ICC Prosecutor Calls for Immediate Arrest of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi

Saif al IslamThe Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday called on the Libyan authorities and all other states who are in a position to do so, to immediately arrest and surrender Mr. Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, to the ICC.

She noted that she was aware of the latest media reports alleging that on 9 June 2017, Mr. Gaddafi was released from the custody of the Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade of the eastern Libyan town of Zintan, where he had been held since November 2011. The Prosecutor stated that her office is currently verifying these reports and is taking all necessary steps to determine Mr Gaddafi’s whereabouts.

The Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, stressed that the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Mr Gaddafi on 27 June 2011 for the crimes against humanity of murder and persecution, allegedly committed in Libya during the uprising that ousted his father in 2011, remains valid.

According to Ms. Bensouda, the purported amnesty law, under which Mr. Gaddafi has said to been freed, does not relieve Libya of its obligation to immediately arrest and surrender Mr. Gaddafi to the ICC.

In the same statement, the Prosecutor called for the immediate arrest and surrender of Mr Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, who is also the subject of an ICC arrest warrant in the Libya situation, made public on 24 April 2017.

Mr. Al-Tuhamy is Muammar Gaddafi’s former security chief and is alleged to be responsible for the crimes against humanity of imprisonment, torture, other inhumane acts, and persecution, as well as for the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, committed in Libya in 2011.

Media outlets report that the release of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi could fuel further instability in the country, which has been under the rule of three different governments since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011. The UN-backed Tripoli government condemned the release.

In July 2015, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli in a mass trial of former Gaddafi government officials. The verdict had drawn condemnation abroad, with Human Rights Watch saying the trial was riddled with legal flaws and carried out amid widespread lawlessness undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

Prosecutions of Syrian War Crimes

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. ©REUTERS

On Thursday, the United Nations announced that a new body is being set up to prepare prosecutions of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to name a judge or prosecutor as its head this month.

While the independent panel, which is officially called the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in [Syria] since March 2011, is not able to prosecute individuals itself, it will collect and preserve evidence and prepare files for future prosecutions which states or international courts can use.

In December, the UN General Assembly voted to establish the mechanism. The United Nations aims to recruit 40-60 experts in investigations, prosecutions, the military, and forensics.

A UN Commission of Inquiry has already been collecting evidence since 2011. It has issued 20 reports accusing the Assad government, rebel forces and Islamic State of mass killings, rapes, disappearances and recruiting child soldiers.

Also on Thursday in a landmark ruling, a Swedish Court sentenced a Syrian man to life imprisonment for violating international humanitarian law through his participation in the execution style-murder of seven men in Syria in 2012. Under Swedish law, courts can try Swedish citizens as well as other nationals for crimes committed abroad.

Other European countries have similarly started investigations and prosecutions against people accused of committing serious crimes in Syria. The cases are based on the principle of universal jurisdiction and are possible because of the arrival in Europe of both victims and suspects as refugees.

Amnesty International reported last week the Syrian government executed up to 13,000 prisoners in mass hangings and carried out systematic torture at a military jail.

Germany Sued for Genocide against Herero and Nama People of Namibia

battle-between-herero-warriors-and-german-colonials

Detail of Battle Between Herero Warriors and German Colonials, February 1904.

Descendants of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia have sued Germany for damages in the United States for a campaign of genocide by German colonial troops in the early 1900s, which led to more than 100,000 deaths.

According to the complaint filed with a US District Court on Thursday, Germany has excluded the plaintiffs from talks with Namibia over possible reparation payments, which are expected to be completed before June 2017. Germany would furthermore have publicly said that any settlement will not include reparations to victims, even if compensation is awarded to Namibia itself.

Colonial Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 to 1915. Between 1904 and 1907 the Herero and Nama people rebelled against the colonial rule, which led to a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment. Thousands died of thirst and starvation and many others were sent to concentration camps.

The complaint was filed under the US Alien Tort Statute which allows victims of serious human rights abuses committed abroad to sue those responsible in US courts. The law’s reach was narrowed by the US Supreme Court in 2013 when it decided in the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co that the law did not cover foreign conduct unless claims sufficiently “touch and concern” the territory of the United States. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that this and later rulings left open the possibility of US courts asserting jurisdiction in genocide cases.

ECCC: Appeal Judgment Affirms Life Imprisonment for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan

Nuon Chea and Kieu Samphan

Kieu Samphan (left) and Nuon Chea

On 23 November 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber (SCC) of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) delivered its Appeal Judgment in Case 002/01 against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, were convicted by the Trial Chamber in August 2014 for crimes against humanity committed during the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975 and subsequent forced transfer from other areas, as well as alleged execution of former Khmer Republic soldiers in Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat Province.

