Refugee and Asylum Law: The Pre-Modern Era

The history of refugee and asylum law, in my opinion, may be divided into two major periods: (a) the pre-modern era before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and (b) the modern era starting with that 1948 adoption.[1] There are four major points from this earlier period that have impressed me.

First, there have been instances when individual states granted protection or asylum to people of another state, but the granting of such protection was always within the discretion or grace of the potential protecting state. Whether or not this was done was influenced by a multitude of circumstances. Correspondingly the individual fleeing his or her own country had no legal right to claim protection from another state. An interesting example of this type of asylum happened in 615 CE, when Mohammad requested his cousin and other followers to leave Mecca and seek refuge in Abyssinia or Ethiopia to escape persecution by Mecca’s leading tribe. This is known as the First Hijra (Migration) of Muslims. At the time, the King of Abyssinia was a Christian and known for his justice and respect for human beings. Responding to a letter from Mohammad, the King said he understood that Mohammad respected Jesus and, therefore, granted asylum to the Muslims.[2]

Second, as we have just seen, religious belief sometimes has motivated a government to grant asylum in this earlier period. In addition, religious bodies and individuals often call upon their members and fellow believers to be hospitable to outsiders such as those fleeing persecution. In Judaism and Christianity, for example, there are numerous Biblical texts to this effect. In the Hebrew Bible, the people are told, “Do no mistreat an alien or oppress him for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 222:21.) Similarly, “You are to have the same law for the alien and for the native born.” (Leviticus 24:22.) In the New Testament, Jesus when asked what the greatest commandment was, said, “Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39.)[3] Similarly Arabic traditions and customs have served as a solid foundation for protecting human beings and preserving their dignity. These include “istijara” (plea for protection), “ijara” (granting protection) and “iwaa” (sheltering). The Islamic Shari’a further consolidated the humanitarian principles of brotherhood, equality and tolerance among human beings. Relieving suffering and assisting, sheltering, and granting safety to the needy, even enemies, are an integral part of Islamic Shari’a. In fact,  Islamic Shari’a addressed the issue of asylum explicitly and in detail, and guaranteed safety, dignity and care for the “musta’men” (asylum-seeker). Moreover, the return, or refoulement, of the “musta’men” was prohibited by virtue of Shari’a.[4]

Third, after World War I, the Covenant of the League of Nations did not have any explicit provision regarding refugees. The closest it came was its Article 25, which states, “The Members of the League agree to encourage and promote the establishment and co-operation of duly authorised [sic] voluntary national Red Cross organisations [sic] having as purposes the improvement of health, the prevention of disease and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world.”[5] There also were various treaties regarding refugees in the 1920s and 1930s, but they did not grant legal rights to asylum.[6]       Fourth, German persecution of the Jews in the 1930s showed the weaknesses of this discretionary approach to asylum. In 1933 the Nazis took over control of the German government and fired Jews from the civil service and sponsored boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses.  Germany also started an official encouragement of German Jewish emigration, and in September 1935 Germany’s Nuremberg Laws cancelled German citizenship for Jews. By the end of 1937 450,000 German Jews had left the country.[7] In March of 1938 German annexed Austria (das Anschluss) and thereby brought the 200,000 Austrian Jews under German laws, including the Nuremberg Laws.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Evian Conference

Several days later U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to call an international conference to facilitate the emigration of Jews from Germany and Austria and to establish an international organization to work towards an overall solution to this problem. That July the conference was held in Evian, France. Thirty-two countries attended and expressed sympathy for the refugees. With one exception, however, no country agreed to take additional Jewish refugees. The exception was the Dominican Republic, and it did so because its dictator, Trujillo, wanted more white people in his country. The Conference also created the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees to “approach the governments of the countries of refuge with a view to developing opportunities for permanent settlement.” It also was to seek German cooperation in establishing “conditions of orderly emigration.” This Committee, however, never received the necessary authority or support from its members and, therefore, failed to accomplish anything. After the conference, Hitler said, “It is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole democratic world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented Jewish people, but remains hard hearted and obdurate when it comes to helping them . . . .” Moreover, the failure of the Conference to do anything about the German Jews was seen as an encouragement for Germany’s increasing persecution of the Jews, including Kristallnachtin October 1938 and the Holocaust itself through the end of World War II in 1945.


