#GlobalJustice Weekly – Preparing for justice for Syria | New ICC home to open

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In Global Justice news this week: Evidence mounts on alleged human rights abuses in Syria prompting renewed discussions on accountability; the ICC prosecutor reportedly entered an advanced stage of her preliminary examination in Nigeria; the opposition leader as well as members of the ruling Kenyan Jubilee party opposed calls for withdrawal from the ICC; a United Kingdom-led campaign against sexual violence during conflict is feared to be at risk; and much more.

Preparing for justice for Syria

Justice for “colossal” war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria are in danger of being overlooked warned Amnesty International (AI) this week as talks resumed in Geneva to end the conflict now in its sixth year.

With little hope for accountability in Syria, and no jurisdiction for the International Criminal Court (ICC), there are a growing number, if so far insufficient, of governments – including Germany, Sweden and France – undertaking national prosecutions of suspected war criminals, according to AI.

Meanwhile,  an independent investigative body, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, has reportedly built a case against President Bashar al-Assad from a trove of over 600,000 government documents smuggled out of Syria over the past four years. The evidence has been described as the strongest since Nuremberg. While the Commission is assisting governments with national prosecutions, a question remains over which international court could hear cases arising from its investigations.

The US House of Representatives’ appears to think the creation of a temporary UN criminal tribunal for Syria is the best course of action to prosecute crimes in the conflict, but US support for a renewed ICC referral in conjunction with national prosecutions would be more viable – diplomatically, politically and financially – writes Kip Hale of the American Bar Association.

Widney Brown of Physicians for Human Rights stresses that history has shown that those in power and interests change and al-Assad would do well to beware the long arm of international justice.

ICC Permanent Premises to open Tuesday

The inauguration of the ICC’s permanent premises takes place next week Tuesday, 19 April. The event will be opened by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Coalition Convenor William R. Pace, among others. Pace will also, on the occasion of the Coalition’s 20th anniversary, discuss progress to date and challenges ahead in the fight for global justice during a lecture organized in The Hague on 21 April.

International Criminal Court investigations 

Democratic Republic of Congo – Bosco Ntaganda’s defense lawyer has accused the ICC prosecution of excessive witness preparation.

Uganda – Who exactly is Dominic Ongwen? Read an account of the life of the LRA commander and former child soldier.

CAR – Could recently convicted Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s wealth be linked to Heineken?

Darfur (Sudan)South Africa said it will appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling against immunity for Omar al-Bashir amid criticisms of the government’s failure to arrest al-Bashir and its threat to pull out of the ICC. What does the ruling mean?

Kenya – The thrown-out trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang exposed differences between ICC judges, with one dissenting judge suggesting that the majority changed its earlier decision. Ruto meanwhile described the prosecutor’s case as “fabricated.”

Lamenting the death of the Kenyan post-election crisis cases at the ICC, civil society insisted that justice be delivered to victims just as a case filed by survivors resumed at the High Court in Nairobi.

A Jubilee member of parliament supported Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s comments that the Jubilee government’s efforst in the ICC’s Ruto and Sang case may spell doom for global efforts against impunity. A Jubilee government official, meanwhile, lauded the ICC’s decision to terminate the case but insisted Kenya should not withdraw from the Court.

ICC preliminary examinations

Afghanistan – Parliamentarians for Global Action sent an open letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on fighting impunity for ICC crimes.

Nigeria – UNICEF released a report claiming Boko Haram is increasingly relying on children as suicide bombers, with Human Rights Watch reporting allegations of increased assaults on schools, students, and teachers in northern Nigeria. Amnesty International called for an investigation into the alleged killing and secret mass burial of 347 members of a Shi’ite religious group.

The ICC is reportedly set to begin the next stage of its preliminary examination of alleged human rights abuses by the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram. Eight cases that the ICC prosecutor intends to investigate came to light this week. The Nigerian government, meanwhile, assured the ICC it will cooperate with the investigation as part of the war against terror.

Campaign for Global Justice

ICC Judge Eboe-Osuji addressed the African Union’s bid to withdraw from the Rome Statute and described its mistaken approach to immunity for heads-of-state. Judge Eboe-Osuji insisted that while the ICC does not target Africa and in fact works independent of political pressures, the Court is willing to improve.

The United Kingdom’s House of Lords select committee on sexual violence in conflict released a report addressing how to best support survivors of these crimes. Committee member Baroness Emma Nicholson reiterated the need to eradicate sexual violence in conflict, but the report warns that the UK-led campaign is at risk without the personal leadership of former Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Justice Hub wrote on El Salvador’s accession to the Rome Statute.

Around the world

Human Rights Watch urged for the end of the alleged systematic and pervasive human rights abuses in North Korea.

Burundi –  Independent international inquiry needed as government investigation into December 2015 extrajudicial executions ignores state abuses, said Human Rights Watch.

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