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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.

November 2013

People in the News

Daniel Fransen
        judge Daniel fransen
Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen (BIIJ 2010) of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has publicly announced an indictment against Hassan Habib Merhi, accusing him of involvement in the 2005 Beirut attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri along with 21 others. So far, the accused has not been located. Merhi is the fifth person to be indicted by the STL, which plans to begin trial proceedings in January 2014 whether the accused persons are present or not. Read more about the indictment from the STL website.

Judge Theodor Meron of the United States (BIIJ 2006, 2010 and 2012) has been reelected as President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Judge Carmel Agius of Malta (BIIJ 2007 and 2013) has also been reelected as Vice-President. The two-year terms of both judges will begin on 17 November 2013. Read more about Judge Meron and Judge Agius at the ICTY website.

Two photos of Erich Priebke. One when he is in a uniform (in black and white) and one present dayErich Priebke, a 100-year-old Nazi war criminal, died on 11 October 2013 in Italy. Mr. Preibke was convicted in 1998 for war crimes before the Italian Court of Appeals for his participation in the massacre of 335 civilians by Nazi forces in the Ardeatine Caves outside of Rome in 1944. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but was allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest and lived in his lawyer’s Roman home until his death. Mr. Priebke had escaped a British prison camp in 1946 and fled to Argentina, where he was extradited to Italy 49 years later after an ABC News reporter tracked him down and obtained an admission of his role in the massacre. Mr. Priebke’s trial lasted three years, during which he denied the use of gas chambers by the Nazis. Read more from The BBC.

Peres standing with two books in his hand talking to four other men.Israeli President Shimon Peres recently visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The Court has been a source of contention for Israel, due to the 2004 ICJ advisory opinion that deemed Israel’s security fence a violation of international law.  ICJ President Peter Tomka and President Peres issued a joint statement, wherein the former stated that the Court was “honored by…[Peres’] presence. Peace can be based on justice and solid legal foundations; whenever we solve disputes between sovereign states we always emphasize that the most efficient way is through negotiations.” On his side, Mr. Peres reiterated Israel’s commitment to the peace process, highlighting recent gains in negotiations and emphasizing the need for justice and compassion even in times of war. He stated, “Israel underwent seven wars but we never stopped our search for peace with out neighbors. Never did a day of war postpone a day of democracy. Never did wars justify injustice.” Read more about the visit from The Algemeiner.

Developments in International Justice

A boat with a rainbow painted on it and the word "Greenpeace"The Netherlands has submitted a request for the prescription of provisional measures to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) regarding its dispute with the Russian Federation. The dispute surrounds the arrest and detention of the vessel Arctic Sunrise and its crew by Russian authorities. The Dutch vessel is an icebreaker operated by Greenpeace International, and it was being used in a protest directed against the offshore Russian ice-resistant platform ‘Prirazlomnaya’ in the Barents Sea. Read more about the case in the official ITLOS press release. A public hearing on the case will be held on 6 November 2013.

A drawing of slaves walking in a line tied to one anotherBritain, France and The Netherlands are being sued by 14 Caribbean countries demanding what could be hundreds of billions of pounds in reparations for slavery. CARICOM, an alliance of Caribbean nations that includes 12 former British colonies together with the former French colony Haiti and the Dutch-held Suriname, is asking to be repaid for the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade. CARICOM has hired the British law firm Leigh Day, which recently won compensation for hundreds of Kenyans tortured by the British colonial government during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. Read more from Al Jazeera.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed concern over a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic (DR) that retroactively modified legislation existing from 1929 to 2010 about who qualifies as a Dominican citizen. The ruling effectively denies citizenship to thousands of persons born in the DR, many of Haitian descent, leaving them stateless, which constitutes a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. Read more about the case from the Organization of American States (OAS).
A group of people playing the drums, with others standing and watchingThe IACHR has also filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on behalf of the indigenous Garifuna Community of Punta Piedra in Honduras. The Commission alleges that the Honduran state has violated its international responsibility by failing to prevent the land of the Garifuna community from being encroached upon by non-indigenous parties. The Court recommended that Honduras take the necessary steps to assure similar situations do not arise in the future, and that it adopt measures to prevent the Garifuna community from being discriminated against based on their ethnic origin. Further, the Court called upon the government to investigate and punish those responsible for the threats and violence against members of the community. Read the OAS press release.

A group of people standing in a ditch and looking at bodiesThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has reversed its 2012 judgment on the case of Janoweic and Others v. Russia. The case surrounded complaints about the adequacy of the Russian authorities’ investigation into the Katyń massacre of 1940. On 16 April 2012, the Court held that Russia violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in its treatment of the close relatives of those who had been killed in 1940. However, on 21 October 2013, the Court reversed that decision, stating that while the violations caused severe emotional distress to the victims’ families, this was not enough to justify a departure from its own case-law on the status of family members of “disappeared persons.” Read more about the case from ilawyerblog.

