SC for Sierra Leone


The United Nations lawyer Ralph Zacklin set up the special court for Sierra Leone on January 16, 2002.  This came after a request from the government of Sierra Leone in 2000.  The court was meant to last just three years, however it remained in place until December of 2013 after the final sentence was given in early September of that year. The government of Sierra Leone requested that a Special Court (SC) be made to address the atrocious crimes committed during the decade long civil war in their country. The SC for Sierra Leone (SL) was a landmark moment in international law, because it produced the world’s first hybrid international criminal trial.  This led to trying those criminals who held the greatest responsibility for the deadly crimes committed in Sierra Leone. The SCSL was also the first international tribunal to sit in the country where the actual crimes took place; it was also the first to have an outlook program on the ground that was effective. This court was funded by voluntary contributions, rather than government funds and was the first to be operated on individuals’ contributions.  In 2013 the SC completed its mandate by completing what it set out to do, and it transition into a residual mechanism. The SCSL was also the first court to convict criminals for their attacks against UN peacekeepers, and this court also punished instigators of forced marriages, naming them crimes against humanity. Continue reading “SC for Sierra Leone”

U.S. Black Sites


  • After the September 11th attacks in 2001, the United States of America began a program of “extraordinary extradition and detention,” where the U.S.A. partnered with over 50 nations worldwide to abduct selected citizens of these various countries, transport them through extrajudicial means to further partnered countries in the program, and “interrogate” the individuals. These interrogations often incorporate so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,”  a U.S. government euphemism for torture, including such techniques as:
    • “stress positions”
    • mock executions
    • waterboarding
    • “pressure points”
    • “water dousing”
    • “hard takedowns”
    • “insult slaps”
    • sleep deprivation
    • forcing individuals to watch torture videos
    • forcing individuals to listen to sounds of “electric sawing accompanied by cries of pain”
    • threatening to kill or rape individuals’ family members
  • The locations where these individuals are held and interrogated are not disclosed to the public and are considered top secret by the United States government, and are known as “black sites”.
  • Black sites are operated by the United States government through the Central Intelligence Agency, or C.I.A., and simply exist outside the United States to bypass the laws concerning what is considered internationally as a blatant violation of human rights, a strategy known as “torture by proxy”.
  • Many European nations are known to have either collaborated in the transfer of individuals to, or to themselves host, black sites, including Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Spain.
  • Several nations in the Middle East are known to have hosted U.S. black sites, including Afghanistan, where the first of its kind where created, including a location known as “The Salt Pit,” where an individual detained there froze to death after being forced to strip naked, chained to the concrete floor, and then left overnight without blankets.
  • In 2006, the Bush administration of the United States officially admitted to the existence of C.I.A. black sites, at least five years after they had been officially introduced.

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Yoga Amir Trial 1996


  • Yigal Amir is an Israeli Religious extremist who assassinated Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin
    • Took place on November 4th, 1995 at the conclusion of a rally in Tel Aviv where he passionately condemned violence
      • Rabin and his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, planned to continue extremely controversial series of negotiations with Palestinian leaders
      • Just a month before the assassination, the Rabin government had signed the Oslo II accord
  • The Oslo Accords are a set of agreements between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
  • The Oslo Accords marked the start of the Oslo process
    • The Oslo process is a peace process that is aimed at achieving a peace-treaty based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and 338, and to fulfil the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”
  • Many Jews hoped that the accords Rabin championed would bring peace to the troubled region
    • To some of Israel’s orthodox right wing, however, Rabin’s meetings with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the planned withdrawal from occupied lands were tantamount to treason
    • Few issues had so severely polarized the nation in Israel’s short history as a secular state

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Tiananmen Square Dissident Trial


1989 Democracy Movement

  • protests were triggered by the death of Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer who was deposed after losing a power struggle with hardliners over the direction of political and economic reforms
  • Student-led demonstrations on Tiananmen Square
  • Goals: “A communist party without corruption”; freedom of the press; freedom of speech; economic reforms
  • Methods: hunger strike sit-in, occupation of public square
  • Party officials declared martial law on May 20
  • on June 4 the People’s Liberation Army entered the square and squashed the protests with live bullets, killing hundreds (if not thousands) of protesters

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Environmental Law (Paris Climate Change Agreement)


  • “Environment” is a very broad field, and is the topic of more than 300 international conventions and thousands of agreements and treaties.
  • If climate change is not addressed:
  • Billions of dollars in infrastructure damage will ensue
  • Millions of people will be displaced due to rising ocean levels
  • More and more lives will be taken by extreme weather events (ex. Drought, hurricanes)
  • the Kyoto protocol is a significant climate change agreement signed in 1997 that aimed to reduce the emissions by 5% from 1990 levels by 2012
  • Not every country reached the goals set by this agreement but overall the participants reduced their emissions by between 1-5%
  • However global emissions rose by 7% between 1990-2008
  • The US (a major polluter then and even more so now) never signed on to the agreement
  • China has become one of the biggest polluters in the world since and was not a part of the agreement
  • No method or tool of enforcement was implemented in this unsuccessful treaty

