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Côte d’Ivoire and the ICC: What hope for the victims?

by Francis Dako, Africa coordinator and Linda Gueye, head of Communications at the Coalition for the ICC on 07 Mar 2013 | Comments

Laurent Gbagbo made major headlines the last few weeks with the opening of an important hearing in his case before the ICC but little was said about what victims can hope for now that Côte d’Ivoire has joined the Court.

Since 2002, Côte d’Ivoire has suffered years of political crisis and violence which reached a boiling point with the November 2010 presidential election. While incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo was proclaimed the winner, his opponent Alassane Ouattara vehemently disputed the result, claimed victory and was recognized as the legitimate winner by the UN and the international community. Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power to what he considered a fraudulent election led to a military offensive against the capital Abidjan by Ouattara’s forces, ending with the capture of Gbagbo on 11 April 2011. Eight months later, Gbagbo was transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague where he is currently held and waiting for a decision from the Court on whether he will go on trial.

Gbagbo is accused of being an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Côte d’Ivoire between December 2010 and April 2011. He is the first former head of state detained at the ICC. Several human rights reports have indicated that both Gbagbo’s and Ouattara’s forces have committed serious human rights violations, including rape, looting and destruction of homes, torture and murder, among others. In Abidjan, Gbagbo’s troops reportedly attacked and killed civilians identified or perceived to be Ouattara supporters and in the north-western part of the country where Ouattara’s forces started their military offensive, they reportedly killed civilians identified or perceived to be Gbagbo supporters. Around 3,000 civilians died and over one million fled during the post-election violence.

Difficult path to reconciliation

Côte d’Ivoire is trying to recover from years of political crisis and instability and reconcile a population that is still strongly divided. The wounds are still fresh and the path to reconciliation may be very difficult. Although Gbagbo is accused of serious crimes by the ICC prosecutor, he remains very popular in Côte d’Ivoire and many still consider him their president. The opening of his confirmation of charges hearing on 19 February was attended by a delegation of pro-Gbagbo supporters which was widely covered by national media. Additionally, the ICC has so far only issued two arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Côte d’Ivoire, one for Laurent Gbagbo and another for former first lady Simone Gbagbo, who is currently detained in Côte d’Ivoire. Ivorian and international human rights organizations warned that the ICC could be blamed for applying victor’s justice if only presumed pro-Gbagbo perpetrators are prosecuted.

The interest of victims

So much is said about Laurent Gbagbo and the ICC, but what about the victims of the post-election violence? What about the victims of other crimes committed since 2002? Although the first indictments are related to the post-election violence, the ICC investigation also covers the years 2002-2010, meaning that the Court could seek to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes allegedly committed during that period of time. This could allow more victims to participate in ICC proceedings, but since in practice not all victims will be able to seek justice and reparation at the Court, it is crucial that national courts have the capacity to prosecute international crimes and provide relief to victims.

Côte d’Ivoire and the ICC

Côte d’Ivoire made a major step forward in this regard when it ratified the Rome Statute on 15 February 2013. Interestingly, the government of then-president Gbagbo was the one that recognized the jurisdiction of the ICC on the territory of Côte d’Ivoire in April 2003 under Article 12 of the Rome Statute – the ICC’s founding treaty. In 2010, President Ouattara reaffirmed his government’s acceptance of ICC jurisdiction, and after a series of legal and constitutional hurdles, Côte d’Ivoire became the latest African country to join the ICC as a state party to the Rome Statute. Now that it has done so, Côte d’Ivoire has a chance to demonstrate its commitment to the fight against impunity. It should work toward implementing the Rome Statute into domestic law as soon as possible so that national courts are equipped to prosecute all the perpetrators of the crimes committed since 2002. As a state party to the Court, Côte d’Ivoire has the obligation to cooperate with the Court in arresting and sending any ICC suspect to The Hague, including Simone Gbagbo, the ICC’s first female indictee.

Côte d’Ivoire is still in the middle of a healing process that may be very long, especially if the ICC focuses its investigation on only one side of the conflict.  But by joining the ICC and opening the door to strengthening the national judicial system, Côte d’Ivoire will get one step closer to helping bring justice to victims and stop the culture of impunity.

