30 November 1999

UNMIK pleads for Haradinaj

In a decision unprecedented in the history of international justice, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled on October 12, in a 2-1 vote, that the former Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, "may appear in public and engage in public political activities to the extent which UN Mission in Kosovo [UNMIK] finds would be important for a positive development of the political and security situation in Kosovo." The Prosecutor is "appalled" by the decision and has filed a suspensive request. As a result, Haradinaj has not been allowed to speak in public for more than two days.

Questions pile up for swamped gacaca

​Officially begun on March 10, 2005, Rwanda's community-based gacaca courts are facing major difficulties and ambiguities. Expectations for the gacaca are divergent, to say the least, and the main challenges for these courts include: lack of resources, political interference, lack of qualified judges and the complexity of the cases being tried. Six months later, only 10% of the gacaca have begun trials and Rwandans are testing the impact of these courts.

The politics of breaking rocks

"Those who say we are in bondage are wrong. They forget the nature of the crimes we committed! They have been lenient with us," says Emmanuel Kamanda with conviction. Assigned to the second category of genocide perpetrators by his sector gacaca, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Kamanda has finished serving height and will perform community service to fulfill the remaining four. He is among the hundreds of people we met at a pilot site in the center of the country. They were crushing rocks to build roads.

30 November 1999

Speeding up Saddam Hussein’s trial

Saddam Hussein is scheduled to stand trial starting October 19th, more than 20 months after Americans arrested the former Iraqi leader. The trial will begin with Dujail, a town 35 miles north of Baghdad, where 143 people were killed by forces loyal to Saddam in 1982 in a reaction to an assassination attempt against Saddam. The former president will stand trial alongside 7 other defendants including his half-brother and former head of the Mukhabart secret police, the former prime minister, former Vice chairman of the Baath Party and the former chief judges of the revolution court.

War crimes in Iraq: London in tune with the ICC

Most people hear the words "war crime" and think of the Nuremberg Trials or Slobodan Milosevic's trial, but that may soon change. Up till now, British soldiers have never been charged under this highly symbolic label. However, in July the British Attorney-General reversed this trend by announcing that three soldiers were being charged with "war crimes under the ICC Act [of] 2001". That announcement made Britain the first member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge its own citizens under such law.

Shining Path – Act III

Abimael Guzmán, the famous leader of Peru's Maoist Shining Path group, began facing judges September 26 in his third trial. Guzmán and 23 of his followers who were allegedly members of the outlawed party's Central Committee are being tried by a special anti-terrorism court presided by Judge Pablo Talavera and two other magistrates. There are, however, only 12 defendants in the courtroom. The others are being tried in absentia.

Two Afghan generals stand trial 15 years on

In July, a British court sentenced a former Taliban to twenty five years in prison for torture and hostage-taking [see IJT no. 30]. Now a Dutch court has tried two former Afghan generals for war crimes and acts of torture committed under the communist regime between 1978 and 1992. This Hague-based trial, from September 18 - October 7, has made one thing clear: the almost insurmountable complexity of investigating and prosecuting crimes committed 15 to 25 years ago in a still-violent, chaotic and far away country like Afghanistan.

30 November 1999

UN gives time to Burundi process

The dual mechanism to establish crimes and responsibilities in Burundi will take longer to put into place than first announced. IJT has learnt that on 30 September, Kofi Annan will not be submitting his report to the UN Security Council on the creation of the special chamber to try those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in parallel, a truth commission. [see IJT-23]. It is now widely accepted that more time is needed to consult the nation and its leadership in the light of the recent political upheavals in Burundi.

Serugendo, the long-awaited arrest

The arrest in Gabon of a former leader of the Interahamwe militia Joseph Serugendo coincided with the resumption of the trial of three leaders of the former Rwandan presidential party, the MRND, at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The defendants are principaly accused of having founded and commanded the MRND youth militia, the Interahamwe.

Cambodia trial in political deadlock

Five months after the entry into force of the accord between the United Nations and the Cambodian government, there has been little sign of progress in setting up the extraordinary chambers to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. Michelle Lee, who was appointed by the secretary-general to coordinate legal assistance on 25 August, is still not in post. Kofi Annan is not set to assign international judges until the end of October. A growing number of observers are openly pessimistic about holding the trials 25 years after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.

Milosevic and Seselj, the not quite perfect duo

For the last five weeks, at Slobodan Milosevic's invitation, the ultra nationalist Vojislav Seselj, former opposition leader and deputy prime minister of Serbia during the war in the former Yugoslavia, has testified in his defence. Since 23 August, Seselj, who is also accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), has presented as facts opinions previously expressed by Milosevic. When the judges asked for evidence, Seselj replied that it existed but that he did not have it.

