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NPWJ News Digest on international criminal justice
Zimbabwe: Chinamasa Dismisses SA Court Ruling
By The Herald, 09 May 2012
Zimbabwe Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday described yesterday's South African court ruling - which allows the investigation Zimbabwean officials accused of torturing opposition supporters five years ago - as irrelevant and lacking specifics, saying it was part of an agenda aimed at putting Zimbabwe in the spotlight ahead of a visit by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay. He said that South Africa had no jurisdiction to arrest and try Zimbabweans for alleged crimes from within. He also stated the ruling “is being used to target leaders from weak nations and the ICC was created to solely prosecute African leaders in the West’s bid to re-colonise the continent.”Read More
Tunisian ex-ruling clan member loses fight for Canadian residency, seeks refugee status
By Associated Press, 09 May 2012
The brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali lost his bid Tuesday to have his Canadian permanent residency reinstated. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board denied Belhassen Trabelsi’s request, but because he has applied for refugee status he will likely remain in Canada for years while that issue is decided.
His lawyers argued that he should be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds but an IRB board member said there was no indication that he wouldn’t get a fair trial if he returned to Tunisia. He is accused of looting Tunisia’s public treasury. Belhassen, known as the clan chieftan of the hated Trabelsi family, is alleged to have ruled over the family’s mafia-style rackets.
‘Vomiting and screaming’ in destroyed waterboarding tapes
By Peter Taylor, BBC Newsnight, 09 May 2012
Secret CIA video tapes of the waterboarding of Osama Bin Laden’s suspected jihadist travel arranger Abu Zubaydah show him vomiting and screaming, the BBC has learned. The tapes were destroyed by the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez.
The CIA tapes are likely to become central to the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, at Guantanamo Bay. Defence lawyers at his trial will try and get access to the written records that exist of what was on the tapes and seek to question the CIA lawyer who viewed them. But under the rules of the military tribunal that restrict any discussion of torture, they are unlikely to succeed.
Court orders S. Africa to probe Zimbabwe ‘torture’
By Susan Njanji, Star Africa.com, 08 May 2012
A South African high court on Tuesday ordered that prosecutors in Pretoria investigate Zimbabwean officials accused of torturing opposition supporters five years ago. The landmark judgement means that the authorities can probe and prosecute not only high-level crimes committed in neighbouring Zimbabwe, but anywhere else in the world.
The South African Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, who filed the case, want South Africa to arrest and prosecute 17 Zimbabweans accused of torture in 2007 if they enter the country for holiday, shopping or seeking medical treatment.
Alan Wallis, a lawyer with the International Criminal Justice project said: “It’s really a groundbreaking judgement. It sends the message that South Africa will not be a safe haven.”
Bahrain court adjourns retrial of activists
By BBC News Middle East, 08 May 2012
A court in Bahrain has adjourned for two weeks the retrial of 21 activists and opposition figures accused of plotting to overthrow the state. The court said two of the defendants, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Abdullah al-Mahroos, had to be present in court. Seven are being tried in absentia. Mr Khawaja has been on hunger strike for 91 days in protest at jail terms imposed by a military court in June.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the civilian court allowed defence lawyers to meet their clients and demanded that Mr Khawaja and Mr Mahroos receive suitable medical assistance when the retrial resumes on 22 May. The Lawyers complained that their clients had faced abuse in custody and been forced to sign confessions that they had used or advocated violence against King Hamad during last year’s pro-democracy protests.
Iraq’s Tariq al-Hashemi faces Interpol arrest notice
By BBC News Middle East, 08 May 2012
Interpol has issued a worldwide alert for the arrest of fugitive Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi. He is accused of running Sunni death squads in post-invasion Iraq to target Shia officials; the squad is alleged to have carried out a campaign of political assassinations and bombings at the height of Iraq’s insurgency. Prosecutors allege he was involved in the killings of a top official in the national security ministry, another official in the interior ministry, a lawyer and six judges. He denies all charges and says the case is politically motivated. He also alleges that three of his bodyguards died under torture while investigators tried to extract false confessions.
Many of Interpol’s members consider it a valid arrest request, but a Red Notice is non-binding and is not a formal international arrest warrant.
Lichtenstein Becomes First State to Ratify Crime of Aggression
By CICC, 08 May 2012
Lichtenstein became the first State Party to the Rome Statute to ratify the crime of aggression following the 2010 Kampala Review Conference. The second new crime, which prohibits the use of certain weapons in a non-international armed conflict, was also ratified by Lichtenstein today.Read More
Thai man jailed for lese majeste dies, says lawyer
BBC News Asia, 08 May 2012
A Thai man in his 60s who was given a 20 year sentence in November of last year for sending text message deemed offensive to the royal family has died. Ampon Tangnoppakul was charged under the Computer Crimes Act and lese majeste law, which is designed to protect the monarchy. Critics say both laws have been increasingly politicised and used to curb free speech in Thailand.
The conviction – the heaviest for a lese majeste case – sparked outrage among rights groups, with Amnesty International describing Ampon as a political prisoner and the European Union expressing “deep concern”.
A number of foreigners have been convicted of the offence in recent years, but they are often quickly pardoned and deported from the country.
UN court reduces 1 sentence, affirms 2 others in 1994 Rwandan genocide cases
By Associated Press, 08 May 2012
The appeals chamber of the ICTR reduced the sentence of former military officer Aloys Ntabakuze from life prison to 35 years for genocide-related charges. Lt. Ildephonse Hategekimana’s sentence of life imprisonment for genocide and rape was affirmed by the appeals chamber. Former businessman Gaspard Kanyarugika’s 30-year sentence was also affirmed by the appeals court on grounds that the defence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the convict did not commit the 1994 horrendous attacks and killings against ethnic Tutsis. Judge Patrick Robinson ordered that Kanyarugika be given credit for time served since his 2004 arrest.
ICTR President Rachida Khan told the UN Security Council last year that the trial work is expected to be finished by June 2012 and appeals work is on track to be completed by the end of 2014.
Ntaganda Should Be Arrested
By Hirondelle News Agency, 05 May 2012
The DRC government has called for the arrest of General Bosco Ntaganda for leading a recent mutiny in the east of the country. President Joseph Kabila has been under pressure to arrest Ntaganda since his indictment by the ICC in 2006. On April 11, Kabila expressed his willingness to arrest the general, but pointed out that his government would not be forced to act “under pressure from the international community”.Read More