Thursday, May 31, 2012

Celebrating the ICC's 10 years of fighting impunity

By Anjie Zheng

Ten years ago, the International Criminal Court became the world’s first permanent international tribunal, dedicated to investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the most serious war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Since 2002, 121 countries, or nearly two-thirds of the United Nations General Assembly, have ratified the Rome Statute to become States Parties to the Court. The Court has carried out investigations in seven countries, undertaken 15 cases, and issued 20 arrest warrants. Among those sought are high-level individuals accused of orchestrating brutal policies of genocide, widespread rape, and use of child soldiers, including Joseph Kony of Uganda, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

The current US engagement with and support for the Court reflects a positive shift in US-ICC relations. After the ICC issued its first verdict in March 2012, finding Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of deploying child soldiers under age 15 in armed combat, the US government praised the verdict as historic. Additionally, President Obama established the US's first Atrocities Prevention Board, an interagency, high-level body on mass atrocity prevention, which met for the first time in April 2012. The ICC's tenth anniversary in 2012 underscores not only the progress of the Court, but also the increasing amount of international support for the Court's work.

The Court will use lessons learned from the Lubanga case to speed up and increase efficiency of ongoing and future cases, as Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda takes over as Chief Prosecutor on June 15, 2012. She will be the first female Prosecutor of the Court as well as the first Prosecutor from Africa.

To commemorate this milestone occasion, AMICC members will be hosting commemoration events across the country, as well as writing blog posts, Op-Eds and Letters to Editors to a variety of media outlets. Please contact us via Twitter or visit our website if you would like more information. For more information on global activities, please visit the ICC’s tenth anniversary website.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Closing Statements Begin in the Katanga and Ngudjolo Case, the ICC's Second

Germain Katanga listens to the OTP's closing statements in the Hague on May 15, 2012.
Photo credit: ICC-CPI

By Anjie Zheng

The Prosecutor began closing arguments in the case against alleged Congolese warlords Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui in Trial Chamber II of the ICC today. This is the second ICC case to reach this stage. It is the first case against two jointly accused defendants, and the first to deal with charges of sexual violence.

The defendants are co-charged with seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed against ethnic Hema in Bogoro, a village of the Congo's Ituri region, in February 2003. Katanga was the former commander of the Force de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI); Ngudjolo the former leader of the Front des Nationalistes et Integrationnistes (FNI). Both militia were engaged in fighting against the rival Union des Patriotes Congolese (UPC) militia, led by recently convicted Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, in a conflict that devastated the resources-rich Ituri region.

In 2009, when the Katanga and Ngudjolo trial began, the Prosecutor noted it would be the final ICC trial regarding the Ituri conflict. The OTP indicated it would shift future focus to atrocities committed in the Kivu region. Following years of investigation, the OTP filed an arrest warrant application yesterday for Sylvestre Mudacumura, leader of one of the most active militia in the Kivu provinces. The application charged Mudacumura with five counts of crimes against humanity and nine counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, and torture.

Along with submitting an arrest warrant application yesterday, the OTP requested to add more charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes to the arrest warrant against Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda was co-accused in 2006 with Thomas Lubanga, yet remains at large.

After the Prosecution's closing arguments in the Katanga and Chui case, the Defense will make closing statements on May 21-23, 2012. The hearings may be viewed on the ICC's official YouTube channel.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

ICC in the Media, Update #64

In the last several weeks the media has focused on a range of both old and new ICC situations. Of particular concern has been the ongoing dispute between the ICC and Libya over where Seif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son, should be tried. On a recent visit to Libya the ICC prosecutor learned that Libya has been carrying on its own investigation against Seif which has reportedly yielded "great" evidence. If Libya hopes to succeed in its appeal to have the case remain in Libya, it will have to demonstrate to the judges that it has sufficiently investigated the case and is capable of holding a fair and independent trial. Unfortunately for Libya, the ICC judges rejected its appeal as inadmissible. Representatives from Libya have reportedly insisted that they will continue to push for the trial to be held in Libya, and are continuing to actively investigate the case against Seif. Reportedly Libya's investigations are in "an advanced stage" and are expected to be completed shortly.

In other news, increasing violence and threat of violence in the Democtratic Republic of the Congo has lead to growing international pressure for the government to arrest Bosco Ntaganda and deliver him to the ICC. Recently Ntanganda reportedly mounted a rebellion against the Congolese army and has taken hold of two towns in the east. The government has not commented on how these events affect its ability or desire to arrest and extradite Ntaganda.
In the Kenya case, suspects Kenyatta and Muthaura applied to the judges of Trial Chamber V to postpone setting a date for their trial until their challenge to the court's jurisdiction is finally resolved by the Appeals Chamber. Also in the Kenya case, the East African Legislative Assembly reportedly recently adopted a motion urging the ICC to transfer the cases to the East African Court of Justice. Several days later the East Africa Community Summit resolved to extend the mandate of the EACJ to include crime against humanity, which it did not previously encompass. Critics of the move have pointed out that setting up the EACJ to deal with crimes against humanity would add years of extra delay at best, and at worst a total denial of justice. In the on-going Bemba trial, victim testimony is set to continue. To date there are reportedly 2,744 victims participating in the trial. Finally, the ICC has been closely monitoring the situation in Mali, and is continuing to investigate whether war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide have occurred. The Office of the Prosecutor has not yet determined whether a formal investigation into the matter will be opened. Photo credits: CNN, Capital FM.