Category Archives: International Criminal Court

ECtHR’s Second Inter-State Reparations Judgment Orders Russia Compensate Expelled Georgians

Courtroom of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
Credit: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has issued its second ever monetary judgment in an inter-State case, ordering Russia to pay the Georgian government 10 million euros as reparations for Russia’s collective expulsion of thousands of Georgian nationals between 2006 and 2007. See ECtHR, Georgia v. Russia (I) [GC], no. 13255/07, ECHR 2019, Judgment of 31 January 2019 (Just Satisfaction). The judgment on reparations follows the Court’s 2014 judgment on the merits of the case, in which it found that Russia’s mass expulsion of Georgians violated the European Convention on Human Rights. See id. at para. 2. If Russia complies with the judgment, Georgia will be responsible for distributing the 10 million euros to a group of 1,500 identified victims, awarding 2,000 euros to each person who was expelled and awarding an additional 10,000 to 15,000 euros to those who had also been detained and ill-treated. See id. at paras. 77, 79. This judgment applies and builds on the Grand Chamber’s 2014 just satisfaction judgment in Cyprus v. Turkey, in which it ordered Turkey to pay 90 million euros in just satisfaction for the enforced disappearance of 1,456 people and various violations against the Greek Cypriots of the Karpas peninsula, by Turkish authorities, dating to 1974. See ECtHR, Cyprus v. Turkey, [GC], no. 25781/94, Judgment of 12 May 2014 (Just Satisfaction).

This case is the first of four cases that Georgia has brought to the ECtHR against Russia since 2007. The second case, concerning Russia’s alleged violation of the European Convention during the 2008 Russo-Georgian conflict, is currently pending before a Grand Chamber. See ECtHR, Cases pending before the Grand Chamber. The third case, which concerned Russia’s detention of several Georgian nationals, was voluntarily dropped by Georgia after Russia released the individuals from detention. [ECtHR: New Complaint] The fourth case, filed in August 2018, concerns alleged violations of rights along the border between Georgian-controlled territory and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. [ECtHR: New Complaint] The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also opened an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 Russo-Georgian conflict. See ICC, Situation in Georgia.

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ICC Acquits Former Ivory Coast President of Crimes Against Humanity

ICC Trial Chamber I acquits Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé from all charges
Credit: ICC via Flickr

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was acquitted of crimes against humanity earlier this month when the International Criminal Court (ICC) found insufficient evidence of a common plan or policy to attack civilians during the 2010-2011 post-election violence in the Ivory Coast. See ICC, Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, ICC-02/11-01/15, Oral Decision of Trial Chamber I on the Prosecutor’s Request under Article 81(3)(c)(i) of the Rome Statute, 16 January 2019. The ICC Appeals Chamber has decided Gbagbo and his co-defendant Charles Blé Goudé must remain in custody at least until it reviews the Trial Chamber I’s order to release them, at a hearing scheduled for February 1. [ICC Press Release: Delay] Once the Trial Chamber’s written judgment is filed, the Office of the Prosecutor may appeal the acquittals. [ICC Press Release: Acquittal] ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has confirmed her office will continue its investigations into the Ivory Coast situation, which currently includes pre-trial proceedings against Simone Gbagbo, wife of Laurent Gbagbo, who was granted amnesty for her role in the conflict by current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara last year. [ICC: Bensouda; Guardian: Simone Gbagbo; BBC]

The Gbagbo judgment is the most recent in a line of prominent losses by the ICC Prosecutor, including the acquittal, on appeal, of former Congolese Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2018 and the Court’s dismissal of charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice-President William Ruto in 2015 and 2016, respectively. [IJRC: KenyaIJMonitor: Gbagbo; IJMonitor: Bemba] The ICC Prosecution’s recent failures have raised concerns among some about the Court’s ability to hold accountable those individuals who violate international criminal law. [IJRC: YekatomGuardian: ICC; Guardian: Gbagbo] Gbagbo, the first former head of State to be taken into ICC custody, has the right to request compensation for the seven years that he has spent in detention. See Rome Statute, art. 85(3).

