30 May 2012 NPWJ News Digest on international criminal justice

NPWJ press release

Mali: the ICC must act and send a reminder that no impunity for human rights violations will be tolerated
Bamako, Mali, 26 May 2012

In a statement released last month, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court declared that it was closely following the situation in Mali since clashes erupted in January. It also indicated that it was considering the possibility of commencing, on its own initiative,a preliminary investigation in that country, in accordance with Articles 15 and 53(1) of the Rome Statute.
Statement by Demba Traoré, Secretary-General of the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, and Niccolo’ Figa-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice:
"We welcome the fact that the Prosecutor's Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to consider the opening of a preliminary investigation to determine whether war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in the territory of the Republic of Mali, since the outbreak of the severe crisis that has gripped the country.

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NPWJ in the news

Has ICC Lost Touch With Darfur Refugees?
By Janet Anderson, Zakia Yousif, Tajeldin Adam, 29 May 2012

Budget constraints and poor security on the ground reduce opportunities to engage with refugees and war victims in Chad.
Darfuri refugees living in camps in eastern Chad complain that they have not seen representatives of the International Criminal Court, ICC, for more than a year, even though the Hague court’s mandate requires it to engage with victims of the crimes it investigates. 
(…) Alison Smith leads a team monitoring communications issues at the ICC for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, an advocacy group representing hundreds of NGOs. She notes that other international courts like the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were criticised early on in their activities for failing to engage local populations in the work they were doing. Both were set up by the UN without a funded outreach section.
In 2006, pressure from NGOs helped secure an increase in the ICC’s outreach budget. However, the court now faces tight financial constraints, as the Assembly of State Parties, the grouping of states that backs the court, has requested zero growth in this year’s budget, in light of the global economic crisis and the growing cynicism about the court’s slow progress among some participating states.
At a time when the prosecutor is taking on more investigations – implying a need to expand outreach work accordingly – resources are being spread ever thinner.
“That recognition [of the importance of outreach] has been eroded, particularly in the last year,” said Smith.

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Liberia ex-President Charles Taylor gets 50 years in prison
BBC News, 30 May 2012

Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor has been sentenced to 50 years in jail by a UN-backed war crimes court.
Last month Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war.
Special Court for Sierra Leone judges said the sentence reflected his status as head of state at the time and his betrayal of public trust.
Taylor, 64, insists he is innocent and is likely to appeal against the sentence, correspondents say.

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Mbarushimana case: ICC Appeals Chamber rejects the Prosecution’s appeal
ICC Press Release, 30 May 2012

Today, 30 May 2012, the Appeals Chamber decided unanimously to dismiss the Prosecution’s appeal against the decision issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I, declining to confirm the charges against Mr Callixte Mbarushimana.
Judge Erkki Kourula, presiding judge in this appeal, delivered a summary of the judgment in open session. He explained that the Appeals Chamber rejected the first two grounds of appeal, related to the Pre-Trial Chamber’s power to evaluate the evidence at the confirmation of the charges stage. The Appeals Chamber found that in determining whether to confirm charges under article 61 of the Rome Statute, the Pre-Trial Chamber may evaluate ambiguities, inconsistencies, contradictions or credibility doubts in the evidence.
Judge Kourula stressed that “the confirmation of charges hearing exists to ensure that cases and charges go to trial only when justified by sufficient evidence” and that article 61(7) of the Rome Statute requires the Pre-Trial Chamber to evaluate whether the evidence is sufficient to establish substantial grounds to believe the person committed each of the crimes charged.

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Liberia: Find Welcomes Call for ICC
AllAfrica, 28 May 2012

The Foundation for International Dignity (FIND)-Liberia has welcomed call for indictees of the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be handed over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Roosevelt Woods, FIND Executive Director told the media last Friday in Monrovia that such statement from the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) should be supported by all Liberians.
However, the INCHR has differed with the comment, which was made by one of its Commissioners Bureh. In a reaction issued over the weekend, it clarified that the INCHR lacks the legal power to opt for a war crimes court except the Executive branch of government.

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Mladic trial to resume after four week delay
Reuters, 24 May 2012

The genocide trial of Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic is set to resume at the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal on June 25 four weeks later than initially planned, The Hague-based court said on Thursday.
Mladic, who was arrested in Serbia in May 2011 after 16 years on the run, is accused of genocide for his role in the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and for orchestrating the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995; Europe's worst massacre since World War Two.

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Prosecutors seek death for exiled Tunisian strongman
CNN Wire Staff, 24 May 2012

Tunisian prosecutors say they'll seek a death sentence for former President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, now charged in absentia with ordering the killings of anti-government demonstrators.
Ben Ali has remained in exile in Saudi Arabia since the January 2011 uprising that forced him from office. He is being tried in absentia in the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters during the revolt, and the state news agency Tunis Afrique Presse reported Wednesday that prosecutors asked a court to impose a death sentence in his case.
In addition, the prosecutor's office said former Interior Minister Rafik Kacem and dozens of other former officials now awaiting a military court's verdict should get the "maximum" sentence short of death, according to TAP.

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Fears of Tension Grow in Kenya
By IWPR contributor, ACR Issue 321, 24 May 2012

Amid fresh attempts by the Kenyan government to delay or halt the trials of senior officials pending before the International Criminal Court, ICC, observers are warning of an increased risk of violence in the run-up to a presidential election slated for early 2013.
Kenya descended into chaos in late 2007 and early 2008 following the last presidential election, as violent clashes took place between supporters of today’s coalition partners, the Orange Democratic Movement, ODM, and Party of National Unity, PNU.
Approximately 1,300 people were killed and 600,000 were displaced as fighting erupted along ethnic lines, prompting the ICC to bring cases against those accused of being key perpetrators.
In January 2012, ICC judges confirmed that Kenya’s deputy prime minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, former higher education minister William Ruto, cabinet secretary, Francis Muthaura, and Kass FM radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang would face trial for crimes against humanity, as alleged orchestrators of the attacks.

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UN human rights probe panel reports continuing ‘gross’ violations in Syria
UN News Center, 24 May 2012

Gross human rights violations continue unabated in Syria, amid increasing militarization of the strife there, despite an earlier agreement by parties to the conflict to halt hostilities, the United Nations independent panel probing abuses in the country said in an update released today.
Most of the serious violations were committed by the Syrian army and security services as part of military or search operations in locations thought to host defectors or armed people, and those seen as supporters of anti-government armed groups, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in an update on gross violations of humans rights and casualty figures resulting from the conflict to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

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New chief prosecutor defends international criminal court
By David Smith, 23 May 2012

The new chief prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC) has launched a combative defence of the institution, rejecting the view that it is "a pro-western, anti-African court".
Fatou Bensouda, from Gambia, will next month replace the charismatic but controversial Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who has been accused of applying "selective justice" to Africa.
The decade-old court has sought justice for millions of victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Darfur in Sudan, Kenya, Libya and Ivory Coast, Bensouda said on Wednesday.

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