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Universal Jurisdiction News
November 2013

Dear friends and colleagues,

Please find below a summary of recent cases, news and publications related to universal jurisdiction worldwide from the last six weeks.  

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Warm wishes,

Carla Ferstman



Switzerland: Argor gold refinery investigated for pillage following new initiative to ensure corporate criminal accountability

On 4 November 2013 Swiss federal prosecutors confirmed that they had opened a criminal investigation into the gold refinery Argor-Heraeus SA on suspicion of money laundering linked to the processing of gold allegedly looted from DR Congo. Specifically, prosecutors will investigate allegations that Argor knew gold which it handled in 2004 and 2005 had been taken from DR Congo during an armed conflict, therefore giving rise to alleged complicity in war crimes. UN sanctions related to this trade were also in place at the time. A criminal complaint was submitted to Swiss authorities by TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) as part of a new initiative to address pillage as a war crime in conjunction with Open Society Justice Initiative and the Conflict Awareness Project. Complaints have also been submitted to the UK authorities regarding similar allegations of pillage of gold by London-based Hussar Services Limited, its director Neil Jonathan Graff, and its Jersey Channel Islands affiliate, Hussar Limited. 

Read New York Times opinion piece and blog on Opinio Juris on corporate accountability and the Argor case by James G. Stewart

Spain: Arrest warrants against five former Chinese officials for international crimes in Tibet

On 18 November 2013 an appeals chamber of the Spanish Audencia Nacional issued arrest warrants against five former Chinese officials in relation to their suspected involvement in genocide in Tibet in the 1980s and 90s. The officials included Jiang Zemin, former President of China and community party Secretary, Li Peng, former Chinese Prime Minister, Qiao Shi, Chen Kuiyuan and Deng Delyun. The case has been under investigation since a complaint was filed by civil society group Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet (Tibetan Support Committee - CAT) in 2005. Spanish courts have jurisdiction over the case because one of the complainants, Thubten Wangchen, is a Spanish citizen. The arrest warrants follow an earlier decision of the Audencia Nacional on 9 October allowing for the investigation of former president of China, Hu Jintao, on charges of genocide. CAT had applied to add Jintao as a defendant to the case after he left office in China and subsequently lost personal immunity earlier this year. This investigation now continues in parallel with the case against the five officials sought for arrest.

In early November an application was also submitted to the authorities to re-open the Al Daraj case following a visit to Spain by Avi Dichter, former Minister of Internal Security and Director of Shin Bet (Israel's internal security service). Dichter was one of several Israeli officials named in a criminal complaint filed before Spanish courts regarding a 2002 bombing which killed 14 civilians in the Al Daraj neighbourhood in Gaza; the case was closed in 2009. Dichter left Spain without incident after his recent visit. 

Read press release by the International Campaign for Tibet

Image of Jiang Zemin by franz88

Focus on Combating Impunity within the EU

Seminar on Connecting Victims and Witnesses of International Crimes to National Authorities

On 28 October REDRESS and its partner organisations – the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) – with the support of the EU Genocide Network Secretariat, convened a seminar in The Hague for practitioners and experts to consider how best to seek out evidence from victims and witnesses of international crimes in Europe and beyond, with an emphasis on shared experience and best practice recommendations. Participants included police, prosecution authorities and investigating magistrates, immigration and asylum authorities, lawyers and civil society organisations who work directly with victims and witnesses. 

Agenda and speakers

Seminar discussion paper


15th meeting of the EU Genocide Network and REDRESS advocacy on EU engagement with the fight against impunity

On 29-30 October 2013 REDRESS participated in the 15th meeting of the EU Genocide Network. The main focus of the meeting was the question of the criminal responsibility of corporations and business persons for serious international crimes. In addition, REDRESS addressed the meeting on a new initiative to encourage the EU to increase its commitment to combating impunity. Presenting the outcomes of a civil society meeting which REDRESS convened in Brussels in September 2013 to discuss this issue, discussion included the adoption of an EU Action Plan on Combating Impunity, improved cooperation between criminal justice and immigration authorities, and further strengthening of the EU Genocide Network. In its final conclusions, the Network pledged its support for this initiative and took steps to establish a Task Force which will further explore and develop proposals on this matter. The initiative will now be presented to the GENVAL Working Group of the EU Council in November 2013.

