17 May 2017 - NPWJ News Digest on International Criminal Justice


Sudan: SPLM-N Protests Invitation of Al Bashir to Islamic-American Summit
by AllAfrica, 17 May 2017

Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir has been invited to an Islamic-American summit that will take place in Saudi Arabia on 20-21 May. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) strongly protested the invitation, and called on activists and US leaders to voice their concern as well. The summit, to be attended by US President Donald Trump as well as leaders of more than 40 Islamic countries, will discuss the dangers of extremism and terrorism, and how to spread tolerance and coexistence among peoples, Sudan Vision Daily reported last week. Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al Jubeir said this summit will send a message to the world that the USA and Islamic countries can form a partnership. "We believe that it will strengthen cooperation between the United States and Arab and Islamic countries in the fight against terrorism and extremism, and the visit will have enormous benefits for the region and the world," he said according to the Saudi Press Agency. In a strongly worded statement on Saturday, Yasir Arman, Secretary-General of the SPLM-N, voiced his disappointment about the invitation extended to the Sudanese president. He called on activists and US leaders to speak out against the participation of Al Bashir in the summit, and to demand that he be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC).


No Stay of Proceedings in Ntaganda Trial
By International Justice Monitor, 16 May 2017

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have rejected a request by Bosco Ntaganda to stay proceedings in his trial over allegations that he could no longer be assured of a fair trial because prosecutors wrongly accessed critical defense information. In an April 28 ruling, judges considered that it was possible to continue conducting a fair trial for the former Congolese rebel leader. Last March, Stéphane Bourgon, who heads Ntaganda’s defense team, argued that a stay of proceedings was the only adequate remedy after the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) acquired thousands of recordings of the accused’s conversations, including those on defense strategy and his personal knowledge of the case. The records were acquired while the OTP investigated Ntaganda for witness tampering under Article 70 of the court’s founding law, the Rome Statute. However, judges found that the threshold required to justify a stay of proceedings had not been met. According to the judges, a permanent stay of proceedings was an exceptional remedy only to be granted as a last resort, when the essential pre-conditions of a fair trial are missing, and when there is no sufficient indication that the relevant issues will be resolved during the trial process. Defense lawyers had contended that the 4,684 conversations acquired by the prosecution revealed “detailed and confidential Defense information, which laid bare the identity of potential witnesses, the Accused’s defense strategy, and other critical Defense arguments.” In her response to Ntaganda’s request, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda argued that the defense had failed to articulate any facts that would amount to an abuse of process or that warranted “the exceptional remedy” of a stay of proceedings. She argued that while the defense claimed that the main prosecution team should not have accessed Ntaganda’s conversations, it failed to cite any jurisprudence prohibiting a prosecuting team from investigating an accused’s alleged misconduct during trial.


West and Central Africa: Attacks on human rights activists reach dangerous levels
by Amnesty International, 15 May 2017

Human rights defenders, journalists and protesters in West and Central Africa are facing ever-higher levels of persecution, intimidation and violence, warned Amnesty International today as it launched a new global campaign demanding an end to the onslaught of attacks against brave individuals standing up to injustice. The ‘Brave’ campaign calls on states in the region to recognize the legitimacy of human rights defenders by respecting their work, giving space for it and protecting them from threats. States should take concrete measures to achieve these aims including by adopting strong protection laws and revising or repealing laws used to target human rights defenders. “States across the region have deployed a broad and increasingly inventive range of tactics to stop people standing up against injustice and to coerce them into self-censorship, “said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.  “By removing the right to protest, placing activists under surveillance, and intimidating them with threats and physical attacks, many governments are carrying out a full-frontal assault on human rights defenders.” In a briefing "Shut down for speaking out: Human Rights Defenders under attack in West and Central Africa" published today, Amnesty International documents the mounting danger faced by those defending human rights in the region. The combination of mass surveillance, new technology, the misuse of laws and crackdowns on peaceful protests is exposing human rights defenders to dangerously high levels of risk, the briefing warns.


Asia & Pacific Philippine lawmakers kill impeachment case against Duterte
by The Washington Post, 15 May 2017

Philippine lawmakers on Monday killed an impeachment complaint accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of crimes against humanity for the thousands of people who have died in his anti-drug crackdown. The Justice Committee of the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte allies, declared during the first hearing on the matter that while the complaint was sufficient in form, there was insufficient substance to proceed. The decision to stop the impeachment complaint, which also accused Duterte of murder, corruption and unexplained wealth, was expected. But the president’s critics hope the procedure could bolster a lawsuit against him before the International Criminal Court for alleged extrajudicial killings by showing that domestic efforts to stop Duterte have failed. The dismissal of the complaint, filed in March, bars any new impeachment case against Duterte until next March. Since taking office in June, Duterte’s war on drugs has killed 7,000-9,000 suspected drug dealers and addicts, according to human rights groups. The government refutes that, releasing data on May 2 showing nearly 4,600 people have been killed in police anti-drug operations and homicides found to be drug-related.


Bahrain Denies Entry to Human Rights Watch Representative
by Human Rights Watch, 10 May 2017

Bahraini authorities denied an entry visa this morning to a Human Rights Watch researcher. In recent years, Bahrain has denied entry to scores of human rights advocates and critical journalists, as well as the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and jailed Bahraini rights defenders. “Bahrain has yet again shown its intolerance of human rights advocates,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. Omar Shakir, an American citizen, arrived at Manama Airport in the afternoon of May 9 and identified himself to border authorities as Human Rights Watch’s researcher for Israel and Palestine, and indicated that he had come to hold meetings on the margins of an assembly convened by FIFA, the world football federation. Bahrain allows US passport-holders to apply for entry visas upon arrival at the airport. However, Bahraini authorities at the airport informed Shakir that a decision had been made by “security” that he was “not welcome” and ordered him to board a departing flight today. Shakir had come to urge FIFA decision-makers to adopt a resolution instructing FIFA’s Israeli affiliate, the Israel Football Association, to stop sponsoring games in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, activities which contribute to serious human rights violations. 


Hissène Habré’s rape acquittal must not be quietly airbrushed from history
By The Guardian, 10 May 2017

Almost a year ago, I sat in the extraordinary African chambers of the courts of Senegal and watched as Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, was convicted of multiple war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of torture. The judgment was hailed as a victory for international criminal justice. It was the first time a national court had used principles of universal jurisdiction to prosecute a former head of state for crimes of this nature. After hearing detailed, horrific accounts of rape and sexual slavery, the judges added sexual violence to Habré’s charge sheet. One shocking testimony came from Khadidja Zidane, who explained how, almost 30 years earlier, Habré had summoned her from prison to the presidential palace and raped her. Habré was convicted of half a dozen crimes under international law, including rape and sexual slavery as a crime against humanity. The conviction reflected not only the mass rape and sexual slavery his security forces committed in prisons and military camps, but what Habré had done to Zidane in the presidential palace. This was an extraordinary conviction. Normally, high-level defendants in war crimes cases are charged with responsibility for the acts of their subordinates, not their own. Last month, Judge Ougadeye Wafi upheld all convictionsagainst Habré except one. All the sentences for the mass sexual violence committed by his security forces were maintained, but Habré was acquitted of raping Zidane. The appeals court took pains to emphasise that the acquittal was a procedural matter and did not reflect on Zidane’s credibility. It said the new facts Zidane offered in her trial testimony came too late to be included within the new charges of sexual violence, so they could not serve as the basis for a conviction.