26 May, 2011

A good day for International Criminal Justice

ICTY Courtroom
The arrest of  Ratko Mladic has been announced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.

Mistakes the Mladic trial needs to avoid - Geoffrey Robertson QC - The Independent 28th May

The arrest of Bernard Munyagishari has been also been announced - he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - The Guardian 26th May.

See Universal Jurisdiction - Resources for Practitioners


On 3rd June 2011, Mladic made his first appearance at The Hague.  Videos of this may be seen on the International Criminal Tribunal's website.  

Massacre of prisoners in Iran - "Do you think we should have given them sweets?" - The Iran Tribunal

Vietnam - The Russell Tribunal

In 1966, the British philosopher and mathematician Lord Russell (1872-1970) set up, along with Jean Paul Sartre, a tribunal to consider United States Foreign Policy and Military Intervention in Vietnam. Representatives of 18 countries participated and hearings were held in 1967 in Stockholm and Copenhagen. Twenty-five notable persons formed the tribunal including a number of Nobel Prize winners.   Neither Vietnam nor the United States of America participated and the tribunal was largely ignored by the media. The Tribunal reached, unanimously, a number of verdicts finding against the United States on matters such as the use of weaponry forbidden by the laws of war, inhumane treatment of prisoners etc - see Russell-Sarte Tribunal on Vietnam.  It was inevitable that the tribunal was criticised as a "Kangaroo Court" by those who had the opportunity to participate but declined to do so.  Of course, the tribunal had no legal force and could not try particular individuals.

This form of tribunal - essentially a private enterprise - contrasts with the approach to some events such as the International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Iran in the 1980s - Report by Geoffrey Robertson QC - the Iran Tribunal

Iran Tribunal
This idea of a Tribunal has been adopted recently in relation to events which it is said took place in IRAN in the 1980s, a decade in which there was major war between Iraq and Iran resulting in the loss of in excess of half a million lives.  The war lasted until August 1988 when it came to an end as a result of United Nations effort and Security Council Resolution 598.  However, in the second half of 1988 there were many executions in Iran - some estimates say in excess of 4500.  Those executed appear to be political dissidents who were opposed to the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.  Writing in The Guardian on 7th June 2010, Geoffrey Robertson QC called upon the United Nations to enforce international law by setting up a court to try the perpetrators of the massacres.  Mr Robertson has produced a detailed report on the massacres.

In his Guardian article, Robertson stated that - "Most of the judges and officials who implemented the fatwa are still in high office in Tehran – under a supreme leader who, when asked about killing prisoners replied: "Do you think we should have given them sweets?"

A Tribunal - (intended to operate on similar lines to the Russell-Sartre Tribunal) - has been set up and John Cooper QC has become Chairman of a Steering Committee.  The February 2011 Press release explains the way it is hoped to develop the Tribunal's work.  John Cooper stated - “The work of the Steering Committee in creating, advising and facilitating the establishment of the Iran Tribunal will be vital if due process is to be observed at the future hearings. We are determined that the Tribunal discovers the truth about what happened to thousands of Iranian people and that justice is finally done.”

The HOME Page of the Tribunal sets out the background and the aims of the Tribunal and ways of supporting the tribunal may also be seen. 

Further material is available at Amnesty International - "Iran: The 20th Anniversary of 1988 prison massacres"

Camp Ashraf and Iran Freedom

Camp Ashraf, Iraq
Many exiled Iranians are at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.  The European Union has recently called on Iraq to respect their rights - see Declaration of 9th April 2011.  This article in The Spectator is interesting.

See also British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

24 May, 2011

All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition (APPG)

Welcome to the APPG on Extraordinary Rendition
Saturday, 12 June 2004

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition was established by Andrew Tyrie in December 2005. It is a cross party...

An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) continues to beaver away to try to unearth the truth about any British involvement in Extraordinary Rendition.  The APPG - acting, it appears as "concerned citizens", has made requests to the Ministry of Defence for information.  Such requests are possible under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) but the Act contains several exemptions under which information can be withheld.

An appeal against the Ministry of Defence's refusal to release certain information has been heard by the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) comprising Blake J, Andrew Bartlett QC and Rosalind Tatum.  The APPG was successful in part.  See the judgment.

Addendum 16th May:  It is reported by The Independent 15th May that Sir Peter Gibson's Inquiry - (into allegations that British personnel were complicit in the torture of detainees) - will not examine the question of "Extraordinary Rendition."  Andrew Tyrie MP - chair of the APPG - condemns this as doing just half the job.  Failure to properly examine this issue will inevitably result in public criticism and allegations of cover up.

Addendum 10th June:  It is now reported that the Inquiry will consider rendition.

14 May, 2011

Death of a distinguished jurist - Moshe Landau

A former Chief Justice of Israel - Moshe Landau - died on 1st May 2011 - aged 99.  His contribution to Israeli law was truly outstanding.

See these articles reporting his death and looking at his remarkable career - Israel National News and Haaretz

In particular, his conduct of the trial of Adolf Eichmann will long stand as an example of how a fair trial can be achieved even when the defendant is an arch-enemy of the State.  The 14 week trial was held in 1961 and, in accordance with Israeli law, three judges sat - Moshe Landau, Benjamin Halevy and Yitzhak Raveh.  Sentence of death was passed in December 1961 and carried out on 31st May 1962.  Eichmann's ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea.

A particularly striking article about Landau may be seen at the Ruthfully Yours blog.

Throughout his remarkable career in the law, Landau stands out as a truly independently minded judge who paid meticulous attention to detail.  Above all, he had that one absolutely essential characteristic for a judge: courage.

The Telegraph 15th May - Obituary of Moshe Landau

04 May, 2011

Osama Bin Laden killed

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported the death of Osama Bin Laden.    President Obama said -

“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” .... “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”

It was later reported, much to the consternation of some Muslims, that the body was buried at sea. 

According to the US Government, Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the attacks on America on 11th September 2001 - usually abbreviated to 9/11.  A number of "conspiracy theories" have grown up around these events. 

See The Independent 4th May 2011 - Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC - who questions whether "justice" has actually been done.

Many questions are being asked over this operation which. it appears, was monitored by the US President and other senior government officials and which has undoubtedly given Obama a popularity boost with many American voters.  In early April 2011, the U.K. agreed to triple aid for schools in Pakistan.  Given the U.K.'s present economic difficulties, this was a very unpopular move by the British coalition government.  Services within the U.K. are being drastically cut.

The trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others who are held by the USA in connection with 9/11 will be by a Military Commission - see Amnesty.