Week 47 – ICL Media Review

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Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 14:38

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about the ECCC appeals judgment, UN Inquiry on Burundi, African Court’s jurisdiction, an apology on the Rwandan genocide, the ICC OTP’s policy on children, N. Korea crimes, and more.

Khieu Samphan

ECCC Supreme Court Chamber delivers appeal judgment in Case 002/01 against Chea and Samphan

The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC has delivered its judgment in the appeal cases of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan (Case 002/01), the former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and the former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea during the Khmer Rouge regime. The Supreme Court upheld Chea and Samphan’s convictions for crimes against humanity – encompassing murder, persecution on political grounds, and other inhumane acts – which took place during the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh after its fall in 1975, and affirmed the life-sentences handed down to the defendants by the ECCC trial chamber. The Supreme Court Camber – consisting of four Cambodian judges and three international judges – did however reverse the decisions of the Trial Chamber regarding Chea and Samphan’s convictions for crimes of humanity committed during the “second phase” of population transfers which took place between 1975-1977. First, the Supreme Chamber reversed the convictions for the crime against humanity of extermination, as the evidence presented had not established beyond a reasonable doubt that the large-scale killings were committed with direct intent. Second, the Supreme Chamber reversed the convictions for the crime against humanity of persecution on political grounds (note, specifically regarding the second phase population transfers, rather than for the evacuation of Phnom Penh), as evidence had not sufficiently shown that the transfers were indeed discriminatory.

Nuon Chea

These reversals of the ECCC Trial Chamber’s convictions did not, however, impact the life sentences handed down to Chea and Samphan. In delivering the Supreme Court Chamber’s decision, Judge Kong Srim stated that the defendants “had a complete lack of consideration for the ultimate fate of the Cambodian population”, and that the scale of their crimes was “massive”. The life sentences were therefore deemed appropriate and affirmed. In response to the Supreme Court Chamber’s findings, the Cambodian Government’s Deputy Prime Minister has stated to survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime: “we express our hope that this trial and today’s delivery of the final judgment brings some relief for your pain and suffering”. (ECCC Press ReleaseAl JazeeraReutersThe GuardianKhmer Times

UN Human Rights Council sets out mandate and commissioners for Inquiry on Burundi

The Human Rights Council has confirmed the mandate and commissioners of the independent Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which it established via Resolution 33/24 on 30 September 2016. The Commission of Inquiry – set up to investigate human rights violations and abuses that have occurred in Burundi since April 2015 – is mandated to identify alleged perpetrators in order to facilitate accountability, and to engage with the Burundian authorities and other stakeholders in order to provide expertise for the improvement of the human rights situation. The three Commissioners have been confirmed as Mr. Fatsah Ouguergouz (Algeria), Ms. Reina Alapini Gansu (Benin) and Ms. Francoise Hampson (United Kingdom). Mr. Ouguergouz is a former Justice of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and former UN’s Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Burundi; Ms. Alapini Gansu is the current Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of the African Union; and Ms. Hampson is a Professor of the International Law of Armed Conflicts and Human Rights at Essex University, having served on the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights for almost 10 years. The three Commissioners will serve in their personal capacities, and Mr. Ouguergouz will serve as Chair of the Commission. (Relief Web)

Fatou Bensouda

ICC OTP pursuing Policy on Children

On 16 November, the first day of the 15th Session of the Assembly of States Parties, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda unveiled her Office’s new Policy on Children at a high-level event in the Hague. Pledging a special focus on investigating and prosecuting crimes against children, the Prosecutor underscored the way in which the policy is a reaffirmation of her Office’s child-sensitive approach and a call for collective involvement at the international level. Bensouda stated that “A crime against a child is an offence against all of humanity; it is an affront to our basic tenets of human decency. Children are our greatest resource, and must be protected from harm so as to reach their full potential. We, at the ICC, intend to play our part through the legal framework of the Rome Statute.” (ICC Press Release

Meeting on N. Korea human rights organised in The Hague

A meeting organised by the South Korean Embassy in the Netherlands, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, and two non-profit foundations was held this week in The Hague to draw attention to the scale and nature of human rights abuses occurring in North Korea. Topics discussed included North Korean policies including torture and forced labour; emphasised the gravity of the ongoing situation; and featured a presentation from a North Korean biophysicist-turned-defector on the violations he and his family experienced. The meeting was organised to coincide with the general meeting of the ICC, and furthermore comes only days after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning human rights abuses by Kim Jong Un’s North Korean government. (UPI

