LITHUANIA/EUROPEAN COURT: No violation of rights of former Soviet security officer found guilty of genocide

CASE OF DRĖLINGAS v. LITHUANIA (Application no. 28859/16)


Registrar of the Court (12.03.2019) –  In today’s Chamber judgment  in the case of Drėlingas v. Lithuania (application no. 28859/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, by five votes to two, that there had been:


no violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights.


The case concerned the applicant’s conviction for genocide for taking part in a 1956 operation to arrest two partisans who had resisted Soviet rule.


The Court concluded that Lithuania’s Supreme Court had now resolved previously existing legal discrepancies in domestic practice on such genocide trials, discrepancies which had led to the Court finding a violation in the similar case of Vasiliauskas v. Lithuania in 2015.


In particular, the Supreme Court had explained why the partisans who had resisted Soviet rule could be considered as an important part of the nation and thus be covered by international law, Article II of the Genocide Convention, at the time of the events.


The applicant had to have been aware in the 1950s that he could be prosecuted for genocide and his conviction had been foreseeable. There had therefore been no violation of the Convention.


Principal facts


The applicant, Stanislovas Drėlingas, is a Lithuanian national born in 1931 who lives in Utena (Lithuania).


Mr Drėlingas, who served in the MGB and KGB Soviet security forces, took part in an operation in 1956 to detain two partisans, Adolfas Ramanauskas (whose code name was Vanagas) and his wife Birutė Mažeikaitė (code name Vanda), who were opposed to Soviet rule in Lithuania.


The two were arrested, which led to Mr Ramanauskas being severely ill-treated in detention and then executed in 1957 while Ms Mažeikaitė had to serve eight years in a prison camp in Siberia.


In 2014, after Lithuania had regained its independence, Mr Drėlingas was charged under the Criminal Code with genocide for his role in the operation against Mr Ramanauskas and Ms Mažeikaitė and was found guilty by Kaunas Regional Court in March 2015.


The court held that Mr Ramanauskas had been a prominent partisan who had led resistance to Soviet rule, and that the partisans were representatives of the Lithuanian nation. The aim of the arrest operation had been to eliminate part of a national group and Mr Drėlingas had thus been guilty of genocide, for which there was no domestic statute of limitations.


The court rejected his arguments that he could not be held responsible for the fate of the two partisans as he had not personally arrested or sentenced them. He was given a five-year term of imprisonment. The appeal court and the Supreme Court, in April 2016, upheld his conviction, the Supreme Court reducing his sentence to five months’ detention and releasing him for time served.


Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its execution. Further information about the execution process can be found here: In particular, the Supreme Court examined the Strasbourg Court’s 2015 Grand Chamber judgment in Vasiliauskas v. Lithuania, which had found a violation of Article 7 as the courts had defined partisans as a separate “political group”. However, such a group was not protected by international law under the 1948 Genocide Convention and Mr Vasiliauskas’s conviction had not been foreseeable.


In Mr Drėlingas’s case, the Supreme Court provided an explanation for why Mr Ramanauskas and Ms Mažeikaitė had to be considered as members of a distinct national and ethnic group and so fall under the Genocide Convention. At the time of the events Mr Drėlingas therefore had to have been aware that he could face criminal liability for genocide.


In another set of proceedings in 2016 the Supreme Court also quashed Mr Vasiliauskas’s domestic conviction. It noted that he had been found guilty of genocide in relation to a “separate political group”, which was not a term found in the Genocide Convention but one which had been introduced into Lithuanian law after the re-establishment of independence. He had therefore been prosecuted retroactively, which was a violation of his rights.


Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court


Relying on Article 7 (no punishment without law), Mr Drėlingas complained that his conviction for genocide had violated his rights because the national courts’ broad interpretation of that crime had had no basis in international law.


The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 18 May 2016.


Decision of the Court


The applicant argued in particular that there had been no basis in public international law for his conviction, which had been based on a retroactive application of domestic law, violating Article 7.


