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Home Archive for category "International Criminal Law" (Page 24)

The Gotovina Omnishambles

Published on November 18, 2012        Author: 

Friday’s judgment in Gotovina and Markac by the ICTY Appeals Chamber (summary; judgment), in which it by 3 votes to 2 reversed a unanimous Trial Chamber and acquitted the defendants, is a disaster at almost every level. I say this not as an aggrieved Serb lamenting the selectiveness of international justice and its failure to punish crimes against his own people – I have long since developed antibodies to all forms of nationalism, including the very virulent type thriving on self-victimization, and I have no personal axe to grind here. I say this rather as an international (human rights) lawyer who has always thought of the ICTY as an indispensable, if imperfect, instrument of justice for the atrocities of the Yugoslav conflicts. That said, how and why then is the Gotovina appeals judgment so bad? To my mind, the problem is not with the acquittal as such – even though as far as public opinion in the former Yugoslavia is concerned the bottom line is all that mattered. Rather, the problem is with the process, the reasoning, the appearances, and the broader repercussions that all these will have.

First, with regard to process: as the dissents by Judges Agius and Pocar correctly point out, the majority make a complete mess of the appellate standards for review. Readers will recall that in the common law-inspired procedure of the ICTY the main task of the Appeals Chamber is to correct errors of law made by the Trial Chamber. The Trial Chamber is owed deference with regards to its findings of fact, which are not to be disturbed lightly on appeal, but only if no reasonable trier of fact could have made the relevant finding on the strength of the record. In short, unlike in most continental systems, the appellate process should not amount a retrial, a de novo examination of the entire case. This ensures both procedural economy and the integrity of the exhaustive fact-finding process in the trial court.

While the majority endorses these standards as they are set out in the ICTY’s long-established jurisprudence, it does not actually follow them – to the extent that its approach to standards of review is actually even discernible, as I will now explain. The whole case ultimately turned around the Trial Chamber’s unfortunate finding that in assessing the shelling by the Croatian artillery of the four Serb towns in the separatist Serb entity in Croatia, chief of them Knin, any shell that fell further than 200 meters from a legitimate military target in the towns should be presumptively considered as evidence of an unlawful indiscriminate attack. The Appeals Chamber was actually unanimous that this rigid standard was not supported by the evidence in the trial record and was not given adequate reasons for by the Trial Chamber.

So far so good. But what the majority then does with this finding turns appellate review on its head. The majority does not explain whether the Trial Chamber’s error with regard to the 200 meter standard itself was an error of law or an error of fact. If it was the former, the majority would have had to articulate a new, proper legal standard for testing the facts established in the record, upon whose application we could know whether the shelling of Knin and the other towns was indiscriminate or not. If it was the latter, the majority would have had to pay due deference to the totality of the factual findings made by the Trial Chamber and should only have disturbed them if no reasonable trier of fact could have found that the shelling was indiscriminate on the basis of all of the evidence in the record.

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A Reply to Vahagn Avedian – State Identity, Continuity, and Responsibility: The Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide

Published on November 13, 2012        Author: 

Pulat Tacar has been Co-Chairperson of the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO (1995–2006), Ambassador of Turkey to UNESCO (1989–1995), Ambassador of Turkey to the European Communities (1984–1987) and to Jakarta (1981–1984). Maxime Gauin is a researcher at the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK, Ankara) and a PhD candidate at the Middle East Technical University. In this post, which summarises their article published in (2012) 23 EJIL 821-835, they respond to the piece by Vahagn Avedian.

The Armenian question is especially sensitive, not least because of the long accumulation of prejudices against Turks, Armenian terrorism in 1973–1991, the Armenian invasion and occupation of western Azerbaijan since 1992, and more recently the virulent anti-Turkish stance of Anders Breivik in his manifesto and the various campaigns or attacks by Armenian nationalists. So, it is better to ease the tensions instead to fuel them.

In this response to Vahagn Avedian’s EJIL article and post, we would like to raise two issues: Is genocide a pertinent concept to define the fate of the Ottoman Armenians during WWI?; and has the Republic of Turkey legal responsibilities for this fate?

The Terms of the Dispute

The term ‘genocide’ is a legal term; it describes a crime specifically defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention and must be addressed accordingly. The existence of the crime of genocide can be legally determined only by the judges of a competent tribunal on the basis of the prescribed legal criteria and after a fair and impartial trial. The Genocide Convention does not allow for convictions on the grounds of genocide by legislatures, scholars, pamphleteers, politicians, or others.

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State Identity, Continuity, and Responsibility: The Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide

Published on November 12, 2012        Author: 

Vahagn Avedian is a PhD candidate in the Department of History, Lund University and Chief Editor of Armenica.org. This post summarises his article which was published in (2012) 23 EJIL 797-820.

