The Ntaganda confirmation of charges decision: A victory for gender justice?

by Rosemary Grey

Rosemary Grey is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. She has previously written for Beyond The Hague on the possibility of trying persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation under the Rome Statute. Rose can be reached at r.grey@unsw.edu.au and here.

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Nyankunde, Ituri District, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ituri experienced some of the bloodiest fighting of the Congo Wars. Source: Peter Dixon

On Monday, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed the charges against alleged war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, the former commander of an armed group active in the Ituri District of the Democratic Republic of Congo called the Union des Patriotes Congolais/Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (UPC-FPLC). For some background on the Ituri conflict, see previous BTH posts here and here.

The Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision considers several important issues, including the sexual exploitation of child soldiers by their commanders. While the case has been underway since 2006, the charges of sexual violence against the child soldiers are a relatively recent development.

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The Victim in the Security Council

by Chris Tenove

Chris Tenove is a Doctoral Candidate in Political Science at the University of British Columbia. You can find more of his writing at his personal site, from which the following is cross-posted, and follow him at @cjtenove.

On May 22, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power asked Qusai Zakariya of Syria to stand up in the gallery of the United Nations Security Council. Ambassador Power was in the midst of arguing for a draft resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court. She had to justify a resolution that some – including Ambassador Power herself in the past – had suggested could undermine a peace deal, and that was doomed to be vetoed by China and Russia. (Others have commented on the speech and the U.S. strategy, here and here.) Mr. Zakariya, a victim of a chemical attack, would be part of that justification.

Memorial Ceremony Held At UN For Holocaust Commemoration Day

Several scholars have written about how different actors make assertions about victims of international crimes in order to promote their aims or authority. Among others, Kendall and Nouwen argue that “the Victims” is an abstract category that justifies international criminal justice and displaces the voices of actual victims; Sagan has claimed that African war criminals and victims are discursive subjects integral to the project of cosmopolitan liberal justice; and Dixon and I argued that victims are central to claims about legal, expert and moral authority. So it is interesting to look closely at the rhetorical deployment of Mr. Zakariya.

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Administering Justice at the ICC: New Developments in Court’s first Article 70 case (Bemba 2)

by Danya Chaikel

*Updated 11 May

Danya Chaikel is a Canadian lawyer based in The Hague currently working for the International Association of Prosecutors, coordinating their Forum for International Criminal Justice. As a trial lawyer she previously practiced family, criminal defence and human rights law domestically for two years. She has also worked as an advocate for various human rights issues including international criminal justice, combatting trafficking in women and girls, and women refugee rights in organisations such as the International Criminal Court, the International Bar Association, the UN Refugee Agency and the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women. The views expressed here are her own. [danyachaikel AT gmail.com | @danyachaikel]

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, International Criminal Court

New Defence request for disqualification of Judge Cuno Tarfusser relating to his novel appointment of ‘independent counsel’ & a Decision clarifying the relationship between the Pre-Trial and Trial Chambers

Mr Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is the only International Criminal Court defendant in two cases before the Court. In the first main case (“Main Case”) he is alleged to be the former President and Commander-in-chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo, and faces charges before Trial Chamber III (“TC III”) of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) and crimes against humanity (murder and rape) allegedly committed in the Central African Republic in 2002/2003. In the second case(“Bemba 2”) he is suspected before Pre-Trial Chamber II (“PTC II”) with four other individuals, including members of his former defence team, of bribing witnesses and coaching them to provide false testimony in the Main Case.

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Is the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims a Judicial Entity?

Last week, the Executive Director of the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims, Pieter de Baan, spoke to the “Group of Friends of the ICC” in New York. This was the first of the Group’s proposed annual “high level meetings” to “highlight the importance of the ICC in relation to accountability, prevention and justice for victims.” This meeting focused on victims’ rights and the need for reparative justice. Mr. De Baan spoke about the work the TFV has carried out under its assistance (or “second”) mandate in northern Uganda and eastern DRC and of the work it may soon carry out under the banner of reparations in Ituri. Other speakers included the trauma expert Yael Danieli and Sandra Uwiringiyimana, a massacre survivor from eastern Congo who came to the U.S. as a refugee. Both Ms. Danieli and Ms. Uwiringiyimana delivered powerful and moving testimonies. The full program is available here.

