National tribunals

    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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    Will contested Kosovo tribunal ever get off the ground?
    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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    Salvadoran army colonel faces justice in Spain
    François Musseau (Madrid)

    He no longer has the same charisma or the same look as he did when he was part of El Salvador’s army élite. At 74, former colonel Inocente Montano is still tall, but as he comes to the special high court in Madrid (Audiencia Nacional) he seems stooped, frowning and tense. There is good reason, because he has just been extradited to Spain from the United States. And, for the first time, a senior Salvadoran officer is to face justice in Spain for one of the most infamous massacres during the years of the "dirty wars" in central America: the assassination on November 16, 1989 of 6 Jesuits (of...

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    Week in Review: Hope in Guinea, disappointment in Togo, impunity in Burundi
    Ephrem Rugiririza, JusticeInfo.Net

    Will justice be done in Guinea in the very sensitive case of the September 28, 2009 massacre of 150 people in a stadium in the capital Conakry? This looks more likely after investigations closed in December 2017 and the suspects were referred for trial, but victims are not so happy.  Firstly, Justice Minister Cheik Sacko is already saying the government does not have the money to hold this trial, which could last 8 to 10 months according to him. So he has thrown the ball into the court of donors, mainly the US and Europe, who have been calling for years for light to be shed on this massacre...

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    Will Guinea hold trial this year for 2009 stadium massacre?
    Aïssatou Barry in Conakry

      In Guinea, investigations into the September 2009 massacre in Conakry have finally closed, seven years after the event. Announcing this on December 29, 2017, Guinean Justice Minister Cheik Sacko said the suspects have been referred for trial. On September 28, 2009 the military junta in power at the time brutally crushed a peaceful opposition protest, killing 156 people and raping more than 100 women, according to UN figures. The end of the judicial investigation seems to pave the way for a trial. A steering committee has been set up to prepare the first stages of the trial, although no...

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    Week in Review: DRC, Ethiopia and crime of aggression,
    François Sergent and Julia Crawford, JusticeInfo

    In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a military court sitting in the little town of Kavumu struck a historic blow for transitional justice in a place where sexual violence and powerful people generally go unpunished. The week also saw an important verdict for Ethiopia and a move to give the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over “aggression”.   “It was a historic verdict pronounced on Wednesday December 13 by a military court in South Kivu, eastern DR Congo, in the trial of some 20 members of the Army of Jesus militia (Jeshi la Yesu in Swahili) accused of rape and murder,” writes...

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    Historic verdict in DRC child rape trial
    Claude Sengenya in Kavumu, South Kivu province of eastern DRC

    It was a historic verdict pronounced on Wednesday December 13 by a military court in South Kivu, eastern DR Congo, in the trial of some 20 members of the Army of Jesus militia (Jeshi la Yesu in Swahili) accused of rape and murder. Local politician Frédéric Batumike, head of this militia, and 11 of his co-accused were sentenced to life in jail. Two others were sentenced to one year, while six were acquitted. Their trial concerned the rape of some 40 children aged 8 months to 12 years in Kavumu, South Kivu, between 2013 and 2016. The trial lasted 17 days, during which the prosecution and...

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    Dozen DR Congo child rapists handed life sentences

    A dozen militiamen in eastern DR Congo were jailed for life Wednesday for raping about 40 children, including a baby, in what was judged a crime against humanity. The defendants were said to belong to a militia group called "Djeshi ya Yesu" -- meaning "Army of Jesus" in Swahili -- led by South Kivu provincial lawmaker Frederic Batumike. The children, ranging from babies aged just eight months to a 12-year-old girl, were kidnapped and raped between 2013 and 2016. A large crowd gathered in the area before Batumike and the 11 others were convicted by the military tribunal and "sentenced...

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    UN countries must press Sri Lanka on justice, say NGOs
    Julia Crawford, JusticeInfo.Net

    International jurists of the Sri Lanka Monitoring and Accountability Panel (MAP)  say Sri Lanka’s government has made no credible progress on its transitional justice commitments, and are urging the international community to get tough. This comes as Human Rights Watch also called Wednesday for countries at the UN Human Rights Council to press Sri Lanka on time-bound reforms ensuring justice for serious crimes committed during the civil war that ended in 2009. The war, which pitted majority Buddhist Sinhalese of the south against minority Hindu Tamils of the north and east, left at least...

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    Guatemala: Courts Jeopardizing Fight Against Impunity, according to HRW
    Human Rights Watch

     The remarkable progress Guatemala has made in prosecuting corruption and abuse could be reversed if the country’s highest courts don’t stop the egregious delays that are keeping powerful defendants from going to trial, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 56-page report, “Running Out the Clock: How Guatemala’s Judiciary Could Doom the Fight against Impunity,” documents a pattern of repeated and unjustifiable delays in criminal cases brought by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office. “The fight against impunity in Guatemala has reached a critical moment,” said Daniel Wilkinson, managing...

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    Guinea: Judges's 2009 Massacre Inquiry break new ground in combatting impunity, according to HRW
    Human Rights Watch

    The panel of Guinean judges investigating the September 28, 2009 massacre of more than 150 protesters and rape of 100 women by the security forces during a peaceful protest concluded their investigation on November 9 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The development is a major, much-awaited step in ensuring justice for the victims. The domestic investigation – which began in February 2010 – broke new ground in combatting impunity in the country, but progressed slowly amid political, financial, and logistical obstacles. During the investigation, the judges have brought charges against...

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    Week in Review: ICC says no to Burundi impunity, DRC starts historic rape trial
    François Sergent, JusticeInfo.Net

    The International Criminal Court’s decision to investigate crimes committed in Burundi, announced on Thursday, was the highlight of this transitional justice week.  This ICC decision came just two days before Burundi’s withdrawal from the Court became effective on October 27. It is the first country to pull out of the ICC. The ICC Prosecutor had opened a preliminary examination into crimes committed in Burundi before Bujumbura announced it was leaving the Rome Statute. “By quitting membership of the Court, Bujumbura thought it would secure impunity,” writes our ICC correspondent Stéphanie...

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    “Many options” to bring Jammeh to justice, says murdered Gambian journalist’s son
    Maxime Domegni, West Africa correspondent

    Baba Hydara is the son of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara, who was assassinated in 2004. The former regime of President Yahya Jammeh is widely suspected of being behind his murder. Baba Hydara has been fighting ever since to get justice for his father, who was one of the many victims of the Jammeh regime that ruled Gambia with an iron fist for nearly a quarter of a century. So it is natural that he is part of the new “Jammeh2Justice” coalition, which wants Jammeh tried for his crimes. The former dictator finally stepped down in January 2017 after being beaten in elections by current...

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    Week in Review: CAR's challenges, a trial for Ethiopia, and Burundi withdraws from the ICC
    François Sergent,

    A highlight of this week in transitional justice was the visit of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the Central African Republic (CAR).  In this fragile state ravaged by war, Guterres spoke up for the rule of law, the UN mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) and for justice rather than impunity. He had trouble convincing his Central African audience, which doubts MINUSCA’s impartiality and sees it as being on the side of CAR President Ange-Félix Touadera. The CAR is a country which “a group of criminals is trying to descend into Hell”, the UN Secretary General said on Thursday as he visited...

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