International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Supporters of Guatemala’s Anti-Impunity Commission Speak Out

In the next few weeks President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala will issue a final decision on whether or not he will seek another two year mandate for the UN-backed  International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG).  An executive committee set up by the president is expected to give him recommendations in early April; in the meantime, CICIG’s supporters have been making the case for a continuation of its mandate.

This included, on March 24, a bipartisan group of four members of the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, who addressed a letter to President Molina urging him to renew CICIG’s mandate. In Washington DC, Francisco Palmieri, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for … Continue Reading

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Ruto and Sang Trial Continues in Private Session

The trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was held over two sessions on Friday, which were conducted entirely in private session.

After the two sessions the court adjourned for the day, and there has been no official communication on whether Witness 727 testified on Friday. The witness had been scheduled to testify since Monday under an order issued by Trial Chamber V (a), but he had not done so by Wednesday. On Tuesday, Witness 727’s lawyer said the witness was in hiding because he feared for his life.

Ruto and Sang have been on trial since September 2013 for their alleged roles in the violence that followed the December … Continue Reading


Time to Acknowledge Obstruction of Khmer Rouge Prosecutions

NEW YORK—International officials working with the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia must publicly acknowledge that the Cambodian government is now deliberately obstructing the court’s work, or risk undermining its integrity and reputation, according to a new report from the Open Society Justice Initiative released this week.

In its latest survey of recent developments at the court, the Justice Initiative highlights the failure of Cambodia’s judicial police to execute an arrest warrant against either of two individuals charged on March 3 with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Subsequently, the court announced that the two accused, Im Chaem and Meas Muth, had been charged in absentia. This procedure is not provided for in the rules of the court, officially known as the … Continue Reading

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Witness 727 Has Been in Hiding, Says His Lawyer

Today, the trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was held in private session.

The hearing lasted about one and a half hours before Trial Chamber V(a) adjourned the proceedings for the day. It is unclear what transpired in Thursday’s hearing because it was held entirely in private session. Even the routine of the different legal teams stating for the record their presence in court was not seen by the public.

This week Witness 727 was scheduled to be testifying via video link before the trial chamber after judges ordered him to do so last month. As of Wednesday, he had not testified. It is possible he did so during … Continue Reading


Charles Taylor Will Remain in Prison in the UK

Nearly three years after his original conviction by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), litigation continues in the Charles Taylor case. On January 30, 2015, the Residual Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) denied a motion by Taylor to terminate the enforcement of his sentence in the United Kingdom (UK) and for his transfer to Rwanda.  That decision was not made public until March 25. Taylor, the former president of Liberia, will continue to serve the remainder of his 50-year sentence in the UK.

On April 26, 2012, SCSL judges unanimously found Taylor guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed from November 1996 to January 2002 during the course of … Continue Reading

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Status Conference on Ruto and Sang Trial Held in Private Session

Today, Trial Chamber V (a) held a status conference to review the progress in the trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

No agenda was publicly given for the status conference, but it is safe to assume one of subjects was the failure to hold hearings since the trial resumed on Monday. The chamber had ordered Witness 727 testify before it starting Monday, but that has not happened.

There has not been any official court statement on this. The status conference was held entirely in private session, and no details of any decisions made at the meeting have been made public so far. The status conference went on for about … Continue Reading


Guatemala Transitional Justice Update: Judges Continue to Challenge Threats to Judicial Independence


The constitutional court provisionally suspended the transfer of judges, in a divided ruling, following complaints by two judges that they were being transferred to distant jurisdictions as retaliation for their calls for judicial independence.
Judges and advocates testified last week concerning threats to judicial independence before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Three supreme court judges responded, defending their actions and their election as legitimate.
Guatemala’s bar association suspended Rios Montt’s lawyer for his conduct inside and outside of the courtroom during the genocide trial.
An appellate court confirmed the recusal of Judge Jeannette Valdes, who had been assigned to the three-judge trial court to rehear the Rios Montt genocide trial. No judge has been assigned to replace her, leaving the prospects for … Continue Reading

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Ruto and Sang Trial Resumes After Seven-Week Break

Today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang, which resumed following a seven-week break, was held entirely in private session.

Trial Chamber V(a) had ordered Monday’s sitting to hear the testimony of Witness 727. The judges made this order on February 17 after the witness had failed to honor previous commitments to give his testimony.

It is unclear whether the witness appeared before the chamber via video link on Monday as the court had ordered. The location of the witness has not been publicly disclosed.

On Monday, apart from the preliminary introductions of the different legal teams that was conducted in open court, the rest of the proceedings were in private session. The … Continue Reading


Challenges of Holding Ntaganda’s Trial in Congo

The need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring justice closer to victims of the crimes it tries has prompted the court’s judges to suggest that the June 2015 opening of Bosco Ntaganda’s trial takes place in the town of Bunia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

However, while this would fulfil a long-held aspiration by the court, several factors may affect whether the suggestion will become reality. They include concerns about the security of court personnel, availability of suitable and secure detention facilities for the accused, lack of appropriate court facilities, and a shortage of accommodation for judges and court officials.

Mr. Ntaganda faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were allegedly committed while he was … Continue Reading

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Guatemala Debates Future of UN-backed International Commission against Impunity

Since 2007, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym CICIG, has played a unique role in supporting the country’s efforts to confront criminality and corruption, and to reinforce the rule of law.

CICIG is a joint effort of the United Nations and the Guatemalan government: it receives financial and technical support from the international community, and is led by international staff, but it operates within Guatemalan law and the Guatemalan court system. CICIG’s current two-year mandate expires in September this year, with the decision on whether or not to seek an extension to be taken by President Otto Pérez Molina.

President Pérez Molina has in the past expressed doubts about CICIG’s role; in recent comments he has chosen to leave … Continue Reading

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