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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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Kenyan vice-president William Ruto on the first day of his ICC trial in September 2013 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
18 April 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Since judges threw out the case against Kenyan vice-president William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this month there has been a lot of discussion that the case could somehow provide a script for other defendants on how to evade justice. In the Ruto Sang case the judges by majority agreed there was not enough evidence to continue with the trial but refused to acquit instead vacating the charges, leaving the possibility for the prosecutor to come back to the case if they find additional evidence. The decision to discontinue the case amid prosecution complaints of witness interference, follows the withdrawal of charges against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in March this year where similar accusations were made [IJT-172-176].

IJT spoke to Dov Jacobs, associate professor at Leiden University and a longstanding ICC observer who also works as a legal consultant before the court, about the ruling and its implications.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
21 March 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday ruled that Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba's troops raped, murdered and pillaged civilians in the Central African Republic and that he, as their commander, could be held criminally responsible. The ruling is a historic one for the ICC as it is the first time the court has handed down convictions for sexual and crimes and also a first conviction on the basis of command responsibility [IJT-191].

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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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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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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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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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Ivorian ex-president Laurent Gbabgo at his confirmation of charges hearing at the ICC in February 2013 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
27 January 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) prepares to try its first former head of state when Ivory Coast's ex-president Laurent Gbagbo goes on trial in The Hague Thursday many question if the ICC is balanced in trying only the leadership of one side in the post-electoral violence.
 

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