ICJ Media Review: Case filed before Sierra Leone Supreme Court on behalf of victims of rape and torture
In this week's review, news about a case filed on behalf of Sierra Leone victims of rape and torture, calls for investigations on Myanmar by Special Rapporteur and Amnesty International, the UN investigation in DRC, and failure on accountability in Venezuela
Case filed before Sierra Leone Supreme Court on behalf of victims of rape and torture allegedly committed by ECOMOG forces
A team of lawyers filed an application before the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, seeking justice domestically for international crimes allegedly committed by the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces against civilians in 1999. The plaintiffs, who include rape and torture victims as well as the mothers of civilians who were summarily executed, contend that their constitutional rights have been violated. Sierra Leone’s Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law notes that, notwithstanding the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, crimes committed by ECOMOG, as well as by Nigerian armed troops, have never been investigated in Sierra Leone or Nigeria. (CARL Press Release)
Special Rapporteur for Myanmar calls for ICC probe
In a briefing before the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee recommended that the International Criminal Court investigate and prosecute violations of international human rights law in Myanmar, while noting her concern over the Security Council’s apparent inability to refer the situation to the ICC. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Myanmar was established in 1992, and was broadened in 2014 and 2016. According to Ms Lee, accountability for the crimes committed in Myanmar is the only way to end the cycle of violence plaguing the country. (UN News)
Amnesty International report on crimes against humanity in Myanmar
Amnesty International published a report on 27 June documenting alleged crimes against humanity reportedly perpetrated by the Myanmar Army in northern Rakhine State against the Rohingya population. According to the report, officials of all ranks, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Service, are engaging in a “relentless and systematic campaign”. During the investigations between August 2017 and June 2018, Amnesty International has conducted on-site visits, questioned hundreds of witnesses – including survivors and humanitarian aid workers – analysed satellite imagery, and reviewed forensic medical examinations. The majority of the findings are aimed at demonstrating that the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya by Myanmar security forces followed a systematic pattern across a vast geographic area and that crimes were systematically committed by numerous army units.
According to the findings, an alarming number of people – reaching up to 80 percent of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine state – have been subject to forcible transfer to Bangladesh. Women and girls were subject to wide-scale body searches and rape, often in the presence of their family members. Men were separated from families, detained and subsequently tortured, and villages and mosques were set on fire. The report states that the Army’s alleged conduct, such as setting the food markets on fire or cutting off water supplies was calculated to bring about conditions aimed at depriving the population of the necessities for survival. The report states that since the beginning of the conflict on 25 August 2017 “Amnesty International has evidence of nine of the 11 crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber is currently seized of the jurisdiction question over the alleged cross-border deportations of Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh. (Amnesty International Report)
UN investigation into war crimes in the DRC
According to the UN Human Rights Council (‘UNHRC’) report published on 26 June, Congolese government forces, together with the Bana Mura militant group on one side and Kamwina Nsapu fighters on the other, allegedly committed crimes in the Kasai region. Sexual violence, mutilation, killings, looting or use of child soldiers could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Report alleges. Based on the evidence gathered by UN investigators, the conflict in Kasai has left 3,000 casualties and displaced over 1.4 million people. The Congolese government has been engaged in a protracted conflict with the Kamwina Nsapu militant group since August 2016. The UN report attributes the alleged crimes to both parties to the conflict. It alleges the Kamwina Nsapu is using child soldiers to fight against the government, and has systematically committed rape and murder while the government has reportedly responded with disproportionate use of force. The unrest was initially motivated by anti-government sentiment and escalated in August 2016 after Kamwina Nsapu, a traditional leader, took up opposition to President Kabila and his government and the conflict has significantly worsened since. The report noted with concern that the conflict appears to have taken on a dimension of targeted ethnic violence and warned that the scale of violence is comparable to other ongoing conflicts such as in Syria. (BBC, Bloomberg)
UN Human Rights report says Venezuela failed to provide accountability on serious human rights violations
On 22 June, a UN Human Rights report was published which details the failure by Venezuelan authorities to hold accountable perpetrators of human rights violations. The violations included killings, excessive use of force against demonstrators, ill-treatment, torture, and arbitrary detentions. The report consists of dozens of witness interviews, as well as additional information from a range of other sources. Extrapolating from statistics, the report indicates that 5,000 more people were murdered in 2017 then in 2012. This runs alongside the more than 5,000 alleged extrajudicial killings in the same timeframe. The former Attorney-General filed a complaint to the international Criminal Court that thousands of extrajudicial killings took place between 2015 and 2017. The report also outlined concern for the significant numbers of detained military personal, who are in detention for perceived opposition to the government.
Additionally, cases of torture of detainees were outlined in the report. With detainees being subject to beatings, murder, and rape. The ill-treatment extended beyond prisoners to their families. With female visitors being forced to strip naked and undergo invasive searches. Food shortages are also being manipulated to the detriment of the Venezuelan people. With basic goods like baby formula costing far beyond the monthly minimum wage. The 63-page report outlines extensive acts of repression perpetrated by Venezuelan authorities, and it makes comprehensive suggestions to ameliorate the current situation in the country. Notably, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein has stated there is a strong case for deeper involvement in the issue by the International Criminal Court. (OHCHR Report, ReliefWeb).
Photo: Sierra Leone Supreme Court building/Brian Harrington Spier/Flickr