International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: DRC

Bemba Found Guilty


In the ICC, Jean-Pierre Bemba, a well connected businessman and former Vice President of the DRC was found guilty of witness tampering in his trial on October 19th. Bemba, convicted of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity for action in the Central African Republic, who is serving the remainder of his 18- year sentence, was not the only one indicted. Four others were found guilty, including his lawyer, his case manager, a Congolese politician and a witness for the defense. Bemba masterminded the witness corruption during his original trial by use of phones and coded language. Ultimately manipulating 14 key witnesses in his trial. The four indicted and convicted along with Bemba, are charged with more than 100 crimes, and could face up to five years in jail. No information yet if or how much Bemba’s sentence will be lengthened. This is the first case of corruption that the ICC has faced.

ICC: Bosco Ntaganda Case


Bosco Ntaganda, otherwise known as, “The Terminator” is a case that is still going on in the ICC today. Ntaganda was a rebel leader, and a general in the DRC army. The DRC is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and they are under investigation with the ICC for the millions of deaths that have been recorded and for what is being called “Africa’s World War.” Ntaganda is being accused of 13 counts of war crimes. These war crimes include murder, rape displacement, enlisting child soldiers, as well as others.He is also being charged with  counts of crimes against humanity. He is being accused of direct perpetration, indirect perpetration, ordering, inducing, ect. Ntaganda is a “big fish” and the ICC was created to make these “big fish” liable for their actions. Part one of this process is done, they have successfully brought Ntaganda in for a trial. However, the second step is crucial and that is successfully proving Ntaganda guilty and sentencing him to jail time. If this case is a success I believe that this would be a huge stepping stone for the ICC and it would show other “big fish” that just because they have a lot of power, doesn’t mean they can do whatever they please.

Impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

2118453159The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a zone of political upheaval and armed conflict for the better part of the last twenty years, and as such its population has been subjected to blatant instances of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as indications of genocide. Regardless of recent relative stabilization in the country, two provinces continue to struggle with atrocity. Thousands of people are continually displaced from the two Kivu provinces, and civilians are being raped and massacred while their homes and schools are destroyed and looted. The Mai Mai militia has perpetrated many of the rapes, killings, mutilations, and abductions in the past two decades of conflict, and on January 6, of 2011, a Congolese arrest warrant was issued for the the militia’s leader, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka.

In a blatant show of impunity, Sheka openly traveled to Goma in July of 2011 for health treatments and ran for parliament in November, conducting his campaign across the country’s Walikale territory. There are suspicions that Sheka, along with other war criminals in the region, are kept abreast of all military operations, participate in the exploitation of regions to trade their resources, and receive arms and ammunition when needed.

Typically, this would be a case for the International Criminal Court, especially when we consider the country’s signing and ratification of the Rome Statute in 2002. Unfortunately, the legislation of the ICC was never successfully implemented in the DRC due to the neglect of the transitional government in power at the time and the tabling of subsequent proposals. Instead, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide have been adjudicated by a system of military tribunals since 2002. In response to concerns for the legal rights of those involved in the tribunals, the DRC gave the 12 provincial Courts of Appeals the power to hear cases concerning atrocities in 2013. The ICC is also working to utilize temporary legislation in the country to adjudicate the crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DRC has seen little progress in the pursuit for justice within the country. Proposals for specialized tribunals like those established in Cambodia have been abandoned, and the government has largely ignored the crimes committed before the signing of the Rome Statute. All of this demonstrates that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is struggling with a significant impunity problem, and the absence of justice will continue until national and international leaders shift their focus to prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide.

I wonder how the justice system in the DRC would evolve were the ICC to reach out to the current government regarding the lack of permanent national legislation supporting the charter of the court, or if stronger powers in the international community were to voice support for the establishment of specialized tribunals to address acts of atrocity and to adjudicate perpetrators of such crimes. Impunity is a national problem that is perpetuated throughout all levels of the government, and it will likely take international voices to change the landscape of justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Forced Extraditions of Ivorians in Liberia

The BBC recently reported that the UN refugee agency had expressed concerns over the “forced extradition” of 14 Ivorian refugees who were suspected of being mercenaries and perpetrators of post-election violence in 2011. Over 52,000 Ivorians fled to Liberia after violence engulfed the country. The Liberian government claimed no knowledge of the forced extradition and promised to begin an immediate investigation.

