Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review 2019

Building on shifting sands: evidentiary challenges in universal jurisdiction cases

Mass crimes, remote locations, protection of victims and witnesses, procedural obstacles, outreach. Those are just some of the challenges inherent to universal jurisdiction cases. From gathering evidence to tracking down suspects, each step of the process is long, complex, often frustrating and sometimes downright dangerous. The legal world’s answer to those challenges? Joining forces.
The ZBKV unit is housed in the buildings of the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) in Wiesbaden

International crimes: Spotlight on Germany’s war crimes unit

Between 2015 and 2017 Germany’s specialised unit to prosecute international crimes has received more than 4,000 tips of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity. Numerous cases are under investigation. Most of them concern crimes in Syria. In December, however, the Central Unit for the Fight against War Crimes experienced a blow in one of its major cases.
A building

Obligation de coopération et immunités dans l’affaire Al-Bashir : vers une infirmation par la Chambre d’appel ?

Le 29 mars 2018, la Chambre d’appel de la Cour pénale internationale (ci-après CPI ou Cour) a rendu une ordonnance selon la procédure d’amicus curiae prévue à la règle 103 du Règlement de procédure et de preuve pour solliciter des observations d’acteurs externes sur une question qui la préoccupe.
French war crimes unit

International crimes: spotlight on France’s war crimes unit

Universal jurisdiction, which allows a country to prosecute any person for serious crimes committed anywhere in the world, is in the frontline of some prosecution strategies, notably with regard to crimes committed in Syria. In Paris, we visited France’s specialized unit for tracking international crimes, the “Central Office to fight Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes”.
Syrrian refugees

The Protection Nexus between Non-Penalisation and National Security Exception under the Refugee Convention

This article examines the nexus between non-penalisation of refugees who arrive at the border without proper documentation or with falsified documentation in order to gain access to asylum procedures and the national security exception. This article argues that the onus placed upon the decision-maker for determining whether a refugee would be deemed a ‘national security risk’ should be heightened so that the human rights of those suspected to be a ‘national security risk’ would not be undermined. Human rights of refugees suspected of being a ‘national security risk’ would be especially important given the detrimental effects of the removal of non-refoulement protection. Finally, it is suggested that a more onerous burden placed upon the decision-maker would also be in line with non-penalisation requirements of the Refugee Convention, given that asylum seekers should be granted the benefit of the doubt when seeking asylum from persecution, even if it involves improper or falsified travel documents.
Transparency International 2015

Developments in Statutory Sanctions Against Alleged Foreign Wrongdoers

Last month, in Portnov v. Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2018 FC 1248, Manson J of the Federal Court dismissed an application of a foreign national to review the Canadian government’s refusal to lift sanctions imposed on him under the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, (FACFOA), specifically the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials (Ukraine) Regulations, (Ukraine Regulations).
Jeunes étudiants en République centrafricaine

Les Particularités et les Défis de la Cour Pénale Spéciale de Centrafrique

En 2015, le législateur Centrafricain, en vue de mettre un terme au climat d’impunité qui règne dans ce pays depuis son indépendance, adopte la Loi organique no. 15-003 du 3 juin 2015 portant création, organisation et fonctionnement de la Cour pénale spéciale de Bangui dont le mandat est d’enquêter, instruire et juger les violations graves des droits humains et les violations graves du droit international humanitaire commis sur le territoire de la République Centrafricaine depuis le 1erjanvier 2003. Bien que comparativement aux juridictions nationales centrafricaines de droit commun, cette nouvelle juridiction hybride est dotée d’outils juridiques nouveaux pour accomplir sa mission, il y a lieu de signaler, qu’elle fera face à de nombreux défis.
Memorial at Killing Field, Cheoung Ek

Preventing Impunity for the Costs of a Failed Utopia

Two old men, senior officials in the Khmer Rouge Regime, were convicted of serious international crimes by a Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on November 16, 2018. ​Nuon Chea was a founding member of the Cambodian Communist Party (CPK), later joined by Khieu Samphan. Both were among the leaders of the party collectively known as “Angkar”.
International Criminal Court in The Hague

ICC Moot Court Competition 2018: Reflections on Three Ground-Breaking Issues by University of Ottawa Advocates

The sixty teams in the 2018 edition of the International Criminal Court Moot Court Competition tackled the following three precedent-setting issues: (1) whether the ICC can prosecute human trafficking as a crime against humanity; (2) whether the ICC can prosecute corporate officers for the criminal acts of their companies; and (3) whether the ICC can prosecute an individual after an acquittal by a domestic court resulting from bias or error. These three issues and the legal arguments in favour of a broad interpretation of the Rome Statute are explored below.
Black and white corridor

Analysis: Torture Committed by Private Individuals and State Responsibility

The crime of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was originally conceived as an offence committed by State officials. However, over time, this offence has evolved to encompass conduct inflicted by private individuals, a development particularly important for women and children who typically experience violence in private places. This article examines how States have been held responsible for tortious conduct committed by private persons, through the notion of due diligence. It also briefly looks at efforts to create a domestic torture offence that does not involve State officials. 
Bombed out vehicles in Aleppo

Analysis: International Justice for War Crimes Committed in Syria

This paper explores the different mechanisms available to hold war criminals accountable for their unlawful acts committed in Syria. It begins by explaining why the traditional mechanisms – the International Criminal Court or an ad-hoc International Tribunal – are not available for the Syrian conflict. Next, it explains the UN’s novel creation of an investigative body to help investigate, but not prosecute, war crimes committed in Syria. Finally, it provides an overview of domestic efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. If successful, the international accountability for war crimes committed in Syria may bring about a new era in international criminal justice.
Peacekeepers of the Senegalese contingent the MINUSMA conduct a street patrols on election’s day in Gao, north of Mali (August 12, 2018).

Analysis: The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Mali: Mandate Renewal and Evolution

Without much fanfare, on 28 June 2018 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2423 (2018), renewing the mandate of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA, or “the Mission”) for another year. The Mission was established in April 2013 and is often called the most dangerous United Nations peacekeeping mission. With most observers intently focused on the recent presidential elections in Mali, the renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate attracted very little commentary, and some of those who have reviewed the new mandate have suggested that it remains largely the same. In this article, I will highlight some of the important changes that have been made to MINUSMA’s “priority tasks.”
Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Analysis: International Crimes in Myanmar Alleged in Human Rights Council Report

On August 24, the Human Rights Council released the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in advance of its 39th session in September. This followed the flight of almost three-quarters of a million Rohingya to Bangladesh by August 2018 to live there in dire conditions in refugee camps. This article will first look at the conclusions of the Mission and then look at its exacting methodology. Next, it will look at the role and mechanism of hate speech in precipitating ethnic conflict and the way it fits in the pattern of violence that has generated such suffering. It will then examine the Mission’s substantive findings for the States in Myanmar that it examined as it builds its case against impunity of those involved in directly and indirectly working violence on the Rohingya and other ethnic groups.