After more than 20 years of prosecuting those most responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has issued its final judgment and closed its doors. [The Citizen] In its forty-fifth and final judgment, delivered on December 14, 2015, the Appeals Chamber decided appeals from six defendants previously convicted by the Trial Chamber. [BBC] While it confirmed the guilty verdicts in the “Butare Six” case, the Appeals Chamber found the sentences imposed to be excessive; it ordered the release Sylvain Nsabimana and Joseph Kanyabashi, and granted sentence reductions to the remaining four appellants, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, Alphonse Nteziryayo, and Élie Ndayambaje. See ICTR, Prosecutor v. Nyiramasuhuko et al. (Butare), Case ICTR-98-42, Appeals Chamber Judgment, 14 December 2015. With this case finalized, the ICTR formally closed at the end of 2015. Since it began operating in 1995, the ICTR has indicted a total of 93 people – and convicted 61 – on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. See ICTR, The ICTR in Brief. While sometimes criticized for doing too little, too slowly, the ICTR has contributed to justice and accountability for Rwandans and to the development of international criminal law. Read more
Category Archives: ICTR
A new database aims to increase access to the proceedings, evidence, decisions, and orders of the international tribunal created to prosecute those most responsible for the commission of international crimes during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. On December 3, 2015, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) launched the Judicial Records and Archives Database (JRAD) to facilitate public access to the vast collection of records pertaining to cases under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the MICT, which is the body overseeing enforcement of sentences and other aspects of the tribunal’s work. The JRAD includes visual and audio records of the tribunal’s proceedings, exhibits and filings, and transcripts. [MICT Press Release] Read more
ECCC Sentences Former Khmer Rouge Leaders to Life Imprisonment for Crimes Against Humanity, Marking the Latest Convictions of High-Level Officials by an Internationalized Criminal Tribunal
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) last week issued its first convictions against former senior Khmer Rouge leaders, finding Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity committed during the Khmer Rouge’s rule in the 1970s. [ECCC Press Release] The convictions, part of only the second set of charges to be resolved by the ECCC, come after nearly four years of litigation before the United Nations-assisted hybrid tribunal. In recent years, the court has been plagued by controversy and delays that at times seemed likely to outlast the few, elderly defendants brought before it. [IJRC] Read more
African Union Approves Immunity for Government Officials in Amendment to African Court of Justice and Human Rights’ Statute
In a controversial decision, the African Union has decided to specifically exempt senior government officials from prosecution by a proposed regional human rights court, which will otherwise be authorized to try individuals accused of crimes against humanity and other serious international crimes. At its 23rd Ordinary Session in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea last week, the Assembly of the African Union (AU) adopted an amendment to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to immunize African leaders accused of committing serious human rights violations from criminal prosecution before the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights. [African Union] While it is hoped that the amendment will foster greater cooperation and compliance with the future Court, the limitation on its mandate has been the subject of intense criticism by civil society groups. Read more
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights begins holding hearings today in its 140th Period of Sessions. Issues to be discussed today include the Situation of Environmentalists in Mesoamerica, and Discrimination against the Transsexual, Transgender, and Transvestite Population in Brazil. See the week’s schedule of hearings here. Webcast of some hearings is available here.
- The role of humanitarian aid in contributing to or furthering humanitarian crises and human rights abuses has been in the news frequently over the past month. Human Rights Watch last week accused the Ethiopian government of using international aid to suppress dissent. The New Yorker, The Economist and Huffington Post each published reviews of Linda Polman’s new book, The Crisis Caravan, which highlights the negative consequences of the humanitarian aid industry, painting its growth as a self-serving struggle by NGOs and armed groups to win funding and contracts on the one hand and media attention and supplies on the other, while often causing harm to those the aid is ostensibly gathered to benefit and making peace and stability harder to attain.
- The IACHR has called on the United States to suspend the execution of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan, following its grant of precautionary measures in Landrigan’s favor last week. The Commission subsequently held that the U.S. violated the rights of Landrigan, who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, when he was sentenced to death by a trial judge rather than a jury using a procedure later found to be unconstitutional, but was never granted a new sentencing hearing. The Commission requested the immediate suspension of his execution. [IACHR] Amnesty International USA questioned Landrigan’s defense counsel’s failure to present mitigating evidence of his neuropsychological health and raised concerns that the state of Arizona may have obtained the drug used for lethal injections, sodium thiopental, from a non-FDA-approved source. [AI USA] Landrigan’s application for stay of execution and habeas petition – on the grounds of possible actual innocence – are pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Read more
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Syria welcomes its first visit from a UN special rapporteur, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in a showing of increased participation with the UN Human Rights Council’s monitoring mechanisms, including its upcoming Universal Periodic Review. [The National; OHCHR] The Special Rapporteur estimates that 2 to 3 million people face food insecurity in Syria.
