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News updates

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

23 May 2017:  On Monday, a German court put on trial for war crimes a man suspected to be a former Syrian rebel commander fighting for a group linked to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Identified as 42-year-old Ibrahim Al F., the man is accused of personally committing acts of torture while allegedly commanding a 150-strong neighbourhood militia in Aleppo said to have been looting homes and capturing and mistreating civilians. He was arrested in April 2016 after one of his alleged victims recognised him in Germany, and will face life imprisonment if convicted. The trial is set to run at least until September.

23 May 2017:  Human Rights Watch has called on those participating in the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday to ensure that torture has no place in the counter-terrorism efforts that are high on the summit's agenda. This is essential in a context where European leaders are involved in the discussion concerning a shared approach to counter-terrorism policy with a United States President who, during his election campaign, has promised to resume torture practices such as waterboarding and worse. The European Court of Human Rights has found in a series of cases that European intelligence agents enabled the CIA to abduct US national security suspects from Europe, detain and torture them in secret detention centres set up in and outside Europe. Notwithstanding developments, there has never been full accountability. It is vital for European leaders to stand against resuming torture practices, secret detention centres and extraordinary rendition, and make clear to the Trump administration that there would be negative consequences if such inhumane practices were to be adopted again.

22 May 2017:  The African Union has sought the international community's support in the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to fight Joseph Kony after the United States and Uganda withdrew their troops from tracking down Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) members. The African Union's Peace and Security Council (PSC) said on Friday that the LRA still poses a threat.

21 May 2017:  Since 2011, the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) at Syracuse University has been documenting the unfolding of crimes in Syria, in a effort to build a trial package from a neutral perspective and collect evidence to be used for domestic or international prosecutions in the future. SAP was created by David Crane, founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

20 May 2017:
  An interview with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative raises awareness of the involvement of children in piracy: its scale, how this is intertwined with terrorism, and the reasons why children are chosen over adults.

19 May 2017:  A federal judge on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook Inc. liable for supporting terrorist groups by letting them use its social media platform to further their goals. A lawsuit by relatives of American victims of Hamas attacks was dismissed due to the fact the federal Communications Decency Act regulating internet content immunizes Facebook from liability. A lawsuit by approximately 20,000 Israeli citizens who feared harm from future violence was also dismissed.

18 May 2017:  A Rwandan man arrested in Denmark last week over an arrest warrant on his role in the 1994 genocide has been remanded on May 18, 2017 by a Danish Court until June 15, 2017. The suspect was allegedly part of a group of 200 individuals that attacked a university where over 1,000 people were killed, and was allegedly leading militiamen in an attack against a church where more than 3,000 had sought refuge.

17 May 2017:  Uganda's President Museveni has written to the country's security and law enforcement chiefs warning that torture should be stopped, if happening, since it does not work in the fight against crime. The President reacted to the pressure exercised by media reports alleging the perpetration of torture practices by enforcement agencies.

16 May 2017:  The Supreme Court of Bangladesh on Monday upheld the conviction of Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, an Islamist preacher sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1971 liberation war. Sayeedi was charged for a number of crimes in connection to his role supporting the Pakistani army during the war, ranging from kidnapping and rape to forced religious conversion. The judgment was delivered rejecting the pleas from both sides, the state seeking a death sentence, while the defence seeking an acquittal. In 2009, the country established the International Crimes Tribunal, charged with detaining, prosecuting and punishing those responsible for committing genocidecrimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the 1971 conflict.

15 May 2017:  Last week, Uganda's police were accused of torturing suspects to illicit confessions. Over the last 15 years, Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of Ugandans who say they were tortured by police, specifically by a string of units which have changed name and location over time, but whose brutality inexorably repeats itself.

14 May 2017:  The United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture called on Bahrain on May 12, 2017, to release prominent activist Nabeel Rajab from more than nine months of solitary confinement and investigate widespread allegations of ill-treatment and torture of detainees. The UN experts cited continued, numerous and consistent allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in all places of detention in Bahrain. A climate of impunity seems to be prevailing. The panel voiced concerns at reports of coerced confessions obtained under torture, including those of three men executed in January and two men facing the death penalty, Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa.

13 May 2017:  During the trial of Hissene Habre, former President of Chad, horrific accounts of rape and sexual slavery were heard. Among such recounts, Khadidia Zidane explained how, almost 30 years earlier, Habre had summoned her from prison to the presidential palace and raped her. Habre was convicted on May 30, 2016, of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, including rape and sexual slavery. Last month, all convictions were upheld but one: Habre was in fact acquitted or raping Zidane. The appeals court took pains to emphasise that the acquittal was a procedural matter and did not reflect on Zidane's credibility. Although the appeals decision was overall seen as a victory, Habre's rape acquittal should not be allowed to go unnoticed. It should stand to remind us of the challenges that survivors of sexual violence face when considering the disclosure of their experience, and of the reforms needed in a legal process that often fails to support victims in coming forward and revealing the suffering they were subject to.

