Exploring Sub-Saharan African History

 I am currently taking a brief course, “Sub-Saharan African History to Colonialism,” to learn about such history “from many angles: anthropological, historical, geographic, cultural, and religious. From human origins through the populating of the continent, the great civilizations, the slave trades, to the beginning of European domination.” Offered by the University of Minnesota’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), the course’s instructor is Tom O’Toole, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology of Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University.

Why does this Euro-American septuagenarian take this course? Foremost, I know virtually nothing about this history and want to know more. I also realize that I have various direct and indirect connections with Africa.

The most immediate precipitating cause is reading the discussion of the names of African and African-American intellectuals and historical figures that were discovered at Howard University by African-American author Ta-Nehisi Coates and recounted in his book “Between the World and Me” and my realizing that I did not know virtually any of these people. This book also has prompted me to research and investigate my own notions of race, including my recent posts about statements from the American Anthropological Association about race’s non-scientific basis and historical and cultural background. Further posts about notions of race are forthcoming.

I learned more about one of these figures of African history this spring when my 10th-grade grandson wrote a History Day paper on Mansa Musa, who was a 14th century Emperor or King of Mali. Moreover, one of my sons knows more about this history from his having studied African history and Swahili at the University of Minnesota and from spending a semester in Kenya with a program of the National Outdoor Leadership School and then a week on his own living with a Maasai tribesman in that country.

Coates also legitimately castigates the U.S. history of slavery and its lasting impacts on our country. This has underscored my interest in the importation of slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. This was part of Lawrence Hill’s fascinating novel “The Book of Negroes” (“Someone Knows My Name”), about which I have written. Moreover, I have visited Matanzas, Cuba and Salvador, Brazil, which were major ports of importation of African slaves to work on sugar plantations in those countries.

I have a number of friends from West Africa (Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana) and visited Cameroon on a mission trip from Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. There I learned about the country’s having been a German colony (Kamerun) in the 19th century and then having French and British administration under League of Nations mandates after Germany was stripped of its African colonies by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. Forty-plus years later Cameroon became an independent country with the joinder of the Francophone and Anglophone territories. Yet life today in the country is still affected by the language and cultural differences from the French and British governance and less so by the previous 30-plus years of German rule.

I also have visited Namibia, Botswana and South Africa focused primarily on observing their magnificent wildlife and nature, but also the prison on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress leaders were imprisoned during the years of apartheid. In addition, I had the opportunity to see and hear Mandela speak at a 2003 celebration of the centennial of the Rhodes Scholarships held at Westminster Hall in London and to see him escorted through the Hall’s audience, only 10 feet from me and my wife, by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

The visit to South Africa also included stopping at Cecil Rhodes’ Cottage and Museum at Mulzenberg overlooking False Bay and the Indian Ocean at the southwest corner of the country. (My interest in Cecil Rhodes, the Founder of the Scholarships, and his 19th century involvement in South Africa and Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) stems from being a Rhodes Scholar who was “up” at Oxford, 1961-1963, and from my gratitude for being a beneficiary of his largess.)

While co-teaching international human rights law at the University of Minnesota Law School, I learned about the International Criminal Court, whose initial cases all came from Africa, thereby prompting some resistance from African leaders who thought this was anti-African discrimination. (I have written many blog posts about the ICC.) Previously I had been a pro bono lawyer for two Somali men’s successful applications for asylum in the U.S.

Other indirect connections are provided by three Grinnell College classmates. One became a professor of African history. Another served in Africa with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, where he met his English wife serving in a similar British program and where they both frequently return to participate in a project of preparing and distributing audio textbooks for blind students. The third classmate, also in the Peace Corps, served in Mali, where he was involved in smallpox eradication. In addition, one of my Grinnell roommates from Chicago now lives in South Africa.

All of these direct and indirect connections with Africa provided additional motivation to learn more about its history. In a subsequent post I will attempt to summarize the key points of this brief exploration of African history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interfaith Worship Service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church

On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, a moving Interfaith Worship Service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church was organized and conducted by clergy from the Downtown Congregations of Minneapolis.[1]

This service was the perfect incarnation of a message given that same day by Pope Francis at a meeting of religious leaders in Nairobi Kenya. The Pope said there was a profound “need for interreligious understanding, friendship and collaboration in defending the God-given dignity of individuals and peoples, and their right to live in freedom and happiness”. Indeed, said the Pope, “ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury . . . [or] something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.”[2]

Calls to Prayer

There were three Calls to Prayer at the Minneapolis service. Cantor Barry Abelson of Temple Israel sang one in Hebrew. The Westminster Choir in English sang “God Be in My Head” by Gwyneth Walker.[3] Muezzin Elijah Muhammad of Masjid An-Nur (Mosque of the Light) sang his Call to Prayer in Arabic.

Voices Around the Table

The participants in the service then gathered around a common table in the front of the Sanctuary for the reading of passages of sacred and other texts from their different faiths. In addition to those mentioned below the participants were Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, Westminster’s Senior Pastor; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar of Gethsemane Episcopal Church; and Rev. Judy Zabel, Lead Pastor of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.

Rev. Dr. Carla Bailey, the Senior Minister at Plymouth Congregational Church, read these excerpts from “A Litany of Thanksgiving” by Howard Thurman, an influential African-American theologian, educator and civil rights leader (1899-1981):

  • “Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.”
  • “I begin with the simple things of my days:
    Fresh air to breathe,
    Cool water to drink,
    The taste of food,
    The protection of houses and clothes,
    The comforts of home.”
  • “I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:
    The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of my security;
    The tightening of the grip in a single handshake when I feared the step before me in the darkness;
    The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest and the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
    The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page when my decision hung in the balance.”
  • “I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:
    The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before me, without whom my own life would have no meaning;
    The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
    The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see;
    The workers whose sweat watered the trees, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations;”
  • “I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
    The little purposes in which I have shared with my loves, my desires, my gifts;
    The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence that I have never done my best, I have never dared to reach for the highest;
    The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.”
  • All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
    I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
    O God, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.”

