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Gambia election
02 December 2016 by Janet H. Anderson

There’s wild jubilation in Banjul the Gambia’s capital, after a tense 36 hours of vote-counting combined with a complete internet and messaging black-out for “security reasons”, with the news that the head of the country’s independent election commission Momor Njie has declared the 22-year rule of president Yahya Jammeh over.

Jammeh was attempting to head for a fifth term in power, and had been reported as saying he was “proud to be a dictator” and that Allah would keep him in power for a billion years.

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ICC premises (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
15 November 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

To prepare for the upcoming Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court we have teamed up with several ICC observers to create a series of podcasts about the issues that will be on the agenda, both officially and unofficially during the yearly gathering of the court's member states. Find our talk with Alix Vuillemin of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court here. On the issue of African withdrawals from the court we spoke to Dov Jacobs, assistant professor, ICC defence counsel and blogger. That podcast is here

On the first day of the ASP we met with Liz Evenson of Human Rights Watch to go over how the court and the prosecutors select cases to investigate and take to trial and the possible impact of Russia's announcement that is was withdrawing its signature from the Rome Statute. Click here to hear what she had to say.

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14 November 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

When state representatives and a huge host of justice NGO’s gather on Wednesday in The Hague – along with International Criminal Court staff themselves – for a week of debate about the court and setting its direction for the next year, there’ll be one major topic: the withdrawal from the court by three African countries. Burundi, South Africa and the Gambia have all announced their decisions within that last month. But the meeting itself will be about far more than that and will throw up several interesting stories for ICC-watchers.

 

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28 October 2016 by Sebastian Green Martinez

On September 27, the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its judgment in the case of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. The Islamist was sentenced to nine years for the single war crime of attacking protected objects. The case was hailed as a great success. It was short trial, the court's first guilty plea followed by a swift verdict [IJTblog]. But by accepting the prosecutor's arguments that Al Mahdi was only guilty of a single war crime, was the population of Mali let down badly? 

--- In this special guest blog for IJT by Sebastian Green Martinez,  lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires, who has followed the Al Mahdi case closely, argues the court should have tried the Malian for persecution over the destruction of mosques and mausoleums in Timbuktu---  

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South African president Jacob Zuma with his Burundi counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza in February 2016 (Photo: Flickr/GCIS)
24 October 2016 by Benjamin Duerr

Two countries announced their withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week. The decisions of the governments of Burundi and South Africa are motivated by domestic politics and fit a broader development seen in other countries: scapegoating international affairs for local failures.

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ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
20 October 2016 by Benjamin Duerr

After the president of Burundi signed a law to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday, the central African country is likely to become the first state to withdraw from the court's founding treaty. Now, experts say, both Burundi and the ICC, will get caught up in making largely symbolic moves in a race against time.

When Pierre Nkurunziza signed law no 1/14 of 18 October 2016, he became the world's first president to lead his country out of the ICC. With his signature under the “law concerning the withdrawal of the Republic of Burundi from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court” the president approved previous decisions by the senate and the national assembly. This is the first time a country has decided to leave the court which opened its doors in 2002. Burundi has been in turmoil and on the radar of the international community since early 2015. Both the ICC and the United Nations are looking into the violence there which has left hundreds of people dead.[IJT- 194]

 
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Women in front a the memorial in Potocari cemetary that lists the names of the Srebrenica dead (Photo: Flickr/RNW)
07 October 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

After the supreme court ruled in 2013 in the Nuhanovic case [IJT- 173] that the Dutch state was liable for at least three deaths of Bosnian Muslims who had sought refuge on the UN compound in Srebrenica manned by Dutch troops after the fall of the enclave, there has been a constant battle between the state and representatives of the victims trying to expand the Dutch liability to include more victims.

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Defence lawyers Mohamed Anouini and Jean-Louis Gilissen at the ICC (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
01 October 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In chapter seven of Thierry Cruvellier’s book ‘Court of Remorse’ about the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), he described the two defence lawyers, Belgian Jean-Louis Gilissen and Tunisian Mohamed Aouini as inseparable. “You never saw one without the other. They were always chatting. They had the same walk, the same honest handshake with their bodies learning forward slightly to convey sincerity, matching smiles and identical moustaches.”

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the same two were again tag teaming, this time at the ICC. They were representing their client Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi during the shortest trial the court has ever seen in its own short history. From Mahdi’s arrest warrant in September 2015 when he was already in the custody of the authorities of Niger , to a judgement and sentencing, has been little more than a year. That’s because Al Mahdi pled guilty and his lawyers Gilissen and Aouini negotiated a deal with the prosecution that allowed judges to give him a sentence of nine years for the single war crime of cultural destruction, safe in the knowledge that the prosecution would not appeal.

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Mass grave west of Shingal town, Kurdistan, Iraq (Photo: Flickr/Seth Franzman)
21 September 2016 by Janet H. Anderson

Just days ago Yazidi Nadia Murad who survived an attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS also known as ISIS) on the Yazidi community of northern Iraq and Amal Clooney, her lawyer, spoke to the UN about the need for justice for the Yazidis, forced out of their ancient homelands around Mount Sinjar.

Murad – who has just been appointed the UN’s goodwill ambassador on human trafficking – described how her family were killed in massacres conducted by ISIS during 2014, how she and other Yazidi women suffered when captured and held by ISIS fighters and how more than 2,000 Yazidi women are still being held captive. Clooney called on the UN to support calls for a genocide prosecution against the perpetrators at the International Criminal Court. Evidence – mainly refugee statements – has been sent to The Hague by Murad’s own organization Yazda, supported by former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. These efforts are part of the “It's On U” campaign using interlocking strategies aimed at an ICC prosecution of ISIS for genocide.

Janet Anderson spoke to Joanna Frivet, British-based barrister, who has travelled to the region and refugee camps where Yazidis are now living, to gather evidence for a potential prosecution. 

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KLA memorial in Mitrovica, Kosovo (Photo: Joost van Egmond)
15 September 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In their first ever press conference since taking office the registrar and the prosecutor of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a special court set up in the Hague to try crimes allegedly committed by Kosovo Albanian guerilla fighters during and after the 1998-99 conflict were at pains to stress their independence and avoided giving a clear time table for when to expect indictments.

Specialist Prosecutor David Schwendiman, a former international prosecutor in the Bosnian state court's war crimes department, insisted he would do his job “without fear or favour” and would base decision “solely on the facts” regardless of “political, diplomatic or other implications or consequences”. The court is controversial in Kosovo where many see the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as freedom fighters who fought a just war against Belgrade's oppressive regime in the then Serb province. Pristina feels unfairly singled out for an extra court after already having several KLA commanders on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), where all but one were acquitted [IJT-164].

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