Redress - Ending Torture, Seeking Justice for Survivors
Universal Jurisdiction News
March - April 2014

Dear friends and colleagues,

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

For more information on universal jurisdiction, please subscribe to our Universal Jurisdiction Listserv by sending an email to: UJ-Info-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. We welcome submissions of information, developments and jurisprudence related to universal jurisdiction for inclusion in this update, as well as comments or queries. Please contact tara@redress.org

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Warm wishes,

Carla Ferstman

Director


 

Delivering Justice to Victims of Serious International Crimes in the EU

On 24 March REDRESS and its partner organisations - TRIAL (Track Impunity Always), the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) hosted a conference in Brussels on the rights of victims of international crimes in light of the implementation of the 2012 EU Directive on minimum standards for victims of crime. The conference was attended by representatives of EU Member States and EU institutions, experts, civil society and a number of victims of international crimes. A further meeting co-hosted by the Secretariat of the EU Genocide Network on 25 March considered options to strengthen EU engagement on combating impunity for international crimes. 

Read agenda and conference Background Paper in French and English - 24 March

Read agenda and background materials - 25 March


 

On 21 February 2014, Directorate Justice of the European Commission published Guidelines for EU Member States on the implementation of the 2012 EU Directive on minimum standards for the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. Among other recommendations for transposition of the Directive into national law, the Guidelines specifically recognise the situation of victims of international crimes who are participating in criminal proceedings within the EU. REDRESS submitted comments on an earlier, draft version of the Guidelines in July 2013, addressing the Directive's application to victims of international crimes. 

Read Guidelines on Implementation of Directive on Minimum Standards for Victims of Crime

Spain: Legislation limiting universal jurisdiction enters into force

On 12 March 2014 the Spanish Senate (Senado de España) adopted legislation restricting Spain's universal jurisdiction laws. The legislation had been approved by Congress (Congreso de los Diputados) on 27 February, following an "urgent" legislative procedure, and entered into force on 15 March 2014. It was intended to apply retroactively so as to close all extraterritorial jurisdiction cases currently pending before Spanish courts. However, on 17 March it was reported that Judge Santiago Pedraz of the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) had refused to close the Couso case, concerning the killing of a Spanish cameraman in an American bombing in Iraq, on the grounds that the new legislation contravenes the universal jurisdiction provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The State Prosecution Service has reportedly filed an appeal against this decision. In addition, on 4 March the Socialist Parliamentary Group announced that it will appeal the legislation to the Constitutional Court.

TRIAL (Track Impunity Always), Fundación Internacional Baltazar Garzón (FIGBAR) and Rights International Spain have called on the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Committee Against Torture, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to urge Spain to repeal this legislation. 

Image of El Congreso de los Diputados, Madrid by denetsnuff

Germany: Onesphore Rwabukombe convicted of accessory to genocide

On 18 February 2014 the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main convicted Onesphore Rwabukombe of accessory to genocide and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. Rwabukombe's was the first trial related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide to take place in Germany; opened in January 2011, the trial heard over 100 witnesses. Rwabukombe was accused of overseeing and assisting in the murder of 450 individuals at the Kiziguro church compound in Rwanda's Eastern Province, in his position as a member of the local executive committee of the Rwandan governing party MRND (Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement) and mayor of Muvumba commune. Rwabukombe had reportedly lived in Mannheim since 2002; he may appeal his conviction. 

Image of Lady Justice in Frankfurt by mikecogh

France: Pascal Simbikangwa convicted of genocide

On 14 March 2014 Pascal Simbikangwa was convicted of genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity by a jury at the Paris criminal court (Cour d’assises) following a six-week trial. Simbikangwa was a former intelligence chief and captain of Rwanda's presidential guard, who was found to have supplied weapons and given orders to guards at checkpoints to encourage killings. The Court reportedly heard testimony from 53 witnesses, some who travelled from Rwanda, and an additional 20 expert witnesses. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and has reportedly filed a notice of appeal. The trial was the first French prosecution in respect of the 1994 Rwanda genocide; a further 27 cases linked to the genocide are reportedly open before the French specialised war crimes unit.

