Week 7 2017 ICL Media Review
By ICL Media Review
In this week's review, news about the first reparations for victims at the ICC, Gambia is back as an ICC member, ISIS war crimes and genocide against the Yazidi targeted, a Kosovo Truth Commission and more
ICC Trust Fund for Victims submits approach and method for collective reparations in Lubanga case
The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) detailed the framework for collective symbolic reparations in the case of The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo in a submission made to ICC Trial Chamber II on 13 February. Lubanga, whose trial began 2009, was convicted in 2012 for the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years in Ituri, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, between July 2002 and December 2003.
In October 2016, TC II approved and ordered the implementation of a plan submitted by the TFV on collective reparations for the victims. The TFV identifies the main objective of collective reparations as “redress[ing] the former child soldiers and family members victimized by the crimes of Lubanga overcome the harm suffered through rehabilitation projects in an integrated collective reparations programme consisting of both symbolic and service-based remedies”.
In line with this overall goal, the TFV outlines in the submission the details of the project framework which will see the allocation of the €1 million earmarked for reparations over an indicative timeline of 3 years. The submission indicates that €100,000 have been allocated to the contracting of services in support of victim identification and harm assessment, €170,000 to the implementation of the symbolic reparations component, and €730,000 to that of the service-based component, which aims to include psychological and physical rehabilitation projects, as well as socio-economic measures.
In the submission, the TFV also underscores some of the challenges that may arise in the implementation of the proposed reparations services, such as those related to the numerical scope and geographic emphasis of the reparations, the role of implementing partners, the limited existing service delivery structure and capacity in Ituri, and ensuring the correlation between symbolic and service-based reparations. In doing so, the TFV also proposes strategies to mitigate the identified risks, while underscoring that the victim identification process is still ongoing. (Trust Fund Submission)
Gambia official reverses decision to withdraw from ICC
On 10 February, the UN Secretary General, as depository of the Rome Statute, received official notification from Gambia reversing its withdrawal from the ICC. Gambia was one of three African States, alongside South Africa and Burundi, who informed the UN Secretary General of withdrawal from the Rome Statute in the closing months of 2016 – actual withdrawal does not occur until a year following notification, thus Gambia’s reversal of its notification will ensure it remains a State party to the Rome Statute. This policy U-turn follows the replacement of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh – who had previously dismissed the ICC as the “International Caucasian Court” – with new President Adama Barrow. Barrow’s government has issued a clear statement on the reversal of the withdrawal: “As a new government that has committed itself to the promotion of human rights … we reaffirm The Gambia’s commitment to the principles enshrined in the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.” (NY Times, NPR)
German Federal Prosecutor gets int’l arrest warrant for genocide and war crimes against Yazidi
The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office has obtained an international arrest warrant for a high-ranking ISIS commander for crimes committed against Yazidi women and girls. The arrest warrant purportedly includes war crimes and genocide charges against the alleged ISIS commander for being “significantly responsible to the sexual slavery of Yazidi women and girls”. Organisations such as the Global Justice Center (GJC) underscored the importance of the international warrant potentially leading to the first ever prosecution in relation to the Yazidi genocide. “This genocide has been ongoing since August 2014 and while there has been international condemnation of these crimes, there has not been a single prosecution for genocide. We commend Germany for taking international leadership and acting on their legal obligations to prevent, suppress and punish genocide,” said Stephanie Johanssen, UN and EU Advocacy Director of the GJC. (Benzinga)
Katanga appears in DRC military court for war crimes charges
On 10 February, the domestic military trial of former ICC accused, Germain Katanga, resumed in the DRC. In this domestic trial, Katanga, along with six co-accused, has been charged with “war crimes, crimes against humanity and participation in an insurrectional movement” in Ituri, where some 60 000 people died in fighting between 1999 and 2007”. After starting on February 2016, domestic proceedings were delay for a while “after his lawyers argued that Katanga’s prosecution could not proceed under the Rome Statute” which provides that “a sentenced person cannot be prosecuted in a country where he is serving his sentence without the ICC’s approval”. The ICC approved in April 2016 but the trial was postponed for two months later to ensure Katanga’s team had sufficient time to prepare its defence. (News24)
ICTY convict Beara dies in prison
On 9 February, ICTY convict Ljubisa Beara, died in a German prison. In 2010, the former senior Bosnian Serb army officer was condemned to life imprisonment for genocide over the 2005 Srebrenica massacre along with six other defendants by the ICTY on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. In 2015, their sentences were upheld on appeal. The ICTY has charged 20 people in total over the Srebrenica massacre. (World Bulletin)
Kosovo announces Truth Commission for reconciliation
At a ceremony on 13 February, Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci announced plans to establish a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to address the events that unfurled during the 1998-9 Kosovo war. Thaci described his hopes that the Commission would help to reconcile the ethnic-Albanian majority of Kosovo with the minority Serb population, and insisted that “Kosovo cannot build a good future if it remains a hostage to its past.” To this end, Thaci stated that it is necessary to determine the facts of the conflict definitively. He did not unveil details on how the Commission will conduct its work nor how it will be staffed. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission will be an additional transitional justice mechanism alongside the recently-established, Hague-based Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office mandated to prosecute crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army from 1998-2000. (The Wire)
ICC receives complaint alleging CAH for Australia’s immigration detention policy
On 13 February, the Global Legal Action Network (Glan) and the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic submitted a complaint to the ICC prosecutor office detailing the “harrowing practices of the Australian state and corporations towards asylum seekers”.
