Humanitarian Exchange articles tagged:Justice

Since 1994, the genocide against the Tutsis and the massacres of political opponents in Rwanda have been subject to investigation by journalists, human rights organisations, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Belgian Senate, and academics. While their conclusions may vary, without exception they all refer to relations between France and Rwanda as an important, indeed decisive, element in the strategy of the Rwandan regime as of October 1990. Despite this the French parliament only published its final report on the French role in Rwanda on 15 December 1998. Its authors readily admit that after four years memories fade,…
Guerrilla wars frequently involve the involuntary transfer of the local population, either by guerrilla forces themselves, or as a counter-insurgency tactic. Examples include the Algerian war of independence of the 1950s, the Vietnam war and, more recently, the conflicts in Burundi, the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone. International humanitarian law, the laws of war and, to a lesser extent, human-rights law all prohibit forced population transfers as a means of warfare. But the pertinent legal norms are far from perfect due to the blurred distinction between ‘deportation’ and ‘evacuation’. There is no source of international law clearly distinguishing between the two,…
NGOs have played a crucial role in lobbying for international legal responses to abuse, and have been instrumental in gathering testimony and evidence. But how relevant are these activities to the work of humanitarian organisations? Slobodan Milosevic’s appearance at the Inter-national Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in July 2001 may well mark a watershed in the development of international criminal justice. His indictment in May 1999 marked the first time a sitting head of state had been charged by an international tribunal. The Pinochet case, which targeted a retired head of state, had paved the way, and there…
The seven-year war in Sierra Leone again reached the capital Freetown in early January after months of intense fighting upcountry between the rebel coalition of the former junta AFRC/RUF (Armed Forces Ruling Council and the Revolutionary United Front), and the CDF (civil defence forces) backed by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG. Following the reinstatement by ECOMOG of the democratically elected Kabbah government in February 1998, the rebel coalition retreated, strengthened by their period in control of state power. Their use of terror against civilian populations has led to continued displacement, with over 600,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia and Guinea, and at…
The potential inherent in the UN Secretary-General’s commitment to integrate human rights throughout the activities of the Organisation is such that it should change the way all field operators work: whether relief or development agency, police, military or human rights ‘specialists’. In addition, it should revolutionise the way we work together. Human rights and conflict There has long been theoretical recognition of the link between human rights violations and peace. Here, we speak not only of civil and political rights but those economic, social and cultural rights whose denial through structural injustice and discrimination lie at the root of conflict.…
The signing of Peace Accords between the Government of Guatemala and the URNG (The National Revolutionary Unity of Guatemala) on 29 December 1996 put a formal end to more than 35 years of internal armed conflict. But the promised benefits of peace have been slow in coming and the peace process is in deep crisis; implementation of the Accords is severely behind schedule and major power sectors oppose implementation of key elements of the Accords. Furthermore, the international community is threatening to significantly reduce its contributions to the $1.9 billion commitment originally approved by the Consultative Group of the International Monetary…
War crimes on a large scale have been a reality for centuries, as has impunity. States already have the legal obligation to prosecute suspected perpetrators of these crimes, but because of unwillingness or inability often fail to carry out investigations or prosecutions. This cycle of impunity must be stopped. In this context it is important that the negotiations currently taking place lead to a widely accepted and effective international criminal court (ICC). The UN has been considering the establishment of an ICC since its creation and now seems to be nearing its goal. A Preparatory Committee, with more than 100…
The collective security system of the UN is not simply a technical procedure, which can be used to punish those who violate international law. To be effective, member States need to implement Security Council resolutions. Hence, from the outset, the ITFY has been dependent on the cooperation of States, including the parties to the conflict. As such, the legal framework of the ITFY has been embedded in a fluid political, military and diplomatic environment. World opinion was alerted by reports about atrocities, from journalists and humanitarian organisations in 1992, and subsequently by different fact finding commissions, such as the Kalshoven…
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up not only to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law between 1 January and 31 December 1994 but with the belief that prosecutions “will contribute to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace.” Three and a half years later, it is becoming increasingly clear that the ICTR will not be able to contribute significantly to national reconciliation. This article summarises some of the main arguments leading to this conclusion and tries to indicate to what extent these arguments apply to a permanent International…
Given the violations on the continent in recent years, Africa will be part of the immediate focus of a permanent ICC. Its effective functioning will depend on the extent to which Africans can create the conditions for the ICC to operate effectively. This article argues that there are important developments at the level of regional and sub-regional organisations in Africa, which will enhance the work of an ICC. But real gains will depend upon the support of the leadership of individual states. Developments in the OAU The decision by the OAU (1997) to establish a permanent court of Human Rights…
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