International Tribunal Updates

Update: International Tribunals

Michelle Johnson, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law


International Criminal Tribunal Rwanda (ICTR):

ICTR logo

ICTR logo

The judgment of the Appeals Case in the trial of the Prosecutor vs. Nyiramasuhuko et al. (Butare case) is scheduled to be delivered on December 14, 2015. This is the last appeals judgment before the ICTR. The six accused in the case were convicted in 2011 of crimes of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for their roles in violence committed against the Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Their sentences ranged from 25 years to life imprisonment.

ICTR will be holding closing events from November 30 – December 3, 2015 in Arusha.


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY):
ICTY logo

Judge Carmel Agius (Malta) and Judge Liu Dagun (China) were elected ICTY President and Vice-President at an Extraordinary Plenary Session by the permanent Judges of the Tribunal. They succeed President Meron and Vice-President Agius, whose terms expired on November 16, 2015. Judge Aguis and Judge Liu began their two-year terms on November 17, 2015.

There are two years left until the mandate for this court expires and much remains to be done. It is expected that by the end of this year, the Tribunal will have completed the Stanisic and Simatovic appeal. Stanisic and Zupljanin will be decided in June 2016, and during the first quarter of next year, judgments in the Karadzic and Seselj trials are expected to be issued. It is also anticipated that the Hadzic trial will be decided during 2016. At this stage, the Tribunal’s efforts will then focus on closing down the Tribunal and bringing an end to the Mladic trial and the Prlic appeal, the biggest and most complicated appeal the Tribunal has had for many years. The Tribunal stands committed with the Security Council to close the doors of this institution by the end of 2017.


Special Court to Sierra Leone (SCSL):

No new information to report.


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC):

ECCC logo

The Supreme Court Chamber began appeal hearings in the case against Khieu Samphan and Noun Chea in November. The defendants submitted 223 and 148 grounds of appeal, respectively.

The second trial for Samphan and Chea recommenced on November 30, 2015 and includes charges of genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese people, forced marriages and rape, internal purges, alleged crimes committed against Buddhists and former Khmer Republic officials, as well as crimes committed at four security centers, three worksites, and one group of work cooperatives. The Trial Chamber will hear evidence related to charges of genocide and other crimes alleged against the Vietnamese minority in Cambodia during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. Ten witnesses and civil parties are scheduled to testify during this part of the trial. The Chamber is also considering whether to hear experts on this topic. This will be third trial topic on the treatment of targeted groups. To date, the Chamber has heard testimonies from 48 witnesses, 29 civil parties, and one expert over the course of 114 hearing days.


International Criminal Court Update

Megan Manion, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law


African States Drove the Creation of the ICC and Recent Statements on African Involvement Matter


“As a Gambian and a most proud African, I want to see Africa as most Africans want to see it: a prosperous and more peaceful Continent in which citizen-participation is fostered and the rule of law and human rights are universally respected and advanced.”

Fatou Bensouda

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

African states were leaders in ratification of the Rome Statute. They were, in Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s words, “the staunchest advocates of the Court.” Yet the most consistent criticism of the International Criminal Court is levied by these States – arguing that the Court is too focused on Africa, even ‘biased’ and ‘politicized.’

These tensions flared at the 14th Assembly of States Parties, last month’s international administrative meeting.  Representatives from South Africa and Kenya demanded attention to the proceedings against Kenyan nationals and examination of the rules relevant to their respective proceedings and concerns with the Court. The proposals were met with controversy and pushback from other member states, which charged Kenya and South Africa with attempting to influence the Court’s independence. South Africa threatened withdrawal, reminiscent of Kenya’s similar calls in 2013.

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has responded to these high-stakes processes and threats by highlighting the Court’s unique history of independence and her solemn purpose – to address any challenge to independence and to remain steadfast in her pursuit of justice within the ICC framework. She duly noted that “African countries represent the largest regional bloc of states which have ratified the Rome Statute” (the document for the foundation of the Court). The bloc continues to refer an unprecedented number of situations and persons to the Court, including the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Central African Republic.

Whether her statements and the positions of the Office of the Prosecutor will succeed in extinguishing these claims is yet to be seen. The Prosecutor’s cases and processes, however, will remain under close watch to see how prosecution efforts expand out of Africa. Several non-African countries are currently under preliminary investigation or preliminary examination. Perhaps the filing of charges in Georgia or charges resulting from the preliminary investigations in Israel, Palestine, or the continuation of the case from Libya will help move African states away from these claims of bias and favor.


Updates on the Rights of Women

Sarah Schmidt, Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law


The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was celebrated on November 25th.  In honor of this day, many nations’ leaders expressed their support for UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and others urged countries not in compliance to amend legislation and enforce laws that aim at ending violence and discrimination against women.[i]

CEDAW logoThe review committee for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, known as CEDAW, has recommended to Malawi to change its abortion laws to provide women with legal, safe, and easily-available services at least in cases of risk to the health or life of the pregnant woman, in cases of rape and incest, and cases of severe fetal impairments.[ii] The recommendation also seeks limited abortion-reporting requirements to protect the identity and integrity of the woman.  The recommendation also urges bans on child marriage and female genital mutilation and encourages sexual education, basic education for girls, and support resources, among other things. Legislation is pending in the Malawi Parliament that, if passed, would address the nation’s issues concerning child marriage, human trafficking, and access to legal and safe abortion. Under current law, a woman who seek an abortion in an instance where her life is not in danger can be punished by up to 14 years in prison. This has resulted in an estimated 70,000 women in Malawi seeking unsafe abortions each year.

The CEDAW committee also issued recommendations regarding abortion laws to Russia, Slovakia, Portugal, Timor-Leste, and the United Arab Emirates. The Committee objected to legislation in those states that imposes waiting periods, mandatory pre-abortion consultations, and the criminalization of abortion.

The CEDAW committee has communicated to Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection of Ghana that all of that country’s remaining ‘witch camps’ must be closed by 2017. Witch camps are a phenomenon occurring only in northern Ghana. These camps house women accused of witchcraft by people in their home villages. The women are either banished to the camps or flee to them after an accusation of witchcraft in order to avoid beatings, torture, and, in some cases, death. Doctors who have seen and evaluated the women living in the camps estimate that the majority of the women are suffering from a mental illness, many with dementia or depression, which caused the erratic and eccentric behavior for which they were first labeled a witch. Ghana’s ministry officials have promised to close the remaining camps and provide rehabilitation services for the women.[iii]




[ii] Jemimah, Gathoni. “Citizen Digital.” 1 December 2015. Expand access to abortion, UN committee tells Malawi. 1 December 2015 <>.


[iii] Whitaker, Kati. “Ghana witch camps: Widows’ lives in exile.” 1 September 2012. 1 December 2015 <>.

“Close Witches Camps by 2017 – CEDAW.” 27 November 2015. Ghana Web. 1 December 2015 <>.