Liberian rebel convicted in Paris, Kenya’s first crimes against humanity case: November war crimes round-up

Ex-rebel commander Kunti Kamara was convicted tried in Paris for acts of torture and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Liberia's first civil war. (Credit: Civitas Maxima/art by JP Kalonji)

Geneva Solutions’s monthly “war criminal hunt” round-up, in collaboration with Geneva-based NGO Civitas Maxima.

“The November edition of our round-up gives, as always, information about current extra-territorial cases for international crimes – including the verdict on the ground-breaking case in Paris that we mentioned last time. It also highlights efforts to prosecute such crimes in the country where the crimes happened, as well as developments both at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations’ level.

Kenya is currently leading the way when it comes to prosecuting alleged perpetrators who committed crimes at home with this very interesting case for crimes qualified as crimes against humanity committed in 2017. And a case in Germany against a 97-year old woman, a former Nazi camp secretary, reminds us that these international crimes never expire and can be prosecuted as long as the alleged perpetrator is alive”.

-       Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima

Groundbreaking conviction of Liberian rebel in Paris

Former Liberian rebel leader Kunti Kamara was found guilty last month by Paris's court of appeal for crimes against humanity committed during the country's civil war 30 years ago.

The “Cour d’Assises” of Paris convicted the former commander of ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy) to life in prison for various atrocities, including aggravated acts of torture, cannibalism and rape enacted during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996).

The trial was set off by a criminal complaint filed to French authorities by Civitas Maxima. The NGO, which monitored the trial, was a civil party in the case alongside Liberian victims.

“This is the first judgement that condemns and recognizes the systematic nature of sexual violence committed during the first Liberian civil war," said Emmanuelle Marchand, deputy director of Civitas Maxima. "This recognition is important for the victims of these crimes who are still ostracized and who suffer the consequences of these acts today.”

The trial is the first conviction in France for international crimes committed abroad not linked to the Rwandan genocide. It is also the first ever conviction for crimes against humanity committed in Liberia. Since the end of the civil conflicts in 2003, no crimes committed during the war have been prosecuted in the country itself.

First crimes against humanity case in Kenya begins

Proceedings began in Kenya last month against twelve police officers who face charges including rape, torture and murder in response to 2017 post-election protests.

The case, which began on 14 November before a criminal court in Nairobi, is the first crimes against humanity to be tried in a Kenyan national court.

Dozens of people were killed during a police crackdown that took place in the months following the disputed general election in August 2017, including a six-month-old baby Samantha Pendo.

It also marks the first time senior officers will be held to account in court for command decisions they took while on duty.

UN General Assembly plans treaty on crimes against humanity

The United Nations adopted a resolution in November to begin drafting a new treaty on crimes against humanity following months of resistance by several countries.

The decision, first reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW), would require all states parties to include the definition of crimes against humanity in their national laws and to take steps to prevent and punish them in national courts.

Crimes against humanity are acts such as murder, rape, torture or deportations committed any time, not only during an armed conflict, as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.  Unlike genocide, there has been no international treaty that specifically targets these crimes so far.

HRW’s senior adviser for advocacy, Richard Dicker, said: “The adoption of the crimes against humanity resolution opens the door to negotiation of a new international treaty. To maximize momentum to reach that goal it will be crucial for supportive governments to ensure that civil society will be able to fully contribute to the deliberations over the next two years.”

Sweden can try Swiss citizen in Sudan war crimes case

Sweden’s Supreme Court ruled on 10 November that Swiss businessman Alex Schneiter, a former executive at Swedish oil company Lundin, can be tried in the country for complicity in war crimes committed in Sudan.

Schneiter and Lundin’s chief executive, Swedish citizen Ian Lundin, are accused of aiding and abetting war crimes with the then Sudanese regime in order to secure business deals in what is now South Sudan, between 1999 and 2003.

If found guilty, both men risk life sentences. Schneiter, who was head of exploration at the time, and Lundin both deny the allegations.

Suspended sentence demanded for former Nazi Camp Secretary

German prosecutors have demanded that a sentence handed to a 97-year-old former Nazi camp secretary for complicity in murder during the Second World War be suspended.

Public prosecutor Maxi Wantzen told a northern German court on 22 November that Irmgard Furchner, who had worked in the concentration camp of Stutthof near the Polish city of Gdansk, was guilty of complicity in the "cruel and malicious murder" of over 10,000 people.

She is the first woman to be tried in Germany for the crimes committed by the Nazi government in decades. According to Wantzen, “this trial is of outstanding historical importance” and might, “due to the passage of time” be “the last of its kind”.

Talks underway to create crime of aggression tribunal

Talks to create a special tribunal for the crime of aggression committed by Russia in Ukraine have been underway over the past month.

As Ukrinform reported, negotiations are currently taking place in the United Nations headquarters in New York. Consultations are also taking place between Ukraine, represented by ambassador at-large at the ministry of foreign affairs Anton Korynevych, and the Dutch government.  Negotiations come after Ukraine presented the project of a special tribunal on the crime of aggression in September to the ambassadors of 30 countries.

Due to the jurisdictional limitations applicable to the crimes of aggression, the reach of the ICC for the events in Ukraine remains limited to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Scholars have therefore intensively discussed other legal possibilities of trying the crime of aggression committed in Ukraine in the past months. There are various suggestions on how to construct such a court. For example, an international treaty between Ukraine and the United Nations based on a recommendation of the UN General Assembly could an option.

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