Amnesty International has recently launched an advocacy platform, called Amnesty International’s Human Rights in International Justice Project.
The platform seeks to promote the latest efforts by Amnesty International, international and national civil society groups and others to strengthen international justice. It will also provide regular opinion pieces on the latest developments and emerging human rights concerns.
By doing this, Amnesty International hopes to provide:
- better access for victims to national justice and, if that fails, international justice;
- stronger national and international laws aimed at ending impunity;
- human rights compliance by all international justice mechanisms.
In order to access the platform, click here.
By Shehzad Charania
The International Court of Justice
This week, at the Residence of the British Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ambassador Sir Geoffrey Adams opened the British Embassy Annual Lecture Series on International Law. The guest speaker for the Inaugural Lecture was Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood of the International Court of Justice.
Ambassador Adams explained that the lecture marked the occasion of the Global Law Summit, which took place this week in London, as well the year in which we commemorate 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta of 1215.
Judge Greenwood’s lecture was entitled “Can International Law Change the World?”. He began by referring back to the Magna Carta itself. He explained that Magna Carta had changed “a world”: the law of England, albeit slowly and tentatively. It established equality before the law; in particular, that even the King was subject to the law; and that justice was not to be sold or denied to anyone. These principles form the foundation of the rule of law.
So could international law change the world in a similar way, Judge Greenwood asked. He used as his point of reference the First and Second Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. The inspiration for those conferences had been a belief that international law could indeed change the world. Specifically, the hope was that these conferences would legislate on the way war was conducted, including the reductions of certain armaments and prohibition of others, and set up an international court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which would enable States to settle their differences by law rather than war. Continue reading
by David Tolbert*
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than a decade after the establishment of the International Criminal Court, shockingly little is being done to stop massive human rights abuses. The prospects of victims receiving justice, let alone bringing perpetrators to account, seem ever more remote.
In recent days, we have witnessed horrific atrocities by Boko Haram, with only a limited response by the international community. The bloody handiwork of ISIL is grabbing headlines, and there seems to be no coherent strategy to address its barbarity. In Syria conflict rages, with untold civilian casualties as a divided UN Security Council sits on the sidelines. Gaza is struggling to recover after its umpteenth destruction. Eastern Ukraine is rocked by daily attacks on civilian targets, and very few seem to remember the downing of a civilian airplane there, in which 295 people died. This somber list could go on and on.
In my view, the response by the international community to these horrors is one primarily of lip service and well-worn shibboleths. Indeed, powerful states often seem to be casting support to whichever group of killers best suits their interests, with only faint rhetorical nods to human rights.
This is not only a professional reaction to these disturbing trends; it is also born of deep personal concerns and experiences. I joined the United Nations in 1993 to work on issues in Palestine and started my new job on the very day the Oslo Accords were signed, marveling at both the apparent breakthrough and my seeming good fortune to be part of an era of peace building. Several years later I joined the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and later sat across a jail cell desk from one of the principal architects of the Balkan tragedy, Slobodan Milosevic, whose prevarications were then being made from behind bars, far from the halls of power. In 1998, I was in Rome for negotiations on the International Criminal Court; I was both awed by the apparent flowering of international justice and a bit nervous that the world perhaps did not understand fully the implications of such a groundbreaking step. Continue reading
Fatimata M’Baye (right) and Philip Alston, two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (c)Loey Felipe
Two members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (CAR), yesterday called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes committed in CAR.
Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, two of the UN Commission’s three members, reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been widely committed by all parties in the ongoing conflict.
M’Baye and Alston warned that “unless the world pays attention and holds perpetrators accountable, the situation in CAR could very much spiral into genocide.”
According to the latest report of the Commission, the UN is currently in negotiations to establish a criminal court to prosecute ‘political players’ who have committed crimes against humanity.
“If that goes ahead we are extremely concerned in making sure that a majority of the judges must come from the international community…We do not believe that national judges have that type of independence,” law professor Alston said.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened investigations into atrocities committed in CAR since 2012. However, according to Mbaye, the ICC can only prosecute a few top leaders and there is a need for justice on a much larger scale.
More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence resulted in the killing of at least 5,000 people. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders.
The International Criminal Court
Yesterday, the Report of the “Expert Initiative on Promoting Effectiveness at the International Criminal Court” was officially launched at an event at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.
The Report was prepared by a group of experts in the field of international criminal law (practitioners and law professors) over a period of eighteen months.
It was supported by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and made possible by the assistance of the Embassy of Switzerland in The Hague (The Netherlands) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).
The Report contains an in-depth expert evaluation of the work and performance of the Court in a number of areas of activity relevant to the fulfillment of its mandate. Based on this evaluation and where pressing issues were identified, the Report recommends practical solutions that could be incorporated into the current practices of the Court to better its performance both in the short and long run. The Report provides recommendation not only to the organs of the Court but also to the States Parties and the ASP. Continue reading
The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in a eight-vessel humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has decided to close her preliminary inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists, according to a statement today.
The case was referred to her office on 14 May 2013 by the Union of the Comoros, which is an ICC State Party. One of the ships in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was registered in the Comoros.
