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The Lubanga Case and Reparations for Victims of Sexual Violence

Posted by Mariana on 10 10 2012 | Leave a comment


By Mariana Pena

If there is one aspect that has made the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo well-known worldwide, that is the extent and cruelty of gender-based crimes and crimes of sexual violence, which have been committed with complete impunity.

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) first case, against Thomas Lubanga, has also been well-known for one reason. And that is the fact that gender-based crimes were not reflected in the selection of charges against Lubanga. Generally, the concern was that the charges, focused exclusively on the recruitment, conscription and use of child soldiers – were too narrow and did not reflect the scope of victimisation inflicted by Lubanga’s militia, the Union des patriotes congolais.

Back in 2006, the ICC Prosecutor’s announcement that he would not be pursuing investigations for other crimes committed by Lubanga provoked criticism by international and grass-roots non-governmental organisations as well as victims themselves. Despite these concerns being made public and conveyed directly to the ICC Prosecutor and raised within the framework of the proceedings, the decision was made that charges were not to be extended.

It came as no surprise, years later, when witnesses called to testify about the charges, would also incidentally bring evidence about the fact that child soldiers, and specifically girl soldiers, had been subject to sexual violence and rape. Again, there was a new move – this time by the victims’ lawyers – to try to have these crimes recognised formally within the framework of the proceedings. This motion was received with sympathy by the trial judges, who considered that the evidence being disclosed in trial, could lead them to decide, at the outcome of the trial, that Lubanga could be convicted for sexual slavery among other crimes. This decision, however, was quashed by the Appeals Chamber.

The matter came up again in the judgment on the culpability of the accused. The judges decided that, while evidence on sexual violence had emerged during the trial, Lubanga could not be convicted for those crimes as he had not been formally charged with them. This was a fair decision because indeed Lubanga had not been given a chance to defend himself and counter accusations in relation to those crimes, and particularly his responsibility for sexual violence committed in the context of recruitment and training of child soldiers. At the sentencing stage, the majority of the judges (one judge dissenting) found that sexual violence could not be considered as an aggravating factor. The trial judges, however, deprecated the attitude of the former Prosecutor in relation to the issue of sexual violence in the Lubanga case and pointed out to the Prosecution’s inconsistent strategy in this regard.

On 7 August 2012, the same judges issued a decision on the principles and procedures to be applied to reparations (see earlier post on this blog). The decision is commendable in that it favours a gender approach to reparations and seeks to ensure that women and girl have access to justice and are appropriately involved in reparations processes. Interestingly, the decision makes extensive references to sexual and gender-based violence and the need to adequately compensate that harm. Yet, the same decision states that only victims who have suffered harm as a result of the charges for which Lubanga has been convicted can access reparations. Those are direct and indirect victims. The indirect victims include the family of child soldiers, as well as those who suffered harm to assist victims or prevent victimisation.

Consequently, while there is a recognition of the specificity and gravity of the harm brought about by sexual violence and the need to integrate this aspect in reparations programmes, it seems that only those victims who are also victims of the charges (i.e. mainly child soldiers) can be compensated for the suffering in relation to rape and other crimes of sexual nature. The extent to which other indirect victims, who suffered personal harm as a result of the offences, can access reparations is unclear.

It is relevant to note that the reparations decision is not final on this point, as it has been appealed by the Defence, who argues that reparations cannot go beyond the crimes for which Lubanga has been convicted.

Whatever way the appeals go, it is clear that the Trial Chamber was limited in its use of the evidence received that the case, as framed by the Prosecutor, excluded relevant charges. The experience of the Lubanga case underscores the importance of thinking ahead of reparations and of the concrete impact that the judgement may have on victim communities, when a case is being put together. It seems very difficult indeed to make up, at the reparations stage, for shortcomings of the investigations and/or decisions made by the Prosecutor in the selection of cases. It is significant to recall that the Prosecutor has a duty to take into account the interest of the victims at all times. It is equally important to remember that the pre-trial judges play a very relevant role when they define the scope of the case at the confirmation of charges stage.

*Mariana Pena is an Argentinean lawyer, specialised in international justice and victims’ rights. She’s currently an independent expert and part of the team of lawyers representing victims from Kenya at the ICC. Among other positions, she was previously the International Federation for Human Rights’ (FIDH) Permanent Representative at the ICC.

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Credit: AFP
Credit: AFP

Credit: Aljazeera com
Credit: Aljazeera com

 

First ICC decision on reparations: A landmark decision still to be implemented

Posted by Paulina Vega-Gonzalez on 24 09 2012 | Leave a comment


In March 2012 the first verdict of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was given in the case of the Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.  The Trial Chamber I of the ICC found Mr. Lubanga –a Congolese warlord- guilty of committing war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. 

Mr. Lubanga was further sentenced by the ICC to a 14 years imprisonment. On August 7th, the same Chamber issued the first-ever ICC decision establishing the series of principles and proceedings which should guide reparations in this case. 

This article aims to provide the reader with a general overview on the content of this landmark decision, while illustrating how reparations are yet distant from reaching those victims affected by the crimes committed by Mr. Lubanga.

The principles adopted confirmed several international standards on reparations such as: The recognition of the right to reparations as a basic human right; reparations should be appropriate, adequate and timely; the needs and views of victims should be taken into account –specially in cases of children, elderly people and victims of sexual or gender violence-; reparations should be granted without any discrimination and avoiding stigmatization; reparation measures should be proportionate to the harm suffered and reflect, whenever possible, local cultural and customary practices; and reparations measures could include restitution, compensation and/or rehabilitation, while recognizing the existence of other means of reparations such as the symbolic.

Moreover, these principles shape the reparations system of the Rome Statute by establishing that: Victims should be treated equally –whether they participate or not in the ICC proceedings-; reparations should be granted to direct and indirect victims; reparations could take an individual or collective format; reparations should reach currently unidentified victims and symbolic reparations should be considered - for example the publication of Mr. Lubanga’s conviction and his sentence- or by other means under a voluntary contribution of Mr. Lubanga with non-material reparation such as expressing a public or confidential apology for the harmed caused.

An innovative aspect of the principles is they recognizes that other forms of reparations may be considered under article 75 of the Rome Statute such as: campaigns to improve the position of victims; issuing certificates acknowledging the harm suffered; launching outreach information activities and educational programmes directed at reducing the stigmatization and marginalisation of the victims, and the need for States –parties and non-parties- to contribute to the success of the implementation of reparations awards.

The ICC decision includes also principles to guarantee that reparations measures address the type of harm suffered by victims resulted from the crimes of which Mr. Lubanga was found guilty, particularly the use of minors in hostilities and suggested to adopt a gender-inclusive approach in the reparations. Thus, the age of the victims should be considered along with the need to rehabilitate children formerly associated with armed groups within their communities. Moreover, due to the strong sexual violence component that shaped the DRC conflict, the ICC decision included special elements to address this issue, such as the need to take into account the complex consequences of these crimes on victims and in their communities and therefore the need for their participation in defining the reparation measures.

It´s noted that in view of the indigence condition of Mr. Lubanga, the ICC ruled that reparations should be granted through the resources of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV).  Thus, tasks still pending includes: the identification of communities affected; launch a consultation process with victims and communities in those communities; assessment of the harm caused by the crimes; held public debates to explain this decision; and collect the proposals of adequate forms of reparation. Afterwards, the TFV should present a reparations plan to a newly constituted Trial Chamber for its approval. To this extend, the Court ordered setting up a multidisciplinary group of experts to assist in the tailoring of the reparations plan. Moreover, it was decided that all individual applications for reparations submitted this far, should be forwarded to the TFV in order to be consider in the reparations plan.

The Chamber decided that a standard of “proximate cause” should be used to prove the harm suffered and decided that a flexible approach in determining factual matters is appropriate. In cases of individual reparations victims will need to prove that they suffered a harm resulting from at least one of the crimes that Mr. Lubanga was convicted of, while indirect victims will need to demonstrate a close personal relationship between them and a direct victim. However, it is likely that reparations will be granted under a community-based approach rather than individual one, since the latter requires a most costly verification process.

Due to the limited resources of the TFV, the ICC Chamber decided that priority must be given to vulnerable victims, including victims of gender-based violence or severely traumatized children. Nonetheless, since this decision was appealed by the Defence, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims and victims´ legal representatives, the legal path to reach a definitive decision is still ahead. Therefore, due to the time that it is still required to witness the implement of the approved reparations plan, there is an urgent need to explain to victims and communities affected -by general outreach activities in DRC- the process that needs to be followed, including the consultations and other mandatory steps before those reparations orders could be awarded. Otherwise, there is an eminent risk that this landmark decision will be polluted with false expectations from potential beneficiaries and with the inevitable perception that even when the ICC has set key reparation principles they still are as far away from victims, as The Hague.

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The ICC in Africa: a Step toward Restoring the Cradle of Life

Posted by Tania Deigni on 21 09 2012 | Leave a comment


4,262,720 lives in 4 conflicts

The long-lasting victimization of Africa and its people, spanning from slavery and colonialism to present-day subjugations, has led to great social, economic, and political devastation. 800,000 men, women, and children faced death at the hands of the Rwandan genocide; up to 461,520 people are believed to have died in the Darfur conflict; around 3 million people have perished in the DRC; close to 1200 people are estimated dead and disappeared in the most recent 2010 Cote d’Ivoire conflict; to name a few of the devastations that have ravished the continent.

From east to west, north to south, Africa – thought to be the cradle of life, the birthplace of human beings – has increasingly also become a cradle of death, bloodshed, and unfathomable atrocities.

Rome and Africa

The countless conflicts that marred the twentieth century led to the international community crying out to put an end to impunity for crimes.  In 1998, strengthened and inspired by the Nuremberg trials, representatives from over 160 governments participated in the “Rome Conference” during which negotiations took place to establish an international criminal court to try individual perpetrators of atrocity crimes. The majority (120 states) voted in favor of the adoption of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, and thus opened it for signature and ratification.

African states were instrumental in the negations and adoption of the Rome Statute, as well as in ratifying the treaty and adding to the necessary number of states for the treaty to go into effect, which it did on 1 July 2002. While this demonstrated a commitment by African states to uphold the rule of law and end impunity for the worst crimes, it would be naïve to discount that some leaders may have joined the treaty to improve their international affairs standing and to be seen as espousing such virtues as rule of law and proper governance in order to increase their favorable outlook and standing to aid donors and various financial institutions.

The ICC and Africa

Regardless of their motives, to date, 33 African states have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, representing the second largest regional group at the Court (after Europe, with 42 states). These 33 governments have thus formally taken a stand and commitment in the fight against impunity and in respecting the rule of law, particularly as established under the Rome Statute.

Of these 33 states, 3 governments (Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Central African Republic) referred their states to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to investigate crimes committed on their territories. Furthermore, the UN Security Council referred the situations of Libya and Darfur, Sudan to the ICC OTP, and ICC judges authorized former Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to open formal investigations in the situations of Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya.

While the ICC is also reportedly analyzing a number of other situations on different continents, it has not opened any formal investigations into these situations. Thus, the ICC’s current formal investigations and trials are all centered on Africa, which has been a valid point of disgruntlement and contention toward the Court. Despite this, it is important to understand the need for justice in the situations currently before the Court. The Court’s jurisdiction and activities should not be pitted as a regional highlight; rather, they should be seen as rendering justice where justice is needed.

Prescriptions: African governments and the AU

Despite the different opportunities vested in African states on a national, regional, and international level to challenge impunity and conflict through various nonviolent means, enormous challenges still provide a curtailment to the rendering of justice and establishment of peace.

Governments and parliaments in countries emerging from or submerged in conflict must fight harder to combat impunity (e.g. by ensuring the fruition and establishment of fair and independent judiciaries, comprehensive laws, etc.) and to restore peace to the people. While justice does not take away a crime, it appeases victims and communities in knowing that there was a form of retribution for a crime committed. Therefore, it is imperative for actors (including government, civil society, and other groups) to fight for such justice and laws to end impunity, starting at a grassroots level.

