#GlobalJustice Weekly: Kenya must arrest al-Bashir say judges | Nigeria convicts Boko Haram suspects | Human rights concerns at ISIS trials in Iraq

A view of a chamber in Baghdad’s Central Criminal Court, 2005. © 2005 Reuters
Editors

Kenya obliged to arrest al-Bashir says Appeal Court

Kenya's Court of Appeal has ruled that the Kenyan government's failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he was in country in 2010 was a violation of its obligations under the Rome Statute, the constitution and national legislation.

The ruling came in the context of a hearing that lifted a provisional arrest warrant that had been issued for al-Bashir by the Kenyan High Court on the foot of an application brought by the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya in 2011.

The court observed that under the International Crimes Act, a provisional warrant should only be issued in urgent situations, and therefore the warrant should not have been issued by the High Court when it was clear that al-Bashir was not coming to Kenya.

Significantly, the court also found against claims that al-Bashir's head of state immunity prevented Kenya from complying with the ICC arrest warrants, ruling “as a matter of general customary international law it is no longer in doubt that a Head of State will personally be liable if there is sufficient evidence that he authorised or perpetrated those internationally recognised serious crimes”.  

Judges also agreed that the ICJ-Kenya were entitled to approach the High Court in the future to request provisional arrest warrants. 

Read more on Omar al-Bashir 

 

Nigeria convicts Boko Haram suspects at mass trial 

Nigeria has convicted 205 suspects for charges related to their involvement with Boko Haram. Most of those convicted had professed to belonging to the group, or had concealed information about the group that could lead to arrests. Jail terms ranged from three to 60 years.

A further 475 suspects are to be released for rehabilitation, with Nigerian authorities citing a lack of evidence as to the reason behind sending the suspects to rehabilitation centre.

The government has allowed suspects in the case to plead guilty to secure a lesser jail term, which many suspects utilised, having their sentences reduced taking into consideration the years already spent in detention.

The Nigerian national coalition for the ICC commended the Attorney General, Alhaji Abubakar Malami for “rigorously pursuing the trial of the second batch of Boko Haram suspects.”

Concerns about the trial by civil society groups include the length of time suspects have remained in detention and the method of prosecuting suspects by mass trial.  

“Measures should be put in place to avoid long pretrial detention by insisting that law enforcement agencies [...] adhere to the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which sets 28 days limit for pretrial remand orders," the Nigerian national coalition for the ICC concluded in a press release on Sunday. Some suspects have remained in detention without trial since 2010.

"Mass trials of this nature provide insufficient guarantees for fair trial and risk failing to realize justice,” Amnesty International’s Nigeria director Osai Ojigho said, "This is particularly so in this case, given that Amnesty International has previously documented how the security forces routinely rounded up and detained hundreds of young men as 'Boko Haram suspects' with no evidence."
 

ISIS trials a concern among reconstruction in Iraq 

A conference on reconstruction of Iraq took place in Kuwait last week. At the conference, the UN Secretary General congratulated the government and people of Iraq on their victory over ISIS, and called for continued justice and “accountability for the crimes that have been committed” by ISIS.

There have been concerns on the human rights standards of trials as the UN finalises its agreement with Iraqi authorities to collect evidence of crimes committed by ISIS.

“There can be no real access to justice without access to robust legal representation," Mark Woods, Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee, said, “Those regimes that seek to limit that representation cannot hide behind the façade of regime change in an attempt to justify any curtailment of this basic human right.” 

Baghdad's criminal court has been accused of unfair sentencing against foreign women who have surrendered with ISIS. The women are charged with illegally enterring the country and aiding, abetting or having membership in ISIS, which carries the penalty of life in prison or death under Iraq’s counterterrorism law.

report by Human Rights Watch found suboptimal human rights standards during the Iraqi ISIS trials, and that the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional government had virtually no strategy in place to prioritize prosecutions of those responsible for the worst crimes committed by ISIS.

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson claimed of the report that “Iraqi justice is failing to distinguish between the culpability of doctors who protected lives under ISIS rule and those responsible for crimes against humanity”.

