ICL Media Review - Week 35
By ICL Media Review
In this week's review, news about the appeal against Seselj’s acquittal, accountability in Colombia’s peace agreement, the Al-Mahdi judgment, ICTY/MICT cooperation with the African Court and more.
Following the acquittal of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj of all nine war crime and crime against humanity charges against him in March, the ICTY’s Office of the Prosecutor has filed an appeal. The appeal emphasises both legal and factual flaws in the Trial Chamber’s acquittal decision and calls for the Appeals Chamber to either deliver a guilty verdict or to order Seselj’s retrial by the Mechanism for International Tribunals (MICT). In its appeal, the Prosecution criticised the lack of substantive reasoning in the Trial Chamber’s conclusion that Seselj had not participated in a joint criminal enterprise – stating that the Chamber had made “disturbing errors” – and argued that “the gravity of the crimes, as well as numerous aggravating factors merit a sentence of 28 years of imprisonment, as requested by the Prosecution at trial”. Seselj was accused of persecution, deportation, torture, wanton destruction and plunder between 1991-1993. After his release by the Trial Chamber in March, he returned to Serbia where he was elected as a member of parliament. (In Serbia, Balkan Insight)
Colombia’s government has announced it had secured a peace agreement with the country’s leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A national plebiscite will take place on 2 October for Colombians to either accept or reject the accord. The comprehensive deal seeks to address the root causes of the conflict as well as the future reintegration of FARC rebels within Colombia’s social fabric and aims to “restore and repair” the country through a range of transitional justice mechanisms. A peace tribunal will be established to hear confessions and investigate alleged crimes, and it will work alongside a special Investigation and Accusation Unit tasked with assessing how complete the confessions given at the tribunals are. The agreement also provides that amnesty will only be granted for ‘political’ crimes, which are those committed in relation to rebellion and that FARC members will be protected against extradition claims against them. However, no amnesty will be granted to those who confess or are found guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Those found guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity will be placed on “restricted movement” in special centres, not prisons, but will nevertheless still be eligible to run for office following the complete disarmament of the insurgent group, under a controversial provision of the agreement that seeks to incorporate FARC into electoral politics. The terms of the peace agreement will apply not only to FARC members but also to the state’s armed forces and anyone who wishes to confess to crimes committed during the war. Following the announcement, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released a statement on 1 September, praising the fact that the agreement will not include amnesties or pardons for those convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Prosecutor noted “with satisfaction” that “the peace agreement acknowledges the central place of victims in the process and their legitimate aspirations for justice. These aspirations must be fully addressed, including by ensuring that the perpetrators of serious crimes are genuinely brought to justice.” The ICC has been conducting a preliminary examination on the conflict in Colombia since June 2004. (The Washington Post, ICC Press Release)
On 24 August, Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that the judgment and, if applicable, the sentence in the case The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi will be delivered on 27 September 2016. The judgment will be rendered one month after the conclusion of the trial hearings in the first ever international proceedings on the destruction of cultural heritage. Al Mahdi, a member of Ansar Dine - an Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliate - was indicted by Pre-Trial Chamber I of the war crime charge of destroying historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali), between 30 June 2012 and 11 July 2012. On 22 August, at the opening of the trial, Al Mahdi pleaded guilty to the war crime charge, seeking forgiveness and expressing his “deepest regret” for the damage he caused to the people of Timbuktu and to the international community as a whole. As the first defendant to plead guilty at the ICC, Al-Mahdi faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The Prosecution and the Defence have struck a deal for a 9-11 years sentence, which is, however, not binding on the Chamber. (ICC Press Release, Justice Hub)
On 24 August, the Prosecutor of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Serge Brammertz, met with the President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Augustino S. L. Ramadhani, in Arusha, Tanzania. During the visit, the two discussed a range of issues, including possible cooperation between the African Court and the Office of the Prosecutor of the MICT, and Prosecutor Brammerz thanked Arusha’s local authorities for their continuous support to the MICT. (UNMICT press release)
PA urges ICC to expedite preliminary examination
It has been reported that the Palestinian Authority asked the ICC to speed up its ongoing preliminary examination into the situation in Gaza. The move allegedly comes in response to a statement released by the Israeli Defence Force on Wednesday, which announced the closing of seven cases of civilian killings during the summer of 2014 without having actually opened any military police investigations into them. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said “the official Israeli position, that renounces all responsibility for war crimes, means it’s time the International Court start doing more than mere examining”. On 16 January 2015, the ICC Prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination into alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory since 13 June 2014, after the PA lodged an Art. 12(3) declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC on 1 January 2015. It was reported that a Palestinian official stated that the closing of the seven cases calls for more vigorous action. The PA will “submit detailed complaints and urge the Court to act because it’s time Israel pays for its crimes,” he added. (Arutz Sheva)
ICL Media Review is an independent UK Small Charity, which aims to provide a daily survey of news and developments affecting international criminal law and international human rights in a neutral and impartial manner.