Hamdy Dr. El Sawaf, the Senior Iman of the Islamic Community Center of Minnesota and the Masjid Al-Iman (Mosque of Faith), read the following passages from the Holy Qur’an in Arabic with the following English translations by Maulana Muhammud Ali:

  • “Blessed is He Who made the stars in the heavens and made therein a sun and a moon giving light!” (25:61)
  • “And He it is, Who made the night and the day to follow each other, for him who desires to be mindful or desires to be thankful.” (25:62)
  • “And We have enjoined on man concerning his parents — his mother bears him with faintings upon faintings and his weaning takes two years — saying: Give thanks to Me and to thy parents. To Me is the eventual coming.” (31:14)
  • “So he smiled, wondering at her word, and said: My Lord, grant me that I may be grateful for Thy favour which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good such as Thou art pleased with, and admit me, by Thy mercy, among Thy righteous servants.” (27:19)
  • “And He it is Who made for you the ears and the eyes and the hearts. Little it is that you give thanks!” (23:78)
  • “And certainly We established you in the earth and made therein means of livelihood for you; little it is that you give thanks!” (7:10)
  • “O people, keep your duty to your Lord and dread the day when no father can avail his son in aught, nor the child will avail his father. Surely the promise of Allah is true, so let not this world’s life deceive you, nor let the arch-deceiver deceive you about Allah.” (31:33)
  • “Surely Allah is He with Whom is the knowledge of the Hour, and He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. And no one knows what he will earn on the morrow. And no one knows in what land he will die. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” (31:34)
  • “Even as We have sent among you a Messenger from among you, who recites to you Our messages and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the Wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know.” (2:151)
  • “Therefore glorify Me, I will make you eminent, and give thanks to Me and be not ungrateful to Me.” (2:152)

Senior Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel read Leviticus 19: 9-18 in Hebrew from the Hebrew Bible with the following English translation:

  • “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.”
  • You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.”
  • “You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”
  • “You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.You shall not go around as a slanderer[a] among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood[b] of your neighbor: I am the Lord.”
  • You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Rev. Laurie Feillle, Senior Pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) read this passage from the Christian Gospel (Matthew 6:25-33) in English:

  • “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Sermon

The Sermon, “Gratitude for Dreams,” was delivered by Rev. Peter Nycklemoe, Senior Pastor of Central Lutheran Church. Here is a summary of his message.

The above passage from Matthew stresses personal piety, almsgiving, prayers and calls for forgiveness. The text also tells us not to worry. But often being told not to worry just makes the situation worse. Matthew, however, points the way forward: “strive first for the kingdom of God.”

A helpful understanding of the kingdom of God comes from Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian pastor and author, who said:

  • “If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” [4]

We all are homesick for hope in this world, and the gathering at this common table of representatives of three great religious traditions is a sign of that hope.

The words of Leviticus that were just read by Rabbi Zimmerman also are important: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.”

These words from the Hebrew Bible reminded Rev. Nycklemoe of a celebration organized by one of his congregants in the State of Washington, Olaf Hanson, who owned an apple and potato farm. After harvesting what he needed, Olaf hosted a Gleaning Day for his guests to gather the gleanings of the fruit and vegetables and put them in paper bags for the poor and needy.

We too need to share our longings, our lostness, our need for love and the gifts of one another.

Responding in Gratitude

The solicitation of offerings to support the work of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness was provided by The Very Rev. Paul Lebens-Englund, the Dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral.

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day was read by Fr John Bauer, Rector of The Basilica of Saint Mary, Here are its words:

  • “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”
  • “Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”
  • “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
  • “It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
  • “And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

President Barack Obama’s 2015 Presidential Proclamation was read by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church:

  • “Rooted in a story of generosity and partnership, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear.  Today, as we give of ourselves in service to others and spend cherished time with family and friends, we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us.  We also honor the men and women in uniform who fight to safeguard our country and our freedoms so we can share occasions like this with loved ones, and we thank our selfless military families who stand beside and support them each and every day.”
  • “Our modern celebration of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the early 17th century.  Upon arriving in Plymouth, at the culmination of months of testing travel that resulted in death and disease, the Pilgrims continued to face great challenges.  An indigenous people, the Wampanoag, helped them adjust to their new home, teaching them critical survival techniques and important crop cultivation methods.  After securing a bountiful harvest, the settlers and Wampanoag joined in fellowship for a shared dinner to celebrate powerful traditions that are still observed at Thanksgiving today:  lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have.”
  • “Carrying us through trial and triumph, this sense of decency and compassion has defined our Nation.  President George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving in our country’s nascence, calling on the citizens of our fledgling democracy to place their faith in “the providence of Almighty God,” and to be thankful for what is bequeathed to us.  In the midst of bitter division at a critical juncture for America, President Abraham Lincoln acknowledged the plight of the most vulnerable, declaring a “day of thanksgiving,” on which all citizens would “commend to [God’s] tender care” those most affected by the violence of the time — widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers of the Civil War.  A tradition of giving continues to inspire this holiday, and at shelters and food centers, on battlefields and city streets, and through generous donations and silent prayers, the inherent selflessness and common goodness of the American people endures.”
  • “In the same spirit of togetherness and thanksgiving that inspired the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, we pay tribute to people of every background and belief who contribute in their own unique ways to our country’s story.  Each of us brings our own traditions, cultures, and recipes to this quintessential American holiday — whether around dinner tables, in soup kitchens, or at home cheering on our favorite sports teams — but we are all united in appreciation of the bounty of our Nation.  Let us express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without.  Together, we can secure our founding ideals as the birthright of all future generations of Americans.”

Music

Interspersed throughout the Service were pieces of wonderful music.

The Preludes–“America the Beautiful” (Calvin Hampton for organ), “Variations on Simple Gifts” (Michael Burkhardt) and “The Promise of Living” (Aaron Copland)–were provided by Westminster’s Minister of Music & the Arts/Organist, Melanie Ohnstad, and the Westminster Choir directed by Dr. Jere Lantz.

Jon Romer on a Native American flute played two Ojibwe pieces—“Song of Welcome” and “A Song of Love.”

The choir and assembled people sang the following hymns: “O God, Show Mercy to Us;” “This Is My Song;” “ We Praise You, O God;” “Now Thank We All Our God;” and “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.”

Conclusion

This was a powerful and meaningful worship service, especially in these days of too frequent expressions of hostility towards Muslims and Syrian refugees. This service was exactly what Pope Francis called for in his previously mentioned remarks in Kenya and on November 30 at the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in the Central African Republic:[5]

  • “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.  We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such. . . . Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace.  Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.  They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.  Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, God salam.”

==================================================

[1] The bulletin for the service is available online,  So too is a video of the service.

[2] The Pope held the meeting at the city’s Apostolic Nunciature (diplomatic mission of the Holy See) with leaders of different Christian confessions (Anglican, Evangelical, Methodist, Pentecostal and others) and of other religions (Animist, Muslim). Holy See, Ecumenical and Interreligious Meeting: Address of His Holiness Pope Francis (Nov. 26, 2015); Interreligious meeting in Nairobi: service to the common good. News.Va (Nov. 26, 2015).

[3] A prior post discussed this anthem, its composer and its derivation from the Sarum Primer of 1514.

[4] Other references to Buechner are contained in previous posts: Honorary Degree (Aug. 14, 2011); My General Thoughts on Vocation (Feb. 6, 2014).