By Francis Dako, Africa coordinator and Linda Gueye, head of Communications at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court



Will Chad Harbor ICC Indictee Al Bashir?

by Mariana on 14 Feb 2013 | Comments

by Mariana Rodriguez Pareja*

According to reports published Monday at the Sudanese Media Center, International Criminal Court (ICC) indictee President Omar Al-Bashir will be visiting Chad this coming weekend to participate in the Summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States. The same article, adds that after this visit, the Sudanese President will be visiting Libya to participate in the celebrations of the 17 February Revolution.

If this information were true, then, Chad would not be complying—for the third time—with its obligation to enforce the outstanding arrests warrants issued by the ICC against President Omar Al Bashir. The Sudanese president is subject to two arrest warrants for atrocities committed against his own people, in Darfur.

The first arrest warrant was issued in March 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The second—issued in July 2010—was on charges of genocide. According to the latest report by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to the UN Security Council (UNSC), Darfur’s civilian population continues to be targeted by government forces, with the ongoing widespread occurrence of sexual and gender based violence, crimes against human rights defenders, civil society members and community leaders.

The ICC has been involved in the Darfur situation, following upon a formal request of the UNSC since 2005. According to the letter of the Resolution 1593/95, the situation in Sudan was a “threat to international peace and security.” Therefore, States members to the UN ought to demonstrate their respect for the UNSC acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and comply with the obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC.

Furthermore, Chad as a state party to the ICC has the obligation to cooperate with the Court. Mostly given the fact that the Court has no police to enforce its decisions and it relies on States to help in the arrest of persons whom arrest warrants have been issued. Therefore, cooperation from States is crucial: in case Bashir steps a foot in Chad, the country should execute the arrest warrant and arrest the Sudanese President immediately.

Sadly, this would not be the first time Al-Bashir visits a state party since he has been indicted by the ICC for hideous crimes: he visited Chad twice (in 2010 and in 2011). He also visited other States Parties that also failed in their obligations: Djibouti (2011), Kenya (2010) and Malawi (2011).

After he paid his second visit to Chad in 2011, the ICC decided that the country had not met “its obligation to fully cooperate with the court by failing to arrest and surrender Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir during his visit”. Following its decision, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber 1 referred the matter to the UNSC and to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statue, the governing body of the Court.

“By allowing Al Bashir to visit, the Chadian government has again violated its obligations under the Rome Statute to execute the ICC’s arrest warrants,” said Stephen Lamony, Senior Adviser to the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court—“If Al Bashir does enter the Chadian territory, the United Nations Security Council and the Assembly of States Parties should act promptly take the measures they deem appropriate to ensure full cooperation with the ICC”.

Hosting Bashir is being accomplice to a genocidal regime that continues to kill and rape its own population with total impunity. The conflict has already affected the lives of over 2.5 million people.

“The fact that Al Bashir can repeatedly travel to Chad without ever worrying about being arrested is another insult to Darfuri victims,” stated Linda Gueye, Head of Communications at the Coalition. “Al Bashir will once again benefit from media attention while victims will continue to suffer in silence”.

If we, as international community are committed to stop Bashir, stop the slaughter of civilians, the rape and the starvation, then, political reasons should not continue to interfere with but should respect and implement judicial decisions, such as the one taken by the ICC when it issued two arrest warrants for Bashir.

Chad should arrest Bashir.

It was the first state to harbor Bashir after the first arrest warrant was issued. Now, it has the chance to change history and become the country that arrested and surrendered Bashir to the ICC.

*Mariana is a human rights lawyer and blogger. @maritaerrepe

Source: The Huffington Post World

Photo: EPA
Photo: EPA


The ICC might not deter Mali’s Rebels – but it might deter the Government

by Mariana on 04 Feb 2013 | Comments

By Mark Kersten

Last week, Fatou Bensouda, the chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court warned Mali’s government that she could investigate alleged atrocities committed by the government’s military forces. And it’s a good thing she did. While the ICC may have little-to-no deterrent effect on the Malian rebels, it might just be able to shape the behaviour of the Malian government.

Amidst rumours that Mali government forces have perpetrated atrocities in central Mali, Bensouda released a curt but strong statement which declared:

  My Office is aware of reports that Malian forces may have committed abuses in recent days, in central Mali. I urge the Malian authorities to put an immediate stop to the alleged abuses and on the basis of the principle of complementarity, to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the alleged crimes. I remind all parties to the on-going conflict in Mali that my Office has jurisdiction over all serious crimes committed within the territory of Mali, from January 2012 onwards. All those alleged to be responsible for serious crimes in Mali must be held accountable.

