International Criminal Justice: Other International Criminal Tribunals

We already have seen that the imposition of criminal sanctions (imprisonment) is one way that we the People of the world seek to enforce international human rights norms.[1]

We also have explored some of the institutions that do this. The International Criminal Court is a permanent body that was created by a separate treaty (the Rome Statute for the ICC) and that encourages and gives precedence to national criminal prosecutions under the principle of complementarity.[2] The U.N. Security Council has created two ad hoc and limited-life courts: the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).[3]

There also are at least four other special institutions that are authorized to impose such criminal sanctions. They are sometimes called “hybrid tribunals” because they have judges from the concerned country plus international judges.

1. East Timor Serious Crimes Panel

In 1998 the residents of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. In response pro-Indonesian militias launched a brutal campaign of property destruction and human rights abuses. Soon thereafter a U.N. military force entered the territory and restored order, and the U.N. set up the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor.[4]

 

East Timor Serious Crimes Panel

In 2000 this Administration established a court system that included a Serious Crime Panel, which had jurisdiction over war crimes; crimes against humanity; murder; sexual offenses; and torture. The initial Panel had two international judges and one East Timorese judge. It was located in East Timor. [5]

By the end of May 2005 the Special Panel had completed more than 55 trials. Most involved relatively low-level defendants; 84 were convicted and 3 acquitted. The work of the Special Panel was cut short by a U.N. decision to end its missions to Timor-Leste.[6]

 

 

 

2. The Special Court for Sierra Leone

 

 

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established pursuant to an agreement, dated January 16, 2002, between the Government of that country and the United Nations and the annexed Statute for the Special Court. It has 10 judges; five appointed by the U.N. and five by the Government of Sierra Leone.[7]

The Special Court has jurisdiction over “persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996, including those leaders who, in committing such crimes, have threatened the establishment of and implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone.” The Court’s Statute specifies the following crimes as within its jurisdiction: crimes against humanity; violations of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions; certain other serious violations of international humanitarian law; and certain crimes under Sierra Leonean law.[8]

 

Sierra Leone Special Court

The Special Court, sitting in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has completed trials and appeals of (a) three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC); (b) two members of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF); and (c) three former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Two other individuals who were indicted by the Special Court have died, and their indictments, therefore, were dismissed. Another indictee is at large, and the status of one of the 13 indictees is unknown.[9]

The last of the Special Court’s cases is against former Liberian President Charles Taylor. He was indicted in March 2003 on 17 counts, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, sexual slavery and mutilation. In May 2004, before Taylor was in custody, the Special Court rejected his motion to dismiss the charges on the ground of head-of-state immunity; the court said that it was an international tribunal from which there was no immunity. [10]

In August 2003 Taylor resigned as President of Liberia and went into exile in Nigeria where he remained until March 2006 when Nigeria transferred him to Liberia. In Liberia U.N. military forces arrested him and took him to the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone to stand trial. Soon thereafter because of security concerns the Special Court asked the Netherlands to accept his transfer to The Hague for trial by the Special Court; the Netherlands agreed to do so after the U.K. agreed to provide a prison for Taylor if he were convicted.[11]

The Taylor trial started in June 2007; the defense phase of the case ended in November 2010; and closing arguments were held in March 2011. The decision of the Special Court is pending.[12]

3. Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

 

ECCC logo

In 2001 the Cambodian National Assembly passed a law to create the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (Extraordinary Chambers or ECCC). This is a court to try serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime 1975-1979. In June 2003 Cambodia and the U.N. reached an agreement detailing how the U.N. will assist and participate in the Extraordinary Chambers.[13]

The ECCC has 12 judges; seven are selected by Cambodia; the other five, by the U.N. The ECCC has jurisdiction over (a) “the crime of genocide as defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;” (b) “crimes against humanity as defined in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;” (c) “grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions;”and (d) such other crimes as defined in Chapter II of the Cambodian Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers as promulgated on 10 August 2001.”[14]  The last category includes homicide, torture, religious persecution, destruction of cultural property during armed conflict and crimes against internationally protected persons.[15]

The ECCC has only four cases on its docket.[16]

The first case was against Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch), the former Chairman of the Khmer Rouge Security Center in Phnom Penh. After eight months of trial, the Trial Chamber in July 2010 found him guilty of two charges. First was crimes against humanity (persecution on political grounds) (subsuming the crimes against human extermination [encompassing murder], enslavement, imprisonment, torture [including one instance of rape], and other inhumane acts). Second was grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, namely: – willful killing, – torture and inhumane treatment, – willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,                 – willfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian of the rights of fair and regular trial, and -unlawful confinement of a civilian.[17]

The Trial Chamber sentenced Duch to 30 years of imprisonment (after reducing the initial sentence of 35 years). The judgment has been appealed to the Supreme Court of the ECCC.

The second case before the ECCC is against four defendants on charges of crimes against humanity; grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949; genocide; homicide; torture; and religious persecution. The trial commenced in late June 2011. Almost immediately one of the defendants left the courtroom and is participating by video.[18]

In September 2009, the Prosecutors requested the investigating judges to initiate an investigation of five additional suspected persons. This request was divided into what is known as Case files 003 and 004.

  • In April 2011 Case 003 the investigating judges rejected the request; an appeal has been filed from this denial.
  • Case 004, however, is still open. In August 2011 the investigating judges issued an unusual press release saying that they had not notified the public of the crime sites in this case because there were “serious doubts whether the suspects are ‘most responsible’ according to the jurisdictional requirement” and that If the Court had no jurisdiction, it would be inappropriate to identify these sites. However, since there was an increasing amount of speculative and wrong information being published, the investigating judges identified 30 sites in different regions of the country that were involved in this case.[19]

The Cambodian government has opposed the opening of cases 3 and 4, and the ECCC’s rejection of Case 3 and anticipated rejection of Case 4 have generated a lot of controversy.[20]

4.  Special Tribunal for Lebanon

 

In December 2005, the Government of the Republic of Lebanon requested the U.N. to establish a tribunal of an international character to try all those allegedly responsible for the February 2005 attack in Beirut resulting in the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1664 (2006), the U.N. and the Lebanese Republic negotiated an agreement on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Pursuant to that agreement, another Security Council resolution (No. 1757(2007)) and the Statute of the Special Tribunal, the Special Tribunal entered into force in June 2007.[21]

For considerations of justice and fairness, as well as security and administrative efficiency, the seat of the Special Tribunal is located at The Hague (Netherlands).[22]

The mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 attack resulting in the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction could be extended beyond that attack if the Tribunal finds that other attacks in Lebanon between October 2004 and December 12, 2005, are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005.[23]

