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News updates

22 June 2016:  Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency yesterday arrested  Zijad Nanic, Esad Kudelic, Nedzad Bapic, Senad Salkic, Samir Isakovic and Hasan Mustafic on suspicion of having committed war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war in the Buzim area in 1994 and 1995. These individuals are suspected of having participated in torture, rape and inhuman treatment of members of the Bosnian Serb Army and civilians.

21 June 2016:  Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced today to 18 years in prison for crimes committed in the Central African Republic from October 2002 to May 2003. Bemba was found guilty in March on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with the prosecution asking for a minimum 25-year sentence.

20 June 2016:  A suicide bomber has killed 14 Nepalese security guards today who were travelling to work at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul. Their minibus exploded en-route to work killing 14 of those on board. This attack has been condemned by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who stated 'Today’s attack on security workers in Kabul is appalling and cowardly... our thoughts are with the victims as we stand with the Afghan people.'

19 June 2016:  Jean-Pierre Bemba will be sentenced tomorrow at the ICC for crimes committed in the Central African Republic from October 2002 to May 2003. Bemba was found guilty in March on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with the prosecution asking for a minimum 25-year sentence.

17 June 2016:  Iceland have become the 29th State to ratify the Crime of Aggression under the Rome Statute. For the ICC to have jurisdiction over the crime it  requires 30 ratifications, and is then subject to a decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 by the same majority of States Parties as is required for the adoption of an amendment to the Statute.

16 June 2016:  In the last two weeks there have been three new cases added to the docket of the International Court of Justice. One of the cases is between Equatorial Guinea and France focusing on the immunity from criminal jurisdiction of Equatorial Guinea's Second Vice-President in charge of State Defence and Security and the legal status of the building which houses its Embassy in France.

15 June 2016:  The European Council today approved a one-year budget for The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office of 29.1 million euros.  The Kosovo and Dutch governments signed an agreement in January on locating the chambers and prosecutor’s office in The Hague. However, for the court to become fully operational, it still needs final approval from the Dutch Parliament.

15 June 2016: In the 2016 Europe Lecture held in The Hague yesterday, UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova stated that  “The destruction of heritage is inseparable from the persecution of people. This is why we consider the protection of cultural heritage today as far more than a cultural issue. This has become a humanitarian imperative, and a security issue.”

15 June 2016:  Visiting the International Criminal Court yesterday Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, met with ICC President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmandi, and Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, to explore ways to deepen cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against impunity of war crimes. Ms. Bokova stated that “UNESCO and ICC have come a long way together, to strengthen the rule of law, to change the mindset about the destruction of cultural heritage, and we are determined to go further, to end impunity for deliberate destruction of cultural heritage.”

14 June 2016: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced yesterday that between 6 and 12 June at least 224 civilians were killed in Syria. It added that at least one man was executed by ISIL in the same period.

14 June 2016: Yesterday the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 15 December 2016.  The current mandate was set to expire on 15 June. The Council expressed its support for the ongoing efforts of UNSMIL and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General 'to facilitate a Libyan-led political solution to the challenges facing Libya.'

13 June 2016: Gunmen in Libya have killed 12 individuals who were recently released from jail for taking part in acts of repression during the 2011 revolt against Muammar Qaddafi.  A Tripoli Court had ordered their release last Thursday, but the following day their bodies were found. The UN Special Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler condemned the murders and called for a prompt and “transparent” investigation, commenting that he was “shocked and dismayed by the reports of murder of so many detainees released by a Tripoli court.

13 June 2016: Monitoring groups in Syria have reported that at least 27 people were killed in an attack over the weekend in Idlib and Maarat al-Numan. At least 21 people, five of them children, were killed in raids, including on a marketplace, in Idlib city, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday. Another six are reported to have been killed in aerial bombardments in the town of Maarat al-Numan, about 30km south of Idlib city.

13 June 2016: The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dainius Pūras, has condemned the direct targeting and continued damage and destruction of medical units, such as hospitals and other healthcare facilities, in the continuing conflict in Syria. Mr. Pūras said “The sheer number of such facilities being hit, as well as information relating to some of the incidents, suggests that some hospitals and other medical facilities may have been directly targeted.” and that "the intentional deprivation of people’s right to access medical care, goods and services through the destruction of hospitals and other medical facilities “is a clear violation of the right to health.”

