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.

May 2014

Featured News

fA new book by Professor Karen J. Alter of Northwestern University, The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press 2014), explores how and when delegation to international courts influences international and domestic politics. Read more about the content and approach of the book in a review by Jacqueline R. McAllister, a recent Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University and Spring 2014 fellow at Brandeis’ International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.

For more comments and discussion, visit an online symposium devoted to Alter’s book.

People in the News

fThe three women currently sitting on the bench of the International Court of Justice – Joan E. Donoghue (USA), Xue Hanqin (China), and Julia Sebutinde (Uganda) – were awarded the Prominent Women in International Law Award during the recent annual conference of the American Society of International Law. In her comments, Judge Xue likened the honor to receiving an Oscar. Read more from IntLawGrrls.

rThe Special Tribunal for Lebanon recently appointed Kenneth Scott as the new investigator to deal with the contempt charges filed last year regarding three cases of witness intimidation and the wrongful publication of witness identities. Mr. Scott replaces Stephane Bourgone who was the principal investigator of the amicus curiae team assigned to investigate the charges. Read the STL press release here.

Several days after the new investigator’s appointment, two journalists and two media organizations were charged with contempt of court in relation to the Ayyash et al. case. They allegedly played a role in publicizing confidential witness identities on television, online, and on YouTube. The accused will participate in a hearing, either in person or by video-link, on 13 May.

dTrial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has rejected Ratko Mladić’s submissions for acquittal after the close of the Prosecutor’s case. Mladić, former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) Main Staff, stands accused of genocide and a multitude of other crimes committed against Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina from May 1992 to late 1995. The Trial Chamber dismissed all of the arguments made by Mladić’s Defense team for acquittal on two counts of genocide and charges relating to a number of individual crimes in various other counts of the indictment. The Chamber also dismissed the Defense’s arguments relating to the accused’s command responsibility for the crimes committed by groups other than the VRS. Read more in an ICTY press release.

gThe start time for the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been delayed until next fall. Mr Kenyatta is charged with being behind the ethnic violence surrounding the presidential election that took place in 2007. According to an ICC press release, “The purpose of the adjournment is to provide the Government of Kenya with a further, time-limited opportunity to provide certain records, which the Prosecution had previously requested on the basis that the records are relevant to a central allegation to the case.” This is the third time that the trial has been postponed. Read more from The BBC.

dIn an unlikely scenario, The Hague meets Hollywood! The news is out that international lawyer Amal Alamuddin, who has represented clients before the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, and also represented Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, is engaged to marry actor George Clooney. Read more from Forbes.

Developments in International Justice

fThe parliament of Kosovo has approved by a large majority the creation of a European Union-backed special court to address crimes committed during the 1998-99 war of independence from Serbia, including the harvesting of organs from captured Serbs. The court will operate under Kosovo laws, but prosecutors and judges will be international. It will have one seat in Kosovo and another abroad, possibly in the Netherlands, which will deal with protected witnesses. Read more in a Reuters article.

fThe International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has delivered a judgment in the M/V “Virginia G” Case (Panama/Guinea-Bissau). The dispute concerned an oil tanker, flying the flag of Panama, that was arrested on 21 August 2009 by the authorities of Guinea-Bissau for carrying out refuelling operations for foreign vessels fishing in Guinea-Bissau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Tribunal held that a coastal state such as Guinea-Bissau has a right under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to regulate activities in its EEZ and that the M/V Virginia G had not fully complied with Guinea-Bissau's regulations.  However, the Tribunal further found that Guinea-Bissau's arrest and confiscation of the M/V Virginia G were not necessary to sanction the noncompliance or to deter others from committing the same errors.  Finally, the Tribunal found that Guinea-Bissau also violated UNCLOS by failing to promptly notify Panama of the arrest.  Accordingly, the Tribunal ordered Guinea-Bissau to pay reparations to Panama. Read more details in the ITLOS press release.

dThe month of April has been full of commemorations of the Rwandan genocide, which began 20 years ago, as well as commentary from disparate quarters. Here is a sampling:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Rwanda to speak at a commemoration ceremony in the Rwandan capital. “The blood spilled for 100 days. Twenty years later, the tears still flow,” said Ban, expressing his solidarity with all Rwandans as they continue their “journey of healing.”

A statement delivered by Hassan Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, finished with these words: “Our ultimate goal must however be to give concrete realisation to the deep seated yearning for ‘Never again’.  The implementation of effective international and national preventive strategies for the avoidance of mass atrocity must rank as a global priority.  The international community needs to live up to its obligation to protect communities in danger of such mass atrocity.”

A news article from The Guardian focuses on the small number of génocidaires who have been brought to justice in the past 20 years. “The international criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) pioneered the first genocide trials in Africa  but after almost 20 years of legal argument and an estimated bill of $1.7bn (£1bn), only a tiny proportion of the Rwandan malefactors has been brought to justice.”