The Trial of Laurent Gbagbo

On October 3, 2011, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor began its investigation into the Ivory Coast’s 2010 post-election crisis. See ICC, Gbagbo and Blé Goudé Case. Within two months, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gbagbo, and Ivorian and French troops quickly arrested and transferred him to The Hague in November of 2011. [IJMonitor: Gbagbo] Gbagbo remained in pre-trial detention in The Hague for over four years before the ICC trial officially began on January 28, 2016. [ICC Press Release: Opening]. The Court joined Gbagbo’s case with that of another Ivorian politician involved in the conflict, Blé Goudé, and charged both defendants with four counts of crimes against humanity, for acts of murder, rape, other inhumane acts (or in the alternative attempted murder), and persecution. See ICC, Gbagbo and Blé Goudé Case.

The trial spanned approximately three years, with the Prosecutor taking 231 hearing days to present evidence and calling 82 witnesses to testify on behalf of the prosecution’s case. [ICC Press Release: Acquittal] Once the Prosecutor concluded the presentation of evidence, Gbagbo’s defense team filed a motion for acquittal and immediate release of the defendant without presenting any evidence, alleging that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof. [ICC Press Release: Acquittal] Similarly, Blé Goudé’s defense team presented a motion alleging that there was no case for the defense to answer to with respect to the charges against Blé Goudé and seeking that the charges be dismissed. [ICC Press Release: Acquittal]

On January 15, 2019, the judges, with one dissenting, announced their judgement finding that the Prosecutor’s evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction and that the Prosecutor failed to demonstrate several elements of the crimes as charged, “including the existence of a ‘common plan’ to keep Mr Gbagbo in power, which included the commission of crimes against civilians ‘pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy’; and the existence of patterns of violence from which it could be inferred that there was a ‘policy to attack a civilian population’.” [ICC Press Release: Acquittal] As a result, both Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were acquitted on all counts. [ICC Press Release: Acquittal]

Response to the Acquittal

Prominent human rights organizations have called the acquittal “disastrous” and a “crushing disappointment” for the victims, and some are worried that the acquittal could lead to further violence. [Guardian: Gbagbo; Amnesty] The news of Gbagbo’s acquittal has already sparked scattered protests in the Ivory Coast’s capital, Abidjan. [Al Jazeera] While supporters celebrate the Court’s announcement, victims express frustration and disappointment with what rights groups perceive to be a denial of justice. [Reuters: Politics] The Ivorian government has stated that they will allow Gbagbo’s return, and have “urged calm, forgiveness and reconciliation.” [Al Jazeera]

Background on the 2010-11 Ivory Coast Conflict

The case against Gbagbo concerned his alleged involvement in a four-month conflict that arose Gbagbo refused to transfer power to the current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara after losing the 2010 elections. [Guardian: Gbagbo] Approximately 3,000 people were reported to have died during the conflict, and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. [Reuters] It was alleged that Gbagbo ordered murders and gang-rape in his bid to retain control of the country. [Guardian: Gbagbo] The conflict came to an end when French and United Nations forces intervened and apprehended Gbagbo. [Guardian: Surrender]

Gbagbo’s capture marked the end of his 10-year rule of the Ivory Coast. [Guardian: Gbagbo] Now that he is free to return to the Ivory Coast, there is some indication that he intends to run in the next election in 2020. [Reuters: Politics] Despite the ICC acquittal, Gbagbo may nonetheless have to serve a 20-year sentence upon returning to the Ivory Coast due to a conviction for misappropriating funds that a domestic court entered against him in absentia while he was detained in The Hague. [Reuters]

Additional Information

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute, and officially opened in 2002. See ICC, About. The Court has the competence to hear four types of crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. See Id. The ICC has had a total of 28 cases, of which the Court issued final convictions in six cases (eight trial convictions, two of which were overturned on appeal). See id. For more information on the International Criminal Court, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. To learn more about the Ivory Coast’s human rights obligations, see IJRC’s Ivory Coast Factsheet. To stay up-to-date on international human rights law news, visit IJRC’s News Room and subscribe to the IJRC Daily.

