ECHR Rules Lithuania Violated Prisoner’s Right by Assisting CIA in Secret Detainee Program

By: Jacob Riederer

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On January 16, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Lithuania violated multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights by permitting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to detain and mistreat prisoner, Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi, at a CIA facility between 2005 and 2006.

Inmates like al-Hawsawi were held in detention sites in Vilnius, Lithuania | Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Al-Hawsawi, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was first captured in Pakistan in 2003 during the American “War on Terror,” following the September 11, 2001, Attacks. After being transferred to the custody of the United States, he was moved to a CIA facility in Lithuania, known as “Detention Site Violet.” 

While at Detention Site Violet, al-Hawsawi alleges he was subjected to physical and mental torture by the CIA. These allegations include sexual penetration by a foreign object, exposure to noise and light, continuous use of leg shackles, and solitary confinement. Al-Hawsawi claims he now suffers from many medical conditions, such as rectal hemorrhoids, hearing loss, and chronic migraines which he maintains were caused by the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. Al-Hawsawi also alleges that he was denied access to communication with family members, counsel, and doctors during his detention. 

Al-Hawsawi asserts Lithuania enabled the alleged inhumane treatment by permitting his detention there and allowing him to be transferred to other CIA detention sites where he was subjected to similar mistreatment. The ECHR agreed with many of his complaints and found that Lithuania had violated the prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as al-Hawsawi’s rights to a fair trial, liberty and security. The court awarded al-Hawsawi €100,000 in compensation, and Lithuania agreed to comply.

Essential to the court’s judgment was evidence from a 2014 declassified U.S. Senate Report, which gave details on the CIA’s secret detainee program.  The court also relied on prior cases including Al Nashiri v. Poland and Abu Zubaydah v. Lithuania for relevant testimony from expert witnesses.

After his time at Detention Site Violet and another facility in Afghanistan, al-Hawsawi was transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he is currently on trial with the U.S. Military Commission for his alleged role in al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks.

For further information, please see:

European Court of Human Rights, Case of al-Hawsawi v. Lithuania, January 16, 2024 

European Court of Human Rights, Press Release, Case of al-Hawsawi v. Lithuania , January 16, 2024

Reuters, Lithuania Broke Human Rights Laws In Case Tied to CIA Detention Program, European Court Rules, January 16, 2024 

The Guardian, ECHR Rules Lithuania Allowed “Inhuman” of Alleged 9/11 Suspect by CIA, January 16, 2024

Senate Intelligence Committee, Report Of The Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Committee Study of The Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, December 9, 2014

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Legal Case Demands Details About How CIA Used Windowless Warehouse In Lithuania As Secret Prison, September 2, 2015


ICC Postpones Delivery of Judgment for Malian Crimes Against Humanity and Gender-Based Persecution Case

By: Joo Young Lee

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On January 15, 2024, Trial Chamber X of the International Criminal Court (ICC) postponed delivery of its verdict for The Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud (hereinafter “Al Hassan”) pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on May 23, 2023. | Photo Courtesy of the ICC.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud is accused of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Timbuktu, Mali. He is facing charges of persecution based on religious and gender grounds, rape, torture, sexual slavery, and forced marriages that occurred between April 2012 and January 2013. The delivery of the judgment by the ICC was originally set for January 18, 2024, and a new date will be announced in due course.

Notably, the Al Hassan case marks the ICC’s first prosecution of the crime against humanity of persecution on grounds of gender pursuant to the Rome Statute. The prosecution contends that Al Hassan and his group specifically targeted women and girls for breaking a strict dress code, restrictions on freedom of movement, and rules on segregation of the sexes. According to prosecutors, Al Hassan led a police force created by the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group that tormented Timbuktu, particularly targeting women who faced rape, forced marriages and sexual slavery.

The United Nations’ Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda recognizes sexual violence as a weapon of war and acknowledges that it can amount to international crimes, calling for enhanced criminal accountability.