Bensouda’s statement was a stern reminder to the Mali government: just because Mali referred the situation to the Court does not mean that its forces will escape investigation (and possibly prosecution). A war crime is a war crime is a war crime, irrespective of who perpetrates it. The question is: will Mali take heed of the Prosecutor’s warning?

The notion that the ICC can deter crimes is simple enough. The international justice and human rights community argue that international criminal tribunals have the power to change the behaviour of both current perpetrators of atrocities and would-be perpetrators. The fear of being indicted, it is argued, prevents individuals from continuing – or beginning – to commit international crimes.

The problem with deterrence is just as simple: there is very little evidence for it. This isn’t merely an empirical question. After all, the decision not to do something is difficult, if not impossible, to measure. In general, there is good reason to be skeptical of the claims that the ICC can deter the commission of atrocities. The results are mixed at best (see, for example, here and here).

Still, the landscape of deterrence is perhaps less bleak than the most fervent of critics would suggest. This is particularly true if we look in the direction of actors who aren’t targeted by the ICC rather than those who are.

Take the Ugandan case, for example. It would be virtually impossible to argue that the ICC’s intervention into the war between Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda has deterred the LRA from committing atrocities. At best, it helped ‘export’ the conflict to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan. However, it is plausible to argue that the ICC has had positive effects on the behaviour of the Ugandan government and, in particular, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF). Where they might have been more brutal in dealing with domestic unrest and protests, the government has not committed serious breaches of international criminal law. It seems likely that they have been spurred by periodic statements by the ICC that the Office of the Prosecutor could, at any time, open an investigation into allegations of new crimes.

That an ICC intervention would affect governments like Uganda or Mali in such a way is unsurprising. In both cases, the governments referred their internal strife to the Court. As I have previously argued, that comes with numerous pitfalls. The ICC risks being instrumentalized by the referring government which may ‘use’ the Court to delegitimize their adversaries whilst drumming up international support for their own role in the conflict. But a side-product of this dynamic is that, while states seek to wield the ICC against their rebellious adversaries, they clearly do not want to become the Court’s next target. To come under the suspicion of the ICC would tarnish their perceived legitimacy and international standing. Aware that they are now under the watchful eyes of the ICC’s Prosecutor – not to mention the international community – brutal tactics which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, are likely be discouraged.

There are signs that, buoyed by France’s military intervention, the worst of the violence in Mali soon be over. However, fears of vengeance remain widespread. According to the BBC, the Tuareg peoples of Northern Mali, for example, are “lying low”, fearful of reprisals against them. This is an important reminder that the conclusion of conflict rarely marks the end of mass human rights abuses and crimes. As a result, it is as important now as ever that the ICC make clear that it can and will investigate any crimes committed in Mali, irrespective of who commits them. With her statement, the Prosecutor has done just that. The Mali government would be wise to take heed.

Source: Justice in Conflict

Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Image
Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Image


The Colonel of Colonels, at Large and Recruiting Militias

by Mariana on 28 Jan 2013 | Comments

By Mariana Rodriguez Pareja

The conflict in Darfur is not new, and despite some international attention and efforts by human rights activists to stop this ongoing (and apparently never-ending) conflict, it has ruined the lives of over a half million people, with thousands of women being raped, widespread and systematic violence taking place in nearly every form imaginable.

The ICC—complying with the Resolution 1593 of the UNSC in 2005—began the investigation in the region of Darfur and decided to issue five arrest warrants against those who bear the greatest responsibility. Two arrest warrants were issued for the President of the country Omer Hassan al-Bashir, one for his interior, now defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, one for the-now Governor of South Kordofan Ahmad Harun and one for Ali Kushayb. All of them remain at large.

The response from the Sudanese government is total rejection of the Court, with officials regularly firing off false accusations to the now former Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo and even to States who would talk about the apprehension of the war criminals.

Just a few days ago, Radio Dabanga reported that, according to eyewitness, Ali Kushayb has started to mobilize new people in Taham and Umm Nunu, on the border between West and South Darfur.