[5] Pope Francis visits Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui, News.Va (Nov. 30, 2015)

U.N. General Assembly Again Condemns U.S. Embargo of Cuba

U.N. General Assembly Voting Results Screen
U.N. General Assembly   Voting Results Screen

On October 28, 2014, the U.N. General Assembly by a vote of 188 to 2 again condemned the U.S. embargo of Cuba. The two negative votes were cast by the U.S. and by Israel while three small Pacific nations abstained–Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. All the other U.N. members supported the resolution. [1]

 The Resolution

The resolution [A/69/L.4] reiterated the General Assembly’s “call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures of the kind referred to in the preamble to the present resolution [‘the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the [U.S.] against Cuba’ and the Helms-Burton Act], in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law, which, inter alia, reaffirm the freedom of trade and navigation.”

The resolution also “again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures [i.e., the U.S.] to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime.”

Cuba’s Statement Supporting the Resolution

Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla
Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla

Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, the Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs, introducing the resolution, said that in recent times “the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the [U.S.] against Cuba had been tightened, and its extraterritorial implementation had also been strengthened through the imposition of unprecedented fines, totaling $11 billion against 38 banks . . . for carrying out transactions with Cuba and other countries.” In addition, Cuba’s “accumulated economic damages of the blockade totaled $1.1 trillion . . . [and] human damages were on the rise.”

Nevertheless, “Cuba had offered every possible form of assistance to the [U.S.] in the wake of disasters there, such as in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Cuba had never been a threat to the national security of the [U.S.].  Opinion polls showed that there was increasing support from all sectors of [U.S.] society for lifting the blockade.  Religious leaders had citied legitimate, indisputable ethical and humanitarian reasons.“

In addition, ”the blockade was harmful to . . . the [U.S.]. The ‘absurd and ridiculous’ inclusion of Cuba on the [U.S.] list of States that sponsored international terrorism redounded to the discredit of the [U.S.].  Cuba would never renounce its sovereignty or the path chosen by its people to build a more just, efficient, prosperous and sustainable socialism.”  Neither, he continued, would his Government “give up its quest for a different international order, nor cease in its struggle for ‘the equilibrium of the world.’”

Rodríguez also invited the U.S. government “to establish a mutually respectful relation, based on reciprocity. We can live and deal with each other in a civilized way, despite our differences.”

Other Countries’ Statements Supporting the Resolution [2]

The following Latin American countries voiced support for the resolution: Argentina (MERCOSUR [3]) (embargo was “morally unjustifiable” and violated “the spirit of multilateralism and was immoral, unjust and illegal”); Barbados (CARICOM [4]); Bolivia (Group of 77 [5] and China); Brazil (Group of 77 and CELAC [6]); Colombia; Costa Rica (CELAC)); Ecuador; El Salvador (Group of 77 and CARICOM); Mexico; Nicaragua; St. Vincent and the Grenadines (CARICOM, Non-Aligned Movement, [7] Group of 77 and CELAC); Uruguay; and Venezuela.

The African supporters of the resolution that spoke were Algeria (Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77, Group of African States [8] and Organization of Islamic Cooperation [9]); Angola; Kenya (Group of 77, Non-Aligned Movement and African Group); Malawi (African Group); South Africa (Group of 77, Non-Aligned Movement and African Group); Sudan (Group of 77, Non-Aligned Movement and Organization of Islamic Cooperation); United Republic of Tanzania; Zambia (Non-Aligned Movement) and Zimbabwe (Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and African Group).

From Asia and the Pacific were Belarus; China (Group of 77); Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea); Indonesia (Group of 77);  India (Group of 77 and Non-Aligned Movement); Iran (Non-Aligned Movement); Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Myanmar (Group of 77 and Non-Aligned Movement); Russian Federation; Solomon Islands; and Viet Nam (Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and China).

Middle Eastern countries speaking in favor of the resolution were Egypt, Saudi Arabia (Organization of Islamic Cooperation); and Syria (Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and China).

The sole European supporter of the resolution that spoke at the session was Italy (European Union [10]), which said the U.S.’ “extraterritorial legislation and unilateral administrative and judicial measures were negatively affecting European Union interests”).

U.S. Statement Opposing the Resolution

Although Israel voted against the resolution, it chose not to speak in support of its vote. Only the U.S. by Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, tried to justify the negative vote.

Ronald D. Godard
Ronald D. Godard

Ambassador Godard said the U.S. “conducts its economic relationships with other countries in accordance with its national interests and its principles. Our sanctions toward Cuba are part of our overall effort to help the Cuban people freely exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and determine their own future, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the democratic principles to which the United Nations itself is committed.”

Ambassador Godard also said, “the Cuban government uses this annual resolution in an attempt to shift blame for the island’s economic problems away from its own policy failures. The Cuban government now publicly recognizes that its economic woes are caused by the economic policies it has pursued for the last, past half-century. We note and welcome recent changes that reflect this acknowledgement, such as those that allow greater self-employment and liberalization of the real estate market. But the Cuban economy will not thrive until the Cuban government permits a free and fair labor market, fully empowers Cuban independent entrepreneurs, respects intellectual property rights, allows unfettered access to information via the Internet, opens its state monopolies to private competition and adopts the sound macro-economic policies that have contributed to the success of Cuba’s neighbors in Latin America.”

According to Ambassador Godard, the U.S. “remains a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people. The Cuban people continue to receive as much as $2 billion per year in remittances and other private contributions from the [U.S.]. This support . . . was made possible . . . by U.S. policy choices. By the Cuban government’s own account, the [U.S.] is one of Cuba’s principal trading partners. In 2013, the [U.S.] exported approximately $359 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine and humanitarian items to Cuba. Far from restricting aid to the Cuban people, we are proud that the people of the [U.S.] and its companies are among the leading providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. All of this trade and assistance is conducted in conformity with our sanctions program, which is carefully calibrated to allow and encourage the provision of support to the Cuban people.”

Furthermore, the U.S. “places the highest priority on building and strengthening connections between the Cuban people and [our] people. U.S. travel, remittance, information exchange, humanitarian and people-to-people policies updated in 2009 and 2011 provide the Cuban people alternative sources of information, help them take advantage of limited opportunities for self-employment and private property and strengthen independent civil society. The hundreds of thousands of Americans who have sent remittances and traveled to the island, under categories of purposeful travel promoted by President Obama, remain the best ambassadors for our democratic ideals.”

Ambassador Godard continued, “[The U.S.] strongly supports the Cuban people’s desire to determine their own future, through the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. The right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media is set forth in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Cuban government’s policies that continue to prevent enjoyment of this right. The Cuban government now claims to share our goal of helping the Cuban people access the Internet. Yet the Cuban government has failed to offer widespread access to the Internet through its high-speed cable with Venezuela.  Instead, it continues to impose barriers to information for the Cuban people while disingenuously blaming U.S. policy.”

“Moreover, the Cuban government continues to detain Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for facilitating Internet access for Cuba’s small Jewish community. [[11]] The [U.S.] calls on Cuba to release Mr. Gross immediately, [[12]] allow unrestricted access to the Internet, and tear down the digital wall of censorship it has erected around the Cuban people.

