We recently have reviewed the taking of office of five new judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Court’s first conviction in the case of Thomas Lubanga Diyalo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now we look at some other recent ICC developments.
Central African Republic. The only case from the Central African Republic involves one defendant, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who is now on trial.
Darfur/Sudan. There are five cases involving seven defendants. Two are in ICC custody at The Hague and await trial. One had the charges dismissed. The other four, including Sudanese President Bashir, are at large.
Another of the at-large defendants is Abdel Raheem Muhammad, whose arrest warrant was just issued on March 1, 2012, for 41 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the context of the situation in Darfur (Sudan). Mr. Hussein is currently Minister of National Defense of the Sudanese Government and former Minister of the Interior and former Sudanese President’s Special Representative in Darfur.
Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are four cases involving five defendants. One, Mr. Lubanga, was recently convicted. A case involving two other defendants is now on trial. The charges against another defendant were not confirmed by the Pre-Trial Chamber while the fifth defendant is at large.
After the conviction of Mr. Lubanga, the ICC Prosecutor said he plans to demand that DRC President Joseph Kabila hand over the defendant still at large. He is Bosco Ntaganda, who was promoted to DRC army general after being indicted with Lubanga by the ICC and who now faces new charges of mass rape and murder.
Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). There is only one case involving one defendant, Laurent Gbagbo (the former President of the country) for whom the hearing on the confirmation of charges is scheduled to start on 18 June 2012. He is in ICC custody at The Hague.
On February 22, 2012, the Pre-Trial Chamber decided to expand its authorization for the investigation in Côte d’Ivoire to include crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed between September 19, 2002 and November 28, 2010. (The prior authorization only covered alleged crimes committed since November 28, 2010.)
The Chamber considered that the violent events in Côte d’Ivoire in this period (including the events since 28 November 2010) are to be treated as a single situation, in which an ongoing crisis involving a prolonged political dispute and power-struggle culminated in the events in relation to which the Chamber earlier authorized an investigation. Concentrating on the most significant of the samples of incidents, the Chamber concluded that there is reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of these events, acts of murder and rape that could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed.
In the country lawlessness and violence continues, and an U.N. agency recently determined that its security forces that have been accused of killings, arbitrary arrests and other human rights violations are acting alone and not under government orders.
Kenya. There are two Kenyan cases involving six defendants. On January 23, 2012, the Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed the charges against four of the defendants and committed them to trial while declining to confirm the charges against the other two.
The reaction to this decision in Kenya is reviewed elsewhere.
Libya. There is one case involving three defendants. One defendant, Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, is deceased, and his case has been terminated. The other two- Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi–are charged with crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed across Libya from February 15, 2011 until at least 28 February 2011, through the State apparatus and Security Forces.
Al-Islam Gaddafi is in detention in Libya, which has been resisting ICC demands for his being surrendered to the Court. Al-Senussi recently was captured in Mauritania, and Libya is pressing that country to turn him over to Libyan authorities, rather than the ICC. The legal issue at the heart of this dispute over where these two men will be tried is whether Libya has a functioning judicial system that can provide a due-process criminal proceeding.
Uganda. There is one case involving four defendant leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), including Joseph Kony. All four are at large.
The major recent development regarding the ICC’s case has happened outside the legal process. Earlier this month a 30-minute YouTube video “Kony 2012” portrayed Mr. Kony’s involvement with child soldiers and called for his arrest and surrender to the ICC for trial. This video became a world-wide phenomenon (“it went viral”) and the subject of much controversy.
This increased attention to Kony has caused the Ugandan military to intensify its efforts to find Kony and other LRA leaders.
In the meantime, the U.S., although not a member of the ICC, has reiterated its commitment of military resources to locate the LRA leaders. The Department of State recently declared that the U.S. has a “comprehensive, multi-year strategy [that] seeks to help the Governments of Uganda, CAR, the DRC, and South Sudan as well as the African Union and United Nations to mitigate and end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA. The strategy outlines four key objectives for U.S. support: (1) the increased protection of civilians, (2) the apprehension or removal of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield, (3) the promotion of defections and support of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters, and (4) the provision of continued humanitarian relief to affected communities.”
As evident from the above, all of the ICC’s current investigations and cases come from Africa, which has produced tension between the Court and the continent’s leaders. Following the recent elections of an African (Fatou Bensouda) as the Court’s new Prosecutor and another African (Chile Eboe Osuji) as one of its new judges, nearly 36 NGOs from 19 African countries recently sent a joint letter to the foreign ministers of the African countries that are parties to the ICC’s Rome Statute urging them to seek to improve African relations with the ICC. The letter’s specific recommendations to this end included the following:
- more meetings and “exchange of views” between officials of the African Union and the ICC;
- establishment by the African Union of an ICC liaison office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
- fulfillment by states parties of their obligations under the ICC treaty to implement warrants and decisions of the court; and
- improvement of national justice systems so that they might pursue persons accused of the core crimes that the ICC now prosecutes – genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes – domestically, as envisaged by the ICC Statute’s complementarity principle.