ICC: Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Defence Appeals his Conviction

160621-bemba-sentence-10-1The Defence for Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba filed an appeal against his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity in front of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Defence criticized many of the findings of the Trial Chamber and claimed that the Bemba trial was in fact a mistrial.

The Defence highlighted a vast number of gaps in Mr. Bemba’s right to a fair trial, claiming for instance that the Prosecution was permitted to intercept and listen to telephone conversations between the accused and his lawyers, between the lawyers themselves, and between the lawyers and Defence witnesses.

The Defence also mentioned the vast amount of ex parte access to the Trial Chamber enjoyed by the Prosecution to discuss matters directly relevant to the Judgment itself.

The majority of the appeal, however, is dedicated to the flaws of the Trial Chamber’s findings on effective control, which, according to the Defence, ‘’fall far outside established military doctrine and practice’’ […] and ‘’deprive the Judgement of precedential value in shaping the future actions of commanders.’’

For the Defence, the Trial Chamber, having disregarded the evidence of both the Prosecution and Defence military experts, ‘’invented a theory of command responsibility which is a military impossibility’’ […] and ‘’conflated basic military principles, misunderstood and misapplied established legal doctrine and, most alarmingly, made key factual findings on the basis of no evidence.’’

The Defence adds that other fatal flaws undermine the conviction. The Defence referred to the fact that nearly two thirds of the underlying acts for which Mr. Bemba was convicted were not included or improperly included in the Amended Document Containing the Charges and fall outside the scope of the charges.

The Defence also pointed out that, to convict a person of a crime against humanity, a Trial Chamber must find that he knew that his conduct was part of a widespread attack on a civilian population. However, no such finding was made in this case against Mr. Bemba.

The Prosecution has two months within which to file a response.

In order to read a summary of the Defence Appeal, click here.

ICC: Al Mahdi Sentenced to 9 Years for the Destruction of Historic and Religious Buildings in Mali

Ahmad Al Faqi Al MahdiToday, Trial Chamber VIII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) unanimously convicted Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi of the war crime of attacking historic and religious buildings in Timbuktu, Mali, in June and July 2012. The Court sentenced Al Mahdi to nine years’ imprisonment, deducting the time he has already spent in detention.

On 22 August 2016, at the opening of the trial, Al Madhi had already admitted guilt to the war crime consisting in attacking ten historic and religious monuments in Timbuktu, asking for forgiveness from the people of Timbuktu.

Al Mahdi was a member of Ansar Dine, a movement associated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which took control of Timbuktu in 2012. As an expert on matters of religion, Al Mahdi was consulted by the leader of Ansar Dine in relation to the decision to destroy the mausoleums.

According to the Trial Chamber, Al Mahdi’s contribution to the destruction of the buildings, consisting of nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, was essential. He had overall responsibility for the execution phase of the attack and directly participated in the attacks on five of the protected buildings.

The Court considered that crimes against property are generally of less gravity than crimes against persons. However, the targeted buildings were not only religious buildings but had also a symbolic and emotional value for the inhabitants of Timbuktu. Continue reading

UK Against an International Inquiry in Yemen

Air strike on Sanaa ©Reuters

Air strike on Sanaa ©Reuters

The United Kingdom (UK) is accused by several human rights organizations to have blocked a joint European Union (EU) proposal to establish an independent international inquiry into the war in Yemen. Instead, the EU submission that was submitted on Friday 23 September to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) asks the UN body to dispatch a mission “with assistance from relevant experts, to monitor and report on the situation … in Yemen”.

The proposal, which was submitted by Slovakia on behalf of the EU, was initiated by the Netherlands in an effort to bring together a European coalition requiring an inquiry to be set up and to examine civilian deaths in Yemen. According to the OHCHR, 3,980 civilians have been killed and 6,909 injured between 26 March 2015 and 22 September 2016. In a press release published on the same day, the OHCHR has expressed its will to see an international inquiry being set up: “In the light of the high civilian casualty numbers and the terrible suffering of the civilian population, we urge all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. We reiterate our call for the setting up of an international and independent investigative body.”

The international investigation inquiry would have to review Saudi’s interventions in Yemen, as the armed coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, is accused of committing war crimes against civilians. UK Foreign Secretary General Boris Johnson has publicly rejected the need for such an inquiry or statements on any breach of international law. Responding to questions relating to a recent airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition which killed at least 19 civilians, including children, he replied that the UK was “using a very, very wide variety of information sources about what is happening to acquaint ourselves with the details”

But assertions from human rights organizations accuse the UK to protect its ally. Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “For 18 months now, UK arms have been central to the destruction of Yemen. The aid that is being given amounts to a small fraction of the damage that has been caused and pales in comparison to the £3.3bn worth of arms that have been licensed. Theresa May and Boris Johnson must end the arms sales and put a stop to the uncritical support that the UK provides for the Saudi regime.”

