In this week’s review, news about the MICT and contempt cases in Serbia, Yekatom and Ngaïssona confirmation, TVPA civil trial on Somalian torture, charges against Bashir and more
MICT Revokes Referral of Contempt Case to Serbia, Citing Witness Safety Concerns
Judge Liu Daqun of the MICT has revoked an order made last year referring a contempt case to Serbia, after witnesses raised concerns for their safety and refused to testify in Belgrade. The two accused, Vjerica Radeta and Petar Jojic, were charged in 2012 with tampering with witnesses in the trial against their party leader, Vojislav Seselj. A summons has been issued requiring the two to return to the Hague to face trial. However, they are refusing to cooperate and claim that they are protected from extradition by a ruling of Belgrade’s High Court in 2016, which found that extradition to the Hague only applied to those charged with war crimes, not contempt of court. Serbian lawyer Visnja Sijacic of Belrgade’s Humanitarian Law Centre has stated that the court erred in its decision, as ‘serbia cannot point to it’s domestic legislation in order to justify non-compliance with international obligations.’ (MICT, Balkan Insight)
Confirmation of charges hearing in Yekatom and Ngaïssona case postponed to 19 September
Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the Prosecution’s request to postpone the confirmation of charges hearing in the Yekatom and Ngaïssona case from 18 June to 19 September 2019. Stressing that the situation in the Central African Republic continues to be precarious, the Chamber emphasized that “the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses’ is of paramount concern to the Court.” The Prosecution filed its postponement request on 1 May 2019 in light of the need to secure protection of victims and witnesses. This need stems from the sheer volume of information collected in the case thus far and corresponding disclosure obligations. The Prosecution submitted that in light of the ongoing investigations and evidence, securing the safety of witnesses and victims was proving difficult. It hinted, however, that further postponements may be necessary should the Chamber require full disclosure of identities of witnesses it intends to rely on the confirmation, including witness statements containing exculpatory evidence. In turn, the Prosecution proposed a way to mitigate possible prejudice to the Defence. The Prosecution indicated that in the meantime it intends to file the Document Containing the Charges by 17 May 2019 followed by a ‘Pre-Confirmation Brief.
The Chamber, however, ordered the Prosecution to refrain from filing the Pre-Confirmation Brief and file the Document containing the Charges together with all underlying evidence by 19 August 2019. The Prosecution is further obliged to file applications for the authorisation of the non-disclosure of witnesses’ identities by 7 June 2019 at the latest. While Mr Yekatom and Mr Ngaïssona were initially charged separately, the Chamber joined the two cases on 20 February 2019. Alfred Yekatom was surrendered to the ICC on 17 November 2018. He first appeared before the ICC on 23 November 2018. Mr Yekatom is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and August 2014. Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona first appeared before the Pre-Trial Chamber on 25 January 2019. The Prosecution charged him with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic against the Muslim Seleka group. The alleged crimes were reportedly committed between at least 5 December 2013 and December 2014. (ICC, Pre-Trial Chamber Decision)
Trial to begin in US District over suit under TVPA for torture committed in Somalia
On 13 May 2019, one of three Federal cases being brought by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of victims and survivors of Siad Barre’s rule in Somalia will go to trial before a US District Court. The case will be presided over by Judge Leonie Brinkema, a jury will hear four days of arguments and evidence, and a verdict is expected on or after 17 May 2019. This case arises from alleged violations of international law in Somalia under the Siad Barre regime, namely torture and attempted extrajudicial killing. Siad Barre was president of Somalia from 1969-1991.
During his rule, “Barre’s forces committed torture, rape and butchered as many as 200,000 Somalis — mostly Isaaq clansmen and opposition leaders — in the country’s northwest.” The case to be tried as a civil suit in US Distrct Court was brought by Farhan Warfaa, a Somali businessman and farmer who was a victim of torture when he was 17. He brought this suit against defendant Colonel Yusef Abdi Ali (a.k.a. “Tukeh”) in the Eastern District of Virginia under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The case was first filed 15 years ago and is finally proceeding under the TVPA, which creates a cause of action against foreign officials who commit torture and/or extrajudicial killing in civil court. (PRI.org, Just Security)
Sudan charges Al-Bashir with involvement in killing protestors
The Sudanese public prosecutor has charged former president Omar Al-Bashir and others with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters. Earlier this month, the public prosecutor also ordered Mr Al-Bashir to be interrogated on charges of money laundering and financing terrorism. Mr Al-Bashir was overthrown as president of Sudan on 11 April 2019 after months of protests. He is the subject of two International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide alleged to have been committed in Darfur, Sudan from 2003 to 2008. Since his fall from power there has already been a public campaign among Sudanese people calling for his surrender to the ICC. (Africa News)
ICC refuses to drop arrest warrant against Otti
The ICC has announced it will not drop the arrest warrant against Vincent Otti, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), unless proof of his death is produced. There have been reports that Mr Otti was executed on 2 October 2007 on the orders of Joseph Kony, the LRA Chief, following disagreements over the failed 2006 Juba Peace Talks but to date there has been no proof that this in fact occurred. On 8 July 2008 ,the ICC issued arrest warrants for five of the top LRA commanders for their alleged roles in perpetrating crimes against humanity in northern Uganda. Mr Otti faces 33 charges of crimes against humanity. Of the five originally subject to the warrants, only Dominic Ongwen has been arrested. His trial is currently ongoing at the ICC. (PML Daily)
UN Fact Finding Mission Urges International Community to Cut Off Financial Support to Myanmar Military
A UN fact finding mission in Myanmar has called on the international community to stop providing support to the Myanmar Military, who are accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for atrocities committed against the Rohingya community. Marizuki Darusman, the chairperson of the fact finding mission, said that cutting financial support is necessary as there has been no progress towards a resolution of the conflict, which has displaced over 1 million Rohingya civilians. Myanmar’s government has denied the allegations of human rights abuses, saying civilians have not been targeted by the military. The fact-finding mission was urgently established by the Human Rights Council on 24 March 2017 to establish the facts of the alleged human rights abuses by military forces against the Rohingya population, in order to ensure accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. The mission’s mandate will end in September, when it will hand over to the newly established Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar. (The Guardian, OHCHR)