10 July 2019: The trial of two Dutch alleged Islamic State militants has commenced in the District Court of The Hague’s International Crimes Chamber, sitting in Schiphol, the Netherlands. Oussama Achraf Akhlafa has been charged with war crimes allegedly committed in Iraq and Syria, including posing with a corpse and sharing images of dead victims online, as well as membership in a terrorist organisation. The second defendant, Reda Nidalha, is accused of membership of a terrorist organisation and recruiting radical jihadists via Facebook. This is the first trial in the Netherlands dealing with war crimes committed by alleged Islamic State militants.
9 July 2019: Yesterday the confirmation of charges hearing in the Al Hassan case commenced before the International Criminal Court. According to the warrant of arrest, Mr Al Hassan was allegedly a member of Ansar Dine and a de facto chief of the Islamic Police in Mali. He is alleged to have committed a number of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Timbuktu, Mali, between April 2012 and January 2013.
8 July 2019: Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda has been convicted before the International Criminal Court on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ituri, DRC, between 2002-2003. In the ruling, Judge Robert Fremr stated that Ntaganda was a “key leader” who gave orders to “target and kill civilians”. Ntaganda is also the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery before the International Criminal Court.
5 July 2019: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has requested that the Court authorise an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Prosecutor has conducted a preliminary examination into alleged crimes committed against the Rohingya population in Myanmar and Bangladesh and has indicated in the request that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity of deportation, other inhumane acts and persecution under article 7 of the Rome Statute have been committed. In September 2018 the Court ruled that it has jurisdiction over the situation, as one element of the crime of deportation had been committed in a State Party to the Rome Statute (Bangladesh).
5 July 2019: A military court in San Diego in the United States has found Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who had been accused of war crimes allegedly committed in Iraq, not guilty on a number of charges. In the high-profile case, Gallagher had been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly fatally stabbing a 17 year old ISIS militant in a US military hospital and with the attempted murder of civilians, and was acquitted on both charges. He was convicted for posing and taking a photograph with a dead body.
4 July 2019: The Iranian Center for International Criminal Law (ICICL) has filed a communication with the International Criminal Court requesting the Prosecutor to open a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The alleged war crimes highlighted in the communication include intentionally directing attacks against civilians; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in humanitarian assistance missions; attacks against buildings dedicated to hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected; and intentionally directing attacks against protected objects, including buildings dedicated to education.
3 July 2019: The High Court in Podgorica, Montenegro, has convicted former Yugoslav soldier Vlado Zmajevic of war crimes in relation to the murder of four ethnic Albanians in Zegra, Kosovo, in 1999. Zmajevic faces 14 years’ imprisonment for the war crimes of attacking the civilian population. This is the first war crimes trial in Montenegro in recent years, with only six other cases having previously been opened.
2 July 2019: West Africa is becoming a new "hotspot" for maritime piracy, according to a report released by the organisation One Earth Future. The report outlines incidents of hijacking, kidnapping, robberies and boarding attempts in a number of different regions, highlighting increases in West Africa from 54 incidents in 2015 to 112 in 2018. It indicates poverty, political instability, a lack of proper law enforcement and many lucrative targets as the reasons for this increase, with the Gulf of Guinea being the worst affected region worldwide.
1 July 2019: The Presidency of the International Criminal Court has rejected the request by Germain Katanga to revoke its previous authorization for new proceedings to go ahead against Katanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After serving the sentence ordered by the ICC, Katanga has remained imprisoned in the DRC and faces trial there. His lawyer requested the Presidency revoke its authorization of these proceedings on the basis that Katanga’s fair trial rights had not been respected. The Presidency decided that whilst it did have the power to revoke its previous decision, that course of action was not warranted under these circumstances as the standard for reconsideration, that new information be presented indicating that the prosecution undermines fundamental principles of processes of the Rome Statute or otherwise affects the integrity of the Court, had not been met.
28 June 2019: The Secretary-General of the United Nations has released a report on the prevention of genocide. The report states that the “prevention of the crime of genocide is intrinsically connected to the prevention of crimes against humanity and war crimes” and “[c]onsequently, initiatives aiming at preventing one of the crimes will, in most circumstances, also cover the others.” It also highlights that the United Nations “must change the culture of reaction to one of prevention and be prepared to invest the necessary resources.” There is an emphasis in the report on education surrounding genocide as being a key aspect of prevention, as well as a number of recommendations for measures relating to national capacities and on raising awareness and education.
