Reactions to Charles Taylor’s Conviction

Special Court for Sierra Leone Logo

As reported in a prior post, on April 26th the Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted Charles Taylor, the former President of neighboring Liberia of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The hearing on his sentencing has been scheduled for May 16th with the sentence to be pronounced on May 30th. The deadline for any appeal is 14 days after the sentencing judgment.

Before we look at the reactions to that conviction, we should be aware of the gruesome details of what happened in Sierra Leone according to witnesses at Taylor’s trial. Here are only two examples. One male witness, “Then I put this other hand. Then he [a Sierra Leone rebel] chopped it, but when he chopped it it was not severed initially. He chopped it twice, and it hit here and some bones were broken in it. Then the third time it was severed.” Another male witness, “Well, they [the rebels] used to treat them [civilians] badly. They used to rape them. They used to kill them. Sometimes they even ate them.” A video with photos of some of the Sierra Leone victims should be watched as well as current photos from the country.

Another aspect of the trial needs highlighting. One of the challenges facing the prosecution was how to link Mr. Taylor in Liberia to the crimes committed in Sierra Leone. There was no paper trail showing orders from Taylor. Nor was there any evidence of his ever going to Sierra Leone. He was not at the scene of the crimes in that country, and the Liberian army was not involved. Instead the link was proven by radio and telephone communications from Taylor to the rebels in Sierra Leone, by shipments of arms and ammunition to the rebels from Taylor’s forces and by bank records showing transfers of funds to Taylor’s accounts from Sierra Leone.

The Special Court’s chief prosecutor, Brenda J. Hollis, who is a U.S. lawyer, said the conviction was a triumph for the idea that political leaders should be held accountable  for their deeds in “the new reality of an international justice system.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the conviction “marked a major milestone in the development of international justice. . . .  A former President, who once wielded immense influence in a neighbouring [sic] country where tens of thousands of people were killed, mutilated, raped, robbed and repeatedly displaced for years on end, has been arrested, tried in a fair and thorough international procedure, and has now been convicted of very serious crimes.” Such a result, she said, was “a stark warning to other Heads of State who are committing similar crimes, or contemplating doing so.”

The U.S. Department of State issued an official statement welcoming the conviction as “an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims, restoring peace and stability in the country and the region, and completing the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s mandate to prosecute those persons who bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed in Sierra LeoneThe Taylor prosecution at the Special Court delivers a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in the highest positions of power, that they will be held accountable.” The U.S. statement also noted that the U.S. “has been a strong supporter and the leading donor of the Special Court  . . . since its inception. The successful completion of the Special Court’s work remains a top U.S. Government priority.”

Amnesty International (AI) asserted that the conviction sends “a clear message to leaders the world over that no-one is immune from justice.”  However, AI lamented that because of the limited jurisdiction and funding of the Special Court, “Thousands of persons suspected of criminal responsibility for incidences of unlawful killings, rape and sexual violence, mutilations and the use of children in Sierra Leone’s armed conflict have never been investigated, much less prosecuted.” In addition, AI emphasized that “only a limited number of Sierra Leone’s thousands of victims who bear the terrible scars of the conflict have received reparations, despite the [provisions for reparations in the Sierra Leone] Peace Accord and the clear recommendations [for reparations] by [Sierra Leone’s] Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” AI also reiterated its call for the repeal of the amnesty provision in the Peace Accord and [for Sierra Leone’s] enactment of legislation defining crimes against humanity and war crimes as crimes under Sierra Leone law.”

Human Rights Watch had a similar reaction. It said the conviction “sends a message to those in power that they can be held to account for grave crimes.”

