Category Archives: transitional justice

Kosovo to Create Special War Crimes Court but Faces Challenges

Photographs of some of those still missing after the Kosovo War in front of a government building in Serbia and Montenegro
Credit: UN Photo/Afrim Hajrullahu

On August 3, 2015 the Kosovo Parliament passed the “Law on Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office,” a constitutional amendment that will establish a special war crimes court to prosecute former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas for crimes committed during and after the Kosovo War between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000. The court will operate under Kosovo law and prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and organ harvesting, among others. The court is likely to be based in the Netherlands because of concerns regarding judicial corruption and the lack of a robust witness protection program in Kosovo. As part of the vote that took place, the Kosovo Parliament also passed a law providing legal aid for KLA defendants. If the Netherlands agrees to host the court, discussions in the upcoming months must take place between Kosovo, the Netherlands, and the European Union regarding logistics, including the court’s budget, judges and prosecutors, and location, as well as sentencing and witness protection issues. [Balkan Insight: Major Challenges Ahead; Human Rights Watch; Reuters]

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African Commission Adopts Resolution on Right to Rehabilitation for Torture Victims

The 56th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR in Session

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) adopted Resolution 303 on the right to rehabilitation for victims of torture during its 56th Ordinary Session, held from April 21 – May 7, 2015, in Banjul, the Gambia. See ACommHPR, Res. 303: Resolution on the Right to Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture, 56th Ordinary Session, 21 April- 7 May, 2015. The resolution, which is the first that the African Commission has adopted that focuses on the importance of rehabilitation for victims of torture as part of the fight against torture, urges State parties to take steps to prevent and prohibit torture and to ensure that those who suffered from torture receive proper care and rehabilitation. The resolution is a tool which civil society organizations can use in promoting and advocating for torture victims’ right to rehabilitation before the African Commission as well as other African Union bodies. [African Commission Adopts Landmark Resolution]

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Inter-American Court Holds 108th Ordinary Session and 52nd Extraordinary Session

Judges of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Credit: IACtHR

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) is currently holding its 108th Ordinary Session, which began on April 13 and will conclude on April 17, 2015 in San Jose, Costa Rica, and will be holding its 52nd Special Session from April 20 to April 24, 2015 in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s Mandate Extended by Three Years

Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Credit: STL

This month, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extended the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for an additional three years beginning on March 1, 2015. The STL was established in the aftermath of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination and the deaths of 22 others in 2005. [UN News Centre]

The extension of the STL’s mandate is significant because, as the world’s first international court to treat terrorism as a distinct crime, the STL represents a chance to address impunity for certain violent crimes in Lebanon. [Al Jazeera] However, as the only internationalized criminal court whose defendants are all being prosecuted in absentia – together with the delays, expense, and controversy that have characterized the proceedings – the STL faces real challenges in delivering justice and accountability. Read more

ICC Opens Second Investigation into Violence in the Central African Republic

ICC Prosecutor Fatou BensoudaCredit: ICC

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
Credit: ICC

Last week, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, announced the opening of a second investigation into the Central African Republic (CAR), this time with respect to alleged international crimes committed since late 2012. More than 5,000 people have died in recent months due to sectarian fighting in the country. “The list of atrocities is endless. I cannot ignore these alleged crimes,” Prosecutor Bensouda stated in her announcement. [ABC; ICC 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


Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan during the the first day of closing statements in Case 002/01 on 16 October 2013 Credit: ECCC

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan during the the first day of closing statements in Case 002/01 on 16 October 2013
Credit: ECCC

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

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Publishes Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes

Fatou Bensouda, ICC ProsecutorCredit: ICC

Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor
Credit: ICC

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Fatou Bensouda, has published a Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes describing the approach her office will take with regard to such crimes going forward. The Policy Paper, released on June 5th of this year, is the latest indicator that the Office of the Prosecutor plans to emphasize sexual and gender-based crimes in its preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions of international crimes.

“The message to perpetrators and would-be perpetrators must be clear: sexual violence and gender-based crimes in conflict will neither be tolerated nor ignored at the ICC,” Bensouda said upon the release of the paper. [ICC Press Release: Policy Paper] According to the Policy Paper, the Prosecutor’s general policy will be to “pay particular attention to the commission of sexual and gender-based crimes,” and to “enhance the integration of a gender perspective and analysis at all stages of its work.” See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes 12 (June 2014). Read more

UN Human Rights Committee Issues Concluding Observations on State Reports of Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and the United States

The UN Human Rights Committee begins its 110th session. Credit: UN Treaty Body Webcast

The UN Human Rights Committee begins its 110th session.
Credit: UN Treaty Body Webcast

The UN Human Rights Committee held its 110th session from March 10 to 28 to consider the State reports of Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and the United States of America. Following the session, the Committee released its concluding observations, detailing key concerns and recommendations for these States’ improved implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Read more

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