(For older news updates, please visit our news archive.)
14 November 2019: A court in Vietnam has convicted an Australian national of a the crime of "terrorism to oppose the people’s administration’ and sentenced him to 12 years', alongside two Vietnamese citizens. The three men belong to an organisation called the Viet Tan, which the Vietnamese government has designated as a terrorist organisation, but has been described by the United Nations as "a peaceful organisation advocating for democratic reform". The group has called the proceedings a “sham trial” and accused the government of "criminalizing human rights advocacy".
13 November 2019: A Paris Court of Appeal has overturned the decision to prosecute the French company Lafarge for crimes against humanity, but has upheld the charges of financing terrorism. Lafarge continues to be under investigation over allegations that a subsidiary of the company continued to operate factories during the conflict in Syria and paid money to intermediaries who negotiated with ISIS to transfer employees and supplies through dangerous areas in order to evacuate the country.
12 November 2019: Five torture survivors from Syria have filed a criminal complaint in Norway against officials from the Syrian intelligence services and military. The victims, supported by several human rights groups, have requested Norwegian prosecutors to investigate the allegations of torture and crimes against humanity. 17 officials have been identified as being involved in the alleged crimes committed in 14 different detention facilities. Currently, similar claims of crimes in Syria have been brought in France, Sweden and Austria pursuant to universal jurisdiction, with the first trial expected to start in Germany in early 2020.
11 November 2019: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has released a decision on the definition of terrorism. The decision discusses the development of the definition of terrorism under Pakistani law, highlighting the emergence of a concept of terrorism that is based upon the objective and motivation of the particular crime. In particular, an act will be considered terrorism if it is intended to undermine the State, rather than based on whether it causes fear and insecurity in society. The Supreme Court indicated that this approach is more consistent with international perspectives than the previous 'effects-based' definition adopted in Pakistan, calling on the legislature to amend and clarify terrorism legislation to reflect the current approach.
8 November 2019: Bosco Ntaganda has been sentenced by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to 30 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2002-2003. This is the longest sentence that has been handed down by the Court to date. Ntaganda was convicted in July of 18 counts including murder, rape and the use of child soldiers. He is also the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery before the ICC.
7 November 2019: The South African government is considering a bill that will initiate the process for withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The International Crimes Bill is currently before the South African Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Committee. It criminalises genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and creates an alternative system to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute international crimes at the domestic level. South Africa was reprimanded by the ICC in 2015 for failing to arrest then sitting President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir during a visit to South Africa, in spite of a warrant for his arrest that had been issued by the ICC. In support of the bill, the South African government has cited concerns that the ICC is not in compliance with international law by failing to respect the immunity of heads of state. The leader of the opposition party Democratic Alliance has indicated the party will oppose the bill.
6 November 2019: The trial of Fabien Neretse, a former Rwandan official and alleged Hutu militia leader, has commenced in Belgium. Neretse is accused of committing genocide in Rwanda in 1994. This is the fifth trial in Belgium in relation to the conflict in Rwanda of 1994 but the first in which the accused has been charged with the crime of genocide. The charges relate in particular to the killing of Belgian citizen Claire Beckers, her husband Isaïe Bucyana, a Tutsi, and their daughter Katia.
New cases, briefs and videos
(For older announcements, please visit our announcements archive.)
NEW BRIEF: A new ICD Brief is available on the International Crimes Database entitled “Human Rights Remedies for Violations of the Law of Armed Conflict: Reflections on the Right to Reparation in Light of Recent Domestic Court Decisions in the Netherlands and Denmark”, by Vessela Terzieva.
Vessela Terzieva is an international criminal lawyer and an external PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam. Her ICD Brief relates to recent decisions in the Netherlands and Denmark awarding compensation for damage at the hands of the military during armed conflict, including the July 2019 ruling of the Dutch Supreme Court in the 'Mothers of Srebrenica' case. It explores how these decisions contribute to the debate on the right to reparation for victims of international humanitarian law violations.
NEW CASES: New case summaries are available on the International Crimes Database!
Prosecutor v Ayyash et al.
Two of the five new case summaries relate to the case of The Prosecutor v Ayyash et al. before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). In its Interlocutory Decision of 16 February 2011 (available here), the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal found whilst it was bound to apply Lebanese criminal law, international law could be used to aid in the interpretation of these domestic provisions. Significantly, the Chamber concluded that the crime of terrorism exists in customary international law. In the STL Trial Chamber Decision of 1 February 2012 (available here), the Tribunal found that the four accused may be tried in absentia, as all four of the accused had absconded or otherwise could not be found and all reasonable steps had been taken to secure their presence.
Prosecution of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan
The other three summaries (here, here and here) relate to the trial of Nuon Chea, the former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, the former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). This string of cases culminated in the conviction and life sentence of Chea and Samphan for crimes against humanity relating to the forcible transfer of the population, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity committed at security centres and worksites. Both were also found guilty of genocide of the Vietnamese people, whilst Chea was also guilty of genocide of the Cham people.
The Asser Institute received assistance from the Washington College of Law Internship Programme in the preparation of these case summaries.
NEW CASES: New case summaries of the two most recent decisions in The Public Prosecutor v. Guus Kouwenhoven in the Netherlands are now available online. The 's-Hertogenbosch Court of Appeal decision found Guus Kouwenhoven guilty of weapons smuggling and complicity in war crimes committed by Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia during the second civil war from 1999-2003. The Court found that the amnesty scheme implemented by Charles Taylor's government shortly before Taylor fled Liberia did not prevent the prosecution of Kouwenhoven in the Netherlands, and sentenced Kouwenhoven to 19 years' imprisonment. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld this decision, finding that the Court of Appeal had correctly decided that the amnesty scheme did not prevent the prosecution of Kouwenhoven.
NEW BRIEF: The first ICD Brief of 2019 (available here) is now available on our website! Matt Brown has written on the evacuation of Eastern Aleppo in Syria, dealing with a question as to whether it could be classified as forced displacement under international law.
NEW CASES: The twelve summaries (available in the database) added are related to terrorism, attempted terrorism, and providing material support. Most of the cases are from the United States as well as England and Wales, and relate to (attemped) fighting in Syria and Iraq (foreign fighters). They give a good insight of common law approaches to prosecuting terrorism-related offences. An example of a new case analysis is United States of America v. Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi. Both Mr. Elhuzayel and Mr. Badawi were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS). The defendants had used social media accounts to support IS, and Mr. Badawi had filmed Mr. Elhuzayel pledging allegiance to IS and promising to travel to Syria to fight. Mr. Elhuzayel was arrested prior to boarding a flight to Israel via Turkey. They were also found guilty of financial fraud charges, the proceeds of which had been used to fund the travel. In the preparation of the US cases for the ICD database, the Asser Institute received assistance from students enrolled in the International Justice Project of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law.