Past Editions

Go to the current edition.

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.

January 2014

People in the News

            Appellate Body members
Ricardo Ramírez Hernández of Mexico (BIIJ 2013) has been reelected Chair of the World Trade Organization Appellate Body. He will serve in this position until the end of 2014. Peter Van den Bossche of the European Union has been re-appointed to serve a second term of four years on the Appellate Body, until December 2017. Read the press release with biographical details here.

dThe United Nations Security Council has extended the terms of office for 17 permanent and ad litem judges of the Trial and Appeals Chambers at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) until 31 December 2014, or until completion of the cases assigned to them, if sooner. Adopting resolution 2130 (2013) by a recorded vote of 14 in favor to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation), the Council requested the ICTY to take all possible measures to complete its work as expeditiously as possible with the aim of facilitating closure of the Tribunal.  The representative of the Russian Federation said he had abstained from voting because the situation regarding the Tribunal’s exit strategy had not improved and trial delays continued. For more details and a list of the 17 ICTY judges, see the UN press release.

          Judge Usacka

International Criminal Court Judge Anita Usacka of Latvia (BIIJ 2004) has resigned from the Libya case with Judge Erkki Kourula of Finland (BIIJ 2012) replacing her as presiding judge. This incident adds one more complication to the case against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi, as reported by Justice in Conflict.

        Justices Waki (l) and Kamanda

Sixteen judges have been sworn in to the bench of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL). They have, in turn, elected Justice Philip Nyamu Waki of Kenya and Justice Jon Kamanda of Sierra Leone (BIIJ 2009 and BIIJ 2010) as President and Vice President of the Court, respectively.  The RSCSL succeeds the Special Court, which closed officially in December 2013. Read a press release about the new bench  and learn more about the establishment and functions of the successor institution in the Agreement (Ratification) Act.

dThe arrest warrant issued for Sudanese President Omar al Bashir by the International Criminal Court has once again compromised his performance as head of state, this time at the funeral of the late Nelson Mandela, which he opted out of attending. As noted in the Sudan Tribune, “Although several African countries that are ICC members have previously received Bashir without arresting him, legal experts point out that South Africa is one of the few countries that have domesticated the Rome statute into its national laws. As a result, the apprehension of the Sudanese leader becomes a requirement imposed by local South African laws that the executive branch cannot overrule.” Read more here.

Developments in International Justice

dEast Timor recently initiated proceedings against Australia at the International Court of Justice in response to the seizure of documents and data that East Timor says it has the right to protect under international law. The material in question was removed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation from the office of a Canberra lawyer who is representing East Timor in another case it has with Australia before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Australian Attorney General George Brandis approved the warrants under which the searches had been conducted, claiming that the raids had been carried out to protect national security. According to EJIL: Talk!, East Timor is calling for “the return of the documents and destruction of any copies made of them, as well as just satisfaction in the form of an apology from Australia and the payment of East Timor’s legal costs.” Read more about the circumstances of the case from the Sydney Morning Herald.

dAs of 1 January 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is applying stricter requirements for individuals wishing to make an application, i.e. file a complaint, with the court. Following amendments to the rules of the court, there are new guidelines for the form and content of initial applications themselves, as well as enforcement of the “six-month rule,” the time period during which an applicant may submit a complaint of human rights violations following the exhaustion of domestic remedies. By implementing more stringent requirements, the ECHR continues to institute reforms aimed at reducing its heavy caseload.  Read more about these reforms from the International Justice Resource Center.

dThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has condemned the forced transfer of Djamel Ameziane from the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay to his home country of Algeria, where he faces the threat of persecution. The United States carried out this transfer against Djamel Ameziane's will and, the IACHR considers, in violation of international human rights law. Ameziane had received offers from several foreign countries willing to receive him, including Luxembourg. In 2008, the IACHR issued precautionary measures – still in force – prohibiting the United States from sending Mr. Ameziane to Algeria. In 2012, Djamel’s petition was declared admissible by the IACHR, making it the leading international case on the Guantánamo detention center. Read more details and background on the Ameziane case from the Center for Justice and International Law.