In further ECHR news, the Court recently issued a judgment in I.B. v. Greece (no. 552/10) concerning an employee’s termination due to his HIV-positive status and the lack of judicial protection offered by the Greek courts. The Court held that I.B.’s termination violated his right to respect for private and family life and the prohibition against discrimination, as guaranteed in the European Convention. Read the official press release here.

A group of people laying down with IVs attached to them. There are people in masks standing in the backgroundA group of activists is suing the UN over the spread of cholera in Haiti that began three years ago. The suit is being filed in the Federal District Court in Manhattan. The activists claim that Nepalese UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti were responsible for introducing the disease through sewage contamination from their barracks. Since it first appeared in October 2010, the disease has killed over 8,300 Haitians and sickened over 650,000 in the poorest country of the Western hemisphere. The UN, while stating its commitment to eradicating cholera, denies responsibility for causing the outbreak, and asserts diplomatic immunity from all negligence claims. Read more about the case from The New York Times.

Read about a March 2013 event where the International Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life discussed the responsibility of the United Nations in this situation: The Rule of Law Comes Home: Can the United Nations Live up to its Own High Standards?

A group of people standing on a stage
                        african union summit
On 10 October, members of the African Union (AU) met to discuss possible withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), in reaction to its perceived targeting of African leaders. Although AU members stopped short of withdrawing, they called for a deferral of the crimes against humanity trials of Kenya's leadership and also for immunity from prosecution for sitting heads of state. Thirty-four of the AU’s 54 members have signed on to the ICC, but Kenya’s parliament recently passed a motion to withdraw. Prominent African leaders such as former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have voiced support for the ICC.  Read the latter’s New York Times op-ed here.

In a move to maintain ties with Kenya, the ICC has since ruled that President Kenyatta does not need to be in permanent attendance in The Hague during his upcoming trial. The judges said, however, that Kenyatta is still required to attend opening and closing remarks of the trial, hear the victims' testimonies, and listen to the delivery of the final judgment. In contrast, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, whose ICC trial has already begun, must ask to miss portions of his own trial and his absence will only be allowed when it is absolutely necessary. Read more from The New York Times.

Three men sitting behind a plaque that says "Saudi Arabia"Saudi Arabia has rejected non-permanent Security Council membership, making the announcement just hours after it was elected for the first time to one of the ten, usually highly coveted, rotating seats. Saudi Arabia explained its rejection by the Security Council’s failure to fulfill its duties of maintaining international peace and security, as well as its use of “double standards,” mentioning in particular the Palestinian situation, the inability of the U.N. to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, and its inaction in Syria. Read more about Saudi Arabia’s move and reactions from The BBC.    

Publications and Resources of Interest

Book cover of "Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda"Reports issued in October 2013 by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International assert that U.S. officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists may be held responsible for war crimes and should stand trial. The organizations highlighted civilian causalities caused by drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, claiming that these strikes violate the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law, and President Obama’s own guidelines on drones. According to the reports, it is difficult to assess the legality of the strikes because the government resists disclosing the legal basis for them. Read more from The Guardian. For a critique of how the two reports were investigated, read an article from New Republic.

In a recent article, Jessie Allen, Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, asserts that the proceedings in human rights courts are a kind of theatrical performance and that this, paradoxically, is what gives them the potential to enact real justice. In “Theater of International Justice” (Legal Studies Research Paper Series Working Paper No. 2013­04, February 2013), Prof. Allen argues, “the performance of formal judicial process in international human rights courts enacts a version of the role-­based, conventionally structured process that all courts employ to trigger enforcement of their orders by government officials. International courts of human rights do not substitute spectacle for enforcement. Their success as law courts is dependent on that spectacle. The theater of human rights courts is what makes them real courts of law.” Access the full article here.

Poster for "Just Performance"Read about a past conference at Brandeis University that addressed some of the same questions – Just Performance: Enacting Justice in the Wake of Violence

book cover of "War Crimes and the Conduct of Hostilities"A recently published book, War Crimes and the Conduct of Hostilities: Challenges to Adjudication and Investigation (Elgar 2013), addresses an overlooked area. The collection was edited by Fausto Pocar (BIIJ 2002-2013), Professor Emeritus of International Law, University of Milan, and Appeals Judge and past President of the ICTY; Marco Pedrazzi, Professor of International Law, Department of International, Legal, Historical and Political Studies, University of Milan; and Micaela Frulli, Associate Professor of International Law, Department of Legal Sciences, University of Florence. According to the publisher, the collection “uplifts aspects that are particularly under-appreciated, including cultural property, fact-finding, arms transfer, chemical weapons, sexual violence, and attacks on peacekeepers. Through rigorous analysis, elegant prose, original insights, and vivacious interconnections, this book enlivens the actual enforcement and application of international war crimes law. This book will serve as an indispensable tool for the many stakeholders invested in evenhanded, informed, and wise pursuit of post-conflict justice through a diverse array of mechanisms.” Read more here.

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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