Universal Jurisdiction in Germany? The Congo War Crimes Trial: First Case under the Code of Crimes against International Law

Report by ECCHR

ECCHR (ed.)

Thirteen years’ imprisonment for Ignace Murwanashyaka and eight years for Straton Musoni: this was the judgment handed down in September 2015 in the trial of two Rwandan leaders of the Hutu militia Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) at the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart. Their charges related to massacres committed against the civil population in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It was the first trial under the German Code of Crimes against Criminal Law which was enacted in 2002 and enables German courts to investigate international crimes.
On 8 June 2016 ECCHR published its report in on this trial. Based on trial monitoring carried out over the past four and a half years, the report examines the following questions, among others: Can this trial serve as a model for other international criminal proceedings in Germany? How can the prosecution and courts remedy shortcomings in addressing international crimes, especially concerning charges of sexualized violence? What significance does international criminal law have in the global fight against impunity?
The key elements of the report are set out in an executive summary in English.

ECCHR Report on the FDLR Trial in Germany (executive summary, English)

FDLR Report Executive Summary_EN.pdf (278.4 KiB)

Compétence universelle en Allemagne? Procès des crimes de guerre en RDC (résumé en français)

FDLR Report Résumé_FR.pdf (283.4 KiB)

Make Way for Justice: Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review 2016

Report by ECCHR, FIBGAR, FIDH und TRIAL, February 2016

ECCHR (ed.)

2015 has seen the opening of the most anticipated trial of our time, that of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre. After 30 years of impunity, he has finally been judged for the atrocities he has inflicted on his people. This historical trial could not have taken place without a unique legal tool: Universal Jurisdiction. Thanks to this principle, States can – under certain conditions – prosecute the authors of international crimes, regardless of the place where these crimes were committed or the nationality of the victims and perpetrators.TRIAL, FIBGAR, ECCHR and FIDH make daily use of universal jurisdiction to defend victims of international crimes and fight impunity. Today, this expertise leads these NGOs to publish their second annual report of the topic: Make Way For Justice #2. In this report, 40 cases illustrate the developments of universal jurisdiction in 2015: the atrocities perpetrated by Boko Haram in 2014, the crimes committed in Syria since 2011, the repression of Bahrein’s demonstrations in 2010 and many others. This study reviews 12 countries – from Sweden to Chile and from France to Senegal – who have opened inquiries, indicted or judged suspects of the most serious crimes thanks to universal jurisdiction. It also reports setbacks, such as the closing of several ongoing inquiries in Spain.

OECD procedures regarding surveillance technology against Gamma and Trovicor and regarding working conditions in Asia against KiK, C&A and Karl Rieker

ECCHR Evaluation, March 2015

ECCHR (ed.)

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights require states to ensure access to effective remedies. The state must ensure access to complaints procedures and effective remedies as a result of its duty to protect which is established under international law. Victims of human rights violations by companies should have the ability to require effective mechanisms for dispute resolution and redress. This can be reached both through judicial and non-judicial mechanisms. While the legal requirements for judicial redress procedures at the international level have yet to be created, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises with their complaint mechanism on government level offer a soft law approach. In this paper, ECCHR evaluates the OECD procedures against the companies Gamma (United Kingdom) and Trovicor, KiK, C&A and Karl Rieker (Germany) regarding their trade in surveillance technique.

Make Way for Justice: Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review 2015

Report by ECCHR, FIDH und TRIAL, April 2015

ECCHR (ed.)

Universal jurisdiction is a key component in the fight against impunity, in addition to a State’s competence to exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory (territorial jurisdiction), crimes committed by one of its nationals (active personality principle) or against one of its nationals (passive personality principle). This first “Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review: Make way for Justice” is a retrospective of the relevant developments in twelve countries where universal jurisdiction proceedings took place in 2014. Based on 37 case studies the findings in this report demonstrate that despite obstacles to the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes under international law, a significant practice has taken shape globally over the course of 2014. In the majority of the identified countries, civil society, victims and/or lawyers have been the driving force behind universal jurisdiction cases, while, in others, criminal justice authorities pro-actively seek to prevent their territory from being used as a safe haven by suspected perpetrators of international crimes.

Holding Companies Accountable - Lessons from transnational human rights litigation

Booklet by ECCHR, Brot für die Welt and MISEREOR, November 2014

ECCHR (ed.)

Encouraged by prominent human rights organizations in the Global South, Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and MISEREOR have joined forces in a project to assist local actors in taking action against transnational companies who are involved in or profi t from human rights violations. For this project, ECCHR comprehensively analyzed close to 50 individual cases of human rights violations committed by companies from all over the world.

Driving Forward Justice: Victims of Serious International Crimes in the EU

Report by ECCHR, Redress, FIDH and TRIAL, October 2014

ECCHR (ed.)

Concerns over impunity and safe havens have led to increased efforts, in Europe and elsewhere, to strengthen systems to hold to account those accused of serious international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and enforced disappearance.The new EU Directive on minimum standards for the rights, support and protection of victims of crime is meant to help entrench these rights across the region. This Report explains precisely how the Directive applies to victims of serious international crimes, in light of the wording of the Directive itself, and taking into account States’ pre-existing obligations towards victims under international and human rights law.


  • Justice

Forced labor of children and adults in Uzbekistan. How effective is the OECD complaint mechanism?

