Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ICC President Song Addresses "Fight Against Impunity" at Columbia's World Leaders Forum

ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song speaking at the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University on February 12, 2013. Photo: Eileen Barroso / Columbia University
By Catherine Mullin

Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), spoke on The International Criminal Court and the Fight Against Impunity for Atrocity Crimes yesterday at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum. Throughout his talk, in which he spoke from a personal perspective about his own experience in war and as a judge, Judge Song highlighted the importance of the ICC in the effort to end impunity. He declared the Court to be “at the forefront of the fight and a central element of the broad global system that brings together international organizations to address the worst international crimes.” Lee C. Bollinger, the President of Columbia University, introduced Judge Song. The event was co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights of which AMICC is a program.

Judge Song shared his first encounter with conflict, when he lived through the Korean War at the age of nine. The war is where he first saw the “immense suffering and destruction war creates.” Judge Song explained he chose to pursue a career in law, as he believes that law can prevent the worst violence. Though Judge Song survived the Korean War and went on to live in peaceful nations as he pursued his career, he pointed out that peace is seen as an “unattainable luxury” in many places in the world today. This reality reinforces the importance Judge Song sees to keep working towards the goal of eradicating mass violence. He urged that for those living in peace, “we must always ask ourselves what we can do with this gift.”

Judge Song reviewed the current situations and cases at the Court, and how each of these reflects that the Court is at the heart of the movement to end impunity. He emphasized that the ICC is not part of the UN, which is a common misconception, but instead is an independent body. However, he noted that peace and justice are interlinked. The relationship between the ICC and UN was established to be mutually reinforcing so both peace and justice could be achieved.

He addressed the challenges facing the Court, such as the failure to arrest and transfer individuals charged in the Darfur and Libya situations, and highlighted the importance of the cooperation of ICC States Parties. Judge Song emphasized that the support of States Parties and UN Security Council is imperative to the Court’s ability to function effectively. He believes states’ actions, or inactions, will determine the success of the Court. Judge Song also emphasized that ICC is a Court of last resort, and that states retain primary jurisdiction which is both a right and responsibility of each state.

Judge Song concluded with reflections on his own place in the ICC as a "world leader" of an international organization. He admitted, “to lead is to be alone in the eye of the storm. I carry the responsibility for the actions that I take.” He also stated that as president he is “first among equals” with his colleagues at the Court. The ICC is not a hierarchical institution, but made up of independent judges, Prosecutor and Registrar. This theme of the importance of independence ended his remarks: “The ICC cannot function unless it maintains its independence, and it must stand apart as a non-political judicial institution.”

In the questions and answers following his remarks, Judge Song spoke about his role promoting the universality of the ICC and the challenges faced in convincing large countries, such as Russia, China, India and the US, to join the Court. While acknowledging that domestic political realities may for now keep these countries outside of the ICC, such as the 67 votes requires in the Senate in order to permit US ratification, he expressed his appreciation for the Obama administration's support and cooperation, such as sharing intelligence and helping to support ICC arrests. President Song ended on a positive note. He declared that he was positive that one day the US will join "the ICC family" because the principles that the court defends are fully in line with American core values.

The webcast of the event will be archived on the World Leaders Forum website.

Friday, February 08, 2013

New AMICC Analysis of Acquittal and Release of Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui by the ICC
Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui during his initial appearance before the Court. Photo: ICC-CPI/Remco Okhuizen

On December 18, 2012 Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was acquitted of all charges by the International Criminal Court. Trial Chamber II found there to be insufficient evidence in the case brought by the Office of the Prosecutor, and was unable to find Ngudjolo guilty beyond a reasonable doubt regarding the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is the second verdict delivered by the Court since its founding, and its first acquittal. The verdict was met with mixed reactions worldwide and has reenergized the examination of the ICC and its role in international justice.  

Read more in AMICC's new analysis of the Ngudjolo acquittal

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Trial Chamber Orders Immediate Surrender of Abdullah Al-Senussi to ICC by Libyan Authorities

Abdullah al-Senussi, Libya's former director of military intelligence
Former head of Libyan Armed Forces and Military Intelligence Abdullah Al-Senussi. Photo: Paul Hackett /Reuters

By Catherine Mullin

The Judges of Trial Chamber I yesterday ordered Libyan authorities to immediately transfer Abdullah Al-Senussi to the ICC. Al-Senussi, the former head of the Libyan Armed Forces and Military Intelligence, is wanted by the Court on charges of crimes against humanity. An arrest warrant for Al-Senussi was issued by the Court in June 2011. The UN Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC in February 2011, the first unanimous referral to the Court by the Security Council. The referral gave the Court jurisdiction over Libya, though it is not a State Party.

The Libyan government contested the admissibility of the case against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, his co-defendant, after the arrest warrant for them were issued, but the challenge did not include the case against Al-Senussi. This appears to have been decisive; according to the judges, "the postponement of a surrender request pursuant to [Article 95 of the Rome Statute] can only be made '[w]here there is an admissibility challenge under consideration'." No such admissibility challenge is underway and thus Libya may not "postpone the execution of a request under this Part pending a determination by the Court," as provided for in that article.

In January 2013, the Libyan authorities claimed to be nearing the beginning of pre-trial proceedings for Al-Senussi in their own Chamber of Accusation. However, there has been no evidence of any such action by the Libyan government. Al-Sensussi’s defense team has repeatedly requested his immediate transfer to the ICC, but to date Al-Senussi remains in Libyan custody. Today's decision also sets in motion a possible visit by Al-Senussi's ICC-appointed lawyer to his client in Libya.