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.

November 2012

People in the News

eFour new judges have been elected to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR): Mr. Faris Vehabovic of Bosnia; Ms. Ksenija Turkovic of Croatia; Mr. Valeriu Gritco of Moldova; and Mr. Dmitry Dedov of Russia. The new judges hail from diverse professional backgrounds – from the domestic judiciary to academia to the practice of law – and thus will bring multiple perspectives to their ECHR work. Read more about the new judges here

lRichard Lussick of Samoa, who presided over the recently completed trial of Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, has been sworn in as a Judge of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal. He was joined by Judge Rosalyn M. Chapman of the United States. Read more about their election.

sDutch criminal defense lawyer Göran Sluiter has been appointed by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to represent an anonymous suspect named in Case File 004. Mr. Sluiter is a professor of international criminal law at the University of Amsterdam and has worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court. See more details of his appointment here. Read more about Case File 004 in a report from the Open Society Justice Initiative

sColombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has issued an official apology to indigenous communities in the Amazon for death and destruction caused by the rubber boom over a century ago. Up to 100,000 indigenous rainforest inhabitants were killed between 1912 and 1929 through operations of the rubber industry, while others were forced into slave labor or displaced. The Columbian government had recently been encouraged by the United Nations representative on indigenous rights to have more dialogue with indigenous peoples within its territory. Visit the BBC for more coverage about the apology.

      judge shireen avis fisher
Women are gaining prominence in the world of international criminal justice. President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, along with SCSL Prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis, recently appeared before the UN Security Council to report on the achievements of the Special Court and the upcoming completion of its mandate. President Fisher emphasized the SCSL’s embodiment of UN Resolution 1325, which urges the participation of women and incorporation of gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. The current President, Prosecutor, Registrar and Principal Defender at the SCSL are all female. The SCSL was also praised by UN Women for its historic work in prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes committed during conflicts. To read more about the issues highlighted at the Security Council meeting, see an Intlawgrrls post.

iMeanwhile, at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Brigid Inder, Executive Director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, is now acting as Special Gender Advisor to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Ms. Inder, a New Zealand native, supports the Office of the Prosecutor with advice on gender issues, including sexual and gender-based violence. “Further integrating a gender perspective into all areas of our work and strengthening recognition of the gendered nature of sexual violence is a priority for my office,” said Prosecutor Bensouda. For more about women’s issues and the work of the ICC, click here.

Developments in International Justice

gOn October 11th, the UN marked its first International Day of the Girl Child, calling for an end to child marriage in accordance with the theme of observance this year. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stressed education as the best means to prevent this damaging practice: “When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families.” He went on to urge governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector, and families – especially men and boys – to promote the rights of girls, saying, “Let us do our part to let girls be girls, not brides.”  See the UN News Centre for more details.

The final trial of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is underway. The defendant is Goran Hadzic, former President of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, who was indicted for crimes against humanity in 2004 and arrested in 2011. His alleged crimes include the forcible removal of a majority of Croatians and other non-Serb populations from a large piece of the Republic of Croatia in order to make it part of a new Serbian state, and his failure to take reasonable measures to prevent his subordinates from committing crimes. Hadzic is the last of 161 defendants to be tried by the ICTY. See a Reuters report for more information.

In related news, Radovan Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska, began his defense on October 16 before an ICTY Trial Chamber. Mr. Karadzic was arrested in 2008, almost thirteen years after his indictment. He denies his involvement in the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, as well as related charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and murder. Mr. Karadzic is conducting his own defense, and asserts he did “everything within human power to avoid the war and reduce human suffering”.  The BBC has more details of Mr. Karadzic’s personal statement to the Tribunal.

