ICJ Media Review: Palestinian NGOs submit 700-page Israeli war crimes evidence to ICC
In this week's review, news about the ICC and Bashir visit to Jordan, the Commission of Inquiry’s report on Burundi, the Ntaganzwa genocide trial in Rwanda, a Palestinian submission for the ICC Preliminary Examination, ICC Judicial candidates, CAH convictions and sentences in Argentina, and Bensouda’s visit to Colombia:
ICC asks Jordan for further information about immunities argument for Bashir
On 18 September, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC issued a decision requesting Jordan to provide further information in relation to its failure to arrest and surrender to the Court ICC-indicted Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir when he visited the country earlier this year. In its decision, the Chamber underscores that Jordan’s failure to arrest Al-Bashir during his attendance of the 28th Summit of the Arab League on 29 March 2017, was contrary to the provisions of the Rome Statute, which the country is a signatory of. Furthermore, it notes that Jordan’s submissions in relation to the matter were incomplete, as they did not include the legal text of the convention that was cited as the treaty law which purportedly granted Al-Bashir immunity, the 1953 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Arab League. Said convention, according to the Chamber, also appears to not be registered with the Secretariat of the UN and not be published by it. In this regard, the Chamber requested Jordan to complement its submissions with an authoritative text of the Convention as well as the status of its ratification by 18 October 2017 in order to fully assess the validity of the submission. (ICC PTC Decision)
Commission of Inquiry on Burundi present report to UN Human Rights Council
On 19 September, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi presented its final report to the Human Rights Council, in which it found that crimes against humanity have been committed and continue to be committed in Burundi since 2015. In the report, the Commission noted “the persistence of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence in the country since April 2015. Most of these violations were attributed to members of the National Intelligence Service, the police, the army and the Imbonerakure, the youth league of the ruling party.
The Commission also noted the failure of the Burundi government to collaborate with the inquiry and urged the ICC to launch an investigation into alleged crimes committed since April 2015, when deadly protests broke out against the incumbent president Pierre Nkurunziza. The Burundian government rejected the allegations, rebuking all criticism as a ‘conspiracy’. Human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch applauded the work of the Commission and demanded the Council to extend the Commission’s mandate to “give the victims in Burundi the attention they deserve, and bring increased attention to the need for accountability, with a view to putting a brake on the worst abuses and paving the way towards justice”. (IWACU News, HRW)
Rwandan prosecutors present witnesses in Ntaganzwa trial for genocide and CAH
On 19 September, at the Specialised Chamber for International Crimes of the High Court in Rwanda, the prosecution presented its witnesses in the case against Ladislas Ntaganzwa. Ntaganzwa, who was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with, inter alia, charges of genocide, public incitement to genocide and extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity, was extradited to Rwanda in March 2016 after being arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Prosecution claims to have on record witnesses’ accounts of Ntaganzwa commanding a mob that included Burundian refugees, which killed over 20,000 Tutsi at the time of the 1994 genocide. Some witnesses also testified that Ntaganzwa and his mob were also responsible for the death of tens of thousands of Tutsi seeking refuge into the compound of the Cyahinda Catholic Church, and that the defendant also organized and coordinated killings and the rape of women at various places and roadblocks in his home area. The prosecution will continue presenting its case on 2 October before the defence can begin to present its own. (TheNewTimes)
Palestinian NGOs submit 700-page Israeli war crimes evidence to ICC
On 20 September, four Palestinian human rights group submitted a 700-page communication to the ICC alleging that high-level Israeli officials are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Representatives from the groups, which consist of al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Aldameer Association for Human Rights, claim that the files include evidence of war crimes such as “wilful killing, extensive destruction and appropriation of property, unlawful deportation or transfer, transfer by the occupying power of its civilian population into occupied territory, pillaging of a town/place, destroying or seizing the enemy’s property”.
The communication was submitted in the context of the ICC’s ongoing preliminary examination into the Situation in Palestine, which was opened in 2015 and aims to establish whether there are sufficient grounds to open a full-scale investigation into alleged crimes committed since the 2014 Gaza conflict. “As we do with all such communications, we will analyse the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality,” said the Office of the Prosecutor in its communication to the press. (TheWashingtonPost, Al-Jazeera)
CICC hosts panel discussion for ICC judicial candidates in The Hague
On 18 September 2017, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court held panel discussions with the candidates in the upcoming ICC judicial elections. Six judges will be elected to the ICC during the 16thAssembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute in December 2017. A video of the discussions will be available on the CICC website. (Coalition for the International Criminal Court)
Argentinian court sentences 17 for abuses committed during 1970s/80s ‘Dirty War’; 6 to life imprisonment
On 15 September 2017, Argentina’s federal court handed down sentences in respect of 17 defendants accused of crimes against humanity during a military operation against the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP) and other left-wing forces in the province of Tucuman, Argentina in 1975 (‘Operation Independence’). The underlying acts included murder, torture, abduction, forced disappearances, and rape. Six top officials during this period were given life sentences, four defendants were sentenced to imprisonment for between 4 and 18 years, and 7 were acquitted. The prison sentences will be served under house arrest. (TeleSUR, Primera Piedra)
Bensouda concludes visit to Colombia for information on accountability in peace process
On September 13 2017, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has concluded a 4-day visit to Colombia. Coming nearly a year after the November 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC-EP, Bensouda stated the trip was aimed at obtaining clarification on certain aspects of the future Special Jurisdiction for Peace, as well as gaining further information relating to national proceedings on extrajudicial killings of civilians, sexual and gender-based crimes, and forced displacement. During the trip, Bensouda also met with President Santos Calderón along with other high-level members of Colombian government and judiciary.
The situation in Colombia has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor since June 2004, with the focus being on allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the context of armed conflict between government forces, paramilitary groups, and rebel groups. Currently, the OTP is in the third stage of the preliminary examination, dealing with matters of admissibility. At this time, the OTP takes into account the matter of complementarity, that is, actions taken by the state to address the situation, and the matter of gravity, looking at the crimes scale, nature and the manner of commission. At the conclusion of her visit to Colombia, Bensouda noted the commitment of Colombian courts to the peace process, and their determination to implement a Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, as set out in the peace agreement signed last year. (ICC OTP)