Category Archives: ICTY

ICTY Delivers Ruling on Two Landmark Cases Before Shutting Its Doors

Genocide memorial near Srebrenica
Credit: Michael Büker via Wikimedia Commons

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has issued judgments in its final two cases ahead of the tribunal’s scheduled closure in December. On November 22, 2017, the ICTY – the ad hoc tribunal established by the United Nations to address war crimes committed after 1991 in the territory of the former Yugoslavia – convicted and sentenced Ratko Mladić, also known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes. [ICTY Press Release: Mladić; HRW] In the wake of his conviction, the international human rights community has shown strong support for the Mladić decision, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein hailing the judgment as a momentous conviction and describing Mladić as the “epitome of evil.” [OHCHR Press Release] On November 29, 2017, the ICTY issued a judgment on appeal in the case Prosecutor v. Prlić et al., which will be the Tribunal’s final decision. [ICTY Press Release: Prlić et al.] The Appeals Chamber upheld the sentences of the six individuals, who remain convicted of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims. [ICTY Press Release: Prlić et al.] The ICTY, which has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, will formally close on December 31, 2017 after 24 years of operation and concluding proceedings for 161 accused. [ICTY Press Release: Prlić et al.] See ICTY, Key Figures of the Cases. Read more

Experts Discuss Landmark Conviction of Radovan Karadžić, Following Appeal Announcement

Security Council meeting á International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 á International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994 Letter dated 15 May 2014 from the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/343) Letter dated 16 May 2014 from the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/350) Letter dated 16 May 2014 from the President of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/351)

Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, Serge Brammertz, addresses the UN Security Council
Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

On July 28, experts will provide an inside look at the conviction of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, who announced this week he will appeal the March 2016 ruling finding him guilty of genocide and other crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). [Justice Info] On Thursday, the Bar Association of San Francisco will host “Proving Genocide: The Prosecution of Radovan Karadžić,” featuring a former lawyer and former forensic investigator with the ICTY, who will examine the legal and factual grounds for Karadžić’s conviction for the genocide in Srebrenica, a massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys carried out 21 years ago this month. [Newsweek] Registration is now open for the webcast and in-person attendance. See The Bar Association of San Francisco, Proving Genocide: The Prosecution of Radovan Karadzic. Karadžić is the highest level official the ICTY has convicted. [The Hague Institute for Global Justice] The ICTY sentenced him to 40 years in prison. See ICTY, Prosecutor v. Karadžić, Case IT-95-5/18-T, Trial Chamber Judgment, 24 March 2016, paras. 6001-6010.

The panel will feature Sun Kim, a former Associate Legal Officer of the ICTY involved in the case against Karadžić, as well as Nushin Sarkarati of the Center for Justice & Accountability, Eric Stover of the  Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law, and Lisa Reinsberg of the International Justice Resource Center. The panelists will discuss the process and impact of the landmark decision and reflect on how it compares with other international criminal investigations and the civil litigation against Karadžić. See The Bar Association of San Francisco, Proving Genocide: The Prosecution of Radovan Karadzic. Read more

Study Examines Impact of Testifying Before International Criminal Tribunal

Credit: ICTY

Credit: ICTY

The Victims and Witnesses Section (VWS) of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has issued a report entitled Echoes of Testimonies: A Pilot Study into the long-term impact of bearing witness before the ICTY, which recommends programs to ensure witness safety and shares the findings of a four-year study on the overall impact of testifying before the ICTY, the court established to prosecute those most responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during the Yuglsav Wars of the 1990s. [ICTY Press Release] As its work comes to a close, the ICTY sought to understand the perspectives of, and consequences for, the more than 5,000 witnesses who participated in the court’s proceedings. See id. According to the report, although the process of testifying is different for each witness, most participants reported positive experiences, describing perceived safety after testifying and feeling fairly treated by the ICTY. The VWS is now encouraging international judicial institutions to follow up with witnesses and to establish ties with the witnesses’ communities, reasoning that such reforms can better protect the well-being of participants who testify in criminal trials. Read more

ICTY Orders Retrial of Two Acquitted Defendants, Pursues Contempt Charges

Franko Simatović and Jovica Stanišić at the ICTYCredit: ICTY

Franko Simatović and  at the ICTY
Credit: ICTY

On December 15, 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) overturned the Trial Chamber’s decision to acquit two high-level Serbian government officials charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the forced displacement of non-Serbs from Bosnia and Croatia, and ordered their retrial. The officials, Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović, are being retried on all counts of the original indictment before the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), the body responsible for carrying out the residual work of the ICTY and its counterpart tribunal for Rwanda as both complete their mandates. In other ICTY news, the tribunal last month charged three individuals with intimidating witnesses in the pending trial of Vojislav Šešelj for similar crimes against non-Serbs; and, in September 2015, it granted the early release of Vladimir Lazarević, convicted in 2009 in connection with the forcible deportation of Albanians from Kosovo.

