Tuesday, December 18, 2012

AMICC Welcomes the International Justice Project as its Newest Member Organization

Wanda M. Akin (IJP Co-Founder), Carine Bonduelle (IJP Program Officer), Luc Walleyn (Legal Representative for Victims in Lubanga), Afi Patterson, Esq. (IJP Volunteer), and Raymond M. Brown (IJP Co-Founder) at the 2012 List of Counsel Meeting in The Hague.
AMICC is pleased to welcome its newest member organization, the International Justice Project. The IJP joined AMICC on December 12 and is its 39th institutional member. AMICC is a coalition of NGOs committed to achieving through education, information, promotion and an aroused public opinion full United States support for the International Criminal Court and the earliest possible US ratification of the Court's Rome Statute.

The IJP, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Newark, NJ, promotes and advances human rights through the rule of law. Through transitional justice mechanisms, it also provides holistic support to victims of the world’s most heinous crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The IJP works across sectors and disciplines and at the local and policy levels to help victims heal and rebuild their lives. This unique and holistic approach incorporates individual criminal justice and accountability, advocacy, human rights, education, and health, and it allows the IJP to have long-lasting, sustainable effects.

The co-founders of the IJP, Wanda M. Akin, Esq. and Raymond M. Brown, Esq. are two of only 50 American lawyers who are List of Counsel at the International Criminal Court. Presently, they represent 11 victims in the Darfur situation and four victims in The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, the case against the President of Sudan. The IJP supports the victims in this process, reaching out to those interested in participating in the proceedings and also to those who may not qualify for participation. To date, the IJP has identified and compiled data from hundreds of potential victims in the Darfurian Diaspora in Sudan, Chad, Netherlands, and the United States, including Arizona, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Learn more about institutional membership in AMICC.

ICC Acquits Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui of the DRC, Defendant in ICC's Second Trial, Due to Evidence

On December 18, 2012 Trial Chamber II of the ICC acquitted Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a defendant in the Court's second case, because it found that the Office of the Prosecutor had not proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the Trial Chamber has ordered the release of Ngudjolo Chui but he will continue to be held pending a decision on the request of the Prosecutor for an appeal. This verdict affirms the careful deliberations and consideration of the Court's judges for the evidence as well as their commitment to ensuring due process for defendants. The acquittal reminds us that the judges are an effective check on the Prosecutor and will not convict all defendants who are charged by the Court.

Ngudjolo Chui was charged with nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery, inhuman treatment, the use child soldiers in hostilities, and unlawful attacks against civilians. He and Germain Katanga were joined in a single case for trial which began on November 24, 2009. The Trial Chamber recently severed the cases. The judges have yet to decide on the guilt or innocence of Katanga.

The verdict is currently available in French. Once an English version is available, we will post it to our website.

Monday, December 17, 2012

No Arrests and Little Progress on Darfur Cases, ICC Prosecutor Tells United Nations Security Council

Security Council Deliberates on Sudan
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefs the UN Security Council on December 13th. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Kirkland Green

On December 13, 2012 ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda delivered the 16th report of the her office to the United Nations Security Council. It was her first report to the Security Council which in March 2005 referred the matter to the Court. The Prosecutor told the Council that ICC indictments have not put an end to atrocity crimes in the region, including underreported alleged widespread occurrence of sexual and gender based violence. 

Mrs. Bensouda urged the Council to take a greater role in preventing continuing atrocities by ensuring that states fully cooperate with the ICC. The Court has done its work in issuing arrest warrants pursuant to the jurisdiction granted by UNSC Resolution 1953. The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC has issued arrest warrants or summonses to appear for President Omar Al Bashir, Ahmad Harun, Ali Kushayb, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain, Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein. The Prosecutor said that the "justice process is an essential component of any strategy aimed at truly stopping ongoing crimes, by publicly exposing to the highest independent judicial standards the reasons why and how these crimes have been committed; who has been responsible for them; and how they must be stopped."

