ICJ Media Review: ICC decides to continue detention of Laurent Gbagbo

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 - 04:23

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about evidence in the Ongwen case, Gbagbo detention, Stanisic provisional release, submissions on Lubanga sentence, Benouda at the UN GA meeting and more

ICC Trial Chamber orders publication of public evidence from Ongwen case

On 25 September, Judge Betram Schmitt, acting on behalf of Trial Chamber IX of the ICC issued a decision in regards to the prosecution’s submission of public redacted versions of 17 testimonies in the case of The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen. In July 2017, the Prosecution had submitted proposed public redacted versions of 17 testimonies, following a previous decision by the Chamber which had allowed for prior recorded testimonies to be introduced into evidence pursuant to Rule 68(2)(b) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

The Prosecution claims that said testimonies relate to witnesses who are government officials from Uganda and hence require redactions for national security reasons and for the safety of the witnesses and victims. In its decision, the Chamber granted many of the proposed redactions and ordered the Prosecution to make the publicly redacted versions of the testimonies available in eCourt. It also instructed the Registry to ensure that evidence submitted in the Ongwen case classified as public and currently in eCourt be made publicly available on the ICC website. (ICC TC Decision)

ICC decides to continue detention of Gbagbo

In the case of The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo & Charles Blé Goudé at the ICC, Trial Chamber I issued their decision on whether Mr. Gbagbo should continue to be detained. The Chamber analysed whether detention continues to be necessary to ensure Mr Gbagbo’s appearance at trial or to ensure he does not obstruct or endanger the proceedings, and ultimately found that detention indeed continues to be necessary.

This decision was based, inter alia, on the following reasoning: that given the gravity of the charges against him and eventual sentence if convicted, Mr Gbagbo has a clear incentive to abscond; that the network of supporters of Mr Gbagbo has several times undertaken actions that have impacted court proceedings and Mr.Gbagbo’s defence of these actions in court may suggest that, if released, he could disrespect such future court orders; that the Detention Centre provides adequate medical treatment and all requirements compatible with human dignity; that more generally there is no evidence that the conditions of the detention of Mr Gbagbo are incompatible with his age and health; and that the length of the detention cannot be considered as arbitrary or unreasonable due to the particular circumstances of the case.

This decision comes following the ICC Appeals Chamber’s order of 19 July 2017, which directed Trial Chamber I to carry out a new review as to whether Gbagbo should be released from his ongoing detention. Gbagbo, the former President of Cote d’Ivoire, is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity for alleged murder, rape, other inhumane acts (or, in the alternative, attempted murder), and persecution, allegedly committed during the 2010-2011 post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire. (ICC Court Document)

Stanisic granted extension of provisional release until January 2018

In the trial proceedings ongoing before the MICT in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović, the MICT’s Trial Chamber on 25 September 2017 decided to allow Stanisic to remain on provisional release until January 2018. To this end, the Court ordered Stanisic to submit to medical examination and for the UN Detention Unit’s Medical Service to report on Stanisic’s medical condition at least once every three weeks.

The Trial Chamber’s decision was based, inter alia, on the fact that it has no reason to believe that Stanisic would cease to abide by the conditions of his provisional release (given that he has been provisionally released before and nevertheless always appeared for trial); and that, in the absence of any indication that Stanisic has ever engaged in any practices undermining the administration of justice, the Trial Chamber is satisfied that he will not pose a danger to any victim, witness or other persons while on provisional release.

Stanisic and co-defendant Simatovic are charged as co-perpetrators in a joint criminal enterprise that allegedly committed four counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violations of the laws or customs of war in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. Both were convicted by Trial Chamber I of the ICTY in 2013, but the Appeals Chamber subsequently quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial, which commenced on 13 June 2017. (MICT Court Document)

Palestine Liberation Organization calls on ICC to investigate Israeli settlements

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has requested that the ICC opens an investigation into Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alleging that the expansion of settlements creates a system of discrimination and racial segregation.” More specifically, the PLO described that it has decided to refer the file of settlements as a war crime and the file of ethnic cleansing, discrimination and apartheid to the International Criminal Court with an urgent appeal to open a judicial investigation into the war crimes committed by the State of Israel in the Palestinian territories occupied during the 1967 aggression.” The PLO furthermore stated that international law and relevant UN resolution are “the only base for a comprehensive and balanced political settlement that will provide security and stability to all people in the region […]”. (Global Research)

Submissions from Defence, Prosecution and OPCV on Lubanga reduction of sentence

On 21 September, Defence, Prosecution and OPCV filed observations submissions to the Appeals Chamber on the reduction of the sentence in the Lubanga case based on Article 110 of the Rome Statute. Such a procedure allows the Court to decide a reduction of sentence, after having heard the person convicted, once “the person has served two-thirds of the sentence, or 25 years in the case of life imprisonment” […] if it finds “clear and significant change of circumstances sufficient to justify the reduction of sentence” or that “the early and continuing willingness of the person to cooperate with the Court in its investigations and prosecutions [or] the voluntary assistance of the person in enabling the enforcement of the judgements and orders of the Court in other cases, and in particular providing assistance in locating assets subject to orders of fine, forfeiture or reparation which may be used for the benefit of victims”.

