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

BY CLEO MEINICKE, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PILPG-NL

This news update provides an overview of recent developments in the area of domestic prosecutions of international crimes. The information is drawn from different online news platforms.

AFRICA

Gambia | The cost of lying to Gambia’s Truth Commission

The truth commission in Gambia is different to others. It is not voluntary, so that perpetrators do not have a choice to appear, and lying to the Commission is punished. The Commission started operating on January 7, 2019 and has already revealed three false testimonies. One of the liars was dismissed from the army and the other one was called to the police station and charged with perjury. Obtaining the truth is crucial to the success of a truth commission, thus the introduction of consequences for lying is considered a positive strategy. [April 15, 2019]

Liberia | Monrovia witnesses pro-war crimes court protest

A peaceful protest was staged in Liberia by advocates requesting the establishment of a court for war and economic crimes. The advocates delivered a letter to the President’s Office asking him to initiate the creation of ad-hoc courts to hold those mentioned in the truth and reconciliation commission accountable. [April 6, 2019]

Rwanda | Rwandan rebel leader dies in Germany awaiting retrial

Ignace Murwanashyaka, who was president of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) during its operations in eastern DRC in 2008 and 2009, was convicted by a German court of leading a terrorist organisation in 2015. While awaiting retrial for alleged war crimes, the militia leader died in Germany. [April 18, 2019]

Sudan | Sudan crisis: Ex-President Omar al-Bashir moved to prison

Sudan's former President Omar al-Bashir, who was deposed in a military coup, was moved to Kobar maximum security prison. Reports say he has been detained at the presidential residence before. [April 17, 2019]

Sudan | Sudan investigating Bashir after large sums of cash found at home- source

Ousted President Omar al-Bashir is being investigated by Sudan’s public prosecutor on charges of money laundering and possession of large sums of foreign currency. His house was searched and more than $351,000 and six million euros ($6.75m), as well as five million Sudanese pounds ($104,837) were found. [April 20, 2019]

ASIA

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

The investigation agency of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) found evidence against nine Gaibandha men over their involvement in crimes committed during the Liberation War in 1971. They committed crimes including killing, rape, abduction, confinement and torture during the nine-month war. [March 24, 2019]

Bangladesh | War crimes: Accused gets bail on health grounds

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has granted bail to a suspect accused of having committed war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War. He was accused of his involvement in the killings of 2,700 people at the banks of Chitra River in Narail Sadar. The accused was given bail on three conditions, because of his medical condition and that he cannot move due to leg injuries caused by an accident. He has to present whenever the court summons him; he has to stay in contact with his relatives in Dhaka and he cannot contact the other witnesses of the case. [April 3, 2019]

Thailand & Malaysia | Human Traffickers Accused of 'Crimes Against Humanity' in Thailand and Malaysia

Human rights experts claim that a transnational criminal syndicate committed crimes against humanity in the form of trafficking Rohingya Muslims. The victims fled violence and persecution in Myanmar. Traffickers allegedly murdered, enslaved, imprisoned, tortured, raped, starved, and displacement their victims between 2012 to 2015, according to a joint investigation by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and Bangkok-based rights group Fortify Rights. [March 25, 2019]

EUROPE

Bosnia | Sickness Delays Justice in Bosnian War Crimes Trials

During the 1992-5 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mico Kraljevic, the Mayor of Vlasenica, commanded a special squad of the Public Safety Station. He is now charged with participating in the persecution of the Bosniak community in Vlasenica in eastern Bosnia. The alleged crimes include unlawful detention in inhumane conditions, murder, torture, sexual abuse and forcible disappearances. [April 12, 2019]

Croatia | Convicted War Criminal Extradited to Croatia from Netherlands

A Dutch citizen, sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia for war crimes in 1991, has been extradited to Zagreb. In 1994 the suspect was found guilty of war crimes against civilians in Siroka Kula by Gospic County Court, for his conduct in September and October 1991. [April 25, 2019]

European Union | EU Parliament calls for ‘reparations for crimes against humanity’ to Afro-Europeans

The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a resolution addressing “structural racism” in Europe against Europeans of African descent. The resolution calls for “reparations for crimes against humanity during European colonialism.” [March 28, 2019]

France | Rwanda genocide: Macron orders probe of France's role

French President Macron appointed a panel of experts to investigate France's role in Rwanda's genocide. Macron grants them access to presidential, diplomatic, military and intelligence archives. [April 5, 2019]

Germany | German ISIS member faces war crime trial over Yazidi girl's murder 

A German court has just commenced a trial on a German woman accused of joining ISIS and committing war crimes. Her crimes include her support in the murder of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl she bought as a slave. A judge in the court read out the list of crimes she is accused of, which includes membership of a terrorist organization, weapons violation, murder and murder as a war crime. She might face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. [April 9, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo courts take war crimes cases over from EULEX

Domestic courts in Kosovo will now deal with alleged crimes committed by Serbs against Albanians, next to the war crimes committed by the ethnic Albanian KLA ("Kosovo Liberation Army"). The aim is to build up a Kosovo war crimes department operative. [March 31, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo Serb Ex-Policeman Faces Retrial for Attacking Civilians

