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Russia Withdraws Support From The ICC

A day after the court published a report claiming/classifying the Russian annexation of Crimea as an occupation, Russia has stated that it is formally withdrawing it’s signature from the ICC.

On Wednesday 16, November, the Russian foreign minister announced and carried out the orders of the president Vladimir Putin, “saying the tribunal had failed to live up to hopes of the international community and denouncing its work as “one-sided and inefficient””. The court has been accused of being one-sided numerous times and over the past couple of weeks; many countries have shown their displeasure with the court by withdrawing.
Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000 and has been cooperating with the court, but it has not ratified the treaty, thus they were not in the courts jurisdiction, Even though this move is symbolic it will not change or effect the courts actions much. Instead they are taking the court’s credibility aw694940094001_5181416872001_what-does-vladimir-putin-hope-to-accomplishay.

“This is a symbolic gesture of rejection and says a lot about Russia’s attitude towards international justice and institutions,” said Tanya Lokshina. of Human Rights Watch. “On a practical level it will not make much difference, but it is a statement of direction: it shows that Russia no longer has any intention of ratifying the treaty in future or of cooperating with the court.”

Russia changed its view on the court as early as 2008,after the ruling to investigate the war between Russia and Georgia, to bring justice to the victims.

The ICC Commissioner says that there is no substitute to the ICC, and he hopes that countries will start realizing how important it is. “By withdrawing from the Rome Statute, leaders may shield themselves with immunities – but it will be at the cost of depriving their people of the protection of a unique and essential institution,” he warned.

US and International Justice

Is the US’ relationship with international justice good strategy, or unethical hypocrisy?

Should the United States join the International Criminal Court? What are the advantages and disadvantages for the ICC if the US were to join?

Let the debate begin…

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Women to the Rescue

Nigeria may have more international criminal violations on its hands than just those actions of the Boko Haram extremist group. The Human Rights Watch group released a report last week that several women in Borno have been sexually assaulted and mistreated by security officers in the camps, where these women fled to escape the Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram has been accused of the forced displacements of thousands of people from their homes, as well as thousands of deaths and abductions. In response to the sexual assault allegations, the Nigerian state nigerian2barmypolice deployed 100 female officers to serve as security guards in the Borno camps, in the effort to better protect the women. President Buhari and other Nigerian officials called for the immediate investigation of such allegations. Nigeria is under preliminary investigations by the ICC for actions between Boko Haram and Nigerian Security officials. 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37895348

 

Justice in Ongoing Conflicts?

“Evaluating the pursuit of justice during ongoing conflict is crucial. What we may discover is that contrary to the mantra that justice delayed is justice denied, the most promising way to promote justice may be to postpone it” (Vinjamuri). This week’s reading discusses the controversy between the ICC issuing indictments in ongoing conflict situations and the effects this has on those states. While the ICC aims to prevent any further crimes from being committed, by issuing arrest warrants for elite perpetrators, they seem to be creating more of the violence they are trying to stop. States have begun to justify their lack of military intervention, by stating their support of criminal prosecutions, but only after the conflict has ended. This creates an issue of long-lasting violence, while peace agreements are discussed, but these often fail due to a lack of willingness to offer amnesties. While the ICC’s aim to prevent violence is apparent, their execution to do so has proven ineffective. In the interest of peace, waiting for justice until the conflict has ended appears to be the best strategy in ending the violence and achieving justice later on.

 

The ICC begins to look away from Africa – towards the U.S.?

International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan which could “expose U.S. personnel to international justice inquiry for the first time” Prosecutor Bensuda has stated that she plans to open the investigation sometime after the U.S. presidential election but before the end of the year. According to Foreign Policy – unnamed U.S. officials have already begin voicing their concern regarding this investigation. The ICC’s current scope of evidence is not sufficient enough to bring charges against U.S.

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ICC Prosecutor Bensuda

officials currently, although this may change. David Bosco of Foreign Policy argues that in order for the ICC to make the connection between war crimes in Afghanistan and  U.S. official culpability would be to link conflict in Afghanistan with U.S. detention policies. Most shockingly, the ICC would have to demonstrate that the U.S. justice system as proven ineffective in handling allegations of torture amongst its own citizens.