The Special Tribunal has 9 judges all appointed by the U.N. Secretary-General; three are Lebanese; the other six are from other countries. They are divided into Pre-Trial, Trial and Appeals Chambers.[24]

On June 30, 2011, the Special Tribunal indicted four men, all members of Hezbollah, for the assassination of Hariri. Hezbollah has contended that the Tribunal is a sham and manipulated by the U.S. and Israel. Now the challenge is to serve the warrants and arrest the four defendants.[25]

On August 19, 2011, the Tribunal announced that it would investigate three other attacks that, it said, were related to the attack that killed Hariri. They were an unsuccessful assassination attempt on a former Lebanese telecom minister (Hamadeh) in 2004; the attack and wounding of a former deputy prime minister and defense minister (al-Murr) in 2005; and the killing of a former Communist Party chief and critic of Syria (Hawi) in 2005.[26]

Conclusion

These four special tribunals along with the ICTR and ICTY demonstrate that the U.N. has reacted creatively to situations where nation states need assistance in holding accountable perpetrators of the worst crimes of concern to the international community.

In three instances (East Timor, Sierra Leone and Cambodia) the special tribunals were placed in the country where the crimes occurred, and their proceedings were conducted in the languages of those countries. This helps to bring immediacy to the trials for the affected communities.

When security is a problem for such trials in the affected countries (Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Lebanon), on the other hand, the tribunals have been placed in a respected international center for such institutions (The Hague). The same was true for a specific trial (Charles Taylor) by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.


[1] Post: International Criminal Justice: Introduction (April 26, 2011).

[2] Post: International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011). Other posts relating to the ICC may be found by going to the “tag cloud” in the upper right portion of the blog and double clicking on “International Criminal Court.”

[3]  See Post: International Criminal Justice: Winding Down Two Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals (June 18, 2011). Other posts relating to the ICTR and the ICTY may be found by going to the “tag cloud” in the upper right portion of the blog and double clicking on “International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” and “International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.” See also David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Joan Fitzpatrick & Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy and Process at 519-22, 536-40(4th ed. 2009)(ICTR)[“Weissbrodt”]; id. at 513-19, 533-36, 540-42 (ICTY).

[4]  Weissbrodt at 548-50.

[5]  Id.

[6] [Timor-Leste] Judicial System Monitoring Programme, http://www.jsmp.minihub.org; War Crimes Studies Center, East Timor Special Panels for Serious Crimes Documents, http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~warcrime/ET-special-panels-docs.htm.

[7] Agreement between the U.N. and Government of Sierra Leone on the Establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (Jan. 16, 2002), http://www.sc-sl.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=CLk1rMQtCHg%3d&tabid=176. See also Weissbrodt at 543-47.

[8] Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, http://www.sc-sl.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=uClnd1MJeEw%3d&tabid=176.

[9] The Special Court for Sierra Leone, http://www.sc-sl.org/HOME/tabid/53/Default.aspx.

[10]  Id.; Weissbrodt at 545-46.

[11]  Id.

[12] See n.3 supra.

[13]  ECCC, Introduction to the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/about-eccc/introduction; Agreement between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia concerning the prosecution under cambodian law of crimes committed during the period of democratic kampuchea, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/documents/legal/agreement-between-united-nations-and-royal-government-cambodia-concerning-prosecutio.  See also Weissbrodt at 476-81, 547-48. See generally Cambodia Tribunal Monitor, http://www.cambodiatribunal.org (news, information and commentaries on Extraordinary Chambers).

[14] Id.

[15] Cambodian Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/sites/default/files/legal-documents/KR_Law_as_amended_27_Oct_2004_Eng.pdf.

[17]  Id.; Giry, Cambodia’s Perfect War Criminal, N.Y. Rev. Books (June 26, 2011); Assoc. Press, Cambodia: Khmer Rouge War Criminal Appeals Sentence, N.Y. Times (March 28, 2011).

[18]  Mydans, Ex-Khmer Rouge Leaders Go on Trial in Cambodia, N.Y. Times (June 26, 2011); Mydans, Khmer Rouge Leader Leaves Court, in Sign of Legal Wrangling to Come, N.Y. Times (June 27, 2011).

[19]  Id.; ECCC, Appeal by the International Co-Prosecutor Against the Rejection of Investigative Requests in Case File 003 (Aug. 19, 2011), http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/blog/2011/08/appeal-international-co-prosecutor-against-rejection-investigative-requests-case-file; ECCC, Press Release by the Co-Investigating Judges Regarding Civil Parties in Case 004 (Aug. 8, 2011), http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/blog/2011/08/press-release-co-investigating-judges-regarding-civil-parties-case-004.

[20]  Assoc. Press, Cambodia Rebuffs U.N. Chief on Khmer Rouge Trials, W.S.J. (Oct. 27, 2010); Miller, KRT judge talks court controversies, Phnom Penh Post (Aug. 18, 2011).

[21]  Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Mandate and Jurisdiction, http://www.stl-tsl.org/section/AbouttheSTL.

[22]  Id.

[23]  Id.

[24]  Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Chambers, http://www.stl-tsl.org/sid/26.

[25]  E.g., Bakri, Tribunal Names 4 in ’05 Killing of Lebanese Leader, N.Y. Times (June 30, 2011); Bakri, Indictment in Hariri Assassination Is Published, N.Y. Times (Aug. 17, 2011); Crane & Del Ponte, Justice for Hariri’s killers requires the world’s support, Wash. Post (Aug. 16, 2011).

[26] Reuters, U.N.’s Lebanon Court to Probe Three Hariri-Linked Attacks, N.Y. Times (Aug. 19, 2011).


International Criminal Justice: Libya, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and Serbia Developments

Over the last several weeks there have been important developments regarding the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

ICTR.

As we already have seen, the ICTR is winding down to complete its work by July 1, 2012, and one of the ways it is doing so is referring some cases to national judicial systems.[1] On June 26th, the ICTR referred one of its cases to the Rwandan national courts, the first time it had ever done so. It did so because there was evidence that Rwanda had made material changes to its laws and now had the capacity and intention to prosecute such cases in accordance with international standards of fair trial and human rights. The ICTR suggested that the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights monitor the proceedings and notify the ICTR of any problems for its possible revocation of the referral.[2]

On June 24th the ICTR announced the conviction of six defendants in the Butare case for genocide and related crimes. They received sentences from 25 years to life.[3]

Finally the recently arrested Bernard Munyagishari made his initial appearance before the ICTR and pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (murder and rape) of Tutsi women.[4]

ICTY.