dHuman rights groups are urging Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill passed in December by Uganda’s parliament that punishes certain acts of homosexuality with life in prison. The revised version of the bill eliminated the death penalty, however, a subject of great controversy since it was proposed in 2009.  The bill also indicates long sentences for anyone who counsels or reaches out to homosexuals, a provision that would impact rights groups and others providing services to lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people. Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries, where sodomy laws were introduced during colonialism. Read more from CNN.

dThe World Trade Organization (WTO) recently held its Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The ministers adopted the “Bali Package,” a series of decisions aimed at streamlining trade, allowing developing countries more options for providing food security, boosting least-developed countries’ trade, and helping development more generally. They also adopted a number of more routine decisions and accepted Yemen as a new member of the WTO. For an analysis of the Bali Package, read an IntLawGrrls blog post.

dThe Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court held its 12th session in late November 2013 in The Hague. The Assembly adopted eight resolutions by consensus: on the 2014 budget, on permanent premises, on cooperation, on complementarity, on victims and affected communities, on the establishment of the Independent Oversight Mechanism, on amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and on Strengthening the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties. For a summary of the session proceedings, click here.

The 12th session also included a special session during which the Assembly considered an item at the request of the African Union: “Indictment of sitting Heads of State and Government and its consequences on peace and stability and reconciliation.” Speakers included representatives from the ICC as well as the African Union, along with recognized international criminal law experts. An informal summary of the lengthy discussion is available here.

While the willingness of all actors to engage in dialogue on this important issue is positive, some human rights groups are dismayed by what they see as the ICC’s concession to political pressure from Kenya and other African countries. Notably, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Kenyan Human Rights Commission have expressed “their concern over the changes to the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence adopted by States Parties, which allow an excusal from presence at trial for high ranking officials charged with international crimes at the ICC, and allows their participation in the trial through video technology. States have conceded to political pressure, thereby endangering the integrity of the Rome Statute and disregarding victim’s interests and concerns.” Read more about the two organizations’ viewpoint and the FIDH’s recommendations to the Assembly of States Parties.

Publications and Resources of Interest

dThe International Journal of Transitional Justice recently published a special issue entitled “The Role of International Criminal Justice in Transitional Justice” (Volume 7 Issue 3 November 2013).  Guest edited by Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza, the issue includes articles about victim participation, gender justice, managing public expectations about international criminal trials, and individual vs. collective criminal responsibility. Read more about the issue in an Oxford University Press blog post by Prof. Roht-Arriaza.

dBrandeis University has also made an exploration of the approaches through which societies seek justice in the aftermath of violent conflict and gross violations of human rights. During the 2011 symposium Just Performance: Enacting Justice in the Wake of Violence, panelists focused on four different types of “performance” used by communities and societies to pursue justice and restore trust: public ritual, theater, truth commissions, and judicial proceedings. To learn more about the symposium and to read the keynote address, delivered by Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres, former President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Peru, click here.


dTwo recent conferences have called attention to the United Nations-sponsored Due Diligence Framework for Accountability in Ending Violence Against Women. The Due Diligence Framework translates the essential attributes of the due diligence principle into tangible, measurable components. The Framework divides State accountability to end violence against women into 5 areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, punishment and provision of redress and reparation (referred to as the 5P’s).

In November 2013, the Project on Human Rights and the Global Economy of the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston took as the subject of its annual institute "Human Rights and Violence Against Women: Applying the Due Diligence Principle." Over 100 academics, advocates and practitioners discussed strategies to end violence against women and explored the ways in which the international human rights framework might contribute to advocacy efforts against gender-based violence, especially those taking place in the Northeast region of the United States.

In December 2013, the Avon Global Center of the Cornell University Law School and partner institutions organized an international conference at the United Nations on “State Responsibility for Eliminating Violence Against Women: the Due Diligence Principle and the Role of Judges.”  Judges from around the world joined academics, practitioners and policymakers to explore such issues as the practice and reality of eliminating violence against women, victim care and services, and what judges can do to implement the due diligence principle.

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

To comment, or to receive our monthly “International Justice in the News” e-letter, send a message here.