This particular incident highlights some of the difficulties with holding potential perpetrators accountable for their actions, especially when these perpetrators are living in refugee communities. The extradition of these refugees to the Ivory Coast is in clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement. This principle is meant to guarantee the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, preventing forced return to the area from which they fled.

However, former combatants often become part of refugee communities out of a legitimate fear that they might be harmed if they returned. In the case of the Ivorian refugees, their forced extradition could have put them in harms way, placing them in the custody of those that may wish them harm.

Considering large Rwandan refugee population in the DRC, many of whom fled after the RPF forces took control after the genocide, this is not a unique scenario. Here we may see cases where local and national courts do not have the capacity to prosecute perpetrators. It would be interesting to see what kind of considerations the international community has in place for such situations.


Cost-Benefit Calculations: The Case of Bosco Ntaganda

Last week, the “confirmation of charges” hearing for Bosco Ntaganda, former Congolese rebel leader of the FPLC and the M23, for war crimes concluded at the ICC. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if the Prosecutor’s office, headed by Fatou Bensouda, has enough evidence against Ntaganda to continue to trial.

The case made headlines last year when Ntaganda turned himself in at the American Embassy in Kigali, nearly four years after his indictment was unsealed, and requested to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. His self-surrender is an interesting data point for considering whether the ICC could act as an effective deterrence mechanism. Ntaganda evidently decided that participating in his trial and being transferred to The Hague was preferable to his options in the Congo, although his reasoning for surrender was a topic of much discussion. The M23 was fracturing, eleven African countries had just signed an accord signaling their commitment to defeating the organization, and UN forces would by the end of 2013 drive the group to surrender.

Ntaganda had lost, militarily and politically, so his surrender meant that he was choosing detention and trial at the ICC over…death at the hands of other M23 factions? Certainly he stood to lose a great deal of power as the M23 split. His claim of indigence at the ICC, despite his rumored wealth, could suggest that he was set to lose financially as well. (Or, it could suggest that he would like to try to hide his wealth in favor of receiving free and high-quality legal representation, which is probably more likely.) Some have also suggested that Ntaganda was pressured by the Rwandan government, which seems credible especially because of the necessary involvement (or at least complicity) of the Rwandan government in allowing him to reach Kigali. Ultimately, however, Ntaganda’s surrender indicates that trial at the ICC is not necessarily considered a significant punishment. Joseph Kony has of course protested his indictment vociferously, but in Ntaganda’s case, transfer to the ICC removed him from a volatile and dangerous environment in which he was on the losing side. If trial at the ICC is viewed as a step above military defeat, rather than as the ultimate humiliation, its deterrent effects are likely minimal

An interesting look at the “Hobbesian state of war” in Congo

Photographs like the one below, portrayed in full splendor in the New York Times website, shift our vision of the war torn Goma, Congo, into a more colorful one. These photographs were shot under an infrared lens, symbolic of the use of infrared vision during war to detect camouflaged soldiers. The plethora of pink in these photographs definitely contrasts with the gravity of its content.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 3.50.11 AM


U.N. Peacekeeping in the Eastern Congo

This article offers an interesting insight into the myriad difficulties faced by U.N. military intervention, specifically in the Eastern Congo. As highlighted in the article, MONUSCO has repeatedly failed to protect the civilian population as per its mandate-the most striking example involved rebels decapitating civilians and parading their heads in front of an apathetic peacekeeping force. The litany of failures by MONUSCO is appalling, as per the article:

In 2005, MONUC (the former name for MONUSCO) expelled 63 of its soldiers for paying refugee children for sex. A separate internal inquiry the same year found that Pakistani peacekeepers sold weapons to militias in exchange for gold. While those incidents may be exceptional, TIME has seen in repeated trips to eastern Congo how, at the first sign of trouble, blue-helmet peacekeepers habitually barricade themselves into their bases, leaving crowds of several thousand refugees who tend to gather outside to fend for themselves.