A New York Times editorial said the conviction “is a historic victory for justice and accountability: the first time a former head of state has been convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II. Mr. Taylor . . . richly deserves this distinction.” The editorial also reminded us that “other leaders . . .  deserve the same fate” from the International Criminal Court in its prosecutions of the Ivory Coast’s brutal former president, Laurent Gbagbo, and Sudan’s current president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The Guardian newspaper from London commented that the conviction was “an important step in what can only be described as the faltering path of international justice.” It noted that even though there were dysfunctional justice systems in Russia and China, it is “a safe bet that no Russian [or Chinese] leader will ever appear before an international court of justice for war crimes . . . . The same is true of . . . US or British generals for war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Might, or a seat on the UN security council, still appears to be right. If the arm of international law is long, it is also selective. . . .  If impunity is to end, jurisdiction has to be universal.”

Taylor’s conviction was for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sierra Leone. But the conviction reminded Liberians of the horrible similar crimes committed in their country by Taylor and his forces.

Charles Taylor (Rebel leader)
Charles Taylor, President of Liberia

An expert on Liberia stated that in “Liberia, Mr. Taylor fought a brutal campaign against West African peacekeepers and other armed factions. As many as 250,000 Liberians out of a prewar population of just over [3,000,000] lost their lives, while more than [1,000,000] others became refugees — crimes for which no one has yet been held accountable. An internationally brokered peace deal in 1997 led to the travesty of a frightened population’s electing Mr. Taylor president for fear of what would happen if he did not get his way. He was driven from power only in 2003.” Moreover, “many of his closest former associates remain at large and active in public life . . . . Mr. Taylor’s ex-wife, Jewel Howard Taylor, who filed for divorce after his fall from power in part to protect her assets from international sanctions, is a member of the Liberian Senate. So is Prince Y. Johnson, a onetime Taylor ally who literally butchered President Samuel K. Doe at the start of the civil war and was so certain of his impunity that he had the entire episode videotaped for posterity. Far from becoming a pariah, Mr. Johnson played kingmaker in Liberia’s presidential election last year, delivering the bloc of votes that assured President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a second term.”

The previously mentioned New York Times editorial said that Taylor now “must also be held accountable for his role in Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Liberia needs to enact the legislation to bring him, and the other murderous warlords from that era, to trial either in Liberian or international courts.”

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also remembered that Taylor and his forces had committed grave crimes in his native Liberia, but had not been subject to any criminal prosecutions for those crimes. Said AI, “during “the 14-year Liberian civil war that raged while Taylor was first the leader of one of the numerous armed opposition groups and later the President, all parties to the conflict committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murders along ethnic lines, as well as torture, rapes and other crimes of sexual violence, abductions, and recruitment and use child soldiers.” After the end of the civil war, AI said the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation commission had recommended “that a criminal tribunal be established to prosecute people identified as responsible for crimes under international law [but that it] is yet to be implemented, as are most TRC recommendations on legal and other institutional reforms, accountability, and reparations.  The lack of justice for the victims of the Liberian conflict is shocking. The government of Liberia must end the reign of impunity by enacting the necessary legislation and acting on its duty to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators.”

Finally, two African observers commented that justice having “had to come from international courts does not reflect well on . . .  Liberia in particular. The process exposes the failure by Liberians to provide themselves with a legal and judiciary system capable of effectively administering justice.” More generally “the verdict and the process should be a wakeup call to Africans. The successful conviction for such crimes is a glaring example of the failure of Africans to govern themselves effectively. . . . Africans must focus on building strong institutions to deal with human rights violations ourselves . . . .” On the other hand, the conviction “informs future Liberian, and indeed African, dictators and tyrants that they cannot escape justice by hedging their bets on a dysfunctional domestic legal system. Where national systems are incapable of adequately and effectively prosecuting leaders who engage in wanton violations of human rights, citizens can look to the international criminal court for justice.”

Dismissal of Spanish Criminal Case Against Judge Baltasar Garzón Over Franco-Era Investigation

Spanish Flag

On February 27th, the Spanish Supreme Court, 6 to 1, dismissed the criminal case against Judge Baltasar Garzón over his investigation of human rights violations by the Franco regime. A prior post reviewed this criminal case while posts on February 14th and 21st  explored reactions to the case. This case will investigate the recent dismissal and the immediate reactions to that decision.