On June 29th the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1993 to extend the terms of office of the ICTY judges until December 31, 2012. It did so to facilitate the ICTY’s completing the trial of all of its pending prosecutions. The resolution also called for all States, especially the States of the former Yugoslavia, to intensify cooperation with, and assistance to, the ICTY, including the arrest of Goran Hadzic.[5]

On July 4th Ratko Mladic made his initial appearance before the ICTY and refused to enter pleas  because he said he was not represented by lawyers of his choice. After he had repeatedly and loudly interrupted the proceedings, the judges ordered him removed from the courtroom and thereafter entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf. He faces charges of genocide and war crimes.[6]

ICC

There have been significant developments regarding the Libyan, Sudan (Darfur) and Kenyan  investigations and prosecutions by the ICC. Many of these developments involve the ICC’s tense relations with the African Union (AU) as will be seen below.

Libya. As previously reported, the ICC on June 27th authorized the issuance of arrest warrants for Colonel Muammar Gadhafi and two others for crimes against humanity in Libya since February 15, 2011. The ICC Prosecutor has emphasized the importance and difficulty of making the actual arrests of these three individuals.[7]

On July 2nd the execution of these ICC arrest warrants was made even more difficult by a resolution adopted by the AU. It recommended that its 53 member-states “not cooperate in the execution of the arrest warrant” for Colonel Gadhafi.  This warrant, the AU said, “seriously complicates the efforts aimed at finding a negotiated political solution to the crisis in Libya which will also address, in a mutually-reinforcing way, issues relating to impunity and reconciliation.” This decision increases the chances for Gadhafi to avoid ICC prosecution by obtaining refuge in another African country. The AU also requested the U.N. Security Council to exercise its authority under Article 16 of the ICC’s Rome Statute to defer or stay the ICC’s investigations and prosecutions regarding Libya for one year.[8]

This AU resolution conflicts with the obligations of the 32 African states that are parties to the ICC’s Rome Statute. Its Article 86 obligates them to “cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes within [its] jurisdiction.”

Sudan. Pursuant to U.N. Security Council referral, the ICC Prosecutor has been conducting investigations and prosecutions regarding the Sudan (Darfur). One of the prosecutions has been of the Sudanese President Bashir.[9]

The just noted inherent difficulties of enforcing ICC arrest warrants has also been in the news with respect to the recent trip to China by President Bashir.[10] His earlier trips to other African countries (Chad, Kenya and Djibouti) that are ICC States Parties have been defended by the AU as consistent with these countries’ obligations under the AU’s Constitutive Act and Article 98 of the Rome Statute as well as their efforts to promote peace and stability in their regions.[11]

In the meantime, violence continues in Sudan.[12] The AU Summit issued nice-sounding words about the need for a peaceful transition in Sudan. This included a more general request to the U.N. Security Council to defer all ICC investigations and prosecutions regarding Sudan for one year. [13]

Kenya. As previously reported, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on March 31, 2010, authorized the Prosecutor to commence an investigation of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008, and on March 8, 2011, that Chamber authorized the issuance of six arrest summonses.[14]

At its recent Summit, the AU stressed the need to pursue all efforts to have the U.N. Security Council use its authority under Article 16 of the Rome Statute to defer or stay the ICC’s investigations and prosecutions regarding Kenya for one year. Such a deferral, the AU stated, would enable an investigation and prosecution by a reformed Kenyan judiciary in accordance with the ICC’s principle of complementarity. [15]

U.N. Security Council.

As we have just seen, all of the current ICC investigations and prosecutions come from Africa, two upon referrals by the U.N. Security Council and all of which potentially are subject to deferral by the Council. Thus, it is not surprising that the AU at its recent Summit meeting re-emphasized its desire for reform of the U.N. Security Council in order “to correct . . . the historical injustice done to the [African] continent, which continues to be unrepresented in the permanent category and under-represented in the non-permanent category of the . . . [Council].”[16]

To this end, the AU reaffirmed its Ezulwini Consensus on proposed U.N. reforms. With respect to the Security Council, this Consensus called for Africa to have two permanent and five non-permanent members on a reformed Council as chosen by the AU.[17]


[1] Post: International Criminal Justice: Winding Down Two Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals (June 18, 2011).

[2] ICTR Press Release, Case of Jean Uwinkindi Referred for Trial to the Republic of Rwanda (June 28, 2011); Reuters, U.N. Court Refers Genocide Case to Rwanda, N.Y. Times (June 28, 2011). Uwinkindi is a former Pentecostal pastor who has been accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination) against the Tutsi people. (Id.)

[3] ICTR Press Release, Butare Judgment Released (June 24, 2011)

[4] ICTR Press Release, Bernard Munyagishari Pleads Not Guilty (June 20, 2011).

[5]  U.N. Security Council Press Release, Terms of 17 Judges with [ICTY] Extended (June 29, 2011); ICTY Press Release, Security Council extends Terms of ICTY Judges and Calls for Increased Cooperation with the Tribunal (June 30, 2011).

[6] Reuters, Mladic to ‘boycott war crimes hearing,’ Guardian (July 4, 2011); Simons & Cowell, Hague Judge Orders Mladic Removed From Courtroom, N.Y. Times (July 4, 2011). See Post: International Criminal Justice: Mladic To Face Charges at ICTY (May 27, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Mladic Update (June 1, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Winding Down Two Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals (June 18, 2011).

[7]  See Post: The International  Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court’s Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court: Investigation of Gang-Rape in Libya (May 17, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court: Issuance of Libyan Arrest Warrants and Other Developments (June 27, 2011); Stephen, Muammar Gaddafi war crimes files revealed, Guardian (June 18, 2011); Fahim, Claims of Wartime Rapes Unsettle and Divide Libyans, N.Y. Times (June 19, 2011).

[8]  Associated Press, AU Members Agree to Disregard ICC Gadhafi Warrant, N.Y. Times (July 2, 2011); Associated Press, African Union calls on member states to disregard ICC arrest warrant against Libya’s Gadhafi, Wash. Post (July 2, 2011); Amann, AU v. ICC, yet another round (July 3, 2011), http://intlawgrrls.blogspot.com/2011/07/au-v-icc-yet-another-round.html; AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news. Less than three weeks earlier the AU told the U.N. Security Council that the AU will not hide from its responsibility to help resolve the Libyan conflict. (U.N. Security Council, Press Release: African Union Will Never Hide from Responsibilities in Resolving Libyan Conflict (June 15, 2011).

