Week 1 2017 ICL Media Review

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Sunday, January 8, 2017 - 12:00

6 January 2017 – Weekly ICJ Media Review

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, the ICC decides on jurisdiction in the Ntaganda case, former Kosovo prime minister arrested for alleged war crimes, call for international judges in Sri Lanka war crimes probe and much more.

ICC rejects Defence challenge of jurisdiction on 2 Counts in Ntaganda case

On 3 January 2017, the Trial Chamber of the ICC held that it has jurisdiction over counts 6 and 9 concerning the alleged war crimes of rape and sexual slavery of child soldiers, in the case against Bosco Ntaganda. On 1 September 2015, the Defence filed an application challenging Counts 6 and 9 on the grounds that they do not fall under the subject matter of the court; according to the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on 1949 war crimes may not be committed by members of an armed force against their own members. The Trial Chamber’s initial ruling that the challenge did not constitute a jurisdictional matter was appealed by the defence. After examining the submissions by the defence, prosecution and victims, the Chamber found jurisdiction on the basis that members of the same armed force are not per se excluded as potential victims of the war crimes of rape and sexual slavery. They concluded by saying that “there is never a justification to engage in sexual violence against any person.” The decision does not affect any future decision by the judges on the merits of the case. (ICC Press ReleaseICC TC Decision)

Former Prime Minister of Kosovo arrested in France on Serbian warrant

On 4 January 2017, French police arrested Ramush Haradinaj, former Prime Minister of Kosovo, on a 2004 Serbian arrest warrant for war crime allegations. Haradinaj was previously tried twice before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but was acquitted both times. It has been reported that French investigators will consider whether he has already been tried before the ICTY for the same charges. Kosovo President Hashim Thaci condemned the arrest, saying that it was unacceptable that Haradinaj was arrested just because Serbia issued a warrant citing war crimes charges. (ReutersBBC NewsBalkan Insight)

Sri Lankan task force on reconciliation calls for international judges for war crimes probe

Sri Lankan’s Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms has endorsed calls to include international judges in a special court to probe alleged war crimes committed during the last phase of the civil war. The Task Force seeks public views and comments on the proposed transitional justice mechanisms, considering the 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka. The authorities in Colombo have thus far opposed the involvement of international judges, arguing that the domestic judiciary system is sufficient to try those responsible. (Business Standard)

ICC refuses Ongwen leave to appeal oral decision on understanding charges

ICC judges have rejected the Defence’s request for leave to appeal the Trial Chamber’s previous decision on former Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen’s understanding of the nature of the charges. This decision comes after Ongwen, at the opening of his trial on 6 December 2016, indicated that he did not understand the charges – including crimes against humanity and war crimes – being brought against him – following which the Trial Chamber issued an oral decision finding that it is satisfied that Mr Ongwen understood the nature of the charges. The Defence filed a leave to appeal this oral decision; raising the issue of whether the Trial Chamber was permitted to rely on Ongwen’s historical statements as the main basis of determining his understanding of the charges. In its rejection of this Defence request, the Trial Chamber corrected the Defence’s contention that the Chamber had used Ongwen’s prior statement as the “major basis” for its findings – pointing out that it took multiple other factors into consideration in assessing Ongwen’s understanding of the charges, including “the information provided to the accused after the issuance of the decision on the confirmation of the charges, the submissions and arguments made by the Defence in the course of the proceedings, the lack of sufficient substantiation for Defence’s allegations and, importantly, the accused’s statement made before the Chamber just prior to the issuance of the Impugned Decision.” (ICC TC Decision)

Ugandan lawmakers submit complaint to ICC on possible crimes by security forces

A complaint has been submitted to the ICC requesting it to investigate possible atrocities in the Rwenzori region of Uganda. In November 2016, security forces clashed with tribal leader Charles Wesley Mumbere’s guards, resulting in several killings. William Nzoghu, one of the Ugandan legislators that submitted the complaint, alleges that the army committed genocide and crimes against humanity. Claims have been made that the area is being deliberately destabilised, as it often votes for the opposition in general elections. Security officials in turn have accused Mumbere and others of attempting to secede Rwenzori from Uganda. (Standard Media)

Germany charges citizen with war crimes and murder for role in Syria mass executions

Following the surfacing of a video contradicting his prior claims not to have participated in a mass execution in Palmyra in 2015 conducted by the Islamic State, a 28-year-old German citizen has now been charged with murder and war crimes by the German federal prosecutor’s office. Harry Sarfo, an IS defector, is currently serving a three year sentence in Germany having been convicted of belonging to a terrorist organisation and violating German weapons law. Following his return from Syria he condemned IS and stated that he refused to commit violence on behalf of the group. But these statements were recently challenged by an IS promotional video, which shows Sarfo moving prisoners into position for execution in Palmyra, and firing his weapon. The German prosecutor has stated that “the accused, who was armed with a pistol, personally took one of the detainees to the execution spot and prevented the others from escaping” – the prosecution will now move ahead to bring the new charges against Sarfo. (Washington Post)

Requests renewed for extraditions from UK to Rwanda of genocide suspects

The Rwandan government, victims, and UK NGO the Aegis Trust, have renewed their calls for the extradition from the UK to Rwanda of five Rwandans charged with genocide. Extradition procedures in the five cases have previously been delayed by litigation in UK courts concerning fair trial issues in Rwanda, but the Rwandan Justice Minister, Johnston Busingye, has strongly criticised the delay and insisted that legal proceedings in Rwanda meet international fair trial standards. All five individuals accused of genocide were arrested in 2013 in the UK on the basis of extradition requests from Rwanda, but the Westminster Magistrate’s Court subsequently rejected the requests, prompting an appeal of the judgment by Rwanda. (All Africa)

ICL Media Review is an independent UK Small Charity, which aims to provide a daily survey of news and developments affecting international criminal law and international human rights in a neutral and impartial manner.  


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