#GlobalJusticeWeekly: Civil society calls on Ukraine to join ICC

CGJ Banner_ukraineUkraine can deter the commission of grave crimes in its eastern conflict by becoming a full member of the ICC, the Coalition for the ICC said today, the first anniversary of shootings during the country’s Euromaidan protests.

Ukraine is the March focus of the Coalition’s Campaign for Global Justice, which encourages states to join the ICC Rome Statute—the founding treaty of the only permanent international court capable of trying perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In a letter sent today to President Petro Poroshenko, the Coalition urged Ukraine to ratify the Statute without delay.

“Ukraine’s membership in the ICC would send a clear signal that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide will not be tolerated,” said Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, Europe regional coordinator at the Coalition for the ICC. “Ratifying the Rome Statute would also likely deter the future commission of grave crimes as perpetrators would know that they could face justice in The Hague.”

“Those who are committed to justice cannot accept a half measure approach,” said Roman Romanov, Human Rights and Justice program director at the International Renaissance Foundation in Ukraine. “Ratification of the Rome Statute is the only way to ensure that impunity for the worst crimes ends and justice won’t be selective.”

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Central African Republic
The International Federation for Human Rights gave 10 reasons why a special criminal court would be an efficient tool for ending impunity in the CAR. Jean-Pierre Bemba’s second trial—for alleged witness tampering—is imminent after the ICC presidency constituted a trial chamber. Access, a digital rights group, submitted evidence to the ICC on internet shutdowns in the CAR.

Kenya
The ICC said that missing witness Meshack Yebei turned down protection from the Court. Judges ordered a uncooperative witness to testify via video link in the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s lawyers called the ICC prosecutor’s investigations “amateur” and “unprofessional.” The prosecutor declined to respond to the comments. Meanwhile, in an interview with The Hague Trials Kenya about witness protection in Kenya, ICC Registrar Herman Von Hebel said that the ICC has reduced tensions in the country.

Darfur
A former ICC defense counsel involved in the Darfur cases criticized the ICC prosecutor for suspending the Darfur investigation. Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti denied that the government is committing war crimes. Rebels claimed a victory over government forces in Central Darfur. The Sudanese police opened an investigation into allegations that a member of UNAMID raped a woman in Darfur.

Democratic Republic of Congo
The Open Society Justice Initiative published a briefing paper on the prosecution’s appeal against the acquital of Mathieu Ngudjolo-Chui, a decision on which is was postponed to 27 February. The International Justice Monitor compared victims participation in the Bosco Ntaganda case with other ICC cases.

The UN officially pulled its support for a military operation against rebels after Congolese officials missed a deadline to replace two generals accused of human rights violations. DRC President Joseph Kabila denounced the decision.

Uganda
The African Youth Initiative Network’s Victor Ochen argued that the ongoing campaign for Dominic Ongwen to receive amnesty given his past as a child soldier will only perpetuate a culture of impunity. Justice Hub interviewed William Schabas about developments in the Ongwen case.

Libya
Growing conflict and unrest prompted civil society to call for the alleged perpatrators or grave crimes in Libya to be held accountable. After 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt were killed by an extemist group claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the act as a war crime and called for the ICC prosecutor to examine the incident. Lawyers for Justice in Libya also urged the ICC to investigate the killings along with other recent human rights violations in the country.

The killings came four years after the ouster of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, during which deep divisions have grown in the country, with rival factions competing for power. Egypt, which launched retaliatory strikes against the extremist group, has called for a UN-backed military intervention in the country.

No Peace Without Justice convened a conference on transitional justice in Libya and Tunisia.

Mali
The Malian government reached an agreement with Tuareg-led rebels to cease hostilities during peace talks. Seven UN peacekeepers were wounded in an explosion in northeastern Mali. The UN launched a probe into violent demonstrations against peacekeepers in the city of Gao.

Côte d’Ivoire
Former Ivoirian president Laurent Gbagbo’s lawyer argued that Gbagbo’s release would not destabilize the Ivoirian government (in French). Paolina Massidda, principal counsel for victims at the ICC, said that Gbagbo’s release will disrupt trial proceedings and compromise the rights of victims (in French).

Simone Gbagbo will appear in an Ivoirian court next week facing charges of threatening state security.

Preliminary Examinations
During peace talks with Colombia‘s government, the FARC rebels announced that they would end recruitment of soldiers under the age of 17. The FARC later said that it will discharge its fighters who are younger than 15 years old.

Russia said that an impending border agreement with Abkhazia should dispel any notions that Russia is annexing the breakaway territory from Georgia. Russia also reaffirmed its pledged financial aid for Abkhazia.

The Boko Haram vowed to disrupt Nigeria’s upcoming elections. The Nigerian National Human Rights Commission announced that at least 58 people have been killed in election-related violence since 3 December. Central African leaders met in Cameroon to discuss strategies for tackling the Boko Haram. The Nigerian army claimed to have killed 300 Boko Haram fighters, while the insurgent group attacked Chad for the first time, killing several civilians in a border town.

Palestine‘s prime minister called on the US to pressure the Israeli government to release the $130 million in Palestinian tax revenues it has withheld since Palestine joined the ICC. The Israeli military’s chief legal adviser said that he is not concerned about a possible ICC investigation. ICC expert Alex Whiting told the New York Times that although the high civilian death toll in last summer’s Gaza conflict doesn’t in itself constitute war crimes, it does give cause to pursue a deeper inquiry.

Amnesty International highlighted the lack of justice one year after Ukraine‘s EuroMaidan protests. AI also urged that Debaltseve’s capture by pro-Russian separatists must not result in widespread detainee abuse. Ukraine’s president called for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to eastern Ukraine.

Campaign for Global Justice
As part of its Campaign for the Effectiveness and Universality of the Rome Statute, Parliamentarians for Global Action held a roundtable meeting with the National Assembly of Ecuador to discussstrengthening legislative efforts in order to ensure the effective implementation of the Rome Statute and the ratification of the Kampala amendments.

The Lithuanian ambassador to the UN called on Ukraine to join the ICC.

The Tamil National People’s Front called on the UN to ensure that Sri Lanka ratifies the Rome Statute.

What else is happening?
REDESS published a report on its views of the ICC registrar’s proposed structural changes and its implications for victims. 

HRW called the Extraordinary African Chambers’ decision to move ahead with a trial of Hissene Habre a milestone decision. A Star columnist argued that the African Court will be manipulated by leaders and unable to dispense real justice.

In the International Center for Transitional Justice’s debate on the fight against impunity, Betty Murungi, the former commissioner of the Kenya Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission argued that the usage of the ICC has become entrenched in politics and that national judicial systems need strengthening. Open Society Foundations President Emeritus Aryeh Neier, meanwhile, argued that a ‘new Rome Conference’ is needed to consider ways to expand the reach and increase the effectiveness of international justice.

The UN Human Rights Council agreed to delay the release of a report into possible war crimes in Sri Lanka after receiving commitments from the country’s newly elected government that they will cooperate on human rights issues. AI expressed hope in the Sri Lankan government’s promises, while FORUM-ASIA called on Asian states and civil society to work together at the Human Rights Council to ensure justice in the country. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s new justice minister dismissed the possibility of an international inquiry into war crimes accusations.The Asian Centre for Human Rights condemned the deaths of at least 90 people in violent anti-government protests in Bangladesh and reminded the opposition of the state’s obligations under the Rome Statute. Nepal formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances. North Korea’s UN ambassador said his country is not worried about the possibility that the country could be referred to the ICC. A Filipino politician raised the possibility that the ICC could intervene if the government fails to properly investigate the Mamasapano incident.

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