Forthcoming final judgement of the ECHR in the Katyn case

Today, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is expected to announce its final judgement in the case of Janowiec and others v. Russia (applications no. 55508/07, 9520/09 ). The case originated from the events of April and May 1940 when an estimated 21,000 Polish officers and officials were detained in the Kozielsk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov camps before being executed by the Soviet secret police (NKVD) in Katyń forest and the Kharkov and Tver NKVD prisons. The bodies were buried in mass graves.

When the graves were first discovered in 1943, Soviet authorities put the blame on the Nazis (see Burdenko Commission). The crime was ignored at the Nuremberg trials (see the commentary of Prof. Schabas here and here) and the “official” version of the events was imposed for the next 50 years. Continue reading

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On the Eve of the AU Summit: How the ICC is Being Defended

[This appeared originally on Justice in Conflict on 11 October, 2013.]

As African leaders publicly question their support for the International Criminal Court, a wide range of ICC supporters have rallied to its defense. Here, along with my co-author, Chris Tenove, we use a framework put forward in our recent paper in the International Journal of Transitional Justice to examine the allies and the forms of authority that the Court can turn to. (Chris is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of British Columbia and a semi-regular JiC blogger.)

Representatives of African Union governments recently gathered to hold an “emergency summit” in Addis Ababa to discuss the relationship between AU members and the International Criminal Court. The summit was a critical test of the ICC’s authority. Several commentators have already considered the meeting’s significance, potential outcomes and implications (and offered their own suggestions). Here, we would like to discuss what the summit tells us generally about what international criminal justice is and how it works. In particular, we would point to claims about the ICC’s authority made by those who rally to its defense.

In a recently published paper, we propose a framework explaining which actors are involved in international criminal justice (ICJ), what kinds of fundamental rules and practices motivate them and what forms of authority they wield. Continue reading

ICC on trial before the African Union

“It is the culture of impunity and individuals who are on trial at the ICC, not Africa.”

Kofi Annan

 African Union

This weekend marks a very important moment in the history of international justice. In the wake of the controversial decision by the Kenyan Parliament to pass a motion to withdraw from the ICC, member states of the African Union (AU) are gathering in an extraordinary summit to discuss the possibility for African states to either withdraw from the Rome Statute or to end their cooperation with the ICC. Before analyzing the potential outcomes, here are couple of key points made by the AU Assembly in a report from May of this year:

“[The Assembly] DEEPLY REGRETS that the request by the African Union (AU) to the United Nations (UN) Security Council to defer the proceedings initiated against President Omar Al Bashir of The Sudan and Senior State Official of Kenya, in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on deferral of cases by the UN Security Council, has not been acted upon; […]

EXPRESSES CONCERN at the threat that the indictment of H.E Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and H.E William Samoei Ruto, the President and Deputy-President of the Republic of Kenya respectively, may pose to the on-going efforts in the promotion of peace, national healing and reconciliation, as well as the rule of law and stability, not only in Kenya, but also in the Region.”

This weekend’s extraordinary summit seems to be a reaction to these regrets and concerns. Continue reading