Geneva Solutions's monthly "war criminal hunt" round-up, in collaboration with Geneva-based NGO Civitas Maxima.
Denunciation filed after Russian attack on Swiss journalist
A Ukrainian NGO denounced an attack last month against a Swiss press photographer during the war in Ukraine.
Truth Hounds, assisted by Civitas Maxima, filed the denunciation with Switzerland’s attorney general following an attack on Guillaume Briquet after he was ambushed by a Russian commando on his way to Mykolaïv.
Though equipped with Genevan licence plates and “press” markings on both sides, Russian forces shot Briquet’s vehicle twice, causing injuries to the journalist’s head and arms. Swiss authorities can deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine on the principle of universal jurisdiction. They can judge this case especially, because Briquet is a Swiss national.
Dmytro Koval, legal director of Truth Hounds, said: “It is extremely important to involve in the investigations those states that have a jurisdictional connection with such crimes, or can prompt the principle of universal jurisdiction over them”.
Six months into the war in Ukraine
The prosecution of crimes committed in Ukraine has gathered pace since the beginning of the war on 24 February 2022. More than 1,000 Ukrainian prosecutors have helped gather evidence of the war crimes committed by the Russian regime. The country’s prosecutor’s office is currently investigating around 28,000 suspected war crimes cases, amongst them the killing of over 300 children by the Russian military. In addition, over 40 nations are actively supporting the conviction of Russian crimes. Plans are also underway by the Ukrainian government to establish a new court to try the Russian leadership for launching the war, or the “crime of aggression”.
Appeal in case against Sierra Leonean rebel leader
A Finnish appeals court on 12 August granted a request to revisit the acquittal of Gibril Massaquoi, former commander of the Sierra Leonean rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The decision comes after a court in Finland’s city of Tampere in May dismissed all charges against Massaquoi, who at the time stood trial for murder, aggravated war crimes and human rights violations he allegedly committed during the Second Liberian Civil War.
Civitas Maxima and Liberian sister organisation GJRP provided the initial information about the case to the Finnish authorities. Following the judgement, there had been fierce criticism regarding the trial, which some called “misguided”. Chief Prosecutor Tom Laitinen now declared: “I’m grateful that we have a second chance to prove our case”. The appeals court has not yet announced when the hearings will begin.
Myanmar: anniversary of violence against the Rohingya
Five years after Myanmar’s military junta began its violent repression, Rohingya Muslims are still waiting for justice, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently reported. Since 25 August 2017, the junta exercised massacres, rape and arson against the minority group, forcing 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, were they now live in precarious refugee camps.
There have been no convictions so far for genocide and crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar. Arms embargoes that could be implemented by the United Nations are currently blocked by China and Russia in the Security Council.
Elaine Pearson, HRW’s acting Asia director called for action, saying: “Influential governments should overcome their past mistakes and take strong measures to sever the flow of arms and revenue underwriting the junta’s ongoing crimes”.
Complaint filed against Saudi prince Mohammed Bin Salman
Organisations DAWN, OSJI and TRIAL International filed a complaint with a Paris court on 28 July, calling for investigations into Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in relation to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The journalist and critic of the Saudi Arabian government was brutally assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. The complaint was filed following a report by the US intelligence agencies that concluded that Bin Salman approved of Khashoggi’s murder.
At the end of July 2022, the Saudi crown prince visited Paris during his first EU trip after the death of the journalist. Bin Salman could have been investigated during his stay in France and tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction. According to Philip Grant, executive director of Genevan NGO TRIAL International, “the time has come for France to live up to the standards it fought so hard to promote and to seriously tackle impunity for such crimes”.
Ukraine’s Azov Regiment designated a terrorist group by Russian supreme court
Russia’s supreme court on 2 August officially labelled the Ukraine’s Azov Regiment a terrorist group. The extreme-right paramilitary unit has been one of the most prominent Ukrainian military formations concentrated on fighting Russia in eastern Ukraine since 2014.
The designation enables harsh punishments against “Azov” soldiers, who were taken prisoners of war by Russia. Mykhailo Podoliak, head of office of Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky stated on Telegram: "Any decision of the Russian courts concerning the war in Ukraine and on the territory of Ukraine is not legitimate under international law".