#GlobalJustice Weekly: Afghans on possible ICC investigation | Escalating violence in DRC | Forgotten victims of the Russia-Georgia War

Refugees fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo rest at a reception centre in Uganda © UNHCR/Hannah Maule-ffinc

ICC judges request further information on Afghanistan after victims' submissions

The Afghan Analyst Network this week reported that 345 representations on behalf 700,000 victims have provided submissions to the ICC Pre-trial Chamber on the possibility of an ICC investigations into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides in the Afghanistan situation

While stating that "Afghans have had more time than most nationalities to submit representations" AAN's Ehsan Qaane and Kate Clark write that "the ICC’s very limited outreach to media and through civil society organisations to victims does raise concerns about the Court’s understanding of how to work in Afghanistan and what is needed to engage with victims, especially in the conflict-ridden areas of the country. Should the Pre-Trial Chamber decide that the Prosecutor can open a full investigation, the ICC will need to learn from this first exercise and commit many more resources and thought to communication and outreach."

The Centre for Constitutional Rights has submitted a filing concerning two detainees in Guantanamo Bay. It urges the ICC to prosecute United States officials for the torture and inhumane treatment endured by Sharqawi Al Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran in CIA black sites and proxy detention facilities.

ICC Judges set the deadline for submissions of victim representations to the 31st of January 2018 following the Office of the Prosecutor’s request for judicial authorisation to initiate investigations into the situation in Afghanistan.

On Monday, the Pre-trial Chamber ordered the Prosecutor to provide additional information in relation to its request for initiation of investigations, asking for publicly available reports relating to the alleged war crime and crimes against humanity. It noted gaps in materials already provided, relating to the structure, organization and conduct of Afghan Forces; the structure and organization of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan; and the structure, interrogation policies and conduct of US forces. The Office of the Prosecutor is to submit the additional information by the 8th and 12th of February 2018.

This is the second time that the Pre-trial Chamber has issued an order for additional information. Previously, it had asked for “media reports and article 15 communications concerning allegations attributed to special forces of a number of international forces operating in Afghanistan”, and a list of incidents that the OTP believed took place during operations conducted by international military forces.

 

Calls for justice as violence escalates in DRC

Widespread human rights abuses have been reported along with the eruption of the violence in the DRC in recent weeks, with estimates that over 14,000 refugees have fled since December 2017. 

''The current resurgence and amplification of violence, inter-ethnic conflicts and massive violations of human rights in several provinces of the DRC (the territories of Djugu, Irumu in Ituri, Kabalo and Nyunzu in Tanganyika and Beni in North Kivu) are warning signals to the DRC of the need to reexamine the impact of its cooperation with the ICC, which is not supported by prior and effective complementarity (national prosecutions of grave crimes)," said Descartes Mponge, President of the NGO ACADHOSHA based in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. "It is therefore extremely important that the judicial authorities of the DRC make a public declaration affirming the severe judicial repercussions that the direct perpetrators and masterminds of this absolute violence will face."

Over 64,000 women have been violated during the conflict, with CARE Uganda Country Director Delphine Pinnault urging "the use of sexual violence against women and girls in DRC must stop. The world cannot stand and continue to watch and accept what is happening."

"Women, girls and civilians are hunted down by out of control armed groups, forced to abandon their loved ones behind when they cannot flee fast enough, devastated by physical and emotional pain due to assault, rape, loss of friends and families.”

Organisations such as the Word Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation have outlined their concern regarding the strain on resources due to food insecurity born out of a lack of adequate funding to cope with the crisis, while UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Babar Baloch, has stated that “It is imperative that people fleeing the violence are allowed safe passage, and that humanitarian access to the internally displaced is facilitated”.

The intense conflict has also reportedly led to a widespread recruitment of child soldiers, with at least 585 boys and girls allegedly recruited by militia groups.

The ICC investigation into grave human rights abuses the DRC its the Court's first, opened in 2004 after the DRC invited the ICC Prosecutor to investigate alleged Rome Statute crimes in the context of the armed conflict in the region. Rebel leaders Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga became the first suspects ever convicted by the ICC, while a third, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, was acquitted. The investigation remains ongoing.

