National tribunals

    The silence of the accused in Tunisia 
    Olfa Belhassine, correspondent in Tunis

    In Tunisia, trials before specialized criminal chambers are due to resume on September 21. A Lawyers without Borders report based on observation of the nine trials already held stresses the absence of the suspects and the isolation of the judges. A wave of transfers of judges also threatens to perturb the upcoming proceedings. On May 29 this year, the trial of Kamel Matmati opened in Tunisia before the specialized criminal chambers charged with trying cases sent to them by the Truth and Dignity Commission. That first trial concerned the forced disappearance and death under torture of this...

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    Paris arrest a new step to justice for Liberian war crimes
    Thierry Cruvellier,

    2018 is a good year for the activists who have vowed they will not let the crimes committed in Liberia’s wars of the 1990s go unpunished. After two landmark judgments in the United States, they have now got another arrest in Paris, and trials are also expected in three other European countries.  The identity of Kunti K., arrested on September 4 in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, has not yet been revealed. But the allegations against this former Liberian commander are as serious as they are many. He was a member of ULIMO, one of the main factions in the first Liberian civil war of 1989-1996,...

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    Week in Review: Myanmar regime and Liberian warlords under pressure

    Judges of the International Criminal Court have stepped up pressure on the Myanmar regime by deciding that the court has jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed against the Rohingyas. The effect of this decision, rejected by the Burmese authorities, is likely to be very controversial. The court is giving itself the right to intervene on a country that is not a State Party to the ICC’s founding treaty, without going through the UN Security Council (where China and /or Russia would have used their veto). The judges considered that being forced to cross the border into Bangladesh (which...

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    Ivory Coast ex-first lady Simone Gbagbo freed after amnesty

    Former Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo, who had been serving a 20-year jail term, was released on Wednesday, two days after being amnestied by President Alassane Ouattara. After seven years detention, Gbagbo returned to her home in an upmarket district of Abidjan to be greeted by around 1,000 supporters. The 69-year-old wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo was convicted over political violence that claimed several thousand lives in 2010-11. "The old page is turned," she told activists outside her home. "Get ready for a new page." On Monday -- the eve of the Ivory Coast's...

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    Week in Review: Targeting impunity in the CAR, DR Congo and Palestine
    Ephrem RUGIRIRIZA, JusticeInfo.Net

    MINUSCA, the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic, has called on the nation’s judicial authorities to investigate grave crimes committed in the southeast of the country and take steps to ensure the perpetrators are brought before national courts, including the Special Criminal Court. The call came in a MINUSCA statement on July 31. It is urging prosecutions for grave crimes committed between May and December 2017 in that part of the Central African Republic (CAR). Stressing that some of these abuses could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, the document points...

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    Week in Review: Mali elections raise hopes
    Ephrem RUGIRIRIZA, JusticeInfo.Net

    The eyes of the world are on Mali, where voters went to the polls on Sunday July 29 in presidential elections. It is hoped these polls will help the country emerge from its current stalemate in implementation of the 2015 peace accord, which provides notably for transitional justice mechanisms after years of serious human rights violations. The international community is also hoping that a relaunch of the peace accord could boost the fight against Jihadist groups which continue to launch attacks in Mali and in the whole Sahel region. On the eve of the poll, UN Secretary General Antonio...

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    DRC: High Military Court confirms all condemnations in child rape case
    TRIAL International

    On July  26, 2018, the High Military Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (HMC) has confirmed the condemnation of all 11 accused in the Kavumu case. The first instance judgment had seen them condemned for rape as crimes against humanity – a decision now confirmed by the country’s highest military instance. TRIAL International welcomes the HMC’s decision, which goes to proving the solidity of the case. It is particularly satisfied with the lifelong condemnation of the provincial politician Frederic Batumike – a historical precedent in DRC. This decision shows that nobody is...

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    Rwandan academic's genocide life sentence overturned

    A linguistics professor's life sentence and conviction for direct involvement in Rwanda's 1994 genocide has been overturned but his nine year sentence for downplaying the bloodshed upheld, his lawyer said Saturday. Former trade union official Leopold Munyakazi, 67, was cleared of direct involvement by the Rwandan High Court's Chamber of International Crimes on Friday. But his conviction for using his academic work to downplay the impact of the bloodshed was confirmed by appeal judges. "The appeal court acquitted him of involvement in the genocide but upheld his conviction for downplaying...

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    France upholds life sentences for Rwanda genocide mayors

    A French court on Friday upheld life sentences for two former Rwandan mayors for taking part in the massacre of hundreds of ethnic Tutsis during the country's 1994 genocide. Octavien Ngenzi, 60, and Tito Barahira, 67, had launched an appeal after they were found guilty in 2016 of crimes against humanity, genocide and summary executions in their village of Kabarondo. Relatives of the pair sobbed quietly as the ruling was read out in court, while Ngenzi and Barahira listened in silence. They will have five days to decide whether they will appeal the ruling again to a higher...

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    Pay more attention to witness protection and reparations, says sexual violence expert
    Julia Crawford, JusticeInfo

    Sexual violence in conflict is one of the most important but also hardest crimes to prosecute. Swiss NGO TRIAL International, a partner of JusticeInfo and Fondation Hirondelle that supports victims of international crimes, is putting the spotlight on this at a series of events in Geneva on June 18-19 to mark its fifteenth anniversary.  Kim Thuy Seelinger, director of the sexual violence project at the Human Rights Center of Berkeley University in California, will be among the participants. She spoke to JusticeInfo. JusticeInfo: What are the specific challenges and difficulties of...

