Monthly News Update: Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes - May 2019





Liberia | Liberia: Govt Urged to Seek Accountability for War Crimes

A Question and Answer (Q&A) document containing frequently asked questions and answers relative to the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia was published beginning of May 2019. These booklets contain information on what war crimes are, what the president’s position of the court is and the view of the international community on judicial accountability of past crimes. [May 13, 2019] 

Liberia | Liberia: President Skips Truth & Reconciliation Commission Event in Gbarnga

Liberia’s President George Weah failed to attend the opening of a conference on the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He also did not turn up at an event held by the Independent Human Rights Commission. No reason for the absence was given, even though his comments were strongly anticipated by the organizers of the conference. [May 17, 2019] 

Liberia | Starting the Accountability Process: Liberian Lawyers Draft Bill for Establishing War Crimes Court

Since the end of the Liberian civil war and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia, the body was empowered to investigate the root causes of the country’s conflict and make recommendations. The TRC made its final recommendations in July 2009 but only few recommendations by the commission were implemented yet. The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) is currently drafting a Bill seeking for the establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. [May 23, 2019] 

Libya | Libya: Evidence of possible war crimes underscores need for international investigation

The attacks between 15-17 April in Tripoli could amount to war crimes which must be investigated by international prosecutors, according to Amnesty International that refers to evidence of indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas. Amnesty International gathered witness testimony and analysed satellite imagery. [May 16, 2019]

Namibia | Namibians challenge Germany to be remorseful on genocide 

The leader of the Namibian Genocide Committee on Sunday urged Germany to be remorseful over the 1904 genocide against Namibian tribes. "I am very happy that there is some sort of movement from the Germans on returning our pieces of history for closure, but they need to be remorseful about the issue," according to the chairman of the commission Idda Hoffman. [May 20, 2019] 

Niger | UNITAD and Niger cooperate in fight for accountability of Da’esh / Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant 

Mr. Karim A. A. Khan QC , the Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), visited the Republic of Niger to establish modalities for cooperation in order to create a basis for the implementation of UNITAD’s mandate to promote accountability for international crimes around the world. UNITAD’s work is supported by His Excellency Mr. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger especially considering the affiliation between Da’esh and Boko Haram operating in Niger. [May 6, 2019]

Rwanda | Over 149,000 Gacaca judgements remain unexecuted, say Genocide survivors’ proponents

Ibuka, the Umbrella Organization of Genocide Survivors' Associations has appealed for joint efforts to deal with 149,209 unexecuted Gacaca courts judgements across the country especially those related to genocide survivor’s assets that were plundered and damaged during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. [May 27, 2019]

Somalia | A former Somali army commander accused of war crimes has been working as an Uber driver in Virginia

A man accused of committing war crimes while serving as a Somali military commander during the African nation's civil war moved to the US and got a job driving for the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft according to a CNN investigation. A man saying he was one of his victims brought legal proceedings against him in 2004 in the US for shooting him and leaving him for dead during an interrogation in Somalia in 1988. A court in Virginia heard the opening statements in May 2019. [May 15, 2019] 

South Sudan | South Sudan hires US lobby group to avoid war crime charges

Many African governments hire lobby groups that are linked to Trump in order to “reverse sanctions and prevent further sanctions” and to prevent the setting up of an independent tribunal investigating alleged war crimes in the country. Based on filings from the US Department of Justice, Gainful Solutions Inc signed a contract worth several millions of dollars with the South Sudanese government. [May 2, 2019]  

Sudan | Prosecutor orders Sudan's Bashir interrogated

Sudan’s public prosecutor ordered President Omar al-Bashir to be interrogated on charges of money laundering and financing terrorism. This was supported by thousands of protesters. According to the prosecutor also other senior figures would be investigated for financial crimes. [May 3, 2019] 

Sudan | Omar al-Bashir charged over dead Sudan protesters 

Sudan's public prosecutor has charged ousted President Omar al-Bashir with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters. The charges stem from an inquiry into the death of a medic killed during protests that led to the end of his rule last month. He is also facing an investigation over allegations of money laundering and terror financing. [May 13, 2019]


Myanmar | Myanmar soldiers jailed for Rohingya massacre freed after months

Myanmar has granted early release to seven soldiers jailed for the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys during a 2017 military crackdown in the western state of Rakhine. The soldiers served less jail time than two Reuters reporters who uncovered the killings. The journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The prison officials declined to provide further details and said they did not know the exact date of the release, which was not announced publicly. [May 27, 2019] 

Sri Lanka | War crimes accused commander heads Colombo’s operational command

Sri Lanka has appointed Major General Sathyapriya Liyanage, a man accused of overseeing war crimes a decade ago, as head of the Overall Operational Command in Colombo in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks last week. Liyange was head of Task Force 3, during the Sri Lanka military’s 2009 offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils and saw the shelling of hospitals, widespread sexual violence and the execution of those who attempted to surrender. [May 6, 2019] 

