The allegation that arms manufacturers in the Global North (who produce and export weapons ‘lawfully’ in accordance with national export regulations) are producing weapons that are used (unlawfully) against civilian populations in the Global South has come under elevated scrutiny in recent years. Some sectors of civil society have become ever more vocal about arms exports from the EU, the US, and other major manufacturing States that appear to facilitate atrocity, despite complying with their home state’s national export controls. How can a society claim respect for human rights at home, while producing weapons that fuel conflict and criminality abroad?
In 2019, Dutch journalist Ad Van Liempt published a biography on Nazi official Albert Gemmeker, who acted as commander of Dutch detention camp Westerbork from October 1942 to April 1945. This blog takes the case of Gemmeker as a starting point to argue that an appropriate standard of knowledge should sufficiently take into account all relevant facts and circumstances in situations of aiding and abetting international crimes, and should not depend too much on a lack of direct evidence.
The horrible death of George Floyd raises important questions of criminal liability. The police officer who was directly responsible for the death of Floyd has been arrested and will face prosecution for committing murder and manslaughter. The other three police officers who were present at the moment of Floyd’s death have also been arrested and are likely to be prosecuted for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. This blogpost will focus on that last category, that of police bystanders in situations of police brutality.
From 1989 until 2019, the Sudanese government engaged in a number of violent campaigns against civilian populations. The government’s armed conflict with rebel groups resulted in widespread human rights abuses, and was characterized by unjustified attacks against civilians that bore the markings of ethnic cleansing. Despite the Sudan’s dismal human rights track record, in 2002 the French bank BNP Paribas began doing business with the Sudanese government. BNP Paribas’s banking activities in the Sudan are now at the center of a criminal complaint filed in French courts, which argues BNP Paribas was complicit in violations committed by the Sudanese government.
The proposed article 134b of the Dutch Criminal Code (DCC) would criminalize intentionally being physically present in a designated terrorist-controlled area without prior permission from the Minister of Justice and Security. This Dutch legislative initiative, its other forms of penalizing terrorism, and its recent case law on terrorism are not unique. Throughout the world there has been a wave of penalizing terrorism in a great variety of forms. The central line in all these developments is the increasing criminalization of various forms of assisting -in a broad sense - terrorism, such as financing terrorism, apologie du terrorisme, presence in terrorist areas, cooking for IS fighters, etc. We offer a few critical reflections.
The development of weapons and warfare technology inevitably raises new moral and legal questions, and the advent of the use of autonomous weapon systems is no exception. Salient concerns arise when weapons are designed to be increasingly autonomous, especially with regard to liability in the event of international humanitarian law violations.
Two cases related to war crimes have received quite some attention in the Netherlands over the past few years. These are the cases of Mr. Kouwenhoven and Mr. Poch. They provide an excellent opportunity to offer some thoughts on the fine line between guilt and innocence in the determination of criminal liability for those who have not committed the crimes themselves, but have in some way assisted in their commission.
Corporate involvement in mass atrocities has rarely been the subject of criminal prosecution. This may partly be due to the often remote involvement by corporations and business leaders and the resulting difficulty to collect sufficient evidence and to apply classical criminal law principles to an internationalised context. However, it may be argued that we are increasingly seeing an emerging practice at the domestic level. In the past year, a number of European justice systems have initiated criminal investigations and indictments of corporations.