27 June 2019: Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar is being sued for alleged war crimes in a US Federal Court by four Libyan families. Haftar, a dual Libyan-US citizen, is accused of carrying out indiscriminate bombings in Libya, resulting in many civilian deaths. Since April, Haftar has made advances towards Tripoli with the aim of seizing power from the internationally recognised government established there by a peace agreement of 2015.
26 June 2019: International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has filed a notification indicating her intention to request authorisation to open a formal investigation into the situation in Bangladesh and Myanmar concerning the treatment of the Rohingya people. A United Nations fact finding mission concluded that mass killings and gang rape of Muslim Rohingyas had been carried out by Myanmar’s military. This notification follows a finding by the Court in September 2018 that it has jurisdiction over the situation, as one element of the crime of deportation had been committed in a State Party to the Rome Statute (Bangladesh).
25 June 2019: The ramming of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese vessel may boost the complaint of crimes against humanity against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court, according to former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. Del Rosario and former Ombudsperson and Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpior Morales filed the complaint in March of this year on behalf of 300,000 Filipino fishermen who are the victims of Chinese activities in the South China Sea. The filing came two days before President Rodrigo Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the Rome Statute on March 17.
24 June 2019: Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard has called the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul an international crime attracting universal jurisdiction. In a report released on the killing, she indicates that a number of arguments can be made to support the assertion that Khasoggi's killing was an international crime, including that it amounted to an act of torture or ill-treatment and that it constituted a violation of a jus cogens norm, arguing that there is no a priori legal or normative reasons why a single execution cannot constitute an international crime. Callamard has called on States to ensure that any individuals identified by an independent, impartial and effective investigation as being responsible are promptly brought to justice, as well as on United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to establish an independent expert panel to determine individual responsibility for the killing.
21 June 2019: The request made by defence counsel for Bosco Ntaganda to have Judge Kuniko Ozaki disqualified from Ntaganda’s case has been dismissed. It was argued in the request that Judge Ozaki’s concurrent service as a diplomatic ambassador for Japan “was incompatible with her judicial independence” and that a “Judge who is not independent cannot be reasonably perceived as being impartial”. The Plenary of the Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), consisting of Judges Perrin de Brichambaut, Herrera Carbuccia, Mindua, Schmitt, Kovács, Pangalangan, Akane, Alapini-Gansou, Prost and Aitala, held “that the Disqualification Request fails to demonstrate that the circumstances of Judge Ozaki’s tenure as Ambassador of Japan to Estonia, which had been authorised pursuant to article 40(4) of the Statute, satisfies the high threshold necessary to rebut the presumption of impartiality.”
20 June 2019: The Dutch Public Prosecution Service has announced charges against four suspects for alleged involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH1 in July 2014. According to investigators in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) the accused are allegedly responsible for bringing the anti-aircraft system used in the attack from Russia to eastern Ukraine. A trial in the District Court in the Hague is due to begin on 9 March 2020.
19 June 2019: The Center for Constitutional Rights, a US NGO, has filed a complaint with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, requesting an investigation into US interference with the International Criminal Court in relation to the request to launch an investigation in Afghanistan. The Center argues that threats made by the Trump administration, including of prosecution and denial of visas, influenced the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber to reject the Prosecution’s request to open an investigation.
18 June 2019: France has arrested three individuals for alleged crimes against humanity committed in Chad and Sudan between 2005-2010. Amongst them is General Mahamat Nouri, who planned a failed coup against current President of Chad Idriss Deby in 2008.
17 June 2019: Human Rights Watch has indicated that an attack by Houthi forces on a civilian airport in Saudi Arabia may constitute a war crime. 26 people were injured in the attack, and Human Rights Watch has called on Houthi forces to cease targeting civilian infrastructure. Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch stated: “Unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen never justify Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians.”
14 June 2019: Former Congolese leader in the Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri (FRPI) militia Germain Katanga faces a second trial in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after serving time for his conviction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Despite being due for release in 2016 Katanga remains imprisoned, with the second trial against him commencing in February 2016 and provisional release being denied. Ituri civil society president Jean-Bosco Lalo stated: "To pursue Katanga again in the DRC after the ICC prosecutions is judicial harassment, it's unfair. We believe that Katanga has already paid for his mistakes and crimes". In January 2019 Katanga’s former legal counsel at the ICC requested the ICC Presidency to revoke its decision to authorise prosecution in the DRC.
