National tribunals

    I.Coast ex-first lady Simone Gbagbo acquitted of crimes against humanity
    28.03.17
    AFP

    An Ivory Coast jury on Tuesday acquitted former first lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity during the 2010-11 post-election crisis in a stunning verdict after the prosecution had sought to jail her for life. "A majority of the jury declared Simone Gbagbo not guilty of the crimes of which she has been accused, pronounced her acquittal and ordered that she be immediately freed if she is not being held for other reasons," said the head of the country's top criminal court, judge Kouadjo Boiqui. Once dubbed Ivory Coast's "Iron Lady," Gbagbo, who was not in court Tuesday, is already...

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    Tunisia : Men and Boys Are Victims Of Sexual Violence, Too
    28.03.17
    Kelli Muddell, Director of the ICTJ's Gender Justice Program and Sibley Hawkins, ICTJ Program Officer

    Something unusual happened on the first day of the public hearings being held by Tunisia’s national Truth and Dignity Commission. Sami Brahim came forward to give personal testimony of having survived sexual violence in prison during the Ben Ali regime. Mr. Brahim told the hundreds of Tunisians listening in the room, and thousands more following live on TV and the Internet, about his arrest as a student in the 1990s and his experience of abuse and torture while in jail: "All the prisoners were stripped, the young and the elderly. For an entire week, everyone was kept naked. Why? What...

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    Universal jurisdiction gains ground from Pinochet to Syria
    27.03.17
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    Universal jurisdiction is making slow but steady progress as a tool against impunity, and not only in Europe. This is according to a report published on Monday March 27 by five human rights organizations. Forty-seven people suspected of crimes committed in another country were tried before national courts in 2016, according to the report, entitled Make Way for Justice. This marks slow but steady progress for the principle of universal jurisdiction, which is being used more widely, including outside the European Union. “Despite constant attacks, universal jurisdiction continues to be a...

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    Genocide in Rwanda : Former aide of ex-Rwandan President Habyarimana freed in Germany
    21.03.17
    JusticeInfo

    Frankfurt (Germany) – A close aide of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, who had been detained in Germany since July 2016 on allegations of involvement in the 1994 genocide, was released on Monday, JusticeInfo has learned.  Enoch Ruhigira, the last head of presidential staff under Habyarimana, was arrested during a stopover in Frankfurt on July 20 last year, on the basis of a Rwandan arrest warrant. The arrest warrant was based on accusations deemed unfounded by New Zealand, where Ruhigira has citizenship, and Belgium, where he had resided.   “He was released on Monday March 20...

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    Colombia to set up special war crimes courts
    14.03.17
    AFP

    Colombia's senate late Monday approved a constitutional reform to set up special war crimes courts, a key component of the historic peace agreement with FARC guerrillas that ended five decades of war. The court system will be made up of three sections: a truth commission, a unit to search for missing people, and a temporary, autonomous body to try crimes committed during the armed conflict before December 1, 2016. Establishing the courts was the backbone of the peace deal Bogota reached in November with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels. President Juan Manuel Santos...

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    Week in Review: Three African women in transitional justice
    13.03.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    “When I think – about the world, politics, freedom, literature, and so on – I do not feel like a woman at all,” wrote French philosopher Belinda Cannone. Her reflection is especially good to remember around International Women’s Day. This week we reported on three African women on different sides of justice and reconciliation.  In the Central African Republic (CAR), former Seleka rebel fighter Martine Bangue told Radio Ndeke Luka in Bangui how she had exchanged weapons for a mason’s trowel. Asked why she chose that profession, she replied: “I chose it because I wanted to be autonomous, to...

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    The rise and fall of Ivorian ex-First Lady Simone Gbagbo
    09.03.17
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    For many of her admirers, Simone Gbagbo, whose trial resumed in her absence Tuesday before an Abidjan court, remains the “Iron Lady”, even behind bars. But for her detractors, she is the “Bloodstained Lady”. Côte d’Ivoire’s former First Lady was sentenced in 2015 to 20 years in jail for endangering State security and is now on trial again for crimes against humanity. The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo is undoubtedly one of the leading female figures of contemporary Ivorian history. Although visibly marked by jail, this fervent Evangelist, 67, refuses to give in. Like her husband,...

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    Week in Review: CAR and Gambia take positive steps on justice
    20.02.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    This week Africa and Africans showed that transitional justice, so often criticized on that continent, can complement national justice.  The Central African Republic (CAR) finally appointed a Prosecutor for its future Special Criminal Court, a mixed tribunal to be composed of national and international judges. This is the first step in a long transitional justice process, in a country divided and ravaged by conflict. CAR’s President Touadéra has appointed a Congolese jurist and military man, Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa (also author of an article by JusticeInfo.net on complementarity...

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    Central African Special Court gets Congolese Prosecutor
    17.02.17
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    On February 14, Central African Republic (CAR) president Faustin-Archange Touadéra signed a decree appointing the Prosecutor of the country’s Special Criminal Court (SCC). The appointment of jurist and military man Colonel Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa, a military prosecutor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is an important step towards the setting up of the SCC, which has a mandate to try suspected perpetrators of serious human rights violations committed in the CAR since 2003. But the Prosecutor’s task will be difficult in a country where more than half the territory is still in...

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    Barrow appoints Gambian UN prosecutor as chief justice
    15.02.17
    AFP

    President Adama Barrow appointed a Gambian UN prosecutor as chief justice of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, ending a series of controversial foreign appointments to the position by former leader Yahya Jammeh. Hassan Bubacar Jallow has served in the appeals chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and as a prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. Barrow's government had vowed to implement a "Gambianisation" of the justice system after Jammeh named several chief justices from Pakistan and Nigeria. Foreign judges were regularly accused of kowtowing to the regime because their contracts could be easily terminated, and some were hired to hear a...

