Read our September 2016 newsletter for the latest human rights news, details of our recent training, new additions to the Online Resource Hub, and more.
The UN Security Council meets on the situation in Syria
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Germany recently began its first prosecution for alleged war crimes in Syria, joining the several States and private actors seeking accountability for atrocities committed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. [The New Arab] Despite the lack of a final peace agreement, human rights experts are encouraging State governments to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity through domestic trials, such as the one that just commenced in Germany, or before an international court, such as the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal. [BBC; Reuters] Additionally, other entities have been actively collecting evidence of international crimes for any future trials that may take place, which may prove helpful to local prosecutors taking on cases such as the one in Germany. [New Yorker; Fox News] While political and practical challenges could continue to impede a referral to the ICC or creation of a special tribunal, these trials and documentation efforts demonstrate progress towards accountability. Read more
Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Credit: Vincent van Zeijst
On March 8, 2016 the appeals panel of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) reversed the contempt conviction of Karma Khayat, the deputy head of news of the television news station Al Jadeed, and upheld the acquittal of the station itself, in connection with the broadcast of information concerning the identity of confidential witnesses. See Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) and Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, Case STL-14-05/A/AP, Appeals Panel Judgment, 8 March 2016, 93. The STL had charged Ms. Khayat and Al Jadeed each with two counts of interfering with the tribunal’s administration of justice, one for the initial broadcast of the episodes in which journalists approached individuals Al Jadeed claimed to be confidential witnesses in the ongoing Ayyash et al. case concerning the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, and a second count for their failure to remove the videos from the internet pursuant to the STL’s order, communicated by email. See STL, About the Contempt Cases. Because the defendants accused of responsibility for Mr. Hariri’s death are being prosecuted in absentia, Ms. Khayat is the first defendant to testify before the STL. [BBC]
After the appeals panel determined that the STL has jurisdiction to hear charges against “legal persons” (corporations) and sent the case back to the contempt judge, Judge Lettieri convicted Ms. Khayat on the second count and acquitted the news station on September 18, 2015. See STL, Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./ New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, Case STL-14-05/T/CJ, Contempt Judge Judgment, 18 September 2015. The majority of the appeals panel reversed the conviction because there was insufficient evidence that Ms. Khayat had received and read the email ordering the videos be removed. Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) and Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, 8 March 2016, para. 170. While the defense initially argued that the contempt charge places freedom of expression at risk, the STL has maintained that free expression is not an absolute right and it must yield to court orders for the protection of witnesses. [Washington Post] Although the appeals panel adhered to its earlier decision that the STL does have jurisdiction to criminally prosecute legal persons, it nonetheless confirmed Al Jadeed’s acquittal because there was insufficient evidence to prove the objective likelihood of the public’s lack of confidence and Judge Lettieri did not err in relying on and applying Lebanese law on corporate responsibility. Al Jadeed [Co.] S.A.L./New T.V. S.A.L. (N.T.V.) and Karma Mohamed Tahsin Al Khayat, 8 March 2016, paras. 102, 107, 196, 203-205. Read more
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Amid recent developments, legal experts have both lauded and criticized the proceedings of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the tribunal established jointly by Cambodia and the United Nations to prosecute those most responsible for crimes against humanity and other atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. While welcoming progress that has included charges against a new defendant and testimony on the genocide charges against two senior officials, observers have also raised concerns about specific delays or inaction by the tribunal, as well as areas of weakness in its respect for due process. Similarly, in his visit to the country this week, United States Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the ECCC’s contributions to accountability, while lamenting the delay in its creation. [VOA] This post provides an update on the recent developments in the ECCC’s cases and reviews the challenges facing the court. Read more
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), European Union (EU), World Bank, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) are sponsoring the 2nd Continental Judicial Dialogue, entitled “Connecting National and International Justice” from November 4 to 6, 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania. The dialogue will bring together members of national, regional, and continental courts and human rights bodies to share information for improving judicial administration, ensuring access to judicial protection of human rights within the African continent, and exchanging information and jurisprudence.
The proposed topics of discussion include: judicial reforms; recent developments and trends in human rights jurisprudence, particularly with respect to the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul Charter), regional human rights instruments and domestic constitutions; continuing judicial education and management of judicial institutions; and experiences from other continents. See AfCHPR, Concept Note for the Second African Judicial Dialogue: “Connecting National and International Justice.”
President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Augustino Ramadhani, stated that the dialogue will include 200 delegates from African Union Member States, among them chief justices, presidents of supreme courts and constitutional courts, and members of academia, national judiciaries, and the media, among others. Justice Ramadhani also stated the dialogue will address human rights concerns with respect to electoral processes and noted that the dialogue will take place shortly before Uganda and other African countries are preparing for or holding elections. [KFM]
For more information about the Second Continental Judicial Dialogue, including the draft program and concept note, visit the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ website dedicated to the dialogue. Read more