ICC

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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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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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Laywer Stephan Bourgon at the opening of Bosco Ntaganda's trial in September 2015 (Photo: Twitter/ ICC-CPI)
09 September 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

Former Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) has gone on hunger strike to protest long-standing restrictions on his phone calls and visitors to the detention unit, his lawyer said Friday.

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 Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at the opening of his trial (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
08 September 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Amid much fanfare jihadist Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi, in August became the first Malian to stand trial at The Hague-based ICC. Because he pled guilty, there wasn’t much of a procedure, lasting a bare three days. The judges will announce their decision later this month on whether he can indeed be found guilty of destroying a range of cultural monuments in the dusty, far northern city of Timbuktu, during the period when two Islamic groups, Ansareddine and al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) occupied the town and much of the north of the country.

His confession raises the prospect of those most responsible for serious crimes in Mali being brought to justice if he continues to cooperate with ICC prosecutors. However, away from The Hague, experts suggest that further prosecutions of for crimes during Mali's resurgent 2012 conflict in the country itself are far off.

 

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Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi woman who escaped sexual enslavement by Islamic State, bows her head after telling her story during a UN Security Council meeting (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)
21 July 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

After a United Nations Inquiry commission found last month that the crimes of Islamic State (IS also known as ISIS) against the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq amounted to genocide the call for accountability and prosecution of the perpetrators increased. What are the options to see anyone in the dock for not only genocide but also the underlying war crimes and crimes against humanity the commission said have occurred? International Justice Tribune spoke to former US ambassador for war crimes Stephen Rapp [IJT-186] who plays a central role in advising all stakeholders inside and outside on how to move forward and find justice for crimes against the Yazidi.

 

 

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Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo at the opening of his ICC trial in January 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
05 July 2016 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Twelve witnesses over the past five months: the ICC’s case against former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and his supporter Charles Blé Goudé is not getting up to speed. Already, it is lost in discussions on history, suffers from a lack of evidence tying him directly to the crimes and has slowly moved into closed-door hearings.

When the International Criminal Court’s new building [IJT-189] was officially inaugurated by the Dutch King last April, the celebratory ceremony ended with a performance of children singing Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”. Three months earlier, there was a totally different atmosphere. On 28 January 2016, you could hear the swelling hymns of the crowd: “Libérez Gbagbo! Libérez Gbagbo! Libérez Gbagbo! (Free Gbagbo)” they chanted. Outside the guarded entrance, armed with megaphones, drums and banners, Ivoirians from the diaspora community in Europe had assembled to demand the release of the man they still consider to be their President: Laurent Gbagbo. Inside, while the court clerk read out the charges, some of the spectators sizzled, others burst out in sardonic laughter. They rejoiced in faith and uttered praises when Gbagbo and his companion in the dock, alleged mouthpiece, spin-doctor and ‘street general,’ Charles Blé Goudé, plead not guilty.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his sentence on 21 June 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
23 June 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The 18-year sentence the International Criminal Court handed down on Tuesday against former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba [IJT-191, blog] for murders, rapes and pillaging committed by his troops while they were fighting in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 has received a mixed reception. Some experts like Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association told Deutsche Welle he would have “preferred a significantly longer sentence” given the severity of the crimes Bemba was convicted of. Human rights groups focused on the fact that this was the longest sentence handed down by the ICC so far and Bemba's defence pointed it out that it was significantly higher than other convictions under command responsibility by international tribunals.

Just how much is eighteen years compared to other similar cases in different courts? Justice Tribune spoke to criminologist Barbora Hola of the Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit faculty of law who studies sentencing of international crimes and has done empirical, quantitative studies of sentences at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and it's sister court for Rwanda, the ICTR.

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Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza talks to the press following a meeting with a UN Security Council delegation that came to reiterate the need for an inclusive dialogue to end months of political turmoil. (Photo: Flickr/ MONUSCO)
07 June 2016 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

At the end of April, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination in Burundi. As the situation has been deteriorating for the past year with experts fearing the outbreak of a full-fledged civil war, Burundi could become a real-life test for the ICC's ability to deter atrocities. Some argue there is evidence the move of the prosecutor has already had an impact on the conflict.

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