Given the fairly obvious failures of the U.N. peacekeeping force to protect civilians, does it instead make more sense to focus efforts on alternative means of support? A large majority of the authors read and discussed thus far are concerned with rebuilding societies after conflict and devastation have occurred, not during. Given the inability of the U.N. to protect civilians through peacekeeping forces, what other means can be employed, or is it simply a matter of reforming MUNESCO?

DRC Update and Ethnic Inclusion Within the M23 Rebel Group?

There has been much discussion, worldwide and in our class, on the current state of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jeffrey Gettleman has written yet another article on continued strife within the painfully broken state. As Blair Byg cited on the blog earlier this week, the M23 claimed that they will withdraw from Goma, provided that the Congolese government meet a list of demands. This statement was released from the M23 political wing head. According to Gettleman, however, “a rebel spokesman, said: ‘There are no conditions. We are withdrawing our troops starting tomorrow.’” Gettleman notes that there is much confusion around the M23’s future plans. The organization has released two vastly different statements and no one seems to be sure what is going to happen. What is more interesting is highlights of ethnic diversity within the M23, which may point to a more ethnically inclusive region.

The M23, who, contestably, control the Democratic Republic of Congo, apparently have a tradition of promoting non-Tutsi political leadership. Gettleman states: “The M23 rebels have made a major effort to promote non-Tutsi to civilian leadership positions, broadening their base of support and making them an even more pernicious threat to Mr. Kabila (a Tutsi). What is interesting is that the majority of top officers within the M23 are Tutsi. Additionally, the military and police infiltration that has occurred in the DRC, includes many Tutsi Rwandans. As noted by Gettleman, the Rwandan military is control by Tutsis and has progressively been included in the M23 rebel movement. While, of course, serious questions of corruptions arise with this information, another question of ethnic inclusion does as well. While the M23’s promotion of non-Tutsi leadership is clearly a political one, this may represent crucial improvements of ethnic coexistence with the area’s society. Is the eastern DRC/Rwanda area fully reconciling from past wounds of genocide, ethnic discrimination and hate?

Rwanda-Congo deja vu?

After discussing the M23 rebel group and the growing conflicts in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I was curious as to how this conflict was being covered in the main stream news. Today, the Huffington Post published an article titled “Rwanda-Congo deja vu” which highlighted the conflict as an extreme threat to Rwanda, as well as the DRC. The article paints a picture of a conflict fueled by Rwanda’s quest for land and resources that is shaping up to be be similar to conflicts the country has faced in the past. Written with a strong point of view that Rwanda is aiding the M23 rebel group, the article also hints at the negative findings that will be revealed in a document that the U.N. is set to release on Friday.

In line with today’s class discussion centered around themes discussed in the movie, I found it very interesting to find multiple comparisons to the past situations and crime in this article. Much like view in the movie, this article seems to “hold” Rwanda’s past over the current situation. The article seems very quick to accuse Rwanda of wrong-doing by partly using the reasoning of past situations. No matter the outcome, it will be very interesting to read the U.N. group of experts’ report on Friday and  observe the security council’s actions. Especially with Rwanda’s seat on the council. An article published in The Atlantic further detailed the influence Rwanda’s seat could have moving forward explaining, “with a Security Council seat, the Rwandan government will have direct influence over the bodies empowered to investigate and sanction countries and individuals who stoke conflict in the DRC.” It seems as if Rwanda’s “pr machine” as referenced in lecture might be fueled for a long time to come.

More Victim Participation in the Bemba Trail

The article details the judges approval for another 777 victims to participate in the trail of Jean-Pierre Bemba. This trail currently has the highest number of victims participating in an ICC trial – 4,898 victims. The mass number of victims the court is recognizing makes it interesting to think about the role of the ICC in regards to victims’ rights; moreover,  the ICC has an incredibly difficult job of dealing with the mass number of applications. The number of victims for the Bemba case is telling about the extent of the crimes. Additionally, the number of victims is much larger for the trail of Bemba than that of Lubanga, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Is this a sign of change of directions due to the new head prosecutor?

Justice Deferred? The Struggle of DRC Victims Post-Lubanga Trial to Receive Promised Reparations

Today published a commentary written by Olivia Bueno at the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) regarding a great deal of controversy surrounding the reparations relating to the trial of Thomas Lubanga, who received a 14-year sentence from the ICC for war crimes of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in the DRC.

