Suicide by poison at ex-Yugoslavia tribunal | Kenya: Arrest al-Bashir | AU-EU: Prioritize human rights at summit

Slobodan Praljak at the ICTY hearing at which he ingested poison. 29 November 2017. © EPA Photo

Suicide by poison at ex-Yugoslavia tribunal

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has confirmed that former Bosnian Croat general Slobodan Praljak has died after drinking a poison at a hearing upholding his conviction for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“I just drank poison,” he said. “I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction.” 

In the UN tribunal's final case, the Appeals Chamber affirmed almost all of the Trial Chamber’s convictions of Praljak and five other defendants with respect to events occurring between 1992 and 1994 in eight municipalities and five detention centres in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Appeals Chamber granted some grounds of appeal for Praljak, and several other, but upheld his sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

Mladic verdict reactions continue

The ICTY also recently convicted Ratko Mladic of ten war crimes and crimes against humanity. Reactions from the international community over this verdict have been plenty.

Natasa Kandic, a leading Serbian human rights activist, said that due to the atrocities in the Bosnian war, “We stopped being part of the civilized world. Now we can see who stopped our progress and why we became a society without solidarity or compassion."

Youth Initiative for Human Rights has used to opportunity to encourage Serbia to face its own past, stating: "It is time for Serbia to assume responsibility and to prosecute war crimes indictees more effectively in domestic courts, to introduce facts established before international courts into the education system, and to forever stop falsifying history and denying crimes."

Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International emphasises that this verdict does serve as a reminder and a warning to current leaders that their apparent immunity might not be absolute: "No matter how strong and invulnerable they currently feel, and how confident they are in their ability to fend off accusation of grave crimes, their luck may change. This very notion can serve as a powerful deterrent. It will not stop wars and conflicts, but it might just make another attack on civilians, another execution, or bombing of a hospital a little bit less likely."

However, various commentators have noted Mladic's continuing popularity amonst parts of the Serbian and Bosnian population, illustrating persisting divisions in the Balkans:

"The Hague tribunal’s remit was in part judicial, but also to promote reconciliation in the Balkans," said Ed Vulliamy, author of The War Is Dead, Long Live the War: Bosnia. "Well, there is none. Mladić got largely what he wanted: a Bosnian Serb statelet from which almost every non-Serb was banished in 1995, to which only a bold few precariously return. He is adored, his portrait adorns bars and office walls in Bosnia and Serbia, his name sung at football matches."

Read the full reactions

 

Civil society urges arrest of Al-Bashir in Kenya

The Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya) has formally written to Fred Matiangi, the acting Minister for Internal Security and Attorney General Githu Muigai, to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to Kenya for the swearing in of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta. Al-Bashir arrived in Kenya on Tuesday.

The letter drawn by Nderitu & Partners cites the two ICC arrest warrants issued against Al-Bashir, as well as Kenya’s treaty obligations: "As a State Party to the Rome Statute, Kenya is under a continuing obligation to enforce the warrants by arresting and surrendering Al-Bashir to the ICC if he enters Kenyan territory." 

During Al-Bashir's recent visit to Russia,  he requested Russian protection "from the aggressive acts of the United States."

Meanwhile, Sudanese authorities have claimed to have arrested Al-Bashir's ally, militia leader Musa Hilal, who was detained after fighting with Sudanese forces near his hometown in North Darfur. Hilal is subject to UN sanctions for his suspected involvement in the Darfur conflict of the mid-2000s.  

 

AU and EU must prioritise human rights at Summit

Amnesty International has also called on African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) leaders to place human rights at the centre of their discussions, urging them to: "Publicly condemn the growing pattern of attacks against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and the shrinking of civic space both at domestic and regional levels" and "Agree on concrete joint steps to use the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 2018 to intensify efforts to protect and enable HRDs and to promote their vital work." 

Human Rights Watch has suggested that the upcoming AU-EU Summit in Côte d'Ivoire could be "an opportunity for the EU to renew its commitment to put human rights at the heart of its work, including its migration response."

 

Assembly of State Parties 2017

The Coalition has released 2017 At a Glance; an informal overview of ICC prosecutorial and judicial developments that took place in 2017.

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reiterated her commitment to addressing sexual and gender-based crimes against women and girls in times of conflict.

Germany has announced a voluntary contribution of €300,000 to the Trust Fund for Victims. To date, Germany has donated about €3,5 million to the Trust Fund for Victims since 2006.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has released recommendations for ASP 2017. 

Find out more about ASP 2017

 

ICC investigations

Libya: The United Nations mission has said it is currently waiting for the results of the investigations in relation with the 'slave market'. In response, Rwanda has opened its doors to as many as 30,000 migrants stuck in Libya.

Mali: Four United Nations peacekeepers have been killed and 21 others wounded on Friday in what Secretary-General António Guterres called “outrageous” attacks against the UN mission in the country.

CAR: Suspected Christian militias have killed an Egyptian United Nations peacekeeper and wounded three others in an attack in the south of the country. The UN has now asked Brazil to send troops to join its peace mission.

Uganda: An expert in enhancing audio recordings has explained to the ICC the steps he took to make speech more audible in recordings that Ugandan security agencies made of intercepts of communications between various commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

 

Preliminary examinations 

Nigeria: The military has repelled an attempt by suspected Boko Haram militants to seize the northeastern town of Magumeri. Three soldiers were killed and six others wounded while fighting the militants.

Iraq: A senior United Nations official has urged the Iraqi government to speed up investigations into allegations of human rights violations committed by security forces during the campaign against the Islamic State

Afghanistan: Former Canadian MP Craig Scott is planning to deliver a 90-page brief to ICC this week in an attempt to persuade Fatou Bensouda to include Canada in her investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan.

 

Campaign for Global Justice

Colombia’s House of Representatives have approved a transitional justice system that will prosecute war crimes committed during the country’s half-a-century armed conflict. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace will try members of the FARC and the military who are accused of war crimes.

Nigerian NGO Jose Foundation has canvassed the support of former president of the ICC, Song Sang-Hyun, to help secure justice for victims of child sexual exploitation across Africa.

 

Around the world

Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an initial deal for the possible repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Rakhine state

A Syrian government delegation will arrive in Geneva on Wednesday for the first UN-sponsored peace talks in eight months after Russia brokered a deal to keep the future of Bashar al-Assad off the initial agenda.

UN Dispatch have released a podcast discussing how Islamic State may face justice for their atrocities.