Monthly News Update February 2019: Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes

BY CLEO MEINICKE, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PILPG-NL

THIS NEWS UPDATE DRAWS TOGETHER INFORMATION FROM DIFFERENT ONLINE NEWS PLATFORMS ON THE TOPIC OF DOMESTIC PROSECUTION OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMES. 

AFRICA

Lybia | Former Ghaddafi official freed in Libya for ‘health reasons’

Buzeid Dorda, a former official of the Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime, who was sentenced to death in 2015, was released Sunday for “health reasons” according to information received from his family. He was sentenced to death for his role in the violent crackdown on protesters. The trial was considered flawed by the United Nations. [February 18, 2019]

Uganda | LRA's Kwoyelo: Lawyers ask court to postpone trial

The commencement of the trial of Mr Thomas Kwoyelo, former Lord’s Resistance Army Commander, was postponed by two weeks for the prosecution to prepare their opening statement. The defendant faces 93 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1995 and 2005. [February 20, 2019]

ASIA

Sri Lanka| Sri Lanka considering withdrawal of co-sponsorship of UNHRC resolution on war crimes

Maithripala Sirisena, the president of Sri Lanka, expressed his wish to withdraw from a Human Rights Council resolution demanding Sri Lanka to address accountability issues and setting up a war crimes tribunal with international participation. A Foreign Ministry source said that the pros and cons of a withdrawal are being discussed. [February 24, 2019]

AUSTRALIA & OCEANIA

Australia | SAS war crimes probe witness disciplined

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force has been investigating the conduct of the Special Air Services Regiment and Commandos during the war against the Taliban regarding potential breaches of the laws of armed conflict. The Inspector-General moved to punish a witness, who allegedly breached secrecy provisions of the investigation. [February 2, 2019]

CENTRAL AMERICA/ CARRIBEANS

Guatemala | 'A drastic step backwards': Guatemala considers amnesty for war crimes

Congress will soon vote to reform the national reconciliation law, which may provide absolute immunity to the perpetrators of the crimes committed during the 36-year armed conflict. The crimes committed include rape, forced disappearances and are widely considered crimes against humanity.  [February 7, 2019]

Guatemala | Guatemala war crime survivors challenge amnesty bill

Indigenous survivors of crimes against humanity committed during the civil war take action against the bill advancing immunity for the war criminals. Maya Achi women are among the opposition. They were raped in a military base and would not obtain justice in case of an amnesty bill. [February 14, 2019]                                       

EUROPE

Belgium | Belgian government supports international prosecution for ISIS fighters

The government of Belgium on Thursday wishes the establishment of an international court to prosecute adult Islamic State fighters with Belgian nationality. A report by Metro indicated that the National Security Council in Belgium said an international court should bring to justice all European fighters captured in Iraq. [February 21, 2019]

Bosnia | Bosnian Croat Officer’s Crimes Against Humanity Acquittal Quashed

In May 2018, the state court acquitted Mile Puljic, former commander of the Second Battalion of crimes against humanity committed in the Mostar area in 1993 and 1994. The appeals chamber of the Bosnian state court however ruled in favour of a retrial of the case. [February 8, 2019]

Bosnia | US denounces Bosnian Serb bid to reassess 1990s war crimes

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik rejects the rulings issued by the ICTY and the ICJ concerning the Srebrenica massacre, which label the incident a genocide. He believes the perspective is exaggerated and the suffering of the Serbs is ignored. Bosnian Serb officials launched new investigations into the atrocities committed in Srebrenica and Sarajevo, which are criticised by the United States. [February 8, 2019]

Bosnia | Eight Persons charged over War Crimes in BiH

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the indictment charging the accused with the criminal offense of war crimes against civilians under Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (CC SFRY) due to their conduct in violation of international humanitarian law. [February 11, 2019]

Bosnia | Indictment confirmed charging Slobodan Curcic with Crimes against Humanity

On 18 September 2018 the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the indictment charging the accused with violation of international humanitarian law for his conduct as a member of the Serb Republic of BiH forces in July 1992 during their attack against the Bosniak civilian population. [February 23, 2019]

Bosnia | Digital Archive of all Evidence pertaining to War Crimes Cases to be finalized soon? 

The Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of BiH, and the Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create an electronic database containing evidence available within the BiH Prosecutor’s Office. This development aims to advance the processing of war crimes cases at the state level. [February 24, 2019]

France | France accuses Syrian suspect of crimes against humanity

Abdulhamid A. is being held in custody on suspicion of partaking in crimes committed by the Syrian government against civilians between 2011 and 2013. The arrest is a result of a joint investigation by French and German investigators. Charges of complicity in crimes against humanity were filed against the suspect. [February 16, 2019]

Germany | Germany arrests two Syrians suspected of crimes against humanity

Two former secret service officers from the Syrian government suspected of carrying out and aiding torture and crimes against humanity were arrested in Germany. The arrests were based on investigations conducted by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human rights (ECCHR) in Berlin. [February 13, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo wants abrogation of UNSC Resolution 1244, creation of a war crimes tribunal for Serbia

 Kosovo’s state delegation has created a platform in dialogue with Serbia, which is yet to be confirmed by the Parliament. If endorsed by the members of parliament, the platform terminates UN Security Council Resolution 1244, as well as the creation of a special war crime tribunal dealing exclusively with crimes committed by Serbia in Kosovo. [February 15, 2019]

Netherlands | Israel Asks Dutch Court to Drop War Crimes Case Against Gantz

According to the Justice Ministry, the Israeli government asked to dismiss war crimes allegations against Benny Gantz at a Dutch court. He is charged for his role in an airstrike on a family’s home that killed among others a 72-year-old woman and a 12-year-old child. The strike took place in the war between Israel and Gaza militants in 2014. [February 11, 2019]

Netherlands | Ogoni widows testify at The Hague over Shell's alleged complicity in killings

Shell is accused of complicity in the state execution of nine Ogoni protesters and human rights abuses dating back to 1993 in relation to the oil spilling in the Niger delta. The case was brought by four Ogoni women, who suspect Shell to have been complicit in the brutal crackdown of protests by the government and further human rights abuses. The actions led to the death of the women’s husbands. The case will be decided by a Dutch court. [February 12, 2019]

Sweden | Iraqi man convicted in Sweden of war crimes

An Islamic State fighter, who has posted macabre pictures and videos of himself with corpses on Facebook, has been convicted by a Swedish Court. His conduct was judges to have been “intended to seriously violate personal integrity.” Kurda Bahaalddin H Saeed H Saeed was sentenced to 15 months in jail. [February 19, 2019]

NORTH AMERICA

United States | War crimes trial of Navy SEAL postponed for 3 months

The murder trial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher accused of stabbing a war prisoner was postponed. The defense lawyers asked for more time to assess the evidence. Gallagher is accused of killing a teenage Islamic State fighter under his care and then held his re-enlisting ceremony with the corpse. He is further suspected of killing two civilians and shooting into crowds. [February 13, 2019]

United States | FBI is dismantling its war crimes unit

A special unit investigating international war crimes is being dissolved by the FBI. The unit was created to catch Nazis living in the US and has aided for example in the take down of the Liberian warlord Thomas Woewiju. [February 15, 2019]

United States | Naval Special Warfare Command addresses war crimes and other issues in SEAL community

Especially against the background of the trial against Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher for the commission of war crimes, Rear Admiral Collin Green, commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Command, commissioned an internal investigation to determine the reason for such scandals. [February 17, 2019]

SOUTH AMERICA

Colombia | Colombia’s senate president says printer removed victims’ rights from war crimes tribunal bill

 Whereas the Special Jurisdiction for Peace is in force since over a year, the bill regulating the competences of the war crimes tribunal has not been passed through congress. The parts guaranteeing victim’s rights and the duty to contribute to a lasting peace were removed –Senator Ernesto Macias blamed the printer. [February 10, 2019]

Colombia | FARC leader Timochenko first to testify before Colombia’s war crimes tribunal

FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko) is the first to testify before Colombia’s war crimes tribunal (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) to report about his conduct during the armed conflict, especially concerning his involvement in mass kidnapping. He stands trial for the commission of crimes against humanity. His testimony will help to establish a detailed account of the FARC’s kidnapping practices in Colombia. [February 14, 2019]