30 November 1999

Bosnia opens third generation of justice

It could be called the third generation of international justice: after the UN's international courts for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda, and the mixed model of Sierra Leone, the newest and most eagerly-awaited experience - outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague - has its headquarters in Sarajevo. The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) War Crimes Chamber is a semi-international court housed on the premises of the BiH state court, the highest court in the country since the 1995 peace accords. Ten years after the end of the war, the chamber is about to open its first trial on 14 September.

The unmasking of the Colina squadron

Peru's judiciary opened the most important human rights trial in the country's history on August 17, when the Anti-Corruption Court began taking testimony in the trial of 57 defendants accused of taking part in a paramilitary death squad, the Colina Group.

President Vázquez’s pledge

After weeks of excavations, it came as something of a surprise that the body of María Claudia García, Uruguay's most emblematic victim of state terrorism, was still missing. The information seemed trustworthy enough, divulged in an official report presented by Gen. Guillermo Bertollotti, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to the Uruguay president, Tabaré Vázquez.

“I don’t think Pinochet will stand trial in Chile”

Juan Guzman Tapia retired from the magistracy in May 2005. During his career, he prepared hundreds of cases against ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet filed by families of disappeared persons in Chile. On a visit to Paris to promote his autobiography "Aboard the World," he spoke to IJT.


30 November 1999

Warm up at Beach trial in Brazzaville

After a discreet opening at 6 p.m. on 19 July, which the plaintiffs had not been invited to attend, the trial known as the “disappeared of the Beach” finally got underway before the Brazzaville criminal court on 21 July. 16 officers, including four generals, faced charges brought by 76 plain-tiffs in connection with the disappearance of 353 refugees in May 1999. The refugees were fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a boat that docked at the Brazzaville port. They were never heard from again. The authorities have always denied any involvement, but this politically sensitive trial should shed new light on the affair.

Britain convicts Afghan warlord

Following Spain, Belgium and France, Britain is the fourth European country this year to try a non-national in a case of universal jurisdiction. In the first trial of its kind to be heard in England, an Afghan warlord, Farayadi Sarwar Zardad, 42, was convicted of torture committed in his home country before the Old Bailey criminal court in London. He was given a 20-year prison sentence on 19 July.

Cynical Frans

​On 10 July, a District Court in The Hague extended the custody of Dutch businessman Frans van Anraat for a second three-month period (see IJT-17). The 62-year-old is charged with complicity to commit genocide and war crimes for supplying Saddam Hussein's regime with substances that were allegedly used to produce chemical weapons.

30 November 1999

ICTY grapples with genocidal intent for Srebrenica

"By planned and well-thought-out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica and Zepa." Such were the instructions of President Radovan Karadzic in March 1995. The "purifying" intention of the directive, later known by the code name of Krivaja 95, is in no doubt. Yet it leaves open the issue of the intention to commit genocide. Legal experts at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have been scrutinizing the gap between genocide and ethnic cleansing in an attempt to legally establish the existence of genocide in Srebrenica.

Oric trial sheds new light on Srebrenica

Naser Oric was commander of the Bosnian Muslim military zone in Srebrenica in the early 1990s. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) described Oric as "a warlord, drunk with power". Soldiers from the Dutch UN battalion portrayed him as "a crook, a robber, a pimp and a murderer". He is the only Srebrenica Muslim to be tried at the ICTY. His trial, which began on 6 October 2004, has shed light on a little-known aspect of Srebrenica's history.

Dutchbat faces its responsibilities

On 13 July 1995, Rizo Mustafic, an electrician working at the UN compound in Potocari, near Srebrenica, was expelled from the camp by a Dutch officer. Not long after, he was killed. Today, members of his family, together with a former UN interpreter at the military base, Hasan Nuhanovic, are making a legal bid before a Dutch national court in The Hague to claim damages. Aware of the political and financial consequences such a precedent could have for the Dutch state, the court has examined witness testimony carefully. One 10 July, the plaintiffs announced their decision to go to trial.

Ould Dah: “A model torturer on a plate”

After lengthy proceedings and political interference from the French foreign office (see inset), a criminal court in Nîmes finally tried Mauritanian officer Ely Ould Dah in his absence on 30 June and 1 July. In this, the first French trial based on universal jurisdiction, the court sentenced him to the maximum prison term of 10 years for "torture and acts of barbarity".

