Cameroon Elected As  Member of U.N. Human Rights Council

As has been discussed in many posts, for the last several years the government of Cameroon has been engaged in armed conflict with the minority of Cameroonians whose principal European language is English (the Anglophones). In the course of that conflict, the government allegedly has committed many human rights violations.[1]

This record and the objections against these acts were voiced by many other governments during Cameroon’s recent Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is the body within the U.N. system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. These Council members are elected by the majority of members of the U.N. General Assembly through direct and secret ballot. The General Assembly [purportedly] takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard. (Emphasis added.)

Despite Cameroon’s dismal human rights record, on October 12, 2018, the U.N. General Assembly elected Cameroon to be a member of the Council for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2019.[2]

Amnesty International  Human Rights Watch and other rights groups objected to the election of Cameroon and certain other countries. “Elevating states with records of gross human rights violations and abuses is a tremendous setback,” said Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director, Daniel Balson. “It puts them on the world stage, and moreover, it empowers them to fundamentally undermine notions of human rights that are accepted internationally.[3]

In this context, Human Rights Watch raised “serious concerns about human rights in . . . Cameroon, . . . . [where] government security forces and armed separatists have committed grave abuses against residents of the country’s Anglophone region. The region has been rocked by protests and violent clashes rooted in longstanding political grievances of the Anglophone minority. While the government has taken some positive steps in recent months, including signing the Safe Schools Declaration, violence and abuses in the Anglophone region continue.”

The Council elections of Cameroon and four other African states (Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Somalia and Togo) are partially attributable to the Council’s allocation of 13 of the 47 seats to African states; and to three of the African members having terms ending on December 31, 2018 and being ineligible for re-election after having served two consecutive terms (Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Kenya). The other African members are Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.[4]

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[1] See Cameroonian President Biya Wins Re-Election by a Landslide, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 26, 2018); Continued Violence in Cameroon, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 4, 2018). See also posts listed in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CAMEROON.

[2] U.N., General Assembly Elects 18 Member States to Human rights Council, Allowing Vote by 3 Member States in Article 19 Exemption over Financial Dues (Oct. 12, 2018).

[3] Assoc. Press, US, Rights Groups Say UN Rights Council Vote Lets Abusers In, N.Y. Times (Oct. 12, 2018); Human Rights Watch, UN: Philippines, Eritrea Don’t Belong on Rights Council (Oct. 11, 2018).

[4] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Membership of the Human Rights Council; U.N., General Assembly Elects 18 Member States to Human Rights Council, Allowing Vote by 3 Member States in Article 19 Exemption over Financial Dues (Oct. 12, 2018).

 

Cameroon’s Human Rights Record Being Subjected to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by U.N. Human Rights Council: Background

This year Cameroon’s human rights record is the subject of its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. This post reviews basic information about the Council and its UPR process. Future posts will look at the pre-hearing papers for Cameroon’s current UPR and then its UPR hearing and then finally the results of the UPR.

The  Human Rights Council[1]

The Council since 2006 has been an important arm of the United Nations in recognizing and helping to enforce international human rights norms in the world.

The Council is made up of 47 U.N. Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the U.N. General Assembly through direct and secret ballot. The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.

The Council’s Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. The seats are allocated on the following geographical basis:

  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats

The current African members are Angola, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

The UPR Process[2]

One of the ways the Council seeks to encourage universal compliance with international human rights standards  is its UPR of individual U.N. member states. The UPR is universal in that all 193 U.N. members and all human rights norms are reviewed and it is periodic because it done every four years. Such reviews are to be “based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States.” This is to be done with “a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned.”

The UPR process involves (a) the state’s submission of a report to the Council; (b) submission of written questions and recommendations to the state from other states and stakeholders (human rights NGO’s, etc.); (c) the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ summary of U.N. information about the country; (d) questions submitted to the country in advance by the Working Group; (e) the hearing by the Council, (f) the preparation of a draft report on the state by a Council working group, (g) the state’s comments on that report, (h) another hearing before the Council and (i) the Council’s adoption of the final report on the outcome of the UPR.

Council’s UPR Working Group for Cameroon’s UPR[3]

The UPRs are conducted by the Council’s 47 members acting as an UPR Working Group. In addition, any other U.N. Member State can take part in the review.

Each State’s review is assisted by a groups of three States, known as a “troika,” who serve as rapporteurs. The selection of the troikas for each State is done through a drawing of lots following elections for the Council membership in the General Assembly. For Cameroon’s third UPR the Troika members are United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Iraq and South Africa.

