ICJ Media Review: ICC Prosecutor submits request to open investigation into crimes in Afghanistan
In this week's review, news about the ICC Office of The Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation into crimes in Afghanistan, the trial of Eshetu Alemu on Ethiopia in The Hague, ICC Budget report recommendations, and ICC Symposium on cooperation and complementarity
ICC Prosecutor submits request to open investigation into crimes in Afghanistan
On 3 November, the Presidency of the International Criminal Court assigned Pre-Trial Chamber III to the Situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan after the ICC Office of the Prosecutor submitted a request for authorization to open an investigation into “crimes alleged to have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in that State.” A Preliminary Examination has been open and public concerning crimes in Afghanistan since 2007, and the Office has received 112 communications alleging crimes under the Rome Statute and within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The Preliminary Examination reviewed alleged and potential crimes committed by members of the Taliban and affiliated armed groups, members of the Afghan authorities and members of the US forces and of the CIA.
In a statement from the OTP, the Prosecution noted that the scope of the investigation “will focus solely upon war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed since 1 May 2003 on the territory of Afghanistan as well as war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1 July 2002 on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute.” The judges assigned by the Presidency to Pre-Trial Chamber III and to review the Prosecution’s request include Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, Judge Chang-ho Chung and Judge Raul C. Pangalangan. (ICC OTP Press Statement, ICC Presidency Decision, ICC OTP Preliminary Examination Report).
Dutch court starts trial of Eshetu Alemu for Ethiopian war crimes
On 29 October, the trial of 63-year-old Dutch-Ethiopian national Eshetu Alemu, started in The Hague. He is alleged to have been an associate of former Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and accused of four war crimes for facts which took place during the “Red Terror” purges in northwestern Gojjam province of Ethiopia in the late 1970s. Charges include the “arbitrary detention and cruel and inhuman treatment of civilians and fighters who had laid down their arms”, “the incarceration and inhumane treatment of 240 people” and ordering the deaths of 75 prisoners. 321 victims have been named and witnesses detailed acts of torture. In Ethiopia, Alemu was sentenced to death in absentia for the murder of suspected opponents of the regime. In custody since two years, Alemu denies all the charges. While he acknowledges having been “a senior member of the Marxist-Leninist regime which governed the country” in charge of propaganda, he claims that he never signed an execution order and that he did not have the authority to do so. He also says that he had been targeted for assassination by other political groups. His trial is expected to last for three weeks. Former dictator Mengistu, who is still at large in Zimbabwe, was found guilty in absentia of genocide in 2007. (BBC, News24)
ICC Committee on Budget and Finance makes recommendation for ICC budget
The International Criminal Court’s Committee on Budget and Finance (the Committee), made up of representatives from selected state parties, has submitted its recommendation for the 2018 ICC budget. The Committee scrutinised the proposed budget for 2018, and has recommended a reduction to an overall budget increase. The increase in the budget is now recommended to be €2.83 million instead of the proposed €6.29 million. Part of these funds will go towards increasing the budget for judge’s salaries to €580.9 thousand. The Committee also commented on its anticipation of proposed reforms to the ICC’s legal aid system, though it made note of the Courts need to consider existing resources when developing reforms. All recommendations by the Committee are pending decisions from the Assembly of State Parties. (ICC ASP, CBF Report)
ICC holds cooperation and complementarity symposium with Niger
From 24 to 26 October, the International Criminal Court, alongside authorities from the Republic of Niger, held a symposium on cooperation and complementarity in Niamey, Niger. 13 other Central and West-African francophone States, along with intergovernmental and non-governmental organisation representatives joined the discussion on how to advance international criminal justice in the region. Niger Prime Minister, Brigi Rafini addressed the symposium, highlighting how complementarity with the ICC has allowed for improvements within the region's laws, which now encompass crimes against humanity, and the Crime of Aggression adopted by the ICC in Kampala in 2010. The Symposium mainly sought to address the concept of complementarity, that is, how the ICC exists to complement the work of national jurisdictions. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed her appreciation for the organisation of the Symposium, and she applauded the role that African State have had in the advancement of international criminal justice. The talks concluded with a declaration by the attendees, reaffirming their support for the ICC. (ICC Press Release)