High Court of Ukraine Upholds Tymoshenko Conviction

High Court of Ukraine Upholds Tymoshenko Conviction

By Pearl Rimon
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – A three judge panel in Ukraine’s highest court upheld a guilty verdict against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. In October 2011, Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse in office for negotiating and signing a natural gas contract with Russia.

Supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko hold a rally. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The United States, Russia and the European Union have condemned the high court’s ruling.

Ukrainian Judge Oleksandr Elfimov said in his ruling that he “found no grounds to uphold the appeal,” and that the prison term is “adequate to the gravity of the crime.”

The EU issued a statement that Ukraine needs to “redress the effects of selective justice.” This is not the firs time the EU has commented on the Tymoshenko affair, in 2011 they released the statement that the trial “did not respect the international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process.”

Sergiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko’s lawyer, said that they are filing another appeal in the EU Court of Human rights.

“Today we again received a shameful decision which proves that a dictatorship is establishing itself in Ukraine,” Eugenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of Yulia Tymoshenko, told reporters.

Even Ukraine’s close allies’, Poland and Sweden, have expressed their concern about the Tymoshenko verdict.

Vice prime minister Sergei Tigipko, said “It is clear to us there is a clear violation. This was a criminal case, not a political case.” The Yanukoyvch government blames Tymoshenko’s gas deal with Russia for the Ukraine having the most expensive gas prices in Europe. Tigipko says that the deal cost the country six billion dollars in 2011.“Under Ukrainian law the cabinet should approve all such international agreements and this agreement was not approved by the cabinet,” added Mr Tigipko.

The European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg opened hearings on Tuesday probing into Tymoshenko’s pre-trial detention being politically motivated and if her rights were violated in prison.

Tymoshenko was the leader of the opposition party, All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland Party”. She is credited as helping organize the 2004 Orange Revolution that resulted in massive protests across the country.


For further information, please see:

Focus News Agency– Yulia Tymoshenko’s Jail Sentence Confirmed — 29 August 2012

International Business Times — Former Ukrainian PM Yuliya Tymoshenko Loses Court Appeal, Stays In Jail – 29 August 2012

The Telegraph — Ukraine Minister Insists Yulia Tymoshenko Broke The Law – 29 August 2012

Call for Refugee Safe Zones in Syria

By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — On Thursday, Turkey asked the U.N. Security Council to create refugee safe zones within Syria.  The plea came with a strong warning from the country that it cannot handle the amount of people fleeing the crisis in neighboring Syria.

Syrian men sit on the rubble of a shop destroyed by government forces in northern Syria.  (Photo Courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press)

Thursday’s Security Council meeting, which was called by France to discuss Syria’s humanitarian crisis, was attended only by France, Britain, Colombia, Morocco, and Togo of the 15 total members serving on the committee.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking ahead of the meeting, said there are “considerable difficulties” with the safe zones idea.  “We have to be clear that anything like a safe zone requires military intervention and that of course is something that has to be weighed very carefully,” he said.  However, he went on to add, “We are excluding no option for the future.”

Speaking in front of the Security Council on Thursday, Turkish foreign minister Ahment Davutoglu appealed for international assistance.  “The U.N. should initiate the establishment of IDP [internally displaced peoples] camps within Syria without delay.   Needless to say these camps should have full protection,” he said.

Davutoglu described the “serious difficulty” faced by Turkey in dealing with 4,000 refugees crossing the border every day.  With more than 80,000 Syrians in camps in Turkey and with 10,000 refugees waiting at the border separating the two countries, the humanitarian crisis is accelerating.

“The scale of the tragedy is growing so out of proportions that Turkey finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the ensuing challenges all by itself,” he continued.  According to the UN, over the past two weeks, the number of Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey and Jordan has jumped from 400-500 people per day to as many as 5,000 per day.

Releasing a statement ahead of the Security Council’s meeting, the opposition Syrian National Council pushed for a no-fly zone and for safe zones for refugees.  “The SNC considers that if the Security Council does not take serious measures to halt the regime’s massacres and crimes, it will have abandoned its role as guarantor of world peace and protector of people against genocide,” it read.