The UPR Hearing

The May 16 hearing lasted three and a half hours, during which the state under review was given 70 minutes to present its report, as well as answer questions made by other states and present concluding remarks. The remaining 140 minutes were allocated to states participating in the review to ask questions, make comments and recommendations to the state under review.

The second stage of the process will take place during the Council’s 39th period of sessions in September 2018, at which time the final report will be presented by the Troika.

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[1] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Membership of Council; U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Current Membership.

[2] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Basic Facts about the UPR

[3]  U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Cameroon’s human rights record to be reviewed by Universal Periodic Review (May 11, 2018).

 

 

 

U.N. Human Rights Council’s Sparring Over Cuban Human Rights

This September the U.N. Human Rights Council  in Geneva, Switzerland has encountered two items relating to Cuba: (a)  a Council reprimand of Cuba for its alleged punishing some of its citizens for cooperating with the U.N. on human rights and (b) Cuba’s human rights record.

The Council’s Reprimand

On September 20 the U.N. Human Rights Council reprimanded Cuba by putting it on a list of 29 states that have “punished people, through intimidation and reprisals, for cooperating with the UN on human rights.”  Such reprisals and intimidation include travel bans, asset-freezing, detention and torture.[1]

The  29 states on the list are Algeria, Bahrain, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. (The nine in bold along with 38 other U.N. members are elected by the U.N. General Assembly to serve on the Council.)

The report said the  following about Cuba:

“On 18 October 2016, some mandate holders raised with the [Cuban] Government allegations of harassment and reprisals against human rights defenders and members of the Cubalex Legal Information Center for their cooperation with the United Nations in the field of human rights (see A/HRC/34/75, CUB 3/2016). The allegations were mainly in relation to advocates’ cooperation with the Human Rights Council, its special procedures and the universal periodic review mechanism, and took the form of stop and questioning at the airport and harassment by immigration agents. Additionally, on 23 September 2016, the offices of Cubalex Legal Information Center were raided (CUB 3/2016).” (Report, Section V.B.5.)[2]

The Council’s Assistant Secretary-General, Andrew Gilmour, said, “There is something grotesque and entirely contrary to the Charter and spirit of the United Nations, and particularly this Council, that people get punished, through intimidation and reprisals, for cooperating with the U.N. on human rights,”

Complaint about Cuba’s Human Rights

On September 19, under the Council’s Agenda Item 4: “Human Rights Situations Requiring Council Attention,” a U.S. diplomat expressed U.S.’ deep concern about the human rights situation in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Russia, Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo, (North Korea), China, DPRK (North Korea), Hong Kong, Belarus, Turkey, Venezuela and Cuba. (Emphasis added.)[3]

The diplomat’s statement about Cuba was very short: “We urge Cuba to release political prisoners and cease the harassment of civil society groups.” (Emphasis in original.)

The U.S. statement about Venezuela, Cuba’s closest ally, was longer. It said, “We condemn the Maduro regime’s repressive actions to violate human rights including by suppressing dissent and peaceful protests in Venezuela.  We call on it to dissolve the illegitimate Constituent Assembly and restore Venezuela’s democratic institutions; hold free, fair, and credible elections as soon as possible; and provide humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan people.” (Emphasis in original.)

Cuba’s Response.

The same day (September 19), Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the Council, Ambassador Pedro L. Pedroso Cuesta, made the following longer response:[4]

  • “Is it politicization, double standards and selectivity, [all] bad practices, that will end up prevailing in the work of the Human Rights Council? Many of us hope not.”
  • “However, what we have heard in the debate of this theme, as well as in others last week, suggests that some promote that this is the way to go by this body.”
  • “Several countries continue to seek to stand as paradigms for the promotion and protection of human rights and use this and other agenda items to criticize other countries, while xenophobia, racism and intolerance increase in their own territories to a highly worrying level.”
  • “How can one think they are seriously concerned about human rights situations in countries of the South, when they promote wars and interventions against them, and then ignore or keep their hands off the suffering they caused with these actions to citizens whose rights are supposedly sought to improve?”
  • “Why do they oppose implementing the right to development and thereby improve the situation of millions of people living in poverty?”
  • “Cuba rejects manipulation for political ends and double standards in the treatment of human rights. The accusations against my country made by the [U.S.] representative, as well as unfounded, are inconsistent with the need to promote an objective, non-politicized and non-discriminatory debate on human rights issues.”
  • “I must also draw attention to the fact that such statement, centered on the alleged violations of others, aims at ignoring all human rights violations occurring in its territory, and the deep international concern caused by the language of exclusion that appears in that country.”
  • “We demand the cessation of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba for more than 55 years. The measures of June 16 to reinvigorate this blockade are doomed to failure, and will not achieve their purpose of weakening the Revolution or bending the Cuban people.”
  • “We reiterate our solidarity with the Venezuelan Government and people and call for an end to all interference in the internal affairs of that country. We demand respect for the legitimate right of the Venezuelan people to continue building the social model that drives the Bolivarian Revolution.”
  • “Let us not let the failure of the defunct Commission on Human Rights repeat itself in the Council. It is our duty to work for cooperation and respectful dialogue to prevail, and politicization, selectivity and double standards disappear once and for all.”

