The South African government’s failure to arrest fugitive Omar al-Bashir should be strongly addressed by the country’s judicial system, ICC member states and the UN Security Council, over 30 African civil society organizations said in a statement today.
From 17-19 June, civil society members of the Coalition for the ICC—a global network of 2,500 non-governmental organizations—met in Cotonou, Benin for an Africa Regional Strategy Meeting to advance justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide through national, regional and international accountability mechanisms. The groups present represented over 600 of the more than 800 NGO members of the Coalition in Africa.
In a statement issued following the meeting, the groups applauded Pretoria’s North Gauteng High Court for its courage in ordering al-Bashir not to leave South Africa before its decision on an application for the execution of outstanding two ICC arrest warrants. The groups also called for those responsible for non-compliance with court orders to be sanctioned, and for both the ICC’s governing body and the UN Security Council to take strong action to ensure cooperation with the Court.
Pangalangan elected ICC judge
This week, ICC member states voted to elect Dr. Raul Pangalangan of the Philippines as a judge.
The special election, held during the resumed 13th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the ICC Rome Statute, was to fill a vacant spot for a judge from the Asia-Pacific region. Pangalangan will serve until March 2021.
William Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC:
“Dr. Pangalangan’s election gives the ICC a full bench of judges, which is crucial to the proper and efficient functioning of the Court as it handles an increasing caseload.”
Dr. Pangalangan was a Philippine delegate to the Rome Conference establishing the ICC in 1995, and for the next decade co-chaired the successful campaign for Philippine ratification of the Rome Statute.
Central African Republic
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), OCDH, LCDH and several victims filed a civil lawsuit against a general in the Anti-Balaka forces.
The CAR’s interim government announced that elections will take place on 18 October. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created special panel to review the UN’s response to allegations of child sex abuse by peacekeepers in the CAR.
Lawyers for Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang argued that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must prove allegations of witness intimidation and bribery before judges can consider admitting the witnesses’ recanted testimony as evidence. The head of Kenya’s witness protection program said that ICC witnesses that were allegedly intimidated were never under the program’s protection. Bensouda said that Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential victory was a key factor in the collapse of the case against him.
A South African court ruled that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir did not have immunity from arrest while in the country, and a judge asked prosecutors to consider charging the government for allowing Al-Bashir to leave the country. The Sunday Times reported that top South African ministers met to discuss protecting Al-Bashir from arrest, and that President Zuma’s own police escorted Al-Bashir to the airport to leave the country. The South African government denied the charge. South African government agencies had reportedly drawn up plans to apprehend the Sudanese president while he was attended the AU summit. Al-Bashir will reportedly attend a summit in India in late October.
The Institute for Security Studies said that the United Kingdom’s arrest of Rwanda’s intelligence chief shows South Africa how it should have handled Al-Bashir. Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Elise Keppler argued that the response to Al-Bashir’s visit to South Africa marked a step forward for international justice, while the International Bar Association’s Mark Ellis said that South Africa’s refusal to arrest Al-Bashir is a blow to the Court and called on the AU to drop political posturing in favor of accountability for atrocity crimes. A Daily Nation columnist argued that South Africa’s reasons for not arrest Al-Bashir do not stand up and that the government could easily have avoided the debacle.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Next month, ICC judges will conduct a review to consider reducing the prison sentence of Thomas Lubanga, who was convicted for using child soldiers. A former Congolese intelligence officer who testified in defense of former militia leader Germain Katanga said that he regrets doing so.
FIDH published a position paper in support of strengthening the Mali UN peacekeeping mission’s ability to secure civilians and support political and judicial processes. Tuareg rebels signed a peace deal with the government, under which they receive partial autonomy in northern Mali.
An ICC investigation unit is gathering additional evidence against former Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen in the Gulu and Pader districts of Uganda, and the ICC prosecutor made a public appeal to Ugandans to bring evidence or testify in the case. The Court also warned Ugandans against witness intimidation in the case.
HRW published evidence implicating top Colombian generals in ‘false positive’ extrajudicial killings and called on the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation if those most responsible are not prosecuted. FARC rebels killed four Colombian soldiers.
Nigeria‘s military said that it is investigating allegations by Amnesty International (AI) that more than 8,000 detainees were killed in its custody during its fight against the Boko Haram. The group killed over 40 people in two separate attacks in northeastern Nigeria, and at least 30 were killed in a bombing in Maiduguri.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict released a report finding that both Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes during last summer’s conflict. AI welcomed the report as a step towards justice for victims on both sides of the dispute and called on Israel and Palestine to cooperate with the ICC. HRW called on the international community to pressure all parties to implement the UN panel’s recommendations, including by supporting the ICC prosecutor. The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council called on UN bodies, states and the international community to endorse the report, noting in particular its call to support the ICC. While Israel disputed the panel’s findings, several scholars and civil society members told Al Jazeera that the report could bolster the chances that the ICC prosecutor will open an investigation into the conflict. Meanwhile, the Palestinian government submitted a file with evidence of alleged Israeli crimes to the ICC.Also this week, an Israeli group called on the ICC to dismiss Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for alleged bias against Israel.The Palestinian Center for Human Rights called on the United Kingdom toarrest former Israeli official Shaul Mofaz for alleged war crimes while he is in the country.
Campaign for Global Justice
The DRC Coalition for the ICC’s Désiré-Israel Kazadi spoke with La Prospérité about the passage of a law incorporating the ICC Rome Statute into Congolese law (in French). The Coalition for the ICC’s Dan Verderosa told SABC that all states should join the ICC. A Malaysian MP urged the government to join the ICC in order to get justice for flight MH17 victims, and called on the Malaysian chapter of Parliamentarians for Global Action to establish a committee to accelerate the ratification process.
What else is happening?
George Kegoro of the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists argued that the AU and small African states need the ICC. South Africa said that it will press for reforms of the Rome Statute and reserves the right to leave the Court. Justice Richard Goldstone called on South Africa to fight for a more inclusive ICC instead of abandoning it. Namibia said that it could leave the ICC if amendments on immunity for heads of state are not considered. Zimbabwe’s vice president called on African states to form their own international court to counter the ICC. A Daily Maverick columnist argued that the ICC is not biased against Africa, but that as long as all of its defendants are African, it will face that accusation.
TRIAL welcomed a Bosnian court ruling providing compensation for victims of war crimes.
AI called on the UN Security Council to use an upcoming meeting with NGOs on Syria to take steps to stop attacks against civilians.
ICC judges agreed on measures to increase the efficiency of Court processes.
The UN secretary-general welcomed the passage of a resolution declaring 19 June to be the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Rwanda’s intelligence chief was arrested on war crimes charges in the UK.
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