Charles Taylor Appeal: Why its rejection of ‘specific direction’ doesn’t matter

by Alex Fielding, @alexpfielding on twitter

The international criminal law world has been eagerly awaiting the Charles Taylor appeal to see whether the controversial ‘specific direction’ standard for aiding and abetting liability from the ICTY’s Perisic Appeal would be followed by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (“SCSL”).  The SCSL Appeals Chamber rejected Taylor’s appeal against a 50-year sentence for aiding and abetting crimes committed by Revolutionary United Front (“RUF”) and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (“AFRC”) during Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war. The full text of the Taylor Appeal can be found here.

Photo credit: Guardian

Photo credit: Guardian

To recap, Perisic was acquitted because, considering his geographic remoteness from the crimes, his involvement in providing general assistance to the Bosnian Serb army, an organization with lawful and unlawful activities, was not ‘specifically directed’ towards their criminal activities.

For background on the ‘specific direction’ debate, James Stewart has strongly opposed this development here and here, and Kevin Heller provides a counterargument here.

Much has been discussed already in the blogosphere on the Taylor Appeal’s vigorous rejection of Perisic and the ‘specific direction’ requirement (see Kevin Heller on the SCSL’s incoherent and selective analysis of custom re: specific direction and Marko Milanovic’s post here).

Specific direction has been frequently misunderstood.  Continue reading

You can have Laurent, but we’ll keep Simone

by Paul Bradfield

Simone and Laurent

Laurent and Simone Gbagbo, shortly after their arrest in 2011. Photo: The Guardian.

On Friday, reports from Côte d’Ivoire indicated that the government intends to lodge an admissibility challenge to the prosecution of Simone Gbagbo, the wife of former Head of State, Laurent Gbagbo, whose case is currently in the pre-trial phase at the International Criminal Court.

While a formal public motion has not yet been lodged to the Pre-Trial Chamber challenging admissibility, the government has released a statement saying:

‘The decision of the cabinet aims to have Mrs Gbagbo brought to trial by Ivorian courts, whose good reputation has been restored and which can hold a fair trial that will guarantee the rights of the defence.’

The statement comes just a few days after the African Union announced it would hold a summit next month to call for a mass withdrawal of African States from the ICC, to protest against the prosecution of the Kenyan President and Vice-President, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

Côte d’Ivoire’s co-operation with the ICC regarding Simone’s transfer has not been as smooth when compared to that of her husband. His arrest warrant was issued under seal on 23 November 2011 and he was transferred to the seat of the court on 30 November 2011. It took a mere week to get him to the Hague. Compare that to his wife’s situation. The warrant for Simone was first issued under seal in February 2012 (it was subsequently made public in November 2012), yet 18 months later she remains in the custody of the Ivorian authorities.

Why the lack of cooperation with regard to Simone?  Continue reading

The Creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo


(La version en langue française de la présente note est ci-après)

(Note: the translated portions of the original French letter below are not an official translation)

The summer of 2013 witnessed the launch of a petition, initiated by “52 prominent women” including the Congolese lawyer Ms. Hamuly Rély, calling for the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The petition, which is still open for signature, was addressed to the French President François Hollande, the American President Barack Obama, the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki Moon, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Chaiperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Secretary General of the Organisation for Francophonie Abdou Diouf, President of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy, and the Presidency of the UN Security Council.

Before giving some personal thoughts (III) and addressing the potential judicial consequences of the establishment of such a Tribunal (II), this note focus on the content of the petition (I).

I. The Content of the Petition

1. Regarding the arguments and motivations:  Continue reading

Legal Representative’s report on “withdrawal” of 93 victims from Ruto case

[Updated September 16, 2013]

On June 5th, the Kenyan “Amani Peace Building and Welfare Association” sent a letter to the ICC claiming that 93 victims it had earlier helped to apply for participation at the pre-trial stage in Kenya 1 now wished to withdraw from the case. Last week, the Common Legal Representative, Wilfred Nderitu, filed his report on the withdrawal as requested by Trial Chamber V. The public redacted version is available here. It’s an interesting read and highlights some of the core challenges of making participation a reality on the ground: in particular, (1) the challenge of knowing what participating victims really think and want and (2) the challenge of knowing how to interpret the difficulties of international criminal legal work in the field. The Open Society Justice Initiative’s (OSJI) ICC Kenya Monitor also just wrote about this issue.


Common Legal Representative Wilfred Nderitu. Source: Reporting Kenya

Nderitu clarified that out of the 93 signatories, only 60 are within the scope of the case, including 13 whose status is “uncertain” (the other 33 being victims of the situation). He in-turn tried to consult with these 60 participants, all of whom come from Kenya’s Turbo region, to understand why they signed the letter.

Some apparently said that the letter had been brought to them to sign by some person or group (this is redacted), although the Chairman of the Amani organization claimed it was an initiative by and for the participating victims. Continue reading