As mentioned in a previous post, U.S. Vice President MIke Pence at the U.N. Security Council Meeting  on September 20 complained about Cuba and certain other countries being members of the U.N. Human Rights Council in light of what he said was its oppression and repression, a charge rejected by Cuba at that same meeting and by Cuba’s Foreign Minister at the General Assembly on September 22.   https://dwkcommentaries.com/2017/09/24/u-s-cuba-relations-discussed-in-u-n-proceedings/

Conclusion

These developments at the Council do not involve the potential imposition of sanctions of any kind on Cuba. Instead they are, I believe, verbal sparring on an international stage. (If I am missing some potential sanctions, please advise in a comment to this post.)

I have not seen any Cuban response to the Council’s reprimand. In any event, Cuba as soon as possible should end any harassment of Cubalex Legal Information Center and any of its officers and employees.

Any reforms of the Human Rights Council would seem to lie with the General Assembly, which I assume would only do so after significant study, analysis and voting, and I am unaware of any such study being proposed or conducted.

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[1] U.N. Human Rts. Council, Report of the Secretary-General: Cooperation with the United Nations, Its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (# A/HRC/36/31, Sept. 15, 2017)(Advance unedited version); U.N. Human Rts Council, Oral presentation by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights of the Report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (No. 36/31 Sept. 20, 2017); U.N. Human Rts Council, Report highlights rising reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN (Sept. 20, 2017); Reuters, Record Number of States Punishing Human Rights Activism: U.N., N.Y. Times (Sept. 20, 2017).

[2] See earlier post to dwkcommentaries: Cuban Police Search and Seize Property of Independent Legal Center (Oct. 7, 2016) (CUBALEX is the Center in question); More Cuban Arrests of Dissidents ( Dec. 2, 2016) (arrest of Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, who is ‎affiliated with Cubalex).

[3] U.S. Mission Geneva, Statement by the United States of America (Sept. 19, 2017).

[4] Cuba rejects manipulation of human rights issue in Geneva, Granma (Sept. 21, 2017).

Amending Spain’s Universal Jurisdiction Statute

Spain currently is in the process of adopting an amendment to its statute regarding universal jurisdiction for one of its courts. This post will examine that forthcoming amendment after looking at the background of that amendment.

Background

Under customary international law and certain treaties, a nation state has universal jurisdiction over certain crimes of international concern regardless of where the crimes were committed or the nationality of the victims or perpetrators. These crimes of international concern are (a) piracy; (b) slavery; (c) war crimes; (d) crimes against peace; (e) crimes against humanity; (f) genocide; and (g) torture. (This was discussed in a prior post.)

Spain implemented this principle in 1985 in its own domestic statutory law by conferring such jurisdiction on its National Court (La Audiencia Nacional) for the following crimes: (a) genocide; (b) terrorism; (c) piracy and hijacking of aircraft; (d) falsification of foreign currency; (e) prostitution and corruption of minors or incompetents; (f) trafficking in illegal, psychotropic, toxic and narcotic drugs; and (g) any other crimes under international treaties or conventions that should be prosecuted in Spain.

In 2009 Spain amended this statute to add these additional crimes for universal jurisdiction: crimes against humanity; illegal trafficking or illegal immigration of persons; and female genital mutilation (FGM). In addition, the amendment specified that these conditions or limitations had to be established for such jurisdiction: the alleged perpetrators were in Spain; or the victims were of Spanish nationality; or there was another connecting link to Spain.

