Could the DRC Be Africa’s Next Third Term Battleground?

By Alex Fielding, @alexpfielding

[This article is cross-posted from the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory]

After months of relative calm, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has witnessed renewed anti-government protests, prompting the United Nations to warn that the country is again at risk of descending into political violence. The unrest has been prompted by uncertainty over the national electoral process. President Joseph Kabila will reach the end of his second term in 2016 and is constitutionally obligated to step down ahead of polls scheduled for November that year. But the former taxi driver, who was elevated to the presidency after his father’s assassination in 2001, has shown every intention of attempting to stay in power.

Anti-Kabila protesters in Kinshasa, photo: VOA News

Anti-Kabila protesters in Kinshasa, photo: VOA News

Opposition to “third termism” has been spreading in Africa. It began with the October 2014 popular uprising in Burkina Faso, which ousted President Blaise Compaore following his attempts to remove the two-term limit added to the constitution in 2000, and extend his 27 years in office. Burundi was next, with President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third term triggering months of opposition protests and violent clashes this year. Unlike Burkina Faso, Burundi’s embattled president survived, winning controversial reelection in July amidst opposition boycott. Since then, political violence and the targeted killing of opposition activists has continued, with at least 134 reported dead since April 25.

Continue reading

Une décision fondatrice rendue dans l’affaire de la flottille pour Gaza


La Cour pénale internationale a rendu une décision inédite le 16 juillet 2015, dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre d’une disposition du Statut de Rome particulièrement intéressante. L’article 53§3-a du statut de Rome permet en effet à la chambre préliminaire, à la demande de l’entité ayant déféré la situation à la Cour, d’examiner la décision du Procureur de ne pas poursuivre, soit de ne pas ouvrir une enquête postérieurement à la phase procédurale de l’examen préliminaire. C’est la toute première fois que la Cour doit statuer sur ce mécanisme, dont la création avait été justifiée pour équilibrer les pouvoirs du Procureur en matière d’opportunité des poursuites. La chambre est donc soumise, comme toute institution judiciaire ayant à statuer sur des problématiques juridiques inédites, à l’aspiration d’adopter un raisonnement judiciaire dissertatif.

Le 14 mai 2013, le Bureau du Procureur ouvrait, sur renvoi comorien, un examen préliminaire de l’interception d’une flottille humanitaire par les forces armées israéliennes. Le 6 novembre 2014, le Procureur a rendu public un document de huit pages par lequel il concluait que les informations disponibles ne fournissaient pas de base raisonnable permettant d’ouvrir une enquête. Le 29 janvier 2015, les Comores ont soumis une requête visant la révision judiciaire de la décision du Procureur de ne pas poursuivre. Des échanges d’une grande importance, tant qualitative que quantitative, s’en suivent entre la chambre, les parties et les participants à la procédure[2]. La substance de ces échanges a été estimée suffisante par la chambre afin de prendre sa décision, au point qu’elle ait rejeté les requêtes des Comores visant d’une part la tenue d’une audience et, d’autre part, l’autorisation pour les Comores de répliquer à la réponse du Procureur.

Continue reading

Recent attacks show that Boko Haram remains far from broken, and is drawing closer to ISIS

By Alex Fielding, @alexpfielding

This article is cross-posted from the National Post. A “preliminary investigation” by the ICC Prosecutor into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Nigeria has been ongoing since 2010. The investigation is currently in the Phase III “Admissibility” stage, where the prosecutor is determining whether the Nigerian government’s proceedings “are substantially the same as those that would likely arise from an investigation” by her office and whether “those most responsible for the most serious crimes are being brought to justice.”

Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State on March 7 did not initially result in noticeable changes on the ground. Boko Haram’s recent targeting of moderate Muslim clerics, evangelical churches and perceived “non-believers” during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, however, has made that pledge a reality.

Abubakr Shekau, leader of Boko Haram (photo: AFP)

Abubakr Shekau, leader of Boko Haram (photo: AFP)

Since the May 29 inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who hails from Nigeria’s Muslim north, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon have witnessed a significant resurgence of Boko Haram attacks. This comes after a series of territorial defeats in which Nigerian and Chadian-led regional counterinsurgency forces recaptured large swaths of territory in northeastern Nigeria from Boko Haram control.