[1]  I have not studied what I can the pre-modern era in great depth and especially invite comments and critiques of this analysis.
[3] Religious beliefs motivated most, if not all, of those people and congregations that were involved in the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980’s to provide safe space to Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing their civil wars. See Post: The Sanctuary Movement Case (May 22, 2011).
[4] Prof. Ahmed Abou-El-Wafa, The Right to Asylum between Islamic Shari’ah and International Refugee Law: A Comparative Study (Riyadh – 2009 (1430 H.), http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendocPDFViewer.html?docid=4a9645646&query=sharia.
[5]  Covenant of the League of Nations, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/leagcov.asp#art25; Holborn, The Legal Status of Political Refugees, 32 Am. J. Int’l L. 680 (1938); Holborn, The League of Nations and the Refugee Problem, 203 Annals Am. Acad. Of Pol. & Soc. Sci. 124 (1939).
[6]  A list of these treaties is set forth in Article 1(A)(1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/refugees.htm.
[7] E.g., U.S. Holocaust Museum, The Evian Conference, http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007698 ; U.S. Holocaust Museum, Emigration and the Evian Conference, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005520 ; Annette Shaw, The Evian Conference–Hitler’s Green Light for Genocide, http://www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/evian/evian.html; Wikipedia, Evian Conference, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89vian_Conference.

International Criminal Justice: Libya, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and Serbia Developments

Over the last several weeks there have been important developments regarding the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

ICTR.

As we already have seen, the ICTR is winding down to complete its work by July 1, 2012, and one of the ways it is doing so is referring some cases to national judicial systems.[1] On June 26th, the ICTR referred one of its cases to the Rwandan national courts, the first time it had ever done so. It did so because there was evidence that Rwanda had made material changes to its laws and now had the capacity and intention to prosecute such cases in accordance with international standards of fair trial and human rights. The ICTR suggested that the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights monitor the proceedings and notify the ICTR of any problems for its possible revocation of the referral.[2]

On June 24th the ICTR announced the conviction of six defendants in the Butare case for genocide and related crimes. They received sentences from 25 years to life.[3]

Finally the recently arrested Bernard Munyagishari made his initial appearance before the ICTR and pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (murder and rape) of Tutsi women.[4]

ICTY.

On June 29th the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1993 to extend the terms of office of the ICTY judges until December 31, 2012. It did so to facilitate the ICTY’s completing the trial of all of its pending prosecutions. The resolution also called for all States, especially the States of the former Yugoslavia, to intensify cooperation with, and assistance to, the ICTY, including the arrest of Goran Hadzic.[5]

On July 4th Ratko Mladic made his initial appearance before the ICTY and refused to enter pleas  because he said he was not represented by lawyers of his choice. After he had repeatedly and loudly interrupted the proceedings, the judges ordered him removed from the courtroom and thereafter entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf. He faces charges of genocide and war crimes.[6]

ICC

There have been significant developments regarding the Libyan, Sudan (Darfur) and Kenyan  investigations and prosecutions by the ICC. Many of these developments involve the ICC’s tense relations with the African Union (AU) as will be seen below.

Libya. As previously reported, the ICC on June 27th authorized the issuance of arrest warrants for Colonel Muammar Gadhafi and two others for crimes against humanity in Libya since February 15, 2011. The ICC Prosecutor has emphasized the importance and difficulty of making the actual arrests of these three individuals.[7]

On July 2nd the execution of these ICC arrest warrants was made even more difficult by a resolution adopted by the AU. It recommended that its 53 member-states “not cooperate in the execution of the arrest warrant” for Colonel Gadhafi.  This warrant, the AU said, “seriously complicates the efforts aimed at finding a negotiated political solution to the crisis in Libya which will also address, in a mutually-reinforcing way, issues relating to impunity and reconciliation.” This decision increases the chances for Gadhafi to avoid ICC prosecution by obtaining refuge in another African country. The AU also requested the U.N. Security Council to exercise its authority under Article 16 of the ICC’s Rome Statute to defer or stay the ICC’s investigations and prosecutions regarding Libya for one year.[8]

This AU resolution conflicts with the obligations of the 32 African states that are parties to the ICC’s Rome Statute. Its Article 86 obligates them to “cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes within [its] jurisdiction.”

