ICJ Media Review: ICC begins Appeals hearing in Bemba case

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Sunday, January 14, 2018 - 14:35

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about the Bemba appeals hearings, the IACHR opinion on gender equality, rumours of a ICC investigation into Israeli settlements, war crimes arrests in Germany and Bosnia, ECCC funding and more

ICC begins Appeals hearing in Bemba case; defence says Trial Chamber erroneously dismissed key evidence

On 9 January, the first Appeals hearing in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo took place before the Appeals Chamber of the ICC. The Appeals hearings will continue to take place until Friday, 12 January 2018 and on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 in order to hear submissions and observations in relation to Bemba’s appeal against his Conviction Decision. In June 2016, Bemba was sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment, convicted of committing two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes while acting as a military commander with effective authority and control over the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). On the first day of the hearing, Bemba’s lawyer accused the Trial Chamber of having adopted an “unbalanced” approach to evidence by ignoring what he deemed “important evidence on central issues”, such as the testimony of a retired senior military officer. In the appeal filed before the court, Bemba’s defence team also argued that the judges’ “findings on effective control fall far outside established military doctrine and practice”, questioning the applicability of the command-responsibility principle used by the Chamber in formulating its judgment. (Appeals Chamber OrderNews24)

Inter-American Court holds that American Convention includes rights on gender equality including right to same-sex marriage

On 9 January, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights issued an Opinion on the scope of the American Convention’s guarantees and protections concerning gender equality.  In its Opinion, the Court importantly decided that States which are party to the Convention must guarantee that the rights of same-sex couples are protected in an equal manner to those of heterosexual couples.  Thus, the Court found that the American Convention guarantees the right to marry equally to people of all sexual orientations, and found that Convention guarantees the right to same-sex marriage and that this right must be recognised domestically by all State signatories to the Convention.  Although many signatories to the Convention recognise the right to same-sex marriage domestically, several do not including Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. The Court’s opinion also found that the American Convention includes the right for a person to change their gender on official documents without a requirement of an examination or other interventions, and that the procedure for changing these documents must be a simple administrative process and not judicial.  The Court’s opinion was issued in Spanish with an English translation available at this time.  (BBCAljazeeraOpinion of the IACHR)

Reports of Israeli National Security Council warning Knesset of opening of ICC investigation into settlements

It has been reported that Israel’s National Security Council warned the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that the ICC could open an investigation this year into the situation into the 2014 Gaza war and the West Bank settlement construction. In particular, Channel 10 news reported that a secret presentation entitled “Strategic Situation Assessment for 2018” was submitted to the Knesset, and it included a concern that the ICC will move from the examination phase and open a formal investigation into 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and construction in the West Bank. In January 2015, the ICC Prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine, after the government of Palestine accepted the jurisdiction of the court over alleged crimes committed “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014”. The preliminary examination, still underway, serves to help determine whether the Rome Statute criteria for opening an investigation are met. (MiddleEastMonitorTimes of Israel)

Germany arrests Bosnian Serb suspected of war crimes; initiates extradition

Prosecutors in Sarajevo reported that on 8 January 2018 German authorities arrested a former member of the Bosnian Serb forces suspected of war crimes during the war in the early 1990s. In a statement, the prosecutor’s office confirmed that the suspect, Milorad Obradovic, was arrested in the Munich region on an international warrant from Sarajevo, and that German authorities have already launched procedures for his extradition to Bosnia. The 51-year-old is accused of allegedly being involved in the detention and later execution of about 120 Bosnian Muslim civilians near the city of Prijedor in July 1992, at the start of the conflict, and of personally killing three detained civilians at Prijedor’s municipal football stadium. (RFERLExpatica)

UN mission in Afghanistan releases preliminary findings on Kabul attack

On 7 January, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its preliminary findings into the suicide attack in Kabul on 4 January which included findings suggesting that the attack constituted war crimes. The attack resulted in the death of 13 people, including 12 Afghan National Police who had come to respond to violence between security officials and shopkeepers. UNAMA highlighted that Afghan National Police are considered civilians while not directly participating in hostilities, and detonating indiscriminate explosive devices in civilian areas may constitute war crimes. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. (UNAMA)

UN contributes 8 million USD to support Cambodian tribunal

In December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly pledged $8 million to support the international component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in 2018. Around 70% of the ECCC’s total 2018 budget of $24.72 million had been funded at the end of 2017, with Cambodia, the European Union and Japan each pledging contributions. (Khmer Times)

Bosnia indicts 14 for crimes against humanity committed in 1993-2

On 28 December 2017, Bosnia’s prosecutor charged 14 Bosniak former fighters for alleged crimes against humanity in 1992 and 1993. Their alleged crimes – killings, torture, abuse, illegal detention and inhumane treatment of Serb civilians – occurred in Konjic and the surrounding villages. The accused were commanders and members of the Bosnian Army, the local Territorial Defence force, the Croatian Defence Council, police and paramilitary groups. (Balkan Insight)

Photo: ICC-CPI/Flickr 

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