Week 6 2017 ICL Media Review

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Friday, February 10, 2017 - 00:00

By ICJ Media Review

In this week's review, news about crimes against humanity in Syrian prison, judges appointed to the Kosovo Tribunal, Sri Lanka’s war crimes investigation, new African Court judges and much more

NGO report on 13,000 hanged in Syrian prison

A report released by Amnesty International on 7 February documented the execution of as many as 13,000 prisoners in mass hanging by the Syrian Government at Sednaya prison in Syria.  The report stated that 20-50 individuals, who were primarily civilians, were hanged at the prison each week during a four year period for their opposition to the Government.  The report, which stated that these practices are most likely still taking place, found that the executions most likely amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity and accused the Government of carrying out a “policy of extermination.”

The report was based on the statements of 84 witnesses which included former prison guards, former prison officials, detainees, judges, lawyers and experts. On Tuesday, the Syrian Justice Ministry responded to the report, stating that it was “devoid of truth” and “personal emotions aimed at achieving known political goals.” (Reuters, BBC, Aljazeera)

19 international judges appointed to Kosovo Tribunal in The Hague

On 7 February, the European Union appointed 19 international judges to the newly established Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution in The Hague which was set up to prosecute individuals for crimes committed 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000. The nationalities of the judges include individuals from the European Union as well as the US and Canada.

The President of the Kosovo Tribunal, Ekaterina Trendafilova, who became President of the Tribunal before the current appointment of judges, expressed satisfaction on the selection of judges and noted that steps could now be taken for the judges to adopt Rules of Procedure and Evidence for the Tribunal. (Jurist, Specialist Chambers)

UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide speaks on Rohingya violence after OHCHR report

On 6 February, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide made statements about the extent of the violence in Myanmar against the Rohingya community.  Dieng stated that “If people are being persecuted based on their identity and killed, tortured, raped and forcibly transferred in a widespread or systematic manner, this could amount to crimes against humanity, and in fact be the precursor of other egregious international crimes.”

Adama Dieng cited a report issued last week by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which set out human rights violations committed by security forces against civilians in the northern Rakhine state.  The OHCHR report set out widespread human rights abuses against the Rohingya population by Myanmar’s security forces are likely to amount to crimes against humanity. The violations documented include killings, beatings, rapes, and disappearances. In addition, consistent testimony gathered indicates that Rohingya houses, schools and markets have been burned by the army and police, and food sources have been destroyed. The UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein requested the Government of Myanmar to “immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people”.  (UN News Centre, UN News Centre)

Sri Lanka to seek further time from UN HR Council on war crimes investigation

On 7 February, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweer, issued a statement to press which said that the Government of Sri Lanka will seek an extension of the time period to investigate war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. 

Sri Lanka’s war crimes investigation was established in a  2015 joint resolution between the Government and the UN Human Rights Council in which Sri Lanka committed to completing investigating war crimes and taking steps towards ethnic reconciliation. (ABC News)

Trial against Gbagbo resumes with testimony of prosecution witness

The trial against Gbagbo resumed on February 6 with the testimony of a new witness. The witness for the prosecution is a former mechanic whose arm was “allegedly hurt beyond repair by Gbagbo’s supporters as he attended a march with Ouattara supporters”. Laurent Gbagbo, 71, is being tried before the ICC Trial Chamber I where he is charged with murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution. According to the ICC, these crimes were allegedly committed between 16 and 19 December 2010 during and after a pro-Ouattara march on the RTI headquarters, on 3 March 2011 at a women’s demonstration in Abobo, on 17 March 2011 by shelling a densely populated area in Abobo, and on or around 12 April 2011 in Yopougon. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The proceedings against Laurent Gbagbo were joined with Ble Goude case on 11 March 2015 with trial beginning on 28 January 2016. (Africa News)

AU appoints judges from Algeria and Malawi to African Court

During the 28th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU appointed Justice Bensaoula Chafika from Algeria and Justice Chizumila Rose Tujilane from Malawi to serve on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights for a six-year term. These two judges were appointed to replace Justice Fatsah Ouguergouz and Justice Duncan Tambala respectively from Algeria and Malawi since their term finished on 5 September 2016.

The two new judges are expected to be sworn-in during the 44th Ordinary Session of the Court that is meant to take place on 6 March 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania. For the first time in the Court’s history, there will be five female judges sitting on the 11-member court. It fulfils the adequate representation provided for in Article 12(2) and Article 14(3) of the Protocol establishing the court. Such Protocol was adopted in June 1998 and came into force on 25 January 2004. The Court has both a contentious and advisory jurisdiction over “all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned”. (Ghana Business News)

Colombian prosecutor to charge banana companies in connection with support to paramilitary death squads

The Colombia chief Prosecutor’s Office has announced its intention to indict banana producing companies with crimes against humanity. The Prosecutor stated that “his office would charge companies for crimes against humanity for their alleged voluntary support for the paramilitary death squads” adding that “It is clear that the banana business voluntarily financed an illegal armed group with the specific purpose of ensuring security”.

It has further been reported that 200 companies would be part of the indictments “including multinationals like Dole and Del Monte, for financing death squads in the banana-growing region of the country” along with Chiquita’s subsidiary. On 2 February 2016, another report stated that these banana companies allegedly paid “protection money to the Arlex Hurtado Front”, a member of the Self Defense Forces of Colombia also called ‘AUC’, deemed to be a terrorist organization by both US and Colombian governments. It is reported that the paramilitary forces would have used such money to purchase weapons repeatedly used to commit systematic and widespread “homicides, forced displacement of civilians, forced disappearance of persons, gender-based violence, illicit recruitment, torture”. It is reported that this is the first time that private companies have been accused of crimes against humanity as part of the transitional justice peace process between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (Colombia ReportsOCCRP)

Complaint with NL Public Pros filed against Rabobank for complicity in Mexican crimes against humanity

A complaint has been submitted to the public prosecutor in The Netherlands on behalf of Mexican human rights NGO, SMX Collective, seeking to bring proceedings against executives at the Dutch bank, Rabobank, for crimes related to drug cartels in Mexico.  The complaint, submitted by the lawyer for SMX Collective, Göran Sluiter, alleges that Rabobank was involved in “complicity to murder and other crimes against humanity and being part of a criminal organisation”.

Rabobank spokesman Hendrik-Jan Eijpe told the press the bank is cooperating with the investigation but did not speak to Rabobank’s knowledge of the presence of drug cartels in Calexico. (DutchNews.nl)

Amnesty to provide submission in legality of arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International, along with several other NGOs, are due to make submissions before the UK High Court when it considers the legality of the UK government’s arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. Under domestic law, the global Arms Trade Treaty and customary international law, the UK is required to ensure that its arms sales do not aid the commission of war crimes by Saudi Arabia, which is currently involved in an armed conflict in Yemen. The judicial review proceedings before a UK High Court take place on 7, 8 and 9 February.  (Amnesty International)

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