ICJ Media Review: New report finds overwhelming evidence of war crimes committed in Syria

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Sunday, April 8, 2018 - 11:54

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about the ICC’s new Malian suspect transferred to The Hague, Rios Montt’s death during re-trial, judgment against former Bolivian President in an American federal court, the IIIM’s Report on evidence of crimes in Syria, an STL decision on evidence, HRW’s recommendations on the CAR Special Court and more:

Malian ICC suspect, Al Hassan, makes his first appearance in court

The Pre-Trial Chamber I, composed solely of Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, convened on 4 April 2018 for the initial appearance of Mr Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, in accordance with the Article 60 of the Rome Statute. By virtue of  Article 60, Mr Al Hassan, represented by the duty counsel Mr Yasser Hassan, was informed of the crimes which he has been charged with and the rights accorded to him at this stage of proceedings. Mr Al Hassan was arrested and handed over to the custody of the ICC by the Malian authorities on 31 March 2018.  He is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, in the context of a non-international armed conflict between April 2012 and January 2013. Specifically, as an alleged member of Ansar Eddine and in his capacity as de facto chief of Islamic Police, he is alleged to have participated in the destruction of mausoleums in Timbuktu and the policy of forced marriage and sexual enslavement of women and girls. The confirmation of charges hearing was provisionally scheduled for 24 September 2018. If, after the confirmation of charges hearing, the case reaches the Trial Chamber, Mr Al Hassan will be the second accused after Mr Al Mahdi to be tried before the ICC in the context of the situation in Mali.  (ICC Press Release, Order on Initial Appearance, Warrant of Arrest, BBC, Reuters, AlJazeera)

Former Guatemalan leader, Rioss Montt, dies while on retrial for genocide

Guatemala’s former military leader, Efrain Rios Montt, died on 1 April 2018. Accused of ordering the deaths of over 1,700 Ixil Mayan Indians during his leadership in 1982 and 1983, Rios Montt had been convicted in 2013 of genocide and crimes against humanity – however, the conviction was later overturned by Guatemala’s highest court. A retrial that had commenced in 2017 was ongoing at the time of his death. (BBCReuters)

Former president of Bolivia held liable for extra-judicial killing in US civil claim under the Torture Victim Protection Act

In the case of Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín before an American federal court, the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former defence minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, were held responsible for extrajudicial killings carried out by the Bolivian military during its 2003 Gas War. The civil suit, which proceeded under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), represents the first time that a former head of state has been a party to a US human rights trial. While claims arising under the TVPA, as well as the Alien Tort Statute, are often held up on immunity challenges, the jury in this case awarded $10 million in damages to the relatives of slain Bolivians, who alleged that the defendants plotted to kill thousands of civilians in order to quash political opposition and ordered the military to use deadly force. (CCR Press ReleaseNew York Times)

New report finds overwhelming evidence of war crimes committed in Syria

The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Republic since March 2011 (IIIM), a quasi-prosecutorial office, issued a Report on 28 February stating they have compiled an “overwhelming volume of documentation” generally coming in the form of videos and images “of crimes committed in the Syrian Arab Republic”. The IIIM will also looked at the role played by social media in the conflict. In its Report, the IIIM outlined the guiding principles and approaches taken by the Mechanism. These included a focus on impartiality and independence, developing strategies for approaching international crimes, managing cost and length of proceedings, as well as empowering affected communities, and developing approaches toward sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children. Further, the Report made clear the Mechanisms need for support from the UN and the international community. Given the electronic nature of much of the evidence being handled by the IIIM, it requires sophisticated IT systems. Moreover, the IIIM is looking for national legislative frameworks to adapt in order to best assist the IIIM. Funding is also a key issue for the IIIM. The IIIM is looking to provide the Syrian people with a “comprehensive path towards justice” and it looks to do so through its reliance on victim participation in the justice process. (JuristIIIM Report).

Sabra Defence request for reconsideration on Rule 165 STL decision; Prosecution Response

In the main case before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Prosecutor v. Ayyash et al., the Defence for Assad Hassan Sabra filed a motion seeking reconsideration of the Trial Chamber’s order denying its request for testimony from four investigators as Chambers witnesses. The Sabra Defence argued that the evidence sought was relevant to whether the Prosecution fully investigated other lines of inquiry concerning the disappearance of Ahmed Abu Adass, and disputed the Trial Chamber’s finding that the request was untimely, as well as its finding that the four investigators should be listed on a witness list. The Prosecution opposed the motion, arguing that the Sabra Defence failed to show that the decision caused an injustice involving prejudice and that it had voluntarily declined to exercise its right to present evidence during the current Defence phase of the case. (Sabra Defence MotionProsecution Response)

HRW recommends support for CAR's Special Criminal Court ahead of Universal Periodic Review

On 29 March 2018, Human Rights Watch released its submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the Central African Republic. The submission focuses on sexual violence committed by the two main groups in the country’s civil war from 2012 to 2014, namely the Seleka and the anti-balaka militias. It discusses the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the lack of access to services, the lack of access to justice, and the challenges faced by the Special Criminal Court (SCC). The submission details the progress made by the SCC since the foundational law was signed in June 2015 but highlights issues preventing it from fulfilling its mandate and recommended support for the SCC. The submission makes recommendations for combating sexual violence in the Central African Republic and bringing its perpetrators to justice. (All AfricaHuman Rights Watch)

Appointment of new UN MICT judge

On 22 March 2018, the United Nations Secretary General has appointed Ms. Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya as Judge of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Ibanda-Nahamya served as Judge at the International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda, and since 2013 had been on the Roster of Eminent Judges for the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone. (UNMICT Press Release)

Special Tribunal for Lebanon Registrar’s visit to Beirut

On 29 March 2018, Daryl Mundis the Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) met the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri during a working visit to Beirut. He also met with other members of the legal and diplomatic community of Lebanon. The Registrar is responsible for securing funding for the STL. (STL Press Release)

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