In global justice news this week: ICC prosecutor to request investigation into 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict; Botswana backs ICC at UN general assembly; Calls for probe into Kunduz airstrike; and news on Darfur, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali & much more.
ICC to investigate 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict?
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda this week notified judges that she would seek to open an investigation into alleged grave crimes by all sides during the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russian-backed separatists over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Georgia, a state party to the Rome Statute, has been under so-called ICC preliminary examination since the end of the week-long war.
Having previously established a reasonable basis to believe crimes under ICC jurisdiction were committed during and after the conflict, the latest phase of the prosecutor’s examination focused on whether national prosecutions of those responsible were taking place in Georgia and Russia. This week’s development suggests that assessment has been negative. Once the prosecutor’s request is received, it will be up to pre-trial judges to decide whether to authorize the investigation.
Civil society has long been calling for accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity – including murder of civilians, pillaging, destruction of property and the forcible transfer of population – allegedly committed during the conflict.
Botswana backs ICC at UN general assembly
At the UN General Assembly last week, Botswana urged all states to respect the ICC and assist it in its mission to end impunity for atrocities: “Botswana’s commitment to a strong and effective international justice system remains resolute. Our belief in the ICC, as the only standing international criminal tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, is unwavering […]. The Botswana government regrets that non-cooperation by some state parties still plagues the court, making allowance for continued impunity and escape from accountability for crimes committed against humanity.”
Calls for probe into Kunduz airstrike
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has labelled the United States airstrike against a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan a war crime. The widely condemned bombing killed 22, including three children and 12 MSF staff. The humanitarian group has called for an independent investigation into the matter and the activation of the never-before used International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, set up in 1991 to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law.
Darfur: South Africa has asked the ICC for more time to explain why it did not arrest ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir last June. The Sudanese president will reportedly attend an India-Africa summit at the end of October.
Democratic Republic of Congo: ICC judges will next week consider early release for Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga. Katanga was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 2014. However, he has been in ICC custody since 2007 and is considered to have served out two-thirds of his sentence, making him eligible for review. The ICC’s first convict, Thomas Lubanga, was denied early release in September.
Mali: During the first appearance of Tuareg rebel Ahmad al Mahdi before the ICC last week, the sitting judge indicated that measures would be taken to speed up the proceedings.
Uganda: The possibility of holding a key pre-trial hearing in the case against Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen in Uganda poses logistical challenges for the ICC.
The International Federation for Human Rights expressed called for a limit to the UN Security Council’s use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.
What else is happening?
A new report accuses Saudi-led Coalition of committing war crimes in Yemen.
Islamic State destroyed Palmyra’s “Triumphal Arch” in Syria.
Lawyers for former Guatemalan president Rios Montt are appealing on medical grounds to prevent the genocide and crimes against humanity trial taking place.
A coalition of Muslim groups filed a complaint in New York to sue Myanmar’s president for alleged genocide against the Rohingya ethnic group.
From Joseph Mengele’s skull to Gaza’s bombed-out buildings, a new exhibition presents a visual record of acts of violence in chilling detail.