On Wednesday, the Central African Republic government formally requested the ICC prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes committed during the CAR’s recent crisis since 1 August 2012. ICC Prosecutor Bensouda praised the government’s commitment to justice and said that her office would step up an existing preliminary examination of the situation and issue a decision on beginning a formal investigation shortly.
Meanwhile, the African Union backed a call to establish a tribunal to prosecute grave crimes allegedly committed in the CAR, and a UN report found ample evidence of war crimes in the country but could not confirm whether or not genocide has occurred.
Ntaganda and Gbagbo to face ICC trials
In separate decisions this week, ICC judges confirmed charges against DRC militia leader Bosco Ntaganda and former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, sending both to trial.
Ntaganda was charged with 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in eastern DRC in 2002 and 2003. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomed the decision to send him to trial. The Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice noted the importance of the inclusion of sexual and gender-based crimes among the charges.
“The case against Bosco Ntaganda is seen as a strong message sent to the perpetrators of crimes in eastern DRC,” said Flory Kazingufu of the Chirezi Foundation.
Gbagbo faces four counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010-11.“This is another step forward for the victims of the post electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. The confirmation of charges against former president Laurent Gbagbo opens a new era for Ivorian human rights defenders and all those committed to fighting impunity,” said Ali Ouatarra, president of the Ivorian Coalition for the ICC.
London hosts global summit to end sexual violence in conflict
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie co-chaired a special Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London this week, with over 2000 delegates in attendance. Over 100 countries were represented at the summit, many at ministerial level, along with policy experts, representatives from international tribunals and organizations, Nobel laureates, victim survivors, civil society organisations and others from around the world. An International Protocol on Documenting and Investigating Violence in Conflict was launched on Wednesday, while 155 countries pledged a commitment to end sexual violence in conflict at the summit’s final plenary today. There was a strong emphasis on ending impunity for sexual and gender based crimes through local, national and international accountability mechanisms, with ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announcing the launch of her office’s Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, the first ever produced by an international court or tribunal.
Several Coalition members participated at the summit. Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice hosted a panel on accountability for conflict-related crimes and the inclusion of women as stakeholders and beneficiaries of the post-conflict recovery program in Uganda. Staff and partners of the Women’s Initiatives also spoke on a number of other panels. Switzerland and Women’s Initiatives also co-hosted a reception for ICC states parties. FIDH called on all states participating in the summit to move forward with concrete measures to ensure the end of sexual violence, while Amnesty International (AI) issued a series of recommendations urging world leaders to “seize the opportunity” and take legitimate action to end sexual violence. HRW praised the summit as a “landmark opportunity… to end rape in war”. No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) called for concrete action to end in crimes and served as a judge on the Ending Sexual Violence Hackathon, which saw the development of innovative approaches to using technology as a tool to promote ending sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) held a panel on investigating and documenting sexual violence and welcomed the opportunity to collaborate on the international protocol launched during the summit to guide the documentation and investigation of sexual and gender-based crimes. REDRESS, who collaborated on the protocol, welcomed it as a new tool in the fight against impunity. COALICO held a panel on sexual violence against children in Colombia. Physicians for Human Rights hosted three events focusing on the collection of evidence and documentation of crimes of sexual violence.
Read the Chair’s Summary of the summit.
Twenty-one people were killed this week as a result of Muslim-Christian violence. Some civilians turned in weapons during the CAR’s disarmament day, but Christian and Muslim militias did not participate.
William Ruto and Joshua Sang formally appealed the decision summoning eight non-cooperative witnesses to appear before the Court. Kenya’s attorney general said that Kenya cannot compel witnesses to testify at the ICC because the Rome Statute employs the principle of voluntary appearance. Judges refused to admit a Kenya Commission on Human Rights report on the post-election violence as evidence in the Ruto/Sang trial, but the ICC prosecutor will be allowed to use reports on Kenya’s 1992 ethnic clashes to prove Ruto’s “criminal intent.” The ICC will allow Ugandan scholar David Matsanga to make observations in the case, as well as in that against Uhuru Kenyatta. A Kenyan county governor banned an ICC public participation meeting that was supposed to take place in Eldoret.
A coalition of rights groups called on the Sudanese government to stop targeting civilians in Darfur and South Kordofan. Sudanese authorities arrested the head of the opposition Congress Party after he blamed the violence in Darfur on the government. A Sudanese lawyer argued that the use of the Rapid Support Forces is unlawful and unconstitutional. Thirty-nine women and girls from the Kalma camp in South Darfur were the victims of rape in April and May. Militiamen killed 11 civilians and looted a town and thousands of civilians fled militia attacks in North Darfur.
The International Refugee Rights Initiative’s Olivia Bueno outlined positive and negative local reactions to the sentencing of Germain Katanga. HRW called on countries attending the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict to make concrete commitments to justice for Congolese victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Thirty-seven people were killed in what some are calling an ethnically motivated attack in eastern DRC.
FIDH welcomed a Libyan decree establishing a structure for identifying and delivering reparations to victims of sexual and gender-based violence. HRW’s Hanan Salah warned that continued violence threatens Libya’s institutions and argued that a strengthened legal system is needed. The Telegraph reported that the ICC is paying for Saif Gaddafi’s legal counsel. Libya’s disputed prime ministerresigned after a court ruled recent elections unconstitutional.
A victim of Cote d’Ivoire’s post-election violence told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that she fears that Laurent Gbagbo will be released from the ICC (in French).
Three northern Mali rebel groups signed an agreement to participate in peace talks with the government, while four UN peacekeepers were killed by a car bomb in northern Mali. An army officer and some associates were arrested for a suspected plot against Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
ICTJ highlighted Colombia’s recent efforts towards ending sexual violence in conflict and how women affected by conflict have been agents of change. AI criticized the recent Colombia-FARC peace declaration for failing to guarantee victims’ right to justice. The declaration included an agreement to establish a truth commission. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos began peace talks with the ELN rebels.
Parliamentarians for Global Action sent Nigeria‘s president a letter encouraging him to implement the Rome Statute into domestic law and do all he can to end impunity in the country. The Boko Haram kidnapped 20 girls in northeast Nigeria and is suspected of attacking a village in Cameroon. Boko Haram members masquerading as preachers shot and killed at least 45 people in the Bargari village.
REDRESS and the International Bar Association told the Institute for War & Peace Reporting that the ICC can do better prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes. In a Star op-ed, KPTJ’s Njonjo Mue argued that sitting presidents should not be given immunity before the proposed expanded African Court. HRW maintained that any South Sudan peace deal should contain no amnesty for grave crimes and criticized an Arab League regional court proposal because it denies individuals the right to file complaints. AI called on the UN Security Council to refer the massacres in Rojava, Turkey to the ICC. AI and TRIAL each welcomed the conviction in a Swiss court of Guatemala’s former national police chief on murder charges. NPWJ gave a lecture on the ICC and transitional justice at an Italian university. ICC Prosecutor Bensouda said that the Court wants to be innovative and will work on using forensic material and cyber research.
Bashar Al-Assad announced a general amnesty for Syrian prisoners. The former prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, now head of the Syria Accountability Project, said that Al-Assad tops the list of Syrian war crimes suspects given to the ICC for eventual prosecution. International prosecutors said that the veto of an ICC referral for Syria does not mean that alleged war criminals cannot be held accountable, and two international law experts suggested that the ICC should not get involved in Syria.