The ICC will not open a preliminary examination into alleged crimes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for the time being due to a lack of jurisdiction over its leadership, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement this week.
Bensouda explained that while the Court has “personal jurisdiction” over ISIS militants from ICC member states, those most responsible for the group’s alleged crimes are believed to be from Iraq and Syria, neither of which is party to the ICC Rome Statute.
The prosecutor said that as the policy is to focus on those most responsible, she has determined that at this stage “the prospects of my Office investigating and prosecuting those most responsible, within the leadership of ISIS, appear limited.”
Bensouda went on to say that she remains committed to working with states to support domestic investigations and prosecutions of their nationals suspected of committing grave crimes. Under the Rome Statute, states have the primary reponsibility to investigate and prosecute.
She also emphasized that any decision of non-ICC member states or the UN Security Council to confer jurisdiction on the ICC is “wholly independent of the Court.”
Earlier in the week, the New York Times called on the UN Security Council to refer ISIS’s alleged crimes to the ICC, reporting that France is preparing a resolution that would do so. International law expert William Schabas told the newspaper that there is no rule preventing an organization from being referred to the Court, even if it operates in countries that haven’t ratified the Rome Statute.
On Opinio Juris, academic Kevin Jon Heller argued that governments should “do the job themselves” in reponse to a former US government official’s call for an ICC referal.
The Kurdistan Regional Government established a commission to document ISIS’s alleged crimes against Kurdish Yezidi civilians.
Central African Republic
The former Seleka rebels and the Anti-Balaka forces signed a ceasefire agreement.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta apologized for the country’s historic injustices, but said that there will likely be no prosecutions related to the 2007-08 post-election violence. In a Hague Trials Kenya op-ed, Makau Matua argued that William Ruto’s domestic standing is suffering because of his perceived vulnerability at the ICC.
Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi said that he opposes handing President Omar Al-Bashir over to the ICC because it would lead to greater disarray and violence in Sudan. Al-Bashir rejected pressure to dismiss North Kordofan Governor Ahmed Haroun over his indictment by the ICC. Meanwhile, at an election really, Al-Bashir denounced international peacekeepers in Darfur. A Sudanese airstrike in Central Darfur killed 14 civilians, according to UN-AU peacekeepers.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Bosco Ntaganda’s counsel opposed the prosecution’s motion to change the mode of liability with which Ntaganda is charged. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Congolese government to investigate a recently uncovered mass grave that could hold the bodies of people killed during anti-government protests.
ICC Judge Cuno Tarfusser replaced Judge Ekaterina Trendiflova in the case against Dominic Ongwen. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Okot Odhiambo’s body was positively identified. The Ugandan Supreme ruled that LRA member Thomas Kwoyelo’s trial in the International Crimes Division of Uganda’s High Court should continue.
No Peace Without Justice will hold a human rights youth training program in Libya at the end of April.
Tuareg-led rebels said that they are meeting with Algerian mediators to discuss the terms of the preliminary peace deal they rejected last month. The Malian government urged rebel groups to sign the deal, saying that the separatists’ claimed homeland “does not exist.” Meanwhile, an internal inquiry found that UN peacekeepers in Mali used “unauthorized and excessive force” when they fired at and killed three civilians in January.
HRW’s Jim Wormington argued that Simone Gbagbo’s trial showed that the Ivoirian justice system needs reform if it is to credibly investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes. Laurent Gbagbo is meeting with potential presidential candidates in The Hague, Ivoire Justice reported (in French).
Colombia‘s president said that the main hurdle in peace talks with the FARC is getting the group to agree to face punishment for human rights abuses.
Al-Haq founder Raja Shehadeh said that Palestine’s ICC membership will deter human rights abuses. Palestine said that it is in communication with China and Russia to ensure that any future ICC investigations into alleged Israel crimes are not postponed by the UN Security Council, and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that Palestine will refer itself to the ICC if the OTP decides not to open a full investigation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Israel’s partial transfer of withheld Palestinian tax funds and said they could “take the issue to the ICC.” Kevin Jon Heller argued that a lengthy ICC preliminary examination would benefit Palestine by giving it more time to establish statehood. Blogger Mark Kersten argued that Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute could alter perceptions in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Twenty-six Americans filed a complaint with the US attorney general to prosecute Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Amnesty International (AI) called for an independent investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by rebel forces in Donbass, Ukraine, and AI-Ukraine told the Kyiv Post that a rebel’s recorded admission to executing prisoners could be used as evidence of war crimes. Ukraine opened an investigation into the alleged torture and murder of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by rebel forces.
Campaign for Global Justice
Gunal Kursun of the Human Rights Agenda Association examined the situations in Ukraine and Turkey and considered how joining the ICC would impact Turkish government policy. Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Turkey welcomed Palestine’s accession to the ICC Rome Statute.
What else is happening?
ICC President Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi met with the UN secretary general in New York.
HRW called for Bangladesh to suspend the death sentence against Muhammed Kamaruzzaman, who is accused of war crimes allegedly committed during the 1971 civil war.
President Robert Mugabe continued to refuse calls to ratify the protocol on the expanded African Court.
Appeals judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia upheld Bosnian Serb general Zdravko Tolimir’s life sentence for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
A human rights lawyer told GMA News that the Filipino government should bring the Mamasapano incident to the ICC.
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