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News updates

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

23 March 2017: Tomorrow March 24, 2017, Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver its order for reparations to victims in the case of Germain Katanga. Mr Katanga was sentenced in 2014 to a total of 12 years' imprisonment after being found guilty, as an accessory, of one count of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes committed on February 24, 2003 during the attack on the village of Bogoro, in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was later transferred to a DRC prison to serve his sentence, reduced by the ICC Appeals Chamber, which he completed in January 2016. Mr Katanga remains in prison in the DRC due to national judicial proceedings against him relating to other alleged crimes.

23 March 2017: Human Rights Watch says the Islamic State (ISIS) executed and dumped the bodies of possibly hundreds at a site near Mosul. The bodies of those killed, including security forces, prisoners and women, were thrown into a naturally occurring sinkhole located in an area known as Khasfa. Local residents said that before pulling out ISIS laid improvised landmines at the site. The site is one of dozens of ISIS mass graves found between Iraq and Syria, but could be the largest discovered so far. While it is not possible to determine the number of people executed in the area, the estimates of residents reach into the thousands. Widespread or systematic murder carried out by a state or organized group as part of an attack against a civilian population -as part of a policy to commit murder- constitutes a crime against humanity, while the deliberate killing of civilians and civilian or military prisoners during armed conflict constitute a war crime.

23 March 2017: On Monday, more than 850 family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks filed a lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The suit alleges that Saudi Arabia provided support to al Qaeda in multiple ways and seeks unspecified damages, with the primary motive of trying to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the terrorist attacks.

22 March 2017:
 Bemba et al. case: Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court issues sentences for five convicted persons. On October 19, 2016, the Chamber found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aime Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidele Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido guilty of various offences against the administration of justice. Sentencing was delivered today for all the convicted persons; in particular, Mr Bemba was condemned to one year imprisonment, to be served consecutively to his existing sentence in the Main Case, and was additionally fined EUR 300'000, to be paid to the Court within 3 months of its decision and subsequently be transferred to the Trust Fund for Victims
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22 March 2017: On Tuesday, Pakistan's National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reinstate military courts in the country for two years, after a two months lapse. The courts were first introduced for two years in January 2015 to expedite the cases of terrorists after Pakistani Taliban attacked an army school in Peshawar killing more than 140 people, mostly children. Almost all of those who voted for the amendment acknowledged setting up a parallel system of justice is not an ideal solution, but said the step was necessary to deal with the extraordinary level of terrorism; human rights activists complain the military courts fail to provide transparent justice and violate the suspects' legal rights. The court were at the time introduced as a temporary solution, while promises were made to reform the country's civilian justice system.

22 March 2017: The head of anti-piracy operations in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia said he has been fired for speaking out about illegal fishing, which he claims could trigger a new outbreak of piracy in the Indian Ocean. Pirates hijacked an oil tanker off Somalia last week, the first such attack in the region since 2012.

22 March 2017: New Zealand's troops could potentially face an international war crimes case over allegations that New Zealand Special Air Service (NZ SAS) members were involved in the killings of civilians in Afghanistan, an international law expert says. Allegations in a book were made according to which six civilians were killed and fifteen injured during a raid north of Kabul. New York University adjunct law professor Alison Cole argued the book could be used as evidence by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court.

22 March 2017: On Tuesday, Twitter said it suspended 376'890 accounts in the second half of 2016 for "promotion of terrorism", an increase of 60% over the prior six-month period. The latest suspensions bring the total number of blocked accounts to 636'248 from August 2015; the actions come with social networks being under pressure from governments around the world to use technology tools to lock out jihadists and others who use the platforms to recruit and launch attacks.

21 March 2017:
 The Libyan National Army (LNA) has been accused of war crimes as it paraded the mutilated bodies of Islamist fighters around Benghazi after regaining control of the city. The exhumation and reported mutilation of the corpse of Islamist leader Jamal Makhzoum has been condemned as a war crime by the Libyan National Commission for Human Rights
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20 March 2017: Philippine President Duterte vows anti-drug war campaign will continue and will be 'brutal' as death toll passes 8'000 mark. On Sunday, the President said he would not be intimidated by the prospect of the International Criminal Court (ICC) putting him on trial. More than 8'000 people have died since Duterte took office on June 30 last year and began his anti-drugs campaign. Two men, including a self-confessed assassin who is expected to file a case this month or in April before the ICC, have testified before the Philippine Senate saying they were part of an alleged 'death squad' in Davao that killed at Duterte's behest. But Senate members found no proof of extrajudicial killings.