13 June 2019: United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals President Carmel Agius has called on States to cooperate and accept 9 individuals acquitted of genocide and currently stranded in Arusha for relocation. In the bi-annual report addressed to the United Nations Security Council, President Agius indicates that “the status quo presents a humanitarian crisis that profoundly affects the fundamental rights of the nine persons”, which “threatens to cast a shadow over both the Mechanism and the United Nations more broadly.”
12 June 2019: A group of United Nations (UN) human rights experts have called for an independent investigation to be launched into alleged human rights violations in the Philippines. “We have recorded a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders.” The joint statement also expressed serious concern about the withdrawal of the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
11 June 2019: The Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has sought leave to appeal the April decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber rejecting the request to open a formal investigation into the situation in Afghanistan. Three issues are raised in the motion, namely: the interpretation of ‘interests of justice’; the Pre-Trial Chamber’s discretion under the relevant provisions; and the Pre-Trial Chamber’s understanding of the scope of any investigation it may authorise. It is stated that all of these “issues significantly affects the fair and expeditious conduct of the proceedings”. Several victims who participated in the proceedings have also filed an appeal directly with the Appeals Chamber, on the basis of the findings of the Pre-Trial chamber on its jurisdiction and the interpretation of “interests of justice”.
7 June 2019: A report released by Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency has revealed that a convicted war criminal has been working as an adviser to Kosovo President Hashim Thaci for the last four months in secret. Rrustem Mustaka was a commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and was convicted of war crimes in 2013 and imprisoned for four years.
6 June 2019: Discussions on the creation of an international tribunal to prosecute fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) are gaining momentum across Europe, in response the hundreds of European ISIS supporters and their families currently being detained by the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria. However, human rights groups have raised concerns about the creation of such a tribunal, including relating to legitimacy concerns about overlooking atrocities committed by other actors in the conflict.
5 June 2019: A Canadian government inquiry has found that Canada is complicit in genocide against indigenous women. The 1,200 page report, which is the result of three years of research, has found that indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be killed or disappeared than other women in Canada and links this to deep-rooted colonialism and state inaction.
4 June 2019: The Concurring and Separate Opinion of Judge Mindua on the investigation of the situation in Afghanistan at the International Criminal Court was released late last week. The opinion states: “I fully concur with my learned two colleagues in rejecting the Prosecutor’s ‘Request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to article 15’”. The opinion sought to clarify Judge Mindua’s opinion regarding the issues of the scope of the Pre-Trial Chamber’s authorisation of an investigation and the meaning of the expression "interests of justice".
3 June 2019: A submission by international lawyers Juan Branco and Omer Shatz to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for the prosecution of the EU and member states for the deaths of thousands of migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean fleeing Libya. The submission alleges that the EU, and members states such as Italy, Germany and France have committed crimes against humanity: “In order to stem migration flows from Libya at all costs … and in lieu of operating safe rescue and disembarkation as the law commands, the EU is orchestrating a policy of forced transfer to concentration camps-like detention facilities [in Libya] where atrocious crimes are committed.” No particular politicians or officials are singled out for specific responsibility, but the submission does quote diplomatic cables and comments from national leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
29 May 2019: An Amnesty International report on the “War in Raqqa” indicates that US-led coalition forces have caused the death of over 1,600 people in strikes against Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria. Amnesty claims that this has involved disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that violate international humanitarian law (IHL), constituting war crimes. Amnesty has called on the coalition to take responsibility for the high number of civilian deaths. Separately, it has come to light that nearly 800,000 documents have been smuggled out of Syria, containing evidence of alleged war crimes committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
28 May 2019: Human Rights Watch has released a report detailing grave abuses against civilians amounting to war crimes committed by Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula. The report documents the conflict in the North Sinai region that has killed and wounded thousands of individuals since 2013, based on a two year investigation. Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch stated: “This horrific treatment of Sinai residents should be another wake-up call to countries like the US and France that heedlessly endorse Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts.”