Read the final conclusions of the 15th meeting of the EU Genocide Network

Read Civil Society letter to the EU Genocide Network on strengthening efforts to combat impunity within EU Member States for crimes under international law

USA: Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa Jr. convicted in relation to role in 1982 Guatemala massacre

On 1 October 2013 it was reported that Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa Jr. had been convicted of immigration fraud in relation to his role in the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre in Guatemala in which 251 people were killed. Sosa was found guilty by a jury of lying on his immigration application that he had never committed a crime, following accusations that he took part in the massacre. Sosa was granted legal permanent resident status in the US after marrying a US citizen in 1997, and immigration officials began investigating him after he made a citizenship application in California in 2008. He was living in Canada, where he also has citizenship, when he was charged with US immigration offences in 2011.

He was extradited to the US in September 2012 despite the submission in Canada of complaints related to his alleged international crimes. A complaint against Sosa was also filed in Spain in parallel proceedings, and in April 2011 the Audiencia Nacional issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide, torture and extrajudicial killing, which remains pending. Sosa’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 December 2013; he could face up to 15 years' imprisonment in the US.  

Read case background and trial summaries by the Canadian Centre for International Justice

Image of victim of Dos Erres Massacre by the Guatemalan Government

15th Anniversary of the Pinochet Arrest

The fifteenth anniversary of the arrest of former president of Chile Augusto Pinochet was marked on 16 October with several reflections on international justice. Pinochet was arrested on 16 October 1998 while recieving medical treatment in London. Victims of torture and other international crimes committed by his regime recalled protests and celebrations outside his hospital and the Chilean embassy. Amnesty International commented on their role in the legal proceedings against Pinochet.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) have marked the anniversary with a series of events on the Pinochet regime, and Legal Adviser Andreas Schüller recently published an opinion piece on the failure to investigate and prosecute German collaborators of the Pinochet regime.

Image of Pinochet by M@rio Rossi

Recent initiatives to ensure accountability of diplomatic actors for crimes under international law

On 4 October 2013 the Colombian Embassy in Austria announced that its Ambassador, Freddy Padilla de León, had resigned his post and would return to Colombia. The announcement followed the submission of a dossier of evidence on Padilla's suspected involvement in crimes against humanity to the ministries of foreign affairs of Colombia and Austria by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). Padilla was General Commander of the Colombian military forces at the time they were engaged in the practice of falsos positivos ("false positives"), the killing of innocent civilians so that their bodies could be presented as combat casualties for the benefit of the armed forces. Austrian authorities are now reportedly investigating the allegations. 

In 2011 two former Major Generals of the Sri Lankan military - Prasanna De Silva and Jagath Dias - left their respective diplomatic posts in London and Berlin after ECCHR presented the British and German foreign ministries with dossiers detailing their suspected involvement in international crimes. ECCHR has reported that Dias recently had invitations to conferences and meetings in Australia and the US withdrawn on the basis of "accountability issues". 

Read summary and case documents in the Padilla case

Read briefing paper on legal responses to high-ranking diplomats' involvement in crimes against humanity by ECCHR

Case Updates

Romania and Hungary: Recent arrests of communist-era officials for genocide and war crimes

In September and October 2013 a number of former communist officials were arrested and charged with crimes under internationat law. On 3 September Romanian authorities charged Alexandru Visinescu, age 87, with genocide in relation to his role as head of the Ramnicu Sarat prison between 1956 and 1963. On 24 October Ion Ficior, commander of the Periprava labour camp from 1958 to 1963 and now aged 85, was also reportedly charged with genocide by Romanian authorities in relation to the alleged deaths of 103 prisoners. On 15 November he reportedly pleaded not guilty at a closed hearing. In Hungary, Bela Biszku was charged with war crimes on 16 October in relation to his role on a Communist Party committee involved in ordering the shootings of civilians during protests in Budapest and Salgotarjan in December 1956. Biszku served as Hungary's interior minister from 1957 to 1961. 


