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News updates

(For news updates older than two weeks, please visit our news archive.)

31 May 2016: The trial of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court is due to open on 6 December 2016. The Prosecution expects to commence with the presentation of evidence in early 2017. Ongwen's charges, which include crimes against humanity and war crimes, were confirmed by Pre-Trial Chamber II on 23 March 2016. Ongwen is an alleged former commander in the Sinia Brigade of the Lord's Resistance Army. 

30 May 2016: The verdict in the case of Chad's former leader, Hissene Habre, was handed down today. Mr Habre has been found guilty of crimes against humanity and has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Senegal before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese courts. He was also convicted of rape, sexual slavery and ordering killings. 

30 May 2016: The closing statements in the International Criminal Court's first contempt proceedings are set to be heard starting from tomorrow, 31 May 2016. The case, Bemba et al., concerns allegations that Mr. Bemba and four others interfered with witness testimony in the main case, the Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. The closing statements are anticipated to last 3 days and may feature unsworn statements by two of the accused. 

30 May 2016: Former Ivorian First Lady Simone Gbagbo's second trial in Cote d'Ivoire will commence tomorrow, 31 May 2016. She has already been sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for "attacking state authority" in relation to the post-election violence in 2010 in Cote d'Ivoire. In her second trial, she faces charges of 
crimes against humanity. An outstanding arrest warrant for Gbagbo remains at the International Criminal Court, where her husband, Laurent Gbagbo, is also the subject of ongoing criminal proceedings. 

29 May 2016: Argentina's last dictator along with 14 former military officials were sentenced to imprisonment for human rights crimes, including kidnapping, forced disappearance and torture. Reynaldo Bignone was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by an Argentine federal court in a case that marked the first time a court has found that Operation Condor "was an international criminal conspiracy carried out by the U.S.-backed regimes in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay".  

28 May 2016: Across Europe, national authorities are seeking testimony from refugees regarding war crimes that have occurred in Syria. States, such as Germany, France and the Netherlands, are working with refugees to collect evidence of war crimes and genocide in order to prosecute individuals accused of these crimes in Europe. While some European countries have legislation that enables them to prosecute international crimes wherever they occur, the alleged perpetrator still needs to first be within their jurisdiction to start the case. 

27 May 2016: An UN team from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture has suspended its investigations in Ukraine.  The team, which is looking into allegations of torture, has claimed that they were unable to access certain sites that are under the control of Ukraine's domestic intelligence agency. The delegation determined that the lack of cooperation and access to sites had compromised the integrity of the visit. 

27 May 2016: An Ugandan Court has convicted seven of the thirteen men tried on terrorism charges in relation to the 2010 bombing in Kampala.  The suicide bombings were claimed by Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab and killed 76 people. All of the men had pleaded not guilty. 

27 May 2016: In an address before the UN Security Council, International Criminal Court (ICC) ProsecutorFatou Bensouda highlighted that "Success in Libya ... depends on the collective determination and will of all relevant actors to meaningfully contribute to the course of bringing perpetrators to justice and by so doing, help deter the commission of future crimes". Ms. Bensouda further noted the progress made by national law enforcement agencies and emphasised the ongoing positive cooperation with the ICC.  The ICC's own investigation has similarly progressed but more slowly than desired due to the ongoing security situation in Libya and a lack of resources. 

26 May 2016: On Wednesday, Mladen Mitrovic was convicted of obtaining his US citizenship by fraud. It was found that he failed to disclose his role as a guard at a Bosnian concentration camp during the 1990s and that, consequently, he had lied on his naturalisation application form. Federal prosecutors alleged that he led prisoners into a makeshift torture chamber and participated in the beatings. Mitrovic faces 10 years' imprisonment and deportation. 

25 May 2016: In the retrial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), the first witnesses have been scheduled to give their testimony in the first half of 2017. The retrial follows the ruling by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in December 2015 in which their initial acquittal was quashed. Both accused have pled not guilty to the charges. 

25 May 2016: Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, an accused in the Mali situation, remains set to become the first person to admit his guilt at the International Criminal Court (ICC). His lawyer has indicated that Mr. al-Mahdi will plead guilty to a single charge of "the war crime of attacking buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments". He is jointly accused of ordering or carrying out the destruction of 9 mausoleums and part of Timbuktu's Sidi Yahia mosque. There will be a joint hearing and sentencing decision later in 2016. 

