Over 100 civil society groups—including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, No Peace Without Justice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and several other Coalition members—have urged the Council to pass a UN Security Council resolution to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC prosecutor for investigation.
Physicians for Human Rights also condemned the Syrian government for attacking hospitals. HRW cited evidence that the Syrian government has continued to use chemical weapons. FIDH published a Q&A on challenges in the fight against impunity in the country.
Justice in Conflict’s Mark Kersten questioned the wisdom behind referring Syria to the Court, while academic blogger Kevin Jon Heller suggested that the ICC prosecutor should reject any referral that doesn’t provide funding. Meanwhile, two Washington Post columnists suggested that the ICC should recognize the Syrian opposition as the legitimate government in order to gain jurisdiction over the Syrian conflict.
Al Jazeera reports that the Council will vote early next week on the resolution, saying “it is far from certain that it will avoid a veto from Russia or China.”
UK under ICC scrutiny over Iraq allegations
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda this week announced the re-opening of a preliminary examination in Iraq following the submission of further evidence involving allegations of detainee abuse by British forces. The move came following a criminal complaint lodged with the ICC in January by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Public Interest Lawyers. The British government has said it completely rejects the allegations.
In 2006, The Office of the Prosecutor decided not to open a full investigation in Iraq after concluding a preliminary examination, but noted that the matter could be revisited if new evidence came to light. While Iraq is not an ICC member, the Court has jurisdiction because the crimes were allegedly committed by nationals of the United Kingdom, which is party to the Rome Statute. REDRESS and ECCHR welcomed the prosecutor’s announcement this week.
Academic William Schabas argued that the preliminary examination in Iraq, as well as Ukraine, will help send a message that the ICC is capable of judging the strong as well as the weak.
Amnesty International criticized Chad for closing its borders to CAR refugees. One of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s former lawyers wants a judge removed from the ICC chamber hearing his witness tampering case, alleging bias in favor of the prosecutor. The US approved sanctions against several individuals in the CAR believed to be responsible for abuses.
The trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang was today adjourned until 16 June due to prosecution’s logistical difficulties in arranging witnesses. Judges expressed dissatisfaction that there were only two days of testimony in a session that was scheduled to last for four weeks. They also granted a prosecution request to withdraw a witness that was found not to be not credible. The International Justice Monitor examined the witnesses being compelled to testify in the trial, while Kenya’s attorney general hinted that the government will not cooperate with the ICC’s request to have them appear. Journalist Walter Barasa has challenged an arrest warrant issued a Kenyan court. Barasa is wanted by the ICC for allegedly interfering with witnesses.
Meanwhile, ICC judges extended the deadline for the prosecutor and Kenyan government to report on progress getting access to Uhuru Kenyatta’s financial and phone records. A Standard columnist argued that the ASP is unlikely to help the ICC secure cooperation from Kenya on the prosecution’s request for the records.
Sudan President and ICC suspect Omar Al-Bashir has reportedly been invited to a climate summit in New York in September. Sudan’s intelligence service brought a criminal complaint against the leader of Sudan’s political opposition after he accused the Janjaweed of rape in Darfur. The Janjaweed militia accused UN-AU peacekeeping mission of prolonging the conflict in Darfur.
Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice published a special issue of Legal Eye on the ICC, focusing on the Germain Katanga verdict. Katanga’ sentence will be announced on 23 May. The International Center for Transitional Justice welcomed the Congolese government’s decision to exclude grave crimes from a recently passed law providing amnesty for some members of the M23 rebel group. Fatou Bensouda asked judges to restrict the issues Thomas Lubanga can speak on during his appeal hearings early next week. A columnist on African Arguments questioned whether war crimes trials can overcome violence in the DRC.
The ICC Prosecutor briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya, stressing that ensuring there is no impunity for serious crimes is crucial to the country’s transition. Bensouda also said that Libya must surrender Saif Gaddafi to the ICC. Abdullah Al-Senussi appeared in a Libyan court for the first time with legal representation present. Saif Gaddafi also appeared. A UN observer at the Gaddafi trial was held on suspicion of black magic.
The UN special representative for Central Africa said that he expects Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony to be captured soon. The Ugandan said that it is concerned that the group could take advantage of turmoil in South Sudan, while Sudan rejected claims that Kony is on its territory. The LRA is being blamed for the massacre of elephants in a DRC national park. The head of the Women’s Advocacy Network discussed her experience as an abductee of the LRA.
Three UN peacekeepers were injured by a landmine in Kidal, Mali.
HRW’s Amanda Klasing welcomed a Colombian law that addressing sexual violence, while FARC rebels said that chances for lasting peace have never been better. Amnesty International accused the Nigerian government of failing to act on advanced warnings of the Boko Haram attack during which more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped last month. Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and its partners expressed concern over the mass kidnapping and called for the girls’ release. Nigeria rejected the Boko Haram’s demand that it release all its prisoners in exchange for the girls, but a government official indicated that the government is ready to negotiate for the girls’ release. HRW’s Sarah Margon criticized the Nigerian military for alleged corruption and abuses that have strengthened the Boko Haram. The International Crisis Group warned that Afghanistan needs continued international support and a reinvigorated commitment to rule of law. Foreign Policy reported that the ICC prosecutor is still looking at alleged detainee abuse by US forces in Afghanistan.
Members of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) presented a strategy for cooperation between the ICC and the Mercosur parliament, and a group of Latin American PGA members called on El Salvador to join the ICC. The foreign ministers of Liechtenstein and Slovenia stated their support for the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression r on the occasion of the Kampala amendments seminar in Slovenia. Ukrainian legislators introduced a measure to amend the constitution to allow ratification of the Rome Statute (in Ukrainian).
Over 40 NGOs have urged African leaders to reject immunity for heads of state before Africa’s regional court. ICJ-Kenya’s Njonjo Mue told Capital FM News that the inclusion of immunity in the expansion of the African court is a betrayal of international law. Mue also told IWPR that the creation of an African court that gives immunity to heads of state seems like an attempt to avoid accountability. Speaking in New York, Fatou Bensouda rejected criticism that the ICC only prosecutes African.