Sri Lanka | “No war crimes committed in last phase of war” : Mahinda Rajapaksa

The opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa claims that no war crimes were committed during the last phase of the war in the country. Rajapaksa continued to say that the law of armed conflict is also formulated in such a way to fight in a war and that western powers led by America were also instrumental in proceeding with this law. [May 19, 2019] 



Canada | Genocide against Indigenous Peoples recognized by Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg now deems the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada a genocide. Previously, the museum had said Indigenous Peoples faced cultural genocide rather than genocide. Their stance has now shifted. "I think we recognize as a museum that our lack of clear acknowledgement of the genocide against Indigenous Peoples has caused hurt, and we've listened and we are working to do better," said the museum's manager of marketing and communications. [May 17, 2019]

United States | Trump keeps supporting US troops accused of war crimes, and it's 'dangerous' for the military's justice system

President Donald Trump supports US troop members accused or convicted of murder. Not only has he pardoned a former Army lieutenant who was convicted of killing an Iraq detainee, the president has also voiced support for two other service members accused of murder while their cases are still pending. On May 6, the president pardoned Michael Behenna, who had served prison time after being convicted of killing an Iraqi detainee in 2008. [May 13, 2019] 

United States | US House Foreign Affairs Committee calls for probing Haftar for war crimes being US citizen

US House Representative Tom Malinowski said the House Foreign Affairs Committee members will send a letter to the US Attorney General and FBI Director asking for investigating Khalifa Haftar for war crimes he and his subordinates committed in Libya since Haftar is a US citizen. Under his command his troops attacked Tripoli in April 2019. Theodore Deutch, the chairman of a hearing of witnesses by the committee, reiterated that Khalifa Haftar's attack on Tripoli is undermining the political process in the country, urging the US administration to adopt a clearer policy toward Libya and call for an unconditional ceasefire. [May 16, 2019]

United States | BNP Paribas to face revived lawsuit over Sudanese genocide: U.S. appeals court

Twenty-one refugees now living in the United States filed a class action against BNP Paribas in 2016, over its role as the Sudan regime’s main bank from 1997 to 2007. They said BNP Paribas’ processing of thousands of illegal transactions through its New York offices furthered the regime’s campaign of murder, mass rape, torture and deliberate HIV infection against its own people. BNP Paribas agreed to plead guilty and pay an $8.97 billion penalty to settle U.S. charges it transferred billions of dollars for Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban entities subject to economic sanctions. The case was revived by a US appeals court. [May 22, 2019]


 Argentina | Truth, Justice And Declassification: Secret Archives Show US Helped Argentine Military Wage ‘Dirty War’ That Killed 30,000

 United States military and intelligence documents were recently delivered to Argentina that offer new details about the country’s brutal military junta that terrorized Argentina from 1976 to 1984. 

 “Argentines now have more information about a dark period of our history that will allow us to continue strengthening justice, seeking and finding the truth,” President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter after receiving the 7,500-document report on April 12.[May 13, 2019] 

Colombia | Colombia's attorney general resigns over court refusal to extradite FARC leader

 The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal in Colombia prosecutes leaders of the FARC guerrillas, who demobilized under a 2016 peace deal, as well as military officials, for crimes committed during a five-decade internal conflict. Recently the JEP ordered the release of Jesus Santrich despite an extradition request by the US. He was indicted more than a year ago by a U.S. grand jury for conspiracy to export 10 tonnes of cocaine, worth $320 million in street value. As a consequence Colombia’s attorney general Nelson Humberto Martinez resigned in protest. [May 15, 2019] 



Bosnia | Bosnia Tries Ex-Fighters for Crimes Against Humanity in Konjic

Prosecutor Marijana Cobovic told the Bosnian state court that the 14 defendants were responsible for the murders, detentions, rape, torture and mistreatment of the Serb population in Konjic, as well as burning their property and the local Orthodox church. The crimes were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against Serbs in the Konjic area in the period between May 1992 and May 1993. [May 8, 2019]

Bosnia | BiH’s Court upheld a Case against Mujcinovic et al. over War Crimes

The Panel of Section I for War Crimes of the Appellate Division of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, having held a session in the criminal case conducted against the Accused Safet Mujcinovic, Selman Busnov, Nusret Muhic, Zijad Hamzic, Ramiz Halilovic, Nedzad Hodzic and Osman Gogic, rendered a Judgment upholding the acquittal of the suspects of war crimes against civilians. [May 20, 2019]  

Croatia | Croatia Contests Ruling Sparing War Criminals from Compensation Payments

The Croatian state attorney’s office appealed against a recent first-instance ruling by the Zagreb Municipal Civil Court, which rejected a request from the state for convicted war criminal Mirko Norac and two of his co-perpetrators to pay the state the money that it has already given to their victims in compensation. [May 27, 2019] 

European Union | Genocide and war crimes cases rise by 1/3 in the EU in 3 years

EU Member States are giving more priority to investigating genocide and war crimes. The number of new cases rose by a third over the last three years, with 1 430 new investigations launched in 2018. [May 23, 2019] 

France | French FM: Paris Considers Mechanism to Try Foreign ISIS Militants

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that an international “legal mechanism” is being studied to prosecute foreign ISIS terrorists detained in Kurdish areas in Syria. [May 13, 2019] 