This comes at a particularly interesting time considering the mass exodus by African nations out of the ICC in response to feeling that they are specifically targeted while Western powers and other areas of the world go unchecked. While an investigation into Afghanistan and U.S. involvement might provide at least a demonstration of the court’s screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-10-15-07-amwillingness to look elsewhere aside from Africa, it will prove extremely difficult to garner cooperation from U.S. or Afghan officials. This is an inherent drawback of the court. If the court is truly prosecuting both sides of a conflict equally it will likely make many enemies, especially as it is still young and struggling to establish and hold on to its legitimacy.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/10/31/exclusive-international-criminal-court-poised-to-open-investigation-into-war-crimes-in-afghanistan/

 

Another One Bites the Dust – Gambia announces plans to withdraw from ICC

Burundi first announced its plans to withdraw from the ICC on October 7th. Since then other African countries have begun the dissent into abandoning this international institution. Most recently, Gambia has announced its intentions to withdraw from the ICC. Interestingly, the current ICC prosecutor, prosecutor Bensuda, is a Gascreen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-17-46-ammbian native. The Gambia is only the third African country to pull out of the ICC – the second being South Africa – but the trend still appears upsetting. USA Today quotes Gambia’s Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, re-interpreting the goals of the ICC as “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans” (Onyanga-Omar, 26th October, 2016). The calls to retreat from the ICC have been, many believe, in response to the ICC’s issued arrest warrant for Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir.

Burundi initially wanted to withdraw its support and participation in the court as a result of the court stating it would investigate the ongoing political violence there. South Africa’s decision to leave stems from its uncomfortableness with the requirement that any ICC state party must hand over a leader who has an arrest warrant out by the ICC. This provision was outlined in the initial signing of the Rome Statute and is not a new development. African countries have – to date – been the only countries prosecuted at the ICC. Bensscreen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-18-00-amuda is currently investigating nine potential future cases, seven of which are not in the African continent. Still, the feeling of white Western powers infiltrating and involving themselves in African affairs runs deep. Kenya and Nambia have indicated they may follow the initiative set by Burundi, South Africa, and now Gambia. 

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/10/26/gambia-latest-african-nation-withdraw-international-criminal-court/92766524/

ICC’s Conflict with Africa

africapolitmapWhen the ICC was first created, it had the most support from it’s neighboring countries in Europe, and the second most support by the African nations. Today however, the support of the ICC by African nations has weakened and now some African leaders are trying to convince all African nations to withdraw from the ICC. Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, is the one responsible for this idea. “I will bring a motion to the African Union to have all African states withdraw from the court and then they can be left alone with their own court.” (Museveni). The main argument behind his idea is that the ICC is not treating African leaders with the respect that they deserve. When the ICC first investigated cases in Africa they only went after reel leaders and looked the other way with the governments illegal actions. During this time period, many African nations grew their support towards the ICC. However, things started to change when the ICC started prosecuting both rebel leaders and government officials. One they did this, African nations started to go against the ICC because they were afraid that the ICC would prosecute them for their crimes as well. Now African nations feel as though they are being targeted and the ICC currently has 8 investigations going, all of which are in Africa. What will this mean for the ICC if they lose the support of a whole continent?

 

https://www.africanexponent.com/post/8063-african-countries-to-quit-the-international-criminal-court

Bemba Found Guilty

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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.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37706424

Discontent on the African Continent

Mills’ article, “Bashir is Dividing US” addresses the fraught and complex relationship between African states and the International Criminal Court.

Here a few questions to help guide you through the article. You can provide responses to any of the questions in the comments – an informal study guide for everyone. (A response will count as  post for the week)

icc-africa-leaders1) Despite their initial support for the ICC, what arguments do African states present against the ICC?

2) How has the African Union presented challenges and obstacles to the ICC? How do they want it reformed?

3) Mills contends that the unity of opposition to the ICC in Africa is a “façade”? What does he mean by this? And what types of tensions are reflected in the “arguments” among African states?

