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News updates

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

22 May 2015: A top criminal court in Germany ruled on Thursday that there was sufficient evidence to try Onesphore Rwabukombe, a former Rwandan mayor, for charges relating to participation in genocide rather than complicity in genocide, as he was previously tried for, and decided to send the case back to the lower court to reconsider his conviction.

21 May 2015:
Uruguay created 'the Truth and Justice Working Group', a commission aiming to investigate crimes committed by the police and army during the country’s 1973 to 1985 dictatorship, and during a state of emergency decreed prior to the dictatorship, on June 13, 1968. It has been reported that the commission will “investigate crimes against humanity committed by agents of the state or those who had its authorization, support or acquiescence, inside and outside Uruguay’s borders”.

21 May 2015: The German Government said it will pay compensation amounting to 10 million euros to almost 4.000 Soviet prisoners for their suffering at the hands of Nazi Germany during the World War Two.

21 May 2015: Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security and Pakistan's Intelligence Service agreed to share information in order to facilitate "coordinated intelligence operations". The two countries reached an agreement upon the Landmark Intelligence Deal which is an attempt to bolster counterterrorism efforts between the two countries who have clashed for years.

20 May 2015: The International Crimes Tribunal-2 in Bangladesh delivered a judgment sentencing the war criminals Mahidur Rahman and Afsar Hossain to life imprisonment for their involvement in the killing of 24 people in the Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabgang District during the Liberation War in 1971.

20 May 2015: During the 125th session of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, the foreign ministers adopted the first set of legally-binding international standards to help tackle the so-called "foreign terrorist fighters" phenomenon. The document will take the form of an additional protocol to the Council of Europe's convention on the prevention of terrorism, which has so far been signed by 44 of the organization's 47 member states.

19 May 2015: Two alleged Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine, in a government-controlled town near the rebel stronghold of Luhansk, will be tried on terrorism charges. They could reportedly face sentences of up to life imprisonment in the case that they are found guilty of committing a lethal terrorist act.

19 May 2015: The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott ruled out the possibility of an amnesty for Australian citizens seeking to quit foreign militant groups and return home. He added that since these foreign fighters disregarded the Australian law when they went abroad and joined extremist terror groups, they will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed if they return home.

18 May 2015: Rwanda's High Court sentenced Charles Bandora, a senior member of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) party, to 30 years in prison for his involvement in the 1994 genocide. The judges on the case found Bandora guilty of plotting and carrying out the killings of between 500 and 600 Tutsi who had sought refuge at Ruhuha Catholic Parish in Bugesera district in eastern Rwanda during the genocide.

18 May 2015: A top Osama bin Laden aide was sentenced Friday to life in prison for conspiring with other al Qaeda members in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa. The attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and left more than 1 000 people injured.

18 May 2015: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, previously convicted on 30 federal charges relating to the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, was sentenced to death by lethal injection on Friday by a federal jury, after 14 hours of deliberations. He will be formally sentenced at a hearing within weeks, during which victims will be able to address him and give impact statements.

15 May 2015: Dragan Vasiljkovic, a dual Australian-Serbian national, will likely be extradited to Croatia to face war crimes charges after losing his final legal bid to stay, before the High Court in Melbourne. Vasiljkovic is accused of ordering the killing of prisoners of war and leading an assault on a village where civilians were killed during the 1990s Balkan war.

15 May 2015: The Polish government on Friday processed payments to two terror suspects currently held by the US at Guantanamo Bay, following the deadline imposed by the European Court of Human Rights on Poland to make the reparations. Last July, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were awarded USD $147,000 and $113,000, respectively, in a lawsuit against Poland for allowing the CIA to detain them and for not preventing torture and inhumane treatment.

