Redress - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Survivors
Universal Jurisdiction News
March 2013

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Welcome to the first edition of REDRESS' Universal Jurisdiction News, a new monthly newsletter which will report on the latest case updates and other legal developments, news and publications related to universal jurisdiction worldwide. Universal jurisdiction is a key mechanism for national states to address impunity, ensuring accountability of suspected perpetrators, and enabling victims of the most serious crimes under international law to access justice and reparation. This edition covers the period January-February 2013. 

To subscribe to this newsletter please contact Tara O'Leary, Universal Jurisdiction Project Coordinator, at We welcome any questions or queries; copies of all articles cited are kept on file by REDRESS.  

For more information related to universal jurisdiction, we encourage you to subscribe to the REDRESS Universal Jurisdiction Listserv, where experts and practitioners exchange information related to the latest developments. To join, please send an email to

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Warm wishes,

Dadimos Haile, Interim Director 


REDRESS launches new project on universal jurisdiction in the European Union

In January 2013, REDRESS commenced a new project, Implementing Rights of Victims of Serious International Crimes in the European Union. The project, which will run in 2013 and 2014, seeks to provide access to justice for victims of serious international crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, through universal jurisdiction proceedings in the EU. Among other activities, the project will provide support to national authorities working on the investigation and prosecution of serious international crimes, and will work to increase the participation of victims in proceedings across Europe. 

Two previous projects on universal jurisdiction were completed with the support of our partner, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). This third project will be implemented in cooperation with our project partners: FIDH, TRIAL (Swiss Association Against Impunity) and The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

REDRESS is grateful for the financial support of the Criminal Justice Program of the European Commission. 

Extraordinary African Chambers inaugerated in Senegal to facilitate trial of Hissène Habré

8 February 2013 saw the inaugeration of the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, established to facilitate the trial of the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, who has previously been indicted for crimes against humanity and torture, among other acts (statement here by FIDH). Established by an agreement between the Government of Senegal and the African Union (AU), the definition of international crimes within the jurisdiction of the Chambers largely mirrors those set out in the Rome Statute. Significantly, victims will be able to participate in the proceedings as civil parties, represented by legal counsel, and the Statute establishes a victims’ fund from which victims will be able to access reparation. 

Habré’s case, provided that he stands trial, will mark the first time that the domestic courts of one country have tried the former head of state of another country under the principle of universal jurisdiction. It will also be possible to potentially try any other suspected perpetrators of international crimes committed in Chad between 7 June 1982 and 1 December 1990. It is expected that trials will take place from 2014 onwards.

Read an overview of the Chambers and its statute by Dr. Miša Zgonec-Rožej

Watch a short film about Chadian victims' fight for justice by Human Rights Watch

Image of widows of victims of the Habré regime protesting in N'djamena, Chad, in 2005 by Madjiasra Nako/IRIN

Colonel Kumar Lama to be tried in the UK on charges of torture

On 3 January 2013 Colonel Kumar Lama, a serving member of the Nepalese army who also has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, was arrested in Sussex and later charged with three counts of torture. The offences were allegedly committed in 2005 during the Nepalese civil war, while Colonel Lama was commander of the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Kapilvastu. Colonel Lama remains in detention after being twice refused bail at court hearings taking place on 5 and 24 January. A trial date has been provisionally set for June 2013. 

REDRESS welcomed the UK’s decision to prosecute a suspected perpetrator of torture under the principle of universal jurisdiction. REDRESS also made a submission to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to stress that a prosecution for torture is in the public interest and to remind him of the UK's obligations under international law to address impunity and, if necessary, to prosecute known suspects within their jurisdiction. 

The trial will be the second prosecution under universal jurisdiction laws in the UK, the first being the conviction of Faryadi Zardad from Afghanistan for torture in 2005. 

Read REDRESS press release

Read REDRESS submission to the Attorney General

Image of Lady Justice at the Old Bailey by Joe Dunckley. 

Focus: Universal jurisdiction in France

First genocide trial set to take place

According to FIDH, France is set to begin its first genocide trial in late 2013 or early 2014, that of Pascal Simbikangwa, a Captain who headed Rwanda's Central Intelligence Agency during the genocide. The first investigation into the allegations were completed by the investigating judge on 4 February 2013, following which it is envisoned that the case will be transfered to the Paris Criminal Court in the coming weeks. Simbikangwa was arrested in Mayotte, a French Overseas Department, in 2008 after he was found to have been living under an assumed identity. A request by the Rwandan authorities for his extradition to face trial there was subsequently rejected. Simbikangwa is suspected of organising Interahamwe militia and preparing lists of the Tutsi to be killed during the genocide.