Hungary | Hungary Extradites Serb Suspected Of War Crimes To Kosovo

According to Kosovo's justice minister, a Serbian man wanted in connection with a 1999 massacre in Kosovo has been extradited from Hungary. The name of the man was not provided, but the justice minister said he had been extradited by Budapest after "full guarantees" were given to respect the man's "dignity and rights." Media in Kosovo said the man participated in the massacre of 113 Albanian men in a town west of the capital, Pristina, on March 26, 1999. The killings occurred one day after NATO started its bombing campaign against Serbian targets. [May 17, 2019]  

Kosovo | Kosovo MPs Draft Resolution Accusing Serbia of Genocide

An ad hoc parliamentary commission set up to prepare a resolution condemning crimes by Serbian forces during the Kosovo war is expected to send a draft resolution to parliament for a vote. The resolution focuses on accusing Serbia of committing genocide against ethnic Albanians. The resolution also asks the Kosovo government for a law to penalise the justification, minimisation or denial of genocide in Kosovo. [May 8, 2019]

Netherlands | Dutch court will hear widows' case against Shell over deaths of Ogoni Nine

A Dutch court ruled that it has jurisdiction to determine whether Royal Dutch Shell was complicit in the Nigerian government’s execution of the Ogoni Nine, environmental protesters who fought against widespread pollution in the Niger Delta. [May 1, 2019] 

Netherlands | Netherlands Wants Tribunal to Try Some Islamic State Members

The Netherlands called for the establishment of a tribunal to prosecute members of the Islamic State extremist group responsible for "mass atrocity crimes." Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok made the proposal at a U.N. Security Council meeting, saying there must be accountability and an end to impunity for violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. [May 23, 2019]

Netherlands | Netherlands arrests suspected Syrian Al Nusra Front commander

Dutch police arrested a Syrian man suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of Al-Nusra Front. The 47-year-old man was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands. According to the prosecutor, he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan). [May 21, 2019] 

Spain | Former ETA chief ‘Josu Ternera’ arrested in France after 17 years in hiding

A historic leader of the Basque terrorist group ETA who had been on the run for 17 years has been arrested in France, police sources have told EL PAÍS. ETA is responsible for killing over 800 people. “French-Spanish cooperation has proven its efficiency once more. The Civil Guard and French Intelligence Service DGSI have my appreciation,” tweeted acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. “Today, more than ever, I send a hug to all the victims of terrorism.” [May 16, 2019]

Sweden | Swedish War Crimes Unit Interviews Syrian Torture Survivors

Swedish prosecution authorities responded promptly to the first criminal complaint filed in Sweden on torture in Syria. Four of nine Syrian plaintiffs, who are survivors of torture and now reside in Sweden, gave witness evidence to the Swedish War Crimes Unit. On 19 February 2019 the Syrian victims submitted a criminal complaint under the principle of universal jurisdiction against senior officials in Bashar al-Assad's government."It is very important for me to feel that the Swedish authorities care for our pain and help us in achieving justice", said one of the plaintiffs. [May 16, 2019]



Universal | Prosecuting sexual violence as an international crime: a review of the 2018 cases

More than 30 trials were initiated in over 15 countries in 2018. At least 18 guilty verdicts were delivered, sometimes against multiple defendants. TRIAL International attempts to present an overview of the prosecution of sexual violence as an international crime around the world. [April 30, 2019] 

Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - May 2019



International reactions

American Senate adopts Resolution on Cameroon

The American Senate has adopted a Resolution in which it expresses its concern regarding the worsening of the socio-political situation in Cameroon. In particular, the Senate is concerned about the Anglophone crisis and the detention of political opposition. It calls upon the Cameroonian government to respect all human beings and their rights, regardless of their political beliefs. It urges the Cameroonian government and the separatist fighters to engage in a peaceful dialogue in order to find a solution for the conflict. [May 10, 2019]

US pleased with UNSC meeting on Cameroon

The United States’ Assistant Secretary for African affairs, Tibor Nagy, welcomes that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an informal meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon. Just like his colleagues, Nagy called for both parties to start an inclusive dialogue, to respect international humanitarian law and the protected status of aid workers. [May 15, 2019]

Nagy accuses Cameroonian government of not handling the crisis correctly

Only a day after the UNSC meeting, Nagy, said that the Cameroonian government has done nothing to handle the crisis in the North West and South West regions. This statement follows Nagy’s visit to Cameroon last month. Nagy now asks the American government to double their efforts and commitment to find a solution for the crisis. [May 16, 2019]

Nagy: “Independent state of Ambazonia is not a realistic solution”

Tibor Nagy, said the US should not have talks about the possibility of an independent Ambazonia as a solution to the Anglophone crisis, but should rather pressure the government of Cameroon to initiate dialogue. He criticized the government’s handling of the crisis and said sanctions could be imposed on Cameroon if the government fails to open a broad dialogue. Nagy believes prefers dialogue because “both the North West and South West have a sense of Cameroonianess and it is in the view of America to recognize the integrity of Cameroon.” [May 17, 2019]