READ press release by FIDH and LDH

READ updates on hearings, including summaries of evidence and submissions, by Collectif des parties civiles rwandaises (CPCR - in French)

Image of Pascal Simbikangwa by Interpol

Belgium: Investigations into Rwanda genocide suspects

On 25 March 2014 media reports carried details of investigations by Belgian authorities into suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda genocide who are present on its territory, some of which are reportedly close to trial. It was reported that investigations have been finalised in four cases involving seven Rwandan suspects and may soon proceed to prosecution. The seven suspects have not been named, but have reportedly been arrested before and remain on bail. In total, 36 Rwandan genocide suspects are reportedly known by the authorities within Belgium. Of those suspects, 10 cases are being handled by investigative judges, while the prosecution service is overseeing investigation into the remaining 26.

Photo of Rwanda genocide memorial by DFID

Focus on the UK

Opening of extradition proceedings against five Rwandan genocide suspects

On 3 March 2014 proceedings opened at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London against five men suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, whom the Rwandan government wishes to extradite and prosecute. The five suspects - Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Charles Munyaneza, Celestin Ugirashebuja, Vincent Bajinya and Celestin Mutabaruka - are currently on bail. This is the second extradition request in respect of four of the suspects, after a prior extradition request was rejected by the High Court in 2009 due to fair trial concerns in Rwanda. The men were released without charge or conditions, before being re-arrested in May 2013 along with a fifth suspect, Celestin Mutabaruka, who faces charges for the first time. Proceedings have taken place over a number of days in March and are scheduled to continue in the coming weeks. 

Read profile of Celestin Mutabaruka in The Times (subscription required)


 

Home Office has identified 49 suspected perpetrators of international crimes 

On 13 February 2014 it was reported that 49 people suspected of involvement in genocide, torture or other serious crimes committed abroad are living in the UK following immigration or asylum decisions in favour of their removal. These figures were released by the Home Office following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC. The individuals have subsequently been granted "restricted leave to remain" in the UK - a temporary residence status with very limited rights - because human rights concerns prevent their deportation under non-refoulement provisions. Since application of immigration rules in respect of suspects was strengthened in 2011 only one such person been deported. However, it is unclear how many of these cases have been referred to the police or are under criminal investigation. A further BBC interview on 21 March warned that British border authorities were "significantly underestimating" the number of suspected war criminals within the UK.

LISTEN to interview with Sir Geoffrey Nice QC on Today Programme on BBC4


 

Further allegations regarding suspected perpetrators in the UK

On 10 March 2014 allegations were reported that the UK had failed to enforce a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) against Charles Kayonga, a former General of the Rwandan army who was receiving medical treatment in London. The EAW was reportedly issued by Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu on 2 January 2014 after victims who are civil parties to an ongoing case against Kayonga related to alleged international crimes in Rwanda in the 1990s obtained information about his whereabouts. However, no arrest was made and on 25 February it was reported that Kayonga had been appointed Rwanda's ambassador to China and was presumed to have left the UK. A criminal investigation into allegations against Kayonga and 39 other Rwandans has been open in Spain since 2008

On 15 February it was also reported that Jonathan Ruhumuliza, a former Rwandan bishop who has been working as a Church of England priest in Worcestershire, is under investigation by Rwandan authorities in relation to allegations of his involvement in incitement of genocide in 1994, and at one time had been refused a UK work permit due to the allegations. 

Image of UK passport by Jack Lee.

Case Updates

USA: Jorge Sosa sentenced to 10 years in prison 

On 10 February 2014, Jorge Sosa was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in Riverside, California for immigration fraud in relation to his alleged role in the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre in Guatemala in which over 200 people were killed. Sosa was found guilty by a jury in October 2013 of lying on a 2007 naturalisation application that he had never committed a crime, following accusations that he took part in the massacre. After his application was refused, he lived in Canada where he holds dual citizenship. He was extradited to the US in 2012 to face immigration charges, although criminal complaints which addressed his role in the massacre were also filed in Canada and Spain. It is unknown if a warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide, torture and extrajudicial killing is still pending in Spain. 