12 May 2017:  Amnesty International and civil society organisations in Central African Republic (CAR) launched on Wednesday a national campaign urging authorities in CAR to tackle a deeply rooted culture of impunity which has prevented thousands of victims of human rights abuses and international crimes from receiving justice. The campaign calls on authorities to commit to a tougher stance against impunity and for CAR's technical and financial partners to support the government's efforts, including by funding the country's new Special Criminal Court.

11 May 2017:  A 27-year-old man was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Austria after being found guilty of killing 20 people in Syria. The man, accused of shooting unarmed or wounded Syrian soldiers following a battle in the city of Homs, was arrested in western Austria in June. Arrived as an asylum-seeker in the country, it appears he had told others at a refugee shelter that he had been involved in the commission of the crime when he was fighting with an Islamist rebel group called the Farouq Brigade, linked to the Free Syrian Army. He is expected to appeal the conviction.

10 May 2017:  The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed great alarm in a statement on Monday at the inhumane detention conditions of thousands of migrants in Libya. She said her Office was examining whether an investigation could be opened into crimes against them. According to the International Organization for Migration, 20'000 migrants are held by criminal groups in irregular detention centers in Libya, while growing numbers of them are traded in slave markets before being held for ransom, forced labour, sexual exploitation. ICC Prosecutor therefore told the United Nations Security Council that her office continues to collect and analyse information relating to serious and widespread crimes allegedly committed against migrants attempting to transit through Libya.

9 May 2017:  United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Ben Emmerson said last week that Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism laws are too broad and a threat to individual rights. Emmerson also expressed concern about the reported prosecution of writers and activists for their non-violent actions; he urged the government to establish an independent review mechanism to re-examine those prosecuted for political expression. Emmerson also expressed concerns about Saudi Arabia's failure to adequately investigate its counter-terrorism actions in Yemen, which the UN estimate are responsible for 60% of Yemeni civilian casualties.

New cases, briefs and videos

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

NEW ICD BRIEFNadia Grant, who is a former intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute and is currently working with Médecins Sans Frontières, has written a new ICD Brief entitled 'Duress as a Defence for Former Child Soldiers? Dominic Ongwen and the International Criminal Court'. You can read the Brief here.

NEW CASEThe analysis of the Dutch Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Omar H is now available online. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against the Court of Appeal's judgment in the case of Omar H, a foreign fighter convicted of training for terrorism. In upholding the Court of Appeal's judgment, the Supreme Court decided that training for terrorism in this context would be interpreted broadly and could include self-study. 

NEW CASEThe analysis of the Sentencing Remarks of Mr. Justice Holroyde in the case of R v Anjem Choudary and Mohammed Rahman is now available online. Mr. Choudary and Mr. Rahman were found guilty by a jury verdict of inviting support for the proscribed terrorist organisation, the Islamic State, by signing an oath of allegiance and publishing a series of lectures online. They were both sentenced to 5.5 years' imprisonment and will be subject to notification requirements for 15 years after their release. 

NEW CASEThe analysis of the plea agreement in the case of United States of America v. Mufid A. Elfgeeh is now available online. Mr. Elfgeeh pleaded guilty in December 2015 to providing material support to a foreign terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). As part of the guilty plea, Mr. Elfgeeh acknowledged he had encouraged support for ISIL via social media, he had been involved in trying to recruit foreign fighters, and he had provided financial assistance. 

NEW CASEThe case analysis of United States of America v. Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi is now available online. Both Mr. Elhuzayel and Mr. Badawi were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS). The defendants had used social media accounts to support IS, and Mr. Badawi had filmed Mr. Elhuzayel pledging allegiance to IS and promising to travel to Syria to fight. Mr. Elhuzayel was arrested prior to boarding a flight to Israel via Turkey. They were also found guilty of financial fraud charges, the proceeds of which had been used to fund the travel.   

NEW ICD BRIEFLaetitia Ruiz, who is currently a PhD candidate at the International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT) at Tilburg University, has written a new ICD Brief entitled 'Gender Jurisprudence for Gender Crimes?'. 

: The case analysis of Prosecutor v. Imane B. et al. is now available online. In the 'Context' case, a large terrorism case in the Netherlands, nine individuals were found guilty of various terrorism offences, ranging from online incitement to the recruitment of individuals to travel to Syria. This case arose out of investigations into the flow of foreign fighters from the Netherlands - namely people heading to Syria in order to join various terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Nusra. The prosecution successfully argued that an organisation existed in the Netherlands that aimed at recruiting other people to support terrorist groups in Syria and to travel to join the fighting. The case also looked into the use of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and its role in recruiting individuals. 

The nine accused, including several individuals who had travelled to Syria, faced charges concerning incitement to join terrorist groups, the dissemination of inciting materials, the recruitment of people to travel to Syria, the participation in training to commit terrorist crimes, the participation in a criminal and terrorist organisation, and other charges relating to inciting hate and defamation. The defendants were all convicted of differing offences and their sentences ranged from seven days' to six years' imprisonment. 

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.