National Prosecutions


One-time warlord and former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba has returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the first time in the 11 years to submit his candidacy for the president. He spent the last decade in The Hague where he was on trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes that his militia committed in the Central African Republic. He was initially found guilty on both counts, but upon appeal the court ruled he was not criminally liable for crimes committed by his troops.


A confidential report sent to the United Nations (UN) Department of Peacekeeping Operations claims that senior Sri Lankan officers accused of war crimes have been deployed to UN operations in Mali, Lebanon, Darfur, and South Sudan. The report, authored by the South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project, claims that a number of the senior Sri Lankan commanders were involved in abuses during the final phase of war with Tamil rebels in 2009.


Ivory Coast’s Supreme Court has overturned an acquittal ruling for former first lady, Simone Gbagbo. Simone, the wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, was acquitted last year after being accused of involvement in the shelling of a market district of Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital Abidjan, during the 2011 civil conflict that followed her husband’s refusal to acknowledge his electoral defeat. Laurent is currently in detention at the International Criminal Court and is being tried for alleged crimes against humanity during the post-election unrest.


Iraqi judges frequently ignore defendants credible claims of confession under torture, according to a recent statement by Human Rights Watch. Concern around the use of torture by Iraqi security forces on Islamic State suspects has increased considerably since the government’s mass arrests of alleged supporters of the terrorist group.  Multiple lawyers for defendants say that even when forensic reports confirmed that suspects had been tortured, judges refused to respond in any way. Iraq is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture.


On Monday Zimbabwe goes to the polls for the first time since the ouster of long-time autocrat Robert Mugabe last year. Emmerson Mnangagwa is leading in the polls, but in the Matabeleland region voters say they cannot vote for him based on his role in a series of massacres in the region in the mid-1980s. In a four year campaign of terror between 10,000 and 20,000 people were killed by the north Korean-trained Firth Brigade, ostensibly in an effort to stamp out rural support for anti-government rebels.


Earlier this month, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered the opening of an outreach program for victims in Palestine. The program aims to establish continuous interaction between the court and victims in order to inform the population about ICC procedures. The ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary examination in January 2015, but she has still not indicated if she intends to open a full investigation. In May, the Palestinian Authority referred to the ICC all alleged Israeli crimes committed on Palestinian territory since the conflict in Gaza in 2014.


Colombia’s specially established Special Peace Jurisdiction (JEP) opened proceedings this week into the case of extrajudicial killings carried out by the armed forces, also known as “false positives.” According to a recent report by the Prosecutor General’s Office, 2,238 victims were murdered by state forces and dressed as guerrillas to be presented as combat kills between 1998 and 2014. Others have suggested that 4,475 civilians were killed as a part of these operations.


United Nations human rights experts have welcomed the announcement by the Spanish Minister of Justice that the government is preparing for a truth commission to investigate violations that occurred during the civil war and dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The experts said the decision represents a fundamental step in the right direction, pointing specifically to the revision of the Historical Memory Law and proposed legislation to remove symbols glorifying the dictatorship.


Kampala—On the 23rd of July, the Ugandan Judiciary announced that the pretrial hearing of the case Uganda v. Thomas Kwoyelo had been adjourned indefinitely, due to a shortage of funds needed to hold the hearing. The Pretrial Judge of the International Crimes Division (ICD) was expected to deliver a ruling that would determine the confirmation of charges against Kwoyelo and whether the case would proceed to trial.


In his annual state of the nation address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to continue his campaign against illegal drugs. Since his war on drugs began two years ago, the Philippine police say more than 4,500 people have been killed while resisting arrest, in what they describe as lawful anti-drug operations. Thousands more have been killed by unidentified assailants throughout the country. The crackdown is the subject of a preliminary examination by prosecutors of the International Criminal Court.