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    Gambian to continue to be “resilient, peaceful and resolute”, commends Ade Lekoetje, UN representativ
    Maxime Domegni

    Since Yahya Jammeh’s left the power in The Gambia, in January 2017, the country is going through a delicate political transition and running a transitional justice process. After getting rid of the dictatorship, the young and vulnerable Gambian democracy, has to rely on the supports from the international community. One of the main actors of the diplomatic support to one of the smallest countries of Africa is the United Nations System. We met, in The Gambia, Ade Lekoetje,the UN Resident Coordinator, for an exclusive interview. Though she believes the transitional justice is going...

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    Week in Review: Tunisian trial and questions on UN judge selection
    François Sergent,

    An important event of the transitional justice week was the start of trial in Tunisia in the case of Kamel Matmati, who was kidnapped by former president Ben Ali’s police, died under torture 27 years ago and his body disappeared without a trace.  Kamel Matmati's case was transferred by the Truth and Dignity Commission on March 2 to the specialized chamber at the court in Gabes. This trial is the first before a specialized chamber and so is seen as a test case. The 14 accused, including ex-president Ben Ali, his interior minister Abdallah Kallel, former police chief  Mohamed Ali Ganzoui and...

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    Sperisen verdict “gives hope to Guatemalan victims”
    Julia Crawford,

    A 15-year prison sentence handed down by a Geneva court on former Guatemalan police chief Erwin Sperisen for complicity in the 2006 murder of seven prison inmates is an “important step in the fight against impunity for State crimes”, says Swiss NGO Trial International, which helped bring the case. It is a rare case of a person being tried in Switzerland for crimes committed on foreign soil.  The court also awarded the plaintive, the mother of one of the murdered prisoners, CHF 30,000 as compensation. “This verdict demonstrates the healthy functioning of our institutions, and gives hope to...

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    Week in Review: One warlord on trial in the DRC, and one sentenced in the US
    Ephrem RUGIRIRIZA, JusticeInfo.Net

    The trial of former Congolese militia leader Maro Ntumwa (dubbed the “Moroccan”) by a military tribunal in South Kivu, eastern DRC, opened on April 13 and continued this week. The accused is charged with “rape, sexual slavery, looting, attacks against a civilian population and on religious buildings” committed between 2005 and 2007, reports our correspondent Claude Segenya. “At the time, he was the right-hand man of Bedi Mobuli Engengela, dubbed `Colonel 106`, a former leader of the Mai-Mai militia who has already been convicted by a military court,” he writes. For Sylvestre Bisimwa,...

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    Congolese court tries ex-militia leader for crimes against humanity
    Claude Sengenya, special envoy to Kalehe, in the South Kivu province of eastern DRC

    In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a military tribunal has been sitting since Friday April 13, in Kalehe, South Kivu province, for the trial of a former militia leader accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Maro Ntumwa, known as “the Moroccan”, is charged with “rape, sexual slavery, looting, attacks against a civilian population and on religious buildings” committed between 2005 and 2007. At the time, the accused was the right-hand man of Bedi Mobuli Engengela, dubbed “Colonel 106”, a former leader of the Mai-Mai militia who has already been convicted by a military...

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    Fight against impunity for mass crimes becomes more universal
    Frédéric Burnand

    “Rarely has the fight against impunity been so dynamic” says Geneva-based group TRIAL International. “In 2017, countries in Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America tightened the net on war criminals by resorting to universal jurisdiction.” This is a legal principle under which countries can prosecute foreign war criminals when they visit or live on their territory.  “Last year, war crimes units (WCUs) around the world tightened the net on war criminals,” says the annual report of TRIAL International, which helps victims of mass crimes obtain justice. “While European countries...

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    World must act on a litany of crimes, says outgoing Human Rights Commissioner
    Frédéric Burnand, Geneva correspondent

    Presenting his last annual report to the UN Human Rights Council as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein highlighted a series of mass crimes needing investigation by commissions of inquiry, referral to the International Criminal Court or other courts able to act under universal jurisdiction. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s four-year mandate ends this summer. And the Jordanian High Commissioner could only present an alarming picture of the human rights situation across all continents. The resurgence of brute force in relations between State powers is rocking a crisis-hit world...

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    Week in Review: ICC internal management, Tunisia and DRC
    François Sergent,

    This transitional justice week saw an investigation by our correspondent in The Hague into the administrative problems of the International Criminal Court, whose staff management has been sanctioned. This is a singular situation for a Court that is supposed to represent the law. As the Latin proverb says, “who will watch the watchman”?  “The administrative court of the International Labour Organization (ILO), to which ICC employees had recourse, rendered six decisions on January 24, 2018, finding that the Court should pay material and moral damages after firing several employees,” explains...

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    Unfair ISIS Trial in Iraq Hands Women Harshest Sentences
    Human Rights Watch

    Six months after about 1,400 foreign women and children surrendered with Islamic State (ISIS) fighters to Iraqi security forces, Iraq’s courts are sentencing the women to life in prison and even to death for non-violent crimes. It’s just one indicator of how people viewed as colluding with ISIS are receiving unfair trials. The women have been charged with illegally entering Iraq and, in some cases aiding, abetting or having membership in ISIS, which carries the penalty of life in prison or death under Iraq’s counterterrorism law. In January, Baghdad’s Criminal Court sentenced a German...

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    Week in Review: Testing times for TJ from Kosovo to Burundi
    François Sergent

    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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