Cameroonians will no longer need a visa to travel to the US

Mike Pompeo announced that inhabitants from Cameroon and several other African States will no longer need a visa to travel to the US for several purposes. This aims to strengthen US-African relations in the fight on terrorism. [May 16, 2019]

Francophonie commits to help Cameroon

TheSecretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Louise Mushikiwabo, met with President Biya last Friday. Mushikiwabo told reporters that his organization would accompany Cameroon to mitigate concrete security hot spots. [May 26, 2019]

France expresses concern about Anglophone crisis

The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, expressed concern about the socio-political unrest taking place in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon, highlighting that France has been urging President Biya to find a lasting solution. Jean-Yves Le Drian added that “France, the European Union, and the United Nations are doing everything to push Paul Biya to take concrete steps in redressing the crisis” and that he is “very concerned about the situation of the international jurist and CRM leader, Maurice Kamto.” [May 29, 2019]

Extrajudicial killings

Four-month-old baby killed

On May 20th, a baby of four months was killed. The family accuses governmental forces of shooting the baby in the head. The death of the four-month-old baby has provoked anger and condemnation. [May 21, 2019]

The following day, the government denied accusations and blamed armed separatists. A video of the incident circulating on the internet was dismissed as a ‘well-staged drama aimed at manipulating public opinion and to once again throw the blame on the Cameroonian defense and security forces.’ [May 22, 2019]

The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa condemned the killing, arguing that it violates international law.[May 29, 2019]

Teacher beheaded

Unidentified men beheadeda teacher from the Government Bilingual High School Nitop around Mobile Nkwen. Several armed groups have denied responsibility for the murder. In a communiqué signed on Wednesday, the Governor of the North West region, Adolphe Lele L’Afrique, said security forces have launched an operation to recover the body as well as to identify the perpetrators of the act. [May 23, 2019] 

Man shot in Bamenda

A video on social media shows the body of a 35-year old man with his head apparently shattered from gunshots, lying on the road at the Mile 90 neighborhood. Sources say the man was on his way to work in the morning when soldiers arrivedinthe neighborhood and opened fire, which resulted in the killing of the man and burning of bikes. Residents were forced to flee while a narrator in the video says that at least two persons escaped into the bushes with bullet wounds. [May 23, 2019]

The extrajudicial killing of popular bike rider

A bike rider, identified as Meboka, was reportedly shot in a neighborhood in Kumba. Sources say the deceased is suspected to have been an informant of separatist fighters in the locality. [May 24, 2019]

Two human heads discovered in North West region

Two heads were discovered in Meluf in the North West Region of Cameroon. According to local sources, the heads belonged to armed separatist fighters and the act was committed by men in uniform Thursday, May 30th. These claims are yet to be confirmed and the bodies have not been found. [May 31, 2019]

Destruction of civilian property

Hospital attacked by governmental forces

On Friday 10thMay, governmental forces allegedly attacked the Presbyterian hospital in Kumba targeting two secessionists who were in this hospital for treatment of their wounds. In their search they threatened the medical staff and accused them of collaborating with the secessionists. [11 May]

Church, clinic and houses burnt by military men in Alachu (North West Region)

After Ambazonian fighters killed two soldiers, their military colleagues tried to take revenge, whereby a clinic, a church and several houses caught fire. President Biya expressed his sympathy with the victims and promised compensation. [May 16, 2019]

Following this, a commission was established to identify victims, assess the material damageandhumanitarian needs of people in the Muwatchu, Matsam and Alachu neighborhoods in Bamenda. The Minister of Defence Joseph Beti Assomo said investigations have been opened to determine the perpetrators of the acts. [May 18, 2019]

Nine killed, houses and shops burnt down in Esu

Sources say the killings and destruction followed gun battles between Cameroonian defense, security forces and Ambazonian fighters. “Most of the bodies were only discovered later after soldiers had left the area. The military fired gunshots shattering windows and damaging equipment at the Esu health center…” a local claimed. [May 24, 2019]

Heroism in International Justice


Isabella attended two events in the Hague highlighting what heroism by everyday people can look like in the field of international justice, and the qualities that connect These “heroes” across time and space.

American psychologist Philip Zimbardo is best known for his 1971 Stanford prison experiment, which notoriously demonstrated how easily ordinary people can be influenced by their situation to engage in immoral behavior. In recent years, the ethics and authenticity of the Stanford prison experiment have been called into question, and Zimbardo has changed course from the so-called “psychology of evil” that made him famous. His latest research focuses on heroism.

Zimbardo uses the concept of the “banality of heroism” (a counterpoint to Arendt’s banality of evil) to convey that in the same way that performing an immoral act does not depend on a unique disposition towards evil, performing a heroic act does not depend on a unique disposition towards goodness. According to Zimbardo, anyone can be “a hero in waiting” when equipped with a heroic imagination. In 2011, Zimbardo co-founded the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) to explore how insights from social psychology can help ordinary people take effective action in challenging situations. In addition to conducting research, HIP develops and implements training programs and public initiatives to inspire and encourage everyday heroism around the world – particularly among young people. In the words of one of HIP’s students in Italy, “Being heroic does not mean having superpowers. Being heroic means being there for others and helping them, regardless of their gender, age, or race.”