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The Trust Fund for Victims (trustfundforvictims.org)

The meeting did not, however, venture into the tricky details of how exactly reparations will work at the ICC, still a subject of lively debate almost two years after the Court’s first reparations order (there was also a debate over whether the 7 August, 2012 Decision counted as an order or just as a decision on principles, which I don’t go into here). Indeed, despite the TFV’s valuable experience delivering assistance to vulnerable populations in ICC situation countries, the precise role it is supposed to play in a Court-ordered reparations process is still not clear.      Continue reading

David van Reybrouck’s “Congo” now available in English

Just a short note for those interested in the Congo (Dem. Rep.) and its history. David van Reybrouck‘s 600-page, 2010 history has been released in English by HarperCollins, translated by Sam Garrett. Originally published in Dutch as “Congo: Een geschiedenis” (Congo: A history) and now in English as “Congo: The Epic History of a People”, this book has received very positive reviews and a number of awards as a history that is both thorough and accessible.

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One thing I’ve heard and seen in reviews is that van Reybrouck uses the “everyday” lived experience of Congolese to weave together a rich and compelling narrative of a history whose treatments can feel overly exotic or impenetrably complex. Not having actually read the book myself, though, I’ll stop there and point readers to those who have (from AllAfrica):

Indeed, Van Reybrouck would have little difficulty finding written sources from European missionaries, tradesmen and slavers who first arrived in the country in 1482, but it was the personal testimony of Congolese people today that was of most interest to him. He wanted to hear from the people whose life stories collectively make up the turbulent history of the African giant. But rather than merely asking his interviewees about their opinions of times past, Van Reybrouck wanted to know what his informants ate, what clothes they wore, what their houses looked like when they were children, and whether they went to church. It is from this tangle of everyday facts of life that Van Reybrouck spins a fine thread with which he eventually knits together this detailed and well-researched biography, thoroughly rooted in the lived experience of the Congolese.

Hate Crime Against Humanity? Persecution on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation under the Rome Statute

by Rosemary Grey

Rosemary Grey joins Beyond The Hague today with a post that questions the ‘constructive ambiguity’ of the gender language in Article 7(3) of the Rome Statute and asks whether persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation can be considered a crime under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Rose is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales. She can be reached at r.grey@unsw.edu.au and here.

The Sochi Games has focused international attention on Russia’s human rights record, particularly its laws that discriminate and sow prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nodded at this issue in his address to the Olympic Committee on February 6, stating:

We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.

Ban’s call to action reflects the fact that in recent years, the UN has become increasingly vocal in promoting LGBTI rights. For example in 2011, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published its first report on discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The report documents targeted killings, rapes, and assaults of LGBTI people, and highlights decisions and general comments of treaty bodies that confirm that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is prohibited under international human rights law.[1]  Building on this momentum, in 2013 the Human Rights Office launched the  “Free and Equal” campaign, aimed at combating discrimination against LGBTI people worldwide.

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August 2013 Protest in Amsterdam. Source: AFP

Meanwhile, discrimination against LGBTI people under domestic law continues in many states, and in some places is getting worse. Russia is not an isolated example: several States Parties to the Rome Statute are also moving backwards on LGBTI rights. For example, Uganda, which in 2004 became the first State Party to refer a situation to the ICC and in 2010 had the privilege of hosting the Rome Statute Review Conference, is in the process of enacting legislation that prescribes life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexual acts.  Nigeria, another State Party, has recently enacted anti-homosexuality laws that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay describes as “draconian.”

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What a difference a year (or 8) makes: Bosco Ntaganda, justice and politics in the Congo

This week, Bosco Ntaganda is in court for the confirmation of charges hearing at the ICC. You can watch the Court’s live stream (with a slight delay) here. Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC since 2006, when Luis Moreno Ocampo was issuing the Court’s first arrest warrants, including that for for Thomas Lubanga Diylo. Lubanga would go on to become the Court’s first-ever conviction. Ntaganda would continue to play a leading role in one of the world’s worst conflicts in history before surrendering in Kigali in March of last year. He’s now been in ICC custody for about a year and a wanted war criminal for almost 8. It’s easy to forget how we got here.

Bosco Ntaganda

The arrest warrant for Lubanga was issued under seal on 10 February, 2006 and unsealed a little over a month later, one day after he was transferred to The Hague. The arrest warrant for Bosco was issued under seal on 22 August, 2006 and unsealed almost 2 years later, about 5 years before he would surrender in Kigali. Before that, Ntaganda lived openly in Goma, notoriously flaunting his most-wanted status. In scenes of disturbing irony, Ntaganda would play tennis and dine at the same clubs and restaurants as the aid workers and UN staff charged with supporting the victims of the war in which he played a leading role.

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