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Category: international criminal justice

Landmark UN ICTR ruling in the Butare Trial

Today the United Nations (UN) International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sentenced all six defendants in the Butare Trial for crimes related to genocide. Three of the six are sentenced to life imprisonment, including Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the former Rwandan Minister of Family Affairs and Women's Development. Nyiramasuhuko is the first woman to be convicted by the ICTR of genocide, and crimes against humanity, which include rape, among other charges.

Nyiramasuhuko's son, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, and the other four defendants have similarly been convicted on account of their actions in the massacre of Tutsi and moderate Hutus in the Butare district of Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. All six defendants are from the Butare district in southern Rwanda. There they conspired to commit genocide, and participated in acts of genocide. Pauline Nyiramasuhuko is a prominent figure in this trial, as the first woman and female government official to be indicted by the ICTR. Nyiramasuhuko is recognized as a "tyrant" and "key player" in perpetuating the massacres and rapes of Butare district Tutsis.

A Victory for International Justice, and a Warning to Tyrants Around the World: Ratko Mladic, Accused War Criminal, Arrested in Serbia

Ratko Mladic

Today is a great day for international justice.  Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general charged with ordering the infamous genocide at Srebrenica, has been arrested in Serbia after sixteen years as a fugitive and will be extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Mladic is accused of being responsible for the deaths of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the attack on Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995.  Peacekeepers who were supposed to protect the town were unable to prevent the massacre by Mladic's forces.

Serbia's government was quick to trumpet the news of Mladic's capture.  "We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live," said President Boris Tadic.

The arrest of Mladic sends a clear message to other tyrants around the globe who have committed similar crimes: there is no impunity for international lawbreakers and those responsible for genocide and mass atrocities.  Whether it is President al-Bashir in Sudan or Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, those leaders and officials responsible for crimes against civilians will not be able to escape justice forever.

As it happens, I attended an event this morning at the Brookings Institution about the future of Europe and European foreign policy.  Not surprisingly, the subject of Mladic's arrest came up.  The panelists agreed that not only did this represent a victory for international justice, but also demonstrated a key power of the European Union even in these difficult times: its ability to influence the behavior of prospective member states, such as Serbia, and help guide them down a positive international path.  Serbia had been under intense pressure from the EU to capture Mladic if its hopes of joining the European Union were to reach fruition.  Today, as EU foreign policy chief Baroness Catherine Ashton arrived in Serbia, the news of his arrest was announced.

Resolution 1973. Think twice tyrants!

Resolution 1973 adopted last week by the United Nations Security Council authorizing a multinational intervention into Libya has created a new precedent for the enforcement of international law.  Resolution 1973 incorporates principles that the international community has been hopeful to see come to life.  These include the “responsibility to protect,” jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the loss of sovereignty for governments that commit mass atrocities, and the principle of “human security.”  These principles were expressed when the Resolution provided that the international community was “to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack….”  This is a momentous statement, especially with regard to traditional U.S. military action.  The driving force of the strategy enunciated by the Security Council is civilian protection, not regime change.  Civilian causalities represent a failure in mission objective, rather than merely collateral damage.  The world is finally recognizing, and with haste I might add, the responsibility to protect world citizens from imminent danger.

The Resolution is a display of ‘teeth’ by the United Nations Security Council.  In the face of criticism that the United Nations has no ability to back-up its resolutions or treaties, a multilateral force has come together and offered real military power to support the Security Council.  The time when tyrants and rogue states could commit atrocities with no accountability has come to an end.  The actions that are being taken against Muammar Gaddafi will resonate in the thoughts of all of those who conceive of committing human rights violations in the future.

ICC Launches Investigation Into Libya's Attacks on its Civilians

Good news: the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced this week that he will launch an investigation into recent attacks on civilians in Libya.

