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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.

February 2016

Featured News

dThis month, International Justice in the News features a short article by Maike Isaac, Associate Scholar at Brandeis University’s International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life for the 2015-16 academic year. Entitled “Enhancing the Visibility of Sexual Violence against Men: a Critique of the ICTY,” the article is based on Maike’s Master’s thesis, submitted in 2015 as part of her LL.M. degree in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law from Viadrina University in Frankfurt-Oder, Germany. In this framework, she conducted a thorough analysis of the ICTY and ICC caselaw featuring sexual violence against men in order to identify the factors that have thus far enhanced but primarily limited the visibility of male rape as a weapon of war. Maike currently works as the Education Specialist for sexual and gender-based violence at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Harvard University. Read her article here.

People in the News

Elizabeth Odio Benito
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) saw three new judges join its bench in January 2016 – Elizabeth Odio Benito (Costa Rica), Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni (Argentina), and Leoncio Patricio Pazmiño Freire (Ecuador). Judge Odio Benito has a long experience in international justice, having already served on the benches of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1993-98) and the International Criminal Court (2003-12). Judges Zaffaroni and Pazmiño are new to the international judicial scene and their close ties to their respective national regimes, which have been hostile to the Inter-American human rights system, have raised some eyebrows.

fMr. Antonio Cachapuz de Medeiros (Brazil) has been elected as judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.  He replaces fellow Brazilian Judge Vicente Marotta Range, who resigned in May 2015, and will hold office for the remainder of his predecessor’s term. In addition to serving as Legal Advisor to the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil since 1998, Mr. Cachapuz de Medeiros is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and a Judge of the Administrative-Labour Court of MERCOSUR. Read the ITLOS press release here

dIn January 2016, Germain Katanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) became the first person convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to complete his prison sentence. Mr. Katanga was released from a detention facility in the DRC where he had been transferred from The Hague in December 2015, along with fellow ICC convicted prisoner Thomas Lubanga, to serve out their sentences, pursuant to Article 103 of the ICC’s Rome Statute. Mr. Katanga was sentenced in 2014 to 12 years’ imprisonment after conviction as an accessory to one count of crimes against humanity (murder), and four counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property, and pillaging). However, the time he served at the detention facility in The Hague before sentencing was deducted from his term of imprisonment. In November of 2015, the ICC Appeals Chamber also decided to reduce Katanga’s sentence to two thirds of the original 12 years’ sentence, bringing his release date to early 2016.

dVictor Koppe, the Dutch defense lawyer for accused Nuon Chea at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), has been referred to the Amsterdam Bar Association by the Court’s Trial Chamber for his courtroom behavior. Following an August 2015 decision by the Trial Chamber allowing the prosecution to use transcripts of witness interviews, Mr. Koppe called the Khmer Rouge tribunal a “farce” and walked out of the courtroom while the hearing was in session. Mr. Koppe went on to criticize the ECCC’s Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne for lacking “judicial integrity” and making “cowardly decisions,” and informed Judge Claudia Fenz that he regretted not seeking her disqualification earlier in the trial.  Although the Trial Chamber warned Mr. Koppe to correct his behavior and suggested action would be taken against him, a letter released by the Chamber indicated he “failed to avail himself of this opportunity,” and so the matter was referred to Mr. Koppe’s bar association in late 2015. Read more from The Cambodia Daily.

Habré on trial at the EAC.
A group of sixteen international lawyers has submitted an amicus curiae filing to the judges of the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese Courts (EAC), asking them to revise the charges against Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad who is currently standing trial, to include sexual slavery and rape. This push to include sex crimes came after the EAC heard testimony from four women indicating that they had been repeatedly tortured and raped in Habré’s presidential palace in N’Djamena, where they were imprisoned during his 1980’s rule. One witness testified that she was raped personally by Hissène Habré. The lawyers asking for the reconsideration of the charges include Justice Richard Goldstone, the former South African justice, head of the Goldstone Commission, and Chair of the International Advisory Board of Brandeis’ International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life; Patricia Sellers, Special Advisor to the International Criminal Court; and Madeleine Reese, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. This is not the first time that the EAC has been criticized for a lack of attention to sexual crimes in Habré’s trial; in October 2015 representatives of 17 organizations issued an open letter to the President of the Chamber calling for more women to testify for crimes of sexual violence. According to an IntLawGrrls blogpost, “Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam, President of the EAC, personally acknowledged receipt of the brief and said it would be useful to chambers. However, he was not inclined to admit the brief formally into the record.”

