issue
30 November 1999

Military joint defence

When the defence case in the military trial opened on 11 April before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), there was an inevitable feeling of vertigo. "The first word that springs to mind is: Finally! Eleven years after the crimes, nine years after his arrest, eight years and three months after his arrival in Arusha, Colonel Bagosora can finally begin to explain himself. Raphaël Constant, the lawyer for the most famous Rwandan genocide suspect, is one of only two people in the courtroom to have followed the lengthy proceedings against Théoneste Bagosora and his three co-accused from the start.

Independent justice or courts under orders?

Within two weeks of Gacaca restarting its operations in March, three of the community courts have summoned three high Rwandan dignitaries - Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, Minister of Defense General Marcel Gatsinzi, and the prefect of Ruhengeri province in northern Rwanda, Boniface Rucagu - to answer charges relating to the 1994 genocide. Gatsinzi and Rucagu are directly accused of taking part in the genocide. The appearance of these important Hutu officials, who became members of the governing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has sparked debate. Some see it as the determination of ordinary Rwandans to prise answers from everyone, even from prominent Hutus who have been successfully integrated into the government. Others see it as a ploy to tarnish the reputation of the few remaining Hutu leaders.

Scilingo, a landmark judgement

On 19 April, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced former Argentine naval captain Adolfo Scilingo to 640 years' imprisonment for crimes against humanity committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. This landmark conviction of a foreign national for crimes committed outside Spain's borders endorses the Spanish government's new stance in favour of universal jurisdiction.

 

issue
30 November 1999

Darfur: the ambiguities of the US exemption

The Security Council's referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been hailed as a giant step in the history of international humanitarian law. It has also been criticised for applying double standards by exempting the United States from the ICC's jurisdiction.

Cambodia, a “window for Japanese diplomacy”

A decisive step has been taken towards setting up the Extraordinary Chambers to try Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia. Thirteen countries pledged a wide range of contributions at a fundraising conference organised by the United Nations secretariat on 28 March. The Japanese government's massive financial investment in the future trials may not be unrelated to its regional struggle for influence with China.

The cost of the truth

As she makes her way down the hill to the field she is preparing for planting, Anastasia Mukaruteke greets her neighbors with smiles. It is only when they are out of earshot that Anastasia drops the facade. "Killers, every one of them," she says. "Some of them even killed my family, but I pretend not to know because I don't want any trouble."

Victim compensation: Argentina’s precedent

Thirty years after the start of its last and most bloody dictatorship, Argentina is debating forms of compensation for its victims. Over the last few weeks, Congress has been the scene of discussions over a new law to compensate political exiles for losses incurred as a result of their having to leave the country. The outcome of this legal, ethical and political debate is difficult to predict, but whatever the conclusion, it will set an important precedent for other Latin American countries.

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30 November 1999

Gacaca trials put to the test

The first trials before Rwanda's gacaca courts finally opened on 10 March. Almost three years after their official launch, the courts, made up of locally elected judges from a district or hill, read out their first verdicts for people suspected of participating in the genocide. The most notable fact was the summoning of several hundred local administrative leaders before the courts. 

Judges and prosecutor argue over powers

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) first status conference was held in camera on 15 March. It was convened to provide an update on the prosecutor’s investigations in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). No information has filtered through on talks between the judges and Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo on this subject. But there have been strong echoes of a legal culture clash and the boundaries of responsibility between the pre-trial chamber and the prosecution.

IER, between the young and the old guard

The Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) will soon complete its report that should theoretically be submitted to the King by mid-April (see IJT n° 15 and 19). The signs are that this transitional justice process is still controlled by the Palace (or Makhzen), which runs the kingdom. But the young guard may find the recent rise in Islamism a useful argument for strengthening its position.

 

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30 November 1999

Negotiated indictment of a prime minister

The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, who is accused of crimes against humanity and of violating the laws and customs of war, is the first serving politician to be indicted by the ICTY since the ex-Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. A former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Haradinaj was elected by parliament on 3 December to serve in the UN-administered province. On 8 March, he resigned, preferring to face the UN court "as a common citizen".

The Bosnian army and its Mujahedins

The big event was the opening on 9 March of the special war crimes chamber in Sarajevo. But a week earlier the Bosnian media was buzzing with shocked reactions to the indictment and departure to The Hague of the retired Bosnian general, Rasim Delic. The outcry caused by the surrender of Delic, who is seen as a "war hero", raises questions over whether the Bosnian environment is mature enough to ensure a fair trial for defendants on all sides of the conflict in former Yugoslavia, especially Bosnian Muslims.

Trial of the military junta opens in Freetown

The third and last scheduled trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone finally got underway on 7 March. The three men in the dock are former members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC): Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu. They faced the three foreign judges after spending nearly two years in detention. On stage for perhaps the last time was court prosecutor David Crane, two weeks after announcing he will be stepping down in July after three years at the head of the prosecution.

Last minute changes in the Muvunyi trial

"Rapes were committed by soldiers under the accused's command, and he did nothing to punish them," asserted the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Hassan Bubacar Jallow, on the opening day of the trial of Tharcisse Muvunyi on 28 February 2005. Yet only a month earlier, Jallow had asked the judges for authorisation to strike the rape allegations from the indictment.

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30 November 1999

Legal action speeds up as April memorial approaches

Every year, the run-up to the annual commemoration of the Rwandan genocide that began on April 1994, generates a flurry of legal activity. This year is no different, with a number of complaints lodged last year continuing or being repeated in 2005. Last week in Spain and France, NGOs from opposing political camps announced they were filing new complaints, while in Rwanda, the start of the gacaca trials is now set for March.

Daughter profiles Pauline Nyiramasuhuko

Last week's deposition by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko's eldest daughter was, at best, a rare illustration of openness in court. Clarisse Ntahobali, one of seven initial witnesses called by the defence, testified using her own name, although the curtains remained closed to hide her face. She began by helping to sketch out the educational and professional career of her mother, the only woman to be indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

First steps to transfers

There is no doubt in the minds of donors backing the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY): all trials must be completed by 2008. The ICTY prosecutor has now seriously begun tackling the process of transferring cases to local courts, with 8 requests for transferral involving 16 accused submitted to the judges.

issue
30 November 1999

- Investigations close, appraisals begin

The 31 December 2004 marked the official end of investigations at the two UN courts for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Thus, it is now possible to make a preliminary accounting of the Tribunal's records of indictments.

- Figuig’s grievances

With its official report due out in the spring, the Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) needs to act fast. After its inaugural hearing on 21-22 December in Rabat, the Commission is starting to fan out its public sessions in those regions most affected by the repression during the "years of lead". 

- African cases pile up for the ICC prosecutor

Uganda and Côte d'Ivoire : the ICC prosecutor puts his cards on the table, but debate continues in the UN Security Council over Darfur.

- Could France have ignored Operation Condor?

French investigating judge Sophie Clément could over the next few weeks order former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to appear before the Paris criminal court for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of several French nationals in Chile and Argentina at the end of the 1970s (see IJT 14). The trial in absentia raises the question of the connection between France and Operation Condor, the joint effort by the South American military regimes to eliminate their political opponents.

issue
19 April 1999

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