International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Guatemala Trials: Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the new “Guatemala Trials” channel of

Please visit for regular updates on significant prosecutions of international crimes taking place in Guatemala, building on the monitoring of the trial in Guatemala of Efrain Rios Montt and Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez that we launched in early 2013.

The new effort will include reporting on the trial of Pedro Garcia Arredondo, a former senior police officer. He is currently charged crimes against humanity in connection with the storming of the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980, which left 37 people dead. His trial opened on October 1.

We also be following the Sepur Zarco case, which  involves charges against two former army officers, Col. Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Girón and Heriberto Valdez Asij, who are accused of crimes against humanity at the … Continue Reading

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Defense Questions Motives of Prosecution’s Witness 800

A defense lawyer has questioned the motive of a prosecution witness for testifying in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Shyamala Alagendra, who represents Ruto, asked Witness 800 on Friday whether at one point he had told the Office of the Prosecutor he would testify against her client in exchange for permanent relocation and an improved life outside Kenya.

Witness 800 replied that on, “Several occasions I have said I will not be safe to be in risk areas as I testify.”

Alagendra asked him again whether he had never asked for permanent relocation and the witness replied, “No, it has never been my intention to use this case to improve … Continue Reading


Guatemala Judicial Independence Under Threat

Guatemala’s justice system was praised around the world last year for the prosecution of a former dictator for atrocities carried out against his own people. Efraín Ríos Montt was put on trial and convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, in a painful public examination of a brutal period in the country’s long armed conflict, during which tens of thousands of people were killed or “disappeared.”

What a difference a year makes.

The conviction of Ríos Montt has been followed by a severe backlash. Only days after the verdict, in a divided and controversial ruling, Guatemala’s constitutional court annulled the sentence and left the genocide trial in a state of uncertainty that continues until today.

The lead judge in the genocide trial, Yassmin … Continue Reading

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Bemba Faces Second ICC Trial on Charges of Corrupting Witnesses

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have confirmed charges of corruptly influencing witnesses against Jean-Pierre Bemba and four associates and committed them to trial.

Pre-Trial Chamber II found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Bemba, his two former lawyers, a defense witness and Congolese parliamentarian, implemented a “strategy” to present false evidence in Bemba’s ongoing trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The alleged crimes involved the corruption of 14 witnesses between 2011 and November 2013 in various locations, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

The witnesses involved are ‘Witness D04-02,’ ‘Witness D04-03,’ ‘Witness D0d-04,’ ‘Witness D04-06,’ ‘Witness D04-13,’ ‘Witness D04-15,’ ‘Witness D04-23,’ ‘Witness D04-25,’ ‘Witness D04-29,’ ‘Witness D04-54,’ ‘Witness … Continue Reading

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Witness Narrates His Frustrations with ICC Protection Program

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that at one point he became so frustrated with how his protection officers were treating him he began discussions with an individual who offered him money to retract the statement he had given to the prosecution.

Witness 800 said on Thursday he was called by someone only identified in open court as person number 19 at a place he had been relocated to outside Kenya. He said person 19 told him about an offer from another individual – identified as person number seven – but the witness would have to return to Kenya to be given details. The witness told the court he returned to Kenya and met person seven and person 19. The … Continue Reading


Witness Says Kalenjin Elders Held Cleansing Ceremony for Youths After 2008 Attacks

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) Kalenjin elders held a cleansing ceremony for Kalenjin youths who had participated in attacks following the declaration of results in the December 2007 presidential election.

Witness 800 told the court on Wednesday the ceremony was held because according to Kalenjin tradition anyone who had taken part in violence needed to be cleansed or else they would be cursed. The witness said he took part in the ceremony.

“All the youths in my village were to attend the same ceremony, and I did not want people to speculate that I was not part of what took place [the attacks] because they would have come for me later,” the witness said, explaining why he attended the … Continue Reading


Judgement in Lubanga’s Appeal to be Announced December 1

The verdict in Thomas Lubanga’s appeal against the conviction and 14-year jail sentence handed to him by trial judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be announced on December 1, 2014.

According to a November 18, 2014 scheduling order, the appeals judgment shall be delivered in open court at 4:30 in the afternoon in The Hague. Judges who handled the appeals are Erkki Kourula (Presiding), Sang-Hyun Song, Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, Anita Ušacka, and Ekaterina Trendafilova.

In 2012, Mr. Lubanga became the first person to be convicted by the court. Trial judges found him guilty of recruiting and conscripting children under the age of 15 in his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia and actively using them in an armed conflict in the Ituri … Continue Reading

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Witness Talks of Retired Military Officers Training Kalenjin Youth

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about a camp where retired military officers trained Kalenjin youths about a month before the December 2007 elections on how to set houses on fire and disguise themselves.

Witness 800 said on Tuesday the youths also spent time on target practice by learning how to shoot their arrows accurately by aiming at aluminium tins placed in trees about 10 to 15 meters away. He said this training went on for about three weeks and took place on in Boronjo in what was then Uasin Gishu district. He said the land where the training occurred was owned by an old man commonly known by his nickname, Mzuri. Witness 800 said this camp was between four … Continue Reading


Witness: Ruto Called for the Expulsion of Kikuyus in 2005

Today,  the trial of William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang resumed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a six week break. In the first hearing since October 6, a witness told the ICC that Ruto called for the expulsion of the Kikuyu from part of the Rift Valley region ahead of a 2005 referendum on a draft constitution.

Witness 800 said he heard Ruto make this call on October 1, 2005 during a meeting attended by more than 1,000 people, including members of parliament. The witness identified the venue of the meeting in open court as location nine. Witness 800 is testifying under court-ordered protective measures that include using pseudonyms for the witness, people close to the … Continue Reading


Defense Lawyers Ask ICC Judges to Acquit Bemba

Defense lawyers have implored judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba, stating that the prosecution failed to prove its allegations against the former Congolese opposition leader.

In closing oral remarks at the court in The Hague, lead defense lawyer Peter Haynes said the prosecution’s evidence was “selective, narrow,” and “unfair” and added that if Mr. Bemba is convicted, countries would find it difficult to offer military assistance to others however righteous the cause might be.

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba as commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia bears responsibility for the murder, rape, and pillaging his soldiers committed during a conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. The soldiers … Continue Reading