ICC asked to investigate Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers

by Rosemary Grey

Rosemary Grey joins Beyond The Hague again with a post on recent steps taken in Australia to bring the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers before the ICC. Rosemary Grey is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. Rose can be reached at r.grey@unsw.edu.au and here

Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Denison. Source: http://www.andrewwilkie.org/

“Andrew Wilkie takes Australia to international criminal court”, the Guardian announced on Wednesday. Well yes, in a manner of speaking. Australia itself can’t be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals rather than States. And there are many, many steps that the ICC Prosecutor would need to take before any individual Government ministers could be summoned to The Hague.

But Andrew Wilkie, an independent of member parliament in Australia, has taken an initial step to bring the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers before the ICC, as the Guardian’s report continued to explain.

Specifically, Mr Wilkie has sent a letter to the ICC Prosecutor, asking her to investigate whether members of the Australian Government, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Immigration & Border Protection Scott Morrison, may be individually responsible for crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute.

The request

Mr Wilkie’s letter focuses on the Australian Government’s policies of transferring asylum seekers arriving by boat to offshore detention facilities in our pacific neighbours of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.  The letter also says the Government has put ‘large numbers’ of asylum seekers at risk by sending them back to countries from which they have fled, including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Continue reading

Georgia’s Dilemma: Former President Saakashvili Arrested in absentia

By Marysia Radziejowska and Konrad Zasztowt

Konrad Zasztowt is an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs specializing in Turkey, South Caucasus and Central Asia regions. Previously, he worked at the Polish National Security Bureau (2008 – 2010), where he monitored  international security issues in the Black Sea and Caspian regions. He received his doctoral degree from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Warsaw (2012) and is a graduate of the University’s Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology and East European Studies.

Mikheil Saakashvili , Brooklyn, NY (Photo source: New York Times)

The Georgian Prosecutor’s office announced on 28 August 2014 that it has filed charges against former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. This raised concerns in the European Union and the U.S., where he has a reputation as the author of police and anti-corruption reforms in Georgia. But in his own country, he is perceived by many as an authoritarian politician.

On 2 August, Tbilisi City Court accepted the request of the Georgian Prosecutor’s office to arrest in absentia Mikheil Saakashvili and scheduled the first sitting of the court for 22 September. On 5 August, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals rejected an appeal submitted by Saakashvili’s Defence against this decision as being inadmissible (Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association offers a detailed analysis of this decision here). The charges against the former president include alleged abuses of power in November 2007 during street protests in the capital, take over the office of private TV station, Imedi, assaults on his political opponents and misusing funds (about $ 5 million) from the budget of the Special State Protection Service for personal luxury expenses. Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal in Tbilisi upheld the ruling to impound  property owned by Saakashvili and his family, ranging from a vineyard in Kvareli to his grandmother’s Toyota RAV4.

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Situation en Palestine : clarification du nouveau Procureur de la Cour pénale internationale

Le 29 août 2014, l’actuel Procureur de la Cour pénale internationale, Mme Bensouda, s’est exprimée dans un journal de portée internationale (The Guardian), par un article intitulé : « la vérité à propos de la Cour pénale internationale et Gaza. ». Curieusement, le contenu de cet article n’a été publié sur le site internet officiel de la Cour que postérieurement, le 02 septembre 2014.

La Procureur explique à titre liminaire les raisons de l’élaboration de cette déclaration : « rejeter catégoriquement » les allégations selon lesquelles le Bureau du Procureur refuse d’ouvrir une enquête en Palestine a cause de pressions politiques. En effet, un autre article au contenu très critique a été publié dans le même journal dix jours avant. Cet aspect, accessoire à la problématique, mérite toutefois attention. Le droit international n’échappe pas à la dynamique actuelle d’accélération de l’information et d’assujettissement des personnages publics au pouvoir médiatique.

La Procureur, qui reconnaît « l’agitation qui entoure ce sujet et fait perdre toute objectivité », répond notamment à M. Dugard, qui affirme que la compétence de la Cour devrait être exercée au moyen d’une interprétation téléologique des règles de compétence inscrites dans le Statut de Rome. Selon elle, cette position n’est ni du bon droit, ni conforme à une action judiciaire responsable.

Pour mémoire, la Palestine avait adressée le 21 janvier 2009 au Greffe de la Cour pénale internationale une déclaration d’acceptation de la compétence de la Cour en vertu de l’article 12§3 du Statut de Rome. Selon cet article, un État non-partie peut ponctuellement accepter la compétence de la Cour.