Both defendants appealed the decision, asking for a reversal of the trial judgment and to be acquitted of all charges, or failing that, Khieu Samphan asked for a reduced sentenced to a set number of years. Nuon Chea submitted 223 grounds of appeal and Khieu Samphan submitted 148 grounds of appeal. Their appeal arguments related to the constitutionality of the ECCC’s Internal Rules and the fairness of the proceedings; the Trial Chamber’s approach to evidence; the Trial Chamber’s findings relevant to the crimes for which the accused were convicted; and the accused’s individual criminal responsibility.

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ICC: Gambia to leave the International Criminal Court, following South Africa and Burundi

The Gambia announced on Tuesday that it will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), following similar announcements earlier this month from South Africa and Burundi.

Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang accused the Court of being “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.

Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh, President of the Republic of the Gambia, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 25, 2014 ©REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh, President of the Republic of the Gambia, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York September 25, 2014 ©REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

He said that the ICC had failed to go after Western war crimes, citing the omission to investigate the European Union over the deaths of migrants on the Mediterranean sea and the ICC’s failure to indict former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his involvement in the Iraq war.

The withdrawal of the Gambia would be especially painful for the ICC since its chief prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda, is from the Gambia and previously held the post of Gambian justice minister. Other high profile international jurists also come from Gambia, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Chief Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow.

Last week Friday, South Africa announced that it had officially initiated the process of withdrawing from the ICC. South Africa reasoned that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts were at times “incompatible” with the interpretation given by the ICC of obligations raised in the Rome Statute.

South Africa’s withdrawal followed a controversy last year when it failed to arrest President Omar Al Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC, when he attended an AU summit in South Africa. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the government had violated national laws and its international obligations for not having arrested Bashir. Continue reading

UN: António Guterres nominated as next UN Secretary-General

António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees speaking at the closing press conference of the 66th Executive Committee in Geneva ©UNHCR/J-M. Ferré

António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees speaking at the closing press conference of the 66th Executive Committee in Geneva ©UNHCR/J-M. Ferré

Members of the United Nations Security Council today adopted by acclamation the recommendation of former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres to become the next UN Secretary-General.

Mr Guterres, 67, will succeed the current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January 2017.

The Secretary-General of the UN is the head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the principal organs of the UN, and serves as the organisation’s top diplomat and chief “administrative officer”. The post lasts for five years but is limited to a maximum of two terms. Continue reading

ICJ: Marshall Islands Case Cannot Proceed to Merits

An atomic bomb test explosion off Bikini Atoll ©Keystone/Getty Images

An atomic bomb test explosion off Bikini Atoll ©Keystone/Getty Images

On 5 October, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) upheld the objection to jurisdiction raised by India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom (UK) in the case opposing them to the Marshall Islands. As a consequence, the Court cannot proceed to the merits of the case.

The Marshall Islands had filed an Application against the three states alleging a failure to fulfill obligations concerning negotiations relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament.

In the first phase of the proceedings on admissibility, the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan raised several objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the application. Continue reading

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

Abbas: Palestine plans lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine, announced his intention on Monday to sue the government of the United Kingdom over the 1917 Balfour Declaration which paved the way for the creation of Israel.

Balfour Declaration published in The Times of London - 9 November 1917

Balfour Declaration published in The Times of London – 9 November 1917

The statement of Abbas was delivered by foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki at the opening of this week’s Arab League summit in Mauritania, in the absence of Abbas.

It is said that the 1917 Balfour Declaration, named after then UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, pledged to support the establishment of a “national home” for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Declaration is seen as a key milestone for the Zionist movement.

The document formed the basis of the British Mandate for Palestine, which was formally approved by the League of Nations in 1922.

Al-Maliki said that the Balfour Declaration led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine. According to al-Maliki, the Declaration “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs”.

In the statement it was further said that the United Kingdom was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the British mandate in 1948.

According to the statement, the lawsuit would be filed “in an international court”, but no further details on the planned lawsuit were provided. Gulf News reported that Dr Hanna Eissa, part of the Palestinian team preparing the lawsuit, mentioned the International Court of Justice, which can issue non-binding advisory opinions.

STL Terminates Trial Against Mustafa Badreddine

Mustafa Amine BadreddineYesterday, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) issued a decision in which it reversed the Trial Chamber’s decision to continue the trial against Mr Mustafa Amine Badreddine in the Ayyash et al. case and ordered the Trial Chamber to terminate the proceedings against Mr Badreddine.

By majority, the Appeals Chamber found that there was sufficient evidence presented before the Trial Chamber to prove the death of Mr Badreddine.

At the beginning of last month, the Trial Chamber decided that the trial against Badreddine could continue pending the receipt of further information from the government of Lebanon regarding the death of the Accused Mustafa Amine Badreddine. The Trial Judges did not believe that sufficient evidence had been presented to convince them that the death of Mr Badreddine has been proved to the requisite standard.

The trial in the Prosecutor v Ayyash et al. case will proceed against the remaining four accused.