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.

October 2017

Featured News

dThe International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life of Brandeis University announces that all of the interviews conducted to date for the Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project are now available to the public.  Interviewees have occupied a broad range of roles and positions within the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, language service staff, legal advisors, and IT and support staff. The interviews also provide a wide range of perspectives on the life and work of the Tribunals, particularly during the first decade of their operation. The Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project has aimed to bring forth highly personal and deeply reflective narratives, which together contribute to an in-depth, textured history of the ICTY and ICTR.

The collection currently comprises 30 transcripts, each of which has been transcribed from an audio file, corrected by the interviewee, and lightly edited for readability. The oral history interviews are archived in a library repository and fully searchable by keyword, making it ideal for students and scholars who wish to explore the collection thematically.  Five “video clips” – audio excerpts from selected interviews illustrated with still images – offer visitors to the Project site a quick and evocative entry into some of the material contained in the collection.
We invite readers of International Justice in the News to explore the collection here. Future issues of this newsletter will also highlight excerpts from individual interviews.

People in the News

dCherif Bassiouni, an eminent advocate of international criminal justice and human rights, has passed away at the age of 79. Bassiouni was a law professor at DePaul University for almost 50 years and helped found the International Human Rights Law Institute there. In addition, Bassiouni held over 20 United Nations appointments and supported the Camp David peace accords. He also worked on efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina to document human rights abuses that aided in the prosecution of hundreds of perpetrators, including former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. More recently, he had been involved in an effort to forge a convention on crimes against humanity. Learn more about Bassiouni’s contributions to the international community from the Chicago Sun Times.

dThis month, we also mourn the loss of Judge Alberto Pérez Pérez (Brandeis Institute for International Judges (BIIJ) 2010), who sat on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) from 2010 to 2015. The Uruguayan judge, who was 80 years old, worked as an official for the United Nations Organization in the 1970s and 1980s, while living in exile in the United States. He later served as counsel for Uruguay in an International Court of Justice case between Argentina and Uruguay. IACtHR President Roberto F. Caldas described Pérez Pérez as “an exceptional jurist from our continent, as well as a man dedicated to work, family, and solid ethical principles.” Read the IACtHR press release in Spanish here.

In anticipation of the 16th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in December of this year, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) recently held live panel discussions with the twelve candidates vying to join the bench of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Lesotho, Mongolia, Peru, Uganda, and Uruguay have each nominated a candidate for the six soon-to-be-vacant positions that will begin in March of 2018 and run for nine years. There are certain gender, regional, and specific expertise qualifications that must be met by the six judges who are ultimately elected. For more information about ICC election procedure, consult the CICC’s 2017 Election Factsheet.

                             ICC judicial Candidates

        Fatsah Ouguergouz
        at BIIJ 2016
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, headed by international jurist and former Judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Fatsah Ouguergouz (BIIJ 2007, 2010 & 2016), recently presented its final report on crimes against humanity that have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. At that time, President Pierre Nkurunziza defied the Burundian constitution by running for a third term, striking out against those who sought to stand in his way and sparking a cycle of violence. After interviewing over 500 witnesses, Ouguergouz states that the Commission was “struck by the scale and the brutality of the violations.” According to The New York Times, the report did not name the Burundian president as a suspect, “but the panel attributed the crimes to ‘the highest levels of the state.’ It also described a parallel system of government in which major decisions, including some that led to severe human rights violations, were made by the president and a small entourage of people close to him.” The Commission of Inquiry has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi as soon as possible. Burundi has already begun the process of withdrawing from the Rome Statute of the ICC, spurred by the Court’s decision in 2016 to conduct a preliminary examination of incidents there.