The Republic of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide has evolved, abandoning the simple denial of the ever growing facts. The sophistication includes revisionism, reinterpretation of the UN Genocide Convention, but also pleading the discontinuity between the Ottoman Empire and present-day Turkey. This last argument is quite interesting due to its paradoxical nature: if there is a discontinuity, how come Turkey, unlike Germany, is ardently defending its otherwise flawed predecessor? West Germany chose to reinstate its international prestige by condemning the wrongdoings of Nazi Germany and compensating the victims. While condemning the crimes, East Germany refused to accept responsibility to compensate, referring to the discontinuity between the two states. Turkey has chosen to ardently refute it all together. This article aims to elucidate this aspect of the Turkish denial as a deliberate means to evade the issue of compensation. Furthermore, by failing to stop the WWI era massacres and confiscations (which aimed to create a ‘Turkey for Turks’), but more importantly, by continuing the same internationally wrongful acts committed against the Armenian population and other minorities, Turkey made itself responsible for not only its own actions, but also for those of its predecessor, the Young Turk Government. In my article, I show this by applying the norms of existing international law in regard to state identity, continuity, and responsibility on the historical data at hand.

Before we continue, it must be emphasized that I do not limit my analysis to the definition in the UN Genocide Convention and its legal restraints. Instead, I examine the issues from the perspective of internationally wrongful acts more generally.

Turkey as the Continuation of the Ottoman Empire

A first logical step would be to establish the identity of the two Turkish states and possible continuity. Dividing the determining factors into ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ categories, K. G. Bühler asserts that it is not merely ‘objective’ factors such as substantial part of territory, population, and armed forces, that bear upon state identity and continuity, but ‘subjective’ factors, such as the successor’s claim to continuity and its self-conception, also do matter [State Succession and Membership in International Organizations: Legal Treaties versus Political Pragmatism (2001), at 14]. Recent changes in Europe, especially the dissolution of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia confirm this vision of state identity and continuity. Turkey’s case is quite similar to that of Russia which regarded as the continuation of the Soviet Union. In fact, there are two arbitral rulings: the Ottoman Debt Arbitration and Roselius & Co v. Karsten and the Turkish Republic, which regard Turkey as the continuation of the Ottoman Empire. Read the rest of this entry…

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People’s Justice: Addressing the 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran

Published on October 2, 2012        Author: 

 Parisa Zangeneh is currently finishing her LL.M. at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and she completed her LL.B. at the University of Edinburgh and her B.A. at McGill University. She would like to thank those who provided assistance on previous drafts of this note.

“It is far better for an Imam to err in clemency than to err in punishment.”  Ayatollah Montazeri

Introduction

The victims of bloodshed, torture, and horror deserve justice, and selective justice is no remedy. The humanitarians of the world have exercised a discriminatory approach in selecting which human rights atrocities on which to focus, yet this does not provide redress to the invisible suffering of those who, for perhaps political reasons, have been overlooked. This is the case of those who suffered and died in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, and this is why the establishment of a People’s Tribunal to address what happened to them, their families, and Iran is so important. To think that this happened in 1988, but that work is actively underway to address these atrocities only at this late stage, in 2012, highlights the need for uniform and intense scrutiny on all crimes on this scale – especially those that have been ignored by the international community.

 An important consideration before the People’s Tribunal will be the international criminal implications of the 1988 political prisoner massacre. The crime of genocide will likely feature in this discussion, considering that some of those who died were atheists or agnostics, and there is an unanswered question of whether these groups fulfill the “religious group” criterion in the 1948 Genocide Convention definition of that crime. Alternatively, or perhaps concurrently, charges of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity may be easier to prove. Read the rest of this entry…

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Why the Special Court for Sierra Leone Should Establish an Independent Commission to Address Alternate Judge Sow’s Allegation in the Charles Taylor Case

Published on October 1, 2012        Author: 

Charles C. Jalloh is Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.; formerly the Legal Advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender, Special Court for Sierra Leone and duty counsel to former Liberian President Charles Taylor. He blogs at International Criminal Law in Ferment

Introduction

On April 26, 2012, after Presiding Judge Richard Lussick read out the summary of Trial Chamber II’s long awaited verdict in the case Prosecutor v. Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (“SCSL”), sitting in The Hague, Alternate Judge El Hadj Malick Sow controversially proceeded to issue his own “dissenting opinion”.

The way in which the Trial Chamber reacted to Alternate Judge Sow’s decision to make a public statement on the Taylor Trial; the exclusion of his statement from the official transcript of the hearing; and the recent information suggesting irregularities in the process which the SCSL judges invoked to discipline their judicial colleague for alleged misconduct all underscore the need for greater transparency on this issue than we have so far received from the SCSL.