Read TRIAL profile of Pascal Simbikangwa

Proposed legislative amendments to remove obstacles to universal jurisdiction prosecutions

On 26 February 2013 the French Senate began debating proposed legislation which  would amend existing provisions in order to remove obstacles to the prosecution of crimes under international law in France. The existing legislation - enacted in 2010 to give effect to French obligations under the Rome Statute - would address some of the key conditions which must be satisfied before the French authorities may bring proceedings under universal jurisdiction, and which have been criticised by civil society. These include the requirement that a suspect must have an "habitual residence" in France, and a requirement for dual criminality both in France and the country of origin. In addition, the proposed legislation addresses a requirement that the ICC must refuse its jurisdiction over the crime before domestic proceedings can be initiated, a clear contradiction of the principle of complementarity. However, it remains unclear whether the proposed legislation will remove the current rules which restrict instigation of proceedings in relation to such crimes solely to the Public Prosecutor. 

Read FIDH statement in French

Arrest of Innocent Musabyimana on suspicion of genocide and crimes against humanity

On 22 January 2013 French authorities arrested Innocent Musabyimana, alias Ibrahim Niyonsenga, at Longvic in Dijon on suspicion of genocide and crimes against humanity. An Interpol notice had been issued in relation to Musabyimana after Rwandan authorities issued an international warrant for his arrest in November 2012. His extradition to Rwanda to face trial was approved by a court in Dijon on 30 January. However, Musabyimana has the right to appeal this ruling, and it is notable that all such Rwandan extradition orders to date have been rejected by French appellate courts.

It has been reported that, as of 2013, the Rwandan government has issued 21 extradition requests to France for suspects indicted on suspicion of genocide or crimes against humanity. However, to date none of these suspects have been extradited to Rwanda to face trial, nor have they been prosecuted in France.

Concern expressed over slow progress in universal jurisdiction proceedings against two Rwandan suspects located in France

In February 2013 the Registrar of the ICTR, Christopher Bongani Majora, expressed concern at slow progress in relation to the cases of two suspected genocidaires living in France, Laurent Bucyibaruta and Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka. The two suspects were indicted by the ICTR but the cases were transferred to France for trial under universal jurisdiction laws in 2007. To date, no progress has been made in either case and neither of the suspects are currently in detention. 

Image of flag by fdecomite

Corporate accountability initiatives

France: Decision to proceed in Amesys case on sale of surveillance systems to Gaddafi regime

On 15 January 2013 the Paris Court of Appeal issued a decision allowing a judicial investigation to proceed in the Amesys case. The case relates to a complaint filed by FIDH and LDH (Ligue des droits de l'homme - Human Rights League) alleging that the French corporation Amesys was complicit in acts of torture by supplying surveillance equipment to the Gaddafi regime, thereby allowing it to perfect the means of repression against its opponents and the population as a whole. The investigating judge appointed on the case decided in May 2012 to open an investigation into the complaint, on the basis that the judicial inquiry would form the appropriate means to determine whether Amesys and its management should be considered criminally liable. The Court of Appeal on 15 January confirmed this decision, clearing the way for the investigation to proceed. Five libyan victims, through their lawyers, Patrick Baudouin and Emmanuel Daoud, were admitted as civil parties in the judicial investigation on 10 January 2013. 

Read FIDH press release

Germany and UK: Complaints filed against two corporations alleging complicity in torture and human rights abuses in Bahrain 

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) together with Privacy International, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters Without Borders filed formal complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Germany and the UK against two surveillance companies on 1 February and 6 February, respectively. The complaints allege that there are grounds to investigate whether surveillance products and services provided by Gamma International and Trovicor, based in the UK and Germany, have been instrumental in torture and other human rights abuses in Bahrain, including arbitrary detention, freedom of expression and freedom of association. 

Read ECCHR press release and background information 

Image of wall painting of Col. Gaddafi by Abode of Chaos

Case updates

The Netherlands: Yvonne Basebya convicted of instigation to commit genocide

On 1 March a Dutch court found Yvonne Basebya (Ntacyobatabara) guilty of instigation to commit genocide, related to her role in the run up to and during the genocide in Rwanda. Although acquitted of five other charges related to co-perpetration, conspiracy and attempted genocide as well as war crimes, the case is notable as Basebya is the country’s first citizen to be convicted of offences related to genocide since the Second World War. Basebya become a Dutch national in 2004 after living in the Netherlands since 1998. She was arrested in June 2010.

