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

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.

Katanga Accepts Conviction and Expresses Regret for Victims’ Suffering: What About Reparations?

By Stephen Smith Cody

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 here. This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

Bogoro

International Criminal Court staff speak about the Court’s activities to residents of Bogoro, the town in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo at the center of the trials against Germain Katanga and Mathew Ngudjolo Chui. Source: Human Rights Watch

Few observers expected Germain Katanga, a militia leader found guilty of promoting ruthless attacks on civilians in eastern Congo, to lay down his arms and accept the judgment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, according to a statement from the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor released Wednesday, both the Katanga defense team and the prosecution team discontinued their appeals, making the Court’s guilty judgment and sentence of 12 years imprisonment final.

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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.

Ituri3

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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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]

Bemba

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.

TFV

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

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

Image

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

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.

AmsterdamProtest

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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What does recognition mean?

[updated 11 February, 2014]

The element of recognition that is part and parcel of reparations, and that makes them different from mere compensatory schemes, will typically require targeting victims for special treatment. This is part of what it means to give them recognition.

– Pablo de Greiff

It’s well-accepted today in international justice circles that victims want recognition. It’s also well-accepted that recognition is good for victims. Mariana Goetz of REDRESS said recently, for example, that “the quality of the recognition that the process provides [victims] may be more important than the final result.” But what does recognition mean? And how is it good for victims of grave crimes?

Photo

Source: Report of the Panel on Remedies and Reparations for Victims of Sexual Violence in the Congo (OHCHR)

On the one hand, there’s the assumption that victims want to be recognized as such. “Victims have indicated they want to be recognized by the international community at large,” according to the Registry, “as victims of the crimes committed against themselves, their families, neighbors, and ethnic groups.”

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