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

BY CLEO MEINICKE, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AT PILPG-NL

This news update draws together worldwide updates concerning the prosecution of international crimes. Especially in Asia action is taken in the prosecution of international crimes. The information is collected from different online news platforms.

AFRICA

Rwanda | Genocide: Supreme Court upholds 30-year jail sentence for Bandora

Charles Bandora, who was extradited from Norway in 2013 to Rwanda for his role in the genocide in the former Ngenda Commune, was handed a 30-year jail sentence in 2015 by the High Court’s specialised chamber for international crimes. The Supreme Court now upheld the sentence. [March 23, 2019]

Uganda | Kwoyelo Trial Continues in Gulu; Prosecution to Call 130 Witnesses

On Monday, March 11, the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), resumed. He is facing 93 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between January 1995 and December 2005. The trial takes place before the International Crimes Division (ICD) sitting at the High Court in Gulu. [March 14, 2019]

AUSTRALIA & OCEANIA

Australia | By sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus, is Australia guilty of crimes against humanity?

Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie argued the current and previous Australian governments are guilty of crimes against humanity. The failure to meet obligations under international law with regards to asylum seekers and refugees and “to forcibly transfer anyone to a third country and to detain them indefinitely without trial” can be considered crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute. Several communiques call for Australian government officials to be investigated. [February 28, 2019]

Australia | Australia drafting laws to deport war criminals

Australia is drafting laws to punish war criminals and people suspected of committing crimes “of serious international concern.” The consequences include the cancellation of the alleged criminals’ Australian visas and immediate deportation, according to the Department of Home Affairs. An accused war criminal Zoran Tadic fled to Serbia recently to avoid being extradited to Croatia for the crimes he committed in Skabrnja in 1991. [March 11, 2019]

 

ASIA

Bangladesh | Investigators find war crimes evidence against 5 Mymensingh men

War crimes evidence against five people from Mymensingh has been found by the Investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal. The five suspects collaborated with Razakar Bahini during the Liberation War in 1971. They are alleged to have killed 45 people and abducted seven people in Dhobaura upazila of Mymensingh. [March 10, 2019]

Bangladesh | War Crimes: ICT investigators find evidence against 9 Gaibandha men

Evidence against nine Gaibandha men for committing war crimes in collaboration with Razakar Bahini during the Liberation War in 1971 was found. The crimes included killing, rape, abduction and torture. [March 24, 2019]

Myanmar | Myanmar military court to probe Rohingya atrocity allegations

According to the Myanmar army,  a military court was set up to investigate its conduct in 2017 against the Rohingya Muslim minority that caused more than 730,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. The United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accuse the security forces of mass killings, rape and arson. [March 18, 2019]

Philippines | PH court hands down first conviction on terrorist for crimes against humanity

A Philippine court on Friday handed down the country’s first conviction of a terrorist for crimes against humanity and genocide and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua, a sentence fixed to 40 years. [March 15, 2019]

South Korea | South Korea region seeks to tag Japanese firms as 'war criminals'

South Korea's largest province is considering whether to stigmatize nearly 300 Japanese companies over their actions during World War II. The province is considering requiring schools to put alert labels on the firms’ products in school. The proposed practice attempts to give students a better understanding of history. The sticker would read,  “a Japanese war criminal company made the product.” The list of companies includes Nikon, Panasonic and Yamaha. [March 20, 2019]

Sri Lanka | Sri Lanka U-turns on war crimes probe

While the president of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena claimed to ensure accountability for wartime abuses when he came to power in January 2015, he is now of the opinion that one should not “dig the past and re-open old wounds.” He declared that he will ask the UN Human Rights Council to reconsider a resolution that called for investigations into the killings of 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the war that ended in May 2009. [March 6, 2019]

Sri Lanka | Sri Lankan army says it is ready to face any investigation on war crime

The Sri Lankan army welcomes investigations into their conduct during the nation’s decades-long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in order to defend its soldiers against allegations of grave human rights abuses. [March 18, 2019]