During a hearing on May 9, 2022, the defense argued that faced with dire circumstances, Al Hasan became involved with armed groups as a survival strategy. The defense maintained that Al Hasan was wrongly selected for prosecution and portrayed him as trying to maintain order in a chaotic situation in Timbuktu following the rebel takeover. The defense also argued that Al Hasan’s role in the conflict was too minor to warrant charges at the ICC for crimes against humanity.

Closing statements occurred before the ICC between May 23 and 25, 2023. Trial Chamber X of the ICC will deliver its decision on conviction or acquittal pursuant to article 74 of the Rome Statute. The Chamber bases its decision only on the applicable law and on evidence submitted before it at the trial.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – ICC prosecutors: Mali rebel “enthusiastic” war crimes perpetrator – 23 May 2023

Courthouse News Service – Closing arguments begin in trial over Mali war crimes – 23 May 2023

Diplomat – ICC Trial Chamber X to deliberate on the Al Hassan case – 25 May 2023

ICC – Al Hassan case: Trial Chamber X postpones delivery of judgment – 15 Jan. 2024

ICC – Trial Judgment in Al Hassan case on 18 January 2024 – Practical information – 10 Jan. 2024

ICC – Al Hassan case: ICC Trial Chamber X to deliver Trial Judgment on 18 January 2024 – 6 Dec. 2023

ICC – ICC Trial Chamber X to deliberate on the Al Hassan case – 25 May 2023

Justice in Conflict – Writing the Jurisprudence of Gender-Based Persecution: Al Hassan on Trial at the ICC – 15 July 2020


South Africa Initiates Proceedings in ICJ Against Israel for Violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention in Gaza

By: Garrison Funk

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On December 29, 2023, South Africa initiated proceedings in the International Court of Justice against the state of Israel for its actions in the Gaza Strip, accusing Israel of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention due to its treatment of Palestinians throughout the conflict with Hamas. Israel has confirmed it will appear at the proceedings to fight the allegations.

Judges at the International Court of Justice at The Hague | Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera, Remko De Waalepa/EFE/EPA

South Africa pointed to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and magnitude of death and destruction in Gaza, stating such action meets the threshold of the 1948 Convention under international law. South Africa has also requested the Court order an injunction on any further Israeli attacks in the region.

Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip have been a part of a three-month long campaign against Hamas, the perpetrators of the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack in Israel which led to the deaths of approximately 1,200 Israelis. Israel responded by launching a series of airstrikes into Gaza, targeting suspected Hamas strongholds, prior to launching a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on October 27, 2023. Since the start of the invasion, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported the death toll to exceed 22,000.

South Africa claims Israel’s actions violate obligations set under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Israel has pushed diplomatic cables requesting countries to denounce the claims and pointed to its effort to increase humanitarian support in the region to refute the idea of genocide. The United States has already stated its support for Israel, calling South Africa’s submission “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” However, pro-Palestine countries such as Turkey and Jordan have both expressed their support for South Africa’s challenge.

Israel has boycotted the ICJ and its rulings for decades, and its participation in this instance as a signee to the 1948 Genocide Convention speaks volumes of the importance of this issue to Israel. The case is set to be heard by the ICJ on January 11, 2024.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Israel promises to fight South Africa genocide accusation at ICJ – 2 Jan. 2024

Axios – Inside Israel’s plan to quash South Africa’s Gaza genocide case – 5 Jan. 2024

CSIS – Hamas’s October 7 Attack: Visualizing the Data – 19 Dec. 2023

The Guardian – Stakes high as South Africa brings claim of genocidal intent against Israel  – 4 Jan. 2024

ICJ – Application Instituting Proceedings – 29 Dec. 2023

UNN – Gaza fighting continues amid ‘apocalyptic’ conditions; Security Council to meet Friday – 7 Dec. 2023

Dissenting Opinion Issued in Three Tanzanian Capital Punishment Cases

By: Rachel Wallisky

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

DODOMA, Tanzania — Of the nine new judgments the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) issued during its opening ceremony on November 7, 2023, three are appeals of capital sentences imposed in the United Republic of Tanzania. Arguments for these cases were all heard by the AfCHPR during its September 2023 term.