Finally the 2009 amendment specified that for such Spanish jurisdiction to exist, another country or international tribunal had not started a process involving an investigation and successful prosecution of such offenses; if there were such another process, then the Spanish court should suspend or stay its case until the other investigation and prosecution has been concluded. The latter provision is referred to as the subsidiary principle.

The New Amendment

On February 11, 2014, Spain’s Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados), the lower house of the country’s bicameral legislature (los Cortes Generales), approved another amendment to this statute (Article 23.4 of the 1985 Organic Law of the Judicial Power, as amended).[1] Since the same political party (Party Popular) also controls Spain’s Senate, it is anticipated that the Senate will pass the bill as well. Here are the principal provisions of the amendment:

  • The following specific crimes were added for universal jurisdiction: (i) war crimes (crimes against persons or goods in armed conflict); (ii) torture and crimes against moral integrity; (iii) crimes under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material; (iv) crimes covered by the Council of Europe Convention on the prevention and combatting of violence against women and domestic violence; (v) offenses of corruption between private or international economic transactions; and (vi) crimes of enforced disappearances under the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
  • Greater specificity was provided for offenses other than piracy covered by the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and its Protocol; offenses other than hijacking of aircraft under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and its Supplemental Protocol; crimes against sexual freedom committed on children; and trafficking in human beings.
  • For genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, universal jurisdiction exists only if the accused individual is a Spanish citizen or a foreign citizen who is habitually resident in Spain or a foreigner who is found in Spain and whose extradition had been denied by Spanish authorities.
  • For torture and disappearances, universal jurisdiction exists only if the prospective defendant is a Spanish citizen, or the victims were (at the time of the events in question) Spanish citizens and the person accused of the crime was in Spanish territory.
  • Only public prosecutors and victims may initiate criminal proceedings under universal jurisdiction; other private individuals or groups (acusaciones populares) may not do so.
  • Pending cases under the universal jurisdiction provision would be stayed and thereafter dismissed if they could not satisfy these new conditions.

There currently are 12 cases under this jurisdictional provision pending in Spanish courts, and presumably they all will be dismissed under this new amendment. They are the following:

  1. Genocide in Tibet. In 2006 the court commenced an investigation against five former Chinese Communist leaders, including former President Jiang Zemin, for alleged genocide in Tibet. In November 2013, the court issued arrest warrants for these individuals, and in early February 2014, the court rejected the prosecutor’s motion to quash the warrants. As a result, the court on February 10th asked INTERPOL to issue international arrest warrants for the Chinese individuals.
  2. Genocide in Guatemala. In 2003 the court commenced an investigation of eight former senior Guatemalan officials for alleged genocide, terrorism and torture.
  3. Genocide in Sahara. In 2006 a NGO commenced a case against 31 Moroccan military officers for alleged genocide in the Sahara Desert.
  4. Genocide in Rwanda. In 2005 an investigation was commenced against 69 senior Rwandan officials for alleged genocide and murder, and in 2008 arrest warrants were issued for 40 Rwandan soldiers.
  5. Holocaust. In 2008 a case was commenced by Spanish survivors of the Holocaust against four SS guards, and in 2009 international arrest warrants were issued for three of these guards.
  6. Murder of Spanish Diplomat. In 2012 the court commenced an investigation against seven Chilean officials for alleged participation in the 1976 kidnapping and assassination of a Spanish diplomat, Carmelo Soria. Last year a Chilean court rejected Spain’s request for the arrest of the officials.
  7. Persecution of Falun Gong. In 2006 the court started an investigation of alleged persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese government between 1999 and 2002.
  8. Israeli Attack on “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza. In 2010 the court started an investigation of Israeli officials for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity for an armed assault on ships with materials for Palestinians in Gaza.
  9. Murder of Spanish Journalist. In 2003 the court started an investigation of alleged U.S. military personnel in the 2003 death of a Spanish journalist, Jose Couso, in Iraq.
  10. Torture of Detainees on CIA Flights. In 2006 the court started an investigation of possible violations by CIA or other U.S. personnel with respect to detainees on CIA flights stopping at an airport in Spanish territory.
  11. Iraqi attack on Iranian refugee camp. In 2009 the court started to investigate an alleged Iraqi military attack on an Iranian refugee camp in 2008.
  12. Murder of the Jesuit priests. In 1999 the court commenced to investigate the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, and in 2011 the court ordered the arrest of 20 former Salvadoran military officials.