27 May 2019: Controversy has arisen regarding statements made by US President Donald Trump that he will consider giving pardons to particular US armed forces personnel who have either been convicted of or will stand trial for war crimes. Gabor Rona, Visiting Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Armed Conflict Project at Cardozo Law School, has authored a blog post arguing that, as Commander in Chief of the US armed forces, President Trump may be committing a war crime by issuing these pardons under the principle of command responsibility, for failing to punish violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) committed by his subordinates. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also weighed in on the debate, releasing a statement on the legality of pardons for war crimes under IHL, albeit without explicitly mentioning any particular case.
24 May 2019: According to the United Nations mission to Mali, a March attack in which 157 people were killed in Ogossagou was “planned, organized and coordinated” and could amount to a crime against humanity.
23 May 2019: A Syrian national has been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of having committed war crimes and terrorist offences in Syria. The man is accused of acting as a commander of a terrorist Jabhat al-Nusra battalion. He will be brought before the District Court in The Hague, the court that has appointed to rule on cases concerning international crimes.
22 May 2019: The defence counsel for Bosco Ntaganda has filed a request for the disqualification of Judge Kuniko Ozaki pursuant to art 41(2) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In the request, it is argued that Judge Ozaki’s concurrent service as a diplomatic ambassador for Japan “was incompatible with her judicial independence” and that a “Judge who is not independent cannot be reasonably perceived as being impartial”. It is this lack of appearance of impartiality that is the basis of the request, as “[t]he appearance of a serving Ambassador of a State sitting on the bench of an ongoing case at the ICC profoundly undermines, in the eyes of an objective observer, the judicial character of the Court.” The request highlights that Judge Ozaki’s subsequent resignation from her ambassadorial post does not restore the appearance of her independence or impartiality, given the belated timing of her resignation, her failure to acknowledge that the resignation is required by the dictates of judicial independence and the negative impact on her interests because of the resignation.
21 May 2019: The man accused of killing 51 people in the Christchurch mosques attack in New Zealand on March 15 has been charged with the offence of “engaging in a terrorist act”, in addition to facing murder and attempted murder charges. It is the first time anyone in New Zealand has been charged with this offence.
20 May 2019: Judge Liu Daqun of the International Residual Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals has revoked an order referring a contempt case to Serbia, after witnesses raised concerns about their safety. Vjerica Radeta and Petar Jojic were charged in 2012 with tampering with witnesses in the trial against their party leader, Vojislav Seselj. A summons has been issued for the return of Radeta and Jojic to the Hague to be tried, however they are refusing to cooperate, arguing that extradition to the Hague could only be for accusations of war crimes, not contempt of court, on the basis of a Serbian High Court ruling in 2016.
16 May 2019: Amnesty International has presented evidence suggesting the commission of war crimes in Libya and has urged the ICC Prosecutors to undertake an investigation of the situation there. According to Amnesty, eye witness testimony and satellite imagery reveals evidence of indiscriminate attacks in residential areas and attacks on migrant and refugee detention centres. “Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property, and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians amount to war crimes. All sides have an absolute obligation under international law to protect civilian lives and to clearly distinguish between civilians and fighters during their attacks.”
15 May 2019: Amnesty International has called on the international criminal justice system to take a “vigorous response” to crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and deaths and injuries. Americas director at Amnesty International Erika Guevara-Rosas said: “As we have been saying for years, in Venezuela there is a systematic policy of repression against opponents or those perceived to be opponents simply because they are protesting, for which Nicolás Maduro’s government must be held accountable before the international justice system”. You can read the full report here.
14 May 2019: Sudanese prosecutors have announced that former President Omar al-Bashir has been charged in relation to the killing of protestors during demonstrations that led to his removal from government. It is reported that the prosecutor’s office indicated that al-Bashir and others have been accused of incitement and complicity in relation to these deaths. Two arrest warrants for the arrest and surrender of al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court relating to charges of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes remain outstanding.
13 May 2019: The United States has revoked the visas of several Colombian judges. It was reported that Counstitutional Court magistrates Antonio Lizarazo and Diana Fajardo were informed their visas were revoked, following their refusal to dine with US Ambassador Kevin Whitaker after alleging he was involved in "meddling" over the country's war crimes tribunal. This also follows criticism by the US of Colombian courts not allowing the extradition of suspects of war crimes on war trafficking charges in order to prioritize the victims of the conflict in Colombia.
10 May 2019: A Kosovo parliamentary commission has approved a draft resolution accusing Serbia of committing genocide of Albanians during the 1998-99 war. The resolution alleges that Serbians were responsible for over 270 killings and that 1,600 people still remain missing. It also proposes a Day of Commemoration of Genocide against Albanians in Kosovo, calls on Serbia to recognise that it committed genocide and crimes against humanity and requests the introduction of laws penalising justification, minimisation or denial of the genocide in Kosovo.