Two events I recently attended in the Hague highlighted what heroism by everyday people can look like in the field of international justice, and the qualities that connect international justice “heroes” across time and space.


The Auschwitz Volunteer

In March, the Humanity House – an interactive museum and education platform – hosted Polish professor and historian Marek Kornat to tell the relatively unknown resistance story of Witold Pilecki.

Witold Pilecki was a reserve officer in the Polish army during World War II and co-founder of the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska or TAP), a resistance group which operated in German-occupied Poland. In 1940, TAP developed a strategy to infiltrate the recently opened Auschwitz concentration camp. Little was known about the camp at the time, and the purpose of the mission was to gather intelligence about what was taking place there. Pilecki volunteered, and later that year, he was deliberately detained by the German Army, registered under a false name, and sent to Auschwitz.

Once inside the camp, Pilecki formed a new resistance group, the Union of Military Organizations (Zwiazek Organizacji Wojskowej, ZOW), which connected with other underground organizations and worked to lift the morale of the prisoners by disseminating news of the war and smuggling in food, clothing, and medicine from outside. The group was able to communicate regularly with the Home Army (the dominant Polish resistance group during the war) in Warsaw through prisoners who were released from the camp or managed to escape, and later, by radio.

For almost three years, Pilecki meticulously documented the atrocity crimes committed by the Nazis, the dire living conditions at Auschwitz, and the number of arrivals and deaths that occurred there. In 1943, he escaped to Warsaw and presented a detailed report of the horrors he had witnessed, including the use of gas chambers, ovens, slave labor, and sterilization experiments. Pilecki’s report was one of the first eyewitness accounts of Auschwitz, and the first comprehensive record of a Holocaust death camp obtained by the Allied Forces. At the time, the Allies largely disregarded Pilecki’s record of Auschwitz, calling it exaggerated and rejecting his proposal to attack the camp and liberate the prisoners. Years later, his report would be recognized as “a historical document of the greatest importance.”

Pilecki continued to fight for the resistance until the war’s end. After returning to Poland to gather intelligence on the newly installed communist regime, he was arrested and repeatedly tortured by agents of Poland’s Ministry of Public Security. Determined to protect the other prisoners, Pilecki revealed no sensitive information. In 1948, he was subjected to a show trial. With the help of the testimony of Poland’s future prime minister, Pilecki was sentenced to death on assassination and espionage charges and executed by a shot to the back of his head.

Pilecki’s report remained unpublished in communist Poland and his story suppressed for four decades. In 1990, he and the others sentenced in the show trial were finally rehabilitated, and in 2006 he was honored with Poland’s highest decoration. In 2000, the report was made available to the public for the first time, and in 2015, it was translated into English and published as the highly-acclaimed book, The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery.

As representatives from the Polish Embassy and the Pelicki Institute made clear at the conclusion of the lecture, Pilecki is now regarded as a national hero. The event moderator, Dr. Iwona Gusc, pointed out that given what little was known about Auschwitz at the time, Pilecki could not have fully comprehended what he was signing up for when he volunteered, and that this part of his story had received too much attention.

Regardless of what one considers Pilecki’s bravest act, virtually no one disputes his unparalleled commitment to the resistance and to the prisoners of Auschwitz. Hearing his story, it is easy to feel like the vast majority of us will never have the opportunity to put our moral character to the test on such an extraordinary scale. For me, the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL)’s 2019 Innovating Justice Forum – an annual gathering of global justice leaders and entrepreneurs working towards people-centered, evidence-based solutions – was a reminder that this is not necessarily the case.

The Innovating Justice Forum

Located at the Peace Palace, the two-day event centered on the theme “From Justice Innovation to Scale,” and showcased the final stage of a justice innovation competition that HiiL organizes each year. Twelve entrepreneurs from ten different countries had been selected from a pool of 1000 and invited to pitch their ideas to the global justice leaders who had gathered at the Forum. The innovations presented addressed a wide range of justice problems, from exploitative contracting practices in South Africa to underutilized welfare schemes in India. Each innovation was evaluated on the basis of demonstrated impact and potential for scale and replicability.

The winner of this year’s competition was CrimeSync, a startup in Sierra Leone that improves the capacity of criminal justice agencies to organize, collaborate, and share information through a centralized electronic case management system. CrimeSync also benefits citizens by making it easier to check the status of ongoing cases. The second and third place winners – Haqdarshak and Creative Contracts – similarly empower everyday people by increasing their access to information that affects their livelihood.

What most inspired me about the twelve pitches was not the innovations themselves, but the creative and compassionate people behind them.

Sorieba Daffae studied law and engineering and had a successful career in business development and information technology before co-founding CrimeSync. After learning that Sierra Leone’s dysfunctional criminal justice system was a major contributor to the country’s 11-year-long civil war, he decided to apply his multidisciplinary skillset to improving it. The data-driven case management platform that Daffae developed has already succeeded in reducing case processing time, prison overcrowding, and government expenditures – all while increasing accountability within the justice system.