The immediate precipitating causes for the Spanish government’s seeking and obtaining approval of this amendment at this time are widely seen as the Spanish court’s issuance of arrest warrants, and seeking INTERPOL arrest warrants, for high officials of the Chinese Communist Party, including a former president of the country, for alleged genocide in Tibet; China’s vehement protests of these developments; and the Spanish government’s desire for a friendly economic relationship with China.

Indeed, on February 11th, China’s Foreign Ministry said, “China is extremely dissatisfied with and resolutely opposed to the wrong actions of the relevant Spanish [court] taken while ignoring China’s solemn position. Whether or not this issue can be appropriately dealt with is related to the healthy development of ties. We hope that the Spanish government can distinguish right from wrong.”

Human rights groups opposed the current proposed amendment. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Justice and Accountability and 14 others argue that under multilateral treaties ratified by Spain it has a legal obligation to prosecute any suspected offender of those treaties—regardless of where the crime was committed,[2] who is found in Spain. Moreover, these groups say, the International Court of Justice explained in the case Belgium v. Senegal, this duty to prosecute arises “irrespective of the existence of a prior request for the extradition of the suspect” and requires States to adopt legislation giving its courts the necessary jurisdiction.

Conclusion

Although I regard myself as an human rights advocate and have great respect for Amnesty International and the other NGOs that have opposed the amendment, I dissent from their objections.

In my opinion, the amendment is a reaffirmation of Spain’s implementation of such jurisdiction. Indeed, as noted above, but not acknowledged in the NGOs’ objections, the amendment expands the crimes that are subject to universal jurisdiction and provides greater specificity for some of the crimes previously covered by the statute. This is important for future use of the statute and for due process notice to individuals who may be charged with such crimes in the future.

The main objection appears to be the amendment’s requirement for universal jurisdiction in some instances for an accused foreigner to be present (habitually resident or found) in Spain. This is akin to the U.S. constitutional due process requirement for a defendant to be present in the jurisdiction in order for personal jurisdiction in civil cases to exist, and I believe it is a reasonable requirement for criminal cases in Spain under its universal jurisdiction provisions.

Moreover, in many, if not all, of the previously mentioned 12 pending cases in Spain, the defendants have never been in Spain, and this has lead to the Spanish court’s unsuccessful efforts to enforce its own arrest warrants or the INTERPOL international arrest warrants. As a result, actual criminal prosecutions in these 12 cases have not even been commenced.

I know this is true in the case against 20 former Salvadoran military officers for their alleged involvement in the horrendous murders of the six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador in November 1989. I think it is outrageous that these 20 individuals so far have not faced any criminal accountability or punishment for their alleged complicity in this awful crime and thus have de facto immunity or impunity for their actions, and I had hoped that the criminal case in Spain under its universal jurisdiction statute would bring them to justice. But unfortunately that has not happened. (Other posts on Spain’s case regarding the Jesuits’ murders, 6/15/11 and 8/26/11.)

Objection also has been made to the amendment’s imposing a requirement for universal jurisdiction in some instances for Spain to have denied a request for extradition. But at least as I read the English translation of the amendment, this requirement exists only for those foreigners who are temporarily in Spain and does not apply to foreigners who habitually reside in the country. For the passers-by this seems like a due process concern. How would you like while on holiday for one week on the Costa Brava to be charged with a serious crime  by a Spanish court for something you allegedly did in the U.S. 10 years ago?

Furthermore, the amendment’s limitations also appear to be reasonable to make efficient use of Spanish judicial resources.

Finally, the Spanish government, in my opinion, has a legitimate interest in its efforts to have friendly economic relations with China as Spain continues to struggle to emerge from its economic difficulties, including high unemployment. Pursing justice for horrible crimes committed elsewhere is a laudable purpose and goal, but it is not the only purpose and goal of the Spanish government or any country’s government.

As an U.S. scholar stated, “With unemployment at 25 percent, Spaniards would be right to wonder why their officials were using taxpayer resources for other peoples’ problems and simultaneously risking even more Iberian jobs.”