[9]  See Post: The International  Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court’s Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[10] Post: International Criminal Court: ICC Prosecutor Updates U.N. Security Council on Sudan (Darfur) (June 17, 2011); Higgins, Oil interests tie China to Sudan leader Bashir, even as he faces genocide charges, Wash. Post (June 22, 2011); Associated Press, Embattled Sudan president visits chief diplomatic backer, China, Wash. Post (June 29, 2011); Wines, Sudanese Leader Is Welcomed in Visit to China (June 29, 2011); Associated Press, UN: China Should Have Arrested Al-Bashir, N.Y. Times (June 30, 2011) (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights).

[11] AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news.

[12]  Post: International Criminal Court: ICC Prosecutor Updates U.N. Security Council on Sudan (Darfur) (June 17, 2011); Gettleman, Sudan to Pull Troops From Abyei and Allow Peacekeepers, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2011); Kron, Ethnic Killings by Army Reported in Sudanese Mountains, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2011); Gettleman, As Secesssion Nears, Sudan Steps Up Drive to Stop Rebels, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2011); Bilefsky, U.N. Approves Troop Deployment in Sudan, N.Y. Times (June 27, 2011); Gettleman, Sudan Signs Pact With Opposition Forces, N.Y. Times (June 28, 2011); Reuters, Two Sudans to Create a Buffer Zone, N.Y. Times (June 29, 2011); Kristof, Yet Again in Sudan (June 29, 2011)(Sudanese government conducting vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing, murder and rape in Nuba Mountains); Gettleman, Another Area Girds for Revolt as Sudan Approaches a Split, N.Y. Times (June 30, 2011); Reuters, Sudan President [Bashir] vows to Fight, N.Y. Times (July 1, 2011); Gettleman, Sudanese Struggle to Survive Endless Bombings Aimed to Quell Rebels, N.Y. Times (July 3, 2011); Fagotto, Sudan partition leaves rebel Nuba region feeling betrayed, Guardian (July 3, 2011); Reuters, North and South Sudan Delay Talks Until After Split, N.Y. Times (July 4, 2011); Associated Press, Sudan President to Speak at S. Sudan Independence, N.Y. times (July 4, 2011).

[13] AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news.

[14]  Post: The International Criminal Court’s Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[15] AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news.

[16]  Id.

[17] Au, Elzwini Consensus  (March 8, 2005).

Supporting International Criminal Justice and the International Criminal Court

Another outgrowth of my eight years of teaching the international human rights law course at the University of Minnesota Law School was an expanding knowledge of, and interest in, international criminal justice, in general, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), in particular.[1]

The general topic of international criminal justice covers the efforts of national and international courts to impose criminal penalties on those who are convicted of committing the worst crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.[2] My interest in this topic is shown by the 14 posts on this topic to date.[3] Similarly my interest in the ICC is demonstrated by the 18 posts on this topic to date.[4]

I have put this interest into action in several ways.

I have served as the Provisional Organizer of the Minnesota Alliance for the ICC, which is a member of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the ICC (AMICC). This Coalition is committed to achieving through education, information, promotion and an aroused public opinion full U.S. support for the ICC and the earliest possible U.S. ratification of the Court’s Rome Statute.[5] Some of my papers about the ICC and the Rome Statute are posted on the AMICC website.[6]

 

Professor Barbara Frey and I assisted the Human Rights Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) in developing and presenting a resolution on the ICC that was adopted by the Association’s governing body in September 2010. That resolution stated that the MSBA “urges the [U.S.] Government to take steps towards ratification of the Rome Statute by expanding and broadening [U.S.] interaction with the [ICC], including cooperation with the Court’s investigations and proceedings. The MSBA also calls on the [U.S.] Government to participate in all future sessions of the [ICC’s] governing body, the Assembly of States Parties.”[7]

 

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC Prosecutor
Duane W. Krohnke

In September 2010 I also presented a paper about the U.S.’ relationship with the ICC at a symposium at the University of Minnesota Law School.[8] The true highlight of the symposium was the appearance of the ICC’s Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He said that when he was chosen as the Prosecutor in 2003, he told its judges that the best situation for the Court would be to have no cases. That would mean that there were no serious crimes in the world or that national courts by themselves were addressing these crimes. At the symposium he reviewed the history of the Court and its current investigations and prosecutions.[9]

In March 2011 I participated in a debate at a meeting at the University of Minnesota Law School that was hosted by the Federalist Society, Law School Democrats and InternationalLaw Society. The issue was whether the U.S. should become a member of the ICC. [10] The key points of that debate were the following:

  • Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University School of Law asserted that U.S. membership in the ICC would be unconstitutional.  U.S. membership would expose U.S. citizens to trials without the structures of an Article III court. In such trials defendants would not have certain procedural rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as the right to a grand jury. He based his constitutional argument on the U.S. refusal in the early 19th century to join international slave-trading courts or commissions organized by Great Britain.[11]
  • Professor Kontorovich also argued that the ICC was a failure: the sluggishness of the trial process, the failure to convict any defendant, and the absence of empirical research demonstrating meaningful deterrent effects. The ICC, he said, could actually extend conflict by inhibiting peace deals when militants or regimes see international criminal prosecution as unavoidable in spite of ceasing or surrendering. He was also critical of the recent aggression amendment to the Rome Statute.
  • I responded that the U.S. Constitution does not bar U.S. membership in the ICC.  I referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. Holland that endorsed a broad interpretation of the President’s constitutional treaty power subject to the U.S. Senate’s advice and consent. I said I had not had an opportunity to review Professor Kontorovich’s early 19th century sources for his constitutional argument, but in doing so anyone should have at least two overriding questions in mind: (a) was U.S. resistance to the slave-trading courts due to Southerners’ desire to preserve slavery and (b) was U.S. resistance to such courts due to a desire to avoid entanglement with Great Britain so soon after our Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.[12]
  • I then argued the U.S. should ratify the Rome Statute for the following additional reasons: (1) the Court will prosecute and punish those guilty of the most serious crime; (2) the Court provides deterrence from such crimes; (3) the Court promulgates the truth about these crimes; (4) the Court assists victims; and (5) the Court is active and appears to be permanent, making U.S. involvement pragmatic.

International criminal justice needs the support of all citizens of the world. Going forward, the ICC is the most important institution for holding violators of international rights accountable for their actions.


[1] See Post: Teaching the International Human Rights Law Course (July 1, 2011).

[2] See Post: International Criminal Justice: Introduction (April 26, 2011).

[3] These posts can be accessed by double-clicking on “International Criminal Justice” in the Tag Cloud (dwkcommentariestags) to the right of this post.

[4]  These posts can be accessed by double-clicking on “International Criminal Court” in the Tag Cloud (dwkcommentariestags) to the right of this post.