On the same day, the Prosecutor announced that her Office had opened a preliminary examination of the referred situation.
“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (…) were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” on 31 May 2010,” said the Prosecutor.
However, “after carefully assessing all relevant considerations”, she concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of “sufficient gravity” to justify further action by the ICC. Continue reading
By Samuel Linehan
The International Criminal Court
On 29 October 2014, Chatham House and Doughty Street Chambers hosted the Sir Richard May Memorial Lecture. The speakers were Lord Justice Adrian Fulford and Judge Howard Morrison. The chair was Elizabeth Wilmshurst. The speakers discussed the major steps made in the trial of international crimes and addressed the challenges that still remain.
Sir Richard May was the first British judge at the ICTY, and as such the first British judge on an international criminal tribunal since the IMTs. He presided in Miloevi? and made a significant contribution to international criminal procedure as a member of the Rules Committee. His Memorial Trust aims to raise awareness of international humanitarian law by supporting interns from developing countries. So far it has sent more than 40 interns to the international criminal tribunals.
Lord Justice Fulford
Speaking on the theme of the evening, Judge Fulford was wary of the miasma of legacy that surrounds such discussions. He spoke frankly on the fate of his brainchildren, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) and the Office of Public Counsel for Defence (OPCD). In this connection he noted that castles built in the air tend to go up in smoke. His intention had been that these offices would provide professional and independent specialist in-house counsel and that self-employed counsel would be the backup option. The representation of victims and the accused is central to the ICC, which is at a crossroads. The outcome of the ReVision project to restructure the Registry (which includes these offices) is critical. Continue reading
by Max du Plessis
Advocate of the High Court, Durban and Sandton; Associate Tenant, Doughty Street Chambers, London; Associate Professor, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Executive Director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre
African Heads of State at the Malabo Summit last June
On June 2014, African Heads of State and Governments meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, adopted a Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (the ACJHPR Amendment). The ACJHPR Amendment revises the (not yet in force) Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR Protocol) which was adopted in 2008 to merge the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights with the proposed African Court of Justice. The aim of the 2014 ACJHPR Amendment is to grant the resultant Court International Criminal Law jurisdiction, adding to the Human Rights jurisdiction it presently exercises and the General International Law jurisdiction it is expected to exercise when the 2008 ACJHR Protocol comes into effect (whenever that may be). To make matters worse (or better), the ACJHPR Amendment also introduces a change in nomenclature: the new amended, revised African Court will be called the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights (the ACJHPR) (article 8, ACJHPR Amendment).
To give effect to its aims, the 2014 ACJHPR Amendment contains a number of revisions to both the 2008 ACJHR Protocol and the Statute of the Court attached thereto. However, if matters were not already confusing and time-warped, the 2014 ACJHPR Amendment is itself a revised version of an earlier draft, approved by African Ministers of Justice and Attorney General and recommended to the AU Assembly in May 2012 (the 2012 Draft Amendment). The 2012 Draft Amendment was the subject of considerable criticism, including a Comment in this journal by the author (du Plessis, A new regional International Criminal Court for Africa?, 2 SACJ (2012) 286). In short, general concerns were raised regarding the rushed drafting process and the lack of consultation, and specific concerns were raised as to difficulties surrounding jurisdiction, the definition of crimes, immunities, institutional design and the practicality of administration and enforcement of an expanded jurisdiction, amongst others. Continue reading
by Max du Plessis*
The International Criminal Court
Complementarity is certainly posited as a driving feature of the ICC regime. The ICC is expected to act in what is described as a complementary relationship with domestic states that are party to the Rome Statute. The Preamble to the Rome Statute says that the ICCs jurisdiction will be complementary to that of national jurisdictions, and article 17 of the Statute embodies the complementarity principle. At the heart of this principle is the ability to prosecute international criminals in ones national courts, on behalf of the international community, or to have in place mechanisms to arrest and surrender to the ICC persons that the court seeks to prosecute and who happen to be in ones jurisdiction.
Linked to the principle of complementarity is the practice of universal jurisdiction. The ICC does not exercise universal jurisdiction. But states do, and it is here that the real potential lies for states to act as impunity gap fillers acting where the ICC is unable or unwilling to do so.
Various developments in Africa suggest a broader understanding of complementarity that is unfolding in practice and which is worthy of further exploration. This broader understanding in certain respects falls within the notion of positive complementarity, or perhaps better phrased, proactive complementarity a term meaning that the ICC and states should actively encourage genuine national proceedings where possible, and that national and international networks should be relied upon as part of a system of international cooperation. Continue reading
Northwestern University School of Laws Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) will award its second annual Global Jurist of the Year Award to Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The awards ceremony and an address by Justice Fisher will take place on Monday, Oct. 20. She will deliver an address to the student body at noon in the Rubloff Building, 375 E. Chicago Ave., on the Law Schools Chicago campus. The event will be open to the media.
Justice Fisher was sworn in as a Justice of the Special Court for Sierra Leone on May 4, 2009. She played a key role in the Appeals Chamber judgment delivered in 2013 regarding the conviction and 50-year sentence of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by rebels during Sierra Leones civil war. Continue reading