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News updates

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(For older news updates, please visit our news archive.)

18 April 2019: A report prepared by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has revealed that despite evidence of reduction in the levels of torture or ill-treatment in Afghan detention centres, overall figures remain “disturbingly high”. The report is based on interviews with more than 600 detainees across 77 facilities, and shows on average almost one in three conflict related detainees provided “credible and reliable” accounts of torture or ill-treatment. The report called on the Afghan Government to take a number of measures to eradicate torture.

17 April 2019: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has expressed concerns over the escalating violence in Libya, stating: “I will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. No one should doubt my determination in this regard”. She has called on all parties to the fighting to refrain from committing war crimes and fully respect international humanitarian law, including protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and prisons. The Office of the Prosecutor is currently investigating several cases in relation to the Libyan situation, which was referred by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011).

16 April 2019: The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was deposed last week by the Sudanese military. A transitional military council has taken over governance of Sudan, imposing a two year transition period to be followed by elections. Demonstrations that began in December calling for the removal of al-Bashir from government have continued, with opposition groups demanding a civilian transition government be instated immediately. The transitional military council have indicated that they will accept a new prime minister chosen by opposition parties. The council has also stated that it will not extradite al-Bashir to The Hague to face the International Criminal Court, which issued two warrants for al-Bashir's arrest in 2009 and 2010 for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It has been reported that instead al-Bashir may be tried domestically by Sudanese courts.

15 April 2019: The Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court has unanimously rejected the Office of the Prosecutor's request to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. In the decision, the PTC II considered the significant time that elapsed between the crimes and the request, the "scarce cooperation" during the preliminary examination and the likelihood that evidence and witnesses would be still available relevant to its ultimate finding that "the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited" and therefore "an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice". The PTC II also highlighted that the nature of the crimes and the context in Afghanistan mean the investigation would require "a significant amount of resources" which would have to be redirected from other situations with greater prospects of leading to trials.

12 April 2019: The trial of a German national, identified as Jennifer W, for war crimes has commenced in Munich. The woman is accused of enslaving a five year old Yazidi girl and letting her die of thirst. The charges against her include murder, war crimes, membership in a foreign terrorist organisation and weapons violations, for which she faces a life sentence. The woman travelled to Iraq in 2013 to join ISIS and was deported back to Germany in 2016 whilst trying to renew travel documents in Turkey.   

11 April 2019: The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has warned that attacks of civilians in Libya may amount to war crimes. Libya has faced violence and instability since 2011 when leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed. It is reported that rebel leader Gen Haftar, who heads the Libyan National Army (LNA), is making advances on the capital, Tripoli, after taking control of southern Libya and its oil fields earlier this year. The Libyan Prime Minister, Fayez al-Serraj, has accused Haftar of attempting a coup to take control of the country. This Sunday there were UN-backed peace talks planned between the opposition groups, however it is no longer clear whether they will go ahead. The World Health Organization has reported that in the past 6 days there have been 56 deaths, including medical workers, another 266 people injured and thousands displaced as a result of the clashes.

10 April 2019: Romania’s former President Ion Iliescu has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role in the revolution that overthrew the communist regime in 1989. Iliescu, alongside former Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu and former Air Force Cdr Iosif Rus, has been accused of spreading misinformation to spread terror, as well as simulating a trial to summarily convict and execute communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena. Approximately 862 people were killed during the revolt.

New cases, briefs and videos

(For older announcements, please visit our announcements archive.)

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

NEW BRIEFS: The new briefs (available here) are related to the work and legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (‘ICTY’), that operated from 1993 - 2017. Among its accused were Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. The tribunal was formally closed last year after 24 years of operation and after having issued 161 indictments. The authors of these Briefs have all worked for the ICTY.

Appeals on errors of fact
Rupert Elderkin’s ICD Brief concentrates on the ICTY’s appeals on errors of fact. It highlights the Appeals Chamber’s little deference to the trial chambers’ factual findings. By implicitly identifying the judges responsible for those judgements, the Appeals Chamber unnecessarily raised doubts about the judicial professionalism of the institution.

Role of defence in international criminal proceedings
In their Brief, Fiana Reinhardt and Lisa Feirabend examine the changing perception of the importance and role of the defence in international criminal proceedings. They emphasise the changing role of the defence before the ICTY, and how the lessons learnt there are reflected in the practice of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the International Criminal Court.

Mladić case
Jonas Nilsson elaborates upon the last case before the ICTY, the trial of Ratko Mladić. Nilsson analyses its pre-trial and trial proceedings and expands on its lessons learned that are of relevance to present and future courts and tribunals. Nilsson also provided a lecture on this topic in the context of the Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series, which can be viewed here

NEW VIDEOS: New videos available online. On 22 March 2018, David Schwendiman, former Specialist Prosecutor at the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, provided a lecture on his time at the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office and the challenges ahead. On 31 January 2018, Jonas Nilsson, team leader of the Mladić case in Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave a lecture on ‘The Mladić Trial - An Insider's View’. Both lectures were given in the context of the Supranational Criminal Law (SCL) Lectures Series hosted by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. The video recordings for both lectures can be viewed here. The report on the Mladić Trial lecture can be found here.

INTERNSHIP VACANCY: We are currently hiring for the International Criminal Law and Legal Aspects of Counter-Terrorismintern Internship position (French required). The intern will work on the International Crimes Database and capacity building projects on International Criminal law and Transnational Criminal Law. The internship will be based at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague (Deadline: 3 April 2018).