So, it seems the Janjaweed commander is back to what he does best: recruiting militias in order to train them to commit international crimes against civilian populations.

Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman or Ali Kushayb, also known as “The Colonel of Colonels” and “Chief of the Religious Combatants” is a Janjaweed commander who has fought alongside Sudanese government forces in the Mukjar/Wadi Saleh area in West Darfur since 2003. He has been indicted for 50 counts, including 22 counts of crimes against humanity and 28 counts of war crimes. For those who are not familiar with what these crimes entail, they include assassinations, rapes and outrages upon the personal dignity of women and girls, and the forced displacement of people, most of them committed during attacks against four towns and villages, namely Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arawala. These crimes were committed against civilians primarily from the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit populations. They likely represent only a small sample of Kushayb’s activities.

His indictment came two years after the referral by the UN Security Council to the ICC in 2005. In 2008, the Sudanese authorities allegedly arrested Kushayb and released him afterwards, saying that he would “be held accountable for his crimes before a local court.” That never happened. Eyewitnesses in Khartoum told the press that Kushayb was never locked up and even it was reported that his arrest was a publicity stunt to distract attention. Now, this man is openly recruiting militias in the Sudan with total impunity.

The international community must insist on the execution of his arrest warrant, issued in 2007, and must insist that the Government of the Sudan hand him over to the Court for a fair trial. It is the least the international community can do for the reportedly near 500,000 people killed in Darfur, and the millions displaced.

Source: The Huffington Post

Photo: The Sudan Tribune
Photo: The Sudan Tribune


Butcher of Nuba remains at large

by Mariana on 23 Jan 2013 | Comments

By Mariana Rodriguez Pareja*

January 20, 2013 - The conflict in Darfur has ruined the lives of over half a million people. This violence has had the complicit support of a government, which in theory is in charge of protecting its own population, that does the opposite.

The UNSC asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to intervene and investigate the situation in 2005.

The President of the country Omer Hassan al-Bashir has been indicted as one of the most responsible for the situation in Darfur, as well as his defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, now Governor of South Kordofan Ahmad Haroun and militia leader Ali Kushayb.

None of them has been held accountable at the ICC or in any court in the Sudan.

The case of Haroun is particularly outrageous; he has served in senior official capacities for more than a decade. As a state minister for the Interior from 2003 to 2005 he was allegedly in charge of the management of the “Darfur Security Desk” thereby coordinating the different bodies involved in the counter-insurgency, including the Police, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) and the notorious militia known as the Janjaweed. It is impossible that he was unaware of the situation in Darfur.

Former ICC Prosecutor Ocampo emphasized repeatedly that evidence gathered by his office demonstrated that Haroun had the individual criminal intent to commit crimes, as well as the resulting knowledge of the attacks against civilian population, rapes and pillaging of towns, and that in many cases, he encouraged the perpetration of such horrendous crimes.

As a coordinator of logistics, bringing money and weapons and words of encouragement to Darfur’s triggermen, Haroun was the spider at the center of a web large enough to entrap millions of his fellow countrymen.

When tribal elders in Darfur approached him as representative of the government and implored him to address violence against civilians, he allegedly called them his enemies and informed them that he had come to Darfur to destroy them. The joke is that this man was appointed Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, following his stint at the Ministry of the Interior.

In 2007, the ICC Judges issued an arrest warrant for Haroun for 42 counts for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Even though, he has not - or at least not that I know of- set foot outside the country since the issuance of his arrest warrant, he continues to hold power within the regime. He is now the governor of South Kordofan, the province that lies to the west of Darfur and to the north of South Sudan, encompassing key border regions like Abyei whose status remain unresolved, and over which Haroun has allegedly recruited tribal militias to try and ensure through violence that Abyei and its oil-rich fields remain part of the Sudan and do not effectively exercise referendum under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which could result in it joining the South.

The result of this militarization is that the region is now one of the most unstable and restive parts of the country, the scene of fighting between the Sudanese army and Sudan People Liberation North (SPLM-N) which is part of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) coalition of insurgent groups, and the subject of belated hang-wringing by international observers, who ignored or downplayed the threat that Haroun posed to the stability of the region.

Alleged human rights violations occur in that province on a daily basis with total impunity. Victims in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan remember Haroun all too well from the 1990s, when he was known as the Butcher of the Nuba.