GA coalition of civil society groups in The Gambia has filed an application for remedy before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the alleged human rights violations of 38 death row inmates in the country’s Mile 2 Central Prisons. It is also seeking $1 million in damages for the families of the already executed inmates. Additionally, the groups are looking for the ECOWAS Court to “order the Republic of The Gambia to comply with the rights and principles of the African charter on human rights, stop executing death sentences, and stop pronouncing death sentences.” See The Guardian in Nigeria for the full report.

nThe UN High Commission for Human Rights has released a report analyzing violations of international law that occurred during the ten-year conflict in Nepal that began in 1996. Included with the report is a database of around 30,000 documents, designed to provide a tool for Nepalese institutions and civil society to begin the process of seeking truth, justice, and reconciliation for the crimes committed during the conflict. Read more and access the report and database at the UN News Centre.

lDoes a language population have the right to use the script of its choice? A group of Moldovan nationals recently brought a case – Catan and others v. Moldova and Russia – to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for alleged human rights violations in Transdniestria, an unrecognized breakaway region under de facto control of Russia. Their grievances concerned the forced closure of schools and the harassment and intimidation of ethnic Moldovans after the introduction of a law criminalizing the use of Latin instead of Cyrillic script in schools. The Grand Chamber of the ECHR found that Russia, rather than Moldova, has jurisdiction over Transdniestria, and is responsible for violations of applicants’ rights to education under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the ECHR Convention. For more information on the judgment, click here.

bBurkina Faso and Niger presented their respective cases to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) this month regarding the demarcation of the border between the two nations. Burkina Faso is looking for the border to be marked according to French colonial decree, while Niger considers the decree imprecise and asks the court to the Court to delimit it by using a 1960 map of the French Institut Géographique, adjusted with factual evidence of territorial sovereignty. Read a press release here.

mA Canadian court is prosecuting a Rwandan national for alleged involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The accused, Jacques Mungwarere, was arrested in Ontario in 2009 on grounds of being one of the attackers in the massacre at the Mugonero church and hospital complex, an incident in which approximately 3,000 were killed. Mungwarere, who is the second person to be prosecuted under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, has just begun his defense. Read more about the trial from the Canadian Centre for International Justice.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit recently dismissed another case related to the Rwandan conflict. A lawsuit had been filed against Rwandan President Paul Kagame by the widows of Juvenal Habyarimana, the former president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the former president of Burundi. The widows alleged that Kigame ordered the attack that brought down the plane carrying their husbands in 1994 and sought $350 million in damages. The Court of Appeal ruled, however, that Kigame is immune from the suit as leader of a foreign state. Read more from Jurist.

bFrance has declared bullfighting to be legal, in a case brought to it by Le Comité radicalement anticorrida, an animal-rights group that claims the practice is unconstitutionally cruel to animals. While the French Penal Code generally forbids animal cruelty, it makes an exception for cockfighting and bullfighting, common in the southern regions of France, as they are deemed “local traditions” and subject to legal protection. Some praise the judgment for strengthening "cultural, social, and regional pluralism," reports IntLawGrrls. Humane Society International is working, however, to eradicate the “brutal spectacle of bullfighting.”

Publications and Resources of Interest

aCornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice has established a database providing access to instruments and case law from around the world related to gender-based violence and gender justice.  Its purpose, the Center says, is “…to promote the use of laws and principles aimed at providing protection and redress to survivors of gender-based violence.” Visit the Women and Justice Collection database here.

The Avon Center also recently held its third Annual Avon Global Center for Women and Justice Conference, which focused on sexual violence against girls in Southern Africa. For more information on the conference, click here.

aRuth Herz, a former judge at the Court of Cologne, recently published The Art of Justice: The Judge’s Perspective (Hart Publishing, 2012). The book includes illustrations of courtroom scenes that Judge Pierre Cavellat drew during his 40-year judicial career in one of France's regional appellate courts. Judge Cavellat sketched scenes he observed from his bench; he depicts everyone from prosecutors, witnesses, defense counsel, defendants, policemen, the general public, and his fellow judges to the architecture of the courtroom itself. Given the reluctance of most judges to reveal their inner opinions, this unique book gives an “unprecedented insight into how a judge perceives his profession and the institution of justice as a whole.” For more information about the book, visit the publisher’s website.

The African Foundation for International Law and the African Association of International Law recently concluded a conference in Maputo, Mozambique on “Human Security, Peace and Development: Challenges and Responses.” The meeting was attended by representatives of the American Society of International Law, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations and the African Union Commission on International Law. The conference, which marked the reactivation of the Association, addressed a number of timely themes. Consult the conference program and visit the website of the Foundation.

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

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