In May 2013, the ICTY Trial Chamber acquitted Jovica Stanišić, formerly Deputy Chief and Chief of the State Security Service (SDB) of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, and Franko Simatović, formerly Deputy Chief of the Second Administration of the Serbian SDB and special advisor in the SDB, on all counts of the indictment, including joint criminal enterprise liability and aiding and abetting with respect to the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of the non-Serbian population from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina between April 1991 and at least December 1995. The indictment alleged that in doing so, the defendants committed crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, including persecution, murder, and deportation.

Last month, the Appeals Chamber ordered Stanišić and Simatović to be retried on all counts of the indictment. Specifically, the Appeals Chamber concluded that the Trial Chamber erred in its factual and legal determinations concerning joint criminal enterprise liability as well as the legal standard for aiding and abetting. See ICTY, Prosecutor v. Stanišić and Simatović, Case IT-03-69-A, Appeals Chamber Judgment, 15 December 2015. See also ICTY, Appeal Judgment Summary. Both Stanišić and Simatović pleaded not guilty to the charges against them at their retrial, which began on December 18, 2015. [Balkan Insight: Plead Not Guilty] Read more

New Database Increases Access to Rwandan Genocide Tribunal’s Records

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.57.55 AMA new database aims to increase access to the proceedings, evidence, decisions, and orders of the international tribunal created to prosecute those most responsible for the commission of international crimes during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. On December 3, 2015, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) launched the Judicial Records and Archives Database (JRAD) to facilitate public access to the vast collection of records pertaining to cases under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the MICT, which is the body overseeing enforcement of sentences and other aspects of the tribunal’s work. The JRAD includes visual and audio records of the tribunal’s proceedings, exhibits and filings, and transcripts. [MICT Press Release] Read more

Committee on Enforced Disappearances Reviews Iraq and Montenegro

States parties and signatories to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
Credit: OHCHR

The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) is currently holding its 9th session in Geneva, Switzerland from September 7th to 18th. The CED is reviewing State reports of Iraq and Montenegro regarding their implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Convention). During the session, the CED and each State engage in dialogue on the State’s national report and responses to the issues the CED requested the State to address; the Committee will also consider supplemental reports submitted by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) concerning the States’ compliance with the Convention. The CED will then adopt concluding observations on the States’ implementation of treaty provisions.

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Kosovo to Create Special War Crimes Court but Faces Challenges

Photographs of some of those still missing after the Kosovo War in front of a government building in Serbia and Montenegro
Credit: UN Photo/Afrim Hajrullahu

On August 3, 2015 the Kosovo Parliament passed the “Law on Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office,” a constitutional amendment that will establish a special war crimes court to prosecute former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas for crimes committed during and after the Kosovo War between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000. The court will operate under Kosovo law and prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and organ harvesting, among others. The court is likely to be based in the Netherlands because of concerns regarding judicial corruption and the lack of a robust witness protection program in Kosovo. As part of the vote that took place, the Kosovo Parliament also passed a law providing legal aid for KLA defendants. If the Netherlands agrees to host the court, discussions in the upcoming months must take place between Kosovo, the Netherlands, and the European Union regarding logistics, including the court’s budget, judges and prosecutors, and location, as well as sentencing and witness protection issues. [Balkan Insight: Major Challenges Ahead; Human Rights Watch; Reuters]

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Committee against Torture Reviews 8 States’ Records

Chair of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, CAT Chairperson, and UN Special Rapporteur on torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

The Committee against Torture (CAT) is currently holding its 54th session in Geneva which began on April 20 and will continue through May 15. According to the agenda, CAT is considering the State reports of Colombia, the Republic of Congo, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on their implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention). During the session, representatives from each State will engage in a dialogue with members of CAT regarding the list of issues, which consists of those topics the Committee had previously asked each State to address in its report to CAT. The Committee will also review reports submitted by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) concerning the States’ implementation of the Convention. At the conclusion of the review process, the Committee will issue concluding observations for each State, containing its concerns and recommendations on each State’s implementation of the Convention.

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