4) Are there other examples of African states conflicting with the ICC recently?

ICC: Bosco Ntaganda Case

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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.

https://www.icc-cpi.int/drc/ntaganda

Destruction of Protected Buildings is a War Crime

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The ICC’s first ever case prosecuting an individual for the war crime of attacking protected objects, like religious and historic monuments, involved charges brought against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi in the northwestern African country of Mali. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is a member of a Tuareg Islamic extremist militia and in this case is responsible for the intentional destruction of ten religious and historic sites in Timbukti, Mali. These sites include nine mausoleums and one mosque. Attacks on these types of buildings constitute “protected” under the law because they are considered a significant part of the cultural heritage of Timbuktu and Mali. Ahmad Al-Mahdi was charged with the co-perpetration of this destruction, and his charges were significant because of his specific intent of targeting these places due to their religious and historical identity. The impact of this crime on the local community was extensive; destruction of mausoleums and mosques is extremely disrespectful against the Islamic culture.

Although the building destruction occurred throughout June and July of 2012, the warrant for his arrest was not issued until September 18, 2015. The situation was referred to the ICC by the Mali government on July 13, 2012, and the investigation began in January of 2013. This case is unique in that it is the first case to prosecute perpetrators for destructing protected buildings, compared to attacks against civilians. Additionally, another unique aspect of this case is that it is one of the only instances where the defendant pleaded guilty before the ICC. It only took eight days from the initial issuing of his warrant to Ahmad Al-Mahdi’s surrender, which occurred on September 26, 2015. The authorities of Niger are responsible for surrendering him to the ICC and transferring him to The Hague. The trial lasted from August 22 to the 24 of 2016, where Ahmad Al-Mahdi pleaded guilty. The final verdict was reached in September which determined his unanimous guilt as a co-perpetrator in the alleged war crime and he was sentenced to nine years imprisonment (minus the time he has already spent in detention since his arrest in 2015). This conviction was celebrated by many within the community of Mali as progress made towards ending impunity for attacks on heritage and cultural cleansing. However, some society members also criticize the Court for failing to prosecute other crimes, like rape and murder, which also occurred during the 2012 Mali conflict.

http://www.ijrcenter.org/2016/10/05/icc-convicts-al-mahdi-of-war-crime-for-destroying-cultural-sites/

https://www.icc-cpi.int/mali/al-mahdi/Documents/AlMahdiEng.pdf

Burundi Withdraws From the ICC

Burundi voted today to withdraw from the ICC in a vote of 94 out of the 110 members.  They probably voted for this because of the investigations that the ICC has already started on the crimes that Burundi have possibly committed. “According to the UN, at least 564 people have been killed and more than 300,000 have fled the country, most of them to refugee camps in neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania.” People are now worried that this may lead to the victims not getting the justice they deserve. It was already hard enough before. Burundi had already declared three UN officers unwelcome in Burundi. The ICC will now have a harder time on their investigation.

Burundi withdrawing from ICC

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Since April of 2015 Burundi has been a place of violence and injustice. This all started due to the announcement of president Nkurunziza when he announce that he was going to run for a third term in office. He won  the election and many citizens felt this was not right because he was only supposed to be allowed to run for two terms in office. People have been getting killed, and thousands of people have been fleeing the country. The ICC has recently decided to do more investigation involving Burundi. Six months after the decision to investigate was made, Burundi decided to withdraw from the court. The UN wanted to establish a commission of inquiry which would make the perpetrators who committed these killings responsible for there actions. On this past Tuesday, October 4, 2016, Burundi declined this commission and claimed that it would be a “one sided account of the events.” I believe that this is a huge red flag, and the UN should investigate further into these events because it is clear something is not right within the nation of Burundi.

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-burundi-politics-idUSKCN12622V

Darfur: The First Genocide Of The 21’st Century

Claiming over 300,000 lives and displacing over 3 million people, the genocide in Darfur is one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has ever faced. The most devastating reality is that the killing continues till this day.

