ICC Presides Over Sudanese War Crime Case

By: Rachel Wallisky

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court (ICC) will review war crime charges out of Sudan in The Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman. Ali Muhammad Abd-Al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, allegedly committed over 30 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity between August 2003 and April 2004 in Darfur, Sudan. The charges stem from his role as Senior Leader of the Militia, also known as Janjaweed in Sudan, where those forces carried out a widespread and systematic attack against civilians living in Wadi Salih, Sudan.

Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, pictured in court | Photo Courtesy of the ICC

The ICC confirmed the charges against Abd-Al-Rahman, stating, “[t]his attack was carried out pursuant to, and in furtherance of, a State policy to commit an attack against the civilian population in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar Localities…predominantly against civilian members of the Fur tribe.” The charges include: intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such, as a war crime, murder as a crime against humanity and as a war crime, pillaging as a war crime, destruction of the property of an adversary as a war crime, other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity, outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime.

The trial began back in April 2022, when the prosecution began presenting its case. The prosecution presented fifty-six different witnesses and finished presenting its evidence on June 5, 2023. The defense presented its opening statement on October 18, 2023. The defense team argued that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman is not the man that the ICC is looking for and plans to challenge the ICC’s jurisdiction over the case.

On September 15, 2023, the defense submitted a request to admit Ms. Fiona Marsh as an expert witness. The motion argues that Ms. Marsh will testify about two questioned signatures on documents presented in the prosecution’s case. The defense argued that the signatures on two documents submitted by the prosecution were not actually written by Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman, and that “[h]er expert evidence will assist the Chamber by providing the necessary material for it to arrive at a reasoned finding on the authorship of the two questioned signatures.” The Court has not, as of yet, issued a decision on the motion.

The fallout from this attack has continued for twenty years until today. When advocates for the victims of this attack spoke on June 5, 2023, they highlighted the similarities between the situation from 2003-2005 and the present-day situation in Sudan. Given the relationship between the current situation in Sudan and the crimes that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman is alleged to have been part of, as well as the defense’s theory that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman is not the leader of the Janjaweed, it will be interesting to track the defense’s arguments as the case progresses.  

For more information, please see:

ICC – Case Information Sheet – The Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al Rahman, March 2022.

ICC – Corrected version of ‘Decision on the confirmation of charges against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (‘Ali Kushayb’)’ – 9 July 2021.

ICC – Defence Request to Admit Ms. Fiona Marsh as an Expert Witness – 15 Sept. 2023.

ICC – “Opening Statement and presentation of evidence by the Defence in the Abd-Al-Rahman case: Practical information” – 9 Oct. 2023.

ICC – Transcript of Proceedings – 5 June 2023.

Brazil Criminalizes Use of Homophobic Slurs

By: Molly Osinoff

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

BRAZIL – In August 2023, Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court held, by a 9-1 vote, that homophobic slurs are punishable by prison. The Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Intersexes (ABGLT), an organization dedicated to protecting LGBTQ people’s citizenship and human rights, brought the case to the Supreme Court.

People marching holding a large rainbow flag | Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

In 2019, Brazil’s highest court ruled that homophobia was a crime. The decision made homophobia, as applied to the LGBTQ+ community, a crime. The recent court ruling, however, applies to attacks directed at specific individuals.

In Brazil, there is a difference between racism, which punishes discriminatory offenses against a group of people, and making a racial insult, which is a crime that penalizes a person for using race to offend another person’s dignity. ABGLT argued that a distinction between homophobia and using homophobic slurs should be made to provide broader protection to Brazil’s LGBTQ community. ABGLT advocated for a law against homophobic insults, mirroring the law prohibiting racial insults. The recent court decision effectively equates homophobia to racism.

Despite transphobia’s classification as a crime in Brazil for the past three years, Brazil is the country with the highest number of transgender and queer people murdered in the world. A report published by Transgender Europe, a network of organizations that collects and analyzes data regarding transphobia, stated that 70 percent of murders of transgender people globally have occurred in South America and Central America. Thirty-three percent of those murders occurred in Brazil.

The Court’s ruling, a recent achievement for the LGBTQ community, comes after the conclusion of President Jair Bolsonaro’s term. Bolsonaro has famously said: “”I would not be able to love a gay son. I would rather he die in an accident.” During Bolsonaro’s presidency, Brazil’s education ministry terminated its department dedicated to diversity and human rights, reversing much progress that has been made during the past ten years, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013 and the legalization of name and gender changes in 2018.

The recent court decision is an important step forward in protecting Brazil’s LGBTQ community. According to the national LGBTI+ Alliance, a Brazilian LGBQT rights group, “Such a decision brings legal certainty and reinforces the court’s understanding with regard to the principle of equality and nondiscrimination.” Minister Edson Fachin called this decision “a constitutional imperative.” Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court has officially demonstrated its intent to hold individuals accountable for their homophobic language.