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    Spanish court receives complaint for “State terrorism” in Syria
    09.02.17
    François Musseau, correspondent in Madrid

    French and German judicial authorities have recently been seized of cases against the Bashar Al Assad regime in Syria, which was again denounced this week for allegedly hanging thousands of opponents. But the National Audience in Madrid, Spain’s highest court with jurisdiction in matters of international law and terrorism, is ahead of the game. Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza has recently received a criminal complaint from a woman with dual Spanish and Syrian nationality. In 2014, the Spanish government restricted the country’s ability to act on “universal jurisdiction”, in which Spain had led...

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    Gambia: Will justice one day catch up with Yahya Jammeh?
    06.02.17
    Maxime DOMEGNI, regional correspondent

    It was under threat of a military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that Yahya Jammeh, President of Gambia for 22 years, finally decided to cede power to the winner of the December 1, 2016 election. Jammeh, who is now in Equatorial Guinea, is counting on the protection of his host country to avoid accountability for the many crimes and human rights abuses committed under his regime. As he went into exile on the night of Saturday January 21, Yahya Jammeh left behind him a wounded nation whose scars will take time to heal. Under the regime of the man who...

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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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    French arrest of former Kosovo PM is a “test for Europe”
    30.01.17
    Franck Petit, JusticeInfo.net

    The name of Ramush Haradinaj is again on the lips of European diplomats. This former nightclub bouncer was head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the war with Serbia in 1998. Emerging victorious from the war, he was seen as a hero of the resistance and an ally of the international community that wanted a stable Kosovo. He was also tried and twice acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). But on January 4, 2017, he was arrested at Bâle-Mulhouse airport in France, on the basis of an arrest warrant from Serbia, which wants him extradited. Europe...

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    Arrest of Gambian ex-minister in Switzerland an “important sign” for torture victims
    26.01.17
    Julia Crawford, JusticeInfo

    Just days after long-time Gambian President Yahya Jammeh went into exile following electoral defeat and the threat of regional military intervention, his former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko has been arrested in Switzerland. This comes after Geneva-based NGO TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint to the authorities in Berne, where Sanko had applied for asylum. Sonko was Interior Minister from 2006 until he was dismissed by Jammeh in September 2016. So what are the allegations against him? JusticeInfo spoke to Bénédict De Moerloose, head of the Criminal Law and Investigation division...

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    Spanish justice catches up with Guatemalan ex-minister
    18.01.17
    François Musseau, correspondent in Madrid

    Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Roberto Vielmann, 60, has gone on trial in Spain for the assassination of eight detainees in 2006. The trial before Spain’s highest court for cases of terrorism, genocide and crimes against humanity is expected to last two months. Vielmann could face a sentence of 160 years’ imprisonment (20 for each assassination) and payment of 300,000 Euros compensation to victims’ relatives. Vielmann obtained Spanish citizenship in 2010 and has dual nationality. Since the beginning of the trial, he has denied the allegations against him.  “I have nothing to do...

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    Switzerland drops war crimes case against ex-Algerian minister
    18.01.17
    AFP

    Switzerland said Wednesday that it had no grounds to charge former Algerian defence minister Khaled Nezzar with war crimes, the latest twist in a controversial five-year-old case. The Swiss attorney general's office (OAG) said it could not move forward with a trial because there was no conclusive evidence of a "conflict" in Algeria during the period in question, leaving a key condition for prosecution unfulfilled. Nezzar was in office from 1990 to 1994 when the military was battling an Islamist opposition in a bloody civil war. Algerian troops were accused of committing grave abuses during the fighting, including torture and summary executions. Nezzar was arrested in Switzerland in...

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    Hopes for justice in Mali after start of coup-leader’s trial
    16.12.16
    Mamadou Ben Chérif Diabaté in Bamako

    In Mali, civil society hopes the trial of the 2012 coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo which opened on November 30 will pave the way for independent justice and an end to impunity. Sanogo and and 17 others are accused in connection with the massacre of 21 “Red Berets” who attempted a counter-coup after Sanogo seized power from President Amadou Toumani Touré in 2012. The trial is highly symbolic, even if it will not get properly under way until next year.  At the time of the coup on March 22, 2012, Amadou Haya Sanogo had only the rank of Captain in an army where there were many more senior...

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    Week in Review: Landmark trials and landmark struggles for transitional justice
    12.12.16
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo

    Transitional justice, the focus of our website, is still a little understood concept, according to Kora Andrieu, an expert in the field. “The problem with transitional justice, he says, is that the term can be taken to mean that it is justice which is in transition, whereas the idea is rather justice applied to the special context of democratic transitions.” And so this week, whether before the courts of Israel or France, transitional justice continued trying to forge its identity. The Israeli case is emblematic. Settlers on Palestinian land and their allies in the Knesset (Israeli...

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    French court confirms Rwandan’s 25-year sentence for genocide
    05.12.16
    Franck Petit, Bobigny, France (special envoy)

    A French court on Saturday confirmed a 25-year prison sentence on Pascal Simbikangwa, the first Rwandan to be tried for genocide in France. Simbikangwa, 57, has been detained in Fresnes, near Paris, since 2009. He was found guilty of participating in genocide and crimes against humanity in Kigali between April and July 1994. Simbikangwa, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a car crash in the 1980s, has always denied all the charges. After two trials and nearly three years, the appeals court in Bobigny (Paris area) reached the same conclusions as the lower court in Paris on former...

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