Category Archives: crime & impunity

Pardon of Former Peruvian President Fujimori Raises Legal Questions

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
Credit: Cobot156 via Wikimedia Commons

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), two United Nations special rapporteurs, and one UN working group recently condemned Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s decision to issue a humanitarian pardon on December 24, 2017 to former President Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted and sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for murder, kidnapping, and crimes against humanity during his presidency; the IACHR and the UN human rights experts question whether the decision meets international human rights legal requirements, and asserts that it undermines the efforts of victims and witnesses who brought Fujimori to justice. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release; HRW: Pardon] See Resolución Suprema No. 281-2017-JUS (2017) [Spanish Only]. The pardon, issued officially for humanitarian reasons due to Fujimori’s health, absolves Fujimori of his convictions and releases him from his sentence. [IACHR Press Release] Peru is obligated under international human rights law to investigate alleged rights violations and punish perpetrators, and not to implement pardons or amnesty laws that undermine the rights to a fair trial and to judicial protection. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release]

Some Peruvians and UN experts believe that the pardon was politically motivated because of a potential connection between Fujimori’s pardon and the cancelled impeachment proceedings against President Kuczynski; the impeachment proceedings were dropped just three days after the impeachment hearing of President Kuczynski, who survived a removal vote with the help of a 10-person coalition that crossed party lines to abstain from the removal vote, led by Fujimori’s son Kenji Fujimori. Seven of the 10 lawmakers communicated with Fujimori leading up to the vote. [Reuters; HRW: Pardon; OHCHR Press Release] President Kuczynski’s decision triggered street protests and unrest in Peru. [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian: Pardon] Read more

UN Committee Considers State Officials’ Immunity for Grave International Crimes

United Nations General Assembly hall
Credit: UN Photo/Sophia Paris

The Sixth Committee – an intergovernmental committee that considers legal questions in the United Nations General Assembly – finished late last month its consideration of a draft article that asserts State officials do not have immunity from the prosecution of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of apartheid, torture, and enforced disappearance in a foreign criminal jurisdiction; the debate arose from a draft article from the International Law Commission (ILC), a group of international legal experts who prepare draft conventions and codify existing rules of international law. The ILC will put forth the draft article as a recognition of existing State practice or as a proposal for a future international convention. See ILC, About the Commission. [UN Press Release: Debate Ends] The Sixth Committee debated the contents of the ILC’s most recent report released during its 69th Session, which included the ILC’s draft of its provisionally adopted Article 7 on international crimes for which immunity from rationae materiae jurisdiction (subject matter jurisdiction) does not apply. See International Law Commission, Report of the International Law Commission at its sixty-ninth session, UN Doc. A/72/10, 4 August 2017, para. 140.

The draft of Article 7 originated from the report of a special rapporteur – a member of the ILC – appointed to address the issue of State officials’ immunity. Some ILC members expressed disagreement with the special rapporteur’s position that States’ practice supports the finding of exceptions to State officials’ immunity – the substance of Article 7. The ILC provisionally adopted the text with only 21 of the 34 members voting in favor of it. [UN Press Release: Immunity] The Sixth Committee’s two-day discussion on the draft law mirrored many of the arguments that were debated within the ILC before its provisional adoption of Article 7, namely whether the basis for the Article is supported by customary international law, whether procedural requirements may address impunity, the balance between prosecution of State officials and State sovereignty, and the ILC’s view of Article 7’s function as either the codification of existing law or the development of law. See Report of the International Law Commission, at VII.C., 180–183. [UN Press Release: ImmunityRead more

News Clips- September 1, 2017

Journalists are briefed at the UN on the situation in Yemen
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • On Friday, the German government shut down a left-wing extremist website connected to violence at the Group of 20 summit meeting in July. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, human rights groups called for the establishment of an independent inquiry into alleged abuses taking place in Yemen. [Guardian]


