ICJ Media Review: UN Secretary-General calls for Syria’s referral to ICC
In this week's review, news about Haradin Bala, Bashir meeting Guterres, Ntaganda submissions on closing statements in DRC, Bensouda’s call for Al-Werfalli’s arrest, Ongwen submissions on fair trial violations, Jordan and Article 87(7), a Mali Commission of Inquiry and more
ICTY convict, Haradin Bala, passes away
On 31 January, former Kosovo Liberation Army prison guard Haradin Bala died at the age of 60 at his home in Kosovo. Bala, who was found guilty of torture, cruel treatment, and murder in 2005 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), was the only person from Kosovo to be convicted by the ICTY. Specifically, Bala was found responsible for maintaining and enforcing inhumane conditions at a prison camp during the 1998-99 Kosovo war and was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. He was granted early release by the ICTY in 2013. (BalkanInsight)
UN Secretary-General meets Bashir at AU Summit
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently met with Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese President who has been accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The meeting occurred on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa at the end of January. The UN deputy spokesman emphasised that while “operational necessity” occasionally permits the Secretary-General to meet with President al-Bashir to discuss issues such as peacekeeping efforts in Darfur and the disputed Abyei region, the meeting did not obviate the need to respect the ICC. President al-Bashir was indicted by the ICC in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and was further indicted for genocide in 2010. (AP)
Ntaganda Defence supportive of holding hearing for closing statements in DRC region
On 30 January, the Defence for Bosco Ntanganda filed its submissions supporting the ICC’s Trial Chamber’s VI Order on the hearing of the parties’ closing statements in the DRC region. The Ntanganda Defence favoured the order, however, it said that for the measure to be meaningful, it was best that the hearing be held in Bunia, or a location in close proximity to where the events giving rise to the charges against Bosco Ntanganda are alleged to have taken place.
The Chamber issued the Order with a view to bringing the administration of justice closer to the local population, in the region where the crimes are alleged to have occurred. Bosco Ntanganda, the alleged former deputy chief of staff and commander of operations of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, voluntarily surrendered to the ICC’s custody on 22 March 2013 and his trial commenced on 2 September 2015. He is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, sexual slavery or forcible transfer committed against the non-Hema population in Ituri Province, DRC. (Ntaganda Defence Submissions)
ICC Prosecutor renews call to Libyan authorities for arrest of Al-Werfalli
On 26 January 2018, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda repeated her appeal for Libyan authorities to arrest and surrender Major Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a commander in the Al-Saiqa Brigade. In August 2017, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for al-Werfalli for the alleged murders of 33 people in 2016 and 2017. Al-Werfalli is alleged to be the man in military uniform depicted shooting dead 10 people who were blindfolded and restrained in images published after the bomb attack in Benghazi on 23 January 2018. The Prosecutor expressed dismay that, contrary to an official statement of the Libyan National Army, al-Werfalli appeared to remain in a position of command. (Washington Post, News 24, ICC Arrest Warrant)
ICC Trial Chamber rejects Ongwen request for reconsideration on fair trial violations and on victim submissions
On 24 January, Trial Chamber IX rejected the Defence’s request for findings on fair trial violations in the Dominic Ongwen case (see our post on that decision here). The Defence then requested that the Chamber: reconsider its decision, citing a right of reply to the response of the Legal Representatives for Victims (Victims’ Response); dismiss the Victims’ Response; and rule on the Defence’s objections regarding the scope of victims’ participation. In its decision of 26 January 2018, the Chamber rejected the first two requests as “meritless” and consideration of the third as “unwarranted”. It noted that it had reached its conclusions independently of the Victims’ Response and, as to the third request, that the Victims’ Response conformed with procedural rules. (ICC Decision of 24 January 2018, ICC Decision of 26 January 2018)
Jordan submits appeal against Pre-Trial Chamber’s Article 87(7) decision concerning Bashir’s travel to Jordan
On 23 January, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has appealed against the Pre-Trail Chamber’s decision that Jordan failed to execute an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, when he visited Jordan in March 2017. The Prosecutor has alleged a breach of Article 87(7) of the Rome Statute. The Article dictates that, where a State party fails to comply with a request for cooperation by the Court, the Court may refer the matter to the matter to the Assembly of State Parties or the Security Council. Jordan submitted its appeal based around four issues it had identified.