[5]  AMICC, Mission Statement, http://www.amicc.org/mission.html.

6] Krohnke, US FEDERAL COURTS RELY ON THE ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IN CIVIL CASES (Nov. 9, 2009); Krohnke, U.S. Court of Appeals Relies Upon Rome Statute in Case Raising Issue of Corporate Liability under the Alien Tort Statute (Nov. 22, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/11/us-court-of-appeals-relies-upon-rome.html; Krohnke, U.N. Human Rights Council Recommends U.S. Join the International Criminal Court (Nov. 12, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/11/un-human-rights-council-session.html; Krohnke, Symposium on International Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Highlights the Importance of the International Criminal Court (Oct. 4, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/10/symposium-on-international-criminal.html.

[7] MSBA, Resolution regarding the ICC (Sept. 17, 2010), http://www.mnbar.org/committees/humanrights.

[8] Many of the points of the symposium paper have been set forth in other postings to this blog. Post: The International Criminal Court and the Clinton Administration (May 11, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the G. W. Bush Administration (May 12, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: The Crime of Aggression (May 15, 2011).

[9]  Krohnke, Symposium on International Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Highlights the Importance of the International Criminal Court (Oct. 4, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/10/symposium-on-international-criminal.html; Univ. Minn. Journal of Law & Inequality, 2010 Symposium: “International Wrongs, International Rights: The Use of Criminal Law to Protect Human Rights” (Sept. 28, 2010), http://www.law.umn.edu/lawineq/symposiummain/september-2010-agenda.

[10]  Rau & Shepherd, AMICC  Representative Participates in University of Minnesota Law School Debate on the US Involvement in the ICC  (March 28, 2011), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2011/03/amicc-representative-in-minnesota.html.

[11] Kontorovich, The Constitutionality of International Courts: The Forgotten Precedent of Slave Trade Tribunals, 158 U. Penn. L. Rev. 39 (2009).

[12]  After the debate, I discovered that a Stanford University Law School professor had written a rebuttal to Professor Kontorovich’s interpretation of the U.S. refusal to join the British-led international courts or commissions with respect to slave trading. In essence, she argued that in the early 19th century slave trading was not against international law. Instead, only Great Britain and the U.S. had recently banned such activities. Thus, the proposed international courts or commissions potentially would be trying U.S. citizens under U.S. law. That was the source, and a legitimate one, for U.S. refusal to join such tribunals at that time. (Martinez, International Courts and the U.S. Constitution: Re-Examining the History (2011), http://www.pennumbra.com/issues/article.php?aid=306.

Auditing the International Human Rights Course

In the Fall of 2001, after retiring from Faegre & Benson, I audited the International Human Rights Law course at the University of Minnesota Law School.[1] Although I had gained some knowledge of refugee and asylum law from my pro bono asylum work,[2] I knew very little about the rest of the field. Through this experience at the Law School I started to learn about other aspects of this area of law and developed a continuing interest in trying to keep up with new developments in the field.

Prof. David Weissbrodt
Prof. Barbara Frey

The course was lead by Professor David Weissbrodt, a world authority on the subject and now the first and only Regents Professor at the UM Law School.[3] He was the main author of the book that we used.[4] Some classes were taught by Professor Barbara Frey, whom I had met when she was the Executive Director of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (n/k/a Advocates for Human Rights) and had taken its training course in asylum law.[5]

The topics for the course were the following: (a) drafting, ratification and implementation of international human rights treaties; (b) state reporting under such treaties; (c) U.N. Charter-based mechanisms to address human rights violations; (d) humanitarian intervention; (e) international human rights fact-finding; (f) criminal liability for human rights violations; (g) regional human rights systems (Inter-American and European); (h) refugee and asylum law; (i) U.S. federal court litigation over foreign human rights violations; (j) use of international human rights treaties and law in litigation over U.S. issues; and (k) causes of human rights violations.

The course used different teaching styles. Some classes were the traditional law school Socratic questioning by the professor. Others were lectures while some involved role playing by the students. One class was a mock hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on whether the Senate should give its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of an international human rights treaty. The course also had an unusual structure. The class met once a week for two hours on Friday morning immediately followed by another hour when we were joined by an undergraduate human rights class for presentations by outside speakers on various related topics.


[1]  University of Minnesota Law School, International Human Rights, http://www.law.umn.edu/current/coursedetails.html?course=23.

[2] Post: Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer (May 24, 2011).

[3] University of Minnesota Law School, David S. Weissbrodt, http://www.law.umn.edu/facultyprofiles/weissbrodtd.html.

[4] David Weissbrodt, Joan Fitzpatrick & Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy and Process (3d ed. 2001).

[5] University of Minnesota, Barbara A. Frey, http://hrp.cla.umn.edu/about/people.htm; Post: Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer (May 24, 2011).

International Criminal Justice: U.S. Reportedly Failed To Detain Rwandan Indictee of Spanish Court

In May 2011 Justus Majyambere, a major in the Rwandan Defense Forces, apparently visited the U.S. Military Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as an official representative of his government. The purpose of the visit was to obtain ideas for starting a military college in Rwanda.[1]

That sounds like a positive development.

But Majyambere is under indictment by a Spanish court for alleged involvement in the killing of nine employees of a Spanish NGO in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, he is under an Interpol “red notice,” a worldwide bulletin that is roughly equivalent to an arrest warrant. As a result, he reportedly was arrested upon his recent arrival in the U.S., but mysteriously was not detained and sent to Spain.[2]

If all of this is true, it is contrary to repeated statements by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp, about U.S. supporting the arrest of fugitives from international criminal justice.[3] It is also contrary to the global goal of punishing and deterring violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.


[1] Rosen, U.S. Hosted Alleged Rwandan War Criminal for Military Visit, (June 20, 2011), http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/06/us-hosted-alleged-rwandan-war-criminal-for-military-visit/240679/.

[2]  Id.

[3]  See Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Possible U.N. Security Council Referral of Syrian Human Rights Abuses to ICC (June 18, 2011).

International Criminal Justice: Winding Down Two Ad-Hoc Criminal Tribunals

We have seen that two of the institutions of international criminal justice are the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). They are both so-called ad hoc tribunals that were created by the U.N. Security Council.[1]

Both were created with the clear expectation that they would not be permanent institutions. Instead, they had set terms of existence that have had to be extended. Those termination dates are now July 1, 2012 (ICTR) and July 1, 2013 (ICTY). To cope with their anticipated unfinished business when they cease to exist, the Security Council created another institution with the awkward title of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).[2]

On June 6, 2011, the Security Council heard from the ICTR and ICTY on the status of their efforts to complete their work by the above dates. Despite their diligent efforts, both tribunals face difficulties in meeting the deadlines.[3]

One problem is the recent arrests of defendants (Mladic for ICTY and Munyagishari for ICTR) and the resulting preparations for, and conducting, their trials.