 

UK: Authorities called on to progress investigation into Argor - Hussar 

On 5 February 2014 TRIAL (Track Impunity Always), the Conflict Awareness Project and Open Society Justice Initiative called on the UK and Jersey Channel Island authorities to investigate the alleged role of Hussar Services Limited and Hussar Limited as primary traders of looted gold. The call came following a decision of a Swiss court on 24 January 2014 upholding the investigation into Argor-Heraeus SA, a Swiss-based gold refinery accused of knowingly laundering gold pillaged from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The same evidence has also been submitted to British and Jersey Channel Islands authorities in support of a complaint that Hussar - Argor's UK affiliate - also bears responsibility.

Read more about Argor case at www.trial-ch.org


 

Romania: Complaint filed against Florian Cormos

On 11 February 2014 it was reported that a complaint had been filed with the Romanian General Prosecutor against former policeman Florian Cormos, in relation to crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the communist era. Specifically, Cormos is alleged to have been responsible for the death of 115 people at the Columbia camp in Cernovada between December 1952 and March 1953, while in a senior position at the camp. The investigations into Cormos were carried out by the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes (IICCMER), a government agency.

Read interview with Florian Cormos by the BBC


 

France: Torture complaint filed against Chief of Moroccan Security Services

On 20 February 2014, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) filed a complaint on behalf of individual victims against Abdellatif Hammouchi, chief of the Moroccan Security Service, regarding his alleged involvement in torture in the Temara detention center in Morocco. The complaint was filed while Hammouchi was visiting France, accompanying Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad who was visiting for political talks. On 20 February, seven French police officers reportedly allegedly went to the residence of the Ambassador of Morocco to notify Hammouchi of a summons from an investigating judge regarding the complaint. The incident led to diplomatic protests from Morocco, and reports that Morocco would suspend all judicial cooperation with France. Furthermore, on 26 March it was reported that Morocco had filed a countersuit in the French courts against the complainants in the case, accusing them of "inaccurate torture allegations".


 

Senegal/Chad: Chad applies to join Habré case as civil party 

On 25 February 2014, Chad applied for recognition as a civil party to the case against the country’s former President, Hissène Habré. Reportedly, the state intends to claim for the financial losses it suffered as a result of Habré's acts while in power. However, the victims who are parties to the case have asked the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) to declare Chad’s application inadmissible, on the basis that this role should be assumed solely by individual victims. Rather, they suggest measures for the facilitation of trial proceedings should be introduced to safeguard witnesses, judges and lawyers of the victims. Habré is charged with torture and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during his rule from 1982 to 1990. Unrelated to these developments, a third international rogatory commission of staff from the EAC to conduct investigations in Chad is taking place from 15 - 30 March 2014.


 

Spain: Continuing investigations into Tibet-China genocide allegations

On 25 February 2014 media reports carried details of the investigations being carried out by Spanish authorities regarding the "Tibet Genocide Case". Details were published of a judicial questionnaire with 48 questions sent to former president of China Hu Jintao by Spanish investigating magistrate, Judge Ismael Moreno. Arrest warrants were issued against Hu Jintao - former President of China - and four other Chinese suspects on 10 February 2014, although it is unclear if Interpol has added the five individuals to its public list of internationally wanted persons. 


 

France: Refusal to extradite three Rwandan genocide suspects

On 26 February 2014 the French Court of Cassation - France's highest appeal court - refused an application to extradite three Rwandan genocide suspects to Kigali. Earlier rulings by lower courts in France allowing the extradition of Claude Muhayimana, Innocent Musabyimana and Laurent Serubuga were overturned on the basis that genocide was not a punishable crime under Rwandan legislation at the time the acts were committed. Therefore, the court refused to extradite the three suspects for acts deemed to incur retrospective criminal liability. This decision has been criticised as inconsistent with rules regarding the status of the prohibition of genocide under international law in 1994, as established by the ICTR and other national jurisdictions. Investigations into Claude Muhayimana’s involvement in the genocide are also ongoing in France, independent of the Rwandan proceedings against him, so that legally he could be tried in France. 