The international community has explored the idea of curbing “non-essential contacts” with individuals like Haroun, but it raises the inevitable question, whether any contacts can truly be called essential. The message the Sudan has received is to make Haroun essential to the work of the UN: he was in charge of overseeing the deployment of African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

And we end up with the spectacle of Haroun transported by a UN helicopter to meetings that could very well have been linked to the militarization of Abyei that has taken place on his watch. The UN acknowledged this transport only when the photos came to light. It is acknowledged in UN corridors that Haroun has become a daily fixture in the UN calendar, and that the UN has come to rely on Haroun’s support in South Kordofan, a man one NGO representative argued had been scared straight. This argument comes less frequently, with the rising violence in Abyei.

The video of Haroun in South Kordofan’s capital, exhorting government forces to take no prisoners, is a strong indicator that Haroun has indeed not been scared straight, but continues to operate from the same playbook he has used throughout his government service.

We must insist on the execution of his ICC arrest warrant: the price of ensuring impunity for Haroun and others like him is too high.

Source: The Sudan Tribune

*Mariana Rodriguez Pareja is a Human Rights Lawyer @maritaerrepe

Photo: Daily Maverick
Photo: Daily Maverick


Al Bashir, One More Year at Large

by Mariana on 09 Jan 2013 | Comments

By Mariana Rodriguez Pareja*

The conflict in the Western Sudanese region of Darfur has been ongoing for more than 10 years now and despite all the efforts undertaken, it does not seem to be getting any better in terms of ending the violence and achieving any kind of accountability for crimes committed. Those who are indicted as the most responsible for the international criminal violations in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC) remain at large and in the past years, we have seen President Omar Al Bashir being invited to and participating in different events, even, regrettably, on the territory of ICC States Parties.

But, first things first: the ICC has been involved in the Darfur situation, following upon a formal request of the UN Security Council, since 2005; it has issued five arrest warrants against four individuals, including the Head of State Omar Al Bashir, Abdel Raheem Hussein, Ahmad Harun, and Ali Kushayb. All of them remain at large and the refusal of the Sudanese government to cooperate with the Court has been consistent since that date. Plus, according to the latest report by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Darfur’s civilian population continues to be targeted by government forces, with the ongoing widespread occurrence of sexual and gender based violence, crimes against human rights defenders, civil society members and community leaders. The list of crimes goes on and on.

Just to give you an idea, the United Nations and other credible observers estimate that the wave of violence in the region may have killed as many as 500,000 people. We, as an international community continue to fail the victims.

Despite that horrific number and the lack of any investigations at the local level, since he was indicted, Bashir visited Kenya, Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Chad, Malawi, Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iraq; and was invited to several other countries, including Venezuela, Turkey and Peru. Some of those countries are ICC States Parties, and therefore have the obligation to comply with the provisions of the Rome Statute. They should have arrested Bashir and transferred him to The Hague.

It is also important to note that when was invited to both Venezuela and Turkey, governments and activists from all over the world asked these States not to host Bashir. He ended up cancelling both visits.

But that did not happen when he was invited to Peru in 2012 for the Third Summit for South American and Arab countries. When I reached out to local authorities, they all said that for “protocol reasons, they ‘believed’ President al-Bashir was invited” and later suggested that the fact that Bashir was invited was irrelevant “because in the end, Bashir did not come to Peru”.

This position was and is shocking: justifying an invitation for protocol and political reasons of an individual indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes is not acceptable from any country. Hosting Bashir is being accomplice to a genocidal regime that continues to kill and rape its own population. If the international community is committed to stopping Bashir, stopping the slaughter of civilians, the rape and the starvation, then, political reasons should not interfere with but should respect and implement judicial decisions, such as the one taken by the ICC when it issued two arrest warrants for Bashir.

And this reminds me of a very important ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in which Brazilian Judge Antônio A. Cançado Trindade reminded us all that it shall never be forgotten that the State was originally conceived for the realization of the common good: the State exists for the human being, and not vice versa. I always try to keep this in mind when I try to understand some situations; especially, the one in the Sudan.

