On November 23, 1998, four big US tobacco companies signed the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement with the attorneys general of 46 states and six US territories. Big Tobacco agreed to pay the gigantic sum of $206 billion (2.3% of the country's GDP at the time) over 25 years to compensate for public health expenses incurred by these states due to smoking-related illnesses, and to finance large-scale campaigns warning about the dangers of tobacco. The agreement was signed after a series of legal actions by states demanding reimbursement from companies for their health expenses.
Faced with the immense humanitarian consequences of climate change - hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of forced displacements every year - and the immense financial needs for adaptation in the most vulnerable countries, local and state governments are starting to sue fossil fuel companies, just like they did the tobacco companies 30 years ago.… Seguir leyendo »
Russia, the world’s fourth largest emitter, has signed all UN climate treaties, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. To prevent dangerous interference with the climatic system, Russia is therefore bound to develop and implement effective measures aimed at reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or soon after.
But on 11 September 2022, a coalition of Russian human rights organizations and activists filed the first ever Russian climate case before the Supreme Court. Their lawsuit challenges the country's long-term climate strategy as inconsistent with its national and international obligations. The plaintiffs, citing the independent organization Climate Action Tracker, claim in their brief that the actions - or inactions - envisaged are "critically insufficient" and that the implementation of the Russian strategy involves serious violations of several fundamental human rights.… Seguir leyendo »
The COP27 climate conference opens in Egypt on November 6. Since the first Conference of the Parties ("COP") to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994, governments have been negotiating around two key ideas. First, that the richest states - initially the OECD member states which are historically the biggest polluters -- must reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more and faster than others. Second, that the OECD countries must pay so that the poorest countries, which are the first victims of climate change effects even though they are responsible for only a small part of the GHG emissions, can adapt to it - i.e.… Seguir leyendo »
On the night of September 12-13, violent clashes erupted along the eastern and southeastern border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The hostilities, which had been brewing since a ceasefire agreement signed under Russian the auspices two years before, continued until September 15. Over these 48 hours, Azerbaijani forces reportedly used heavy artillery and drones along a 200 km stretch of the border. According to the Armenian prime minister, the shelling deliberately targeted the civilian population and vital civilian infrastructures in 36 residential areas and communities.
The direct cause that re-sparked hostilities remains unclear, with Armenia and Azerbaijan blaming each other. The Armenian prime minister referred to the Azerbaijani shelling as an unprovoked and unjustified military aggression.… Seguir leyendo »
In France, the victim participates as a "civil party" in a criminal trial for the sole purpose of compensation or to support the prosecution. In matters of terrorism, the special Assize Court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the civil parties’ claims for compensation, as this prerogative is reserved for a Victims' Guarantee Fund. Thus, at the trial of the November 13, 2015 attacks, which was held between September 2021 and July 2022, the victims could not claim compensation.
However, they were offered a unique and unprecedented opportunity. Invited to testify extensively, they were able to express their suffering and their quest for the truth about the roots and the course of the attacks.… Seguir leyendo »
On the 3rd of August 2022, the Chilean government announced consultations for the development of a Comprehensive Reparation Initiative - Mesa de Reparación Integral, in Spanish – for victimsof human rights violations committed during social uprising of 2019, that resulted in 33 casualties. This recent development, alongside a constitutional reform process – to be submitted in a referendum on 4 September – and commitment to human rights of the newly appointed government of Gabriel Boric, in office since March 2022, indicates an intention to dealing differently with human rights violations.
An important shift, as victims of human rights violations during the dictatorship (1973-1990) have frequently been excluded, left waiting and had their voices neglected during the transition towards democracy.… Seguir leyendo »
Several historical episodes have recently been at the centre of public debate in Greenland and Denmark, including adoptions of Greenlandic children by Danish families in the 60s and 70s and the so-called “judicial orphans”: lack of inheritance rights for Greenlanders born from unmarried Greenlandic women to Danish men. Now an investigative podcast has revealed yet another example of problematic guardianship from Danish authorities in Greenland: back in the 1960’s and 1970’s Danish health authorities placed thousands of intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUD) in Greenlandic women and girls to diminish population growth.