The Dismissal Decision Itself

The Supreme Court aquitted Garzón of the crime of trespass (knowingly making an unjust resolution) for trying to open an investigation into the crimes of Francoism.

According to the Court, Garzón overstepped his authority and “exceeded himself in the interpretation of the law” by investigating the Franco-era disappearances, but his actions did not constitute an abuse of power.

The Court said a search for truth regarding Civil War atrocities is necessary and legitimate, but that such a search should be conducted by other state institutions, not by an investigative judge. In short, historians have a role as do judges, but they must not be mixed.The court also acknowledged that Mr. Garzón attempted “to improve the situation” of Civil War victims who “have the right to know the facts and recover their dead” relatives.

Spain’s amnesty law, the Court concluded, was enacted with the full consensus of political forces in 1977 and was not a law “approved by the victors, those in power to cover up their crimes.” It was an instrument of reconciliation, not a law of amnesty like those enacted by some of the South American dictatorships. As a result, the Spanish amnesty law is valid and can only be repealed by Parliament, not by judges.

One of the Supreme Court judges, Judge Sánchez Melgar, filed a concurring opinion. He agreed that the charges should be dismissed, but on the ground that Garzón lacked the necessary intent to abuse the judicial function.

The sole dissentingjudge, Judge Jose Manuel Maza, stated that Garzón should have been convicted of willful trespass for instigating a procedure to serve the subjective intentions of the complainants against people already dead and for crimes that had been amnestied or at least, were clearly prescribed by the statute of limitations. The good intentions of Garzón were irrelevant, the dissenter stated.

The full text of the decision (en espanol) is available online.

Reactions to the Dismissal Decision

Human rights organizations although pleased with the dismissal had negative comments about the entire criminal cases against Judge Garzón.

Human Rights Watch said, “The real losers are the reputation of the Spanish judiciary and those — in Spain, in detention at Guantánamo or in countries around the world where there is no justice — who knew they could count on at least one independent judge to apply human rights laws without fear of the political consequences.” This organization also called for Spain to “repeal the 1977 amnesty law” and  “assist the families of Franco’s victims in their long quest for truth and justice.”

Amnesty International urged the Spanish authorities to “do justice” in Spain and investigate the crimes of the Civil War and Francoism. AI added, “There should be no impunity in Spain for such heinous crimes.”

Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory urged its Supreme Court to “act urgently, and rule on how these atrocities [of the Franco era] are to be legally pursued.”

Spain’s Justice Minister, on the other hand, said that Spain had “a strong and independent judiciary” and that “[n]one of the [unjustified] criticism against the Supreme Court . . . has made it lose its prestige in the eyes of Spanish citizens.” The decision, not surprisingly, was also defended by Spain’s Supreme Judicial Council.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial opined that the decision was “a troubling blow to the 1977 amnesty covering the bloody misdeeds of Spain’s authoritarian period—the deliberate “forgetting” of the past to which contemporary Spain owes so much.The purpose of [Spain’s] amnesty is not to dishonor the victims of atrocities or to vindicate the perpetrators. It is to ensure that the sins of the guilty do not engender new strife among the innocents, and that those sins are not exploited for political gain. It was never the place of a crusading judge to substitute his politics for the will of a country seeking to move forward.”

Conclusion

As a U.S. lawyer, I reiterate my plea for comments by those more knowledgeable about Spanish law and procedure to clarify or correct my accounts of this and the other two  cases against Judge Garzón.

Commentary on the Spanish Criminal Cases Against Judge Garzon

Judge Baltasar Garzon

A prior post summarized the three pending criminal cases against Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon.

This month has seen significant developments in these cases. On February 8th, the trial of the Franco-era case ended with Judge Garzon telling the court that he was motivated by “the helplessness of the victims.” The decision in that case is still to come. On February 9th, Judge Garzon was convicted of the charges involving his approval of wire-tapping attorney-client communications. On February 13th the court dismissed the case about the Judge’s alleged bribery by Banco Santander.