 Sri Lanka | Sri Lanka Tamils demand foreign judges in war crimes probe

The United Nations granted Colombo more time for implementing the commitments the government made in 2015 with regards to past war crimes. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva gave the government two more years, a second extension, to set up a credible investigation into the crimes committed during the civil war. The probe is expected to include a special “hybrid” court involving local and foreign judges. [March 22, 2019]

CENTRAL AMERICA/ CARRIBEANS

Guatemala & El Salvador |  Central Americans confront amnesty for war crimes

Both countries are considering legislative initiatives to grant amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes. These initiatives elicited widespread opposition. [March 7, 2019]

Guatemala | Facing Protests, Guatemala Postpones Vote on Amnesty for War Crimes

Guatemala’s Congress suspended a scheduled vote on amnesty for war crimes. Several lawmakers walked out,  and opposition victims’ groups, human rights and activists protested against it. International organizations, foreign governments and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights also called on the government not to proceed with the vote. [March 13, 2019]

 

EUROPE

Bosnia | Bosnia’s Updated War Crimes Strategy Languishes in Limbo

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s revised Strategy for War Crimes Processing has as a goal to complete all war crimes cases by 2023, but was removed from the agenda for a Council of Ministers session in July 2018. No explanation for this was given. The strategy will probably not be discussed until the Council’s new members are chosen. [February 26, 2019]

Bosnia & Herzegovina | 12 years in Prison for a Wartime Rapist

Saša Cvetković, a former member of Republika Srpska Army, was found guilty of the rape of two women and a double murder near Srebrenica, in 1992. Next to imprisonment, he has to pay 15.000,00 BAM to one of the victims of sexual violence to compensate for physical and mental suffering from the attack. [March 22, 2019]

Germany | Did Germany ignore thousands of leads on possible war crimes?

Evidence suggests that war criminals were seeking asylum in Germany, yet their cases remained unprocessed. Between 2014 and 2019 the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) referred thousands of cases of "crimes under international law" to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Attorney General. However, only 129 cases were investigated. [March 7, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo Court Acquits Ethnic Serb Of War Crimes

A court in Kosovo has acquitted an ethnic Serb on charges of war crimes due to contradictory testimonies given by witnesses.  [March 8, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo’s New War Crimes Strategy Faces Political Obstacles

Special Prosecutor Drita Hajdari is concerned that the new strategy to prioritize the prosecution of war crimes after years of few prosecutions cannot succeed without senior political support in both Kosovo and Serbia. Especially “Serbia should understand that punishing war crimes is also in its interest, because war criminals are moving around freely.“ [March 13, 2019]

Netherlands | Dutch police arrest Rwandan genocide suspect on extradition request

The International Crimes Unit of the Dutch police arrested a Rwandan man near Utrecht, who is suspected of having participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Rwanda requested the extradition of the suspect. [March 20, 2019]

Sweden | Sweden calls for international tribunal to bring Isis fighters to justice

Stefan Löfven, Sweden’s prime minister, called for the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate EU nationals returning home after joining terror groups who are suspected of committing war crimes. [March 7, 2019]

NORTH AMERICA

United States | U.S. Judge Strips Citizenship Of Ex-Bosnian Muslim Woman Convicted Of War Crimes

A United States judge revoked the citizenship of a Bosnian-born Muslim woman for her involvement in war crimes during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. [March 5, 2019]

United States | United States Supports Germany’s International Arrest Warrant for Accused Syrian War Criminal

The United States government issued a statement supporting Germany’s request to Lebanon to extradite a high-ranking Syrian official accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In doing so, the United States supports Germany’s exercise of universal jurisdiction. This marks a significant development in US legal practice. [March 6, 2019]

United States | US judge dismisses Namibian genocide claims against Germany

A United States court has dismissed a compensation lawsuit lodged against Germany by two Namibian tribes for genocide and property seizures in colonial times. [March 7, 2019]

SOUTH AMERICA

Colombia | Colombia war crimes: Mass protests in support of special tribunal

Colombian President Ivan Duque objected to six out of 159 articles of the law implementing a peace deal with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The president criticised the special jurisdiction for being too lenient towards rebel commanders. The special jurisdiction also oversees the establishment of a tribunal for war crimes. This criticism may be advantageous for the dissident fighters who still refuse to adhere to the peace deal. [March 19, 2019]