The Netherlands: Request for extradition of Rwandan genocide suspect

On 2 October 2013 the Dutch Public Prosecution Service confirmed that they had received a request from Rwanda for the extradition of a genocide suspect who has been identified by prosecutors only as “Jean-Claude I”. Reportedly age 37, the suspect was arrested in The Hague in July 2013 following a Dutch investigation into allegations that he was a Hutu militia leader and involved in a massacre at the ETO school outside Kigali. He reportedly came to the attention of prosecutors following immigration proceedings; his application for refugee status was refused in March this year. He is reportedly accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture. Extradition hearings are scheduled for 2 and 3 December 2013. 


USA: Kefelgn Alemu Worku convicted of immigration fraud in relation to torture in Ethiopia

On 11 October 2013 a jury in Denver, Colorado convicted Kefelgn Alemu Worku of immigration fraud in relation to his involvement in torture as a guard at an Ethiopian prison in the 1970s. He had admitted using a false name to enter the US, where he had been living in Colorado since 2004, but denied the torture allegations. Worku was reportedly recognised in Denver by a former inmate of the prison, who alerted the authorities. Six Ethiopian victims of torture testified at the trial, linking Worku to torture and killings at the prison. Following the verdict Worku was reportedly immediately stripped of his citizenship, and a sentencing hearing has been set for 19 December.


USA: Appeal filed by Iraqi torture victims on admissibility of complaint against CACI International

On 29 October 2013, four Iraqi citizens who were tortured at Abu Ghraib prison filed an appeal against a June 2013 court decision which ruled that their complaint against CACI International was inadmissible under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), following the Kiobel decision of the US Supreme Court earlier this year. CACI International had been involved in the management of Abu Grahib prison as a US defence contractor. The appeal is supported by six amici briefs filed on 6 November 2013, including current and past UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, retired military officers, academics specialised in civil, procedural and international law, and a group of survivors of human rights violations who have previously brought claims under the ATS.

Read summary of Al Shimari v CACI by the Center for Constitutional Rights


South Africa: Supreme Court of Appeal considers duty to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law

On 1 November 2013 South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal heard oral argument in an application to consider the extent of the national prosecution and police service's obligation to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law committed extraterritorially. Brought by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF), the application concerns whether South African authorities are competent to investigate allegations of international crimes when the suspect is not present in South Africa; whether investigations and prosecutions are subject to the same jurisdictional requirements under South Africa's ICC Act; and whether there is a duty to investigate suspects in all situations. The hearing was the latest in a series of appeals which have stemmed from a decision of the authorities not to open an investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Zimbabwe in 2007, evidence of which had been submitted in a criminal complaint to the authorities by SALC in 2008. Judgment was reserved.

Read Court Diary of proceedings by SALC


Senegal/Nigeria: ECOWAS Court rules that Extraordinary African Chambers can try Hissène Habré

On 5 November 2013 the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled that the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC), a special court in Dakar established by agreement between Senegal and the African Union, was competent to hear the case against former President of Chad Hissène Habré. Habré had applied to the ECOWAS court in April 2013 for an order to suspend the activities of the EAC on the grounds that it was illegitimate and could not provide him with a fair trial. The ECOWAS court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the treaty between Senegal and the African Union, which was binding, and rejected the application. In 2010, the ECOWAS court ruled that Habré would have to be tried before a “special ad hoc procedure of an international character”; its November 5 decision recognized that the EAC conforms to this requirement. Habré was formally charged by the EAC with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture in July 2013.

Details of the funding of the EAC were also reported on 1 October: the African Union will provide $1 million (US), Chad will provide $3,743,000 and the US $1 million. The European Union is providing €2 million (EUR), Germany and Belgium will each provide €500,000, France €300,000 and Luxembourg €100,000. Canada and Switzerland are also providing technical assistance to the office of the prosecutor. In November 2012, Senegal and a number of donor countries agreed to a budget of €7.4million EUR ($9.7 million US) for the court. On 13 November it was also announced that Senegal and Chad are planning to televise proceedings at the court.