- The UN General Assembly has adopted Resolution A/RES/64/292, which declares that access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other rights. Bolivia introduced the text and 122 of the 192 Member States voted in favor, while 41 – including the United States – abstained from voting. [UN]
- The UN General Assembly recognizes the right to education in emergency situations in Resolution 64/290.
Conflict and Humanitarian Emergencies
- The UN General Assembly has urged greater support for emergency relief and reconstruction in Pakistan, following widespread flooding which continue to affect up to 20 million people. [UN; BBC]
- In New York and across the United States, victims of the 9/11 attacks are honored as President Obama advocates tolerance and President Karzai warns that continued NATO involvement in Afghanistan endangers innocent civilians. [New York Times; AP] Ongoing violence in Afghanistan threatens the stability of the upcoming parliamentary election. [HRW]
- Human Rights Watch calls attention to massive, ongoing attacks and abductions by the Lord’s Resistance Army in CAR and DRC. [HRW] The UN recently prepared a report on the human rights violations committed in DRC between 1993 and 2003, to be released in October. [UN]
- The ICJ has issued an advisory opinion finding that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law, a decision requested and acknowledged by the UN General Assembly. [UN]
Prosecutions and Impunity
- Although reports of impunity and discrimination continue, the conviction of a Honduran police officer in the stabbing of a transgender sex worker is seen as an important victory. [HRW]
- Human Rights Watch calls on Uganda to investigate and prosecute security officers’ use of lethal force during the September 2009 Kampala riots. To date, no officer has been successfully prosecuted for the dozens of deaths caused by security forces. [HRW]
- In the Philippines, 19 defendants are facing trial for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre of 57 people. [HRW]
- The Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia has issued its first conviction, sentencing Kaing Guek Eav to 35 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in running an infamous detention camp under the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. [UN]
- Human Rights Watch has issued a new report, Dignity on Trial, urging overhaul of India’s treatment of victims in rape investigations.
- The complexities of the use of private military contractors, or mercenaries, are evident in the UN independent experts’ concern regarding the execution of four mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea following their trial – by a military tribunal – for their participation in an armed attack against the government in 2009. [OHCHR]
- On September 10, the Ninth Circuit issued its judgment on plaintiffs’ appeal in Bowoto v. Chevron, affirming the jury verdict in favor of Chevron and the district court’s pre-trial rulings that the Alien Tort Statute claims were preempted by the Death on the High Seas Act and that corporations could not be held liable under the Torture Victims Protection Act- in connection the 1998 deaths and torture of Nigerians protesting the environmental damage caused by Chevron’s drilling of the Nigerian coast.
- CEJIL questions the Colombian government’s commitment to the investigation of the deaths and disappearances following security forces’ seizure of the Palace of Justice from guerrillas in 1985, in light of the recent firing of the prosecutor in charge of the investigation. [CEJIL]
- ICTR sentences Rwandan official to 25 years’ imprisonment for a 1994 massacre. While the tribunal convicted the former provincial sub-prefect, Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, of genocide, it acquitted him of complicity and incitement to commit genocide, for his role in the April 23, 1994 attack by soldiers in which thousands of Tutsis died. [UN]
Treaty and Tribunal Developments
- At the third session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, participants advocate greater enforcement of the convention’s protections at local levels, while top UN official urges wider ratification. [UN]
- Seychelles and Saint Lucia have ratified the Rome Statute, bringing the number of States Parties to the International Criminal Court to 113. [ICC]
- The UN Security Council and General Assembly have elected two new judges to the bench of the International Court of Justice -American citizen Joan E. Donoghue and Chinese citizen Xue Hanqin – to replace judges Thomas Buergenthal and Shi Jiuyong, who resigned this year. [ICJ] Donoghue is currently Principal Deputy Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State, while Xue is a diplomat. [UN; Radio Netherlands]
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has designated Jorge Taiana as its Special Representative for the Strengthening of the Inter-American Commission, with the central purpose of resolving the chronic lack of resources necessary to carry out its mandate. [IACHR]
- On August 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions took effect, prohibiting the use of cluster bombs in the 40 State Parties. [UN; BBC]
Universal Periodic Review
- The United States has submitted its first national report to the UN Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. [Human Rights First] See the UN and stakeholders’ reports on the U.S. here.