But contrary to prior years, the Danish government now proves to be more open to launch investigations into Denmark’s colonial past in Greenland.… Seguir leyendo »
A hideous contradiction is playing out in war-torn Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainians are starving in cities besieged by Russian forces. Meanwhile, the country’s grain stores are bursting with food, and the government is begging for international assistance to export Ukrainian grain to world markets.
At the end of 2021, almost 200 million people globally were suffering acute food insecurity. The number climbed after Russia’s invasion and blockade of Ukraine, a key exporter of grains and oil seeds, which disrupted world food markets. This is pushing up food prices and straining aid budgets.
Russia isn’t the only belligerent to weaponize hunger. Most people at risk of famine today live in places afflicted by war.… Seguir leyendo »
From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala suffered a brutal internal armed conflict. According to the UN truth commission, “acts of genocide” were committed against the Mayan population in the highlands. That the country’s south coast was also the scene of intense repression is less known. This region is the scene of vast sugar cane plantations. Labourers, both indigenous and mestizo, worked and lived in dreadful conditions. This is why Belgian missionaries started pastoral work here, to make the labourers aware of the exploitation they experienced. Organisational processes among the labourers helped them to demand their rights. In February 1980, they organised a massive strike which lasted 15 days, to demand improved living conditions and wages.… Seguir leyendo »
Let’s face it, the International Criminal Court, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary on July 1, is suffering from a lack of results. In two decades, and at a cost of almost two billion dollars, the ICC has never sustained the atrocity conviction of any state official at any level anywhere in the world. Some of its leading cases have collapsed because of faulty case-building, reversals on appeal, and outright sabotage by targeted officials. The only defendants convicted of atrocity crimes in 20 years have been five African rebels.
And yet, the ICC has had an important impact on global justice, through its governing Rome statute which has been transposed into many national laws, and the baseline international presumption in favor of accountability it helps promote, as well as through the pressure it has exerted on some states like Colombia to undertake prosecutions or risk an ICC investigation.… Seguir leyendo »
The Syrian conflict has been at the center of a number of justice efforts in the past decade, leading to the creation of an international mechanism to collect evidence on international crimes and the opening of trials under the universal jurisdiction principle in European countries, in addition to a call for the establishment of an international mechanism for the disappeared.
The prioritization of international justice venues has been justified by the absolute resistance of the Syrian regime to address its crimes. Still, it has also led to justice actors overlooking domestic developments as irrelevant to the justice struggle. However, recent developments tell us that it is crucial to monitor how the Syrian regime is trying to insert itself within the transitional justice discourse for Syria in the international arena.… Seguir leyendo »
Two Britons captured while fighting in Ukraine’s armed forces have been sentenced to death after what has been condemned as a “show trial”. Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, who surrendered to Russian forces during the siege of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, were convicted on the charge of “being a mercenary”. They have a month to appeal and, if successful, they could receive a life or 25-year prison sentence instead of the death penalty.
Pro-Russian officials in the breakaway republic of Donetsk, where the trial was conducted, claimed the men’s actions had “led to the deaths and injury of civilians, as well as damage to civilian and social infrastructure”.… Seguir leyendo »
On February 24, 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stunned the whole world but particularly Europe and the West. This war has profoundly shaken political and geostrategic agendas. It also generated the biggest shock that international criminal justice has known for a long time.
This is firstly because never before has a conflict been so documented and analysed in real time, by a multitude of actors. While the current times allow this through telephones and technology – as we have seen in Syria and other recent conflicts -, the situation in Ukraine is singular in that it allows access to its territory and Ukraine has called on the help of international criminal justice.… Seguir leyendo »
Is what is happening in Ukraine genocide? That has been a burning question in this crisis, as it has been in other recent humanitarian crises in Darfur, Syria, Myanmar, China and with the crises in the 1990s, especially in Rwanda. President Vladimir Putin of Russia invoked the term to justify the invasion of Ukraine, claiming to “de-Nazify” the country. Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, countered by accusing Russian forces of genocide, and Ukraine brought a genocide case to the International Court of Justice. That Russia has committed genocide has become integral to official Ukrainian rhetoric about the war. Many of Ukraine’s supporters and Russia’s enemies, including President Joe Biden of the USA, have adopted the same language.… Seguir leyendo »
For any informed observer, the April 29 ‘not guilty’ verdict by a Finnish court in the trial of Gibril Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) spokesman who had long taken residence in Finland, was an anticlimax. That’s because the prosecution’s case all but collapsed during the court’s first sittings in Monrovia, Liberia, from February to April last year. I briefly attended one of those sittings, held at a small resort hotel at the outskirts of Monrovia.
