In Global Justice news this week: The Coalition denounced Uganda’s decision to welcome ICC suspect Omar al-Bashir at the Ugandan president’s inauguration, the UN General Assembly overcame threats to its annual ICC resolution, hearings began in the Ivorian former first lady’s domestic crimes against humanity trial, and much more.
Members of civil society have been actively tracking the movements of President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir for years since the ICC put out arrest warrants against him on charges of alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur. The past two weeks offered several opportunities for ICC and UN members to make good on their obligations to cooperate with the warrants.
The Coalition was on hand to remind states of not only their international legal obligations, but also the devastating human toll for which the internal armed conflict in Darfur has become notorious.
In different work but with immense potential to impact the chances of al-Bashir’s arrest, the Coalition was busy ensuring that the UN General Assembly’s (GA) annual ICC resolution would pass by consensus. In a compelling show of support for the Court, the GA adopted the resolution.
Al-Bashir attends inauguration ceremony in Kampala
On 11 May, the Coalition sent a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to express deep disappointment at the invitation extended to al-Bashir for Museveni´s inauguration on 12 May 2016. There are two ICC arrest warrants against al-Bashir, and as an ICC member state Uganda must either deny al-Bashir entry onto its territory or arrest and surrender him to the Court.
The Court’s own member states have decided that where they cannot immediately arrest and surrender an ICC suspect, they should at least avoid “non-essential contacts” with such individuals. In al-Bashir’s case, which was submitted via a UN Security Council referral to the ICC, all UN members share in the duty to cooperate.
That there should be no “business as usual” with those seeking to evade justice affirms the integrity of the ICC’s arrest warrants and attests to the importance of cooperation with the Court.
In light of the massive suffering and alleged gross violations of international law that were committed and continue to be committed in Darfur, some Coalition members expressed particular shock at Uganda’s decision—Uganda was the first African state to refer a situation of mass atrocities to the ICC. In fact eight years ago Museveni refused to invite al-Bashir to Uganda.
The Coalition stressed that inviting al-Bashir to these ceremonial events not only goes against Uganda’s international legal duties, but also lends credibility to such ICC suspects enjoying liberty when they should instead be in ICC custody. It likewise conveys a message of indifference and disregard for victims of alleged crimes and their families.
Among those to walk out of the Ugandan president’s inauguration ceremony were the European Union as well as the United States and Canada.
Whether Uganda satisfies its obligations to the ICC and to humanity by sending al-Bashir to The Hague to fairly face the charges against him remains to be seen. Should Uganda fail here, the obligation falls in the hands of those continuing to rub shoulders with the Sudanese president this week in Kampala.
Uganda follows Djibouti’s lead
Al-Bashir’s trip to Uganda comes less than a week after he attended President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s inauguration in Djibouti. Djibouti too is an ICC member state and under the same legal—and moral—obligations as Uganda. Bashir Watch, with the Coalition’s support, sent a letter to Djibouti’s president and other officials reminding them of Djibouti’s legal obligation under the Rome Statute: to deny al-Bashir entry or to arrest and surrender him to the ICC.
The ICC already reminded Djibouti of its duty to cooperate with al-Bashir’s arrest as far back as 2011, following the Sudanese president’s travel to the territory on 8 May 2011 for President Guelleh’s previous inauguration ceremony.
Seemingly undeterred by the reminder by Bashir Watch, Djibouti invited al-Bashir to attend President Guelleh’s 8 May 2016 inauguration ceremony—no arrest ensued.
UN General Assembly adopts resolution in support of the ICC
On Friday morning in New York, the UN GA adopted its annual resolution on the ICC emphasizing that ending impunity is “essential for coming to terms with any past crimes committed and preventing such crimes in the future.”
In a strong show of support for the Court, ICC member states as well as non-member states forged a united front against efforts to make the resolution, adopted by consensus in previous years, subject to a vote.
Some states called for additional support by the UN. Costa Rica, for instance, called on the Security Council to apply a “consistent and coherent” approach to the ICC. Brazil noted that the GA legally can, and should, resolve to help the Court bear costs related to situations referred by the Security Council.
A vote could have likely killed the resolution, which would severely undermine both the role of the ICC and its relationship with the UN. The positive outcome of today’s UN resolution is a strong sign that the Court continues to receive the backing of governments from all regions of the world.
Uganda, Djibouti and Sudan are all UN member states and thus part of the consensus leading to today’s GA resolution.
Central African Republic: Bishop, Trauma Expert and two victims to testify at convicted rebel commander’s sentencing hearing next week at the ICC.
Côte d’Ivoire: As hearings began in Abidjan in the Simone Gbagbo case, Amnesty International urged Côte d’Ivoire to reconsider its refusal to surrender the “Iron Lady” to the ICC. But is justice in sight? JusticeHub made a case for why the ICC should perhaps let Côte d’Ivoire prosecute.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: The DRC has a right to the ICC’s legal assistance prior to a possible post-election crisis, said one local activist. Journalists for Justice meanwhile suggested the Court has work to do as it looks for the best formula for victims reparations in the Lubanga case.
Former Congolese warlord back on trial for crimes against humanity in the DRC, months after completing ICC sentence.
Kenya: Seven additional Kenyans probed about witness-tampering in ICC cases?
Kenya Human Rights Commission head George Kegoro suspects mischief in Ruto defense’s request for investigation into ICC prosecution witnesses.
Uganda: Kevin Maurer on the hunt for Ugandan ICC suspect and Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.
ICC preliminary examinations
Iraq car bombing claimed by ISIS fits the pattern of crimes against humanity, said Human Rights Watch.
Campaign for Global Justice
Looking to next week, the International Association for Court Administration (IACA) will hold its Europe regional conference “Promoting Regional and Global Approaches to Justice Administration” from 18 to 20 May 2016 in The Hague, the Netherlands. The conference will feature high-level discussions with officials from and experts on international and national legal systems alike. NGOs and students should look to take advantage of this opportunity to engage with key actors on issues including, among others, comparative pre-trial and trial efficiency processes, witness protection of child soldiers and children in war zones, and international frameworks for court excellence.
Around the world
UN investigators: states must prevent attacks on Syria hospitals.
Parliamentarians for Global Action called on the President of Chile to ratify the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute.