In this week’s review, news about the close of the Prosecution case in Stanisic & Simatovic, scheduling of the Karadzic Appeals judgment, complaints to the ICC on Venezuela and Zambia, torture under universal jurisdiction in the UK and Liberia, and more
Prosecution in Stanisic & Simatovic Retrial Rests Case-in-Chief and MICT Trial Chamber Schedules Rule 121 Hearings
The Prosecution in the Stanisic and Simatovic retrial case gave notice on 21 February that they rest their case-in-chief. The Trial Chamber then set out a timetable for submissions to be made on rule 121, which allows the Trial Chamber to enter a judgement of acquittal if there is no evidence on which a conviction could be based. Simatovic was scheduled to present his submissions on 26 February and the Prosecution was scheduled to present its submissions on 28 February. Stanisic will not be presenting rule 121 submissions. Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Service, and his deputy Simatovic, are accused of participating in a Joint Criminal Enterprise to remove Croats and muslims from Serbia during the war. They were acquitted in 2013 by the ICTY and a retrial was ordered in 2015 by the ICTY Appeals Chamber. (MICT)
MICT Appeals Chamber to deliver Appeals Judgment of Karadzic on 20 March
It has been announced that the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) will deliver its Appeals Judgment against Radovan Karadzic on 20 March. The judgment will be at 2pm in Courtroom I in The Hague. The Appeals Judgment comes after Karadzic was convicted on 24 March 2016 of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer), terror, unlawful attacks on civilians, and hostage-taking. He was convicted of genocide in the area of Srebrenica in 1995 but not for the charge of genocide in other municipalities in BiH. The Trial Chamber sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment. (MICT Press Release)
Lima Group asks ICC to include recent violence in Venezuela in its assessment of the situation in the country
The Lima Group issued a statement on 25 February 2019 in support of the process of democratic transition and the reconstruction of Venezuela. The Lima Group is composed of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. It met in Bogota, Colombia to discuss the ongoing efforts relating to Venezuela’s democratic transition and the humanitarian situation in the country amidst the blockade of humanitarian aid on 23 February. Among other steps, it announced that the Group has decided to request the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take into consideration and assess the denial of access to international assistance together with other evidence as a crime against humanity.
The delivery of the humanitarian aid backed also by the Interim President Juan Guaidó through Colombian border met with violent repressions which led to several injuries and deaths. As a result, the Venezuelan population is on the brink of mass starvation. It is also without access to medical and other basic services, which the Lima Group condemned as an effort by Maduro’s government to stay in power. The Lima Group has further indicated its intention to promote the designation by the United Nations Human Rights Council of an independent expert or a commission of inquiry into the situation in Venezuela. While it has on several occasions denounced the “illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro” the Group only foresees the transition to democracy through the Venezuelan people themselves, and without the use of force.
It endorsed the agreement for the promotion of the country rescue plan, adopted by the National Assembly on 29 January for further humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan people. The ICC Prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into the situation in Venezuela on 8 February 2018 in the context of the alleged crimes against humanity reportedly committed by the Venezuelan security apparatus since at least April 2017. A few months later, on 27 September 2018, member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) – Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru referred the situation in Venezuela to the ICC on the basis of a report detailing human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by the state and security apparatus. According to the OAS Report, more than 12,000 people have been arbitrarily detained and identified over 8,292 extrajudicial killings since 2015. (Government of Canada)
Zambian opposition to report President to the ICC over political crackdowns
Opposition parties in Zambia have accused President Edgar Lungu of allegedly presiding over political violence against his rivals, and have declared their intention to file a complaint on these matters before the International Criminal Court for consideration by the Prosecution. Footage has been presented by opposition leaders to journalists which show an alleged crackdown by police on main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and his supporters. Mr. Hichilema claimed this footage shows an assassination attempt on him, so that he could not contest the 2021 election. The undated footage shows people fleeing from police and live ammunition casings on the ground. (AfricaNews)
Croatia Confirms Early Release of Former Commander Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity After Cutting Sentence from 21 to 12 Years
A Bosnian court has confirmed that former Bosnian Croat battalion commander Marko Radic was released from custody in December, after his 21-year sentence for crimes against humanity was reduced to 12.5 years following his transfer from Bosnia to Zagreb. The conviction was for the former commander’s role in setting up prisons and ordering the arrest and unlawful detention of several dozen Bosniak civilians in the Mostar area. The sentence, which was handed down by the Bosnian State Court in Sarajevo in 2011, was reduced by a Zagreb court because the Croatian domestic legal system does not recognise the concept of Joint Criminal Enterprise.(Balkan Transitional Justice)
UK trial of Agnes Reeves Taylor, former wife of Charles Taylor, for torture delayed
The trial before a UK court of Agnes Reeves Taylor for alleged acts of torture during the Liberian civil war has been delayed. The trial was set to start on 25 February 2019, however there will be no further hearing until June, with predictions that the trial will more likely start in September. Ms. Taylor is being represented by barrister Courtney Griffiths QC, who represented her ex-husband and former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, at the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone. The trial is being carried out through the United Kingdom’s acceptance of universal jurisdiction over the crime of torture. (FrontPageAfricaOnline).
ICJ issues advisory opinion on Chagos Islands
The ICJ has issued an advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, ordering that the UK return the islands to Mauritius and stating that continued British occupation of the remote Indian Ocean archipelago is illegal. In the majority opinion, the president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the detachment of the Chagos archipelago in 1965 from Mauritius had not been based on a “free and genuine expression of the people concerned”, and that the continued administration by the UK “constitutes a wrongful act.” He highlighted the UK’s obligation to end the administration as rapidly as possible. The only judge dissenting from the main opinion was Judge Donoghue from the United States. The UK retained possession of the Chagos archipelago, which includes the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia, after Mauritius gained its independence in 1968. The advisory opinion was requested by the UN General Assembly by way of resolution on 22 June 2017. It is non-binding. (The Guardian, Advisory Opinion)
Guatemala discusses amnesty bill
Guatemala is in the process of discussing a bill that would grant amnesty to anyone convicted or accused of human rights violations during the country’s civil war. The bill would reform Guatemala’s 1996 National Reconciliation Law, which permits amnesty for crimes that could be considered political but excludes amnesty for international abuses like genocide, torture and other crimes against humanity. It could result in the release of dozens of officials and military officers convicted of crimes related to the armed conflict and a halt to ongoing or new investigations of internationally recognized rights violations connected to the civil war. The bill is backed by military elites and their allies, including members of the party of President Jimmy Morales. It will face its second congressional reading (out of three) on 27 February 2018. Guatemala had been cooperating with a UN-backed truth commission tasked with strengthening the capacity and autonomy of the judiciary in Guatemala. However, the government announced in January that it would be expelling the commission. In May 2018, four former military officers were convicted of crimes against humanity by the court of high-risk crimes in Guatemala City. (LA Times)