On 24 February 2021, a German court in Koblenz sentenced Eyad Al-Gharib, a Syrian national, to four and a half years in prison for aiding crimes of torture and aggravated deprivation of liberty in Syria. The case was prosecuted in Germany under universal jurisdiction. In convicting Al-Gharib, the Koblenz court relied on definitions of crimes against humanity that reflect those found in the ICC Statute. However, the court relied on a domestic mode of liability to connect Al-Gharib to these crimes. In this blog, we consider whether the use of domestic modes of liability in universal jurisdiction cases is consistent with the principle of legality.
Despite increasing calls by shareholders to exit Russia after its brutal and unprovoked attack against Ukraine, the French energy company TotalEnergies has opted not to entirely abandon its dealing there. Reacting to TotalEnergies’s decision, NGOs Greenpeace France and Amis de la Terre have alleged that the company’s continued involvement “contributes, at least financially, to Russian aggression in Ukraine”, noted that the company and its managers might face criminal liability for facilitating war crimes and crimes against humanity, and highlighted the company's legal obligation not to contribute to human rights violations. In response, TotalEnergies claimed is acting in a responsible manner and that it will take new steps in light of the worsening conflict. However, it appears that TotalEnergies will continue to do business in Russia, at least for now. This blogpost contemplates whether TotalEnergies’s continued business dealings in Russia contribute to Russia’s ability to wage an illegal war, and if so, whether there are any legal consequences.
At last year’s UvA roundtable discussion with Philippe Sands, and a subsequent Rethinking SLIC Panel Discussion on Ecocide with Kate Mackintosh, we presented our views about the scope of liability for acts of ecocide in response to the Stop Ecocide Foundation Independent Expert Panel’s (IEP) proposal for the legal definition of ecocide. Some reflections from our discussions on ecocide are set out in this blog.
There can be no doubt that the recent Russian aggression towards Ukraine amounts to one of the most important allegations of international crimes since the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). For at least three reasons, the role of the ICC in relation to Putin’s and Russia’s commission of core crimes on Ukrainian territory has thus far been disappointing, and sadly appears indicative of the Court’s increasing irrelevance.
Since at least 2017, Myanmar has come under increased scrutiny for the actions of its military (the Tatmadaw) against ethnic minorities in its northern provinces and in Rakhine. While the Burmese government has argued its actions are in response to threats by militant groups, many have characterised them as international crimes.
It is both realistic and legally possible for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (‘IIMM’) and the ICC to ensure that allegations of corporate complicity feature in the future accountability landscape for Myanmar under international criminal law. The individual complicity of corporate CEOs falls within the terms of reference of the IIMM and the material jurisdiction of the ICC. Customary international law standards of aiding and abetting, and Article 25 of the Rome Statute provide a legal basis for the accomplice liability of such individuals.
Image-based sexual abuse (I-BSA), also known as ‘revenge pornography’, has a grave impact on its victims and can lead to feelings of fear, shame, humiliation, anger, sadness and depression, and in some cases even to suicide. There is thus every reason to have a robust investigative and prosecutorial policy in place to effectively deal with such cases. In the Netherlands, a new provision in the Dutch Penal Code, Article 139h, was inserted quite recently to better encapsulate the conduct of I-BSA, justified by the need for a focused penal provision on I-BSA on the basis of a need for a uniform framework, to do justice to victims and to send a strong signal to potential wrongdoers. Could social media platforms be held liable for aiding and abetting I-BSA?
Between 2012 and 2019, 674 attacks with cluster munitions were reported in Syria. The majority of those attacks were carried out within the Syrian-Russian Joint Operation. One of the deployed cluster munitions is the SPBE-D model, an example of a new generation of Russian cluster munitions, which was tested in Syria. This blogpost discusses whether Russian company NPO Basalt participated in violations of international humanitarian law by providing cluster munitions to be tested in the Syrian conflict. It also analyzes the responsibility of NPO Basalt’s executives under the rules of the Rome Statute as an aider and abettor to the aforementioned violations.
There has been a steady increase in online disinformation and extremism, the effects of which have been felt offline. Through various online platforms, politicians and military leaders incite violence, far-right groups organise riots and violent attacks, forums inspire domestic terrorists to carry out mass shootings, and conspiracy theories spread like wildfire. From these examples, a common theme emerges – people use online platforms, primarily social media, to help and influence others to commit crimes offline. How should criminal law address this issue?
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.