In addition, a form of compensation should be provided to victims of atrocity crimes. This is acknowledged in the Rome Statute through the establishment of the Victims’ Unit and the entitlement of victims to reparations if the perpetrator(s) is found guilty. Thus, it should not be hard to absorb this concept on a national and regional level in Africa.

Instead of trying to impede the rendering of justice by protecting abusive leaders (particularly through certain decisions of non-cooperation with the ICC), the African Union (AU) should encourage cooperation among national, regional, and international organizations committed to ending impunity for grave crimes. The AU, with its pooled wealth, could and should provide a fund for victims of atrocity crimes, thereby truly uniting as a regional body to protect humanity, conquer devastation, and lift up the continent and its people. In all instances and opportunities, the AU should uphold its very own principles, especially as espoused under Article 4 of its Constitutive Act and particularly as regards Article 4(o): “respect for the sanctity of human life, condemnation and rejection of impunity and political assassination, acts of terrorism and subversive activities.”

Hope

The work of the ICC in Africa has both been welcomed (by those viewing it as a welcomed judicial mechanism) and shunned (some viewing it as a Western imperialist institution). Regardless, it is a departure from the past, a point of hope. Current Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of The Gambia has her work cut out for her in Africa, but it is my hope that she renders justice to victims of crimes in other countries as well. In doing so, not only would she be abating some of the criticism vis-à-vis the ICC and Africa, but more importantly, she would be leading the ICC OTP in its true essence and purpose: to provide justice to all victims of atrocity crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.


Tania Deigni obtained a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida, currently pursuing nursing studies. Previously held positions, include Program Assistant to the Regional Section at the CICC.

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The Best Evidence Yet that Kony is in Darfur?

Posted by Mariana on 28 08 2012 | Leave a comment


By Mark Kersten

As the hunt for Joseph Kony continues, all signs indicate that the notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) won’t be found – at least not where regional East African military forces are currently looking for him. More persuasive evidence has emerged that Kony is hiding in Darfur.

It has long been an open secret that the Khartoum government has been a patron of Kony and the LRA. Over almost two decades, the regime of Omar al-Bashir has both supported the LRA and wielded it as a proxy force against South Sudan. It has been said before, but it is for this reason that so many scholars and observers have reiterated that the LRA situation can only be resolved with a solution that addresses regional governance issues.

Of course, the current constellation of Kony hunters is, in fact, regional in nature. It includes troops from LRA-affected areas: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. It also famously includes a gaggle of US troops providing assistance in tracking down Kony.

What few seem to realize is that this latest mission is only the most recent iteration in a long lineage of apparent attempts to kill or capture Kony. Regional forces have been periodically hunting down Kony for almost a decade. Moreover, the US support is not unprecedented. American troops have provided “non-lethal” support to the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) since the early 2000s.

But one issue which has consistently hindered attempts to capture or kill Kony has been Khartoum’s support for the LRA. And, once again, the regional forces hunting down perhaps the world’s most notorious war criminal do not include Sudan. So what would you do if you were Kony? Move to safe ground and wait out the storm. Translation: head to Sudan, lay low and survive until the hunting party loses interest.

Over the past few months, JiC has covered emerging evidence that supports the belief that the LRA is receiving support and hiding out in Darfur: I wrote earlier this year that former senior LRA commanders had informed me that Kony was, in fact, living in Darfur. In April, a Sudanese rebel grouped said that Kony and the LRA were moving around Darfur. In May it appeared that a detained LRA rebel had been found with a Sudanese uniform. A few weeks ago, perhaps the most intriguing evidence emerged, as the UN Security Council discussed renewing its mission in Darfur (UNAMID). From the Sudan Tribune:

“The Sudanese diplomat went further to reject the inclusion of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the draft resolution and strongly warned against such development saying it would hamper Sudan’s cooperation with the UNAMID.

He underlined that the UNAMID mandate is limited only to protect civilians and bring peace in Darfur while the LRA is undertaking a rebellion in Uganda, which has no common border with Sudan, he underscored.

“Including this issue is going to be an impediment and cause of refusal, which may affect our cooperation with UNAMID and its actions in Darfur. If we truly wish to establish peace, stability and security then let us discard this issue far away from Darfur and UNAMID,” he further said.

The most obvious reason for the Sudanese government’s recalcitrance is its fear that they would be exposed for supporting the LRA and giving Kony refuge. But there could also be serious repercussions for not widening the scope of the hunt for Kony.

Every time a military intervention has failed to kill or capture Kony, the LRA has retaliated with large-scale attacks and kidnappings. Moreover, with an unstable peace plaguing South Sudan and Khartoum, it seems precariously probable that the LRA could be employed again (if it isn’t already) in renewed hostilities. As the Enough Project has argued,

the LRA could become a larger threat to regional stability. Khartoum could employ the LRA again to fight a proxy war against South Sudan, which just celebrated its first year of independence from Sudan.

The way things are going, it seems a remote possibility that Kony will be found. You can’t find someone in places they’re not hiding. And the regional forces as well as the US know it. Which raises a rather uncomfortable question: are they insane? After all, as Einstein famously mused, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


Posted on Justice in Conflict

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The hunt for Kony (Photo: Trevor Snapp / Pulitzer Center for Newsweek)
The hunt for Kony (Photo: Trevor Snapp / Pulitzer Center for Newsweek)

 

Impunity Returns to Peru

Posted by Mariana on 25 08 2012 | Leave a comment


By Jo-Marie Burt

The Peruvian Supreme Court has handed down a highly controversial sentence in a case involving the members of the Colina Group death squad. According to human rights defenders and the victims in the relevant cases, the sentence is a major step backward in Peru’s tortured quest for truth and justice in cases of egregious human rights violations.

The sentence refers to three crimes committed by the notorious Colina Group, a military unit responsible for a series of human rights violations between 1991 and 1992: the 1991 massacre of Barrios Altos, in which 15 people, including an eight-year-old child, were murdered and four others gravely wounded as well as the forced disappearance in 1992 of journalist Pedro Yauri and nine peasant leaders from the community of Santa.

The verdict not only reduces the sentences of renowned criminals, including former security chief Vladimiro Montesinos, but also turns on its head established jurisprudence of previous Supreme Court decisions, decisions by Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal, and rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Minister of Justice Juan Jiménez Mayor, who recently became prime minister, criticized the sentence as “shameful.” Eduardo Vega, Peru’s ombudsman, stated that the verdict represented a “serious setback” in Peru’s efforts to achieve accountability for grave human rights violations and called for its rectification. President Ollanta Humala also noted his surprise at the verdict. Human rights groups have criticized the sentence and have stated that they will pursue actions domestically and internationally to challenge it.

Barrios Altos

The initial investigation into the Barrios Altos massacre was closed in 1995 after the Fujimori government passed two amnesty laws that granted impunity to state agents accused of human rights violations during the internal armed conflict (1980-1995). The victims and their legal representatives took the case to the Inter-American system. In 2001, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights issued a verdict in the case, determining the responsibility of the Peruvian state for the massacre and ordering the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible. The same verdict determined that that 1995 amnesty laws violated international law and lacked legal standing.

As a result, the Barrios Altos case was reopened. The case is a complex one, involving 15 victims and 31 defendants. Later the cases of Pedro Yauri and Santa were incorporated into the legal proceedings as part of a “mega-trial” against the Colina Group members. The process was plagued by delays, however. The investigation lasted five years before the public trial started in 2005. Then, due to a number of factors, but especially the delay tactics of the defendants’ lawyers, the public trial lasted another five years. Finally, in October 2010, the court found 19 of the 31 members of the Colina Group responsible for the crimes.

The most severe sentences, the maximum of 25 years, were reserved for the intellectual authors of the crime —Vladimiro Montesinos, the de facto head of the National Intelligence Service (SIN), Gen. Julio Salazar Monroe, actual head of the SIN, and Gen. Nicolás Hermoza Ríos, former army chief, and Gen. Juan Rivero Lazo, former head of Army Intelligence— as well as for the chief operational heads of the Colina Group, former Army Major Santiago Martin Rivas and Carlos Pichilingue. The majority of defendants appealed the ruling.

The Supreme Court announced its sentence in the case on July 20, 2012. The most controversial measures include a reduction in the sentences of virtually all those convicted, including Montesinos and Hermoza Ríos, which Supreme Court justice Javier Villa Stein said was in “compensation” for the lengthy legal process.

But rights advocates say that the most questionable measures are related to a number of legal arguments that overturn the original sentence’s determination that the the Barrios Altos massacre and the forced disappearances of Pedro Yauri and the peasants of Santa constituted crimes against humanity; that these crimes were committed by an organized apparatus of the state that constituted an unlawful association created for the purpose of committing criminal acts; and that Montesinos, Hermoza Ríos, Rivero Lazo and Salazar Monroe were responsible as autores mediatos of the crime,  the same legal concept used to prosecute Alberto Fujimori for the Barrios Altos massacre, the La Cantuta murders, and two kidnappings. Of special concern, say human rights advocates, the sentence states that the Barrios Altos massacre does not constitute a crime against humanity. Although acknowledging that the crimes committed by the Colina Group were part of official state policy, the court concluded that the policy was not directed against the civilian population but rather against terrorists.

Reactions

Human rights groups have challenged each of these arguments point by point. The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has documented the systematic nature of the Colina Group’s crimes, which has been recognized in the verdicts issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Barrios Altos case as well as in the case of La Cantuta. The sentence handed down by the Special Criminal Court for the Fujimori case, which was ratified in December 2009 by the Supreme Court, recognized Barrios Altos and La Cantuta as crimes against humanity not only because they were directed at civilians but because they were a planned operation that was part of an official state policy of systematic violations of human rights. Additionally, the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal recognized in 2005 that the crimes committed by the Colina Group —including the Barrios Altos massacre— constituted “crimes against humanity.”

The Supreme Court sentence has been sharply and widely criticized. The Vice Minister of Justice and Human Rights Daniel Figallo presented a writ of amparo before the Constitutional Tribunal, the only legal remedy available within Peru to challenge a verdict of the Supreme Court and protect individuals from state abuses. Several parliamentarians have said that they would present a constitutional challenge against the Supreme Court judges who issued the verdict. Diverse civil society groups, from labor organizations to human rights groups, said that they would petition the Inter-American Court to nullify the sentence.

Gloria Cano, head lawyer for APRODEH, one of the organizations representing the victims in the criminal proceedings, sharply questioned the ruling for its clear intent to favor not only those convicted in this legal process but ultimately former president Alberto Fujimori, who was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison in the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases. “The Villa Stein court has provided a magnificent political tool [to Alberto Fujimori] to challenge his guilty verdict,” concludes Carlos Rivera, head lawyer for the Instituto de Defensa Legal, another NGO representing the victims in this case. 

International law prevents pardons for crimes against humanity. By removing the status of “crime against humanity” in the Barrios Altos massacre, the Villa Stein sentence could provide new arguments for Fujimori’s supporters to propose if not a challenge to his guilty verdict, then at least a pardon for Fujimori. However, according to Peruvian law, those sentenced for the crime of aggravated kidnapping, as is the case for former President Fujimori, cannot receive a pardon.

Also of concern has been the attitude of Supreme Court Justice Javier Villa Stein, widely seen as the architect of the sentence. In the wake of the criticisms of the Barrios Altos-Yauri-Santa sentence, Villa Stein assumed a combative tone, accusing Minister of Justice Jiménez Mayor of “stoking the fire” and being a “polarizing figure” for his comments criticizing the verdict. He stated that he would welcome a challenge to his sentence before the Inter-American Court, which rights advocates have said they will pursue. Most shockingly, Villa Stein mocked human rights groups, saying they should not continue to “whine” (“lloriquear”) about the sentence.