It’s a fascinating piece, and certainly worth the read. I’ve also pulled out a few passages that I found particularly thought-provoking in terms of framing our discussion about restorative justice from Tuesday’s class. Particularly, I was struck by how I have been thinking about the effectiveness of the ICC based on those criminals it is able to apprehend and convict, but justice does not end with a verdict, especially not for the victims.

Click here to read the full article.

“In its decision, the trial chamber in the Lubanga case stated that victims should be awarded reparations and laid out principles for their application. However, the chamber did not make a decision regarding exactly what form these reparations should take. They decided that a proposal based on consultation with victims should be put together for approval by the Court. This left victims and the general public in Ituri with many questions, particularly about the form that reparations may take.”

“The Court has created enormous expectations on the part of many victims in Ituri and these expectations will be very difficult to meet.”

“They are talking about collective reparations. If you want to come and build a monument, that is fine, but don’t call it reparations.”

“These victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are terrorized at home; constrained to remain silent by the notion that they should not undermine the honor of their community by denouncing violations committed against them by “their own.” Even if the Court has not been able to afford them the opportunity to express themselves openly, humanity should not ignore their suffering. That, she says, would be real injustice.”

“In fact, there is concern that a reparations program might even contribute to exacerbating tensions between some groups. “The Court says that reparations should not be discriminatory, but in practice the victims are more or less only Hema or Alur. What does this mean for victims who are Lendu or member of other groups?”

“They suggest a mode of reparations that address collective needs or which could be collectively used (such as a hospital serving a victim community) might be employed, rather than collective reparations that are merely symbolic (such as apologies or the construction of monuments or memorials).”

The Issue of Maintained Impunity for Rwanda

While I was in Rwanda this past summer, a report was leaked about Rwanda’s alleged sponsorship of the M23 rebel group in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda’s tumultuous neighbor to the west. (For some background, read this.) Surprisingly, this conflict is still in the news. I say that this is surprising, because there has been a general trend of the international community ignoring over a decade’s worth of human rights abuses going on between those two countries and in the region as a whole. Additionally, another report has just come out stating Uganda’s involvement in the conflict.

There is a long list of reasons why Rwanda should not be sponsoring this rebel group. For starters, it’s illegal on many grounds according to international legal standards. First of all, there is an arms embargo in place for the DRC, so any supply of arms to this country is illegal. Second of all, the motivating issue for the M23 rebel group is supposedly a Congolese issue, which is one of the reasons Rwandan President Paul Kagame has given in his denial of M23. Also, Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of the Rwandan sponsored rebel movement, which many argue is a spin-off from the CNDP, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. These are all blatant violations of international law that have been committed by the Rwandan government.

How has the international community’s allowance of Rwandan impunity affected its post-conflict transformation? I believe that this impunity afforded to Kagame and his government has led to its ability to and justification for maintaining a conflict over the border in the DRC for many years, contributing to the deaths of a vast number of Congolese people. This regional instability cannot be good in a region where the argument for comprehensive transitional justice is a very strong one.

“The Case for Justice” by ICTJ

This video from the International Center for Transitional Justice makes the “case for justice” by highlighting different examples of countries in transition from violence (e.g. Colombia, Egypt, DRC, Uganda, Cambodia, etc.) and where there are impunity gaps.

  • What arguments does ICTJ make for why justice is necessary?
  • What are the different obstacles to accountability across the cases?
  • How does ICTJ’s conception of “justice” compare to those we discussed in class and in the assigned readings?

Justice News

Here are a few news stories on international justice that caught my attention this week. Feel free to respond with questions and thoughts, or start a new post on one of the individual news stories.


Colombia milita boss ‘Martin Llanos’ confesses murders (BBC)

The Colombia government will soon begin peace negotiations with the FARC rebels who have rivaled the government for territory and power for decades. Justice issues are likely to figure prominently in the negotiations and particularly whether there will be some measure of amnesty to ensure stability and land reform policies for victims. Many parties are guilty of crimes in the Colombian conflict, ranging from leaders of left-wing rebel groups and right-wing paramilitary groups, and government officials. The ICC has Colombia under ‘preliminary investigation’ – the Court and local civil society continue to pressure the government to ensure robust accountability for all parties to the conflict.


