In Global Justice news this week: South African court rules that ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir should have been arrested, verdict due in the ICC trial of former Congolese militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, calls for accountability in Syria, South Sudan and much more.
A win for justice in South Africa
In a move widely welcomed by civil society, South Arica’s supreme court of appeal this week upheld a Pretoria high court ruling that ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir should have been arrested when he attended the African Union summit in the country in June last year. Judges dismissed claims that al-Bashir was immune from arrest due to his status as a sitting head-of-state, terming the authorities’ failure to abide by national and international legal obligations “disgraceful.” The Court also said that the government should explain its actions and be held accountable, and the Sudanese president arrested should he enter the country again.
“We are thrilled with the SCA verdict as South Africa should not be treated as a safe haven for suspected perpetrators of egregious crimes,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, executive director of the South Africa Litigation Centre, which filed the original motion to arrest al-Bashir in the Pretoria high court. “The South African government should seek to uphold the rule of law instead of shielding suspected war criminals and the SCA has made this clear today.”
Bemba verdict due Monday
The ICC hands down its fourth ever judgment on 21 March 2016 in the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba. The Congolese politician and militia leader is charged with responsibility for grave crimes allegedly committed by a militia under his control in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-3. Here’s all you need to know ahead of the much-anticipated verdict in the first ICC trial involving “command responsibility” and the alleged use of rape as weapon of war.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) issued a report detailing its 15 years of invaluable work in support of victims in CAR as well as the ICC’s Central African investigation.
International Criminal Court investigations
Central african Republic: Defence lawyers alleged payments to witnesses was at the centre of ICC hearings this week in former MLC commander Jean-Pierre Bemba’s witness-tampering trial.
Kenya: Victims of violence that erupted after the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections are feeling under-represented at the ICC. Kenya’s initiative to provide reparations for victims of rape and sexual violence, however, could prove to be a crucial opportunity to restore survivors and their families’ hope of seeing justice.
Cote d’Ivoire: Prosecution witness “Sam-the-African” testified last week that Simone Gbagbo greatly influenced the former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo decision-making.
Mali: As they follow the ICC case against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, cultural experts weighed in on the idea of destruction of historical monuments as a war crime.
Georgia: Aage Borchgrevink and Simon Papuashvili, of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the International Partnership for Human Rights describe the challenges that a lack of state cooperation poses to the successful ICC investigation into the alleged crimes committed during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.
ICC preliminary examinations
Colombia: Open Democracy’s Katja Noordam explained the challenges of gender inclusion in a post-conflict Colombia.
Nigeria: Allegations of extra-judicial executions and the suppression of non-violent protests by security agencies ring alarm bells in Nigeria.
Ukraine: HRW demands that the escalating climate of fear and oppression in Crimea remain atop the international human rights agenda.
Palestine: Civil society, including Israeli human rights organizations, condemned the recent and ongoing threats and cyberattacks against Al-Haq and other Palestinian human rights organizations.
Around the world
Namibia’s cabinet approved a possible withdrawal from the ICC. The Namibian International Relations and Co-operation Minister said that the country will shift its focus from international criminal justice to the eradication of poverty.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC as the UN Commission of Inquiry in Syria continues to document atrocities committed by all sides. The Commission insists the crimes be addressed sooner than later. Amnesty International provided a retrospective of key moments during the Syrian crisis to mark its five-year anniversary.
ICTY judges will deliver the judgement for Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who stands accused of charges including genocide for the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre. The verdict in the case against radical Serb leader Vojislav Seselj will also be delivered on March 31. Seselj will be absent due to medical reasons.
Former president of Guatemala Efrain Rios Montt returned to court this week for a retrial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the peak of Guatemala’s civil war.
After a four-month investigation, the UN has concluded that war crimes are likely being committed in South Sudan by government forces, including widespread rape and the recruitment and killing of children. Human Rights Watch responded by encouraging the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a special rapporteur to document and report human rights violations in the country.
Rwanda withdrew its declaration allowing individuals to file complaints directly with the African Court on Human and People’s Rights. The International Federation for Human Rights denounced the situation as a “setback for the protection of human rights” in Rwanda.
The United States Congress passed a non-binding resolution to classify ISIS’s atrocities in Syria and Iraq as genocide, with the White House stating it is ready to support an investigation by the ICC into the matter. Kurdish authorities selected 25 Yazidi mass graves in Iraq to present to the ICC as evidence of the alleged genocide.
Avenues for prosecuting ISIS fighters in relation to war crimes.
Journalists for Justice challenged several popular myths about the ICC.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution addressing sexual abuse by peacekeepers.