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News updates

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

30 September 2016:
 The Center for Investigation and Documentation on Human Rights in North Korea was opened in South Korea this week. This Center will collect evidence of alleged crimes against humanity committed by North Korea by, inter alia, interviewing North Korean escapees, South Koreans who were abducted, and soldiers previously captured by North Korea. 

30 September 2016: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has commenced a preliminary investigation into the situation in Gabon following Gabon's self referral to the ICC. Within its referral, Gabon gave the ICC a start date of May 2016 and provided no end-date. The preliminary examination will examine 'the information available to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute', and it will look at alleged crimes 'committed by any groups or individuals involved in the situation'. 

30 September 2016: Amnesty International (AI) has released the results of its investigations into the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Darfur, Sudan. Some of its findings include that between 200-250 people may have died as a result of the use of chemical weapons and that at least 30 potential chemical weapon attacks have occurred so far in 2016. AI has suggested these attacks amount to war crimes and called upon the UN Security Council to investigate the use of chemical weapons. 

29 September 2016: Following his conviction and sentencing earlier this year, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo has formally launched an appeal of his conviction. Mr. Bemba was convicted of 2 counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes in March 2016 and was sentenced in June to 18 years' imprisonment. Mr. Bemba is also an accused in the Bemba et al. case which concerns alleged witness interference. A judgment in this case is expected on 19 October 2016. 

29 September 2016: In a joint Spanish, Belgian and German operation, 5 suspected members of the Islamic State terrorist group have been arrested across Europe. According to a Spanish Interior Ministry spokesman, they were allegedly following the Islamic State's orders, and aimed to incite terrorism and recruit people. They also allegedly operated a Facebook page called 'Islam in Spanish'.   

29 September 2016: The United States has extradited Leopold Munyakazi, a Rwandan fugitive who is wanted in Rwanda to face genocide charges. According to Rwanda's prosecutor-general, Mr. Munyakazi 'is considered one of the key ideologues of the genocide, in which over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed'. Mr. Munyakazi has maintained his innocence throughout the extradition process. 

28 September 2016: The Human Rights Watch Executive Director of the Americas Division, Jose Miguel Vivanco, has raised concerns about the landmark deal between Colombia and FARC due to its approach to justice and impunity. Mr. Vivanco has argued that 'the justice component of the agreement ... will compound impunity in the country' as it allows those, whether guerrilla fighters or armed forces, who confess to their crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, to avoid imprisonment. While the agreement is a cause for celebration, Mr. Vivanco warns that 'the risk is entirely too apparent that grave human rights violations could happen again' if those responsible for crimes are left unpunished. 

28 September 2016: UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has suggested that Russia may be involved in attacks that have directly targeted civilians in Syria. Mr. Johnson's comments came after heavy bombing in Aleppo and the attack on an aid convoy last week. He warned that directly targeting civilians would constitute a war crime. Russia has denied responsibility for these attacks. 

27 September 2016: Trial Chamber VIII of the International Criminal Court has today found Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to 9 years' imprisonment in relation to the destruction of historical and religious buildings in Timbuktu, Mali. For further information, please see here and here

27 September 2016: Swiss voters have approved a law concerning new surveillance powers for use againstterrorism and cyber crime suspects. Amongst other things, this law will enable the Swiss national intelligence service to tap phones and computer networks, and it enhances international cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies. Amnesty International has raised privacy concerns in relation to the new law and has argued it may infringe upon the freedom of expression.  

27 September 2016: War crimes investigators have expressed their frustration at the lack of global backing to prosecute alleged Islamic State (IS) criminals before an international tribunal. The Commission for International Justice and Accountability, an indepedent investigative group, has 'built a case implicating the entire IS command structure in a plot to kidnap Yazidi women and girls and establish a sex-slave market'. However, Bill Wiley, the head of the group, has lamented the lack of solid action by coalition governments and NGOs in 'transforming ... evidence into criminal prosecution'.  

