Europe

    Revising the past: A Swiss response to a global debate
    17.09.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo.net

    To what extent should we take down statues, change the names of streets, towns and mountains when they bear the names of people who contributed to human misery? The spectacular removal in Charlottesville, US, of a statue of General Lee, a pro-slavery hero of the American South, is far from the only case. The debate is ongoing in several countries. But Switzerland has found its own, very Swiss response. How much should we wipe out the past according to the values of the present? The question is not new, but it has taken on a new resonance in Switzerland. Louis Agassiz was long a respected...

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    Spain's new government to remove Franco's remains from mausoleum
    18.06.18
    AFP

    Spain's new Socialist government is determined to remove the remains of Francisco Franco from a vast mausoleum near Madrid and turn it into a place of "reconciliation" for a country still coming to terms with the dictator's legacy. "We don't have a date yet, but the government will do it," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said late Monday during his first television interview since being sworn in on June 2 after toppling his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy in a confidence vote. He recalled that a non-binding motion approved last year in parliament called for Franco's remains to be...

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    Kosovo war crimes weigh heavy on Serbian film 'The Load' at Cannes
    11.05.18
    AFP

    Serbian director Ognjen Glavonic says the topic of his new film, which tackles the lingering horror of the Kosovo war, probably explains why his script was rejected seven times. "Teret" (The Load), which will screen at Cannes on Saturday, addresses one of the grim secrets revealed after the war, a taboo subject in a country still struggling to confront its past. It follows Vlada, a truck driver on the road from Kosovo to Belgrade, who discovers that he is transporting the bodies of victims from war crimes committed by Serb forces in Kosovo. Most of them are ethnic Albanian civilians, including many women and children. Based on real events, the bodies are transported to Serbia to be...

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    Week in Review: The importance of remembrance
    30.04.18
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    This week, JusticeInfo.net examined the significance of a memorial to the Armenian genocide recently inaugurated in a Geneva park. “Despite opposition from Ankara, the “Streetlights of Memory” were inaugurated in Geneva after 10 years of judicial and diplomatic battles,” explains our Geneva correspondent Frédéric Burnand. “The work of artist Melik Ohanian pays tribute to the Armenians massacred over a century ago in Turkey and also to the many Swiss who mobilized to help them as soon as the massacres started. This is a message that still resonates today.” “It is a good thing that Geneva...

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    An Armenian genocide memorial in Geneva to shine light on past and present
    26.04.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    After long years the “Streetlights of Memory”, a work by French artist Melik Ohanian, found a home in Geneva on April 13. It first needed the Geneva parliament in 1998 and then the Swiss parliament in 2003 to recognize the Armenian genocide. It then required the determination of those defending remembrance, the City of Geneva and especially the Municipal Fund for Contemporary Art (FMAC) to get a monument selected that evokes the Armenian genocide and the evil that man can inflict on man. Finally, the promoters of the monument had to overcome the reservations of several parties, often linked...

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    Karadzic urges UN judges to throw out war crimes conviction
    23.04.18
    AFP

    Once-feared Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic Monday urged UN judges to overturn his conviction for war crimes during the Balkans conflict, and either acquit him or order a new trial. Appearing at the start of his two-day appeal dressed in a dark suit and red tie, Karadzic, 72, smiled and greeted his defence team in the tribunal in The Hague. He was sentenced to 40 years behind bars in March 2016 for the bloodshed committed during the Balkan country's three-year war from 1992-1995 which killed 100,000 people and left 2.2 million others homeless. Once the most powerful Bosnian Serb...

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    Long-delayed, disputed Armenian memorial unveiled in Geneva
    16.04.18
    swissinfo.ch

    A memorial series of street lamps commemorating the 1915-1917 Armenian genocide has been officially unveiled in Geneva. Turkish groups said that the initiative is a mistake. “Streetlights of memory” was unveiled on Friday in the presence of various members of the Armenian community, including current Armenian ambassador to Switzerland Charles Aznavour, and the artist behind the work Mélik Ohanian. No representative of the federal administration attended, a fact that could be ascribed to the ongoing diplomatic tensions around the 1915-1917 genocide, for which Turkey continues to deny...

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    Vojislav Seselj: Unrepentant Serb ultranationalist
    11.04.18
    AFP

    Serb academic turned far-right leader Vojislav Seselj, who was found guilty Wednesday by a UN court of crimes against humanity, won notoriety during the 1990s Balkan wars for his incendiary rhetoric and remains defiant in defending the idea of a "Greater Serbia". UN war crimes judges in The Hague overturned the shock 2016 acquittal of the stocky, ruddy-faced former deputy prime minister, sentencing him to 10 years behind bars, although ruling that he had already served 12 years in custody. The court found the 63-year-old guilty of "instigating persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts". Prosecutors had accused Seselj of poisoning the minds of volunteer forces who committed...

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    Week in Review: Amnesia in Poland, violence in Venezuela and the Philippines
    12.02.18
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.net

    Poland’s adoption of a controversial law on the history of the Holocaust marked the transitional justice week. Once again, a country is trying to impose its vision of history through law and close all debate on its past. The text provides for prison sentences of up to three years for anyone who talks of “Polish death camps” or “attributes responsibility or co-responsibility of the Polish State in Nazi crimes”.  Historically, the extermination camps in Poland during the Second World War were German and the work of the Nazis without collaboration of the Warsaw government, unlike other...

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    PM calls on Poles to avoid "unnecessary anti-Semitic jokes"
    11.02.18
    AFP

    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday called on Poles to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements at a time when the country is under fire over a controversial Holocaust law. The new law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich -- or other crimes against humanity and war crimes" and set off criticism from Israel, the United States and France. "I would like to invite every one of you to contribute to positive thinking... to avoid anti-Semitic statements, because they are grist to the mill for our enemies, for our adversaries,"...