Now I have further commentary about these cases.

Reaction to the Criminal Charges Arising Out of the Franco-Era Investigation

The case that has drawn the most attention is the one with respect to Judge Garzon’s investigation of Franco-era human rights violations.

This case against the Judge has been severely criticized by the major Spanish newspaper, El Pais, which proclaimed that the case was reckless for “being charged . . . with apology for and defense of a dictatorial regime of cursed memory for many Spanish people. it also has a tone of provocation and insolence, which is hard to accept in democratic Spain. . . . The overtly fascist ideological tone of the legal action has contaminated the proceedings from the start, and is causing serious damage to the international image of Spain.”

Madrid demonstration for Garzon
Madrid demonstration for Garzon

Spanish citizens supporting the Judge have demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court building with signs saying “Stop the Persecution of Judge Garzon.” This obviously is only one segment of Spanish society which still has deep-seated divisions over its Civil War of the 1930’s.

Similar criticism has been leveled by international human rights organizations and leading newspapers. Amnesty International said this case was “a threat to human rights and judicial independence.” Human Rights Watch had similar harsh words: the case “threatens the concept of accountability in Spain and elsewhere.” The International Commission of Jurists said this case was “an attack against one of the pillars of the rule of law.” An author in Dissent said the main purpose for these charges was to “silence . . . those who’ve dared give voice to memories of political abuse and those who might pursue universal jurisdiction.” In the U.S. a New York Times editorial observed that this case was “a disturbing echo of the Franco era’s totalitarian thinking.”

Moreover, these charges against Garzon have spawned at least two collateral proceedings.

In March 2011 a British human rights organization, Interights, filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights asserting that under international law there could be no valid amnesties or statutes of limitations for crimes against humanity, that Judge

Garzon could not validly be punished for his reasoned interpretation of law and that the charges against Judge Garzon were threats to judicial independence. The European Court, however, is unlikely to take any action on this complaint for many months.

The prior year, May 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and nine other human rights organizations filed a complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (and five other U.N. special rapporteurs and working groups) alleging that these criminal charges against Judge Garzon were an improper interference with the Spanish judiciary. I have not been able to find any action or report about what these U.N. entities have done, if anything, with respect to this complaint.

It should be noted that this May 2010 complaint to U.N. entities was submitted before the WikiLeaks disclosure of the U.S. diplomatic cables about U.S. efforts to stop Spanish criminal cases against U.S.officials, and there was no allegation in this May 2010 complaint that the U.S. or Spanish officials improperly caused the criminal charges against Judge Garzon to be made.

As reported in prior post, on January 19, 2012, two of these same human rights organizations–the Center for Constitutional Rights of New York City and Berlin’s European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights–alleged that U.S. and Spanish senior governmental officials improperly had attempted to interfere with the Spanish judges handling three criminal cases against U.S. officials. The asserted bases for the allegations were U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks; these cables are now available on the web. The allegations themselves were set forth in a complaint the organizations filed with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. However, this recent complaint to the Special Rapporteur does not allege that the U.S. or Spain or both improperly had instigated the criminal charges against Judge Garzon. Perhaps the unstated hope of this complaint is that the Rapporteur would uncover evidence of such an improper attempt.

The absence of such a direct accusation in the recent complaint to the Rapporteur is significant, in my opinion, because simultaneously with filing of that complaint, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights along with seven other human rights organizations released a joint statement supporting Judge Garzon on his investigation of crimes related to the alleged crimes of the Franco regime. The statement asserts that application of international law to such crimes as was done by Judge Garzon does not constitute judicial malfeasance under Spanish law. Indeed, the joint statement elucidates the international law against the validity of amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But the joint statement did not allege that this criminal case against the Judge was the result of improper actions of U.S. or Spanish officials.

Reaction to the Other Two Criminal Cases Against Judge Garzon

There has been considerable commentary about the Judge’s conviction in the tapping of attorney-client communications that has been discussed in posts on February 10th and February 11th.

