Yesterday’s and today’s genocides and crimes against humanity: what should we do tomorrow?
“If you kill one person, you go to jail. If you kill 40 people, they put you in an insane asylum. But if you kill 40, 000 people, you get a comfortable exile with a bank account in another country, and that’s what we want to change here”
These findings explain the great difficulty faced by victims of crimes against humanity in their struggle against impunity. This quote from Reed Brody, nicknamed the "dictator hunter", is the current spokesman of the Human Rights Watch.
Indeed, it's been almost twenty years that he has been committed to the plight of victims of crimes against humanity. The outcome regarding two of these battles in particular will mark world history.
The first battle concerns the campaign requesting the extradition of General Pinochet to Spain after his arrest in 1998 while visiting London, fulfilling a Spanish warrant charging the former dictator for crimes committed in Chile during his seventeen year reign (1973-1990).
While the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTR and ICTY) respectively see the light in 1993 and 1994 for genocide and crimes against humanity, the families of Pinochet's victims are still seeking justice. The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon used Universal jurisdiction (the international law concept that allows national courts to prosecute the perpetrator or perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed abroad, whatever their nationality or that of the victims) to overcome the inertia of the international community.
However, while the House of Lords granted the extradition of Pinochet to Spain, the British Prime Minister in office, Jack Straw decided to release and return Pinochet to Chile on the basis of ill health.
Diplomatic pressure is certainly something to do with this decision. Although these legal actions have not allowed Pinochet to be tried, the myth regarding immunity has been shattered.
In 1999 Reed Brody undertook a second battle: the pursuit of Hissène Habré who ruled chad from 1982 to 1990, in which he dubbed "Africa’s Pinochet". He will finally stand for trial on July 20, 2015 before the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes.
Habré’s trial will be the first in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights violations. It will also be the first universal jurisdiction case to proceed to trial in Africa. It is a relief for the victims who have been waiting 24 years for such justice.
The Globe Lawyer will revisit to this topic in forthcoming issues regarding International Criminal Justice.