(For older news updates, please visit our news archive.)
29 May 2020: The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese officials deemed responsible for the oppression of Uighur Muslims, sending the bill to the White House for President Donald Trump to veto or sign into law. The Uighur Human Rights Act passed by a 413-1 vote on Wednesday and came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress that the administration no longer considered Hong Kong autonomous from China. The bill calls for sanctions against those responsible for the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim groups in China's Xinjiang province, where the United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps. It singles out the region's Communist Party as responsible for alleged state-sponsored genocide against them.
28 May 2020: Widespread and systematic killings, beheadings, rape and other barbaric acts by militia mostly from the ethnic Lendu community in northeastern Congo may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, the United Nations said yesterday. In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by fighters linked to the CODECO rebel group, said a report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO). The recent attacks against civilians not only targeted the Hema and Alur communities, but included communities previously spared, UNJRHO report said. The raids intensified from March this year, particularly around artisanal mining sites.
27 May 2020: In a chilling new report, Amnesty International warns that Nigeria must urgently address its failure to protect and provide education to an entire generation of children in the Northeast, a region devastated by years of Boko Haram atrocities and gross violations by the military. The 91-page report, ‘We dried our tears’: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict, examines how the military’s widespread unlawful detention and torture have compounded the suffering of children from Borno and Adamawa states who faced war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of Boko Haram. It also reveals how international donors have bankrolled a flawed programme that claims to reintegrate former alleged fighters, but which overwhelmingly amounts to unlawful detention of children and adults.
26 May 2020: It has been reported by a United Nations war crimes prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, that the remains of Augustin Bizimana, former Rwandan defence minister and one of the top suspects wanted over the country's 1994 genocide, have been identified in a grave in the Republic of Congo. Brammertz said Bizimana, who was indicted on 13 charges, including genocide, murder and rape, is believed to have died in Pointe Noire, in Congo, in 2000. The announcement of Bizimana's death follows the arrest in Paris last week of 84-year-old Felicien Kabuga, another of a handful of prominent suspects from the Rwandan genocide who had been on the run for more than 20 years.
25 May 2020: EU-backed "Genocide Network" has reported that Islamic State (IS) fighters who returned to Europe from conflicts in Iraq and Syria should be charged with war crimes along with terrorism. According to the network, many so-called returning foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) affiliated with IS only face charges under domestic terrorism laws in their EU home countries, which come with a statute of limitations that sets a time limit to prosecution. However, core international crimes, like genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, can be prosecuted without a statute of limitations and be added to domestic terrorism charges. Culminating charges can lead to stiffer sentencing, the report said.
20 May 2020: According to a UN investigation, efforts to gather evidence for the prosecution of Daesh militants are proving to be fruitful and “significant progress” is being made in building a legal case against the terrorist group which controlled large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria beginning in 2014. Details of the progress by the investigative team were included in a report to the UN Security Council which was obtained by the Associated Press. The investigative team is reportedly continuing to engage with the Iraqi government on pending legislation that would allow the country to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed by the Daesh terrorist group.
19 May 2020: The International Criminal Court ruled on Monday that ex-Congolese vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is not entitled to damages after his successful appeal of a war crimes conviction. Bemba’s lawyers failed to convince the court that their client must be compensated for the nearly $75 million they claimed he lost because of his imprisonment, including legal fees and what they say was the court’s mismanagement of his seized assets. The judges acknowledged that the 10 years Bemba spent in jail awaiting trial is a “significant amount of time to spend in custody, likely to result in personal suffering.” But they also ruled that Bemba “failed to establish that he had suffered a grave and manifest miscarriage of justice.”
New cases, briefs and videos
(For older announcements, please visit our announcements archive.)
NEW VIDEO: A new video is available online. On 10 February 2020, Dr Christopher Soler, Judge Kimberly Prost and Dr. Yasmin Naqvi provided a lecture at the Asser Institute in the context of the Supranational Criminal Law Lectures Series (SCL). The lecture was organised to celebrate the publication of the book The Global Prosecution of Core Crimes under International Law. The video recording can be viewed here.
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.