02 April 2007

Canada unveils universal jurisdiction

The first case under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act (2000) opened at the main courthouse in Montreal on March 26, 2007. The defendant, who has been in custody since being arrested in Toronto nearly eighteen months ago, walked into the courtroom more nattily attired than any previous occupant of the prisoner’s box. Désiré Munyaneza, a Rwandan charged with genocide, wore a color-coordinated suit, shirt and tie. He looked around, spotting his wife, other family members, attorneys and the single judge.

Trial of political leaders running aground

One of the most important trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has again run into difficulty following the withdrawal of a judge for health reasons. Nine years after the arrest of the three defendants—leaders of the former presidential party (MRND) who are among the prime suspects in the 1994 genocide—the trial is unlikely to finish before 2008, the completion date set by the UN Security Council for all ICTR trials.

Van Anraat, a high-stakes second round

The appeals arguments in the trial of Frans van Anraat will be held at The Hague from April 4-25. On December 23, 2005 a Dutch court sentenced the 65 year-old businessman to 15 years in prison for complicity in war crimes committed by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, his cousin Ali Hassan al- Majid and his son in law Hussein Kamal al-Majid. Both parties are challenging the lower court's judgment and legal reasoning.

Brief news:


Ernesto Baez at confession

"Parabusiness" scandal revealed


Registrar of the court dismissed


Lubanga's defense demands appropriate means


16 April 2007

No more waiting for Bernard Ntuyahaga

Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former major in the Rwandan army, will be tried starting April 19 before a court of Rwanda's former colonial power. For the Belgian justice system, this third universal jurisdiction trial for crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994 is the result of twelve years of efforts to try one of those it holds responsible for the murder of ten Belgian UN soldiers on April 7, 1994. For the accused, it is above all the end of a long drawn-out legal process.

The trial of an "extremely important event"

An expert on the three days following the April 6, 1994 attack on the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana in Kigali, Filip Reyntjens has already testified before the Tanzanian judges "to prevent Bernard Ntuyahaga from being extradited to Rwanda." He will be cited by the prosecution as an expert witness in the trial that is opening in Brussels.

India non-aligned, but held back by insurgencies

India was an active participant at the Rome conference that created the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998. Much of its interest was linked to the legacy of the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had a vision of nations not allied with major power blocs. An international court that is not beholden to such blocs has some appeal in India. But issues of sovereignty, internal insurgencies and India's aspiration to have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council made it not signing the ICC Statute.

Brief news:


• The Rwandan defendant attacked in jail

• Finland prepares to try a Rwandan suspect

Former Yugoslavia

• "Scorpions" sentenced in Serbia

• ICTY: Lukic trial transfered to Sarajevo


• Washington spurs on Peruvian justice


07 May 2007

The rules for the Defense: "a step backward"

Since opening in July 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers, tasked with trying former Khmer Rouge leaders, has been paralyzed by the failure to adopt internal, procedural rules. Now, at last, the court is likely to have its rules in place by the end of May. On April 28, after five months of deadlock, the Cambodian Bar Association removed the last major obstacle by agreeing to lower its registration fees for foreign lawyers from $4,900 to $500. Rupert Skilbeck, Chief of the Defense Support Section, talks with IJT about issues of concern for the defense.

Controversy between the president and judges

On April 25, a federal appellate court in Buenos Aires ruled that the presidential pardons granted to former junta members years ago were unconstitutional. This ruling opens the door for Rafael Videla, currently under house arrest, to be put in prison and for the transfer of Emilio Massera, declared senile, to a military hospital. Mostly, it comes at a time when the pace of trials for crimes against humanity has created a rift between President Nestor Kirchner and the country's top criminal court, the Court of Cassation.

South Africa, peace mediator above all

South Africa has unmatched economic and moral power on the African continent, where the International Criminal Court (ICC) has focused its first prosecutions. The government's attitudes towards the ICC are shaped by its anti-colonial struggle against apartheid and by its own choice of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Brief news:

• Russia: Defendants in Chechnya murder trial go missing

• Darfur: the ICC issues two arrest warrants

• Bagaragaza, first transfer from the ICTR

• Timor-Leste: the truth according to Wiranto


21 May 2007

End of the officers' trial: 13 years later, what proof?

From May 28 to June 1, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will hear closing arguments from the Prosecutor and defense in its most important trial - that involving Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, the former Chef de Cabinet at the Ministry of Defense and the presumed architect of the 1994 genocide. The trial has centered around allegations that Bagosora led a conspiracy that planned the genocide well in advance of the killings. Now, after twelve years of investigation and more than five years of trial, what do we actually know?

