[JURIST] UN Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue expressed concern [press release] Monday that Malaysia's response to protests on Saturday was too strong, restricting freedom of association and hindering democratic process. La Rue was responding to media reports that Malaysian authorities used tear gas and water cannons against protestors as part of a rally organized by Bersih 2.0 [advocacy website], a coalition of non-government organizations pushing for democratic reforms in Malaysia. La Rue said that reports claimed that the Malaysian authorities' reaction resulted in injuries, at least one death and the arrest of more than 1,600 people in Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital. La Rue said:
The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including in the form of peaceful protests, is essential for democracy. By declaring the demonstration illegal, sealing off parts of the capital in advance and responding in such a heavy-handed manner against peaceful demonstrators, the Government of Malaysia risks undermining democratic progress in the country. ... Actions taken by the authorities prior to and during the rally unduly restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Declaring Bersih illegal based on claims that it is trying to topple the Government or is a risk to national security and public order—in the absence of any credible evidence to substantiate such claims—is also an unnecessary restriction of civil and political rights.
Bersih 2.0 posted this video on its website which appears to be of Saturday's protests:
Last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] urged Malaysia to repeal or amend its internal security laws [JURIST report], which allow indefinite detainment without trial. At the end of an official visit, the group said amending the laws would allow Malaysia to conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. Malaysia's internal security laws have been heavily criticized. Last August, a Malaysian court charged 29 protesters [JURIST report] for their alleged involvement in rallies against the country's Internal Security Act. The demonstration was allegedly started by the Abolish ISA Movement [advocacy blog]. The law was protested by an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in Kuala Lumpur, resulting in 589 arrests and the use of tear gas and water cannons by police. The protesters were charged with aiding an illegal organization or participating in an illegal rally since a police permit was not obtained. At the time, Prime Minister Najib Razak [official website; BBC profile] dismissed the protest as being unnecessary since he previously pledged to review the controversial law. In 2008, Malaysian rights group Suaram [advocacy website] said in a report that the human rights situation in Malaysia had deteriorated over the past year citing citing the country's judicial fixing scandal [JURIST news archive] and lax prosecution of human rights offenders by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia [official website]. It also criticized the continued use of the ISA, under which it said more than 70 prisoners, including some human rights protesters [JURIST report], were still being held without charge.
[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Monday ordered the removal of 14 Libyan news stations from the air. Libyan citizens and Egyptian lawyers filed the lawsuit, arguing that the stations, which are owned by the Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] administration, incite opposition to the rebels [AP report] fighting to overthrow Gaddafi. Nilesat, a state-owned satellite operator, will be prohibited from airing any of the 14 stations. Libyan pro-democracy protestors launched their own satellite station in response to Gaddafi's media regime, which consisted of the state-owned TV stations, negatively depicted rebel opposition and encouraged patriotism.
Investigations into possible war crimes committed by the Gaddafi government are on-going. In June, International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the "de facto Prime Minister," and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanussi [warrants, PDF], the head of intelligence. Moreno-Ocampo said his office had gathered "direct evidence" [JURIST report] that shows Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on civilian protestors and that his forces used live ammunition on crowds, attacked civilians in their homes, used heavy weapons against people in funeral processions and placed snipers to shoot those leaving mosques after prayer services. Moreno-Ocampo announced [JURIST report] last month that his office was pursuing arrest warrants against Gaddafi and the two others in his "inner circle." At that time, Moreno-Ocampo said his office was almost prepared for trial, having collected quality testimony from some who have fled Libya. There have been numerous allegations of war crimes and human rights violations over the Libyan revolt which has persisted since February. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] decided to extend a mandate to an investigative panel instructing it to continue its investigation of human rights abuses in Libya, after it published a 92-page report [JURIST reports]. The report claims Libyan authorities have committed crimes against humanity such as acts constituting murder, imprisonment and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances and rape "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack."
[JURIST] The Regensberg Court of Appeals in southern Germany on Monday upheld the conviction of British Bishop Richard Williamson for incitement for denying the Holocaust [JURIST news archive]. The court reduced his punishment [AP report], however, to a fine of 6,500 euro from the initial 10,000 euro fine as a result of Williamson's financial circumstances. The conviction [JURIST report] stemmed from an interview to Swedish TV channel SVT1, broadcast in January 2009, in which Williamson said he doubted [Die Zeit report, in German] that six million Jews were killed in gas chambers. The interview was rebroadcast over the Internet in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime. When Williamson gave the interview to the Swedish TV channel he asked the crew not to broadcast the interview in Germany. In 2009, the same court issued a 12,000 euro fine against Williamson in connection with this case, but Williamson contested the decision, forcing the public trial [DW report]. The lifting of Williamson's excommunication [NYT report] following the conviction by Pope Benedict XVI [Vatican profile] caused international outrage.
Several countries have passed similar laws that punish Holocaust denial. In February 2010, the Hungarian Parliament [official website, in Hungarian] passed a bill [JURIST report] that prohibits denials of the Holocaust. In November of the same year, the German Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] upheld [JURIST report] legislation prohibiting public support and justification of the Nazi regime. After six years of contentious debate, the European Union approved [JURIST report] a framework aimed at criminalizing denial of the Holocaust and other genocides in 2007. Also in 2007, a German court sentenced [JURIST report] anti-Semitic writer Ernst Zundel [ADL profile; JURIST news archive] to five years in prison after finding him guilty on 14 counts of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead.