Source: The Huffington Post

Omar al-Bashir has dismissed the ICC proceedings against him as worthless Photo: AFP
Omar al-Bashir has dismissed the ICC proceedings against him as worthless Photo: AFP


A Big Day for the US and the ICC: Rewards for Justice Program Extended

by Mariana on 08 Jan 2013 | Comments

By Mark Kersten*

The new year has brought some big news for the relationship between the ICC and the United States. According to the great folks at the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC), on January 3 Congress passed an expansion of the Rewards for Justice Program. The program will now cover individuals indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The enhancement of the rewards program will mean that financial rewards can be dolled out by the American government to anyone who helps in the achieving ”the arrest or conviction in any country, or the transfer to or conviction by an international criminal tribunal (including a hybrid or mixed tribunal), of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, as defined under the statute of such tribunal.’” According to the legislation (full text of original bill here), the expansion of the program was done in order to “target other individuals indicted by international, hybrid, or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.”

This amendment of the Rewards for Justice Program certainly marks an impressive victory for the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State, led by Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Rapp and his team were able to effectively use notorious international criminals, including Joseph Kony and Bosco Ntaganda, as ‘poster boys’ for the legislation. They also had the benefit of stick-handling through a political landscape where fervent anti-ICC sentiment has largely withered.

The extension of the Rewards for Justice Programme, of course, also marks an important new development in the dramatic relationship between the US and the ICC. I have argued previously that the enhancement of the program should be seen as a positive development. Still, it is worth noting that political limitations were placed on the new legislation. According to AMICC,

“Two provisions of the law show a continuing wariness about the ICC. One requires that 15 days before announcing a reward for the arrest of a particular foreign national accused of those crimes, the State Department must submit a report to Congress explaining why the arrest would be in the national security interest of the United States. The other declares that the law does not authorized activities precluded under the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act.”

The inclusion of the first limitation could be particularly problematic given that it has the potential to introduce a significant measure of political selectivity on how the program operates. However, it isn’t clear how this requirement will work in practice. It would appear that that the State Department simply needs to provide Congress with an explanation as to why any given arrest or conviction that qualifies for a reward would serve the interests of the US. That is a very broad requirement and, importantly, does not necessarily mean that Congress could subsequently reject any reward. In other words, the provision may simply amount to a political courtesy rather than an invitation for Congress’ intrusion into the decision-making of the program.

The reference to the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (also known as the ‘Hague Invasion Act’) was included in the legislation from the get-go. The bill concludes by declaring that “[n]othing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of activity precluded under the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act of 2002″. In practice, this confirms that, despite the enhancement of the Rewards for Justice Program to include individuals wanted by international criminal tribunals, the program will not cover American citizens. This was to be expected. While the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act is certainly unfortunate, it remains law in the US. The Rewards for Justice Program would not have been passed if it contradicted or omitted the Act.

As with everything in the tumultuous – but improving – relationship between the ICC and the US, it remains to be seen how the expansion of the Rewards for Justice Program plays out. The potential of political selectivity tainting the Court’s independence and legitimacy is still very real. But overall, the enhancement of the rewards program to include ICC indictees would seem to be a positive development.

Source: Justice in Conflict

Stephen Rapp, Ambassador-at-large, Office of Global Criminal Justice, US Department of State. (Photo: Interpol)
Stephen Rapp, Ambassador-at-large, Office of Global Criminal Justice, US Department of State. (Photo: Interpol)


New US Law to Permit Rewards for Persons Wanted by ICC, Including Joseph Kony

by Mariana on 08 Jan 2013 | Comments

On January 3, the House passed and sent to the President S.2318, The Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012. He has said that he will sign it, thus bringing it into law, thereby expanding Rewards for Justice. Behind its dry and technical-sounding title lie provisions which move Congress and the Administration perceptibly further toward a closer general relationship with the International Criminal Court.

The original law began in 1984 and was then directed at promoting arrests in conventional international organized crime such as drug trafficking, and of terrorists. However, in the last two years, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp has led a State Department effort to expand the law to include the atrocity criminals whom the ICC tries. The bill which became S.2318 was introduced in the House by Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), who is chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the new Congress. It had 57 bipartisan sponsors and passed the House in July. Senator Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced S.2138 itself in the Senate which passed it on December 20.

The new law declares “the sense of Congress that the rewards program of the Department of State should be expanded in order to ... target other individuals indicted by international, hybrid or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.” It then goes on to authorize the State Department to pay rewards for “the transfer to or conviction by an international criminal tribunal ... of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, as defined under the statute of such tribunal.”