Gavel in the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights | Photo Courtesy of the AfCHPR.


In Tanzania, a person convicted of murder or treason must be sentenced to death with few exceptions. While murder convictions are relatively rare, courts in Tanzania have interpreted the law to say that a capital sentence is mandatory for these cases. Tanzania has taken an abolitionist stance on the death penalty, having not carried out an execution since 1994. However, the law mandating capital punishment is still codified in statute and many are sentenced to death. Most murder sentences are commuted to life imprisonment. The AfCHPR has held in the past that mandatory death penalty statutes violates the right to life as guaranteed under Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter). Additionally, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) condemns mandatory capital punishment.

The Cases

The first case, John Lazaro v. United Republic of Tanzania, is an appeal from the murder conviction of Mr. Lazaro, a Tanzanian national. Mr. Lazaro argued that several of his rights were violated during his trial by the domestic courts, including his right to life under Article 4 and right to dignity under Article 5 of the Charter. The Court agreed that Mr. Lazaro’s right to life under Article 4 had been violated by the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, and his right to dignity under Article 5 had been violated due to the method of execution prescribed by the domestic courts, namely hanging.

The second case, Makungu Misalaba v. United Republic of Tanania, is an appeal from the murder conviction of Mr. Misalaba, a Tanzanian national. Mr. Misalaba was granted a presidential pardon, and his capital sentences was commuted to life imprisonment. Mr. Misalaba stated several of his rights were violated during his trial by the domestic courts, despite his pardon, including his right to life and right to dignity under Article 4 and Article 5 of the Charter, respectively. The Court agreed that Mr. Misalaba’s right to life was violated but disagreed that his Article 5 rights were violated, awarding him with TZS 500,000 in moral damages.

The third case, Chrizant John v. United Republic of Tanania, is an appeal from the murder conviction of Mr. John, a Tanzanian national. Mr. John also argued his Article 4 and 5 rRight to Life and Right to Dignity, among other rights, were violated during his trial by domestic courts. Uniquely, Mr. John called upon the Court to order Tanzania to remove the mandatory death sentence provision for the offense of murder. The Court agreed that Mr. John’s Article 4 and 5 rights were violated and ordered Tanzania to pay TZS 500,000 in moral damages.

The Dissenting Opinion

The dissenting opinion was written by Judge Blaise Tchikaya regarding all three cases. Judge Tchikaya criticizes the court for “retreat[ing]” from the AfCHPR’s power to interpret the law. He argues that the court should have taken the initiative to state that the death penalty is contrary to Articles 4 and 5 of the Charter and States should take measures to remove it from their national legislation.

Additionally, Judge Tchikaya argues these decisions are contradictory. In the Chrizant John judgment, Judge Tchikaya criticizes the Court for finding that Mr. John’s Article 7 right to be heard was not violated because the right requires the sentence imposed to be “legally unobjectionable.” Because the death penalty is not a “legally unobjectionable” sentence, Judge Tchikaya finds Mr. John’s Article 7 rights to have been violated. In the Makungu Misalaba judgment, Judge Tchikaya argues that the majority contradicted itself by finding that Mr. Misalaba’s Article 5 right to dignity was not violated while at the same time finding his Article 4 right to life was violated, because to sentence someone to death is to violate both Article 4 and Article 5 of the Charter. For similar reasons, Judge Tchikaya argues the John Lazaro judgment is subject to the same criticisms.

