(For older news updates, please visit our news archive.)
3 July June 2020: Human Rights Watch argues that with the recent death of Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, the country has a new opportunity to start afresh, however the repressive system Nkurunziza put in place remains firmly entrenched. Two newly appointed senior government officials, the prime minister and interior minister are on international sanctions lists for their alleged role in abuses since 2015. When the International Criminal Court in 2016 initiated a preliminary investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Burundi, the country became the first to ever leave the court. Presently, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry is the most important mechanism conducting in-depth investigations although Burundi won’t let its team into the country.
2 July June 2020: A group of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank submitted a complaint on Tuesday to the International Criminal Court, requesting an investigation into senior Israeli and US officials who authorised Donald Trump's “Peace to Prosperity” plan. William Schabas, a professor of international law at the UK's Middlesex University, filed the complaint on behalf of his clients citing Israel's plans to unilaterally and illegally annex up to a third of the West Bank, a scheme that gained traction after Trump's plan was launched in January. In a statement, Schabas said “there is credible evidence” that Trump, Pompeo and Kushner “are complicit in acts that may amount to war crimes relating to the transfer of populations into occupied territory and the annexation of the sovereign territory of the State of Palestine”.
30 June 2020: Australia's special forces chief has admitted that SAS soldiers did commit war crimes in Afghanistan. Australian Special Operations Commander Major-General Adam Findlay told SAS soldiers at Perth's Campbell Barracks that, 'there are guys who criminally did something' and 'poor leadership' is to blame. This is the first time a senior officer, who is still serving has said that SAS soldiers broke the law in Afghanistan. His comments are widely interpreted as an admission that the Brereton Inquiry - an investigation into more than 55 cases of alleged misconduct by Australia's special forces - is going to make adverse findings when it finishes in July.
29 June 2020: Last week convicted genocide criminal, Leon Mugesera, was back in court this time appealing the life sentence he was handed in 2016. The basis of the appeal, he says, is on account that the judge who presided over the case distorted the content of his infamous 1992 speech in Kabaya, Gisenyi, calling for the extermination of the Tutsi population in Rwanda. Mugesera spent seventeen years in Canadian courts challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling to have him deported to Rwanda to stand trial for genocide crimes and crimes against humanity.
26 June 2020: In a resolution adopted last week with 493 votes to 104 and 67 abstentions, the European Parliament strongly condemned the appalling death of George Floyd in the US, as well as similar killings elsewhere in the world. MEPs called on the US authorities to address structural racism and inequalities, criticised the police crackdowns on peaceful protesters and journalists and President Trump’s threat to deploy the army as well as his “inflammatory rhetoric”. Parliament also called on EU institutions and the member states to officially acknowledge past injustices and crimes against humanity committed against black people, people of colour and Roma, according to Parliament, which declares slavery a crime against humanity.
25 June 2020: Kosovo President Hashim Thaci has been accused of war crimes by a special international prosecutor in The Hague. Mr Thaci and others "are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders", torture and enforced disappearances, the prosecutor said. Thaci was a former commander with the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war for independence from Serbia between 1998 and 1999. The accusations, covering Kosovo's independence war against Serbi, are being assessed by a judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers who will decide if the case goes to trial. Mr Thaci has denied any wrongdoing.
24 June 2020: The International Criminal Court has begun hearing an appeal by the UN tribunal's chief prosecutor against last year's acquittal of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on charges of crimes against humanity. Fatou Bensouda said in her appeal submission that the court erred in clearing Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Ble Goude of allegations of post-electoral violence in the restive West African nation in 2010-2011, in which about 3,000 people died.
New cases, briefs and videos
(For older announcements, please visit our announcements archive.)
NEW VIDEO: A new video is available online. The very first online (Zoom) Supranational Criminal Law (SCL) lecture was organised on 3 June 2020, titled ‘Challenges to Prosecuting Paramilitaries: Insights from the former Yugoslavia and Syria’. Speakers were Dr Iva Vukušić, Visiting Research Fellow at Department of War Studies, King’s College London, Ali Aljasem, MA, Researcher at the History Department, Utrecht University and Dr Matthew Gillett, Director, Peace and Justice Initiative and Trial Lawyer, Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC. The video recording can be viewed here.
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.