How Africa Can Fix the International Criminal Court

By John Dugard*

ICCThe ruling African National Congress’s demand that the South African government should pull out of the International Criminal Court is defeatist, naïve and reactionary. African states have largely themselves to blame for the fact that the continent has been singled out by the court, and rather than withdraw they should use their political muscle to ensure that prosecutions are brought against non-African leaders too.

Africa occupies a key position in the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is the largest regional group with 34 member states; the present prosecutor of the court is an African woman – Fatou Bensouda of The Gambia – and four of the 18 judges on the court are from Africa, including the vice-president, Joyce Aluoch of Kenya. Africa is not therefore a marginal player in the ICC.

Despite this the ICC is more criticised in Africa than any other continent. In large measure this criticism comes from the leaders of non-member states, such as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who are themselves accused of committing international crimes.

But the leaders of member states, whose judges serve or have served on the court, have given support to the criticism and condemnation of the court. Perhaps the three most vocal leaders of this group are Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and South African President Jacob Zuma. Continue reading

Why Myanmar Needs to Stop Prosecuting People Over Facebook Posts

By Vani Sathisan*

facebookTo say that Facebook and other internet-based social media networks have revolutionized modern day communication would be an understatement. According to a report by the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the global number of internet users has reached more than two billion. One million log onto Facebook every month. Twitter claims 500 million users and YouTube is viewed about 4 million times per day. After ideas expressed online have had an instant “viral” spread, revolutions  have unfolded .

And so have the prosecutions.

Judiciaries worldwide have had to struggle with what content is defamatory and what is self-expression.

The US Supreme Court, in Elonis v. United States [2015], considered the case of a defendant who had written, and posted on Facebook, apparently violent rap lyrics, including “I want to kill my wife” while he was undergoing a divorce. The court had to weigh up whether convicting a man of threatening another person requires proof of subjective intent to threaten or whether it would suffice to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening. It ruled in favour of the defendant stating that “negligence is not sufficient to support a conviction.” The defendant’s lawyer argued that his client was exercising his First Amendment rights and that governments may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because certain factions of society find it offensive. Continue reading

Le Tribunal spécial pour le Liban, cet énergumène judiciaire: Observations d’un expert avisé

Compte-rendu d’entrevue avec Me Philippe Larochelle

par Pascale Langlais*photo_tsl

En 2009, la justice pénale internationale a mis au monde un petit nouveau, une entité judiciaire bien spéciale et unique en son genre : le Tribunal spécial pour le Liban (ci-après « TSL »). Né de la résolution 1757 du Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies à la suite des attentats terroristes ayant coûté la vie à l’ancien premier ministre du Liban, Rafiq Hariri, en 2005, le TSL se distingue des autres juridictions internationales à plusieurs égards et semble parfois évoluer en orbite des autres tribunaux phares de la justice internationale. À ce sujet, on doit notamment souligner le fait qu’il s’agit du premier tribunal international pénal à juger de crimes uniquement définis en droit national, à savoir le terrorisme selon le Code pénal libanais (pour plus d’information). Il s’agit également du premier tribunal international pénal à prévoir dans son Statut la possibilité de tenir des procès in absentia, donc en l’absence de l’accusé. Autre innovation, le TSL est aussi le premier tribunal en son genre à se reconnaître une compétence en matière de responsabilité de personnes morales[1].

Malgré toutes ces caractéristiques que certains considèrent comme une avancée du droit international pénal, il n’en demeure pas moins que le TSL essuie son lot de critiques non seulement en ce qui a trait à sa légitimité et à son fonctionnement, mais également en rapport avec la place qu’il occupe dans la sphère de la justice internationale pénale. Ses détracteurs sont nombreux, tant dans la société libanaise que dans la communauté internationale. Parmi ceux-ci, on peut notamment citer Philippe Larochelle, avocat de la défense fort d’une grande expérience devant les tribunaux internationaux. Me Larochelle se montre très dubitatif quant à l’existence de ce tribunal et porte un regard très critique sur la justice internationale pénale de manière générale. Il a d’ailleurs su exposer ses opinons très tranchées sur la question lors d’une conférence présentée à l’Université Laval le 28 mai 2015 dans le cadre de la première édition de l’École d’Été sur la Justice internationale. Il a plus amplement précisé sa pensée lors d’une entrevue accordée à la suite de cette conférence. Continue reading

What South Africa Leaving the International Criminal Court Would Mean

By Milton Nkosi*

International Criminal CourtThe call by South Africa’s governing party to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has implications for the rest of the continent. But it is not going to happen any time soon.