30 November 1999

“No debt relief for Nigeria unless Taylor is turned over”

After serving three years as chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, David Crane will be leaving his post on 30 June. On 25 and 26 June, he chaired a work session in Freetown with the prosecutors of the International Criminal Court [ICC] and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [ICTR] and the deputy prosecutor of the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICTY]. In an interview given to International Justice Tribune on the eve of the meeting, Crane reflected on the lessons learnt from the Sierra Leone experience. He said that the investigations into businessmen involved in the conflict are still ongoing and assured that it is only a matter of time before Nigeria arrests Charles Taylor and hands him over to the Special Court.

The shadow of a doubt

At the end of the Brussels trial of the two Rwandan businessmen accused of war crimes, the outcome was far from cut and dried. While the die was cast for Etienne Nzabonimana after the defence wrapped up its case on 24 June, lawyers representing Samuel Ndashyikirwa were still waiting to plead on the 27th. The verdict is expected on June 29.

Twenty years on, amnesty ends

The Argentine Supreme Court changed the course of history on 14 June by abolishing the two amnesty laws known as "due obedience" and "full stop" passed in the late 1980s. Until now, the laws have shielded officers suspected of having committed crimes against humanity. The high court ruling could clear the way for prosecutions of 400 formerly low-ranking officials, accused of abduction, torture and murder during the military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983.


30 November 1999

Uganda file: a fruit ripe for the picking

Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA, the rebel movement in northern Uganda], and another LRA chief would be the object of the first arrest warrants issued by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [ICC], the French daily Le Monde revealed on 10 June. For the last two months, the silence surrounding the maturation of the Uganda file has generated much speculation over the strategies being pursued.

Pinochet: he who loses wins

On 7 June, former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet had a day of victory and defeat. The victory was the Santiago appeal court's decision to end proceedings against him and his former interior minister, retired General Cesar Benavides, on charges relating to the repression of political opponents as part of Operation Condor. The defeat came from the plenary hearing at the same court, which lifted his political immunity in the case of the millions of dollars deposited in Riggs Bank in Washington, DC.

Credit and debit of a banker

As the trial of the two Rwandan businessmen reaches its third week before the Brussels criminal court, Ephrem Nkezabera, a former banker and Interahamwe leader, presented a detailed financial portrait of his once "model" client, Etienne Nzabonimana, the main defendant in the dock.

30 November 1999

Two Rwandans in oversized suits

The second "Rwandan" trial that opened in Brussels on 9 May failed to attract the crowd of impassioned spectators who had gathered for the judgement of the Butare Four in 2001. This time, two small-time businessmen appeared in the dock, a successful beer wholesaler and his half-brother, the patron of a street bar and local bus company. Both are accused of actively participating in the execution of the genocide in the prefecture of Kibungo.

600 tried, thousands flee

Since trials began at the gacaca courts on 10 March, over 600 verdicts have been delivered. This is an impressive result, but one that has not been achieved easily. Attendance is proving a constant problem. For a hearing to be valid, the courts require a quorum of at least nine judges and a hundred members of the community. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has also signalled a new problem: thousands of Rwandans have started fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid standing trial.

Kamuhanda case: key witness retracts

When ICTR judges handed down a life sentence to the former Minister of Higher Education, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, they based their decision in the main on the testimony of three witnesses. All claimed that they had seen Kamuhanda on 12 April 1994 in the protestant parish of Gikomero, thirty kilometres from Kigali. The judgement states that Kamuhanda had given the signal to start massacring the Tutsis in Gikomero. On appeal, one witness retracted his testimony.

30 November 1999

Belgium to try Interahamwe informer

On 9 May, four years after the trial of the "Butare four", Belgium reopened the Rwandan genocide file with the trial of two businessmen from Kibungo, Étienne Nzabonimana and Samuel Ndashikirwa. Other proceedings are expected to follow, including the long-awaited trial of Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, suspected of involvement in the death of ten Belgian peacekeepers in Kigali on 7 April 1994. But the most secret and spectacular of all is the pending trial of a certain Ephrem Nkezabera, former banker and a member of the national committee of the Interahamwe militia.

Rape and terror under the military

In April, the trial of three ex-members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) - the ousted military junta that ruled Sierra Leone in 1997- 1998 and returned to invade Freetown in 1999 - opened at the new chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The three recently arrived judges were faced with a number of new challenges in court, including the decision by all three defence counsel to stop defending their clients in protest at the suspension of one of their investigators (see inset).

“Thanks to Mr Nice’s kindness”

Of the 17 charges in the Kosovo indictment against Slobodan Milosevic, the massacre at Racak is the only crime that took place before the NATO bombings of May 1999. At his trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the former Serb president is trying to prove that he was fighting a just war in Kosovo against insurgents and terrorists.