Security and the Rule of Law
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has strongly condemned the forced transfer of Guantanamo Detainee Abdul Aziz Naji to Algeria, in spite of the precautionary measures granted in favor of all Guantanamo detainees in 2002, as a violation of the principle of non-refoulement. [IACHR]
- The ACLU and CCR have filed a federal lawsuit challenging presidential authorization of targeted killings of U.S. citizens outside of conflict zones, without requiring that the killing be necessary in the face of an imminent threat, or providing for due process of law or judicial oversight. The ACLU and CCR sought to represent Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen, because it learned that he was named on the Specially Designated Nationals List of suspected terrorists whose assets have been frozen by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury, as well as on a “kill list” list of individuals to be targeted for killing by the U.S. government. OFAC requires that attorneys must first obtain a license from the government in order to provide legal services to individuals named on its Specially Designated Nationals List. After OFAC initially failed to respond to their request for a license to represent Mr. Aulaqi, the ACLU and CCR filed a second lawsuit challenging the license requirement for attorneys. [CCR; ACLU] The ACLU has also filed a FOIA request seeking documentation related to the legal basis for the use of predator drones to conduct targeted killings. [ACLU]
- A recent Peruvian Legislative Decree No. 1097 would appear to essentially grant amnesty to those responsible for crimes against humanity committed before November 9, 2003 and has drawn intense criticism. [IACHR; CEJIL] The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism completed a week-long official visit to Peru on September 8. [OHCHR] Among other observations, the Special Rapporteur called attention to the broad definition of terrorism-related crimes in Peruvian law and welcomed the government’s report that a new counter-terrorism law that would take into account international standards has been drafted. [OHCHR]
- In July, the U.S. military transferred roughly 1,500 detainees to Iraqi custody by handing over control of Camp Cropper to the Iraqi government. Those transferred included former representative of the Hussein government, Tariq Aziz, whose son expressed concerns that his father would die in Iraqi custody. [Washington Post] Approximately 200 individuals deemed “too dangerous” to hand over remained in the custody of the U.S. military. Four of those prisoners escaped this week from the Baghdad detention center where they were being held. [Washington Post]
Dissent and Freedom of Expression
- Swaziland Prime Minister proposes severe corporal punishment of dissidents and foreign protesters, following arrest of 50 protesters. [Impunity Watch]
- NGOs call attention to the arbitrary detention and prosecution of human rights defenders around the world, in Angola, Morocco, Israel, Colombia, China, DRC, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Russia, [HRW; Human Rights First]
- Bahrain suspends human rights NGO’s board, replacing board members with State representative, in run-up to October elections, drawing criticism from Amnesty International. [AFP]
Equal Rights and Discrimination
- Mexico’s Supreme Court has recognized that same-sex couples in Mexico City have the right to adopt children, rejecting the federal government’s constitutional challenge to last year’s legislation allowing gay marriage. [BBC]
- U.S. immigration policy continues to receive criticism on several fronts, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issues its merits report in Smith and Armendariz v. United States, holding that the deportation of two foreign nationals without consideration of their family ties in the U.S. violated their rights to respect for family life and due process; the ACLU files suit challenging the lack of adequate procedures for dealing with people with mental disabilities in detention and removal proceedings; Human Rights Watch submits an amicus curiae brief before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) alleging that current U.S. practices with regard to individuals with mental disabilities violate international standards; a new report details sexual abuse and harassment in immigration detention; the Ninth Circuit reverses and remands a BIA decision for appropriate consideration of whether “women in Guatemala” may constitute a particular social group for purposes of asylum; documents obtained through FOIA litigation allegedly demonstrate that immigration officers use the ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program to detain and deport non-criminals or petty criminals using racial profiling, rather than as a highly limited mechanism to target the worst criminals for deportation [CCR]; and the Third Circuit strikes down a city ordinance punishing landlords nad employers for renting to or hiring “illegal aliens” [ACLU].
- A federal judge granted the federal government’s request for preliminary injunction against some provisions of Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, temporarily prohibiting enforcement of the requirement that police check immigration status of individuals they stop, the provision allowing, warrantless arrests of suspected unlawful immigrants, and the requirement that immigrants carry registration papers. [Washington Post]
- New U.S. legislation ends marked inequality in drug sentencing for powder cocaine and crack cocaine, which was a significant factor in racial disparities in prison populations because of the mandatory five-year minimum sentence previously required for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine (versus 500 grams of powder cocaine) and the fact that those prosecuted for crack offenses were predominantly African American. [HRW] The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 increases the amount of crack cocaine required to trigger the mandatory minimum sentence, eliminates the mandatory minimum for simple possession, and requires the U.S. Sentencing Commission to adopt new guidelines to take into account aggravating and mitigating circumstances in cases of drug trafficking.