ICC Judges Authorise Opening of an Investigation into the Situation in Burundi

ICCToday, 9 November 2017, Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a public redacted version of its decision authorising the ICC Prosecutor to open an investigation regarding crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed in Burundi or by nationals of Burundi outside Burundi since 26 April 2015 until 26 October 2017.

The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the Court has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was a State party to the ICC Rome Statute. Burundi was a State Party from the moment the Rome Statute entered into effect for Burundi (1 December 2004) until the end of the one-year interval since the notification of Burundi’s withdrawal (26 October 2017). The withdrawal became effective on 27 October 2017. Accordingly, the Court retains jurisdiction over any crime within its jurisdiction up to and including 26 October 2017, regardless of Burundi’s withdrawal.

As a consequence, the Court may exercise its jurisdiction even after the withdrawal became effective for Burundi as long as the investigation or prosecution relate to the crimes allegedly committed during the time Burundi was a State Party to the Rome Statute. Moreover, Burundi has a duty to cooperate with the Court for the purpose of this investigation since the investigation was authorised on 25 October 2017, prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective for Burundi. Continue reading

Hope for Justice in Syria from an Unlikely Source

by David Tolbert*

An independent mechanism established by the UNGA is working towards abolishing the reign of criminal impunity in Syria.

UNGA

The Emir of Qatar, the country that led the efforts to establish the Mechanism alongside Liechtenstein, addressed the UNGA in September 2016 ©Reuters

Six years into the carnage in Syria, atrocious crimes run rampant, with savage abuses committed against all groups in the devastated country, and the murderous regime, abetted by powerful allies, is still in power.

The United Nations Security Council remains in a deadlock and unable to take any steps towards ensuring accountability for the massive crimes, with the International Criminal Court left on the sidelines.

However, amid the terrible loss of life, hope that the slow wheels of justice will finally be put in motion emerged recently from an unlikely source – the UN General Assembly.

In December 2016, the UNGA, led by Liechtenstein and Qatarestablished an “Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria since March 2011”.

With this step the UNGA, usually associated with administrative and budgetary matters, has asserted itself in a highly welcome if unusual manner, signaling the deep frustration with the failure of other UN organs and the great powers to stop the killing in Syria.

The move also demonstrates that small states can galvanise the international community around issues of global significance and catalyse a collective response.

The term “Mechanism” indicates that the powers of this newly established body will not mirror those of a court or a commission of inquiry.

Instead, the focus of its mission will be to collect and analyse evidence, which could then be available for courts or tribunals in the future to prosecute these massive crimes. Continue reading

ICC Judges Authorize Investigation Into Georgia’s 2008 War

Georgian Troops South Ossetia 2008

Georgian Troops in South Ossetia in 2008

Today, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in and around South Ossetia, Georgia, between 1 July and 10 October 2008.

On 13 October 2015, the ICC Prosecutor submitted her “Request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to article 15” of the Rome Statute, asking for authorization from Pre-Trial Chamber I to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Georgia.

After examining the request and the supporting material, the Chamber concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have been committed in the situation in Georgia.

Such crimes include crimes against humanity, such as murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution, and war crimes, such as attacks against the civilian population, wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against peacekeepers, destruction of property and pillaging allegedly committed in the context of an international armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008.

The Chamber also found that potential cases arising out of the situation would be admissible before the Court and that there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of victims.

In a statement following the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision, the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said that the timing of the Prosecution request for authorization of an investigation into the situation in Georgia was determined by the pace, and eventually, lack of national proceedings. Until recently, the competent national authorities of both Georgia and Russia were engaged in conducting investigations. However, last year, relevant national proceedings in Georgia were indefinitely suspended, which led to the Prosecution’s request for authorization to investigate.

The Office of the Prosecutor continues to monitor relevant proceedings in Russia, which are still on-going.