In this week’s review, news about Serbia seeking Mladic release, Victim testimony at the STL, ICC cooperation requests on Al-Werfalli, a Bemba et al leave to reply decision, a human rights report on Venezuela, war crimes arrest in Kosovo, a Sri Lankan ambassadors implication in war crimes, and more
Reports indicate Serbia will request release of Mladic
On 30 August, the news website Sputnik reported that the Serbian government will purportedly ask for the release of Ratko Mladic from ICTY detention to receive medical treatment in Serbia. “Due to the serious health situation of the wartime commander of the Serb Republic (Army), Serbian ministers are determined to do everything that is up to Belgrade to act quickly and prevent the worst scenario,” the article reads. The former Bosnian Serb general has been on trial at the ICTY since May 2012 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and has already suffered two heart attacks. According to another Serbian news source, Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic intends to send a letter to the ICTY demanding that Mladic be provided with all adequate conditions for his medical treatment due to his serious illness, “something that has been pointed out by the members of his family and his defense.” Reports also say that the Ministry of Justice would be willing as well to support a possible proposal to grant Mladic temporary relase to receive treatment in Serbia. (b92)
Victims and family members begin testifying at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
On 28 August 2017, the first victim testified before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) through video from Beiruth. Mrs Ghalayini told the five judges about her hope to find her father’s body, found 17 days after the event, and she stated that her family received no help from the authorities in their quest to find her father. Opened in 2009, the STL was set to try people responsible for the suicide car bombing that killed former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri along with 21 other people on 14 February 2005 in Beirut. It is the first “ad-hoc tribunal with the jurisdiction to try an act of terror”. Since 2014, it indicted five suspects and quashed the case against Mustafa Badreddine, former Hezbollah commander, who allegedly died in fighting in Syria in May 2016. The four others (Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Habib Merhi) are being tried in absentia. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, considers the STL as “a US-Israeli plot” and bet that “none of the defendants will ever be caught” (Arab News).
ICC requests cooperation in arrest of Libyan accused as reports say Al-Werfalli arrested and investigated in Libya
On August 15 2017, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber released the arrest warrant Mahmoud al-Werfalli. The ICC is requesting for cooperation from competent authorities in Libya to see al-Werfalli transferred to The Hague. Al-Werfalli has since been arrested in Libya and is currently being held by Libyan National Army forces, a spokesperson for whom has stated that al-Werfalli’s case is currently being seen to by a military prosecutor. No indication has been given on whether the LNA forces will cooperate with the ICC and transfer al-Werfalli to The Hague. (ICC PTC Decision, Aljazeera)
ICC Appeals Chamber decides on Bemba et al leave to reply for appeal
On August 18 2017, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC rejected Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, and four other persons request for leave to reply to the Prosecutor’s consolidated response to the five appellants’ documents in support of the appeal. The requests to reply to the Prosecutor were brought on a number of grounds, namely inaccurate or misleading statements of fact and law, and raising new arguments, among other reasons. The Prosecutor contested these arguments stating they failed to demonstrate good cause. The Appeals Chamber, making mention of its authority to decide on the filing of replies on a case-by-case basis rejected the five appellants’ requests for leave to reply. (ICC AC Decision)
UN High Commissioner for human rights issues report on abuses in Venezuela
On Wednesday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report detailing extensive human rights violations and abuses committed in Venezuela during this year’s anti-government protests. In the report, the OHCHR points to “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations”, noting that that since April, more than 5,000 protesters have been detained, with more than 1,300 reported to still be in detention as of the end of July.
Furthermore, the analysis of OHCHR indicates that of the 124 reported deaths being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office, 46 are attributable to government forces and 27 to pro-government armed groups, known as armed colectivos. Since 1 April 2017, the Attorney General’s Offices has reportedly opened investigations into more than 1,958 cases of reported injuries in the context of the protests, injuries which the OHCHR found to be telling of an escalating use of force. The report calls on the UN Human Rights Council to consider taking measures to prevent the human rights situation in Venezuela from worsening. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned the findings of the report as a clear violation of Venezuelan’s rights and freedoms.
“The Government must ensure there are prompt, independent and effective investigations of the human rights violations allegedly committed by the security forces and of the abuses involving armed colectivos or violent protesters. This includes ensuring that the investigations initiated by the Attorney General during the period covered by this report continue and are scrupulously and visibly impartial,” said the UN High Commissioner. (OHCHR Report, OHCHR Press Release, Jurist)
Kosovo arrests Serb national for war crimes causing accusations of persecution in Serbia
Elez Blakaj, Kosovo Special Prosecutor, stated that a suspect of war crimes was arrested on 28 August 2017. While the Police have not confirmed the arrest yet, Serbian media said the suspect was named Bogdan Mitrovic, 74 year old. The arrest apparently took place while he was visiting homes they abandoned in a village after the war along with about 50 other Serbs. The head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, qualified the arrest as a “disgraceful and inhuman” of an ongoing “ethnic cleansing” of Serbs from Kosovo, warning that “there can be no normalisation of relations [with Kosovo] if the other side doesn’t want it”. On 11 August 2017, Agim Sahitaj, arrested in the same village, remained in custoday for a month suspected for war crimes against the Kosovo Albanian civilian population in April 1999. (Balkan Insight)
Sri Lankan ambassador to South American states accused of war crimes during civil war in effort to force expulsion
On 28 August 2017, human rights groups International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in South America have filed war crimes lawsuits against Jagath, a former Sri Lankan general, in Brazil and Colombia. Mr. Jayasuriya is currently serving as the Sri Lankan ambassador to Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname, six countries where he has diplomatic immunity.
He is suspected of having overseen military units that attacked hospitals and killed and “tortured thousands of people in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009” while being a commander of the Vanni Security Force from 2007 to 2009, “one of the bloodiest periods in a 26-year war that is estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people”. Carlos Castresana Fernandez, the lawyer coordinating the effort who also worked on the Pinochet case, stated that petitions will soon be filed in Argentina, Chile and Peru while Suriname had refused to accept it.
His group hopes that the suits will “compel regional governments to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his immunity and expel him”. ITJP stated it interviewed 14 people who survived torture or sexual violence at the camp. The Sri Lankan army has denied committing war crimes. (Aljazeera, Time)
Guinea Bissau pledges ratification of African Court protocol
President José Mário Vazhas has pledged that Guinea Bissau will ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which establishes the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR). The country signed the Protocol in June 1998. So far, 30 out of 55 African Union member states have ratified the Protocol. Only 8 countries have made a declaration under Article 34(6) enabling NGOs and individuals to bring proceedings in the Court. (Capital FM, All Africa)
Photo: Special Tribunal for Lebanon/Twitter and