International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

New Ruling Clears Path for Rios Montt Trial on January 5, but Potential Obstacles Remain

Guatemala’s constitutional court yesterday (December 18) issued a unanimous judgment that removes one of the obstacles for the initiation of the genocide trial of former head of state, Efrain Rios Montt, and his then head of military intelligence, Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez.

The new trial is due to start on January 5, 2015. In May 2013, a trial court convicted Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity, and the country’s highest court moved quickly afterwards to annul the judgment in a divided and controversial decision, calling for a new process. However, an investigative judge, Carol Patricia Flores, had intervened during the 2013 trial to order the process returned to the investigative stage. With the conviction annulled, that remained an open question prior … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Guatemala Court May Block Resumption of Rios Montt Genocide Trial

There are increasing signs that Guatemala’s appellate courts may seek to prevent any new prosecution of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In last year’s trial, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity for the killing of indigenous Mayans during his brutal 1982-1983 rule. He spent only days of his prison sentence in jail before the constitutional court annulled the verdict in a controversial and divided ruling. A new trial is due to start on January 5, but many obstacles stand in the way. New obstacles appeared this week.

On Wednesday, in an unexpected action, the country’s constitutional court demanded the case file to permit it to rule on whether the trial should be sent back to its status … Continue Reading

1 Comment

Witness Admits He Did Not Attend Meetings to Plan Post-Election Violence

A witness admitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he was not present at two meetings where violence targeting Kikuyus was planned as he had previously told the prosecution.

Witness 658 made the admission under questioning from Karim Khan, the lead lawyer of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto. Khan was cross-examining him on the admission he first made to the prosecution in November this year that he was not at the two meetings he had told the prosecution about when he was interviewed in August 2010.

On Thursday, Witness 658 told the court a source told him about the meeting held at Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret on September 2, 2007, retracting his previous statement to the prosecution that he was present … Continue Reading

27 Comments

Spanish Embassy Case Nearing Close

On December 9, prosecutors in the case against Pedro García Arredondo presented, among other evidence, a written declaration of Odette Arzu, a now-deceased Red Cross volunteer who was present during the occupation of the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980. Arzu recalled that when then Ambassador Máximo Cajal fled the building after the fire started, she heard a voice from a police radio saying: “Kill him, they don’t want anybody alive” (Matenlo—que no quieren nadie vivo).

Prosecutors also introduced into evidence an official report of the fate of the one protester who survived the embassy fire—Gregorio Yujá Xona. He was kidnapped from a private hospital and tortured. The official report recorded that his corpse was found on the university campus … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Ruto’s Lawyer Accuses Witness of Making up His Testimony

A defense lawyer accused a prosecution witness of making up a fundraising event on New Year’s Eve 2007 during which prominent individuals spoke of evicting the Kikuyu from the Rift Valley.

On Wednesday, Witness 658 told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he did not make up the fundraising event he testified was held on December 31, 2007 at a place called Ziwa, which is about 37 kilometers north of Eldoret. On December 1, Witness 658 said a newly elected member of parliament, Fred Kapondi, and a prominent farmer in Uasin Gishu, Jackson Kibor spoke at the event and helped raise money.

The witness said in his testimony Kibor presented an envelope in which, he told other participants, was a contribution of 200,000 shillings … Continue Reading

6 Comments

Witness Sticks to His Testimony That Ruto Made Inciting Speeches

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he was standing by his statement to the prosecution that he heard William Samoei Ruto make inciting remarks during a 2005 function at which then President Mwai Kibaki was present.

Witness 658 said this on Tuesday as Ruto’s lead lawyer, Karim Khan, repeatedly asked him whether he heard Ruto call for the eviction of Kikuyus and Luhyas in a video of the function Khan played in court. The function was held on October 19, 2005 to commemorate the centenary of the death of a leader of the Nandi, Koitalel Samoei, who was killed by British colonialists. The Nandi are a sub-group of the Kalenjin ethnic group.

The witness is testifying in the trial of Ruto … Continue Reading

14 Comments

Witness Denies Discussing Ruto and Sang Trial With Other Prosecution Witnesses

A lawyer for Deputy President William Samoei Ruto questioned a prosecution witness at the International Criminal Court (ICC) about whether he has been discussing the case against Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang with other prosecution witnesses.

Witness 658 told the court on Monday it was not true that he had discussed the case with other prosecution witnesses. Karim Khan, Ruto’s lead lawyer, also asked the witness whether at a secret meeting with other prosecution witnesses, he hid in the bushes when he saw a vehicle with prosecution staff arrive at the meeting venue. Witness 658’s answer was given in private session.

The witness is testifying in the trial of Ruto and Sang, both of whom face three counts of crimes against … Continue Reading

5 Comments

Improving the Effectiveness of the ICC

Today, the 13th Session of Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) begins in New York. Members of the ASP will be tackling a number of important issues, including the election of six new judges and approving the court’s budget for 2015. One of the key discussions taking place will be on improving the effectiveness of the ICC.

The Open Society Justice Initiative will be taking the opportunity to contribute to this discussion in a number of ways. Our statement to the ASP during the General Debate will highlight the need for carefully crafted indicators, which can be useful in measuring progress toward strategic goals.  As the court’s ultimate governing body, the ASP … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Prosecutor Withdraws Charges Against Kenyatta

Today, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda formally withdrew charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. Kenyatta had been facing five counts of crimes against humanity for crimes allegedly committed during the violence that engulfed the country after the December 2007 presidential poll. His charges were originally confirmed in January 2012.

The decision to withdraw charges follows this Wednesday’s judgment of Trial Chamber V(b) in which the judges refused to further adjourn the start of Kenyatta’s trial. In that decision, the judges also ordered the prosecutor to give notice within one week whether she will withdraw the charges or that the evidence collected has improved enough that she is ready to proceed to trial.

In a September 2014 request to indefinitely adjourn the Kenyatta trial, the prosecution … Continue Reading

18 Comments

Questions Remain over Planned Restart of Rios Montt Trial

On May 20, 2013, Guatemala’s constitutional court upended the genocide trial of former head of state Efraín Ríos Montt and his then head of intelligence Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez annulling the verdict issued just days prior. As a result, a new court is due to convene a new trial starting January 5, 2015. Victims and their attorneys have challenged the overturning of last year’s verdict before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—calling the constitutional court’s actions a violation of their rights and of judicial independence. Now, a month before the scheduled start date for a new trial, there are numerous unanswered questions about the process.

First, on October 22, 2013, the Guatemalan constitutional court re-opened the question of whether an amnesty established … Continue Reading

Leave a comment