In total, the international community pledged US$30 billion at the conference. The Iraq Recovery and Resilience Programme Organisations was also launched by the UN Secretary General, with special focus on areas at risk of extremism. Human rights organisations have expressed doubts as to whether any of this support will be utilised to help marginalised families of alleged ISIS supporters, who are frequently being denied aid as a result of their suspected ties.

 

Kosovo compensates victims of sexual violence

Nearly 20 years after the armed conflict the Commission for the Verification and Recognition of Sexual Violence Victim Status in Kosovo has begun receiving its first applications.

Through the Commission, survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are now able to apply for official verification that enables them to receive compensation for the physical, psychological, economic and social traumas they experienced. 

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has supported the system, stating that “sexual violence victims should find the courage, and the support of all of us, in order to enjoy their legal rights". 

Amnesty International claimed the law does not go far enough in providing justice for victims. A report titled "Wounds that burn our souls" illustrate the extent of the horrors suffered by those who have until now recieved no government support. 

"Perpetrators have escaped prosecution whilst survivors have been marginalised, forgotten and denied access to justice.  This is beginning to change, but there is still a long way to go," said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director. 

Owing to the lasting stigmatisation in Kosovo society on victims of rape, Amnesty are calling for reforms in the judicial system in addition to the compensation, to "protect victims if they decide to go through a court process at this stage".

 

ICC investigations 

DRC: Violence across Tanganyika has now internally displaced over 630,000 people. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has warned the region is on the bring of a humanitarian disaster. 

Meanwhile, two Congolese aid workers have been killed and a third was abducted in the North Kivu province on Sunday. 

Libya: Human Rights Watch have asked the ICC prosecutor to invesigate forced displacement for those implicated in possible crimes against humanity against the Tawergha community in Libya. At least 40,000 Tawerghans have been displaced from their town as collective punishment for their support of Muammar Gaddafi. 

Sudan: Sudanese authorities have said they are releasing more than 80 political prisoners from jails in the capital Khartoum. The prisoners were arrested during protests over rising food prices and the government economic policies. 

 

ICC preliminary examinations

Venezuela: The most popular opposition leaders have all been prevented from running in April's presidential election due to exile, disqualification or imprisonment. President Nicolas Maduro has announced he will be running for a second term.

Colombia: Violence by criminal gangs in areas previously controlled by FARC guerrillas has displaced more than 800 people in northwestern Colombia. U.N. Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement on Sunday that they are concerned about the "persistence of forced displacement of indigenous people and farming communities". 

Afghanistan: The 2017 Annual Report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has noted that more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in 2017. It attributed 65% of civilian deaths to the Taliban, Islamic State and other non-governmental, while 19% were caused by the Pro-government forces, including the Afghan National Security forces, international forces and pro-government armed groups. Afghanistan’s new penal code, which incorporates provisions of the Rome Statute concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, entered into force on 14 February.

 

Campaign for global justice / Rome Statute 20 

Amnesty International has called for the ICC to face the difficulties in prosecuting international crimes head on in light of the Rome Statute's 20th anniversary. 

The International Centre for Supporting Rights and Freedoms (ICSRF) has expressed concern over the delay in taking decisive steps in the trial of those accused in the Darfur case. The Centre sees the Rome Statute's 20th anniversary as a time in which victims' hopes are increasing that President Al-Bashir's arrest warrant will soon be implemented.

An exhibition showing how serious crimes against cultural, historic and religious heritage were investigated and prosecuted at the ICTY is being prepared. The exhibition is based on the interactive narrative "Targeting history and memory", and is being prepared by Transitional Justice Center, and Documenta- Center for Dealing with the Past in cooperation with the Humanitarian Law Centre, Belgrade, and the History Museum of BiH / Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). 

Civil Society organisations have released a joint statement calling on governments of the EU to have a strong, unified response to the human rights crisis in Myanmar.

 

Around the world 

The death toll in Ghouta, Syria, has reached its highest level since 2013, as pro-government forces hit the eastern part of the district on Tuesday with bombs killing at least 250 people. 

The government of Myanmar is bulldozing over the site of a Rohingya mass grave, as human rights groups accuse it of trying to destroy evidence of a massacre committed last year by the military.