26 September 2016: The verdict in the case against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi will be delivered tomorrow at 11.30am by Trial Chamber VIII at the International Criminal Court. Mr. Al Mahdi pleaded guilty on 22 August 2016 to war crimes charges that relate to the destruction of cultural heritage, including religious monuments, in Mali in June-July 2012. The hearing may be streamed online here.

25 September 2016: Ardit Ferizi, a Kosovar citizen, was sentenced to 20 years ' imprisonment in the US following pleading guilty to having, inter alia, provided material support to the terrorist group Islamic State. Mr. Ferizi admitted to having illegally accessed a server that contained, among other things, 'personally identifiable information ... belonging to tens of thousands of ... customers, including members of the military and other government personnel'. He then sent this information to Junaid Hussain, 'a now-deceased ISIL recruiter and attack facilitator', who subsequently released the information via twitter.  

24 September 2016: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the importance of protecting cultural property in areas where conflicts are ongoing. In so doing, he focused on threats to cultural heritage in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Yemen and Mali, labelling attacks on cultural property as war crimes. The Secretary-General further noted that attacks on cultural items 'aim to tear at the fabric of societies' and he called upon the international community to do more to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage. 

24 September 2016: The appellate judgment in case 002/01 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan will be delivered on 23 November 2016. They were initially found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in August 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Both accused filed appeals against the initial judgment, identifying a total of 371 grounds of appeal.  

23 September 2016: Various international groups have been campaigning for the establishment of an international investigation by the UN Human Rights Council into alleged war crimes in Yemen. Of particular concern are the air strikes carried out by a Saudi-led coalition that have allegedly led to the killing of many civilians and that have allegedly targeted protected sites, including hospitals and schools. Last month, the UN Human Rights office said that these air strikes had caused 60% of all civilian casualties since March 2015. 

23 September 2016: Yesterday, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs called upon the African Union to 'end consideration of a call for mass withdrawal of its members from the International Criminal Court (ICC)'.  Among the African Union's concerns are the lack of immunity from prosecution for sitting heads of states and other senior officials at the ICC, as exemplified in attempts to prosecute Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto of Kenya, and claims that the ICC is unfairly targeting Africa. 

22 September 2016: Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered a decision in the case of Mustafic-Mujic and Others v the Netherlands. In this case, relatives of people killed in the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995 claimed that Dutch authorities had failed to properly investigate Dutch servicemen who had 'allegedly [sent the applicants'] ... relatives to their probable death by ordering them to leave the safety of the UN peacekeepers' compound after the Bosnian Serb forces had overrun Srebrenica and its environs'. The ECtHR dismissed the application, finding that 'there had been extensive and repeated investigations by national and international authorities' that left 'no lingering uncertainty as regards the nature and degree of involvement' of the Dutch servicemen. The Court also found that the decision not to prosecute the servicemen was not biased, inconsistent, excessive or unjustified. 

22 September 2016: Bosco Ntaganda has ended his hunger strike that he instituted in protest against communications restrictions imposed by the International Criminal Court due to concerns of witness coaching. Following the arrangement of a visit from his wife, he has also resumed providing instructions to his lawyers, 'putting an end to a 14-day boycott of proceedings in his trial'. Mr Ntaganda is charged with 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity. His trial is ongoing. 

22 September 2016: On 19 October 2016, the International Criminal Court will deliver its first verdict in an evidence tampering trial. The Bemba et al. case has 5 accused persons and concerns allegations of offences against the administration of justice that are connected to the Bemba case. Mr Bemba, who was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes in March, and his co-accused, including members of his defence team, are suspected of 'corruptly influencing witnesses by giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony, presenting false evidence and giving false testimony in the court room'. 

21 September 2016: On Tuesday, the EU introduced new measures to combat terrorism and, in particular, foreign fighters. Some of these measures include allowing the EU to freeze assets and impose travel bans on individuals without reference to the UN's own lists, preventing non-EU nationals with terrorist links from entering the EU, and preventing individuals from leaving to travel to Syria. 