Previously, APRODEH sought to have Villa Stein recused from this and other legal processes involving human rights cases due to his political positions. According to APRODEH, with regard to the Chavín de Huántar case, another highly controversial legal process involving the accusation that Montesinos and others carried out at least one extrajudicial execution in the aftermath of the hostage rescue operation at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in 1997, Villa Stein asserted that NGOs defending victims in human rights cases were motivated by a desire to undermine the prestige of the Peruvian armed forces. The Constitutional Tribunal rejected APRODEH’s petition, saying that Villa Stein had a right to voice his personal political views and that these would not prejudice the legal proceedings. However, in the wake of the sentence and Villa Stein’s dismissive comments, broad sectors of civil society are calling for his removal as a Supreme Court justice.

The victims of political violence in Peru have fought long and hard to overcome diverse forms of institutionalized impunity, including two amnesty laws, that prevented them from knowing the fate of their missing loved ones and seeing those responsible for these crimes prosecuted and punished.  After the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 2003 report, recommending the criminal prosecution of several cases of grave human rights violations, special bodies were set up in the public ministry and the judiciary to investigate and prosecute these crimes and facilitate the rights of the victims to truth and justice. A number of important sentences, including the Fujimori verdict, were passed down beginning in 2005.

In recent years, however, numerous obstacles have emerged that have undermined these special human rights courts and the broader process of justice for victims of state-sponsored human rights violations in Peru. The Villa Stein sentence is one more factor contributing to new forms of impunity in Peru today.


Posted on Foreign Policy in Focus

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Peruvian Supreme Court Justice Javier Villa Stein (Credit FPinFocus)
Peruvian Supreme Court Justice Javier Villa Stein (Credit FPinFocus)

 

The Struggle for Justice Advances: the ICC turns 10

Posted by Joshua Lam on 22 08 2012 | Leave a comment


The tenth anniversary of the International Criminal Court (ICC) this month is a time to reflect on the work that the ICC has done, and to look forward to what the ICC will hopefully achieve.

The ICC continues to strive toward its mandate as an international court aimed at ending impunity and bringing justice to victims of international crimes. Despite criticism from some of the political elite in Africa who argue that the ICC ‘unfairly targets Africans’, it is reassuring to know that the ICC actually has a wider approach. It has or is currently examining situations around the world for possible investigation, in places like Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras, South Korea, Georgia, and even Palestine. It is also important to recall that when the ICC allegedly ‘targets’ Africa, it is actually serving African victims.

The goal of prosecuting those most responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide is a highly noble cause and an ambitious endeavor, especially given that the perpetrators of international crimes often are individuals who enjoy a high legal, diplomatic, or social status.

The ICC involvement in Kenya provides good lessons on the ICC’s success and the challenges that need to be addressed.

Kenya became a state party to the ICC when it ratified the Rome Statute on 15 March 2005. In 2007, amidst contested presidential elections, violence erupted on a massive scale, leading to 1,200 deaths, thousands of victims of rape, torture, or other injuries , and over half a million people forced from their homes.
Following the failure of the Kenyan Government to investigate and prosecute the crimes, then ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo used his authority to open an investigation in Kenya on his own initiative. This was the first time a case was requested under the prosecutor’s authority, and not referred by a State Party (such as with Uganda), or referred by the UN Security Council (as for Darfur).

Ocampo identified six individuals allegedly responsible for crimes against humanity. On 23 January 2012, the ICC confirmed charges against four of these: Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Joshua arap Sang, and Francis Muthaura. They are set to stand trial in April 2013.

The investigation has resonated in Kenya and the region. Throughout the proceedings, the ICC has maintained a high level of public support (around 60%, from polls conducted by Ipsos-Synovate and South Consulting), thanks in large part to the independence, impartiality, and overall legitimacy of the ICC, which is confronting individuals who are normally considered ‘untouchable’.  Kenyan media certainly plays a part, as citizens are kept up to date about ICC developments.

In its own way, the political elite has also paid tribute to the success of the ICC, thanks to the scrutiny the ICC case is placing on its members. President Kibaki, who initially pledged to support the ICC process, has called for the cases to be ‘brought back to Kenya’, as the political class seeks to protect its own. Similar sentiment appears to fuel the proposed expansion of both the East African Court of Justice and the African Court on Human Rights and Justice to include criminal jurisdiction over ICC crimes.

The Kenyan cases have also exposed some of the challenges that the ICC faces. It was considered a major failure that charges were not confirmed against Hussein Ali, the former police commissioner. These criticisms mirror some of the concerns expressed in other ICC cases concerning the collection and presentation of evidence.

While victim engagement is one of the most progressive and positive features of the ICC system, involving victims in the Kenya case has been problematic. Owing to a lack of guidance and support, only a fraction of victims of the crimes in Kenya were able to submit successful applications to participate. Lack of resources and logistical difficulties with information dissemination has also meant support services for these victims are inadequate.

And, the ICC process continues to face the challenge of politicization. The case is now running parallel to the upcoming Kenyan elections in 2013 and two of the accused, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, have expressed their intention to run for President. While the ICC has maintained its impartial status and attempted to distance itself from Kenyan politics, that has not stopped some of the suspects from using the ICC as a campaign platform. While the ICC is an independent body, it does not exist in a vacuum, and it is quickly becoming a central topic of the 2013 Kenyan elections.

The challenges are not insurmountable, and the swearing in of the new ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, brings renewed optimism that they will be addressed.

Ultimately, the overall success of the ICC will be measured on its ability to change behaviour.  In Kenya, there is a tangible sense that the ICC cases are having an effect on the culture of impunity. Taking the ICC cases together with Kenya’s new Constitution and the ongoing, comprehensive institutional reforms, there is cause for hope that the landscape in Kenya is progressing in the right direction.

written by Joshua Lam
Assistant Programme Manager of the International Cooperation Programme at the International Commission of Jurists in Kenya
CICC member

 

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Colombia: “Como corderos entre lobos”- a report on child soldiers

Posted by Mariana on 19 08 2012 | Leave a comment


By Tania Deigni and Mariana Rodríguez Pareja

Last week, we featured an article on the verdict of the International Criminal Court (ICC) against former Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the first person to be indicted and sentenced by the ICC. As commander of the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo [Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo] (FPLC), he was convicted for “enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years […] and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

As highlighted in the article, Child Soldiers International found that the recrutiment of child soldiers happens in around 18 different countries, and no matter the level of incorporation of a child in armed services, it is a danger to the child and illegal under international (and most national) laws. In all these cases, children are forced to fight, in some cases at gunpoint. The sad reality is that once a child soldier is recruited, it is extremely difficult for him or her to escape. Certain few have managed to escape, but the vast majority of children who try to escape or desert are executed. There are no arrest warrants, no trials, and no convictions for the recruiters. There is no accountability, only total impunity.

Colombia

NGOs in Colombia have been working tirelessly to shed visibility on the problem of the recruitment of child soldiers in Colombia. This crime is invisible to a great part of Colombia’s society, which is misinformed and at times uneducated on the issue of child soldiers. Many Colombians believe this crime only happens in Africa, and are unaware that kids are being kidnapped a few blocks away from their homes, from their schools, from their communities, and being forced to live these nightmares.

The FARC and other groups involved in the internal conflict that has been going on for almost 40 years, have allegedly recruited children as young as 7 or 8 and forced them into combat. Girls are being raped, and some become pregnant; after giving birth, they are beaten and sometimes killed. There are gangs composed of children under 18 years old, who carry guns and go on killing rampages, eliminating all who come in their way. According to consulted journalists, some view child soldiers as benevolently aiding in controlling drug trafficking.

“The Corderos”

“We were poor, very poor […] We did not have anything to eat. My mom suffered a lot […] And you, you get desperate.” This testimony abounds from a former child soldier, who continued: “When you are poor, you are anybody to nobody.”

This child joined the FARC when he was 10 years old, after losing two of his nine brothers to an unknown disease, one of his sisters went missing, and his oldest brother was killed. He used to go to school, very early in the morning and returned home after midday to work in the country. One day, he went to a ‘reunion’ in the mountains with his neighbours. Once there, FARC rebels asked him what side he was. Thus followed the end of his childhood as he knew it; he was recruited to fight.

According to previously released information, there are at least 18,000 children members of armed groups and gangs. Furthermore, Colombian journalist Natalia Springer for El Tiempo noted that all the girls and boys recruited belong to the poorest faction (12.6 %) of the Colombian population. And while most of the recruited children are born to peasant parents (69%), recruitment in cities has raised: within the last 4 years, it has augmented 17 times.

The average age to be recruited is 12 years old, 57% of them are boys and 43% girls. Indigenous kids are in positions of exterme vulnerability, since they have 674 more chances of being directly affected by the armed conflict, recruited, or used by an illegal armed group or by a gang.

The issue of child soldiers has been raised numerous times by various NGOs and activists. Most recently, on 15 August 2012, Colombian journalist Natalia Springer released a 120 page report highlighting the issue of child soldiers in Colombia. The report contains details of the recruitment process and testimonies collected by a group of 80 experts, who worked for around 4 years in the field. In addition, it sheds light on the tasks that children were forced to do, such as carrying corpses or body parts until they would rot so that the children would “get used to the smell of death.” Other tasks included performing various violent exercises, during which the child soldiers ended up killing each other in fake ambushes.

Sexual abuses

Fighting, killing, trafficking information, and acting as bodyguards for their superiors are not the only tasks these children must perform: girls are forced to sexually please their superiors and their comrades outside the organization. Pregnancy is banned and some girls die when trying to escape to avoid having an abortion.

These are just some facts that were collected by this brave group of experts, and it leads us to call again for the ICC – the sole permanent international criminal court capable of investigating and trying these crimes – to act, especially given that the Colombian judiciary is not addressing these crimes.

The crime is present, the gravity is clear, the impunity is evident.

It is time for the ICC to act in Colombia. 


Tania Deigni obtained a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida, currently pursuing nursing studies.
Mariana Rodriguez Pareja is the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur @maritaerrepe

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Child soldier of the FARC. Source: Pagina 12
Child soldier of the FARC. Source: Pagina 12

 

Mexico and the ICC:  Communication sent for “War on Drugs” and no response

Posted by Mariana on 16 08 2012 | Leave a comment


By Isabel Erreguerena*

As stated on a previous post on this same blog, on November 21, 2011 a group of Mexican activists filed a request to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged crimes committed in Mexico since 2006, during the so-called “war on drugs.”  The request- which was not a lawsuit strictu sensu- was supported by a little over 20, 000 petitioners.

War Crimes

The communication argues that since 2006, government officials of President Felipe Calderon and members of the Drug Cartels have committed crimes that fall under the ICC jurisdiction, such as alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.  According to those who drafted the communication, the following war crimes have been committed by the different actors:

- By the Mexican Army
1) Willful killing civilians at military checkpoints and during operations. (Articles 8.2.c.i. and 8.2.e.i.)
2) Torture of civilians. (Article 8.2.c.i.)
3) Extrajudicial executions. (Article 8.2.c.iv.)
4) Covering up the rape of women perpetrated by soldiers during search operations of criminals. (Article 8.2.e.vi.)

- By the Drug Cartels
1) Mutilation of civilians, as part of an intimidation campaign (Article 8.2.c.i)
2) Intentional directed attacks against rehabilitation centers, which can be considered medical units.  (Article 8.2.e.iv)
3) Conscription and enlisting children under the age of 15 years, using them to participate actively in hostilities. (Article 8.2.e.vii.)

All the crimes mentioned in the previous paragraph are established in the context of a non-international armed conflict. Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions, states that “certain minimum rules of war apply to armed conflicts that are not of an international character”. However, this article does not establish the requirements that are needed to determine which situations are considered within this category.

International jurisprudence has established that non-international armed conflicts are protracted armed clashes that occur between government armed forces and the forces of one or more armed groups or between such groups, arising in the territory of a State of the Geneva Conventions. Case law has also mentioned that to categorize a situation as a non-international armed conflict it must reach a minimum level of intensity and the parties involved in the conflict must have a minimum organization.