Europe supports the ICC without fail and without zeal

Since its conception, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has found its most fervent supporters in Europe. No fewer than 20 European countries participated in the pro-ICC "like-minded group" of 58 during the Rome Statute negotiations in 1998. This diplomatic activism—rewarded by the election of judges from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Latvia and other European states to the permanent court—has continued unfailingly within the European Union (EU). However, on a practical level, the cooperation is less effective and relations with the ICC remain bilateral for the most part, just like relationships between States regarding universal jurisdiction cases.

Brief news:

• France: Judicial inquiry into Agathe Habyarimana

• ICC: Judge Jorda resigns

• ICTR: Controversy over the presidency

• Complicity in genocide: the double response from The Hague

• Tribunal for lebanon: to be passed by force?


04 June 2007

Taylor, last chance for the Sierra Leone model

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor's trial will open before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on June 4. The Court has been relocated to the Hague to try the case, which will be both its most important trial and its last. The Special Court, which was created in 2002, was expected to last just three years. In the end, it will have taken eight years to try nine individuals. And the jury is still out as to whether the Court will live up to expectations.

Brazil: reliable, but far from dynamic

Brazil played an active part in the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Yet the Latin American giant has mostly stayed on the sidelines when it comes to international criminal justice. This is because, for several years now, its diplomatic activity has focused on gaining a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, Brazilian courts have been slow to act when it comes to judging human rights violations committed under the prior military regime.

Butare, a trial out of bounds at the ICTR

Brief news:
• Special Tribunal for Lebanon created
• ICTY: General Tolimir arrested
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Stankovic's escape
• Central African Republic: ICC's fourth investigation



18 June 2007

Ntuyahaga: political trial for a ghost

"Was there a genocide? You'd have to ask a specialist. I'm a military man; it's too much to ask of me." Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former major in the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), sometimes gave irritated half answers in response to questions from the judges of the Court of Assises in Brussels. In the troubled hours following the attack on President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane on the evening of April 6, 1994, this G4 army officer (logistics) seemed a stranger to the events. "A ghost in Kigali," quipped presiding judge Karin Gérard.

Israel cornered by Occupied Territories

After the genocide of the Jews during the Second World Ward and since the 1950s, Israel has been actively engaged in the project for an international criminal court. In Rome, in 1998, its leaders hoped to be able to adhere to the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC). But the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians - and the continued existence of settlements in the Occupied Territories, which puts Israel at risk of being accused by the court - decided otherwise.

Brief news:

• Sierra Leone: Taylor's trail opens without him

• Cambodia: The Khmer Rouge tribunal finally adopts its internal rules

• Lebanon: Will new attacks go before the Special Court?

• ICTY: 35 years for Martic


22 October 2007

Germain Katanga, second Congolese transfer to the ICC

Arrested by Congolese authorities in February 2005, former militia leader Germain Katanga, alias Simba ("lion" in Swahili), was transferred from Kinshasa to The Hague on October 18. The International Criminal Court (ICC) accuses him of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the February 23, 2003 attack on the Bogoro village in Ituri, eastern Congo. After more than three years of investigation, the ICC now has only two suspects in custody: Katanga and former militia leader Thomas Lubanga, who was transferred from Kinshasa to The Hague on March 17, 2006.

CDF: a “legitimate” cause

You committed horrible crimes, but your struggle was legitimate and that makes a difference. That is essentially what the judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone said on October 9 when they sentenced two leaders of the former Civil Defense Forces (CDF), high priest Allieu Kondewa and war director Moinina Fofana to 7 and 8 years in prison. They had been found guilty of war crimes on August 2. This delicate judgment, which was part of the debate during the presidential campaign, gave validity to the notion that fighting for the return to democracy is not the same as fighting against it.

Croatia proves itself

On October 15, Branimir Glavas, a retired Croatian general and long-time head of 1 of the 20 Croatian counties, entered the county court of Zagreb. He is accused of war crimes committed 16 years ago, during the war in former Yugoslavia. Leaning on a cane, this 51-year-old man, usually energetic, seemed weakened. His voice trembled as he greeted his peaceful supporters.

Brief news:

• EU-ICTY-Serbia: same carrot, same stick

• Rwanda: Double justice for Bagambiki

• Lebanon: A «panel» to select the judges

• Iraq: A judge's words

• USA-South Africa: lawsuit opened against 50 multinationals over apartheid

24 November 2011

Links to articles and PDF of IJT 140.

08 December 2011

Links to articles and PDF of IJT 141.

01 February 2012

Summary and link to PDF of IJT 144.