Guatemala: historic Ríos Montt conviction overturned

Here is my latest piece published in the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

On 10 May it looked as if history had finally been made when former Guatemalan dictator General José Efraín Ríos Montt became the first person ever to be convicted of genocide in a domestic court.

86-year-old Ríos Montt, who came to power in Guatemala following a coup on 23 March 1982, stood accused of implementing a counter-insurgency policy that massacred more than 1,700 and displaced thousands of other members of indigenous group the Ixil Maya in 1982.

The three-judge panel ruled that Ríos Montt should be sentenced to 80 years in prison, which includes 50 years for genocide, with an additional 30 years added to his sentence for crimes against humanity.

The verdict in itself was of unparalleled historic significance for Guatemala, Central America and human rights as a whole. However, despite the damning 718-page judgment released on 17 May, just ten days later the country’s Constitutional Court dramatically overturned the ruling, effectively resetting the trial back to 19 April.

Published on 22-05-13. Read on here

Russia: historic Magnitsky trial brings corruption and rule of law into spotlight

Author: Dmitry Rozhkov

Here is my latest piece published in the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

Russia is set to make history as the country’s first modern-day posthumous trial gets underway in Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court.

The case, involving deceased defendant Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention in a Moscow prison cell in 2009, has attracted worldwide media attention and brought the issue of corruption in Russia and problems with the country’s judicial and penitentiary systems all firmly under the international spotlight.

Another quirk of the trial will see the other defendant, Bill Browder, the founder of investment fund Hermitage Capital and Magnitsky’s client at the time of his arrest, examined in absentia, making him one of the few foreigners ever to stand trial in absentia in Russia.

Published on 06-03-13. Read on here

Chávez inauguration absence causes constitutional uncertainty

Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Here is my latest piece published in the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

Following his winning bid for re-election in October 2012 – beating nearest rival Henrique Capriles by a nine per cent margin – Venezuela waited with bated breath to see its President, Hugo Chávez, sworn in for another six-year term last Thursday.

However, on 10 January 2013, or ‘10E’, as it has often been referred to by the press and on social networking sites, Chávez was nowhere to be found in Venezuela. Instead he was reportedly still in Cuba, recovering from complications following a fourth cancer operation which took place on 11 December 2012.

Unlike Chávez’s previous trips to Cuba for medical treatment, no up-to-date images of the President have been released since the operation and a prolonged silence – notably even on his Twitter account – has provoked widespread concern over the President’s health, his succession plan and a rumoured impending power vacuum.

Published on 15-01-13. Read on here

One Hour and Eighteen Minutes

Here’s my latest blog for Huffington Post UK:

With the wave of oligarchs that continue to flock to London to battle out their grievances, sadly embezzlement scandals and corruption are associations we regularly make with Russia nowadays.

As Russia’s recent accession to the WTO has brought corruption in the country under renewed scrutiny, a play showing at London’s New Diorama Theatre has also shed new light on the lesser-known aspects of the Russian judicial system.

One Hour and Eighteen Minutes
, written by Elena Gremina and translated by Noah Birksted-Breen looks at the run-up to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison cell in 2009, having been arrested after he stumbled across a cover-up by state officials to embezzle an estimated $230m (£146m) from the Russian treasury.

The timing of the play couldn’t be more poignant since on Friday 16 November the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, which will impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on 60 Russian officials implicated in Magnitksy’s death.

Published on 27 November 2012. Read on here

Chávez re-election unlikely to spell victory for the rule of law

Here is my latest piece published in the IBA Global Insight newsfeed:

After a record 80 per cent of the population turned out to vote in the Venezuelan national elections last month, on 7 October it was finally revealed that Hugo Chávez, head of the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) was to be re-elected, this time winning 55 per cent of the vote, giving him a nine per cent margin over rival Henrique Capriles.

Although this is the fourth time in 14 years that Chávez has been re-elected, his lead in 2012 is considerably smaller than in the 2006 elections, when he gained some 63 per cent of the vote. As the Western media continues to cast doubt on the fairness of the elections, lawyers and analysts have questioned the significance of this year’s election results, and the impact they will have on the rule of law in the country going forward.

‘It’s worth highlighting that around 75 per cent of those that voted for the first time in these elections voted in favour of Capriles, which I think gives out a clear message,’ stresses former IBA President Fernando Peláez-Pier, Partner at Hoet Peláez Castillo & Duque in Caracas.

Published on 14-11-12. Read on here

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