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Initial appearance of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Fidèle Babala Wandu, 27 November 2013  (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
17 March 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The International Criminal Court will rule this coming Monday in the case of Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba who stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba, who was transferred to The Hague in 2008 was seen as the first 'big fish' to have been caught by the permanent war crimes court.

The accusations relate to crimes allegedly committed by his troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003, when Bemba was asked by then CAR president Ange-Félix Patassé to provide support during a civil war. As commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), Bemba is held accountable for multiple rapes and other crimes by his troops in CAR.

IJT spoke to three experts and longtime observers of the Bemba case about the significance of the ruling for the ICC, for international justice and jurisprudence and for the victims.

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Refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos in September 2015 (Photo: Flickr/Ben White - CAFOD)
08 March 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Parallel to calls for the establishment of an international tribunal to address alleged war crimes committed in Syria [IJT-169], many European countries say they have stepped up screening procedures to weed out possible war criminals amid the influx of Syrian refugees. The Netherlands, which has been somewhat of a pioneer in this regard, last week announced that in 2015 they denied asylum to 10 Syrian nationals because they are suspected of committing war crimes. But past experience points to a wide gap between identifying potential perpetrators and actually bringing them to justice.

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Prosecution picture of Malian ICC suspect Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi preaching to the crowd at the destruction of a Timbuktu shrine (Photo: Janet Anderson)
01 March 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

If you listen to the prosecution’s presentation at the ICC today, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an Islamist from Timbuktu, was not only an expert in Islamic law – and recognised as such by his peers – a recruiter and an active member of the Islamic group Ansaredinne, but, most importantly, the ringleader behind the destruction of nine shrines in 2012.

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Mali war crimes suspect Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at his confirmation of charges hearing before the ICC (Photo: Twitter/ICC-CPI)
01 March 2016 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In the first case of its kind, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have to decide whether the destruction of cultural property and related psychological harm to the population in Mali deserves the attention of the global court. At the confirmation of charges hearing which began Tuesday, the prosecutors said Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi should be tried for war crimes committed during the Islamist occupation of the city of Timbuktu.

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Post-conflict rubble in Gori, Georgia, on 25 August 2008 (Photo: Flickr/Chuck Simmins)
27 February 2016

In this month's IJT we ask if the ICC's probe into alleged war crimes in Georgia in 2008 risks being one-sided as the court could be dragged in to a new Cold War. Will prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's move out of Africa be able to escape accusations of bias after Russia has already announced it will not cooperate?

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Radovan Karadzic before ICTY
25 February 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has a busy month ahead. As it prepares to close its doors next year it will hand down verdicts in two of its last trials. The Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will hear a judgement in his historic case on 24 March, which could expand genocide in Bosnia beyond Srebrenica. A week later judges will hand down their ruling in the trial of firebrand Serb politician Vojislav Seselj, which has been shrouded in controversy. IJT asked Marko Milanovic, associate professor of law at the University of Nottingham and longtime ICTY observer, about what’s at stake in both cases.

 

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Post-conflict rubble in Gori, Georgia, on 25 August 2008 (Photo: Flickr/Chuck Simmins)
17 February 2016 by Sofio Natsvlishvili, Tbilisi (Georgia), and Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

While Russia and Western states square off over Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in Georgia in 2008 also risks being caught up in a new Cold War. And even though ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was praised for finally removing what appeared to be her office’s Africa-only blinders, those who know the strategy discussions as they run deep in The Hague’s dunes, believe she has ventured into the Caucasus with extreme reluctance.

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Witness appears before the ECCC in case 002/02 against on 13 January 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ECCC/Nhet Sok Heng)
10 February 2016 by Ate Hoekstra, Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

Judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) continued this month hearing eyewitness testimony about how the Khmer Rouge targeted Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese, including women and children. Case 002/02, part two of the case against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan [IJT-176, IJT-179], tackles the question of whether the regime committed genocide as per the narrow legal definition.

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Judge Yassmin Barrios presiding the Sepur Zarco trial in Guatemala (Photo: Twitter/@usembassyguate)
03 February 2016 by Louisa Reynolds, Guatemala City (Guatemala)

Guatemala this week started the landmark trial of two former military officers who face charges of sexual and domestic slavery and forced disappearances. This marks the first time – ever and anywhere – that a national court will hear charges of sexual slavery committed during an armed conflict.

 

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ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council in November 2015 (Photo: Flickr/IICC-CPI)
27 January 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

IJT asked legal experts William Schabas and Evelyn Ankumah how they thought the ICC was doing and what remains needed. Schabas is optimistic and Ankumah shares a more reserved view. Both agree that the court must start showing it is not afraid to pursue alleged suspects from powerful states. 

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