[JURIST] Senegal reversed its decision Sunday to send former Chad dictator Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] back to Chad after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] warned he could be tortured. Senegal suspended plans late Sunday [AFP report] just hours before Habre was set to board a plane. The decision came after Pillay issued a plea [JURIST report] not to return Habre to Chad, which has already sentenced him to death in absentia and where she fears he will be tortured. Senegal had announced Friday it was deporting Habre to Chad [JURIST report] to face charges for war crimes. However, Pillay warned [press release] that Habre would not receive a fair trial in Chad and that extradition may violate international law:
I urge the Government of Senegal to review its decision and to ensure that Habre's extradition is carried out in a way that ensures his fair trial rights will be respected and he will not be subjected to torture or the death penalty. As a party to the Convention Against Torture, Senegal may not extradite a person to a state where there are substantial grounds for believing he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. At the very least Senegal must obtain fair trial guarantees from the Government of Chad before any extradition takes place. ... Extraditing Habre in the present circumstances, in which those guarantees are not yet in place, may amount to a violation of international law. ... Justice and accountability are of paramount importance and must be attained through a fair process in accordance with human rights law.
Habre is also wanted in Belgium under a universal jurisdiction law that allows Belgian courts to here cases over violations of international law, but Senegal has long refused extradition. Habre has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. He later fled to Senegal after being removed from power in 1990.
Senegal government spokesman, Moustapha Guirassy, said Friday that the decision to deport Habre was based on a desire to be in compliance with the African Union [official website]. Senegal has been under pressure to send Habre to a country where he will face trial for his alleged war crimes committed during his rule of Chad. Last year, an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [JURIST report] cited the case of Habre as a prime example of Senegal's "contempt" for the rule of law. In 2009, the African Court on Human and People's Rights (AfCHPR) [official website] found that it lacked jurisdiction [JURIST report] to hear a case against Senegal on whether charges against Habre should be dropped. Also in 2009, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] denied [JURIST report] Belgium's request to compel Habre's extradition. Belgium had accused Senegal of violating international law, including Article 7 of the Convention Against Torture, by not trying Habre in Senegal, where he has lived under house arrest since 1990. The ICJ found that assurances made by Senegal that Habre would remain in custody until trial were sufficient and that "the risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by Belgium is not apparent."
[JURIST] An Austrian court approved the extradition Monday of former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader back to Croatia to face corruption charges. The court completed the paperwork allowing Sanader to be extradited [Telegraph report] back to Croatia. He will face charges of abuse of power, corruption and fraud for taking nearly €4 million from public firms and state institutions. Sanader was being held in Austria where he was arrested [JURIST report] last December pursuant to a warrant issued by Croatia. Sanader had begun an appeal of his extradition arguing that it would be impossible to receive a fair trial in Croatia, but he dropped it after media speculation [JURIST report] suggested the appeal process could harm Croatia's accession to the EU.
Last month, the European Council [official website] agreed to grant Croatia [EC materials] EU membership following six years of accession negotiations. The decision calls for negotiations to close by the end of the month and the accession treaty to be signed by year's end, allowing for the country to become the 28th member of the EU on July 1, 2013. In the interim, EU leaders strongly encouraged Croatia to continue pursuing crucial reform initiatives. On the same day Sanader was arrested, former interior ministry official Tomislav Mercep was arrested [JURIST report] on charges of committing war crimes. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; press release] calling for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes the day before Mercep's arrest.
[JURIST] A Ugandan court on Monday began its first war crimes trial of a commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a Ugandan rebel group. The International Crimes Division (ICD) [official website, JURIST news archive] of the High Court of Uganda [JURIST news archive] charged Thomas Kwoyelo [AFP report] on 53 counts of willful killing, hostage taking, destruction of property and causing injury that took place during Uganda's civil war [BBC backgrounder]. Kwoyelo, who was taken into custody [HRW backgrounder] in March 2009, joined the LRA in 1987 and allegedly participated in war crimes from 1992 through 2005 during his tenure as "colonel" of the rebel group. Kwoyelo denies committing the crimes.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in May 2008, said it was investigating possible new war crimes [JURIST report] committed by the LRA in recent attacks on Ugandan villages. In March 2008, the ICC said that arrest warrants issued by the ICC for LRA leaders [JURIST report] remain in effect, despite requests from Uganda that they be withdrawn. The four ICC-issued warrants were executed in 2005 and include LRA leader Joseph Kony and LRA senior member Vincent Otti [BBC profiles]. In 2007, Otti was executed by rebels [BBC report], though official confirmation of his death was delayed until January amid fears that it would disrupt peace talks. Kony, who remains in hiding, is wanted for orchestrating the killing of thousands of civilians and the enslavement of thousands more children over two decades of conflict. The government has said that Kony is willing to face trial at home [JURIST report], but not at the ICC. Uganda established the ICD [JURIST report] in February 2008 to try the suspected war crimes perpetrators. A fifth arrest warrant was initially issued for Raska Lukwiya but was later withdrawn after a July 2007 ICC pre-trial chamber decision.
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