International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

The Molina Theissen Trial: Witness Illustrates the Impact of Argentine Military Training in Guatemala

The prosecution in the Molina Theissen trial has called four witnesses over the course of two hearings this week. On Monday, March 26, the prosecution called Dr. Julieta Carla Rostica, an Argentine sociologist who specializes in Central American studies and has investigated Argentine military training to Guatemala, and Ruth del Valle, a classmate of Emma Molina Theissen whose brother, Julio del Valle, was Emma’s boyfriend, and who was killed in 1980. On Tuesday, March 27, two expert witnesses from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) testified about the search for individuals who were the victims of enforced disappearance during the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996).

Rostica’s expert testimony was particularly important. Drawing on Argentine military documents and declassified U.S. government documents, she testified … Continue Reading

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Witness Says Most Homes Were Burned During Lukodi Attack

A survivor of a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attack on the Lukodi camp for internally displaced (IDP) people 13 years ago told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that most homes in the camp were burned during the attack.

Witness P-187, who testified on Thursday and Friday, told the court the LRA abducted her during the attack and made her carry food. She said as they trekked away from Lukodi, she saw LRA fighters throw babies and children into the bush because they were crying.

The witness was testifying in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, who has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Lukodi attack. In total, … Continue Reading


Judges Abandon Idea of Conducting Ntaganda Closing Statements in Congo

An endeavor by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct part of a trial hearing in a situation country has failed once again, after judges trying former militia commander Bosco Ntaganda abandoned their intention to hold closing arguments in his trial in Congo.

In a March 16, 2018 decision, the judges said that because of “the present security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” and “the preparation time required for any such hearing to be arranged,” they did not intend to recommend to the court’s Presidency that closing statements be held in situ. They added, however, that they may consider holding certain other future hearings in situ, if deemed appropriate and feasible.

The town of Bunia, which bore the … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Four Protected Witnesses Tell Harrowing Stories of Torture

The Attorney General’s Office called four protected witnesses to testify in the sixth hearing of the Molina Theissen case held on Monday, March 19.  The individuals, going by pseudonyms witnesses B, C, D, and E, gave their testimony via video conference from the Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala City. These precautionary measures were taken because of the security risks they face by giving their testimony in the case.

The witnesses included a woman who cared for Emma Molina Theissen in the days after she escaped military detention, who spoke to her physical and emotional condition.  Another person testified about the forced disappearance of her father, which he witnessed, and two siblings. The third witness described the torture he endured while in … Continue Reading

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Les juges abandonnent l’idée de tenir les déclarations finales du procès Ntaganda au Congo

La tentative de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) de tenir une partie des audiences du procès dans un pays dont la situation est examinée par la Cour a encore échoué après que les juges statuant sur l’affaire de l’ancien commandant de milice Bosco Ntaganda aient abandonné leur intention de tenir les déclarations finales de son procès au Congo.

Dans une décision du 16 mars 2018, les juges ont déclaré que, étant donné la « situation présente en matière de sécurité dans l’est de la République démocratique du Congo » et « le temps de préparation requis pour qu’une telle audience soit ordonnée », ils n’avaient pas l’intention de recommander à la présidence de la Cour de tenir les déclarations finales in situ. Ils ont ajouté que, … Continue Reading

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Expert Says Ongwen Did Not Have a Mental Illness While in the LRA

A forensic psychiatrist told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that if Dominic Ongwen had a mental illness while he was in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) it would have been difficult for him to mask its symptoms from the people around him.

Gillian Clare Mezey told the court on Tuesday that based on material she reviewed her conclusion was Ongwen did not have a mental illness during the time he was a LRA commander between 2002 and 2005.

Ongwen, who disrupted Monday’s afternoon session and was removed from the court, was present in court on Tuesday. He did not make a statement as Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt had suggested the previous day, but Ongwen sat throughout Tuesday’s hearing without any further incident.

Mezey … Continue Reading

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Gbagbo and Blé Goudé Trial: Fatou Bensouda Submits Mid-Trial Brief

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), had 30 days from February 9, 2018 to file her observations after the conclusion of evidence from the prosecution witnesses in the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé trial. The Gambian jurist did not wait for the deadline to expire.

After the appearance of Professor Hélène Etté, the last prosecution witness in the joint trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, the judges invited Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to present her observations on the procedure and her evidence at the latest 30 days after February 9.

The Gambian jurist sent her brief to the judges on March 19, 2018. The document called “mid-trial brief” made clarifications in appendices on the various events alleged against … Continue Reading

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Judges Remove Ongwen from Court for Disrupting Hearing

The chamber adjudicating the trial of Dominic Ongwen ordered he be removed from court after he disrupted proceedings on Monday, March 19. His trial was just resuming after a break of almost three weeks.

The disruption happened during the afternoon session as Gillian Clare Mezey gave her opinion of Ongwen’s mental state based on extracts of testimony previous prosecution witnesses had given about their interaction with Ongwen when he was a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Mezey had given her views on seven pages of extracts of witness testimony in open court when, as she began to comment on the next extract, Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, asked that her comments be in private session because the extract was … Continue Reading


The Molina Theissen Trial: Protected Witness Confirms He Saw Emma Molina Theissen in Military Custody

The fifth session of the Molina Theissen trial took place on Wednesday, March 14. Rodolfo Robles Espinoza, a retired Peruvian general who presented his expert testimony on the structure, organization, and doctrine of the Guatemalan military during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) in the previous session of the trial, answered questions posed by the civil parties and the defense lawyers for more than four hours.

Following Robles was protected witness “G” who was a member of the Guatemalan Workers’ Party (PGT). Emma Molina Theissen was a member of the Patriotic Worker Youth (JPT), an affiliate organization of the PGT. Witness “G” testified about the capture and arrest of Emma between September 27 and October 5, 1981 and affirmed that he witnessed … Continue Reading

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Bemba Wants Judges Disqualified From Deciding How Much He Should Pay Victims

Jean-Pierre Bemba is seeking the disqualification of International Criminal Court (ICC) judges from the panel that will determine the reparations he will pay to victims of his crimes. The former Congolese vice president, who is serving an 18-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR), accuses the judges of bias.

According to defense lawyer Peter Haynes, given the pattern of rulings issued by Trial Chamber III in the conduct of reparations proceedings, “a reasonable perception of a predisposition” against Bemba arises. Haynes has requested that a plenary of judges considers Bemba’s request to disqualify the judges pursuant to article 41(2) of the court’s statute.

At the time of Bemba’s original request for recusal, Trial … Continue Reading

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