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

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.”

First Trial Over Cultural Destruction to Open at the ICC

Ahmad Al Faqi Al MahdiThe trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is scheduled to open tomorrow at the seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Mr Al Mahdi is an alleged Islamic extremist charged of war crime 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.

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 Mahdi was linked to those groups. His alleged orders consisted in the destruction of historic buildings including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu. They were specifically identified, chosen and targeted precisely in light and because of their religious and historical character. Their destruction was considered as a serious matter by the local population.

Due to Mr Al Mahdi’s announced intentions to make an admission of guilt, the trial is expected to last for about a week, after which the judges will deliberate and in due course pronounce a decision on the guilt or innocence of the accused and the possible sentence.

If the accused does not plead guilty at the opening of the trial, the hearings will be reported to another date.

This is the ICC first case concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments, which the ICC Prosecutor has called “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations, and their religious and historical roots”.

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

A Step Closer to Having the Crime of Agression under the ICC Jurisdiction

1. ilawyer photo - Palestine 30th ratification of the Kampala Amendment… A Step closer to having crime of aggression jurisdiction activated before the ICC

On 26 June 2016, Palestine ratified the amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.

By this ratification, Palestine deposited the thirtieth instrument of ratification which opened the possibility of giving jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) to try the crime of aggression.

Indeed, the provisions of articles 15 bis and ter of the Rome Statute provide that the ICC will not be able to exercise its jurisdiction over this crime until at least thirty States Parties have ratified or accepted the amendments; and a decision is taken by two–thirds of States Parties to activate the jurisdiction at any time after 1 January 2017.  Continue reading

Gaddafi Son Saif al-Islam ‘Released’ from Libya Jail

Saif Al-Islam GaddafiMuammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam has been released from custody after his death sentence was quashed, his British lawyer said.

Muammar Gaddafi’s most prominent son was sentenced to death in 2015 for crimes committed during the revolution that overthrew his father. The sentence had been quashed by Libya’s new UN-backed government this year, and Saif is now at an undisclosed location after being released from house arrest in the mountain town of Zintan where he had been held for five years.

“He’s been released from Zintan detention. The release, I’m told, was on 12 April – there was an order from the central government,” said his lawyer. “He’s in Libya, he’s in good health, he’s safe and he’s well.”

The claim could not be independently verified, and neither the UN-backed government in Tripoli or Zintan authorities have yet commented on the report.

In practical terms, an amnesty for Saif would not be a decision the government can enforce as Zintan is home to one of the most powerful Libyan militias, and any release would depend on agreement by Zintan leaders.

His captors in Zintan refused to transfer him to Tripoli, where he was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in July 2015. 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.

Saif al-Islam is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which issued an arrest warrant in 2011 on preliminary charges of crimes against humanity, murder and persecution for being part of the inner circle of his father’s regime.

Gaddafi’s lawyer said the ICC must now drop its case because of rules prohibiting a suspect from being tried twice for the same crimes.

“There was a trial, there was a conviction, he was sentenced to death. After that there was an amnesty,” he said. “I’m going to be filing an application that the case is inadmissible at the ICC under article 20 of the statute concerning double jeopardy.”

UNESCO and ICC Join Forces to End Impunity for Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Tumbuktu Mausoleum Ruins

The ruins of a Mausoleum in Tumbuktu

Today, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, met with the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Silvia Fernandez de Gurmandi, and Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, to explore ways to deepen cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against impunity of war crimes.

“UNESCO and ICC have come a long way together, to strengthen the rule of law, to change the mindset about the destruction of cultural heritage, and we are determined to go further, to end impunity for deliberate destruction of cultural heritage,” said Ms. Bokova.

Immediately after the attacks on the people and heritage of Mali, UNESCO raised the issue of the destruction of the mausoleums to the attention of the Court.

On 1 July, 2012, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda declared that this destruction constituted a war crime under the Rome Statute and then launched a preliminary examination into the violence that had been engulfing the country since January 2012.

The first suspect, Ahmed al-Faqi al-Mahdi, was transferred by the authorities of Mali and Niger to The Hague on 26 September 2015. His trial is scheduled to start on 22 August 2016.

The case of Mali made history in the fight against impunity – recognizing the restoration of justice and the rule of law as an essential step of any recovery process. This sets a historic precedent for similar cases in the future.

In this spirit, UNESCO and the ICC are sharing expertise and information about the importance of the sites, about why they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the reason why their deliberate destruction can be considered a war crime.

The Trial for the ICC’s First Contempt Case Closes

by Rita Yip

Jean-Pierre Bemba GomboOn Tuesday 31 May 2016, the closing statements in the first contempt case tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, will be made publicly and are expected to last three days.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo – and four other accused are charged for offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. The Prosecution alleges that the accused collectively engaged in a scheme to corruptly influence, illicitly coach and bribe fourteen defence witnesses for false testimony during the trial of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo between 2011 -2013.