Rob de Rooy practiced as independent commercial attorney before founding Creative Contracts. De Rooy observed that South Africans with low literacy were frequently asked to sign employment contracts that they did not understand, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. He began to explore the possibility of communicating contract clauses using pictures instead of words. Through a series of collaborations with lawyers, academics, and cartoonists, De Rooy succeeded in developing the first professional quality “comic contract” for one of his commercial clients. The illustrated contract was easily understood and signed by 300 farm workers, and De Rooy’s contracts have since become the company’s “new normal.” Creative Contracts is currently working with a number of different organizations to improve their business relationships and outcomes by making their contracts more accessible.

Like Pilecki, Sorieba Daffae, Rob de Roy, and the other innovators at the Forum were ordinary people who recognized an injustice in their environment and chose to address it. While early-stage justice startups may seem insignificant compared to what Pilecki undertook, research conducted by the Task Force on Justice suggests that they are fundamental to closing the global justice gap.

According to their recently published report, an estimated 4.4 billion people are excluded from the opportunities that law provides, 1.5 billion people have unmet justice needs, and 244 million people are subject to conditions of extreme injustice. Eliminating the global inequities these numbers represent will require bringing the justice innovations of many individuals around the world to scale.

Furthermore, the bravery of justice innovators should not be underestimated. A major reason for the Forum’s emphasis on potential for scale is security: government officials that benefit from the selectivity of the status quo are prone to suppress initiatives that challenge it. A startup that is unable to scale its services may not be able to attain the popularity and visibility necessary for its long-term survival.

So how do we inspire and empower more people to do what Pilecki and the Innovating Justice Forum contestants have done – to put their own comfort and security on the line to challenge injustice around them? Though heroism research is still in its infancy, Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) workshops focus on three areas: 1) helping people overcome the pressure to conform to group norms; 2) learning to identify and counteract bias and discrimination; and 3) developing the resilience needed to combat the bystander effect – defined as, “the impulse to stand by in emergencies when others are present who might intervene.”

After the Forum, I spoke to HiiL Communications Specialist Katie Davis to try to understand how “heroic imagination” could be fostered to address long-term injustices, the root causes of which are not always clear. Davis emphasized the power of data to inspire and facilitate grassroots innovation. Rather than relying on a handful of entrepreneurs to identify and address justice problems in their communities, HiiL seeks to activate broader participation in local reform. One way they do this is by sharing their findings with paralegals, judges, and other justice system stakeholders in the communities they conduct research in. This information gives people a bird’s eye view of the justice problems in their environment that they might otherwise not have had access to – the kind that Pilecki lacked.

With that said, Pilecki’s story serves as an important reminder that a complete understanding of a particular injustice is neither necessary nor sufficient for making a change. What unites all international justice heroes is their decision to act. Pilecki’s reflection on what it was like to be rounded up for transport to Auschwitz makes this lesson clear:

SS men with automatic weapons were stationed on all four sides.

There were about one thousand eight hundred or so of us.

What really annoyed me the most was the passivity of this group of Poles. All those picked up were already showing signs of crowd psychology, the result being that our whole crowd behaved like a herd of passive sheep. 

A simple thought kept nagging me: stir up everyone and get this mass of people moving.

Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes - Africa



There is no doubt that Africa is at the center of attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Court’s four successful convictions were all brought against African nationals and among the eleven on-going investigations only one is not on the African continent. This apparent selective bias has had an effect on the position of African governments towards the Court. In 2016, Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia notified their intention to withdraw from the ICC. Whereas Burundi went ahead with the plan in October 2017, South Africa and The Gambia rescinded their notifications.

But what about the domestic prosecution of international crimes within African states? This post looks at African States, the ICC, and the domestic prosecution of international crimes within Africa.

1. Africa and the ICC

While many African states were and are strong supporters of the creation of the ICC, several states developed opposite opinions in the past decade. Naldi and Magliveras argue that the African Union (AU) criticizes the abuse of jurisdiction by Western States, which is, according to the AU, selectively directed towards the African continent. In particular, the decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Al-Bashir, who in the view of the AU enjoys immunity from prosecution, was the reason for the AU to object to the jurisdiction of the ICC and urge its member states not to cooperate with the Court’s arrest warrants. This could be observed in several situations where Al-Bashir visited African member states of the ICC, such as Malawi, without being arrested there. Also the recent acquittal of the suspect Bemba had a negative impact on the perceived legitimacy of the Court and leaves African states with many doubts concerning the capability of the Court to deliver justice.

Against this background, the AU has established the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) in 2005. This court is often considered an alternative to the ICC, but does not have jurisdiction over international crimes, as its jurisdiction is limited to determining human rights issues. Also the yet to be established African Court of Justice and Human Rights will not be an appropriate alternative to the ICC. The Protocol on Amendments to the court’s statute provides heads of state or government immunity from prosecution in article 45Abis and the court would only have jurisdiction for crimes committed after its entry into force.

The critique by African states of the so-called “African Bias” remains an issue close to the ICC. During the last Assembly of States Parties in December 2018, a side event was organized to discuss ways to improve the relationship between the Court and the African continent.