Another problem for both tribunals is the departure of professional staff members who understandably are seeking new jobs with ongoing institutions, rather than be left standing on a sinking ship. One solution to this problem that was suggested at the recent Security Council meeting was paying retention bonuses to those who stay until the tribunals are terminated. Good idea, but what is the source of the funds to pay such bonuses? The tribunals are paid for by the Security Council, which always has difficulties in obtaining funds for its budget.

One way to help get their work done by their end dates is to refer as many remaining cases as possible to national courts. Both tribunals are doing so.

These inherent administrative difficulties that are associated with ending the ad hoc tribunals are one set of reasons for the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court. Since it is a permanent body, it will not experience these problems.[4] In addition, unlike the ad hoc tribunals, the ICC, once established, is able to take on current problems like Libya.[5]

All three of these institutions, however, share the difficult challenge of trying to shorten the time required for trials. Given the nature of the crimes within the jurisdiction of these bodies, this is not easy. For example, the ICC has jurisdiction over defined “war crimes,” which require proof of certain acts when “committed as part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes.” Such proof is not simple.[6]

Thus, the recent Security Council meeting included discussion of the need for the ICTR and ICTY to have greater judicial efficiency while still providing due process to the defendants. The tribunals’  representatives  talked about the recent introduction of electronic filing, amendments to their rules of procedure and evidence and improved case management techniques, limiting amendments to the grounds for appeal, organization of judgment drafting and prioritization of work. There were no details of these efforts provided at the Security Council meeting, but although they sound good, they seem an inadequate response to me. More promising were suggestions on this subject from one of the ICC judges:

  • Have court-appointed experts present reports regarding context, background, general circumstances of alleged offenses and peripheral facts.
  • Use depositions for less central areas of evidence.
  • Increase use of video links to hear some witnesses.
  • Require parties for each witness to identify areas of undisputed and of disputed testimony.
  • Amend the Rome Statute to allow a single judge to hear some parts of trial instead of the three judges now required for all aspects of a trial.
  • Examine whether the ICC is efficiently operating and using its funds.
  • Develop expedited procedures for interlocutory appeals.[7]

Another problem was presented by the ICTR. It continues to face difficulties in relocating acquitted defendants and convicted individuals who have served their sentences.

The Security Council meeting was attended by a representative of the government of Rwanda, which is not a member of the Council. He raised a separate issue. He said of utmost concern to his government was the “scourge of genocide denial by some in the academic and legal professions, including ICTY defense lawyers, [who] are leading an international campaign to misrepresent, misinterpret and openly deny that, in 1994, there was a genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda. . . . Such attempts  . . . are . . . not only morally reprehensible, but also a violation of the ethics and rules of professional conduct for attorneys. . . . The Government of Rwanda will . . . continue to ensure that, without prejudice or favor, any individual who engages in revisionism or denial of [this] . . . genocide . . . be brought to justice in accordance with the Rwandan Constitution and other legal instruments.”

This Rwandan statement is not an idle threat. In 2010 Rwandan authorities arrested and jailed for nearly three weeks a defense lawyer before the ICTR, Peter Erlinder of Minnesota, for allegedly denying that genocide had happened.[8] Such threats and charges, I submit, are infringements of a defendant’s right to counsel and of the lawyer’s duty zealously to represent his client. The Minnesota State Bar Association stood up for Erlinder with a resolution that urged the Rwandan government “to drop all charges against him based on actions taken in the course of his professional representation of his clients in Rwanda and the exercise of his internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly, and . . . to allow him to continue his legal representation and the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly without further intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper influence.”[9]

Despite all of these administrative problems, the French Ambassador to the U.N. at the recent Council meeting reminded us all that the recent arrests of Mladic and the Rwandan fugitive and the continued efforts to find and prosecute those charged with these grave crimes send “an important message.” For “all of those who today still try to come to power–or stay in power–by ordering and planning attacks against civilians, to all those who, when faced with an international criminal justice arrest warrant . . ., think that they can count on weariness or inaction on the part of the [Security] Council [or the international criminal tribunals], [t]hey are mistaken.”


[1] See: Post: International Criminal Justice: Introduction (April 26, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Mladic To Face Charges at ICTY (May 27, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Mladic Update (June 1, 2011).

[2]  See Post: International Criminal Justice: The Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (May 28, 2011).

[3]  U.N. Security Council, 6545th Meeting (June 6, 2011); U.N. Security Council, Press Release: Arrests of Long-Sought Fugitives Commended in Security Council, But Challenges to Completing Work in War Crimes Tribunals Dominate Briefings by Officials (June 6, 2011).

[4]  See Post: International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[5]  See Post: The International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Three Libyan Arrest Warrants Sought (May 16, 2011).

[6]  Rome Statute for ICC, Art. 8(1).

[7]  ICC Judge Adrian Fulford, The Reflections of a Trial Judge (Dec. 16, 2010).

[8]  Kron & Gettleman, American Lawyer for Opposition Figure Is Arrested, N.Y. Times (May 28, 2010); Ward, Hearing could end Erlinder’s “holding pattern” in Rwanda, StarTrib. (June 6, 2010); Herb, Erlinder is sent to prison after Rwanda denies bail, StarTrib. (June 7, 2010); Diaz, Erlinder essay on Rwanda has defense nervous, StarTrib. (June 11, 2011); Herb & Diaz, Erlinder acknowledges suicide attempt in jail, StarTrib. (June 15, 2010); Herb & Diaz, Rwanda frees Peter Erlinder on bail, StarTrib. (June 17, 2010); Diaz & Herb, Nightmare over, Erlinder’s home, StarTrib. (June 22, 2010); Kron, U.S. Lawyer Is Barred from Rwanda Tribunal Work, N.Y. Times (April 22, 2011).

[9] Minn. State Bar Ass’n, General Assembly Resolution (June 25, 2010).  Professor Erlinder has written an account of his arrest and jailing which, he says, was due to his having used discovery proceedings to uncover original documents in U.N. and U.S. Government archives that confirm that the victors in the four-year Rwandan war have told the story of the violence that occurred during that war; he also criticizes the record of the ICTR as one-sided prosecution. (Erlinder, The UN Security Council Ad Hoc Rwanda Tribunal: International Justice or Juridically-Constructed “Victor’s Impunity”?, 4 DePaul J. Soc. Justice 131 (2010).) Erlinder also has created the Rwanda Documents Project to collect and make available primary source materials from international and national agencies, governments, and courts that relate to the political and social history of Rwanda from 1990 to the present. (Rwanda documents project, http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library.)