For further information, please see:

AfCHPR – Dissenting Opinion of Judge Blaise Tchikaya, John Lazaro v. United Republic of Tanzania, Makungu Misalaba v. United Republic of Tanzania, Chrizant John v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 Nov. 2023

AfCHR – Judgment on Merits and Reparations, Makungu Misalaba v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 Nov. 2023

AfCHR – Judgment on Merits and Reparations, Chrizant John v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 Nov. 2023

AfCHR – Judgment on Merits and Reparations, John Lazaro v. United Republic of Tanzania – 7 Nov. 2023

Amnesty International – Case on death-row detainees challenging mandatory death penalty – 25 June 2023

Parlementarians for Global Action – Tanzania and the Death Penalty

AfCHPR Orders the Tunisian Government to Allow Medical and Legal Access of Their Choice to Political Dissidents

By: Paola Andrea Suárez Luján

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

ARUSHA, Tanzania – Family members of Tunisian prisoners Rached Ghannouchi, Noureddine Bhiri, Ghazi Chaouachi, Said Ferjani, and the son of the deceased member of the Ennahda Party Ridha Bouzayene have asked the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to order the Tunisian government to provide the detainees “unimpeded access to their lawyers and to doctors of their choice” and to “provide particulars of the legal and factual grounds” of their detention and prosecution. They have also requested the suspension of the conviction of Rached Ghannouchi and the release of the prisoners.

Protestors in Tunis, Tunisia, carry images of political prisoners under President Saied’s government and Tunisian flags | Photo courtesy of The Guardian/Anadolu Agency.

The Court granted the request of the families to allow the detainees access to lawyers and doctors of their choice, as well as access to complete and adequate information regarding the basis for their detention. However, the Court refused to review the merits of the arrest or to order the release of the detainees at this stage of the proceedings.

Rached Ghannouchi, at 81 years old, is the leader of the Ennahda Party, the largest political party in the Republic of Tunisia. He was convicted on the charges of glorifying terrorism and conspiring against state security after he affirmed in the funeral eulogy of Farhat Al-Abbar, a former Ennahdha member and Al-Jazeera Correspondent, that the deceased “did not fear poverty, ruler or tyrant”. Amnesty International has declared that “the sentencing of Rashed Ghannouchi shows a growing crackdown on human rights and opposition and a deeply worrying pattern”. Ghannouchi is but one of over 40 opposing political targets who have been detained due to political charges against the Tunisian government.

The accusations came after Tunisian President Kais Saied’s self-coup in 2021, when he fired the prime minister, assumed all executive power, suspended the parliament, and dissolved the government. President Kais Seid’s strategy includes the arbitrary imposition of travel bans on political opposition, members of parliament, civilians, and journalists, and trials in violation of the right to freedom of expression under Decree-law 54. President Saied has also obtained the power to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council formed in 2016 under Decree-law 22 and established a temporary one himself, with members of his choosing. Under Decree-Law 35, President Saied can also object to any judge’s appointment, promotion, transfer, or dismissal; he can fire judges directly and the government can assume disciplinary procedures against judges.

Ghannouchi and other detainees have undertaken hunger strikes in protest of what they consider a “judicial sham” and a violation of their right to a fair trial. As the number of human rights violations and political persecution increases, the detainees’ families have moved to continue their pleas to the International Criminal Court, in their hope that the Court will investigate the actions of the Tunisian government and order the release of their relatives.

For further information, please see:

AfCHPR – The Matter of Moadh Kheriki Ghannouchi and Others v. Republic of Tunisia – 28 Aug. 2023

Agencia Anadolu – Tunisie : Ghannouchi demeure libre après avoir été entendu par le pôle judiciaire de lutte contre le terrorismo – 21 Feb. 2023

Amnesty International – Human Rights Under Assault Two Years After President Saied’s Power Grap

Amnesty International – Tunisia: Drop trumped-up charges against arbitrarily detained political dissidents – 10 Oct. 2023

Amnesty International – Tunisia: President must lift arbitrary travel bans – 26 Aug. 2021

Associated Press – Families of imprisoned Tunisian dissidents head to the International Criminal Court – 25 Oct. 2023

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – One Year Later, Tunisia’s President Has Reversed Nearly a Decade of Democratic Gains – 22 July 2022

Le Monde – Tunisia: Opposition party leader Rached Ghannouchi sentenced to a year in prison – 15 May 2023