Yet more crisis at the ECCC as investigating judge resigns

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal (ECCC) is once again being described in the media and by observers as “in crisis”. The latest problem is the resignation of Siegfried Blunk, the controversial German investigating judge at the tribunal. Blunk, along with his Khmer counterpart Mr. You Bunleng, has been the focus of significant levels of criticism over the last few months. In April they closed the investigation into Case 003 without having interviewed the suspects, and only talking to a small number of witnesses. This prompted the criticism that the investigation office were acting in accordance with the will of the government. In August Blunk and You Bunleng stated that in relation to Case 004 “[t]here are serious doubts whether the (three) suspects are ‘most responsible’.” Observers of the court were shocked at this statement.

More concerns arose when the judges rejected a civil party applicant in Case 003 on the basis that the psychological harm she had experienced as a result of her husband’s forced labour and execution was considered by them to be “highly unlikely to be true”.

The combination of these decisions had led Human Rights Watch to last week call on Blunk and You Bunleng to resign from the tribunal on the basis that they had “egregiously violated their legal and judicial duties”.

Controversy is not new to the office of investigating judges. Blunk replaced French judge Marcel Lemonde after he resigned from his role as international investigator amid what was thought to be a poor working relationship with his Cambodian counterpart. Their disagreement also stemmed from the controversy over cases 003 and 004.

Cases 003 and 004 involve 5 suspects and observers understand that the cases include Meas Muth, a former Khmer Rouge navy commander, who is accused of the kidnap and murder of foreign tourists, air force commander Sou Met, and three regional officials, Aom An, Yim Tith, and Im Chem.

The difficulty for the court is that the Cambodian government has consistently stated that it does not want these cases to be heard. Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, has repeatedly stated that the cases could “damage the fabric of Cambodia”. At a meeting with the UN head Ban Ki-Moon in 2010 Hun Sen clearly set out the government’s position saying that case 002 would be the last one the ECCC hears.

In his resignation statement, Blunk stated that he had expected Hun Sen’s statement to Mr Ban “did not reflect general government policy”. However, he also cites government interference as a reason for his resignation. At the very least, the statement suggests he was naive given Hun Sen’s dominance of Cambodian government. However, the statement is an nod to the fact that some very poor decisions were taken by the investigating office of the ECCC as the behest of the government. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch stated:

“His resignation statement blamed the Cambodian government, which is correct because they have from the beginning interfered in the work of the court by saying that the cases should not go forward and by giving instructions to the Cambodian judges and prosecutors, who have followed those instructions.”

Although observers have widely welcomed the resignation they also fear that Blunk’s resignation will allow the UN to dig itself out of the 003case /004 hole by shifting attention away from the calls for investigation and prosecution in these cases. It is a difficult situation for the UN which has had its independence and credibility called into question in relation to the tribunal.  

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights stated yesterday that “The charade must end. The time is nigh for the UN to re-examine its seemingly compliant relationship with the (government).” He concluded that if the tribunal door closed “without a full and frank investigation into Cases 003 and 004, the UN will have failed the victims of the Khmer Rouge.”

Remembering Vann Nath

The death was announced yesterday of Vann Nath, one of the few people to survive imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge in Tuol Sleng prison.

Vann Nath survived his imprisonment because of his ability to paint; rather than killing him his jailers forced him to paint and sculpt images of Pol Pot. He was ultimately one of only seven reported survivors of the infamous torture center.

Years later, after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime, Toul Sleng was converted into a genocide museum and Vann Nath returned to work there for several years. His painting, many of which still hang in the museum, graphically highlight some of the brutal crimes of the Khmer Rouge. They are a moving testimony to the horrors inflicted on the people of Cambodia by their radical leadership during the 1970s.

Vann Nath’s paintings were a central part of his life’s work to seek justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge and to tell the story of those years. In 1998, he wrote his memoir – A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 Prison– which is believed to be the only written account by a survivor of Toul Sleng.

When, in 2009, the Khmer Rouge trials finally commenced Vann Nath was the first survivor to testify against Duch, his former jailer who was later convicted of  war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the hearing the Chamber president asked Vann Nath why he wanted to testify, his answer expressed a desire to ensure that Cambodia’s younger generations learnt from the Khmer Rouge period:

“I determined if one day I survived and had freedom… I would compile the events to reflect on what happened so that the younger generation knew – would know of our suffering…. So I had to reveal, I had to write, I had to compile, and it can be served as a mirror to reflect to the younger generation of the lives of those who were accused with no reason, who committed no wrong, and that they were punished that way. That was the very suffering that we received and the suffering that we had because we told them the truth and they did not believe it.”

