The Beach Massacre before the International Court of Justice
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||17 June 2003|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, The Beach Massacre before the International Court of Justice, 17 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/482c5bcf28.html [accessed 16 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
A first victory for the survivors and the families of the disappeared
In a decision rendered publicly today, the International Court of Justice based in The Hague rejected the Congolese government's request to suspend the legal proceedings in France for the "Beach" massacre where over 350 people were disappeared in 1999 [see case summary below].
These legal proceedings were launched by a complaint filed by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Congolese Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), and the French League of Human Rights (LDH), accompanied by Congolese survivors who are political refugees in France as plaintiffs (parties civiles) before the French judge.
This case targets some of the highest-ranking officials of the Congolese regime.
Congolese authorities claimed that the French legal proceedings could create an "irreparable" prejudice regarding Congo's image and the amicable relations between France and the Republic of Congo. Even though today's ruling is limited to a rejection of the request for the indication of a provisional measure submitted by the Republic of Congo, the ICJ decision to allow the French legal proceedings to continue, is of great importance.
The ICJ's ruling is a reminder call to the Brazzaville authorities that their multiplied media and political actions aiming to intimidate, or at best discredit, the plaintiff's in the French complaint in the last couple of months would not be successful.
The Congolese authorities thought they could convince the court with a contestable and fallacious argument of "irreparable prejudice." Today's decision is a clear legal denial of the baseless Congolese legal arguments.
"If an irreparable prejudice is to be considered, it is the one suffered by the more than 350 victims and survivors of the "Beach" massacre" exclaimed Patrick Baudouin, former FIDH President and attorney for the plaintiffs. "It is honorable that through the rule of law, the ICJ resisted the attempt to be used as a political instrument."
The FIDH, the OCDH and the LDH welcomes this decision which aims at preserving the rights of victims in having an effective remedy based on the universal jurisdiction mechanism before the French courts.
Additionally, we are pleased, that another important source of hope for today is that no one can deny the massacres and disappearances of 350 people. As such, this constitutes an additional victory and source of hope for the victims, survivors, and their families.
The FIDH now hopes that the legal proceedings underway in France will be able to continue with out any further obstacles.
Summary of the Cases:
As a result of the impunity of the authors of crimes that took place in Congo-Brazzaville, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and its French and Congolese affiliate organizations, the French Human Rights League, and the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights decided in December 2001 to seek justice through the French judiciary under the principle of "universal jurisdiction." France is bound by the 1984 Convention against Torture, and it ratified it in 1987 and incorporated it into its domestic criminal code. This criminal code requires the prosecution or extradition of any person alleged to have committed torture and is found on French territory.
When the case was filed, the presence of Norbert Dabira, the Congolese Army Inspector General, permitted the French court to have jurisdiction over the case. As a result, in early 2002, the Meaux Prosecutor assigned a judge to head the investigation.
In December 2002, the Republic of Congo announced its decision to take this issue to the highest international judicial level. This is when the ICJ, following the historical consent of France to accept the court's competence after 30 years of refusal, had to rule on whether there is an irreparable prejudice against the Republic of Congo.