The difficult fate of Rwandans acquitted of genocide who do not feel safe returning home is discussed at the Justice in Conflict blog.

dThe International Criminal Court (ICC) has started a preliminary inquiry into crimes committed before and during the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from office. "The Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has decided to open a preliminary examination into the situation in Ukraine in order to establish whether the Rome Statute criteria for opening an investigation are met," says a Court press release. Ukraine was first required to make a special declaration, which enables a state that is not party to the Rome Statute to accept the exercise of jurisdiction of the Court. For more context, consult a timeline of events in Ukraine from Associated Press.


Prof. Fatou Kiné Camara,
President of l’Association
des Femmes Juristes

Lawyers and activists in Senegal are calling for the government to align its legislation with the African Charter on Women’s Rights, which it ratified ten years ago, so that girls and women pregnant through an act of rape or incest can legally access an abortion. The campaign by l’Association des Femmes Juristes is in response to the plight of a 10-year old girl, pregnant with twins after being raped by a neighbor. This dynamic organization provides free legal advice to women, often through trained paralegals, around issues of divorce, child custody, and inheritance, among others. A human rights lawyer has praised the engagement of these paralegals: "They are more accessible than lawyers not just because they are free but because they are present at the grassroots of society where illiterate people would otherwise have no access to the law. There is no doubt that they are contributing to the improvement in human rights in Senegal." Read more about the situation from The Guardian.

dThe Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has issued a new severance decision which defines which alleged crime sites and factual allegations will be included in the trial in Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan (left) and Nuon Chea (right). Charges related to genocide, forced marriages and rape, treatment of Buddhists, internal purges, targeting of former Khmer Republic officials, four security centers, three worksites and one cooperative will form the basis for Case 002/02. The Trial Chamber has also found that both co-defendants are fit to stand trial. After reviewing the reports from three medical experts, as well as weekly medical reports, the Trial Chamber concluded that it was satisfied that neither of the two accused is suffering from any mental or physical impairment that would make them unable to participate meaningfully in the proceedings. Read more in an ECCC press release.

dThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a case concerning the disciplining of judges in Honduras. Disciplinary proceedings were instituted against judges belonging to the “Asociación Jueces por la Democracia” (Association of Judges for Democracy), which issued public communiqués describing the events surrounding the destitution of former President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 as a coup d’état. This view directly contradicted the stance of the Supreme Court of Justice, which held that the events involved a constitutional succession. The Inter-American Commission concluded that the disciplinary proceedings were instituted for the purpose of punishing actions or statements by the judges, and that the grounds for doing so ignored the procedure contemplated in the Constitution. This case will enable the Inter-American Court to expand its case law on the principle of judicial independence and its implications in terms of stronger guarantees for non-retroactivity and due process in the context of a proceeding to punish a judge. Read more details about the case here.

Publications and Resources of Interest

dA recently published book, Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations (Oxford University Press 2014), takes a close look at the laws and norms that apply to the process of ending war and building peace. Edited by Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday, and Jens Iverson, the volume provides a detailed understanding of the development and nature of jus post bellum as a concept, including its foundations, criticisms, and relationship to related concepts (such as transitional justice, and the responsibility to protect). It also investigates the relationship of the concept to jus ad bellum and jus in bello, and its relevance in internal armed conflicts and peacebuilding. Read a series of blog posts by the authors about the volume here.

dDoes the International Criminal Court have a deterrent effect on civilian atrocities? Is it too weak to be effective beyond trial and punishment in the courtroom? These questions were discussed at a recent conference at the Carr Center of Harvard University’s Kennedy School, featuring scholar Beth Simmons and former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. Read a detailed blog post and commentary on the conference discussions by scholar Alana Tiemessen at Justice in Conflict.

dThe American Society of International Law has recently published The Benchbook on International Law, a resource intended to help U.S. judges and litigants when foreign or international law (including treaties and customary norms) forms a part of the case before them. The Benchbook features, among many sections, a primer on international law and information on special topics such as international law pertaining to families and children, human trafficking, and criminal justice. Read more about The Benchbook from IntLawGrrls. Find The Benchbook online here.

dSpecial Opportunity

The Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Durham invites applications from mid/late career researchers or non-academics for 3-month fellowships during the 2015-16 academic year. This fellowship theme is Evidence, interpreted in its broadest sense to be of potential interest to those working in a wide range of disciplines. A number of specific sub-themes have already been identified, including:

  • Evidence, Policy and Regulation
  • Evidence and Representation
  • Unreliable Evidence
  • Evidence and Interdisciplinarity
  • Evidence and Experience
  • Visual Evidence
  • Evidence and Spatio-temporality

Fellows will be able to engage in these themes or to propose others that are related to the theme of Evidence. Find more information on the fellowship and application process here. The application deadline is 8 June 2014.

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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