Archive for May, 2009

BBC News, 29 May 2009

Serb nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj is to go on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for contempt of court.

Mr Seselj is accused of disclosing the names and details of three protected witnesses at his war crimes trial.

He went on trial in 2007 for alleged crimes committed in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia between 1991 and 1994.

The 54-year-old denies contempt as well as the three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes.

Prosecutors at The Hague say the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader recruited and indoctrinated Serb forces with speeches containing “poisonous ideas” and sent them to commit “unspeakable crimes” against hundreds of non-Serbs.

He is accused of forming a joint criminal enterprise with the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to “ethnically cleanse” large parts of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia’s northern Vojvodina region.

Mr Seselj, who like Milosevic is acting as his own lawyer, does not deny making nationalist speeches, but insists they did not constitute war crimes.

He says the tribunal is illegitimate and biased against Serbs, and accuses it of falsifying history by classing the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as genocide.

In January, the ICTY charged Mr Seselj with contempt relating to the publication of the names, occupations and addresses of witnesses.

He is alleged to have written a book in which the information was published, along with other material such as excerpts from a written statement by one witness, the disclosure of which was prohibited.

Mr Seselj surrendered to the ICTY voluntarily in February 2003, vowing to clear his name. However, while awaiting trial he was elected one of the SRS’s members of parliament in the 2007 election.


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Mariette le Roux – May 28 09

THE HAGUE (AFP) — The UN’s highest court dismissed a Belgian bid Thursday to force Senegal to keep former Chad dictator Hissene Habre under surveillance until he is tried on charges of torturing and killing political opponents. “The risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by Belgium is not apparent,” judge Hisashi Owada of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in The Hague.

Belgium had asked the court in April to compel Senegal to keep Habre in its custody, but the court said it was satisfied with Dakar’s assurances that it had no intention of letting him go.

Habre has been living in Senegal since being toppled from power and fleeing his own country in 1990 after an eight years in power. Thousands of his political opponents, their family members, and members of certain ethnic groups, were tortured and killed during his time in power.

An official truth commission report in 1992 accused Habre’s regime of having committed some 40,000 political murders.
Belgian lawyers had argued in the ICJ that Habre was likely to go into hiding if Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade carried out threats to lift his surveillance if foreign donors did not provide funding for the trial.

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May 26 09, ABC News

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic has filed what he claimed was evidence of an immunity deal struck with a top US diplomat and asked a war crimes court to dismiss the case against him.

In a motion before the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Karadzic claimed to have witnesses to Richard Holbrooke’s promise of immunity in return for his disappearing from the public eye.

“The indictment should be dismissed, or the proceedings should be stayed, so that the hands of the tribunal are not stained with Holbrooke’s deception,” he said in a motion before the ICTY.

“Dr Karadzic honoured his part of the agreement. He now seeks to require the tribunal to honour Holbrooke’s part.”

Karadzic claims Mr Holbrooke, now US President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, made the undertaking with the authority of the UN Security Council.

The council is the parent body of tribunal, based in The Hague, that will try him on 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.

Karadzic’s legal adviser Peter Robinson told journalists in The Hague there were two direct witnesses to the pact Holbrooke allegedly made at a meeting, which his client did not attend, in Belgrade on July 18 and 19, 1996.

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from the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre

The ICC launches knowledge-transfer platform: the new version of the Legal Tools

Late April 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched the new version of the Legal Tools, an online library on international criminal law and justice which will empower victims and others who seek a judicial response to atrocities by providing a central vehicle to obtain information on international criminal law.

The Legal Tools amount to a knowledge-transfer platform for international criminal and human rights law made freely available to the general public through the website of the ICC. The Legal Tools Database is the most comprehensive on international criminal law. It contains more than 40,000 documents, including decisions and indictments from all international or internationalised criminal tribunals, preparatory works of the ICC, case documents from the ICC, treaties, information about national legal systems, and relevant decisions from national courts. The service also contains a new knowledge-base on national legislation implementing the ICC Statute.

The Legal Tools were designed and developed in the Legal Advisory Section of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor by Morten Bergsmo and his team, while a network of outsourcing partners are collecting and registering the documents, metadata and keywords in the Legal Tools Database: the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (University of Oslo), the Human Rights Law Centre (University of Nottingham), the International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials (University of Marburg), the Institute of International Law and International Relations (University of Graz), the T.M.C. Asser Institute, the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always). The Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre has developed the knowledge-base on implementing legislation. The EEAR (European academy of eJustice) is responsible for technical implementation of the Legal Tools Database and Website.