24 May 2016: Yesterday marked the first annual EU Day Against Impunity for GenocideCrimes Against Humanity and War Crimes. The objective of this day was to raise awareness of these crimes and to promote national investigations and prosecutions that concern them. The Dutch Minister of Security and Justice stated that "It is primarily the responsibility of states to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of core international crimes. International criminal courts and tribunals are often set up as courts of last resort, and are not able to prosecute [all] ... violations of international criminal law". 

23 May 2016: Kaing Guek Eav or Duch has been scheduled to testify in Case 002/02 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia from 26 May. He will testify about Security Centres and Internal Purges, focusing on the S-21 Security Centre. Although subject to ongoing appeals, Duch has already been convicted of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions in Case 002/01and sentenced to life imprisonment. 

23 May 2016: Further war crimes charges have been submitted at the Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal. The charges list six accused: Sheikh Md Abdul Mazid, Md Abdul Khalek Talukder, Md Kabir Khan, Abdur Rahman, Abdus Salam Beg and Nuruddin. The charges include murder, genocide, rape, abduction, torture, arson and looting. 

22 May 2016: Bosnian prosecutors have charged Mirsad Hodzic, a former Islamic fighter with Egyptian origins, with war crimes. Hodzic is accused of taking at least 5 ethnic Croat civilians hostages while he was fighting alongside the Bosnian Muslims in the conflict in the 1990s. The hostages were allegedly tortured and beaten. 

22 May 2016: A federal judge in Canada denied an application to review a decision that determined Henri Jean-Claude Seyoboka may be deported to face charges in Rwanda. Seyoboka, who has lived in Canada since 1996, was previously involved in the Rwandan military where he patrolled roadblocks - a fact that he did not disclose in his refugee application in Canada. 

21 May 2016: The Central African Republic has launched a national committee for the prevention and punishment of crimes of genocidecrimes against humanity and all forms of discrimination. It is hoped that the committee will assist national reconciliation and help identify early warning signs of violence. The committee consists of members of government, civil society, women's associations, youth and religious leaders. 

21 May 2016: An Afghan detainee, known as Obaidullah, has been cleared for release from Guatanamo Bay. Obaidullah, who was previously charged with war crimes and terrorism-related offences, was approved for release by the Periodic Review Board, who found that "the risks that the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated". The charges against him were dropped by the government in 2011. 

20 May 2016: Human Rights Watch has issued a report concerning life under the Islamic State in Sirte, Libya. In the report, it documents serious crimes, including possible crimes against humanity and war crimes, allegedly committed against those living in Sirte as well as a host of alleged human rights abuses. It further requests, inter alia, that all parties to the conflict take additional measure to protect civilians and that Libyan authorities prosecute those accused of crimes. 

19 May 2016: The US Senate has passed a bill that would permit American victims and their families to sue foreign states deemed responsible for attacks committed on US soil. If it is ultimately enacted, it would apply to any foreign state who either directly commit attacks or those who aid the culprits or their organisations. Previous statements by the White House indicate its opposition to this bill. 

19 May 2016
: The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh has issued arrest warrants for two accused. Mohammad Liaquat Ali and Aminul Islam, also known as Rajab Ali, are charged with the war crimes of mass killing, murder, abduction, torture and looting during the war in Bangladesh in 1971. 

18 May 2016
: On Monday, the Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) commenced sentencing hearings in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. Bemba was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including counts relating to rape, on 21 March 2016. The Prosecutor is seeking a minimum sentence of 25 years while the Defence has argued that the 8 years he has previously spent in detention during his trial are sufficient.

17 May 2016: A Swedish Court sentenced Claver Berinkindi to life imprisonment for his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda on Monday. Berinkindi is a Swedish citizen who was originally from Rwanda. He was convicted of genocide as well as other international crimes. In addition to the sentence, fifteen victims were awarded damages, marking the first time a Swedish court has awarded damages to victims of genocide. 

17 May 2016: Five Australians were arrested and charged with terrorism related offences. Due to the prior cancellation of their passports, they allegedly planned to leave Australia in a fishing boat and then travel to join the Islamic State in Syria. They are charged with making preparations for incursions into foreign countries to engage in hostile activities and are due to appear before a magistrate in Melbourne later this week. 

New cases, briefs and videos

(For older announcements, please visit our announcements archive.)