 {T]his resolution only serves to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people. . . . Though Cuba’s contributions to the fight against Ebola are laudable, they do not excuse or diminish the regime’s treatment of its own people. We encourage this world body to support the desires of the Cuban people to choose their own future. By doing so, it would truly advance the principles the United Nations Charter was founded upon, and the purposes for which the United Nations was created.”

Media Coverage of the Resolution and Debate

 U.S. media coverage of this important U.N. vote was almost non-existent. It was not mentioned in the “World” or “Americas” news sections of the New York Times, and only its “Opinion” section had a short article about the issue. It got no mention whatsoever in the Wall Street Journal. Not even the Miami Herald, which has a separate page for Cuba news, mentioned it. [13]

At 2:37 p.m. on October 28th the Associated Press published a release on the subject, and the Washington Post published it online while the StarTribune of Minneapolis/St. Paul picked it up the next day in its online, but not its print, edition.

Cuba’s state-owned newspaper, Granma, of course, headlined this vote while stating that the embargo has caused $1.1 trillion of damage to the Cuban economy and “incalculable human suffering.” Its article also emphasized that this was the 23rd consecutive such resolution with a table showing that the number of votes in favor of the resolutions has increased from 59 in 1992 to 188 in 2012-2014, that the largest number of votes against the resolutions was only 4 in 1993 and 2004-2007 and that the number of abstentions has decreased from 71 in 1992 to 1 in 2005-2007 and now 3 since 2010.

Conclusion

This overwhelming international opposition to the U.S. embargo in and of itself should be enough to cause the U.S. to end the embargo. Moreover, the embargo has not forced Cuba to come begging to the U.S. for anything that the U.S. wants. The U.S. policy is a failure. The New York Times recently called for abandonment of this policy as has this blog in urging reconciliation of the two countries, in an open letter to President Obama and in a rebuttal of the President’s asserted rationale for the embargo and other anti-Cuban policies.

==============================================================

[1] This post is based upon the sources embedded above and upon U.N. General Assembly Press Release [GA/11574], As General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Thjrd Consecutive Year, Country’s Foreign Minister Cites Losses Exceeding $1 Trillion (Oct. 28, 2014); Londoño, On Cuban Embargo, It’s the U.S. and Israel Against the World, Again, N.Y. Times (Oct. 29, 2014); Associated Press, UN General Assembly Condemns US Cuba Embargo (Oct. 28, 2014); U.S. Dep’t of State, Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Ronald D. Godard on the Cuba Resolution in the General Assembly Hall (Oct. 28, 2014). The General Assembly also has videos of the debate (A and B). A prior post reviewed the 2011 General Assembly’s adoption of a similar resolution against the embargo.

[2] Many of the cited statements supporting the resolution were issued on behalf of, or aligned with, larger groups of nations as noted above. In addition, prior to the October 28th session of the General Assembly, the U.N. Secretary General submitted a report containing statements against the embargo from 154 states and 27 U.N. agencies.

[3] MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) is a customs union and trading bloc of five South American countries with five other associate members in the continent.

[4] CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is a group of 15 Caribbean countries with five associate members for economic cooperation.

[5] The Group of 77 was established in 1964 by 77 developing countries to promote their collective economic interests and South-South cooperation; now there are 134 members that have retained the original name for historical significance.

[6] CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) is a group of 33 states in the region to deepen economic integration and combat the influence of the U.S.

[7] The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of 115 developing countries that are not aligned with or against any major power bloc. Its current focus is advocacy of solutions to global economic and other problems

[8] The African Group is a group of 54 African states that are U.N. Members.

[9] The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is a group of 57 states that seek to protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting peace and harmony in the world.

[10] The European Union is a group of 28 European states that have combined for a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.

[11] The activities in Cuba by Mr. Gross are not so simple. A Cuban court in 2011 found him guilty of participating in a “subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of authorities,” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. According to his own lawsuit against the U.S. Government, and subsequent disclosures, Gross alleged the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its contractor, DAI, sent him on five semi-covert trips to Cuba without proper training, protection or even a clear sense of the Cuban laws that led to his detainment. The case highlighted the frequent haste and lack of attention to the risks of the USAID programs in Cuba under the Helms-Burton Act, which allowed for money to be set aside for “democracy building efforts” that might hasten the fall of Fidel and Raúl Castro.

[12] In discussions with the U.S., Cuba already has expressed a willingness to exchange Mr. Gross for one or more of the three of “the Cuban Five” who remain in U.S. prisons.

[13] Nor did I find any mention of the vote in London’s Guardian or Madrid’s El Pais.

 

Are the International Criminal Court’s Kenyan Cases Collapsing?

 

Uhuru Kenyatta
Uhuru Kenyatta
William Ruto
William Ruto

 Today before a cheering crowd of 60,000 in a Nairobi stadium, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were inaugurated as the new president and deputy president of Kenya. In his inaugural speech Kenyatta made a  veiled reference to the pending charges against him and other Kenyans in the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he said, ““Kenya will strive to uphold our international obligations” but that these obligations must be based on “mutual respect.”

Also in attendance was Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, who told the crowd he applauded Kenyans for rejecting the “blackmail” of the ICC, which was steered by “arrogant actors” to “install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate those they don’t like.”

As discussed in a prior post, both Kenyatta and Ruto and another Kenyan (Joseph Arap Sang) are scheduled to go to trial in the next three months before the ICC in the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity in connection with violent deaths after the Kenyan election in 2007.

Now there are rumblings that suggest these three cases are collapsing not long after three other Kenyan cases had been terminated. [1]

The key case is Kenyatta’s. The Office of the Prosecutor (TOP) recently informed the Court that four of the 12 witnesses against Kenyatta have recanted their testimony because of security threats and fears of retaliation against their families.[2]

In response Kenyatta’s lawyers have asserted that the charges against their client were based on false evidence and have asked the ICC’s Trial Chamber to refer the case to the Pre-Trial Chamber for reconsideration of its January 2012 decision confirming the charges.

On April 5th the ICC Prosecutor issued a public statement deploring “the recent stream of sensationalist reports in the Kenyan media, on the level of witness cooperation [in these cases]. Witness protection remains one of our highest priorities. The Office will therefore not be drawn into any public speculation on the status of witnesses.  The courage and integrity of witnesses are essential to the Court’s determination of the truth, which is at the heart of justice. It is in the interest of all concerned to allow justice to take its course.”

A long-time observer of Kenya has said that the Kenyan Supreme Court’s March 30th validation of the election of Kenyatta “secured Kenya’s place as a shining international symbol of impunity” and that the ICC “case against Kenyatta now seems doomed.” According to this observer, witness intimidation and bribery “will only escalate, and it’s hard to see any Kenyan being brave — or foolhardy — enough now to take the witness stand against a head of state.”

This observer even thought “the failure of the Kenyatta case may be the first chime of the death knell for the I.C.C.”