One of Massaquoi’s Finnish lawyers had called to ask me whether I could support Massaquoi’s claim to her that I knew he could not have fought in the chaotic battles in Monrovia in 2003 – which grandiloquent Liberian vanity had cast as World Wars 1, 2 and 3 – since I had met him several times during that period at the safe house that the Special Court for Sierra Leone had secured for him as a highly valued witness.… Seguir leyendo »
“I had a lot of pain last night”, Eshetu Alemu coughed, “but I will try to be present during the entire day”. The 68-year-old Ethiopian-Dutchman has terminal lung cancer and he attended his trial via video link from prison. A convicted war criminal, he wants his entire 2017 life sentence– for 75 murders, 6 cases of torture and 320 arbitrary detentions in cruel and degrading circumstances between February and December 1978 in the cities of Debre Markos and Metekel – quashed. He “regrets” that all these things happened. But he maintains he was never at any crime scene.
On 19 April, Alemu heard his Dutch lawyer plead his case.… Seguir leyendo »
When we published an article last year with sociolegal scholar Lorena Vega, an editor drew our attention to the “truly shocking number” that 80,000 forced disappearances is “applied only to Colombia”. His disbelief was such that he asked me to clarify this number in a separate e-mail.
Numbers are often thought to hide the horror of armed conflicts by dehumanizing the victims. Given the nature and magnitude of the crime of forced disappearance, civil society initiatives attempt to give victims their individuality back and families a means to memorialize them through embroidery, installations, documentaries, or transmedia projects. Other work like the one carried out by Equitas in Colombia or Menos Días Aquí in Mexico reflect citizens’ counter-forensic power in the face of state incapacity or willful denial of this crime.… Seguir leyendo »
Without Belarus, Vladimir Putin would not have been able to launch his assault on Kyiv’s suburbs of Bucha, Irpin, Vorzel and Borodyanka – now scenes of unimaginable horror and devastation. In 2020, the president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko made a Faustian pact with Russia’s leader Putin. The latter helped Lukashenko to hold on to power in the face of peaceful mass protests. In exchange, the former allowed Belarus to be used as a launch pad for the invasion of Ukraine. In doing so, Lukashenko made himself complicit in a war of aggression, and any attacks on civilians launched from Belarusian territory.… Seguir leyendo »
Law enforcement agencies of Ukraine did not need to ‘spring into action’ in the wake of Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022: it had already accumulated the experience and know-how of investigating and prosecuting conflict-related crimes in its territory over the preceding eight years. Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) has set up an online portal to be used for submitting the information about most recent alleged crimes. As of 28 March 2022, it has registered 3,085 crimes involving at least 205 suspects from among Russian ministers, parliamentarians, army high command, state officials, law-enforcement officers, and most notorious Kremlin propagandists.
Abhorrent images and footages recorded by the authorities, civil society actors, reporters, and eyewitnesses on the ground and circulating widely on the social media attest to an unimaginable scale of destruction and human suffering.… Seguir leyendo »
On February 17, researchers of the Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia 1945-1950 program (IDVWI) presented their results. They concluded that Dutch armed forces structurally and systematically utilised “extreme violence” to stamp out the Republic of Indonesia that had declared itself independent on 17 August 1945. They added that politicians, civilian and military authorities, including their legal systems, looked away, condoned and silenced colonial violence both in Indonesia and The Hague, the Netherlands’ capital city.
Reactions came fast and furious. Prime minister Mark Rutte apologised to “the people of Indonesia”, but also to Dutch veterans and all the communities violently touched by the war, from 1945 onwards.… Seguir leyendo »