In this week’s review, news about Haradinaj interview at the KSC, scheduling of the Ngirabatware review hearing, OTP response to submissions on Afghanistan appeal, Dutch conviction of ISIS member and call for Geneva Convention on environmental protection.
Kosovo PM resigns before questioning in The Hague
Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, has resigned prior to undergoing questioning by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Special Prosecutor’s Office (KSC). In a press conference announcing his resignation, he stated that he could not be prime minister while at the same time as being a war crimes suspect. Mr Haradinaj was a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander and took office as Kosovo’s prime minister in 2017. He has faced trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia twice and was acquitted on both occasions. The conduct alleged during those trials concerned Mr Haradinaj’s role as a KLA commander during attacks on the civilian population and mistreatment of detainees in 1998. Mr Haradinaj resigned as the country’s leader at that time as well. Mr Haradinaj has also been arrested twice while travelling outside Kosovo on the request of the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution. Serbia sought his extradition but was refused on different occasions by Slovenia and France. The KSC, based in The Hague, was established in 2017 with a mandate to investigate crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after the 1998-99 war. According to the law that established the Specialist Chambers, the prosecution can rely on case law and evidence gathered by other courts against former KLA officials, including the ICTY, EULEX and UNMIK. (The Guardian, Balkan Insight)
Ngirabatware Review hearing scheduled by MICT
On 22 July 2019, the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals ordered the scheduling of a Review hearing for 16 September 2019 in the case of Ngirabatware. The Review Hearing is scheduled until 27 September 2019 in order for the parties to provide supporting or rebutting evidence concerning a new fact in the appeal. Mr Ngirabatware was convicted by the ICTR on 20 December 2012 of committing direct and public incitement to commit genocide based on speeches and statements he made and on actions to provide weapons. He was also convicted of rape as a crime against humanity, and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. On 18 December 2018, the UN MICT issued judgment in his appeal confirming his conviction of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, but reversing his conviction of rape which had been based on an extended form of joint criminal enterprise, as the Appeals Chamber found that the Prosecution failed to provide Mr Ngirabatware’s contribution to the common purpose of exterminating the Tutsi civilian population. The Appeals Chamber, therefore, revised his sentence to 30 years imprisonment.
ICC Prosecution responds to submissions of victims and amicus curiae in Afghanistan appeal
On 19 July 2019, the Prosecution at the International Criminal Court responded to the amicus curiae submissions made by victim’s groups to the Pre-Trial Chamber. The submissions were made in response to the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision not to investigate crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan due to an investigation not being in the ‘interest of justice’. The Prosecution, while largely in agreeance with the submissions, addressed all points of contention it had with the submissions, as well as clearing up what it believed to be misapprehensions on behalf of the victims groups. In this regard, the Prosecution sought to clarify how damages would potentially be awarded to victims, further the Prosecution addressed concerns of standing, ensuring that victims have not been prejudiced in any way as appeal proceedings have already been triggered, and victims will have further opportunities to raise concerns before the Appeal Chamber when appropriate. The Prosecution also dismissed concerns raised by Cross-Border Victims that the Prosecutor’s preliminary examination was incomplete as it did not address crimes allegedly committed against them. The Prosecution stated that this sets the foundation for well-founded allegations to be potentially investigated in the future. The Prosecutor requested that the Pre-Trial Chamber certify the Prosecutors appeal, but argued that it need not address moot points made by the amici curiae, and should summarily dismiss the Cross-Border Victim’s response. (ICC OTP).
Dutch Court Convicts ISIS Fighters of War Crimes, Membership in Terrorist Organisation
A Dutch court has convicted Dutch-born Oussama Achraf Akhlafa, an Islamic State militant, of war crimes and membership of a terrorist organization and sentenced him to 7.5 years in prison. Akhlafa was found to have fought with IS in Iraq and Syria from 2014-2016 and to have posted photographs of a man executed by IS to Facebook. Akhlafa was tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows war crimes to be tried regardless of where they were committed. In its decision, the Court found that “He violated the personal dignity of the deceased, thereby breaching the Geneva Convention.” A second Dutch-born accused was also convicted of membership of a terrorist organisation due to involvement with IS and was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. (Reuters)
Scientists Call for New Geneva Convention on Environmental Protection in Armed Conflict
Scientists have written an open letter calling upon international lawmakers to adopt a 5th Geneva Convention to recognise damage to nature during armed conflict as a war crime. Professor Sarah Durant, a signatory, said that the damage done to the environment during armed conflict threatens biodiversity and can destroy the livelihoods of people in rural areas. The International Law Commission will meet soon to discuss principles it has already drafted in relation to environmental protection during armed conflict, a topic it adopted in 2013. (The Guardian, Nature)