[1] This summary of Spain’s new amendment by a retired U.S. lawyer who is not an expert on Spanish law is based upon the English translation of the new law (Proposed Law on Universal Justice to amend the Organic Law 6/1985 of 1 July on the Judiciary on universal justice, No. 122/000136) and of Spain’s Congress’ press release about the bill and the following English-language sources and translations (from Spanish): Perez, High court to follow through on arrest warrants against top Chinese officials, El Pais in English (Feb. 7, 2014); Amnesty Int’l and 15 other Human Rights Organizations, Spanish Lawmakers Should Reject Proposal Aimed at Closing the Door on Justice for the Most Serious Crimes (Feb. 10, 2014);   Yardley, Spain Seeks to Curb Law Allowing Judges to Pursue Cases Globally, N.Y. Times (Feb. 10, 2014); Moffett, Spain’s Lower House Approves Law to Limit Judges’ Reach, W.S.J. (Feb. 11, 2014);  The twelve causes of ‘universal justice,’ El Mundo (Feb. 11, 2014); Molto, Tibet to universal justice: Chronicle of an announced impunity, El Pais (Feb.11, 2014); Kassam, Spain moves to curb legal convention allowing trials of foreign rights abuses, Guardian (Feb. 11, 2014).

[2] These treaties include the Geneva Conventions; the U.N. Convention against Torture; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances; the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft; and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Are International Criminal Tribunals Successful?

Michael Ignatieff, a former Harvard professor and expert on international human rights and a former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, in a recent issue of The New York Review of Books expressed a gloomy view of the post-World War II development of international criminal tribunals.

The actions of the U.S. and other great powers have contributed to his negativity. He says, “America is exceptional in combining standard great-power realism with extravagant idealism about the country’s redemptive role in creating international order. . . . [The] US has promoted universal legal norms and the institutions to enforce them, while seeking by hook or by crook to exempt American citizens, especially soldiers, from their actual application. From Nuremberg onward, no country has invested more in the development of international jurisdiction for atrocity crimes and no country has worked harder to make sure that the law it seeks for others does not apply to itself.”

This negative assessment is buttressed by the new memoir by David Scheffer (All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals). Scheffer, who was one of the leading U.S. diplomats involved in the negotiations that created these tribunals, recounts the U.S. resistance to (i) providing U.S. intelligence information to the ICTY; (ii) seeking to arrest the most egregious defendants for the ICTY; and (III) having U.S. citizens, especially soldiers, being subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  A review of this book is the nominal subject of this essay by Ignatieff.

Scheffer’s post-mortem on his frustrations as the lead U.S. diplomat at the Rome Conference that produced the Rome Statute for the ICC is especially instructive on why the U.S. voted against that treaty at the conclusion of the conference and more generally on the U.S. process for negotiating and ratifying multilateral treaties.

According to Scheffer, there were four main reasons for the inability of the U.S. to advance its positions at the Rome Conference and its eventual vote against the treaty at the conference’s conclusion. U.S. military officials failed to know and understand other nations’ perspectives on the ICC and to explain to other nations the role of the U.S. military after the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless the U.S. military’s opposition to the ICC dictated the terms of the unsuccessful U.S. negotiating positions at the conference. In addition, the U.S. government was unable to make timely policy decisions on key issues being negotiated for the treaty. Thirdly, there are always distractions and other matters clamoring for the attention of the President and his top advisors; for President Clinton and the Rome Conference it was the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Finally, Republican Senators Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Rod Grams of Minnesota, who were vehemently opposed to the idea of an ICC, attended the Rome Conference to make their views known to other governments.

Scheffer also provides important background information on two developments after the Rome Conference that remind us that there are important issues for a treaty like the Rome Statute after its terms have been adopted. First, he successfully pressed for significant U.S. participation in the drafting of the ICC’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Elements of Crimes that helped to alleviate some of the U.S. concerns regarding due process at the new court. Second, Scheffer also was successful in lobbying for the U.S.’ signing the Rome Statute before the end of 2000 (the last possible date for a state’s signing the treaty), which he did on behalf of the U.S. at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on December 31st (a very wintery Sunday New Year’s Eve Day). He, however, was not pleased with some of the details of President Clinton’s signing statement that said the treaty had “significant flaws” and that he would not be submitting the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent. The latter point, says Scheffer, was unnecessary since the Clinton presidency was almost over and since it usually takes years to prepare a treaty for submission to the Senate.

Ignatieff’s negative assessment of the U.S. split personality on this subject is also supported by the fact that the U.S. has been actively involved in the post-1945 negotiation of treaties that establish or codify international human rights norms, but has not ratified 16 such treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, the U.S. has subjected its ratification of 10 of 16 such treaties to reservations, declarations and understandings that attempt to limit the application of such treaties to the U.S. (David Weissbrodt, Joan Fitzpatrick & Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy and Process at 136-66 (3d ed. 2001).)