Assuming that neither the Rome Statute nor case law have established clear requirements on what is meant by the concept of international armed conflict, I believe there are grounds to believe the current situation in Mexico is a non- international armed conflict since:


1. The conflict fulfills the requirement of the minimum level of intensity because:

a. The Mexican Army has participated actively in hostilities replacing civilian authorities for a long period of time.

b. NGOs believe that the drug war has caused around 150, 000 deaths (almost 4 times the deaths caused by the Iraq war) over 120, 000 displaced and 225, 000 “desaparecidos”.  15 mass graves have been found over the country with more than 300 bodies…. and counting. We wake up mostly ever day with news on more killings and desaparecidos.. Just yesterday 14 bodies were found in an abandoned van in San Luis Potosi, a city in the northeast of Mexico. The discovery of the bodies was followed by clashes between the authorities and the criminals in which 7 more people were killed, leaving a final toll of 21 deaths and at least 4 wounded.

2. The minimum organization requisite is fulfilled armed since there is sufficient evidence to prove that the drug cartels have a sophisticated organization.

The Mexican government has tried to distort the above considerations with a set of unfounded and weak arguments such as that the army action is “temporary,” pointing out the situation in Mexico is not an armed conflict but a national matter of common violence that is being dealt by the government.

Crimes against humanity

Finally, the drafters of the communication remonstrated that President Calderon has “ordered systematic attacks against Central American immigrants, who come to Mexico seeking to enter the US”- a crime that falls under the normative hypothesis of Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

The Answer

The response from the Mexican government to this accusation was made in the form of a weak statement, stating that the allegations were “unfounded and improper”.  It added that the petition was “not admissible” because of the Principle of Complementarity.,. one of the cornerstone of the ICC system established by the Rome Statute, by which the ICC can act only if the national system is unable or unwilling to investigate the crimes.  In a nutshell: the government argued that if crimes were committed, they should go to national courts first, instead of calling for ICC action.

The reaction from the petitioners came instantly. According to them, there are no national instances in place in Mexico to try President Calderon, because Article 108 of the Mexican Constitution provides that “The President of the Republic during his term of office may be impeached only for treason and serious common crimes.”  Apart from that legal provision, they added that due to the lack of independence of the General Solicitor of Mexico, no senior official were being prosecuted in the last years.
Lastly, they mentioned the difficulty in achieving justice for crimes perpetrated by the military because crimes committed by them fall compulsory under military courts.

On the one hand, I believe there exist national instances to try government officials, officers of the army, navy and members of the Drug cartels for the crimes mentioned above.  On the other hand, and now applying the Complementary Principle and of the Rome Statute, a suit against President Calderon would be admissible, as he cannot be tried under the Mexican judicial system.

Importance of the topic

It is very concerning that the ICC OTP has not yet issued any official response to this request, as it conveys the idea that Latin America is not a priority for the ICC and it is Africa-focused. It is also undeniable that the situation in Mexico has not improved and seems to worsen day by day: human rights defenders are being threaten and killed, same with journalists and sometimes, politicians. But mostly, civilian population.

The lack of response by the ICC has a twofold effect: on one hand, it contributes to the perception of many that the ICC is an only African matter and it discourages any attempts of citizens of Latin America to bring cases before the Court just,  as it happened with the crimes committed in the aftermath of the coup in Honduras and the gender crimes committed in Colombia.


*Isabel Erreguerena was awarded with the International Legal Studies Program Alumni Fund Scholarship of the Washington College of Law, American University, where she is currently studying an LLM on International Legal Studies. Isabel has worked on various research projects regarding the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico. She also worked in the legal area of the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations in New York. Twitter: @isaerre

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Credit: Asuntos del Sur
Credit: Asuntos del Sur

Credit: David Maung/Bloomberg News
Credit: David Maung/Bloomberg News

 

Warlord Lubanga jailed, who is next?

Posted by Mariana on 06 08 2012 | Leave a comment


By Tania Deigni and Mariana Rodriguez Pareja

Former Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, was born in Jiba, in the district of Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was arrested in Kinshasa, DRC, in March 2006; following his arrest, he was transferred to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) detention facility in The Hague, the Netherlands, where he has been in detention ever since and will remain until the Court rules on which facility will enforce his 14-year sentence.

Lubanga is the first person to be judged and sentenced by the ICC. In March 2012, he was found guilty of committing war crimes as contained in the Rome Statute. As a co-perpetrator, and as the ICC ruling states, he was convicted for “enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo [Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo] (FPLC) and using them to participate actively in hostilities.” 

According to the findings of the tribunal, Lubanga was responsible for heading the FPLC, which lead a systematic and widespread recruitment of children and forced them to join and participate in hostilities. As commander of this rebel group, he assumed great responsibility in planning and coordinating the recruitment of child soldiers. Lubanga also used them as his personal bodyguards.

Although most people associate arm and warfare and the issue of child soldiers with males, it is important to note that girls were also recruited as child soldiers and, in most cases, served as sex slaves for the FPLC commanders and rebels. However, the ICC did not incorporate these sexual crimes into the final guilty verdict against Lubanga, despite relentless efforts by several oganizations, including the Women Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIJG), who sought to have these sex crimes incorporated into the verdict. These organization’s efforts can particularly be contextualized through the 2007 Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups, which states that “A child associated with an armed force or armed group refers to any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking, or has taken, a direct part in hostilities.”

Justice welcomed, but more remains to be done

Several international, regional, and national organizations welcomed Lubanga’s sentence, although not all of them were satisfied with it. The DRC Coalition for the ICC welcomed the decision of the judges to sentence Lubanga to 14 years in prison. However, as the organization’s coordinator, André Kito, stated: “Civil society organizations and victims [in the DRC] still regret that the scope of charges was not broad enough since other crimes perpetrated such as sexual violence, summary executions, and pillage were excluded. We are also frustrated that sexual violence was not considered at sentencing as an aggravating factor due to the absence of any prosecutorial evidence presented to the Chamber.”

In addition, Armel Luhiriri, African Situations Liaison at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), pointed out that Bosco Ntaganda, another warlord still committing crimes in the DRC, remains at large despite an ICC arrest warrant issued against him. Persistent calls for his arrest have not succeeded in securing his arrest and his transfer to the ICC.

Child Soldiers throughout the World

According to Child Soldiers International, since January 2011, 18 states have reportedly used girls and boys to actively participate in hostilities. In some cases, such children are found to have been incorporated as part of the official state armed forces, including national armies, paramilitaries, civil defense, police and other forces established by law. In other instances, these children were found to be a part of state-allied armed groups such as irregular paramilitaries and “self-defense” groups which are backed by (or in alliance with) government forces, but were not officially incorporated into such government forces. Children have also been used in armed opposition groups allegedly being supported by foreign states. In yet a few other cases, child soldiers had not been formally conscripted or enlisted but were nonetheless used by state armed forces for intelligence purposes or as guides, porters, spies or human shields.

No matter the level of incorporation of a child in armed services, it is a danger to the child and illegal under international (and most national) laws. In all these cases, children are forced to fight, in some cases at gunpoint. The sad reality is that once a child soldier is recruited, it is extremely difficult for him or her to escape. Certain few have managed to escape, but the vast majority of children who try to escape or desert are executed. There are no arrest warrants, no trials and no convictions for the recruiters. There is no accountability, only total impunity.

The United Nations (UN) stipulated that 11,000 child soldiers were freed in 2011 in Africa and Asia. But, it is hard to say the exact number of children who remain at the mercy of warlords like Lubanga. Just yesterday, on 5 August 2012, Child Soldiers International reported that hundreds of children have been forced into armed groups in northern Mali, some serving as soldiers and others as sex slaves.

Child Soldiers International reports that Africa has the largest number of child soldiers and can be found in: Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia and Sudan. In Asia, child soldiers are fighting in Myanmar (where it is legal to recruit under- aged persons to participate in hostilities), Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Thailand. In the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and tribal groups in Yemen have child soldiers operating in hostilities. In Latin America, child soldiers are primarily in Colombia, where Child Soldiers International estimates there are 14,000 children in armed groups. In Europe, child soldiers are involved in conflicts in Turkey and in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation.

The Particular Case of Colombia

NGOs in Colombia have been working tirelessly to shed visibility on the problem of the recruitment of child soldiers in Colombia. The FARC and other groups involved in the internal conflict that has been going on for almost 40 years, have allegedly recruited children as young as 7 or 8 and forced them into combat. Girls are being raped, and some become pregnant; after giving birth, they are beaten and sometimes killed. There are gangs composed of children under 18 years old, who carry guns and go on killing rampages, eliminating all who come in front of them. According to consulted journalists, some view child soldiers as benevolently aiding in controlling drug trafficking.

Those who are working in order to eradicate the use of child soldiers and for their reintegration into society do not have the support they need in order to achieve their goals. This crime is almost invisible to a great part of Colombia’s society, which is misinformed and at times uneducated on the issue of child soldiers. Many Colombians believe this crime only happens in Africa, and are unaware that kids are being kidnapped a few blocks away from their homes, from their schools, from their communities, and being forced to live these nightmares.

Colombian civil society will be releasing an exhaustive report on the issue, which I will highlight when it is released. Indeed, it is not a question of only Colombia or the DRC; it is a matter of humanity. How can we, as a global society of human beings, continue to allow children to be recruited into armed groups throughout the world?

We must take a stand; justice has been rendered against Lubanga, who is next?


Tania Deigni obtained a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida, currently pursuing nursing studies
Mariana Rodriguez Pareja is the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur @maritaerrepe

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Photography by Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images
Photography by Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Unicef
Photo courtesy of Unicef

 

Colombia and the International Criminal Court: New Prosecutor, New Standards?

Posted by Mariana on 02 08 2012 | Leave a comment


By Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia

Now that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has just rendered its first sentencing for Lubanga for the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the armed conflict in Uganda, it might be adequate to talk about Colombia, a situation that has been under the ICC radar since 2006.

Back then, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) declared it was “examining alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court and investigations/proceedings conducted in Colombia against the allegedly most serious perpetrators, paramilitary leaders, politicians, guerrilla leaders and military personnel.”

Later, the OTP added it was also analyzing allegations of international networks supporting armed groups committing crimes in Colombia. The Court has not formally commenced any investigation because of the complementarity assured by the Rome Statute, and Colombia is classified as a “situation under analysis.”

The primary responsibility of investigating grave crimes remains under the jurisdiction of the Colombian tribunals and the Court considers the local judiciary capable and willing to carry out investigations of the crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction. But, NGOs have reported that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) continue to perpetrate grave abuses against civilian populations.

Child Soldiers and Landmines

HRW reported that Colombia is among 14 countries worldwide (beyond Central and West Africa) that use child soldiers. In the case of Colombia, the report adds that the FARC have recruited children as young as 7 and forced them into combat. They execute fighters who try to desert. There are no arrest warrants, no trials and no convictions for the recruiters.

Antipersonnel landmines and other banned weapons are still being used by the FARC and the ELN, HRW’s World Report states. They also note that 16 civilians were killed and 104 were injured by landmines and unexploded munitions between January and August 2011.

Gender Crimes

Furthermore, it is reported that gender violence has been employed as a weapon of war. Unfortunately, the international community has continually failed to prevent the widespread and systematic violence against women in the context of armed conflicts. Colombia is not an exception of this tragic rule.

The Constitutional Court, in a 2008 decision, recognized that sexual violence against women was “a habitual, extended, systematic and invisible practice in the context of the Colombian armed conflict … [perpetrated] by all illegal armed groups, and, in some isolated cases, by individual agents of the public security forces.”

Last year, a Symbolic Court Against Sexual Violence within the Colombian Armed Conflict met in Bogotá to deal with a range of cases related to sexual violence committed by armed groups in the internal Colombian conflict.

