Category Archives: internationalized criminal tribunals

Rwandan Genocide Suspect Félicien Kabuga Arrested, Leaving Six Fugitives

Félicien Kabuga arrested in Paris by French authorities
Credit: IRMCT Video via UN News Photo

French authorities have arrested Félicien Kabuga, long wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. [Guardian] Using his fortune and his radio station, Kabuga is accused of funding, logistically supporting, and inciting anti-Tutsi violence. [OHCHR Press Release; ACHPR Press Release] He was indicted by the ICTR in 1997 on genocide charges. [ACHPR Press Release] A French court will decide on May 27, 2020 whether his trial will be handled by the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) – which is concluding the remaining work of the ICTR and its counterpart, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – or in France, where Kabuga is arguing he will receive a fair trial. [IJRC; NYTimes: Trial] The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has called for the case to be transferred to Rwandan courts for trial, noting a “preference for national level prosecution” that meets the “needs of the affected people to participate in and witness the process.” [ACHPR Press Release] Kabuga’s arrest on May 16, 2020 is considered a highly significant development in international justice. [OHCHR Press Release; Just Security; NYTimes: Arrest] With his apprehension and the recently-confirmed death of Augustin Bizmana, just six fugitives indicted by the ICTR or IRMCT remain at large. See IJRC, ICTR.

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon Announces New Terrorism Charges Against Ayyash

Special Tribunal for Lebanon – Courtroom
Credit: STL via Flickr

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) announced new charges on September 16, 2019 against Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to his alleged involvement in the 2004 and 2005 attacks targeting Lebanese politicians Marwan Mohammed Hamade, Georges Anis Hawi, and Elias Miche El-Murr. [STL Press Release] The new charges are separate from the pending charges against Ayyash, and three other defendants, in connection with the February 14, 2005 attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. [STL Press Release] While Ayyash’s whereabouts are unknown, the Pre-Trial Judge issued both domestic and international warrants to be executed by Lebanese authorities and INTERPOL, respectively, for his arrest and handover to the STL. [STL Press Release] The STL is the first internationalized criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes of terrorism. See STL, Ayyash Case Information Sheet, March 2019. Since opening its doors in 2009, the tribunal has yet to issue any judgments in its pending cases, and none of the defendants are in its custody. [Washington Post; UN Press Release: STL]

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Former Khmer Rouge Leader Dies as Cambodia Tribunal Cases Continue

Khmer Rouge Tribunal
ECCC via Flickr

Nuon Chea, a former high-ranking official in the Khmer Rouge, died on August 4, 2019 while serving a life sentence imposed by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). [ECCC Press Release: Chea; HRW] In 2014, the ECCC convicted Chea, also known as “Brother No. 2,” of orchestrating the forced removal of approximately two million people and directing the torture and killing of more than 14,000 people at a Cambodian detention center. [HRW] His death has prompted renewed scrutiny of the search for justice in Cambodia and the role of the ECCC, a United Nations-backed tribunal tasked with prosecuting senior Khmer Rouge leaders and other individuals “most responsible” for the atrocities carried out under the regime, from 1975 to 1979. [HRW] The ECCC has initiated four principal cases, involving 10 defendants, since it began operating in 2006; in that time, it has completed the trials of three defendants, all of whom were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. See ECCC, Key Events; ECCC, Introduction to the ECCC. Civil society and others have criticized the ECCC for being long overdue in convictions and for addressing only a fraction of Khmer Rouge’s crimes, resulting in impunity for many other senior Khmer Rouge leaders and current government officials. [HRW] The tribunal faces serious obstacles and pushback, in particular from uncooperative government members and Cambodian Prime Minister and former Khmer Rouge official, Hun Sen, who does not require government members to produce evidence. [HRW]

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News Clips – July 8, 2016

Human Rights Bodies’ Activities

  • The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution supporting online users’ human rights and criticizing internet shutdowns. [Access Now; TechCrunch]
  • The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met with civil society representatives from the Philippines, Myanmar, and France ahead of those States’ interactive dialogues with the CEDAW Committee, which also took place this week as it began its 64th session. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has suspended its planned July (and October) sessions amid an ongoing, critical financial crisis. [IJRC]
  • The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights held a special meeting this week in Thailand to review its work, complete its annual report, and address new areas of work, including its Judicial Colloquium on the Sharing of Good Practices regarding International Human Rights Law and Human Rights Cases in Domestic Courts. [AICHR Press Release]

Conflicts & Humanitarian Crises

  • The UN Security Council agreed to reauthorize the deployment of African Union troops in Somalia for an additional year, to improve stability and reduce the security threats posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. [UN News Centre]
  • Amnesty International this week criticized the lack of investigation into war crimes committed by the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups during the 50-day siege of summer 2014, when approximately 1,500 civilians died in the Gaza Strip. [Amnesty]
  • More than 280 people were killed as a result of last Saturday’s bombing in Baghdad, the worst such attack in Iraq since 2003. [Al Jazeera]
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross called on the parties to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine to stop attacking infrastructure on which civilians depend. [ICRC]
  • Many thousands have fled the South Sudanese city of Wau amid fresh fighting. [Al Jazeera]
  • An independent inquiry into the United Kingdom’s role in the Iraq war has culminated with the release of the so-called Chilcot report, which finds serious flaws in decision making by British intelligence and politicians, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair. [Washington Post; NYT]
  • A terrorist attack in Dhaka killed 20 people and prompted increased calls for the government of Bangladesh to improve justice and accountability while respecting human rights, particularly of civil society and members of the political opposition. [FIDH]

Human Rights Defenders & Civil Society

  • As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visits Beijing, China’s year-long crackdown on civil society has come under increased scrutiny. [AP; Amnesty]
  • Another Honduran activist, a colleague of slain environmentalist Berta Cáceres, has been killed. [The Guardian]
  • In Zimbabwe, citizens stayed home and businesses closed to protest government corruption and shortages. [The Guardian]
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights joined other human rights bodies this week in condemning the murders of Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and his companions. [ACHPR Press Release]
  • The human rights community mourns the death of Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate, advocate, and Holocaust survivor, who died on July 2, 2016. [NYT; Enough Project; UN News Centre]

International & Domestic Courts

  • Following investigations and pressure from UN actors and civil society, Sri Lanka has agreed to establish, within a year, a special Sri Lankan court to try those responsible for human rights violations and war crimes committed during its internal armed conflict. [NYT]
  • A legal challenge to Brexit will proceed before a British court, which will be asked to determine whether parliament alone can initiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. [The Guardian]
  • Unconfirmed – and contested – reports are circulating that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has been released from custody in Libya, where he had been held in secret detention awaiting execution. [The Guardian; JiC]
  • A French court sentenced two former Rwandan mayors to life imprisonment on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide for their roles in the massacre of 2,000 people in a church, during the country’s 1994 genocide. [BBC]

Police Violence

  • Following the police killings of two black men, in Louisiana and Minnesota, earlier this week and the killing of five police officers by snipers at an otherwise peaceful protest against police brutality, in Texas last night, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on Persons of African Descent called on U.S. authorities to address the persistent lack of accountability for police killings. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is making good on his promise to violently crack down on the drug trade, with 45 people reportedly killed by police and civilians during his first week in office. [Al Jazeera]


Documentation, Local Prosecutions Advance Accountability for War Crimes in Syria

The UN Security Council meets on the situation in SyriaCredit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

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

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