NEW CASE: The case of Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Radmilo Vuković aka Rade is now available online. Radmilo Vuković was charged with war crimes against civilians in 2006. In his capacity as member of the military forces of the so-called Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as “Republika Srpska”, Vuković allegedly raped a woman from the Foča municipality. On 13 August 2008, the Appeals Panel of the War Crimes section of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not find Vuković guilty, because the main piece of evidence provided by the victim and presented before the Appellate Panel contained inconsistencies. Therefore, it could not be established beyond reasonable doubt that Vuković raped the woman.

CALL FOR INTERNS: The T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague is looking for two full-time interns, for a period of six months, for recently graduated or advanced law students specialising in public international law, and more specifically in counter-terrorism, international criminal law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Students who wish to apply should send their letter of motivation and CV (in Europass format), in English and MS-Word only, to before 9 March 18:00 The Hague time. Interviews will take place in the third week of March (14-15 March). The envisaged starting date is 21 March 2016. For more information see here.

NEW CASE: The case of United States v. William L. Calley Jr. is now available online. William Laws Calley Jr. was born on 8 June 1943 in Miami, Florida. Calley was a former army officer in the United States and found guilty of war crimes involving the killing hundreds of unarmed, innocent South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre on 16 March 1968, during the Vietnam War. After several reductions, Calley’s original sentence of life in prison was turned into an order of house arrest, but after three years, President Nixon reduced his sentence with a presidential pardon.

NEW CASE: The case of Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Slavko Šakić is now available online. Slavko Šakić was born on 18 November 1972 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In July 1993, he allegedly detained a number of Bosnian Muslims in a motel in Bugojno, taking their money and jewellery. Šakić was also suspected of having inflicted physical injuries on some of the detained civilians. On 5 September 2008, Šakić concluded an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina according to which he admitted guilt for the alleged crimes. On 29 October 2008, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina found Šakić guilty of war crimes against civilians and sentenced him to eight years and six months in prison.

NEW CASE: The case of Doe et al. v. Constant is now available online. Emmanuel Constant was the founder of the Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), a death squad that terrorised supporters of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was overthrown in September 1991. Members of the FRAPH killed, put in prison, and abused supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide during the military regime that ruled Haiti between September 1991 and October 1994. Constant, as the leader of FRAPH, was found guilty of torture, crimes against humanity, and the systematic use of violence against women committed during the military regime and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was ordered to pay $19 million in damages to three women who survived the crimes committed under Constant’s control.

NEW CASE: The case of Public Prosecutor v. Sebastien Nzapali is now available online. Sebastien Nzapali, aka “King of Beasts”, was commander of the Garde Civile in 1991 during the regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo (before known as Zaire). During that time, Nzapali gave orders for the arrest of a customs officer working at the port of Matadi, his detention and for his subsequent torture. After the fall of President Mobutu in 1997, Nzapali fled to the Netherlands. In September 2007, the District Court of ‘s Hertogenbosch sentenced Nzapali to ten years' imprisonment after being found guilty on a range of charges, including self-enrichment and unlawful arrests.

NEW CASE: The case of Snedden v Minister for Justice for the Commonwealth of Australia is now available online. Dual Australian-Serbian citizen “Captain Dragan” (Dragan Vasiljkovic, known in Australia as Daniel Snedden) was the first Australian citizen to be extradited from Australia. Croatia alleges that Snedden committed war crimes in 1991 and 1993 whilst in command of Serbian paramilitary troops. The Court held that there was no reviewable error in the Minister’s determination under Section 22 of the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth) that Snedden should be extradited. The Court also held that because the Minister was not bound to consider Article 129 of the Third Geneva Convention in making his determination, any errors in the interpretation of that Article would not vitiate the decision.

NEW CASE: The case of A v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (No. 1) is now available online. This case involved nine defendants – Mahmoud Abu Rideh, Jamal Ajouaou and seven unnamed individuals, all foreign nationals living in the U.K. – who were detained without trial as they were linked to terrorist organisations. They challenged the lawfulness of their detention as violation of Article 5(1)(f) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The House of Lords opined that the possibility of indefinite detention of foreign nationals indeed breached Article 5(1)(f) ECHR but stated that constant terrorism threats could constitute an immediate danger and threat to national security; which is a lawful basis to derogate from Article 5 (see Article 15 ECHR). However, in the current case the measures were disproportionate by nature and discriminatory in their effect. Therefore, the House of Lords decided that Section 23 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which allowed for indefinite detention of foreign suspects who could not leave the U.K., was declared incompatible with the U.K.’s international human rights obligations enshrined in the ECHR.