Zoran Vukotic, a Serbian policeman, was charged for the mistreatment and torture of ethnic Albanian civilian prisoners at a jail in the Mitrovica area in 1999. The Court of Appeals in Pristina upheld his prison sentence. Under his guard civilian prisoners were subjected to illegal detention, inhumane treatment, torture and beatings. [April 5, 2019]

Kosovo | Kosovo to Penalise Denial of Serbian War Crimes

The denial of a crime can be considered a “double crime” according to the Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj in Kosovo. Therefore, he proposed an initiative to criminalise those who deny crimes committed by Serbian forces during the independence war in the late 1990s, which was now approved by the government of Kosovo. [April 12, 2019]

Lithuania | Lithuania convicts Russians of war crimes under Soviet rule

A court in Lithuania has found a former Soviet defence minister guilty of war crimes. Marshal Dmitry Yazov was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison. Another 66 former Soviet military and KGB officials were given sentences between four and 14 years. Only two of them were present in the courtroom. Russia argues the trial in Lithuania is politically motivated and illegal. Lithuania is now an EU member state and had declared independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990. [March 27, 2019]

Romania | Ion Iliescu: Romania's ex-leader charged with crimes against humanity

 Romania's former President Ion Iliescu has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role in the aftermath of the violent revolt that toppled the communist regime in 1989. He is accused of spreading disinformation in TV appearances and statements, which increased the risk of "chaotic shooting". Since he took power, 862 people were killed. [April 8, 2019]

Sweden | Swedish court to make final ruling on Genocide convict Rukeratabaro

The Svea Court of Appeal in the Swedish capital Stockholm is expected to decide whether or not Genocide convict Theodore Rukeratabaro’s life sentence should be upheld. He was convicted for his role in the commission of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi. The ruling is set for April 29. [April 17, 2019]

Switzerland | Liberian rebel leader Alieu Kosiah to face Swiss trial

The Swiss Attorney General has indicted Liberian former rebel leader Alieu Kosiah for war crimes during the Liberian conflict. He is accused of having ordered murder and desecrated a corpse, raped a civilian, ordered their cruel treatment and recruited and employed child soldiers between 1993 and 1995. This is the first case brought to the Federal Criminal Court by the Office of the Attorney General under the principle of universal jurisdiction. [March 26, 2019]

MIDDLE EAST

Syria | Islamic State group: Syria's Kurds call for international tribunal

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria called for the creation of an international tribunal to try suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group. The region is struggling to cope with the thousands who emerged from the last IS enclave of Baghuz, which was captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). [March 26, 2019]

United Arab Emirates | UAE: Eight Lebanese Face Unfair Trial

Emirati authorities detained eight Lebanese nationals for terrorism suspicion. The suspects were held for more than a year without charge in an unknown location, ill-treated, and denied their due process rights, according to Human Rights Watch. Their trial began on February 13, 2019 and continues to be marred with violations. [March 25, 2019]

NORTH AMERICA

United States | Federal jury convicts Rwandan man accused of lying about role in 1994 genocide

A federal jury convicted a Rwandan man for rapes and murders during the Rwandan genocide. He attempted to obtain asylum in the United States by denying his conduct. He was found guilty of five counts of perjury and fraud. [April 5, 2019] 

United States | Prosecutors celebrate victory after ruling in Gallagher war crimes case

The military judge ruled that information retrieved from the cell phones of the accused Edward Gallagher can be used as evidence by the prosecution. Gallagher is suspected of having stabbed to death a seriously wounded and unarmed Islamic State prisoner of war during a 2017 deployment to Iraq. [April 20, 2019]

United States | Sri Lankans Accuse Him of Wartime Atrocities. California May Decide.

Despite being successful to evade accusations of crimes against humanity for being the commander of military actions that lead to thousands of deaths, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was captured in Los Angeles based on accusations of murdering a journalist and torturing an ethnic Tamil who had Canadian citizenship. The lawsuit brought forward in California is considered advantageous against the background that opening criminal trials in Sri Lanka is politically impossible due to the accused influence over the domestic institutions. [April 19, 2019]

Canada | Refugee claimant, in Canada since 2015, complicit in ISIS crimes against humanity, tribunal says

A mechanic who came to Canada in 2015 has been found complicit in crimes against humanity for repairing vehicles for the so-called Islamic State. Before arriving in Canada and claiming refugee status, the Lebanese national made several trips to Syria to work on ISIS military vehicles and also supervised other ISIS mechanics. He was ruled to not be eligible for refugee status, but it is unknown if he was detained or deported subsequently. [April 18, 2019]

SOUTH AMERICA

Colombia | Colombia's lower house rejects Duque's changes to peace tribunal

Colombia's lower house has rejected President Ivan Duque's suggested modifications to Colombia’s transitional justice system, one of which was the exclusion of sexual crimes from the tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal was established to try former rebels and military officials for war crimes. The lower house voted 110-44 to turn down the suggested changes. [April 9, 2019]