Rwandan Catholic church issues apology for role members played in Genocide

On Sunday 20 November, the Catholic Church in Rwanda issued a formal statement apologizing for the role it played in the 1994 genocide. The statement, which was read aloud to parishioners, recognised that many members of the Church has participated in the planning, aiding and execution of innocent people in Rwanda: acknowledged that many individuals had been killed in the churches to which they had fled; and expressed regret for “all the wrongs the church committed”. (Jurist

African Court reaffirms jurisdiction on case of interpretation and application of African Charter

On 22 November, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights reaffirmed that it has jurisdiction to decide cases concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter – a jurisdiction which includes the Protocol to the African Charter, as well as any other relevant human rights treaties ratified by states party to the African Charter so long as the issue is not simultaneously being examined by the African Commission. This confirmation of jurisdiction was delivered at the international symposium in Arusha, Tanzania, currently being held to commemorate ten years of human rights protection under the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. (Ghana Business News)

US extradites Croatian woman accused in Bosnia of war crimes

Croatian national Azra Basic, accused by Bosnia’s state prosecution of committing war crimes against ethnic Serbs during the war in the former Yugoslavia, has been extradited from the U.S. and handed over to authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Basic is charged with killing a Serbian civilian and torturing others in the town of Derventa in 1992. Arrested in 2011, a U.S. federal judge has since definitely ruled on her extradition such that she will now face trial in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (NY TimesFox News)

ASP 15 November 2016

Former UN Sec Gen Annan warns against abandoning ICC; Members reaffirm support at ASP

On Friday 18 November, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned against the recent withdrawal of Burundi, Gambia and South Africa from the ICC, whilst reaffirming African states’ commitment to the Court. “Most of the continent’s democratic governments stand by the ICC. I stand by the ICC, because the most heinous crimes must not go unpunished,” Annan wrote in his op-ed for The Guardian. Annan also sought to address the criticism espoused by some African leaders that sees the Court’s disproportionately targeting African states, by pointing to the fact that the majority of the ICC investigations within the African continent have been at the behest of the states, which requested the Court’s intervention through self-referrals. Annan’s call for renewed African support to the Court was heeded by a number of African states during the 15th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute. While calling for more dialogue on some African members’ concerns with the Court, a number of African countries spoke out against the withdrawals. Among these, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Ghana, Tunisia, Tanzania, Lesotho and Uganda, took the floor to reaffirm their support and commitment to cooperate with the Court. (The GuardianHRW)

The Auschwitz concentration camp

Prosecutors to use virtual reality to aid in Auschwitz war crimes cases

The Bavarian State criminal office (LKA) in Munich has created a virtual reality version of the Auschwitz concentration camp to assist the continued prosecution of Nazi war criminals. The project, developed on laser scans of Auschwitz buildings, took about six months to complete and was led by digital imaging expert Ralf Breker. Jens Rommel, chief senior prosecutor at the LKA office, explained how the model could assist in the context of a trial, stating that “the defendant admits that he was in Auschwitz but generally he says that he didn’t know anything about what was going on in Auschwitz. And here the 3D model can help to understand what the person involved could see from his position”, said Rommel. While the virtual reality version is yet to be used in court, the 3D computer model has already been used to aid the recent prosecution of wartime SS camp guard Reinhold Hanning. (BBC News)

UNSC extends mandate for Syria chemical weapons investigation

On 17 November, the UN Security Council unanimously decided to extend for an additional year the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) tasked with identifying those responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The 15-member council adopted a US-drafted resolution prolonging the investigation’s mandate until November 2017, aimed at identifying the “perpetrators, organizers, sponsors” of attacks including among groups associated with the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda. Following a year-long investigation, JIM had previously found that Syrian government forces were responsible for the three chlorine gas attacks on Syrian villages in 2014 and 2015, and that the Islamic State used mustard gas in August 2015. While dismissing the conclusions related to the Syrian government’s involvement in the attacks, Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said that Moscow’s backing of the resolution was a recognition that chemical weapons use remains a threat in Syria and Iraq. (UN News CentreYahoo News)


  • Khieu Samphan (Khmer Rouge Tribunal (ECCC)/Flickr)
  • Nuon Chea (commons.wikimedia.org/Bing)
  • Fatou Bensouda (en.wikipedia.org/Bing)
  • ASP 15 November 2016 (ICC-CPI/Flickr)
  • The Auschwitz concentration camp (MrJamesAckerley/Flickr)

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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