The Court was conceived as a place “aimed at making visible to the public the impact sexual violence has had in the context of armed conflict, especially emphasizing the rights of victims and the need to overcome the impunity that has characterized these crimes, and demand timely and effective attention by the state.” The Tribunal made some recommendations urging the Colombian state to uphold their international obligations regarding the prevention, investigation, prosecution and judgment of gender violence.

The Tribunal further reported that among the crimes committed by armed groups are: rape, enforced nudity, enforced contraception, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and other gender crimes committed alongside crimes, such as killing, enforced disappearances, kidnapping and torture. The judges stated that there is systematic gender violence in the Colombian armed conflict and that gender crimes are used as a weapon of war by the public forces, by paramilitary groups and by the guerrillas, with the clear goal of “obtaining benefits in the developments of the hostilities.” Therefore, the Tribunal concluded, if the Colombian authorities do not take the necessary steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these types of crimes then the ICC should address them.

At the moment of writing, there has been no progress made in this regard and civil society organizations criticize the Colombian judiciary for not yet having addressed past and present gender violence correctly.

False Positives

Before leaving the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo told EFE that his office was analyzing information regarding the Colombian army murdering civilians and disguising the bodies as guerillas killed in combat to artificially inflate its enemy kill count – so called “false positives”. However, we should be clear: There are no false positives, only extrajudicial executions. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has called on the ICC to open an investigation on this topic ever since the scandal broke in 2008 – and they are asking for a full investigation since 2002, when Colombia ratified the Rome Statute.

In their recent report (produced together with the Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos), titled “Colombia: The war measured in litres of blood – “False-positives”, crimes against humanity: the impunity of the most responsible”, the organization notes that extrajudicial executions (or “false positives”) committed in Colombia constitute crimes against humanity, and that those who bear the greatest responsibility are not being investigated or prosecuted by the Colombian justice system.

Constitutional Reform for Justice: An absurd fostering of impunity

Over the past year, the current administration has filed a draft Constitutional amendment before Congress to reform the administration of justice. This complex project sought to speed up local judiciary proceedings, to protect the rights of victims and to provide a better service to the population.

The results? An “unconstitutional” constitutional reform that if enacted, (i) would have halted all criminal proceedings against members of Congress that are accused of having ties with paramilitary groups; (ii) conceded additional benefits/privileges that would have made impossible for the judiciary to investigate members of Congress and other government officials; and overall (iii) eliminated the checks-and-balance system of the Constitution.

When the final draft of the Constitutional amendment was approved by Congress last week, a political and legal crisis hit the country. It paralyzed everything else and the main question was if the President had the right to veto a Constitutional amendment. In the end, under a creative and systemic interpretation of the Constitution, the bill was sent back to Congress, which, feeling the overall pressure from every sector of national and international public opinion, struck down the reform.

What last week’s crisis made clear is that despite the evident commitment to justice by some Courts and the fact that there is an interesting legal framework that enables the local prosecution of international crimes, dubious political interests seek out alternatives to evade justice. This is something that the new Prosecutor should take into account next time the OTP publishes a report on preliminary examinations.

ICC action needed

Despite President Santos’ concern for human rights, things do not seem to settle for struggling Colombia. As Avocats Sans Frontieres reports, paramilitary successor groups continue to grow, maintain extensive ties with public security force members and local officials and commit widespread atrocities.

Colombia has been suffering an internal conflict for more than four decades now; a conflict that appears unceasing, in which political corruption, drug-trafficking, paramilitaries and a high-level of violence are characteristic. Populations continue to be forced to migrate and human rights activists are being threatened and/or attacked by armed actors.

What is necessary here is a clear and straight forward answer from the ICC.


Mariana Rodriguez-Pareja is the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS). Twitter handle: @maritaerrepe
Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, LL.M. University of Ottawa. International Human Rights Lawyer based in Lima, Peru. E-mail: chava@salgalu.com

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FARC child soldiers (Photo: Resistance Studies)
FARC child soldiers (Photo: Resistance Studies)

 

Challenges for ICC Prosecutor in Latin America

Posted by Mariana on 25 07 2012 | Leave a comment


By Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia

As we stated in previous posts for this blog, M. Fatou Bensouda will face several challenges in her term as Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. Apart from the obstacles she has to overcome when working with limited staff and funding, her office has to deal with 14 cases in 7 different situations, plus all the gaps left by her precedessor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

We highlighted on several occasions that despite the existence of grave situations that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC in Latin America, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has been unable to open an official investigation on countries outside Africa. We strongly believe that in Latin America there are also situations that could be investigated or watched carefully by the ICC- OTP.

Now, M. Bensouda must address directly these situations and whether advance in an official investigation or state why ths is not a situation for the ICC. This uncertaintly on Colombia and Honduras is worrysome. Given that we consider that Ms. Bensouda has to improve the efficiency in the investigations, we wonder when her office will appoint a Deputy Prosecutor.

Colombia: Gender Crimes, Child Soldiers & False Positives (Extrajudicial killings)

The ICC concluded the Colombian judiciary was capable and willing to carry out investigation of crimes that could eventually fall under the ICC scope. Therefore is no formal investigation due to the complementarity assured by the Rome Statute, although it has been under the ICC scrutiny for 7 years. 

Local and international groups do not share that same view of the outgoing OTP, since they considered that the Colombian judiciary is not addressing past and present international crimes, including gender violence and child soldiers.

Unfortunately, as in several other conflicts, rape has been used as a weapon of war in Colombia. Also Colombia is one of the countries in the world with child soldiers. According to HRW, there are no arrest warrants, no trials and no convictions for the recruiters. HRW furthers that the FARC and ELN use antipersonnel landmines and other banned weapons.

We would also like to know what mechanisms are in place for the investigation and prosecution of gender crimes and child-related crimes, since sometimes it seems a bit blurry.

Other big question mark Moreno Ocampo left are the so- called “False Positives”. Just days before taking off, Argentine Moreno Ocampo said his office was looking into Colombian army murdering civilians and disguising them as guerillas killed in combat to artificially inflate its enemy kill count – “false positives.”

In this case, it is important to be clear: There are no false positives, only extrajudicial executions.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) continues to call the ICC to open an investigation on this topic ever since the scandal broke in 2008 – and they are asking for full investigation since 2002- when Colombia ratified the Rome Statute.
Big Question Mark Honduras: The Forgotten Coup

Since President Zelaya was forcefully removed from his office in 2009, NGOs have constiniously called the ICC to act.  The organizations informed that crimes against humanity being committed since September 2009.

In November 2010, then ICC Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo publicly announced his decision to conduct a preliminary analysis of the situation and yet there have been no updates on the actions carried out by the Prosecutor’s office to date. NGO continued to call on several occasions for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, and social activists. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also shed light on police brutality, lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed in the context of the coup, and lack of judicial independence.

But there is absolutely nothing on this regard. If a preliminary analysis has commenced, she has to clarify. It would be important to know, not for this situation only, but for others in the rest of the world, what is the process on when preliminary investigations commence and when they conclude.

Finally, she has to address carefully and professionally the perception of the Court.
Not only in Africa, but in the other regions.

Mariana Rodriguez-Pareja is the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS). Twitter handle: @maritaerrepe

Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, LL.M. University of Ottawa. International Human Rights Lawyer based in Lima, Peru. E-mail: chava@salgalu.com

 

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Dirty War in Argentina: Guilty of Systematic Kidnapping of Babies

Posted by Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia Carrasco on 11 07 2012 | Leave a comment


In another historic ruling by a Federal Court in Buenos Aires, former de facto Presidents Videla and Bignone were sentenced to serve 50 and 15 years, each for their role in the systematic plan to kidnap babies and steal their identities.

Former dictator, M. Rafael Videla (86), was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison for the theft of children under ten years old belonging to parents that were kidnapped and tortured at the ESMA military facilities during the Argentinean Dirty War (1976-1983). In the ruling, the Federal Court highlighted the existence of a “systematic practice” regarding the kidnapping of babies. The Court emphatically stated that this constituted a crime against humanity against civilian population, via the implementation of State-sponsored terrorist practices.

During the proceedings, the defendants claimed that statute of limitations were applicable, requesting the annulment of the trial. However, the Court disregarded such claim stating that in the prosecution of crimes against humanity, such defense is not applicable under Argentinean and International Law.

Most of the abductions took place in the ESMA military facility and according to M. Videla, who did not deny having committed those crimes, “mothers used babies as human shields”. Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo estimate that 600 babies were abducted and, so far, only 106 have been reunited with their families. This case related to the abduction of 35 babies, who are all now in their 30s and late 20s and cried while hearing the sentence.

According to testimonies of survivors, pregnant women gave birth and in very few cases, were allowed to see their babies. Most of the babies were given to members or friends of the security forces to raise them as “non-communists”. Mothers were generally tortured and disappeared after their baby was taken away from them.

Two Former de Facto Presidents are found Guilty

Videla was the one who took power on March 1976. He was the first face of the so-called “National Reorganization Process”, which left 30,000 people killed or disappeared according to un-official estimates. He is already serving life sentence for tortures committed under his regime. Other of the defendants was M. Reynaldo Bignone, the last de facto President who ruled before the recovery of the Democracy in 1983. He was found guilty of hiding 31 under aged kids.
None of them was granted to serve prison in house- and both have to be transferred to jail.

Apart from M. Videla and M. Bignone, 9 other people were prosecuted. In the end, two out of the 11 defendants were acquitted.

Other members of the military, such as former Vice-admiral Antonio Vañek was sentenced to serve in jail for 40 years,  Jorge “Tigre” Acosta, 30; Santiago Omar Riveros, 20; Víctor Gallo, 15; Juan Antonio Azic, 14; Jorge Magnacco, 10; and Susana Colombo, 5.

An ESMA-Related Case

The Escuela Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA) is a former navy school which became the biggest clandestine detention centre during the military dictatorship. It is estimated that more than 5,000 people were arbitrarily detained, tortured, sexually abused and ‘disappeared’ at this facility. Fewer than 200 of these are believed to have survived. Many of them- men and women- were thrown into the Rio de la Plata river, at the so-called “Flights of Death”.

Estela Barnes de Carlotto, the President of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group that continuously seeks for the finding of those abducted children hailed the verdict, saying that “confirmed that there was a systematic plan to steal babies”.

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Former Argentina's dictator and General Jorge Rafael Videla (L), former general and member of the military junta, Reynaldo Bignone (R). (Getty)
Former Argentina's dictator and General Jorge Rafael Videla (L), former general and member of the military junta, Reynaldo Bignone (R). (Getty)

 

[Take Action!] Free Melinda Taylor

Posted by Hannah Dunphy on 30 06 2012 | Leave a comment


Melinda Taylor, an Australian defence lawyer, is being detained in Libya in connection with her work at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

She travelled to Libya last week to visit Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is facing trial for alleged crimes against humanity, along with interpreter Helen Assaf and two senior Registry representatives. They had been granted permission by the Libyan authorities to visit him to inform him of current proceedings in the ICC’s case against him.

Ms Taylor has been accused of trying to pass on coded documents to Saif al-Islam—charges which could amount to espionage or violations of Libya’s national security. We have serious concerns for her safety.

Tell the Libyan PM: release Melinda Taylor

Let’s make sure International Criminal Court staff, including Melinda Taylor, can conduct their work without hindrance so they can deliver justice for Libyan victims.

Tell the Libya authorities to immediately release Melinda Taylor, ICC staff and others in prolonged detention. Your message will go to the Libyan Prime Minsiter, Abdel Rahim al-Kib.

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ICC and Cooperation: Less talk, more action

Posted by Mariana Rodriguez-Pareja and Salvador Herencia-Carrasco on 23 06 2012 | Leave a comment


On 5 June 2012, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) presented his 15th report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on his investigation in Darfur, Sudan. In his statement, M. Moreno Ocampo made specific calls to adopt real measures that ensure the arrest of Sudanese indicted for international crimes. According to the outgoing Prosecutor, the constant defiance by the government of Sudan constitutes a direct challenge to the Council’s authority and International Law.