That belief in the importance of telling the truth and establishing a clear history of the abuses carried out by the Khmer Rouge will perhaps be the most important legacy of the work of the ECCC . For many years the approach taken by Cambodia to how to deal with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge was, as the Prime Minister once said, to “dig a hole and bury the past.” The New York times described the “painful generation gap” that developed as a result, with the older generations having lived through the horror of that period, and the younger generations knowing little if anything of that time. In the run up to the beginning of the Khmer Rouge trials this problem was clearly identified in a 2009 survey carried out by the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law School. This found that four out of five members of people under 30 knew little or nothing about the Khmer Rouge years, and only 15% said they knew much about the ECCC trials. Two years later, after the Duch trial, a follow-up survey found an increase in the level of knowledge generally, and a positive response regarding the work of the court:

Over three-quarters of respondents (compared to 68% in 2008) believed the ECCC would have a positive effect on the victims of the Khmer Rouge and/or their families such as bringing justice (37% compared to 2% in 2008) and helping victims feel better, have less anger, or help relieve the pain and suffering endured during the Khmer Rouge period (25%).

Vann Nath did not survive to witness the upcoming trial of the four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The case will be more significant in the attempt to establish a public record than the Duch trial. However, it is unclear how effective it will be as the four defendants, Noun Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith will not cooperate in the same way as Duch. Their response thus far to the charges laid against them, including that of genocide, relies on a version of history which portrays the Khmer Rouge as national liberators who protected the country from Vietnamese incursions and threats from American bombing during the Vietnam War. 

Regardless of the outcome of further trials, Vann Nath will be remembered as an inspirational artist and human rights advocate. His paintings vividly establish the suffering and abuse of the Cambodian people between 1975-1979. Whilst his emotional testimony before the ECCC was a critical moment in speaking for all victims of the Khmer Rouge, something he had dedicated his life to and had achieved with dignity and integrity.

Finally, below a letter of condoence written by the Documentation Centre for Cambodia is reproduced here:

DC-Cam Letter of Condolence for Vann Nath

Vann Nath: Witness of History

Today, September 5, 2011, Vann Nath passed away. As one of only 14 known survivors of the infamous Tuol Sleng S-21 prison, Vann Nath was a witness to history and exhibited great strength in providing his testimony despite the horrific crimes he suffered and in the face of the impunity enjoyed by his former tormentors for over thirty years. When the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was finally established to seek justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge, Vann Nath chose not to apply for civil party status. He made this choice because he understood that his primary duty was to provide testimony for subsequent generations of Cambodians to learn from. This reflected a concept of justice that focuses on the future of humanity, rather than temporary individual desires for retribution, revenge or remuneration.

 The passing of Vann Nath before others responsible for the creation of Tuol Sleng S-21 prison are tried is a tragedy that highlights the high cost that the simple passage of time can inflict on the pursuit of justice. Sadly, this tragedy repeats itself silently throughout Cambodia, as each day victims of the Khmer Rouge pass away without having been provided any measure of justice. What is even more tragic is the fact that many of these deaths could be prevented if ordinary Cambodians had access to modern healthcare, making the world-class healthcare provided to the accused at the Tribunal appear unfair to many victims. It is hard to explain lofty, abstract goals such as promoting the “rule of law” to victims who cannot afford to even see a doctor.

Nevertheless, by providing medical care to the accused out of respect for fair trial and human rights principles, the Tribunal can present a counterpoint of compassion to the terror, torture and degradation Vann Nath and many others suffered at Tuol Sleng S-21 and other Khmer Rouge prisons throughout Cambodia. Although protecting the rights of former Khmer Rouge leaders can at times be a bitter pill to swallow, doing so, even when it is difficult or unpopular, provides a lesson for the future of which Vann Nath could be proud: that every human being has a right to dignity and equality under the law.

Vann Nath was a friend to many of us and will be missed by everyone at the Center and many others throughout the world. We will all miss, but draw inspiration from, the palpable sense of peace that emanated from within him.