This article argues that it is time for the SCSL to establish an independent fact finding commission, with a narrowly framed and time limited mandate, to establish the truth, or falsity, of the allegation that Alternate Judge Sow made during the delivery of the Taylor Trial judgment that there were no (serious) deliberations by the three judges who convicted the accused and sentenced him to 50 years imprisonment. Such a commission could also determine the extent to which, if any, Taylor’s fundamental right to fair trial under Article 17 of the Statute of the SCSL was impacted. The proposal for an ad hoc fact finding commission would demystify what happened during deliberations and can be concurrent with Taylor’s current appeal. It therefore will not delay the conclusion of the tribunal’s work. Read the rest of this entry…

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Mutual legal assistance, Boston College, and tales from the Troubles

Published on September 27, 2012        Author: 

For those who teach international criminal law, the topic of mutual legal assistance typically receives only brief mention given the myriad of other topics vying for class attention, including extradition. However, an interesting case study is brewing in Boston, which raises broader issues for class discussion concerning accountability and the fight against impunity, post-conflict reconciliation, and how we “put history on record” as well as issues regarding how we who work within universities operate. For common law lawyers, it also provokes a dusting off of one’s knowledge of the old Wigmore categories for invoking privilege against disclosure.

The case of interest is that concerning Boston College, a private Jesuit university in Boston, Massachusetts, which we now know holds within its Burns Library certain transcripts and recordings of interviews conducted with former paramilitaries about their activities during the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. Following a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, released on 6 July 2012, some of these records were scheduled for production this month, but it appears that appeals are being pursued.

The request for the disclosure of the interviews comes from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) via a mutual legal assistance request made pursuant to the mutual legal assistance treaty (or “MLAT”) that exists between the United States and the United Kingdom that provides for cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of crime. The assistance that can be provided under the US-UK MLAT includes the provision of “documents, records and evidence.” The US-UK MLAT was signed in 1994 and entered into force in 1996, with modifications by the US-EU MLAT in 2003. And for those interested in the national application of international law, both MLATs are considered self-executing treaties under US law, and thus part of US law.

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A case of negative regional complementarity? Giving the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Jurisdiction over International Crimes

Published on August 27, 2012        Author: 

Max du Plessis, Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict.  He is an Associate Professor, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban; Senior Research Associate, International Crime in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies; and a Barrister, South Africa.

At their latest African Union (AU) Assembly meeting, held in July, African Heads of State were asked to adopt a draft amended protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (hereafter ‘African Court’) which would have expanded the jurisdiction of the African Court to include the competence to prosecute individuals for international crimes. The draft protocol would have created an International Criminal Law Section of the African Court with criminal jurisdiction over the international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as several transnational crimes such as, terrorism, piracy, and corruption.

Thankfully, the Heads of States decided not to adopt the amended protocol at that meeting and to postpone consideration of this proposal. Of course, we should all applaud if the AU were in due course to unveil a comprehensively funded, strongly resourced, legally sound, and politically backed African court that fearlessly pursues justice for those afflicted by the continent’s warlords and dictators, at the same time as fulfilling effectively its parallel human rights roles. However, given (i) the process by which the draft protocol had been put together thus far, and (ii) the contents of the draft protocol, the creation of an effective court had seemed unlikely. More time was needed to consider various aspects of the proposals and one can only hope that the time that has been afforded by the postponement of consideration of the protocol will be used wisely. This post deals with the flawed process that had been adopted as well as some concerns regarding the content of the draft amended protocol. I expand on these issues in a recent paper for the Institute for Security Studies.

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Swiss Court Finds No Immunity for the Former Algerian Minister of Defence Accused of War Crimes: Another Brick in the Wall of the Fight Against Impunity

Published on August 15, 2012        Author: 

Gabriella Citroni is Senior Researcher in International Law and Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Although she is Senior Legal Adviser for TRIAL, a Switzerland based NGO that filed the criminal complaint in the case discussed below, she has not been involved in this case.

On 25 July 2012 the Swiss Federal Criminal Court issued a decision (which is available, in French, here) whereby it denied the existence of immunity ratione materiae for a former Algerian Minister of Defence accused of war crimes. This decision revives the ongoing debate on the sensitive issue of immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction and opens up for new perspectives for the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction. It also deals with other relevant matters related to the struggle against impunity.

On 19 October 2011, TRIAL, a non-governmental organization active in the field of human rights headquartered in Switzerland filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Khaled Nezzar, accusing him of war crimes committed during the Algerian civil war (1992-2000). On 19 and 20 October 2011, two individuals of Algerian origin enjoying the status of refugees in Switzerland (one of whom acquired Swiss nationality), also filed criminal complaints against Mr. Nezzar, alleging that they were subjected to torture in 1993.

