#GlobalJusticeWeekly – ICC prosecutor warns against Nigerian electoral violence

A police officer stands watch over a polling place in Nigeria. © Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

A police officer stands watch over a polling place in Nigeria. © Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda this week urged Nigeria’s presidential candidates and political parties to consolidate their commitment to refraining from political violence during upcoming elections. Bensouda also reminded all parties that anyone who commits crimes under ICC jurisdiction is liable to be prosecuted in Nigerian courts or in The Hague. A team from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) will be in Nigeria prior to the elections to engage with the government and encourage the prevention of crimes.

The prosecutor’s statement was welcomed by several Nigerian civil society organizations, who said that they were encouraged by the OTP’s proactive engagement.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) approved the creation of a 7,500-strong regional force to combat the Boko Haram. The decision was backed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The Nigerian military said that it repelled a Boko Haram offensive against Maiduguri, and Chad’s military captured the northeast Nigerian border town of Gamboru from the group. In response, the Boko Haram reportedly killed dozens in a cross-border raid into Cameroon.



Central African Republic
Jean-Pierre Bemba, former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, appealed the ICC decision rejecting his previous request for interim release. The UN warned that more international support is needed to solve the crisis in CAR, and the secretary general asked for an additional 1,000 peacekeepers.

Kenya
The International Center for Policy and Conflict said that a Kenyan group’s claims that the ICC is financing terrorism in Kenya are disgraceful.

Judges in the ICC case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang accepted into evidence the so-called Waki report on Kenya’s 2007/8 post-election violence. Opposition leader Raila Odinga said he is willing to testify in defense of Ruto. Jubilee and opposition MPs are divided over Odinga’s decision, with Jubilee members saying that it isn’t needed. Meanwhile, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the AU that the ICC’s case against Ruto will fail.

Fourteen MPs and a senator in the Jubilee coalition said that they support efforts to pull Kenya out of the ICC and expand the African Court of Justice, but a group of Kenyan lawyers expressed opposition to the latest bid to withdraw from the Rome Statute. A Star columnist argued that the proposed African Court will be better than the ICC, while another columnist argued that Kenya should not leave the ICC.

Darfur
United to End Genocide criticized the US government for inviting a Sudanese official implicated in the Darfur genocide to attend a national prayer breakfast.

The AU decided to make a new push at the UN Security Council to have the Darfur cases withdrawn from the ICC.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern for the deteriorating security situation in Darfur following reports of an escalation of hostilities and the resulting displacement of civilians. ICC indictee and rebel leader Bahar Idris Abu Garda apologized to the people of Darfur for failing to address their issues and implement the Doha Document for Peace.

Democratic Republic of Congo
The appeals judgment on the acquittal of Mathieu Ngudjolo-Chui will be delivered on 24 February.

Congolese and UN forces began an offensive against FDLR rebels, but diplomats told Reuters that support for the operation could be in doubt because the DRC named a general accused of rights abuses to head the mission. Meanwhile, at least 17 people killed in a new attack in North Kivu.

Uganda
An analysis from the Insitute for Security Studies concluded that Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen’s prosecution could shift perceptions of the ICC and give hope to victims. The victims’ legal representative in the case asked the ICC prosecutor to expand the charges against Ongwen. ICC officials will visit Uganda to gather more evidence for the case. The Ugandan government ruled out any chance of the government offering amnesty for Ongwen and said that it will not send lawyers to assist in his defense.

ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II has announced that Ongwen’s case was separated from Kony et al. case, as the three other suspects involved have not appeared or have not been apprehended yet.

The Ugandan army said it has uncovered the remains of Okot Odhiambo, one of five LRA commanders indicted by the ICC.

Libya
Libya’s parliament suspended a controversial law barring former Gaddafi regime officials from holding office. New clashes between rival Libyan factions erupted over oil ports.

Mali
The International Crisis Group’s Jean-Herve Jezequel told Reuters that the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali is struggling. Malian rebels fought with a pro-government militia near Timbuktu.

Preliminary Examinations
Colombia’s inspector general presented the ICC with a list of over 2,700 FARC-linked cases of enforced disappearance.

Vladimir Putin signed Russia’s Abkhazia alliance treaty into law, while Georgia‘s foreign ministerwarned that Russia could annex the breakaway region of South Ossetia just as it did Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

A top Palestinian official said that Palestine’s decision to join the ICC is irreversible and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestine will not negotiate its right to join the ICC. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that it will respond to Israel’s expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories by referring the case to the ICC. A former Israeli Supreme Court president said that military investigations and accompanying oversight from the Supreme Court could shield Israeli military officials from being tried by the ICC. A Haarestz columnist argued that Israel’s attempt to undercut the ICC is the worst tribute to the liberation of Auschwitz, while another argued that Israel would gain an advantage if it chose to embrace the ICC instead of running from it. After academic William Schabas resigned as head of a UN panel probing alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza and the Israeli prime minister called for the panel to be scrapped, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council condemned Israel for obstructing the inquiry. UN officials said that the panel’s work would move forward despite its chair’s resignation.

Ukraine’s parliament passed a resolution calling for a new Article 12.3 declaration accepting ICC jurisdiction from 27 February 2014 onwards. The International Federation for Human Rights welcomed the move. Human Rights Watch warned that unguided rocket attacks are causing rising civilian death tolls, and an Amnesty International (AI) researcher documented indiscriminate attacks on civilians in eastern Ukraine. Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko arguedthat more must be done to resolve the conflict, including prosecutions in the ICC.

Campaign for Global Justice
The Coalition for the ICC called on Nepal to join the ICC.

What else is happening?
At the AU, Kenya vowed to lobby more countries to sign a protocol on the expansion of the African Court to include criminal jurisdiction over international crimes and committed $1 million to the project. Kenya’s foreign minister said that 11 out of the 14 states required to sign the protocol have done so. African leaders urged the ICC to drop cases against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, or suspend the charges until African concerns are considered by the Court. New AU Chairman Robert Mugabe said that Africa must pull out of the ICC, and five states reportedly support doing so.

The Latvian presidency of the EU Council met with ICC officials.

The International Court of Justice ruled that neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide against each other’s populations during the Balkan wars in the 1990s.  The Humanitarian Law Center asserted that the ruling represents an obligation for institutions within the countries to take responsibility for dealing with crimes committed under their control, and AI urged Croatia and Serbia to investigate and prosecute those responsible for war crimes.

The campaign to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before the ICC has touched off a defensive fury in Pyongyang, with North Korea’s foreign minister demanding that the UN secretary general tell member states that a resolution calling for the country’s referral to the Court is illegal.

The Philippines’ Senate president denied that President Benigno Aquino III could be tried at the ICC over the Mamasapano incident, in which 44 soldiers were killed during a mission against an insurgent group.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association said that the alleged crimes of the Iranian regime and its militias in Iraq and Syria should be referred to the ICC. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called for the UN Security Council to refer alleged war crimes in Syria to the Court.

The UN commission of inquiry into alleged crimes committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war could call for the situation to be referred to the ICC in its upcoming report, the New York Times reported.

Open Democracy columnists explained that new evidence suggests that the ICC may be having a real deterrent impact. A columnist argued that prosecuting pillaging could curb natural resource-driven violence and as a result the ICC should revive its financial crimes unit.

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