12 June 2016: Former Chadian ruler Hissène Habré has decided to appeal against his life sentence for war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and sexual slavery. The trial judgment finding Habré guilty of these charges was announced on 30 May 2016 by the Extraordinary African Chambers. The appeal was submitted last Friday to the Extraordinary African Chambers, which is an institution established by Senegal and the African Union to try Hissène Habré for crimes committed under his rule. A spokesperson from the Court – Marcel Mendy stated that the ‘Chambers will now put in a place a court of appeals, likely around August.'

11 June 2016: Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court on 21 March 2016, is due to be sentenced before Trial Chamber III on 21 June 2016. The Chamber may impose a prison sentence as well as a fine or a forfeiture of proceeds, property or assets derived from the crime. 

10 June 2016: Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has appeared before the UN Security Council to present the ICC's 23rd report on the situation in Darfur. In so doing, she noted that '[i]t has been more than a decade since the ... Security Council ... referred the situation in Darfur to my Office ... [and today], those victims' quest for justice is still as far from being realised as it was eleven years ago'. Ms. Bensouda highlighted Sudan's consistent failure to comply with Security Council resolutions, the inaction of the Security Council in response and the consequent ability of those under warrants of arrest, including Mr. Al Bashir, to continue travel freely and to avoid facing charges.

10 June 2016: Abdelkarim El B., a German national, has had additional charges brought against him in relation to his time in Syria. In addition to the original charges relating to membership of a terrorist organisation, namely Islamic State (IS), he has also been charged with war crimes - he is accused of descrating the body of a dead person along with fellow IS members, all of which was filmed on his phone. Prosecutors claim that Abdelkarim was at the forefront of the fighting in Syria and his trial is due to start on 22 August 2016 in Germany.

10 June 2016: Former CIA operative, Sabrina de Sousa, will be extradited to Italy to serve a four year prison sentence for her role in the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. She was convicted in absentia in Italy of participating in the 2003 kidnapping, that occurred in Milan, and subsequent rendition of Egyptian terror suspect, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. Mr. Nasr was then allegedly transferred to Egypt and allegedly tortured by Egypt's State Security Intelligence before being released in 2007. 

9 June 2016: On 8 June 2016, the District Court in The Hague published the English, unofficial translation (only the Dutch text of the full verdict is authentic) of the 10 December 2015 judgment in the so-called Context case, the largest terrorism case in the Netherlands in years. The 200-page judgment
not only includes considerations on jurisdiction, terrorist intent, incitement, recruitment, training and participation in a criminal (terrorist) organisation, but also on several aspects of international humanitarian law (the relationship between international humanitarian law and the EU Framework Decision on Terrorism, the non-international armed conflict in Syria, the status of foreign fighters under international law, etc). The judgement (in English) can be found here. The ICD will soon publish a case analysis of the judgment, which will be placed under a forthcoming tab that will collect as much case law on the foreign fighters phenomenon as possible. 

9 June 2016: Yesterday, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which is tasked with investigating violations of international human rights law in Eritrea, released its second report in which it finds there are 'reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, namely, enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder, have been committed in Eritrea since 1991'. The Commission also noted that Eritrea cannot currently provide accountability for these crimes without significant reform and thus recommended that the Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court

9 June 2016: On Wednesday, the EU Parliament passed a resolution in which it called upon EU Member States to investigate secret prisons in their territory that held CIA prisoners and participated in the rendition program. In passing the resolution, the EU Parliament noted there has been '"apathy shown by member states and EU institutions" about recognising "the multiple fundamental rights violations and torture" that took place in US CIA "rendition" operations on European soil between 2001 and 2006'. The Parliament also noted that although it has been over a year since the release of the US Senate Study into the CIA's rendition program, no perpetrators have been convicted and there has been a lack of cooperation by the US government with EU member states. 

9 June 2016: ReCAAP (The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia) has released its May report, which notes that piracy and armed robbery is down 65% from the same time period last year. In the relevant time period surveyed, only one Category One incident, the hijacking and attempted cargo theft of the vessel Hai Soon, occurred, with six other minor incidents reported. 


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.