9 May 2019: Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), addressed the United Nations Security Council on the progress of bringing perpetrators of international crimes in Libya to account. She stated that “the first and indispensable step” for the international community is to ensure that the outstanding arrest warrants of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled are executed and that these suspects are transferred to the ICC for prosecution for war crimes. She emphasised that: “Such a development would send a strong and necessary message to the victims of grave crimes in Libya, that the Council and the international community at large are serious about pursing justice...and committed to taking concrete action towards that end”. Bensouda appeared before the Security Council in New York despite the previous revocation of her visa by US authorities. Conflict continues in Libya, with the United Nations most recently expressing concern in relation to airstrikes in Eastern Tripoli that led to dozens of civilian deaths.
8 May 2019: Ahmad Al Faqi Al-Mahdi has been transferred to a prison in Scotland to serve his 9 year sentence. Al-Mahdi was convicted in 2016 by Trial Chamber VIII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after pleading guilty of the war crime of directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Mali in 2012. He was the first accused to plead guilty at a trial before the ICC.
7 May 2019: Human Rights Watch has called on States participating in Côte d’Ivoire’s third Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council to raise concerns over its failure to provide justice for victims of post-election human rights abuses that arose in 2010-2011. In August 2018 an amnesty was announced in Côte d’Ivoire for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses committed during this period. The West Africa Director at Human Rights Watch stated: “The lack of justice for thousands of victims of one of Côte d’Ivoire’s worst episodes of political violence is a stain on the government’s rights record and threatens the country’s peace and stability.”
6 May 2019: The International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber has confirmed the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber II finding that Jordan failed to comply with its obligations to arrest and surrender (now former) Sudanese President al-Bashir whilst he was present on its territory, but reversed the referral of Jordan to the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for this failure. The Court held that as under Art. 27(2) of the Rome Statute immunities do not bar the ICC's jurisdiction and this reflects customary international law, there is therefore no immunity for Heads of State under customary international law before international courts and tribunals.
6 May 2019: The Syrian Network for Human Rights has released its monthly special report documenting notable human rights violations in April 2019 committed by the main perpetrator parties to the conflict in Syria. The report outlines that during this period there were 324 civilian deaths, 459 cases of arbitrary arrests and at least 51 attacks on civilian objects. It is suggested that Syrian-Russian forces committed extrajudicial killings, arrest, torture and enforced disappearance, as well as engaging in indiscriminate attacks and attacks on civilians amounting to war crimes. It is reported that Islamist extremist groups were also involved in such human rights violations, and that indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks by the alliance of International Coalition forces and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are also considered to be in violation of international humanitarian law (IHL), amounting to war crimes. The report calls on the United Nations to take a number of measures to help relieve the situation in Syria as well as refer the situation to the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators can be prosecuted.
3 May 2019: The Public Prosecutor in Sudan has ordered the interrogation of former President Omar al-Bashir on charges of money laundering and financing terrorism. The Prosecutor also indicated that other senior officials will also be investigated. Reuters also reports that the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) has presented the Transitional Military Council currently in power a draft constitutional document on how it envisages future civilian rule in Sudan. This has followed continued protests since the ousting of al-Bashir demanding a civilian-led interim government.
2 May 2019: The Presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has confirmed that Judge Kuniko Ozaki has resigned her post as Japanese Ambassador to Estonia. The notification issued highlights that the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on 23 April 2019 that the resignation of Judge Ozaki was officially accepted by the Government of Japan on 18 April 2019.
1 May 2019: Bosco Ntaganda's defence counsel has requested the disqualification of International Criminal Court (ICC) Judge Ozaki pursuant to Art. 40(2) of the Rome Statute on the basis of her appointment as Ambassador of Japan in Estonia. Ntaganda’s counsel argue that Judge Ozaki’s role as a senior Japanese diplomat in an EU State Party to the Rome Statute “creates the appearance that she is not independent”. This move has followed calls that Judge Ozaki must “resign – or be removed” in light of her diplomatic appointment following a decision by a majority of the ICC Judges in March allowing Judge Ozaki’s request to stay on as a non-full-time judge alongside her diplomatic post, as it “was not incompatible with the requirements of judicial independence”. The request by Ntaganda's counsel asks the Judges to reconsider this decision and disqualify Judge Ozaki.