We will have to stay tuned to see what happens in these cases. For this supporter of the Court, the outlook is not bright.


[1]  The Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber has refused to confirm charges against two other Kenyans (Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Mohammed Hussein Ali), and in March 2013 the Office of the Prosecutor withdrew the charges against another Kenyan (Francis Kirimi Muthaura) because of problems with prosecution witnesses, including alleged bribery. These cases also were discussed in the prior post.

[2] The same problem has emerged with at least one of the witnesses against the other two defendants (Ruto and Sang).

 

International Criminal Court: Status of Its Situations and Cases

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court

 This post will review the current status of the eight situations (all from Africa) currently under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor (TOP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the 30 individuals that have been charged by the ICC with crimes in those situations.[1]

1. Uganda

In July 2004, pursuant to a referral by the government of Uganda, TOP opened an investigation into the situation of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)in Northern Uganda. That has resulted in charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against five individuals, four of whom remain at large: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. The other (Raska Lukwiya) is deceased.

The hunt for Kony and other LRA leaders continues. Uganda has some 2,500 soldiers deployed around the border areas of Central African Republic (CAR) the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, where Kony and his fighters are thought to spend most of their time. The Ugandan troops are joined by 500 Congolese fighters, 500 South Sudanese and 350 CAR troops, all operating under the auspices of the African Union (AU). They have been assisted by 100 U.S. special forces. These efforts will continue despite the recent coup in the CAR.

On March 18, 2013, TOP issued a statement that LRA members  will not be killed or tortured if they surrender to the  ICC. All their human rights will be protected and the cases against them will be in accordance with accepted international human rights standards. They will face a fair, impartial and public justice that respects all their rights, including the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice, and to present evidence in their defense. If convicted they will not be sentenced to death. Therefore, they should hand themselves over and face a fair justice process at the ICC or remain fugitives in full knowledge that military forces from many countries are looking for them, and they may be cornered, captured, and possibly killed or wounded in the process.

2. Democratic Republic of the Congo

In June 2004, pursuant to a referral by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), TOP opened an investigation into the situation in the country since June 1, 2002. That has resulted in six cases against six individuals.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on March 1, 2012, was convicted of war crimes and on July 10, 2012, sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

On July 8, 2012, the ICC issued its first decision on reparations. It decided that the potential beneficiaries are the direct and indirect victims who suffered harm following the crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using children under the age of 15 in Ituri in the DRC (9/1/02–8/13/03), including family members of direct victims and individuals who intervened to help the victims or to prevent the commission of these crimes. The decision also established the following principles for reparations:

  • no discrimination as regards age, ethnicity or gender;
  • reconciling the victims of child recruitment and their families and communities in Ituri;
  • preserving their dignity and privacy;
  • taking into account the age of the victims and the sexual violence that they may have suffered; and
  • the need to rehabilitate the former child soldiers within their communities.

Germain Katanga went on trial (with Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui) on November 24, 2009, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes within the meaning of Article 25(3)(a) of the Statute (committing the crimes jointly through another person). On February 7, 2012, evidence in the case was closed and closing arguments were heard in May 2012 by the Trial Chamber.

On November 21, 2012, the Chamber, 2 to 1, issued an order severing Mr. Chui from this case and deciding that the mode of liability of Mr. Katanga might be changed under Regulation 55(2)[2] to Article 25(3)(d) of the Statute (contributing in any other way to the commission of the crimes by a group of persons acting with a common purpose).

This proposed change (after the trial) was appealed by Mr. Katanga, and on March 27, 2013, the Appeals Chamber, 2-1, affirmed the Trial Chamber. It held that the decision was in accordance with Regulation 55(2) and did not violate the defendant’s right to a fair trial. However, it said, the Trial Chamber will have to be vigilant in its further deliberations to ensure that this right will not be infringed by further trial proceedings.

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui , as just indicated, was tried with Mr. Katanga from November 24, 2009 through May 23, 2012 on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes within the meaning of Article 25(3)(a) of the Statute (committing the crimes jointly through another person), but on November 21, 2012, Mr. Chui’s charges were severed.

On December 18, 2012, the Trial Chamber issued its unanimous verdict acquitting Mr. Chui of all charges because it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he was the commander of the Lendu combatants from Bedu-Ezekere during the attack against the Bogoro village on 24 February 2003. On December 21, 2012, Mr. Chui was released from detention pursuant to an order by the Appeals Chamber.

The Office of the Prosecutor has appealed that verdict.

Bosco Ntaganda  has been charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of war crimes.

On March 22, 2013, he voluntarily surrendered himself to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and asked to be turned over to the ICC. His decision prompted speculation as to why he did so. One theory says he was threatened by member of his own rebel group and wanted to save his own life. In any event, soon thereafter he made his initial appearance before the Court and said he was not guilty. The date for his confirmation of charges hearing was set for September 23, 2013.

Callixte Mbarushimana was charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and eight counts of war crimes, but on December 16, 2011, the Pre-Trial Chamber refused to confirm the charges, and on December 23, 2011, he was released from the Court’s custody.

Sylvestre Mudacumura  on July 13, 2012, was the subject of the Pre-Trial Chamber’s arrest warrant for allegedly committing nine counts of war crimes in the DRC, including  attacking civilians, murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, rape, torture, destruction of property, pillaging and outrages against personal dignity. He is at large.

3. Central African Republic

On May 22, 2007, pursuant to a referral by the government of the Central African Republic (CAR), TOP opened an investigation into alleged crimes, in 2002 and 2003, in that country. In which civilians were killed and raped; and homes and stores were looted in the context of an armed conflict between the government and rebel forces.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is the only case. He is charged as a military commander, with two counts of crimes against humanity: (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging). His trial started on November 25, 2010, and is not finished.

4. Darfur/Sudan

On June 6, 2005, pursuant to a referral by the U.N. Security Council, TOP opened an investigation into the situation in Darfur, Sudan since July 1, 2002.

That has resulted in six cases involving  seven  individuals, the following  four of whom are still at large: (i) Ahmad Muhammad Harun (20 counts of crimes against humanity and 22 counts of war crimes); (ii) Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (22 counts of crimes against humanity and 28 counts of war crimes); (iii) Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, the President of Sudan (5 counts of crimes against humanity, 2 counts of war crimes and 3 counts of genocide); and (iv) Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein (7 counts of crimes against humanity and 6 counts of war crimes).

Bahar Idriss Abu Garda was charged with war crimes, but in 2010, the Pre-Trial Chamber refused to confirm the charges, and rejected the Prosecutor’s application to appeal.

Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus are charged with co-commission of three war crimes. Their trial is scheduled to start on May 5, 2014.

In the latest (December 2012) semi-annual report to the U.N. Security Council on this situation and cases,[3] the Chief Prosecutor said that her office would consider whether further investigations and additional arrest warrants were needed to address recent violations, including reports of thwarting humanitarian aid deliveries, attacks on African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeepers and bombardments and attacks on civilian populations.

