#GlobalJustice Weekly / Al Hassan makes first ICC appearance | Palestinians killed in Gaza protest | New ICC registrar elected | Guatemalan genocidaire Rios Montt dies

Demonstrators commemorate Land Day at the Southern Gaza Strip © AFP/Said Khatib
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Al Hassan’s confirmation of charges hearing set for 24th September 2018

Malian authorities surrendered Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud (Al Hassan) to the ICC on 31st March 2018 following the release of an arrest warrant in his name on 27th March 2018. Al Hassan made his first appearance before Pre-trial Chamber I on 4th April 2018.

The Malian Coalition for the International Criminal Court welcomed and congratulated the surrender of Al Hassan to the ICC. It urged the Malian government to continue in its fight against impunity and appealed to the Malian civil society to mobilise in a concerted effort in the fight against impunity. M-CICC president Mama Koite Doumbia appealed to Malian civil society to mobilize in a concerted effort towards the fight against impunity for sexual and gender based crimes "in the name of peace, and for peace". 

ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the arrest and transfer of Al Hassan, saying that this “sends a strong message to all those, wherever they are, who commit crimes which shock the conscience of humanity that my Office remains steadfast in the pursuit of its mandate under the Rome Statute.”. She stated that the charges brought against Al Hassan were grounded in the OTP’s strategic plans and policies, including on sexual and gender-based crimes. Bensouda also expressed her appreciation for the cooperation of the Government of Mali in this matter.

The focus on the sexual and gender-based crimes allegedly committed by Al Hassan, has been welcomed by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, stating that, “[t]he recognition of forced marriage as a distinct crime from sexual slavery under ‘other inhumane acts’ allows prosecutors to recognise the victims of these crimes and the particular social stigmatisation they face.” This is the second time that the ICC has charged an accused with committing sexual and gender based crimes, including conducting forced marriages; Dominic Ongwen was the first to be charged with committing a similar crime.

Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, sitting in Pre-trial Chamber I, provisionally set the date of the confirmation of charges hearing for 24 September 2018.

Palestinians killed during Gaza protests

The ICC prosecutor has released a statement after 15 people were confirmed dead, and around 1000 injured, following the use of live ammunition by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) during protests in Gaza on 30th April 2018. Bensouda stated that her office will "continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation".

The protests were part of an annual commemoration by Palestinians against the appropriation of their lands in 1976: Land day. Around 30,000 people participated in the march at various locations in Gaza, mainly at the Israeli-Gaza border. Similar protests are expected throughout Palestinian territories in the run-up to 15 may; the day known to Palestinians as al-Nakba, when approximately 800,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced from their lands during the 1948 war.

Reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, based on the review of footage from the incident, state that protesters were shot while slowly walking towards the border empty-handed, while retreating, and some were shot while throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the IDF. Similarly, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the deputy UN political affairs chief said that, “Soon after the demonstrations started, the situation turned deadly in several spots. Some of the casualties were reportedly the result of live ammunition used by Israeli security forces during the march. Other casualties followed armed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including the shelling of a Hamas observation point.”

Human Rights Watch also stated that the incident highlights the importance of initiation of formal investigations by the ICC into alleged international crimes committed in Palestine.

The Security Council, in an emergency meeting convened on the incident, “condemned the killing of civilians in Gaza during a peaceful protest that had erupted in violence.” The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, also expressed his “deep-concern”. Guterres has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the clashes.

Head of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, expressed his support for Guterres’ call for an investigation. He also said that the Arab League wants the incident to be investigated by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch also stated that the incident highlights the importance of initiation of formal investigations by the ICC into international crimes committed in Palestine.

Israeli Defence minister, Avigdor Liberman, has said after the incident that the IDF will continue to fire at Gazans who come close to the border fence. He said while discouraging Palestinians from crossing into Israeli territory, that “anyone who comes close to the fence will endanger their lives.”

Peter Lewis elected as new ICC Registrar

On the 28th March 2018, ICC judges elected Peter Lewis of the UK as the new ICC registrar, to succeed Herman von Hebel once his term ends on 16th April 2018. Lewis has 10 years previous experience with as the Chief Executive of the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales, and has served as Chairperson of the Criminal Justice Efficiency Board, working in partnership with senior judiciary.

While campaigning for the post of ICC registrar, Lewis completed a Coalition questionnaire, in which he opined that the main challenge for the ICC in recent years has been efficiency and organisation within the court and the registry and improved planning and transparency with regards to financial planning. He stated that addressing these areas will engage and foster member state’s financial support in the future. 

The ICC Registrar is defined under article 43(2) as the principal administrative officer of the Court, and is under the authority of the ICC president. He will be responsible for the non-judicial running of the court, independent of the ICC Prosecutor (Article 42(1) and 43(1)).
 

Guatemalan genocidaire Ríos Montt dies 

Efraín Ríos Montt, has died of a heart attack at the age of 91 years old. The former Guatemalan dictator was convicted in 2013 of genocide for attempting to exterminate the Ixil ethnic group, a Mayan Indian community, who were victims of massacre, rape and torture under his “scorched earth” policy during his 17-month rule between 1982 and 1982.

Amnesty International called his conviction at the time a "milestone for justice", while Human Rights Watch hailed the result as an "unprecdented step towards establishing justice and accountability" for victims of Guatemala's civil war. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but shortly after his conviction was overruled due to trial irregularities. He was being retried in absentia at the time of his death.

The UN Human Rights Office said the death highlights the the urgency required in ensuring accountability for victims of grave human rights violations.
 

