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.
(This post has been modified from a previous article published by the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory)
As international forces scrambled to provide security for the visit of Pope Francis to the Central African Republic (CAR) and recent, largely-peaceful elections, local and international actors have called for the rearmament of the country’s armed forces following the re-emergence of sectarian violence. However, such a move is fraught with danger, including threats by certain ex-Séléka factions to invade the capital Bangui should it occur.
CAR’s national armed forces (FACA) in Bangui, photo credit: AFP
CAR’s recent wave of sectarian violence followed a civil war that erupted in December 2012, when the Muslim-led Séléka alliance headed by Michel Djotodia took up arms and toppled President Francois Bozize’s regime with help from Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries. Ensuing clashes between Séléka fighters and the mainly-Christian “anti-balaka” militias were estimated to have killed over 3,000 people before a ceasefire was signed in July 2014.
Following many months of relative calm, Bangui witnessed a renewal of intense fighting in late September this year. The apparent trigger was the stabbing death of a Muslim taxi driver, with residents of the capital’s PK5 neighborhood taking to the streets. Since then, at least 90 people have been killed and 40,000 displaced, according to United Nations estimates.Cameroonian and Burundian peacekeepers with the UN’s mission in CAR (MINUSCA) were among the dead. National political leaders have also been abducted and the myriad, well-armed militia groups continue to threaten the country’s transition after years of civil conflict.
[This article is cross-posted from the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory]
After months of relative calm, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has witnessed renewed anti-government protests, prompting the United Nations to warn that the country is again at risk of descending into political violence. The unrest has been prompted by uncertainty over the national electoral process. President Joseph Kabila will reach the end of his second term in 2016 and is constitutionally obligated to step down ahead of polls scheduled for November that year. But the former taxi driver, who was elevated to the presidency after his father’s assassination in 2001, has shown every intention of attempting to stay in power.
Anti-Kabila protesters in Kinshasa, photo: VOA News
Opposition to “third termism” has been spreading in Africa. It began with the October 2014 popular uprising in Burkina Faso, which ousted President Blaise Compaore following his attempts to remove the two-term limit added to the constitution in 2000, and extend his 27 years in office. Burundi was next, with President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third term triggering months of opposition protests and violent clashes this year. Unlike Burkina Faso, Burundi’s embattled president survived, winning controversial reelection in July amidst opposition boycott. Since then, political violence and the targeted killing of opposition activists has continued, with at least 134 reported dead since April 25.
La Cour pénale internationale a rendu une décision inédite le 16 juillet 2015, dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre d’une disposition du Statut de Rome particulièrement intéressante. L’article 53§3-a du statut de Rome permet en effet à la chambre préliminaire, à la demande de l’entité ayant déféré la situation à la Cour, d’examiner la décision du Procureur de ne pas poursuivre, soit de ne pas ouvrir une enquête postérieurement à la phase procédurale de l’examen préliminaire. C’est la toute première fois que la Cour doit statuer sur ce mécanisme, dont la création avait été justifiée pour équilibrer les pouvoirs du Procureur en matière d’opportunité des poursuites. La chambre est donc soumise, comme toute institution judiciaire ayant à statuer sur des problématiques juridiques inédites, à l’aspiration d’adopter un raisonnement judiciaire dissertatif.
Le 14 mai 2013, le Bureau du Procureur ouvrait, sur renvoi comorien, un examen préliminaire de l’interception d’une flottille humanitaire par les forces armées israéliennes. Le 6 novembre 2014, le Procureur a rendu public un document de huit pages par lequel il concluait que les informations disponibles ne fournissaient pas de base raisonnable permettant d’ouvrir une enquête. Le 29 janvier 2015, les Comores ont soumis une requête visant la révision judiciaire de la décision du Procureur de ne pas poursuivre. Des échanges d’une grande importance, tant qualitative que quantitative, s’en suivent entre la chambre, les parties et les participants à la procédure. La substance de ces échanges a été estimée suffisante par la chambre afin de prendre sa décision, au point qu’elle ait rejeté les requêtes des Comores visant d’une part la tenue d’une audience et, d’autre part, l’autorisation pour les Comores de répliquer à la réponse du Procureur.
This article is cross-posted from the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory, with thanks to Jill Stoddard and James Bowen.
South Sudan last week had the unenviable distinction of being ranked the world’s most fragile state for the second year running. With the country’s politically and ethnically driven conflict degenerating into civil war since December 2013, mediation efforts by the eight-country East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and pressure by the United States, United Kingdom, and Norwegian “troika” have continually failed to achieve a lasting ceasefire.
