International Criminal Law – A Month in Review – April/May 2018

14 June 2018

ICC prosecute former head of Islamic police in Timbuktu

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud surrendered to the International Criminal Court on 1 April 2018.  Al Hassan was sought for war crimes connected to the period of time when he was chief of the Islamic police in Timbuktu. It is considered a potentially ground-breaking case, as the ICC seeks to prosecute for the crime of persecution of the grounds of gender.  It is alleged that he forced hundreds of women into sexual slavery. In 2016, the ICC tried another Malian, Al Mahdi, who pleaded guilty to destroying cultural sites in Timbuktu.

Mozambique miners launch claim in High Court for human rights abuses

Proceedings have been issued in the High Court against Gemfields Limited, a London-based mining company. The claim relates to conduct of a subsidiary company in Mozambique. The claim is being brought by over 100 miners and members of the local community who allege responsibility for a series of human rights abuses.  Gemfields deny the allegations. The role of parent company liability will be considered once more in this claim, following the Court of Appeal ruling in February (Okpabi v Shell), where the judges ruled that the parent company did not have a duty of care.

French human rights group files lawsuit against Saudi prince

During Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Paris, a Yemeni human rights group filed a criminal lawsuit for his leading role, as Defence Minister, in the Saudi-led airstrikes against rebels in Yemen. The lawsuit alleged that he knowingly targeted civilians and was complicit in torture. The Guardian reported that “the legal complaint will automatically trigger the opening of a formal judicial inquiry by a French investigating judge”.

Court of Appeal approves arms exports appeal

Following an unsuccessful attempt last year in the High Court to block export licences for British-made fighter jets, bombs and other munitions, the Court of Appeal decided on 4 May 2018 to hear the appeal in the coming months.  The Campaign Against Arms Trade, who brought the claim, state that the exports are being used by a Saudi-led military coalition for use in Yemen, where “thousands of people have been killed as a result of the bombing, with many more dying as a result of the humanitarian catastrophe that has taken root.

Liberian warlord sentenced by the US to 30 years

The US have sentenced a former Liberian warlord, Mohammed Jabbateh known as “Jungle Jabbah”, to 30 years in prison for lying about his role in Liberia’s civil war.  The heavy sentence is reported to have been a result of the nature of the crimes that he sought to hide. The trial lasted for three weeks in 2017 and heard from over 15 witnesses, who were flown to Philadelphia to give evidence. Jabbateh was found guilty of two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury. Prosecutors said that, while serving as commander of an armed group during Liberia’s civil war, Jabbateh either personally committed or ordered acts such as rapes, ritual cannibalism, mutilation, murder and the use of child soldiers.

Central African Republic starts war crimes investigations

Following over a decade of violence and the subsequent establishment of a special criminal court to investigation allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a United Nations representative confirmed on 28 May 2018 that the tribunal will begin formal investigations in the next week.  The tribunal is based in the Central African Republic and will be composed of both national and international judges.

Ex-militia from Sierra Leone released after serving sentence

On 28 May 2018, a convicted ex-militia leader from Sierra Leone was released after serving a 15-year sentence. Moinina Fofana was the leader of a paramilitary unit and was suspected of collaborating with the rebels during the conflict. Fofana is the first person to be released following conviction of war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Syrians file criminal case in Austria against Assad’s officials

On 28 May 2018, 16 Syrian women and men, who have lived in Austria and Germany for some time, have filed a criminal complaint against 24 senior officials in the Assad government. The ECCHR state that this is the first of its kind in Austria and follows four similar complaints under consideration by the Office of the Federal Public Prosecutor in Germany. The press release states that the “allegations include torture and other crimes including murder, extermination, serious bodily harm and deprivation of liberty, which were committed between February 2011 and January 2017 in 13 detention centres in Damascus, Daraa, Hama and Aleppo”.

Updates from the Courts:

  • The Specialist Chamber for Kosovo has appointed a new chief prosecutor, Jack Smith.
  • Radovan Karadzic had a two day appeal hearing, in which he relied upon 50 grounds of appeal.
  • The MICT partially overturned Vojislav Seselj’s acquittal on appeal and sentenced him to 10 years for wartime crimes, including inciting crimes, in Serbia. Seselj will not serve any of the sentence due to the time he has already spent imprisoned.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 2018, following requests to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity.

Further information

Should you have any questions about the issues covered in this blog, please contact Rebecca Niblock or a member of our Criminal Law team.

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