Responding to the human corridor appeal, U.N. officials expressed concern with the potential threat to the neutrality of humanitarian rights workers presented by military-protected zones.  The calls for safe zones “raise serious questions and require careful and critical consideration” U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said.  “Bitter experience has shown that it is rarely possible to provide effective protection and security in such areas,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres added.

Meanwhile, refugees continue to suffer throughout the region.  Speaking from a camp housing 5,000 refugees on the border crossing into Turkey, Abdul Qadir Haj doubts the likelihood of the proposal.  “The safe zone is a dream.  It will not happen.  The world is against us,” the former Syrian policeman turned refugee said.

For further information, please see:

Al Arabiya – Syria Buffer Zone Plans Raise Serious Questions: United Nations – 30 August 2012

BBC News – ‘Difficult’ Demand for Refugee Camps in Syria Vexes UN – 30 August 2012

Christian Science Monitor – Amid Squalor and Fear on Turkish Border, Syrians Make Plea for Safe Zone – 30 August 2012

France 24 – Turkey Calls for Refugee Camps Inside Syria – 30 August 2012

Obama-inspired Gay Marriage Bill Passes First Vote in New Zealand

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand lawmakers overwhelming supported a gay marriage legalization bill this week that the bill’s sponsor said was inspired, in part, by U.S. President Barack Obama.

In its first of several votes, New Zealand Parliament overwhelmingly approved MP Louisa Wall’s gay marriage bill, which she said was partially inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama’s public support of the issue. (Photo Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald)

Parliament voted 80 to 40 after the bill’s first reading, well more than the simple majority needed to ensure a second vote.  Three votes are needed before the bill becomes law.

“I think the catalyst was around Obama’s announcement,” the bill’s sponsor, Labour MP Louisa Wall, told the Associated Press, referencing Obama’s declaration in May supporting gay marriage in the United States.  “Then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer.  The timing was right.”

If the law ultimately passes, then New Zealand would become the 12th country to recognize same-sex marriage since 2001.  Recent polls show roughly two-thirds of New Zealanders support gay marriage.

But some political leaders cautioned observers that the vote was not an accurate reflection of the population.

Colin Craig of the Conservative Party indicated some MPs might not have done enough to get the views of their constituents.

“My biggest concern is the MPs who are just not consulting with their electorates at all,” Craig told Newstalk ZB.  “They’re being swayed by those who lobby with them directly, and we see that as a key point in terms of going forward on this one.”

Indeed, New Zealand media reported switches of support before the vote.  The New Zealand Herald reported that some of the significant turnarounds were National MP Paul Hutchison, who the day before the vote told the Herald he would oppose the measure; Labour MP David Clark, a former Presbyterian minister who was unsupportive of marriage equality a year ago; and, ACT MP John Banks, who was quoted as describing the gay marriage bill “evil” and its potential passing as a “sad and sickening day.”

Labour MP Phil Twyford explained to the Western Leader that it took him a month of talking with voters before he could reach a decision on how to vote.  Ultimately, he said the choice came down to doing “the right thing.”

“While there were differing views on the bill and some people have strong feelings, I believe the community on balance is ready to support the measure,” he said.  “I have been heartened to hear so many people express the view that all New Zealanders should have every chance in life regardless of color, sex, where they grew up, what school they went to, or who they choose to love.”

Still, opponents hope to stop the bill from becoming law.  Family First, a conservative lobby group, helped organize a petition drive that received signatures from 50,000 people against the measure.  The group’s founder, Bob McCoskrie, said government should not redefine marriage when civil unions suffice.

“Equality doesn’t mean sameness,” he told the Associated Press.  “Marriage has always been about the relationship of a man and a woman because of their natural potential to have children.”

