ICJ Media Review: 76 human rights organisations call for prosecution of Liberian war crimes
In this week's review, news about Bashir’s travel and Djibouti’s ICC obligations, a UN Human Rights Commission report on war crimes in South Sudan, submissions on sentencing in Bemba et al., possible war crimes in Yemen prisons, Colombia’s visit to the ICC Prosecutor’s office and more:
76 human rights orgs call for prosecutions of Liberian war crimes at UNHRC
76 non-government organisations have called on the newly elected Liberian government to prosecute war crimes that occurred during the country’s two civil wars. The submission to the UN Human Rights Commission highlighted the need for the government to implement the findings of a 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Committee report. The report called for the prosecution of those most responsible, and the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Court of Liberia, a hybrid national and international court to try individuals accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law. The submission noted that the Liberian government had made some steps towards restorative justice, but drew a distinction between this, and criminal accountability, which the government has made no progress toward. The submission made further recommendations for the establishment of an internationalised domestic criminal court. Describing how the Court could be structured, the sorts of protections offered for witnesses, and that the Courts own law should be in keeping with international standards, set namely through the Rome Statute. (Human Rights Watch, Submissions).
ICC reminds Djibouti of its obligation to arrest Al-Bashir following reports of travel
In the case against Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir before the International Criminal Court, the Registrar filed a report with Pre-Trial Chamber II regarding Mr Al-Bashir’s recent travels to Djibouti and Uganda, pursuant to the Chamber’s instructions that it remind States Parties of their obligation to cooperate in the arrest and surrender of persons for whom an arrest warrant has been issued by the Court and prepare a report on their travels. The Registry noted that it was informed on 5 July that Mr Al-Bashir would travel to Djibouti from 5 to 7 July 2018 for the Africa-China Sustainable Cooperation on Economic Structural Transformation meeting, and that it sent a note verbale to the Djibouti embassy in Belgium, reminding the authorities of their obligations under the Rome Statute. Djibouti confirmed receipt of the Registrar’s note verbale on 6 July. The Registrar also noted that Mr Al-Bashir travelled to Uganda on 7 July 2018 to attend the South Sudanese meeting on peace talks, but because it was only informed of this visit the following day, it did not contact the authorities in Uganda regarding their obligations. (ICC Registrar Filing)
UN Human Rights Council report finds possible war crimes of targeted rape and killing in South Sudan by government forces
In a report released by the UN Human Rights Council, finding were made that Government forces in South Sudan, and forces associated with the Government, have participated in the potential war crimes of rape and killing. The report states that between mid-April and late May 2018, the killing of 232 civilians and rape of 120 women and girls has been documented. The report follows similar reports by human rights organisations and published in the media of human rights violations against civilians fleeing the conflict. The conflict set out the extent of the abuses reporting that Government forces demanded payment from villages and “Those who did not comply immediately were reportedly beaten or killed by hanging also to terrorise the population further and force survivors to comply. [The Human Rights Division] documented 25 killings of women by hanging in 10 villages.” In addition, the report said that “According to information received, children, elderly, sick and persons with disabilities unable to flee, were often burned alive, as the attackers set ablaze their tukuls [huts] with lighters, or they had their throats slit. [UN investigators] documented the killing of 63 such individuals, in 17 villages.” (UNHRC Report, The Guardian)
Parties submit observations on reparations after Bemba acquittal
The parties in the matter of the Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo have submitted observations on reparations to Trial Chamber III following Mr Bemba’s acquittal on 8 June 2018. On 13 June 2018, the Trial Chamber invited parties to make submissions on the ongoing reparations proceedings. On 20 June, the legal representatives for the victims requested further time to file submissions and this was granted. The Trial Chamber allowed submissions to be filed on 6 July 2018. The legal representatives for the victims submitted that the Trial Chamber should interpret Article 75 of the Rome Statute as granting the power to issue an order of reparations despite the acquittal.
They submitted that such an order would be in keeping with the spirit and objectives of the Rome Statute. It would enable other organisations to provide assistance to the victims, and would recognise the cooperation that the victims had shown during the trial process. They highlighted the disappointing outcome for the victims following the acquittal and noted the court’s ongoing responsibility to them. The defence submitted that as there was no conviction in this case, there can be no reparations. It therefore considered that additional submissions from the legal representatives for the victims would be of no value to the Trial Chamber. On 11 June 2018, Mr Bemba had filed a notice of the withdrawal of his request for recusal from the reparations proceedings, on the basis that the proceedings were now discontinued. The prosecution concurred that, following the acquittal, the Trial Chamber could not order reparations against Mr Bemba and the proceedings must be discontinued. The prosecution however highlighted the importance of the assistance mandate of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) and submitted that the TFV could still provide support to the victims in the situation in CAR. The prosecution also noted other possibilities for redress for the victims, including the prosecution of others responsible for crimes.
The TFV accepted that current jurisprudence meant that the reparations proceedings must be discontinued, which in turn would mean it would not be seized of a reparations order and that it had no further role in that regard. However, the TFV did highlight its role with regard to its ‘assistance mandate’ in providing programmes for the physical, psychological or material support of the victims and their families. It noted that the TFV Board had decided to accelerate the programmes under its ‘assistance mandate’. In order to assist in the work of these programmes, it called upon the Trial Chamber to make statements and observations in its final decision, including observations about the degree and scope of harm suffered by the victims in the Bemba case. The TFV also called on the Trial Chamber to encourage the government of CAR and other organisations to cooperate with the assistance programme and to affirm that victims in the Bemba case are victims of the situation in CAR and that this status is not altered by the acquittal. (Defence Submissions, Prosecution Submissions, TFV Submissions, Legal Representatives of the Victims Submissions)
Amnesty calls abuses in Yemeni prisons run by the United Arab Emirates possible war crimes
Amnesty International has called for an investigation into potential war crimes it claims are being committed in secret detention facilities run by the United Arab Emirates and its allied militias in Yemen. Amnesty’s allegations follow a report by the Associated Press that the UAE and militias are running a network of secret detention facilities in Yemen, involving widespread torture, sexual abuse, and detentions without charges. The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen which seeks to bolster President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. According to Amnesty, the organisation has documented systemic enforced disappearances, torture, and other egregious violations committed by the militias, and of the 51 men investigated who were allegedly detained by UAE-backed militias, 19 of them remain missing. The UAE has rejected the report as politically motivated. (ABC News, France 24)
Inter-American Court on Human Rights finds violations in 1975 killing of journalist in Brazil
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights found Brazil responsible for failing to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the 1975 murder of journalist Vladimir Herzog. Herzog was tortured and murdered in connection with attacks on civilians opposed to the government, but Brazil had previously stated and maintained that Herzog committed suicide. The court held that Herzog’s treatment constituted a crime against humanity, and the Brazil could not invoke either the statute of limitations or the principle of ne bis in idem to avoid responsibility. It also held that Herzog’s relatives had been denied their right to know the truth about his treatment. As part of the reparations ordered by the court, Brazil will be required to investigate the crimes at issue and sanction those responsible. (CORTEIDH, CORTEIDH)
Photo: UN Human Rights Council/Facebook