The investigation in Darfur began in 2005, after the landmark referral by the UNSC via Resolution 1593. It is estimated that 300,000 people have died since 2003 due to fighting between Government forces and the Janjaweed armed group. The ICC has issued arrest warrants against the President of the Sudan, M. Omar Al Bashir, the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, M. Ahmad Haroun (now Governor of the province of South Kordofan) and the Defense Minister, M. Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein. The Court also issued summonses to appear for rebel leaders, M. Abdallah Banda, M. Saleh Jerbo and M. Abu Garda in relation to war crimes.

As William Pace, CICC Convenor has stated regarding the situation in Darfur, “(…) some of the accused not only continue to commit these crimes inDarfur, but are now doing so in other regions against other populations of Sudan. The Council’s inaction in enforcing Resolution 1593 undermines not only the Council’s credibility, but also threatens to undermine the International Criminal Court, which has agreed to assist the UN in maintaining international peace and security in this tortured situation”.

To this date, the Sudanese government continues to challenge the authority of the ICC and International Law. The African Union (AU), under the political pretext that the ICC is “out to get Africa”, has become (with some exceptions) an ally to foster impunity regarding the crimes in Darfur. Due to the possibility that Malawian authorities could arrest M. Al Bashir if he decided to attend the upcoming African Summit, the response of the organization was to change the venue to Ethiopia. Ten years after the entry into force of the Rome Statute, and political rather than legal considerations continue to set the pace in the cooperation for the prosecution of international crimes.


Cooperation with the ICC and respect of rule of law:  No grey areas

The new system of international justice, established by the Rome Statute, has increased the global discourse to fight impunity and still represents a promise made to future generations, a vow to help turn the words “Never again” into a reality.  It has also put forward high standards for gender crimes, fairness of proceedings, and victims’ rights. 

In order to be effective and truly fight against global impunity, the Court relies on the cooperation it can receive from countries and international organizations. As it has been extensively discussed, the ICC needs State cooperation to fulfill its mandate. One would imagine that this cooperation should be of a positive nature, like the surrendering of suspects, providing security to victims, gaining access to crime sites, the exchange of information, among others. However, last week’s events in Libya prove that unwillingness of a State to cooperate can add a new segment on State cooperation: the non-interference on ICC official business.

In this sense, the four ICC officials detained by Libyan authorities is unacceptable and a direct violation to the Rome Statute and to Security Council Resolution that referred this situation to the ICC via Resolution 1970 (2011). In short, it is a slap in the face of international justice and to the so-called “Arab Spring”. Securing the freedom of these officials is the current priority. However, this should also be the opportunity for the UN and the ICC to finally adopt stricter measures to assure cooperation from States. One will also like to know what were the criteria used by the ICC to authorize the deployment of these 4 officials if the conditions on the ground regarding safety and integrity were not met.

In addition to this pressing context, the situation in Syria keeps growing to the brink of civil war.

There have already been reports regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity by State Forces. Current military actions are in direct violation of International Humanitarian Law and there are reports in the use of children as soldiers and human shields.

What are we waiting for? Political debate should be on how to make cooperation more effective, not to see if cooperation benefits political interests.

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Mariana Rodriguez-Pareja is the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS). Twitter handle: @maritaerrepe

Salvador Herencia-Carrasco, LL.M. University of Ottawa. Lawyer with experience in International Law. E-mail: chava@salgalu.com

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[Event] A Grotian Moment: The ICC, the US and The Hague Tradition

Posted by Hannah Dunphy on 18 06 2012 | Leave a comment


Join us on July 4, 2012 at the historic Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, the Netherlands, for a ceremony honoring the Grotian tradition and celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the International Criminal Court.

The event will feature a ceremonial wreath laying and lecture by U.S. Ambassador for war crimes, Stephen J. Rapp and John Washburn, Convener of the American Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC). With a lecture on the U.S. and The Hague tradition by internationally prominent historian on International Law and The Hague Tradition, Dr. Arthur Eyffinger.


Background on the event from A Grotian Moment website:


The historic 1899 Hague Peace Conference took place from May 18, 1899 to July 29, 1899.  The chief accomplishments of this conference include the creation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the establishment of international laws of war.

On July 4, 1899, the U.S. delegation to the Conference convened a celebration at the tomb of Hugo Grotius at the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, Netherlands.  Members of the U.S. delegation lauded Grotius and spoke about how his ideas have shaped U.S. jurisprudence.The U.S. laid a custom made, elaborate wreath of silver and gold at Grotius’ tomb. 

In honor of the 10 year anniversary of the International Criminal Court, on July 4, 2012, U.S. students, citizens and diplomats will convene another celebration at Grotius’ tomb. A new wreath will be laid by U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, Stephen J. Rapp. A number of addresses which focus on the United States’ role in the development of the “Grotian Project” of international law will be delivered.

For more information and to register, please click here.

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AMICC Analyzes Eric Posner’s Assault on the International Criminal Court

Posted by Hannah Dunphy on 12 06 2012 | Leave a comment


Our friends at the American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC) have launched swift and strong counter arguments against a recent critique of the ICC by Eric Posner in the Wall Street Journal. From AMICC’s blog:

In an Op-Ed published on June 10 in the Wall Street Journal, University of Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner made no secret about his disapproval of the ICC: “The court has been a failure.” He also tells us that the ICC doesn’t serve any country’s national interest, and that the Court is distrusted and ineffectual. However, his arguments are built on shaky facts and seem to be driven more by ideology than by a careful look at the ICC’s track record. Below are AMICC’s responses to some of the not-quite-right points made in Professor Posner’s provocative Op-Ed.

Excerpts from the Posner article:

“Ten years ago, on July 1, 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened its doors. The treaty that created this new body gave it jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and other international offenses committed anywhere in the world, by anyone against anyone. Supporters argued that it would put an end to impunity for dictators and their henchmen, and usher in a new era of international justice.”

AMICC: In fact, the ICC’s Rome Statute treaty entered into force on July 1, 2002. The first judges and officials began their work in 2003 and 2004, building from scratch a new international organization. Regarding the ICC’s jurisdiction, it is not “by anyone against anyone” but rather the ICC treaty imposes specific provisions and limitation of the exercise of jurisdiction, requiring a nation to have ratified the treaty in order for the Court to be able to try alleged crimes in its territory or by its national, unless the UN Security Council refers the matter to the Court, something Professor Posner nowhere mentions.

“The court has been a failure. Although it has a staff of more than 700 and an annual budget in excess of $100 million, the ICC has so far completed precisely one trial—that of Thomas Lubanga, a commander in the civil war in Congo. It took three years and ended with a conviction on March 14, 2012. The appeals have not begun. A few other trials are ongoing or set to begin.”

AMICC: A failure would suggest that the ICC was created as a short-term experiment that would result instantly in the end of impunity and have the effect of deterring all international crimes. Did the US court system manage to do so in the first ten years of its existence? And while the length of the Lubanga trial was not breathtakingly fast, there were new processes and rules to interpret which helped to ensure that there was in fact a fair trial. These decisions should make future trials faster.

“Even by the low standards of international tribunals, this performance should raise an eyebrow. What went wrong? As with any international organization, the court’s ability to operate rests on the consent of states. One hundred and twenty-one nations have agreed to the treaty, a number that sounds impressive. But the 121 include few authoritarian countries that employ repression or conduct military operations. Mostly democracies with some semblance of the rule of law have joined. Since the ICC gains jurisdiction over a defendant only if domestic legal institutions fail to investigate international crimes in good faith, most member countries are those least likely to be subject to its jurisdiction.”

AMICC: Once a nation joins the ICC, it has accepted for good the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory and by its nationals. The UN Security Council can refer cases to the ICC as well, as it did in the Darfur and Libya situations, as an alternative to this consent requirement.

“Yet where the ICC has exercised its authority, its actions have been controversial. Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic have asked the court to investigate crimes committed by various rebel groups. In all these cases, the court has been careful not to offend governments willing to cooperate with it—but the upshot has been that it has pursued rebels only and not government officials who might be responsible for atrocities committed by the military.”

AMICC:The ICC’s treaty requires it to investigate all sides of the conflict. In the countries mentioned, the ICC’s investigations have extended to government and military officials, and they continue. The Court’s accused persons from Sudan, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire are all current or immediately previous government officials.


Read the rest of AMICC’s analysis here.

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New York-based AMICC shows its love for the ICC at a 2010 rally.
New York-based AMICC shows its love for the ICC at a 2010 rally.

 

ICC Turns Ten: A Measure of Justice

Posted by Kip Hale on 05 06 2012 | Leave a comment


Fortunately, the reason for Memorial Day in the United States is not overlooked. Celebrations tend not to overshadow the fact that this holiday is a day of remembrance for the millions of individuals who serve the United States, and sadly, the millions that have died for the United States. It honors those living and those departed so they themselves, their sacrifice, and the reasons for their sacrifice are not forgotten. Some of the reasons that they served were to protect and uphold our most sacred values and principles, such as “peace,” “security,” “rule of law,” and “justice.” These same principles reside by word and sentiment in America’s most cherished documents: the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

These precise words and sentiments are also found in the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent international tribunal created to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. On July 1, 2012, the ICC celebrates its tenth anniversary. All three of these documents share a gravity of purpose and achievement, each breaking new ground in order to attain the previously unthinkable.

The Declaration of Independence claimed the undeniable rights of humans, both individually and collectively, to protect their interests and create for themselves. Celebrating its 225th anniversary this year, the U.S. Constitution showed the power of the written document to establish a just rule of law and to strike a balance of governmental powers. The Rome Statute recognized the duty of sovereigns, also both individually and collectively, to act when unimaginable horrors are visited upon the human family, and prosecute their perpetrators with the utmost respect for due process. The Rome Statute at its core and in practice honors the tenants of these American precedents.

In this tenth year of the ICC, it is an appropriate time to take stock of the Court’s progress in its primary mission: end impunity through the just rule of law. Thus far, assessments of the ICC are varied to say the least, from the unfair and unrealistic, and the critical, yet contextual, to the reasonable and measured. How the Court can be both satisfactory to some, a concern to others, and both to many is a matter of differing politics and viewpoints as well as a testament to the Court’s mixed record. For some, the ICC is failing as it took six years to finish its first trial, several Prosecution indictments failed to receive judicial approval due to insufficient evidence, and the ICC’s Africa-centric caseload shows that it is a neo-colonial institution employing “selective justice” to eliminate disfavored African leaders. Others respond by pointing out that the Pretrial Chamber’s pushback on Prosecution indictments proves that the Court’s safeguards against political or questionable prosecutions are working. Further that many of the African situations at the ICC are the product of self-referrals by African states themselves or UN Security Council referrals. More importantly, supporters of the ICC argue that the Court has quickly attained legitimate status on the international stage, instead of being relegated to irrelevance as predicted by some.

The assortment of opinions and analyses of the ICC will continue through this year of reflection, and this exercise is to be embraced. The first milestone anniversary of the Court offers an important opportunity for ICC stakeholders to convene and have honest discussion about where the Court succeeded, and where more work is to be done. The recent Stanford Law School’s Conference on the tenth Anniversary of the ICC was the first such conference in the United States where frank conversation could occur. This conference entitled “ICC Turns Ten: Reviewing the Past, Assessing the Future” brought together an impressive lineup of panelists from the ICC’s principal organs—the Presidency, the Registry, and the Office of the Prosecutor—as well as from the United States government, academia, and civil society.

Read whole article on Huffington Post here.

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Displaced But Not Forgotten – Taking Action for Burma

Posted by Ebba Lekvall on 04 06 2012 | Leave a comment


After decades of isolation, Burma has recently been on a charm-offensive. It has quickly found its way back into the good graces of the international community, which seems to have enthusiastically embraced what it apparently considers to be democratic reforms and did not need much to start easing sanctions. Travel bans for individuals with top positions in government have been lifted, Norway now encourages businesses to invest in Burma, and the European Union (EU) recently suspended sanctions for one year. International media has also turned its attention to Burma and countless articles have been written about the ‘new Burma’ – one supposedly now on the road to democracy.