Denmark: Supreme Court confirms extradition of Emmanuel Mbarushimana to Rwanda

On 8 November 2013 the Supreme Court of Denmark handed down a decision approving the extradition of genocide suspect Emmanuel Mbarushimana to Rwanda, confirming the decision of a lower court. He is reportedly charged in Rwanda with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder and extermination in relation to crimes committed in Butare prefecture; he had previously been indicted for murder in Denmark because Danish laws on genocide could not be applied retroactively. Mbarushimana’s lawyer has reportedly stated that they plan to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of concerns that Mbarushimana would not receive a fair trial in Rwanda. The European Court previously ruled in 2011 that the extradition from Sweden to Rwanda of another genocide suspect, Sylvere Ahorugeze, would be compatible with human rights standards.  


France: Appeal court approves extradition to Rwanda of Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana 

On 13 November 2013 the Paris Appeal Court approved the extradition of Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana to Rwanda to face charges of crimes against humanity and genocide. Philippe Meilhac, the lawyer representing both men, reportedly indicated their intention to appeal the ruling to a higher court following the decision. If approved, France would still be required to sign an extradition treaty with Rwanda before either of the accused could be transferred. Muhayimana, reportedly a French citizen since 2010, is accused of participating in massacres in Kibuye, while Musabyimana was allegedly involved in the genocide in Gisenyi.

Vacancy for Seconded National Expert at EU Genocide Network - EUROJUST

A vacancy has arisen for a seconded national expert at EUROJUST. Based in The Hague, the position may be allocated to the EU Genocide Network Secretariat at the request of interested applicants. This position is an exciting opportunity for legal professionals who are interested in international criminal law and/or criminal and judicial cooperation to support investigations and prosecutions of crimes under international law across Europe. Please note that among other qualifications, applicants must be employed by a public administration (either at central, federal or regional level) of a Member State of the European Union or a public intergovernmental organization (IGO). The deadline is 1 December 2013. 

Read job specification here. Read application details here.

Recent Publications

The Report of the International Law Commission (ILC) on the work of its sixty-third and sixty-fifth sessions has been published; a short overview has also been provided by ILC member Sean D. Murphy on Opinio JurisThis includes immunity of state officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction, the obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare) and potential future development of a convention on crimes against humanity.

An International Crimes Database was launched by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague on 12 November 2013. The database includes case law on international crimes from national, international and internationalized courts, general background information about international crimes, academic and news articles, working papers (ICD briefs) and relevant links to other useful databases/websites on this topic. 

Open Society Justice Initiative have published Judging a Dictator: The Trial of Guatemala’s Rios Monttcontaining a summary of the former president of Guatemala's trial for genocide and crimes against humanity earlier this year. English translations of key sections of the conviction, of the constitutional court ruling that led to the cancellation of the guilty verdict against Rios Montt, and two dissenting opinions are also available. 

ECCHR has published an expert opinion criticizing the findings of investigatory proceedings into a US drone strike on Bünyamin E., a German citizen, by the German Federal Public Prosecutor General. Bünyamin E. was killed by a drone along with four other persons on 4 October 2010 in Mir Ali, Pakistan in circumstances which have been said to amount to a war crime.

Futher recent publications include The Law of State Immunity, 3rd edn, by Lady Fox CMG QC and Dr Philippa Webb. Extraterritoriality and the Law of Nations in American Federal Courts by Carolyn A. DubayInternational Judicial Monitor, and Le principe aut dedere aut judicare by Marie Fernandez (français) are available free to download.



REDRESS is grateful for the financial support of the Criminal Justice Programme of the European Union 


Disclaimer: This informal update is provided for information purposes only. Inclusion of information in this newsletter does not constitute endorsement by REDRESS. It is not intended to be comprehensive in nature and may contain errors. REDRESS, its partners or the European Commission are not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained in this document. 

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