dIn other presidential news from Africa, the Supreme Court of Kenya recently proclaimed null and void the election of 8 August, whereby President Uhuru Kenyatta was elected to a second term. This was the first example in Africa of a court nullifying the re-election of an incumbent. The court concluded that the election was “tainted with irregularities” and called for another election in 60 days. In response, President Kenyatta has publically attacked judges who nullified the election by calling them wakora in Swahili (“crooks”) and threatened to “revisit this […] problem” of the Supreme Court upon his reelection. The ICC previously investigated and confirmed charges against Kenyatta in relation to violence following the 2007 presidential election in Kenya. The charges were ultimately dropped due to insufficient evidence because, as explained in Justice Hub, “the ICC […] was no match for a state apparatus practiced at fighting propaganda wars, feigning cooperation, making witnesses disappear and getting its way through diplomatic wheeler-dealing.” As the second presidential election approaches, the independence of the Supreme Court continues to be threatened. However, the real test for Kenya’s Supreme Court will come if Kenyatta wins re-election the second time around.

dThe UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Human Rights Council have been asked by supporters of former South Korean President Park Guen Hye to investigate her detention and lack of access to proper medical attention. The communication by her supporters furthermore asserted that Ms. Park has been “subjected to sleep deprivation and coercive and abusive interrogation” techniques. Park went on trial for charges of abuse of power, bribery, coercion, and leaking government secrets after being ousted and imprisoned in March 2017.

Developments in International Justice

A specially constituted chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has delivered its judgment in a dispute over the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The case was presented to the Special Chamber in response to increased oil activities within the disputed maritime boundary. Côte d’Ivoire claimed that Ghana had violated the Ivorian maritime area; however, Ghana asserted that the maritime boundary that they followed was previously agreed upon. Ultimately, the Special Chamber unanimously found that Ghana did not violate any treaties or maritime boundaries. The dispute also led ITLOS to reestablish the delimitation line between the two countries up to and beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast. Learn more about the case from the ITLOS website. Read about the importance of maritime oil activity to Ghana’s economy from Deutsche Welle.


               The Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India has unanimously declared that the right to privacy is an intrinsic component of the Indian constitution. The court recently provided a judgment in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union of India which revolved around the constitutionality of India’s use of biometric identification. The court ultimately determined that Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which guarantees life and liberty, also includes the right to privacy. However, the Supreme Court asserted that this right is not absolute and any invasion of privacy by the state must meet these three requirements: “legality, which postulates the existence of law; need, defined in terms of a legitimate state aim; and proportionality which ensures a rational nexus between the objects and the means adopted to achieve them.” This major decision by India’s Supreme Court could have major implications on domestic issues, including sexual orientation, which the court will rule on in the near future.

dLast month, victims in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Ayyash et al. case were able to have “their day in court.” The case involves the February 2005 attack in Beirut that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others, and injured 226 more. Over more than a week, the legal representatives of 72 victims presented evidence through both live testimony and written witness statements and documents. According to the STL press release, “This marks the first time that victims of terrorism have presented their case before an international tribunal.”

Australian Special Operations
Task Group soldiers in Afghanistan
The Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force (IGADF) has called for an investigation into possible violations of the Laws of Armed Conflict in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. The Inspector-General called on anyone with information to come forward and assist in the investigation. This move came after rumors spread about a cover-up of the killing of an Afghan boy and other incidents. The IGADF provides an avenue - independent of the military chain of command - for internal review of military justice and other matters concerning the ADF.  Read the Inspector-General’s press release here.

dFour Palestinian human rights NGOs have submitted a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging that high-ranking Israelis are complicit in the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These documents were meant to aid the ICC in a preliminary examination that aims to establish if there are sufficient grounds for opening a full-scale investigation into alleged crimes by Israel, but also by Palestinians, during and since the 2014 Gaza conflict. The ICC Prosecutor’s Office has stated that it will “analyze the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality.”

