Guinea opens trials over 2009 massacre, rare case against Myanmar’s junta: September war crimes round-up
Geneva Solutions’s monthly “war criminal hunt” round-up, in collaboration with Geneva-based NGO Civitas Maxima.
“Our monthly round-up continues with once again a rich diversity of cases brought or litigated in Asia, Africa and Europe, including one case in Guinea finally reaching the stage of the trial 13 years after the massacre committed in Conakry in 2009.
Another development treated in this round-up is worth mentioning: the case brought against Myanmar Junta in front of the Constitutional Court in Indonesia after a group of public figures in Jakarta asked the court to permit the case. That could lead to the very first universal jurisdiction case against the Myanmar military in a country of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Jakarta is widely viewed as the “capital” of ASEAN and hosts the ASEAN secretariat. No doubt that this case would resonate in the entire region should it be allowed to move forward”.
– Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima
Guinea trial begins 13 years after massacre
Guinea opened a long-awaited trial on 28 September, exactly 13 years after a massacre at a stadium in the capital left at least 157 people dead and dozens of women raped.
The 11 men on trial include former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who had seized power during a putsch one year earlier. Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators had gathered at the stadium in Conakry in 2009 to protest against Camara’s presidential bid when government security officials opened fire.
There were at least 109 cases of rape or other acts of sexual violence committed that day, according to a UN-mandated international commission report, and hundreds of cases of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as theft and looting.
In early September 2022, after numerous delays, the International Criminal Court sent a delegation to assess the preparations and ensure officials follow through on the trial. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, attending the opening of the trial, applauded victims “for their courage and stamina”.
Guinean Justice Minister Alphonse Charles Wright emphasised the importance to ensure “we all come out of this trial with a new vision of Guinea, where impunity will no longer have its place”.
Unprecedented case against Myanmar junta
A group of public figures in Indonesia submitted a petition to the country’s constitutional court asking it to allow a case against the Myanmar military junta for human rights abuses committed since its coup last year.
The petition, filed on 7 September, seeks to change a clause within the Indonesian constitution, which only allows trials for human rights violations to take place if an Indonesian national commits the crime, and extend protection to Myanmar citizens.
If approved, it could lead to the first universal jurisdiction case in a ASEAN member state, in an unprecedented move.
Since the 2021 military coup, more than two thousand people have been killed and 15,000 have been arrested or disappeared in Myanmar, with the UN warning last month of increasing evidence of crimes against humanity being committed.
Although Myanmar has its own courts, petitioners believe these have become a “politicised tool” in the hands of the junta.
As one of the petitioners, former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman stated, “one small change to the law governing the Human Rights Court would [...] pave the way to a trial in Indonesia for the crimes being committed by the Myanmar Junta”.
Arrest linked to Liberia’s war crimes in UK
A man was arrested in north-east England on 8 September for alleged war crimes during Liberia’s two civil wars, between 1989 and 2003.
The suspect, whose identity remains unknown, was detained by the Metropolitan police on suspicion of offenses contrary to section 51 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, which covers genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Around 250,000 people were killed and thousands more raped, mutilated, and suffered other crimes during Liberia’s two violent conflicts.
The arrest comes after a Swiss court last year convicted the first Liberian for war crimes committed during the civil wars. The case of Alieu Kosiah will go on appeal before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in January 2023.
Trial of Central African Republic leader opens in The Hague
The trial of a military leader accused of carrying out or ordering crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR) began in September at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mahamat Said Abdel Kani – a top-ranking paramilitary commander of the mostly-Muslim “Séléka” rebel militia alliance – surrendered to the ICC in January last year after a warrant was issued for his arrest a year earlier.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, which relate to atrocities carried out in 2013 in the capital, Bangui, after an attack by the so-called anti-balaka militia group. The violence resulted in crimes such as extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies and intentional destruction of religious buildings.
Meeting of US attorney general and Ukrainian prosecutor general
United States attorney general Merrick Garland and Ukrainian prosecutor general Andriy Kostin met in Washington on 20 September to strengthen joint efforts to prosecute war crimes and other crimes committed in Ukraine.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed to speed up the exchange of information and evidence between the two countries. Commenting on the agreement, Kostin claimed it “allows us to step up our common efforts in ensuring accountability for international crimes”.
Chinese ambassador summoned after human rights report
Switzerland called a meeting with China’s ambassador in September to express its concern over the human rights situation in Xinjiang following a report published by the UN’s former high commissioner.
Michelle Bachelet had released the long-awaited report shortly before she left office. Even though it fails to call China’s actions a genocide, the report contains allegations of crimes against humanity the state committed against the Uyghur minority.
China’s ambassador to Switzerland, Wang Shihting, met with officials of the Swiss federal office of foreign affairs on 8 September, as part of a regular series of meetings with China about human rights.
The Swiss foreign ministry claimed to be “convinced that the best way to [...] the respect for fundamental rights is to conduct a critical and constructive dialogue with Peking”.
French prison sentence against uncle of Bashar al-Assad
France’s top court on 7 September confirmed a four-year prison sentence against Rifaat al-Assad, an uncle of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, for buying a multi-million euro property using government funds.
The verdict, at the Cour de Cassation, comes after a long process against Assad, who has lived in France since the mid 1980s. He left the country in October 2021 after losing access to his wealth, which means an actual execution of the sentence at this point is unlikely.