The El Pais editorial about the conviction should also be mentioned. It said that the Supreme Court’s rationale was  “hair-brained, absurd and even offensive.” This rationale asserted that Judge Garzon sought to weaken the suspects’ “defense strategies” to such a degree as to place “the Spanish penal system on the same level as that of totalitarian regimes.” That absurdity of this rationale was shown by the facts that the wire taps were sought by the Office of the Public Prosecutor, were maintained by another judge who replaced Judge Garzon in the corruption investigation and were initially approved by the Madrid High Court. Absurd though it was, the rationale served the Supreme Court’s “objective: eliminating Garzón as a judge.”

The dismissal of the third case involving alleged bribery of Judge Garzon makes it unnecessary to make further comment on that case.

Conclusion

The criminal cases against Judge Garzon are very important. First, they are obviously important for the Judge personally. Second, they are important, in my opinion, for the independence of Spanish judges from internal (or external) political opposition to judicial decisions. Third, they are important around the globe for judicial enforcement of international human rights.

Universal Jurisdiction for the Most Serious Crimes

Under customary international law, a nation state’s courts have jurisdiction over crimes where there is some link, usually territorial, between that state and the crime. In addition, under customary international law and certain treaties, a state has universal jurisdiction over certain crimes of international concern regardless of where the crime was committed or the nationality of the victim or perpetrator. These crimes of international concern are (a) piracy; (b) slavery; (c) war crimes; (d) crimes against peace; (e) crimes against humanity; (f) genocide; and (g) torture.[1]

Amnesty International recently released a comprehensive review of domestic statutes regarding criminal jurisdiction in the 193 members of the United Nations. It found that 75% of the members provided for universal  jurisdiction over one or more of the above crimes.  Yet there are many obstacles to effective use of these jurisdictional statutes. States often incorporate incomplete or incorrect definitions of such crimes into their domestic codes. Another obstacle is incorporation of defenses that are inconsistent with the international law for these crimes: following superior orders; statutes of limitation; amnesty laws; pardons; and immunities.[2]

On the other hand, this study found only 19 states have actually invoked universal jurisdiction since World War II. They are Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S.[3]

As we have seen, one of these 19 states–Spain–currently is invoking its domestic statute that implements the principle of universal jurisdiction for its criminal prosecution of former Salvadoran military officers for the November 1989 murders of the six Jesuit priests and their cook and her daughter at the Universidad de Centro America in San Salvador.[4] Spain’s statute provides that its National Court (La Audiencia Nacional) has universal jurisdiction for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and torture.[5]

In 2009 Spain adopted an amendment that added the following conditions or limitations on such jurisdiction: (1) the alleged perpetrators are in Spain; or (2) the victims are of Spanish nationality; or (3) there is another connecting link to Spain. In addition, the amendment specified that for such Spanish jurisdiction to exist another country or international tribunal had not started a process involving an investigation and successful prosecution of such offenses; if there is such another process, then the Spanish court should suspend or stay its case until the other investigation and prosecution has been concluded. The latter provision is referred to as the subsidiary principle.[6]

This amendment has been seen by some as a significant and regrettable limitation on universal jurisdiction in Spain.[7] In my opinion, however, the amendment is a reaffirmation of Spain’s implementation of such jurisdiction, and the limitations are reasonable to make efficient use of Spanish judicial resources. Moreover, the subsidiary principle is similar to the International Criminal Court’s notion of complementarity whereby the ICC does not take a criminal case if there is a good faith criminal investigation or prosecution in a national court system or a good faith decision by a state not to prosecute.[8] The same considerations find expression in the U.S. notions of comity or forum non conveniens whereby a civil case in an U.S. court is stayed or dismissed if it makes more sense for the case to be litigated in another country.


