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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 publications and resources 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.

September 2012

People in the News

aThe African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has elected three judges for a mandate of six years each: Mr. Gérard Niyungeko (Burundi), Mr. El Hadji Guissé (Senegal), and Mr. Ben Kioko (Kenya), who is the only newcomer to the bench. Read more about their election here.

The Court has also lost one of its esteemed judges, Justice Joseph Mulenga of Uganda (Brandeis Institute for International Judges 2009), who recently died after a long battle with cancer.

      judge sow
The defense team of Charles Taylor has announced that it will call El Hadji Malick Sow, the alternate trial judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, to testify at Taylor’s appeals hearing. The Senegalese judge was dismissed in May after trying to give his dissenting opinion in the courtroom on the day the Taylor judgment was delivered. The defense team has also asked for a new appeal panel, composed of judges who did not participate in the decision and sanction against Judge Sow. Read more from Hirondelle News Agency.

               julian assange

Will the Ecuadorean government – which has offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum in its London embassy – bring a case before the International Court of Justice to ensure that Assange is granted safe passage out of the United Kingdom? Or is the UK under no treaty obligation to respect the supposed right of embassies to grant asylum? And where do Ecuadorean politics fit into all this? A piece in The Economist deconstructs the complicated story.

pProsecutors and former prosecutors of international criminal courts and tribunals from across the globe recently gathered for the sixth International Humanitarian Dialogs in Chautauqua, New York.  The event examined the impact of modern international law on war crimes and crimes against humanity, focusing on the theme, “Hybrid International Courts: A Tenth Anniversary Retrospective on the Special Court for Sierra Leone.”

View a video clip to hear comments by Fatou Bensouda (International Criminal Court); Serge Brammertz (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia); David Crane, Sir Desmond deSilva, and Brenda Hollis (Special Court for Sierra Leone); Hassan Jallow (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda); William Smith (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia); and Ekkehard Withopf (Special Tribunal for Lebanon). Read the Declaration issued by the prosecutors here.

Developments in International Justice

iJapan declares it will take the long-running islands territorial dispute with South Korea to the International Court of Justice for resolution. The islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, lie equidistant from the two mainlands and are believed to contain frozen natural gas deposits potentially worth billions of dollars. The Korean government has expressed its regret over Japan's claim since it believes that Dokdo is historically, geographically and by international law part of Korean territory. Read more about the situation from Jurist. View a series of images of the disputed islands and actors involved from

vThe World Trade Organization (WTO) has two new members, the Russian Federation and the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. “It has been a long journey for both countries and they will undoubtedly strengthen the multilateral trading system. … Joining the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and in what it can deliver for its members,” said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. Read more in a WTO press release.

rThe United States government is committed to tracking down the remaining nine individuals indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), says Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp. Up to $5 million is offered for each ICTR fugitive through the “Justice for Rewards” program. Rapp, who previously served as Chief of Prosecutions at the ICTR and Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is even thinking of extending the program to persons wanted by the International Criminal Court. Read more from Hirondelle News Agency.

U.S. support for prosecuting international crimes is also evidenced by the recent launch of the FBI’s Genocide War Crimes Program website. The mission of the FBI’s Genocide War Crimes Unit is to leverage law enforcement efforts to hold accountable to the rule of law perpetrators who have committed acts against humanity, including genocide, war crimes, torture, and the use of child soldiers.

Leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have decided to abolish the SADC Tribunal, the only judicial body in the region to which individuals were given direct access. The Tribunal had not been operational for the past two years, while it was officially under review after issuing harsh judgments against Zimbabwe. This gave rise to active campaigning on the part of civil society and legal groups to revive the Tribunal.

Said Nicole Fritz, Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, “The decision flies in the face of the recommendations of both the SADC-instituted review of the tribunal and SADC's own Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General…. It is also completely at odds with the best practice of other regional institutions and undermines the protection of human rights and hopes for future economic growth and development.” Read more about the situation from Open Society Foundations.

eIn Er and Others v. Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the six-month time limit for admissibility need not be rigidly applied in disappearance cases, whether in the international or national context. The Court rejected the Turkish government’s submission that the applicants should have lodged their complaint with the ECHR within six months of the national decision finding that their relative was presumed dead – they took nine years to do so – opining that disappearance cases are by their very nature less clear-cut than those concerning killings. The Court furthermore found that Turkey had violated a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security, and the right to an effective remedy.  More details can be found in the ECHR press release.

iThe International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued its first ever decision on reparations for victims in the case against Thomas Lubanga, who had earlier been convicted for enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Elisabeth Rehn, Chair of the Board of the Trust Fund for Victims – which will implement the reparations proposals for the victims of this case – hailed the decision as “a historic milestone for victims of international crimes.”

Observers from both civil society and the legal world have commented extensively on the decision. Here are a few sources that will deepen your understanding: 1) a summary of the reparations decision from IntLawGrrls; 2) a Q&A on the reparations decision from the Victims’ Rights Working Group; and 3) a caution from the International Center for Transitional Justice that the decision should only be celebrated when the victims receive compensation.

Publications and Resources of Interest

bThe report of the 2012 Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ) is now available. This publication summarizes the discussions of judges from 12 international courts and tribunals who gathered in Spain last January to discuss topics around the theme, “The International Rule of Law: Coordination and Collaboration in Global Justice.” The BIIJ is the only regular gathering of international judges in the world.

Read more about the event and download the report here. To receive a hard copy of the report, send a request to

iA new publication, International Prosecutors (Oxford University Press 2011), examines the prosecution as an institution and a function in a dozen international and hybrid criminal tribunals, from Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court. Edited by Luc Reydams, Jan Wouters, and Cedric Ryngaert, this volume features contributions from a wide range of experts, including (former) investigators, analysts, legal officers, trial attorneys, and defense counsel.

Learn more about the book, and read the foreword to the volume, written by Hans Corell, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs.

dThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is calling for a moratorium on the application of the death penalty in those states of the region that still practice it. This appeal coincides with the publication of its report, "The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition." The report seeks to publicize the standards developed regarding the restrictive application of the death penalty over the past 15 years in nine States: Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, Granada, Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. Read more and download the report here.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society.

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