El Salvador’s Current Controversy over Its General Amnesty Law and Supreme Court

As indicated in a prior post, the issue of the constitutionality under Salvadoran law of the General Amnesty Law has not gone away. Indeed, that issue and a new law regarding its Supreme Court (Decree 743) have precipitated a major, still-unresolved controversy in the country.[1]

As an outsider, I have found it difficult to understand and analyze this controversy. I, therefore, will try to summarize what has been happening. I cannot predict how this will turn out, but will conclude with my observations and questions.

The first step in this still unfolding drama was the May 30, 2011, decision by a Spanish court to issue criminal arrest warrants for 20 Salvadoran military officers and soldiers for their alleged participation in the November 1989 murder of the six Jesuit priests.[2]

The next step was the adoption without debate three days later (June 2, 2011) of Decree 743 by the votes of the conservative political party legislators of the Salvadoran legislature (the National Assembly) with abstentions from all but two of the FMLN legislators and by the signing of the law the next day (June 3, 2011) by  President Funes of the FMLN party. Decree 743 requires through July 2012 the five-member Constitutional Chamber of the Salvadoran Supreme Court to act unanimously in order to declare a law unconstitutional.[3]

Decree 743 and the highly unusual and hasty manner in which it was adopted have caused major citizen protests in the capitol city and debate in the media and various organs of the State.[4]

Much debate and speculation has centered on why the Decree was proposed and adopted by the legislators from the conservative political parties. Foremost, as former President Cristiani, who is now the President of the ARENA political party, has admitted, was concern that the Constitutional Chamber would invalidate the General Amnesty Law. Was there worry that a decision invalidating that amnesty law would facilitate a Salvadoran court’s enforcing the Spanish arrest warrants? The conservative political parties, it is true, also disliked some of the recent decisions by the four moderate or progressive members of the Chamber that have invalidated various laws. Was that the main reason? If so, why did the Decree have to be adopted so quickly without debate? The “sunset” provision of Decree 743 is also seen as an implicit recognition that it is aimed at the four progressive members of the Chamber in that their current three-year terms expire in July 2012.

So too there is debate and speculation as to why President Funes from the FMLN political party quickly supported the Decree when the FMLN itself did not. Was there pressure by the U.S., which does not want El Salvador to withdraw from the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and to stop using the U.S. Dollar as the country’s currency and, therefore, feared the Constitutional Chamber’s invalidating those laws? Was something not yet known promised Funes by the conservative political parties in exchange for his supporting the Decree? Some speculate that Funes did so to gain support in the National Assembly for a moderate legislative agenda. True?

The third step in this drama was the Constitutional Chamber’s decision in a case on June 6th (only three days after the adoption of Decree 743) that decided, by four of the five magistrates, that the country’s Budget Act 2011 was unconstitutional in two respects and that the just-adopted Decree 743 itself was unconstitutional. Decree 743 was held to violate the principle of separation of powers and to interfere with the constitutional powers of the Chamber; the decree, according to the court, was also adopted by the legislature in an unconstitutional manner.[5]

Yet another wrinkle was added to this controversy by the announcement on June 8th by Cristiani, as President of the ARENA political party. He said that ARENA had supported Decree 743 on June 2nd because of rumors that the Chamber was about to declare the General Amnesty Law unconstitutional.  On June 8th (only six days after the legislature’s adoption of the Decree), however, Cristiani said that the information about the Chamber’s impending invalidation of the General Amnesty Law was erroneous and that instead the Chamber had made a “clear demonstration” that it did not intend to invalidate the amnesty. Therefore, Cristiani said, ARENA would be introducing a bill to repeal that Decree. This about-face, he said, was to end the conflict over the Decree and to promote dialogue among the three branches of government.[6]

This ARENA reversal itself has created more controversy and speculation. Why did it change its mind in only six days? Did it really want to end the conflict over the Decree and promote dialogue? Did it receive secret and improper leaks from the Chamber that it would not invalidate the General Amnesty Law? Was there in fact no pending case regarding the Amnesty Law? Was it discovery that the Chamber seven years ago had ruled that the Amnesty Law did not apply to the murders of the Jesuits because no administration may grant amnesty to itself?[7] Was it due to the Chamber’s June 6th decision holding that the Decree was unconstitutional and by respected attorneys publicly taking the same position?[8]

However, later on the very same day as the ARENA announcement of changing its position (June 8th), an attorney filed two cases with the Chamber challenging the constitutionality of the General Amnesty Law and El Salvador’s being a party to CAFTA. Will this cause ARENA to change its mind again?

The FMLN positions in this controversy are even more baffling. On June 2nd all but two of the FMLN legislators abstained on voting on Decree 743, saying it was a blow to democracy. The June 8th ARENA reversal of position on the Decree, therefore, presumably would be welcomed by the FMLN. The FMLN, however, also reversed its position. Its spokesman now said that the Decree had “no reverse gear” and that the Chamber’s June 6th invalidation of the Decree was a danger for the other institutions of the government. Why was the FMLN party taking these positions?[9]

President Funes from the FMLN appears to be the only participant who has had a consistent position. When he signed the Decree, he has said he did so because it was constitutional, it would prevent a looming conflict between the legislature and the judiciary and it would not obstruct the operations of the Chamber. Was this the real reason? After the ARENA reversal of position, he still supported the Decree and said that ARENA’s change appeared to reflect an improper agreement with the Chamber not to declare the amnesty unconstitutional and an improper attempt to influence the Chamber and cast doubt on the independence of some judges.[10] (The next day both ARENA and the President of the Supreme Court denied the existence of any agreement regarding the amnesty law between the Constitutional Chamber and ARENA or Cristiani.)[11]

As an outsider without full knowledge of all the facts, all I can do is speculate and raise questions.

The timing and manner of the adoption of Decree 743 and the comments by Cristiani suggest to me that the Decree is most directly connected with the Spanish court’s issuance of the indictment and warrants.

First, I had thought that the validity or invalidity of the General Amnesty Law had become a theoretical issue. That Law grants amnesty for certain crimes committed before January 1, 1992 (the end of the Civil War) or over 19 years ago. But for that time period, El Salvador had a 10-year statute of limitations for such crimes that in December 2000 was held to bar a new Salvadoran criminal case over the murders of the Jesuits without regard to the General Amnesty Law.[12] Although there is a basis under international law for challenging the validity of such a short statute of limitations for such horrendous crimes,[13] that appeared to me to be unlikely to succeed in El Salvador.