A more accurate assessment of Burma’s progression to democracy is perhaps best expressed in the words of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, when she said Burma is “on the road that leads to the road to democracy.’ More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Thailand, Daw Suu cautioned the world against what she called “reckless optimism” and said that “healthy scepticism” is in order.

The situation in Burma has resulted in an estimated 650,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Displacement can occur for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being as a direct result of armed conflict between insurgents. However, other reasons include a variety of abuses, such as: land confiscation by the Burmese army or other armed groups (often for the extraction of natural resources), predatory taxation, and forced labour. Due to the sheer magnitude and severity of these abuses, it is often argued that they constitute crimes against humanity.

There have been several calls for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to look into the claims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Burma, but so far there seems to be little international interest in accountability. Also, the controversial 2008 Constitution fails to give ethnic groups equal rights, guarantees the military 25% of the seats in Parliament, and offers immunity to all former and serving military generals. This means that there are few realistic channels for accountability in Burma.

In light of the international community’s apparent lack of concern for the ongoing ethnic conflict and the situation of IDPs, as well as the near total failure of the media to report on this, the Oxford Burma Alliance has recently launched its awareness campaign, ‘Displaced But Not Forgotten 365’ – and action week is now. The campaign seeks to inform and educate on the current situation affecting IDPs in Burma and to express solidarity with them. We believe that awareness can breed responsible, positive social action, and it is our hope that through the dissemination of information on this important issue, the campaign will encourage participants to seek out other channels through which to help local efforts to build civil society and support those affected reconstruct their livelihoods.

To make a statement that we have not forgotten the IDPs of Burma, we want to collect pictures of at least 365 people making a statement that they stand in solidarity with the IDPs of Burma—one person for each day of the year. We will use them collectively to show joint support in the form of a photo collage. We have created a Facebook event with further information and instructions, as well as a campaign video.

While the signs of reform in Burma are encouraging, and while the country may now be moving towards the path to democracy, the road will be long and demand more comprehensive reforms. In the meantime, it is important to not forget those still affected by on-going conflict and human rights abuses. Join the campaign and help us spread awareness about ongoing humanitarian disaster happening in Burma.

Ebba Lekvall, is a law student at the University of Oxford and former intern at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. She is also the Co-President and Founder of the Oxford Burma Alliance. The OBA is a student-run organization working to raise awareness about Burma at Oxford and provides a platform for Burma activists and others with an interest in human rights and education to exchange views and ideas and initiate concerted social action. For more information about the OBA, please visit: http://oxford-burma-alliance.weebly.com/

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Photo by AP
Photo by AP

 

Will El Salvador follow Guatemala?

Posted by Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Belissa Guerrero Rivas on 10 05 2012 | Leave a comment


El Salvador did not sign the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute, but participated actively in the Rome Conference in 1998. Since the ICC came into effect, El Salvador has not participated in the meetings and has adopted a negligent attitude towards the Court, including the adoption of a bilateral agreement with the U.S. by which both parties agreed that their nationals would not be transferred to the ICC if they commit crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction.
But, in 2010, things began to change: mid and high level officials of the Salvadorian government participated in official meetings, a number of events were organized within the country and ICC officials paid several visits. This provoked such remarks from the Salvadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who stated that the visits of ICC officials served “to continue the phase of consultation and technical input from experts, interested organizations and institutions that specialize in the subject in order to enrich the discussion and allow a period of more fruitful legislative discussions and with stronger evidence to establish the necessary consensus concerning membership or non-membership of El Salvador to this important instrument in guaranteeing human rights worldwide.”
Salvadorian officials argued that in order to become party to the ICC, the National Constitution had to be amended. NGOs and academics worked on different proposals and submitted them to the government. The most important challenge identified by NGOs was related to the statute of limitations for international crimes, the amnesties and immunities.
However, a few weeks ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that the ratification bill- currently at the Executive Branch- was going to be sent to the Legislative branch for vote. The Minister said that the country would join the ICC, but will make some “reservations”. What the Minister did not know is that the Statute does not accept reservations: states must accede ‘entirely’ to the Statute.  He highlighted that the ‘reservations’ that will be made are related to the retroactivity of the ICC statute and to life imprisonment. Another mistake: the ICC Statute is crystal clear on article 24. The ICC jurisdiction is non-retroactive. In terms of life imprisonment, that punishment is currently being discussed by the judicial branch, because, although it is not legal under the Salvadorian system, people do spend their lives in prison.
Therefore, the reservations highlighted by the Minister are not legally accurate.
Willingness

We aknowledge the willingness of the government to become party to the Rome Statute and the momentum: a few years back, it would be been unthinkable to see a Salvadorian official speaking highly of the ICC. It was simply ignored. Still, education and training on the Rome Statute is a must- do in the country.

The Rome Statute system is an exceptional mechanism. The Court will only act against the most serious crimes and it’s the duty of the national courts to address crimes committed within their territory. The Court will only act, if national courts are unwilling or unable- the ratification can serve as a step and a contribution to strengthen the judicial system and the Rule of Law.

Hopes are high, and 2012 will be remembered as the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the peace agreements, which ended the 12-year long armed conflict. It also marks the first time a Salvadorian president asked for forgiveness for the crimes committed in the Mozote Massacre.

Belissa Guerrero Rivas is a Salvadorean Lawyer.
Mariana Rodriguez Pareja is the Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS) Twitter handle: @maritaerrepe

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The Interamerican Court and the ICC sign cooperation agreement

Posted by Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia Carrasco on 10 05 2012 | Leave a comment


This year is very signitifative for the International Criminal Court (ICC): the tenth anniversary of the entry into force, the beginning of the term-in-office of the new Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who will replace Argentine-born Luis Moreno Ocampo; and the first ruling in history for the case against Thomas Lubanga, for the recruitment of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was rendered in March.

As of today, 121 countries have ratified the treaty and the ICC is currently investigating 14 cases in 7 different countries. Regardless all the advances, we believe that there are many challenges to be faced and other obstacles to be undercome. One central issue of the ICC is cooperation, something that could seem superfitial for those who are not familiar with the ICC, but it is fundamental for the ICC. Without cooperation, the ICC cannot act effectively.

The ICC and the OAS

Both the ICC and the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights)  pursue one common goal: the erradication of impunity for human right violations. After the adoption of the Rome Statute of the ICC in 1998, several resolution promoting and supporting the ICC have been adopted by the OAS, as well as a draft model-legislation to contribute OAS member States in the implementation of principles and cooperation mechanisms. The adoption of a Cooperation Agreement on April 26, 2012 is a significant push towards the strengthening of this relationship.

According to the information provided by the IACHR, the agreement “provides for the possibility that each party will provide the other with information on decisions, resolutions, judgments, reports, and documents, which could prove useful in processing cases and carrying out the mandates of both institutions. 

Why is cooperation central to the ICC? The ICC is a judicial institution and the jurisdition is complementary to the one of the States parties to the Statute. The ICC does not have its own police or armed forces and it does not have its own prisons. Therefore it is critidal for the ICC to be able to rely and count on States or international institutions in order to carry out its mandate effectivetly. Cooperation implies much more than the signing of an agreement with the IACHR. When the ICC signs a cooperation agreement with a State, it involves the adoption of cooperation laws at the moment of implementing the Rome Statute in the local system.

It cannot be ignored that the international financial crisis has an impact at every level, including the ICC- so, in order to maximize efforts and resources, cooperation must be pursued and put into practice. The Court should be able to rely on existing effective both infrastructure and mechanisms.

The Inter American System

The Inter American system has been understimated for many countries. Other countries, simply forget it exists or do not follow the rulings. Even in many Law schools in the region, the IA system is excluded from the syllabus, leaving the matter to experts only, when it should be a system widely known by every person- since the Inter American Convention for Human Rights serves as one of the basic HR instruments for all States parties to the OAS.

Despite the lack of comprehensive legislation on International Criminal Law in most of the OAS states, many of its core principles are already binding on them through the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights and the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This regional tribunal has significantly contributed to the prosecution of crimes against humanity, especially enforced disappearances and torture.
Although the cases examined by the Inter-American Court are different from those that fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC, the Rome Statute has been a valid interpretative tool to determine State duties regarding the protection of human rights.

The ICC and the IACHR is definitely a good match: now let’s make sure all the OAS states become parties to the ICC system and that they both commit and achieve their goal to put an end, prevent and/or punish to the worst crimes and bring justice to victims.


*Mariana Rodriguez-Pareja. Director of the Human Rights Program at Asuntos del Sur (ADS). Twitter handle: @maritaerrepe

Salvador Herencia-Carrasco. LL.M. University of Ottawa, legal adviser to the Andean Commission of Jurists. Email: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Guatemala Ratifies the Rome Statute and the “Dos Erres Massacre” Trials Continue

Posted by Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia Carrasco on 10 05 2012 | Leave a comment


Mariana Rodriguez Pareja and Salvador Herencia Carrasco join JiC again with this fascinating guest-post on Guatemala’s ratification of the Rome Statute and the country’s ongoing legal and political struggles to address the past and achieve justice.

Ratification done, implementation next?

On April 2, 2012, the Guatemalan government filed the depository instrument of the Rome Statute before the United Nations, becoming the 121 State Party of the International Criminal Court (ICC). With this ratification, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua are the only Latin American countries that are yet to be a part of the ICC. The good news is that El Salvador has publicly announced its intention to ratify the treaty by the end of the year.

In 2002, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court rendered an Advisory Opinion concluding that the Rome Statute was compatible with the Political Constitution. Since then, objections towards the treaty have been political, rather than legal. With the ratification of the Rome Statute, the long road towards implementation begins. Indeed, we it is important to bear in mind that countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru (to name a few) have ratified the treaty many years ago but have yet to fully implement the Rome Statute.

In the case of Guatemala, the importance of this ruling resides in the fact that the Constitutional Court determines that the Rome Statute is a human right treaty which, according to Article 46 of the Constitution, has the highest legal standing, forming part of the bloc de constitutionalité. This means that the Rome Statute and the principles it stands for have Constitutional standing in Guatemala. In a country that is dealing with the prosecution of international crimes perpetrated during its Civil War, principles such as non-statutory limitations, the non-applicability of amnesties or the validity of immunities might contribute in the local judicial proceedings.

Like many Latin American countries, the Guatemalan Criminal Code criminalizes torture and enforced disappearances. These crimes were adopted in 1995 and concern the fight against organized crime, rather than the fulfillment of International Human Rights Law or International Criminal Law. The Criminal Code also has a section on international crimes including genocide, where racial groups are excluded and a generic norm called ‘offenses against duties to humanity’ (deberes contra la humanidad), which seeks to regulate all violations of the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law.


(Photo: RNW/Flickr)

National Prosecution of Dos Erres Massacre: slowly but surely

On 2 August 2011, a local tribunal in Guatemala City sentenced four former soldiers from an elite unit of the Armed Forces Kaibil to 6006 years each for the massacre of Las Dos Erres. This was welcomed by the victims, their families and the international community and it served to advance the country’s process of recovery and set an important precedent for justice in Guatemala.

Nevertheless, setting another important precedent, in March 2012 a fifth soldier was sentenced for the same massacre. Pedro Pimentel Ríos was sentenced to serve 30 years of prison for each victim killed in the attack and 30 years for the perpetration of crimes against humanity.

The process against Pimentel, who was deported from the United States as an illegal alien in 2009, was advanced separately from the first mega trial. Although Guatemala’s criminal laws allows inmates to serve a maximum of only 50 years, these sentences play a symbolic role.