In this respect, Defence filed observations recalling Mr. Lubanga’s indigence and reiterating his will to take part to symbolic reparations programs or events. Defence confirmed that Mr. Lubanga was ready to participate – even before his release from detention – to ceremonies of excuses where he would meet, in person, victims and victims’ families of crimes for which he was convicted. Defence further stated that Mr. Lubanga agrees to a retransmission by local media of the public hearing where he could reiterate such a commitment – an occasion to demonstrate his will be a committed partner towards reconciliation between communities and publicly take a position against child soldiers’ enrolment. The Legal Representative for Victims, Paolina Massina, asked the three judges to consider all the OPCV observations and to maintain both Lubanga’s initial sentence and his detention. The OPCV further requested to reclassify some annexes of the Prosecution’s submission from ex parte to confidential. In response to both the Defence and the OPCV, the Prosecution stated that Lubanga’s sentence should be maintained.

It argued that i) parties’ submissions show that no significant change in circumstances occurred since the ‘First Sentence Review Decision’ and ii) none of the party or participant asked for Lubanga’s early release. In addition, the Prosecution considers that Lubanga’s opposition to 474 applicants for reparations does not constitute ‘cooperation’ within article 110(4)(a) of the Rome Statute but rather is not assisting Trial Chamber 1 in its determination. Finally, the Prosecution considers that Defence merely repeats Lubanga’s earlier statements and that there is no basis to postpone the Panel’s decision – which should be taken on the currently available information. Mr. Lubanga was convicted on 14 March 2012 and sentenced on 10 July 2012 to 14 years of imprisonment. Such a verdict was confirmed by Appeals Chamber on 1 December 2014. On 19 December 2015, Mr Lubanga was transferred to a prison facility in the DRC to serve his sentence of imprisonment. The reparations proceedings started on 7 August 2012 and the next steps are the hearings and decision on victim reparations. (Defence SubmissionOPCV SubmissionsProsecution Submissions).

ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda participates in UN General Assembly meeting

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda participated in the 72nd session of the UNGA attended by over 190 heads of State where she highlighted the role of the ICC and her office’s work “in investigating and prosecuting the most serious crimes and to build on the existing political and diplomatic support”. She also attended “bilateral meetings” with leaders of a number of countries.  On 21 September 2017, at the annual meeting of the Informal Ministerial Network for the ICC, Mrs. Bensouda reaffirmed that “backing the ICC is to support humanity’s progress towards a more just world”.

She took part in discussions related to the “Responsibility to protect cultural heritage from terrorism and mass atrocities” and joined others in condemning “the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and, call for action”. Citing Al Mahdi case, she advocated for “a multifaceted approach to confront this challenge”. She insisted on the importance of “a judicial response to hold perpetrators accountable” and talked about her Office’s “ongoing policy work on the protection of cultural heritage within the framework of the Rome Statute”. (ICC website)

ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda participates in UN General Assembly meeting

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda participated in the 72nd session of the UNGA attended by over 190 heads of State where she highlighted the role of the ICC and her office’s work “in investigating and prosecuting the most serious crimes and to build on the existing political and diplomatic support”. She also attended “bilateral meetings” with leaders of a number of countries.  On 21 September 2017, at the annual meeting of the Informal Ministerial Network for the ICC, Mrs. Bensouda reaffirmed that “backing the ICC is to support humanity’s progress towards a more just world”.

She took part in discussions related to the “Responsibility to protect cultural heritage from terrorism and mass atrocities” and joined others in condemning “the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and, call for action”. Citing Al Mahdi case, she advocated for “a multifaceted approach to confront this challenge”. She insisted on the importance of “a judicial response to hold perpetrators accountable” and talked about her Office’s “ongoing policy work on the protection of cultural heritage within the framework of the Rome Statute”. (ICC website)

Human rights lawyer and academic Cherif Bassiouni passes away

Former DePaul University law Professor Cherif Bassiouni, 79 years old, passed away on 25 September 2017. Amongst achievements in international law, M. Bassiouni investigated in Bosnia and Srebrenica, held 22 United Nations appointments, assisted on the Camp David peace accords, co-founded member the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul and helped found the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in Italy.

Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials, highlighted that Mr. Bassiouni “was a real contributor to international criminal law and the rule of law to protect human rights”. Bianca Jagger, founder and president of the London-based Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, called him “a champion of justice” and described him as “one of the most courageous, knowledgeable and determined people” she has ever met. (Chicago Suntimes)

Photos: ICC-CPI/Flickr and ISISC/Flickr

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