rule of law. Read more about Nepal’s past violence and the amnesty issue.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Bangladesh, a war crimes tribunal has begun in Dhaka. The special court will try Bangladeshis accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces who tried to stop Bangladesh from becoming an independent nation. The first case accuses Delawar Hossain Sayedee, a leader of a Bangladesh Islamist party, of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s independence struggle against Pakistan in 1971. Read more from the Hindustan Times.

dThe United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances opened its first session, electing its Chairperson and Bureau. The Committee is responsible for reviewing how States implement the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.The Committee elected Emmanuel Decaux (France) as Chaiperson. The three elected Vice-Chairpersons are Mohammed Al-Obaidi (Iraq), Mamadou Badio Camara (Senegal) and Suela Janina (Albania). Luciano Hazan (Argentina) was elected as Rapporteur. Read more about the committee here.

Articles and Publications of Interest

jTwo recent publications highlight issues discussed during Just Performance: Enacting Justice in the Wake of Violence, a symposium organized by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University on 1-2 December 2011.

j1. The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing World Politics (Norton 2011). In this book, acclaimed scholar and Grawemeyer Award winner Kathryn Sikkink (University of Minnesota) shows how, in just three decades, state leaders in Latin America, Europe, and Africa have lost immunity for their human rights violations, becoming the subjects of highly publicized trials resulting in severe consequences and changes in the behavior of political leaders worldwide. This behavioral change, Sikkink posits, may change the face of global politics as we know it. A review from The Washington Post calls the book “refreshing and creative... a stimulating analysis of an emerging feature in world politics.” Find more information on the book here

2. “Amnesties in the Pursuit of Reconciliation, Peacebuilding and Restorative Justice” (in Restorative Justice, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding, Daniel Philpott and Jennifer Llewellyn, eds., Forthcoming). In this paper, Louise Mallinder (Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster) analyzes amnesty laws as a habitual element of peacebuilding and reconciliation around the world and the evolution of perceptions about amnesty since the 1990s. She then looks at where amnesty and other restorative justice measures fall within the transitional justice literature, and tentatively proposes elements that should be considered when designing a "restorative amnesty." Read more here.

lBeth S. Lyons, defence attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since 2004, has published a review of Nancy Amoury Combs’ Fact-finding without Facts, the Uncertain Evidentiary Foundations of International Criminal Convictions (Cambridge University Press 2010). In “Enough is enough: the illegitimacy of international criminal convictions: a review essay” (Journal of Genocide Research 13(3), September 2011, 287–312), Lyons praises Combs’ text as “meticulous and rigorous. The book cogently and objectively identifies the fact-finding deficiencies in judgments from the Special Court of East Timor, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).” Access the full text of Lyons’ review here.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, with the assistance of Katherine Alexander '12.

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