Second, the Spanish indictment was issued on May 30th and gave the defendants, the majority of whom are still Salvadoran residents, only 10 days (until June 9th) to surrender themselves to the Spanish court before additional steps would be taken to secure their arrests.[14] On June 2d (only three days after the issuance of the indictment) the National Assembly without debate adopted Decree 743, and the next day (June 3) it was signed by President Funes and enacted into law. This suggests to me a desire by the conservative political parties (and the President) to have Decree 743 in place before the Spanish court would take steps to have the Salvadoran courts issue arrest warrants for the defendants and thereby give those defendants a possible legal basis (the General Amnesty Law) to resist the arrest warrants. Is this what happened?

Third, Cristiani was a subject of the original criminal complaint in Spain and a potential additional indicted defendant in the Spanish case.[15] Thus, he has a profound personal interest in having Salvadoran legal defenses to any future attempt by the Spanish court to have him arrested in his home country. Just this month he has been the principal spokesman for ARENA regarding its original support of Decree 743 and tying it to trying to ensure that the General Amnesty Law is not invalidated. Was this at least part of Cristiani and ARENA’s motivation for their original support of Decree 743?

Fourth, it is much more difficult to understand the reasons why President Funes immediately signed the Decree when his political party (the FMLN) was opposed. His rationale as stated on June 10th is not persuasive to me as an outsider. I, therefore, wonder if President Funes had received threats that the Salvadoran military (or a paramilitary organization) would intervene to prevent the removal of these officers from the country? Was the perceived elimination of a threatened invalidation of the General Amnesty Law by requiring unanimity in the Constitutional Chamber seen as a way to prevent the extradition of the military men through the courts and thus avoid a military intervention or coup?

Finally, is it possible that all of this controversy is unnecessary? Could the Constitutional Chamber hold the General Amnesty Law constitutional, but like the U.S. federal courts conclude it is not applicable to proceedings in other countries?[16]


[1] See Post: International Criminal Justice: El Salvador’s General Amnesty Law and Its Impact on the Jesuits Case (June 11, 2011).

[2]  See Post: International Criminal Justice: Spanish Court Issues Criminal Arrest Warrants for Salvadoran Murders of Jesuit Priests (May 31, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Spanish Court’s Case Regarding the Salvadoran Murders of the Jesuit Priests (June 15, 2011).

[3] Marinero, Funes sanciona reformas para que fallos de amparos e inconstitucionalides sean por decision unanime, (June 3, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com; ?Donde se gesto el decreto que le puso el freno legal a la Sala de lo Constitucional?, (June 4, 2011),www.lapagina.com.sv; Voices from El Salvador, Institutional Coup in El Salvador (June 4, 2011), http://voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/institutional-coup-in-el-salvador; Voices from El Salvador, Salvadorans Protest the Government’s Actions Against Constitutional Court (June 6,2011), http://voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/salvadorans-protest-the-governments-actions-against-constitutional-court; Tim’s El Salvador Blog, Broad opposition to Decree 743 (June 8, 2011),   http://luterano.blogspot.com/2011/06/broad-opposition-to-decree-743.html.

[4] Id.; Ortiz, Attorney Oscar Luna condemns the decree 743 (June 13, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv (English translation; Luna is El Salvador’s human rights ombudsman); Discussions in the Constitutional Court in El Salvador (June 13, 2011), http://www.centralamericadata.com (Salvadoran Chamber of Commerce and Industry calls for repeal of Decree 743); Voices on the Border, The Debate Over Decree 743 Continues (June 14, 2011).

[5] Arauz, Constitutional Chamber hereby declared the decree that would tie the hands, elfaro (June 6, 2011), http://www.elfaro.com.sv; Merinero, Guerra de poderes en El Salvador: La Corte Suprema declara inapplicable el articulo que exige unanimidad en fallos de la Sala de lo Constitucional, (June 6, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv.

[6] Huete, Henriquez & Cabrera, ARENA perida derogatoria de decreto 743, La Prensa Grafica (June 8, 2011), http://www.laprensagrafica.com; Arauz, ARENA retract the decree against FMLN urges Chamber and fulfill, elfaro (June 8, 2011).; Perez, ARENA se retracta y promote pedir la derogacion del decreto 743, (June 8, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv; Otto & Marinero, ARENA contra la pared: ya hay dos recursos de inconstitucionalidad contra la Ley de Amnistia y el TLC (June 8, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv.

[7]  I have not seen this case myself, but it is referenced in one of the articles about the current controversy. I solicit information about this case.

[8] See n.6.

[9] E.g., FMLN reiterated it would not support repeal of Decree 743 (June 14, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv.

[10] Guzman, Funes: “Aqui no ha habido ningun compadre hablado entre el presidente y la derecha, (June 6, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv; Guzman, Funes: La confesion publica de ARENA es una injerencia inacceptable en el Organo Judicial, (June 10, 2011), http://www.lapagina.com.sv.

[11] Voices on the Border, The Debate Over Decree 743 Continues (June 11, 2011).

[12]  No New Trial Set in Deaths of 6 Jesuits, Miami Herald, Dec. 14, 2000.

[13]   E.g., Barrios Altos v. Peru, 2001 Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser. C) No. 75, ¶ 41 (Mar. 14, 2001); Convention on the Non-Applicabilty of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, Art. I (war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide); European Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitation to Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes, Art. 1 (crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and “any other violation of a rule or custom of international law which may hereafter be established and which the Contracting Party concerned considers . . . as being of a comparable nature to [the previous crimes]”); Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, Art. VII; Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Art. 29 (genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity). Moreover, El Salvador apparently has a new statute that has no time limit for criminal prosecutions for torture, genocide, war crimes and certain other crimes occurring after sometime in 1996. (Ruth A. Kok, Statutory Limitations in International Criminal Law at 45 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press 2007).)

[14] CJA, Spanish National Court Indictments and Arrest Warrants (May 30, 2011)(in Spanish), http://www.cja.org/downloads/JesuitsArrestWarrants.pdf;  CJA, Update: Spanish Judge Issues Indictments and Arrest Warrants in Spanish Jesuits Massacre Case (May 31, 2011), http://www.cja.org/article.php?id=1004.

[15]  See Post: International Criminal Justice: Spanish Court’s Case Regarding the Salvadoran Murders of the Jesuit Priests (June 15, 2011).

[16] See Post: El Salvador’s General Amnesty Law in U.S. Federal Court Cases (June 14, 2011).