Former President Rios Montt appeared for the first time in a Guatemalan court in January 2012, where he will be prosecuted for counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is accused of ordering killings of at least 1,700 innocent Maya indigenous people during a government crackdown on leftist insurgents. General Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled the country for 17 months during the height of the violence in 1982/1983, has since been placed under house arrest and the judge announced that there was sufficient evidence for him to stand trial in Guatemala.

This marked the first time that a Latin American court has charged a former president with genocide. The fact that he was placed under house arrest and that he might be tried has been widely viewed as a huge victory for those in Guatemala who have fought relentlessly for accountability for the crimes committed under Rios Montt’s command in the 1980s.


Guatemalans protesting the disappearance of relatives during the Civil War.

The challenges ahead

Despite these significant developments, the situation in Guatemala remains shaky. The problem of organized crime is jeopardizing security, forcing the (re)militarization of the country. The ratification of the Rome Statute will hopefully instigate an open debate about the proper domestic incorporation of international crimes, as well as the adoption of a National Human Rights Plan. Considering the security problems that Guatemala is facing, due to drug trafficking and organized crime, these legal and institutional reforms should be of the highest priority.

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A victim of the Guatemalan Civil War. (Photo: Sandra Sebastian)
A victim of the Guatemalan Civil War. (Photo: Sandra Sebastian)

 

Stop Bechir

Posted by Hannah Dunphy on 17 04 2012 | Leave a comment


Check out this great new video from Urgence Darfour’s “Stop Bechir” campaign. Watch the video and then sign the petition here.

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CASIN is Recruiting! Eyes on the ICC Seeks New Editor-in-Chief

Posted by alejandro on 09 04 2012 | Leave a comment


The Board of Directors is accepting applications for the position of Editor-in-Chief of Eyes on the ICC, CASIN’s flagship academic journal on the International Criminal Court. Junior faculty, postdoctoral fellows, PhD candidates, law school graduates, and advanced graduate students are especially encouraged to apply. The deadline for applications is April 20, 2012.

Eyes on the ICC is the only peer-reviewed, scholarly journal devoted to the study of the International Criminal Court. It has been published since 2004 by the Council for American Students in International Negotiations, a non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of a network of students and young professionals from around the world.

Eyes on the ICC is an interdisciplinary journal that invites submissions from any field that addresses the International Criminal Court or international criminal law more generally. Past editors have come from the fields of international law, international relations, and sociology. To view current and previous volumes, please visit the journal’s website: http://www.americanstudents.us/journals/eyesontheicc/.

JOB DESCRIPTION:

The Editor-in-Chief (EIC), with the assistance of the Managing Editor (ME) and 5-7 Assistant Editors (AEs), will be responsible for producing one volume per publication year, comprised of at least five articles, with a camera-ready manuscript due on December 1. Submissions are accessed via Expresso as well as through direct e-mail contact between authors and the EIC or the ME. The EIC reports to the Publications Committee of CASIN’s Board of Directors.

Additional obligations will include:

- Assisting in managing submissions received via Expresso as well as through direct e-mail contact with ME or EIC;

- Managing the peer review process;

- Making article selection decisions based on reviews of Editorial Staff;

- Assisting with final editing of all accepted articles and assisting with intermittent contact with authors throughout selection process as necessary;

- Supervising the ME;

- Maintaining regular contact with ME (who manages most of administrative editorial process);

- Maintaining regular contact with Publications Committee of the Board, Peer Reviewers, and Editorial Advisory Board;

Please note that this is a virtual position. Work is coordinated predominantly through e-mail and other forms of electronic communication. Please also note that this position is offered without compensation.

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

- Demonstrated knowledge of the International Criminal Court and international criminal law;

- Editorial/publication experience in an academic setting;

- Experience supervising and managing others.

- Strong writing, research, and interpersonal skills;

- Comfort working closely with virtual staff and board;

- Strong communications skills and availability to respond promptly to e-mail communications;

- Strong commitment to international human rights, criminal law, and/or social justice;

- Reliable, organized, team-oriented, and able to meet deadlines.

- Master’s degree or equivalent in a related field;

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS:

- Experience working directly with international criminal courts and/our tribunals;

- Contacts with academics and practitioners within the international criminal law field;

- Experience with the Chicago Manual of Style and The Bluebook system of citation;

Address all questions to (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Only qualified applicants will be contacted by early May 2012.

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Panel Discussion: International Justice in a Time of Transition

Posted by Hannah Dunphy on 03 04 2012 | Leave a comment


The International Peace Institute (IPI) held a panel discussion on International Justice in Times of Transition, focusing on the relationship between peace and justice in the context of recent developments and transitions throughout the world. Welcome remarks were given by Jozias van Aartsen, mayor of The Hague, and Warren Hoge, IPI senior adviser for external relations, moderated the debate.


Video streaming by Ustream

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come:  The United States & the ICC

Posted by Hannah Dunphy on 16 03 2012 | Leave a comment


In March 2012 in cities around the world, people sat anxiously in front of their computers to focus their attention on a 30-minute video. The face of one African man became more famous than ever before as the narrator detailed his use of children under the age of 15 for brutal hostilities in Central Africa. Celebrities watched on in awe, and social media erupted with the reactions of civil society.

I’m actually not talking about the controversial “Kony2012” video by Invisible Children that has taken the word “viral” to new heights.

I refer instead to the International Criminal Court’s March 14 conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While Angelina Jolie looked on from the gallery, distinguished English barrister Judge Sir Adrian Fulford solemnly read out the decision detailing Lubanga’s crimes. Though the unanimous decision from the judges was in large part a stern reprimand towards the recklessness of the Prosecution, it was the defense team who seemed to shrink in their seats with every passing minute.

Despite its many setbacks and valid critiques of the case, the Lubanga decision marked the completion of the first case before the world’s first permanent international criminal tribunal. It may not have reached the 100 million or so viewers that the Kony2012 film boasts, but set against the long arc of history’s battle against impunity crimes, the Lubanga verdict will have resonance for hundreds of years to come.

The ICC is the result of a century of visionary contributors who imagined a different system to punish atrocity crimes. It’s been called the most important legal advancement since the Magna Carta. At the helm of this colossal effort have been diplomats, lawyers and academics, steered true by the compass of civil society. Today, civil society (as members of the international NGO Coalition for the ICC) continue the daily fight for an effective, fair and independent ICC, despite enormous challenges facing the Court and its 120 member states in ensuring the functionality of the Rome Statute system.

One of these challenges, perhaps the greatest, has been the cooperation of these states to assist in the arrest and transfer of ICC indictees to The Hague. Kony is just one of a handful of powerful men still at large, and even the ones who are thought to be hiding, even UCLA can’t help but run into them.

Invisible Children Takes the Stage

Rewind back to 2011. On a cold New York City night in late December, I met the founders of Invisible Children at the Justice Gala, an event where Invisible children received a Justitia award for “Civic Campaign of the Year.” The front tables were packed with the international ICC cadre of politicians and diplomatic heavy weights, who had converged for an annual meeting of the ICC’s governing body at the UN. Among them was ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, a fervent supporter of Kony2012.

The award was warranted, if only because Invisible Children is so well funded they’re hard to ignore (apparently, international diplomats and high school students alike are attracted to shiny, pretty things). The Kony2012 campaign, as introduced to the gala, was to be game-changer, a “get him once and for all” mission. I’ll admit, it was exciting: Kony was going to The Hague, no matter what. Enforcement crisis solved. And the crowd went wild.

Two months later, the romance with Kony2012 is over. The Kony2012 buzz from media and the blogsphere are nearly as staggering as the video’s hits on YouTube. The responses range from serious critique, to the woefully defensive, and at least one in the form of a drinking game.

So, it’s of no surprise that Ugandans were so outraged over the video that a Kony2012 screening turned violent, and future local screenings have been cancelled to avoid further embarrassment for Invisible Children. Last week at an international student conference about the Lubanga trial in The Hague, development veteran and head of the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims Kristin Kalla summed it up when she said it was “clearly an American campaign, not a Ugandan one.”

The myriad of problems with Kony2012 I think has been already well articulated by these Ugandans, as well as experienced campaigners who know how to read past the hype. Now that we’ve gone round the block and the global attention span is moving on, it’s time to start asking Invisible Children about their future.

What’s next for Invisible Children?

Part of what Invisible Children has succeeded brilliantly in doing is seizing- and in some cases, sparking- a moment of education in students, an “A Ha!” moment (nowadays, more like an “OMFG” moment) where the rose-colored windows looking out at planet earth are shattered. The flood of member testimony on their website shows the genuine passion of their activists, determined to make a better world.

And really, who are we to say we were never one of them? Most of us working in international affairs or justice can remember such a moment, when the brutal reality of the suffering of others was presented for the first time. It’s only natural to seek the company of others struggling with the same question: “what can I do?” and cling to narrow campaigns with a good guy vs. bad guy narrative.

But as their young members grow up and begin thinking critically about the world beyond one weakening rebel group from Uganda, Invisible Children will have to meet their members’ desires for participating in a true movement for ending impunity for atrocity crimes. This, I believe, will come in the form of supporting new systems of ending impunity: the International Criminal Court, for one.

While the ICC is a part of the Kony2012 formula, Invisible Children didn’t always support the role of the ICC in Uganda. Initially, they took objection to the ICC in Uganda, similar to that of their anti-ICC Save Darfur counterparts, back when the notion of the ICC blocking a potential peace agreement was still quite popular. Today, it’s of no surprise to watch much of the Darfur student movement grow into a broader coalition working against genocide in many different parts of the world, naturally including robust support of a fair and effective ICC.

So, like so many organizations before them, it seems Invisible Children will seek larger impact and more critical thinking about their work.  As it has been ever-so-subtly pointed out here, in real life, “you don’t get to throw the Emperor down a shaft in the Death Star and watch all the bad guys crash and burn.” So while I think it’s safe to assume Invisible Children’s members have more intellectual capacity than Jason Russell’s Star Wars obsessed toddler, we should still press the group to take to heart the lessons from the Kony2012 critiques.

It’s time the organization ask themselves how they can help ensure the United States seeks justice for war criminals beyond the LRA.

Here’s how:

Fully Incorporate the ICC into the work of Invisible Children
Invisible Children should incorporate the ICC into all aspects of their work. Their chapters in the United States can use educational materials on the Court such as the excellent documentary film “The Reckoning” from Skylight Pictures, and collaborate with new campaigns from Amnesty International that seek the arrest of ICC indictees. Their initiatives on the ground in Uganda should seek collaboration with the many projects of the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims in targeted communities.

Join Existing ICC Networks in the US
An essential part of seeking effective social change is finding your partners. Invisible Children could affirm their commitment to the ICC by joining the American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC), coordinate their lobbying on The Hill with the Washington Working Group for the ICC (WICC), and join in on coordinated statements to lawmakers like the recent letter about the Lubanga verdict. Their student members can collaborate with the expanding ICC Student Network (ICCSN), and follow the work of the global civil society network (CICC) to keep their members informed on the activities of the Court. They can also join hundreds of global NGOs that participate as observers in the annual meetings of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties meetings.

Engage Washington on the ICC
Though the US is not a member of the ICC, non-states parties can still have a huge impact on how cases progress. Though it is a fully developed institution, the ICC still needs a vital civil society movement to encourage the United States government to stand ready to assist the ICC. The US is now a non-party partner to support the work of the ICC, yet the US has only started to share information and resources with the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, a relationship which requires public support and encouragement. Invisible Children can remind President Obama and lawmakers in Washington that the ICC is helping to fight impunity for abuses against children in other conflicts around the globe, and the United States can use its influence to assist justice efforts. For example, Invisible Children can continue to support legislation like the Rewards for Justice Program and other initiatives aimed at apprehending individuals suspected of committing atrocity crimes. 

If Invisible Children reassessed how they approach their “movement” building and chooses to engage with the ICC community, their members can work to protect victims of atrocity crimes wherever they occur. By moving the US towards a future of collaboration and support of the ICC, Invisible Children can secure their place in history’s long evolution towards meaningful systems of accountability.

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