GJWeekly: Judges consider Georgia probe | The ICC needs South Africa

In global justice news this week: The ICC considers Georgia investigation; ICC needs South Africa; Build up to the 14th Assembly of States Parties; and news on Central African Republic, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and much more.

ICC considers Georgia investigation
Stalled domestic proceedings into alleged grave crimes have prompted the ICC prosecutor to request judges’ authorization to open investigation into the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia, involving Russia, over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Civil society said the move could deliver long-awaited justice for victims of the conflict, noting that the investigation also could be significant as the Court’s the first outside Africa. Russia said it “expects ICC judges take a decision, based on principles of justice, on events in South Ossetia.”

The ICC needs South Africa
South Africa’s ruling ANC party has decided that it will hold a parliamentary vote on withdrawing from the Rome Statute over what it calls an anti-Africa bias at the ICC. Tensions have been running high since South Africa’s failure to arrest ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir in June. This week, ICC judges gave South Africa more time to explain why it did not arrest the Sudanese president. Civil society in the country spoke out against the withdrawal plan, saying “the South African government and the ANC should be in ICC to fight impunity and to protect human rights.” We agree. The ICC system is better with South Africa in. Here are some reasons why. Ghana’s president meanwhile said the ICC is still relevant in fighting impunity in Africa. Withdrawing would be the beginning of a long legal process say commentators.

Build up: 14th Assembly of States Parties
With the 14th annual session of the ICC’s governing body just over a month away, stay up to date with the build-up here on #GlobalJustice.

Kenya and South Africa want the Assembly to debate the use of prior recorded witness testimony in ICC trials, a key issue at the Court at present (see below), as well as the obligation of ICC member states to arrest and surrender sitting heads of state. ASP President Sidiki Kaba said that dialogue on ICC-Africa relationship can only happen at the ASP. Kenyan legislators petitioned the UN Security Council and ASP on witness identification in the Ruto/Sang case. A senior UN official has underlined the importance of strengthened ICC field operations, including communications and outreach, and security in the field.

Read our report on last year’s 13th Assembly of States Parties.

ICC investigations
Central African Republic: The prosecution submitted evidence of witness tampering in the Bemba II trial. Here’s a reminder on how the situation ended up at the Court.

Kenya: ICC judges granted the African Union the right to submit observations in the Ruto/Sang case on the use of prior recorded testimony.

Democratic Republic of Congo: The defense for Bosco Ntaganda has asked ICC judges not to admit any evidence related to allegations of rape and sexual slavery by the former Congolese militia leader.

Darfur: Civil society expressed its concern to Algeria ahead of ICC fugitive al-Bashir’ s visit to the country in this week. The Indian government said it will not arrest al-Bashir next month month, saying it is not under international obligation to do so.

Uganda: The expansion of charges against Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen could allow more communities to participate in trial proceedings, improving reconciliation efforts in the region.

Cote d’Ivoire: ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opposes holding the trial of former Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo and political ally Charles Ble Goude in the country as it could create tensions (in French).

ICC preliminary examinations
Ukraine: The Dutch Safety Board released its long-awaited report on the shooting down of flight MH17 this week, saying the plane was shot down by a Russian-made missile.

Guinea: The ICC prosecutor called on Guineans to avoid unrest ahead of approaching elections.

Campaign for Global Justice
Initiatives to restrain the veto of the UN Security Council’s permanent members when dealing with atrocities are gathering momentum. In a parliamentary seminar held in Montevideo, Uruguay, South American legislators pledged to push for a full implementation of the ICC Rome Statute.

What else is happening?
The UN called for an investigation after new report accused Kurdish forces in Syria of committing war crimes. The European Union reiterated its call for a UN referral of the situation in the country to the ICC.

A Guatemalan court ruled that amnesty could not apply to international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity in a decision related to the trial against former president Rios Montt.

A UN resolution led by South Korea and the United States is allegedly on its way to refer the situation in North Korea to the ICC.

Bosnia claims it has charged over 500 persons with war crimes allegedly committed between 1992 and 1995 over the last ten years.

Academic Alex Whiting looks at whether victims should have a voice in the ICC prosecutor’s decision to open or cease investigations.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants above all to see increased support for the ICC, and a Court moving towards full universality.

MSF has launched a petition calling on the United States to consent to an independent investigation into the Kunduz airstrike.

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