ICJ Media Review: Witness testifies against Ongwen on orders to attack IDP camp for food
By ICL Media Review
ICC Appeals Chamber orders review of Gbagbo detention
On 19 July 2017, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC reversed the decision of Trial Chamber I on the detention of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and directed the Trial Chamber to carry out a new review of the matter. In March 2017, ICC Trial Chamber I ruled by majority that Gbagbo shall remain in detention, a decision which was later appealed by the defence. The former Ivory Coast leader has been in detention in The Hague since 2011 and has pleaded not guilty to four charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, which have been levelled against him in the context of the 2010 post-election violence in Ivory Coast which left more than 3,000 people dead.
The prosecution has repeatedly argued that if Gbagbo is to be released from jail, he would flee to escape justice. The Appeals Chamber unanimously found that the Trial Chamber I made a number of errors in rejecting Gbagbo’s request for release, including failing to consider the duration of time Gbagbo has already spent in detention alongside the risks being reviewed and by considering the defendant’s advanced age as a factor that increased his desire to abscond, rather than one that may potentially mitigate such possibility. While remitting the matter of Gbagbo’s detention or potential release to the Trial Chamber for a new review, the Appeals Chamber emphasised that such decision does not suggest in any way what the outcome of such review should be. Gbagbo will continue to be detained until such new review has been undertaken. (ICC Press Release, Al Jazeera, ABCNews)
ICC Judges amends Regulations of the Court
On 12 July 2017, the judges of the ICC unanimously adopted some amendments to the Regulations of the Court during a special plenary session convened by the President. The adopted amendments, which have been presented as intending to expedite and streamline the Court’s proceedings on appeal, modify section 4 of chapter 3 of the Regulations in three respects: (i) inclusion of grounds of appeal in notices of appeal against convictions, acquittals, sentences and reparations orders, thus enabling the Appeals Chamber to start preparation for these appeals earlier and allowing for an oral hearing to be held sooner in the appellate process; (ii) shortening of the procedure applicable in respect of appeals granting/denying interim release of a person, by requiring the inclusion of the grounds of appeal in the notice of appeal, moving towards orality and establishing a deadline on the Appeals Chamber for its judgments against interim release decisions; and (iii) clarifying certain terminology used during appeals proceedings by introducing uniform use of the term “notice of appeal” and replacing the term “document in support of the appeal” by the term “appeal brief”. The amendments entered into force on 20 July 2017, and have been circulated to State Parties for any comments or objections. (ICC Press Release)
Witness testifies against Ongwen on orders to attack IDP camp for food
Open Society Justice Initiative reported that a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighter testified on Friday at the ICC against Dominic Ongwen, one of LRA’s alleged commanders. Witness P-054 has reportedly testified that Ongwen allegedly ordered attacks on the Abok and Odek camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in 2003 to restock food supplies which had been exhausted. While providing more details of LRA’s attack, the witness also claimed that he was also a member of the brigade charged with carrying out the task, also known as the Sinia brigade and that Ongwen was the brigade’s commander.
The witness also confirmed that children as young as 10 years old were members of the brigade and that also girls, including Ongwen’s wife, took part to the alleged attack. Ongwen is facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed after 1 July 2002 in northern Uganda, which include charges in relation to the attacks on the Abok and Odek IDP camps. (New Vision)
MICT Trial Chamber denies Prosecution application on new statement in Stanisic and Simatovic retrial
The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) Trial Chamber (TC) found that the Prosecution proposed evidence does not satisfy the requirements of its Decision for admission of new evidence dated 2 February 2017 . Hence, the TC denied the Prosecution motion filed on 24 May 2017 to admit new written statement in Stanisic and Simatovic retrial. According to the Prosecution, the proposed evidence satisfy the requirements of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence since i) it was not initially available, ii) it could not have been discovered before. In addition, the Prosecution argues that the admission of the proposed evidence would iii) advance the proceedings and iv) be in the interest of justice. Both accused opposed the request stating that the proposed evidence “does not fall within the limited circumstances identified in the TC decisions where new evidence may be admitted”.
On 2 February 2017, the TC limited “the Prosecution’s evidence to that presented during the original trial” and allowed to present new evidence “only in certain limited circumstances”. While the Prosecution considered that such a decision jeopardised the fairness of the proceedings, the TC considers that limiting the Prosecution’s evidence falls into its own discretion and is motivated by the importance of not prolonging the retrial proceedings to safeguard the rights of the Accused. The TC considers that the requested witness is new and not ‘critical’ since his allegations are “well-supported by evidence from the original trial”. It further considers that the Prosecution failed to demonstrate that the witness’s evidence could not have been discovered during the initial trial. (MICT Press Release)
Rohingya Muslims tell of abuses as local and foreign journalists allowed to visit
On 15 July 2017, international and local media reported on their visit to Maungdaw district in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State. The area has been largely closed to foreign media since violence erupted in October 2016. The Myanmar government is accused of employing brutal counterinsurgency tactics amounting to crimes against humanity against the civilian population, including alleged gang rape, torture, arson and killings by security forces. The UN says around 1,000 Rohingya have been killed and 75,000 people fled across the border to Bangladesh as a result. The government denies most of the claims and will not receive members of a UN fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. Myanmar officials say a domestic investigation and a commission led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan are the appropriate avenues to address problems in Rakhine State. (Reuters, The Irrawaddy, Asian Correspondent, The Guardian)
Photos: ICC-CPI/Flickr and Bamikhan/Wikimedia Commons