Sudan. Pursuant to U.N. Security Council referral, the ICC Prosecutor has been conducting investigations and prosecutions regarding the Sudan (Darfur). One of the prosecutions has been of the Sudanese President Bashir.[9]

The just noted inherent difficulties of enforcing ICC arrest warrants has also been in the news with respect to the recent trip to China by President Bashir.[10] His earlier trips to other African countries (Chad, Kenya and Djibouti) that are ICC States Parties have been defended by the AU as consistent with these countries’ obligations under the AU’s Constitutive Act and Article 98 of the Rome Statute as well as their efforts to promote peace and stability in their regions.[11]

In the meantime, violence continues in Sudan.[12] The AU Summit issued nice-sounding words about the need for a peaceful transition in Sudan. This included a more general request to the U.N. Security Council to defer all ICC investigations and prosecutions regarding Sudan for one year. [13]

Kenya. As previously reported, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on March 31, 2010, authorized the Prosecutor to commence an investigation of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008, and on March 8, 2011, that Chamber authorized the issuance of six arrest summonses.[14]

At its recent Summit, the AU stressed the need to pursue all efforts to have the U.N. Security Council use its authority under Article 16 of the Rome Statute to defer or stay the ICC’s investigations and prosecutions regarding Kenya for one year. Such a deferral, the AU stated, would enable an investigation and prosecution by a reformed Kenyan judiciary in accordance with the ICC’s principle of complementarity. [15]

U.N. Security Council.

As we have just seen, all of the current ICC investigations and prosecutions come from Africa, two upon referrals by the U.N. Security Council and all of which potentially are subject to deferral by the Council. Thus, it is not surprising that the AU at its recent Summit meeting re-emphasized its desire for reform of the U.N. Security Council in order “to correct . . . the historical injustice done to the [African] continent, which continues to be unrepresented in the permanent category and under-represented in the non-permanent category of the . . . [Council].”[16]

To this end, the AU reaffirmed its Ezulwini Consensus on proposed U.N. reforms. With respect to the Security Council, this Consensus called for Africa to have two permanent and five non-permanent members on a reformed Council as chosen by the AU.[17]


[1] Post: International Criminal Justice: Winding Down Two Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals (June 18, 2011).

[2] ICTR Press Release, Case of Jean Uwinkindi Referred for Trial to the Republic of Rwanda (June 28, 2011); Reuters, U.N. Court Refers Genocide Case to Rwanda, N.Y. Times (June 28, 2011). Uwinkindi is a former Pentecostal pastor who has been accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination) against the Tutsi people. (Id.)

[3] ICTR Press Release, Butare Judgment Released (June 24, 2011)

[4] ICTR Press Release, Bernard Munyagishari Pleads Not Guilty (June 20, 2011).

[5]  U.N. Security Council Press Release, Terms of 17 Judges with [ICTY] Extended (June 29, 2011); ICTY Press Release, Security Council extends Terms of ICTY Judges and Calls for Increased Cooperation with the Tribunal (June 30, 2011).

[6] Reuters, Mladic to ‘boycott war crimes hearing,’ Guardian (July 4, 2011); Simons & Cowell, Hague Judge Orders Mladic Removed From Courtroom, N.Y. Times (July 4, 2011). See Post: International Criminal Justice: Mladic To Face Charges at ICTY (May 27, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Mladic Update (June 1, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Winding Down Two Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals (June 18, 2011).

[7]  See Post: The International  Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court’s Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court: Investigation of Gang-Rape in Libya (May 17, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court: Issuance of Libyan Arrest Warrants and Other Developments (June 27, 2011); Stephen, Muammar Gaddafi war crimes files revealed, Guardian (June 18, 2011); Fahim, Claims of Wartime Rapes Unsettle and Divide Libyans, N.Y. Times (June 19, 2011).

[8]  Associated Press, AU Members Agree to Disregard ICC Gadhafi Warrant, N.Y. Times (July 2, 2011); Associated Press, African Union calls on member states to disregard ICC arrest warrant against Libya’s Gadhafi, Wash. Post (July 2, 2011); Amann, AU v. ICC, yet another round (July 3, 2011), http://intlawgrrls.blogspot.com/2011/07/au-v-icc-yet-another-round.html; AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news. Less than three weeks earlier the AU told the U.N. Security Council that the AU will not hide from its responsibility to help resolve the Libyan conflict. (U.N. Security Council, Press Release: African Union Will Never Hide from Responsibilities in Resolving Libyan Conflict (June 15, 2011).