As well as inflicting terrible tragedies on the people of South Sudan, with over 50,000 killed, 1.4 million displaced and 40% of the population facing acute hunger, the continuing instability is posing significant challenges for international actors. Most recently, the scale of the crisis has drawn China, as a rising regional power, but otherwise reluctant intervenor in other states’ internal affairs, firmly into play.
China’s former President Hu Jintao with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, photo credit: Washington Post
China’s recent rise in Africa relative to the West has generated much attention. It has become the continent’s largest trading partner by far, with over 160 billion USD in trade in 2013 alone and more than a million Chinese nationals moving to Africa in the last decade.
With its extensive oil and infrastructure investments in South Sudan and similar economic leverage on nearby Sudan, Uganda, and other regional actors, China has engaged in a form of business-driven diplomacy that the US and its allies will struggle to match. South Sudan accounts for 5% of China’s crude oil imports and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation holds a 40% stake in three of the country’s largest oil fields. China has also been quietly ramping up its African humanitarian aid, pledging emergency relief worth at least 21 million USD to South Sudan as of October 2014.
We’re happy to cross-post this article from Robert Cryer on football and international justice (two subjects close to my heart!), originally posted on the Oxford University Press blog. Robert is professor of International and Criminal Law at the University of Birmingham. He is author of, amongst other things, The Tokyo International Military Tribunal: A Reappraisal (with Neil Boister). He was a co-editor of The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice (Lead editor Antonio Cassese). He is also co-editor of the Journal of Conflict and Security Law, and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of International Criminal Justice.
The factual backdrop to this affair is well-known. FIFA, world football’s governing body has, for a number of years, been the subject of allegations of corruption. Then, after a series of dawn raids on 27 May 2015, seven FIFA officials, of various nationalities, the most famous being Jack Warner, the Trinidadian former vice president of FIFA, were arrested in a luxury hotel in Zurich where they were staying prior to the FIFA Congress. This was pursuant to an indictment that accused them, alongside five corporate officials, of using their positions within FIFA to engage in schemes involving the solicitation, offer, acceptance, payment, and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes, and kickbacks. The defendants and their co-conspirators were also accused of corrupting the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery, and money laundering, in pursuit of personal and commercial gain.
The allegations relate in particular to the bidding process for the right to hold the World Cup. To the surprise of some, FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, was not included in the indictment, although further investigations, both in the United States and Switzerland, are ongoing, and calls for him to step down have been made, including by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Corruption, and its fellow traveller money laundering, tends to cross borders, and with an entity such as FIFA and an event such as the World Cup, it would be difficult to imagine that there could not be an international element to the case. But the indictment in one country of nationals of various countries, and arrests in another pursuant to an extradition request, have given rise to different conceptions of criminal justice: one internationalist, the other nationalist.
The former can be seen on the part of US officials, who, when announcing the arrests and indictments, thanked the government of Switzerland and other unnamed States for their ‘outstanding assistance’ in the investigation. Given that the conduct related in large part to money laundering into and out of the United States and to bribes that went through US banks and deposited abroad, it is no surprise that the cooperation of other States was required. What might be surprising though is that mutual legal assistance, at best a sclerotic system, seems to have worked in this case, although it was helped by guilty pleas by four FIFA officials including the ex-US member of the FIFA executive committee. It is notable that the rhetoric of the United States was very much of the internationalisation of the crimes and the effect they had in developing countries. As IRS Chief of Investigation, Richard Weber (clearly no stranger to a bon mot) described the charges, they relate to a ‘World Cup of corruption’.
I recently began a new job as an intelligence analyst specializing in African affairs with Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in the Middle East. While the focus is more political than legal, I hope to publish some of this analysis here on Beyond The Hague, starting with this op-ed that was recently published at the Africa Review. All views expressed are in a personal capacity and do not represent Max Security Solutions.
– Alex (@alexpfielding on twitter)
While Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria have been dominating African headlines since the Islamist militants kidnapped over 200 girls in Chibok in April 2014, there is a lesser known group of rebels known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who have been intimidating the local population, albeit on a different scale, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for over 20 years.
FDLR combatants in the DRC, photo: RFI
The international community has long sought to demobilize the FDLR, a Hutu group led by former “genocidaires” who fled to the DRC following the Rwandan genocide of around 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994. The FDLR has few friends, but the dense forests of North and South Kivu provinces in the eastern DRC provided the perfect cover for it and other rebel groups to maintain territorial control over lucrative mining operations in coltan, gold and other minerals. The eastern DRC has a long, complex and tragic history of foreign meddling by Rwanda, Uganda and others, as proxy wars were fought by externally backed rebel groups over land, political power and mineral wealth.