The Chief Prosecutor also told the Council, “The question that remains to be answered is how many more civilians must be killed, injured and displaced for this Council to be spurred into doing its part. There are no words to properly express the frustration of Darfur’s victims, which we share, about the lack of any meaningful progress towards arresting those indicted by the Courts.”

In response, Sudan’s representative told the Security Council that the Prosecutor’s report was flawed, saying it contained unsubstantiated allegations, and contradicted UNAMID reports.  The report’s allegations of gender violence, for instance, did not provide sources, and it mistook tribal clashes for fighting between militias.  Also, reported attacks on peacekeepers had in fact been committed by bandits now being pursued by Sudanese authorities. He said the Court had become a tool for “blackmail” and for violating the sovereignty of small States and was being exploited by certain political interests.

Among the other statements at the Council meeting, a U.S. diplomat said mounting violence was a grave concern, including targeted civilian attacks and denying UNAMID access to affected areas.  Since UNAMID’s initial deployment in 2007, 43 peacekeepers had been killed, in attacks that could be prosecuted as war crimes.  The Council should condemn any and all attacks on mission personnel.  Reversing the cycle of violence required accountability for the perpetrators, he said, expressing dismay that the Sudanese Government was not cooperating with the Court, despite its obligation to do so fully.  Continued impunity for crimes committed in Darfur fomented instability and sent a dangerous message that there were no consequences to attacking civilians.  Welcoming the willingness of States to consider creative approaches and new tools to assist the Court, he also embraced further discussions on resolutions concerning Council referrals to the Court. [4]

5. Kenya

On March 31, 2010, the Pre-Trial Chamber, 2-1, authorized TOP to proceed with an investigation that it had proposed into the situation in Kenya between June 1, 2005 and November 26, 2009.

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is charged as an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity (murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. The charges stem from his alleged role in funding and organizing ethnic violence leading to the death of an estimated 1,200 people after the 2007 presidential election. His trial is scheduled to start on July 9, 2013.

In the meantime, on March 3, 2013, Kenyatta, who employed anti-ICC propaganda in his presidential election campaign, was narrowly elected President of Kenya, and on March 30th the country’s Supreme Court unanimously rejected a challenge to the election from his main electoral opponent. Kenyatta’s election creates an “awkward” situation, as the New York Times said, for the U.S. and other countries who need good diplomatic relations with Kenya.

William Samoei Ruto was charged with being an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 28, 2013.

Joshua Arap Sang was charged with having contributed to crimes against humanity. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 28, 2013.

Henry Kiprono Kosgey was charged as an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity, but the Pre-Trial Chamber declined to confirm the charges.

Mohammed Hussein Ali was charged with crimes against humanity, but in 2012, the Pre-Trial Chamber refused to confirm the charges.

Francis Kirimi Muthaura was charged as an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity, and the re-Trial Chamber in January 2012 confirmed some of the charges. In March 2013, however, TOP filed notice to withdraw the charges because several people who may have provided important evidence regarding his actions, have died, while others are too afraid to testify for the Prosecution; the Government of Kenya failed to provide TOP with important evidence; and the key witness against him had recanted a crucial part of his evidence and had admitted he had accepted bribes.

6. Libya

On February 26, 2011, the U.N. Security Council referred the situation in Libya since February 15, 2011 to the Court. That has resulted in TOP’s charges against three individuals, one of whom died (Muammar Gaddafi) resulting in the dismissal of his case.

The other two (Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi) are in the custody of the Libyan Provisional Authority and have not been turned over to the Court despite negotiations to that effect.

In October 2012, Libya asked the ICC to abandon its claims against the two men because it said Libya can give them fair trials in Tripoli.  In early 2013, Libyan officials told the ICC that the two men would be put on trial in Libya in May this year and would not face summary trial and execution.

In the latest (November 2012) semi-annual report to the U.N. Security Council on this situation and cases,[5] the Chief Prosecutor said both Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi had been arrested and detained in Libya, and that the Libyan authorities had challenged the admissibility of the ICC’s case against Mr. Qadhafi and possibly of the case against Mr. Al-Senussi.  She said the ICC’s Pre-Trail Chamber would decide the merits of the challenge as to whether the case should be heard at the Court or in Libya, and should the challenge ultimately succeed, TOP would monitor those proceedings and cooperate with Libya, to the extent of the mandate.Emphasizing the pressing need for complementary and mutually supportive approaches to address accountability, she encouraged international support and assistance to enhance Libya’s capacity to deal with past crimes and to promote the rule of law.

A Libyan representative at the Council meeting said  his Government had set out its plans for stability, reconciliation and comprehensive justice for crimes that had been committed in his country and that its investigation was already at an advanced stage in some of those cases although the Qadhafi trial had been postponed in order to allow for the most thorough possible investigation.  Libya, he continued, has been cooperating with the ICC and was now awaiting the decision on the admissibility challenge in the Qadhafi case and a forthcoming similar challenge in the Al-Senussi case.  He reiterated his country’s pledge to carry out all procedures in compliance with international law.

A U.S. diplomat at the Security Council urged the Libyan Government to continue its cooperation with the Court.  It was an important moment for both Libya and the Court as they worked together, under their respective roles, in ensuring peace and accountability. It was critical for Libya to ensure the safety of ICC personnel on visits to the country. She added that the U.S. had endeavored to cooperate with the ICC in its efforts regarding Libya, consistent with U.S. law and policy.  Impunity for all serious crimes in Libya, including gender crimes, must be avoided, and victims should be assisted.  The U.S. would continue to work with the international community to assist Libyan efforts to reform its justice sector and advance human rights in the country.

7. Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)

On October 3, 2001, the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber granted TOP request to commence an investigation into the situation in the Ivory Coast since November 28, 2010, and in February 2012 the Chamber expanded the investigation to cover the period September 19. 2002 through November 28, 2010.

Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the country, has been charged with four counts of crimes against humanity. He was surrendered to the Court in November 2011, and his confirmation of charges hearing was held in February 2013.

Simone Gbagbo, the wife of Laurent Gbagbo, has been charged as an indirect co-perpetrator with four counts of crimes against humanity. She has not been turned over to the Court.

8, Mali

On July 13, 2012, the government of Mali referred the situation in that country since January 2012 to the ICC, which has assigned it to the Pre-Trial Chamber.

In January 2012 a rebellion began in Northern Mali, led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In March 2012, military officer Amadou Sanogo seized power in the country in a coup d’etat, citing the president’s failure to eliminate the rebellion. The MNLA quickly took control of the north, declaring independence as Azawad. However, Islamist groups that had helped the MNLA defeat the government, turned on the rebel group and took control of the North with the goal of implementing Sharia Law in Mali.

