ICC: Dismissal of Prosecutor’s Appeal Against Decision Requiring Review of the Mavi Marmara Case


The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in a eight-vessel humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza.

Today the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided by majority to dismiss, in limine and without discussing its merits, the Prosecutor’s appeal against the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I requesting the Prosecutor to reconsider the decision not to initiate an investigation into the situation referred to her by the Union of the Comoros with regard to “the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on the Humanitarian Aid Flotilla bound for Gaza Strip”.

The Appeals Chamber found that, contrary to what the Prosecutor had submitted, the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I was not one “with respect to […] admissibility” within the meaning of article 82 (1) (a) of the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor’s appeal was therefore inadmissible. As a part of its reasoning, the Appeals Chamber considered that to allow the Prosecutor’s appeal to be heard would rupture the scheme for judicial review of the Prosecutor’s decisions as explicitly set out in article 53 of the Statute, introducing an additional layer of review by the Appeals Chamber that lacks any statutory basis.

The Appeals Chamber’s decision was adopted by a majority composed of Judges Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, Howard Morrison and Piotr Hofmański. Judges Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi and Christine Van den Wyngaert appended a joint dissenting opinion on the admissibility of the Prosecutor’s appeal, concluding that they would declare the appeal to be admissible, without prejudice to their subsequent consideration of its merits. Continue reading

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

ICC to Open Investigation Into Russia-Georgia Conflict

Russia Georgia 2008 ConflictOn 13 October 2015, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, requested the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I of the Court for authorisation to open an investigation into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia.

The situation in Georgia has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor since August 2008, when armed clashes between South Ossetian separatists, supported by Russia, and Georgian forces turned into an armed conflict.

While Russia is non-member state after signing, but not ratifying, the Rome Statute, Georgia became a member of the ICC in 2003, providing the ICC with jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on its territory from 2003 onwards.

The Prosecutor found a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in the context of the armed conflict. This includes alleged crimes committed as part of a campaign to expel ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia as well as attacks on peacekeepers by Georgian forces, on the one hand, and South Ossetian forces, on the other.

According to the Prosecutor between 51 and 113 ethnic Georgian civilians were killed as part of a forcible displacement campaign conducted by South Ossetia’s de facto authorities, with the possible participation of members of the Russian armed forces. Between 13,400 and 18,500 ethnic Georgians were forcibly displaced and more than 5,000 dwellings belonging to ethnic Georgians were reportedly destroyed as part of this campaign.

Until recently, the competent national authorities of both Russia and Georgia were engaged in conducting investigations against those who appeared to be most responsible for crimes which are the subject of this application. However, more recently, national proceedings in Georgia have stalled, thereby making the potential case admissible due to State inaction. Some investigations may nevertheless be underway in Russia, meaning that the ICC might not have full jurisdiction over crimes covered by those probes.

If the Pre-Trial Chamber authorises the Prosecutor to open the investigation, this would be the first ICC investigation that is not involving an African country. The request comes amid plans of South Africa to leave the International Criminal Court which sparked fears that this might lead to a broader African withdrawal.

However, it is argued that the Prosecutor’s decision to move forward on Georgia is not made in light of a prosecution strategy to move cases out of Africa, but that after seven years the case simply demanded to be taken forward.

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

South Africa Plans to Leave the International Criminal Court

South African ParliamentThe African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s governing political party, wants the country to begin the process of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it believes the ICC has lost its direction.

“The principles that led us to be members [of the ICC] remain valid and relevant […] however the ICC has lost its direction unfortunately and is no longer pursuing that principle of an instrument that is fair for everybody,” said on Sunday the party’s international relations subcommittee chairperson Obed Bapela.

There were a handful of powerful countries which refused to be ICC members, yet they still had the power to refer matters to the court, Bapela said.

He added that South Africa would continue to carry the flag of human rights and an end to genocide.

The matter is already on the agenda for the upcoming Assembly of State Parties meeting which would be attended by all ICC members in November. It will also be tabled at the African Union summit to be held in January.

This debate arose as the South African government faces criticism for ignoring a South African High Court order to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir when he was in Johannesburg for an African Union summit last June.

The ICC had issued a warrant of arrest for Bashir, wanting him to stand trial on charges of war crimes and genocide.

The High Court ruled that government had acted unconstitutionally when it did not arrest him.