 Youk Chhang, Director, Documentation Center of Cambodia

The Applicability of Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions to Armed Attacks by Transnational Armed Groups

Anna Marie Brennan

This post examines whether armed attacks by Transnational Armed Groups come within the meaning of Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions as supplemented by Addition Protocol II (CA3).

A Transnational Armed Group can be described as a non-state armed actor which operates beyond the territorial borders of a single state and carries out serious and violent acts intended to cause fear, death, serious bodily injury and property damage to a person, group or general population in order to force a government or international organisation to perform or refrain from performing a particular act. The best example of a Transnational Armed Group is Al-Qaeda. Other examples of Transnational Armed Groups include Jemaah Islamiyah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, these particular Transnational Armed Groups are more limited in geographical scope and vary in organisation and objectives. At present, Al Qaeda is the only Transnational Armed Group operating on such a wide geographical basis with training grounds in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uganda. Al-Qaeda has also proven itself to be global in outlook by carrying out attacks in locations such as Madrid, London, Bali, Karachi and New York.

Two requirements define the scope of application of CA3: (1) the existence of an armed conflict; and (2) that it is a non-international armed conflict. However, characterising attacks by Transnational Armed Groups as an armed conflict within the meaning of CA3 raises major policy questions. First of all, ascribing ‘belligerent’ or ‘combatant’ status to members of Transnational Armed Groups might invest members of such groups with rights and privileges under International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Secondly, the classification of attacks by Transnational Armed Groups as an armed conflict may also symbolically aggrandise the Transnational Armed Group by suggesting that states consider them much more than a sinister criminal organisation. Lastly, categorising attacks by Transnational Armed Groups as an armed conflict could also immunise members of such armed groups from prosecution for proportional attacks directed against military targets. As a result of these issues, it is difficult to categorise attacks by Transnational Armed Groups under either traditional perceptions of war or contemporary ideas of armed conflict. Nevertheless, the attacks do exhibit several characteristics of armed conflict including their purpose, coordination and intensity.

Nevertheless, the question whether CA3 regulates armed attacks by Transnational Armed Groups still remains. The text of CA3 provides very little guidance on the issue. In reality, the text of CA3 is only helpful in determining the type of armed conflicts it does not regulate by identifying its field of application as ‘armed conflict not of an international character.’ Jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has arguably clarified the definition of armed conflict in IHL. In particular, the Appeals Chamber in Prosecutor v. Tadic (Tadic) concluded that:

[A]rmed conflict exists whenever there is a resort to armed force between States and protracted armed violence between … such groups within a State. International humanitarian law applies from the initiation of such armed conflicts and extends beyond the cessation of hostilities until a general conclusion of peace is reached; or, in the case of internal armed conflicts, a peaceful settlement is achieved. Until that moment, international humanitarian law continues to apply in the whole of the territory of the warring States or, in the case of internal conflicts, the whole territory under the control of a party, whether or not actual combat takes place.

Two features of this definition clarify the definition of ‘armed conflict.’ First of all, the definition suggests that an armed conflict exists only if the armed group controls a segment of the state’s territory. Secondly, the definition categorises internal hostilities as an armed conflict only if the violence is protracted. Jinks notes that both requirements would limit the conditions under which CA3 applies. Even though the definition laid down by the ICTY is persuasive, a careful reading of the Tribunal’s reasoning makes clear that it does not restrict the scope of application of CA3 to Transnational Armed Groups.

The Tribunal’s definition does not necessitate that armed groups have control over territory within the state. The Tribunal defines the circumstances in which IHL applies by carefully analysing its general scope of application, the temporal scope of application and the territorial scope of application. Jinks notes that by defining the territorial field of application for non-international armed conflict the ICTY confirms that IHL is applicable in territory that is no longer under the control of the state and in the whole of that territory.

In addition, the ‘protracted’ armed violence prerequisite does not limit the application of IHL in any considerable way. The conclusion reached by the ICTY Appeals Chamber in Tadic indicates that most instances of internal violence would satisfy this requirement. Whether the internal violence is protracted is determined by reference to the entire time period of the armed hostilities from the initiation to the cessation of the hostilities. Moreover, IHL applies to all acts committed during an armed conflict even if the act was committed before the point at which the ‘protracted’ threshold was crossed. To be precise, the ‘protracted’ requirement does not exclude acts committed in the early stages of a non-international armed conflict. The ‘protracted’ armed violence requirement can be best appreciated as little more than a reiteration of the rule excluding isolated and sporadic acts of violence from the scope of IHL. Furthermore, the jurisprudence of the ICTR established that armed violence over a period of a few months meets the ‘protracted’ requirement and, because of the level and intensity of the armed violence, it constituted an armed conflict within the meaning of CA3.

