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30 November 1999

Councillor Rutaganira strikes a good deal

At the beginning of the New Year, if the judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) stick to the terms of the agreement between the defence and the prosecutor, Vincent Rutaganira can consider himself a lucky man. On 8 December, the former district councillor of a small town in western Rwanda not only became the fourth Rwandan to plead guilty before a UN court. He will also be distinguished by the unprecedented conditions in which the prosecutor accepted his confession.

Report on torture does not close a chapter

They are 35,000 men and women, imprisoned under the regime of General Pinochet, who were abused, tortured or raped, then silenced and forgotten by the Chilean institutions and courts. In early December, the publication of the report on Torture and Political Imprisonment under the military dictatorship has finally put an end to the denial of these crimes by granting them official recognition as victims of the dictatorship.

Van Anraat and the chemical solution

Dutchman Frans Van Anraat recently declared in a television interview that his deliveries of chemical substances to Iraq was just something he had done on the side. He had received a request from Iraq and had successfully delivered. Had he not done it, somebody else would have, he said. At the time, the Dutch public prosecutor had contemplated charging him with export violations, but since the crimes took place in the late 1980s, it was too late. The crimes would be considered prescriptible. On 6 December, 2004, the businessman was arrested and charged with complicity in genocide and war crimes.

 

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30 November 1999

French court closes Brazzaville Beach case

On 22 November, judges at the Paris Appeals Court threw out all proceedings related to the disappearances at the Brazzaville Beach port. In doing so, they have probably buried the case for good. They also spared Congo-Brazzaville's leaders from prosecution for their alleged role in the disappearance of 353 refugees sailing into the Brazzaville port from the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 1999.

Unlikely Conspiracy

Nothing seems to be going right for the Government I trial at the Arusha Tribunal. The trial, which began a year ago, was adjourned after six months, and then, in October, the Appeals Chamber ordered it to start again from scratch before a new panel of judges. Today, it is the focus of renewed battles between defence teams and the prosecutor's office.

Military trial: chronicle of a crisis foretold

Once more, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is walking on very thin ice. Not only is it reeling from having lost an entire year in the Government I trial, but serious problems now threaten to short-circuit the Military I trial.

Test trial in Lumumbashi

Back from his visit to this isolated town in the south-eastern province of Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colonel Mbombo Nzadi seems satisfied. He considers that "it was essential for us to speak to the people on the ground and better understand the circumstances" and therefore that the visit by the tribunal "has helped".

 

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30 November 1999

Kay offers Milosevic trial a way forward

Over the last few weeks, British defence counsels Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins have given the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) the opportunity to straighten out a trial gone awry after the Trial Chamber judges' decision of 3 September 2004 to impose defence counsel upon an unwilling Slobodan Milosevic.

​A Pinochet trial in France?

The first trial of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet could take place in France - without him. On 22 October, the Paris prosecutor's office called for the case to be referred before the Paris criminal court, where the former president would be tried in absentia for the "abduction and torture" of several French nationals and Franco-Chileans who disappeared between 1973 and 1975.

A settling of bad accounts

“Counsel Degli has committed acts of dishonesty, fraud and deception. These serious breaches of professional ethics justify his withdrawal from the case.” This was the unequivocal tone of the decision taken on 27 October by the administration of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to dismiss the lawyer representing General Gratien Kabiligi. The radical decision was taken following an ICTY enquiry, which on the face of it looks extremely damaging for the Togolese lawyer. 

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30 November 1999

Truth report spares no parties

For those who have followed the tribulations of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for almost three years, its official report, which was published on 5 October, constitutes a small miracle. No one could have predicted such a logically structured, abundantly detailed, and well-written report two years ago when the Commission almost dissolved itself through sheer negligence. Even a year ago when the report was first due out, hopes for a turnaround were not high.

Truth Commission and Court, a troubled cohabitation 

The TRC report devotes no less than 60 pages to the turbulent relationship between the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Working in parallel with the TRC, the court is mandated to try a handful of suspects thought to be chiefly responsible for crimes committed during the civil war.

Pinochet to face new legal threat

A new legal front against Augusto Pinochet could begin on 5 November when Chile's Appeals Court examines another request to strip the former dictator of his legal immunity. The demand was filed on 5 October by the daughters of Carlos Prats, the former commander-in-chief of the army and ex vice-president, who was murdered in Buenos Aires in September 1974.

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30 November 1999

Mladic and Belgrade in the firing line

The sensitive issue of cooperation between Serbia and the ICTY is on the agenda in a meeting on 4 October between the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla del Ponte and Serbian president Boris Tadic, accompanied by his prime minister Vojislav Kostunika. Del Ponte's arrival in Belgrade on 1 October coincides with mounting pressure from the international community for Serbia to do more in its power to hand over war criminals, including the ICTY's most wanted fugitive, Ratko Mladic.

Blaskic: repairing rather than retrying

After arriving at The Hague in 1996, Tihomir Blaskic, a former colonel in the HVO (Croatian Defence Council), told his wife and son it would take three months to defend himself against charges that he had command responsibility for one of the war's most horrendous massacres: the Ahmici massacre in the Lasva Valley in April 1993. On 2 August this year, after a case with more than its share of twists and turns, Blaskic was released after being resentenced on appeal to nine years.