The Court first rejected his arguments that he could not be held liable for the fates of the two partisans as he had neither directly arrested them nor taken part in the decision-making procedure.


The Court observed that the domestic courts had examined the first part of his submission thoroughly and the Court saw no reason to question their findings. As regards the second point, the Court reiterated its finding in Vasiliauskas that even private soldiers could not show total, blind obedience to orders which infringed recognised human rights. As an officer of the security forces he must have known what would happen to the two resistance members.


The Court then examined whether the lack of clarity in domestic law on the crime of genocide, which it had identified in Vasiliauskas, had now been dispelled.


It noted that the Supreme Court judgment in Mr Drėlingas’s case had analysed Vasiliauskas and had drawn the conclusion that the finding of a violation of Article 7 had been due to the domestic courts’ failure to substantiate their findings that the partisans had constituted a significant part of a national group and had thus come under Article II of the Genocide Convention.


In Mr Drėlingas’s case the Supreme Court had provided a detailed explanation of the significance of the partisans, noting, among other things, that they had played an essential role when protecting the national identity, culture and national self-awareness of the Lithuanian nation. The Supreme Court had concluded that the partisans were a significant part of a protected national and ethnic group within the meaning of both the 1948 Genocide Convention and domestic law under Article 99 of the Criminal Code.


The Supreme Court had also referred to a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling which had added to the historical context on the partisan movement and its significance for the Lithuanian nation.


Furthermore, the Supreme Court had re-opened the domestic proceedings in Mr Vasiliauskas’s case and had acknowledged the Strasbourg Court’s findings without reservation. It had also held that Mr Vasiliauskas could not be prosecuted for the genocide of members of a political group.


The Court concluded that the Supreme Court had in Mr Drėlingas’s case removed the lack of clarity which the Court had identified in Vasiliauskas, caused by the discrepancy between Article 99 of the Criminal Code and its reference to political groups and Article II of the Genocide Convention.


The Supreme Court had also clarified the scope of review of charges of genocide, including a prohibition on the retroactive prosecution for the genocide of people belonging to a political group and the need to establish intent.


Given such developments, the domestic system, based on international law in the shape of the Genocide Convention and the case-law of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, no longer showed the shortcomings identified in Vasiliauskas. Mr Drėlingas’s conviction for genocide had thus been foreseeable and had not resulted in a violation of Article 7.


Separate opinions


Judges Motoc and Ranzoni expressed dissenting opinions which are annexed to the judgment.



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NORTH KOREA: Book release: Talking to North Korea: Ending the nuclear standoff

Author: Glyn Ford. Glyn Ford is Director of Track2Asia and a member of the Labour Party’s International Commission.


Pluto Press (09.2018) – – Despite recent attempts at negotiation, the attitudes of both Kim Jong Un’s regime and the West seem unchanged. North Korea is still shrouded in mystery and there are no clear plans for the future. Can we trust either side to bring about peace? And if so, how?


This provocative insider’s account blasts apart the myths which paint North Korea as a rogue state run by a mad leader. Informed by extraordinary access to the country’s leadership, Glyn Ford investigates the regime from the inside, providing game-changing insights. Acknowledging that North Korea is a deeply repressive state, he nonetheless shows that sections of the leadership are determined to end their isolation.




Chapter 1 Introduction: The Pyongyang Paradox

  • Nukes and Missiles
  • International Relations
  • Is There a Settlement to Be Had?
  • Structure




Chapter 2: Drawing the Iron Curtain

  • Geography
  • The Yanks Arrive
  • Colonial Consequences
  • Pre-War War
  • From Civil War to Cold War
  • The Never-Ending End


Chapter 3: Kim’s Korea

  • Divide and Rule: The Intra-Party Struggle
  • The Kim Cult
  • The Economy Takes Off
  • The Welfare State
  • Alone Abroad
  • The Third Way
  • Kim’s Legacy


Chapter 4 Famine, Markets, Refugees, and Human Rights:

  • The Kim Jong Il Era
  • The Famine
  • The Emergence of Markets
  • Kim Jong Il Steps Up
  • Defectors, Refugees, or Migrants?