For further information, please see:

The Western Leader — MPs Back Gay Marriage — 31 August 2012

The New Zealand Herald — NZ ‘Gayest Place on Earth’? — 30 August 2012

The Huffington Post — New Zealand Gay Marriage: 1st Stage of New Law Passed — 29 August 2012

Newstalk ZB — Day Has Arrived for Govt Vote on Gay Marriage — 29 August 2012

6th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs: Chautauqua Declaration

The highlight of the 6th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs, held at Chautauqua Institution Aug 27-28, 2012, is the Chautauqua Declaration . Here is part 1 led by Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director of the American Society of International Law.

Chautauqua Declaration Renewed By International Prosecutors

By Remington Whitcomb (rwhitcomb@post-journal.com)
The Post-Journal

CHAUTAUQUA , New York – Nine international prosecutors gathered at Chautauqua on Tuesday to reaffirm the promises made in the Chautauqua Declaration five years ago.

H.W. William Caming discusses his opinions on the Chautauqua Declaration and international humanitarian law. 
P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb

Those who were not familiar with the event taking place at the Athenaeum Hotel may have mistaken the building for some sort of embassy, as a handful of languages were audible before the afternoon renewal of the declaration.

This is because nearly every single continent was represented at the event, either as a prosecutor or as a guest.

The event began with an address delivered by Elizabeth Andersen, representative of the American Society of International Law, and followed with the reaffirmation of the Chautauqua Declaration by the highly lauded board of international prosecutors.

The original Chautauqua Declaration, which was issued in 2007 stated that, “The challenge for states and for the international community is to fulfill the promise of the law they created; to enforce judicial decision and to ensure the arrest and surrender of sought individuals …”

To begin, Andersen gave the American Society of International Law’s purpose for supporting the International Humanitarian Law Dialogues.

“I can think of few activities of the society that better serve our mission than cosponsoring these dialogues,” said Andersen. “The opportunity to bring together experts in our field for careful discussion and debate … and disseminating that information to broad constituencies of international law, that is what we are all about.

“We are impatient for justice, as we should be,” continued Andersen. “Sometimes the process seems too slow, too compromised, but when we reflect on the legacy of the special court for Sierra Leone, we can take satisfaction in progress made, lessons learned … and now pass it on to future processes. … It is for that stock-taking of lessons learned and progress made, and to rededicate ourselves to the work that remains and inspire the next generation to carry it on that we convene the dialogues …”

Following Andersen’s address, the board of prosecutors reaffirmed and commented on the Chautauqua Declaration. The board consisted of: Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court; Serge Brammertz, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; H.W. William Caming, United States Military Tribunal of Nuremberg; David Crane, Special Court for Sierra Leone; Sir Desmond de Silva, Special Court for Sierra Leone; Brenda J Hollis, Special Court for Sierra Leone; Hassan Jallow, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; William Smith, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; Ekkehard Withopf, Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

When given the opportunity to say a few words about their accomplishments in arresting and prosecuting international war criminals, many took the opportunity to speak of the future, rather than of their many, many collective accomplishments.

“After nine years of activities, there is much we have achieved,” said Bensouda. “However, our work is far from over. We are facing many challenges, including outstanding warrants against 12 individuals.”

“I am a bit concerned as an American,” said Crane, “the United States of America has built a wonderful house beginning in 1945. It has built a house on which we seek justice for those at-large. Yet, as I look out into the not-so-distant future, particularly in the next five years, as (several tribunal courts) close, my question is: how many Americans will be a part of modern international criminal law? You won’t see anymore American chief prosecutors or judges or registrars or someone who had a leadership role in these courts, because they are all closed. So as we walk out of the house we built and close the door, within five or six years, we will only be able to look through the window of that house we built. … That’s what international justice is about: the camaraderie and teamwork of building something together under extreme circumstances and then watching it with colleagues.”

“I’ve had the privilege of listening to the words of remarkable men and women here in this room,” said Sir Desmond de Silva. “I leave Chautauqua with the renewed hope that I will see, and we will see, victory and justice over evil and the triumph of victims over despots. That is what we are here to achieve.”

Following the prosecutors’ comments, the audience gave a standing ovation which lasted for no less than a minute. The conclusion of the reaffirmation of the Chautauqua Declaration marks the end of the three-day ceremony of the International Humanitarian Law Dialogues.