On January 11, 2013, the French Armed Forces intervened at the request of Sanogo’s government. On January 30th, the coordinated advance of the French and Malian troops claimed to have retaken the last remaining Islamist stronghold.

In the midst of these military engagements, on January 16, 2013, TOP announced that it formally had opened an investigation into the Situation in Mali since January of 2012. After thorough analysis it said it had found that evidence, admissibility, gravity of potential cases, and interest of justice all support the requirements to open a formal investigation into war crimes allegedly committed in Mali. Crimes alleged to have happened include murder; mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; intentionally directing attacks against protected objects; the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court; pillaging; and rape. The ICC will move to investigate these alleged crimes and bring charges against individuals “who bear the greatest criminal responsibility for the most serious crimes committed.

In late January 2013, TOP warned Malian authorities to put an immediate stop to the alleged abuses and, on the basis of the principle of complementarity, to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the alleged crimes. TOP reminded all parties to the on-going conflict in Mali that it has jurisdiction over all serious crimes committed within the territory of Mali, from January 2012 onwards. All those alleged to be responsible for serious crimes in Mali must be held accountable.

Conclusion

The following summarizes the status of those charged with crimes by the Court as it nears its 11th anniversary on July 1, 2013:

Status Number
Deceased   2
At large or not in Court custody 12
Pre-Trial: charges not confirmed   6
Pre-Trial: pending   1
Trials scheduled to start by 12/31/14   5
At trial   1
Tried and convicted   1
Tried and status in question   1
Tried and acquitted   1
TOTAL 30

[1] There have been many prior posts about the ICC.

[2]  Regulation 55, which is titled “Authority of the Chamber to modify the legal characterization of facts,” says in part (2),”If, at any time during the trial, it appears to the Chamber that the legal characterisation of facts may be subject to change, the Chamber shall give notice to the participants of such a possibility and having heard the evidence, shall, at an appropriate stage of the proceedings, give the participants the opportunity to make oral or written submissions. The Chamber may suspend the hearing to ensure that the participants have adequate time and facilities for effective preparation or, if necessary, it may order a hearing to consider all matters relevant to the proposed change.” Part (3) goes on to say, “For the purposes of sub-regulation 2, the Chamber shall, in particular,ensure that the accused shall:(a) Have adequate time and facilities for the effective preparation of his or her defence [sic] in accordance with article 67, paragraph 1 (b); and (b) If necessary, be given the opportunity to examine again, or have examined again, a previous witness, to call a new witness or to present other evidence admissible under the Statute in accordance with article 67, paragraph 1 (e).”

[3] A prior post discussed the June 2012 ICC report to the Security Council on the Darfur/Sudan referral.

[4] The U.S. statement regarding Sudan/Darfur is available online.

[5]  A prior post discussed the May 2012 ICC report to the Security Council on the Libyan referral.

International Criminal Court: Recent Developments

International Criminal Court

There have been significant recent developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with respect to Libya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Sudan/Darfur, the Office of the Prosecutor, the campaign to add more States Parties to the Court’s Rome Statute and commentary on one of the Statute’s provisions.

Libya

ICC Report to Security Council. On May 16th the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, made his semi-annual and last report on the situation in Libya to the U.N. Security Council. This was discussed in a prior post.

Postponement of Surrender of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. On June 1st the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber decided that Libya may postpones its execution of the Court’s request for the surrender of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi , pending the Court’s final determination of Libya’s challenge to the admissibility of the case.

Libyan Detention of ICC Personnel. On June 6th four ICC staff members arrived in Libya to meet with Mr. Gaddafi to discuss his legal representation before the ICC. They were Melinda Taylor, an attorney who works in the ICC’s office of public defense and who was appointed to act as one of two interim lawyers for Mr. Qaddafi; an interpreter, Helene Assaf, from Lebanon; and Alexander Khodakov, a former Russian diplomat, and Esteban Losilla, a Spanish lawyer, who were sent to find out whether Mr. Qaddafi wanted counsel of his own choosing. Their visit had been agreed to by Libya.

The next day (June 7th), however, the four people were detained by Libyan authorities. The ICC protested their detention and demanded their immediate release.

However, as of June14th they were still being detained. They are accused of bringing a camera disguised as a pen and suspicious documents–letters for Gaddafi from allegedly dangerous people who are supporters of the old regime and a page with drawings that looked like codes. They also had three blank pages that were signed by Mr. Gaddafi. The Libyan authorities say they will not be released until Ms. Taylor answers questions about her dealings with Mr. Gaddafi.

In addition, as of June 14th the Libyan attorney general had said he had decided that Ms. Taylor and Ms. Assaf could be held for up to 45 days awaiting the results of his inquiry into possible “threats to national security.” The other two could leave Libya, but had chosen to stay to support their colleagues. The National Transitional Council has said that it was powerless to release the four individuals or influence the investigation

On June 15th the ICC issued a press release announcing that on the 12th (with the cooperation of Libyan officials) representatives of the ICC had met with the four individuals, who said they were in good health and had been well treated. The press release also made conciliatory comments that the ICC welcomed  the Libyan assistance, that the ICC was “very keen to address any regrettable misunderstandings on either side about the delegation’s mandate and activities during its mission in Libya” and that the ICC hoped “the release of the four detained persons will take place with no delay, in the spirit of the cooperation that has existed between the Court and the Libyan authorities.”

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Thomas Lubanga. On June 13th the ICC’s Trial Chamber held its hearing on the sentencing of Mr. Lubanga, who had been found guilty of war crimes regarding child soldiers. The Prosecutor asked for a sentence of 30 years imprisonment because of the seriousness of the crimes and the presence of these aggravating factors: (1) Lubanga as the top leader bears the greatest responsibility for the actions of the UPC militia; (2) his recruitment of children included particularly cruel treatment; (3) girls were recruited as sex slaves and were daily victims of rape by commanders and soldiers; and (4) children needed to be protected against violence and injuries and for their right to education.

Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. The trial of these two gentlemen recently concluded, and the Trial Chamber’s judgment will be issued in the next several months. An interesting analysis of one of the issues raised in this case has been provided by Jennifer Easterday, a Ph.D. Researcher for the Jus Post Bellum project at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. That issue is whether the Trial Chamber may re-classify a conflict from international to non-international armed conflict or visa versa.

Callixte Mbarushimana. On May 30th, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber unanimously dismissedthe Prosecution’s appeal of the Pre-Trial Chamber’s refusal to confirm charges against Callixte Mbarushimana. The Appeals Chamber found that the Pre-Trial Chamber may evaluate ambiguities, inconsistencies, contradictions or credibility doubts in the evidence in determining whether to confirm charges under article 61 of the Rome Statute. The Appeals Chamber emphasized that “the confirmation of charges hearing exists to ensure that cases and charges go to trial only when justified by sufficient evidence” and that article 61(7) of the Rome Statute requires the Pre-Trial Chamber to evaluate whether the evidence is sufficient to establish substantial grounds to believe the person committed each of the crimes charged.

