Analysis

    Week in Review:Judicial complaint in Spain against Syrian regime sets precedent
    13.02.17
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    Is a first trial in Europe against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad likely? It looks more so after Spanish state prosecutor Javier Zaragoza officially registered a complaint filed by a woman of dual Syrian and Spanish nationality. She accuses members of the Syrian security services of having tortured her brother to death near Damascus. “This is the first time that allegations have been made to a court of `acts of State terrorism` by the current Syrian administration,” writes François Musseau, JusticeInfo’s correspondent in Madrid. Leading prosecution evidence in this...

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    New challenges for transitional justice on the path to peace
    10.02.17
    Pierre Hazan

    “The times are they are a-changing”, Bob Dylan used to sing. The winner of the 2016 Nobel prize for literature was surely not thinking about transitional justice when he wrote those lines back in the 1960s. Yet times are also changing for transitional justice, which has become a key component of peace accords. But with new objectives come new challenges, and they are considerable. Transitional justice was developed during the late 1980sand the following decade in the wave of optimism that followed the end of the Cold War. Defence budgets were falling, political and economic liberalism...

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    Congo : The Challenges of the First Implementation of the ICC's Reparations Mandate
    31.01.17
    Kirsten J. Fisher, Ph.D.

    On 14 March 2012, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (Lubanga) was found guilty before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was the first conviction for the ICC and an important step in the international condemnation of the use of child soldiers. With this conviction came a sentence of 14 years in prison for Lubanga and the hope of justice for his victims – children as young as 11 who were forced to fight and die,...

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    Week in Review: Tests for international justice in Switzerland and France
    30.01.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    The arrest of a former Gambian Interior Minister in Switzerland this week is a test of the reach and limits of international justice, as is the earlier arrest in France of an ex-Prime Minister of Kosovo. Ousman Sonko, who is being held in Berne for suspected “crimes against humanity” was Interior Minister for 10 years under Gambia’s brutal and capricious former dictator Yahya Jammeh. He was arrested under pressure from Swiss NGO Trial International which filed a criminal case against him for torture. “As Interior Minister of The Gambia from 2006 to 2016, Sonko was head of the police and he...

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    Dear President Trump: let me share some home truths about Africa with you
    23.01.17
    Gilbert M. Khadiagala, University of the Witwatersrand

      Africa has occupied a more or less constantly insignificant position in both Republican and Democratic administrations in the US since the 1960s. Studies of US-Africa policies have tended to depict Republican administrations as “globalist” – more likely to look at Africa as part of a bigger picture than as its own unique geopolitical space. Democrats, meanwhile, are perceived “Africanists” who have close sympathies to African interests. But these distinctions are deceptive. Some Republican administrations, such as that of George W. Bush, paid more attention to African issues such as...

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    Week in Review: Does extrajudicial killing of “terrorists” threaten rule of law?
    23.01.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    The timing may be just a coincidence. But the coincidence this week of a former Guatemalan minister’s trial in Spain for summary executions of eight gang leaders and questions on the legality of French and American targeted killings of alleged Islamic State terrorists raises a real issue. How can you defend people who are indefensible in the name of a justice system that they neither respect nor practise? The question is as old as democracy itself, and has always been on the minds of the lawyers who defend “public enemies”. The trial in Spain of Carlos Roberto Vielmann, 60, a former...

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    Rewriting Tunisia’s history to preserve dissident memories
    10.01.17
    Olfa Belhassine

    A third survey by the Transitional Justice Barometer research body aims for reform of Tunisia’s history teaching manuals. History and memory are a central concern of victims in Tunisia, according to a survey by the Transitional Justice Barometer. There is a persistent feeling that the authorities have forgotten or are even deliberately denying historical events related to dissidence that have taken place in the contemporary period. Six years after the revolution, only small changes have been made to history textbooks in schools. The Transitional Justice Barometer is a social science...

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    Germany set to atone for genocide in Namibia
    05.01.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and associate professor at Neuchâtel University

    A century after losing its South-West Africa colony, now Namibia, Germany is debating how to close one of the darkest chapters of its colonial period: the extermination of over 80% of Hereros, which was the first genocide of the 20th century. Anyone going to the Namibian capital Windhoek a few decades ago would find themselves on Kaiser Avenue or Heinrich Goeringstrasse, another of the city’s main streets named after the first High Commissioner who headed this German colony from 1885 to 1900. Namibia gained independence in 1990, but one of the darkest parts of German colonial history...

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    Report on Truth Commissions and Corporate Complicity
    04.01.17
    Leigh A Payne

    When the Brazilian National Truth Commission (CNV) began in 2012, its decision to investigate not only the crimes of state agents but also corporate complicity in the dictatorship’s repressive apparatus seemed like an innovative direction for transitional justice in general and truth commissions in particular. Transitional justice in general, and truth commissions in particular, had not yet explicitly included recognition of the direct and indirect violations by non-state business actors in dictatorships and armed conflict. Recent research conducted at the University of Oxford reveals, however, that Brazil’s efforts were not as unique as they at first appeared. The Oxford study has...

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    How Power-Sharing Impedes Transitional Justice: Comparing Kenya and Zimbabwe
    31.12.16
    Leona Hollasch

    In many African countries, as well as Latin American ones (e.g. Colombia) power-sharing is often seen as the peace negotiators’ instrument of choice for conflict resolution. This tendency, however, often places those responsible for past human rights violations in powerful government positions. Transitional justice measures are then introduced under these difficult circumstances. Kenya's and Zimbabwe's experiences demonstrate the devastating effects that power-sharing can have on processes of transitional justice.  Power-sharing can freeze the status-quo, leaving transitional justice...