The five accused were arrested in November 2013 and were detained at the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague for almost one year. On 21 October 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber granted interim release to the four accused – except Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who remained in custody since 2008.

The trial hearings before the Trial Chamber VII commenced on 29 September 2015. The Prosecution called 13 witnesses and the five Defence teams collectively called six witnesses, including experts in the field of audio recordings, Austrian law and African solidarity.

The closing statements are expected to last three days. The Prosecution and the Defence teams will present its arguments and respond to the others parties’ arguments articulated in their closing submissions filed on 24 May 2016. Two of the accused – Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s former Defence Lead counsel and Fidèle Babala Wanda, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s political associate, have been granted the request to give an unsworn statement during the closing statements.

Earlier this year, on 21 March 2016, Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) for crimes that were committed in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

Event: ICC Performance Indicators – Debriefing on the Glion Retreat

International Criminal Court New PremisesDate: Tuesday, 24 May, 17:00 – 18:30

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, 2514 JR The Hague

In partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland to the Netherlands, The Hague Institute for Global Justice will host a debriefing on the International Criminal Court Retreat on Performance Indicators which took place in Glion, Switzerland, at the beginning of April. The aim of this debriefing is to share the objectives and outcomes of the retreat with a broader public and to generate a valuable discussion on the topic of performance indicators.

In 2014, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute requested the ICC to “intensify its efforts to develop qualitative and quantitative indicators that would allow the Court to demonstrate better its achievements and needs, as well as allowing States Parties to assess the Court’s performance in a more strategic manner”.

It reaffirmed its interest in the following year.  To assist the Court in this complex exercise, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, in cooperation with the ICC and the Open Society Justice Initiative, hosted an informal retreat in Glion, Switzerland, on 6-8 April 2016.

The discussion was based on the 2015 Report of the Court on the development of performance indicators.

Speakers:

  • Ms. Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi – Judge, President of the International Criminal Court
  • Mr. Jürg Lindenmann – Ambassador, Deputy Director of the Swiss Directorate of International Law
  • Mr. James Goldston – Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Moderator: Mr. Lyal Sunga – Head of the Rule of Law Program, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

If you wish to register, click here.

Event: Legal Diversity and the Universal Vocation of International Law

Court HammerDate: 2 June, 2016 – 9:30 to 17:00

Venue: Schouwburgstraat 2, 2511 VA Den Haag, Netherlands

McGill University’s Faculty of Law and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University, invite you to a one-day Symposium on the theme of legal diversity and the theory and practice of contemporary international law.

The speakers will be:

  • The Ambassador of Canada to the Netherlands, H.E. Sabine Nölke
  • Professor Daniel Jutras, Dean, Faculty of Law, McGill University
  • Judge Hisashi Owada, International Court of Justice
  • Hans van Loon, former Secretary General, Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • Alex Mills, Reader in Public and Private International Law, Faculty of Laws, UCL
  • Norman Farrell, Prosecutor, Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • Justice David Baragwanath, Special Tribunal for Lebanon
  • James Stewart, Deputy Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
  • Justice Bertram Schmitt, International Criminal Court
  • Payam Akhavan, Associate Professor, McGill University Faculty of Law (and Counsel at PCA, ICJ, ECtHR, ITLS, ICC, ICTY)
  • Silke Studzinsky, Trust Fund for Victims, International Criminal Court (previously Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC))
  • Sergey Vasiliev, Assistant Professor in Public International Law, Grotius Centre, Leiden University

The speakers will be asked to address one or more of the following themes:

  • Legal pluralism, legal diversity and international law: retrospective and prospective views; experiences from the practice of various Hague legal institutions; traditions of multiculturalism and legal pluralism (including the McGill Law Faculty educational method);
  • Human rights, peremptory norms, international legal standards and legal /cultural diversity;
  • “Cosmopolitan attitudes, methods & officials” in the practice of international law;
  • “Harmonious coexistence rather than obligatory universality” & universality through diversity;
  • The enrichment of international law through principles and approaches of diverse traditions / legal systems ;
  • Envisioning future pathways for international law / institutions in the light of global legal diversity.

Conference proceedings will be inspired in part by the works of the late Professors Patrick Glenn and Roderick Macdonald of McGill University, Faculty of Law, including their study of legal traditions of the world and legal pluralism, interlinked with Canadian traditions of multiculturalism.

For registration or additional information please email: events.grotius@cdh.leidenuniv.nl

The Ambassador of Canada, H.E. Sabine Nölke, will host a post-conference reception that evening, at the Canadian Official Residence (Groot Haesebroekseweg 44, Wassenaar), from 18:30 to 20:30.