The case is notable for its provisions for victim participation; victims read impact statements to the court describing what they had suffered and the consequences of their experiences. Basebya was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. 

Read press statement by REDRESS and SURF

South Africa: investigation opened into crimes against humanity of rape and sexual violence, allegedly committed during 2008 Zimbabwe electoral campaign

Media reports on 25 February 2013 indicated that South African prosecutors will investigate President Robert Mugabe’s political party for crimes against humanity for an alleged campaign of mass rapes during the run up to Zimbabwe's 2008 elections. The investigation has reportedly been opened in response to a complaint filed by a Canadian organization, AIDS-Free World. Its legal teams have reportedly gathered hundreds of hours of testimony from 84 rape survivors who identified more than 200 perpetrators and orchestrators in the alleged rape campaign.

Norway: Confirms extradition to Rwanda of genocide suspect Charles Bandora 

Media reports on 24 February 2013 indicated that the Norwegian government has confirmed that the extradition of Rwandan genocide suspect Charles Bandora will go ahead. Bandora had previously appealed his extradition up to the Supreme Court of Norway. He is alleged to have organised and participated in killings of hundreds of Tutsi who had taken refuge at Ruhuha Church in Ngenda Commune. He was arrested on 8 June 2012 as he tried to enter Oslo Airport while travelling under a false identity. 

If completed, the Bandora case will be the first extradition of a crminal suspect from Norway to Rwanda, but is also significant as it would reportedly make Norway the first European country to accede to Rwandan requests for return of genocide suspects to face trial there. Several previous such requests - related to members of the large Rwandan diaspora living abroad - have been rejected by the national courts of other European states due to fair trial and other human rights concerns. 

USA: Beatrice Munyenyezi found guilty of immigration fraud in relation to her role in the Rwandan genocide

On 21 February 2013, a federal jury in New Hampshire found that Beatrice Munyenyezi had directly taken part in the Rwandan genocide, and had therefore committed immigration fraud by lying about her role when applying for asylum and later citizenship in the United States. Prosecution witnesses testified they saw her identifying Tutsis at a notorious checkpoint located outside the hotel run by her family, and that she was an active member of the political party which ordered the violence. Munyenyezi has been stripped of her US citizenship and will be sentenced in June; she may face a prison sentence as well as possible deportation to Rwanda. 

Munyenyezi was originally tried in 2011, but a retrial was ordered in March 2012 after the jury failed to come to a verdict about her role in the genocide. Munyenyezi's husband, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, and mother-in-law, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, were convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by the ICTR in June 2011. 

Norway: Sadi Bugingo found guilty in country's first ever genocide trial

On 14 February 2013, the Oslo District Court found Sadi Bugingo guilty of complicity in killings related to the genocide in the former prefecture of Kibungo in eastern Rwanda in April 1994. Bugingo was accused, among other things, of taking a leading role in planning and leading attacks against Tutsi civilians who sought refuge in a Catholic centre and municipal building. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum sentence which can be imposed under Norwegian law. This was Norway's first prosecution of genocide under universal jurisdiction laws, but as genocide was not part of the legal code in Norway in 1994, Bugingo was tried for murder and participation in murders. 

Read press statement by REDRESS and SURF

Canada: ongoing trial of Jacques Mungwarere on charges of crimes against humanity

Jacques Mungwarere, who has been accused of crimes against humanity for the murders of the Tutsi people in Rwanda, is currently on trial in Ottawa, Canada. The trial, which began on 28 May 2012, is based upon charges that Mungwarere participated in the attack on Mugonero Hospital in April of 1994, and the persecution of the surviving Tutsis in Bisesero, Rwanda. Since January the defence has called several witnesses to testify. Though many of those who testified had not personally witnessed Mungwarere’s involvement in the genocide, several stated that he was present at Mugonero Hospital during the genocide. On 28 January 2013, Mungwarere testified on his own behalf that when the war started he was on vacation, and after the war was over he went into exile. The Crown will continue to explore elements of Munwarere’s alibi, and the judge has estimated that the trial will conclude in March.