Many of the attacks in recent weeks have been classic Boko Haram, marking a return to its militant roots with suicide bombings in urban markets and government buildings, as well as raids on villages across northeastern Nigeria. However, there have been two notable new developments that warrant special attention.

Continue reading

Could South Sudan Push Provide Blueprint for China’s African Security Policy?

By Alex Fielding, @alexpfielding

This article is cross-posted from the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory, with thanks to Jill Stoddard and James Bowen. 

South Sudan last week had the unenviable distinction of being ranked the world’s most fragile state for the second year running. With the country’s politically and ethnically driven conflict degenerating into civil war since December 2013, mediation efforts by the eight-country East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and pressure by the United States, United Kingdom, and Norwegian “troika” have continually failed to achieve a lasting ceasefire.

As well as inflicting terrible tragedies on the people of South Sudan, with over 50,000 killed, 1.4 million displaced and 40% of the population facing acute hunger, the continuing instability is posing significant challenges for international actors. Most recently, the scale of the crisis has drawn China, as a rising regional power, but otherwise reluctant intervenor in other states’ internal affairs, firmly into play.

China's former President Hu Jintao with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, photo credit: Washington Post

China’s former President Hu Jintao with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, photo credit: Washington Post

China’s recent rise in Africa relative to the West has generated much attention. It has become the continent’s largest trading partner by far, with over 160 billion USD in trade in 2013 alone and more than a million Chinese nationals moving to Africa in the last decade.

With its extensive oil and infrastructure investments in South Sudan and similar economic leverage on nearby Sudan, Uganda, and other regional actors, China has engaged in a form of business-driven diplomacy that the US and its allies will struggle to match. South Sudan accounts for 5% of China’s crude oil imports and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation holds a 40% stake in three of the country’s largest oil fields. China has also been quietly ramping up its African humanitarian aid, pledging emergency relief worth at least 21 million USD to South Sudan as of October 2014.

Continue reading

FIFA and the Internationalisation of Criminal Justice

We’re happy to cross-post this article from Robert Cryer on football and international justice (two subjects close to my heart!), originally posted on the Oxford University Press blog. Robert is professor of International and Criminal Law at the University of Birmingham. He is author of, amongst other things, The Tokyo International Military Tribunal: A Reappraisal (with Neil Boister). He was a co-editor of The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice (Lead editor Antonio Cassese). He is also co-editor of the Journal of Conflict and Security Law, and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of International Criminal Justice.

The factual backdrop to this affair is well-known. FIFA, world football’s governing body has, for a number of years, been the subject of allegations of corruption. Then, after a series of dawn raids on 27 May 2015, seven FIFA officials, of various nationalities, the most famous being Jack Warner, the Trinidadian former vice president of FIFA, were arrested in a luxury hotel in Zurich where they were staying prior to the FIFA Congress. This was pursuant to an indictment that accused them, alongside five corporate officials, of using their positions within FIFA to engage in schemes involving the solicitation, offer, acceptance, payment, and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes, and kickbacks. The defendants and their co-conspirators were also accused of corrupting the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery, and money laundering, in pursuit of personal and commercial gain.

The allegations relate in particular to the bidding process for the right to hold the World Cup. To the surprise of some, FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, was not included in the indictment, although further investigations, both in the United States and Switzerland, are ongoing, and calls for him to step down have been made, including by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Corruption, and its fellow traveller money laundering, tends to cross borders, and with an entity such as FIFA and an event such as the World Cup, it would be difficult to imagine that there could not be an international element to the case. But the indictment in one country of nationals of various countries, and arrests in another pursuant to an extradition request, have given rise to different conceptions of criminal justice: one internationalist, the other nationalist.