2. Domestic Efforts   

Despite this seemingly declining trust in the ICC, more than 60% (33 out of 54 states) of all African states have ratified the ICC Rome Statute as shown in the following table. The table and the accompanying chart also depict the incorporation of international crimes in domestic laws across African States.

Overview of the ICC Rome Statute Ratification Status and Codification of International Crimes among African States

The information is taken from a report by the Global Legal Research Center of The Law Library of Congress of the States. The report, published in November 2016, can be found  here .  G= Genocide, CAH= Crimes against Humanity, WC= War Crimes

The information is taken from a report by the Global Legal Research Center of The Law Library of Congress of the States. The report, published in November 2016, can be found here.

G= Genocide, CAH= Crimes against Humanity, WC= War Crimes

2.A. Codification of International Crimes

Screenshot 2019-05-14 at 16.52.23.png

Many African states have implemented provisions criminalizing international crimes, which is the most basic precondition to prosecute offenders on a domestic level. Some states, such as Mauritius, South Africa and Ghana have repeated verbatim the definition of the crimes in the Rome Statute and other states solely refer to the Rome Statute, such as Kenya and Uganda.

Where no direct reference is made, definitions are still more or less based on the Rome Statute. Ethiopia extended the definition of genocide to also include political groups and groups of color in article 269 of its criminal code, whereas the criminal code of Burkina Faso allows in article 16 for an ad hoc determination of the group while still stating the limited list of groups provided by the Rome Statute. Looking at crimes against humanity, Kenyan law refers to article 7 of the Rome Statute in its criminal code section 6(4) but adds as reference conventional international law and customary international law. In contrast, in Burundian law, article 196 of its criminal code  limits the scope of the crime by referring to the Rome Statute but adding the requirement that the crime is committed because the victim is a member of a “national, political, ethnic, racial or religious” group. Considering war crimes, many states, such as Uganda in its criminal code section 9(4), refer directly to the Geneva Conventions in addition to the Rome Statute. Thus, it can be seen that states do incorporate international crimes, but to a different scope and with differing definitions. However, as can be seen in the chart, more than half of the states in Africa have not criminalized international crimes sufficiently on a domestic level.

Some states such as Ethiopia, South Africa and Mauritania, criminalize the international crimes domestically despite the fact that they are not member states of the ICC (see table). This shows that non-ratifications of the Rome Statute does not equate to a reluctance to prosecute international crimes.  

2.B. Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes

In addition to including laws on the domestic level, several states have shown positive progress in the implementation of the laws. In Uganda, on March 11, the trial of the former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Thomas Kwoyelo, was continued at the High Court in Gulu, Uganda. Kwoyelo is facing 93 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1995 and 2005. In Rwanda, in October 2018, a new penal code was introduced that penalizes institutions for their support in genocide or crimes against humanity. In October 2018, the inaugural session for the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic took place. The court’s jurisdiction covers genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed within the state. While this is not a purely domestic effort, it does present the state’s support in the prosecution of international crimes. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Military Tribunal of South Kivu sentenced the commander of a unit of the Congolese army to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in November 2018 for having attacked villages in the Kalehe territory (South Kivu). Very recently a Rwandan man was arrested in the Netherlands based on an arrest warrant that was issued by Rwanda. After two Rwandan fugitives were already extradited to Rwanda in 2016 by Dutch authorities, this is the third case. The issuance of arrest warrants depicts the states effort in prosecuting the suspects of international crimes.

To conclude, while some African states are critical of the work of the ICC, the data show efforts in developing legal bases to prosecute the crimes domestically. Laws have been drafted and trials commenced, but many states do not have any legal provisions and the general rejection of waiving immunity for international crimes runs counter to the goal of bringing justice to the victims, as leaders of states are in many cases the most responsible ones for the commission of atrocities. Several countries on the African continent have taken steps to ensure accountability for perpetrators of international crimes.

Monthly News Update: Southern Cameroons - April 2019


This post collects updates from the past months concerning relevant developments in Southern Cameroon. The information is drawn from local and international online sources.


Kamto and Michelle Ndoki Return To Court for Habeas Corpus Hearing

According to a local newspaper, the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto, returned to court today where his appeal for bail was heard at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. The case was adjourned last week after a member of the panel of judges failed to attend the hearing. Kamto appeared in court alongside his allies, Christian Penda Ekoka, Albert Dzongang, Paul Eric Kingue, Several Abe aka Valsero, Celestin Djamen and Prof Alain Fogue. Barrister Michelle Ndoki also appeared before judges at Mfoundi High Court where her lawyers pleaded for her immediate release. [April 2, 2019]

Mancho Bibixy’s Detention Reviewed

On April 4, 2019, the same newspaper reported that the trial and detention of Anglophone activist Tse Mancho Bibxy was being reviewed by the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC). A Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said it initiated a review of the case involving the newscaster, who was sentenced last May to fifteen years in prison by the Yaoundé Military Tribunal. The LRWC submissions highlighted violations of rights to assembly, the right to expression and the right to a fair which includes a trial before a civilian court, legal aid, and freedom from discriminatory prosecution. [April 3, 2019]

Ambazonia Leaders Return to Court

On April 8, 2019, uncertainty arose over the planned court session as the defense counsel insisted that the case could not go on at the Yaoundé military tribunal while an appeal was still pending at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. The defense counsel said that they appealed the decision by the military tribunal to judge their clients in Yaoundé because their clients hold refugee and asylum seeker status.