In conclusion, the intensity, coordination, and pattern of attacks by Transnational Armed Groups against the United States and other states make clear that attacks by Transnational Armed Groups are not simply isolated and sporadic acts of violence and constitute an armed conflict within the meaning of CA3. Attacks by Transnational Armed Groups have involved the coordinated use of force and have demonstrated their capability to operate globally even against military and diplomatic targets. It is undoubtedly clear that the organisational capacity of Transnational Armed Groups such as the Palestine Liberation Front and Al Qaeda distinguishes them from ‘mere bandits’ in that they indisputably possess the de facto capability to carry out sustained armed attacks against states.

Panel 2: Security Council Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security

Madeleine Reese, Head of Women’s Rights and Gender Unit, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, began her presentation by noting the limitations of international law as a tool of social transformation in post-conflict zones. She observed that progress in this arena has been tremendously slow, such that what often passes for success in the context of international law might not be so regarded elsewhere. In evaluating the potential of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, she stated that while it contained some ‘packages’ which would prove useful in improving women’s political participation, ultimately its recognition of women as agents for social change was muted – particularly in its language, which advocates the participation of women ‘where possible’. This presentation followed a broader theme which emerged in the papers presented at the conference: that blackletter law has little impact in the absence of proper implementation, backed by solid gender analysis. Ms. Reese argued that polarisation during conflict begins before conflict and is ultimately the product of social norms. While formal justice mechanisms were therefore important, they were unlikely to bear fruit unless regard was had to issues of recognition and redistribution.
First, it was important to ensure that transitional justice processes described women’s experience of conflict accurately. Procedure and process ought to be adapted to fit the emotional and practical needs of participating women. To illustrate the problems which can arise in practice, Ms. Reese cited examples from the ICTY; including women travelling unaccompanied to the Hague to participate in the tribunal and unsupported on their return home. The jurisprudence on rape itself also generates difficulties for female victims. The requirement to prove that the victim did not consent deterred women from participating in the Yugoslav and Rwandan tribunals. Ms. Reese advocated more intelligent prosecution to overcome this difficulty. For example, prosecuting sexual violence against women as torture (as is often done in the case of sexual violence against men) would overcome the consent requirement. Second, women’s social and economic rights ought to be enhanced so that they could overcome the social barriers which tended to exclude them from post-conflict negotiations. Ms. Reese argued that temporary special measures of positive discrimination ought to be applied post-conflict.

Col. Ben Klappe, Military Judge/Judge in the District Court Arnheim/Netherlands Defence Academy, presented ongoing efforts to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers. He began by noting that UN peacekeeping forces have been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse since the Balkan missions in the early 1990s. Col. Klappe’s own presentation centred on allegations made against UN peacekeeping personnel in Bunia, DRC in 2004. The most recent set of allegations is contained in the Save the Children report No One to Turn to, published in May 2008, which claimed that sexual violence perpetrated against children went largely unreported. Col. Klappe outlined the following UN initiatives which aimed to tackle this problem:

Col. Klappe argued that a key obstacle in this area was the difficulty in disciplining perpetrators. Disciplinary power extends at most to repatriation and sending States retain exclusive criminal jurisdiction. The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations mandated the development of a legal framework enabling criminal prosecution. The 2007 model memorandum of understanding between the UN and sending countries has shored up possibilities for enforcement. In the memorandum, sending countries undertake to bring the full force of their legal sanctions to bear in enforcing agreed standards of conduct for troops. Another important recent development from the victims’ perspective is the General Assembly’s adoption in 2007 of a victim assistance strategy. Under this strategy, victims would receive assistance to address their needs which could include medical treatment, social support, legal services or material care.

