ICJ Media Review: Ntaganda testifies at The Hague
By ICL Media Review
Ntaganda testifies at ICC
Defendant Bosco Ntaganda took the stand on 14 June 2017, in the case of The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda ongoing at the ICC. In advance of his client’s testimony, defence lawyer Stephane Bourgon explained that “What Mr Ntaganda wishes to establish by testifying is to explain exactly who he is and to ensure that people perceive him as a human being. He wants to speak personally with the judges.” Ntaganda is alleged to have been the Commander of operations of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Liberation du Congo (FPLC), and faces 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity for acts allegedly committed between 2002-2003 in the DRC.
His trial opened on 2 September 2015, and his time on the stand is likely to span weeks, as he is questioned by both defence and prosecution. In his initial testimony, Ntaganda described his family background and early career in the armed forces; speaking of undergoing training with the Rwandan Patriotic Army following his entry into their ranks at the age of 17, and his subsequent rise to the rank of regimental sergeant major. (TRT World, ABC News)
Bemba seeks appeal of appointment of experts on reparations
In the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, for which reparations proceedings are currently before Trial Chamber III at the ICC, Bemba’s Defence team have filed a request for leave to appeal the Chamber’s “Decision appointing experts on reparations.” As there is no automatic right to appeal for this type of decision, the Defence team are accordingly first seeking leave to appeal. Prior to this recent development, Bemba was convicted by an ICC Trial Chamber on 21 March 2016 and subsequently brought seven grounds of appeal against his conviction. The Defence, therefore, alleges that – given the “undeniable link between the reparations process and the scope of the conviction” – the recent progress of reparations proceedings (prior to the delivery of a judgment on Bemba’s appeal against conviction) should be subject to appeal.
More specifically, the Trial Chamber recently rejected Bemba’s request to suspend reparations proceedings pending a final appeal judgment, on the basis that the reparations steps are presently merely “preparatory” and “preliminary,” and the Defence team argues that the Trial Chamber’s subsequent order on 2 June 2017 – in its “Decision appointing experts on reparations” – that Bemba submit his observations on the reparations has left him “with no opportunity to instruct experts of his own or, more importantly, to know the scope of his conviction.” (ICC Court Record)
Stanisic and Simatovic retrial begins
The retrial of Jovaica Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service and his assistant, Franko Simatovic started on 13 June 2017 before the Trial Chamber of the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). The Trial Chamber, presided by judge Burton Hall, “allowed the prosecutors to include testimonies by 143 witnesses” and 104 working hours to complete the presentation of evidence against the two defendants. Judge Hall mentioned Stanisic’s request to extend his provisional release during this phase of presentation of evidence. The President stated that considering Stanisic’s health hearings would be held three times a week.
Stanisic and Simatovic are currently in Serbia under provisional release and were previously tried before the ICTY on the basis of the same indictment alleging the joint criminal enterprise between April 1991 and December 1995 aimed for the “forcible and permanent removal of the majority of no-Serbs from large areas in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina” (three charges of crimes against humanity and one charge of war crime). While the Trial Chamber acquitted them in 2013, Appeals Chamber “accepted the key grounds of an appeal filed by the prosecution, quashing the verdict of release and ordering a retrial” in 2015. Doctors designated by the ICTY filed a report to the judges on “Stanisic’s ability to travel and stand trial”. (Balkan Insight ; Yahoo)
Twice acquitted ICTY accused to become Prime Minister for Kosovo
A general election in Kosovo led to a coalition government of former ethnic Albanian rebel commanders. The alliance, called “war wing” by Kosovo’s media, nominated Ramush Haradinaj to be prime minister. Haradinaj was tried by the ICTY twice for war crimes and acquitted during both trials. He was also arrested and detained in France in January on a Serbian arrest warrant, but released by the French courts months later. (Al Jazeera)
ICC Prosecutor addresses the UN Security Council on Darfur
On 8 June, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addressed the UN Security Council in New York to deliver her periodic statement regarding the situation in Darfur, pursuant to UN Security Resolution 1593 of 2005. In her statement, Prosecutor Bensouda reiterated her Office’s determination to pursue justice in Darfur, and drew attention to serious problems – including ongoing clashes in North and East Darfur, the crimes suffered by internally displaced persons, and the detention of human rights activists along with the government’s political opponents – which continue in the region.
She furthermore identified one of the root causes of conflict to be “the pervading toxic culture of impunity in Darfur for Rome Statute crimes,” identified State parties to the Rome Statute (such as Jordan) who had allowed sitting Sudanese President Al Bashir to visit despite extant ICC arrest warrants for him, and reminded the Council that “inviting, facilitating or supporting the international travel of any person subject to an ICC arrest warrant is inconsistent with a commitment to international criminal justice.” In this respect, Prosecutor Bensouda took the opportunity of her address to call on the Security Council to act: “At a minimum, the Council should demonstrate its support for the work of my Office by taking concrete action in response to decisions of non-compliance or non-cooperation referred to it by the Court.” (ICC Press Release)
Photos: ICC live feed screengrab, ICC-CPI/flickr, UN Photo/Manuel Elias