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Demonstration of widows of victims of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré in the Chadian capital N'Djamena in 2005 (Photo: Human Rights Watch)
15 June 2016 by Reed Brody (Op-ed contributor)

A special court in Senegal convicted Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, for atrocity crimes on May 30, and sentenced him to life in prison[IJT-192]. It was the first time  that the courts of one country had prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes. It was also the first time in a human rights trial that a former ruler was found to have personally committed rape.

Most important for the future, however, the verdict was the result of a 25-year campaign by Habré’s victims and their supporters. They improbably succeeded in creating the political conditions to bring Habré to justice in Africa, with the support of the African Union.

 

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Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza talks to the press following a meeting with a UN Security Council delegation that came to reiterate the need for an inclusive dialogue to end months of political turmoil. (Photo: Flickr/ MONUSCO)
07 June 2016 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

At the end of April, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination in Burundi. As the situation has been deteriorating for the past year with experts fearing the outbreak of a full-fledged civil war, Burundi could become a real-life test for the ICC's ability to deter atrocities. Some argue there is evidence the move of the prosecutor has already had an impact on the conflict.

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Former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré listening to judges handing down a life sentence against him (photo: Stephanie van den Berg)
31 May 2016 by Thierry Cruvellier

If there was any surprise in the judgment of former president of Chad Hissène Habré, it was that there wasn’t a single surprise. On May 30, 2016, Habré was found guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture for which he received a life sentence. Apart from a minor charge relating to the transfer of prisoners of war, every accusation against him was upheld by the trial chamber of the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC), an inter-African court created to try him, based in Dakar, Senegal [IJT-184]. 

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Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on the day of his conviction by the ICTY (Photo; Flickr/ICTY)
26 May 2016 by Jesse Wieten in The Hague (The Netherlands)

The trial of former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic is one of the most important proceedings before the ICTY, he was the court's most wanted fugitive for over a decade and highest-ranking Bosnian Serb ever on trial for war crimes and genocide. Even though Karadzic liked to present himself as a lone defendant, acting against the ICTY prosecution machinery, he was closely advised and guided by attorney Peter Robinson. The US counsel reflects on the case that will live on in the legacy of tribunal because of Karadzic's central role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war but also for the marathon effort he made pleading his case as his own lawyer. 

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An ICTY exhibit, a satelite image of the Branjevo military farm where around 1,000 Bosnian Muslim men were executed in 1995 as part of the Srebrenica massacre (Photo: Flickr/ICTY)
25 May 2016 by Vladimir Petrovic

Ever since Justice Robert Jackson memorably promised to ‘establish incredible events by credible evidence’ in Nuremberg, expectations from international tribunals regarding establishment of historical record remain high. This is particularly the case with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The first international criminal court since the Nuremberg, the ICTY even explicated these implicit prospects, including establishment of facts among its crucial achievements listed on its website: "The tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt crucial facts related to crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. In doing so, the tribunal’s judges have carefully reviewed testimonies of eyewitnesses, survivors and perpetrators, forensic data and often previously unseen documentary and video evidence. The tribunal’s judgements have contributed to creating a historical record, combating denial and preventing attempts at revisionism and provided the basis for future transitional justice initiatives in the region."

 

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Bosnian victims protesting outside the ICTY during the Karadzic judgement. The banner reads: 'Truth sometimes sleeps but never dies' (Photo: Joost van Egmond)
24 May 2016 by Joost van Egmond

“Finally, good news from The Hague!” famously cried the then Serbian prime minister Ivica Dacic at the acquittal on appeal of former Yugoslav army commander Momcilo Perisic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. For him, and for the government he represented, this counted as vindication of Belgrade’s actions during the war. The fact that Serbia as a state had already been held partly responsible by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the very crimes this individual was tried for, was swept under the carpet [IJT-63].

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Poster supporting Croatian general Ante Gotovina
23 May 2016 by Iva Vukusic in The Hague (The Netherlands)

These days Croatia is going through a surge of nationalism and historical revisionism unseen since the worst days of the war of the 1990s. The polarization in society is between those who consider the regime, known as Independent State of Croatia, a source of pride, and those who perceive it as a source of shame. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) deals with another past, less distant, but equally painful. The population is no more open to honestly discuss it than it is the crimes of the 1940s.

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Kigali Genocide Memorial (Photo: Janet Anderson)
10 May 2016 by Janet H. Anderson Kigali (Rwanda)

Two Rwandans will go on trial today in Paris for genocide and crimes against humanity. The trial of Octavien Ngenzi and Tite Barahirwa - both former mayors from the south east of the country – is France’s second in a series of up to a potential twenty suspects, in connection with the 1994 genocide. Former spy chief Pascal Simbikangwa was convicted in March 2014 to 25 years in jail in the first ever judgment by a French court relating to the Rwandan genocide. But in October last year the French case against a notorious side-arm-carrying priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was dismissed to widespread criticism.

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Thomas Kwoyelo (centre) and his lead counsel, Caleb Alaka, at the Internal Crimes Division (Photo: Samuel Egadu Okiror)
28 April 2016 by Samuel Egadu Okiror, Gulu (Uganda)

Six years after the first proceedings were halted, Uganda’s International Crimes Division (ICD) will on Monday 2 May begin the controversial trial of Thomas 

Kwoyelo, former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But experts question whether justice will be served.

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Kenyan vice-president William Ruto on the first day of his ICC trial in September 2013 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
18 April 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Since judges threw out the case against Kenyan vice-president William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this month there has been a lot of discussion that the case could somehow provide a script for other defendants on how to evade justice. In the Ruto Sang case the judges by majority agreed there was not enough evidence to continue with the trial but refused to acquit instead vacating the charges, leaving the possibility for the prosecutor to come back to the case if they find additional evidence. The decision to discontinue the case amid prosecution complaints of witness interference, follows the withdrawal of charges against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in March this year where similar accusations were made [IJT-172-176].

IJT spoke to Dov Jacobs, associate professor at Leiden University and a longstanding ICC observer who also works as a legal consultant before the court, about the ruling and its implications.

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