The situation in Libya was referred days ago to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council when that body passed Resolution 1970, which condemned Libya’s attacks on its citizens during recent violence in that country.  Because Libya is not a state party to the ICC, the Court needed the UNSC’s referral in order to look into launching an investigation.  Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced on Thursday, March 3 that he would do so, after concluding that the preliminary evidence indicates that a Court investigation is warranted.  To read the ICC’s press release on the launch of the investigation, click here.

As someone who works on both the ICC and genocide prevention as part of my job, I’m very pleased that the ICC’s decision to investigate the events in Libya.  I am glad to see both the United Nations and the ICC stepping up to the plate to condemn and take action against the unconscionable attacks on civilians which are taking place in the country.  The world is watching Libya and Colonel Gaddafi’s government, and I hope that violence against civilians will quickly cease and those responsible for these vicious attacks will be swiftly brought to justice by the international community.

Gaddafi vs. the UN: How long can he last?

As the United Nations Security Council and Human Rights council meet today, Mommar Gaddafi continues to defy calls for him to step down. Innocent civilians are being fired upon by Gaddafi's security forces and there is no end in sight. It is the responsibility of Gaddafi and the Libyan government to protect its civilians. When this does not happen swift action must be taken. The UN Human Right Council and Security Council must do more than just condemn Gaddafi, it must take active steps. Libyan officials abroad have already taken action. In today's UN Human Rights Council meeting, the Libyan delegation announced it would resign and side with the people. I'm shocked! This almost never happens on the global stage.  Libyan's have already taken the difficult actions that are necessary, now it is our turn address this heinous dictator. Of course it would help if the international community could decide how to spell the guys name.  Is it Gadhafi, Gaddafi or Qaddafi? More on that later.

The UN Human Rights Council, which Libya is a member of, held a special session today where they voted unanimously to remove Libya from the council. This was the right thing to do. Under the current circumstances, Libya cannot be a member of the Human Rights Council. At the special session today, European members drafted a resolution, which, "strongly condemns the recent gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Libya . . . some of which may also amount to crimes against humanity," and "strongly calls upon the government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its population" and "immediately put an end to all human rights violations." The resolutions also called for an "independent international commission" to investigate possible human rights violations.

President Obama's LRA Strategy Report Card

On Wednesday, Resolve, The Enough Project, and Invisible Children released a report card assessing President Obama's strategy to stop the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) violence. In a press release the groups called for President Obama to move on his recently-released strategy committing the U.S. to help civilians in central Africa threatened by the LRA.

The Lord's Resistance Army was founded more than two decades ago in Uganda by Joseph Kony. Since September 2008 attacks orchestrated by LRA commanders have killed at least 2,300 people and abducted more than 3,000, including many children who were forced into being soldiers or sexual slaves. In 2010 alone, LRA rebels committed more than 240 deadly attacks.

The report card assesses five elements of President Obama's LRA strategy. These elements include: expand U.S. involvement to end the crisis; protection of civilians; stop senior LRA commanders; facilitate escape from the LRA; and, help affected communities survive and rebuild.

 "We don't want the President to lose sight of the promises he made in his LRA strategy," said Don Kraus, CEO of "The U.S. must do everything in its capacity to help apprehend senior LRA commanders. I look forward to an 'A' grade on the next report card when these heinous criminals are standing trial in front of the International Criminal Court."

Kosovo secession ruled lawful by ICJ

The United Nation's International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on July 22nd that the 2008 declaration of independence by Kosovo from Serbia does not violate international law.

The ICJ's decision, by a vote of 10-4, does not officially assert that Kosovo is a legal state.  Rather, the Court more narrowly says that no international laws were broken when Kosovo declared its independence.

Kosovo's leaders praised the Court's decision, with foreign minister Skender Hyseni saying "This is a great day for Kosovo."  Serbia, however, still refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent state.  Both Serbia and its ally Russia, as well as some legal experts and analysts, have warned that the ICJ decision on Kosovo may make declarations of independence by other separatist enclaves in countries around the world more likely.

