Week 10 2017 ICL Media Review

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Friday, March 10, 2017 - 00:00

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about torture trial for Guatemalan military officials, South Africa u-turn on ICC withdrawal, South Sudan tribunal call, justice in Sri Lanka and more

Guatemalan judges send 5 military officers to trial for illegal detention, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearance

A Guatemalan Judge has ruled that there is sufficient evidence to try five senior military officers for the unlawful detention, torture, and sexual violence against Emma Molina Theissen in 1981, and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year old brother, Marco Antonio. The accused include two decorated Generals: Benedicto Lucas García, the former head of the High Command of the Guatemalan Army, and Manual Callejas y Callejas, the former head of military intelligence. The proceedings continue amid reports of high tension and intimidation of both press and Molina Theissen family members. (International Justice Monitor)

South Africa revokes ICC withdrawal after court finds move unconstitutional

South Africa has revoked its withdrawal from the ICC following a recent High Court decision that the government’s withdrawal – notification of which it sent to the UN last October – was unconstitutional. The High Court ruling was handed down in February, and was based on the government’s failure to seek parliamentary approval beforehand, but was answered by a statement from the Justice Minister that the government would continue to consider its options. In the meantime, the UN Treaties website now states that the planned withdrawal has been officially cancelled. (BBC)

Communication filed at ICC against Hamas leader for war crimes

On 6 March 2017, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice and Calev Michael Myers, an Israeli attorney, filed, on behalf of the Israel-Li (Israel to Me) movement, a petition at the ICC against Ismail Haniyeh. The petition accuses the Hamas leader of war crimes against Palestinians during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It stated that Mr. Haniyeh’s terror organization “consistently used civilians as ‘human shields” and fired rockets indiscriminately while they “are forbidden for use according to international law”. The petition claims that such crimes “were among the main reasons for the death of over 2,100 Gazans during the conflict” According to the petition, Haniyeh “played a central role in committing the aforementioned crimes. Haniyeh personally—and all the more forcefully through the government he led—encouraged the citizens of Gaza to remain in their homes and did not let them leave despite repeated warnings from the IDF to leave the buildings as they were to be bombarded.” In its petition, the author stated that the ICC purpose was precisely “to protect civilians who fall victim to regimes that brutally trample on basic human rights, through investigation, prosecution and bringing the individuals responsible for these terrible crimes to justice.” (Ynetnews)

Former war crimes push for tribunal on crimes in S. Sudan

On 6 March 2017, the New York Times published a letter to the editor from Stephen Rapp and David Scheffer. These two former US ambassadors at large for war crimes explained that they had “visited Juba to appeal to South Sudan’s highest leaders that they act to prevent genocide and bring to justice those responsible for [the] atrocities”, and that for now “blanket impunity is fuelling further atrocities”. Calling for action from both Sudanese leaders and the African Union, the authors emphasised that South Sudan has agreed to create a criminal tribunal in the 2015 peace agreement, and that such tribunal should be set up “immediately”. The authors also called upon the US to “press for such actions and build a stronger coalition to confront the humanitarian catastrophe”. (NY Times)

ICC to deliver judgment on appeal against Ntaganda’s contact restrictions

The ICC Appeals Chamber will issue its judgment on March 8 on the appeal by Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda against the decision of Trial Chamber VI restricting Ntaganda’s contacts. (ICC Press Release)

UN HR Commissioner says hybrid court needed in Sri Lanka to ensure justice

The United Nations says that measures taken by Sri Lanka in addressing wartime crimes have so far been “worryingly slow”. In addition, there is evidence that serious abuses, including rape and torture, are still being committed on a widespread basis. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that the lack of accountability risks derailing the momentum towards lasting peace. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN Human Rights Chief, reiterated the need for a hybrid court, which would include foreign judges, and for priority to be given to demilitarization. President Maithripala Sirisena has so far opposed the inclusion of foreign judges in any investigation. (Al JazeeraTamil Guardian)

Two arrested in Germany for war crimes while fighting for al-Nusra

On 2 March, German authorities arrested two Syrian citizens suspected of being members of the extremist Nusra Front, one of whom was allegedly involved in the killing of 36 civilians. According to the prosecutor the first suspect, Abdalfatah HA, was arrested in Dusseldorf and directly participated in carrying out the killings. The second suspect, Abdulrahman AA , was arrested in Giessen, is accused of “breaking international weapons law”. Prosecutors said Abdulrahman AA and Abdalfatah HA had participated in taking raiding a arms depot near Mahin, Syria in November 2013. (BBC)


Report from UN says war crimes committed by both sides in Syria

A United Nations report by the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has found that both sides in the battle for Aleppo – the Russian supported Syrian forces and rebel factions – have “committed serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes.”  The report states that both sides committed crimes by forcing the evacuation of the city – the crime of forced displacement - for strategic reasons and not for the security of civilians, or imperative military necessity.  The report highlights an aerial attack on an authorized U.N.-Red Crescent aid convoy which was west of Aleppo in November 2015. (NPR)

ICL Media Review is an independent UK Small Charity which aims to provide a daily survey of news and developments affecting international criminal law and international human rights in a neutral and impartial manner.


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