First, that Jordan was bound by the 1953 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Arab League, and thus had to accord President Al-Bashir immunity. The joint second and third issues were that Jordan had met the criteria for leave to appeal under Article 82(1)(d) of the Rome Statute. Additionally, the Prosecutor had reframed the issues in a way that Jordan deemed incorrect. Fourth, Jordan argued against the Prosecutor’s assertion that Jordan’s leave for appeal be denied. Moreover, Jordan asserted that the forth issue be heard alongside issues one to three at the Appeals Chamber. (ICC PTC).
UN Secretary-General establishes an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Mali
On 19 January, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry with a one-year mandate to investigate alleged human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Mali since 1 January 2012. The establishment of the Commission comes in response to a request made by the government of Mali in 2016. According to the terms of reference, the Commission will operate in close cooperation with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which was established by the UN Security Council in April 2013. In his letter, Guterres also stated that he expects the Commission to complement the work of the ICC in the ongoing investigation of crimes in Mali.
The ICC investigation into the situation in Mali opened in January 2013 in order to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes committed in Mali since January 2012, with its main focus on three northern regions, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. To date, the ICC has issued one judgment in the case concerning the situation in Mali. On 27 September 2016, Trial Chamber VIII sentenced Mr Al Mahdi to nine years in prison for his role as co-perpetrator of the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion, including nine mausoleums and one mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, in June and July 2012. (Relief Web)
Amnesty International calls for ICC investigation into alleged unlawful killings in Philippines “war on drugs”
On 30 January 2018, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific expressed deep concern about the resumption of the anti-drug operations carried out by the Philippine National Police and called for ICC investigations into all unlawful killings committed by all perpetrators during the “war on drugs.” President Duterte took office in June 2016 and his anti-drug campaign has led to large-scale extrajudicial violence targeting marginalised populations in poor regions in particular. The National Police is said to be operating with almost total immunity whilst thousands of victims have been reported unlawfully killed during President Duterte’s tenure. To date, three police officers have been charged by the Department of Justice with the killing of a teenage boy, Kian Loyd delos Santos. (Amnesty International)
UN Secretary-General calls for Syria’s referral to ICC
United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called on the UN Security Council (SC) to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a report to the SC circulated on 26 January, he referred to “serious violations” including the restriction of aid deliveries and medical care to besieged parts of the country. In addition, he called on all combatants in the conflict and UN member states to cooperate with an independent panel established by the General Assembly to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A Security Council resolution to refer the situation to the ICC in May 2014 backed by more than 60 countries was vetoed by Russia and China. (Times of Israel; Fox News; ABC News)
Bosnia indicts former police chief, Tomislav Kovac, on charges of genocide for Srebrenica
A domestic war crimes tribunal in Bosnia has indicted Tomislav Kovac, the former Bosnian Serb police chief and interior minister, for his alleged role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which killed nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Kovac is accused of genocide as part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at exterminating Bosnian Muslims, with Bosnian Serb police forces under his control killing Bosniaks, and then carrying out an operation to hide evidence of mass executions. Kovac currently lives in Belgrade, and has previously denied the role of the Bosnian Serb police in the massacre. (EU-OCS; BalkanInsight)
Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina indicts 11 from Croatian Defence Council for war crimes in Mostar
Eleven former members of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) have been indicted by a domestic court in Bosnia and Herzegovina for war crimes committed against Bosniaks in Mostar in 1993 and 1994. The former HVO members are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at expelling Bosniak civilians from Croatian-controlled territory, and for their alleged role in the arrest and torture of more than 70 Bosniak civilians. (Total Croatia News)