[1] David Weissbrodt, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Joan Fitzpatrick, and Frank Newman, International Human Rights: Law, Policy and Process, at 572-86 (4th ed. 2009); Princeton Project on Universal Jurisdiction, Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction (2001). Especially noteworthy is a blog exclusively devoted to universal jurisdiction: http://ergaomnesnet.wordpress.net.

[2] Amnesty Int’l, Universal Jurisdiction: A Preliminary Survey of Legislation Around the World (Oct. 2001 [“AI Study”]; van Schaack, Amnesty International Universal Jurisdiction Study, IntLawGrlls (Nov. 30, 2011).

[3] Id.

[4] Post: International Criminal Justice: Spanish Court’s Case Regarding the Salvadoran Murders of the Jesuit Priests (Aug. 26, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Spanish Court Issues Criminal Arrest Warrants for Salvadoran Murders of Jesuit Priests (May 31, 2011); Post: International Criminal Justice: Developments in Spanish Court’s Case Regarding the Salvadoran Murders of the Jesuit Priests (Aug. 26, 2001); Post: Spain Requests Extradition of Suspects in Jesuits Case (Dec. 3, 2011).

[5] AI Study at 105; Human Rights Watch, Universal Jurisdiction in Europe, ch. XII (June 27, 2006). The Criminal Division of the Spanish National Court in Madrid has six chambers. An instructing (or investigative) judge presides over each chamber. Once an instructing judge accepts a criminal case, that judge initiates an investigation. After the completion of the investigation, the instructing judge closes the case and transfers it within the court to a panel usually of three judges who will preside over the trial or “oral phase” of the case. Such criminal cases are commenced by ordinary citizens filing a criminal complaint. If a victim files the complaint directly with an instructing judge, then the victim becomes a party to the case for further proceedings. This is known as a private prosecution (acusacion particular). (Center for Justice & Accountability, The Spanish National Court: An Overview of La Audiencia Nacional, http://www.cja.org/article.php?id=342&printsafe=1.)

[6] Spain, Government Gazette No. 266, Law I/2009, First Article (Nov. 4, 2009) (amendment to Article 23.4 of Organic Law 6/1985) (Google English translation); Burnett & Simons, Push in Spain to Limit Reach of the Court, N.Y. Times (May 20, 2009); Burnett, Spain Votes on Changes to Inquiry Law, N.Y. Times, (June 26, 2009); Assoc. Press, Spain Shortens Long Arm of Justice, N.Y. Times (Oct. 15, 2009).

[7] Center for Justice & Accountability, Bill Restricting Spain’s Universal Jurisdiction Law Passes First Round of Voting, http://cja.org/article.php?id=666 (circa June 25, 2009); Human Rights Watch, The world needs Spain’s universal jurisdiction law (June 27, 2009).

[8]  Post: International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011).

International Criminal Court: ICC Prosecutor Updates U.N. Security Council on Sudan (Darfur)

As previously reported, the ICC has been investigating the situation in Sudan (Darfur) for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes since July 1, 2002, at the request of the U.N. Security Council.[1]

On June 8, 2011, the ICC Prosecutor made his semi-annual report to the U.N. Security Council on the status of his office’s investigations and prosecutions in this matter.[2] The following are the main points of that report:

  • There are three pending ICC prosecutions from Sudan (Darfur). In two of them–Harun and Kushayh and Bashir–the defendants are still at large, and thus the proceedings have not really commenced. In the third case against two rebel commanders, the parties have agreed to certain facts and limited the trial to three issues: (1) whether a certain attack by the rebels was unlawful; (2) if the attack is deemed to be unlawful, whether the defendants were aware of the factual circumstances that established its illegality; and (3) whether the African Union Mission in Sudan was a peacekeeping mission in accordance with the U.N. Charter. In this third case, the defendants do not dispute their participation in the attack and both have committed to surrender voluntarily to the ICC.
  • The Prosecutor also said his office was considering presenting a fourth Sudanese case to the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber for its decision whether or not to issue arrest warrants.
  • All of these cases concern past alleged crimes. In addition, the Prosecutor reported that the following crimes were continuing: bombing attacks targeting or indiscriminately affecting civilians; ground attacks targeting civilians; widespread sexual and gender-based violence; attacks on human rights defenders, civil society members and community leaders; deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to cause physical destruction of groups of people; forcible transferring of populations; recruitment and use of child soldiers; and concealing information on crimes.
  • The government of Sudan has announced its investigations of these alleged crimes and the creation of new entities to do so, but there are no such investigations, and the announcements are parts of a governmental policy of covering up the crimes and avoiding international scrutiny.
  • When the ICC exposes these crimes, the reaction of President Bashir and other leaders has been “to deny the crimes entirely, attribute them to other factors (such as inter-tribal feud), divert attention by publicizing . . . ceasefire agreements that are violated as soon as they are announced and threaten the international community with retaliation and even more crimes. . . . Bashir has successfully transformed public knowledge of his criminal responsibility as a negotiating tool.”
  • “It is the challenging responsibility of the . . . Security Council to use the information exposed by the [ICC] to stop the crimes in Darfur, to protect the civilians in Darfur. The [ICC] Prosecution, fulfilling its mandate, is willing to assist.”

After the submission of this report, the Council’s 15 members went into private session to discuss the report. They were joined by representatives of 37 other countries.[3]

Immediately after this Security Council meeting there were reports of a “growing sense of panic” in central Sudan with 60,000 displaced people, blocked relief convoys, ethnic clashes and many deaths. This week the Council was given an alarming report about current violence and threatened ethnic cleansing.[4] In short, the armed conflict in Darfur has not stopped. Nor has the illegal intentional practice of targeting civilians.

Sudanese President Bashir’s evasion of arrest to face ICC charges continues to make the news. On June 13th, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, addressed African leaders at a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and pressed them to abandon authoritarian rulers. President Bashir also was in Addis Ababa for the meeting, but left before Clinton arrived.[5] On June 14th Amnesty International urged Malaysia to withdraw an invitation to President Bashir to attend an upcoming economic forum and to arrest him if he came. On June 16th Amnesty International made a similar plea to China after its announcement that Bashir would be visiting that country next week supposedly to talk about seeking peace in his country.[6]


[1] See Post: International Criminal Justice: Introduction (April 26, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Introduction (April 28, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 28, 2011).

[2]  ICC Office of Prosecutor, Thirteenth Report of the [ICC] Prosecutor to the UN Security Council [on Sudan (Darfur)] (June 8, 2011); ICC Office of Prosecutor, Statement to the [U.N.] Security Council on the situation in Darfur, the Sudan (June 8, 2011); U.N. Security Council,6548th Meeting (June 8, 2011); U.N. Security Council, Press Release: President of Sudan Has Learned To Defy Security Council . . . . (June 8, 2011).

[3]  U.N. Security Council, 6549th (closed) meeting (June 8, 2011).

[4]  Gettleman, U.N. Officials Warn of a Growing ‘Panic” in Central Sudan as Violence Spreads, N.Y. Times (June 15, 2011); Lynch, Obama expresses concern over Sudan violence, Wash. Post (June 16, 2011); Reeves, In Sudan, genocide anew?, Wash. Post (June 17, 2011); Totten, Is Omar Hassan al-Bashir Up to Genocide Again?, N.Y. Times (June 18, 2011).

[5] Myers, Clinton Presses Africans to Abandon Authoritarian Rulers, Singling Out Qaddafi, N.Y. Times (June 13, 2011).

[6] AP, Amnesty urges Malaysia to withdraw invitation to Sudan president or arrest him when he arrives, Wash. Post (June 14, 2011); AP, China Invites Sudan Leader Accused of War Crimes, N.Y. Times (June 16, 2011); AP, US Seeks China’s Help in Sudan as Alarm Grows, N.Y. Times (June 16, 2011); AP, Sudan leader al-Bashir to skip Malaysia forum amid calls to arrest him on war crime charges, Wash. Post (June 15, 2011).