ICC Investigations   

Georgia: The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its Georgian counterpart, the Human Rights Center (HRIDC), with the support of the Grotius Centre and Asse Instituut, will hold a panel discussion on ICC investigations into the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict and the ongoing impact of the crimes committed in that conflict. The event will be held at the Wijnhaven Building of the University of Leiden (The Hague) on 12th April 2018, from 19.00 to 20.30 hrs C.E.T.

‘ICC investigation into 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict: the ongoing impact of international crimes 10 years later’ is based on an FIDH and HRIDC report that 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.

The Panel discussion will focus on the outcomes of the report as well as the contining challenges of the ICC investigation. The Panel will consist of civil society actors both from Georgia and Russia who have been closely involved in documenting and addressing the alleged international crimes committed during the 2008 conflict.

Sudan/Al Bashir: The Appeals Chamber of the ICC has issued an order inviting  the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of American States to submit observations by 16 July 2018 on the legal questions raised by Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in its appeal before the Appeals Chamber. The invitation also extends to States parties to the Rome Statute and Professors of international law, who must first request leave to submit observations by 30 April 2018.

The issue relates to a clash of obligations of states under international law when ordered to arrest and extradite head-of-states (government officials possessing immunity from criminal jurisdiction of host states) under an ICC arrest warrant, and the obligations of states under general international law to refrain from exercising criminal jurisdiction against foreign heads-of-state.

Mali: Amnesty International has reported the uncovering of a mass grave near the village of Dogo in Mali. According to the report, witnesses identified six of the bodies in the mass grave as belonging to villagers arrested by the Malian security forces three days earlier. Similar killings by the Malian security forces, during anti-terrorist operations conducted in 2017, are highlighted, including, a report by United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) which confirmed extra-judicial killings and at least 43 cases of enforced disappearances.

The situation in Mali is currently in the formal investigations phase at the ICC. Investigations have focussed on alleged war crimes committed since January 2012, mainly in three northern regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, with incidents also occurring in the south in Bamako and Sévaré.

 

ICC Preliminary Examinations

Philippines: The Philippines Supreme Court has ordered the release of police records on the thousands of deadly encounters in the country’s war-on-drugs. The order came after petitions to the court that the records be made public. In coming to its decision, the Supreme Court overruled a challenge by solicitor-general, Jose Calida, that the records be kept confidential on the grounds of national security. The order relates to drug-related deaths from July 2016 to November 2017. Killings by the police in the Philippines’ war-on-drugs are currently under preliminary examinations at the ICC as incidents of alleged crimes against humanity.

Colombia: The treasury secretary of Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal has resigned amid allegations of corruption. Local media outlets in Colombia revealed he had rented vehicles for magistrates for the same amount that it would have cost to buy them.

Colombia’s JEP tribunal has come under pressure from sponsor countries who had expressed “general concern about the integral management of the Sustainable Colombia Fund (FCS)” that finances the court and other elements of the peace process. In response, President Juan Manuel Santos ordered his government to surrender financial information related to the country’s peace process.

The JEP tribunal began the collection of evidence and preparation of first hearings in relation to the five-decade war in Colombia in March 2018. The tribunal was set up under a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels.

 

Campaign for Global Justice

TAILS/FIDH: FIDH international have issued a press release on the importance of TAILS, the free software project preserving privacy and protecting anonymity for human rights defenders, journalists and whistleblowers, and their important role in human rights work. The project relies on donations and volunteer work for its development.

Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention: Parliamentarians for Global Action have visited Port-au-Prince in Haiti to participate in a seminar dedicated to the promotion of the universality of the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BWC).  During the seminar PGA’s legal officer reminded the audience about their work in Haiti promoting the Arms Trade Treaty, the Rome Statute and the BWC.

Rome Statute Universality: PGA was participated at the Special Session of the Organisation for American States on the ICC on March 15th, where  commitments related to the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute was discussed. At the session, PGA reaffirmed the importance of the Rome Statute and universality, and the role that the OAS had in fostering political will for ending impunity in the region. Michelle Reyes Milk of the Coalition for the ICC at the session stressed the importance of the 20th Anniversary as an opportunity "to reaffirm our commitment and support to the Court and to strengthen our belief in the fight against impunity."

KRG/mass executions:  Human Rights Watch have said that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) denial of mass executions of ISIS forces fall short of engaging with the organisations findings. HRW have requested that the KRG continue to engage with them on this issue and push for answers on the fate of those the report detailed.

HRW criticised the KRG’s report for ignoring some of the findings of the earlier HRW report. These include the reported incident of Peshmerga forces lining up and executing men, and gathering women and children near Sahil al-Maliha. The KRG report also ignores photographs of 20 dead bodies, shot in Badriya village near an active battle ground.   

UPR of Mexico: Mexican NGOs have submitted a joint report for the upcoming third UPR of Mexico. The report focuses on crimes against humanity committed in the context of Mexico's fight against drugs. 

 

Around the World

UN/Haiti: The United Nations intends to replace its peacekeeping mission in Haiti with a post-peacekeeping presence; the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told the Security Council. In October 2017 United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) replaced the UN Stabilisation mission, which had operated in the country for 13 years. MINUJUSTH assists Haiti to further develop national police, strengthen rule of law institutions and promote and protect human rights.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix while addressing the Security Council said, “While achieving results should remain our common priority, we have already started to prepare for a transition to a non-peacekeeping presence, based on lessons learned in Haiti and in other contexts.”

Salisbury/UK: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has announced that it will release results of tests of samples collected from individuals exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury, the United Kingdom.

“Once the results of the analyses of the samples are received, the Secretariat will produce a report on the basis of these results and will transmit a copy of this report to the United Kingdom,” Ahmet Üzümcü, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told the body’s Executive Council.