Week 48 - ICL Media Review

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Friday, December 2, 2016 - 14:16

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about the Ongwen upcoming trial, Malian domestic war crimes trial, ICTY arrest warrants, ECCC testimony, the new MICT Registrar, criminal complaint against Assad in Germany, IACHR case on Mexico, arrested Turkish MICT Judge, and more.

Dominic Ongwen

Trial Chamber IX decisions on evidence, protective measures and amicus briefs as Ongwen’s ICC trial date approaches

The trial of Dominic Ongwen is due to begin on Tuesday 6 December 2016 before the International Criminal Court. The trial will begin with the reading of the charges and oral opening statements by the Office of the Prosecutor and the Legal Representatives of Victims. The Prosecutor will begin presenting its evidence on 16 January 2017. Prior to the beginning of the trial, several decisions and filings have been made by the Office of the Prosecutor. On 29 November 2016, the Trial Chamber, responding to the Prosecutor’s request for in-court protective and special measures, ordered that several witnesses be referred to only by pseudonyms and provide their testimony with face distortion vis-à-vis the public. In addition, the Trial Chamber ordered that special measures for psychological support be given to several witnesses.

Following this, on 30 November 2016 the Prosecutor submitted an updated list of evidence and witnesses. The filing was in response to the Trial Chamber’s previous decisions on the introduction of prior recorded testimony under Rule 68(2)(b) and the Prosecutor’s request to add items to its list of evidence and a witness to the list of witnesses. In addition, on 29 November 2016 the Trial Chamber rejected Child Soldier’s International request to submit an amicus curiae brief concerning the effect of a perpetrator’s status as a former child soldier on sentencing and criminal responsibility. The single judge was not persuaded that the briefing would assist in the determination of the issues before the Chamber. The trial will see Ongwen tried for 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the attacks against the civilian population in Uganda, including murder, rape, torture, and the conscription and use of child soldiers. (ICC Media Advisory, ICC TC DecisionICC Prosecution submission, ICC TC Decision)  

Djingareyber Mosque, Timbuktu, Mali

Bensouda focuses on complementarity in statement on the start of the Malian domestic trial of Amadou Haya Sanogo and others

On 1 December 2016, ICC Prosecutor, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, released a statement concerning the situation in Mali. In her statement, she highlighted that “complementarity is central to the Rome Statute system” and the best way to achieve accountability in Mali is through the combined efforts of the ICC and the national authorities. In this regard, Bensouda noted in particular the trial of Mr Amadou Haya Sanogo, the leader of the 2012 Malian coup, which recently opened before the national courts. The subject matter of the trial against Sanogo and other accused individuals fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and the Court is continuing its investigation into the situation. (ICC Press Release

UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

ICTY publicises international arrest warrants for three Serb politicians; calls on UN member states to fulfil warrants

On 29 November, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia removed the confidentiality of the international arrest warrants of Vjerica Radeta, Petar Jojic and Jovo Ostojic. The three individuals, who are Serbian Radical Party members, are accused of witness tampering during the war crimes trial of Radical Party leader, Vojislav Seselj. The 5 October warrants call on “all officers and agents of all United Nations Member States…to act promptly with all due diligence to secure the arrest, detention, and transfer to the Tribunal”. The Serbian Government has so far refused to extradite the three individuals to the Court, alleging that their arrests may endanger the stability of the country. In turn, the ICTY has criticised Serbia for obstructing justice. (Balkan Insight)

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

ECCC hears testimony from Pol Pot’s nephew in case against Chea and Samphan

Seng Lytheng, the 70-year old nephew of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, has testified as a defence witness in the ongoing trial of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Lytheng was himself a member of the Cambodian communists in the 1970s, and acted as a guard for Khmer Rouge leaders including Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Revealing little about the actions of these regime figures in his testimony, Lytheng nevertheless praised Pol Pot – who he allegedly remained with in the mountains of Anlong Veng until the former-leader’s death in 1998 – as a “polite” and “gentle” person who “never used any inappropriate words that were abusive toward other people”. (Cambodia Daily

Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon appoints new International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Registrar

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed Mr. Olufemi Elias, an experienced international lawyer from Nigeria, as the new Registrar for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (“MICT”). Elias’ term will begin on 1 January 2017 and he will replace current registrar John Hocking, of Australia. Elias currently serves as the Executive Secretary of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal, and his previous positions include that of Legal Adviser and Director at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as well as legal positions within the UN Compensation Commission. He is a member of the Nigerian Bar, as well as an associate member of the Institut de Droit International. The MICT was established by UN Security Council Resolution 1966 in 2010, with a mandate to oversee the residual functions of the ICTY and ICTR. (PM News NigeriaBusiness Daily

ICTY signs agreement to open information centre in Sarajevo

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has signed an agreement with the authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo to open a landmark information centre offering access to all public documents and video materials used by the ICTY. ICTY spokesperson Nenad Golcevski has stated that the goal of the centre “will be to provide an up-to-date, direct and safe electronic access to all publicly-available ICTY files and archive materials contained in the tribunal’s databases to the general public,” and – if sufficient funding is secured – the centre will also seek to raise awareness about war crime issues with a view to strengthening transitional justice and rule of law mechanisms in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The agreement between the ICTY and the city of Sarajevo was signed on 29 November 2016 by Mayor of Sarajevo Ivo Komsic and ICTY Judge Fausto Pocar, at Sarajevo’s historic Vijecnica city hall. (Balkan Insight)

Criminal complaint filed against Assad in Germany for genocide under universal jurisdiction

On 28 November, a group of German lawyers filed a criminal complaint against President Bashar al-Assad before the German Federal prosecutors. These lawyers filed the case on alleged charges of war crimes and genocide in Aleppo on the ground of the principle of universal jurisdiction. This principle – entitling countries to sue foreigners for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed abroad – is enshrined in Germany’s Code of crimes against international law. In their filing, lawyers cited individual accounts by asylum seekers, report from Amnesty International (AI) and various studies. They argue that there is overwhelming evidence that the Syrian President has committed war crimes between April and November 2016. The criminal complaint refers to bombings of hospitals, attacks on civilians, detentions without trials, enforced disappearances, forced expulsions. One of the lawyers, Mehmet Daimaguler, stated that “we were experiencing genocide in Aleppo in slow motion”. He is positive that a formal investigation would be opened by the federal prosecutor. Another lawyer, Jens Dieckmann, stated that there was sufficient information on Mr. Assad responsibility for the crimes committed in Aleppo. (Jurist.orgIBTimesABC News

Arrested Turkish UN judge petitions Turkish Constitutional Court on immunity

The arrested Turkish UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals’ (MICT) judge, Aydın Sefa Akay, has petitioned the Turkish Constitutional Court on immunity. Following the MICT rejection of Turkey’s response to the UNSC, Judge Akay has filed a domestic appeal for his diplomatic immunity. This petition comes following Turkey’s response to the MICT’s demands for the release of the judge. On 10 November 2016, in its reply to the UNSC, Turkey informed the MICT that, according to them, Judge Akay merely has “functional immunity” and can only benefit from immunity for charges regarding his assignment. Turkey further argued that Judge Akay’s impunity was invalid for charges committed in his national country. In a written reply, the MICT rejected Turkey’s argument of functional immunity and further stated that Turkey’s position “is contrary to the plain wording of the Statute of the Mechanism adopted by the United Nations Security Council under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which clearly provides for full diplomatic immunity for Judges of the Mechanism when engaged on the business of the Mechanism. In providing for full diplomatic immunity, the Security Council made no exception with respect to nationals of a State or otherwise specified that they should receive only functional immunity, as is claimed by Turkey”. At this stage, Turkey has not responded to MICT President’s request to visit Judge Akay to discuss “his situation confidentially and to ascertain his conditions of detention”, sent on 17 October 2016. (Hurriyet Daily News

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights submits Mexico disappearance case to Inter-American Court