Denunciating “privatised facilities entail[ing] long-term detention in inhumane conditions, often including physical and sexual abuse of adults and children”. The complaint invites the ICC Prosecutor to open an investigation into possible “crimes against humanity committed by individuals and corporate actors”. Experts allege that the conditions caused “‘epidemic levels’ of self-harm among those held on these islands”.
Since 2001, all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are sent to one of the two remote islands serving as offshore immigration centres: Nauru in the Pacific, and Manus in Papua New Guinea. Currently about 2,000 men, women and children are held and “about 1,500 of whom have been formally recognised as refugees” for more than three years, with no prospect of an imminent release.
These detention camps have been the subject of continuous criticism by the UN, human rights groups and others “over sexual and physical abuse of those detained, including rapes, beatings and the murder of one asylum seeker by guards; child sexual abuse; chronic rates of self-harm and suicide; dangerous levels of sustained mental illness; harsh conditions; and inadequate medical treatment leading to several deaths”. Dr Itamar Mann, Glans legal adviser, stated that it was an opportunity for the ICC Prosecutor to address criticisms that the ICC was “biased in its almost exclusive focus on African states”. So far, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection did not comment on the ICC complaint. (The Guardian)
Croatian Supreme Court confirms Mercep WC conviction; increases sentence
On 13 February, the Croatian Supreme Court, affirmed the conviction of Tomislav Mercep for the charges of war crimes. Mister Mercep served in the 90s as an assistant to interior minister Ivan Vekic and as the unofficial commander of the reservist police battalion ‘Mercepovci’. The Court rejected all points on appeal made by Mercep, and upheld the conviction rendered in May 2016 by the Zagreb county court after a 4-year domestic trial for war crimes and raised the sentence from 5.5 year to 7 year imprisonment. Mister Mercep was accused “of not preventing the Mercepovci from detaining, torturing and killing several dozen mainly Serb civilians at the Zagreb Trade Fair, Kutina in central Croatia and Pakracka Poljana in western Slavonia in late 1991” where “46 civilians were killed by the Mercepovci, three went missing and have not been found, and six were tortured but survived”. (Balkan Insight)
UK IHAT investigation to close
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), created in 2010 to assess claims of abuse by Iraqi civilians against troops who had served in Iraq, will close in the summer. The IHAT started with 165 cases but the allegations increased quickly, mainly generated by PIL and Leigh Day law firms. It has been reported that the IHAT investigation is to be closed because of reasons identified in a Defence Subcommittee report. MPs and Defence Subcommittee criticized the way the investigation was conducted.
According to the Independent, the committee stated it was concerned the MoD had used public funds “to cover the costs of those who were bringing “spurious and unassessed” cases against the war veterans and about the lack of support for those accused”. It further alleged that IHAT investigators spied on serving and retired soldiers and used “intimidatory tactics”, including “deeply disturbing” methods such as impersonating the police. The reports adds that “Both the MoD and IHAT have focused too much on satisfying the accusers and too little on defending those under investigation”.
It also states that “legal firms were empowered by the MoD’s approach to IHAT to generate cases against service personnel at an industrial level”. The report further criticizes the cost of the investigation and the damage caused on soldiers’ lives. According to the Government, IHAT could not be closed sooner because “the conduct of the investigations was under scrutiny by the High Court and the International Criminal Court”. (Independent)