The Appeals Chamber also rejected the Prosecutor’s contention that under article 25(3)(d) of the Rome Statute, the contribution of an accused individual must be “significant”, because the alleged error did not materially affect the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber. One of the three appellate judges, however, stated that the Pre-Trial Chamber erred in finding that the contribution to the crimes must be significant under article 25(3)(d) of the Rome Statute.

An NGO has observed that the decisions in the Callixte case are indicative of a more significant problem regarding gender-based crimes. It asserts that “more than half of all charges for gender-based crimes which reach the confirmation stage are not being successfully confirmed[;] no other category of charges before the ICC faces this level of dismissal and contention.”

Sylvestre Mudacumura. On May 31st the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber unanimously dismissedin limine (without examining the merits), the Prosecutor’s application for a warrant of arrest against Mr Sylvestre Mudacumura, considering that this application “fell short of the proper level of specificity” in describing the alleged crimes “for which the person’s arrest is sought”. The Chamber said the Prosecutor’s application did not provide “proper counts or any other kind of accompanying description of the specific facts underlying the crimes” and failed to “set out the specific references to the alleged crimes” as requested by the Rome Statute.

On June 13th the ICC Prosecutor submitted an amended application for an arrest warrant against Mr. Mucadumura, for five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, inhumane acts, rape, torture and persecution) and nine counts of war crimes (attack against a civilian population, murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, rape, torture, destruction of property, pillaging and outrage upon personal dignity). The Prosecution said it considers Mr. Mudacumura the Supreme Commander of the FDLR-FOCA, one of the most active militias in the Kivu Provinces of the DRC, and is allegedly responsible for a campaign of violence targeting civilians in these provinces.

Kenya

On May 24th, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber unanimously rejected challenges to the ICC’s jurisdiction in the two Kenyan cases. It said that the interpretation and existence of an ‘organizational policy’ for certain crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute relate to the substantive merits of these cases, not whether the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction. Therefore, the Chamber found that the ICC has subject-matter jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.

Sudan/Darfur

On June   the ICC Prosecutor reported on the situation in Sudan/Darfur to the U.N. Security Council. This was discussed in a prior post.

New Chief Prosecutor

ICC Prosecutor Basouda

On June 15th, Fatou Bousouda, the ICC’s new Chief Prosecutor, officially took office. In her acceptance of this position, she said she was “humbled” by her appointment, and promised to continue pursuing all cases that fall under the court’s jurisdiction. Other major  points in her speech were the following:

  • “The one thing which every one of you can rest assured of is that I will be the Prosecutor of all the 121 States Parties, acting in full independence and impartiality. Justice, real justice, is not a pick‐and‐choose system. To be effective, to be just and to be a real deterrent, the Office of the Prosecutor’s activities and decisions will continue to be based solely on the law and the evidence.”
  • “Thanks to the tireless efforts and the commitment of Luis Moreno‐Ocampo, [her predecessor, there is now] . . .  a well‐respected and sound functioning Office [of the Prosecutor], with almost 300 staff from 80 countries, 7 situations under investigation, 14 cases before the Chambers, 7 preliminary examinations and one verdict.”
  • “As I speak, massive crimes continue to be committed in Darfur (Sudan); Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army’s acts of violence continue unabated in central Africa. . . . In total, 11 arrest warrants remain outstanding. Nothing short of arresting all those against whom warrants have been issued will ensure that justice is done for millions of victims of . . . [their] crimes. . . .”

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and a former ICC Deputy Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, has emphasized the urgent need for the new ICC Chief Prosecutor to have the support of states in arresting the Court’s fugitives. He stressed the need for universal acceptance of the ICC as one way to combat the concern about its current exclusive concentration on African situations. Another of his suggestions for the new ICC Chief Prosecutor was doing more  to strengthen national court systems that are capable of handling the crimes that are within the ICC’s jurisdiction under the principle of complementarity.

Because the ICC cannot respond to atrocities the world over, Brammertz says, the U.N. should use the work of international fact-finding and investigatory commissions as bases “for choosing the right follow-up action, whether technical help to the affected country, setting up hybrid national/international structures, or referring the situation to the ICC.”  There also needs to be standard procedures for collecting and storing evidence or conducting interviews as well as a permanent operational infrastructure for such commissions.

A columnist for London’s Guardian newspaper suggested the following priorities for the new Prosecutor:

  1. Rebuild ICC relations with Africa. All of the Court’s active investigations and prosecutions come from Africa, and many Africans believe the Court is anti-African. Bensouda, herself an African, should consult more frequently with the African Union and work to restore confidence in the Court.
  2. Prosecute cases in other regions. She should continue pending preliminary _– into Columbia, Afghanistan, Georgia, Honduras and North Korea and seek permission to start an investigation of Syria. She also should work to increase the number of Arab nations that are States Parties.
  3. Restore transparency to the internal and external practices of the ICC. She should create clear and public processes for launching investigations and issuing arrest warrants, particularly in cases where she acts proprio motu – exercising her discretion to launch investigations of her own initiative.
  4. Improve witness protection and investigatory techniques.
  5. Improve investigatory techniques. The ICC needs to avoid over-reliance on NGOs that are not trained in interrogation and evidence gathering.

ICC States Parties

The ICC is engaged in a campaign for universal adoption of its Rome Statute to persuade the remaining 72 U.N. Members that are not States Parties to join the 121 that already have done so. This campaign, it has been suggested, could be strengthened by using the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process to press those 72 members on the subject.

As previously noted, the U.S. in the Obama Administration is now a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and its participation is credited with helping to increase international scrutiny of human rights abusers.

Other

Under Article 53 of the Rome Statute,  the ICC’s Prosecutor may, in certain circumstances, decline to press charges “in the interests of justice,” and the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has issued a policy paper on this provision.

Linda M. Keller, Associate Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, recently has explored an ongoing debate over whether the OTP should adopt ex ante guidelines for prosecutorial discretion in order to increase transparency and legitimacy, especially with respect to the “interests of justice” provision. She compared this provision of the Rome Statute with a similar provision in New York and concluded that (1) “requiring a written rationale regarding exercise of discretion does not necessarily yield thorough or convincing explanations, undermining arguments that the legitimacy of the ICC will be enhanced by public explanations of prosecutorial discretion; ” (2)  “such explanations may backfire when the balancing of nebulous factors leads to apparently inconsistent or arbitrary reasoning and results, which may undercut the credibility of the decision-maker;” and (3) “the lack of a guiding theory to drive the interpretation of ambiguous criteria can lead to more confusion than clarity when there is no agreement on the theoretical justifications for prosecution.”

Dr. Kamari Maxine Clarke, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale University and a Research Associate at its Law School, also has written about the “interests of justice” provision in May 18 and 19 posts.

International Criminal Court: Other Recent Developments

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.”

Conclusion

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.