For further information, please see:

ABC News – Jair Bolsonaro: Controversial Far-Right Politician Elected as Brazil’s Next President, Beating Rival Fernando Haddad – 28, Oct. 2018.

Barron’s – Brazil High Court Rules Homophobia Punishable By Prison – 22, Aug. 2023.

Buenos Aires Times – Brazil High Court Rules Homophobia Punishable by Prison – 23, Aug. 2023.

Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Intersexes (ABGLT).

Brasil de Fato – Brazil continues to be the country with the largest number of trans people killed – 23, Jan. 2022.

Transgender Europe – Trans Murder Monitoring Update – 11, Nov. 2021.

Washington Post – LGBT Rights Under Attack in New Far-Right President – 18, Feb. 2019.

Experts Present Principles for International Criminal Judges

By: Sarah Sandoval 

Impunity News Staff Writer 

The Hague, Netherlands – For the past eight months, the Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature, and the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights have been working on a project designed to unify a code of ethics for the international criminal justice system. This project, “Ethica – The path to a common code of ethics for international criminal judges,” is a result of the 2017 Paris Declaration on the Effectiveness of International Criminal Justice. 

Cover page of the Ethica pamphlet, which was created as part of the Ethica project | Photo Courtesy of the Nuremberg Academy

According to the Siracusa International Institute, the project “aims at identifying the ethical rules applicable to international criminal judges, based on concrete cases that [arose]before international criminal jurisdictions.” The principles that the project outlines have been established by a group of highly regarded international experts, who held two seminars for this purpose; one in Nuremberg on February 6, 2023, and the other in Paris on May 15, 2023. 

Though the official launch of the project is scheduled for later this month, the principles are available for viewing now on the International Criminal Court, International Nuremberg Principles Academy, and France Diplomacy websites. The pdf pamphlet outlines 25 principles in three different categories. The category of “Independence and Impartiality” includes tenets such as that “[International Criminal Judges] should exercise caution when interacting with State representatives and in particular when deciding whether to attend events organized, sponsored or cosponsored by States that may have an interest in a pending case or investigation or one likely to become so,” while one of the principles listed in the “Dignity, Integrity, and Probity” category advises International Criminal Judges to be aware of how they and their families present themselves on social media. The final category, “Career and Professional Conscience” includes a principle that states “ICJs should be physically and mentally fit to perform their functions throughout their mandate and should report any doubt about their ability to perform their judicial functions to the presidency of the tribunal.” 

The pamphlet also includes background information about how these principles should be interpreted. Specifically, it states that the ethical principles are a living document, designed to be interpreted within the broader context and “shaped by the evolution of society, technology and the needs of international criminal justice.” The principles will be presented within the next couple of months, first in Siracusa, Italy on October 13th, followed by New York, United States on October 24th, before the final presentation on November 15 in The Hague, Netherlands. 

For further information, please see: 

Ethica – Ethical Principles for International Criminal Judges – September 22, 2023

France Diplomacy – France supports the Ethica project on ethical issues in international criminal justice – September 2023

ICC – ICC President contributes to Ethical Principles for International Criminal Judges – September 26, 2023

INPA – New publication: Ethical Principles for International Criminal Judges – 

SII – “Ethica, towards a common code of ethics for international criminal judges” – May 2, 2023


ECHR Finds Turkish Court Violated Right to Freedom of Expression

By: Jacob Samoray

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations Associate Article Editor

STRASBOURG, France – In reviewing the sentencing of two Turkish nationals, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that the convictions violated their Article 10 right to freedom of expression. Baran Durukan and İlknur Birol were sentenced by a domestic court for their prior social media posts. Mirroring the Turkish Constitutional Court’s holding, the ECHR also found that the practice of suspension of the pronouncement of the judgement (SPJ) was unconstitutional, striking it from Section 231 of the Turkish Constitution.

The Anayasa Mahkemesi, Turkey’s Constitutional Court | Photo courtesy of BBC News: Türkçe

Durukan was sentenced in 2018 to over a year of imprisonment for a series of posts deemed to be “propaganda in favor of a terrorist organization.” The posts included pictures and statements supporting the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the People’s Protection Units, both listed by the government as terrorist organizations. Birol was sentenced to a ten-month internment in 2019 for an offensive tweet made in 2015 referring to the Turkish president as a “filthy thief.” Following both proceedings, the domestic court offered to suspend Durukan and Birol’s judgements under Article 231 of the Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure, which would reduce their convictions to three and five years of probation, respectively.