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    Who's behind the massacres in Congo's Beni region?
    27.12.16
    Marc Jourdier, AFP

    The official explanation for a two-year wave of massacres in a restive corner of DR Congo centres on a shadowy rebel group accused of having ties to the global jihadist underground. But some basic details about the alleged killers of more than 700 victims -- the latest over the Christmas weekend -- haven't quite convinced observers and experts.  The truth, they say, is more complicated and may lead all the way to the halls of power in the vast, mineral-rich and chronically unstable central African nation.  UN experts, referring to the claimed jihadist links in past reports, have...

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    Week in Review: New technology and old hopes for transitional justice
    19.12.16
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    Can a smartphone and an App hold war criminals accountable? Eyewitness, an App developed by the International Bar Association (IBA), is trying to help combat impunity with this new technological tool, said to be reliable, free and accurate. The aim is to document suspected war crimes witnessed by victims or others, through photos and videos. Wendy Bett, director of eyeWitness, explained in an interview with JusticeInfo the advantages of this project.  “Images taken with the eyeWitness app include a verifiable GPS time, date and location,” she says. “All come from a registered instance of...

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    Will Kenya withdraw from the ICC?
    13.12.16
    Dr Thomas Obel Hansen, Lecturer of Law, Transitional Justice Institute/ Ulster University Law School, Belfast, UK.

    Whereas a Kenyan withdrawal from the ICC is a real possibility, Nairobi may be tempted to instead use the threat of a withdrawal to push its agenda on the ICC.  Since Burundi announced in October that it had decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) founding treaty, the Rome Statute, commentators have been busy speculating whether – and, if so, which – other African State Parties would be next. Few had predicted that South Africa would be the first to go ahead, in fact beating Burundi to the finish line by providing the UN Secretary General with the formal...

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    African “withdrawals” from the ICC produce a new twist…
    09.12.16
    Pierre Hazan

    At the end of October, three African countries announced with fanfare that they were leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC). They slammed it for lack of legitimacy, unjustified attacks against Africans and neo-colonialism. But it is intriguing to note the developments in these three countries (Burundi, South Africa and Gambia) a few weeks later. There may yet be some strange twists to the story, including Gambia’s likely imminent return to the ICC.  The world is decidedly unpredictable. That is certainly what Yahya Jammeh, the autocrat who ruled The Gambia for 22 years and warned...

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    “The UN Security Council should do more to protect the population of South Sudan.”
    08.12.16
    Vony Rambolamanana, Geneva

    The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng has made various worrying statements this month of November. A few days ago, he has warned about the ethnic violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) and reminded the government its responsibility to protect. He has insisted on this responsibility when assessing the situation of Rohingya in Myanmar or of civilians in Iraq. On November 17th, he issued a statement on South Sudan, this time clearly stressing ‘a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide.’ Lately ‘the obligation [for...

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    Ugandan child soldier turned "war criminal" on trial at ICC
    07.12.16
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    The trial of Ugandan Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier turned commander of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), started at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday December 6. Ongwen is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in northern Uganda between 2002 and 2005. Seated in the box for the accused, Dominique Ongwen scribbled in the pages of his notebook as a court Registry official read out one by one the 70 charges against him. As the 58th one was read out, his lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo rested his head against the back of his seat, whilst Ongwen...

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    Nuanced Memory in Rwanda and Uganda : Responsibilities of justice practitioners
    06.12.16
    Samantha Lakin (M.A.)

    The international community has established memorialization as a key transitional justice mechanism that holds symbolic value for societies recovering from conflict. As such, memorial efforts can help victims feel a sense of validation by the post-conflict community by recognizing and symbolically redressing the harms they suffered (Hamber et al. 2010). According to a key report about violence in Northern Uganda published by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), “memorials are intended to preserve memories of people or events. Many are designed to promote a specific...

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    Could ICC withdrawal of South Africa and others spell more violence in Africa?
    26.10.16
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo.net editorial advisor

    How things have changed! It was an African country, Senegal, that was the first in the world to ratify on February 2, 1999, the statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Driven by civil society, some 30 other African countries then followed its example in the name of fighting impunity. Many may have forgotten that this wave of ICC membership happened despite a virulent diplomatic campaign by the Bush administration, which threatened to retaliate against any non-NATO State that ratified the ICC statutes. The United States wanted to see the Court die, and yet the majority of African...

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    Uneven remembrance of Soviet and Nazi crimes in the Baltic States

    The Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were occupied by both the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Massive crimes against opponents and minorities were committed under both regimes, but Soviet crimes tend to overshadow the Holocaust in current national remembrance. This article is co-published with theconversation.com On Gediminas Avenue, the main street of Vilnius, is an impressive white building. This is the former headquarters of the KGB, which from 1941 à 1943 also housed the Gestapo. Names are engraved on the façade along with dates of births and deaths, almost all of...

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    New Peruvian law offers hope to relatives of the disappeared

    The majestic yet forbidding landscape of the Peruvian highlands hides grim secrets. The country’s Ayacucho region was the cradle of Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, which waged a total and ultimately futile war against the Peruvian state between 1980 and 2000. Many of the forgotten victims of the 20-year internal armed conflict lie buried or simply abandoned in Ayacucho’s mountain passes, old mineshafts, and makeshift hillside cemeteries. Thousands of peasant farmers and highland townsfolk were slaughtered in the internecine warfare, with state and guerrilla forces vying to outdo one...

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