Omar AL Bashir, the president of Sudan rose to power during a military coup in 1989. He inherited the long running war with the rebels of South Sudan. This conflict stemmed from “northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab, southern Sudanese.” The need for resources played a big role in this conflict, which led to two civil wars one in 1972 and the second in 1983. Even after the civil wars the government continued to neglect the people and have left them poor and without voice. In 2003, a group of non-Arab rebel group decided that they have had enough and launched an uprising against the Khartoum government. The response from the government was the beginning of the genocide campaign. The government decided to enlist the help of an Arab militia in Darfur called the Janjaweed to carry out this task. This dispute is not religious but an ethnic one.

Rape, murder, torture, etc.. The international community promised “never again” to allow a destruction of a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group. The United States carried its promise in 2004, when congress passed a resolution labeling Darfur genocide. This however did not foster a strong reaction from the international community, instead the community spent most of the time arguing about what constitutes as genocide. The UN only went as far as threatening to sanction Sudan’s growing oil industry. This did not stop the killing. The African Union also sent 7,700 troops by April 2005, but the uncooperative government proved to be a stronger force.

The International Criminal failed to bring justice to this crime when an arrest warrant for Al Bashir came in 2009, the judge claimed that there was not enough sufficient evidence to support charges of genocide. In 2010 though, a warrant for Al Bashir came for three counts of genocide, the GoS , the Arab League and the African Union denounced the warrants. thankfully though the UN has not placed any action against these warrants so they are still in place. Yet Many countries have failed to their obligation to act on these warrants. Al Bashir is still in power and cannot leave his country. What I question is how ineffective the international community has been. I believe it is because many of these governments commit some of the same crimes, and other countries do not actually care. How can one man escape justice leaves me flabbergasted. This massacre just proves how ineffective the international community is when it comes to large scale killings (cough Syria).

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Failure to Protect

 

Donate to help end this genocide.

ICC to Look Into Zulu King’s Xenophobic Speech

A Nigerian human rights group known as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, or SERAP, has petitioned the ICC’s OTP to look into allegations of inciteful hate speech committed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in South Africa. Bensouda has opted to investigate the xenophobic attacks that have said to have resulted from Zwelithini’s speech.zulu kings

In a March gathering in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, Zwelithini talked about the inconvenience that foreigners, such as Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa, have posed to locals in his country. Allegedy, he told gatherers that “foreigners must pack their bags and go home.” Not long after in April, xenophobic violence flared up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, killing at least seven people and displacing thousands more.

SERAP, in its petition, argues that Zwelithini’s hate speech created the conditions for this violence to occur, crimes of which the group asserts are crimes against humanity that violate the Rome Statute. In addition to Zwelithini’s words, SERAP argues that South African law enforcement is complicit in the violence, as they failed to take steps to stop the abuse against non-nationals. Police Minister Nathi Nheleko was present when Zwelithini made his speech, yet no steps have been taken by the police to counteract the speech’s effects.

Given that the government itself has been implicated in this xenophobia and that law enforcement has failed to act to protect non-national targets, SERAP argues that the conditions are present to justify a proprio motu investigation by Mrs. Fatou Bensouda. The national judiciary is likely to be unwilling to try Zwelithini for his incitements to hatred, thus allowing the ICC to step in under the principle of complementarity and as a court of last resort.

This case will be interesting to watch, especially since Chief Prosecutor Bensouda has decided to look into the situation already. As we have seen in many cases, incitements to violence have been powerful weapons used in many cases to cause mass amounts of violence. In Rwanda, the media was a huge reason why so many regular Rwandans acted out on the hate speech directed at Hutus, resulting in a massive amount of violence in only 100 days. In Cote d’Ivoire, as well, hate speech was generated by political leaders and the media, ultimately leading to an eruption of violence against non-Ivorians. The power of hate speech to incite mass violence, in light of these past cases, surely must not be underestimated in the current situation in South Africa. Given their history of apartheid, any attempt at categorizing different South African citizens is frightening and should not be ignored.

