ICTR News – Defence Investigator Nshogoza found guilty of contempt

Anyway, the judgment itself is not up on the Tribunal’s website yet, but here is the Tribunal’s Press Release.

More commentary on the judgment, generally supportive of the outcome, by Lisa Gambone on the War Crimes blog. I’ll refrain from commenting in detail until the actual judgment comes out. For now, I just wish to point out that there may be more behind this case than is immediately apparent – before his detention at the ICTR in this case, Nshogoza had been arrested by Rwandan authorities who had announced plans to prosecute him for bribing ICTR witnesses and for “minimization of genocide” – see e.g. the ADAD (Association of Defence Counsel) November 2007 Petition. I’ll also note that, if Nshogoza improperly influenced witnesses, it seems that he would be far from alone in doing so – see, e.g., this Hirondelle article on a Prosecution witness who recanted his testimony against accused Nzirorera claiming that he had been pressured by Rwandan authorities. Finally, see this New Times article on the judgment with a comment by Allison Turner, Nshogoza’s defence attorney.

More, hopefully, once the full judgment is published.

ICC News – OTP to charge Sudanese President with Genocide

By Björn Elberling

The Press Advisory on the ICC website reads somewhat unspectacularly, "ICC Prosecutor to present second case to the Judges in the Darfur situation on 14 July." Today, the Prosecutor has announced that the person he will be charging is Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and that the charges will include genocide (see MSNBC article). Certainly an interesting development on the eve of the 10 th Anniversary of the Rome Statute. More as things develop further. H/T: Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris.

ECHR news: ECHR judgment on evidence obtained through threat of torture in Germany

By Björn Elberling

pic ECtHR.jpg Since Tobi is currently summerschooling in The Hague, it probably falls to me to announce ECHR decision in the case of Gaeffgen v. Germany. Magnus Gaeffgen was convicted for the kidnapping and murder of an 11 year old child; during the initial investigation, German police had threatened him with torture to get him to reveal where he had hidden the child, who they believed to be alive but in danger of dying. The decision is here, insightful commentary at the ECHR blog and at Opinio Juris.

Link Blogging: The Left Side of International Law

By Björn Elberling

pashukanis.gif I’m currently buried in the final stages of the dissertation, so instead of substantive posts, a couple of interesting links. Rob at Marxist law blog "Law and Disorder" has been posting quite a lot recently, including a number of posts on international law topics. Readers interested in leftist approaches to international law should check out his review of Bill Bowring’s The Degradation of the International Order? and the series of posts on a Conference on "New Approaches to Self-Determination" at the Centre for Colonialism, Empire and International Law.

ICTR News – Trial Chamber Denies Request for Transferral to Rwanda

munyakazi.jpg By Björn Elberling

This seems to be a busy week in international criminal law. Yesterday, ICTR Trial Chamber III denied a Prosecution request to transfer the case of Yussuf Munyakazi to a Rwandan national court under Rule 11bis of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The decision is available here. The main worries of the Trial Chamber were that Rwanda’s penalty structure does not meet "internationally recognised standards" (Rwanda has abolished the death penalty, but has replaced it with lifelong imprisonment in isolation) and that Munyakazi might not receive a fair trial. The Chamber was worried about the independence of the judiciary in the face of government pressure (interestingly, the Chamber explicitly referred to the Barayagwiza "Reconsideration" Decision, thus coming close to officially accepting that that Decision was the result of government pressure – see para. 41 of the decision); and it feared that the Defence might be unable to obtain defence witnesses and secure their safety. The Chamber does, however, acknowledge the "positive steps" undertaken by Rwanda and states that "the Tribunal will hopefully be able to refer future cases to Rwandan courts" (para. 67). The Prosecution has 15 days to appeal appeal the decision; I would be surprised if they do not do so. (See also, somewhat related, Kevin Jon Heller’s post on the Prosecution "disowning" Human Rights Watch) Continue reading

SCSL News: Appeals Chamber Judgment in CDF Case

SCSL courthouse.jpg By Björn Elberling

The Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone today announced its judgment in the case against two former leaders of the Civil Defence Forces, Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa. The two had, in first instance, been found guilty of a number of war crimes, but acquitted of crimes against humanity charges, and had been sentenced to 6 and 8 years’ imprisonment. Justice Thompson had dissented from the judgment, stating that he would have acquitted both under necessity as they were fighting to reinstate the rightful government. The Appeals Chamber overturned some of the convictions for war crimes, but also entered new convictions for crimes against humanity. It increased the sentences to 15 and 20 years, stating inter alia that political motives of Fofana and Kondewa and their fighting for a "just cause" was not a mitigating factor for the purposes of sentencing. There were apparently a number of dissents on various issues. The SCSL has thus concluded two of its four trials; still ongoing are the RUF trial in Freetown, which is in the middle of the Defence case, and the trial against Charles Taylor in The Hague. Court Press Release here, more info once the judgment itself becomes available. UPDATE: The judgment, including the Dissenting Opinions, is now available here. No time for extensive comments at the moment. I’ll only point out that just like in the Trial Chamber, the Sierra Leonean judges (Justices King and Kamanda) were inclined much more favorably towards the defendants than their UN-appointed colleagues, particularly when it came to taking into account the fact that the CDF were fighting to reinstate the government (albeit not as constituting necessity as argued in the first instance by Justice Thompson).

ICC News – Arrest of Jean-Pierre Bemba for alleged crimes in the Central-African Republic

By Björn Elberling

bemba.jpg As reported by the Court already on Saturday, there has been a first arrest concerning the Central-African Republic situation before the ICC. Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the "Movement for the Liberation of the Congo", former vice-president of the DR Congo transitional government and losing candidate in the 2006 presidential elections, has been arrested by Belgian authorities on the basis of an arrest warrant against him issued under seal on Friday. This warrant has now been made public – Bemba is charged with six counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, particularly rape, torture and plunder, committed in the Central-African Republic. Court Press Release here, OTP Press Release here. The Hague Justice Portal reports on the case here. A date for Bemba’s transfer to the ICC does not seem to have been set yet. In the meantime, I’ll post some initial observations on the case/situation in the following days.

ICL Defence Opportunity: Internship at the ICC Monitoring and Outreach Program of the International Bar Association

IBA logo.jpg By Björn Elberling

One of my post ideas for when I finally have the time to do all the blogging I want is a list of ways for (young) international lawyers to enter the field of international criminal defence work. For the moment, all I have is an interesting opportunity for an (unpaid, alas) internship with the International Bar Association. Continue reading

ICTY News: Former Kosovo Minister charged with contempt of court in connection with Haradinaj et al

By Björn Elberling

Haradinaj.jpgLast Friday, ICTY Trial Chamber I unsealed an indictment for contempt of court against Astrit Haraqija, former Kosovo Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport, and Bajrush Morina, a political advisor at the Ministry. The Indictment had already been brought on 8 January 2008, but had been kept under seal until last week – probably to be unsealed after arrest of the two accused. Their initial appearance is scheduled for tomorrow. The indictment alleges that on Haraqija’s instructions, Morina met with "PW", a protected prosecution witness in the case against former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and others, and unsuccesfully tried to pressure him/her into not giving evidence. Continue reading