National Prosecutions


For the first time, two leaders of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia have been convicted of genocide. His deputy Nuon Chea, 92, and head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, faced trial on charges of exterminating Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese communities. This was the first genocide verdict given by the UN-backed tribunal on Pol Pot’s brutal 1975-1979 regime. Up to 2 million people, mostly from the Khmer majority, are believed to have died during those four years.


Kenyan media house Africa Uncensored has teamed up with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) on a documentary that explores the Bulla Karatasi massacre that took place in the northern region of Garissa, Kenya, and its impact on communities in the North. The documentary will advance ICTJ’s efforts to partner with civil society on community-state dialogue initiatives, engage stakeholders around political and constitutional reforms stemming from the TJRC’s recommendations, and achieve redress for the legacy of state violence in Garissa and other communities in Northern Kenya. 


A court refused to grant early release to former Serbian paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic, alias Captain Dragan, convicted of war crimes against Croatian civilians and prisoners of war in 1991. Vasiljkovic’s lawyer Tomislav Filakovic applied for conditional release because the former paramilitary has served about 94 percent of his war crimes sentence. But the court said it turned the request down because Vasiljkovic remains unrepentant. “The inmate denies committing the criminal offence and considers his sentence undeserved,” the court said in a statement released on Thursday.


The decision by the Zagreb County Court in Croatia to reduce the sentence of convicted war criminal Marko Radic has caused a political storm in Sarajevo. The judgment, which cut Radic’s sentence from 21 years to 12 and a half years in prison, was handed down by the court on October 1. It amended a verdict originally delivered by a Bosnian state court in Sarajevo, which convicted Radic of crimes against humanity in March 2011.


The indictment of a senior Guatemalan government official concerning his alleged participation in police death squads has reopened deep questions about President Jimmy Morales’ security cabinet. On October 29, the Attorney General’s Office of Guatemala accused Kamilo Rivera, the deputy minister of the interior and the president’s main connection to the National Civil Police (PNC), of forming death squads within the Guatemalan state over a decade ago. Rivera has now gone missing.


The prosecutor at the Hague-based Specialist Chambers visited Kosovo for the first time, but Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said there is a sense of skepticism about the new court that will try suspects for wartime crimes, even though the court is operating under Kosovo law. Senior former Kosovo Liberation Army figures are expected to be indicted by the new court for alleged crimes—including killings, abductions, illegal detentions and sexual violence—committed during and after the war with Serbian forces, but local jurisprudence may be an obstacle to successful prosecution.


South Korea’s top court stirred decades-old resentments that threaten to inflame relations with Japan, ordering a leading Japanese steel maker to compensate four South Korean men forced to work as slave laborers during World War II. The ruling, which the Japanese government quickly denounced, laid bare the lasting bitterness over Imperial Japan’s occupation of Asian neighbors 73 years after the surrender to allied powers.


A UN rights expert said that Sierra Leone’s decision to de facto remove all three members of its Human Rights Commission was an attack on the rule of law and must be reversed. In April 2017, three human rights commissioners were appointed to the commission for a five-year term. However, in June 2018, the President of Sierra Leone ordered the commission’s dissolution, without citing a reason. “The Government’s decision to de facto dissolve the Commission’s current membership undermines the rule of law in Sierra Leone and distracts from efforts to promote and protect human rights.


The Nepali Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs is holding consultations with the political leadership before finalizing a controversial bill to amend the Transitional Justice Act. The government in June made public the zero draft of the bill, which was widely criticized for proposing reduced penalties for convicted perpetrators of crimes during the civil war.


During a policy forum discussing the Kosovo Specialist Chambers held in Prishtina, politicians and academics condemned the lengthy indictment process that the Kosovo public and political figures have sat through since the court began investigations.