20 March 2017:
 The International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) opened on Monday the appeal hearings for former Bosnian Croat leader Jadranko Prlic and five others. Prlic was sentenced by the ICTY in 2013 to 25 years in prison on charges of murdering and deporting Muslims during the war. Five other Bosnian Croat military and political leaders were also handed heavy prison terms after having been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. All six are now appealing
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19 March 2017: Seven Congolese Army officers have been arrested and charged with war crimes after a video surfaced last month appeared to show uniformed soldiers opening fire on a group of civilians in a massacre that left at least 13 individuals dead. The video depicts a squad of soldiers gunning down a group of people, which included women and possibly children, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kasai-Central Province. Analysts who saw the video said that it revealed a government-sponsored massacre of civilians and that it could be used as evidence of war crimes.

18 March 2017: Amnesty International has urged US President Donald Trump not to approve arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Arming the two Gulf countries could implicate the US in possible war crimes in Yemen, and doing so while simultaneously banning travel to the US from Yemen would be even more unconscionable.

18 March 2017: A New York court convicted on Thursday Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Harun on federal terrorism charges for his involvement in the deaths of US servicemen in Afghanistan. Harun was charged with multiple terrorism offences, including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan and conspiracy to bomb the US Embassy in Nigeria.

17 March 2017:
 On Thursday, descendants of the Namibia genocide victims had their first day in court in New York. Tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people were killed from 1904 to 1908 by German colonial rulers. The class-action lawsuit filed by the tribes in New York seeks reparations and demands that their representatives be included in negotiations between Germany and Namibia on the issue. They filed the claim in January under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows non-US citizens to make claims before US federal court for international law violations
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17 March 2017: Somali pirates who had hijacked an oil tanker on Monday have released it without conditions, according to officials. The crew members were freed unharmed and without payment of a ransom, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry declared. Earlier in the week, authorities were still trying to determine whether the gunmen were organised pirates or fishermen whose equipment was destroyed by illegal fishing vessels, as they claimed to be. It was the first hijack off Somalia's coast since 2012. In 2015, Somali officials warned that piracy could return unless the international community helped to create jobs and security ashore, as well as to combat illegal fishing at sea. Some Somali fisherman did turn to piracy after their livelihoods were destroyed by illegal fishing from foreign trawlers, which benefited from the lack of a functioning coastguard in the country due to years of conflict.

17 March 2017: The European Union called on Thursday for the United Nations (UN) to send an international fact-finding mission urgently to Myanmar to investigate allegations of torture, rapes and executions by the military against Rohingya Muslim minority. A UN report last month, based on interviews with survivors in Bangladesh, said the Myanmar army and police had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Some 750'000 people have fled Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar's military began a security operation last October in response to what it says was an attack by Rohingya insurgents on border posts in which nine police officers were killed.

16 March 2017: Criminal investigators say they have built a case documenting the widespread torture and murder of Syrian detainees by the Assad regime. They rely on official photos and meticulously detailed documents. More than 700'000 pages from Syrian intelligence and security archives have in fact been smuggled out by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), an independent group of legal experts, through a secret network. Investigators also have access to 55'000 pictures of detainees' bodies which were smuggled out by a former forensic photographer code-named Caesar, who worked at Tishreen military hospital.

16 March 2017: Four people were jailed in Germany for forming a far-right terrorist group. The Munich State Court sentenced three men and a woman to prison terms between three and five years for forming a far-right terrorist group in Germany with a plan to bomb refugee homes as a tactic to scare migrants into leaving the country. The four individuals founded the so-called Oldschool Society in August 2014, a group which grew to have about 30 members, with plans to commit attacks on foreigners and refugees due to the group's racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim beliefs. The group had planned to attack a refugee shelter in the Saxon town of Bornia in May 2015, but police had it under surveillance and detained the four founding members before they could carry out any terrorist act. Germany has seen a sharp increase in attacks on refugee homes in the last two years.