Key ICC Events in 2015

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With this being our last week of blogging, it seems like the perfect time to highlight some of the major events and dates at the ICC to keep an eye out for after the academic year is over.

The trials of the Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda and former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo are both scheduled to begin in July, while the “confirmation of charges” hearing for LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen will open on August 24 to determine whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

Also during the summer, the ICC member states will meet to elect a new judge to fill the vacancy left by Filipino judge Miriam Defensor Santiago, moving the number of judges on the court back to seven.

The ICC will be moving in the fall to its permanent home in Scheveningen in The Hague. The ICC building will have 56,000 square meters of floor space, and will be equipped with 1,200 working spaces, 3 courtrooms, and a restaurant (among other amenities).

Central African Republic: Muslims Held Captive and the Potential for ICC/National Intervention

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch reported that anti-balaka fighters in the CAR have taken at least 42 Muslim Peuhl herders captive. Most of the captives are women and young girls, whom HRW urges may sCARuffer from sexual violence if the UN peacekeepers and CAR government do not act immediately to get them out.

In early 2013, Muslim Seleka rebels took over power in the CAR in a campaign of mass civilian killings and destruction of homes. By mid-2013, groups self-proclaimed as the anti-balaka came together to fight the Seleka in a huge reprisal campaign in which they attacked Muslim civilians, among those Peuhl herders. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians while also displacing hundreds of others. This conflict is ongoing between anti-balaka, Seleka, and international forces via UN peacekeepers and French troops.

In December of last year, HRW reported that a group of Peuhl had been held captive in Pondo by the anti-balaka. Though some survivors have been released thanks to intervention by local authorities and UN peacekeepers, these survivors and other witnesses insist that other Peuhl are being held captive in other towns and villages in the country. Allegedly, 30 are currently held captive in Lambi, 11 are in Ngbaina, and 1 is in Betefio. Others have been reported to be held in Gadzi and Gaga. Many have been held for more than a year.

HRW insists that holding civilians in captivity, murdering children, and sexually enslaving women and young girls constitute serious war crimes. And while something certainly needs to be done to deal with these atrocities, it is unlikely that the bulk of this action will come from CAR itself. This ongoing conflict, compounded by a lack of resources and legal expertise, has essentially left CAR’s national justice system unable to handle such serious international crimes.

An international solution, however, may be in the works. In September, the CAR referred the conflict to the ICC, prompting the chief prosecutor to open a second investigation in the CAR for crimes committed since January 2002. Yet, this does not mean that resolving the conflict will be totally left up to the international sphere.

In what I believe to be important steps for CAR’s own national legal capacity-building, the National Transition Council, which is CAR’s interim parliament, has been discussing the possibility of creating a Special Criminal Court. This court would be within the national judicial system and would include both national and international judges and staff. Essentially, the court would act as a complement to the ICC and would try those responsible for serious crimes, with a specific focus on sexual violence and crimes against children.

The potential for this Special Criminal Court to deliver justice to perpetrators in the CAR in a way that is more connected to the locale is large in my opinion. Undoubtedly, it would have been very easy to admit that the national judiciary was in no condition to handle such grave international crimes, instead simply handing over the responsibility to the ICC to prosecute. Yet, in doing so there would have been a lost opportunity for national capacity building. What would CAR have gained from outsourcing justice to the ICC without making its own attempts at strengthening its judicial system? Undoubtedly, it is encouraging to see the CAR making strides to take responsibility and shoulder at least part of the responsibility for prosecutions. Not only does this have positive implications for the nation’s future capacity to handle prosecution of serious international crimes, but it also has the potential to more intimately involve the locals in the process. For having suffered so much in this conflict, the victims are owed at least more involvement in the process of bringing justice to their perpetrators. Additionally, the Special Criminal Court’s specific focus on sexual violence and violence against children is a strong step toward elevating the serious status of such crimes and ensuring the prosecution of their perpetrators.

