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News updates

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

29 April 2016: The 6,000 km Gulf of Guinea coastline from Senegal to Angola still poses the biggest piracy risk
according to the latest report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). The report shows the number of attacks in the area has increased in contrast with the overall decline of piracy observed in the world. The IMB noted that 37 attacks occurred in the first quarter of the year against 54 in the same period last year.

29 April 2016: Two men and a woman have been charged with terrorism offences in the UK, as part of a joint investigation into the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. Mohammed Ali Ahmed, 26 and Zakaria Bouffassil, 26, are accused of providing money which they "knew or had reasonable cause to suspect" would be used for terrorism, police said in a statement. Ahmed is also accused, along with Soumaya Boufassil, 29, of gathering money "with the intention of committing acts of terrorism or assisting another to commit such acts".

20 April 2016: The UN has condemned the killing of a Moroccan peacekeeper from the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) on 17 April in the town of Rafai, near the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN said that attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes.  The UN confirmed the peacekeeper was killed by unknown gunmen when he was shot in the town of Rafai, located in the country's south-east Mbomou prefecture, as he was responding to an attack on the nearby village of Agoumar.

19 April 2016: The  new premises for the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be officially opened today by his Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands in a ceremony with over 350 guests. On 14 December 2015, the ICC completed its move to its new premises, which is a functional, purpose-built premises located in between the North Sea and the Hague.

19 April 2016: 
Convicted war criminal Veljko Maric has been temporarily released from a Croatian prison in order to undergo medical treatment. Maric, a former Croatian soldier, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012 for killing a Serb civilian, Petar Slijepcevic, during a Croatian military operation code named 'Swath 10'.

18 April 2016:
Indonesian officials said four of its citizens were abducted and another shot when pirates attempted to hijack a tugboat and barge in the waters near the border with Malaysia and the Philippines. In a statement on Saturday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry revealed that the gunshot victim and five other crew members managed to escape from their assailants and are now in Malaysia. According to officials, the attack occurred early on Friday evening as the crew made their way to Tarakan on the Indonesian side of Borneo island from Cebu in the Philippines. The crew was operating the tugboat TB Henry, which had a barge called Christi in tow. The pirates, suspected to be Abu Sayyaf militants, ultimately failed to take either vessel.

18 April 2016: British police arrested five people on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism, as part of an investigation linked to the attacks in Brussels and Paris. Three men and a 29-year-old woman were arrested in Birmingham on Thursday. On Friday morning, another man was detained at London’s Gatwick airport.

18 April 2016: On Friday, Léon Mugesera, a Rwandan politician who fought deportation from Canada for 16 years, was sentenced to life imprisonment in Rwanda for inciting his countrymen to commit genocide. Mugesera was accused of having delivered a speech in Rwanda in 1992 in which he suggested that members of the Tutsi ethnic group should be exterminated. His speech is considered to have been a trigger for the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

15 April 2016: Seven Somali pirates were sentenced to between six and 15 years in prison by a French court on Wednesday for the hijacking of a French yacht that left the owner dead and his wife facing a kidnapping ordeal in the Gulf of Aden in 2011. Two members of the gang identified as the "recruiters", Farhan Abdisalamn Hassan and Ahmed Abdullahi Akid, were handed 15-year sentences. Farhan Mohamoud Abchir, a minor at the time of the hijacking who has developed schizophrenia while in prison according to his lawyer, was given the lightest six-year jail term.

15 April 2016: A 49-year old Liberian national and resident of East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, Mohammed Jabbateh, was indicted in Philadelphia on Wednesday on two counts of immigration fraud and two counts of perjury for failing to disclose his crimes in Liberia when he applied for political asylum in 1998. U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a press statement that Jabbateh had concealed his identity as an officer of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia. "This defendant allegedly committed unspeakable crimes in his home country, brutalizing numerous innocent victims," Memeger said. Jabbateh has been accused of committing or ordering troops to commit murder and torture, public rape, enslave civilian noncombatants, and other crimes motivated by race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion.

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 HRM@asser.nl 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.