14 May 2015: Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the abuse of criminal suspects and instances of torture perpetrated by Chinese police.  Even though detention reforms have been implemented in China, including making evidence obtained through torture inadmissible, the interviewed detainees and lawyers reported that police officers sometimes used torture techniques that left no visible harm but in other cases with clear evidence of torture, it was reported that judges did not implement the "exclusionary rule" and allowed evidence obtained through torture to be used at trial.

14 May 2015: The chief prosecutor of the ICC urged the UNSC to take action in order to strengthen the deteriorating security situation in Libya. Bensouda expressed her concerns over the recent increases in assassinations, terrorist attacks and targeting of innocent civilians and stated that "the international community must be more proactive in exploring solutions in order to tangibly help Libya restore stability and strengthen accountability for Rome Statute crimes".

14 May 2015: The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report alleging that the Allied Democratic Forces committed "grave violations of international humanitarian law" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the end of 2014. According to the report, these violations were both systematic and brutal and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity

13 May 2015: According to an international investigative commission, a series of documents which have been smuggled out of Syria have produced enough evidence to indict the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before a possible war crimes tribunal. The evidence has been compiled for the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), made up of investigators and legal experts who formerly worked on war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and for the ICC.  

13 May 2015: A former British and two Swedish citizens about to face trial on US terrorism charges pleaded guilty before a  federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic militant group al Shabaab in Somalia. The guilty plea they entered will spare the men from spending 30 years in prison, as this was the likely sentence if they were convicted on all of the charges against them. Instead, they will face a maximum term of 15 years in prison when US District Judge John Gleeson sentences them on 25 September.

12 May 2015: Human Rights Watch expressed today that UNSC members should use the findings of the ICC prosecutor regarding the investigation of the situation in Libya, to speak out against the state of impunity in the country. The international justice director of the organization said that “given the Libyan authorities’ inability to rein in these abuses, much less prosecute those responsible, it’s time for the ICC prosecutor to expand her investigations”.

11 May 2015: Following the arrest of 31 terrorism suspects in Serbia, the Bosnian Serb authorities said on Friday they have requested detention for only eight of them,  releasing the other 23. All 31 were suspected of links with Islamic extremists.

11 May 2015: Marking the first case of this kind in the Nordic region the Oslo District Court sentenced on Friday three men to jail  for joining or aiding the Islamic State terror organization in Syria. They were sentenced under a new Norwegian law which targets militants returning from the conflicts in the Middle East, with maximum imprisonment terms of up to six years.

8 May 2015: The Trial Chamber I of the ICC announced the date for the commencement of the crimes against humanity trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. On 10 November 2015 the Court will convene, in order to hear the opening statements of the parties and participants. On a later late, at the beginning of 2016, the Prosecution will start its presentation of evidence.

8 May 2015: On 30 April 2015, the Court of Appeals in The Hague convicted five Dutch nationals of Sri Lankan origin to prison sentences varying from 19 months to six years and three months for their role in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The Court noted that these persons were members of the LTTE, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The objective of the LLTE was aimed at, among other things, committing terrorist crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes were committed in the period 2003-2010, in the Netherlands, as well as in Sri Lanka. The persons’ crimes involved in particular the raising of funds, in which context contributors were heavily pressured to donate. Also illegal lotteries were organised. The money raised was subsequently laundered and transferred illegally to Sri Lanka. See also here. The press release (in Dutch only) can be found here and the judgment itself can be found here (also in Dutch only).

New cases, briefs and videos

NEW CASE: The case of the Public Prosecutor v. Oie Hee Koi and connected appeals is now available online. During the fighting between Indonesia and Malaysia, twelve Malaysian Chinese members of the Indonesian Air Force who were heavily armed, infiltrated into Malaysia (ten by parachute and two by boat). They were arrested, convicted pursuant to Malaysian law and sentenced to death. The Federal Court of Malaysia held that two members were protected pursuant to international law, in particular the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention of 1949. On appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decided that they were not protected under the 1949 Geneva Convention because they were nationals of Malaysia (the state that detained them). Therefore, they could be prosecuted under national law for offences against that law.