Read weekly summaries of the trial proceedings by the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ)

Switzerland: Decision on immunities in Nezzar case now available in English

A July 2012 decision of the Swiss Criminal Court ruling that immunities do not apply in a war crimes case against Khaled Nezzar, the former Algerian defence minister, is now available online. The ruling cleared the way for further investigation in the case, which has been ongoing following the decision. In 2012, several witnesses were interviewed by the Swiss authorities and additional complaints have been filed against Khaled Nezzar.

This unofficial English-language translation of the Nezzar decision has been provided by TRIAL (Swiss Association Agaisnt Impunity) with the kind help of Mrs. Irene Roy.

Read the decision in English

Read the original decision in French

TRIAL commences new initiative to locate suspected war criminals

On 7 February 2013, TRIAL (Swiss Association Against Impunity) announced the commencement of a new project, Not Beyond the Reach of Justice. Focused on the Balkan region, the project is aimed at gathering information on suspected perpetrators who have moved to other countries where they are currently enjoying impunity. TRIAL will collect and analyze information from victims, victims' associations, witnesses and other reliable sources, to develop dossiers regarding suspected perpetrators with a view to submitting them to the competent authorities for further investigation and prosecutions.

This new initiative is a continuation of TRIAL's longstanding work in the Balkans, helping victims obtain justice, and promoting the importance of fair trials and the rule of law and its belief in the equality of all victims, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality. TRIAL undertakes various activities, including the submission of cases to the authorities of countries which can exercise universal jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators residing on their territory.

Read TRIAL statement

Events and activities

Universal Jurisdiction Project Strategy Meeting, London, 14 February 2013

REDRESS invited 18 experts and practitioners working in the field of universal jurisdiction and international criminal law to participate in a strategy meeting held to mark the outset of the new REDRESS universal jurisdiction project. The meeting brought together prosecuters, police, investigators, immigration authorities and lawyers from EU member states, as well as representatives of our partner NGOs – FIDH, ECCHR and TRIAL - Human Rights Watch, Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT), Amnesty International and  the Secretariat of the European Network of contact points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The meeting provided an opportunity to present REDRESS' project goals, generate discussion about how best to maximize our contribution to what national authorities are already engaged in, and consult on planned project activities over the next two years. 

TRIAL night at the Human Rights International Forum and Film Festival, Geneva

TRIAL, together with the delegation "Genève Ville Solidaire" and "Liberation" will host a film screening and debate on the topic, "Tracking down war criminals: what is the role for States?". The event takes place at 20:30 on 8 March 2013, at the Maison des Arts du Grütli in Geneva. Full details can be found here.

Universal jurisdiction in the media

BBC Radio 4's Today programme: On 4 January 2013, REDRESS Legal Advisor Juergen Schurr spoke to the BBC Radio 4's flagship morning show on the recent arrest of Colonel Kumar Lama in London for torture carried out in Nepal during the civil war. Lama was arrested under the UK's universal jurisdiction laws.

CBC Radio's The Current programmeOn 26 February Joshua Rozenberg, legal commentator with the BBC and the Guardian, and Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law at U.C. Davis, California, took part in a panel discussion on universal jurisdiction, in particular on its use as a means to respond to allegations of rape and sexual violence. The discussion was aired following reports that South African authorities are investigating the alleged widespread use of rape by Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party during the 2008 Zimbabwe election campaign. 

Listen to the podcast

New reports and publications

Journal of International Criminal Justice symposium on Germany v Italy

The most recent issue of the Journal of International Criminal Justice dedicates a number of its articles to a recent symposium discussing various aspects of state immunity and civil claims for international crimes, related to the recent decision of the International Court of Justice in Germany v Italy. 

Mapping Perpetrator Prosecutions in Latin America

Collins, Balardini and Burt, IJTJ (2013) 7 (1): 8-28

The Dark Side of Immunity: Is There Any Individual Right for Activities Jure Imperii?

Matteo Sarzo, Leiden Journal of International Law (2013), 26, pp. 105–125

Immunity of State Officials from the Criminal Jurisdiction of a Foreign State

Andrew Sanger, International and Comparative Law Quarterly (2013) 62, pp 193-224

Submission from TRIAL (Swiss Association against Impunity) to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

Submission on Rwanda's implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict, January 2013. In the submission, TRIAL sets out its concerns regarding measures taken to criminalise the offences related to the involvement of children in armed conflict and to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction. 

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