This is not to say, however, that intervening will be without its challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the fact that both international and national intervention is coming mid-conflict, which as we have seen may pose challenges for the enforcement of indictments and arrest warrants, gathering evidence, and general national stability. Yet, if intervention doesn’t happen and justice is forced to wait until peace comes around, many more lives may be lost and the conflict could go on for much much longer. Ultimately, we will have to wait to see how this trade off, if there is one, will play out.

Hillary Clinton and the ICC

19th International AIDS Conference Convenes In Washington

Hillary Clinton, after years of speculation, officially launched her campaign for President of the United States earlier this week. While this announcement hardly comes as a surprise to many, transitional justice scholars have wondered what a Clinton Presidency would mean for the relationship between the ICC and the US.

The relationship between the United States and ICC has improved over the course of the Obama administration, who supported the referral of Libya and Syria to the ICC. The US State department also added individuals indicted by the court to the Rewards for Justice Program, while playing a role in the transfer of Bosco Ntaganda to the ICC. On the more negative side, the US has still supported full immunity for soldiers to the ICC and the prohibition of the ICC from investigation of non-member states.

It’s hard to believe that a Clinton administration would have a much different relationship with the ICC, given her mixed opinions on the court. Originally, she supported full immunity for US citizens during the Rome Statue negotiations. As a New York Senator, she voted for the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, which authorized the President to use all force necessary to repatriate American citizens brought before the ICC.

In the late 2000s; however, her attitudes seemed to shift. As Secretary of State, she stated that:

This is a great regret that we are not a signatory. I think we could have worked out some of the challenges that are raised concerning our membership. But that has not yet come to pass.

This likely came in to shifting attitudes in the US, where it was now “uncool” to speak against the ICC, not from a change of heart from Clinton. This makes it hard for me to believe that the US would become a signing member or improve its’ relationship with the ICC with Hillary Clinton as President.

Amnesty International publishes report on Boko Haram

Today, Amnesty International published a new report on “Boko Haram’s reign of terror in north-east Nigeria.” Amnesty stated that the report shows that Boko Haram has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and charges that these crimes have been treated with impunity.

The report contains background on the conflict in Nigeria, the legal framework for prosecuting them, a list of Boko Haram’s violations, and recommendations for different actors to take in dealing with the group. The report sheds light on the brutal methods used by the group, such as the abduction of women and girls who are forced into sexual slavery and forced to fight or the abduction of men and boys who are trained to fight or executed. It also documents the mass killings committed by the group through bomb attacks and raids on towns and villages.

The end of the report contains recommendations to the office of the prosecutor at the ICC on how to deal with Boko Haram:

  • “consider the information in this report as part of the Office’s determinations during the ongoing preliminary examination”
  • “discuss with the Nigerian authorities what steps the state is taking under its primary obligations under the Rome Statute to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate crimes under the Statute.

In its recommendations, it also implicates the Nigerian government for not taking the proper steps to investigate the conflict. None of the actors included in the recommendations have responded to these recommendations or the report overall yet.

ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute ISIS

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released a statement today clarifying that the ICC currently has no jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by ISIS.  Though the atrocities themselves, which she described as “crimes of unspeakable cruelty” including mass executions, sexual slavery, and allegations of genocide, would fall under the court’s mandate to prosecute the world’s most serious crimes, the court does not have jurisdiction.  Because the crimes have taken place in Iraq and Syria, neither of which are state parties to the Rome Statute, the ICC does not have territorial jurisdiction.  It is possible that the court could assert jurisdiction over nationals of signatory states, and there have been reports of ISIS recruitments from state parties including Tunisia, Jordan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia.  However, under the court’s mandate, they can only be prosecuted if they are both directly implicated in the commission of crimes against humanity or war crimes and if they are “most responsible” for these atrocities.  Because all information indicates that the leadership structure of ISIS is made up of Syrian and Iraqi nationals, these individuals, not the foreign fighters, would be considered most responsible.