Lt. Col. Oliver Barbour, Irish Defence Forces/GBV Consortium, dealt with two related areas. First, he touched on the work of the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence which has 14 members, including two Irish government departments as well as Irish human rights, humanitarian and development agencies. Its objectives are: to ensure that actions to prevent and respond to GBV are visible and systematically addressed in the work of its member agencies; to document and share resources on the prevention of GBV and to develop an advocacy strategy to promote awareness of and improve actions on prevention of GBV. The Consortium’s Advocacy Group works to raise awareness of the consortium’s work and GBV, and is promoting the development by the Irish government of an effective Irish National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325. During 2008, the Consortium will build on its current training and dissemination work and will also host an international conference in Dublin.
Second, Lt. Col. Barbour discussed the wide range of attempts to integrate a gender perspective into EUFOR’s recent operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His core message was that gender issues ought to be given effect at a practical operational level. In explaining the successes of efforts in the DRC, he discussed a number of key initiatives:

  • gender issues had been incorporated into the planning stage of the mission and eventually formed part of the operational plan.
  • a gender advisor was appointed to the EU OHQ to provide basic training for OHQ and FHQ personnel
  • reports on gender issues were compiled weekly.
  • a gender issues soldiers’ card was developed which provided for a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • women were specially trained to take part in patrols along w
    ith soldiers.

Lt. Col. Barbour reported that, as a result of these efforts, the force’s credibility among local women and among influential women’s organisations improved tremendously. However, he expressed concern that the legal officer was appointed gender officer at FHQ as he suggested that this ‘double-hatting’ undermined the importance of the role.

Summary provided by PhD candidate and IRCHSS scholar Máiréad Enright.

Panel 3: The Role of Transitional Justice in Addressing Crimes of Sexual Violence

The second afternoon session, examining the response of transitional justice mechanisms such as truth commissions, trials and reparations to sexual violence was as depressing as it was informative. The three speakers brought experiential, methodological and geographic diversity to their papers, but the recurring theme was the immense difficulty of responding adequately to the psycho-social trauma of mass rape in the post-conflict environment.
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin focussed her discussion of truth, DDR and reparation mechanisms, but concentrated mainly on the limits of our understandings of harm. She argued that the exclusionary emphasis on sexual violence fails to fully understand the problem of women’s experiences in conflict situations. She used an examination of the afore-mentioned mechanisms to illustrate the gap between what women cite as harms and those that Truth Commissions and courts say are harms. Prof. Ni Aoláin also referred to the consistent criticism of transitional justice that it replicates the centuries-old division between the public and private sphere, reflecting make fears of violation over those suffered by many women. Similarly, the emphasis of transitional mechanisms on primary harms instead of secondary harms marginalises the experience of women who experience the latter in the same way as the former.
Professor Penny Andrews spoke of her extensive experience of transitional justice in South Africa, prefacing her remarks with the sobering observation that sexual violence rates have reached “epidemic” levels after 1994. Though international law has had a major impact on legal development in the State, it has not translated into protections for women bar in some encouraging isolated cases highlighted by the speaker. As Prof. Andrews pointed out, “a legal edifice can be in place but it doesn’t addresses attitudes”. A theme running through the three speaker’s comments was the inadequacy of transitional justice to respond to “ordinary” rape and the need for multi-faceted approaches. Prof. Andrews’ brief treatment of the Jacob Zuma case and the racialisation of gender-based violence shows how far justice and freedom in the private sphere are from the ostensible freedom in the constitution and state structures.
Judge Teresa Doherty, currently sitting in the Special Court for Sierra Leone and formerly of the Papua New Guinea Magistrate, High and Supreme Courts brought her experience in these courts to illustrate the difficulties of trial-based responses to gender-based violence. As presiding Judge in the AFRC trial, she has been responsible for crafting original jurisprudence on the crimes of forced marriage and sexual slavery. Prosecutions for rape and sexual violence remain all too rare so it was comforting to hear of this progress. Nonetheless, Judge Doherty’s references to trial of gender-based violence and sexual slavery in Papua New Guinea were once more sobering, capped by a tragicomic tale of a man who beat his wife to death who came before her court unable to understand that domestic chores might be subject to division between man and wife. In concurrence with her two preceding speakers, Judge Doherty stressed the necessity of education, and incontestable argument in light of the three discussions.

Summary provided by PhD candidate and Government of Ireland Scholar Pádraig McAuliffe.