Read blog on the decision by Prof. William Schabas


 

France: Victims seek subpoena of former Guantánamo Commander for torture

On 26 February 2014, French citizens and former Guantánamo Bay prisoners Nizar Sassi and Mourat Benchellali asked a French judge to subpoena former Commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre Geoffrey Miller regarding his alleged role in the torture and mistreatment of detainees. They were assisted by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), who submitted an expert report to the High Court of Paris with details of alleged torture and war crimes committed in the prison between 2002 and 2004. Sassi, Benchellali and another former detainee, Khaled Ben Mustaffa, have lodged criminal complaints in France which resulted in the opening of an ongoing investigation. In January 2012, the investigating judge issued a formal request, or “letter rogatory”, to the United States, which remains unanswered to date. CCR and ECCHR's application for the subpoena is on the basis that Miller's testimony is necessary for the investigation to proceed.

Read expert report by CCR and ECCHR


 

USA: Appeal hearings in torture claim against CACI International 

On 18 March 2014 appeal hearings reportedly took place in Virginia regarding the admissibility of a torture suit brought by four former Iraqi detainees against US military defence contractor, CACI International. The detainees, who suffered torture and ill-treatment at Abu Grahib prison, are appealling 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.


 

Hungary: Trial opens against Bela Biszku for war crimes 

On 18 March 2014, the trial opened against 92-year old Bela Biszku on charges that he abetted the shooting of civilians during the anti-communist uprisings in Hungary in 1956. Biszku was charged with war crimes in October 2013 in relation to his role as part of a Communist Party committee which ordered the shootings of civilians during protests in Budapest and Salgotarjan in December 1956. Biszku later served as Hungary's interior minister from 1957 to 1961. 


 

The Netherlands: Dutch-Croatian war crimes suspect arrested 

On 26 March 2014, Dutch authorities arrested a Dutch-Croatian national pursuant to a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Croatian Provincial Court in Split. The 41-year old suspect - reported only as Milutin G. - was arrested in Roosendaal and will appear before the Amsterdam Court of First Instance. He is accused of participating in ethnic cleansing during Croatia's 1990s conflict, specifically by committing pillage and arson in the village of Perušić, Benkovac municipality in the Krajina. The suspect was reportedly discovered in 2013 by a journalist conducting an investigation on fugitives for a Dutch newspaper. 

Mainstreaming support for the ICC in the EU's policies

On 24 March 2014 a Study on Mainstreaming Support for the ICC in the EU's Policies was published, which had been commissioned by the Human Rights Committee (DROI) of the European Parliament. The study identifies specific and concrete policy recommendations directed both at the EU and at Member States in order to ensure their continued and enhanced support for the ICC, and for efforts to combat impunity and prevent safe haven within the EU. Recommendations include strengthening cooperation among Member States and at the EU Genocide Network, as well as considering the adoption of an EU Action Plan on Combating Impunity.

Image of European Commission by Sébastien Bertrand

Recent Publications

"Rwanda is not a piece of art. An ecology of the courtroom by Model Court" by Brigitte van der Sande provides an overview of a recent panel discussion which took place regarding the role of video-conferencing and technology in universal jurisdiction cases, including that of François Bazaramba in Finland/Rwanda. A feature piece has been published regarding allegations against former French intelligence agent Paul Barril, who is accused of complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. An investigation into the allegations is currently ongoing in France following submission of a complaint against Barril by FIDH, LDH and Survie. 

Universal Jurisdiction: A Growing Legal Phenomenon” was recently published by Richard A. Goldstone in the International Judicial Monitor of the American Society of International Law. "The Role of National Courts in Applying International Humanitarian Law" by Sharon Weill has been recently published. “Extradition of Transnational Criminals” by Joanna Harrington, and "Universal Jurisdiction, the Alien Tort Statute, and Transnational Public Law Litigation after Kiobel" by Ernest A. Young 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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