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.

April 2014

Featured News

            BIIJ 2013 Participants
The report of the 2013 session of the Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ) is now available. Sixteen judges from a wide array of international and regional courts and tribunals attended the ninth BIIJ in July 2013. The venue was Lund, Sweden, and the institute was organized in partnership with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and the Lund University Faculty of Law. Read more about the BIIJ and download all past reports here.

People in the News

dThe International Criminal Court (ICC) has found Germain Katanga guilty of four counts of war crimes and one count of crimes against humanity committed during an attack in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in February 2003. The Katanga judgment is the third to be delivered by the ICC, following the March 2012 conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and the December 2012 acquittal of Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. The Prosecutor and the Defense team have thirty days to appeal the Katanga judgment. A dissenting opinion by Judge Van den Wyngaert challenged the recharacterization of the mode of liability during the trial from “principal perpetrator” to “accessory,” asserting that this change breached the rights of the Defense. She also maintained that Mr. Katanga’s guilt was not established beyond a reasonable doubt by the presented evidence. Read more in an ICC press release.

A lively debate about the Katanga verdict has already begun. The analysis of Dov Jacobs of Leiden University points out a number of legal difficulties and inconsistencies in the judgment, some of which are challenged in a rejoinder by Harvard Law School’s Alex Whiting.  Kelly Askin of the Open Society Justice Initiative describes the disappointment of sex crime victims at Mr. Katanga’s being acquitted of all responsibility for a mass rape that occurred during the same attack for which he was deemed an accessory. She notes that the Katanga judgment underlines the need for the ICC to strengthen its focus on crimes of sexual violence. Read Ms. Askin’s full comments here.

     Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo
Members have been sworn into a new African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan. They include Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria and Chairperson; Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani; Bineta Diop of Senegal, AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security; Prof. Pacifique Manirakiza, Burundian member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and Lady Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo of Ghana, President and Justice of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (BIIJ 2012 and 2013). The mandate of the Commission is to “investigate human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on the best way and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.” Read more from Sudan Tribune.

fThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) elected a new board during its recent regular Period of Sessions. Leadership positions are now held by: Tracy Robinson (Jamaica), Chair; Rose Marie Antoine (Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago), First Vice-Chair; and Felipe González (Chile), Second Vice-Chair. Other commissioners include José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez (Mexico), Rosa María Ortiz (Paraguay), Paulo Vannuchi (Brazil) and James Cavallaro (USA). The Executive Secretary is Emilio Alvarez Icaza (Mexico). The IACHR is the “principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS).” Read bios of the board members and more about the Commission’s mandate here.

Developments in International Justice

dThe International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rendered its decision in the case of Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan, New Zealand intervening). The Court has found that Japan’s whaling program, JARPA II, is not in conformity with several provisions of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling and, significantly, that the program does not have a primarily scientific purpose. According to the ICJ press release, the Court “orders that Japan revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence to kill, take or treat whales in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits under Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention, in pursuance of that programme.” Read the full judgment here and a celebratory article by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society announcing that “the whales have won!”

dThe government of Venezuela has begun investigations into sixty alleged cases of human rights abuses during recent street protests. At least fifteen officials have been imprisoned in connection with the violence that killed thirty-four people and left over 450 injured. President Nicolas Maduro claims the U.S. orchestrated the demonstrations, but the U.S. has defended itself, saying it is being scapegoated for Venezuela’s internal problems. The street protests began in early February 2014 in Caracas, but they expanded into many other cities with strong opposition strongholds. The opposition claims the government is violently repressing the protests, while the President claims he has invited the opposition to talks that they have refused to attend.  Read more from the BBC.