Panel 1: Responding to Sexual Violence – Recent Developments in International Law

The first panel session focused on the role played by International Law, and in particular, International Tribunals, in responding to Sexual Violence in conflicts. The session provided both an account of some positive developments in the area as well as problems, in respect of law (both International and domestic), and cultural and political challenges in responding to sexual violence.
The first speaker, Dr Kelly Askin, opened the session with an account of how the past 15 years has the recognition of Gender Based Violence (GBV) as a human rights issue. Taking the conference through the key court decisions from the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, she informed the conference that the cases have established that GBV can be prosecuted as a war crime even in cases of defendants who were “in charge” rather than directly involved in the crimes. However, setting the tone for the rest of the speakers, Dr Askin went on to note the many missed opportunities and acquittals, and the fact that it takes sustained pressure for these crimes to be successfully prosecuted in practice. She also noted that now that the International Tribunals had set down the jurisprudence, it was time for the domestic courts to “step up” and do more to prosecute GBV.
The downbeat tone was picked up by the next speaker, Professor Doris Buss, who presented findings on the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Reporting on the “bleak” record of the Tribunal she noted that there was a very low success rate in prosecuting sexual offences. Problems were found at all points in the system – investigations, prosecution and trials. Professor Buss noted that whilst in International Law rape had become visible as a mass crime, it remained almost invisible at the point of the individual; and whilst International Law has developed significantly in relation to prosecuting GBV, the institutional and the cultural problems continue.
The final speaker, Amira Khair, presented a disturbing account of the practical experience of working with women victims of sexual violence in Sudan. The experience made clear how Sudanese law is not a solution to GBV, but is in fact part of the problem. The law on rape exposes the victims to further abuse, as it requires four male witnesses to establish a victim did not consent to the sexual act. Without these witnesses there is a danger that the victim could be prosecuted for adultery because she had sex outside marriage. The law therefore does not provide the space for victims to seek legal protection and/or justice; something reinforced by the cultural context of not speaking out in relation to sex.
The session concluded that International Tribunals using International Law were only part of the way in which rape victims can obtain justice. Local courts, truth and reconciliation commissions, reparations, all had a part to play in tackling GBV after a conflict. It also took courage on the part of the legal players; which in itself was a telling issue as Professor Buss concluded “How did we get to the point where it needed courage to convict someone for rape?”

First ICC Trial to Begin in March 2008

The International Criminal Court has decided that Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga will be the first person to be tried before the Court (ICC decision). All evidence is to be turned over to his defence by December 14th of this year. Lubanga is charged with recruiting child soldiers in the Ituri district of the Congo. The trial is scheduled to begin on March 31, 2008.

The Ituri district saw some of the most intense violence in the Congo and the background is described in this HRW Report:

The war in Ituri is a complex web of local, national, and regional conflicts that developed after a local dispute between Hema and Lendu was exacerbated by Ugandan actors and aggravated by the broader international war in the DRC. National rebel groups such as the Congolese Liberation Movement (Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo, MLC), the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-Mouvement de Libération, RCD-ML) and the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-Goma, RCD-Goma) have supported local militia in their conflicts as a way to expand their own base of power in the DRC transitional government or perhaps even to derail negotiations. These national groups, as well as local ethnic groups in Ituri, have been and, in some cases, still are supported by the Ugandan, Rwandan and DRC governments. Ituri is now the battleground for the war between the governments of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC which have provided political and military support to local armed groups despite abundant evidence of their widespread violations of international humanitarian law.

Hunger Strike at the ICTR

JURIST reports that forty prisoners in Tanzania who are awaiting trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda have gone on hunger strike in protest over the Prosecutor’s application to transfer them for trial in a Rwandan national court. The ICTR’s mandate runs only until December 2008, therefore we can perhaps expect that more applications of this nature will arise in order to ensure that the ICTR completes its work within its given time frame. The prisoners’ protest, however, that the Rwandan courts can not guarantee them a fair trial.

The problems surrounding transfer of prisoners of this nature and, indeed, the fate of people acquitted by the international tribunals (can they be returned to the country in which the alleged crimes took place? Are they prohibited from seeking asylum because of suspicion of involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity etc…) have not attracted much attention in the scholarship, but Kevin Jon Heller (U Auckland) has a working paper on SSRN about the issues surrounding the destination of acquittees that raises some interesting points. The paper is a working piece and, some might say, could pay more attention to jus cogens or non refoulement but the issues that it raises are expressed in Heller’s characteristic evocative style and it comes recommended to anyone with an interest in these issues.