NEW VIDEOS: On 24 September 2014, Geoff Roberts, from the Sabra Defence Team (Special Tribunal for Lebanon), provided a lecture in the context of the Lebanon lecture series on war crimes. Four video excerpts of his lecture explaining various aspects of war crimes can be viewed here.

NEW ICD BRIEF: Dr. Megumi Ochi, Post-Doctoral research fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) at Kyoto University (Japan), has written a new ICD Brief on the "Gravity Threshold before the International Criminal Court: An Overview of the Court's Practice". You can read the Brief here.

NEW VIDEO: On Monday 22 September 2014, Matthew Gillett, Senior Staff Member, Appeals Division, Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Nema Milaninia, Appeals Counsel with the Office of the Prosecutor, ICTY, provided a lecture in the context of the Lebanon lecture series on crimes against humanity. A short excerpt from that lecture, explaining the general elements of crimes against humanity, can be found here.

NEW CASE: The case of Al-Aulaqi v. Obama et al. is now available online. The case revolves around Anwar Al-Aulaqi, an American-born cleric with dual U.S.-Yemeni citizenship who was a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and had gone into hiding in Yemen, from where he regularly published videos propagating the jihad. The U.S. Treasury Department had allegedly designated him for targeted killing. Therefore, his father, Nasser Al-Aulaqi, filed a complaint claiming that the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA unlawfully authorised the targeted killing, and seeking an injunction prohibiting them from intentionally killing his son. The Columbia District Court found that the plaintiff, the father, had neither legal standing in court for his claims, nor was the claim justiciable under the Alien Tort Statute. The Court also ruled that the political question doctrine barred it from adjudicating the case. On 7 December 2010, Nasser Al-Aulaqi’s complaint was dismissed on those grounds, while the defendants’ motion to dismiss was granted. Anwar Al-Aulaqi was killed by a drone strike in Yemen on 30 September 2011.

NEW ICD BRIEF AND INTERVIEW: Tomas Hamilton, PhD candidate at King's College London and former Visiting Researcher at the Asser Institute, has written a new ICD Brief titled "Regulating the Arms Trade - The Potential of International Criminal Law". You can read the Brief here. Tomas also completed an interview for the International Crimes Database on the same topic. His interview can be viewed here.

NEW ICD BRIEF: Carola Lingaas, PhD candidate at the University of Oslo (Norway), has written a new ICD Brief on "Defining the Protected Groups of Genocide Through the Case Law of International Courts". You can read the Brief here.

NEW CASE: The case of Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Ratko Bundalo, Neđo Zeljaja and Đorđislav Aškraba is now available online. All three persons were Serbian officials accused of involvement in crimes against humanity during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990’s. Bundalo and Zeljaja were found guilty in first instance and sentenced to 19 and 15 years’ imprisonment respectively. Aškraba was acquitted of all charges. Bundalo and Zeljaja appealed against their conviction, while the prosecutor appealed against Aškraba’s acquittal as well as against the height of the sentences of the other two. On 28 January 2011, the second instance verdict found the accused guilty of the crime against humanity of persecution. Bundalo was sentenced to a 22-year prison sentence and Zeljaja to 15 years. The accused were acquitted of certain charges under the indictment because the acts charged against them were not codified as a criminal offence under the law, and/or because it was not proven that the accused committed the acts. Against the accused Aškraba, a partial retrial was ordered.

NEW CASE: The case of Regina v. Evans et al. is now available online. Seven UK soldiers were on patrol in Iraq on 11 May 2003, with the mission to look out for and halt persons attempting to smuggle money via Iran. The soldiers chased a car which appeared to be avoiding the checkpoint and used force against both occupants; with one of them dying as consequence of his injuries. The UK military prosecutor accused the seven soldiers of murder and violent disorder. The judge found that there were serious issues with the evidence and it was unclear whether their use of force – which was in principle allowed as part of their mission – had been unlawful in the current case. Furthermore, no individual soldier could be identified as the person dealing the fatal blow, and no one could be individually found to have joined or encouraged an unlawful assault. Hence, all seven were acquitted of all charges.

NEW ICD BRIEF: Joanna Nicholson, guest researcher at PluriCourts - Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order at the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo - has written an ICD Brief titled "Can War Crimes be Committed by Military Personnel against Members of Non-opposing Forces?".  You can read the Brief here.

NEW ICD BRIEF: Maria Laura Ferioli, a PhD candidate in international criminal law in a joint doctorate between the University of Bologna and the University of Amsterdam, has written an ICD Brief on "The Impact of Cooperation of States on the Right to Liberty of Detained Suspects before the ICC: A Contextual Approach". The Brief can be found here.