Kosovo declared itself an independent state in February 2008, following the 1999 NATO military campaign to end hostilities between Serbia and Kosovo rebels and a subsequent eight year period of administration by the United Nations.  Serbia strongly opposed the independence of Kosovo, which many Serbs see as a central and historic part of their nation.

Until now, Kosovo has been recognized by 69 countries, including the United States and most of the European Union.  The ICJ's ruling may encourage other countries to recognize Kosovo.  The effect of the decision on future declarations of independence by other potential new states around the world—in areas as far-flung as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia, northern Cyprus, and Somaliland--remains to be seen.

CGS Applauds Life Sentences for Perpetrators of Bosnian Genocide

On Thursday, June 10th, the U.N.'s war crime tribunal on the Balkan wars handed down sentences of life in prison for two former high-ranking officers in the Bosnian Serb army, Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara.  Popovic and Beara were convicted of genocide, a charge stemming from the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.  The Srebrenica massacre was the largest mass killing in Europe since World War Two.

Additionally, another Bosnian Serb, former brigade security commander Drago Nikolic, was convicted and sentenced to a 35-year prison term for the crime of aiding and abetting genocide.  Others on trial were acquitted of genocide but convicted for extermination, murder, and persecution.

Meanwhile, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is also on trial for genocide due to the Srebrenica massacre, following his arrest in 2008.  Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, under whom the convicted officers served, remains at large as a fugitive 15 years after his own indictment. believes strongly in the need for those individuals responsible for genocide to be brought to justice under international law.  We applaud the U.N. tribunal's decision as an important step in this direction.  For more information on genocide prevention, visit To take action on genocide prevention and other related issues, visit

The Sixty-Fifth Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day: A Reason to Rejoice

"We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing..." These words were spoken by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on May 8th, 1945, immediately after he announced the German surrender that marked the end of the Second World War in Europe.  Sixty-five years later, the legacy of World War Two still exerts a powerful impact, particularly on issues such as genocide prevention and the International Criminal Court (ICC) which are fundamental to the mission of

Although the period of postwar rejoicing was to be "brief" because the war with Japan was not yet over (it would continue until August of that year), the British people and many others throughout Europe had good reason to rejoice on V-E Day.  The Second World War had been a human catastrophe unequalled in all of history.  However, despite the delirium of the crowds in London and other cities as they celebrated the end of the war, the reality was that much of the continent lay in ruins after the devastating six-year conflict.  Cities such as London and Berlin had suffered heavy bombing damage with many civilian casualties; others such as Warsaw were little more than smoking rubble.  In the former Soviet Union alone, a staggering total of approximately twenty-five million people had been killed during the war.  And the world's attention was brought as never before to the horrendous problem of genocide in the aftermath of the murders of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust at the hands of Nazi Germany.

Karadzic Trial Resumes

On March 1, 2010 the trial of Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb politician, resumed at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.  Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after being on the run for over a decade. He is accused of eleven counts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Karadzic refused to enter a plea to charges and so the tribunal judge entered a plea of not guilty to all charges on his behalf, in line with the rules of the court.

Karadzic described the Bosnian conflict as "just and holy." Sarajevo, where some 12,000 people died in 44 months, has been described as the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Karadzic told the court that Sarajevo, was "not a city under siege" by Bosnian Serb forces.  He also stated that claims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were based on "false myths and false victims". Karadzic laid the blame for the outbreak of the Bosnian war on the Bosnian Muslims.  He added: "It is going to be easy for me to prove that I had nothing to do with it."

bosnia memorialKaradzic was president of the self-declared Bosnian Serb Republic and commander of its army during the Bosnian conflict which left more than 100,000 people dead.  Prosecutors say he orchestrated a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Muslims and Croats in eastern Bosnia.  Prosecutor Alan Tieger, in his opening statement last October, said Karadzic had "harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to pursue his vision of an ethnically segregated Bosnia."