Suspected War Criminal Arrested in Central African Republic, Transferred to ICC

Alfred Yekatom makes first appearance before the ICC
Credit: ICC-CPI via Flickr

Alfred Yekatom, the first person to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the Court’s investigation into crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2012, made an initial appearance before the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II on November 23. [ICC Press Release: Alfred; FIDH] Mr. Yekatom is alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity between December 2013 and August 2014 in the context of the CAR’s ongoing conflict between the Seleka and the Anti-Balaka armed groups. [ICC Press Release: Yekatom] Yekatom is accused of having commanded an anti-balaka group that carried out killings, torture, forced displacement of Muslim civilians and looting and destruction of Muslim homes and places of worship, in western CAR. CAR authorities delivered Yekatom to the ICC on November 17 in compliance with the ICC’s November 11 warrant for his arrest. [ICC Press Release: Situation] On April 30, 2019, the Court will hold a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations against him and, if so, to transfer his case to the Trial Chamber. [ICC Press Release: Yekatom]

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ICC Seeks Victim Participation in Palestine Situation

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
Credit: ICC via Flickr

Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) pre-trial chamber ordered the ICC to establish a system of disseminating public information to and conducting outreach activities with the affected communities and victims of the situation in Palestine, a situation currently undergoing preliminary examination at the Court. The decision recognizes victims’ right to be heard in the context of the ICC’s work, and requires that outreach activities explain the ICC’s jurisdiction with regards to the situation in Palestine; provide information on the Court, including on the role of victims at each stage of proceedings; and respond to victims’ concerns. See ICC, Situation in the State of Palestine, ICC-01/18, Decision on Information and Outreach for the Victims of the Situation, 13 July 2018, paras. 14-16. The pre-trial chamber’s order marks the first time that the Court has promoted information and outreach activities as early as the preliminary examination stage. [Al Jazeera]

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ICC Orders Reparations for Destruction of Timbuktu Cultural Sites

The former site of a mausoleum in Timbuktu that was destroyed in 2012
Credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

On August 17, 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a Reparations Order in the case of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, who in September 2016, upon pleading guilty to the destruction of 10 religious and historic sites in Timbuktu, Mali, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. [ICC Press Release; IJRC] In its Reparations Order, Trial Chamber VIII of the ICC found Al Mahdi liable for 2.7 million euros (or approximately 3.18 million USD) in both individual and collective reparations for the community affected by the 2012 attacks, which occurred in the context of Mali’s internal armed conflict. [ICC Press Release] The Court, emphasizing the cultural and sentimental value of the destroyed property, ordered reparations for three categories of harm: damage to the targeted buildings, resulting economic loss, and moral harm. [ICC Press Release] The reparations are designed to rehabilitate the attacked sites, address the community’s financial losses, and potentially fund symbolic measures, such as memorials, to serve as public recognition of the harms incurred by the Timbuktu community. [ICC Press Release] Given Al Mahdi’s indigence, the Court encourages the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), an agency that will implement the order, to supplement the reparations to the extent possible. [ICC Press Release; Guardian] Read more

UN Reports Civilian Casualties, Rights Abuses Remain High in Afghanistan

Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of UNAMA, at the UN Security Council
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

On July 17, 2017, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its mid-year report on the situation of civilians in Afghanistan, revealing that the level of civilian casualties remains high. [UNAMA Press Release] UNAMA confirmed a total of 5,243 civilian casualties (1,662 deaths and 3,581 injured) from January 1 to June 30, 2017, which represents a decrease of less than one percent from the same period in 2016, but reported an increase in deaths. See UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Mid-Year Report 2017 (2017), at 3. The number of women and children killed and injured has increased this year, despite a decline in women and children casualties in 2016. [UNAMA Press Release] Civilian casualties in the first half of the year were primarily the result of anti-government forces’ use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs, in civilian-populated areas. See UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Mid-Year Report 2017, at 3–4. Medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted, impeding Afghans’ access to health care and education. See id. at 13, 17–19.