Two provisions of the law show a continuing wariness about the ICC. One requires that 15 days before announcing a reward for the arrest of a particular foreign national accused of those crimes, the State Department must submit a report to Congress explaining why the arrest would be in the national security interest of the United States. The other declares that the law does not authorized activities precluded under the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act.

The worldwide attention to the crimes of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the previous individual laws referring to the ICC’s work on specific cases were among the elements of the impetus for this new law. A future post will analyze the trends behind its passage, and its importance for our current advocacy and our strategy for the future.

Source: AMICC

A US State Department poster announcing rewards for individuals wanted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
A US State Department poster announcing rewards for individuals wanted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.


Guatemala: Amnesties for Genocide Charges Are Illegal

by Mariana on 03 Jan 2013 | Comments

by Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia Carrasco*

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was shattered by an internal armed conflict that resulted in the death of 200,000 people and victimizing an entire nation. According to the report by Guatemala’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), government forces under the de facto presidency of General Rios Montt were found to have committed more than 600 massacres, homicide, forced disappearances, and other crimes, particularly against rural and indigenous communities.

During all those 36 years of extreme violence, 45000 people were disappeared and 650 massacres took place. Half a million Guatemalans sought shelter in Mexico and one million were internally displaced. These are just some of the numbers of what Guatemala went through in recent history.

According to the report of the TRC, the armed forces were responsible for 93 percent of these crimes. At all lights, there was a generalized and systematic plan led by senior Government Officials to perpetrate attacks against civilian population, under the excuse to pacify the country and free it from guerrilla groups. In the case of Rios Montt, who ran the country for 17 months in 1982/3 and after exhaustive investigations in Guatemala and in Spain, there were reasonable grounds to prosecute him for acts of genocide and crimes against humanity against local indigenous groups.

After years of judicial battles, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruling on the Dos Erres Massacre Case triggered a number of local proceedings. Earlier in 2012, a local tribunal sentenced former elite soldiers “kaibiles” to serve for 6060 years for the Dos Erres Case, which took place in 1982. This sentence at the local level was promising: local tribunals finally did was they were meant to be and asked to do by the Interamerican system and was seen as a first step to address impunity in the country. In this context, former head of State Rios Montt appeared for the first time in court to respond for genocide and crimes against humanity. Among the charges, he was accused of the killing of 1700 people who belonged o the indigenous communities. It was for the first time in history that a former president would respond before the local justice for these types of crimes.

Nevertheless, and leaving aside all the hopes of the victims, their families and the human rights movement in Guatemala and in the world, his lawyers and supporters were very active in seeking for ways out of this situation. The latest move was to seek for an amnesty, which as already rejected last October, but now tried again before the total rejection from the human rights community. This time the Constitutional Court of Guatemala has the final word on this claim.

Voices from human right organizations were loud on this regard and submitted an “amicus curiae” to the superior tribunal and, at a local level, organizations and activists have been vocal on how this possibility of granting an amnesty to Rios Montt would impact seriously on the Rule of Law.

Granting this amnesty will respond only to political factors, because legally speaking, Guatemala has international obligations that should comply at an international level. For instance, the American Convention on Human Rights foresees that States should investigate and prosecute all the violations to the letter of this treaty. Likewise, the IACHR precedents also include the content and the limit of the amnesty laws for States Parties.

Some might argue that Argentina, Brazil, and El Salvador—just to name few—also granted amnesties in the context of the democratic transition in order to avoid investigation of international crimes. But, as a result, this has caused more impunity and more social division. Proof is that today, in most of these countries, these laws have been struck down and local judicial proceedings have taken place.

Since the Barrios Altos Case, the IACH has determined that amnesty laws are against the American Convention and that cannot serve as an obstacle for the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights violations. This rule has been vital for the revocation of the amnesty laws in many Latin-American countries to begin procedures for international crimes, especially torture and enforced disappearances. Even a few weeks before the end of 2012, the IACH determined that the Amnesty Law in El Salvador was contrary to the Convention, opening the door for future investigations at a local level for the El Mozote Massacre in 1981.