[9]  See Post: The International  Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International  Criminal Court’s Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[10] Post: International Criminal Court: ICC Prosecutor Updates U.N. Security Council on Sudan (Darfur) (June 17, 2011); Higgins, Oil interests tie China to Sudan leader Bashir, even as he faces genocide charges, Wash. Post (June 22, 2011); Associated Press, Embattled Sudan president visits chief diplomatic backer, China, Wash. Post (June 29, 2011); Wines, Sudanese Leader Is Welcomed in Visit to China (June 29, 2011); Associated Press, UN: China Should Have Arrested Al-Bashir, N.Y. Times (June 30, 2011) (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights).

[11] AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news.

[12]  Post: International Criminal Court: ICC Prosecutor Updates U.N. Security Council on Sudan (Darfur) (June 17, 2011); Gettleman, Sudan to Pull Troops From Abyei and Allow Peacekeepers, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2011); Kron, Ethnic Killings by Army Reported in Sudanese Mountains, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2011); Gettleman, As Secesssion Nears, Sudan Steps Up Drive to Stop Rebels, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2011); Bilefsky, U.N. Approves Troop Deployment in Sudan, N.Y. Times (June 27, 2011); Gettleman, Sudan Signs Pact With Opposition Forces, N.Y. Times (June 28, 2011); Reuters, Two Sudans to Create a Buffer Zone, N.Y. Times (June 29, 2011); Kristof, Yet Again in Sudan (June 29, 2011)(Sudanese government conducting vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing, murder and rape in Nuba Mountains); Gettleman, Another Area Girds for Revolt as Sudan Approaches a Split, N.Y. Times (June 30, 2011); Reuters, Sudan President [Bashir] vows to Fight, N.Y. Times (July 1, 2011); Gettleman, Sudanese Struggle to Survive Endless Bombings Aimed to Quell Rebels, N.Y. Times (July 3, 2011); Fagotto, Sudan partition leaves rebel Nuba region feeling betrayed, Guardian (July 3, 2011); Reuters, North and South Sudan Delay Talks Until After Split, N.Y. Times (July 4, 2011); Associated Press, Sudan President to Speak at S. Sudan Independence, N.Y. times (July 4, 2011).

[13] AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news.

[14]  Post: The International Criminal Court’s Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[15] AU Comm’n, Decisions adopted during the 17th African Union Summit (July 4, 2011), http://www.starafrica.com/en/news.

[16]  Id.

[17] Au, Elzwini Consensus  (March 8, 2005).

Supporting International Criminal Justice and the International Criminal Court

Another outgrowth of my eight years of teaching the international human rights law course at the University of Minnesota Law School was an expanding knowledge of, and interest in, international criminal justice, in general, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), in particular.[1]

The general topic of international criminal justice covers the efforts of national and international courts to impose criminal penalties on those who are convicted of committing the worst crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.[2] My interest in this topic is shown by the 14 posts on this topic to date.[3] Similarly my interest in the ICC is demonstrated by the 18 posts on this topic to date.[4]

I have put this interest into action in several ways.

I have served as the Provisional Organizer of the Minnesota Alliance for the ICC, which is a member of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the ICC (AMICC). This Coalition is committed to achieving through education, information, promotion and an aroused public opinion full U.S. support for the ICC and the earliest possible U.S. ratification of the Court’s Rome Statute.[5] Some of my papers about the ICC and the Rome Statute are posted on the AMICC website.[6]

 

Professor Barbara Frey and I assisted the Human Rights Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) in developing and presenting a resolution on the ICC that was adopted by the Association’s governing body in September 2010. That resolution stated that the MSBA “urges the [U.S.] Government to take steps towards ratification of the Rome Statute by expanding and broadening [U.S.] interaction with the [ICC], including cooperation with the Court’s investigations and proceedings. The MSBA also calls on the [U.S.] Government to participate in all future sessions of the [ICC’s] governing body, the Assembly of States Parties.”[7]

 

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC Prosecutor
Duane W. Krohnke

In September 2010 I also presented a paper about the U.S.’ relationship with the ICC at a symposium at the University of Minnesota Law School.[8] The true highlight of the symposium was the appearance of the ICC’s Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He said that when he was chosen as the Prosecutor in 2003, he told its judges that the best situation for the Court would be to have no cases. That would mean that there were no serious crimes in the world or that national courts by themselves were addressing these crimes. At the symposium he reviewed the history of the Court and its current investigations and prosecutions.[9]