NEW ICD BRIEF: Anne-Marie Verwiel and Karlijn van der Voort, partners at law firm Verwiel & Van der Voort, and María Barral Martínez, who completed an internship at Verwiel & Van der Voort, have written a new ICD Brief focusing on  "Prosecuting Journalists at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon: A Challenge to Freedom of Speech?". You can read the Brief here.

NEW VIDEO: On Wednesday 21 January 2015, Mrs. Harriet Ssali Lule, Deputy Registrar of the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda, gave a lecture in the context of the Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series, entitled: “The International Crimes Division of Uganda, the first domestic international crimes court in Africa”. The video can be found here.

NEW CASE: The Case concerning the Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2002 (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Belgium) is now available online. On 11 April 2000, a Belgian investigating judge issued an arrest warrant in absentia against the incumbent Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Abdulaye Yerodia Ndombasi, charging him with offences constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols and crimes against humanity. On 14 February 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled that the issuance and circulation of the arrest warrant violated Belgium’s international obligations towards the DRC in that Belgium failed to respect, and infringed, Mr Yerodia’s immunity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and the inviolability enjoyed by him under international law. The Court required Belgium to cancel the arrest warrant and inform as such the authorities to whom it was circulated.

NEW CASE: The case of The Prosecutor v. Yvonne Basebya is now available online. It is the first case of genocide charges before a Dutch court and took place against the Rwandan Yvonne Basebya. Rwandan authorities alerted the Netherlands about her husband being listed as wanted in Rwanda in 2007, leading to Basebya being arrested in 2010 on suspicion of involvement in the Rwandan genocide. The District Court of The Hague ruled on 1 March 2013 that Basebya’s guilt on several of the genocide and war crimes charges could not be established. However, her repeated singing in public of a notorious anti-Tutsi song  before the youth, unemployed and lower or uneducated and using her local notable upper-class position, combined with her repeatedly expressed hatred against the Tutsis, did qualify as incitement to genocide. She was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison pursuant to the Dutch War Crimes Act: the maximum sentence at the time.

NEW REPORT: On 15 October 2015 the T.M.C. Asser Instituut (The Hague) and the Antonio Cassese Initiative for Justice, Peace and Humanity (Geneva) co-organised a Symposium on the "International Legal Aspects of Countering Piracy", in the context of the 50 year anniversary of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and this year's establishment of the Antonio Cassese Initiative Foundation in the Netherlands. The detailed report of the Symposium is now available online.

NEW CASE: The case of Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Branimir Glavaš is now available online. The case of Branimir Glavaš marks the first time that a high-ranking Croatian politician was sentenced for war crimes committed during the Croatian war of independence (1991-1995). Glavaš has always denied any wrongdoing and he protested his detention and trial in Croatia by going on a 40-day hunger strike in 2006.  After several appeals, on 2 June 2010, the Croatian Supreme Court sentenced Glavaš to eight years’ imprisonment for the war crimes of murder and torture of civilians. Glavaš attempted to evade sitting out his sentence by fleeing to Bosnia, but to no avail: there, he was arrested as well and the Bosnian courts upheld the verdict issued by their Croatian colleagues.

NEW CASE: The case of The Public Prosecutor v. Heshamuddin Hesam is now available online. The Afghani Heshamuddin Hesam applied for political asylum in the Netherlands in 1996, but this was refused due to suspicion of his involvement in torture and war crimes during the war in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. The Hague District Court convicted him for war crimes and torture committed by him as head of the military intelligence agency KhaD-e-Nezami (KhAD) and as superior for failing to prevent these crimes from being committed by his subordinates. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. The Court of Appeal affirmed this decision. Consequently, Hesam appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the previous courts had erred in law on several points. The Supreme Court disagreed and, accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

NEW CASE: The case of The Public Prosecutor v. Habibullah Jalalzoy is now available online. The Hague District Court convicted Habibullah Jalalzoy for war crimes and torture committed as a member of the military intelligence agency KhaD-e-Nezami (KhAD).  The Court of Appeal affirmed this decision. Consequently, Jalalzoy appealed at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court disagreed with Jalazoy's argument that both the District Court and Court of Appeal had erred in law on several points, and held that Dutch courts had jurisdiction over the crime, that prosecution was admissible, that the crimes were not time-barred, and that the convictions had been in conformity with the law. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.