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Apartheid was racial segregation under a system of legislation that began after the National Party gained power in South Africa in 1948. The all-white government enforced race laws that affected every aspect of life for non-white South Africans, including a ban on interracial marriage, the sanctioning of “white-only” jobs, separated living areas and public facilities. The minority (white south africans) were able to control the majority (non-white south africans) because of their use of technology. The Apartheid Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1973, by 91 votes in favour, four against (Portugal, South Africa, the UK and the US), and it declared that apartheid criminal and a violation of  the Charter of the United Nations. In 1966 the General Assembly labelled apartheid a crime against humanity and it was 1984 by the time the Security Council endorsed this determination. Even with the U.N. introducing embargoes on arms and oil, sports and consumer boycotts of South Africa, and other sanctions against loans to or investments in South Africa, its laws remained in effect for the almost 50 years. In 1991, the government of President F.W. de Klerk began to repeal most of the legislation for apartheid. Continue reading “Apartheid”

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty


  • Since 1945 the international community has struggled with the dilemma of how to allow for the peaceful uses of atom power while stopping its destructive effects
  • Over the years more and more countries exploded nuclear devices and peace initiatives like IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) were not working to stop more countries from testing nuclear devices
  • By 1963 about 25 countries possessed nuclear weapons and concern continued to grow for the safety of the world
  • In 1961 the United Nations approved a Resolution that called on all states to make an agreement that would ban the further acquisition and transfer of nuclear weapons.
  • In 1965, the Geneva disarmament conference created the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and by 1970 it was signed and put into force with 43 parties signatures including the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States to last 25 years.
  • At a conference in 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely and further in 2000, the focus was for the nuclear-weapon states to cease the nuclear arms race including stopping nuclear testing, negotiating reductions of nuclear weapons and eventually achieving nuclear disarmament.

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Tokyo War Crimes Trial


Nuremberg Trial

  • series of 13 military tribunals from 1945~1949 held in Nuremberg, Germany
  • held by the International Military Tribunal (formed by Allied nations) to prosecute prominent political, economic, and military leaders of Nazi Germany who participated in the Holocaust and or perpetrated other war crimes
  • basis of the Nuremberg trials was established on August 8, 1945 by the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT)
  • 4 categories of charges [definitions from the Principles of International Law recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, with commentaries (1950) ]
  • crimes against peace: Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i)
  • crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connexion with any crime against peace or any war crime.
  • war crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
  • conspiracy to commit crimes of peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity
  • the first and best known trial of the Nuremberg trials:
  • 24 defendants (including Nazi Party officials, German industrialists, lawyers, and doctors) were chosen to represent the Nazi diplomatic, economic, political, and military leadership
  • a couple defendants died/committed suicide during the trial
  • defendants could choose their own defense counsel
  • the four main Allied nations, the UK, the US, the USSR, and France each appointed a judge and a prosecution team
  • American Robert Jackson was the chief prosecutor argued his case based primarily on Nazi written documents rather than rely on eyewitness testimonies, so that the trial could not be accused of using biased or tainted evidence
  • judges delivered their verdict on October 1, 1946
  • 3 out of 4 judges were needed for conviction
  • 12 defendants were sentenced to death, 3 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, 4 defendants were sentenced to prison terms of 10~20 years, and 3 defendants were acquitted
  • Nuremberg trials revealed many details about the Holocaust, including details about Kristallnacht, the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, etc.
  • there were many subsequent trials after the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, but the Nuremberg Trials remain the first and most famous war crimes trial
  • regarded as an important step toward the establishment of a permanent international court
  • set precedent for dealing with later crimes against humanity i.e. genocide
  • many questions are raised, however, over the legitimacy of the trials and the suitability of the verdicts

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Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor, Kimberley Process, and Child Soldiers.


The civil war in Sierra Leone began on March 23rd 1991. It began when the Revolutionary United Front, an insurgency group intervened in Sierra Leonne in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momah government. The now former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor and his own troops, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, aided the RUF. Taylor supplied weapons and training to the RUF in exchange for rough Diamonds, also known as Blood Diamonds, the inspiration for the Movie. These diamonds were mined and collected through forced labor. The now armed and trained RUF did more than just intervene, they on many occasions used child soldiers to fight for them in special groups known as Small Boys Units. The RUF would either conscript the children to fight or simply kidnap them and force them into combat. An estimated ten thousand children took part in the conflict with 80% between the age of 7 and 14, and another 30% of the children young girls. Alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs were used on the kids during training to prepare them. Following the war, after help from the British and the United Nations to stop the violence, Sierra Leone’s President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah wrote to the UN for help in trying those responsible for crimes during the war. The UN helped set up the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The SCSL unanimously ruled that Taylor was guilty for all 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. Three members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council were also tried and found guilty for the recruitment of children for use in combat. A final outcome of the war was the launching of the Kimberley Process, which in 2003 set requirements for distribution and production of rough diamonds. Continue reading “Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor, Kimberley Process, and Child Soldiers.”

Saddam Hussein Trial


Saddam Hussein was the president of Iraq for 24 years before the U.S. invasion in 2003. It is claimed that Hussein would use toxic gas on his citizens, as well as publicly executing people, and having kurdish people killed. The reason that the U.S. had invaded Iraq was because they believed that Saddam had building weapons of mass destruction. He was put on trial with charges of war crime, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The trial was seen as a “Kangaroo court,” meaning that it disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and carries little or no official standing in the territory. It was deemed as “unfair,” and that it “marks a significant step away from the rule of law in Iraq.” He was executed by hanging in 2006. Continue reading “Saddam Hussein Trial”