In March 2011 I participated in a debate at a meeting at the University of Minnesota Law School that was hosted by the Federalist Society, Law School Democrats and InternationalLaw Society. The issue was whether the U.S. should become a member of the ICC. [10] The key points of that debate were the following:

  • Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University School of Law asserted that U.S. membership in the ICC would be unconstitutional.  U.S. membership would expose U.S. citizens to trials without the structures of an Article III court. In such trials defendants would not have certain procedural rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as the right to a grand jury. He based his constitutional argument on the U.S. refusal in the early 19th century to join international slave-trading courts or commissions organized by Great Britain.[11]
  • Professor Kontorovich also argued that the ICC was a failure: the sluggishness of the trial process, the failure to convict any defendant, and the absence of empirical research demonstrating meaningful deterrent effects. The ICC, he said, could actually extend conflict by inhibiting peace deals when militants or regimes see international criminal prosecution as unavoidable in spite of ceasing or surrendering. He was also critical of the recent aggression amendment to the Rome Statute.
  • I responded that the U.S. Constitution does not bar U.S. membership in the ICC.  I referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. Holland that endorsed a broad interpretation of the President’s constitutional treaty power subject to the U.S. Senate’s advice and consent. I said I had not had an opportunity to review Professor Kontorovich’s early 19th century sources for his constitutional argument, but in doing so anyone should have at least two overriding questions in mind: (a) was U.S. resistance to the slave-trading courts due to Southerners’ desire to preserve slavery and (b) was U.S. resistance to such courts due to a desire to avoid entanglement with Great Britain so soon after our Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.[12]
  • I then argued the U.S. should ratify the Rome Statute for the following additional reasons: (1) the Court will prosecute and punish those guilty of the most serious crime; (2) the Court provides deterrence from such crimes; (3) the Court promulgates the truth about these crimes; (4) the Court assists victims; and (5) the Court is active and appears to be permanent, making U.S. involvement pragmatic.

International criminal justice needs the support of all citizens of the world. Going forward, the ICC is the most important institution for holding violators of international rights accountable for their actions.


[1] See Post: Teaching the International Human Rights Law Course (July 1, 2011).

[2] See Post: International Criminal Justice: Introduction (April 26, 2011).

[3] These posts can be accessed by double-clicking on “International Criminal Justice” in the Tag Cloud (dwkcommentariestags) to the right of this post.

[4]  These posts can be accessed by double-clicking on “International Criminal Court” in the Tag Cloud (dwkcommentariestags) to the right of this post.

[5]  AMICC, Mission Statement, http://www.amicc.org/mission.html.

6] Krohnke, US FEDERAL COURTS RELY ON THE ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IN CIVIL CASES (Nov. 9, 2009); Krohnke, U.S. Court of Appeals Relies Upon Rome Statute in Case Raising Issue of Corporate Liability under the Alien Tort Statute (Nov. 22, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/11/us-court-of-appeals-relies-upon-rome.html; Krohnke, U.N. Human Rights Council Recommends U.S. Join the International Criminal Court (Nov. 12, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/11/un-human-rights-council-session.html; Krohnke, Symposium on International Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Highlights the Importance of the International Criminal Court (Oct. 4, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/10/symposium-on-international-criminal.html.

[7] MSBA, Resolution regarding the ICC (Sept. 17, 2010), http://www.mnbar.org/committees/humanrights.

[8] Many of the points of the symposium paper have been set forth in other postings to this blog. Post: The International Criminal Court and the Clinton Administration (May 11, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the G. W. Bush Administration (May 12, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: The Crime of Aggression (May 15, 2011).

[9]  Krohnke, Symposium on International Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Highlights the Importance of the International Criminal Court (Oct. 4, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/10/symposium-on-international-criminal.html; Univ. Minn. Journal of Law & Inequality, 2010 Symposium: “International Wrongs, International Rights: The Use of Criminal Law to Protect Human Rights” (Sept. 28, 2010), http://www.law.umn.edu/lawineq/symposiummain/september-2010-agenda.

[10]  Rau & Shepherd, AMICC  Representative Participates in University of Minnesota Law School Debate on the US Involvement in the ICC  (March 28, 2011), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2011/03/amicc-representative-in-minnesota.html.

