International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Ntaganda Trial Opening Pushed to September

The trial of Bosco Ntaganda, which was earlier scheduled to open at the International Criminal Court (ICC) next week, has been postponed to September 2.

In a status conference this afternoon, trial judges delayed the opening statements and the testimony of the first prosecution witness, following a last minute request for adjournment filed by the defense.

According to a statement from the court, in deciding on the defense’s motion, judges took into account that the prosecution did not oppose the request by Mr. Ntaganda’s lawyers and also had regard to their obligations under the Rome Statute to ensure the fairness of the trial and the rights of the accused.

In the June 29, 2015 appeal for postponement, defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon argued that … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Lawyers Seek Last-Minute Postponement of Trial

With a week to the opening of Bosco Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), his lawyers have made a last-minute appeal to judges to delay the trial. They said “prevailing circumstances” make it impossible for the proceedings against the former Congolese military leader to be fair.

In a June 29, 2015 submission, Stéphane Bourgon, the lead defense lawyer, stated that the defense was not ready to make an opening statement next week or to conduct cross-examinations of the first prosecution witnesses expected to take the stand at the end of August.

The filing was heavily redacted, making it difficult to establish the precise reasons why the defense was requesting the postponement at this late hour. However, there were indications that … Continue Reading

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Appeals Court Rejects Travel Ban Imposed on Genocide Prosecutor

On Friday, an appeals court unanimously rejected a travel ban which had been imposed on the lead prosecutor in the 2013 genocide trial of former Guatemalan head of state Efraín Ríos Montt.

Prosecutor Orlando Lopez had not been indicted and did not face any criminal charges, yet Judge Darwin Porras had imposed a travel ban (arraigo) against him on April 13. Such actions are taken to prevent the risk of flight from the country during an investigation, though Judge Porras had not sought any evidence that the prosecutor was a flight risk.

The flight ban had been in response to a February 22 criminal complaint by Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, son of former Rios Montt’s interior minister and current president of the Guatemalan … Continue Reading

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Rios Montt Prosecutor Challenges Travel Ban

Yesterday, a Guatemalan appeals court considered whether the lead prosecutor in Guatemala’s historic genocide trial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt could be reprimanded for statements he made out of court.

Prosecutor Orlando López has not been indicted, and he does not face any criminal charges. However, in an April 13 hearing, a judge imposed a travel ban for the duration of a criminal investigation into statements López made at a public event. The case is being watched as an important test of prosecutorial and judicial independence in Guatemala.

Neither López nor a prosecutor from the Public Ministry’s Internal Affairs Unit were allowed to participate in the April 13 hearing. Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, son of Rios Montt’s former interior minister and president of Guatemala’s … Continue Reading

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Ruto and Sang Lawyers Say Prosecution Needs to Prove Beyond Reasonable Doubt Allegations of Witness Interference

Defense lawyers have argued the prosecution needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt allegations of witness bribery and intimidation before the International Criminal Court (ICC) can consider whether to admit some witness statements as evidence against Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Lawyers for Ruto and Sang made the arguments during a status conference on Thursday. Trial Chamber V(a) convened the conference to hear submissions on a prosecution application requesting the judges to admit as evidence against Ruto and Sang statements by witnesses who failed to testify in court or were declared hostile by the trial chamber.

The prosecution wants the chamber to consider admitting the statements of as many as 16 witnesses because they were the target of “a scheme” … Continue Reading

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ICC Judges to Consider Reducing Lubanga’s Jail Term

Next month, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will conduct a review to determine whether to reduce the 14-year prison sentence handed down to Thomas Lubanga for using child soldiers in armed conflict.

The review is pursuant to Article 110(3) of the court’s Rome Statute, which provides that when a convicted person has served two thirds of their sentence, the court “shall review the sentence to determine whether it should be reduced.”

In March 2012, Trial Chamber I convicted Mr. Lubanga of recruiting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and actively using them in an armed conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during 2002 and 2003.

Judges sentenced the former leader of the … Continue Reading

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Guatemala Transitional Justice Update: Rios Montt Challenges July Retrial and Fourth Police Official Arrested for 1991 Political Assassination

Highlights

Former head of state Efraín Rios Montt sought to prevent a new trial scheduled for July 23 after his 2013 conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity was annulled on a technicality.
The former head of the National Police’s criminal investigation unit was arrested in relation with the 1991 killing of police investigator José Mérida Escobar in retaliation for his testimony about the political assassination of anthropologist Myrna Mack. Martin Alejandro Garcia is now the fourth police official arrested and awaiting trial in connection with the case.
An investigative judge accepted the introduction of most of the evidence in a case challenging 1980s sexual violence in the Sepur Zarco military installation, marking the last stage before a trial date can be set.
Guatemala’s … Continue Reading

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ICC Abandons Idea of Holding Ntaganda Trial in Congo; Opening Statements Scheduled for July 7

Opening statements in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of former Congolese military commander Bosco will not take place in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as recommended by trial chamber judges. The opening will be conducted at the seat of the court in The Hague.

Several reasons were advanced by the court’s Presidency in the decision announced today. These include security challenges in the eastern Congolese town of Bunia and the negative effect that Mr. Ntaganda’s presence in the town could have on the safety and well-being of witnesses and victims.

“The factual circumstances, as they appear at this stage, exhibit a volatile and to a large extent unpredictable situation in Bunia. Despite the security measures that are envisaged to be put in … Continue Reading

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Parties Present Evidence in Case of Sexual Violence at Sepur Zarco Military Base

Last week, the case advanced against two men for their role in mass sexual violence and slavery at the Sepur Zarco military base during Guatemala’s brutal armed conflict. In a hearing on Wednesday, June 10, the prosecution, defense, and civil parties presented an investigative judge their intended evidence against a former commander of a military installation and a local military commissioner.

Prosecutors charge Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Giron, former Sepur Zarco commander, and Heriberto Valdez, a former military commissioner, with crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual violence of at least 11 Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous women, and for the enforced disappearance of at least nine men. The crimes were allegedly committed 30 years ago – between 1982 and 1988 – but there … Continue Reading

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Bending Towards International Justice

NEW YORK – This week’s hurried departure by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from South Africa, where African Union heads of state were convening, has spared him arrest for now. But the Pretoria High Court order that he defied, which enforced a warrant from the International Criminal Court charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity, marks a step forward in the fight against impunity.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/war-crimes-icc-justice-by-james-a-goldston-2015-06#tsW6ZJJXktYzOeG6.99

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