  • On Sunday, the Constitutional Court in Guatemala issued a temporary injunction blocking President Jimmy Morales’ order to expel Iván Velásquez, the head of the United Nations International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala. [Al Jazeera]
  • This week, it was reported that the government of Mexico has allegedly made ongoing attempts to silence a prominent advocate who has spoken against corruption and impunity. [New York Times]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Friday, violent clashes occurred in northern India in response to a spiritual leader’s conviction of rape; at least 30 people have been killed. [New York Times]
  • On Friday, gunmen, claimed by ISIS, attacked a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan killing at least 20 people. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council renewed the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for one year in response to concerns about Hezbollah near Israel’s border. [New York Times]
  • On Thursday, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, announced that Tal Afar is free from ISIS after an 11-day battle. [New York Times]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • Last week, the International Organization for Migration condemned Facebook for failing to monitor traffickers using the site to broadcast abuse of migrants and using the videos to seek ransom from victims’ family members. [Reuters]
  • On Thursday, the United Nations representatives reported that more than 27,400 Rohingya migrants have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 25. [Reuters]
  • On Monday, leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, and Niger agreed to work together on aid and border control to stem the influx of migrants. [Guardian]

News Clips- May 26, 2017

United Nations Security Council discusses South Sudan
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Civil Society

  • On Wednesday, after eight weeks of protests, the death toll in Venezuela rose to 56 people. [LA Times]
  • On Wednesday, anti-government protesters in Brazil set fire to a ministry building, and in response, President Michel Temer gave the army policing power to restore order. [Reuters]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Wednesday, a bombing in Somalia, claimed by al-Shabaab, killed five and injured six civilians. [Reuters]
  • On Tuesday, two United Nations peacekeepers were killed in Mali. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, Britain. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, a United Nations report concluded that soldiers in South Sudan responsible for killing more than 100 civilians between July 2016 and January 2017 may be liable for war crimes or crimes against humanity. [Newsweek]


  • On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Taiwan ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, allowing Taiwan’s legislature two years to amend its laws. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, 100 men were arrested in Indonesia in a raid on a gay sauna. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, 27 men were arrested in Bangladesh based on suspicions that they are gay. [Washington Post]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Wednesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created three new thematic units: the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice; and Unit of the Rights of Older Persons. [IACHR Press Release]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched guidelines for the proper investigation of unlawful killings. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • This week, a panel supported by the United Nations publicly released a draft of a treaty that would ban the possession and use of all nuclear weapons. [Guardian]
  • On Friday, the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting a United Nations-led investigation into the killing of protesters in Ethiopia. [HRW]

Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees

Dutch Businessman Convicted of War Crimes Committed in Liberia and Guinea

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Credit: UN Photo/SCSL/AP Pool/Peter DeJong

On April 21, 2017, a Dutch court of appeal ruled that Dutch national Guus Kouwenhoven, acting in his capacity as president and director of two timber companies, was an accessory to war crimes including, rape, pillage, inhumane treatment, and murder committed in Liberia and Guinea between August 2000 and December 2002. See Hof ‘s-Hertogenbosch 21 april 2017, RvdW 2017, 20-001906-10 (Kouwenhoven) (Neth.) (in Dutch only). [Global Witness Press Release] The court determined that Kouwenhoven’s provision of weapons, material, personnel, and other resources to the former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in addition to his manifested intent to contribute to the commission of these grave crimes, constituted the aiding and abetting of war crimes committed by Taylor’s armed forces. The court ruled that Kouwenhoven, who assisted in the transportation and distribution of weapons, was liable both for the crimes that were directly committed with the weapons Kouwenhoven supplied and for the crimes that resulted indirectly from their use. He additionally was convicted of violating the United Nations arms embargo. See Hof ‘s-Hertogenbosch 21 April 2017 (Kouwenhoven).

