In this week’s review, news about the joinder of the Yekatom and Ngaïssona cases, war crimes in South Sudan, chemical attack war crimes in Syria, Georgia and the ICC’s agreement, Munyeshuli provisional release decision and more.
Cases Against Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona
The Pre-Trial Chamber has ordered the joinder of the cases against Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona. Yekatom and Ngaïssona are both charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for attacks against Muslims during the 2013-2014 conflict between Christian Anti-Balaka groups and Muslim Saleka groups in the Central African Republic. The confirmation of charges hearing is set to commence on 1 June 2019. (ICC Court Records)
UN Panel Claims Foreign Oil Companies May be Complicit in Ongoing War Crimes in South Sudan
A United Nations Panel will submit a report to the Human Rights Council next month detailing the alleged complicity of oil companies in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in South Sudan. Despite a peace agreement being signed five months ago, atrocities continue to occur in the context of government and rebel forces continuing to fight over control of oil resources. (New York Times)
Report links Syrian government to over 300 chemical weapons attacks
A report released by the Global Public Policy Institute has linked the Syrian government to over 300 chemical weapon attacks during the country’s eight-year conflict. The Berlin-based Institute reported that 98 percent of the attacks it substantiated were attributed to Assad’s military or allied forces, including loyalist militias known as the Tiger Forces that also have the backing of Russia. The rest of the attacks were attributed to the Islamic State, which once held major parts of Syria. Evidence was taken from witness statements and post-attack analysis, including reports of the effects from the apparent chemical agents and how the weapons were delivered on the attack sites. The findings in the report could be cited as part of possible future international war crimes cases against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Washington Post)
Georgia and ICC sign agreement on ICC Sentences
Georgia and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have signed an agreement on the enforcement of ICC sentences. Through this agreement, Georgia affirms its involvement in the ICC sentence enforcement system, allowing the country to assist the ICC and receive convicted persons onto its territory. However, the Minister for Justice, Thea Tsulukiani, highlighted that “the government retains the right, in each particular case, to determine whether to receive the convicted person and enforce the ICC sentence on its territory or not.” (Georgia Today)
MICT rejects Munyesehuli’s request for provisional release to the US in contempt proceedings
On 8 February 2019, a single judge of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) rejected a request by Dick Prudence Munyeshuli for provisional release to the United States of America in contempt proceedings. Assessing the relevant circumstances, the single judge noted that it was “not a prerequisite to obtaining provisional release for an applicant to provide guarantees from the state to which the accused seeks to be released, or from anyone else, that he will appear for trial”. However, Mr Munyeshuli’s visa to the US was issued at a time when he was not indicted on charges of contempt and his submissions failed to show that he could remain in the US for the duration of his provisional release.
Therefore, in the absence of submissions from the US or additional information from Mr Munyeshuli, the assurances he and his counsel provided could not substitute for indications or commitments from the US that he would be entitled to enter the US and reside there for the duration of his provisional release, nor that he would return for trial when ordered. As such, the motion was dismissed without prejudice. Munyeshuli was indicted on 24 August 2018, along with five others charged with crimes under Article 1(4)(a) of the Statute and Rule 90 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. He pleaded not guilty at his initial appearance and filed a motion on 7 December 2018 requesting provisional release under Rule 68 to the US where he intended to reside with his counsel in Wichita, Kansas. (MICT Decision on Motion for Provisional Release)
FBI war crimes unit to shut down
The FBI has confirmed it is shutting down its war crimes units, as reported by by Just Security and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The unit, which was originally established to apprehend Nazis living in the US, is responsible for investigating and hunting down war criminals and alleged perpetrators of genocide hiding in the US. The unit operates domestically as well as abroad. The war crimes unit helped to catch Liberian warlord Thomas Woewiyu, who was hiding in the US and was subsequently convicted in July 2018. Its investigation and involvement helped to sue the Syrian republic for the killing of the US journalist Marie Colvin in 2012.