[11] Kontorovich, The Constitutionality of International Courts: The Forgotten Precedent of Slave Trade Tribunals, 158 U. Penn. L. Rev. 39 (2009).

[12]  After the debate, I discovered that a Stanford University Law School professor had written a rebuttal to Professor Kontorovich’s interpretation of the U.S. refusal to join the British-led international courts or commissions with respect to slave trading. In essence, she argued that in the early 19th century slave trading was not against international law. Instead, only Great Britain and the U.S. had recently banned such activities. Thus, the proposed international courts or commissions potentially would be trying U.S. citizens under U.S. law. That was the source, and a legitimate one, for U.S. refusal to join such tribunals at that time. (Martinez, International Courts and the U.S. Constitution: Re-Examining the History (2011), http://www.pennumbra.com/issues/article.php?aid=306.

International Criminal Court: Issuance of Libyan Arrest Warrants and Other Developments

On June 27th, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued warrants of arrest for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed across Libya from 15 February 2011 until at least 28 February 2011, through the State apparatus and Security Forces.[1]

The Chamber concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the three suspects committed the alleged crimes and that their arrests appear necessary in order to ensure their appearances before the Court; to ensure that they do not continue to obstruct and endanger the Court’s investigations; and to prevent them from using their powers to continue the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.

Apprehending the suspects will be a particular challenge for the ICC and its supporters. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 that referred the situation to the Court obligates the Libyan authorities to cooperate with the ICC. However, Gaddafi and the Libyan leadership have given no indication that they would cooperate at all with the Court. The warrants could also make it more difficult for Gaddafi to negotiate an exit into exile since he has few friends globally and all current 114 ICC States Parties are under an obligation to arrest him. Moreover, it is clear from this and other cases that the ICC Prosecutor and judges believe that they are obliged to proceed with a case referred by the Security Council if the evidence justifies it.

This challenge to the international community could prove an important opportunity for U.S. leadership and support to the Court. The U.S. has been working publicly to engage with the Court and support ICC cases. In particular, it has backed the Court’s effort to investigate and prosecute recent crimes in Libya. The arrest warrants issued today provide a new and concrete opportunity to advance U.S. national interests and to support international criminal justice. For this reason and since July 17 is International Justice Day, the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC) has created an International Justice Day alert action. It urges President Obama to help fulfill the mandate of Resolution 1970 by helping to carry out the arrest warrants issued today. Please sign and submit the letter to the President: http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-president-obama-to-support-the-icc-on-libya-and-help-arrest-gaddafi.

Two other recent developments should be mentioned.

Last week, on June 24th, Tunisia filed its documents acceding to the Court’s Rome Statute. Effective September 1, 2011, it will be the 116th State Party to the Statute.[2]

On June 23rd, the ICC Prosecutor announced that he had made a formal application to the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Ivory Coast since November 28, 2010.[3]


[1]  ICC Press Release, Pre-Trial Chamber I issues three warrants of arrest for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdulla Al-Senussi(June 27, 2011); Simons, Hague Court Issues Warrant for Qaddafi for War Crimes, N.Y. Times (June 27, 2011). See Post: International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 25, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Three Libyan Arrest Warrants Sought (May 16, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Investigation of Gang-Rape in Libya (May 17, 2011). The Libyan situation was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council. (Id.)

[2] ICC Press Release, Tunisia becomes the 116th State to join the ICC’s governing treaty, the Rome Statute (June 24, 2011).

[3]  ICC Press Release, ICC Prosecutor requests judges for authorization to open an investigation in Cote d’Ivoire (June 23, 2011).

International Criminal Court: The Upcoming Election of Its Prosecutor

This coming December the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will also elect a new Prosecutor for a single term of nine years.[1]

The Prosecutor is in charge of the management and administration of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP). That Office is “responsible for receiving referrals and any substantiated information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, for examining them and for conducting investigations and prosecutions before the Court.”[2]

The Rome Statute sets forth the following necessary personal qualifications for the Prosecutor:

  • “High moral character;”
  • “Highly competent in and . . . extensive practical experience in the prosecution or trial of criminal cases;” and
  • Excellent knowledge of, and fluency in, one of the Court’s two “working languages” (English and French). [3]

Note that there is no requirement that the Prosecutor come from one of the Court’s States Parties. As a result, technically a U.S. citizen with the above qualifications would be eligible for election to this position, but given the history of the U.S. relationship with the Court and the global involvement of the U.S., most observers think it highly unlikely that a U.S. citizen could be, or should be, chosen for this job.