Eventually, the case against the ten detained Ambazonia separatist leaders was adjourned until April 29, after the accused and their lawyers failed to appear in court. This was part of a deliberate attempt  to halt the proceedings at the military tribunal until a verdict is passed on their appeal at the Appeal Court of the Centre Region. [April 8, 2019]


Artist Longue Longue Released by Government

After being arrested by security forces in Doula earlier this month, outspoken artist Longkana Ango Simon has been released. Mr. Simon was  arrested after posting a controversial video on social media criticising the Biya regime for jailing the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto. In the video, Mr. Simon claimed that the detained leader had won the October 7, 2018 Presidential Election. [April 4, 2019]

Arrested Pro Kamto Supporters Freed

Eighteen supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, who were previously arrested, have been released. They were released on Tuesday of April 9, 2019 after spending hours in questioning at Central Police Station. A spokesperson of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement said they had been charged with illegal gathering, illegal protests, rebellion, and disturbing public order. However, it is not clear whether these charges have been dropped. [April 10, 2019]

Brother of the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Front kidnapped

According to several sources, Kingsley Azeh Ndi was kidnapped alongside two workers on Friday, April 19, 2019 while he was at the ranch of his brother Ni John Fru Ndi. This was not the first time Kingsley Azeh Ndi or a member of the Social Democratic Front had been kidnapped, as John Fru Ndi’s family has been the subject of numerous attacks. Last year, the sister of the Chairman was kidnapped by armed men and only later released.he SDF chieftain has also suffered losses from arson attacks. Reacting to the kidnapping of his brother, John Fru Ndi accused elites in Yaounde of creating armed groups in the Anglophone regions and prosper from the crisi. The kidnappers have demanded a six million Francs ransom. [April 22-23, 2019]


Switzerland Offers to Help Solve Anglophone Crisis

Swiss Ambassador to Cameroon, Pietro Lazzeri, met President Biya on Thursday, and later told the press that Switzerland would provide assistance to persons affected by the Anglophone crisis. “As a multicultural and pluri-linguistic country, Switzerland will continue to assist Cameroon through the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (NCPBM),” Mr. Lazzeri said. He also said that his country will seek to help national actors find solutions to the conflict, while respecting the characteristics of Cameroon. [April 5, 2019]

Government Rejects Human Rights Watch Report

The Government of Cameroon reacted to the recent report of Human Rights Watch on the situation in the North West and South West regions of the country. The report was dismissed by Cameroon’s Minister of Communication Rene Emmanuel Sadi, who said that it represented a “systematic tendency to discredit public authorities” and stated that the Cameroonian government “categorically refutes these accusations made recklessly against Republican Forces engaged in a struggle to preserve the territorial integrity of the state and the protection of persons and property”. He added that the report shows an obvious bias in favour of the armed groups by downplaying their responsibility in atrocities committed. [April 3, 2019]

Human Rights Watch: Cameroon Clamps Down on Opposition

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released another report documenting another crackdown on the right to assemble, after he Cameroonian authorities banned a week of demonstrations planned by the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement party. HRW notes that since late 2016, the government has repeatedly blocked peaceful anti-government protests with force, and is responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention of protesters. [April 8, 2019]

Human Rights Watch: Government Forces Attack Village

Central Africa Director at HRW, Lewis Mudge, said that “government forces are committing abuses against people living in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon”. According to a recent HRW report, Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes, and members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion carried out a deadly attack on the North-West region village of Meluf on April 4, 2019. HRW reports that government forces killed five civilian men, including one with a mental disability, and wounded one woman. Three of the bodies were later found mutilated, including one that had been decapitated. [April 10, 2019]

European Parliament condemns human rights violations

The European Parliament adopted a Resolution on Thursday, April 18, 2019 taking stock of the human rights situations in Brunei, China and Cameroon. Members of the European Parliament condemned the use of abundant force, and have called for an independent and transparent investigation into the conduct of the police and security forces against protesters, along with the immediate release of all detainees held on politically motivated charges. They also want the Cameroons government to confirm that it will not seek the death penalty for political activists and protesters, recalling that such punishment has not been used in Cameroon since 1997. Parliament also urged the government in Cameroon to initiate a consensual review of the country’s electoral system, with the aim of ensuring a free, transparent and credible electoral process.

This Resolution was not received well in Cameroon. A local newspaper reported that the President of the National Assembly, followed the example of the Senate, by stressing that President Paul Biya has been taking measures and initiatives to calm and contain the situation in both regions. According to this report, the National Assembly is prepared to welcome a delegation from the European Union Parliament so that its members can judge  the extent of the violence perpetrated by armed gangs on the ground.

In contrast, Parliaments for Global Action welcomed this Resolution and called upon other international organizations to restore human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cameroon. [April 18, 2019]