[JURIST] A war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh on Thursday sentenced Mohammad Kamaruzzam, assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) [party website, in Bengali], to death for atrocities committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Kamaruzzam, the fourth person convicted [WSJ report] by the tribunal established by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010, was found guilty of committing mass murder and torturing innocent civilians who did not support declaring independence from Pakistan. Kamaruzzam, however, denies the charges and maintains that he is being sentenced by a politicized court [Al Jazeera report] because he is a member of the opposition party. Some are concerned that Thursday's sentencing will result in clashes between police and supporters of the Islamist leader.
In February another JI party leader, Delwar Hossain Sayeedee, was sentenced to death [JURIST report] for mass killing, rape, arson, looting and forcing minority Hindus to convert to Islam during the Bangladesh Liberation War. His sentence sparked violence between police and activists from the JI party. Also in February the Banglaesh parliament approved amendments [JURIST report] to the country's war crimes laws to allow prosecutors to appeal sentences given to defendants convicted of war crimes. These amendments were passed in response to protests [JURIST report] following the life sentence [JURIST report] handed down to Abdul Quader Mollah for war crimes. The protesters believed a life sentence was too lenient for Mollah and that he should have been sentenced to death. The will be effective retroactively [AP report] to July 2009, allowing prosecutors to appeal Mollah's sentence.
[JURIST] Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan of the High Court of Peshawar ruled Thursday that US drone strikes in the region are illegal. The justice also directed Pakistan's Foreign Ministry [official website] to introduce a resolution against such attacks in the UN. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights [advocacy website] on behalf of those who have had family members killed in a drone strike. Khan said the drone strikes should be declared a war crime and that Pakistan should consider breaking diplomatic ties [PTI report] with the US if it vetoes its resolution in the UN. US officials maintain that the drone strikes target al Qaeda and Taliban fighters [Independent report] who are responsible for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and that the Pakistani has condoned strikes.
The use of drone strikes by the US has come under scrutiny in recent months. In March a federal appeals court judge in the US reversed [JURIST report] a ruling on CIA drone strikes and held that the CIA must respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] claim filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] requesting records on the CIA's drone program. Also in March Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter [JURIST report] to Senator Rand Paul suggesting that a drone strike on US soil would be legal only in extraordinary circumstances, following a lengthy filibuster by the senator in the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director. In January UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson announced that he will begin investigating [JURIST report] the legality of the use of drone strikes. Following a request to allow an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the use of targeted killings last year, Emmerson stated that there is still non consensus among the international community as to the legality of the conduct. Also in January Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Minister condemned [JURIST report] US drone attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. In December the US Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging the US government's targeted killing of three US citizens in drone strikes.
[JURIST] The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] said Wednesday that if Libya can conduct fair trials of alleged perpetrators during the pro-democracy 2011 uprising, the proceedings could equal the lasting impact of the Nuremberg trials, sealing the rule of law, due process and human rights for future generations. In a statement [text, PDF] to the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya, Fatou Bensouda prosecutor noted that the ICC's mandate is still essential to ending impunity in Libya, given the extensive crimes committed and the challenges facing the new Libyan government after the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURST news archive] regime and the transition toward a modern democratic state. The prosecutor stressed Libya's impact on international justice:
Libya is engaged in the development of the law: irrespective of outcome, the admissibility processes underway at the ICC will set the standard for years to come for how the Court and States interact with each other regarding national proceedings. ... By conducting fair, just, and transparent judicial proceedings for all alleged perpetrators, while also continuing to respect the ICC judicial process, Libya can set a lasting example for other States.
Libya is seeking to try Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi [BBC profiles] domestically rather than turn them over to the ICC. Last week Saif al-Islam made a second court appearance [JURIST report] in Zintan, Libya, but the court postponed further proceedings until mid-September in order to allow for adequate trial preparation. In April Human Rights Watch reported that Al-Senussi had been unable to speak with a lawyer or told what charges he faces during his eight-month detention, despite February's order from the ICC [JURIST reports] to Libyan officials to hand over al-Senussi so that he could meet with a lawyer. In January the ICC asked Libya to address reports [JURIST report] that it planned to try Saif al-Islam and al-Senussi. In June 2012 four ICC staff members who traveled to Libya to speak with Saif al-Islam were detained by Libyan security forces [JURIST report] and were in custody for nearly four weeks before being released. The ICC issued arrest warrants for both men in June 2011.
[JURIST] Italian prosecutors on Thursday called for former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to face another trial on charges of bribing a senator. The prosecutors accuse [AKI report] Berlusconi of having paid former senator Sergio De Gregorio €3 million following the parliamentary election in 2006 to defect from the small Italy of Values [party website, in Italian] party and join the center right. De Gregorio's defection undermined ex-prime minister Romano Prodi's government's slight parliamentary majority, contributing to its collapse in 2008. Prosecutors want De Gregorio, who has admitted to taking money, to stand trial alongside Berlusconi.
Berlusconi is a defendant in several other cases. The prosecutors' request came just one day after a Milan appeals court upheld a tax fraud conviction against Berlusconi, affirming his four-year sentence [JURIST reports]. Berlusconi may still appeal to Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian], as his sentence will not take effect until all appeals are exhausted. In March a Milan court sentenced him to one year in prison [JURIST report] for publicly releasing private wiretaps in 2005. Berlusconi is also charged [JURIST report] with paying then 17-year-old dancer Karima "Ruby" El Mahroug for sex and abusing his power by asking police to release her after she was detained for an unrelated theft crime. The next hearing in that case is set for next week. Experts agree that Berlusconi, who continually denies any wrongdoing, is unlikely to serve any jail time [AFP report].
[JURIST] Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) troops committed numerous war crimes, including rape and murder, as they retreated from an advance by the 23 March Movement (M23) [JURIST news archive] rebels last November, according to a UN report [text, PDF] released Wednesday. The report claims [AFP report] Congolese military troops raped at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6, in villages and towns surrounding the besieged eastern city of Goma. M23 rebels had overtaken the city during a 10-day occupation, forcing Congolese troops into the outskirts of the city. Based on more than 350 interviews with witnesses and victims, the report claims that DRC troops retreated to Minova in South Kivu province where they were seen raping, looting and arbitrarily beating and executing villagers. Investigators claim that these attacks were carried out in a systematic manner and with extreme violence. The 391st battalion, a segment of the Congolese military that has been implicated in these wrongdoings, was trained by the US [Reuters report] in 2010. Following these claims the US Department of Defense said last month that, regardless of which unit is accused, these crimes were condemnable and potential grounds for withdrawal.
DRC and M23 forces have previously faced accusations of war crimes and human rights violations. In February Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that during the siege of Goma M23 forces summarily executed 24 individuals, 21 of which were civilians, and also raped at least 36 women, including 18 wives and a 10-year-old girl. In November the UN condemned M23 [JURIST report] for guerrilla attacks on the DRC and called for an immediate end to all support of the group. In June a leaked UN report [JURIST report] revealed that Rwanda had been helping to create and support M23 and similar rebel groups that have been known to violate human rights.
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