The ICC’s new permanent premises has arrived just in time. 2016 is shaping up to be one of the busiest years yet for the Court. January alone will see hearings in cases related to alleged crimes in Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda and Mali. Meanwhile, a former Congolese militia leader is this month set to become the first ICC convict to complete their sentence.
Gbagbo/Blé Goudé: Côte d’Ivoire post-election violence trial to open
On 28 January, opening statements and the presentation of evidence by the ICC prosecutor will start in the ICC’s first case relating to Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-11 post-election violence, which saw up to 3,000 killed and thousands more injured. Former Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo is being tried alongside his protégé and political ally, youth leader Charles Blé Goudé. Both are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape. Their individual cases were joined in March 2015.
The ICC prosecutor alleges that they created and executed a common plan to hold on to power by encouraging attacks on the supporters of current president Alassane Ouattara. Simone Gbagbo, Côte d’Ivoire’s former first lady, is also implicated in the alleged criminal scheme and remains wanted by the ICC. In 2015, she was convicted of undermining state security by an Ivorian court and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. ICC judges have confirmed Côte d’Ivoire is obliged to surrender her.
Ruto/Sang: Defense calls for case to be thrown out
On 12 January, hearings are scheduled in the trial of Kenyan Deputy president William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang for alleged crimes against humanity during violence that followed the Kenyan presidential elections in 2007, which killed over 1,200 and displaced 600,000.
With the conclusion of the prosecution’s case in September last year, the two suspects filed motions requesting judges to acquit them of all charges. Sang’s lawyers claim the prosecution failed to investigate incriminating and exonerating circumstances, arguing that the case is founded on the evidence of only six witnesses and is almost entirely based on hearsay and speculation. The prosecutor has asked judges to dismiss both motions.
Ongwen: Trial for Lord’s Army Resistance commander?
On 21 January, pre-trial judges will hear arguments to establish whether Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen should face 67 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in a trial before the ICC.
In January 2015, following a reported falling-out with LRA leader Joseph Kony, Ongwen handed himself in to authorities in the Central African Republic and was swiftly transferred to The Hague. An arrest warrant had been issued by the Court in 2005. At his first appearance hearing before ICC judges, Ongwen confirmed he was a senior LRA commander and stated he was abducted by the group at age 14.
Ongwen’s defense has requested a postponement of the hearing until mid-March 2016.
Al-Faqi al-Mahdi: Possible first ICC cultural war crimes trial
From 18 January, pre-trial judges will hear submissions on whether Tuareg rebel Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi should be tried before the ICC for cultural war crimes allegedly committed in Mali. Al-Faqi was arrested in Niger and transferred to the ICC in September 2015, charged with the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against historical monuments or buildings dedicated to religion in the UNESCO protected city of Timbuktu, the first such case to come before the ICC.
The prosecutor alleges al Faqi worked closely with terrorist groups Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—heading the so-called Manners’ Brigade—following the invasion Mali’s Timbuktu by Islamist rebels in 2012.
Katanga: First completed ICC sentence
Also on 18 January, former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga will become the first ICC convict to complete their sentence. Katanga was transferred to a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in December 2015, from where he will be released from ICC custody. In March 2014 Katanga was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in DRC in 2003. He was later sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
After serving the required two-thirds of this sentence and expressing regret for his crimes, judges last year agreed to his early release. Katanga had been in ICC custody since October 2007.
A version of this first appeared in the Global Justice Monitor.
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