No winners in ICC-Libya Standoff (Foreign Policy)

International Criminal Court Debating Where Moammar Gadhafi’s son should be trip (WaPo)

There is increased tension between the ICC and the new transitional government in Libya over who gets to try Saif Gaddafi (son of late Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi) and Senussi (former intelligence chief). Libyan authorities claim that are both willing and capable of trying him, which is allowed under the “complementarity” provisions of the Court’s Rome Statute. The former Chief Prosecutor publicly preferred the trial stay in Libya, but it’s up to the ICC judges and not the Prosecutor. Gaddafi and his lawyers prefer an ICC trial, arguing that a fair trial in Libya is not possible and he would also get the death penalty there.

As Kersten argues in his FP article, this is potentially bad for the credibility of both the ICC and the transitional government in Libya.  The article is also a great background piece on on all the turmoil in he ICC-Libya case.


President Uhuru Can’t Face ICC Trial (The Star)

Kenya AG Praises Bensouda, Blasts Ocampo (Capital FM)

Two candidates for Kenya’s upcoming presidential election are facing charges by the ICC – Kenyatta and Ruto. Both, along with two others, are accused of inciting and planning the violence that followed the disputed results in the last presidential election in 2007/2008. While all the accused have so far cooperated with the ICC, the Kenyan government continues to seek a deferral of the cases and challenge whether candidates and potentially a new president should face an international court. Re the first article, state officials have no immunity from prosecution for crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, etc. So a potential President Kenyatta could still face the ICC regardless of what the Kenyan constitution says.


Amnesty Reports Unlawful detentions in Rwanda (VOA News)

The Rwanda government continues to be at odds with international human rights groups who accuse the semi-authoritarian regime of repression in various forms. In this recent report, Amnesty highlights the unlawful practices of torture and illegal detention that the government has allegedly practiced to eliminate threats. Undoubtedly, there are threats to regime stability in Rwanda. But the government continues to act with impunity with regard to serious violations of human rights at home and in neighboring Congo.


UN Decries Impunity for Nepal War Crimes ((AFP)

The HRC just published a report, detailing the crimes and failures of accountability in Nepal’s civil war. is one instance, among many, in which the UN Human Rights Council can pressure states on transitional justice through naming and shaming. Typically, the UN commissions an investigation into abuses and publishes a report of this nature prior to the international community setting up a tribunal or other mechanism.


Congolese warlord Lubanga appeals (News 24)

Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, was convicted this year by the ICC on child soldiers charges. He is now appealing his sentence whereas the Chief Prosecutor would like a longer sentence. Many believe Lubanga should have also been charged with other serious crimes related to acts of sexual violence and massacres.

Lubanga Convicted!

In a unanimous decision, the ICC convicted Thomas Lumbanga for the conscription of child soldiers and using them for fighting and as sex slaves. This is certainly exciting as this is the ICC’s first conviction, illustrating, despite delays hold ups, they can still be effective in prosecuting and convicting those who have committed war crimes. Several criticisms, however, is that in the investigation stage there was a lot of use of unreliable evidence and that other co-perpatrators should also be brought before the court, including Bosco Ntganda, who has been incorporated into the Congolese army.

What is certainly positive, however, is that this conviction sets precedent for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers. Precedents set standards and act as a guide to how to prosecute those who have committed similar crimes. Precedents, however, also set standards that can be debated, as precedents of Supreme Courts are debated.

Here are some articles:

Pillage: US Legislation on Congo’s Conflict Minerals Delayed

A recent VOA news article explains why US legislation on Congo’s conflict minerals has been delayed. An excerpt:

“Any delay or phase-in of the law would seriously undermine the aim of the law which is to create greater transparency and accountability over the trade in conflict minerals and therefore help reduce the violence that is being driven by these minerals,” said Gilfillan (Global Witness)

The aim of the law is to force thousands of companies that report to the Securities and Exchange Commission and obtain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and nine neighboring countries to reveal the sources of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold they use….”

Interestingly, the quotes at the end of the article reveal disagreements over whether the conflict is inherently driven by greed or politics.