30 April 2019: Judge Péter Kovács of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has postponed the confirmation of charges hearing for former Malian militant Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud. Al Hassan is accused of religious and gender-based persecution in Mali and has been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. A warrant for his arrest was issued on 27 March 2018 and he has been in custody since 31 March 2018 when he surrendered to the Court. The postponement from 6 May to 8 July 2019 was justified on the basis of procedural delays experienced by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP). The OTP said that the continuing insecurity in Mali has made the collection of witness testimonies and implementing protective measures for witnesses difficult, the latter of which are required to be instituted before the identities of the witnesses can be disclosed to the defence.
29 April 2019: A Chamber of the Special Jurisdiction of Peace (JEP) in Colombia has ordered the arrest of Hernan Velasquez, also known as "El Paisa", a former commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) during the Colombian civil conflict. The order relates to the former rebel leader's failure to participate in reconciliation efforts mandated by the country’s peace deal, which was introduced in 2016 signaling the end of the conflict. In particular, Velasquez is accused of failing to provide testimony in a case relating to guerilla kidnappings, and as such he is no longer protected by the benefits of the peace agreement, such as avoiding jail time for war crimes. Velasquez has previously been sentenced to imprisonment in relation to his involvement in a 2003 car bombing in Bogota.
26 April 2019: Four former Presidents of the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of States Parties have called for an independent assessment of the Court’s functioning in the wake of the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber rejecting the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation into into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. Prince Zeid Raad al Hussein, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Christian Wenaweser and Tiina Intelman expressed concern about the “…growing gap between the unique vision captured in the Rome Statute… and some of the daily work of the Court”, claiming that “… the powerful impact of the Court’s central message is too often not matched by its performance as a judicial institution.”
25 April 2019: This week Ecuador’s National Assembly approved the ratification of the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This makes Ecuador the 38th ICC State Party and 7th Latin American State to ratify the Amendments on the Crime of Aggression adopted in Kampala in 2010. According to Parliamentarians for Global Action the ratification “sends a clear message to the international community of Ecuador’s public commitment to international peace and accountability for international crimes and reaffirms that Latin America remains at the forefront of the rule of law.”
24 April 2019: Saudi Arabia has executed 37 people, 33 of which were part of the country’s Shi’a minority, in connection with terrorism-related crimes. It is reported that a statement by the official Saudi Press Agency indicated the men were executed “for adopting terrorist and extremist thinking and for forming terrorist cells to corrupt and destabilise security”. Amnesty International has expressed concerns about Saudi Arabia’s escalating use of the death penalty and of sham trials violating international standards and allegedly using torture evidence, stating in particular that “the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority”.
23 April 2019: A terrorist attack in Sri Lanka over the weekend targeting churches and hotels has caused the death of 310 victims and left a further 500 injured. The main suspect is a little-known Islamic organisation recognised for being anti-Buddhist, but which had not previously been linked to terrorism, and which is suspected of having received “international support”. A state of emergency has been called in Sri Lanka and 40 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks.
18 April 2019: A report prepared by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has revealed that despite evidence of reduction in the levels of torture or ill-treatment in Afghan detention centres, overall figures remain “disturbingly high”. The report is based on interviews with more than 600 detainees across 77 facilities, and shows on average almost one in three conflict related detainees provided “credible and reliable” accounts of torture or ill-treatment. The report called on the Afghan Government to take a number of measures to eradicate torture.
17 April 2019: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has expressed concerns over the escalating violence in Libya, stating: “I will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. No one should doubt my determination in this regard”. She has called on all parties to the fighting to refrain from committing war crimes and fully respect international humanitarian law, including protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and prisons. The Office of the Prosecutor is currently investigating several cases in relation to the Libyan situation, which was referred by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011).
16 April 2019: The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was deposed last week by the Sudanese military. A transitional military council has taken over governance of Sudan, imposing a two year transition period to be followed by elections. Demonstrations that began in December calling for the removal of al-Bashir from government have continued, with opposition groups demanding a civilian transition government be instated immediately. The transitional military council have indicated that they will accept a new prime minister chosen by opposition parties. The council has also stated that it will not extradite al-Bashir to The Hague to face the International Criminal Court, which issued two warrants for al-Bashir's arrest in 2009 and 2010 for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It has been reported that instead al-Bashir may be tried domestically by Sudanese courts.
