International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Prosecutor to Call Eleven Witnesses in Bemba’s Second Trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor intends to call 11 witnesses to testify against Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four former associates on charges of witness and evidence tampering. However, trial judges have suggested this number is too high and that the trial needs to “begin and proceed immediately.”

During a status conference held today, prosecution lawyer Kweku Vanderpuye stated that the 11 witnesses they intended to call included three expert witnesses.

According to defense lawyers for the five accused persons, all the material related to the prosecution’s witnesses should be disclosed in “sufficient time” to allow them to analyze the evidence and conduct their own investigations. The prosecution said it had completed 90 to 95 percent of disclosures.

Taking into account written and oral submissions made by … Continue Reading

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Guatemala’s President Gives CICIG Extension a Green Light

Today, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina announced at a press conference that he will ask the United Nations Secretary General to extend the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) for an additional two-year period. The current mandate of CICIG, which was first established in the country in 2007 to fight against impunity, was set to expire on September 3, 2015. Since CICIG’s creation, its mandate has been extended three times.

President Pérez Molina’s decision had been far from assured.  Early this year, he declared that the country no longer needed CICIG.  He then appointed a committee to examine the question and report back with a recommendation on the question of extension. The president of the Supreme Court, … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Trial Opening Pushed to July

Opening statements in the trial of Congolese military leader Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been postponed by one month to an undetermined date in July 2015. The presentation of evidence is expected to start the week of August 17, after the court returns from its summer recess.

In an oral ruling issued during a status conference today, judges postponed the trial opening date for a “limited period” in light of logistical difficulties being experienced by the court’s Registry and to a “lesser extent” by the defense team. The trial had been scheduled to commence on June 2.

The Registry had indicated that it needed an additional month to prepare for the possibility of conducting the trial opening statements … Continue Reading

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Satellite Imagery as Evidence for International Crimes

This blog is a part of International Justice Monitor’s technology for truth series, which focuses on the use of technology for evidence and features views from key proponents in the field.

The acquittal of Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui at the International Criminal Court (ICC) demonstrates the challenges to collect strong and sufficient evidence to bring perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes to justice. As Alison Cole wrote in her opening blog post in the technology for truth series, with its lack of enforcement powers, the ICC is largely dependent on voluntary state cooperation to gather evidence. At the same time, as she rightly states, it is also an ideal venue to “involve evidence processed through technological means.“ Remote sensing, the use of earth … Continue Reading

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CICIG Acts as Decision on Mandate Extension Nears

As Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina nears a final decision on whether to extend the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), it moved in dramatic fashion with the public prosecutor last Thursday, April 16, to dismantle a network allegedly siphoning off customs revenue. Agents arrested 20 persons allegedly linked to the scheme.  The current and former directors of the national tax institution are among those detained.  The action may have far-reaching consequences for domestic politics and factor into the decision on the prolongation of CICIG’s institutional life.

Investigators built the case mainly on the basis of documents and wiretaps, from which they could identify various persons involved in the criminal network and their roles. According to CICIG … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Lawyers Want Trial Opening Delayed Until November

With just two months to the scheduled opening of the trial of Congolese military commander Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC), his lawyers have asked judges for a five month postponement, stating that the “the defense is plainly not able to be ready” by June.

Among the reasons cited by the defense were the delayed disclosure of the identity of numerous prosecution witnesses, the “exceptional” volume of material disclosed by the prosecution, and the inability by the defense to secure the services of suitable investigators.

According to defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon’s April 2 application, adequate defense preparation for a fair trial “requires full knowledge and understanding of the prosecution’s case, a meaningful opportunity to effectively investigate, the necessary human and financial … Continue Reading

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Supreme Court of Uganda Rules on the Application of the Amnesty Act

Last week, the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former mid-level commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), must resume before the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda. The April 8 decision, Uganda v. Thomas Kwoyelo, Constitutional Appeal No. 01 of 2012, paves the way for the ICD to exercise its judicial mandate to try grave crimes and consequently realize the principle of complementarity that is at the heart of the Rome Statute.

The ICD was established in July 2008 and has the mandate to try war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, terrorism, human trafficking, piracy, and other international crimes.  It has the advantage of being a homegrown mechanism whose proceedings, in … Continue Reading

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Judge Imposes Travel Ban on Prosecutor Following His Public Statements About Historic Genocide Trial

A Guatemalan judge, Darwin Porras, has banned Orlando López, the lead prosecutor in Guatemala’s historic 2013 genocide trial, from leaving the country pending the outcome of a criminal investigation of public statements he made in Spain a year ago. Judge Porras’s travel ban (arraigo) order was in response to a complaint by Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, the son of Ríos Montt’s former interior minister.

López is the head of the Guatemala’s prosecution unit handling human rights abuses, and led the 2013 prosecution for genocide and crimes against humanity of former de facto head of state Efraín Ríos Montt.

Mendez Ruiz is the president of the Foundation Against Terrorism, a Guatemalan group with strong military ties which filed a complaint on February 22 accusing … Continue Reading

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A New Judge is Appointed to Hear Genocide Trial as Final Decision Around CICIG’s Mandate Approaches

Last week, with the appointment of a judge to replace one who was forced to recuse herself in early January, there is now a full trial court established to retry former dictator Efraín Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. Rios Montt was found guilty on May 10, 2013, but the verdict was overturned 10 days later by a divided and controversial decision from the constitutional court, which required a new trial. Many obstacles remain for any new trial, however, and victims have also raised this case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Meanwhile, many in Guatemala are focused on whether the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) will be extended beyond September 2015, … Continue Reading

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Kenyan President and Chief Justice Apologize for Past Injustices

The President and the Chief Justice have publicly apologized in the past month for historical injustices Kenyans have suffered, the first such apologies by a Kenyan head of state or the head of the country’s judiciary.

The apologies fulfil one of the recommendations in the report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). They also mark the first time any of the TJRC’s recommendations are being implemented since the commission completed its report almost two years ago. The commission submitted its report to President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta in May 2013. It was later tabled in the National Assembly but to date it has not been debated or adopted.

Kenyatta made his apology during his annual State of the Nation speech on … Continue Reading

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