According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, more than 70 “unlawful” coalition airstrikes – on homes, hospitals, markets, civilian factories and schools – some of which, they say, may amount to war crimes, and which have killed at least 913 civilians are documented. Human Rights Watch also claims that the Houthi armed group and forces allied to it, including those loyal to the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have committed numerous violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Launch of an Interactive War Crimes Verdicts Map

war-crimes-verdicts-mapThe Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has launched a unique database of the publicly-available final verdicts delivered in 386 war crimes cases by courts in the former Yugoslavia and by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

This War Crimes Verdicts Map is an interactive tool intended to provide an overview of court rulings on the crimes that were committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

“While reporting on war crimes, we as journalists often struggled to get all the documents related to the war crimes cases we have been following. Through the years, we accumulated a significant archive and then also collected verdicts from the various courts,” said the map project’s team leader, Marija Ristic.

“Bearing in mind how closed to the public our courts still are, we believe this map will be a unique resource for journalists, students, researchers and the general public,” she added.

According to the map data, so far at least 646 people have been convicted by local courts and 83 more by the ICTY for crimes committed during almost a decade of conflict in the former Yugoslavia which left some 125,000 people dead and 12,000 still missing.

Besides the verdicts, the ‘Resources’ section includes indictments and other case records.

The map will be periodically updated.

ICC Prosecutor Will Also Prioritise Environmental Destruction Cases

iccThis week, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) published a detailed policy document which provides guidance on how the Office of the Prosecutor exercises its discretion in the selection and prioritisation of cases.

For the first time, the Office said that it would also prioritise crimes that result in the “destruction of the environment”, “exploitation of natural resources” and the “illegal dispossession” of land.

“The Office [of the Prosecutor] will give particular consideration to prosecuting Rome Statute crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, inter alia, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land”, says the policy paper.

Cambodia seems to be a good example for this new ICC focus as a case has been lodged with the ICC on behalf of 10 Cambodians alleging that the country’s ruling elite, including its government and military, has perpetuated mass rights violations since 2002 in pursuit of wealth and power by grabbing land and forcibly evicting up to 350,000 people.

Broadening the priority cases to include land-grabbing would recognise that mass human rights violations committed during peacetime and in the name of profit could be just as serious as traditional crimes.

Reinhold Gallmetzer, a member of the ICC working group who drew up the policy document, said: “We are exercising our jurisdiction by looking at the broader context in which crimes are committed. We are extending the focus to include Rome statute crimes already in our jurisdiction.”

“Forcible transfer [of people] can already be a crime against humanity, so if it is committed by land-grabbing – whether as a result or a precursor – it can be included.”

Vacancy: Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights – NUI Galway

Nui GalwayThe National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway seeks to appoint a Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, within the School of Law.

In filling the Established Professorship in Human Rights Law, NUI Galway is seeking a person with an international reputation for academic excellence in Human Rights Law combined with strong leadership skills who will complement the existing strengths of the Centre and enable it to develop new areas of activity in line with its future strategic priorities. S/he will normally have a doctoral- level degree in Human Rights Law and a substantial record of teaching and research, the later evidenced by substantial publications in the broad field of human rights. The post-holder will also be the Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at a critical time in its development having enjoyed tremendous success, nationally and internationally, particularly since 2000.

Academic staff members of the Centre are engaged in research of high international standing in a number of fields including: human rights, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, peace operations, ethnic conflict, political violence and transitional justice, socio-legal studies, Islamic law, Middle Eastern studies and Business and Human Rights.

The post-holder, as the recognised leader of the sub-discipline of Human Rights in the School of Law, will contribute to the development of the education and research programmes of the School. The Established Professor of Human Rights Law, in his or her role as Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, will also contribute positively and proactively to the collective leadership of the School of Law. S/he will be expected to work with colleagues in the Irish Centre for Human Rights, the School of Law and other stakeholders to develop an ambitious Strategic Plan for the Centre reflecting the most relevant emphases of the University’s current strategic plan, Vision 2020.

Closing date for receipt of applications is 17:00 (Irish Time) on Thursday, 20th October 2016. It will not be possible to consider applications received after the closing date.

For more information about the vacancy, click here.