#GlobalJusticeWeekly – LRA commander arrives in The Hague

LRA commander Dominic Ongwen in the Central African Republic. © AP

LRA commander Dominic Ongwen in the Central African Republic. © AP

This week, Ugandan militia leader Dominic Ongwen was transferred to the ICC, giving hope to victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and sending a message to ICC fugitives that justice will eventually catch up with them.

“Ongwen’s arrival in The Hague is a major development for the ICC and its efforts to bring the LRA to book,” said Stephen Lamony, senior adviser for AU, UN and Africa situations for the Coalition for the ICC. “Uganda was the first situation opened by the Court 10 years ago, but the lack of progress in arresting suspects, including Joseph Kony, has been a source of increasing frustration for victims of the LRA – they now have a chance at justice.”

Ongwen’s transfer to The Hague was welcomed by civil society, including Coalition members REDRESSAmnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. The ASP president, the UN secretary general, the EU and the US also welcomed the transfer. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda welcomed Ongwen’s transfer into ICC custody and called on remaining LRA fighters to abandon violence.

The transfer has drawn mixed reactions in Uganda, and the Daily Monitor reported that LRA victims disagree over whether Ongwen should be prosecuted. A Daily Monitor columnist argued that Ongwen’s past as a child soldier should be used as a mitigating factor in proceedings against him. Over 30 lawyers applied to defend Ongwen, and the Ugandan government is reportedly sending a team of lawyers for his defense. Reuters reported that ICC prosecutors said that they will need extra funding to revive the long-dormant case against Dominic Ongwen.

Ongwen will make his initial appearance before ICC judges on 26 January.

Men inspect the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza in summer 2014. © Getty

Men inspect the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza in summer 2014. © Getty

Prosecutor initiates preliminary examination in Palestine
Late last week, the ICC prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. The move was welcomed by FIDH and AI, among others.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the preliminary examination “scandalous” and Israel’s foreign minister said they would not cooperate with the probe. Israel also called on ICC member states to withdraw funding from the Court and said that it will launch a media campaign against the Court. Canada’s foreign minister said that Palestine made a ‘huge mistake’ by joining the ICC. Germany’s top human rights official urged Israel to cooperate with the ICC. Blogger Mark Kersten argued that Israel’s campaign to undermine the ICC will likely backfire.

Israel initiated an investigation into the conduct of the military and political leaders during the 2014 Gaza war.

A Palestinian official said that the Palestine’s ‘appeal’ to the ICC could be withdrawn if Israel froze the building of settlements on Palestinian territory, while another said that the ICC should investigate the death of Yasser Arafat.



Central African Republic
The UN commission of inquiry on the CAR recommended the creation of an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity. UN peacekeepers arrested a senior leader of the anti-Balaka forces, while a UN worker was kidnapped by the militia group.

Kenya
In her pre-trial brief for the Uhuru Kenyatta case, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that former President Mwai Kibaki covered up Kenyatta’s alleged involvement in the post-election violence, including by allegedly killing Mungiki members. A former MP mentioned in the ICC prosecutor’s evidence against the Kenyan president alleged that Court officials offered him money to testify. Kenyatta’s political allies criticized the Court over the release of evidence.

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto asked for his case to be stayed and new investigations ordered after a witness against him admitted lying. Judges in the trial of Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang declared another witness hostile.

A Kenyan MP proposed an amendment to protect Kenya’s president and vice president from domestic and international prosecution and six Jubilee MPs drafted a bill calling on Kenya to withdraw from the ICC. Victims of the post-election violence in Nakuru County demanded that the perpetrators be prosecuted.

Darfur
Over 8,000 newly displaced persons arrived in Um Baru, North Darfur, which already hosts 23,000 displaced. UNAMID expressed concern at the impact renewed fighting in Darfur will have on civilians. The former spokesperson for UNAMID urged the international community not to give up on Darfur, and a Guardian columnist asked why the world is blind to renewed Janjaweed attacks in North Darfur.

Libya
The UN called on Libya’s warring factions to maintain a ceasefire, but Libya’s opposition parliament suspended UN-sponsored talks amid renewed violence. A UN envoy said that peacekeepers are needed to maintain stability in the country.

Mali
Hundreds of people in northern Mali protested against UN airstrikes on Tuareg rebels after four rebels were killed when their car was fired on by a UN helicopter. Guinea will send 500 peacekeepers to Mali.

Côte d’Ivoire
Fifty Gbagbo-era government officials were granted temporary release by the Ivorian government. Ivoire Justice detailed the crimes Charles Blé Goudé is accused of committing (in French).

Preliminary Examinations
The report of the UK’s official inquiry into the Iraq war was delayed until after the next elections.

The ICC prosecutor condemned escalating attacks by the Boko Haram and reminded Nigeria of its obligation to bring to justice those responsible of alleged crimes. A man purported to be the leader of the Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack on Baga. Meanwhile, Denmark allocated $2 million to help Boko Haram victims, and regional leaders held a summit in Niger to discuss the insurgent group.

AI called on all sides in the Ukraine conflict to protect civilians from combat.

Campaign for Global Justice
A group of human rights organizations, including AI, called on Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute.

What else is happening?
FORUM-Asia urged Sri Lanka’s new government to undertake reforms to end impunity and ensure justice and accountability.

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