The Legal Tools can be accessed through this web page:


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By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent, The Independent

26 May 2009

Royal Dutch Shell will revisit one of the darkest periods of its history tomorrow as a potentially groundbreaking court case opens in New York.

The oil giant stands accused of complicity in the 1995 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental activist.

The world’s boardrooms are watching the case, which is seen as a test of whether transnational companies owned or operating in the US can be held responsible for human rights abuses committed abroad.

A collection of cases brought by torture victims in the oil-rich Niger Delta and by relatives of those killed has been brought together under the umbrella of Wiwa v Shell.

The plaintiffs include Ken Saro-Wiwa’s son, Ken Wiwa Jnr, and his brother, Owens Wiwa.

For Shell, which denies any involvement in the environmentalist’s killing, ordered by the government of Sani Abacha, the case represents an unwelcome public hearing of grievances that the company has spent time and money trying to make people forget.

Mr Saro-Wiwa was hanged in November 1995 after being convicted by a military tribunal in which he was denied proper legal representation or appeal. Shell subsequently faced a storm of protest and Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth. The then British prime minister John Major called the execution “judicial murder”.

Tomorrow’s proceedings will see the Dutch-based energy giant charged with collaborating with Nigerian authorities in the execution of Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of his ethnic Ogoni group on “trumped-up charges”. Shell has vigorously denied any involvement and says it appealed to the Abacha government for clemency on Mr Saro-Wiwa’s part.

The suit also alleges that the company consistently conspired with military authorities to violently put down peaceful protests by the Ogoni people, hundreds of thousands of whom Mr Saro-Wiwa had helped to mobilise.

“I have always maintained that Shell was complicit in the conspiracy to silence my father along with thousands of other Ogonis,” said his eldest son, Ken Wiwa Jnr.

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By Kevin Jon Heller, Opinio Juris, 26 May 2009

Disclosure: I (KJH) am one of Dr. Karadzic’s legal associates.  This post is offered with his consent.

The defense team has just filed its definitive motion arguing that the Karadzic-Holbrooke cooperation agreement — in which Holbrooke promised Dr. Karadzic that he would not be prosecuted at the ICTY if he cooperated with the international community’s efforts to bring peace to the Balkans — requires the indictment against Dr. Karadzic to be dismissed.  Contrary to many news reports, the ICTY has not squarely addressed the legal merits of that argument; its previous statements mischaracterizing the cooperation agreement as an “immunity agreement” were made in the context of disputes over discovery.

The full text of the motion, along with its 29 annexes, is available here.  The motion raises a number of very complicated legal arguments concerning the enforceability of the agreement, but the annexes establish beyond all doubt that Holbrooke did, in fact, enter into the agreement with Dr. Karadzic.

UPDATE: Again proving that the media neither understands the legal issues in the case nor cares to do the reading necessary to understand them, Reuters is continuing to describe the Holbrooke-Karadzic agreement as an “immunity deal,” despite the evident fact that it’s not.

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By James Butty 25 May 2009 VOA News

Monday is ‘Africa Day’, a day set aside in 1963 to celebrate the founding of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) which later became the African Union (AU) in 2002. According to a news release from the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the theme for this year’s Africa Day celebration is “Towards a United, Peaceful and Prosperous Africa”.

Brigitte Suhr, director of regional programs at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court said African leaders must renew their commitment to justice if there is to be peace and prosperity on the continent.

“For the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, we believe that for a prosperous and stable Africa, justice must be an important component of that future…and we want the African governments to take the opportunity of Africa Day today to renew their commitment to justice, nationally and internationally,” she said.

Suhr said many African governments who had been supportive of the ICC for years have now begun questioning their membership in the court, especially since the ICC’s announcement of arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

“In the aftermath of the ICC having authorized arrest warrant for President Bashir of Sudan, some African countries are under pressure to withdraw their support from the court. And we’re watching those developments very carefully, and are working with our counterparts nationally all over Africa to shore up the government support so that they don’t waver at this critical time,” she said.

Some Africans have criticized the ICC as a Western tool designed to subjugate only African leaders. But Suhr said such allegations are baseless.

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