NEW CASE: The case of Physicians for Human Rights and others v. Prime Minister of Israel and others & Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement and others v. Minister of Defence is now available online. When Hamas, a Palestinian armed resistance group, came into power in Gaza, southern Israel was increasingly subject to heavy missile attacks. On 27 December 2008, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) began a large-scale military operation that Israel initiated in the Gaza Strip in order to stop the shooting of mortars. During that operation, also known as “Operation Cast Lead”, the IDF entered the Gaza Strip and attacked targets used by Hamas. In January 2009, two organizations filed a complaint against Israel and claimed that during the operation, the IDF did not protect medical centers and personnel, did not help with the transfer of wounded people, and did not supply electricity to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Supreme Court found that Israel was acting reasonably and had not violated any international rules.   

The case of the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Dragoje Paunović is now available online. Dragoje Paunović was born on 19 June 1954 in the town of Mojkovac in northern Montenegro. Paunović was a senior officer of a small military formation attached to the Battalion of Rogatica, a battalion part of the Bosnian Serb Army. In the period May to September 1992, attacks were carried out by military and police forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by Serbian paramilitary formations against the Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) living in the municipality of Rogatica. On 15 August 1992,  Paunović used 27 Bosniaks as protection during a clash between the army of the Republika Srpska and the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosniaks were detained in the Rasadnik detention camp in Rogatica, and later driven to the town of Jacen in Rogatica where 24 of them were subsequently killed under the orders of Paunović. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina found Paunović guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

NEW VIDEO: On Tuesday, 17 March 2015, Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Shawan Jabarin, Director of Al-Haq, gave a lecture in the context of the Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series, entitled: "Palestine and the International Criminal Court". The video can be found here.

NEW CASE: The case of Mamani et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada, and Mamani et al. v. Sánchez Berzain is now available online. It concerns the case of nine relatives of people killed during a series of national protests in Bolivia in October 2003, who brought a case in the U.S. against the former President of Bolivia, Sánchez de Lozada, and the former Minister of Defence of Bolivia, Sánchez Berzaín. The plaintiffs claimed that Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were responsible for the killing of more than 400 people in Bolivia during the suppression of the protests directed against the government’s policies. In particular, the plaintiffs claimed that Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín gave orders to the Bolivian security forces to use deadly force against protestors. The plaintiffs asked for compensation. On 29 August 2011, a U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed their claims because they had not presented enough evidence to establish a link between both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín and the killings.

NEW CASE: The case of Her Majesty the Queen (Prosecutor) v. Désiré Munyaneza is now available online. Désiré Munyaneza was born in December 1966 in Rwanda. Between the beginning of April and the end of July 1994, Hutus killed approximately 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. During that period, Munyaneza was one of the leaders of the Interahamwe Hutu paramilitary organisation in Butare, which played a major role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In 1997, Munyaneza fled to Canada to avoid prosecution. However, in October 2005 he was arrested in Canada on suspicion of his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In May 2009, the Quebec Superior Court found Munyaneza guilty for the criminal offences of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for abducting, raping, sexually assaulting, and killing Tutsis, and for pillaging of their properties. He was sentenced to life in prison. 

NEW CASE: The case of Regina (on the application of Robert Lewis Manson) (Claimant) v. The Bow Street Magistrates' Court (First Defendant) and Carmarthen Justices (Second Defendant) is now available online. In March 2003, Phil Pritchard and Toby Olditch, peace activists, entered the bases of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and tried to disable the planes located there. They acted in an attempt to prevent a crime by the U.K. and the U.S., namely the preparation of a war against Iraq. Two other activists, Margaret Jones and Paul Milling, also entered the RAF base. All the activists were charged in the U.K. In their defence, they claimed that the actions of the U.K. and the U.S. were illegal. Their defence was rejected by the English courts because the alleged crime was a crime under international law but not under English criminal law.