Chapter 5: Kim Jong Un

  • Emerging Capitalism
  • Some Are More Equal than Others
  • Investment and Special Economic Zones
  • Energy and Mining
  • Agriculture, Nutrition, and Industry


Chapter 6: Daily Life in North Korea

  • Transportation
  • Education: Shaping the Nation
  • Controlling the Nation
  • National Health
  • Crime and Punishment




Chapter 7: The Nuclear Factor

  • Military Perception
  • How Did We Get Here?
  • North Korea’s Nuclear Tests
  • Missile Trade
  • Star Wars
  • Impact and Solutions
  • Relations with South Korea


Chapter 8: Foreign Affairs: Between Rapprochement and Standoff

  • Japan
  • China
  • United States
  • United Nations
  • European Union


Chapter 9: Conclusion – After Singapore

  • Between Washington and Beijing
  • Where Can It All Go Wrong?
  • Another War Is Possible
  • The Prospects for a Settlement




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EUROPEAN UNION: EU appoints a new Special Representative for Human Rights

European Council (28.02.2019) – – Today, the Council appointed Eamon Gilmore as EU Special Representative for Human Rights. Mr Gilmore will replace Stavros Lambrinidis, who was appointed in 2012 the first EU Special Representative. Mr Gilmore will take up his duties on 1 March 2019 and has been appointed initially for two years.


The tasks of the Special Representative for Human Rights are to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy. The Special Representative has a broad, flexible mandate, which provides the possibility of adapting to evolving geopolitical circumstances. The Special Representative will work closely with the European External Action Service, which will provide full support to his work.


As former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Eamon Gilmore had government responsibility for the implemention of the Good Friday Agreement, including its core human rights provisions. Since October 2015, he has been the High Representative’s Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process. His work and contribution to the peace process were greatly appreciated by all sides.


EU Special Representatives promote the EU’s policies and interests in certain regions and countries as well as issues of particular concern or interest for the EU. They play an active role in efforts to consolidate peace, stability and the rule of law. The first EU Special Representatives were appointed in 1996. Currently, eight EUSRs support the work of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.


The decision was adopted by written procedure on 28 February.



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BELGIUM/MOROCCO: Belgium to deport Black Widow Malika El Aroud to Morocco

By Ahlam Ben Saga


Morocco World News (23.02.2019) – – Rabat – The Belgian Aliens Litigation Council (CCE) ruled on Friday in favor of expelling Malika El Aroud, known as “the black widow,” to Morocco, concluding that she would not be subjected to torture in her country of origin.


The council said in a statement on Friday that its chambers judged that El Aroud “who had been sentenced in Belgium for her affiliation with a terrorist organization, and then stripped of her Belgian citizenship can be expelled to Morocco.”


El Aroud had previously argued that she might be subjected to torture in a Moroccan prison if extradited, the basis of her appeal against the extradition and application for political asylum in Belgium.


The Belgian Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) rejected El Aroud’s request for asylum as the Belgian government deemed her “too dangerous” and unworthy of international protection because she has not expressed “remorse” for her actions.


In November 2018, Belgium stripped El Aroud of her Belgian citizenship  after a Belgian court in 2010 sentenced her to eight years in prison for her involvement with terrorists.


Born in 1960, El Aroud was a member of al-Qaeda. She is the widow of a Taliban jihadi, Abdessatar Dahmane, who had posed as a television journalist in Belgium to assassinate the Afghan political and military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.


In October 2018, Belgium began to consider extraditing El Aroud to Morocco in line with the country’s s new migration and asylum legislation which went into force in May 2017.


El Aroud is internationally known as “black widow” and “the most dangerous woman in Belgium.”