Syrian refugees arriving in Greece (Reuters)
The Court of Justice of the European Union has dismissed a case presented by Slovakia and Hungary pertaining to the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers. In order to properly manage the influx of migrants to the continent, the Council of the European Union adopted a resolution to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers who reached Italy and Greece to other EU members over two years. The resolution was presented on the premise of Article 78(3) of the Lisbon Treaty, which states that “in the event of one or more Member States being confronted by an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may adopt provisional measures for the benefit of the Member State(s) concerned. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament.” Slovakia and Hungary, which both voted against this resolution, asked the court to annul the contested decision and pled “that the adoption of the decision was vitiated by errors of a procedural nature or arising from the choice of an inappropriate legal basis and that the decision was neither a suitable response to the migrant crisis nor necessary for that purpose.” The court dismissed all actions brought forth by Slovakia and Hungary, which reaffirmed the relocation mechanism that the council previously established.

dThe European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recently issued two significant judgments touching on the monitoring of information. In the case of Bărbulescu v. Romania the Court determined that a private company violated an employee’s right to privacy when he was dismissed after the company monitored his instant messages. The ECtHR found the Romanian courts inadequately protected the rights of the applicant by upholding his dismissal. This case follows two other similar cases previously brought before the ECtHR in which the Court determined that the right to privacy was not properly protected. The case of Dimitras and Others v. Greece involved a claim by five Greek nationals that a ban on publishing opinion polls of voters’ intentions within 15 days of an election deprived them of free access to information. The ECtHR unanimously found the applications inadmissible because the applicants were not barred from participating in the elections despite their inability to access relevant information.

sSeptember 2017 marked the tenth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration set out to recognize and assert the human rights of indigenous peoples and their equality with all other people. Since 2007, several countries that abstained from the vote and all four countries that originally voted against it—the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—have pledged support for the Declaration. Furthermore, the United Nations have made indigenous populations a priority in their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and individual states are granting indigenous people more autonomy, recognition, and protection. Overall, significant progress has been made over the last ten years, but there remains a long way to go. Making up about 6% of the global population, indigenous persons account for 15% of the world’s poorest population. Indigenous persons also continue to face racism, discrimination, loss of lands, high suicide rates, and several other challenges. Nonetheless, indigenous groups and their allies remain optimistic for the future and continue to fight for indigenous rights throughout the world.

dThe Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is praising the establishment of a Truth Commission in Bolivia. The commission’s main goal is “to solve the murders, forced disappearances, tortures, arbitrary detentions, and sexual violence, considered grave human rights violations, which were committed in Bolivia for political and ideological motives” from 1964 to 1982, a period during which a series of military governments were in power. The Truth Commission, which has five members, will spend the next two years conducting investigations and submitting a final report. The swearing in of the commissioners marked the 46th anniversary of the coup d’état that put dictator Hugo Banzer Suárez into power.

Publications and Resources of Interest

dA new film, Never Again: Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity, delivers stark testimony from survivors of these continuing crimes and documents the work of international experts who seek to remedy the gap in international law and justice around crimes against humanity. The film was produced by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, under the direction of Professor Leila Sadat, Director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute, and Spot Media Production Group. Never Again posits that peace is not possible without justice, and that justice will come from the perseverance of global actors dedicated to the possibility of a better world.
Those wishing to screen the film for students or other interested groups may do so without purchasing the film, although a donation to support the work of the Crime Against Humanity Initiative is kindly requested. Inquiries may be directed to Learn about the October 4 screening at Brandeis University here.

dThe 2016 book Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the ICTY (Oxford University Press) – edited by International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals  (MICT) Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, along with Deputy Prosecutor Michelle Jarvis –  has now been made available online and free of charge in a Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian translation. According to a MICT press release, the book sets out the experience of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in prosecuting sexual violence crimes during the 24 years of its work. The OTP demonstrated that rapes, enslavement, mutilation, and other forms of sexual violence were very often part of broader persecutory campaigns within the conflicts, which – like beatings, killings, and looting - were used to instill fear and force populations to flee. The OTP proved that senior officials can be found accountable for sexual violence crimes and demonstrated how to prosecute sexual violence as part of a common criminal purpose, a crime against humanity and/or an underlying act of genocide.

dA newly published book analyzes another kind of crime prosecuted in international criminal tribunals – hate speech. In Incitement on Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes (Cambridge University Press), Richard Ashby Wilson (University of Connecticut School of Law) evaluates the efforts of these tribunals to hold accountable public figures who foment ethnic, national, racial or religious hatred, inciting listeners to acts of violence. Based in extensive original research, this book proposes an evidence-based risk assessment model for monitoring political speech.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, and Lee Wilson '18.

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