At this point in the conflict, Bensouda explained, the jurisdictional basis for the ICC to open an investigation is “too narrow.”  Her statement also explained that the UNSC or the non-party states involved both have the power to confirm jurisdiction on the conflict, but she emphasized that this decision is entirely independent of the court.  This statement is interesting to consider in the context of both the impunity debate and the whether or not the court has an “African bias.”  The fact that the ICC has not taken action in response to crimes committed by ISIS is sometimes cited as evidence that the court doesn’t investigate crimes outside of Africa, or that the fight against impunity has been abandoned altogether.  Bensouda made the statement, she explained, in response to the numerous inquiries her office has received about whether or not her office was investigating.  It is crucial to understand the legal confines of the court’s jurisdiction in order to understand that often its legal mandate, not a bias or politics, prevents it from acting.

Palestinians Formally Join ICC

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Palestine has been able to formally join the ICC as the 123rd member after their signing on and ratification to the Rome Statute in January. Their main intention is for justice against Israelis starting from June 13th 2014 in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The longstanding controversies between the two groups have caused many criminal justice atrocities including the death of over 2200 people. Yet one of the issues is the timing of the ICC, which has been known to provide justice, but in a very slow and methodical manner. While the Palestinian people are currently excited and ready for their justice to come, the process that may take years may frustrate them and diminish their current momentum.

Though Israel is not part of the ICC, the atrocities committed on Palestinian soil are up for examination as a potential war crimes. Though on the surface this may be perceived as victors justice, Palestine is also being examined for their own persecutions of Israelis, therefore both parties are eligible for convictions by the ICC. Additionally, the United States is criticizing the ICC for allowing Palestine to join, as they are not a sovereign state yet this is an important step for Palestine to seek statehood.

Kenyatta apologizes to Kenyan public for past wrongs

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya delivered an official apology to the Kenyan public during a state of the nation address this past Thursday. He apologized for the wrongs committed by his own government and of governments past, mentioning the post-election violence of 2007-2008, as well as the 1984 massacre of hundreds of Kenayan-Somalis.

The International Criminal Court just recently dropped charges against President Kenyatta for warcrimes committed during the period of post-election violence because of a lack of evidence and cooperation by the Kenyan government. But, the report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Kenya “recommended that the president apologize to the public within six month after receiving it. Kenyatta received the report on May 2013”.

During his speech, Kenyatta announced that he had requested that the Ministry of Finance set up a fund of $110 million to be used throughout the next three years for “restorative justice”. President Kenyatta has yet to announce what exactly he plans for the fund to do or accomplish, but it is his first public apology for the crimes committed following his election.

The apology earned Kenyatta a standing ovation from the members of Kenyan parliament, although the reactions of the public have been mixed. Some do not accept the apology at all, while the majority tend to feel that it is “better late than never”. Apologies can provide the acknowledgement of past atrocities that is important for rehabilitation of a society and victims, but it will be interesting to see the true impact of Kenyatta’s statements, if any at all.

Human Rights Watch Calls for Greater Civilian Protection Against Boko Haram Attacks

Human Rights Watch published an article on Thursday of last week, condemning the continuation of violence carried out by Boko Haram in Western Africa, as well as criticizing Nigeria’s inability to deter the conflict and protect its citizens. So far this year, Boko Haram has been responsible for more than 1,000 civilian deaths and expanded its presence in the region by carrying out attacks in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger since February. These casualties from the past few months alone demonstrate a significant increase in the number of attacks being executed by the group, when compared to data collected from 2014 showing that Boko Haram killed at least 3,750 civilians during the entire year. While dealing with the issue of stopping the violent rebel group, Human Rights Watch researcher in Nigeria, Mausi Segun argues that concern must also be placed on how best to protect civilians in the meantime. Data collected by Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency suggests that since beginning their attacks in July 2009, Boko Haram is responsible for the displacement of nearly one million civilians, who were forced to flee their homes to avoid being either killed or recruited into the violent group.

