Week 4 2017 ICL Media Review

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Friday, January 27, 2017 - 00:00

By ICL Media Review 

In this week's review, news about communications in the Ugandan LRA rebels, lobby for reparations in ICC Mali case, possible Hague extradition for former Kosovo PM, Belgian war crimes suit against senior Israeli politician and more.

ICC hears evidence from LRA radio signaller in Prosecution case against Ongwen

On 23 January 2017 a former radio-signaller for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) delivered witness testimony in the case of The Prosecutor v Dominic Ongwen at the ICC. The witness, who appeared under a pseudonym for witness protection purposes, described how the LRA employed various codes to avoid detection while coordinating operations in Northern Uganda. A system of radio calls and a “TONFAS” code – described by the witness as “like some kind of key” – were referred to by the witness, as well as the use of jargon designed to mask the meaning of various communications. Examples given included the use of the number one to signal “death,” number two to signal “significant injuries” and the use of the word “panadol” to signal an escape. Ongwen’s trial resumed on January 16 with the beginning of the Prosecution’s case. (All Africa)

NGOs argue for wider victim reparations in ICC Mali case

In the case of The Prosecutor v Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi before Trial Chamber VIII at the ICC, two NGOs have submitted a joint observation on the reparations proceedings. In their court filing, The Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH) and the Association Malienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH) addressed three issues. First, regarding the identification of the categories of victims, FIDH and AMDH reminded the Chamber that both direct and indirect victims have a right to reparations, and that Mr Al Mahdi’s crime impacted the community as a whole – including the people both of Timbuktu and of Mali more widely. Second, regarding the different types of harm suffered by victims, they stated that beyond the direct material harm (as well as certain economic harm) caused by the destruction of nine mausoleums and the door of the Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu, the more significant harm caused is the mental and psychological harm suffered by the entire community. Finally, regarding the methodology for the implementation of reparations, FIDH and AMDH placed particular emphasis on the need to consult with the communities concerned, work through existing organisations, adapt to the precarious security situation, and manage victims’ expectations. (ICC Court Filing)

Kyrgyzstan upholds life sentence of HR defender after UN HR Committee called for quash of conviction

The Chui Regional Court in Kyrgyzstan has upheld the life sentence of Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights defender who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 based on what Amnesty International has called “fabricated and politically motivated” charges related to the death of a police officer. In its decision on his case in March 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee held that Askarov has been arbitrarily detained, was denied a fair trial, and has been subjected to torture in detention. The HRC called for Askarov’s immediate release and for the quashing of his conviction, but the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan referred his case to the Chui Regional Court where his sentence has now been upheld. Amnesty International has released a press release condemning the court’s decision and emphasizing that: “In line with Kyrgyzstan’s obligations under international law and the findings of the UN Human Rights Committee, we urge once again the Kyrgyzstani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Azimjan Askarov, and provide adequate compensation for this terrible ordeal. The authorities must put an end to this injustice and ensure that human rights defenders are able to work in the country without fear of reprisals.” (Amnesty International)

Serbian war crimes prosecutor tells media that former Kosovo PM could be extradited to Hague Kosovo Tribunal

The head of the Serbian war crimes prosecution office, Milan Petrovic, told the Deutsche Welle that there was a possibility for Ramush Haradinaj, former Kosovo prime minister and KLA commander, to be extradited to the newly-established Kosovo Tribunal in the Hague. According to the Deutsche Welle report, the Serbian prosecutor alleged that Mr. Haradinaj could be “responsible for 13 deaths, children among them, and that these allegations are corroborated by statements of 30 witnesses”, and insisted that “these crimes were committed in 1999 and have not been previously considered”. Haradinaj has been acquitted of war crimes by the UN Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. On 4 January 2016, Ramush Haradinaj was arrested in France over a warrant issued by Serbia for alleged crimes during the Kosovo war in 1999. On 21 January 2016, thousands of people gathered in Pristina, Kosovo, asking for Mr. Haradinaj to be released. A French court is yet to decide on the extradition request issued by Serbia. The Prosecutor Petrovic stated that, notwithstanding the decision from the French court, pursuits against him will continue “until he is brought before a court and answers for the crimes we have charged him with”. He added “It’s important for reconciliation and for truth about the crimes, as well as a debt toward the families and the victims – and Albanians were also among his victims, that this is a clean court process without politics”. He stated that Serbia would cooperate with the new Kosovo Court if Haradinaj was turned over to it. He added that Serbia will put him on trial if he was extradited to Serbia. On 23 January 2016, Tanjug reported that “the court is still in the phase of being formed, and has not requested Haradinaj’s extradition”. (IB TimesB92.net)

Former Israeli Defense Minister cancels Brussels visit due to war crimes suit

On 23 January 2016, Tzipi Livni, former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009, was meant to “unofficially attend a conference on tackling anti-Semitism in Europe and advancing the continent’s relations with the Jewish state” in Brussels. Following last week declaration by the Brussels prosecutor’s office that Ms Livni was the subject of a 2010 complaint to the federal prosecutor and that the authorities could detain or question her on arrival “to try and advance the investigation”, Ms Livni cancelled her trip to Belgium. The spokesperson Thierry Werts said that “an arrest was a possible option”. Tzipi Livni is named in a war crimes and crimes against humanity suit in relation to her role in the Israeli military’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 – January 2009 against Hamas resulting in the death of almost 1,400 Palestinians and thirteen Israelis. “Both sides were accused of war crimes by the international community during the three-week conflict”. (The Independent)

UNSC “alarmed” over reported executions, property destruction in Palmyra

On 20 January 2017, the United Nations Security Council (SC) expressed alarm at reports of mass executions in Palmyra by the Islamic State and the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria. In addition, the SC expressed concern that the Islamic State is “generating income from…the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items”. The UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has called the destruction “a new war crime”.  (UN News Centre)

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. 

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