#GlobalJustice Weekly: Libya refuses to hand Al-Wefalli to ICC | Venezuela responds to preliminary examination | Ghouta under assault

A street in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria © UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

Libya refuses to hand Al-Wefalli to ICC 

The Libyan National Army has refused to hand over Mahmoud Al-Werfalli to the ICC, and has released him on bail. LNA’s spokesman, Ahmed Al-Mismari, said, “Handing him over to the ICC is out of the question.” The ICC had previously issued an arrest warrant for Al-Werfalli for allegedly committing the war crime of murder, and specifically requested Libya for cooperation in his arrest and surrender.

Al-Werfalli ‘handed himself in' to military police when videos surfaced of him summarily executing 10 prisoners in Benghazi. The ICC arrest warrant against Al-Werfalli, however, is in relation to other incidents, where he personally committed and ordered the murder of 33 persons in Libya between 3rd June 2016 and 17th July 2017.

Al-Werfalli is a major in the Al-Saiqa brigade of the LNA, which controls the eastern city of Benghazi. Reports over the previous weeks have noted widespread violations of human rights committed in Benghazi by the LNA.

More on the Libyan Investigation

 

Venezuela responds to ICC preliminary examination

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has released a press statement following the Office of the Prosecutor’s announcement about the initiation of preliminary examinations into the situation in Venezuela.

The Foreign Ministry stated that the OTP had not communicated its intention to initiate preliminary examinations before making the public announcement, labeling the prosecutor’s statement as ‘baseless accusations.’ However, it did mention Venezuela’s readiness to fully cooperate with the ICC, stating that: “…in the name of our international cooperation duties, [we] assure [the ICC] of our full contribution so that the mentioned deeds may be explained.”

Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, later claimed that Venezuelan authorities have been investigating and prosecuting the violent acts of 2017, stating that his office possesses “documentation which shows that all of the cases have been attended by both the courts and the Ombudsman’s office.” 

Venezuela is currently going through a fresh phase of political turmoil. Talks between the government of Nicolas Maduro and the the opposition coalition have broken down, resulting in the government announcing early elections on April 22nd 2018. The move has been met with concerns that elections will not be a “...free, fair, transparent and democratic process.”

The OTP initiated Preliminary examinations into alleged crimes in Venezuela last week in the context of demonstrations and political unrest since April 2017.

 

More reactions to the Preliminary examination 

 

Ghouta suffers ‘bloodiest week since 2015’

The Syrian Army, backed by Russian army and Shiite militia, continued airstrike assaults on the town of Ghouta, a rebel held enclave in the north-east of Damascus. The assault has escalated in the past week, leading to the death of over 229 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

“Ghouta is drowning in blood”, said a doctor in the region, while a journalist explained “There is no safe place in Ghouta.”

The fresh wave of violence comes after the Bashar regime broke a ceasefire deal that had ensured relative piece in the area for several months.

The besieged nature of the town has ensured that civilians have no way to escape the violence, with ever growing casualty rates. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations has estimated more than 1250 civilians have been injured in the last week.

Senior UN officials in Syria have labelled the situation as a dire humanitarian crisis and called on the warring parties to immediately stop fighting so aid and basic services can reach those in need. Concerningly, the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria received multiple reports that weaponized chlorine had been used in the bombing of Douma in eastern Ghouta. These reports are currently being investigated. There has been similar allegations of recent use of chlorine attacks in Saraqib, Idlib. 

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore expressed her concern about the safety and living conditions of children in Ghouta, saying that “For children who remain trapped under siege and under wanton, heavy violence across Syria, life is a living nightmare. They are struggling just to stay alive.”

 

ICC investigations

DR Congo: South Africa’s military has initiated internal investigations after the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC received allegations of sexual misconduct and physical violence from civilians. A spokesman for the military stated that “corrective actions” will be taken if the allegations are confirmed.

Burundi: The UN Secretary General has released a report into the latest developments in Burundi. The report outlines all major political developments in addition to regional efforts to convene an inclusive dialogue and activities of the UN system in Burundi. .

Preliminary examinations

Nigeria: Several hundred people have stood trial in a detention center in Nigeria in connection with crimes committed by the militant group Boko Haram. The trial is a culmination of the biggest criminal investigation in Nigerian history, with civil society groups and NGOs invited to witness the proceedings. Crimes in relation to the conflict between Nigerian Government forces and Boko Haram are currently under preliminary examinations at the ICC.

Afghanistan: The United States has started adding to its existing fleet of air assets in a move to make the war in Afghanistan its “main effort”, says US Air Force Maj. General James Hecker. He stated that the US Central Command has focussed its efforts on Afghanistan after “successes in Iraq and Syria.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban carried out another attack this week, targeting and killing 16 members of an Afghan government formed militia in Helmand province.

 

Campaign for global justice

Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers. She reaffirmed her commitment to hold to account those responsible for atrocities against children, “including their recruitment and use in hostilities.” Bensouda mentioned prosecutions in the Lubanga case, the elevation of atrocity crimes against and affecting children to a key strategic goal of the OTP, and the adoption of a comprehensive Policy on Children as examples of her efforts to ensure protection of children.

According to a UN report, more than 5000 children recruited by armed groups have been released and reintegrated in 2017. However, tens of thousands more are being recruited or kidnapped and forced to fight or work for the armed groups. The UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, noted that “without a strong political and financial commitment to the reintegration process, re-recruitment is unfortunately likely to happen in many conflict situations.”

 

Around the world

The Myanmar government has said that it will take “action according to the law” against 10 members of its security forces in connection with the killing of captured Rohingya muslims in Rakhine. The spokesman for the Myanmar government denied that this was in connection to the graphic Reuters report, which showed in detail how the Myanmar armed forces murdered and forcibly displaced the Rohingyas. He said that the “investigation was being conducted even before Reuters news.”