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

BY CLEO MEINICKE, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PILPG-NL

THIS NEWS UPDATE GIVES INFORMATION ABOUT GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS AND ACTIONS TAKEN IN THE DOMESTIC PROSECUTION OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMES. THE INFORMATION IS PUT TOGETHER FROM DIFFERENT ONLINE NEWS PLATFORMS.

 

AFRICA 

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]


ASIA 

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] 

 

NORTH AMERICA

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]

 
SOUTH AMERICA

 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] 

 

EUROPE

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 

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]