war crimes

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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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 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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Thomas Kwoyelo (centre) and his lead counsel, Caleb Alaka, at the Internal Crimes Division (Photo: Samuel Egadu Okiror)
28 April 2016 by Samuel Egadu Okiror, Gulu (Uganda)

Six years after the first proceedings were halted, Uganda’s International Crimes Division (ICD) will on Monday 2 May begin the controversial trial of Thomas 

Kwoyelo, former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But experts question whether justice will be served.

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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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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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South Ossetian Internally Displaced Persons in Skra, Georgia in March 2012 (Photo: Flickr/Marco Fieber)
29 October 2015

This month we look at the investigation ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to open into Georgia with commentators arguing this could be a double-edged sword for Tblisi as the court has made it clear it will investigate alleged crimes from all sides. For the ICC meanwhile this probe signals a clear move away from the attention on situations in Africa, a big point of criticism from the court's detractors.

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South Ossetian Internally Displaced Persons in Skra, Georgia in March 2012 (Photo: Flickr/Marco Fieber)
15 October 2015 by Janet H. Anderson and Sofio Natsvlishvili, Tbilisi (Georgia)

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda this week made her first consequential move towards a case outside Africa by asking ICC judges to permit an investigation into the 2008 war over South Ossetia. The conflict, between Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian forces, killed hundreds and displaced thousands.

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Stephen Rapp speaking at a Coalition for the ICC event in 2013 (Photo: Flickr/CICC)
30 September 2015

IJT 186 is our first issue after the summer break and also the first in our new publishing scheme of a monthly digest of our feature articles which appeared on our site previously.

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