As part of its mandate, it tracks down potential war crimes or human rights violations committed by US citizens fighting alongside with ISIS or military contractors fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. According to the FBI’s statement, the unit will cease its operation but the step “in no way reflects a reduced commitment by the FBI to enforce human rights law.” Voices from civil society and academia have expressed fears that this move will inadvertently mean that some high-profile cases will be lost, staff dedicated to tackling human rights violations will be assigned different agendas, and the perpetrators of torture and genocide will go unpunished. The sources do not reveal the exact reason for the dismantling of the war crimes unit, but some human rights advocates have expressed concern that the reason might be political. (Foreign Policy, Revealnews)
PTC finds Israeli Law Center has no standing under Art 119 to intervene in Flotilla situation litigation; to this clarifies Rohingya jurisdiction decision
On 14 February 2019, Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) dismissed an application by Israeli Non-Government Organisation Shurat Ha-din Israeli Law Centre (Shurat), in limine. Shurat had made an application per article 119(1) of the Rome Statute arguing that the Court should no longer deliberate on the Mavi Marmara incident within the context of the Comoros Situation, or in the alternative applied to submit amicus curiae submissions to the Court. The Chamber rejected this. Finding that Shurat did not hold sufficient standing to make these applications. It was the view of the applicant, Shurat, that it did indeed enjoy standing before the ICC.
This argument stemmed from a September 2018 PTC decision to find that Shanti Mohila, victims of deportation by Myanmar to Bangladesh represented by Global Rights Compliance, did have standing to make submissions to the PTC. Notably, the PTC in those instances was of the same composition as this one. The PTC rejected this argument by the applicant, stating that in that instances the victims had made submissions concerning the jurisdiction in regards to the Myanmar / Bangladesh situation under Article 68(3) and Rule 93 which grants the victims the right to participate in proceedings which affect their personal interests. Therefore, for the Flotilla case, the Chamber found that its previous decision in no way created an automatic right of intervention by any interested party beyond the scope of the Court’s statutory documents. (ICC PTC Decision, PTC Rohingya Jurisdiction Decision)
France charges Syrian suspect with crimes against humanity
A Syrian national has been charged by French prosecutors with involvement in crimes against humanity in Syria. The suspect was initially detained in pre-trial detention on 12 February 2019 near Paris. This occurred at the same time as two parallel arrests of Syrian suspects that were made in Germany. These proceedings have been initiated under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Human rights groups have hailed the arrests as marking the first major breakthroughs of international investigators tracking those responsible for atrocities committed on behalf of the Syrian government during the country’s eight-year civil war. (The Republic)
Swedish court convicts Iraqi army soldier of war crimes
Örebro District Court has convicted an Iraqi national who fought in the Iraqi army of war crimes. Kurda Bahaalddin H Saeed was sentenced to 15 months in prison for war crimes committed in 2015. He fought in the Iraqi army against ISIS in the Kirkuk Province in northern Iraq. In late 2015, he arrived to Sweden with his family where he sought asylum. He was found to be posing in pictures and videos of the killed and at times “truncated” ISIS soldiers, which he subsequently uploaded on social media. The court ruled that the videos “were intended to seriously violate personal integrity” and as such the actions depicted in the material constitute war crimes and a violation of the Geneva Conventions and the First Additional Protocol. (ABC news)
Bosnian-Serb soldier tried for crimes against humanity
The State Court in Sarajevo has commenced proceedings against former Bosnian-Serb soldier Cvijan Tomanic relating to allegations of crimes against humanity committed against non-Serbs in 1992. During the indictment period the accused served as a member of Zvornik Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army. The indictment charges him with participation in the persecution of the Bosniak civilian population on ethnic and religious grounds in 1992. He is alleged to have killed an ethnic Albanian civilian and participated in the disappearance of two Bosniak civilians whose bodies were later found in a grave near the Zvornik area. The first witnesses are scheduled to be heard on 27 February 2019. (Balkan Insight)