The former can be seen on the part of US officials, who, when announcing the arrests and indictments, thanked the government of Switzerland and other unnamed States for their ‘outstanding assistance’ in the investigation. Given that the conduct related in large part to money laundering into and out of the United States and to bribes that went through US banks and deposited abroad, it is no surprise that the cooperation of other States was required. What might be surprising though is that mutual legal assistance, at best a sclerotic system, seems to have worked in this case, although it was helped by guilty pleas by four FIFA officials including the ex-US member of the FIFA executive committee. It is notable that the rhetoric of the United States was very much of the internationalisation of the crimes and the effect they had in developing countries. As IRS Chief of Investigation, Richard Weber (clearly no stranger to a bon mot) described the charges, they relate to a ‘World Cup of corruption’.

Zurich, Switzerland - May 28, 2011: Entry to the headquarter of the world football association FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. © thamerpic via iStock.

Zurich, Switzerland – May 28, 2011: Entry to the headquarter of the world football association FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. © thamerpic via iStock.

Continue reading

ADC-ICTY and ICLB to Host Mock Trial in The Hague from July 6-11

Below is the information for a great one week mock trial program slated for July 6-11, 2015 organized by the Association of Defence Counsel Practicing before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) and International Criminal Law Bureau. Application deadline is May 15, 2015.

The ADC-ICTY is organising another Mock Trial this year with the support of the International  Criminal Law Bureau. The Mock Trial is a one week event hosted  by  the  ADC-ICTY in The Hague. The week includes hands-on evening sessions for young professionals in the field of international criminal law and a one day Mock Trial exercise in the ICTY courtroom in front of ICTY Judges and Counsel.

The  evening sessions focus on practical skills and expertise and are given by  experienced  Defence  Counsel  to  prepare participants for a career in international  criminal  law.  Topics include “legal drafting”, “oral trial advocacy”,  “opening  and  closing statements” and “ethics in international criminal  law”. Participants will be requested to make written filings in teams as well as perform in the courtroom on the day of the Mock Trial.

Participants will be allocated to one Prosecution team and three Defence teams, or play one of the two witnesses or one of the three accused. Applicants shall inform the ADC-ICTY of their preferred role when submitting an application.

Dates: 6 July – 11 July 2015
Evening  sessions  between  16:00  and  20:00  on  6-10 July and an all-day in-court  exercise  on 11 July 2015. Please note that the Mock Trial is a work-intensive  week  which  will require participants to work in teams and simulate  a real case. Work in the afternoons and evenings may be required. Please consult the Mock Trial Flyer and Programme 2015 for a tentative programme.

Participation Fee:

  • External participants (Defence/OTP) – 160 Euros
  • ADC participants (Defence/OTP) – 80 Euros
  • External participants (witness/accused) – 80 Euros
  • ADC participants (witness/accused) – 40 Euros

This  fee  includes  coffee,  tea and biscuits during the evening sessions, lunch on the day of the Mock Trial, extensive material, certificates, etc.

The  ADC-ICTY  is  unable to offer accommodation, transport or any stipends and participants are responsible for arranging their own housing, transport and financial aid as needed.

For  more  information on how to become an ADC-ICTY Affiliate Member and be eligible   for the reduced rate, please visit:

The  deadline for applications  is 15 May 2015. Please send your CV and a short  motivational statement to Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and candidates are chosen on the basis of their background knowledge and experience to allow for a competitive group of participants.

Additional Information:
Please  contact  the  ADC-ICTY Head Office via
for any queries you may have.

Kwoyelo denied amnesty

Yesterday, the Ugandan Supreme Court ruled that Thomas Kowyelo’s trial should continue in the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court. There is, at present, no full judgement available, so the court’s reasoning cannot be thoroughly digested at this stage. However, by allowing his trial to continue, the Supreme Court has effectively denied amnesty to Thomas Kwoyelo.

Photo: New Vision

Thomas Kwoyelo awaits judgement in the Ugandan Supreme Court on 8 April 2015. (Photo: New Vision)

As noted previously on this blog, a ruling to this effect could have the potential to undermine or even invalidate thousands of amnesty certificates that have been issued by the Amnesty Commission since its creation under the Amnesty Act in the year 2000. Until the Supreme Court’s reasoning on the amnesty issue can be fully assessed, it is unclear how the court came to its decision. But, having been eligible for amnesty under the letter of the 2000 law, if Kwoyelo can now be prosecuted, what does that mean for every holder of an amnesty certificate in Uganda?