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NORTH KOREA: Pyongyang informed the UN that it is facing a 1.4 million tonnes food shortfall

In January daily rations were cut from 550 to 300 grams per person per day. In 2018, food production was 4.95 million tonnes, 503,000 less than in 2017. North Korea blames UN sanctions for negatively impacting its agricultural sector. A second Trump-Kim summit is set for five days from now, centred on economics and denuclearisation.


AsiaNews (22.02.2019) – – New York: North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortfall of 1.4 million tonnes in 2019 and has been forced to almost halve rations, blaming high temperatures, drought, floods and United Nations sanctions.


The North Korean mission to the United Nations released a memo to the world body ahead of a second summit next week between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi (Vietnam) on 27-28 February following the historic Singapore agreement eight months ago.


According to observers, the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s economic development will be at the centre of the talks between the two leaders.


The UN Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.


North Korea blames sanctions for restricting the delivery of farming materials and hindering fuel supply for the agricultural sector.


“The DPRK government calls on international organizations to urgently respond to addressing the food situation,” read the North Korean memo.


It goes on to say that local food production last year was 4.951 million tonnes, 503,000 tonnes less than in 2017. The United Nations confirmed these figures as official government data provided at the end of January. The month before, North Korea admitted shortages in agricultural production.


North Korean authorities said it would import 200,000 tonnes of food and produce about 400,000 tonnes of early crops, but that it would still be left with a gap and that from January it would cut daily rations from 550 grams to 300 grams per person.


UN officials and aid groups in North Korea are consulting with the government to “further understand the impact of the food security situation on the most vulnerable people in order to take early action to address their humanitarian needs,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.




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UKRAINE: Ukrainian official charged in acid attack on activist after outcry

Ukrainian prosecutors said Monday (11 February) they had charged a high-ranking regional official with organising a deadly acid attack on a prominent anti-corruption activist that prompted widespread outrage.


EURACTIV (11.02.2019) – – Kateryna Gandzyuk, who worked as an adviser to the mayor of the southern city of Kherson, was an outspoken critic of corruption in law enforcement agencies.


She was attacked in July and had about a litre of acid poured on her by several attackers. The 33-year-old died in November after months of treatment, including more than 10 operations.


Her murder has prompted widespread outrage, with civil society activists accusing the authorities of failing to complete the investigation or find out who ordered the attack.


On Monday, less than two months before Ukrainians go to the polls to elect a president, General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko pointed the finger at the head of the local council in the southern region of Kherson.


Vladyslav Manger is accused of “organising the murder of Kateryna Gandzyuk,” Lutsenko said on Facebook.


According to the charge sheet released by Lutsenko, Manger was guided by “personal animosity” towards Gandzyuk because she opposed illegal logging in the region.


Lutsenko’s spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said Manger was accused of “intentionally and unlawfully causing the death of another person… with special cruelty and by prior agreement with a group of individuals”.


Speaking to AFP, Sargan said that Manger was not yet arrested.


“Searches are under way in Kherson,” she said.


Expelled from the party


If found guilty, the 48-year-old faces up to life in prison.


Manger was a member of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) political party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a key rival of President Petro Poroshenko in the 31 March presidential election.


He was expelled from the party last week.


Gandzyuk’s death has sparked condemnation of the government and drew renewed attention to dozens of assaults on other anti-corruption campaigners in Ukraine over recent months.


In August, police detained five people in connection with the case, three of whom were placed under house arrest.


In November, a former aide to a ruling party lawmaker was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the attack.


Both the European Union and the United States have called the attacks on activists unacceptable and urged authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Fellow activists accused police and prosecutors of reluctance to investigate the case, insisting the detention of those possibly involved in the attack was made only after a wave of protests across the country.


Lutsenko in November submitted a letter of resignation to Poroshenko over the affair but the Ukrainian leader refused to fire him.


More than 50 attacks on anti-graft activists, environmental and human rights campaigners including five murders were recorded last year.



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