In consideration of its findings, UNAMA recommends that anti-government forces stop targeting civilians, that government forces stop using weapons such as mortars and rockets that can have devastating effects in civilian areas, and that international militaries support and train Afghanistan’s national army, among other recommendations. [UNAMA Press Release] In a statement recognizing the high rates of death and injury recorded in the report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that the statistics on casualties do not depict the full extent of the loss and suffering, such as psychological trauma and displacement. [OHCHR Press Release] Afghanistan is a State party to the Rome Statute, Geneva Conventions, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and, therefore, the State must refrain from targeting civilians during non-international armed conflict and respect and protect the right to life.

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ICC: South Africa’s Failure to Arrest Sudanese President Violates Rome Statute

Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan
Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released via Wikimedia Commons

In its decision of July 6, 2017, a pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held that South Africa violated its obligations under the Rome Statute by failing to comply with an ICC request to arrest and turn over to ICC custody Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on multiple counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in relation to the conflcit in Darfur. [ICC Press Release] Al-Bashir was in South Africa for a meeting of the African Union from June 13–15, 2015. [ICC Press Release] Despite its conclusion, the Court elected not to refer South Africa’s non-compliance to either the Assembly of States Parties – the legislative body of the ICC – or the United Nations Security Council, citing the fact that South African courts have already disposed of the matter. [ICC Press Release] The referrals, the Court said, are unnecessary to obtain cooperation from South Africa. [ICC Press Release] This decision could have implications for al-Bashir and others wanted by the ICC as they decide whether and where to travel. [New York Times] Since the issuance of his first arrest warrant in 2009, al-Bashir has managed to travel internationally to Asia and within Africa, but has strategically avoided the United States and Western European countries where he faces a greater risk of arrest. [New York Times] Read more

News Clips- July 7, 2017

Judges of the ICC find that South Africa failed to meet its obligation to arrest and surrender Omar Al-Bashir to the Court
Credit: ICC

Civil Society

  • On Thursday, Turkish police arrested nine human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director, Idli Eser. [BBC News]
  • On Thursday, a student activist in Hong Kong pleaded guilty to a contempt of court charge related to his participation in pro-democracy protests in 2014. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Sunday, anti-G20 summit protesters clashed with local police in Hamburg, Germany. [Guardian]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Tuesday, civil society reported that murder, torture, rape, severe hunger, and cholera outbreaks in South Sudan have led to major crises in the region. [Guardian]
  • On Monday, the Syrian army announced a temporary halt to combat operations in support of peace talks set to take place in Kazakhstan. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, five suicide bombs and a hand grenade were used to attack Lebanese soldiers during raids of two Syrian refugee camps in Arsal, Lebanon. [Reuters]
  • According to United Nation’s data released last Friday, at least 55 UN peacekeepers were accused of sexual abuse during UN Missions since January 2017. [Al Jazeera]

Politics

  • On Wednesday, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Raila Odinga, an opposition candidate, announced that they will not participate in the upcoming presidential debates due to a change in format. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, the German parliament voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. [Guardian]

International Criminal Law

  • On Thursday, the International Criminal Court found that South Africa breached its obligation to deliver Omar Al-Bashir to the Court. [ICC Press Release]
  • On Monday, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court stated there is a “reasonable basis” to conclude that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by United States troops, the Taliban, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. [BBC News]

News Clips- June 16, 2017

The United Nations Security Council discusses the situation in Somalia
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Civil Society

  • On Monday, courts in Russia began sentencing anti-corruption demonstrators arrested during protests led by an opposition leader. [Guardian]
  • On Tuesday, the parliament of Hungary approved regulations requiring certain foreign-funded civil society groups to register with the government. [Al Jazeera]

International Criminal Law

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Wednesday, 23 people were detained during an overnight raid in Venezuela for their alleged involvement in attacks against officers. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, 31 people died during a siege of a restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, which was orchestrated by al-Shabab. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Friday, 14 people were killed in clashes over food aid in Somalia. [Washington Post]

Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees

  • On Thursday, an aid organization rescued 420 migrants off the coast of Libya. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, authorities in Niger estimated that in the past week they rescued more than 100 migrants abandoned by traffickers. [Reuters]

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts

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