These human rights violations must be addressed by the Guatemalan tribunals. At this state, measures should be taken in order to strengthening its judicial system and rule of law throughout the country. Therefore, granting amnesty to Rios Montt will be a step back in the pursuit of justice and reconciliation. It will also be against all the international obligations and mostly, and offense to the victims and their relatives, who seem to be invisible before the Guatemalan State for the past—at least—36 years.

Source: The Huffington Post

* Mariana Rodriguez Pareja holds a JD and runs the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS), among other projects. Salvador Herencia (LL.M.) is Member of the Latin-American Study Group on International Criminal Law.

Photo: Lonely Planet
Photo: Lonely Planet


Bringing a dictator to justice

by Mariana on 03 Jan 2013 | Comments

By Reed Brody, Special to CNN*

Editor’s note: Reed Brody, Counsel with Human Rights Watch, has worked with Habré’s victims for 14 years. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

The most brutal U.S.-backed dictator you’ve never heard of – Hissène Habré of Chad – is facing a trial before a unique court set up in his Senegalese exile.  The court’s creation last week in Dakar, Senegal is a decisive breakthrough in a 22-year chess game pitting Habré against a group of prison survivors who never give up, as well as a hopeful sign that African courts can deliver justice for crimes committed in Africa.
Souleymane Guengueng, a modest civil servant, watched dozens of fellow cellmates die from torture and disease during three years in Habré’s prisons in the 1980s. Guengueng took an oath that if he ever got out of jail alive, he would bring his tormentors to justice. When Habré fell in 1990 and fled Chad for Senegal after emptying out his country’s treasury, Guengueng rallied wary survivors and widows to seek redress. In 2000, inspired by the London arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, they went to Senegal to press charges.

A Senegalese judge indicted Habré for political killings and torture. But the former Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, found one pretext after another to delay Habré‘s reckoning. His tactics turned the victims’ saga into what Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, described as an “interminable political and legal soap opera.”

In 2001, on one of my trips to Chad, I stumbled upon the abandoned archives of Habré’s political police, the feared “DDS.” Tens of thousands of documents detailed how Habré conducted the repression of political opponents. A team of victims sorted the documents for entry into a database. The list was long – 1,208 dead prisoners and 12,321 victims of torture and other abuses.

The documents also described American training programs for DDS agents, including a course in the United States that some of the DDS’ most feared torturers attended. Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States saw Habré as a bulwark against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Chad’s expansionist northern neighbor, and human rights did not figure into the equation.

When threats from Habré‘s henchmen back in Chad forced Guengueng into exile in 2005, he was replaced by Clement Abaifouta – the “gravedigger” – whose prison job had been to bury the bodies of deceased detainees in mass graves. Their lawyer, Jacqueline Moudeina, still has shrapnel in her leg from 2001, when one of Habré‘s security chiefs, who had returned as police chief of Chad’s capital, ordered an attack on her with a grenade.

But the victims persisted, filing charges against Habré in Belgium, whose anti-atrocity law allowed its courts to hear cases from all over the world. A Belgian judge took up the case and carried out a landmark mission to Chad. In 2005, after a four-year investigation, he sought Habré’s extradition.  When Senegal refused to send Habré to Belgium, and spent the next three years stalling on a request from the regional body, the African Union (AU), to put him on trial in Dakar, Belgium took the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world court in The Hague. The Obama administration also threw its weight behind a trial.

This year, the victims’ perseverance and tenacity was finally rewarded. In April, Senegal elected a new president, Macky Sall, who immediately announced that he would change course. When the ICJ ruled in July that Senegal had to prosecute Habré “without further delay” if it did not extradite him, Sall’s government and the AU reached a landmark agreement to create “Extraordinary African Chambers” within the Senegalese courts. The presidents of the trial and appeals courts are to be appointed by the AU from other African countries. Habré’s victims will participate as civil parties, presenting witnesses and evidence, with the right to seek compensation. The court’s funders, including the United States the AU, the European Union and the Netherlands, approved a robust outreach and communications plan so that the trial can be broadcast in Chad.

Le Monde has called the Habré case “a turning point for justice in Africa.” Indeed, while some African leaders have claimed that Africa is unfairly targeted by international courts, the challenge has been to put teeth into African justice.  A fair trial for Hissène Habré would be a tremendous step forward. It would also allow Souleymane Guengueng to fulfill the oath for justice he took more than two decades ago.

Source: CNN World

Photo: BBC News
Photo: BBC News


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