The court, issuing a sentence of 19 years in prison, emphasized that with this judgment all international businessmen are put on notice that business with regimes like Charles Taylor’s can lead to involvement with and liability for international crimes. [European University Institute Blogs] While individual businessmen have been held liable for their assistance in committing war crimes in the past, such as in post-World War II trials and at least one other case in Dutch courts, civil society and academics have called for, and foresee, the increased prosecution of individuals for their assistance in the commission of war crimes through their business ties. See Trial International, Frans Van Anraat. [Global Witness Press Release] Read more

Council of Europe Body to Monitor Turkey on Human Rights, Rule of Law

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly
Credit: Council of Europe

Due to “serious concerns” about Turkey’s compliance with its human rights obligations and the erosion of democratic institutions and functions, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) decided in a resolution issued last week to reinstate Turkey into its monitoring procedure, a process by which PACE ensures Council of Europe Member States are in compliance with their human rights obligations. [COE Press Release; Guardian: Pressure] While under monitoring, human rights officials will repeatedly visit the country and a progress report will be presented to PACE in 2018. [Guardian: Pressure] See Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution 2156, The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey, 25 April 2017, para. 39. The resolution expresses PACE’s concerns about the Turkish government’s respect for “human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” particularly the actions taken under the ongoing state of emergency in the country, which PACE states has gone beyond “what is necessary and proportionate,” and the more recent steps towards consolidation of executive power through a constitutional amendment. [New York Times; COE Press Release; Guardian: Coup] The Assembly calls upon the State to lift its state of emergency, discontinue the improper use of emergency decree laws, release those who have been detained, and restore freedom of expression, among other requests. [COE Press Release] Previously, Turkey’s first monitoring procedure was closed in 2004 when the Assembly was satisfied that the State was meeting its obligations. See Parliamentary Assembly, The Monitoring Procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly. Turkey is obligated to guarantee the rights to life, liberty, and freedom of expression as a State party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Read more

News Clips- April 21, 2017

The United Nations and African Union sign the joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Civil Society

  • On Wednesday, anti-government protesters marched in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela amid riot police while the government held counter-demonstrations. [Washington Post]
  • On Tuesday, the Human Rights Commission in Ethiopia reported 669 deaths resulting from anti-government protests in the country. [BBC News]
  • On Saturday, a United States aid worker was released from pretrial detention in Egypt after three years. [Washington Post] 

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Monday, the government of Turkey announced it would extend Turkey’s state of emergency for an additional three months. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Saturday, a suicide bomb attack in Syria killed 126 people; there are no claims of responsibility for the attack. [Guardian]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • On Thursday, the Libyan coastguard reported at least 97 people missing after a boat transporting African nationals to Europe sunk. [Al Jazeera]
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 8,300 migrants were rescued at sea from smugglers last weekend; eight migrants died. [Washington Post] 

International Criminal Law

  • On Wednesday, Uganda’s military ended its years-long search for Joseph Kony, a warlord charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, because his Lord’s Resistance Army was largely neutralized. [Washington Post]
  • The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that the attacks in Syria over the weekend may amount to war crimes and recommended referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). [UN News Centre]


  • This week, the government of Tunisia signed a declaration that gives non-government organizations and individuals the ability to submit complaints directly to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) against Tunisia. [ACHPR Press Release]
  • On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull announced a plan to get rid of the country’s 457 skilled-worker visa program. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations and the African Union signed a joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security. [UN News Centre]

Guterres Reveals Strategy to Address Sexual Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers

Press briefing on the Secretary General’s report
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres released a report on February 28 detailing his strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers against vulnerable communities. See UN Secretary General, Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: a new approach, UN Doc. A/71/818, 28 February 2017. The report comes less than three months after Guterres’ remarks to the UN General Assembly prior to taking the oath of office, during which he announced his intention to address such crimes. His strategy identifies four primary areas of action: prioritizing victims, ending impunity, engaging civil society and other partners, and improving strategic communications to aid in education and transparency. See id. at para. 13. The report also identifies best practices for Member States, discusses previous initiatives on the matter, and provides data regarding the nature of these allegations and the state of their investigations in 2016. See id. at Annexes, II, III, IV. In recent years, the United Nations has been plagued with allegations that UN peacekeepers have sexually abused women and children in multiple countries, where they have been stationed to assist disadvantaged communities. [IJRC: Recommendations; Bloomberg; CNN] Moreover, the United Nations has been accused of mishandling those allegations and failing to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. See Marie Deschamps et al., Taking Action on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers (2015). The former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also announced recommendations to address this issue in March 2016, but the new action items are broader in scope. [IJRC: Recommendations]

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