16 March 2017: Today is the 29th anniversary of the Halabja Massacre. On March 16, 1988, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi air forces bombed with chemical weapons the city of Halabja, in Southern Kurdistan. At least 5'000 people died as an immediate result of the chemical attack, three quarters of whom were women and children, and a further 7'000 people were injured or suffered long term illnesses. The Iraqi High Criminal Court recognized the Halabja massacre as an act of genocide on March 1, 2010.

16 March 2017: On Monday, Colombia's senate approved a constitutional reform to set up special war crimes courts, a key component of the historic peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached in November, and also one of its most contested elements. The court system will be made up of three sections: a truth commission, a unit to search for missing people, and a temporary, autonomous body to try crimes committed during the armed conflict before December 1, 2016.

15 March 2017: As war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to go unpunished in Syria, an Amnesty International campaign marking the sixth anniversary of the crisis calls on world leaders to take immediate action to deliver justice, truth and reparations to the millions of victims of the conflict. The Justice for Syria campaign calls on governments to end impunity and make accountability a reality for the Syrian people by supporting and funding the investigative mechanism on Syria voted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2016 and by enforcing universal jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute, in their own courts, suspected perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

15 March 2017: Suspected pirates have hijacked an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia, Somali officials and piracy experts said. This is the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel on the global trade route since 2012. The Aris 13, which was carrying fuel from Djibouti to Mogadishu, reported on Monday of being approached by two skiffs. Eight Sri Lankan crew members were aboard.

14 March 2017:
 Germany and Italy deport suspected terrorists to Tunisia. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere confirmed on Sunday that a Tunisian man responsible for a deadly museum attack in Tunisia in 2015 will be deported. The man is also suspected of having connections with the Islamic State in Germany. The Italian Interior Ministry also announced on Sunday that a man allegedly linked to the Berlin market attacker Anis Amri was expelled
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14 March 2017: The European Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected an argument by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam requesting that their activities be not classified as "terrorist acts". The arguments were submitted as support for four individuals who had their assets frozen due to the accusation that they were financing acts of terror by financing The Tamil Tigers. The Court ruled that the freezing of assets was acceptable holding that the acts of the Tamil Tigers were admissible as terrorist acts.

13 March 2017: Bangladesh unanimously adopted a resolution declaring March 25th "Genocide Day", in remembrance of the atrocities carried out by the Pakistani Army in the night of March 25, 1971.

13 March 2017: Bosnian prosecutors said that they are investigating Sakib Softic, the attorney who made a failed submission before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to reverse a 2007 ruling that cleared Serbia for genocide. The Court said the request had to be rejected since it was not made by a legitimate agent acting on behalf of Bosnia's tripartite presidency. The Court's rejection of the case prompted Bosnia's prosecutor to open a case and investigate allegations about Softic's role in bringing the claim before the ICJ.

12 March 2017: A Swedish District Court has recently ruled that non-state armed groups have the capacity under international law to establish courts and carry out penal sentences, but only under certain conditions. This may be the first time that any domestic or international court has made a definitive ruling in this regard.

11 March 2017:
 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday denied a request by Bosnia to reopen a 2007 case that cleared Serbia of playing an active role in the genocide committed during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. A few weeks ago, just before the 10-year window to ask for a review of the case expired, a team of lawyers filed a request for the ICJ to revise the ruling, arguing that evidence had become available since 2007 that would demonstrate the active role of the Serbian state, and the scale of its involvement, during the war
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10 March 2017: International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters pushed Iraq to allow for a United Nations investigations into international crimes committed by the group. The Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, United Nations experts reported.

10 March 2017: Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders paid tribute to activists who risk their lives in Syria to gather evidence of atrocities, saying this should be used to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was speaking at a meeting of experts discussing progress in setting up an independent database to store and analyse evidence of international crimes committed in Syria's civil war. The database, established late last year by the United Nations General Assembly, will send a message that efforts to ensure accountability for atrocities continue.

9 March 2017: On Thursday, an armed group affiliated with the Islamic State reportedly claimed responsibility for the day-long attack on the Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan hospital, the main treatment centre for wounded Afghan soldiers. Following a suicide attack on the building, gun battles continued for hours, while staff and patients were trapped in the hospital. At least 30 people were killed and dozens wounded. Those who carried out the attack have committed war crimes. Attacks directly targeting health care in Afghanistan have increased since 2014, HRW says.

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?'. 

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.