Former President Efrain Rios Montt (right)
and former chief of military intelligence
Mauricio Rodriguez

The Guatemalan police recently arrested 17 former military leaders on charges of crimes against humanity and forced disappearances during the 36-year Guatemalan conflict. Guatemala’s Attorney General Thelma Aldana has accused 13 of the suspects of involvement in at least 88 massacres of indigenous people between 1981 and 1986. Read more details here. These arrests came the same month as the beginning of the retrial of former head of state Efrain Rios Montt, who is in the dock alongside his former chief of military intelligence Mauricio Rodriguez for crimes against humanity and the genocide of 1,771 Mayans between March 1982 and August 1983. Read background on this case from International Justice Monitor.

Developments in International Justice

The KRSJI will be housed in the
former Europol building in The Hague
A special court to try war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo between 1998 and 2000 is to be established in The Hague, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Despite its remote location, the Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution (KRSJI) will be a national court of Kosovo established under national law. However, its bench will be made up of international judges and its operation will be funded by the European Union. Many of Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians view the leaders of the KLA as heroes, making the creation of this court a “sensitive issue in Kosovo.” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders noted, however, that “it is important for justice to be done” in relation to the thousands of ethnic Serbs, Roma and others who were victims of atrocities and forcibly displaced. The KRSJI is expected to begin operation sometime this year. More information on the new court is available from Balkan Insight.


This year will see a lot of legal action emerging from Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko indicated that 2016 “will be devoted to the initiation of a large-scale lawsuit at the International Court of Justice,” alleging that Russia financed terrorist activities in Ukraine. He also indicated, according to Ukraine Today, that “700 Ukrainians, namely internally displaced persons from Crimea and Donbas, had filed private lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights against Russia's annexation of the Crimea and aggression in Donbas.” The charge is in reference to the March 2014 annexation of Donbas and Crimea from Ukraine by Russian forces. The UN subsequently created a Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, whose most recent report indicates that “human rights concerns persist … including continuing impunity, torture and an absence of the rule of law in the east, as well as a difficult humanitarian situation for those living in the affected areas and for those internally displaced.” Read more about the Russia/Ukraine crisis and reactions in Europe in a Jurist article.

fThe International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) officially completed all its cases in December 2015, delivering the final appeals judgment in Prosecutor vs. Nyiramasuhuko et. al. The Appeals Chamber upheld the convictions of certain charges against the six appellants and reversed others. The judges also reduced their sentences, ordering the immediate release of two of the six on account of time they had already served in prison. Between its establishment in 1994 and its closure in 2015, the ICTR heard testimony from over 3,000 witnesses, and indicted 93 persons, acquitting 14 and sentencing 61. The Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) will now take over any unfinished ICTR business, such as supporting efforts to find and bring to justice the eight remaining fugitives. Read more about the final appeals judgment in the MICT press release


Two recent rulings by courts in the United Kingdom have found that domestic laws are not in conformity with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The UK Court of Appeal has ruled that the Terrorism Act 2000 is incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention, which safeguards freedom of expression. The ruling was made in the case of David Miranda, who was held under the Terrorism Act for nine hours at Heathrow Airport for allegedly carrying files obtained by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. According to an article in The Guardian, the Court of Appeal’s judgment finds that “the powers contained in schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 were flawed. It allows travellers to be questioned to find out whether they appear to be terrorists. They have no right to remain silent or receive legal advice and they may be detained for up to six hours.” The ruling also rejected the law’s broad definition of terrorism to include instances of journalistic information, which violates the freedom of expression. The judgment notes, “If journalists and their sources can have no expectation of confidentiality, they may decide against providing information on sensitive matters of public interest.” The Court of Appeal’s judgment, The Guardian observes, will force government ministers to re-examine the Terrorism Act.

The High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland has ruled that certain elements of its laws regarding abortion are not compatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns the right to respect for private and family life. Northern Ireland’s laws only allow abortions “in cases where a woman’s life is threatened or where there is a permanent or serious risk to her well-being.” In the case brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Court held that this law violates Article 8 because it does not allow for abortions in cases of sexual abuse or incest resulting in pregnancy, thereby placing a “disproportionate burden on the victim of sexual crime.” The next step after the ruling would be legislative action to change the existing law on abortion, although some observers believe that this will prove a very contentious issue. Read more from The BBC.

fThe International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently seen some significant events representing distinct stages of the Court’s procedures. First, Pre-Trial Chamber I has authorized the Office of the Prosecutor to initiate an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by three parties – the Georgian armed forces, South Ossetian forces, and Russian armed forces – during an armed conflict on Georgian territory between July and October 2008. Second, the confirmation of charges hearing in the case of The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen, one of the Uganda cases, has just terminated. Mr. Ongwen surrendered to the ICC a year ago and is alleged by the Prosecutor to have committed a wide range of crimes, including those related to gender and sexual violence, in May 2004.  Third, the trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé has formally opened. Mr. Gbagbo, former president of Côte d’Ivoire, and Mr. Blé Goudé, an Ivoirian political leader, are both charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the context of post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 2010 and April 2011.