21 September 2016: Dragan Vasiljkovic has pleaded not guilty to war crimes charges at the start of his trial in Croatia. Mr Vasiljkovic, who was extradited from Australia in July 2015 following a 10 year legal battle, is allegedly responsible 'for the torture and killings of prisoners in ... Knin, and the attack in 1991 on a police station in ... Glina in which civilians were expelled, robbed and killed'. He has called the indictment 'a staged story' as well as 'comical, shamless and insolent'.  

21 September 2016: Three experts, working on behalf of the UN's human rights office, have recommended the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry for Burundi in light of their finding that crimes against humanity may have been committed over the last 1.5 years. The experts examined the 14 month period prior to 30 June 2016 and found that '[g]ross human rights violations have and are taking place [and that] ... [g]iven the country's history, the danger of the crime of genocide also looms large'. 

20 September 2016: The investigators of an United Nations Inquiry Panel on Syria have reported that interviewing new arrivals from Syria in Europe is becoming more challenging. The Panel is in the process of identifying suspects who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria and continues to advocate for the Syrian situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court. The Panel's chairman, Paulo Pinheiro, requested that countries hosting new arrivals grant access to the Panel so it can continue its work.

19 September 2016: Trial Chamber V(B) of the International Criminal Court has referred Kenya to the Assembly of States Parties due to its lack of cooperation with the Court. The Prosecution had initially brought the issue of non-cooperation in the case of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta before the Chamber in 2013 and in December 2014, the Chamber noted that the Kenyan government had not met the good faith cooperation required by the Rome Statute. Today's decision 'noted ... that this situation has persisted even following a period of active judicial supervision and ... it appears that no further progress has been made'. Since the Prosecution's initial application, the case against Mr Kenyatta has been terminated. 

19 September 2016: Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal has submitted charges against eight people: Rezaul Karim, ABM Yunus Ali, Yusuf Ali, Omar Ali, Belayet Hossain, Nasir Uddin, Kazi Badruzzaman and Ismail. They are charged with crimes against humanity that allegedly took place during Bangladesh's liberation war in 1971. 

18 September 2016: According to the International Maritime Bureau, piracy in Southeast Asia makes up the majority of sea attacks globally. Comparatively, there were 178 attacks in Southeast Asia during 2015 and 'none in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea region near Somalia ... after a multinational security crackdown there'. Within Southeast Asia, there is evidence that some of these attacks are being carried out by groups such as Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group that has pledged allegiance to terrorist group Islamic State. 

17 September 2016: Eight people who allegedly belonged to a group supporting the Islamic State have been charged under Brazilian anti-terrorism law. These Brazilian nationals were arrested prior to the Rio games and were suspected of planning an attack on the games itself. They have been charged with, inter alia, promoting a terrorist organisation and criminal organisation, inciting children to commit crimes, and recruiting members for a terrorist organisation. 

17 September 2016: According to local media reports, Uruguay is in the process of establishing a prosecutor's office that will specialise in investigating crimes against humanity. Last week, the Uruguayan government sent a bill to Congress that seeks to establish this office. If established, the new office will consider crimes against humanity and human rights abuses committed during the 1973-1985 military dictatorship. 

16 September 2016: The Prosecutor of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, David Schwendiman, has stated that he will work 'fairly, vigorously and without fear' in his duties. The Chambers are currently being set up and will investigate alleged crimes, including organ harvesting, committed during the conflict in Kosovo. The Chambers will operate with international judges and prosecutors who apply Kosovar law and, according to Registrar Fidelma Donlon, it is hoped that the Chambers will start their judicial work in 2017. 

16 September 2016: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has released Policy Paper that discusses case selection and prioritisation. This document aims to provide 'sound, fair and transparent principles and criteria' to guide the exercise of the Prosecutor's discretion in determining which cases should be prosecuted or investigated. Principles, such as the independence, impartiality and objectivity of the Prosecutor's office as well as the gravity of the alleged crime and other legal considerations, form important parts of the policy.

New cases, briefs and videos

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

NEW CASE
The 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?'. 

NEW CASE
: 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 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.