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.

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Reparations in Ituri: A Long Awaited Judgment in the Lubanga Trial

Yesterday the Appeals Chamber (AC) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its judgment on the appeals against the Trial Chamber (TC)’s Decision Establishing the Principles and Procedures to be applied to Reparations (decision on reparations) in the case against Thomas Lubanga. This landmark ruling, together with the recent judgments in the Lubanga and Ngudjolo cases and the decision not to appeal the trial judgment in Katanga, are clear signs that the ICC is getting ready to deliver its first ever reparations. The unfolding of this reparative process in the Ituri district of the DRC highlights the challenges the ICC faces in trying to reconcile the notion of individual criminal responsibility with the mass scale of the crimes over which it holds jurisdiction. It further provides an acute illustration of the key tensions stemming from the fact that the ICC judicial process aims to be not merely punitive but also reparative.

Ituri District: Where forthcoming reparations will now seek to repair the harm from a war that happened over ten years ago

(For background on the Ituri war and trials, we’ve written extensively about the region, all of which you can find here.)

In its decision on reparations, the TC underlined the importance of reparations, both as a “well-established and basic human right” and as a reflection of the “need to go beyond the notion of punitive justice.” While noting that reparations oblige the convicted person to repair the harm he or she caused, the TC found that they could contribute more broadly to the communities that were affected and assist in promoting reconciliation. In yesterday’s judgment, the AC seems to have adopted the same approach.

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Has the Pre-Trial Chamber jeopardized the Gbagbo trial at the International Criminal Court?

Beyond The Hague welcomes Matthew Gillett for this guest post on the Gbagbo case at the ICC.  Matthew is currently a Legal Officer with the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and was a member of the New Zealand delegation to the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2010. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the New Zealand Government or Beyond The Hague. The author would like to thank Manuel Ventura for his insightful comments.

On 12 June 2014, Pre-Trial Chamber I (“PTC”) of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) issued its conformation decision concerning the charges against the former President of Cote d’Ivoire – Laurent Gbagbo. Problematically, the majority decision of the PTC confirmed the charges for modes of liability under article 25 but declined to confirm the charges for superior responsibility under article 28. This outcome is difficult to reconcile with the PTC’s earlier findings in the confirmation decision. It results in the Trial Chamber receiving a proceeding that has been straight-jacketed into a mould that the facts may not ultimately fit. Indeed, Judge Van den Wyngaert in her dissenting opinion found that the facts were insufficient to satisfy article 25 even on the relatively permissive article 61(7) standard, but she would have confirmed under article 28 in part. In these circumstances, the spectre of regulation 55 re-characterization lurks in the background, along with its attendant potential prejudice to the integrity and efficiency of proceedings.

Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC, photo: Telegraph

Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC, photo: The Telegraph

Under the applicable standard set forth in article 61(7) of the Rome Statute, the PTC assessed whether it had been provided with sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Laurent Gbagbo was responsible for each of the crimes charged. The PTC confirmed the modes of liability ofco-perpetration under article 25(3)(a), ordering, soliciting or inducing under article 25(3)(b), and contributing to a group with a criminal purpose under article 25(3)(d), and committed the case for trial. However, it declined to confirm Gbagbo’s superior responsibility for the charges under article 28(a) or (b) despite the request of the Office of the Prosecutor (“OTP”) to do so.

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Call for Papers – ICTR Legacy Symposium – Deadline 15 August

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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?

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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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How Do Witnesses Feel Testifying Against Accused War Criminals?

By Stephen Smith Cody and Robin Mejia

Stephen Smith Cody directs the Atrocity Response Program at the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, where he designs and manages research related to human rights violations in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. Stephen holds a PhD in sociology and JD, both from Berkeley. You can follow him hereRobin Mejia is a journalist and researcher whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Wired, Nature, Mother Jones and many other outlets. Currently, she is pursing a PhD in biostatistics at UC Berkeley and working as a researcher for the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law.

This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

A protected witness testifies at the International Criminal Court. Source: Reporting Kenya

A protected witness testifies at the International Criminal Court. Source: Reporting Kenya

Witnesses who testify at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against accused war criminals often take great risks to do so. Yet, until now, their voices have been missing from discussions about how the ICC is fulfilling its responsibility to prepare and protect those who testify.

The Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law has just released “Bearing Witness at the International Criminal Court,” the first empirical study to document the perspectives of ICC witnesses, many of whom survived heinous violations of human rights. The study surveys more than 100 witnesses from the first two ICC cases, those against Congolese warlords Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Germain Katanga.

From the ICC’s inception, the Court has set out to serve and protect witnesses who may be survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. Yet this past year has brought allegations of sexual assault committed by ICC staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo and reports of government intimidation of potential witnesses in the cases against sitting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for crimes against humanity.

Scholars and advocates have debated how best to prepare and protect witnesses who testify — basing strategies mostly on anecdotal evidence. Now we have data.

These data show that despite the burden of traveling long distances, often from central Africa to The Hague, to testify, and waiting days or weeks without family or friends before confronting hostile lawyers and the accused, most witnesses reported positive experiences with the Court.

Asked to describe their overall feelings about participating in the trials on a scale of 1 to 5 (least to most positive), women reported an average rating of 4.6, and men 4.4. Fully 96 percent of women and 93 percent of men said they were glad that they had agreed to testify, and most said that they would be willing to serve as a witness again.

“I felt like I was letting go of something I’d been holding on to,” said one witness.

Another explained, “I want to fight against impunity. I want justice to be done.”

Witnesses expressed a duty to testify to ensure an acknowledgement of the killing of loved ones, neighbors, and colleagues.

“I felt naked, very exposed, vulnerable,” said one witness interviewed for the study. “I felt a very heavy responsibility having to take part in the process of justice.”

Although most witnesses had no previous court experience at home or abroad, they reported that pretrial orientations and support services helped assuage their anxieties.

“All the information, preparation, and advice I received helped me a lot,” said one witness. “This made it easier for me during my testimony period.”

Witnesses reported feeling safe during their preparation for trial as well as afterward, with women feeling slightly more secure than men.

However, the findings also reveal ongoing concerns about being identified and targeted. Most women and men reported using some form of identity protection at trial. And many survey participants expressed fear about potential repercussions following trial. “Now, after my testimony, I will have a bigger need for protection,” said one witness.

The study also shows some divides in the ways that men and women experience trials. Women, on average, viewed their interactions with the ICC more positively. Yet only 60 percent of women believed that their testimony helped establish the truth, as compared with more than 70 percent of men.

Also, somewhat surprisingly, only a quarter of witnesses in the study were women, and they provided almost all the testimony on sexual violence. Understanding why women participate in trials at lower rates than men and whether they are being used disproportionately to testify about sexual violence are key issues for the court to address.

Additionally, more data are needed to understand what happens to witnesses when they return home. The Court has developed a survey that is intended to be offered six months after a witness lands back in his or her home country; however, due to logistical, safety and financial constraints, fewer than half of eligible witnesses had been approached to take the survey. Therefore, we can say little at this point about the long-term impact of testifying in international criminal cases.

Protecting witnesses can be challenging and expensive, especially in the long term, and the ICC’s commitment to witnesses after they have appeared at trial is critical.

“Now that I have completed my testimony, I hope the ICC does not abandon us,” said one witness, articulating a looming issue for the ICC and all who care about international justice.

In spite of the limitations of the survey and uncertainty of long-term witness protection, the Human Rights Center’s study suggests that when done right, testifying at international criminal trials can be a safe and even empowering experience.