 

Forgotten victims of the Russia-Georgia War, 10 years on: Report by FIDH and HRIDC

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its Georgian counterpart, the Human Rights Center (HRIDC), have published a repor following a fact-finding mission from 26 June to 4th July 2017 in Georgia. The report assesses how crimes committed during the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia impacted, and continue to impact, the lives of victims.

The report identifies several factors that continue to affect victims of the war, which is currently under ICC investigation. These include lack of national remedies for victims, victims continuing to fear for their security, and the socio-economic and environmental costs to the communities.

One finding of the report was the large number of people living in the border regions of South-Ossetia and Abkhazia who continue to be victims of enforced displacement. The report claims that Russian authorities lack the will to see justice served for victims, and can add to the victimisation of civilians affected by the conflict. 

The report recommends that the Georgian authorities investigate ongoing crimes in the region, and calls on the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC to prioritize the situation in Georgia and channel funds towards its investigation in the region.  

The ICC investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the South-Ossetia forces, the Russian armed forces and the Georgian armed forces in the 2008 war was opened by the Office of the Prosecutor in January 2016. In January 2018, the ICC opened its field office in Tbilisi.

 

ICC investigations

Libya: Human Rights Watch reports that internally displaced families from Benghazi are prevented from going back to their homes by the Libyan National Army Forces (LNA) armed group. The LNA armed group, headed by General Khalifa Hifter used the pretext of rooting out “terrorism” to prevent around 3700 families from entering the city. The LNA has a history of violence against civilians, including, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial detention.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) published its ‘Human Rights Report on Civilian Casualties’ for January 2018. It shows a total of 39 deaths and 63 injuries during the conduct of hostilities across Libya, with an overwhelming majority of casualties caused by violations of international humanitarian law.

Kenya: The Kenyan Government has defied a court order to lift a ban on private TV channels in Country. The ban came amid a crackdown on journalists after the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, was to symbolically inaugurate himself as President. 

 

Preliminary examinations

Palestine: The UN Human Rights Committee has identified, and will examine, 206 companies that are doing business with Israeli settlements; the settlements are considered as illegal in international law. The report stated that: “The violations of human rights associated with the settlements are pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life,” including restrictions on movement, freedom of religion, education and land ownership.

The UN Secretary General has also warned of a ‘one-state reality’ in Israel and Palestine. He stated that: “Negative trends on the ground have the potential to create an irreversible one-state reality that is incompatible with realising the legitimate national, historic and democratic aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Afghanistan: Reports have stated that the ICC could prosecute General Abdul Rashid Dostum in relation to the Prosecutor's investgation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

 

Campaign for global justice

The International Commission of Jurists have critised the judgment of three Supreme judges in the Maldives, who overturned a full supreme court order to release nine members of opposition political parties. 

Civil Society welcomed the African Union's adoption of the Trust Fund for Victims of Hissene Habre's crimes. The trust fund has been mandated to search for and recover Habre's assets and to seek voluntary contributions. 

The former Bosnian-Serb Interior Minister, Tomislav Kovac, has been indicted for genocide by the Bosnian State Court. He has been charged with participating in a joint criminal enterprise regarding the mass-murder of Bosnian men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.

 

Around the world

Syrian Army attacks have killed 28 people in an aerial bombardment in the North-West of the Country. Similarly, earlier this week, air strikes killed 5 in a rebel held area near Idlib. The Syrian army, backed by the Russian armed forces have stepped up their targeting of anti-Assad rebels in Syria.

Myanmar: More than five previously unreported mass graves have been found in the village of Gu Dar Pyin. The mass graves were discovered via interviewing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, despite the Myanmar military’s repeated denial of the existence of such graves.

Around the same time, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, stated, that the security operations by Myanmar show an ‘established pattern’ of domination over ethnic groups.

Despite concerns by wide range of states, Myanmar has told the UN Security Council that a visit by Council officials would be unproductive, stating that it was “not the right time”.