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the case of Nitza Paola Alvarado and Others against Mexico. The case relates to the forced disappearance of three individuals by state agents in Mexico in 2009 and whose status is still unknown. After considering the case on the merits, the Commission also delivered a Report on Merits, the Commission recommended that Mexico fully investigate, impartially and effectively, the whereabouts of Espinoza, Herrera and Reyes, and if appropriate, take the necessary measures to identify and return their remains to the families. The Report also called on Mexico to “repair human rights violations both materially and morally” and provide accountability measures for state officials involved in the disappearance and denial of justice. The case was submitted to the Court on November 9, 2016, as the Commission felt that its recommendations had failed to be taken up by Mexico. (OASInsight Crime)

Philippines’ President Duterte dismisses threat of ICC indictment over extrajudicial killings

In a speech on 28 November, President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, strongly criticised any potential indictment he may face at the ICC for policies he has adopted as part of his nation-wide crackdown on drugs. Since President Duterte took office in June this year, there have been mounting calls from civil society groups – who have linked Duterte’s “war on drugs” campaign to over 2,500 extra-judicial deaths in five months – for the ICC to investigate the situation in the Philippines. Further, the ICC Prosecutor has stated that the ICC may have jurisdiction over the alleged extra-judicial killings. However, in his speech on Monday Duterte stated “You scare me that you will jail me? International Criminal Court? Bulls**t,” and furthermore noted that lawyers in Europe are “rotten” and “stupid”. These remarks follow earlier reports that Duterte may move to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC. (Al JazeeraPress TV, ABS-CBN News)

Serb man convicted in abstenia in Croatia for war crimes, arrested

Local media have reported that police in Montenegro have arrested a Serbian man, Miroslav Jovic, in response to an Interpol warrant issued by Croatia. Jovic was convicted of war crimes in abstentia by Croatia’s Sisak County Court in 2006, and was subsequently sentenced to 15 years of prison. The 2006 verdict holds Jovic accountable for the murder of his neighbour, a Croatian civilian, in 1991, as well as for the wounding of her husband. (Balkan Insight

UN reports possible crimes against humanity against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

The UN’s Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights has reported that Myanmar’s actions against the Muslim minority Rohingya population may amount to crimes against humanity; some claims suggest that atrocities including gang rapes, torture, and state-sanctioned murder are currently underway in the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar, where the majority of the Rohingya are located. Satellite images from Human Rights Watch have shown hundreds of buildings destroyed, reports suggest that 30,000 Rohingya are estimated to have fled their homes, and journalists have been barred from accessing areas where mass killings are alleged to have taken place. UN OHCHR has stated that “the government has largely failed to act on the recommendations made in a report by the UN Human Rights Office… [that] raised the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity”, as UN Envoy Kofi Annan begins a week-long visit to Myanmar which will include a visit to Rakhine state. Government authorities have denied UN allegations. (Al Jazeera)

Amnesty reports impunity for Jamaican police brutality and killings

On 30 November, the London branch of Amnesty International issued a report denouncing the impunity for Jamaican police brutality and killings stating that it was “promoting a culture of fear“. The report states that roughly 3,000 people were killed in police-related fatalities since 2000 in Jamaica while only two Jamaican police officers have been convicted of murder during the same period. The report highlights that relatives of people killed by policemen are facing illegal “intimidation and harassment”. While resident protest that these “are murders by police and accuse officers of planting pistols beside bodies and collecting spent shells”, the Jamaica Constabulary Force did not respond to calls or emails seeking comments about AI’s report. (Jamaica Gleaner)


  • Dominic Ongwen (ICC-CPI/Flickr)
  • Djingareyber Mosque, Timbuktu, Mali (Marco Dormino/UN Photo/Flickr)
  • UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia/Flickr)
  • Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) (Khmer Rouge Tribunal/Flickr)
  • Ban Ki-Moon (Marco Dormino/European Parliament/Flickr)
  • Bashar al-Assad (proyecto40.com/Bing)

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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