The ECHR, in reviewing the domestic and Constitutional Court’s findings, found that both the sentences and suspension would likely cause a “chilling effect” upon future expression, and so held that they constituted a violation of each applicant’s freedom of expression. Findings by both courts showed a lack of adequate reasoning by lower courts for suspension of judgements, as well as improper consideration of defendants’ arguments. Requests by defendants for the gathering and examination of evidence were also regularly set aside on irrelevant grounds. In addition, the ECHR noted the common practice of asking defendants to consider SPJ at the outset of litigation, likely as a means of pressuring defendants to accept the suspension to avoid a harsher conviction, while encouraging them to implicitly accept guilt for their charges.

The procedure for objecting to SPJ, the only available remedy, was also found to be ineffective, with both the Constitutional Court and the ECHR finding that sentencing courts rarely relied upon sufficient reasoning in upholding suspensions. The Constitutional Court found that neither Article 231 nor any other applicable legal provision could adequately remedy the chilling effect of SPJ, and so struck the offending language of Article 231 as unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to amend the article to eliminate the issue. The Turkish legislature, in following this order, amended the article to require that any reviewing first instance court must review SPJ decisions on the merits of the case. This amendment has been in effect since April 5, 2023.

As part of its judgement, the ECHR has also required the Turkish government to compensate each applicant €2,600 in non-pecuniary damages.

 For further information, please see:


ECHR – Judgment Durukan and Birol v. Türkiye – conviction of applicants “with judgment suspended” in freedom of expression cases – 03 Oct. 2023

Library of Congress – Turkey: Constitutional Court Strikes Down Rule Allowing Suspension of Pronouncement of Judgment in Criminal Cases – 18 Aug. 2023

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Türkiye – Press Release concerning the Decision Annulling the Provision Governing the Suspension of the Pronouncement of the Judgment – 03 Aug. 2023

Inter-American Commission of Human Rights Condemns Rising Violence Against Journalists in Haiti

By: Molly Osinoff 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – On October 3, 2023, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) published a statement condemning the increasing violence against journalists and media outlets in Haiti. The statement further urged Haitian authorities to “investigate in a thorough, effective, and impartial manner what happened, to prosecute and punish those responsible…”  

People carry a journalist who was tear gassed by the police during a protest over the death of journalist Romelo Vilsaint in Port-au-Prince | Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

Haitian journalists have faced increasing violence in Haiti. Numerous journalists have been the victims of threats, abuse, and murder. In September 2022, while reporting in an area in the capital controlled by gangs, two reporters were fatally shot, and their bodies were set on fire. In August 2023, gunmen set fire to journalist Arnold Junior Pierre’s home. He had, weeks earlier, been assaulted by a group of unidentified people. In September 2023, at least twelve journalists fled their homes in the Carrefour Feuilles district, which is home to many journalists, in the wake of increased violence by gangs controlling the area. Media facilities have also been subject to attack. Gang members allegedly set a radio station facility on fire in July 2023. 

Haiti’s Constitution specifically addresses the right to freedom of expression. Article 28 of the Haitian Constitution protects the right to express one’s opinion freely by any means. Furthermore, the Constitution also addresses journalists. Article 28-1 states: “Journalists shall freely exercise their profession within the framework of the law. Such exercise may not be subject to any authorization or censorship, except in the case of war.” To further support journalists, the Constitution states that offenses involving the press and abuses of freedom of expression are to be considered under the code of criminal law.  

The violence journalists face is part of the rising gang violence that has been overwhelming Haiti since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Since then, no leader has been elected. Armed gangs have taken control of up to 90 percent of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, engaging in widespread public killing, rape, and displacement. Between January 2023 and early August 2023, according to the United Nations, more than 2,400 people in Haiti were reported killed, and more than 950 people in Haiti were kidnapped. Over 200,000 people have fled their homes. Because journalists cover the extent of gang violence, they are often the victims of brutal attacks or murders by armed gangs seeking to maintain their power. 

As RELE emphasizes, violence against journalists violates the fundamental rights of individuals and freedom of expression. Violence affects more than the journalists themselves and their family members. Instead, the violence against journalists affects society as a whole by preventing citizens from being informed about issues that truly affect their lives and poses a threat to freedom of expression. 

For more information, please see: 

AP News – 2 Journalists Killed in Haiti While Reporting on Violence – 13, Sept. 2022. 

AP News – Witnesses: Journalist Killed After Police in Haiti Open Fire – 30, Oct. 2022. 

Constitution of Haiti (1987). 

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – RELE Condemns the Escalation of Violence Against Journalists in Haiti and Calls for Comprehensive Solutions with the Accompaniment of the International Community – 3, Oct. 2023. 

New York Times – Kenyan-Led Security Mission in Haiti: What to Know – 2, Oct. 2023. 

Reuters – Americas Rights Court Condemns Violence Against Haiti Journalists – 3, Oct. 2023. 

Washington Post – U.S. Embassy in Haiti Tells Americans to Leave “As Soon As Possible” – 31, Aug. 2023.