Further investigation by Human Rights Watch into the growing conflict situation also provides evidence that Nigerian Security Forces have not taken the appropriate measures to adequately protect citizens from Boko Haram, and that military operations have done little to counter the group’s violent efforts, and only added to the number of civilians displaced and killed. This prompted the African Union to endorse a multinational task force including troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger in order to fight and contain Boko Haram’s violence, and to request a United Nations Security Council resolution to lend greater support. The ongoing situation in Nigeria is currently under preliminary examination by the ICC Prosecutor, which could potentially lead to the opening of an official investigation into the conflict. Because the ICC is a court of last resort, the Prosecutor is not willing to present the case to the Court unless he finds that the Nigerian state, after exhausting all resources, is overall unable to control the situation themselves; however, he did issue a statement in February of this year, warning that any act of violence carried out in Nigeria which falls under the jurisdiction of the Court, is susceptible to prosecution by the domestic court system as well as the ICC.

U.S. Blocks Palestine’s Entrance into the ICC

We have discussed at length this semester that the ICC is a much more politicized body than it would like to appear. Those states that wield greater spheres of influence and those with a veto in the UNSC have more pull in the ICC. However, the question of Palestine’s entrance into the ICC is a particularly interesting one because the major opposition comes from the U.S., which is not a ratified party of the ICC.

One day after Palestine was denied statehood by the UN, Abbas ratified the Rome Statute. Palestine would like to join the ICC and, likely, pursue charges against Israel. Obviously, as Israel’s close ally, the United States is vehemently opposed to that course of action for political reasons. Therefore, the U.S., in bully fashion, threatened to reconsider their foreign aid package to Palestine because of Palestine’s desire to join the court. In a statement made in December by U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, regarding the decision to block Palestine’s entrance, she said

“…moves to join international bodies are not productive and will not create a durable peace, and prefers a negotiated peace process between Israel and Palestine. Comprehensive peace talks, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry, reportedly collapsed earlier this year in part because of Palestinian negotiators’ insistence on joining various UN treaties and conventions, although continued construction of Israeli settlements also played a role.”

The full text of her statement can be found here: Samantha Power’s Statement

Meanwhile, Palestine has ratified the Rome Statute and has been accepted into the ICC as an observing member by 122 states. This demonstrates a good faith agreement that Palestine is willing to cooperate with the Court and member states if admitted.

The issues surrounding Palestine’s entrance into the ICC illuminate the problems that erode the legitimacy of the ICC as an institution. How can the Court tout itself as an impartial source of global justice when it is clearly subject to the demands of certain political actors over others?

The International Criminal Court: A Threat Against State Sovereignty

The International Criminal Court holds three different types of jurisdiction including national, territorial and United Nations Security Council referral. In a recent article titled A Crime Against Sovereignty it discusses the territorial jurisdiction held by the ICC in relation to the preliminary investigations being held in Palestine and Afghanistan. Both Afghanistan and Palestine have ratified the Rome statute therefore granting the ICC jurisdiction to crimes committed within their territories or by people from their territories. The Israeli officials have taken an adversarial stance to the ICC’s preliminary investigation being held in Palestine possibly due to the fear that they may be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Furthermore the ICC is also hosting preliminary investigations in Afghanistan which could result in American officials being held responsible for war crimes committed during both the Bush and Obama administrations. The United States has made it clear that the ICC has no authority to prosecute American or Israeli citizens since they have not ratified the Rome Statute. In addition to voicing their opposition to the ICC’s jurisdiction, the United States has also enacted the American Service Members’ Protection Act of 2002  which authorizes the president to use all means necessary to free US and allied military personnel and government officials detained by the ICC. In addition to that, this act also grants severe restrictions on US cooperation with the court. As discussed in the Bosco reading, the Bush administration was very opposed to joining a supranational court stating that “…it’s the right move, not to join a foreign court that could- where our people could be prosecuted.” However Bosco also discusses how US relations with the ICC have improved under the Obama administration. With that said however the United States still remains a non-signatory of the statute and the ICC still faces a large political obstacle if it decides to go after US past and current officials. I remain curious as to how far the ICC’s power will extend. As we have discussed in class, one of the main critiques of the court is that it is very reliable on states’ cooperation and without it the ICC has a very difficult time in achieving its justice goals. I remain hopeful that the United States will cooperate as much as it can with the court and look forward to the ICC’s next move regarding the situation in both Palestine and Afghanistan.