We have seen this phenomenon in a prior post‘s examination of the U.S. ratification of the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and by another post’s noting that Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions has been languishing in the U.S. Senate for 25 years with no action on presidential requests for advice and consent to U.S. ratification of that treaty. Other posts examined the policies toward the ICC in the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama Administrations.

According to Ignatieff, the development of mechanisms of international criminal justice “was supposed to rescue the possibility of universal justice from the revenge frenzies, political compromises, and local partialities of national justice.”  This has not been the case, however, in his opinion, because “international justice turns out to be as much the prisoner of international politics as national justice is of national politics. Indeed, given the stakes, international justice may be more partial, that is, more politicized, than national justice.”

Therefore, he wonders if the creation of the international criminal tribunals—Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and the ICC —has been worth the effort and costs. From 1993 through 2009, he says, these tribunals collectively cost their donors $3.43 billion, but only 131 convictions were obtained.

In the next breath, however, Ignatieff seems to say that the tribunals have been worth all the trouble. He says that no one now is dying from atrocity crimes in Bosnia, or in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, or Rwanda, which have had special international criminal tribunals.  “Justice—imperfect, partial, expensive—has been done and even been seen to be done. In these places, murderous rages have subsided. Some have reconciled. States have achieved stability. People are moving on. One of the reasons for this may be that in some cases justice was done.”

Although I share Ignatieff’s view of the imperfections of the mechanisms of international criminal justice and of U.S. (and other great powers’) resistance to application of such institutions or norms to themselves, I do not agree with his more pessimistic assessment of the development of international criminal tribunals.

First, he pulls the number of convictions at 131 from a table of results (as of December 31, 2010) in the Scheffer book without mentioning or considering these tribunals’ other results according to that table . Nor does Ignatieff attempt to update the table.

Let me first update that table and then discuss the overall results of these tribunals. My examination on April 1, 2012, of the websites for these tribunals revealed the following results with respect to individuals who have been charged with crimes by said tribunals:

Tribunal Pre-Trail Trial Convicted (includes pending appeals) Withdrawn/Dismissed/Acquitted/

Deceased

Referred to Nat’l Court At Large TOTAL
ICTY 2 16   81 49 13   0 161
ICTR 1   3   62 14   3   9   92
Special Ct.-Sierra Leone 0   1     8   2   0   1   12
Extra Chambers Cambodia 5   4     1   0   0   0   10
ICC 7   3     1   6   0 11   28
TOTAL 15 27 153 71 16 21 303

According to this table, Ignatieff understates the convictions by 22, but more importantly he ignores the 16 who have been referred to national courts, the 42 who are still in pre-trial or trial proceedings and the 21 who are still fugitives. Thus, there eventually may be additional convictions for the crimes that have been charged. Moreover, these courts are not machines to produce convictions; they are intended to provide due process guarantees to those charged with crimes, and the 71 individuals who have had charges withdrawn or dismissed or who have been acquitted or who have died before their trials could be completed suggest that these courts have been operating fairly.

Second, Ignatieff ignores the fact that the existence and operation of these tribunals have given incentives and programs to various countries to improve their judicial systems so that eventually they can try individuals for the crimes within the jurisdiction of these international courts. Indeed, 16 of the individuals who have been charged with crimes by these tribunals have had their cases transferred to national court systems. As previously noted, the ICC’s Rome Statute has provisions incorporating the principle of complementarity whereby the ICC defers to national prosecutions by competent national judicial systems.

Third, Ignatieff also ignores the fact that these tribunals have been important in developing a more elaborate international law regarding genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and their precedents can be and are being used by other courts and agencies involved in cases or other proceedings regarding international human rights.

Fourth, Ignatieff fails to acknowledge that these tribunals are only one part of a complex, interactive global struggle against impunity for the worst crimes of concern to the international community. Various posts already have discussed many of these pieces to the puzzle, and a prior post summarized this interactive network

Finally, in my opinion, these tribunals have been successful for the foregoing reasons. The peoples of the world through their nation-state governments have been struggling to climb out of the pits of depravity of World War II by creating or codifying international norms or human rights and by constructing mechanisms to protect individuals that are beyond the control of their own national governments while such governments still have sovereignty over most aspects of their lives. This is an inherently difficult process, and many compromises are necessary in order to make any progress. But the story is not finished. Further developments, I am confident, will occur.

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).

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).