Mrs. Bensouda emphasized that “investigating the Darfur situation remains an enormous challenge for the Office.” She did note the assistance received from relevant state organizations such as the African Union and the League of Arab States in investigating alleged atrocity crimes in Darfur. However, the Prosecutor reported that Sudan is “nether prepared to hand over the suspects nor to prosecute them for their crimes.”  She also noted the failure of states such as Chad and Malawi to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir when he was on their territory, as they are obligated to do as ICC States Parties, and surrender him to the ICC. According to the Prosecutor, the Court has communicated to the Council instances of non-cooperation on the part of the Government of Sudan with the Security Council six separate times but has not received a meaningful response. 

The United States, as a permanent member of the Security Council, made a statement welcoming the Prosecutor's report: "Reversing the cycle of violence and impunity requires accountability for the perpetrators. The ICC’s prosecution of the architects of the atrocities in Darfur is crucial in that regard," said Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Alternate Representative of the US for Special Political Affairs in the UN. "We continue to urge all States to refrain from providing political or financial support to those individuals [wanted by the ICC], and we will work to prevent any such support," he said at the meeting.

Progress has been made towards the case of The Prosecutor v. Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus for their role in the rebel attack on the African Union peacekeeping base at Haskanita, North Darfur. Banda and Jerbo appeared voluntarily before the Pre-Trial Chamber on June 17, 2010. That trial is expected to start in 2013, but has experienced some difficulty because defense material must be translated in Zaghawa, a language which has no written form.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Recent UN General Assembly Action on Palestine and Implications for the ICC

Following the overwhelming UN General Assembly (GA) vote on November 29 to accord Palestine non-member observer state status in its meetings we have revised our background paper on this issue

Palestine options at the ICC: The Palestine Authority (PA) could: 1) Attempt to become a State Party at the ICC by ratifying the Rome Statute and then refer crimes to the ICC; or 2) Remain a non-State Party but make a declaration accepting the Court's jurisdiction over a particular set of crimes. It is very important to recognize that in either option the PA would have to refer an entire situation or train of events to the ICC. This would permit the ICC Prosecutor to investigate or prosecute any crime within that situation allegedly committed by anyone, including crimes claimed to be by Palestinians against Israelis.

The State Party option
would require the PA to ratify the Rome Statute and then present a document certifying the ratification to the UN Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is responsible for administering the Rome Statute. He would have to decide whether the PA was a state competent to ratify. Should he so decide, the Prosecutor and the rest of the ICC would be obliged to proceed as with any other State Party.

In the non-State Party option
of a declaration of acceptance of jurisdiction followed by a referral, the Prosecutor would have to make the first decision on whether the PA was a state competent to make the referral. This decision could be challenged in the Pre-Trial Chamber by the PA, or by another state involved in the situation giving rise to the referral, such as Israel. The PA has in fact already tried this option by submitting a report of crimes and declaration of acceptance of jurisdiction to the ICC Prosecutor in 2009. In April, 2012, the Prosecutor released a decision that at that stage he was not empowered to decide on the PA's statehood status. A UN body such as the Security Council or the General Assembly, or the ICC's Assembly of States Parties, would have to make this determination. Since the GA's recent action, the press has reported that the current Prosecutor is giving the declaration further consideration.

Please refer to our background paper for full descriptions of the processes involved in both options.

Prospects for next steps by the PA: The PA has recently said that it does not plan any immediate actions at the ICC. Should it eventually resort to the Court, its interest would apparently be in asserted illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The Authority has also recognized American threats to cut off aid if it brings charges at the ICC.
Implications for advocacy: A bipartisan group of senators have said that they will introduce legislation to make good on those threats. Statements by its members such as senators Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Graham (R., S.C.) have included familiar misunderstanding about the Court, such as that it can try enlisted service members. If ardent supporters of Israel and opponents of the Court converge over this issue, we will have a new and formidable challenge.