WEEK 18 2017 ICL MEDIA REVIEW
In this week's review, news about Cambodia Tribunal Case 002/02 closing statements, a war crimes appeal in Serbia, the upcoming start to the IIIM Syria crimes investigation, the French court’s rejection of Serbia’s Haradinaj extradition request, Uganda and the African Court, and more.
Cambodia Tribunal reduces time for closing arguments in Case 002/02
In response to a request from the Prosecution in Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) case 002/2 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity and genocide, the Trial Chamber has decided to reduce the amount of time allotted for final arguments. The decision follows the Prosecution’s request for an additional two weeks to submit closing briefs, due to a delay in the revision of court transcripts, such that closing statements would begin on June 13 and take place over five days instead of the previously allotted ten. The Court decided to allow a middle-ground of seven and a half days. In reaction, the Defence team has stated that “The public […] deserve to know the full range of our arguments. The [trial chamber] and [prosecution] effectively want to gag us. It won’t work.” (Phnom Penh Post)
Former Bosnian Serb soldiers, Sovilj and Vekic, acquitted in Serbia of war crimes
On 3 May, the Serbian Court of Appeals issued a decision acquitting former soldiers Nedeljko Sovilj and Rajko Vekic of charges concerning the killing of a civilian in 1992. The Court of Appeals’ decision, which overturned previous decisions, reasoned that there was not sufficient evidence to support the convictions that the two were guilty and noted that unreliable witness evidence could not assist in supporting the convictions. Proceedings in the case originally began in Bosnia, in the town of Bihac, but were transferred to Serbia on the bases of an international legal assistance agreement. (Balkin Insight)
New UN investigative body on Syrian crimes to begin soon
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, has announced that a new UN body dedicated to collecting evidence in order to ensure accountability for international crimes committed in the ongoing Syrian conflict will shortly begin work. The establishment of the new mechanism – which will sit under the Secretary General and is entitled 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 Arab Republic” or the “IIIM” – was approved by a widely-supported Resolution at the UN General Assembly in December.
The Resolution garnered support after multiple attempts to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC were vetoed in the Security Council. To be based in Geneva, the IIIM will build on the evidence already compiled by the UN’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria. It will work to build cases against specific individuals for prosecution purposes in national or international courts. The staffing team for the IIIM, including a prominent judge or international lawyer in leadership, is currently being recruited. (News 18, UN Public Document)
Ugandan Law Society lobbies Government to sign African Court declaration on direct access
As part of its campaign calling for the Ugandan government to sign the Article 34(6) Declaration of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Ugandan Law Society is currently lobbying for a meeting with the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs. Signing the Declaration would permit individuals and NGOs in Uganda direct access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The President of the Law Society, Mr. Francis Gimara, has emphasized that Ugandans themselves must be empowered to push for the strengthening of such institutions, in particular via sensitization about the role of the Court in enhancing the protection of human rights in Africa. Most recently, on 13th April 2017, Tunisia became the eighth country – alongside Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania – to sign the Declaration granting its NGOs and citizens direct access to the Court. (KFM)
Austrian man arrested in Poland on war crimes allegations committed in Ukraine
An Austrian man suspected of committing war crimes while allegedly fighting for Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has been arrested in Poland ahead of extradition to Austria. Austrian prosecutors have stated that the man is accused of “having killed soldiers involved in fighting at the Donetsk airport who had already surrendered and/or of having killed civilians.” A European arrest warrant was issued for the man’s arrest in recent weeks, and he was subsequently arrested at a border crossing between Ukraine and Poland. He now awaits proceedings related to pending extradition to Austria. (Reuters)
French court denies Serbia’s request for extradition of former Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj
On 27 April a French court in Colmar decided against extraditing the former Prime Minister of Kosovo and current opposition leader, Ramush Haradinaj, to Serbia citing procedural failures by Serbia as the reason for denying the extradition request. Haradinaj was arrest on 4 January 2017 in France on a Serbian arrest warrant issued with Interpol which alleged Haradinaj’s responsibility for the war crimes committed in Kosovo and Metohija in 1998 and 1999.
The scope of the arrest warrant was expanded in January 2017 to include crimes which Serbia stated where not among the charges Haradinaj was tried and acquitted of twice before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Following the French court’s decision Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic criticised the decision as political, saying that “The Serbian government considers this decision disgraceful, scandalous, unlawful, and above all else, political.” Haradinaj is quoted as saying the decision is “a victory of Albanians.” (BBC, B92, Balkan Insight)
Photo Credit: ECCC, UN and the AU.