Six international human rights NGOs have advanced recommended selection criteria for the next ICC Prosecutor. Their doing so was in the context of what they saw as the challenges facing the ICC and its Prosecutor. The ICC’s work is done in a highly politicized international environment. The Prosecutor has to prioritize investigations and prosecutions to advance the Court’s goals, including victims’ right to justice. The Prosecutor must direct a diverse group of highly qualified people in a wide variety of complex and specialized tasks in the OTP. The Prosecutor must make trials relevant and meaningful for affected communities. The Prosecutor must promote complementarity, i.e.,  national investigations and prosecutions of crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The Prosecutor must cooperate with other organs of the ICC to continue to build the institution.[4]

With all of these challenges in mind, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the other five NGOs recommended the following criteria for selecting the next ICC Prosecutor in addition to the individual’s meeting the statutory requirements:

  1. Demonstrated experience of professional excellence in complex criminal cases. This is most important since the primary role of the Prosecutor is to conduct factually provable and legally sound prosecutions and trials. Former judges may meet this criterion too.
  2. Demonstrated ability to act with independence and impartiality in the exercise of professional duties. This criterion requires demonstrated experience with, or an understanding of, international relations and other institutions relevant to the work of the OTP.
  3. Demonstrated professional excellence in institutional mangament. The Prosecutor must also develop a positive work environment in a multi-cultural environment. Delegation and supervision have to be balanced.
  4. Demonstrated experience in working with other bodies or agencies to achieve a common goal. This involves resolving disputes or tensions.
  5. Demonstrated experience in communicating effectively to a wide variety of constituencies.[5]

HRW also has made suggestions regarding the OTP’s “preliminary examinations” of possible situations for possible investigation by the OTP. More can be done by the OTP in these examinations, says HRW, to encourage national authorities to undertake investigations and prosecutions of possible crimes. One way to do this, according to HRW, is for the OTP to issue interim reports on the status of such examinations. This is consistent with the Rome Statute’s desire to promote “complementarity.”[6]

Just this year the ICC has been asked to shoulder more burdens with the U.N. Security Council’s referral of the current situation in Libya to the ICC.[7] Thus, it is critically important to the world for the ICC to be strengthened in every way, including the election of a fully qualified new Prosecutor.


[1] Rome Statute, Art. 42; Post: The International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); ICC, Election of Prosecutor–2011,   http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ASP/Elections/Prosecutor/Prosecutor.htm.    As previously discussed, in December 2011 the Assembly of States Parties will also elect six new judges. (SeePost: The International Criminal Court: Basics of Its Upcoming Judicial Election (June 23, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Required and Recommended Qualifications for Its Judges (June 24, 2011).)

[2] Rome Statute, Art. 42(1), (2).

[3] Rome Statute, Arts. 42(3), 50(2).

[4] Human Rights Watch, ICC: Selection Criteria for the Next Prosecutor to Meet the Challenges Ahead (March 18, 2011), http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/03/18/icc-selection-criteria-next-prosecutor-meet-challenges-ahead. The five other NGOs are Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme, International Center for Transitional Justice, International Crisis Group, Institute for Security Studies and Open Society Justice Initiative. The International Coalition for the International Criminal Court also actively participated in preparing this statement, but with 2,500 members, it was not possible to seek global endorsement. Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Human Rights Watch, ICC: Prosecutor Can Spur National Trials, Deter Crimes (June 15, 2011) http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/06/15/icc-prosecutor-can-spur-national-trials-deter-crimes. See Post: The International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[7]  See Post: The International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Three Liban Arrest Warrants Sought (May 16, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Investigation of Gang-Rape in Libya (May 16, 2011).