15 April 2019: The Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court has unanimously rejected the Office of the Prosecutor's request to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. In the decision, the PTC II considered the significant time that elapsed between the crimes and the request, the "scarce cooperation" during the preliminary examination and the likelihood that evidence and witnesses would be still available relevant to its ultimate finding that "the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited" and therefore "an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice". The PTC II also highlighted that the nature of the crimes and the context in Afghanistan mean the investigation would require "a significant amount of resources" which would have to be redirected from other situations with greater prospects of leading to trials.
12 April 2019: The trial of a German national, identified as Jennifer W, for war crimes has commenced in Munich. The woman is accused of enslaving a five year old Yazidi girl and letting her die of thirst. The charges against her include murder, war crimes, membership in a foreign terrorist organisation and weapons violations, for which she faces a life sentence. The woman travelled to Iraq in 2013 to join ISIS and was deported back to Germany in 2016 whilst trying to renew travel documents in Turkey.
11 April 2019: The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has warned that attacks of civilians in Libya may amount to war crimes. Libya has faced violence and instability since 2011 when leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed. It is reported that rebel leader Gen Haftar, who heads the Libyan National Army (LNA), is making advances on the capital, Tripoli, after taking control of southern Libya and its oil fields earlier this year. The Libyan Prime Minister, Fayez al-Serraj, has accused Haftar of attempting a coup to take control of the country. This Sunday there were UN-backed peace talks planned between the opposition groups, however it is no longer clear whether they will go ahead. The World Health Organization has reported that in the past 6 days there have been 56 deaths, including medical workers, another 266 people injured and thousands displaced as a result of the clashes.
10 April 2019: Romania’s former President Ion Iliescu has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role in the revolution that overthrew the communist regime in 1989. Iliescu, alongside former Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu and former Air Force Cdr Iosif Rus, has been accused of spreading misinformation to spread terror, as well as simulating a trial to summarily convict and execute communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena. Approximately 862 people were killed during the revolt.
9 April 2019: Malaysia has decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court just one month after acceding to the Rome Statute. Following the accession in March, an alliance of the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) heavily criticised the government over concerns that the ICC could prosecute the King, as supreme commander of the State's armed forces, and threaten Malaysia’s sovereignty. Human Rights Watch has called on Malaysia to reverse this decision, stating it “makes a mockery of the government’s commitment to justice”.
8 April 2019: The first trial of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) members for war crimes has commenced in Uganda. Thomas Kwoyelo has been accused of murder, rape and enslavement in the context of the Ugandan conflict from 1987-2006. He pleads not guilty to all 93 counts against him. Mr. Kwoyelo is the first LRA rebel to appear before the Ugandan International Crimes Division, which was established in 2008. 5 April 2019: The United States has revoked the entry visa for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has stated: "If you're responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of US personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you will still have or get a visa, or that you will be permitted to enter the United States. We're prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions if the ICC does not change its course". The move is in response to the ICC's investigation into whether the US engaged in war crimes, such as torture at secret CIA-run detention sites, in Afghanistan.
4 April 2019: Amnesty International has reported that increased air strikes in Somalia by United States forces have led to civilian deaths that may constitute war crimes. The report investigates five instances in Lower Scabelle, Somalia, involving the death of 14 civilians and injuries to 8. In 2018 and in response to the Amnesty Report, the US has denied that civilians have been killed during the course of the strikes, and that all resulting deaths are members of Al-Shabaab, an armed group currently engaged in conflict with the Somali government. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) stated: "In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducts airstrikes to defend the people of Somalia against terrorism, and to assist the Federal Government of Somalia as it works to alleviate security challenges." Amnesty International contests these claim and calls on the US to carry out effective investigations, acknowledge civilian casualties, provide victims and their families with reparations, allow for safe and accessible means for communities to self-report civilian casualties and ensure all strikes are carried out in compliance with international humanitarian law.
3 April 2019: A delegation from the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has arrived in Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of torture, which have continued since the end of the civil conflict in 2009. The delegation will meet with government bodies, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and other civil society actors. This visit comes just after the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution granting Sri Lanka another two years to implement processes ensuring reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Amnesty International has expressed disappointment that the resolution does not address Sri Lanka's failure to implement these processes to date. A