When South Africa joined the ICC in 1998 the country had just emerged from the scourge of apartheid.

South Africans were fresh victims of gross human rights violations and had hoped that the rest of the world would join the ICC.

But some of the most powerful countries did not follow.

And now the governing African National Congress (ANC) is calling for the country to leave the ICC – which would make it the first to do so.

‘Hitler of Africa’?

The chairman of the ANC’s commission on international relations, Obed Bapela, said that the ICC had “lost direction”.

Mr Bashir was able to fly out of South Africa in June despite a warrant for his arrest for war crimes

This move away from the ICC comes not long after the South African government was criticised for allowing Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to leave the country despite an ICC arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Darfur. Mr Bashir denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

Mr Bapela insisted South Africans were “very keen” to hear the stories of the victims of Darfur, as they had heard the victims of political crimes committed during the apartheid era at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Human rights matter to us but we want a fair system,” he said. Continue reading

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia and the Cautious Optimism of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court


by Héctor Olasolo*

International Criminal CourtOn 23 September 2015, the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Popular Army (‘FARC-EP’), issued a joint communique, in which they made public the core aspects of their agreement on justice matters (‘the New Agreement’), including, in particular, the establishment of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The next day, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’), Ms. Fatou Bensouda, made a preliminary statement thereon, in which she highlighted that “any genuine and practical initiative to end the decades-long armed conflict in Colombia, while paying homage to justice as a critical pillar of sustainable peace, is welcome by her Office”. She also stressed her hope for the New Agreement to comply with this goal, and her cautious optimism as “the agreement excludes the granting of amnesties for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and is designed, among other things, to end impunity for the most serious crimes”.

But, what are the reasons for the ICC Prosecutor’s cautious optimism, if ever since the adoption of Legislative Act 01 of 2012 on the so-called ‘Legal Framework for Peace’ she has expressed, in all her annual reports on Colombia, her concern by the ample powers granted by it to the Colombian Congress?

In my view, this can only be due to the significant difference between the role in an eventual transitional process in Colombia that the New Agreement seems to give to the investigation, prosecution and punishment of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (‘ICC crimes’), and the limited scope of application of criminal justice provided for in the Legal Framework for Peace. In other words, if the Legal Framework for Peace reduced the role of criminal justice to a mere appendage of the transitional process, the New Agreement appears to restore it to its International Law status as an autonomous and necessary pillar of such process. Continue reading

What’s Taking so Long?

By Nora Jaber*

Court HammerRutkowski and Others v. Poland and Gazso v. Hungary are two pilot cases decided in July 2015 that highlight a major point of contention faced by the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”): the right to be tried within a reasonable time as enshrined within Article 6(1) of the Convention. At the time of the Rutkowski judgement there were over another 650 similar cases pending before the ECtHR, and over 300 Polish cases pending before the Committee of Ministers at the execution stage.

This demonstrates the scale of the relevance of Article 6(1) to the Court’s jurisprudence today. In fact, it is the most contentious issue before the Court, and has been at the forefront of the Court’s caseload for a very long time. The Court has issued hundreds of judgments on Article 6(1) and has stressed the importance of minimising delays in order for justice to be delivered. Despite this, the problem of undue delays in proceedings persists and warrants attention.

It is said that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Delays can and do compromise the effective administration of justice. An excessively long procedure can result in a weakening of the position of the accused by, for example, a deterioration of the quality of evidence or a loss of it. Such situations become more plausible the longer the duration of the trial procedure and should be avoided in order to ensure a proper administration of justice.

Continue reading

Tunisia’s “Reconciliation Bill” Threatens Gains of the Revolution

by David Tolbert*

Tunisia RevolutionTunisia has until now inspired the region and the rest of the world by taking the democratic path after its 2011 revolution. But the current dysfunction of the political system, the deep poverty in the country’s marginalized rural interior and the brutality of extremism are tying a vicious knot that threatens to destroy the transitional process. With the government’s proposed “Reconciliation Bill,” the promises of the revolution are in danger of being crushed. The gains of the revolution are at stake.

In this worrying situation, what is needed is more support for the rule of law, not less. What Tunisians deserve and what the revolution sought was the end of dictatorship and the pursuit of accountability for large-scale corruption and human rights violations, not authoritarian measures and entrenched impunity.

