Geneva Solutions’s monthly “war criminal hunt” round-up, in collaboration with Geneva-based NGO Civitas Maxima.
“No holiday recess for this monthly round-up as international crimes – as well as efforts to litigate these crimes – do not stop over the summer. Once again, several developments on Ukraine, but also justice efforts on crimes committed in Iran, Rwanda, Central African Republic, and Sri Lanka, litigated or filed respectively in Sweden, France, Central African Republic, and Singapore.
The Swedish case is ground-breaking, as for the first time a former Iranian official is convicted for the well-documented mass killings of political prisoners in Iranian prisons in 1988. Obtaining justice almost 35 years later outside Iran is not a small achievement, and speaks volumes about the importance and power of universal jurisdiction.”
-Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima
Ex-Iranian official sentenced for role in 1988 executions
An Iranian citizen was sentenced to life in prison by a Sweden court last month, marking the first time anyone has faced trial over mass killings carried out by the Iranian government against political prisoners in 1988.
Hamid Noury, 61, was an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Teheran, in which mass executions took place in summer 1988. Under the orders of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, an estimated 2,800 to 5,000 political prisoners, who sympathised with the leftist opposition group were executed.
Noury was arrested at a Stockholm airport in 2019 and is the first person to face trial over the executions. In the landmark ruling, Sweden convicted him for war crimes and murder under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction.
Amnesty Iran referred to the sentencing as an “unprecedented step towards justice for crimes committed in Iran”.
Iran’s ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, condemned the conviction, saying it was “politically motivated and has no legal validity”. The ruling is likely to further sour relations between Sweden and Iran, with fears over what implications the conviction will have for the release of political prisoners held by Iran, including Iranian-Swedish researcher Ahmadreza Djalali, held on charges of spying.
The verdict is also particularly sensitive because one of the four judges who oversaw the mass executions was allegedly Iran’s current president, Ebrahim Raisi.
Rwandan official convicted in Paris for genocide
A former Rwandan governor was convicted on 12 July to 20 years in prison before a court in Paris for his involvement in the 1994 genocide. Laurent Bucyibaruta, now 78, was accused of having contributed significantly to the state’s atrocities, in the course of which more than 800,000 members of the Tutsi minority were killed. The convicted has lived in France since 1997 and could therefore be tried before the French courts under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction.
Throughout the trial, Bucyibaruta denied all allegations against him. Because his verdict is limited to complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity, representatives of the Rwandan victims have expressed their disappointment that the governor was not convicted for a direct perpetration of the crimes.
Bucyibaruta is the highest-ranking official to be convicted on charges related to the Rwandan genocide in France, where four trial and four convictions have so far taken place.
Complaint against former Sri Lankan president
A coalition of rights groups has filed a criminal complaint to Singapore’s attorney general requesting an investigation into former Sri Lankan president Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his role in the country’s decades-long civil war. The 17 organisations include Human Rights Watch and People for Equality and Relief in Lanka, and REDRESS.
It comes after another organisation, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) also filed a criminal complaint seeking Rajapaksa’s arrest. He is accused of war crimes allegedly committed in 2009 during the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), when Rajapaksa was secretary of defence. The case was filed under Singapore’s universal jurisdiction.
Rajapaksa resigned by email on 12 July from Singapore, where he allegedly fled on a Short Term Visa Pass. A state of emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka, after months of protests against the economic crisis that saw inflation running at more than 50 per cent.
Another step forward for Central African Republic’s criminal court
Idriss Ibrahim Halib (alias Bin Laden) was charged on 15 July by the recently-formed Special Criminal Court (SCC) of the Central African Republic with acts constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Established in 2015, the court is a domestic tribunal made up of national and international magistrates, and is set to try international crimes committed in the country since 1 January 2003, in partnership with the United Nations.
The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan QC stated, on the occasion of the first SCC trial in April 2022, that “the SCC is an excellent example of how this partnership between the international community, national authorities and local actors can result in tangible steps towards this goal.”
Ukraine war crimes
Countries agree to coordinate Ukraine war crimes probe. More than 40 other countries agreed last month to coordinate investigations into suspected war crimes in Ukraine, with signatories including the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia.
The pledge was made during a conference at the headquarters of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on 14 July, with the 45 nations agreeing to provide 20 million euros to support the ICC, as well as the prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine and efforts by the United Nations to investigate war crimes.
Prosecutor general dismissed. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky announced, among other prominent Ukrainian figures, the dismissal of the country’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, last month on suspicion of “treason and collaboration activities”. The prosecutor, who had been in office since 2020, had taken a prominent role in the prosecution of Russian war crimes. On twitter, shesaid: “I am leaving my position, but I will keep working for Ukraine. I thank all my colleagues for their dedication and thirsty work.”
Mass executions by Ukrainian judiciary. In mid-July, Justice Info published a report by its Ukrainian media partner “Sudovyi Reporter” (“Court Reporter”). The report critically documents mass trials that the Ukrainian prosecution is currently holding against soldiers who joined the Russian armed forces since the country’s invasion. Sentenced to partially long prison terms, the soldiers, who have been captured since 24 February, are being tried at the Shevchenkivskyi Tribunal in Kiev. The report criticises, that different judges of the court require a different amount of evidence, and describes soldiers who were sentenced to long prison terms even though they claimed to have been forcibly recruited.
The article first appeared on Geneva Solutions as part of a Civitas Maxima/Geneva Solutions collaboration, on the 29th of July, 2022.
Image Credit: © Keystone/TT News Agency/Chris Anderson