#GlobalJusticeWeekly – Habré trial a milestone for African justice

Hissene HabreMore than 20 years after he was overthrown, the trial of former Chadian president Hissène Habré began in Senegal this week to widespread approval from local and international civil society.

Taking place before a special court created by Senegal and the African Union (AU), the trial is an important moment for the fight against impunity in Africa

Habré is charged with crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes allegedly committed during his eight year term as president of Chad. His regime is said to be responsible for up to 40,000 summary executions and forced disappearances, and for the torture of some 200,000.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all welcomed the proceedings, which UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein termed a milestone.

The push to hold Habré to account has been driven by the surviving victims of the regime.

“Even if it takes twenty years, Africa will not forget its victims” said FIDH and its Chadian and Senegalese members in an op-ed in the Mail and Guardian.

The trial is expected to last three months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

Find out more about the trial.

Central African Republic
Jean-Pierre Bemba’s defense counsel is seeking a stay in proceedings, citing the late disclosure of evidence by the prosecution in his war crimes trial.

A new report from the International Rescue Committee warns that the CAR risks becoming a failed state. The UN condemned a series of armed attacks on the main supply route in the country. A UN official, who was informed of allegations of sex abuse against French peacekeepers but took no action at the time, resigned for health reasons.

Judges rejected Fatou Bensouda’s request to enter into evidence a report that she said would help confirm witness testimony against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang.

US President Barack Obama will not meet separately with Ruto during his visit to Kenya. Obama’s trip to Kenya has been criticized by some because of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s alleged role in post-election violence and the ICC case against him.

Coalition for the ICC Convenor William Pace said that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s hasty exit from South Africa shows a precedent for civil society and judiciaries to compel the execution of ICC arrest warrants. Five civil society groups called for the arrest of those responsible for violating a South African court order not to allow Al-Bashir to leave South Africa. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that the ICC was not to blame for the failure to arrest Al-Bashir.

A UNAMID employee was abducted in South Darfur. A Janjaweed leader travelled to Egypt despite a UN travel ban. Sudan’s demobilization commission said that 31,000 former rebels have beendemobilized in Darfur.

Democratic Republic of Congo
Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (HRW) praised the Congolese government for its record of cooperation with the ICC and called for the creation of a new justice mechanism to adjudicate serious human rights violations in the country.

The International Justice Monitor interviewed International Bare Association Executive Director Mark Ellis on domestic trials in Libya and the ICC. At least 40 people died this week during clashes in Benghazi.

Some of the Timbuktu mausoleums that were destroyed by militants have been restored through combined local and international efforts. The head of UNESCO said that she hopes the ICC will prosecute those responsible for the destruction of the mausoleums.

Both ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Dominic Ongwen’s legal counsel want the former Lord’s Resistance Army commander’s confirmation of charges hearing held in Gulu, and a number of victims spoke in support of holding proceedings in Uganda. The ICC told survivors of the Lukodi massacre that they will not be directly compensated but would benefit from rehabilitation services.

Côte d’Ivoire
The trial of several pro-Gbagbo military officers was postponed because one of the defendants’ lawyers was not present (in French). Reuters reported that the search for justice lags behind Côte d’Ivoire’s economic recovery. Meanwhile, IRIN reported that political prisoners, selective justice and refugees are three concerns ahead of Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election.

Preliminary Examinations
Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, predicted that the Boko Haram would be defeated by a new African force within 18 months, and said that he is ready to negotiate for the release of the Chibok girls kidnapped by the militant group. Buhari also said that the US ban on sending weapons to Nigeria has aided the Boko Haram. A recent wave attacks by the group has forced thousands of Nigerians toflee across the border to Niger.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomed the ICC ruling requesting the prosecutor to reconsider her decision not to open an investigation into the 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that the ruling does not necessarily mean she will open an investigation into the raid. A Haaretz columnist argued that the ruling shows that the Court will not be deterred by the tricky politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels agreed to expand a pull-back of weapons from eastern Ukraine.

Campaign for Global Justice
The Salvadoran Coalition for the ICC called on El Salvador to join the Court (in Spanish).

What else is happening?
Coalition for the ICC Convenor William Pace told Euronews that global justice has advanced well over the past 20 years, but that reforms are needed at the ICC. The Coalition called on ICC member states to execute the Court’s arrest warrants. The Institute for Security Studies said that the system of complementarity envisaged by the Rome Statute is slowly coming into place, while George Kegoro of the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists argued that the ICC faces challenges but has made progress.

With the support of FIDH, evidence of land-grabbing affecting 60,000 people in Cambodia was submitted to the ICC prosecutor.

The Turkish Coalition for the ICC issued a statement in commemoration of International Justice Day. The ASP president held a special seminar on state sovereignty and international criminal justice in Senegal in commemoration of International Justice Day.

Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice published an analysis of the gender and geographical impact of reforms to the ICC proposed by the Court’s Registry.

ICC officials said that a lack of state cooperation has hampered efforts to pursue suspects. Alex Whiting analyzed the ICC prosecutor’s new strategic plan.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe published a report on combating impunity for conflict-related sexual and gender-based conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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