Two officers, two sides of the military coin

After the 1994 Rwandan genocide, few people would have believed that two officers with such contrasting profiles would find themselves in a joint billing at the Arusha court. Yet since September 20, and accompanied by two other high-level officers from the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), Generals Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Augustin Bizimungu have appeared side by side before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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30 November 1999

What remains of the case against Milosevic

On 15 September, the trial of Slobodan Milosevic was adjourned for a month. After imposing lawyers on the accused and hea- ring only two defence witnesses, the Court was forced into an impasse when dozens of defence witnesses suddenly refused to give evidence in the space of a few days at The Hague.

Too narrow a mandate

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its report published on 8 September, urges the Special Court for Sierra Leone not to limit its prosecution to the thirteen people it has indicted so far (of who only nine are in custody).

A comfortable budget, but a lack of passion

66.784,200 euros: this was the official budget allocated to the International Criminal Court for 2005 at the close of the Assembly of State Parties held at The Hague from 6 to 10 September. It was a success for those who feared funding cuts. But many participants bitterly lamented the lack of passion that marked the week's meeting.

 

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30 November 1999

Assisted defence for Slobodan Milosevic

​"Pa bavite se!" "Well, you deal with that!" Slobodan Milosevic shouted to the court, his arms outstretched as if throwing a sack of hot potatoes towards the feet of his judges. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had not only just decided to end the three-year freedom of the Serbian ex-head of state to conduct his own defence. It also had the temerity to ask him how he wanted to proceed from now on.

ICTR plans to transfer trials to Rwanda

Relations between the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Rwandan government were the topic of two announcements made by the ICTR prosecutor Hassan Jallow at the end of August.

Will the ICC have the means to match its ambitions?

At the same time as the International Criminal Court (ICC) launches its first investigations in Uganda and Congo, the annual Assembly of States parties will be meeting in The Hague from 6 to 10 September. The legal and political body faces the tough challenge of deciding on the 2005 budget. Since the court is beginning to schedule its first trials, this is a critical task.

Latin America: the end of immunity

The tide seems to have turned for former South American dictators. Argentina's Supreme Court has just accepted the imprescriptibility of a crime against humanity, while in Chile a trial looks likely for Augusto Pinochet after the former dictator was stripped of his immunity on 26 August.

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30 November 1999

Who believes in a Phnom Penh trial?

On 15 July the Cambodian national assembly re-elected Prime Minister Hun Sen and endorsed the new coalition government, thus putting an end to a year-long political crisis. This turn of events should help to unblock the vote on the bill to create a court to try the Khmer Rouge leadership for genocide. For the majority of Cambodian observers, the prospect of such a trial does not inspire enthusiasm. It is seen as a sea-snake that has plagued the troubled waters of Cambodian politics for the last seven years, or, in the words of one observer, "a Dracula whose creators want to get rid of it but who survives in spite of the blows struck against it."

Widow calls France to account for Boun-Hor death

Will light ever be shed on events leading to the disappearance in April 1975 of the former president of the Cambodian national assembly Ung Boun-Hor, who was forced to leave his refuge at the French Embassy in Khmer Rouge-occupied Phnom Penh?

Memories of Iraq in Kuwait and Iran

The start of trial proceedings against Saddam Hussein has sparked reactions in Kuwait and Iran, both direct victims of the toppled Baathist regime's aggression.

Kibuye, a "successful" legal saga

In the space of a week, just before the summer recess, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has handed down one life sentence, confirmed a second and heard the parties debate two other appeal verdicts. The four cases all concern Rwandan personalities prosecuted for crimes committed in 1994 in the same region, eastern Kibuye.

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30 November 1999

ICC joins the Congolese chess game

​On 23 June, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno Ocampo announced he was opening his first investigations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to his press release, Ocampo has already been "carefully analysing the situation in DRC" since July 2003. But the new step, which marks the difference between a "preliminary analysis" and the opening of an investigation, is notable for the legal process that could lead to the first trials before the international court, and is highly significant in the current political context.

Five Rwandan files kept on the back burner

On June 8, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) convicted France of failing to prepare its case against the Rwandan priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka within a reasonable timeframe. The initial complaint, implicating him in the 1994 genocide, was filed nine years ago in July 1995. Although this is the first time such a case has been heard before the ECHR, the situation is not unique. Complaints filed between 1995 and 2001 against four Rwandans suspected of genocide who are residing in France are still pending in the French courts.

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30 November 1999

Thirty years for the Nyarubuye massacre

Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, the former mayor of Rusumo, Kibungo province (eastern Rwanda), has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination and rape). "Gacumbitsi led the attacks on the Tutsi civilians gathered at the Nyarubuye church and personally took part in these attacks," concludes the judgement, which was delivered on 17 June by Senegalese judge Andrésia Vaz, presiding over trial chamber 3 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). 

The secrets of the Kamajors of Koribundo

​A ten-minute preliminary statement by key defendant Sam Hinga Norman, national coordinator of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) from 1997 to 2002, kicked off the trial proper of the former CDF leaders in Freetown.

 

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