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

Alleged Islamic Extremist Surrendered to the ICC for the Destruction of Historical Monuments

Tumbuktu Mausoleum Ruins

The ruins of the mausoleum of Alfa Moya in a cemetery in Timbuktu ©AFP

Today, Mr Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi was surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the authorities of Niger and arrived at the Court’s Detention Centre in the Netherlands.

Mr Al Faqi is an alleged Islamic extremist charged of war crimes through his involvement in the intentional destruction of religious buildings in the city of Timbuktu in Mali between about 30 June 2012 and 10 July 2012.

Mr Al Faqi is charged in the destruction of 10 historic buildings including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu.

In 2012, Tumbuktu would have been under the control of armed groups, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (“AQIM”) and Ansar Eddine, a mainly Tuareg movement associated with AQIM.

The Prosecution alleges that Al Faqi was linked to the Islamic court of Timbuktu and participated in carrying out its orders. Specifically, it is alleged that he was involved in the destruction of the buildings mentioned in the charges.

In a statement issued today, the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said that “Intentional attacks against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion are serious crimes under the Rome Statute […] No longer should such reprehensible conduct go unpunished. It is rightly said that “cultural heritage is the mirror of humanity.” Such attacks affect humanity as a whole. We must stand up to the destruction and defacing of our common heritage.”

This is the ICC first case concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments.

Mali’s government asked the Court in 2012 to investigate crimes committed on its territory. Prosecutors opened an investigation in 2013. Mr Al Faqi is the first suspect detained.

Bashir Flight Leaves ICC in Stalemate

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej*

Omar Al Bashir

Omar Al Bashir

South Africa’s failure to arrest the Sudanese president is the latest incident in a troubled relationship between the court and African states.

Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir was allowed to leave South Africa on 15 June  in defiance of a temporary order issued a day earlier by the High Court in Pretoria, which required South African authorities to prevent him from leaving the country until an application submitted by a human rights group was heard by the court. Just hours after Bashir’s departure from South Africa after attending the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg, the court ordered that President Al-Bashir be arrested and surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

As a state party to the ICC, South Africa thereby breached its obligation under the Rome Statute to execute the ICC arrest warrant issued against the president. This highlights an ongoing problem for the ICC: without states’ cooperation, and lacking its own enforcement mechanisms, the court is forced to leave cases suspended indefinitely.

 Lack of immunity

President Bashir has been sought by the ICC for his alleged involvement in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the conflict in Darfur.  Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, but the ICC has jurisdiction as a consequence of a 2005 referral to it by the UN Security Council of the situation in Darfur. The African Union, however, has continually opposed the prosecution by the ICC of heads of states during their term of office. The AU has requested the suspension of proceedings against President Bashir and called upon AU members not to arrest and surrender him. Continue reading

SCL Lecture: “Improving Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC”

TMC logo

  • Date: 10 June 2015
  • Time: 19:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Institute
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Institute, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22 , The Hague , Netherlands

Opening remarks and moderation: Gaelle Carayon, REDRESS

Panel discussions:

–          Facilitating the choice of counsel and representation, views from civil society, Jean Philippe Kot, Avocats sans Frontieresµ

–          The challenges of providing effective representation, views from a victims’ legal representative, Fidel Nsita, LRV

–          Ongoing and prospective avenues for an improved representation, views from the Registry, Fiona McKay, Head Victims Participation and Reparation Section

SCL Lectures are public and free of charge. Registration is not necessary, seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

ICC Deputy Prosecutor Explains Role of the ICC in Colombia

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. James Stewart, spoke at a conference on “Transitional Justice in Colombia and the Role of the International Criminal Court” held in Colombia last week. He noted that the role of the Court had not been without some public controversy and that it was time to put that role into its proper perspective.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Colombia in 2004, which is on-going, but to date it has not proceeded with an investigation.

Mr. Stewart highlighted that a situation of transitional justice, as exists in Colombia, only engages the mandate of the ICC Prosecutor, if the authorities of the State concerned are not themselves conducting genuine proceedings for such crimes, i.e. if they are unable or unwilling to act.

Up to and including June 2013, the OTP has received 141 communications under Article 15 in relation to the situation in Colombia. 94 of these are currently analysed in the context of preliminary examination.

In November 2012, the OTP published an interim report summarising the findings of the preliminary examination into Colombia. According to this report, there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed by various parties to the conflict. It was also suggested that various groups may have been responsible for committing war crimes. Continue reading