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News updates

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

16 September 2019: A report by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has suggested that all parties to the ongoing conflict may have committed war crimes. It indicated that the failure of US-led coalition forces to take the necessary precautions to discriminate between military objectives and civilians during air strikes may constitute war crimes. Moreover, the campaign by the Syrian government and allied Russian forces appearing to target medical facilities, schools, markets and farmland may also constitute war crimes. Finally, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group formerly known as the Nusra Front, has been accused of firing rockets indiscriminately and killing civilians.

13 September 2019: The United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has handed over its evidence of international crimes to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM). The evidence has been transferred in a way to ensure its integrity for possible future use in prosecutions. The IIMM was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 39/2 to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011 and to prepare files in preparation for criminal prosecutions. The Head of the IIMM, Nicholas Koumjian, officially commenced his function on 1 July 2019.

12 September 2019: Colombian energy company EMP has been called to appear before the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in relation to its role in flooding an area where prosecutors were looking for hundreds of missing persons. In 2002 the crime syndicate La Oficina de Envigado took control of the city of Medellin and hundreds of people went missing from a valley that was flooded by EMP, which is now the site of a controversial hydroelectric dam project. EMP will appear before the JEP to clarify its role in the flooding and preventing the search for the missing persons. The JEP has also ordered the inspection of two quarries in Medellin where, according to a local court, 300 people are buried. 

11 September 2019: The European Union has set up a counter-terrorism register in hopes of facilitating the prosecution of returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria. The database will collect information from all EU countries on ongoing investigations and prosecutions of terrorist suspects and is hoped to lead cooperation between States that will prevent suspects from escaping prosecution or being prosecuted for lesser crimes due to lack of evidence or insufficient coordination of parallel investigations, culminating in the prosecution of war crimes. It is also hoped the new tool could prevent terrorism in Europe.

9 September 2019: The lawyer representing 23 civil parties in the case relating to the 2015 Paris attacks has applied to the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office to try the defendant Salah Abdeslam for crimes against humanity instead of terrorism offences. Abdelam is the only survivor of the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis that left 131 dead and almost 500 injured.

6 September 2019: The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to reconsider her decision not to open an investigation into an attack by the Israeli Defence Force on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in 2010. The Appeals Chamber rejected the Prosecutor's appeal of the 2015 decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber holding that the Prosecutor had made a material error in determining that the incident was not of "sufficient gravity" to warrant further action by the ICC. The Chamber acknowledged that the decision whether or not to pursue an investigation ultimately lies with the Prosecution.

5 September 2019: The trial of a Syrian national accused of committing war crimes in Syria has commenced in the Netherlands under Dutch universal jurisdiction laws. It is alleged that Ahmad al Khedr, aka Abu Khuder, is a member of the Nusra Front. He has been charged with membership of a terrorist organisation, as well as the war crime of murder in relation to the summary execution of a Syrian soldier. Al Khedr had been living in the Netherlands since 2014, where he had been granted temporary asylum.

New cases, briefs and videos

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

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.

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).