Safe Havens, Innovations in the protection of cultural property
    Polina Levina Mahnad

    A recent constellation of events appear to herald a shift in how the international community responds to threats to cultural property in armed conflict. At a time when many are calling international law into question and multilateral responses to emerging threats are losing steam, the last year has seen bold moves – from court cases, State initiatives, and action by the UN Security Council – that have recognized the importance of cultural property protection for peace and security, as well as the ability of third-party states to take on responsibility for its protection. Among these are...

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    Tunisia: Empowerment through the Arts
    Sahar Ammar

    The sufferance marking the legacy of sixty years of dictatorship cannot be felt, touched and expressed through the sophisticated speeches of politicians and government members. It is only through the stories of victims that pain and hope can be crystalized. The bridge between the darkness of the past and the lightness of the future can be truthfully and faithfully revealed in the honest tears of a mother who wants to bury her son, in the deep breath of a prisoner for whom torture became a matter of daily routine and in the harsh guilt of someone who witnessed the persecution of his friends...

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    Rethinking customary law in Somaliland: specific jurisdiction for rape to promote post-conflict development
    Rakiya Omaar and Caitlin Lambert

     Somaliland does not enjoy international recognition as an independent state, but it does have what its people regard as their most precious asset : peace. After seceding from Somalia in May 1991, following a prolonged and bloody civil war, a shattered territory had to be rebuilt from scratch by people impoverished and scarred by years of exile, mainly in refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia. Despite the odds, Somaliland has established a functioning system of governance with little outside assistance while the rest of Somalia remains at war. This success is underpinned by the...

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    Syrian war crime brings illegal but perhaps legitimate US strikes
    Pierre Hazan

    Syrian air force use of chemical weapons against civilians is a war crime, or even a crime against humanity. The retaliatory US missile strikes are perhaps legitimate, but certainly illegal under international law.   On Friday August 30, 2013, US President Barack Obama took one of the heaviest decisions of his mandate. He decided to abandon the “red line” that he had himself set. He would not take military action against the Syrian regime, even though it had just used chemical weapons. But new US President Donald Trump took action this Thursday, after seeing the images of dozens of dead...

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    Kenya: will technology deliver a free election ?
    John Walubengo

    Elections present a milestone beyond which countries either strengthen their democratic credentials or become failed states. Often states fail when there are either perceived or blatant election malpractices. This in turn can lead to prolonged civil unrest.   Numerous cases exist across the continent. But I will use the Kenyan case to illustrate how election processes can be compromised, and then brought back from the brink with the use of technology.   Following the election in 2007 Kenya erupted into two months of unprecedented conflict. People were unhappy with the outcome which...

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    ICC : Namibia demands $30 bln for German genocide of Herero people

    Namibia is to launch a 30-billion-dollar (28-billion-euro) lawsuit against Germany over genocide committed during colonial rule, when tens of thousands of people were killed, according to documents seen by AFP on Friday. The Namibian government has previously avoided demanding financial compensation, but it changed its stance as two indigenous groups filed a class-action suit in New York against Germany. Legal documents provided to AFP and The Namibian newspaper show that the government has engaged lawyers in London to pursue a case of violation of human rights and a "consequent...

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    Week in Review:Judicial complaint in Spain against Syrian regime sets precedent
    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
    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
    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
    François Sergent,

    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
    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?
    François Sergent,

    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
    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
    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
    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
    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?
    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
    François Sergent,

    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?
    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…
    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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