ECCHR Study, May 2013

ECCHR (ed.)

The study is an evaluation of our seven OECD complaints against European companies that trade in cotton from Uzbekistan. Cotton there is harvested under the massive use of state-organized forced labor of children and adults. All procedures have been completed. We took this as an opportunity to comprehensively evaluate the impact of the complaints on the situation in Uzbekistan and the effectiveness of the OECD complaint mechanism as such.

"Making corporations respond to the damages they cause"

November 2012

ECCHR (ed.)

This practitioners’ guide from ECCHR is produced in cooperation with MISEREOR and “Brot für die Welt”. It discusses practical and legal elements of legal strategies to demand fair and adequate compensation from transnational corporations for human rights violations. “Making corporations respond” looks at both litigation and out-of-court approaches and how they can be strategically interconnected.

Torture in Europe: The Law and Practice, Regional Conference Report

September 2012

Redress and ECCHR (eds.)

This report builds on the presentations and discussions at the Europe Regional Experts Meeting, The Law and Practice on Torture in Europe, held in Berlin, Germany on 25-27 November 2011, as well as the information shared by expert participants in their responses to the questionnaire that informed the content and structure of the meeting. It provides a review of laws, practices and patterns of torture, examining the availability and effectiveness of safeguards, accountability mechanisms and avenues to obtain reparation for torture in the countries considered.

A comparison of National Contact Points - Best practices in OECD complaints procedures

Policy Paper, November 2011

ECCHR (ed.)

Between October 2010 and January 2011, ECCHR submitted OECD complaints relating to the trade of Uzbek cotton against seven cotton traders. Complaints were submitted to the respective national contact point in Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain and France. ECCHR has now carried out comparative evaluations of three of the national contact points.

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Torture and the use of information in countering terrorism

ECCHR-Report, October 2011

ECCHR (ed.)

This report, which is an excerpt of ECCHR-publication “Folter und die Verwendung von Informationen in der Terrorismusbekämpfung”, analyzes the three cases selected for examination by the BND Committee of Inquiry (1. Committee of Inquiry, 16th legislative period). The cases in question are: Murat Kurnaz, detained in Guantánamo; Mohammed Zammar, tortured and detained to date in Syria; and Khaled El Masri, abducted and tortured in Afghanistan. To varying extents, German security forces were involved in each of these cases. The full report concludes that German authorities and courts have violated the absolute ban on torture.

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Child Labour in Uzbek Cotton Production and the Responsibility of European Corporations

ECCHR-Report, January 2011

ECCHR (ed.)

In this brochure the ECCHR highlights one of the most striking abuses of economic and social human rights in Uzbekistan: The state-led system of compulsory child labour in the cotton production. The report provides an overview of the current situation and outlines the background to child and forced labour during the cotton harvest. Focusing particularly on European cotton dealers, it investigates the responsibility of European corporations who trade with Uzbek cotton by using the internationally recognized OECD Guidelines.

Blacklisted: Targeted sanctions, preemptive security and fundamental rights

ECCHR-Report, December 2010

By Gavin Sullivan and Ben Hayes

10 December 2010 ECCHR have released a new critical report today on terrorism listing, with a foreword by Martin Scheinin, the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. After outlining the ways that blacklisting breaches fundamental rights, reviewing the key case law, analysing the broader political impacts and problems of the regime and critically evaluating the possibilities for procedural reform, the Report argues that the policy of blacklisting is currently facing a crisis of legitimacy.

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Criminal Accountability in Sri Lanka

ECCHR Study, June 2010

ECCHR (ed.)

29/09/2010 ECCHR concludes in its Study „Criminal Accountability in Sri Lanka as of January 2009" that the parties to the conflict seriously violated international law. The Study is based on publicly available information about the alleged commission of crimes against humanity as well as war crimes during the last stage of the conflict.

Corporate Responsibility - Suggestions for EU Reforms

ECCHR Study, May 2010

by Christiane Gerstetter and Alexander Kamieth

ECCHR lawyers Christiane Gerstetter and Alexander Kamieth have put together a study that maps out EU- legal reforms required for the prosecution of businesses that violate human rights and environmental norms abroad. Alongside two case studies, they investigate the extent to which European businesses are liable for environmental destruction or human rights abuse committed by their subsidiary- or delivery-firms abroad.

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CIA 'Extraordinary Rendition' Flights, Torture and Accountability: a European Approach

AN ECCHR Study, January 2009

ECCHR (ed.)

In January 2009, the ECCHR published the second edition of their report "CIA 'Extraordinary Rendition' Flights, Torture and Accountability: A European Approach." The study provides an overview of legal proceedings and other judicial responses to CIA rendition flights in pertinent European countries such as Germany, Poland, Italy, and Spain, as well as in the U.S.

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Transnational Corporations on Trial

ECCHR-Study, April 2008

By Wolfgang Kaleck and Dr. Miriam Saage-Maaß

The entrepreneurial activities of transnational corporations risk the abuse of human rights and environmental damage. This actual threat to human rights which Corporations pose is not sufficiently taken into account by national and international legal systems. The study by the ECCHR, „Transnational Corporations On Trial“, describes international standards which obligate Corporations to act in compliance with Human Rights, Labour and Environmental Laws only gives a few sanctioning prospects.

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