International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Rios Montt’s Transfer to National Mental Hospital Remains in Doubt

A court-ordered evaluation of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt’s mental fitness to be retried on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity remains in legal limbo.  Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Justice has lifted the immunity of Judge Carol Patricia Flores, the pre-trial judge in Rios Montt’s first genocide trial, clearing the way for a corruption investigation. And presidential candidate Manuel Baldizon has brought his campaign against the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to an international stage.

Rios Montt’s Transfer in a Deadlock

Whether Rios Montt will face a mental evaluation, and if so, whether it will be at the national mental hospital or a private institution, remains in dispute among different courts involved.

The former leader’s retrial, together with his … Continue Reading

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Defense Pleads for Lubanga’s Early Release; Victims’ Lawyers Disagree

Thomas Lubanga’s lawyers recently sought his early release from International Criminal Court (ICC) detention, arguing that, if released, the former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) would contribute to peace and reconciliation in Congo’s restive Ituri district. However, lawyers representing victims responded that conditions to support his early release are lacking, partly because Mr. Lubanga has continued to deny the crimes for which he was convicted.

Catherine Mabille, the lead defense lawyer, said Mr. Lubanga wants to relocate with his family to Kisangani, 800 kms from Bunia, where the crimes he was convicted of were committed. Lubanga plans to enroll at his alma mater, Kisangani University, for post-graduate studies in psychology, his lawyers stated. In annexures to the defense … Continue Reading

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International Outcry over Verdicts in Tripoli

A court in Tripoli convicted 32 Libyan officials from the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi for crimes related to the 2011 revolution on July 28 and sentenced nine of those defendants to death, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi’s sons, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The trial, which began in March 2014, charged 37 Gaddafi-era officials with a wide range of offences linked to the suppression of protests during the revolution, but concerns were voiced by human rights groups and others about Libya’s ability to hold fair trials, even before prosecutors presented any evidence in the courtroom. The verdicts sparked fierce critical reactions from outside Libya, as well as from Saif Gaddafi’s defense lawyer representing … Continue Reading

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Technology for Truth: Ensuring It’s Not Just More Sound and Fury

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.

Technology is everywhere. Cameras are on street corners, on the dashboards of police vehicles, on the bodies of military troops, and in the pockets of billions of people across the globe on their cell phones. Access to satellite imagery has vastly expanded. Some people meticulously document their lives on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so we can trace most every move they make. Cell tower pings can be tracked. This tech boom has been highlighted over and over again in this blog series, yet this proliferation in technology has yet … Continue Reading

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Rios Montt’s Lawyers Block his Transfer to National Mental Hospital for Evaluation

Status of Genocide Trial Remains Uncertain

A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt to determine his fitness for retrial was halted at the last minute on Saturday, July 25.  While further advances in the genocide trial remain blocked, a high-risk appeals court upheld the guilty verdict of a former police commander on charges of crimes against humanity and homicide in the case of the 1980 Spanish embassy fire which killed protesters and diplomats. Meanwhile, the bid by Rios Montt’s daughter to run for president in forthcoming elections continues to face a court challenge, and opponents of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) rallied in front of the Supreme Court last week.

Rios Montt

Last Thursday, July … Continue Reading

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Guatemalan Court Orders Rios Montt’s Transfer to National Mental Hospital

Hospital to Evaluate Whether Dictator Mentally Fit to Face Genocide Trial

Yesterday, Guatemalan courts again took up the question of whether octogenarian former dictator Efraín Rios Montt, and his then head of military intelligence, could be tried for genocide and crimes against humanity for 1980s massacres that wiped out Mayan Ixil villages. Yesterday’s hearing focused on whether the former head of state is mentally fit to face a trial. Against his strong pleas, the court ordered Rios Montt to the national mental institution for a week-long evaluation.

The courtroom was packed early with Guatemalan civil society, military supporters, and international observers, including the US ambassador. Rios Montt did not appear physically at the hearing but participated via video conference from his bed … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Lawyers Continue to Seek Stay Proceedings in War Crimes Trial

For the second time since International Criminal Court (ICC) judges stopped receiving evidence in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s war crimes trial, his lawyers are fighting to secure a stay of proceedings, this time citing late disclosure of evidence by the prosecution.

This application comes days after trial judges dismissed the first defense motion for a stay of proceedings, which was filed last December and cited abuse of process and breach of privileges and immunities by the prosecution. In a June 17, 2015 ruling, trial judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Kuniko Ozaki, and Joyce Aluoch found that the defense failed to substantiate the potential or actual impact of prosecution measures that justified a stay of proceedings.

“Nearly three years after the start of the defense case, … Continue Reading

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Q&A with Dr. Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA) and author of Sovereignty and Justice: Balancing the Principle of Complementarity between International and Domestic War Crimes Tribunals

Dr. Mark Ellis is the Executive Director of the IBA based in London and author of the recent book Sovereignty and Justice: Balancing the Principle of Complementarity between International and Domestic War Crimes Tribunals (Cambridge Scholars, 2014). He agreed to speak with International Justice Monitor about the domestic trial in Libya for members of the former Gaddafi regime and how it impacts the situation before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

TR: You are currently overseeing a preliminary assessment of the trial that concluded in late May in Libya for 37 former Gaddafi-era regime officials. What does this entail?

ME: An objective assessment of the trial proceedings entails a number of legal factors. Principle among these is assessing the trial proceedings against internationally … Continue Reading

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Guatemalan Genocide Trial Scheduled to Reopen This Week Amid Growing Corruption Crisis

The genocide trial against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt is due to reopen in Guatemala on Thursday, July 23. The trial gripped the nation when Rios Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013. However, the attention on the anticipated retrial has been limited given the obstacles to prosecution, as well as the country’s growing political crisis, following massive corruption scandals brought to light by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the public prosecutor.

The Rios Montt retrial has been stymied by obstacles and its opening this week is far from certain. Earlier this month, Guatemala’s National Forensic Institute presented a medical report concluding that Rios Montt was unfit to stand trial. Relying on this medical report, defense attorneys … Continue Reading

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Lubanga Sentence Review Postponed to August

The hearing to determine whether Thomas Lubanga’s 14-year prison sentence can be reduced will not be conducted tomorrow as had earlier been scheduled. It will instead be held on Friday, August 21, at 9:30 AM local time in The Hague.

According to a July 8 rescheduling order, the postponement is to allow the presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider an application by defense lawyers for the disqualification of Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi from the Appeals Chamber handling the review. A plenary session of judges was scheduled to convene today to consider the defense application,

As of tomorrow, Mr. Lubanga will have served two-thirds of the prison sentence handed him in March 2012.  At the time of sentencing, he … Continue Reading

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