Mr. Khaled Nezzar, a former general, was Chief of the Algerian Army in 1988, later promoted to Chief of Staff and subsequently appointed as Minister of Defence. During the same period he also was a member of the “High Council of State” (Haut Comité d’Etat, hereinafter “HCE”), which was a collegial body established on 14 January 1992 to replace the President. The HCE functioned until January 1994 and during this period it was entrusted with “all the powers attributed by the Constitution to the President of the Republic”.

When the criminal complaints were filed, Mr. Nezzar was staying in a hotel in Switzland while in transit through that country. Read the rest of this entry…

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Karadzic Trial Chamber Finds No Genocide in Bosnia but for Srebrenica

Published on June 28, 2012        Author: 

Today the ICTY Trial Chamber trying Radovan Karadzic, the former president of the Bosnian Serbs, delivered an oral order on the defendant’s ‘no case to answer’ motion for acquittal under Rule 98 bis of the ICTY RPE, under which the Trial Chamber shall, by oral decision, and after hearing the oral submissions of the parties, enter a judgement of acquittal on any count if there is no evidence capable of supporting a conviction. The standard for doing so is whether a reasonable trier of fact could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the accused’s criminal responsibility on a particular count of the indictment.

A press release on the order is available here. A formal written decision will follow. In a nutshell – and this is hardly news – the Chamber upheld 10 counts of the indictment, finding that a reasonable trier of fact could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Karadzic was criminally responsible through a JCE for the crimes alleged, including the Srebrenica genocide. What is news, however, is that the Chamber granted Karadzic’s motion with respect to the count charging him with genocide outside Srebrenica in July 1995, in selected other municipalities in Bosnia:

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The Verdict in the Charles Taylor Case and the Alternate Judge’s “Dissenting Opinion”

Published on May 11, 2012        Author: 

Charles Jalloh is Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.; formerly the Legal Advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender, Special Court for Sierra Leone and duty counsel to former Liberian President Charles Taylor. He blogs at International Criminal Law in Ferment and we are grateful to him for accepting our invitation to contribute this piece to EJIL:Talk!

1.      Introduction

On 26 April 2012, Trial Chamber II of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) sitting in The Hague, comprised of Judges Richard Lussick, presiding; Julia Sebutinde, and Teresa Doherty, gave their long awaited verdict in the case involving former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

As has been widely reported since, the judges unanimously found Taylor guilty of five counts of crimes against humanity, five counts of war crimes and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels acting in concert with the mutinying elements of the Sierra Leone Army known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in the period between 30 November 1996 and 18 January 2002.

Taylor was convicted as a secondary perpetrator, i.e. as a planner and aider and abettor, of murder, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement, other inhumane acts, acts of terrorism, pillage, outrages upon personal dignity, violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder and cruel treatment, and conscripting or enlisting children under 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.

Although the Chamber has not yet issued its authoritative trial judgment setting out the full reasoning behind its conclusions, the judges made some significant factual and legal findings in the 44-page “summary” that Presiding Judge Lussick read out in open court for about two hours. Having convicted Taylor, they fixed 16 May 2012 for an oral sentencing hearing with each of the parties allocated one hour to address the Chamber. Taylor was offered up to half an hour to make a statement, should he so wish. The sentencing judgment will follow two weeks later (on 30 May 2012).

Taylor is the first former President to have been indicted, fully tried and now convicted in an international criminal tribunal since the immediate post-World War II trial of German Admiral Karl Doenitz at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Not surprisingly, many thoughtful legal commentators have already weighed in on key issues raised by the verdict. These include the Chamber’s findings on Joint Criminal Enterprise, Command Responsibility and Gender Crimes (see, for example, Bill Schabas, Diane Marie Amman, Jens Ohlin, Valerie Oosterveld, Kelly Askin).

 2.     An Omission and a Problem

Briefly mentioned by Kirsty Sutherland, Kevin Heller and Bill Schabas, but not as well discussed (with the exception of Jennifer Easterday and Sara Kendall), was the weighty decision of the alternate (fourth) judge in the Taylor Trial, El Hadji Malick Sow, to enter a “dissenting opinion” to Trial Chamber II’s unanimous judgment.

In this post, I examine Alternate Judge Sow’s views on the verdict. I argue that, while his statement gives cause for concern, and ultimately reflects the tension throughout the trial between him and the other three judges, expressing public views on the verdict was unfortunate because the effect might be to impugn the credibility and legitimacy of an otherwise fair trial that met the due process standards of the SCSL Statute and international human rights law. Read the rest of this entry…

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