Week 5 2017 ICL Media Review

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Friday, February 3, 2017 - 00:00

By ICL Media Review

In this week's review, news about the AU resolution on the ICC, former Kosovo PM in court, Turkey ordered to release a judge, extra-judicial excecutions in the Philippines and more

AU issues non-binding resolution for mass withdrawal from ICC:

On 31 January, during the African Union’s Summit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, the AU passed a non-binding resolution which calls for the States Parties of the African Union which are also members of the Rome Statute to withdraw in mass.  The resolution follows moves by South Africa and Burundi to withdraw from the Rome Statute.  Senegal and Nigeria noted their opposition to the resolution and call to leave the ICC. (BBC, African News Agency)

Haradinaj questioned before French Court ahead of extradition decision:

On 1 February, former ICTY accused who was twice acquitted of charges before the ICTY, Ramush Haradinaj, was questioned before a French Court after he was arrested on 4 January in France on a Serbian arrest warrant for war crimes.  Reports state that the hearing lasted 30 minutes and that a decision on whether Haradinaj will be extradited to Serbia will be made on 9 February.   Serbia has asked France to extradite Haradinaj to Serbia based on new evidence of crimes committed during 1998 and 1999 which were not covered in the two trial against him at the ICTY.  Reports also speculate that the French court could decide to extradite Haradinaj to the new Kosovo court in The Hague. (B92)

MICT orders Turkey to release judge by 14 February

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has ordered Turkey to release MICT Judge Aydin Sefa Akay, whose ongoing detention in Turkey has frozen an appeals case underway at the MICT. Citing the UN Security Council resolution obliging States to comply with the MICT’s orders, the Court confirmed that Judge Akay was protected by diplomatic immunity – which it called “a cornerstone of an independent international judiciary” – and warned that the loss of Judge Akay on the MICT’s bench would have a “chilling effect” on judicial independence. Judge Akay, who is Turkish, was one of 41,000 people arrested by Turkish authorities following the failed coup of 15 July 2016, and is serving as part of the five-judge bench hearing the ICTR appeals case of former Rwandan minister Augustin Ngirabatwareformer. Turkey has yet to comply with request for Judge Aydin’s release. (BBC)


Serbian NGO claims impunity for killings during Kosovo war

In a report published on 31 January 2017, prominent Belgrade NGO The Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) has stated that 110 individuals responsible for the removal and concealment of hundreds of Kosovar Albanian corpses remain unprosecuted in Serbia. Significantly, amongst the 110 people identified by the HLC are army and police officials, court officers, staff at the Serbian prosecutor’s office, and senior Serbian politicians. The HLC has stated that “we tried to get all the information about every one of these officials who we identified as responsible for crimes and for hiding bodies in mass graves, but the police usually gave us files about those who held some positions at the ministry but are now pensioners. We couldn’t get information about the key people from that operation.” Over 900 bodies of Albanian civilians have been found in four mass grave locations in Serbia since 1999, including over 700 bodies at a police training centre in a Belgrade suburb – the HLC warned that more than 1000 bodies remain missing, and HLC Director Milica Kostic has called on Serbia’s prosecutors to launch an objective investigation into the killings and apparent subsequent cover up. (Balkan Insight)


Amnesty says Philippines drug killings could be CAH

In an investigative report published on 31 January 2017 and entitled “If you are poor you are killed”: Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines’ “War on Drugs”, Amnesty International has warned that the Philippines police force have killed, and have contracted others to kill, thousands of alleged drug offenders in a coordinated effort that may amount to a crime against humanity. The report details systematic police practices that include the planting of evidence, the recruitment of hired killers, and the fabrication of official incident reports – since President Duterte took office there have been over 7000 drug-related killings, of which at least 2500 have been directly conducted by police officers. Amnesty’s Crisis Response Director summarised that “Under President Duterte’s rule, the national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from the murder of impoverished people the government was supposed to uplift. The same streets Duterte vowed to rid of crime are now filled with bodies of people illegally killed by his own police.” The report documents 59 extrajudicial killings, based on police reports as well as 110 interviews conducted across 20 cities in the Philippine archipelago. The Philippines is a State party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and accordingly Amnesty has observed: “We want the Philippines authorities to deal with this human rights crisis on their own. But if decisive action is not taken soon, the international community should turn to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to carry out a preliminary examination into these killings, including the involvement of officials at the very top of the government.” (Amnesty ReportABS-CBN NewsThe Guardian)

Court in Sarajevo indicts Bosnian-Serb woman over 1992 killing of prisoners

A Sarajevo court has indicted Bosnian Serb Visnja Acimovic for war crimes – specifically, for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions – arising from the killing of 37 Muslim Bosniaks in 1992. Acimovic, who is currently believed to be living in Serbia, is accused of shooting dead 37 prisoners in the town of Vlasenica. The bodies of the victims were unearthed in a mass grave in 2000. (Radio Free EuropeJurist)

Former Gambia interior minister detained on suspicion of Crimes against Humanity

Ousman Sonko, Gambia’s former interior minister, has been detained in Switzerland, as he is being investigated for crimes against humanity. The complaint, which was lodged by TRIAL international, relates to crimes committed whilst ex-president Yahya Jammeh was in power. Sonko’s role as interior minister saw him overseeing the country’s police and detention centers. According to Benedict de Moerloose of Trial his position meant that he “could not have ignored the large-scale torture that political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders suffered”. (News Week)

UN Sanctions monitors in Yemen investigate proportionality of Saudi-led air strikes

The United Nations sanctions monitoring committee for Yemen has warned the Saudi Arabian coalition allies, including the United States, Britain and France, that their air strikes “did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack”. The report also states that the air strikes, which have killed at least 292 civilians, may amount to war crimes. Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi UN Ambassador, has stated that the accusations were unfounded and that maximum restraint has been exercised. (Reuters)

UN outlines hierarchy of panel to investigate war crimes in Syria

The United Nations announced that the independent panel to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, which was approved in December 2016, will be headed by a senior judge or prosecutor, and will be assisted by a deputy and a secretariat. The mechanism aims to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, and prepare files to facilitate criminal proceedings. It will complement the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. (UN News Centre)

ICC OTP encourages ongoing support, concerned over potential US withdrawal

Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, has urged Donald Trump to not withdraw its backing of the ICC. Whilst not a member of the ICC, the United States plays a crucial role in capturing indictees. For example, the US handed over to the ICC a top rebel of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army. In addition, through its Rewards for Justice programme, it pays for information leading to the arrest of suspects, which also covers ICC indictees. It has been reported that the Trump administration is preparing an executive order to limit the US’s role in the ICC. There are concerns that other states will follow the US’s lead and withdraw from the Court.  (Reuters)




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