Le Procureur précédent, M. Ocampo, avait estimé le 3 avril 2012 qu’il revenait aux organes compétents de l’Organisation des Nations Unies (ONU) ou à l’Assemblée des États parties de décider si la Palestine constituait ou non un État. Le 29 novembre 2012, l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU a accordé à la Palestine le statut d’ « État non-membre observateur » (A/RES/67/19).

Dans sa dernière déclaration, l’actuel Procureur estime que la résolution susmentionnée ne valide pas rétroactivement la déclaration palestinienne d’acceptation de compétence de la Cour. En revanche elle ouvre la possibilité pour la Palestine de « rejoindre le système établi par le Statut de Rome ». Suivant ce raisonnement, la Procureur affirme que la Palestine doit devenir partie au Statut ou déposer une nouvelle déclaration d’acceptation de compétence en vertu de l’article 12§3 du Statut afin que la Cour exerce sa compétence.

Il s’agit d’un élément déterminant dans l’histoire du conflit palestino-israélien. En effet, relativement peu d’institutions judiciaires internationales, en tant que tiers impartial et indépendant, se sont impliqués dans ce conflit, à l’exception de l’avis consultatif rendu par la Cour internationale de Justice portant sur les conséquences juridiques de l’édification d’un mur dans le territoire palestinien occupé.

Tout l’enjeu actuel, pour la Palestine, est de mener de manière constructive les consultations internes visant à déterminer quelles suites doivent être données à la déclaration du Procureur. Monsieur Riad al-Malki, l’actuel Ministre des affaires étrangères de la Palestine, est publiquement favorable à la saisine de la Cour pénale internationale. Cette position n’est cependant pas partagée par tous…

Call for Papers – ICTR Legacy Symposium – Deadline 15 August

ICTR

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has launched a call for papers for an International Symposium on the Legacy of the ICTR to be held in Arusha, Tanzania on 6-7 November 2014.

With the ICTR’s closure scheduled for 2015, the Symposium aims to provide an opportunity for experts in the field of international justice to reflect on the ICTR’s contributions to the development of international humanitarian law, administration of justice, and promotion of the rule of law, particularly in the Great Lakes Region. We invite experts in the field to submit proposals for papers to be presented during the Symposium.

Applicants should submit the following by 15 August via email to the ICTR Legacy Committee at ictrlegacy@un.org: (1) a 300 word abstract of the proposed paper; (2) the author’s name, title, and affiliation (if any); (3) the author’s Curriculum Vitae/Résumé; and (4) the author’s contact details including phone number and email address.

The Legacy Committee further notes that “successful applicants will receive an invitation to submit a paper by 5 September 2014 and a first draft of papers will be expected to be submitted by 17 October 2014. Submission of an application will be considered as acknowledgement that the author is available to be in Arusha from 5-8 November 2014 to participate in the Symposium. The ICTR will endeavour to cover travel and accommodation for successful applicants.

Papers should focus on the topics indicated in the draft programme, which can be found at http://unmict.org/ictr-remembers/docs/legacy_symposium-draft_agenda.pdf

Rwanda 20 Years Later

by Jacqueline Murekatete

Jacqueline Murekatete is a New York-based attorney, a human rights activist, and a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert. She is currently working on a book about her genocide experience and prevention work as well as starting a human rights organization through which she plans to continue her advocacy and raise support for genocide survivors. The following is cross-posted from the Women’s Media Center, where it was first published on July 2, 2014.

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A remembrance ceremony for families killed during the genocide. photo courtesy of GAERG (a Rwandan-based survivors’ organization)

About three years ago, I returned to Rwanda for the first time since the 1994 genocide. Upon returning to the village where I grew up, I was both saddened and angry as I realized there was no sign my family ever lived there. Yams and cassava were growing in the same spot where my family’s home once stood. Horrific memories came flooding back.

From April to July of each year, Rwanda and the world commemorate the genocide. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the genocide. But for those of us who lived through it, in some ways, it may as well have been yesterday. Even today, I am deeply troubled by the memories of those 100 days in which neighbor turned against neighbor, friends became enemies, and even priests and nuns actively participated in the killing of those who sought refuge in churches.

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Whither impunity?

Ethiopia-African-Union-Su-008

Photo: The Guardian

by Paul Bradfield

On 30 June, African Union (‘AU’) leaders voted to give themselves immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide before the nascent ‘African Court of Justice and Human Rights,’ by adopting the ‘Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.’

This new court, which is to merge the existing African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights together with the Court of Justice of the African Union, was formally created by the AU six years ago, but is not yet in operation.

What was originally intended to be a civil court for hearing human rights complaints will now be a fully-fledged criminal court with authority to deal with the most serious crimes, including genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. On a progressive note, other crimes such as piracy, mercenarism, corruption and money laundering will also fall within its international judicial mandate.

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