International Criminal Court: Basics of Its Upcoming Judicial Election

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has 18 judges, each of whom serves only one term of nine years. In December of 2011 six new judges will be elected by the Court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties.[1]

Aside from specified and recommended personal qualifications for these judgeships,[2] there are requirements that judges come from the current 115 States Parties, that no State may have more than one judgeship and that there be equitable geographical and gender representation on the Court. There is also a requirement that the Court have representation of the “principal legal systems of the world.”[3]

Of the six judges who will be replaced in the upcoming elections, three are female and three are male. Two are from Latin America (Brazil and Costa Rica), two from Africa (Mali and Uganda) and two from Western Europe and Other (France and the U.K.)[4]

Given the Rome Statute’s requirement for considerations of geographical and gender equity  and for certain proportions for Lists A and B judges, the upcoming elections will seek to elect up to 2 females and at least 4 males who come from the A List (at least 4) and the B List (no more than 2) from the following geographical areas:

  • Africa: 2 from 28 African States Parties (31 -3 (Botswana, Ghana and Kenya, which already are represented on the Court));
  • Latin America: 2 from 24 Latin American and Caribbean States Parties (26  – 2 (Argentina and Bolivia, which already are represented on the Court)); and
  • Western Europe & Other States Parties: 2 from 22 Western European/Other States Parties (25 – 3 (Belgium, Finland, and Germany, which already are represented on the Court)).[5]

Nominees for these six positions must come from the 115 States Parties (with no more than one nomination from each such State) during the period June 13 through September 2, 2011. Each nomination must have a statement specifying how the individual meets the personal requirements of the Rome Statute.[6]

As of June 22, 2011, there were the following four nominations:[7]

  • Judge John Bankole Thompson of Sierra Leone. He has been a Judge of the High Court of Sierra Leone and of the Trial Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He also has been a law professor in his country and in the U.S. (University of Akron School of Law, Kent State University and Eastern Kentucky University. He holds LLB, M.A. and Ph. D. degrees in law from Cambridge University.
  • Bruno Cathala of France. He has been the ICC’s Registrar and its Director of Common Services; Deputy Registrar of the ICTY; president of two regional French courts and one of its juvenile courts. He also has been Deputy Director of a French government department for judicial protection of juveniles. He hold degrees from France’s Institutes of Higher National Defense Studies and of Higher Internal Security Studies and a post-graduate pre-PhD diploma in Private Law from the School of Law, University of Paris.
  • Chile Eboe-Osujl of Nigeria. He has been an advocate in criminal cases in the courts of Nigeria and Canada and a prosecutor at the ICTR and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He has served as an advisor to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Nigerian delegation to the ICC’s Review Conference on the crime of aggression. He has taught international criminal law at the University of Ottawa. He has special experience and expertise regarding violence against women and children.
  • Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso. He has been an ad litem judge for the ICTR and a judge in several courts in his country. He also has served in his country’s Ministry of Justice.

The more fascinating issue of the specified and recommended personal qualifications for these positions will be discussed in a future post.


[1] See Post: The International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Rome Statute, Art. 36 (1), (9); ICC, Election of six judges–December 2011, http://www2.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ASP/Elections/Judges/2011/2011.htm.

[2] A future post will discuss the Rome Statute’s specified qualifications for judgeships as well as recommended qualifications proposed by civil society.

[3] Rome Statute, Art. 36 (7), (8)(a).

[4] International Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Information about the Nomination and Election of Six New Judges and the Prosecutor, New York, December 2011, http://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/.

[5] Id.

[6]  Rome Statute, Art. 36 (4)

[7]  ICC, Election of six judges–December 2011, http://www2.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ASP/Elections/Judges/2011/2011.htm.

International Criminal Justice: U.S. Reportedly Failed To Detain Rwandan Indictee of Spanish Court

In May 2011 Justus Majyambere, a major in the Rwandan Defense Forces, apparently visited the U.S. Military Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as an official representative of his government. The purpose of the visit was to obtain ideas for starting a military college in Rwanda.[1]

That sounds like a positive development.

But Majyambere is under indictment by a Spanish court for alleged involvement in the killing of nine employees of a Spanish NGO in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, he is under an Interpol “red notice,” a worldwide bulletin that is roughly equivalent to an arrest warrant. As a result, he reportedly was arrested upon his recent arrival in the U.S., but mysteriously was not detained and sent to Spain.[2]

If all of this is true, it is contrary to repeated statements by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp, about U.S. supporting the arrest of fugitives from international criminal justice.[3] It is also contrary to the global goal of punishing and deterring violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.


[1] Rosen, U.S. Hosted Alleged Rwandan War Criminal for Military Visit, (June 20, 2011), http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/06/us-hosted-alleged-rwandan-war-criminal-for-military-visit/240679/.

[2]  Id.

[3]  See Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: Possible U.N. Security Council Referral of Syrian Human Rights Abuses to ICC (June 18, 2011).