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    Wake up to suffering of Georgian victims, NGOs tell international court
    08.02.18
    Stéphanie Maupas, correspondent in The Hague

    In a report published on February 5, human rights organizations express concern for the situation of victims of the summer 2008 Russia-Georgia war.  Two years after the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation, they are calling on the Court to go faster. In The Hague, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) asserts that the investigation is “progressing at full speed”. The 50-page report calls for the world not to forget victims of the lightning summer 2008 war (August 7-12, 2008) that pitted Russia against Georgia for the separatist province of South Ossetia. It is published...

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    Poland : "Fighting for historical truth with a penal code is the matter of weak states"
    07.02.18
    Tomasz Lachowski

    Reckoning with past evils never is an easy task. Undoubtedly, fighting for historical truth appears as an inherent right of each and every nation, what corresponds to the freely chosen shape of the politics of memory of a given state. Nevertheless, the ongoing discussion over the recent changes in the law on the Institute of National Remembrance (PINR) – named as a ‘Holocaust law’ in Western media – recently enacted by the Polish parliament, clearly shows how (even justified) intentions may be sunk by the legal and diplomatic short-sightedness of their authors. Today’s decision of the...

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    Poland tries to rewrite Holocaust history
    06.02.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    After putting pressure on the judicial system and the media, Poland’s authorities are now clamping down on how the country’s Second World War history is told. This authoritarian trend is worrying the European Union. January 27 marked the commemoration of 73 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The day before, Poland’s Senate adopted by 57 votes to 23 against plus two  abstentions a law under which people who mention “Polish death camps” or attribute any responsibility of the Polish State in Nazi crimes can be sentenced to up to three years in jail. On February 6, Polish President...

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    Week in Review: Testing times for TJ from Kosovo to Burundi
    05.02.18
    François Sergent JusticeInfo.net

    This was a bad week for transitional justice, in Kosovo, Tunisia and Burundi. In Kosovo, the authorities are trying to stop the special tribunal charged with trying war crimes committed by UCK rebels between 1998 -2000, explains Pierre Hazan. That is not surprising given that former UCK commanders including President Hashim Thaçi and his Prime Minister are now in power in Pristina. The Serbs, who feel they have been abandoned by justice in the Balkans, were the primary victims of the crimes under the jurisdiction of the new tribunal, which is officially part of the Kosovo judicial system...

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    Will contested Kosovo tribunal ever get off the ground?
    01.02.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    Is the Kosovo war crimes tribunal dead before it even begins? Parliamentarians close to the country’s President and Prime Minister are trying to sabotage it. Meanwhile Switzerland has granted it funding support. In January 2018, Switzerland granted funding of 200,000 francs (181,200 euros) to the tribunal charged with shedding light on war crimes committed in Kosovo between 1998 and 2000, particularly the disappearance of 500 mainly Serb civilians in the context of conflict between separatists and Serb forces plus a NATO military intervention. But numerous parliamentarians from the party in...

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    As Yugoslav tribunal closes, a look back at its history
    03.01.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    In his last speech to the UN Security Council on December 6, 2017, ICTY President Carmel Agius expressed satisfaction that out of 161 persons indicted, all have been tried or have died, representing a 100% success rate, although the difficulties were many. This is all the more surprising because the first international criminal tribunal had everything against it. It was created in 1993, in the midst of war in Bosnia- Herzegovina, with no access to the former Yugoslavia, and was pushed by founding fathers who did not even want it to succeed!  The ICTY was proposed to the Security Council by...

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    How the ICTY has changed our world
    03.01.18
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) closed its doors on December 31, 2017, after working for 24 years, issuing 161 indictments and nearly as many judgments, hearing 4,600 witnesses over 10,800 days of trials, producing millions of pages and costing billions of dollars. Apart from the Second World War, no war has been as studied and certainly none has been the subject of judicial procedures like the one that tore the former Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.   So the time has come for a first evaluation, and the legacy of the ICTY is clearly considerable. Its...

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    How the Yugoslav Tribunal Made History, according to HRW
    21.12.17
    Human Rights Watch

    Bullet holes, bloodstains and brain matter marked the walls of an empty barn, a crime scene processed to document the worst crime in Europe since the Second World War: the deliberate killings of more than 7,000 men and boys from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Journalists and human rights researchers had pieced together the horrifying story based on eyewitness accounts from the few who survived; and then investigators from the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal built a genocide case by collecting evidence from killing sites and exhuming mass graves. At the time war erupted amidst the breakup of...

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    Was the destruction of Old Mostar Bridge a war crime?
    11.12.17
    Pierre Hazan, JusticeInfo editorial advisor and professor at Neuchâtel University

    To what extent does the destruction of an architectural masterpiece constitute a war crime if that masterpiece is also used for military purposes? What, too, if the destruction of such a monument, like the Old Mostar Bridge, causes psychological and physical harm to a civilian population now under siege? How should military objectives, damage to cultural heritage, psychological and physical harm be weighed together? That was the headache posed by the last judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  The ICTY’s last judgment on November 29 will be...

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    Week in Review: ICTY suicide and children’s war drawings question international justice
    01.12.17
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo

    Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak’s suicide in court, just as he was being sentenced to 20 years in jail,  puts a tragic final end to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It is with those images, broadcast on the Internet, that the ICTY will close its doors at the end of December. This is the “lowering of the curtain on a courtroom become a crime scene”, writes AFP. The ICTY, set up by the United Nations in 1993, was the first international criminal tribunal after the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. Born during the Balkan...

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