(For older news updates, please visit our news archive.)
18 October: The Court of Appeal in Bucharest, Romania, has acquitted two former Securitate officers who were accused of committing crimes against humanity, leading to the death of political dissident Gheorghe Ursu whilst detained in 1985. Marin Parvulescu and Vasile Hodis were former members of Romania’s political police for the communist regime, who maintained their innocence throughout the trial process. They were accused of conducting interrogations of Ursu and subjecting him to systematic beatings. The judgment is not final and will be appealed by the Ursu family’s legal counsel. Four others have already been convicted in relation to Ursu’s death.
17 October 2019: The proceedings against Thomas Kwoyelo in the International Crimes Division of the Ugandan High Court have been indefinitely adjourned. The adjournment relates to a dispute between the prosecution and defense about the use of closed sessions. Kwoyelo is a former Lord’s Resistance Army commander who has been charged with 93 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between January 1995 and December 2005 in northern Uganda.
16 October 2019: Mental health experts will provide testimony for the defense in the proceedings against Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Trial Chamber IX has allowed the experts to testify to Ongwen’s mental state during the period which he has been charged with committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, but not as to his current mental state. The hearings will take place late November. The testimony will support the defense's argument that Ongwen had mental illness or defect during the period when the crimes are alleged to have been committed and as a result he is not responsible for these crimes. Ongwen faces charges of 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed when he was a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005.
15 October 2019: Genocide Watch has re-issued a genocide alert for the Kurdish, Christian and Yezidi minority populations in North East Syria following the recent Turkish incursion, suggesting the ‘Turkish narrative is used as a "self-defense justification" for genocidal massacres of Kurds.’ The warning was originally issued in January 2018 when Turkish forces launched cross-border military operations in Afrin in North West Syria in order to target the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Genocide Watch has also co-signed a joint statement with 97 humanitarian organisations active in Syria condemning the Turkish offensive and warning of the risks that the situation will develop into a wide-scale conflict.
14 October 2019: An Iraqi national who was extradited from Greece to Germany is facing charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and human trafficking. The suspect, identified as Taha A.-J, is alleged to have been a member of terrorist organization Islamic State since 2013. German Prosecutors allege Taha was married to German national Jennifer W and that in 2015 the couple bought a 5 year old Yazidi girl and her mother as slaves. Whilst enslaved, the mother and child were forced to convert to Islam and were beaten, with the child dying of dehydration whilst chained outdoors. The Prosecution argue that this killing was part of Islamic State’s wider plan to exterminate Yazidis and constitutes genocide. The trial of Jennifer W commenced in Germany in April.
10 October 2019: Former federal prosecutor Roberto Domingo Mazzoni and former penitentiary warden Pablo César Casco are the first civilians to be convicted for crimes against humanity perpetrated during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The Tribunal Oral Federal Penal court in Resistencia sentenced both to 11 years’ imprisonment and banned both from public office for life. Mazzoni was convicted for not investigating crimes, malfeasance and applying illegal pressure. Casco was convicted for the politically motivated torture of prisoner Hugo Dedieu, who was detained at U7 penitentiary where Casco was previously warden.
9 October 2019: The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) has issued a Review Judgement in the Case of Prosecutor v Augustin Ngirabatware rejecting Ngirabatware’s claim that the key witnesses in his trial had truthfully recanted their testimonies. In 2012 Augustin Ngirabatware was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, instigating and aiding and abetting genocide and the crime against humanity of rape through the extended form of joint criminal enterprise. In its first decision in 2014, the IRMCT confirmed the convictions of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and instigating and aiding and abetting genocide, quashed the crime against humanity conviction and sentenced Ngirabatware to 30 years’ imprisonment.
New cases, briefs and videos
(For older announcements, please visit our announcements archive.)
NEW BRIEF: A new ICD Brief is available on the International Crimes Database entitled “Human Rights Remedies for Violations of the Law of Armed Conflict: Reflections on the Right to Reparation in Light of Recent Domestic Court Decisions in the Netherlands and Denmark”, by Vessela Terzieva.
Vessela Terzieva is an international criminal lawyer and an external PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam. Her ICD Brief relates to recent decisions in the Netherlands and Denmark awarding compensation for damage at the hands of the military during armed conflict, including the July 2019 ruling of the Dutch Supreme Court in the 'Mothers of Srebrenica' case. It explores how these decisions contribute to the debate on the right to reparation for victims of international humanitarian law violations.
NEW CASES: New case summaries are available on the International Crimes Database!
Prosecutor v Ayyash et al.
Two of the five new case summaries relate to the case of The Prosecutor v Ayyash et al. before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). In its Interlocutory Decision of 16 February 2011 (available here), the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal found whilst it was bound to apply Lebanese criminal law, international law could be used to aid in the interpretation of these domestic provisions. Significantly, the Chamber concluded that the crime of terrorism exists in customary international law. In the STL Trial Chamber Decision of 1 February 2012 (available here), the Tribunal found that the four accused may be tried in absentia, as all four of the accused had absconded or otherwise could not be found and all reasonable steps had been taken to secure their presence.
Prosecution of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan
The other three summaries (here, here and here) relate to the trial of Nuon Chea, the former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, the former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). This string of cases culminated in the conviction and life sentence of Chea and Samphan for crimes against humanity relating to the forcible transfer of the population, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity committed at security centres and worksites. Both were also found guilty of genocide of the Vietnamese people, whilst Chea was also guilty of genocide of the Cham people.
The Asser Institute received assistance from the Washington College of Law Internship Programme in the preparation of these case summaries.
NEW CASES: New case summaries of the two most recent decisions in The Public Prosecutor v. Guus Kouwenhoven in the Netherlands are now available online. The 's-Hertogenbosch Court of Appeal decision found Guus Kouwenhoven guilty of weapons smuggling and complicity in war crimes committed by Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia during the second civil war from 1999-2003. The Court found that the amnesty scheme implemented by Charles Taylor's government shortly before Taylor fled Liberia did not prevent the prosecution of Kouwenhoven in the Netherlands, and sentenced Kouwenhoven to 19 years' imprisonment. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld this decision, finding that the Court of Appeal had correctly decided that the amnesty scheme did not prevent the prosecution of Kouwenhoven.
NEW BRIEF: The first ICD Brief of 2019 (available here) is now available on our website! Matt Brown has written on the evacuation of Eastern Aleppo in Syria, dealing with a question as to whether it could be classified as forced displacement under international law.
NEW CASES: The twelve summaries (available in the database) added are related to terrorism, attempted terrorism, and providing material support. Most of the cases are from the United States as well as England and Wales, and relate to (attemped) fighting in Syria and Iraq (foreign fighters). They give a good insight of common law approaches to prosecuting terrorism-related offences. An example of a new case analysis is United States of America v. Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi. Both Mr. Elhuzayel and Mr. Badawi were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS). The defendants had used social media accounts to support IS, and Mr. Badawi had filmed Mr. Elhuzayel pledging allegiance to IS and promising to travel to Syria to fight. Mr. Elhuzayel was arrested prior to boarding a flight to Israel via Turkey. They were also found guilty of financial fraud charges, the proceeds of which had been used to fund the travel. In the preparation of the US cases for the ICD database, the Asser Institute received assistance from students enrolled in the International Justice Project of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law.