dA request by the Prosecution to reopen its case in the trial of Radovan Karadzic has been rejected by judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The request was prompted by the discovery of a mass grave in the area where Mr. Karadzic is accused of being responsible for the murder and severe mistreatment of Bosnian Muslim and Croat prisoners. Even though the ICTY Prosecution rested its case nearly two years ago, it argued that that evidence relating to the grave was highly relevant to the charges against the accused. The decision states, however, “The chamber is … of the view that granting the re-opening motion is not in the interests of justice given the very late stage of the trial, the delay it would cause to the overall completion of the proceedings, and the speculative probative value of the proposed evidence.” Read more from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

cAn international commission of inquiry into five Cuban men jailed for spying in 2001 recently took place at the Law Society in London. The so-called “Miami five” or “Cuban five” were arrested in Miami in 1998, held in solitary confinement for seventeen months, and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage.  The men claimed they were seeking to prevent terrorist attacks in Cuba by infiltrating anti-Castro groups in Miami, and that they were unable to receive a fair trial because of Miami’s anti-Castro sentiment. Following their trial, they were incarcerated for terms ranging from fifteen years to life. Only one, René González, has been released thus far. The commission is comprised of a team of international jurists, including the former chief justice of India, a former justice of the South African Constitutional court, and a former chairman of France’s supreme court. Around twenty people gave evidence, including Mr. González via skype, representatives of Amnesty International, and relations of the four imprisoned men. The commission is supported by a wide group of well-known individuals, including actors, scholars, and activists. Read more about the event here.

fThe African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) has heard its first case related to freedom of expression. The case involves a Burkinabé newspaper editor charged with defamation, public insult and insulting a magistrate for articles alleging corruption of the State Prosecutor. After being convicted and sentenced for these acts in the courts of Burkina Faso, the editor approached the African Court, claiming that his conviction infringed on his right to freedom of expression. Read about the arguments made before the ACtHPR by the South African Litigation Centre, which provided an amicus submission in the case.

dThe Government of Ukraine has submitted an inter-State application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Russian Federation for its involvement in Crimea’s declaration of independence. Ukraine also submitted a request under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court for an interim measure indicating to the Russian Government, among other things, that it should refrain from measures that might threaten the life and health of the civilian population on the territory of Ukraine. The President of the Court has called upon both Contracting parties to refrain from taking military measures in further breach of the Convention.  Read the ECHR press release.

Displeasure at Russia’s actions in Ukraine has since been expressed through the suspension of Russia’s membership in the Group of 7 industrialized nations, an action taken during an emergency meeting of G-7 leaders recently held in The Hague.

A deepened understanding of the issues at stake in the Ukraine/Russia stand-off can be gained through two recent blog posts: 1) The Effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights in Cases of War by Dr. Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, and 2) On Crimean Secession, Fairness, and Self-Determination by Milena Sterio.

dThe European Court of Justice has ruled that an Internet service provider can be required to block access to a site that infringes content copyright. The ECJ was asked to rule on the issue by German and Austrian film companies that wanted service providers to block access to a site that featured their pirated film content. The Austrian Supreme Court first considered the case and then sought guidance from the regional court. The ECJ's decision is that copyright holders can require an Internet service provider to take action to enforce copyright regulations. Read more about the case and access the ECJ decision at The Register

Publications and Resources of Interest

dThe Open Society Justice Initiative recently unveiled a new public resource that tracks ongoing trials in various international courts. In the past, the Initiative has monitored proceedings in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the International Criminal Court, and the trial of Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala, among others. All these initiatives will now be available in one place—the International Justice Monitor—which will follow existing trials as well as new ones as they develop. According to the organization, “[t]he coverage, less detailed than a court transcript, but more nuanced than a garden variety news report, also provide[s] journalists, human rights advocates, law students, and diplomats with a way to stay in touch with the trial.” Read more about the new resource here

dA recently published volume, edited by Nina-Louisa Arold Lorenz, Xavier Groussot and Gunnar Thor Petursson, analyzes the so-called “European human rights culture” using a judicial perspective. The European Human Rights Culture – A Paradox of Human Rights Protection in Europe? (Brill 2013) is based on first-hand interviews with judges from the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. This book is novel in that it combines interviews and case-law analysis to show how a mix of differences on the bench are legally amalgamated to resolve probing legal questions and human rights issues. Read more about the book from the ECHR blog.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society and Kochava Ayoun '14.

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