Civil March for Aleppo

We’re determined to shake this feeling of helplessness and start to act. We’re determined, we’re united and we will march as long as it takes. For peace.

These words are taken from the manifesto of the Civil March for Aleppo. The march starts on the 26th of December in Berlin and is headed for Aleppo via Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. For those interested in joining the march or in assisting the project, read the message from the organizers!

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Who we are

We are a group of individuals, who come from different European countries. And we have enough of feeling helpless about the war in Syria. We couldn’t stand it any longer. We know that as citizens we have power and strength and we want to manifest our attitude toward what is happening. We know that we are not alone. We believe that thousands of people will join this march, for one day, for one week, for one month. Together we will walk. We will walk in peace. We will walk for those who were not lucky enough to be born in Berlin, London or Paris.

Briefly about the project

We will start on 26th December from Berlin (yes, it is very soon, but very soon it will be too late). Our estimates are that it will be 3000 of us on the first day in Berlin but the numbers are dynamic and it is hard to predict how many of us will show up. We want to gather more people on the way and gain the attention of the whole world – for peace in Aleppo.

For better understanding of our idea, please watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2A3KidIhe8

You can also find us here:

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/CivilMarchForAleppo/
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/979588475478509/
Our manifesto: http://www.civilmarch.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AleppoMarch
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/civilmarchforaleppo/

There are already many, many people involved all over Europe but we still need a lot of support from lawyers, doctors, the media in all of the countries on the way. If you cannot  join the march but still want to help, we urgently need assistance of lawyers, especially from the states we are about to go through. For more details you can contact us @ civilmarchforaleppo@gmail.com .

This march is what we can do about the situation in Syria right here and right now. That’s why we have to do it.

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Meaningful victim participation – but only if you can pay for it?

 

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Near Gulu, Uganda

 

On May 26th, the Single Judge of the Trial Chamber IX denied legal aid to 2/3 of victims participating in the Ongwen case – the ICC’s only case so far in relation to the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion that for years terrorized communities in northern Uganda. The Single Judge’s decision does not come as a complete surprise: it affirms the interpretation of rules on financial  assistance for victims proposed by the Pre-Trial Chamber in November 2015, which I wrote about previously. In a broader perspective, it is not only a decision on legal aid, it is a step towards focusing victims’ representation with the ICC’s Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) and limiting victims’ procedural rights, specifically victims’ right to choose their legal representative.

Currently, a total of 2064 victims are admitted to participate in the trial, scheduled to begin in December. Why were 1434 of these victims denied legal aid? Have they failed to prove their indigence? Have their lawyers failed to meet the standards of quality and cost efficient representation?  No. The reasons underlying the Single Judge’s decision have nothing to do with the victims’ indigence or performance of their counsel. The 1434 victims were denied legal aid because they agreed to choose the same representative without engaging the Court’s assistance. Unlike the remaining 592 victims, who made no decision on their legal representation and for whom the Chamber appointed the ICC’s OPCV to act as a Common Legal Representative (CLR), these 1434 victims have fully exercised their freedom to choose a legal representative in accordance with the rules. Importantly, their choice has been approved by the Court as being without prejudice to the effectiveness of proceedings. This decision strikes a blow to meaningful victim participation, it is based on a mid-reading of the rules and is inconsistent with previous practice of the Court. Continue reading

Representation of victims in the Ongwen case

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The Hague to Gulu, Uganda (photo: Google maps)

The confirmation of charges hearing in the case of Dominic Ongwen has begun. Many victims of the conflict in northern Uganda have been waiting for this moment for the past ten years. More than 2000 victims had been admitted to voice their views and concerns in the case brought by the Prosecutor against one of the top LRA commanders. How will they do that? Through their legal representatives standing in a court room in The Hague, 10,000 km north of where most of the participating victims reside.

Inclusion of victims in the ICC proceedings has been and continues to be one of the most hailed features of the Rome Statute system. There are many doubts, however, as to how it is being implemented. In light of the ongoing (never ending?) debate on “meaningful participation” of victims in ICC proceedings, it is worth looking at the recent developments in the Ongwen case regarding victims’ representation. The effectiveness of victims’ participation in the ICC proceedings depends largely on the performance of their counsel.

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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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“Maidan” v. Yanukovych et al.: Ukraine and the ICC?

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Photo credit: Guardian

Keeping in mind the situation in the streets of Kiev this time a week ago, it is difficult to comprehend the speed of changes taking place in Ukraine over the past few days. The agreement reached last Friday between the opposition and president Yanukovych has now become largely outdated. Point number four, however, remains relevant:

“Investigation into recent acts of violence will be conducted under joint monitoring from the authorities, the opposition and the Council of Europe”

Only yesterday morning we learned that the new Ukrainian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Viktor Yanukovych for “mass murder of peacefully demonstrating citizens”. Today, the Parliament of Ukraine voted in favour of prosecuting former president Viktor Yanukovych, former interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko and former Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka at the International Criminal Court.  Continue reading

From Justice Delayed to Justice Denied: Katyń in Strasbourg

This is cross-posted from Justice in Conflict, where it was first published on 31 October 2013.

The Katyń massacre took place between April and May 1940 when 20,000 thousand  Polish officers and officials were executed by NKVD, the Soviet special police. After decades of denial, Russia publicly acknowledged Soviet responsibility for the massacre in 1990. But the  entire truth about what happened in the forests of Katyń has remained out of reach. Many believe Russia has not done enough in coming clean about the massacre.

Katyń massacre monument in Kharkiv, photo: AFP / Sergei Supinsky

Last week, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR delivered its final decision in Janowiec et al. v. Russia (other comment here). The case before the ECHR concerned the quality of investigations conducted by Russian authorities into the Katyń massacre. These started in 1990 and ceased in 2004, following the decision of the Russian authorities to re-classify as “top-secret” 36 volumes of files and  to discontinue the investigation. The applicants before the Court argued that Russian authorities breached their rights by failing to carry out an effective investigation into the death of their relatives and displayed a dismissive attitude towards the applicants’ requests for information about their relatives’ fate.

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