A recent conference, organized by Center for International Criminal Justice at the University of Amsterdam, focused on the timely topic of “Pluralist Approaches to International Criminal Justice.” In a thorough summary of the conference, Joanna Nicholson writes that “[t]he conference proved to be a fascinating and inspiring experience. As its title indicates, the concern of the conference was legal pluralism, a notion that lies at the centre of many of the key debates taking place within international criminal justice (ICJ) today.” Read her full summary of the various perspectives put forward by leading ICJ scholars here.

fIn December 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) issued a judgment ordering the retrial of Jovica Stanišić, the former Deputy Chief and Chief of the State Security Service of the Ministry of Interior in the Republic of Serbia, and Franko Simatović, former Deputy Chief of the Second Administration of the Serbian State Security Service. Stanišić and Simatović were both acquitted in 2013 by the ICTY’s Trial Chamber of their involvement in a joint criminal enterprise, which committed murder, deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution as crimes against humanity. Stanišić and Simatović were also acquitted of having planned and ordered the alleged crimes. The Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber had not determined whether or not the actus reus of joint criminal enterprise liability – a common criminal purpose contributed to and carried out by multiple persons – had been fulfilled by Stanišić and Simatović. It furthermore found that this error called for a retrial of both men on all counts of the original indictment. The immediate detention of Stanišić and Simatović was ordered at the ICTY detention center in The Hague, where they will wait pending their retrial, this time by the ICTY’s successor institution, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals or MICT. Read more about the case here.

Publications and Resources of Interest


The United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has launched the Judicial Records and Archives Database (JRAD), an online research tool providing access to all public judicial records of the MICT as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). According to a press release, JRAD “offers access to over 25,000 textual, photographic and audio-visual records, including transcripts and audio recordings of judicial proceedings, as well as filings and exhibits related to the cases of the ICTR and Mechanism.” Although the judicial records of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) are still only accessible through the ICTY’s internal database, judicial records from the upcoming retrial of ICTY accused persons Franko Simatović and Jovica Stanišić before the MICT (see above) will be available through JRAD. The database aims to enhance public access to the records of the ICTR and cases before the MICT.

fThe European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has launched a series of new factsheets concerning pending cases, as well as an additional five aspects of its caselaw: derogation in time of emergency; life sentences; extradition and life sentences; protection of reputation; and sport. The Court’s factsheets aim to increase awareness of its major judgments issued on these matters and foster a better understanding in Member States of the Council of Europe, so that these decisions regarding the European Convention on Human Rights might be implemented at the national level. The more than 60 factsheets are available in multiple languages.


The American Society of International Law (ASIL) has now made select videos of ASIL events available to the public from its website. More video content is available through ASIL’s YouTube account, including videos of conferences from the past seven years. ASIL will continue to update the video bank, and has included a link for access to live viewing of ASIL events. For a full schedule of ASIL events, click here.

dA Tweet from the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library in New York generated a lot of buzz at the start of the new year, when it indicated that the most checked-out book of 2015 was “Immunity of Heads of State and State Officials for International Crimes” by Ramona Pedretti. Several articles and commentaries suggested that this was an indication of diplomats at the UN researching ways to avoid penalties for themselves, or the heads of state that they represent at the UN. After a week of controversy surrounding the original Tweet, Reuters UN correspondent Michelle Nichols clarified that Pedretti’s doctoral thesis was the most popular “new” book at the Library, having been checked-out twice and borrowed for browsing four times.

Special Opportunity


The PluriCourts Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order, based at the University of Oslo, has issued a call for papers for its August 2016 conference on “Strengthening the Validity of International Criminal Tribunals.” Scholars from a wide range of disciplines are invited to submit paper proposals by 29 February 2016. Read more details about the conference here.

“International Justice in the News” is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, with the assistance of Daniel Jaffe '17 and Leonie Koch '16.

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