The government of Tunisia, regrettably, is responding to the current security crisis with measures that could make the situation worse. The now-departed dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali pointed to extremism to justify policies that led to torture, prolonged detention, sexual violence, and forced exile as well as extreme restrictions on the right to education, religious worship and livelihood. That climate of repression could well return with new draconian provisions. Continue reading

For All Kenyans to Be Equal, Kenyatta Must Move Beyond Words on Justice

by David Tolbert*

President Kenyatta (c) AP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (c) AP

President Obama’s historic visit to Kenya came at an important crossroads for the country. While much of the attention of the press was directed at Obama’s Kenyan roots, for many, Obama’s emphasis on justice for all Kenyans is what will be remembered. This is particularly true given that Obama’s visit came four months after President Kenyatta’s official apology to, and announcement of reparations for, the many victims of the 2008 post-election violence, as recommended by Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

The issue of justice, as well as endemic corruption and the stalled reform process in Kenya, will remain long after the cheers for the U.S. President have faded. President Kenyatta has, however, an opportunity in the wake of Obama’s historic visit to go beyond rhetoric and both deliver on his apology and the issues Obama has raised. Kenyatta and the Kenyan authorities should not miss this opportunity.

Kenyatta’s promising announcements require concrete steps and actions without further delay. His four-month old decision to establish a fund to provide relief to victims was followed and confirmed by the inclusion of the first tranche of resources-one billion shillings (almost $10 million U.S. dollars) in the new annual budget. Now is the time to design a comprehensive and gender-sensitive reparations program that starts with the most vulnerable victims. Opening space for the participation of victims and listening to their needs and demands must be the first step. Concurrently, an efficient and transparent administrative system and infrastructure for the program must be created. Continue reading

The Principle of Ne Bis in Idem in International Law: European Inspiration?

By Myron Phua*

European LawRecent developments in the jurisprudence of both the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) and the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) have demonstrated how international tribunals can collaboratively act to develop the international law principle of ne bis in idem to increase its clout. The ne bis in idem principle exists in Public International Law not as a monolithic rule capable of universal enforcement, but as a rule specific to the jurisdictional regime in which it operates – each differing from the others in scope and content.

The CJEU in Criminal Proceedings Against M. (C-398/12, 5 June 2014) had held, at [37], that ne bis in idem under Article 50 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights had “… the same meaning and the same scope as the corresponding right” under Article 4, Protocol 7 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This enabled the Court to make two conclusions on the merits of the case in relation to the application of ne bis in idem within EU law under Article 54 Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (“CISA”).

First, the Court ruled that, referencing the position under the ECHR as established in Sergey Zolutukhin v. Russia, (no. 14939/03), a ‘non lieu’ ruling by the courts of a given EU Member State was capable of being a final decision which triggered the protection under Article 54 CISA prohibiting subsequent prosecutions in another Member State, regardless of whether “… the exceptional bringing of separate proceedings based on different evidence” remained a possibility. Continue reading

For Hissène Habré, a Trial by Refusal

by Thierry Cruvellier*

DAKAR, Senegal — Surrounded by 10 muscular prison guards, Hissène Habré, his frail body entirely swathed in white, looked smothered in his chair. He was sitting in the front row of the immense courtroom, fingering Muslim prayer beads. His boubou covered all but his eyes, and they were partly hidden by his glasses.

Mr. Habré, the 72-year-old former president of Chad, is accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture regarding the deaths of an alleged 40,000 people during his rule between 1982 and 1990. July 20 was the first day of his trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers, a special court he has repeatedly denounced as “illegitimate and illegal.” And almost as soon as it started, it stopped: Mr. Habré, and his lawyers, refused to participate, and on the next day the proceedings were suspended.

The Habré trial is the event of the year in the field of international criminal law. With tensions growing between the African Union and the International Criminal Court — which African states accuse of being biased against them because it prosecutes mostly crimes committed in Africa — the E.A.C. was being touted, at least by Senegal’s justice minister, as the advent of an “Africa that judges Africa.”

Hissène Habré after a court hearing in Dakar in June. Credit Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré after a court hearing in Dakar in June. Credit Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But on the first day of what may be the court’s only trial, Mr. Habré derided the E.A.C., or C.A.E. in French, as the “Comité administratif extraordinaire,” the Extraordinary Administrative Committee. He called the judges — two from Senegal, one from Burkina Faso — “simple functionaries tasked with carrying out a political mission.” As the hearing was about to begin, Mr. Habré stood up and shouted, “Down with imperialism! Down with traitors! Allahu Akbar!” A dozen of his partisans rose from their seats nearby and chanted: “Long live Chad!” “Long live Habré!” “Mr. President, we are with you!” Continue reading