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

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.

ICC: Bemba sentenced to 18 years in prison

160621-bemba-sentence-10-1Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to 18 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

In March the Chamber had found the former vice-president of the DRC guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crimes of murder, rape and pillaging committed by militiamen under Bemba’s command.

For the crimes of rape the Chamber imposed 18 years of imprisonment while 16 years of imprisonment were imposed for the crimes of murder and pillaging. However, the Chamber decided that the sentences imposed shall run concurrently. Continue reading

Hissène Habré Sentenced to Life for Crimes Against Humanity

On Monday the 30th of May 2016, the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, during his trial by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 ©Seyllou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, established especially for the prosecution of Hissène Habré, found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, torture and summary execution during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

Habré was the President of the former French colony of Chad from 1982 until 1990 when he fled to Senegal after being overthrown by the current president of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. The United States and France supported Habré as they saw in him an important ally against the government of Muammar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya.

According to a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, Habré’s government was responsible for conducting 40,000 political murders and systematically torturing more than 20,000.

Media report that Habré is the first African former head of state to be convicted in Africa, and the first former head of any state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by the courts of another country. It is also the first time that a former head of state has been convicted of personally raping someone. It is furthermore the first prosecution in Africa under universal jurisdiction.

The case against Habré has from the beginning been pushed forward by Habré’s victims. Reed Brody from Human Rights Watch, who has worked with Habré’s victims for many years said following the judgment: “Today will be carved into justice as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice.”

In 2005, a court in Belgium issued a warrant for Habré’s arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal refused to extradite Habré to Belgium. In 2012, the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré or to extradite him.

In March 2015, a special criminal court in Chad convicted accomplices of Habré for crimes of torture and murder.

Habré has been given 15 days to appeal. The Extraordinary African Chambers will be dissolved once the judgment in the case of Hissène Habré is final.

ICTR Delivers its Final Appeal Judgment

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) delivered its judgment of the appeals in the trial of The Prosecutor vs. Nyiramasuhuko et al. (Butare Case) on the 14th of December in the Courtroom of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania.

ictrThis is the final judgment issued by the Tribunal, which was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 with the mandate to try those responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.

The appeal was lodged by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, Sylvain Nsabimana, Alphonse Nteziryayo, Joseph Kanyabashi, Élie Ndayambaje, and the Prosecution. The six accused in the case were, on 24 June 2011, variously convicted of crimes of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for their role in crimes committed against Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Continue reading

Kosovo Votes for New War Crimes Court

Yesterday, Kosovo’s parliament voted in favour of changing the constitution, allowing for the creation of an ad hoc war crimes court, to try ethnic Albanian former guerillas for alleged war crimes committed during and shortly after the war with Serbia in 1999.

Kosovo Liberation Army fighters ©AP

Kosovo Liberation Army fighters ©AP

The 120-seat legislature voted 82-5 in favor of the change, with several abstentions.

During the war, Kosovo Albanian rebels fought to make Kosovo independent from Serbia. In 2010, a special investigation team concluded that there was hard evidence of kidnapping, torture and murder by the rebels.

The report accused some members of the ethnic Albanian insurgency, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of abductions, beatings, summary executions, and in some cases, the forced removal of human organs on Albanian territory during and after the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The report named some individuals currently in the Kosovo government, including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

At the time of the conclusions of the investigation, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established in 1993 to try all war crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, did not take on any more new cases.

On Friday, Kosovo’s government had asked parliament to reconsider its rejection of an ad hoc court, after parliament had voted against creating the court on 26 June. Many Kosovo Albanians see the war crimes court as an attempt to tarnish their 1998-99 guerrilla war against Serbia’s repressive rule.

The new court will most likely be located in The Hague, although the Dutch government is still waiting for an official request from Kosovo.

ICJ Report on the Flaws of the Arab Court of Human Rights

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) published a report today, highlighting numerous failings in the drafting process and the provisions of the Statute of the Arab Court of Human Rights that fall short of international standards.

leagueofarabstates

The 48-page report entitled “The Arab Court of Human Rights: A Flawed Statute for an Ineffective Court” calls on member States of the League of Arab States (LAS) to refrain from ratifying the Statute of the Arab Court of Human Rights unless and until it is comprehensively amended.

According to the ICJ, the Statute, approved by the Ministerial Council of the LAS on 7 September 2014, does not permit individuals or groups, including victims of human rights violations, to file a complaint directly with the Court. Only States parties, and NGOs that are both accredited in a State party and are specifically permitted to do so by that State, can bring cases before the Court. Continue reading

ECCC: Second Ex-Khmer Rouge Official Charged in Case 004

On 27 March 2015, the International Co-Investigating Judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) charged former Khmer Rouge official Ao An, also known as Ta An, with crimes against humanity and premeditated homicide.

Ao An, aka Ta An, photographed in 2011. Photo Courtesy DC-CAM

Ao An, aka Ta An, photographed in 2011. Photo Courtesy DC-CAM

Ta An appeared in person at the court to hear the charges related to purges and executions at the crime sites of Kok Pring execution site, Tuol Beng security centre and Wat Au Trakuon security centre.

Ta An, the former deputy secretary of the Central Zone during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, is the second suspect charged in Case 004. Earlier this month, the UN-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal charged former district commander Im Chaem in the same case. Continue reading